Chapter 19: Prepare for Battle

Chapter 19: Prepare for Battle!


"So, Orochimaru's plan is falling apart after all." A man with short spiky blonde hair wearing an Akatsuki cloak that effectively hid the lower half of his head stated, staring out a window.

"If that's the case, do you want me to step in?" a figure wreathed in shadows asked.

"I really couldn't care less about what happens to Konoha as a whole, but I want that old man dead, and I want those two kids in our hands now, if not sooner. Go, make sure the old man dies, and if Orochimaru happens to conveniently 'vanish' during the commotion, well, I for one will not say a thing."

"As for the children?"

"Ah, yes, do make sure that nothing happens to them. If they are in any way damaged I will be very upset. If anything happens, it sure as hell better not be you behind it, Zero."

"Don't worry, master," Zero said as he moved out of the shadows, his long blonde hair swirling around him as he moved. "I will make sure that nothing happens to them." With that parting statement, Zero left the room, revealing a large package strapped to his back.

"I won't worry, Zero. I know that you always keep your word." The leader of the Akatsuki continued to watch the birds flying around outside his window, content in the knowledge that his right hand man would see his orders out to the letter.

--Forest of Death Central Tower--

"Participants of this year's Chuunin Selection Exam, we regret to inform you that, due to circumstances outside of our control, this exam must be ended prematurely. We ask that all of you be patient and wait for your Jonin instructors to arrive before leaving this tower. Any who need medical attention may see one of the on-duty medics." Sarutobi stepped back from the small pedestal, looking over the shocked group of genin.

"Some of the kids who really need treatment aren't going to go to the medics, they'll say that some of the others need the attention worse than they do. Itachi's team is pretty trashed, but knowing them they aren't even going to twitch until he gets here." Yamato commented quietly as three or four genins out of the entire group stood up to see the medic-nins at the far end of the room.

"You're right, but most of the Konoha Jonin are already here, so they'll either be getting treatment as soon as he gets here or getting an earful until they do." Kakashi agreed.

On the opposite side of the room, the genin in question were discussing that same subject.

"You guys really should get checked out. After all, you don't suffer a sustained hundred plus degree fever without suffering some kind of damage." Sakura stated.

"It's not that we don't want to get checked out, it's just that I don't think that the medics will be able to do much for us right now. We really should try to talk to Tsunade-Obaa-chan, she'd be able to help us out." Naruto countered, pointedly not standing up.

"If nothing else, the medics would at least be able to get you two hydrated." Neji remarked in his usual monotone. "I noticed that you were both consuming large amounts of water, a classic symptom of someone who has been dehydrated."

Naruto looked around the room, noticing that several Jonin had arrived and retrieved their students. Turning toward the medics, Naruto noticed Itachi waving the group over. "Nii-san's here already." Naruto said as he stood up. Itachi looked over his battered team as they walked over, not liking what he saw.

"Okay, am I sure I want to know what happened to you guys?" Itachi asked, raising an eyebrow quizzically.

"Well, it's like this…" Naruto began, drawing a deep breath as he prepared to give a full detail report on everything that happened to the team since Itachi had let them loose to have lunch the day they signed up for the exams.

"Never mind, I'll hear all about it later, but in the meantime, you guys all look like you could stand a good run in with the medics. Don't argue, consider it a direct order." Itachi said, cutting off both Naruto's explanation and his protests about needing treatment.

After a quick check in with the medics, who prescribed a special pill that allowed the body to absorb water quickly for Naruto and Sasuke and basic first aid for the minor injuries on everyone else, the group set off to a more private location to read their instructions from the Hokage as well as to perform a quick debriefing.

"Okay, let me see if I have this straight," Itachi began after hearing the entire story from the Genin. "You were attacked by Orochimaru, who placed a pair of seals on both of you." Pointing at both Naruto and Sasuke. "After which, you both met Kyuubi, who came up with a possible way to remove Orochimaru's Cursed Seal. In the meantime, you," Pointing at both Sakura and Temari. "Were confronted by Orochimaru's subordinates, the Oto ninjas. After you defeated them, Kakashi and Yamato brought you to the tower. That about covers it, right?"

Receiving affirmative nods from the group, Itachi sighed. Okay, don't panic, it's not totally hopeless, the asshole didn't count on Kyuubi coming up with a way to get rid of the Cursed Seal, and neither of them are displaying any secondary symptoms of the Seal yet. There's still time to keep the proverbial kitsune in the bag.

"Okay, good news/bad news time." Itachi had everyone's undivided attention instantly. "Good news, we can get rid of Orochimaru's Cursed Seal. Bad news, we don't have time to do so at the moment."

"What do you mean, we don't have time to remove the seals? It just takes a few seconds to remove seals, a couple minutes at the most." Naruto asked, slightly agitated.

Itachi sighed, just knowing that bad things were going to happen before this was all over and done with. "While the actual removal is, as you said, rather quick, the problem lies with the fact that removing such a powerful seal places a remarkable strain on the body, so you'll likely be unconscious for several days after the removal, and those are several days that we do not have. Konoha is now in a state of emergency, and we need all the active shinobi squads we can get. The Hokage has ordered us to search the village for any trace of the nuke-nin organization Akatsuki and, if we can, capture any member of that organization that we encounter."

"That seems like a pretty tall order for even some jounin, what good are we going to be able to do to stop these guys?" Gaara asked, his eyes narrowing as he recalled the group's previous encounter with Akatsuki, and the genocide that had followed shortly after.

"The plan," Itachi started. "Is that we avoid actually facing these guys head-to-head. Now, here's what we'll do…"

A\N: Sorry it took so long, but I am back. Another apology is due for the length of the chapter, I just got increadiby tired of beating my head against the writers block wall at the end of this chapter. However, expect the next chapter to come soon (Hopefully within the week!). That said, I still like everyones feedback, so keep the reviews coming, and flames will be viewed, extinguished, and added to my now massive nest of ashes. This is your one and only Shining Pheonix, signing off for now.