The training grounds were peaceful, with birds breaking the stillness with their eternal song, and a slight breeze stirring the summer leaves into a whispering dance. The sunshine streamed through the canopy to strike the forest floor with an ever changing pattern of light. Standing beneath a tree, eyes closed, was a girl. Her long, raven-colored hair floated in the wind and tickled her cheeks. Her clothes were simple, a black tee over a mesh top and a pair of blue capris complemented by a pair of blue open toed sandals. Other than her hair and the slow wavering aura of concentrated chakra, the girl was completely motionless.
A sharp whistle broke the stillness as a kunai flew from a nearby tree and straight at the girl. Without giving any indication of noticing the oncoming threat, she ducked and rolled to the right. The kunai plunged into the tree just as the girl opened her eyes. She only had time to blink once, however, as a dozen shuriken were launched from several directions at once. Backflipping to miss the first one, she launched herself at the nearest tree and ran straight up it. Jumping to the next tree, she ran back down to the ground, zigzagging to miss the onslaught of weapons. When she reached the ground, she took off running, covering her back by sticking close to trees. She could hear the other ninjas give chase and she sped up to try and outrun them.
Everything was going well, until a rock decided to intervene. Glancing back to gauge the distance of her pursuers, the girl tripped and rolled head over heels in the dirt. Stopping in a most ungraceful position, she squeaked and sat up with a blush, glaring at the offending rock.
"Oi, Hinata, are you OK?" the first pursuer called out. The owner of the voice poked his head out of the nearest bush and grinned.
"I'm f-fine, Kiba-kun, thank you!" Hinata called back.
"I think we should call it a day, it's been hours and Hinata's getting tired." the second pursuer stated as he emerged from the nearest tree. The solemn face of Shino appeared before Hinata as he offered her his hand to help her up. She stood quickly and released his hand. She knew he was uncomfortable with physical contact, so offering to help her was a big show of trust on his part. The fact that he had bugs living in his body made most people shy away from touching him, so he generally just avoided situations that could turn awkward.
"T-thank you for h-helping me with my agility t-training, it's a lot h-harder without using my B-byakugan." Hinata said softly.
"Hey, you're doing great! Soon we'll have to start calling you the Konoha Dart! Right, Akamaru?" Kiba said just as the big white dog made his appearance. Akamaru barked his agreement and nudged Hinata's hand so she would scratch behind his ears. She obliged willingly.
Just as they turned to head back home, an ANBU messenger dropped in front of them and crossed his arms. His bird mask looked intimidating and he stared at Hinata. "Hyuuga Hinata, Hokage-sama needs to see you."
"H-hai, I'll go r-right away." Hinata said with a blush. She hated being the center of attention, and she slid quietly behind Kiba and Shino to wait for the man to leave. Which he did immediately, disappearing in a puff of smoke without warning.
Kiba turned to look at Hinata. "Hmm, must be a mission." Then he grinned. "Lucky Dog! I'm starting to get bored sitting around Konoha. Let's go see what it's about." And with that the three teammates walked off the training grounds and headed for the Hokage Tower.
The training grounds were a wreck. Small trees lay broken and shattered everywhere. A fine layer of dust hung in the still air. The setting sun bathed the area in a harsh orange light. Boisterous shouts could be heard, followed shortly by a heavy thud. In the center of this maelstrom stood a man. He was clad only in a mesh top and a pair of black pants with heavy boots. His muscles bulged with effort and his skin was slick with heavy sweat, making it's blue gray hue glisten in the dying light.
In his hands, he wielded a massive sword. But unlike most swords, instead of a single blade, this one had a mass of protrusions, very similar to large scales, covering it entirely. On the wrapped hilt was a skull. Giving another loud shout, the man swung the sword and charged the last remaining tree. Everything was going well, until a rock decided to intervene. It came out of nowhere, and smacked him right in the back of the head.
The charge stopped immediately and the man spun around in anger. "Itachi, what the hell are you doing?" he roared.
"I've been standing here for five minutes and you failed to notice me, Kisame. Are you becoming so relaxed that you don't even notice your surroundings?" Itachi chided. "And besides, Leader-sama wants to see you about a mission." Grumbling something about annoying partners interrupting his precision training, Kisame slammed his sword, Samehada, into the ground and began reapplying the bandages that normally covered the blades. He was finished shortly, and after retrieving his cloak that lay some distance off, the pair made their way back to the base to meet with Pein.
"Hoshigaki Kisame, I have a job for you." Pein said imperiously when they entered the meeting room. "It is very vital to Akatsuki's goals."
"Sweet. What am I doing?"
"I want you to infiltrate Iwagakure. There is a ninja there that I am very interested in recruiting. His powers of chakra extraction and manipulation are supposed to be among the best in the world. Scout him and if he lives up to our expectations, bring him to me." Pein finished.
"Infiltrate? Umm, wouldn't that be a job better suited for Itachi? I'm not exactly the stealthy type." Kisame said with a sharp toothed grin.
Pein glared at the insubordination. "Itachi has business with Konoha that I need him to take care of. You are the only one not on a mission right now, and Samehada can convince anyone to come along quietly with his own chakra stealing ability."
"Fine, I'll do it. Might be fun at any rate."
Hinata stood nervously in the Hokage's office. Her fingers automatically started to fidget, causing her to press them together repeatedly. Tsunade-sama was nowhere in sight. And waiting for a mission was making her very nervous. What if it was dangerous? What if she had to go alone? The ANBU didn't say anything about the team meeting the hokage, just her. Shino and Kiba came anyway, if only for curiosity and to support her.
Suddenly the door slammed open behind them, and Tsunade waltzed in, followed by a very frustrated looking Shizune. "Gomen," Shizune huffed, "I informed Tsunade of your meeting a half hour ago."
"Anyway," Tsunade started with a huge smile, "I have a mission for you, Hinata."
"W-what is it?" Hinata started with a stutter.
"I need a scroll delivered to a very special ninja in Iwagakure. I need it delivered to him in private and without the knowledge of other Iwa nins. If he accepts the proposal in the scroll, I need you to sneak out with him and escort him back to Konoha." Tsunade smiled. "The Iwa nins are very perceptive. A basic henge will be detected immediately, so I need someone who looks sweet and innocent, but is also an excellent ninja. That's why I chose you. I'd like you to leave as soon as you are packed, since it's quite a long journey. Any questions?" Tsunade asked.
"N-no, Hokage-sama. I'll p-pack immediately." Hinata was really nervous now. A really long mission alone in an enemy hidden village. She gulped. What if she failed? What if she was caught? Would Konoha come and rescue her? Or would they abandon her? She bowed swiftly to Tsunade and turned to leave.
Tsunade gave her a genuine smile. "I believe in you. Come back safely to us."
Hinata returned the smile. "Thank you, Tsunade-sama, I will try my b-best."
The packing was swift, and the goodbyes short (Hinata hated farewells, they were always sad), and she was off through the massive gates of Konoha. She could still hear Akamaru's forlorn howl in the distance. She thought of how Kiba teared up and Shino gave her a small smile, her parting gifts of affection. She was really going to miss her teammates. With a sigh of resignation, Hinata adjusted her pack and ran up the nearest straight tree, ready to tree hop for the rest of the afternoon.
At the Akatsuki base, Kisame was ready to leave. Since everyone else was already out on missions, there was no one to toss him an insult or wish him luck. He simply adjusted his cloak, slung Samehada over his shoulder, and headed out the door. But he didn't really care. The thought of a potential battle ahead made him grin wickedly. Oh, how he loved a good fight. The blood and chaos always stirred up the primal part of him that matched his animalistic face. Yeah, it was a good day.