Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > The Guardian

Chapter Twenty-two

by SGTBrowncoat 0 reviews

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2014-07-24 - 1392 words - Complete

Chapter Twenty-two

The masked man strolled casually toward Itachi, Hana, and Shisui, apparently unthreatened. When he stepped into the light, Itachi could see that his mask was a slightly different design than the first time he had seen him, and his hair was shorter, but he had no doubt it was the same man.

"I see you brought backup this time, Itachi." Madara observed, his one eye seeming to linger on Shisui for a prolonged moment, "Not surprising after out last meeting. Tell me, have you improved at all since then, or will this be as disappointing as last time?"

Itachi did not have time to answer. Hana was already walking forward. Itachi silently cursed the Inuzuka clan's impulsiveness.

"So, you're supposed to be Madara Uchiha, huh? Big, scary, legendary shinobi? Fought the First Hokage and all that?" Hana asked, crossing her arms, "Well, I think you're full of shit."

"Hana…" Itachi warned.

"No, seriously. How do we know this guy is Madara? 'Cause he says so? I don't buy it. If he's really Madara, why doesn't he show his face? And what is he waiting for? Supposedly, the First was the only person who could ever stand on equal footing with him, right? Well, the First is long gone, so what's stopping him from attacking Konoha now, and just taking what he wants? And why does he need these Akatsuki people? I'd bet my next paycheck it's because he's not Madara." Hana concluded, "So who are you really?"

The masked man laughed, "The puppy has quite the bark, doesn't she? When it comes down to it, does it matter who I am? Maybe I am Madara, maybe I am not. In the end, I am no one. You may call my Tobi if you like, everyone else seems to."

Whatever answer Itachi had expected, that was not it. It was a strange development to be sure, but though it presented a multitude of questions, it did not truly change anything. Whoever this man was, he was an incredibly powerful and incredibly dangerous enemy. If anything, he was even more dangerous now. Itachi has at least had an idea what Madara Uchiha was capable of, thanks to his historical infamy, but he knew nothing about 'Tobi'.

"What do you want?" Itachi asked.

Tobi was silent for a moment, "That is the real question isn't it? What I want is to end this worthless reality." he said, all traces of his previous light-hearted tone gone.

Itachi slipped off his backpack and tossed it aside, "Hana, Shisui, my orders still stand. Stay out of this unless I fail." he said, activating his Sharingan.

After a moment of hesitation, his friends stepped back to stand against the chamber's back wall.

"We'll let you handle it for now if it's that important to you, but we're not going to let you get hurt, orders or not." Shisui told him, pointedly drawing a kunai.

Itachi glanced back at his cousin, "Whatever happens, make sure Hana gets out of here safely."

"We're all getting out of here."

"Just promise me."

Shisui sighed, "I promise."

Drawing a kunai from the holster on his leg, Itachi stepped forward to challenge the masked man for a second time. Just as he did, he saw something strange at Tobi's feet. The ground shivered, and something sprouted up from it. At first Itachi though it was a plant of some kind, but then it opened up like a venus fly trap, revealing something humanoid within it. The creature had the shape of a man, but it was split down the middle; one half paper white, the other too black to discern its features. Itachi was almost positive that this was the fleeting shape he had seen twice before.

"Orochimaru is taking his time with the fourth one." the creature told Tobi, "Should I expedite matters?"

"No." Tobi replied, "Deliver my instructions to Pain. I will join you when I'm finished here."

The plant man sighed, but strangely, the voice was different this time, "We never get to have any fun these days."

With that, the creature disappeared back into the ground.

"Now," said the masked man, "To dispose of a recurring annoyance."

Itachi did not allow his opponent to make the first move. He threw the kunai in his hand, aiming for the single eye-hole of Tobi's mask, and followed it up with a dozen shuriken. He watched carefully this time, and was not surprised when none of them hit their mark, just as before. It confirmed what he had begun to suspect after his defeat three years ago. He had not missed, nor had Tobi dodged the weapons. They had passed straight through his body as if he were a ghost.

Hana drew a sharp breath behind him, "Did you see that…?"

Itachi was already moving, running a wide left arc around Tobi, hoping to draw the fight away from his friends. He formed the familiar set of hand seals for the first jutsu he had ever learned.

"Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu."

Itachi expelled a giant fireball at his enemy. He doubted it would harm Tobi, but he hoped it would block his line of sight for just a moment.

Suddenly, some kind of tendrils shot through the fire, striking Itachi with the force of a wrecking ball, and twisting around his body. To his shock, he realized that they appeared to be tree branches. This could only be Mokuton—wood style—supposedly unique to the First Hokage. Who was this man?

When the fire died out, Itachi could see the twisted branches sprouting grotesquely from the right side of the masked man's body. The limbs constricted tightly, slowly strangling the life from their captive. A powerful explosion suddenly rocked the cavern, spraying shards of shattered wood in all directions, surprising even Tobi.

Putting the distraction of his captured shadow clone to use, Itachi was able to get behind Tobi unseen.

"Katon: Karyudan no Jutsu."

A torrent of flame surged toward his masked opponent, igniting the splintered wood protruding from his body. It was quickly extinguished, but his black cloak was left in charred tatters, and the twisted flesh below was scorched. There was hope for this fight yet. If he could be taken by surprise, Tobi was not as invulnerable as he seemed.

Tobi whirled around, lashing out with a jet of fire like a whip as he turned. Itachi only barely managed to escape, the flame licking his face and shoulder as he twisted away and fell to the ground.

"Above you!" Shisui shouted from across the chamber.

Itachi rolled away just as a mass of earth and metal came crashing down where he had been a moment earlier. The explosion had weakened the structure. The tunnels were collapsing.

Jumping to his feet, Itachi's eyes found Tobi just in time to see him vanish into some kind of swirling, midair vortex that seemed to center on his lone eye. Suddenly he reappeared just inches from Itachi's face. He had no time to react. Tobi slammed him brutally into the wall, cracking his head against the solid rock and setting off a white flash behind his eyes. In desperation, Itachi resorted to his strongest weapon: genjutsu. Nothing happened.

"My Sharingan is infinitely more powerful than yours. Your genjutsu has no hope of affecting me." Tobi informed him smugly.

Feral snarls echoed through the cavern, and a razor sharp set of teeth sank into Tobi's shoulder. Two more ripped at the arm that pinned Itachi.

"This 'puppy' has some bite to go with her bark." Hana growled, driving her tanto blade at Tobi's head.

Tobi's grip on Itachi loosened for a split second. He managed to free his right arm, and did the only thing he could; he swung the hardest punch he could muster. Sharp pain shot through Itachi's hand and arm as his fist connected. The punch caught the edge of Tobi's mask, skewing it aside. In that same moment, Hana's blade found its target. Tobi teleported away just as he had done before, but the mask was already cracking and falling in pieces to the floor.

Silence engulfed the cavern. Itachi's jaw fell slack as he stared at the unmasked face before him. He heard the sound of a kunai clattering to the ground from where Shisui stood.

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