Chapter 3

Disclaimer: Don't own. Sorry.

Warning: Death, destruction, and weird yet violent things. Also, airships. And airships mean airship pirates. Enjoy.

--

Kyuubi shakily got to his feet, continuing to stare wide eyed at the thrashing blonde on the ground.

Naruto was still clawing at his throat, no longer grabbing at it like someone was choking him. but gouging at his skin as if he was trying to reach his esophagus from the outside. Welts appeared under his fingernails, and trickles of blood slowly joined the streams of the liquid that was flowing from Naruto's mouth.

Kyuubi stumbled forward a few steps, trying to figure out what was causing Naruto the pain. Nothing had attacked him as far as he knew, all Naruto had done was sit up and rub the sleep from his eyes and then this. "N-Naruto?"

The blonde didn't appear to register Kyuubi speaking. He was now screaming silently – hoarse, drawn-out squeaks were all the noise that was coming out of his bloody and raw throat. His blue eyes were rolling around in their sockets and the pupils were dilated to the fullest. Naruto's legs were twitching and jerking spasmodically and he was still clawing at his throat, chunks of skin falling off his neck and sticking to his bloody hands.

Kyuubi lurched forward when he got a clear sight of the mauled neck and tried to grab the blonde's wrists, attempting to still the limbs and stop Naruto from injuring himself any further. As soon as Kyuubi made contact, Naruto started shrieking again and madly propelled himself with his legs across the dirty floor away from Kyuubi.

The soldier jerked his head up and gasped as he remembered the silver haired man who just visited them. Hidan hadn't left too long ago and should still be within earshot. It's a wonder that he hadn't come in already, due to the volume Naruto was screaming.

Running the few feet to the wall of metal bars, Kyuubi jammed his face into the space between two of the black polls and started yelling at Hidan, bellowing for the silver haired man to come back.

A few seconds later, the man floated through the doorway, an irate and slightly pissed off look upon his face. "What in fuck's name do you want now, you ungrateful little shit of a- OH! Look!" Hidan pointed in surprise at the writhing Naruto. "Jeez, only here two days and you're already going and killing your fucking roommate, you son of a bitch!"

Kyuubi almost snapped at the man, but caught himself when he remembered what exactly he had called the foul Elite back for. "Please, can you help him? I don't know what's wrong, he just started screaming!" Kyuubi's remark was punctuated by a particularly shrill shriek of pain from the blonde behind him.

Hidan lowered his arm and looked at Naruto thoughtfully before raising his hand again and snapping his fingers, a smirk spreading across his face. "Got it!", and then he ran out of the room.

Kyuubi thrust his arm out of the poles in a pathetic attempt to grab after the man. Pulling his arm back into the cell, the soldier slammed both fists against the blackened metal and yelled in frustration. Weren't people supposed to care whether or not their hostage died?

Kyuubi jerked his head up again as he heard rapidly approaching footsteps. Without fail, Hidan came running through the door frame, clutching a large vial in one hand. Kyuubi watched hopefully as the silver haired man withdrew a set of odd looking keys from his cloak and quickly jammed one into the keyhole of the cell.

Hidan swung open the door, the old metal frame emitting a heavy creak as it moved on its obscenely old hinges. Walking briskly into the cell, the Elite delivered a harsh kick to Kyuubi's chest, knocking the soldier on his ass and effectively forcing all the air out of his lungs. "Wouldn't want anyone to escape now, would we?"

Kyuubi coughed violently and watched through watering eyes as Hidan strode over to the thrashing blonde and grabbed the young teen's wrists in one hand. He leaned over Naruto and poured the contents of the vial down the blonde's throat, luckily he had been screaming at the time so it was easier for Hidan to force the liquid down.

The result could be seen within seconds. Naruto stopped flailing his limbs, though his legs twitched slightly every once in awhile. He stopped clawing at his neck and his arms went lax in Hidan's grip, his blue eyes no longer rolling around furiously and were now staring calmly at the ceiling. Naruto wasn't screaming anymore, but his breath came out in ragged pants and gasps due to his torn throat.

Hidan nodded to himself and corked the vial, tucking it back into the depths of his cloak. Releasing Naruto's wrists, the Elite stepped back a few paces and observed the blonde for about half a minute before walking out of the cell and re-locking the door behind him.

The silver haired man looked at Kyuubi and held up one finger before walking out of the room. Kyuubi turned to Naruto, noticing that the blonde had fallen unconscious. Thankfully, the gouges on his neck were mainly superficial, although in a few spots Kyuubi could see the strands of neck muscle. All in all it wasn't too bad, and Naruto would be completely healed up in about two weeks.

Kyuubi's eyes snapped back to the door as Hidan came walking back in with a small bucket in his hands. Fitting the bucket in between the bars, Hidan looked at Kyuubi again and nodded once before sitting down in front of the cell and watching him.

Kyuubi reached out and curled his fingers around the rim of the plastic tub, cautiously pulling it towards himself. The top of the bucket was covered with a folded towel and as Kyuubi moved it aside, he saw that it was full of medical supplies. There were bandages, alcohol, an ice pack, and even a sealed container full of hot water.

Looking back at the seated Elite, the red-head raised an eyebrow. "Why?"

Hidan sighed and set an elbow on his folded knee, resting his chin on his hand. "Because I fucked up, the kid shouldn't have to take a hit because I was stupid. You might want to hurry up and clean the little shit's neck before it gets infected."

Kyuubi hurriedly grabbed the bandages, the alcohol, the water and some of the rags at the bottom of the tub and moved towards the unconscious Naruto. He carefully ripped off Naruto's meager tunic down the middle, which wasn't that hard due to the poor quality of the fabric. Scooting the torn cloth off of the teen's shoulder's Kyuubi set it aside in case he needed more rags.

Kyuubi leaned in closer to study Naruto's wounds. Thankfully, with his excessive clawing, close to no dirt or grime had gotten in the cuts, which were now bleeding sluggishly and sparingly. Opening the container with the hot water in it, Kyuubi soaked one of the rags in it and gently dabbed at the superficial cuts that littered the blonde's lean neck.

Kyuubi glanced at Hidan out of the corner of his eye and noticed that the man was watching him intently. "So, what is wrong with him?"

The air pirate sighed and closed his eyes. "He's poisoned, dipshit."

Kyuubi nodded in understanding. He should have figured that before, not to mention assumed it when he first woke up. If Naruto was poisoned, was he? Kyuubi voiced his suspicion.

Hidan chuckled and shook his head. "No. You aren't a hostage. He is. And don't get your hopes up about him being cured, either. I didn't give him the antidote."

Kyuubi frowned at Hidan's statement. "What do you mean?" The red-head sat back on his heels and studied Naruto's neck, satisfied with how clean it was now that Kyuubi had finished with it. He had only used four or so of the rags, next was the alcohol. It was probably better that Naruto wasn't awake for this part.

"The poison in his body is one that doesn't exist outside of the Akatsuki. One of our men created it. This poison – he calls it 'Erasith' – targets the respiratory system. It literally burns your muscles and airways from the inside. Hence the clawing." Hidan grimaced when he noticed how civil he was sounding. He moved his hand up to his chest and clutched the strange necklace he was wearing. "The antidote I gave him caused the poison in his system to go into hibernation, making it so where it doesn't affect him at all. Nothing in his body can detect it, and if he dies no doctor will be able to either. After a week or so, it comes out of hibernation and another dose of the temporary antidote needs to be given or else the person will die."

Kyuubi nodded in understanding. Quite clever, really. He doused one of the rags with the alcohol and gingerly rubbed down Naruto's cuts, paying special attention to the deeper and larger ones. Even unconscious Naruto still hissed and emitted sounds of pain. Once he crudely cleaned the wounds, he poured some peroxide over the boy's neck, noticing that there wasn't much foam produced by the chemical.

Using the rest of the now warm water, Kyuubi poured it slowly over Naruto's neck, washing away the left over alcohol, grime, and peroxide. Picking up the roll of bandages, the soldier expertly bandaged up the teen's neck and carefully pinned it in place.

Nodding once in satisfaction at his handiwork, Kyuubi piled everything back in the bucket and shoved it towards Hidan, the silver haired man gingerly picking up and sliding the tub out of the bars again.

Standing up, the Elite straightened his cloak with one hand, smoothing the wrinkles down the front before glaring at Kyuubi. "Don't expect this kinda of treatment every time someone gets a cut, fuck face. The only reason why I helped you was because it's my own damn fault he fucked up his neck. Tell the little shit to remind me next time." And with that, Hidan turned on his heel and walked purposely out of the room.

Sighing, Kyuubi returned his attention to the still out of it Naruto. Carefully picking up the blonde, he moved the teen to his bed and laid him out on the pile of ragged sheets and blankets. Adjusting the limp form until less stress was put on the injured neck; Kyuubi sat down on the floor a foot or so away from Naruto's head and lost himself in his mind.

--

Kyuubi was jerked out of his troublesome thoughts when he heard a small noise coming from his right. Shifting his gaze, Kyuubi quickly shifted from his sitting position to kneeling next to Naruto's bed, helping the groggy teenager sit up slowly.

Naruto blinked a few times and sighed, bringing up his hands to rub at his eyes. He then moved his arms above him and stretched for a second before suddenly snapping the appendages back down to his chest, his mouth open in surprise, pain, and confusion.

"Do you remember what happened?" The red-head asked softly.

Naruto clamped his eyes shut, a few small tears leaking past his crinkled lids as he moved his hands up from his chest to hesitantly feel at the bandages wrapping his neck. Taking a shaky breath, Naruto shook his head, choking back a sob as the small movement caused a good amount of the closing wounds on his neck to re-open.

Kyuubi sighed and gently moved Naruto's hands away from his throat, placing them instead at the boy's sides. "Are you aware that you are poisoned?"

Naruto chose to answer verbally this time, rather than with a nod of the head. "Yes." The blonde's voice was hoarse.

Kyuubi nodded. "Good. Apparently, you need to be given a temporary antidote weekly or else the poison will take effect. Hidan had forgotten to administer the antidote in time to stop you reacting to it."

Naruto slowly opened his eyes; his pupil's dilated due to the lack of light. "What happened to my neck?"

"You were…clawing at it. Like it was on fire."

Naruto sighed in comprehension.

Kyuubi got up to his feet and stretched his legs before glancing around the small cell. "I saved the rest of my meal for you. I figured that when you woke up, you would need it more than I."

Naruto smiled meekly, looking thankfully at the soldier. "Thanks, Kyuubi."

Kyuubi shrugged and shuffled over to where the rest of his food sat cold on a tray on the floor. Picking it up, he moved back to Naruto and handed the platter to the blonde. Naruto coughed slightly and winced before accepting the plate of food from Kyuubi.

"Sorry it's cold, I can't really do anything about it though," Kyuubi looked sadly at the small mound of mashed potatoes, rice, and pieces of chicken gristle and meat. He was fairly certain that the food would be better tasting if it was warm, or at least easier to swallow.

Naruto rolled his eyes and picked up the fork. Snaring a piece of the chicken, Naruto scrapped the meat off the utensil with his teeth and slowly chewed it. The injured teen had to be careful not to move to suddenly so he didn't agitate his wounds any further.

Once Kyuubi was certain that Naruto could eat well on his own, he eased his butt down on the stone floor and flinched when the cold permeated his thin pants. Getting somewhat comfortable on the floor, Kyuubi bent his knees up and rested his elbow on his knee and his chin on his open hand. Looking out of the corner of his eye, the sides of Kyuubi's mouth twitched up as he tried not to laugh at Naruto. The blonde was trying to shovel as much food as he could into his mouth at one time without over-straining his neck white at it. He was succeeding… kinda.

Kyuubi leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. Sighing, he turned his head towards Naruto. "So, how come you are here?"

Naruto held up one finger, silently asking for Kyuubi to let him finish inhaling the food before he answered. Heck, if he could, Kyuubi would bet Naruto would be mainstreaming the food on his plate if it got the nutrients into his system any faster.

Kyuubi chuckled this time and nodded in consent, moving his head back into a comfortable position and waited patiently for Naruto to stop mimicking a vacuum cleaner. About ten minutes later, Naruto had cleared the whole plate of any form of anything edible. Dropping the porcelain plate onto the floor, Naruto patted his slightly distended stomach contently and grinned. Looking at Kyuubi, Naruto squinched his eyes shut and chuckled sheepishly, scratching the back of his head with the hand that wasn't resting on his stomach. "Sorry about that, Kyuubi. Guess I was really hungry."

The soldier laughed and shrugged, pushing himself off the floor to stand and stretch again. The small amount of space in the cell was limiting his range of movement, which was taking a toll on his muscles, not to mention his back. Looking down in the blonde, Kyuubi blinked and looked back and forth between the pile of blankets that was his bed, and the pile of blankets that was Naruto's bed. Frowning, Kyuubi addressed Naruto. "Hey, why don't we combine the two "beds"? That way it's a little more comfortable, not to mention warm."

Naruto blinked and looked back and forth between the two piles much like Kyuubi had. Naruto then smiled brightly at Kyuubi and twitched his head down slightly to mimic a nod. "Sure, sounds great!"

The red-head spent the next five minutes or so piling his mound of blankets on top of Naruto's, making sure to move the teen out of the way first. Despite having just downed a lot of food, Naruto was still really weak as his body was still fighting the aftereffects of the dormant poison. Once he had a decent, comfortable looking bed, he picked up Naruto bridal style and carefully sat him on one side before walking around to the end of the pile and seating himself next to the blonde.

Kyuubi nodded to himself, silently approving of the makeshift bed. It was way more comfortable and warm than just the small pile of blankets. Tilting his head slightly towards the teen, Kyuubi sighed. "So, you were going to talk now?"

Naruto laughed at Kyuubi's persistence and nodded in resignation. "Okay, okay. But only because you are nagging me."

Naruto sighed and tilted his head back slowly so that it was resting against the cold, stone wall. Looking off into the non-existent distance, Naruto started to tell his story to Kyuubi. "As you heard, I am Naruto Uzumaki, son of Arashi Uzumaki. My dad is the richest man in the world, and also the kindest. I was kidnapped obviously, and now am being held for a ransom of over 30 million dollars."

Kyuubi cringed when he heard how much Naruto was being held for. Even for Arashi, that had got to be a large sum of money. "So what happened? How were you kidnapped?"

The soldier was surprised when he saw a faint blush spread across the teen's cheeks. Naruto chuckled quietly. "Well, earlier that day, me and dad were out riding horses. He was trying to get on his horse, Myriad, when she saw something and ran off a few feet or so. Dad was about halfway on the saddle when she decided to jolt out from under him, and he ended up falling and landing in a huge puddle of mud." Naruto started laughing when he remembered his dad flailing and falling into the massive mud puddle. Kyuubi chuckled slightly even when he imagined the almighty Arashi covered in mud because a horse decided to chase something.

Once Naruto got his laughter under control, he continued talking. "After I finished laughing, I ran over to dad to help him out of the puddle, but he pulled me in as well. So, rather than riding horses for an hour or so, we ended up waddling back to the house covered and saturated in mud. With the occasional worm and beetle thrown in for good measure. Obviously, we wanted to get clean, so dad and I headed to our separate bathing rooms for a shower. After I got all of the mud off me and my clothing, I opted for taking a nice hot bath." Naruto closed his eyes and sighed happily, as if he was actually soaking in hot, bubbly water that moment. Kyuubi sure wished he was.

"Sadly, I ended up falling asleep in the tub. Next thing I knew, I woke up in a rusty shuttle, tied up with a sack over my head. Only because someone said something did I find out that I was being taken to the airship port where another shuttle was waiting to pick me up and take me to the Akatsuki. I've been here ever since, and that was about three weeks ago."

Kyuubi nodded in understanding, though he could see the slight comedy in being taken as a hostage while you were asleep in the bathtub.

Naruto sighed and shook his head, though a faint smile could be seen playing across his lips. Tilting his head up, Naruto opened his eyes and gazed curiously at Kyuubi, his deep blue eyes asking the question.

It was Kyuubi's turn to sigh and reminisce, though his memories of his capture weren't as fun and warm as Naruto's had been. "I am a soldier, a member of the military. I was stationed onboard the Rasengan in case there was an attack on it. Recently, the Akatsuki have been targeting and attacking more and more airships, though they apparently have stopped targeting only cargo ships. Now, they have been targeting any ships that are carrying cargo, whether there are passengers or not. The Rasengan, as you know, is a luxury cruise airship."

Naruto nodded, suddenly concerned for the people aboard his father's ship.

"I was with my old friend, Araj. It was my first big mission, and his first chance to have an encounter with the Akatsuki. He was excited, and I was nervous. I can't say he was my father figure, but I know for damn sure that he came pretty close." Kyuubi stared at the wall across them and Naruto gazed at the man with concern. "He and I were in the dining room, ordering some food when we received a notice that the Akatsuki were planning to raid us." Kyuubi shifted his gaze from the wall and looked down solemnly at Naruto. "Do you know what they do? What they do when they raid an airship? After they board and steal the cargo?"

Naruto's eyes widened slightly at the pain he saw in Kyuubi's face and shook his head slightly.

"They kill the ship. Not just the people inside it, but the ship. They take what they want from it, and then they cast it away as a child does with a toy they no longer want. They don't care how many people they kill, or how beautiful the airship is. They destroy everything. Only one person has been known to have survived an Akatsuki raid, and he suffered from severe mental trauma and was found dead in his hospital bed a week later. He killed himself."

Naruto exhaled a breath heavy with sadness and remorse. He could see how much the story was hurting Kyuubi, and he regretted asking, but Kyuubi kept talking. "I couldn't let that happen. There were so many people onboard. So many young people, younger than I. There was a blonde waitress, no older than seventeen. There were kids with their parents. I couldn't let them die." Kyuubi clenched his hands into fists, not caring when his fingernails dug into his soft flesh. "Araj and I were assigned to guard the corridor leading to the cargo bay. Since it was a small hallway, only two people were needed to guard it as we couldn't be stormed. I remember Araj comforting me and taunting me, trying to calm me down. And then they came.

"You could tell that they were lower ranked assasins. There weren't any Elites in the group we had, and I have to say, we held our own pretty well. It took us about ten minutes to dispose of fifty or so men. After that, we ran back to the dining hall to see if the passengers were all right, if they made it out of the raid alive. The place was an absolute wreck, and the only people we could find were tied up in the kitchen. There were only fifty or so, and five crew members."

Naruto looked at Kyuubi in confusion. "Isn't the Rasengan meant to carry over nine hundred… people…." Naruto's eyes widened in shock and he stared at Kyuubi, in need of confirmation of his thoughts. The soldier nodded slowly. "Only fifty were left. In the span of ten minutes, I let eight hundred people die. In ten minutes. Araj and I were in the process of trying to free the captured passengers when I was found by a low ranked assassin. A mass of them filed into the room, and Araj and I were again forced to fight. Not for cargo this time, but for our lives and for the lives of the only people who were still among the living. A few minutes later, some Elites came in. They identified each other as Hidan and Itachi. The last thing I remember is a strange black pinwheel filling my vision. I couldn't see around it, and I couldn't stop looking at it. It was mesmerizing, and then I think I passed out."

"What about Araj? What about the people in the kitchen?"

Kyuubi shrugged, he was staring blankly at the wall again. "Araj isn't here, is he? That means he is dead, along with the passengers. They don't leave anyone alive. They never do."

Naruto sighed and looked down at his hands; thinking about what Kyuubi just told him when a thought struck him. "So why were you brought in and not anyone else?"

Kyuubi's expression changed from utter despair to thoughtful confusion. "I'm not sure, exactly. Maybe because they wanted someone with military knowledge? But if that is the case, there were far many other people that they could have taken rather than me. Heck, even Ibiki Morino, the lead military interrogator and commander was onboard. They should have taken him instead. Anyway, I'm here now and there isn't much I can do about it."

Naruto chuckled ruefully and nodded in agreement. "True, very true."

Kyuubi blinked a few times and then looked thoughtfully at the blonde. "Say, Naruto, you've been here a few weeks, right?"

Naruto looked up at him and narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Yes. Why?"

"Do you know anything about the Akatsuki?"

Naruto blinked in surprise at the question, and then looked down at his fidgeting hands in hesitation. "Well… yeah. Yeah I do."

Kyuubi grinned. If he could get information about the Akatsuki maybe he could help put an end to destruction that the group was causing. Information on the air pirate group was scarce, and majority of that even hadn't been proved. The military was working off of rumor-diluted truth and that wouldn't be getting them anywhere anytime soon. "Like what?"

Naruto swallowed loudly and glanced nervously towards the doorway in the stone wall outside of the cell. "Um… I know some stuff about the Elites. Also about how the Akatsuki work. Not much though, in sorry to say. Everything that I know is based on direct interaction, or things I've heard from the hallway."

The soldier nodded in understanding. Obviously, being locked inside a cell wasn't the most ideal place to be when you are trying to collect information. But any information, especially heard directly from an Elite is worth more than all of the "information" the military has. "Can you tell me?"

The blonde teen chewed on his lip in thought. Naruto was torn in between telling Kyuubi all he knew in hopes that someday it will help bring the downfall of the airship pirates, or keeping his mouth shut in preservation of his own life. He chose the former.

"All right. I'll tell you what I know. Starting with the Elites."

A feral grin spread across Kyuubi's face. Finally, he was getting somewhere. Maybe being kidnapped wasn't so bad after all.

--

A few minutes later, Naruto and he were situated on their stomachs. The two of them were facing the wall that they had originally been leaning on, Kyuubi's nose now a couple of inches away from it. Glancing sideways at Naruto in confusion, the red-head propped himself up on his elbows and shifted his attention back to the dull, bland wall. Naruto laughed at Kyuubi's expression and held up an enclosed fist, catching the other's gaze with it. The blonde unfurled his fingers to reveal a piece of bone. Presumably chicken, it was about four inches long and the thinner end had been sharpened down to a dull point.

"Some of what I know, I'm going to have to show you rather than say. A good amount of these bricks are soft or have soft spots that I can carve into," the teen explained to Kyuubi. The soldier nodded in comprehension and folded his forearms in front of him, resting his cheek against his crossed arms. Naruto did the same and then started to talk in a hushed voice.

"So, the Elites. There are seven of them, eight if you count the leader but I'm not sure he is actually an acting assassin. So, first off, you said you heard of Itachi and Hidan?" Kyuubi nodded in confirmation. "Okay, so I will start with what I know about them. Hidan is ill-tempered and likes to cuss. A lot. I believe he has Tourette's but I can't bet on it. From what I've heard and gathered, he is the one that interacts with the cargo. He decides what is taken and what is left. He also is the electronic specialist and is often called upon for his skills as a mechanic.

"Now for Itachi." Naruto reached up with the chicken bone and brought the blunt tip to the wall and gently pressed into the slightly resistant surface. After a few seconds, Naruto had managed to etch out a small diagram of an odd pinwheel shape, another strange pattern compiled of swirling dots, and a symbol resembling a fan.

Pointing to the fan symbol, Naruto continued. "This is the clan symbol of the Uchiha family. Itachi Uchiha killed every member of that clan years ago as you know." Kyuubi nodded. He had heard about that, and for many nights after the incident had stayed up pondering how someone can kill one's own family without remorse. He still hadn't managed to come up with an answer.

"Rumor has it that his little brother either escaped or was left alive by Itachi, but no one has seen him since that night. Even if he is alive, the world considers Sasuke Uchiha to be dead." Kyuubi blinked, already having heard about the missing Uchiha many, many times. Naruto brought up his finger again and pointed at the etching of the strange swirling dots. "This is sort of like another clan symbol, or rather something that is part of the family myth. I'm not sure what it is, only that when reading about the Uchiha's it regularly showed up." Naruto pointed to the last picture. "This is another myth with the family, though I have heard Itachi mutter to himself about it. He calls it the mangek…mangkyouge…I can't say it."

Kyuubi nodded through Naruto's tongue stumbles. The swirling picture looked eerily familiar, but Kyuubi couldn't place where he had seen it for the life of him. He sighed, deciding that this was going to be one of those things that you can never figure out until a few days after it no longer matters to you. Then you feel stupid.

"Itachi is quiet, but when he talks he is calm and collective and obviously in charge. He is the main Elite that actually does the killing aboard the airships from what I've heard and seen. You don't want to get in his way when he is angry. One of the lowers did that, and people where still cleaning him up a week later. Five floors below where he had confronted Itachi originally."

Kyuubi furrowed his eyebrows. "Lowers?"

Naruto waved a hand nonchalantly at him, shifting so that he could bend his neck so that it wasn't hurting him. "I'll get to that later. Next up is Kisame. He's big, blue, and he looks like a shark. He was the one who transported me from my home to the shuttle. His teeth are pointed like this," Naruto moved his finger through the air, drawing a jagged line to represent the man's teeth. "He deals with the big guns, and is only called upon if mass amounts of people need to be wiped out instantly. He was probably onboard the Rasengan, you just didn't run into him."

Kyuubi nodded in concentration, commiting everything Naruto said to memory. The kid had known more than he had bargained for, and he wasn't going to let the information go to waste.

"I don't know much about Sasori, though I do know that he is the one who invented the poison that is being used on me. The only other thing I know about him is that he creates new weaponry and machinery for the Akatsuki, and tends to go on missions rather than directly interact with airships they are intending to raid," Naruto informed. "I haven't met him or heard about his appearance so I can't tell you what he looks like."

Naruto looked at Kyuubi apologetically before turning his attention back to the etch-riddled stone. Picking up the piece of bone again, Naruto drew a slightly deformed hand with a strange mouth looking thing in the palm of it. "Now, Deidara I can tell you about. He I don't mind being around, but he's kinda a freak." Pointing at the crude drawing, Naruto continued. "He has these weird tattoos on his hands of mouths. I don't know why, he never talked about them. He has some sort of mechanical eye contraption," with this Naruto quickly drew another picture onto the wall, "and it doesn't contain any weapons so I assume it's more so of an intelligence collecting based object. He usually has his hair covering it. He hangs around Sasori, and the two of them are very competitive in their views of art. Deidara creates explosives for the Akatsuki.

"The last two I know absolutely nothing about. I have only heard them mentioned by their names: Kakuzu and Zetsu. I've heard nothing else. I'm sorry Kyuubi, but that's all I know about the Elites."

Kyuubi raised his eyebrows when Naruto sounded remorseful about the amount of knowledge he just gave the soldier. It seems like he had no clue as to how much information he had actually been able to collect. What Naruto just told him had been no small feat.

Naruto brightened up a tad when he remembered that the Elites weren't the only people who make up the Akatsuki. "While the Elites certainly are the best, the Akatsuki are actually made up of approximately 2000 other assassins on a lower scale. There are legions A through G, the closer you are to A, the better you are and the higher the Elites regard you. Rank A is made up of around 50 men, whereas rank G is about 800. The rest of the numbers are scattered throughout the rest of the ranks. They are of a lower rank, hence the term 'lower'."

Sighing, Naruto dropped the bone on the ground and gently rubbed his hand over his mediocre sketches, smearing them out of existence. "Now that is all I know. If I do remember anything else, I'll tell you."

Kyuubi was too busy absorbing all of what Naruto had informed him. Even though he still knew nothing about the tactics of the Akatsuki, he now had priceless information on the inner workings of the air pirates, right down to the characteristics and temperaments of some of the Elites. It amazed him how Naruto was sorry he couldn't help anymore, when he just handed Kyuubi a goldmine of information. The one thing though, that caught his attention more than anything else was that black haired Elite. Itachi Uchiha. The one that had captured him back on the Rasengan.

Turning back to the blonde who had rolled over and was staring peacefully at the ceiling, Kyuubi spoke up again. "Hey, Naruto. Do you know anything else about the Uchiha?"

Frowning, Naruto tilted his head to look at his friend. "Why?"

Kyuubi turned over so that he was laying on his back as well, deciding to give his arms a break from having to support his body weight for so long. "I'll have you know, that even though my fight on the Rasengan was my first fight with a real group of air pirates, I'm actually really high ranked in the military. It surprises me that with only a glance Itachi rendered me unconscious. Naturally I'm going to be curious about him."

Naruto nodded in understanding. It made sense to want to know more about a force that knocked you on your ass. "Alright. What do you want to know about him?"

Kyuubi reverted his eyes back to the damp ceiling, his lips tugging up in the corners in a faint, distant smile. "Tell me what he looks like."

--

It was late at night, closer to early morning as it was around four. Naruto and Kyuubi were asleep contently in their now massive pile of furs and blankets. Naruto was asleep and snoring loudly, curled up against the red-headed soldier's chest like a child might snuggle up to a parent. Kyuubi had one arm draped around Naruto's shoulders protectively, as if he were trying to shield the boy from the harms of the world even while he slept. Even though Kyuubi was asleep, due to the intense training he had undergone in order to get into the military, his senses were fine-tuned to the point that he would instantly awaken the moment a slightly alarming noise came to his ears. He had woken up twice that night already due to the scampering sounds of rats running across the moist floor.

Despite his sensitive hearing, Kyuubi didn't startle awake when a dark figure flowed into the cell room. He didn't wake up when the person stopped in front of their cell, peering emotionlessly through red eyes at the sleeping duo. Even if he were awake, it would have taken the man a few minutes to even realize that there was someone there, someone who was effortlessly blending in among the almost unnatural shadows filling the room.

Itachi Uchiha studied the two sleeping figures with distaste and disgust. The soldier, Kyuubi, he found out his name was, had only been onboard for two days and he had already formed deep bonds with the Uzumaki child. Wasn't he a soldier? Soldiers, no matter from what nation or what party, were advised to never form deep relationships with others. The higher up in rank you became, the less emotionally attached the world you were expected to be.

Narrowing his eyes, Itachi studied Kyuubi more intently. His gaze taking on a hint of interest, Itachi noted that the man did indeed have a warrior's build. His hands were worn and calloused, his arms and legs were littered with scars and one could see the muscle and sinew cording his limbs. Coupled with the immense skill and power the man had shown on the Rasengan, Itachi figured that Kyuubi had what it took to be an Elite. If not, Itachi didn't doubt the man would make it in rank A. Most definitely a positive addition to the Akatsuki. Now to find a way to get him to join. Undoubtedly he would not come peacefully. He was a soldier, and joining the Akatsuki labeled him a traitor to the military and to his nation.

Moving his eyes slowly from one person to the other, Itachi smirked when he took in the sight of the peacefully slumbering blonde. It looks like Itachi could use the duo's new "bond" to his advantage.

--

"Oi! Wake your asses up!"

Kyuubi sprung forward off the floor and onto his heals, immediately crouching and sliding effortlessly into a fighting stance. Narrow red eyes surveyed the cell room quickly before landing on a smirking silver haired man.

"Well, well, well, looks like we have a little warrior on our hands, doesn't it, fuck face?"

Growling at the man under his breath, Kyuubi straightened up and stretched. Letting his arms fall back down to his sides, the soldier glared at the Elite. "What do you want?"

Hidan feigned shock. "Excuse me? Who are you to question what I want? After all, fucker, you are the one locked in the cell. Not me."

Naruto, having not been woken up by the initial yelling, slowly sat up and yawned loudly. Rubbing at his sleep filled eyes with half closed fists, the teen blearily looked at Hidan before humph-ing and flopping back down on the bed.

Kyuubi chuckled at Naruto's not-so-friendly reaction to Hidan, coupled with Hidan's disgusted look. The cloak garbed man frowned before smiling smugly and addressing Kyuubi. "Itachi wants to see you. Now."

With that, Hidan pulled out a ring of keys and unlocked the heavy metal door to the cell. Holding up a hand, Hidan crooked a finger towards Kyuubi. "C'mon. Let's get moving. Itachi won't be waiting all day, so get your ass moving."

Kyuubi glanced at Naruto and upon seeing the slight shrug from the teen, walked out of the cell and stood next to Hidan. The silver haired Elite shut the door and re-locked it before turning around and moving to stand in the doorway of the room. "Let's go, shit head." With that, he walked out of the room.

Slightly confused as to why the man didn't put handcuffs on him or restrain him in anyway, Kyuubi hurriedly followed nonetheless. Something told him that Hidan wouldn't be waiting for him to catch up, and Kyuubi really didn't want to be on Itachi's bad side. Kyuubi's heart skipped a beat when his thoughts returned to the dark Uchiha. Whether it skipped out of fear or something else, the man didn't know, all he knew was that he was extremely nervous as to what this "meeting" would bring.

Following Hidan closely so he didn't get lost, Kyuubi took his time to memorize all of the turns that they were making. He committed everything to memory, every detail. Hidan didn't really seem to care that he was letting a prisoner view the inside of their ship, and he was giving off a rather smug aura. Kyuubi was fairly certain that the only reason why he wasn't blindfolded or being carried is because the Akatsuki wasn't planning on giving him the chance on utilizing any of the information he gathered while onboard. They were probably right, too.

It didn't take too long to reach the conference room where the two of them where meeting the Uchiha, only about five minutes of walking with Hidan throwing random insults at anyone and everyone they passed. The Elite stopped walking and stood next to a large, bronze-looking metal door. Inset in a wall made out of steel and other metals, the large rounded door looked like something that would lead to a boiler room. Though every door in the ship most likely looked the exact same way.

Gripping the door handle, Hidan roughly pushed downwards and jerked the heavy metal door open. Standing to the side, he jerked his head slightly towards the room.

Kyuubi sighed and walked somewhat slowly into the room, quickly taking in his surroundings as soon as he had a full view of the whole area. It was a small room, only a little bit bigger than the cell room he and Naruto were occupying, although this room was made out of metal instead of cold brick. [A/N: I will explain later on why there is a room constructed of bricks inside an air ship made out of metal :p] This room was obviously only meant for unimportant conferences and meetings, as the only decoration aside from the table and chairs was a tall lamp that lit up the room. Other than that it was completely barren.

As soon as he finished examining everything, Kyuubi's eyes were immediately drawn to the figure seated at the far end of the small table. Itachi Uchiha calmly stared back at the soldier and tilted his head towards the chair opposite him. Getting the message, Kyuubi sat down in the wooden chair and scooted forward until he could rest his arms on the cool wood table. [A/N: Again, I will explain later why everything is metal, but the chairs and tables are mere wood.]

Kyuubi unconsciously tensed all of his muscles, preparing himself for the possibility that Itachi might suddenly attack him. Gone was the calm and nonchalant person back in the dining hall of the Rasengan, or on the floor with Naruto in their holding cell. In place was a military hardened young man, eyes sharp and focused and narrowed, hands obviously longing for a weapon to hold. Kyuubi's red eyes met Itachi's and for a few minutes, nothing was said. All that took place was calm but intense staring and Hidan sneezing from the other side of the closed metal door.

"May I ask what I am here for?" Kyuubi had had enough of the silence and decided to get whatever it was over and done with. Though even his years of training couldn't get rid of the pain in his chest due to the amount of anxiety and nervousness this meeting was causing. If you had the opportunity to talk to Kyuubi at that moment, he wouldn't have been able to say what or why, but he would have said that something was gonna happen, and it wasn't going to be something good. Call it his ability to "smell" out bad situations. Araj had always told him to trust his gut, and that had gotten them out of a few tricky situations. Just because Araj wasn't there didn't mean Kyuubi was going to disregard a hardened soldier's advice.

Itachi narrowed his eyes and raised his eyebrows, the motion pulling the skin over his cheekbones tighter and accenting the angles on his face more so than before. "Do you know why you are here?"

Kyuubi's eyes narrowed in return. "No."

"Do you know what happened on the Rasengan?"

"Yes."

Itachi tilted his head. If his emotions were able to be read facially, he would have seemed amused. "Really? What happened?"

Kyuubi ground his teeth and clenched his jaw. The Elite was playing with him, he knew it. "You raided the Rasengan's cargo and killed everyone onboard." Part of Kyuubi, the foolish part, hoped that maybe Itachi would give something away that stated not everyone onboard had been killed. He still hadn't come to terms with the fact that Araj was dead.

"Correct."

Kyuubi breathed out sharply through his nose. Yeah, the man was playing with him. He couldn't figure out still what the point of this conversation was. "Then why don't you inform me?" Later on, his mouth was probably going to get him in deep shit. Then again, it was also probably going to be worth it. Yeah, it was worth it.

Itachi nodded slightly. "Alright. I, some other Elites, and a legion of the lowers boarded the Rasengan. I went to the command center and sent half a legion to the cargo hold. You and your older friend killed all of them. Correct?" Kyuubi nodded. They had indeed killed all of the men trying to get to the cargo. "I went with Hidan to the dining area and took care of some…business…there. Upon my return, I find you and your friend simply massacring my troops. Do you know why you are here, Kyuubi?"

Kyuubi's eyes widened slightly upon hearing his name, though he wasn't sure why. Being a notorious air pirate group, of course the Akatsuki were going to have almost instant access to military personnel records. They probably already knew almost everything about him. "No."

Sighing, the dark haired man placed his arms on the table and laced his fingers together. "I have a proposition for you."

Kyuubi sucked in a sharp breath. Here it was. Here was the catch.

Looking up, Itachi met Kyuubi's eyes with his own and held them there. "You are joining the Akatsuki." It wasn't a question, hardly a "proposition." It was a command.

Kyuubi's eyes widened to their fullest, his mouth opening slightly with a gasp. He wasn't expecting that. He had been expecting something more along the lines of giving them information in return for his freedom, or maybe having to work for them as a lowly mechanic or cook. Not joining the Akatsuki. That… that would be insane! He would be betraying the military. His people. His country. Even if he joined them and made it out of the situation alive, the amount of trust anyone would be able to place in him would be extremely low. The only thing that would be able to save him would be if he had any extremely valuable information, and even then he would be under constant surveillance.

"No. No. I can't do that, no."

Itachi's lips twitched into a slight smirk. "I'm afraid 'no' isn't an option. This isn't a situation where you want to say no." After saying that, Itachi reached down next to his chair and retrieved a manila folder full of lose paper. Setting it on the table, the Elite opened it and appeared to read the information on a few sheets of the paper. "Naruto Uzumaki. 16 years of age. Son to Arashi Uzumaki." He held up a small piece of paper so that the paling Kyuubi could see it. It was a small photo of a smiling Naruto, only a year or so younger than he was now.

"If you do not do what we say, Kyuubi, this boy will die."

Kyuubi's hands slid from the table to grip at his pants, this alone was a major sign of weakness and resignation. Itachi sat in the psychological throne. "But…the-"

"The ransom, yes. The cargo we stole from aboard his father's ship will sell for almost half of the ransom we are holding Uzumaki junior for. We don't need him, therefore he is expendable."

Kyuubi clenched his jaw harder and stared forlornly at the small photo which Itachi was still presenting him. Maybe if this had been stated a few days ago before he knew the teen, then he might have said yes. But not now. Not now.

"Alright."

Itachi set the photo back in the file and closed the folder before looking at Kyuubi. "Hn."

--

A few hours later, Kyuubi was sitting in the same chair in the same room, waiting for someone to come and get him. Or perhaps tell him what the hell was going on. He had been led back to the cell by Itachi and had talked to Naruto about what had happened. Of course, the blonde was furious with him.

"How the hell could you do something like that?!"

"Naruto, I-"

"NO! I can't believe you fucking joined them! They killed your best friend! They killed all those people on board my father's ship, among countless other ships! And you JOINED them!"

"Naruto please! Listen to me."

"Get the fuck away from me. I HATE YOU!"

'I hate you' he had screamed at him. In his attempt to save Naruto's life, he lost his trust. Kyuubi sighed and stared at the metal door, willing it to open and for someone to walk through it. Naruto can hate him; Kyuubi would be able to live with it. At least he had been able to save the boy's life.

After an hour or so of awkward silence, Hidan had returned again to bring him back to the same room. And there he sat for an hour waiting for whom he assumed to be Itachi to come back and tell him what was going to happen now that he agreed to join their ranks.

"Don't do it. Please Kyuubi, don't do it."

He had been right, as seconds later the dark haired Elite walked through the door and sat down in the same chair he had occupied mere hours before hand.

"We have your first assignment. After you do this, you will be placed among our ranks where we think you belong."

Kyuubi nodded, trying to retrain his emotions. He had lost hold of them over the last few days with everything that had been going on. If he was expecting to survive among these people, he knew being able to withhold his emotions would be a valuable trait.

"Your first assignment is to assassinate Hinata Hyuuga, heiress to the Hyuuga throne." The soon-to-be leader of Kyuubi's former country, and now he had to kill her.

"Don't do it."

--

A/N: Well, this chapter was boring, I know. It was kinda meant to be lacking in the action department. This was more so a time for Kyuubi to get acquainted and learn more about the Akatsuki. So yeah. The next chapter will obviously be more…thrilling I suppose. More actiony with dead people and people dying and all that fun stuff. OH! And a make-out scene which might turn into something more. Cant wait :) Review if you will! In any case, hope you liked it!

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