Chapter 14

AN: I'm sure many of you thought that I had abandoned this story, and I won't fault you for that. It has been a long, long time since I've updated. I do apologize for making you wait for so long, but I must make something clear: updates will be erratic. I'm going to start my second year of my master's degree, and it's going to be hell since I have to start working on my thesis as well.

The reasons I haven't updated in a long time are a little complicated but the bottom line is, firstly, it has been a hell of a time (literally) and secondly, I've branched out a lot in my range of reading interests. It's hard to keep the interest in just one category when I'm thinking of so many fictions all at once. This is something I believe I've addressed in one of my earlier chapters as well, and unfortunately I haven't really figured out a healthy way to deal with this…well, a way by which I won't leave you guys in the suspense of the next chapter.

Once again, I made a promise that this story will see its end. It won't be abandoned.

I'm back.

The next morning Naruto was swiftly hopping over the roofs as he made his way to the Hokage tower. He knew the time when Tsunade entered the office, and he wanted to get started on his mission preparation as soon as possible. This was probably the most important Akatsuki related mission that he was going to take, and he had a gut feeling that this mission was more than just taking out Uchiha Itachi and his partner.

Reaching the tower, he waved to the guards and made his way upstairs. On the way, he glanced towards the few shinobi who came in at this time. Mostly the people who came in this early were either shinobi who spent the night in the lounge, or those who were eager to get a head start on their day.

Walking along the corridor, he bit back a smile as he caught sight of Tsunade's green haori disappearing as the door closed. Just in time.

Stopping in front of the door, he knocked thrice. His ears picked up her grumbling as she wondered who was bothering her when hadn't even sat down.

"Who is it?"


"…come in Naruto."

He pushed open the door and took in her appearance. Nothing new to note, though she still seemed to be in the process of waking up. "I'm not too early, am I?"

Glaring half-heartedly, she replied. "What do you think?"

"Considering that I knocked the door after you had entered, I'd say I was on time."

"Still too early!"

Biting back a grin at her whine, he replied as innocently as he could. "You were the one who told me to come to your office in the morning. You never told me when."

Tsunade's eye twitched as she glared at the other blonde. "Cheeky brat."

"I try."

Taking her seat and trying to make herself look presentable, she asked him. "So, what was it that you were asking last night?"

"I need access to any and all files relating to Uchiha Itachi, complete with his missions and psychological profile."

"And why should I allow you?"

Naruto paused, taking a moment to collect his thoughts. "You created the Nijuu Shoutai specifically to combat Akatsuki. From the time of its creation and even before, Konoha has fought Akatsuki and managed to thin its ranks. But the one thing that stands out in every mission I have gone on Akatsuki, it was that we knew nothing about our enemies, while they had inside information on us.

"I believe that I have a chance to change that in this particular mission. We have detailed information on Uchiha Itachi and Hoshigaki Kisame. In the case of the former, we have numerous mission reports as well. I want to study them to understand Itachi as best as I can so that when we face him, me and my team won't be caught off guard as we were in our previous missions. Chances of casualties on our side can be kept to a minimum."

Tsunade leaned back in her chair, tapping her finger on her table in thought. It was sound reasoning no doubt. Naruto made some very good points. While the Akatsuki had all S-rank members, Uchiha Itachi was believed to be a cut above the rest. There weren't many people Orochimaru was afraid of, even in Akatsuki, but he actively avoided seeking out a fight with the elder rogue Uchiha. That fact itself made Itachi more dangerous than ever. Kakashi himself attested to Itachi's might.

Not to mention Kisame, the rogue swordsman from Kiri. Konoha didn't have much on him aside from when he had fought Konoha nin three years ago in the village, but what they had was nothing reassuring.

"You make a convincing argument Naruto. I-"

Before she could continue, the door to the office was opened and in walked the elders. Tsunade's face visibly soured, while Naruto kept anything he felt from showing on his face.

"You would do well to knock and wait for my permission before you enter, elders."

The elders stopped in their tracks hearing the frosty tone. "Apologies, Hokage-sama."

It was a token apology and Tsunade knew it. But before she could reprimand them, they turned their attention to Naruto. "Uzumaki-san."

Naruto returned a cautious nod. "Good morning to you as well."

"It is quite unusual to see you in the Hokage's office so early, Uzumaki-san. Any particular reason?"

Naruto debated on what to tell the geezers. It was no secret to him that these guys had tried to make his life as difficult as possible, for a reason that escaped his grasp. They had been doing it for years, and there was no reason they would stop now. He didn't need to tell them anything.

On the other hand, the importance of the mission might-

He mentally scoffed. Who was he kidding?

He shrugged. "Hashing out some details related to my next mission."

They waited for him to continue, expecting him to tell them everything. Fortunately, before the silence could descend into awkwardness territory, Tsunade cut it. "Naruto, while your request is perfectly logical, I'm going to need some time before making my decision. This is highly-classified intel we are talking about, one that the Sandaime himself had a hand in sealing."

It went without saying that this discussion was over.

"I understand."

He really did. Didn't mean he was going to wait though. There were other ways to gather information.

Quietly excusing himself, he left her office. There was work he needed to do.

Once Naruto left, Tsunade closed her eyes and mentally steeled herself for the oncoming argument. She raised a hand to stop the elder before she spoke, and snapped her fingers.

Lizard appeared to the side of her desk. "Orders, Hokage-sama?"

"Tell the Sandaime that his presence is required in his former office urgently. Return swiftly."

The ANBU bowed, and vanished as silently as he had come. Finally turning her attention to the elders, she steepled her fingers and leaned forward.

"Hokage-sama, what was that about?"

Tsunade kept silent, for she wanted to make sure everyone who needed to hear about this heard it. That, and she absolutely hated to repeat herself.

And partly because it ticked the elders off.

The elders visibly collected themselves when they only got silence from her. Old age really made shinobi sloppy, it seemed. They knew better than to press Tsunade. Minutes ticked by, and Tsunade kept up the façade of waiting patiently for the ANBU to return. She would not give the elders the satisfaction of knowing that she was more impatient than them.

The old monkey was probably late on purpose.

Just as her patience was about to snap, the ANBU appeared in the office with the former Hokage.

"I was informed that you have need of me, Tsunade."

Sarutobi and Jiraiya were probably the only ones who could get away with calling her by name, and it clearly grated on the elders.

"Yes. Naruto has a rather…sensitive request to make of me, and considering the subject took place in your time, I figured that you would probably the best person-"

"- who can help make a decision?" He finished for her, smiling knowingly.

She hated it when he did that. "Yes."

He held his pipe away from his mouth, coughing slightly. "Sorry. What is it then?"

Tsunade should have been concerned, given that not once she had seen sensei coughing when smoking. But the matter at hand was too important to ignore, so the coughing took a backseat.

"Naruto wants information. Information on Uchiha Itachi."

Sarutobi's face blanked out, while the elders looked positively aghast. "Denied!"

As one, Tsunade and Sarutobi turned to Koharu, eyebrows raised as if to say, did you really just try to speak for me?

But Koharu and Homura stood surprisingly firm. "You must deny him, Hokage-sama."

"I must?"

Her tone must have clued them in on her rising ire, and so they hurriedly explained. "No one is allowed to access information on Uchiha Itachi. His files were sealed the night he took down his own clan."

"And I'm sure there is a good reason as to why his files were sealed, isn't it?"

Here's where things got a little interesting. The elders went quiet. Really quiet. They didn't fidget, nor did they look away from her. They just stopped saying anything. To Tsunade, that meant they clearly weren't willing to talk about it with her, which meant they knew something. She raised an eyebrow as a silent question, but nothing. And that pissed her off.

She just had enough of these….relics, undermining her authority.

"Are you really trying to withhold sensitive information from your Hokage? Because I can always have you sent to Ibiki and trust me, I won't regret it a bit."

That jolted them from whatever effort they were exerting, and their next words came out in a rush. "Hokage-sama-"

"You must believe-"

"-you cannot possibly-"

"-that we had the best intentions-"


A gruff rumble halted their attempts to explain themselves. Sarutobi had his eyes closed, thinking hard. "Why was Naruto asking for Itachi's file?"

So she told him about the argument that Naruto made. Sarutobi nodded at the end in understanding. "I see. A sound argument. But surely you realize that you do not need my permission?"

"I know that. I'm also aware that any files on missing nin are only accessible to ANBU teams that go hunting. What I don't know, is why these files," she pulled a thick bunch of files and dropped them onto the desk, "have the Hokage's seal of restriction."

A Hokage's seal of restriction was the highest security measure in the classification of files. Any and all files sealed with that particular seal meant that that file was available to the Hokage only, and no one else. The highest level of clearance, which was unusual seeing as it wasn't used often and all military secrets were shared between the ANBU commander and the Hokage. For all intents and purposes, if the Hokage knew something, then the ANBU commander definitely knew as well.

In this case, not quite.

The ANBU commander is always aware of the happenings concerning the shinobi forces of Konoha. The exception was when this particular security seal was used. For the protocol to be broken like this, it meant that something was terribly, terribly wrong. She was missing something vital, a secret that had the potential to shatter the workings of the village itself.

It was then she snapped out of her thought process, that she noticed the look she was getting from her former sensei. It was a look she recognized all too well- the weight of every single decision he made as Hokage, for the greater good of the village, crashing down on his shoulders. The last time she had seen him like this was well over three years ago.

And while he definitely looked guilty of something, she noticed that the elders weren't far behind. Though in their cases it was less guilty and more of a resolute, jaded, it-was-for-the-best expression. And it made her want to break their faces.

She was almost afraid to ask. Scratch that, she was definitely afraid to ask.

"What did you do?"

As if he couldn't bear the weight anymore, her former sensei almost crashed down onto the seat in front of her. His eyes were heavy with shame, everything conveying that he wanted nothing to do with the subject as long as he was alive.

"Send out the ANBU. Seal the room. The things we're going to talk about aren't just for anyone's ears."

Naruto didn't head home. There was work to be done. Chances were that he would be refused access to those files, but that probably wouldn't happen. Tsunade wouldn't sabotage her own shinobi in the field, especially when they could have an advantage. But there were factors that could make the less desired possibility come true.

If Tsunade can't give him what he wanted, then he would take it from somewhere else. Just in case. As insurance. Scratch that, he was definitely working on a contingency plan.

He took to the rooftops and made his way towards the abandoned Uchiha compound. This was probably a bad idea, but there were only so many places that held information about the notorious missing nin. ANBU archives were inaccessible, and he wasn't tempted to break in right now, not when the ANBU were already high-strung about the infiltration in Kabuto's death. That, and the security had been improved without doubt. Clan compound was the next best thing, that is, if the rooms hadn't been scrubbed clean of evidence when they removed the bodies.

The gate to the compound wasn't trashed. It simply looked like it hadn't been tended to for years. Given that this was Sasuke's property to do with as he pleased, he assumed that the village had taken care not to take anything, now that everything of the Uchiha now belonged to Sasuke, missing nin or not. But ANBU were not to trespass on private property of any clan without express permission, so they left the compound alone. Naruto? He just wanted to take a stroll. Naruto simply climbed the walls and entered the compound. It looked just like he had imagined.


It was a ghost town. There was no other way to say it. Deep down, Naruto felt a little sympathetic for the plight of the innocent Uchiha who were caught in the middle of the massacre. Civilians, who fell by Itachi's blade. But the man left nothing to chance. Unlike the Byakugan, the sharingan wasn't a dominant bloodline that everyone was born with, though everyone had the potential. Anybody could awaken it with enough training, and that was enough for Itachi to kill every single man and woman to ensure that Uchiha clan did not survive that fateful night.

Observing the shops and the streets around him, it was clear that this compound had been left to rot. All the shops were closed and locked, along with the houses. The occasional window had been smashed. The clan head's house would be the same. Now which one was it?

I know which one.

.how exactly?

Does it matter?

Naruto sensed that the fox didn't want to delve into it too much, so he dropped it. Kurama led him to the back streets of the compound. The house of the clan head wasn't the biggest house in the compound. But it was distinguished. There was just this air around it, some sort of aura, that this was the place that held a lot of pain.

Am I supernaturally inclined, Kurama?

You have a demon in your gut. You tell me.

Good point.

"Uzumaki-san, what are you doing here?"

Why they took so much time confronting him, he would never know. He turned around to see three ANBU standing a few feet away from him. "Talking a walk."

The one who had asked the question, mouse, tilted her head in a silent command.

Try again.

Naruto chuckled. "It's not your business, I'm afraid."

The ANBU of all people should be aware of the actions of Nijuu Shoutai. He had figured that there would be some tension between the normal forces and the black ops division over Akatsuki elimination. Given that ANBU were used to such high stakes, it was a matter of pride that they were not included in the hunt for Akatsuki. But then again, pride was one of the last things ANBU cared about. The only thing that mattered was the mission.

A look at the inside of the house could really tell him many things about the family dynamic. Give him some clues about Itachi's behavior. About his relationship with his family.

The ANBU should be able to tell, to be able to look underneath the underneath.

"You are trespassing on clan compounds."

"A trespass can only be called a trespass when someone enters private property without permission. Seeing as the owner has yet to oppose my actions, I'd say I'm in the clear, mouse."

Perhaps that was a little too harsh of him, making fun of the dead, but the ANBU had no business in stopping him. The ANBU still had yet to move, which made him sigh. "What are you, their lawyer? You guys break into places all the time for reconnaissance and when I do it, it becomes trespassing?"

"So you're doing reconnaissance?"

For the love of-

"What gave it away?"

The three watched him for a few more moments, after which they jumped away. Naruto shook his head and turned back to inspect the front door. No seals, not surprising considering none of the Uchiha were well-versed in seals. Checking it a little more thoroughly for remnants of traps and finding none, he set about breaking in. Sasuke would probably burst a blood vessel if he saw him now. Good thing he wasn't here then. That guy was a drama queen.

Picking the lock open, Naruto slid open the door. It really was a normal house, for a normal family of four. Dust covered everything that was in sight. No preservation seals either. He walked in, looking side by side. The floor was covered in dust, but no blood stains. He walked till he found the living room, also covered in dust. This had to be the place there Itachi killed his parents. There was nothing in the room that suggested a killing had taken place. Of course they weren't going to leave it just like that.

Moving on, he arrived in the kitchen. A normal family kitchen, with a dining table for four. The shelves for all food containers were at a lower height, which meant that the matriarch of the family was rather short. Nothing else was conclusive of anything, so it was time to move on.

The master bedroom was full of dust too. But it was clear that it hadn't been touched for cleaning. The sheets were made, most probably from sixteen years ago. A crest of the Uchiha hanging on the wall had him roll his eyes. There were a few pictures though, hanging in frames on the walls. One of Fugaku and Itachi from when he was (made?) a genin, one of Itachi and Sasuke when Sasuke was a baby and being held by his older brother (and Sasuke totally looked like a girl!), one of Sasuke and his mother, another of Fugaku and Itachi, one of Fugaku and Mikoto, another of Sasuke and his mother.

It was honestly very wholesome. Very interesting to note that Itachi seemed to love Sasuke dearly. And Sasuke was all smiles for his older brother. The bond between them was strong, and there wasn't one picture where they weren't sharing physical contact. His eyebrows creased into a frown. There was no way that this pictures were fake. Itachi had to be a teenager back then, and he should have had no reason to fake his love to Sasuke. So why did he suddenly flip out one day and slaughtered the Uchiha? What was the reason behind his hate for Sasuke?

He also noticed that there wasn't one picture, aside from the family picture, of Sasuke and his father. The then patriarch of the Uchiha did not seem to express too much emotion, and his eyes didn't quite hold the pride when compared to the photo with Itachi. Sasuke too looked a little uncomfortable, but doing his best to hide it. Perhaps they weren't as close as Fugaku was with Itachi. Why?

A question he kept in mind as he exited the room. Moving along, he came up on another room. Opening it, it immediately struck him whose room it was. It was perhaps the nature of the room, but he could immediately tell it belonged to his old teammate. Sasuke had to have cleaned out when he moved out, but Naruto could tell. Opening the closet, he didn't find any clothes, but he did find armor and pads for a child. Sasuke's from when he was a kid. Moving further in, he spotted a set of bow and arrows in a quiver in the corner.

Not something he would have guessed about Sasuke. Crouching down, he took out an arrow to inspect it. Red in color, steel tipped and quite sharp. Applying a bit of strength revealed that they were quite sturdy too. He brought it to his eye level. Very straight and very balanced. If he read the master bedroom right, then these were not a gift from his father. His mother perhaps?

….unlikely. While mothers of shinobi children are concerned and want their child to improve, a gift of a bow and arrow is quite unorthodox for a shinobi. Nearly every child he had met used either a kunai or a shuriken on a daily basis. No one in the shinobi forces uses a set, and it was rare among the assassins as well. At least, Naruto had yet to meet anyone. Ninjas were proficient in small, less bulky throwing arms like kunai and shuriken, which negated the need for a bow and arrow….unless the person who they're being given too is not proficient, and needs something more controllable and handier…..or they were not old enough to be proficient enough in the throwing weapons.

If Naruto had never seen Sasuke with a bow and arrow, then it meant the Uchiha likely used it during his academy days, away from public eyes. The size of the bow, arrows and quiver indicated it was meant for a little guy. It was a very thoughtful gift, taking the height of the individual into account so they don't awkwardly flounder with it. Setting aside the arrow, he picked up the bow and pulled experimentally.

A creak that was pleasant to the ears sounded off as he increased the tension. Strong enough to launch an arrow lethally, yet not tight enough so that a child can use it well. This was not shinobi level, but something that a child would use for hunting or target practice. The tautness of the string suggested that it wasn't used very often. Quality wise, this product was still very usable. Whoever had put together this gift for Sasuke was either trying to get into the good graces of the Uchiha clan heir and by extension, the head, or they were just very close to Sasuke.

He put down the bow and looked around for any clue that might tell him just who the benefactor was. He doubted Sasuke learned to use these on his own. Then it struck him.

It had to be Itachi. Itachi must have given Sasuke the set, and taught him how to use it. The pictures told him that they were very close, and Naruto could read between the lines. Sasuke hated Itachi because the man betrayed him. Betrayal meant that there existed a relationship of trust before. And love. Itachi had to have given Sasuke some tips for his weapons training, if not outright trained him, which was unlikely seeing as he was an ANBU captain and therefore, busy most of the time. And if he was busy with his duties, then Sasuke must have cherished the little amount of time he got to spend with his brother. Naruto had seen it; Sasuke could care about others if he allowed others to get close to him. But the betrayal from his brother had scarred Sasuke for life, and he was now subconsciously afraid of getting close with anyone else, for the fear of being betrayed again.

That would explain his snobbish attitude. It was a wall to keep others at arm's length, and Naruto wanted to kick himself for not seeing it sooner.

Naruto stood up and looked around Sasuke's room for the last time. It was clear that before the massacre, Sasuke loved his brother unconditionally.

It unfortunately did not tell him much about Itachi.

How hasn't it occurred to you? He was in ANBU!

Thanks for telling me something I already know.

You also know the scarecrow-

-who was also in ANBU. I know. But while he was, firsthand information is also very reliable. We learnt a lot just by looking at Sasuke's bow.

You speculated. There's a difference.

Tell me you know someone else who would give Sasuke the bow.

How the hell should I know?!

Don't you always keep saying that your wisdom is unsurpassable?

Wisdom and knowledge are two very different things!

And yet….

He exited the room. He found some answers, but somehow the picture had changed. In his mind's eye, the picture of the slayer of the Uchiha clan had blurred; he was no longer sure about Uchiha Itachi.

It was one of the few rare days when Kakashi didn't mind simply lazing about in his apartment. He woke up, did his morning rituals, cooked himself a simple breakfast, and plopped on his sofa, his favorite book on his head and eyes closed. He wasn't sleeping, just laying there. The ANBU activity had picked up a little over the past few days, and word from one of his old contacts had let it slip that an assassination had taken place, of one Yakushi Kabuto.

His initial reaction had been shock, of course. ANBU security was nothing to laugh at, and he doubted that the commander had let the standards fall after his retirement from ANBU. His train of thought and speculation led to the conclusion that this was an inside job, since no village would dare risk the breakout of a war right now, not with the strongest of the five. That, and the ANBU of Konoha were known throughout the villages for being some of the most vicious sons of bitches. You cross them, and they return it tenfold.

That said, inside job meant this was orchestrated by someone who had inside knowledge on the workings and security details of the ANBU, and who was as skilled as, if not more, an ANBU. And Kakashi knew only one such person who met the criteria.

His arm came up lightning fast, throwing the kunai he was fingering under the pillow towards the intruder that suddenly appeared by his side. It was pure reflex; he hadn't even looked at who had entered.

"That's one way to make your guests feel welcome."

His head finally turned so that his uncovered eye could put the face to the voice. Naruto was crouched in a squat, having dodged the kunai which was now buried into Kakashi's wall. He frowned.

"Look what you made me do."

Naruto glanced back and forth. "I wasn't the who threw the kunai."

But there were more important things to be asked. "How did you find my apartment?"

He received a funny look in response. "How do you think?"

"That's not an answer."

"I'm not giving you one."

"….why are you here Naruto?"

Naruto gave him a look that put him slightly on edge. He had the feeling he wasn't going to enjoy the upcoming conversation.

"I want to know everything you know about Uchiha Itachi."

AN: Told ya I'm not abandoning my work. Also, I've received some messages from some readers saying that my works have been posted on other sites. I'd like some more info about this before I take action. Any help is appreciated.