Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > The Guardian

Chapter Twenty-one

by SGTBrowncoat 0 reviews

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-07-24 - 1070 words - Complete

Chapter Twenty-one

"I don't know about your masked man," Anko reported, "But Orochimaru is here."

"You're sure?" Itachi asked.

"Yeah, and apparently he's set up shop. The room ahead of us is part of a lab. Practically got his name written all over it."

"But you didn't actually see him." Shisui guessed.

"Didn't have to. He's here."

"Whether she saw him or not, it's best to assume she's right." Itachi said, "We have to keep moving. Keep your eyes open."

The team moved quickly to clear the laboratory. It was exactly what Itachi had expected based on what he knew of the experiments that had led to Orochimaru's expulsion from the Leaf. Whatever the Sannin was trying to accomplish, it was clear that he had been hard at work on it here. The room was crowded with scientific equipment, phials of mysterious liquids, and large tanks filled with what Itachi could only hope were not human test subjects; but there was no sign of the man himself. Located in the far wall were two passages leading into more tunnels like the one through which they had entered. Once they had secured the lab, the team gathered between the two doorways.

"So… split up? Check out both paths?" Hana asked.

Itachi shook his head, "I don't want us to be sep-"

Anko suddenly cut him off, "All this sneaking around bullshit is taking too long." she took a deep breath, "Hey!" she shouted at the top of her lungs, "Quit hiding, and come face us like a man!"

Itachi rubbed his temples, "That woman is insane." he muttered.

"Yeah," Shisui whispered, "It's kinda hot."

Itachi stared at his cousin as if he had grown an extra head.

"What?" Shisui asked, defensively.

Before Itachi could reply, he felt the entire atmosphere of the room shift.

"Always so brash, Anko." said a chilling voice, "It's going to be the death of you someday." Orochimaru, looking untouched by time, emerged from the left passage way, "I apologize for not being here to greet you properly when you arrived. I expected you a great deal sooner, and I grew tired of waiting."

Itachi already had a kunai at the ready, "Expected?" he asked.

"I led your spies here days ago. I anticipated a much more timely response."

"...You gave away your location on purpose?" Shisui asked.

Orochimaru chuckled smugly, a sound that sent chills down Itachi's spine, "Of course. This was is so much more convenient than going all the way to Konoha myself."

Itachi's mind was racing, "You did this to draw me away from Naruto."

"Not quite, though it isn't a bad guess. I don't much care what happens to the Kyūbi host, however. My interest is in you, Itachi."

Itachi's brown creased, "Me?"

Anko spoke up, "Are you saying… You perfected it, didn't you? Your… body-stealing… immortality… thing."

"Transference-jutsu, Anko; I taught you better than that." Orochimaru replied, "I would not say 'perfected' just yet, but given the proper vessel…"

"Wait… You want to steal Itachi's body?" Hana realized, horrified.

"I have watched your progression quite closely, Itachi. You are an ideal candidate. That is why I brought you here. And fortune has smiled upon me today; you brought along yet another Sharingan bearer. It is always prudent to have a spare, after all."

Itachi felt a tinge of nausea imagining just what Orochimaru intended to do with him.

"So Madara was never here at all?" asked Shisui, frustration evident in his voice.

"Oh, I never said that," Orochimaru replied dismissively, "He has his own reasons to want you removed from the equation. It just so happens that our goals intersect at the moment."

Anko stepped forward, deftly spinning a senbon needle between her fingers, "You guys keep moving; find your masked man. I'll deal with this guy."

"You're not fighting him alone." Itachi replied.

"Don't be a hypocrite. If you can claim a fight for yourself, so can I. This is why I'm here. You can write me up for insubordination when we get home."

It was obvious that there was no winning this argument. It went against every instinct Itachi had, but he had to leave her behind.

"…Don't get yourself killed. If it gets bad, run."

"I know how to do my job. Get moving." Anko replied firmly.

To Itachi's surprise, Orochimaru made no attempt to stop the rest of the team from proceeding. The Sannin only smirked.

"Do try to stay in one piece, Itachi. It would be such a pity if you were to be damaged."

With Orochimaru blocking the left passage, there was only one way for the team to go. Itachi, Shisui, and Hana ran into the tunnel on the right. It was apparent that, like Itachi, the other two were not happy with leaving Anko to fight alone, but understood it to be their only option.

They had only made it a short way down the tunnel when Itachi was suddenly struck with a particularly violent coughing attack. The medication had been controlling them well until now, so it took him by surprise. He had to stop, coving his mouth with one hand, and bracing himself against the wall with the other. The taste of blood filled his mouth.

Hana touched his shoulder, worry evident on her face, "Are you alright?"

It took Itachi a moment to answer, but he did so as confidently as he could manage, "I'm fine. Don't worry about it."

"Are you sure? That sounded bad." Shisui asked, unconvinced.

"We don't have time to discuss it. Let's go."

The remaining three pressed on quickly, abandoning stealth since Anko had already announced their presence to the entire world. They finally came upon yet another chamber. This one was larger than the laboratory, but almost completely empty. Torches burned at distant intervals, the flickering light casting dark shadows across the cavernous space. The Haimaru Brothers all began to growl the moment they entered the chamber. Itachi followed their eyes across the room. There, nearly hidden by shadow, was a figure leaning casually against the wall.

"I suppose I should have known better than to think Orochimaru would handle this incursion himself."

The familiar deep voice called up vivid, unpleasant memories of pain and defeat.


The masked man sighed and pushed off from the wall, "They do say that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."
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