It was a cold new leaf (spring) morning as Pain laid in his nest beside his mate Konan, who snoozed in her own nest quietly. He stood without disturbing her and trotted out of their den in a hollow log, "Good morning Pain," Zetsu greeted his leader, and continued to groom his black and white pelt.
"Deidara!" he heard someone squeal and watched as a tortoiseshell tom tried to pounce on a golden tabby tom that swiped at him with unsheathed claws, "Get back Tobi, before I turn you into crow food," he growled and stalked away from the smaller cat to sit beside a small red tabby.
"Itachi," Pain called a black tom over, "How is the prey running?"
"They're all coming out of their holes, so they should be plentiful the whole season," he replied.
Pain nodded at the reply, "I want you to take Deidara and Sasori out to hunt," he ordered.
Itachi nodded slightly and turned away. He flicked his tail at both toms for them to follow him into the brush.
All three toms ran through the woods, splitting up as they reached a marshy area.
Sasori sniffed the air, smelling rabbit; he quietly stalked it, and then ran after it once it realized he was there. He swiftly pinned it to the ground and bit it's neck, killing it instantly.
Suddenly Sasori heard a loud yowl and turned to see a gray she-cat tackle him to the ground, "Prey stealer!" she hissed, digging her claws into his pelt.
"It doesn't belong to you!" he growled back at her and twisted out of the she-cat's grip, swiping at her with unsheathed claws.
Sasori sighed in relief when he heard Itachi yowl as he attacked a black tabby tom while Deidara followed behind him pinning a brown she-cat to the floor. Taking an opportunity Sasori jumped on the gray cat in front of him, raking his claws against her flank. He looked up quickly to see Deidara being overpowered by a small cat on his back and the she cat beneath him who was scratching at his belly.
Sasori jumped off the she-cat and ran to help his den mate.
Deidara yowled in pain as the small cat on his back dug his claws into his golden fur.
Just in time Sasori grabbed the smaller cat by his scruff and pulled him off so that Deidara could take care of the she-cat beneath him. He let her go and she ran away with the small cat beside her, "You ok?" Sasori asked.
Deidara nodded and they both turned as they heard more yowls coming from over the marsh as more cats exploded from over the small hill. Itachi swiped away the black tom and his eyes widened at the sight of their attacker's reinforcements, "Sasori, Deidara, retreat," he ordered, picking up the trampled rabbit as they all ran back to camp.
As they reached the camp Itachi threw the rabbit on a small fresh kill pile. Pain growled, "What is this?" he asked outraged.
"Pain, we were attacked by other cats," the black tom replied.
Pain's gray eyes widened with urgency, "How many?"
"A lot," Deidara answered, licking his cuts soothingly.
Pain scanned all three of them, just a few scratches and ruffled pelts, "Zetsu," he called for the black and white tom that trotted up beside Pain, "I want you to track the cats that attacked them," he ordered.
Zetsu nodded and trotted out of the camp.
"Zetsu!" Tobi called and tried to run after the tom, but Itachi snapped at him, keeping him back, "You're no fun," he pouted, padding over to the rabbit and bent down to eat it.
"Get away from my food mouse brain!" a silver tabby pushed the small tom away, and picked it up carrying it over to a dark black and brown tabby that had scars all over his pelt and unusual pupiless green eyes, "Elders eat first," he growled both biting into the rabbit.
"Hidan, you're not an elder," Tobi meowed.
Hidan snorted, "Yeah, but someone has to take care of Kakuzu," he replied.
Kakuzu cuffed the tabby behind the ear, "I'm not that old," he growled, "I can still kick your ass anytime."
"Sure, you old fart," Hidan sighed, settling beside the ragged tabby.
As the sun set Zetsu returned, tired with three mice hanging by their tails.
Konan padded out of her den and purred at the sight of fresh kill, Pain padded out after, "How'd it go Zetsu?" he asked.
Zetsu set the mice down to answer the question, "I followed their scents for awhile and it led me to a camp, where there were cats young and old," he replied, "They mentioned four clans and that there was a Gathering tonight."
"Gathering?" Konan asked, confused.
"I think all the clans are meeting," Zetsu stated.
"Everyone, come here!" Pain called and the other cats trotted up to him, ready to listen.
All nine of them stared at their leader expectantly, "Tonight we're going to see the clan cats and see their ways of life."
"Why?" Kisame asked.
"Pain growled, "We need to study them and see if they have anything to offer us."
Konan looked up at the night sky as the full moon was rising, "Then we should get going," she stated.
Everyone nodded in agreement and Pain led the way through the marsh area. They ran through the marsh to see large groups of cats walking to an island in the middle of a lake.
"Let's go," Pain hissed, leading them down by the lake where a fallen tree lay, "Be careful the trunk is slippery," the ginger tabby warned.
Carefully, almost everyone had gotten across, except for Itachi and Kisame. Since Itachi had slowly been going blind he'd been wary as to what he was doing, "Itachi, grab my tail," Kisame gently ordered the black tom, flicking his tail in front of the other's muzzle.
Itachi gently bit into Kisame's tail and followed him across the slippery trunk.
Once Itachi had gotten safely across they sat in the brush, downwind of the clan cats and watched them socialize, talking about how the prey was, the hard leaf bare, and other stuff.
"There are so many of them," Hidan hissed, tail lashing, ready for a fight.
Suddenly a ginger tom yowled, silencing the mewing cats, "Let's get the Gathering going, shall we," he meowed on a tall tree with three other cats on separate branches. He nodded at a golden spotted she-cat to start, "Leopardstar, why don't you begin."
The she-cat stepped forward, "The fish are as plentiful as ever in River Clan and we have a few new apprentices." She announced then stepped back to let another leader speak.
After her a giant white tom with jet black paws stood forward, "Shadow Clan would like to announce that we have two new warriors, Nightpelt and Lambpelt," he meowed.
The ginger tom stepped forward after him, "Thunder Clan also has a new Warrior, Kira," he announced then sat back to let the last leader speak.
Lastly a brown tom stepped forward, "Wind Clan has been doing just fine with prey, but today we caught some rogues in the marsh, stealing prey, but we took care of it, so now we're going to set extra patrols just in case."
As the Gathering ended all the clan cats left as Pain and the others waited in the bushes for them to leave. Once the clan cats had cleared out they walked out of the brush and made their way across the fallen tree.
"Ow!" Kisame yowled in pain as his tail was bitten. He looked behind him to see Itachi biting it.
"Kisame, be quiet, you have to help me across," the black tom hissed.
"You Itachi have to bite into my tail gently," he growled back at him.
"Hurry up you two," Pain called, and the two toms moved across the trunk then they all walked back to their camp to begin their plan.