A/N: No, I haven't abandoned this story yet, although it seems like I have. Oo I do realize that it has been well over a year since I last updated, and that most of you have given up hope of ever seeing this story continuing. I apologize, I was heavily involved in school work (and exams) and shortly after that I was drafted into the army (I'm still there), so I haven't had a lot of time lately. :\ But I've finally managed to find myself some free time, so here I am. :D
Oh, and the first few chapters of the story were written way back before the second arc of the manga began, and before Kakashi Gaiden was released, so there are some discrepancies in this fic (in particular the details of Obito's death) I will be re-writing the first few chapters soon to work out these mistakes.
The asylum was built out of the way of any of the major ninja cities, well inside a jungle so thick and devoid of sunlight, wrapped so thickly in an aura of mystery and death that most people avoided the place altogether. The asylum was a towering fortress built in the middle of a swamp, with gigantic trees grew overhead, forming a protective shelter and blocking out all sunlight, plunging the ground below into perpetual darkness. The building was built entirely out of thick metal and rock, used to hold the most dangerous of criminals ever to come from neighboring countries and villages. The complex was guarded by large groups of Jounins and ANBU, and it extended far below the ground, each level separated by a huge metal door destroyable only by the strongest of jutsus.
Nobody knew for certain where the Jounins and ANBU came from, although it was suspected by most that they came from the Village of Hidden Rain, the closest ninja establishment. 'Close' was an inaccurate term to describe the distance between the village and asylum, however – it was easily a few hundred kilometers away. There were rumors that the Jounins and ANBU were a mix from all the different villages, coming together to guard the asylum, a prison for the most dangerous criminals alive.
At the very bottom of the complex, in the most isolated and well-guarded cell, was their target.
Himitsu Gensou, the Master of Genjutsu.
Uchiha Itachi crouched on the ground, ignoring the muddy water that lapped over his sandals, although he felt a slight twinge of annoyance as his cloak absorbed the water and became heavier. It was heavy enough as it was – the inside of the cloak was lined with weights. His Sharingan flared and spun furiously as he observed the guards walking around the perimeter of the asylum, committing their routine and movements to memory. It was absolutely vital that they pull off the mission as silently and swiftly as possible, and that required precise timing.
Had he been in another place, he might have permitted himself a smirk, well aware of the irony. Here he was, a spy from Konoha in the ranks of Akatsuki, about to launch an operation that would very well undermine the safety of his hometown and that of its allies. He did not have a choice though. In order to maintain his position in Akatsuki as a spy, he had to gain the trust of the organization.
Gensou had been reputed to be unsurpassed in his ability to create the most convincing and powerful genjutsus, some powerful enough to drive their victims insane in seconds, others torturing their victims' minds so much that they ended up killing themselves to end the agony. It had taken 2 teams of ANBU and 1 team of Jounin to subdue and capture him, and that was only because he had exhausted almost all of his chakra over a period of a few weeks eluding capture and setting up genjutsus in the most unlikely of places to throw his enemies off his trail.
Itachi grimaced as he felt his eyes start to tire themselves out. Already he could feel the strain of keeping the Sharingan activated for prolonged periods. While it was a formidable weapon, one that had made the Uchiha clan one of the most feared clans all around, it was not without its weaknesses. People often said that anyone wielding the Sharingan could copy the movements and attacks of his or her opponent, and for those who had mastered it, could predict the movements of said opponent. However, what most people did not realize was that the Sharingan did not merely copy attacks – it copied everything the user was viewing, preserving the knowledge and memories. It was something akin to taking snapshots through the user's eyes every millisecond, saving the photograph into the mind of the user.
Needless to say, it was a huge strain on the user's mind. It was the main reason why most Uchihas went insane at a young age, or otherwise showed signs of developing strange personality traits that were never present before.
Next to him, Hoshigake Kisame huddled miserably next to a small campfire, carefully kept under control to avoid giving away their position.
"I know I've said many times that I like water," Kisame growled, "But this wasn't exactly what I had in mind."
"Be silent." Hyuga Hizashi frowned at the blue-skinned man. "It is a mark of the leader's faith in our abilities that he assigned us this mission."
"Yeah, yeah… keep your pants on." Came the disgruntled reply.
Hizashi glared at him, resisting the urge to seal his chakra. Turning his attention back to the asylum, Hizashi activated his Byakugan and watched carefully.
"Hmm… There are a total of 8 Jounins patrolling the outer perimeter of the complex, traveling in pairs, and there are 2 teams of 4 ANBU supporting them from higher ground. Inside the complex, there are 2 Jounin guards standing watch over the main entrance, and 4 more patrolling the inside wall of the complex." He paused. "There are too many of them to engage in direct combat. We will have to take them out one group at a time."
"I see the 8 Jounins." Itachi acknowledged, having already memorized their movements and routine. "But I only see one ANBU team. Where's the other?" Hizashi pointed briefly at a tiny depression set in the trunks of one of the many gigantic trees, and as Itachi looked over, he detected the very slightest amount of movement. He shifted his position slightly to get a better view, and then spent a short while observing the ANBU team. Much like that other one, it did not move from its position. Itachi nodded to himself. This would make things easier. Withdrawing chakra from his eyes, he heaved a sigh of relief as his crimson eyes faded back to onyx, feeling the strain on his mind start to lessen.
"Are we finally about to get moving?" Kisame yawned, absent-mindedly playing with the bandage straps on his sword. "I'm about to fall asleep here."
Hizashi glanced over at Itachi. Raising a hand briefly, telling Hizashi to wait, Itachi closed his eyes and waited until his mind felt completely relaxed and free from the effects of the Sharingan.
"I'm ready." He nodded at the Hyuga.
"Finally." Kisame grinned, grabbing his sword and getting to his feet.
"Okay, here's the attack plan." Hizashi drew a small piece of parchment and a tiny chunk of charcoal from within his robes. Drawing a vague outline of the complex, he indicated the positions of the different groups of Jounin and ANBU. "Our first objective would be to take out the ANBU teams quietly and without alerting the Jounins below. Itachi, you and Kisame will handle the team here," He pointed at a minute circle drawn on the map, "While I take out the other one." Itachi nodded. Of their team, Hizashi was the only one who was really suited to taking on larger groups of enemies at once, due to his Byakugan and his style of fighting. Kisame twitched in impatience.
"Can we get going now?" He demanded. Hizashi glared at him, then sighed wearily and nodded. With a feral grin, the blue-skinned man was gone. Itachi frowned and quickly followed after him. Watching as the Uchiha faded rapidly out of sight, Hizashi turned around and started towards his assigned targets.
"Forgive me, Konoha." He murmured to himself as he dashed through the foliage. Then he forced the thoughts out of his mind, and focused on his objective. Masking his chakra, he silently moved behind one of the ANBU members, the one furthest away from his team, and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Hello," Hizashi said pleasantly, "You are within my field of Hakke."
Moments later, all three of them were standing in front of the first set of metal doors within the asylum. The ANBU teams had been utterly obliterated, taken completely by surprise. The Jounins, although alerted to their presence, had scarcely enough time to defend themselves, much less sound off the alarm. Kisame nonchalantly kicked the body of one of the Jounins aside, flicking the blood off his sword as he did so. Then he glanced up at the door, whistling appreciatively at its size.
"Well, what now?" He asked.
"Leave this to me." Itachi responded, focusing a huge amount of chakra into his eyes. Suddenly realizing what the Uchiha was planning to do, Kisame and Hizashi quickly stepped back. Itachi's eyes flared open, and suddenly the doors exploded in a burst of black flame. 5 Jounins hurtled out from the chamber beyond, reacting quickly to the attack. A multitude of voices called out various jutsus, and soon the chamber was filled with flames, huge torrents of water, electricity and surging masses of earth. The 3 Akatsuki members separated, leaping out of the way of the jutsus.
Itachi dashed towards one of the Jounins with inhuman speed, slashing at him with a kunai. The Jounin barely managed to parry his first blow, and soon succumbed as Itachi continued attacking relentlessly. He rolled aside, his body torn and bleeding, summoning an earth dragon into existence. Itachi watched with cool detachment as the dragon flung itself at him, shrieking, then crouched low on the ground, springing forward and evading the dragon as it thundered over him. Going through hand seals faster than the eye could see, Itachi unleashed a huge fireball at the Jounin, who tried to dodge it. He was partially successful – the fireball did not kill him. He was badly burned and injured, however.
Kneeling on the floor, the Jounin watched as Itachi strolled casually through the smoke, right up to him.
"Who are you?" He spat. Itachi shrugged. Growling, the Jounin reached into one of the pouches hanging from his legs, withdrew a kunai, and flung it at Itachi as hard as it could. It was a mere act of defiance, and surprise showed on his face when the attack actually connected. A split second later, a huge explosion wiped the Jounin from existence.
"Kage Bunshin – Sai."
Kisame flung his sword into the midst of 2 Jounins, absorbing all the chakra that they had summoned for their jutsus. Momentarily disoriented, they watched numbly as Kisame smirked at them, his hands blurring as he went through a complicated series of hand seals. Water from the huge swamp outside churned and bubbled, and then it rushed into the chamber with crushing speed. As the wall of black water rushed forward, it morphed itself into 4 dragons and 4 sharks. The sharks ripped through the air with deadly accuracy, slicing through one of the Jounins. His partner leapt out of the way of the sharks, only to be cornered by the dragons. His screams filled the air as the dragons pummeled into him, pinning his crushed body to the walls.
Hizashi repelled all attacks directed at him with a Kaiten, one so powerful that his chakra seared and destroyed the floor beneath him. He stood still, his stance one of mockery and challenge, and the remaining 2 Jounins rushed at him. Weaving in and out of their attacks with ease, he slowly sealed their tenketsus, until finally they slumped to the floor, unable to draw any more chakra to aid them in battle. Itachi moved in, and took one of them out with a kunai through his throat. Hizashi slammed his palm into the chest of the last remaining Jounin, then released a burst of chakra that stopped the man's heart. He pushed the body aside.
"How many more levels are there before we reach the bottom? These guys are boring." Kisame glanced at Hizashi. The Hyuga activated his Byakugan briefly, then smirked at Kisame.
"I can't see the bottom."
A grueling hour and a half after they first initiated their attack, the trio finally managed to reach the bottom of the complex. Climbing down the stairs, they saw a long corridor stretching ahead of them, lit by flickering torches on the wall. Hizashi activated his Byakugan, then heaved a sigh of relief.
"There's nobody on this floor." Powerful as they were, fighting well over a hundred Jounin and ANBU had drained them significantly. None of them had managed to get this far unscathed. They proceeded cautiously down the corridor, arriving not at a metal door as they had seen throughout the complex, but instead they walked into a huge round chamber. A glistening and wavering crystal lattice stood in the middle, and all three recognized it immediately as a high-level barrier jutsu. They could not see what lay in the middle.
"So, how do we break this thing?" Kisame, as usual, was asking questions.
"All barriers have a weakness. However, since this barrier is particularly strong, we'll need an exceptionally powerful jutsu to strike its weak point." Hizashi answered, flicking his gaze to Itachi for an instant. Itachi understood immediately – Hizashi was referring to Amaterasu, the black flames. The Hyuga activated his Byakugan, and walked around the crystal structure, observing it carefully. Finally, he called Itachi over, and pointed at a point on the crystal wall.
Itachi focused his chakra into his eyes again, draining almost all of his remaining pool, and the crystal lattice collapsed in a brilliant shower of sparkles. He slumped to one knee, drained, too tired to do anything. But then he heard a gasp from Hizashi, and his head snapped up. He stared, eyes wide.
There was nothing within the crystal.
"Ah, I was wondering who had come." All three whipped around. A man stood before them, tall with long, chocolate brown hair that tumbled down to his shoulders. His dark eyes were cool, appraising, and his thin lips were twisted slightly in a tiny smile. His body was hidden in the depths of a ragged brown cloak.
"You! You're Himitsu Gensou!" Kisame exclaimed, shocked.
"Yes, that would be me." Gensou acknowledged with a nod. "And you're Hoshigake Kisame. That's Uchiha Itachi, and unless I'm very much mistaken, that's Hyuga Hizashi, who's supposed to be dead." He frowned slightly. "What business have you here that would require you to break into this asylum?"
Hizashi passed him a scroll, a letter written to Gensou from the leader of Akatsuki. Gensou read through it, then smiled.
"So you're here to recruit me into your organization?"
"Yes, that is correct. We had not expected you to have broken free of the barrier, however."
"Oh, that." Gensou waved a hand dismissively. "I broke out of the asylum a while ago."
"… What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I said. I escaped from this asylum a few days ago, with some help."
"How is that possible? There's no way to escape from the asylum without being detected by the guards."
"Simple, there were no guards by the time I made good my escape. They had all been slain."
"I find that hard to believe. We just fought our way down here through an enormous force of Jounins and ANBU." Gensou grinned at Hizashi.
"What you fought through, my dear friend, was but a mere illusion. Everything you saw, everyone you fought in this asylum was part of my genjutsu. It took me the better part of 4 days to set up a genjutsu of this magnitude, though." Hizashi stared at him, disbelieving. He had never before heard of a genjutsu that could fool both the Sharingan and Byakugan, nor one of such immense proportions. It was unthinkable.
"I can see from your expression that you don't believe me." Gensou scowled.
"You have to pardon me, but I find it hard to believe that such a powerful genjutsu actually exists."
"Just wait, the genjutsu should be unraveling itself soon. You destroyed the core of it, after all." Gensou pointed at the remains of the crystal.
As soon as his words were spoken, suddenly, the chamber around them wavered, and dissolved into nothingness. Once again they were standing outside, in the swamp, just a short distance away from the asylum. All their injuries faded away. It was as though they had never fought any of their battles, although they were drained.
"What the…" Kisame growled, looking around.
"Believe me now?" Gensou smirked. Hizashi was speechless. He knew that Gensou had not used any genjutsu on them – his chakra coils had remained inactive all throughout his speech. And that could only mean that he was telling the truth. That everything they had seen, every single ninja they had fought, had been nothing but illusion. It boggled the mind. "They don't call me the master of genjutsu for no reason, you know."
This man was dangerous. If his genjutsus were indeed this powerful, he could easily wipe out a large force of ninjas. All he would have to do was set up a genjutsu similar to this one, and catch his victims unawares. Once they had drained all their chakra fighting against illusionary foes, they would be fodder for real, breathing enemies.
Itachi was the first to recover from the shock. "You mentioned that you escaped with some outside help. Who was it?"
Gensou shuddered, and for a brief moment fear flashed across his eyes. "I didn't catch his name. But he was immensely powerful. From the time he set off the alarms on the first level, it took him only about 20 minutes to wipe out all the Jounins and ANBU within the fortress."
All 3 were shocked to the very core of their beings.
"Where is he now?" Itachi asked.
"He left after getting me out. Said that I was a 'man of talent' and didn't 'deserve to rot in such a place'. I decided to stay around here – once I had my genjutsu set up I would have freedom of movement since nobody would suspect that I had escaped. I had just finished setting up my genjutsu when you guys arrived."
They were silent. Somewhere, there was a man who was far more powerful than any of them. It was a horrifying thought.
"This is most intriguing. The leader would want to hear of this." Hizashi said thoughtfully after a moment of silence. "Let us return to the headquarters." He glanced at Gensou. "Are you coming with us?" The tone in his voice implied that Gensou didn't have a choice in the matter, despite the question. Gensou laughed.
"Sure, why not?"
A/N: And that's the end of this chapter. Something about it bothers me though, so don't be surprised if it's replaced with a different one at some point. ;