Damp. One word to describe the caves he walked through on a daily basis, the cave he was currently walking through now, would be damp. Three words would be: confined, damp, and mildewy. Those three words alone depicted the entire labyrinth of caves and caverns that are the Akatsuki lair. To any common person, these living conditions would be absolutely atrocious. The air was stale and smelled of mold. The caves were dimly lit with chakra infused candles. They never went out, but barely made a difference in the darkness.

Itachi did not complain.

In all honesty, the elder Uchiha could care less where he lived. After all, the Akatsuki were never ones to be particular about where they resided. Diedara was an exception, however. The intricacy of the countless intersecting caves made this mountain and ideal location for the Akatsuki. Anyone who did not know their way around this webbed maze would certainly get lost.

Following the dimly lit corridors through the hollowed mountain, Itachi made his way to the central cavern. The cavern itself was a massive hollow located half a mile within the mountain. It was split into two halves by a seemingly bottomless ravine. Countless stalagmites protruded from the vast ceiling sending droplet upon droplet of mineralized water to continuously break the endless silence bestowed upon this giant cavern.

When Itachi reached the precipice overlooking the ravine, a low, commanding voice echoed over the distance of the cavern.

"You're early, Itachi-san."

The elder Uchiha nodded slightly.

A thick chuckle reached the brunette's ears, ringing off of the cavern walls.

"Quiet as ever, ne? Uchiha Itachi? No wonder Kisame-san complains about your lack of conversation during missions. You're silence is rather unnerving."

Itachi did not bother to acknowledge that statement. He was well aware of his habitual actions, or rather, lack thereof. Kisame also seemed hell bent on reminding him about his 'anti-social, arrogant self.' Turning his attention back to his leader, Itachi nodded and awaited the reasons for his summoning.

"I will get right to the point, Itachi-san," the Akatsuki leader spoke in a dead serious tone much different from the teasing note the brunette heard just a moment ago, "There are only two Jinchuuriki left for us to acquire. I have already sent Kisame-san after the four tails in Grass. I hear that the four tails is quite weak, so Kisame-san should not have any problems. I want you, however, to head for Konoha to retrieve the nine tails. Despite our lack of movements these last few years, Konohagakure's protection of the nine tails has not even diminished in the least," pausing for a moment to laugh softly, the Akastuki leader continued, "I also hear that the younger Uchiha has returned to your village. As you know, he was with Orochimaru for three years, until the desctruction of Oto. From there, he was taken back to Konoha."

Itachi stiffened when he heard this, but remained silent and waited for the rest of his mission.

"Ah, yes, you're younger brother. Sasuke, was his name?" he paused, "I do believe that he never leaves the Jinchuuriki's side. You will have quite a trial ahead of you, Itachi-san. I'm sure you can manage, though. Even now, you're still vastly stronger that that of your younger sibling. For now, I want you to observe your target until you find the most opportune time to strike. I do ask, however, that you finish as soon as possible. It has come to my attention that the Akatsuki are being carefully watched by that toad sannin, Jiraiya. A very troublesome man. This location has not yet been compromised, but it is only a matter of time."

There was a long pause after that. Itachi assumed his leader was analyzing Akatsuki's current situation with the toad sannin. He silently agreed with the man that if their location was discovered by the hermit, it would set their objectives back another few years. All of this waiting, despite their well-practiced patience, was taking a toll even on their leader. He looked up again when said leader continued to speak, seemingly finished with his thoughts.

"Getting back to your assignment, any methods of attainment are acceptable, as long as the Jinchuuriki is alive when you arrive back here for the extraction. I am aware of the fighting spirit this particular jinchuuriki has and I am quite confident that you are more than capable to break it," another dark laugh, "That is all, Itachi-san."

The elder Uchiha nodded in acknowledgement and left the cavern without a word. It was not until he reached the surface that his thoughts reflected upon his face. He grinned. A whispered name was carried along the wind and he was gone.