**Chapter 8: Field Trip**
Hey yall! Terribly sorry about the last chapter which was really short... This one might be a bit short as well, but I hope it will at least make up for it in interest! Thank you to those who commented and followed! You give me inspiration! Sorry I took so very long to update! I had writer's block... However, I should let you know that I have shot my original story plot to hell, since it was constricting me, and I shall now be winging it.. well some things are similar, as in, I have kept some of my original ideas but without the set chapter plots etc... yes I know, a changed modus operandi... however, now this means I will be taking suggestions, so that's good, right? Without further ado, let's get it started!
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto! (T_T) !
Flashback is written in italics.
'Thoughts in italics and enclosed in quotes'
Normal writing is in normal text.
"Dialogue is in normal text enclosed in open and closed quotations."
'Black Zetsu and Kyuubi speak in bold italics enclosed in quotations.'
Previously on Left to the Elements:
"Kakuzu! You four-hearted monster! How do you expect me to fill my empty a- belly without my body on? KAKUZU! I hate you! I am gonna crack your masks and sacrifice you to Jashin-sama! Just you wait, you old crone! Puu… Put my head back on NOW, or I swear I will… Oi! Wait!" Hidan screamed as Kisame, Yachiru and Tobi turned to exit the room. "Hey! One of you, pick my head up! Don't leave me here like this! Argh! I hate the lot of you!" Hidan screamed at their backs. He was about to scream some more, but the door to the room slammed shut behind Tobi's back. "Damn it," Hidan mumbled. "What the hell am I supposed to do now?" He sweatdropped and sighed. There was a long trail of blood across the floor. Ugh. Who was going to clean that up?
"Oh, Jashin-sama… help me…"
The stones and dirt crunched under the shoes of the trio as they walked in absolute silence. They had information… information their leader needed to know. Kurokka Yachiru was alive.
Two weeks had passed since the entire Tobi-prank debacle, and Yachiru's training had advanced to the point where Itachi and Kisame thought it prudent to take her on another mission before she went stir crazy. She was not going to be killing anyone this time, if things went according to plan, that is. As Akatsuki, one was never entirely sure when something would pop up.
"I still think Hidan is infatuated with you," Kisame murmured, a toothy grin on his face. Itachi tensed imperceptibly at that comment, but said nothing, keeping his usual apathetic expression on his face. Kisame's closeness to the object of his infatuation disconcerted him, not that he would ever let anyone know, and the mere idea that Hidan of all people had inserted himself in her immediate vicinity was, if anything, annoying.
"There was no might have about it, Hoshigaki," she replied, chuckling. "I know he would have been good." Yachiru pouted. "Stupid client. They could have at least waited until after I tried him out before they wanted him dead…"
Why the memory of Yachiru's impression of their target in the Shinringakure mission came to the forefront of Itachi's mind now, of all times, was lost to him. Still, it peeved him. This entire situation was annoying. At the very least, he could just wait until the infatuation faded from his system. That was the most logical direction to take. Itachi realized he had allowed his eyes to dim as they walked, and he was suddenly aware of Yachiru's and Kisame's voices as they bickered good naturedly. Suppressing a sigh, Itachi focused on simply moving. He preferred his team when it was just him and Kisame... there was far less noise. However, they required Yachiru's skills for this mission, and the other options were simply ludicrous. There was no way in hell he was going to go with Yachiru alone, and Kisame couldn't be trusted to keep things on track if he wasn't there.
"Well how do you know I wouldn't be just as good?" Kisame was asking, or rather, leering.
"Because, fish-face, I am simply not attracted," Yachiru returned, as if expecting the question.
"Ouch," Kisame replied, pressing a hand to his heart. "Still, you can say anything you like," he continued, the faux-hurt tone gone. "Because I haven't revealed all my charms to you yet," the blue man continued, grinning. Yachiru punched him in the shoulder and laughed.
"Don't show them to me! I don't want to see your blue b-"
"Guys," Itachi snapped impatiently. "It would make for a more enjoyable journey if you would keep quiet," he continued, silently warding off the headache that was threatening to take full control of his head. It was all he could do not to stick the two of them into a genjutsu for the rest of the journey.
"Geez, what's got your panties in such a bind, Uchiha?" Yachiru mumbled insolently, but loud enough for him to hear. The effect of his responding glare was lessened considerably when Kisame snorted behind his fist. Itachi allowed his Sharingan to activate, his Mangekyo spinning menacingly. He bit back a smug grin when their mirthful expressions slid from their faces.
"Hn," Itachi grunted, turning around and continuing. He made it a couple steps before he realized that he really hated the silence.
Yachiru almost walked into Itachi's back when he stopped abruptly in front of her a few hours later. They had been walking, slowly, because none of them were all that eager to go back to the pandemonium that was the hideout. Between Tobi, Deidara and Hidan, there was never a dull moment, which meant there was no time to just relax either. This mission was an excellent opportunity to simply get away from the noise and drama.
"We are being followed," Itachi murmured, his tone disappointed, as if his expectations had not been met. Yachiru was unsure of what was up with him this time, but she wasn't about to ask. The last time she had been faced with Itachi's red eyes in one of their training sessions, she had been trapped in a three day long nightmare.
"I assumed you knew, which is why I said nothing," Yachiru said, resting a hand on her hip. They were currently in a heavily forested area that somehow did not obstruct the sunlight from filtering down through the leaves, casting a very green glow about the area. She had 'seen' the presences from about twenty minutes before. There were three of them, and they kept a respectable distance between both groups. It was, however, obvious that they were following them.
"We should speed up this part of our journey," Itachi intoned in his smooth tenor, his gaze sliding over to Kisame, who nodded in agreement. Before Yachiru had time to try to decipher what Itachi meant, he slid his arm around her waist and pulled her close to his chest. His hands fumbled behind her for a couple split seconds, and then the earth shifted beneath Yachiru's feet. She felt suddenly light-headed, her vision dimming and blurring, and the entire world around her whizzing uncontrollably. The world jerked to a halt after a long second, leaving Yachiru disoriented. She was, however, still pressed to Itachi's chest, and she knew this because of the slightly unsteady thumping underneath her ears. His arm was firmly around her waist, holding her in place even though they had stopped moving.
Itachi's warm, broad chest rose and fell underneath her cheek, and Yachiru didn't know how long she would have just stood there if Kisame had not snickered. As it was, the sound had her reeling away from Itachi's... embrace, if you will.
"We're here," Itachi stated unnecessarily, his voice damnedly even. Yachiru wasn't quite sure why that annoyed her... oh yeah... probably because she couldn't even speak at the moment... She settled for clearing her throat.
"What are we supposed to be doing here?" Yachiru asked, looking around with one eyebrow raised. They were in a glade of sorts, rather, a forest clearing. Itachi leaned against a tree, and it was then Yachiru noticed the seal inscribed on it. It was the only one of its kind that she could see, so she was unsure of why their mission would take them here.
"It's what you are doing here, really," Kisame inserted with a chuckle. "You are gonna be doing the brunt of the work." Yachiru sweat-dropped. This must have something to do with her bending, then.
"Okay, what do you wish of me – the ever impressive...?" she dead-panned. Kisame smirked.
"You are to create a safe-house. We understand that you may take several weeks to make a suitable construct and for us to suitably arm it, which is why we should get started as soon as possible," Itachi said, reaching into his cloak and reaching for a scroll case. He popped the top of it and emptied a roll of scrolls into his hand, the parchment rustling as it slid from the metal canister. "Make us a table," he demanded, blinking his dark eyes at her. Rolling her eyes, Yachiru complied wordlessly, dropping to a sure-footed squat, and clenching her fists. Turning her hands so her wrists faced upwards, she raised four earthen columns from the ground at relatively even spaces apart. Aligning herself with the centre of the distance between two of the columns, Yachiru raised a slab of earth from the ground, bits of mud and pebbles dropping off it as it rose. The muscles in her arms bulging slightly under the effort of lifting the sizeable slab of earth from the ground, Yachiru turned the earthen rectangle so that it landed on top of the earthen columns, forming a quickly constructed table.
Itachi moved to the table, but Yachiru held him back with an arm before blowing a fiery burst of air over the top of the table. It glowed red for a few seconds until she blew a frosty breath over the molten surface, hardening it. Pleased by her quick work, she slapped her hands to her hips and sent a grin back at Itachi and Kisame. While Kisame complimented her construction, Itachi only brushed past her, dropping the scrolls onto the table and opening them with a swish of paper. Yachiru's white brows rose when she saw what they were. Blue-prints?
Itachi forced himself not to even think about how Yachiru had looked, all strong and capable as she had made the table he'd requested. He hated weaklings. He pushed all thoughts of the newest addition to the Akatsuki and instead focused on the mission at hand. The blue-prints. This was what Pein-sama wanted the safe-house to be like, if possible. It was going to be difficult, but a lot easier than it could have been, had Yachiru not been a part of the team.
It had become quite apparent early in their training sessions with Yachiru that their white-haired teammate was strong. Physically strong. This was probably because her earth-bending depended a lot on physical strength, and she could bend larger pieces of earth the stronger she was. Automatically, Kisame and Itachi had begun working on strength-building exercises through taijutsu training and weight-lifting and Itachi had begun to find himself increasingly disconcerted by how good Yachiru was getting.
His mind went back several weeks to a training session they had been having.
A sphere of molten rock shot past Itachi's head, missing his cheek by so short a distance he felt the searing heat of the projectile as it flew past him. Yachiru didn't even miss a beat, sending an arc of air whizzing close to the ground with a low swipe of her foot. She had made it out to look like an ankle-swipe at Kisame, who had dodged, but then the arc of air had swiped him off his feet. Itachi drew close to her, his hands flying through hand-seals.
"Katon: Gokakyuu no Jutsu." A burst of flame spewed from Itachi's lips, gathering into a monstrous fiery ball before shooting towards Yachiru.
"Aisu: Breath of the Ice Dragon." A frosty breath spewed from Yachiru's lips, meeting Itachi's fireball head on before the two balls dissipated into steam. Itachi smiled; her breathing exercises were paying off. Yachiru leapt back, blocking a taijutsu strike from Kisame who had pulled up behind her to attack. Her white hair was flying loosely behind her, swirling with her every movement. Her body slid in and out of the five stances she was trying to master; earth stance, fire stance, water stance, air stance, and the taijutsu opening stance Kisame had taught her. Itachi sent a small barrage of fast moving shuriken in her direction, watching in mild frustration as she dropped low and raised a protective barrier of earth from the ground with a sharp jerk of her fist.
He remembered when they had just started training with her, and her movements had been flashy and erratic. Now, her movements were minimal and purposeful, but still maintained a certain amount of pizzazz. Still, she had barely moved three metres from her original position, even though Kisame and Itachi had been constantly moving around her in search of an opening. Kisame sent Samehada flying towards her, but she deflected the flesh-shredding sword with a block of earth which she used to protect herself from the spikes that were currently jutting from Samehada's handle. Itachi seized the opportunity and attacked.
"Katon: Housenka." The blast of flame shot towards the petite woman, spinning shuriken hidden inside. However, Yachiru had learned her lesson from the last time Itachi had used that attack on her, and pulled a defensive serpent of water around her body, protecting herself from the heat, and freezing it to catch the shuriken. She punched the ice, sending sharp shards careening in all directions. Kisame bounded out of the way and Itachi did a substitution to get out of harm's way. He was in no way fighting at his full capacity, but she was still doing well... and she was getting arrogant. Time to take her down a peg, Itachi thought, his Sharingan activating for the first time in the fight. Her actions suddenly seemed much simpler. He sent a kunai in her direction, just to catch her attention, then trapped her in a genjutsu the moment her eyes met his.
Itachi had to bite back his smile when he remembered how annoyed she had been. If it was one thing, Kurokka Yachiru was a sore loser. When it came to things she did not have a natural affinity for, like avoiding genjutsu, she had remarkably little patience. Itachi smoothed a hand over the blue-prints, allowing Yachiru time to take in what was expected of her.
"Woah, you're right. This is gonna take a while. I wish there were more people like me. We could manage to get this done in far less time if it wasn't only me," Yachiru mused aloud. The next two hours were spent discussing strategies for the best possible way to construct the safe-house. Kisame thought it would be cool to have the entire thing underground, which Yachiru agreed with, since the surface would disguise what was really underneath, unless someone walking above had the ability to see through walls. It would also be a lot easier to construct.
The safe-house was to be several storeys high, with individual rooms for each Akatsuki member, as well as cells for hostages as prisoners. It was also to have a maze of rather confusing passage-ways with small, hard to distinguish markers along the walls for guidance. The safe-house was to have running water and heating, but would be lit by lamps as it only took a minimal amount of chakra to keep the place lit... or matches if one was not a fire jutsu user. It would also boast a sparring room with a balcony, and a kitchen, laundry room and library. An office was to be constructed for Pein-sama's use. Yachiru stood up and slapped her hands to her waist, bending and popping the vertebrae in her back.
"Well, let's get started," she said with a grin.
Night had fallen over the area, but the glade was still well lit, complements to torches Itachi and Yachiru had installed from dry grass and fire-jutsu. Itachi had placed several layers of genjutsu around the area to throw off any passers-by and the trio had continued to work, even though they were all, at this point, exhausted.
"I think we should take a rest now," Itachi said in a flat tone, surveying their progress.
Yachiru was better than he had originally expected, and they had already cleared two storeys' depth into the earth in a uniformed square of about three hundred and sixty feet per side, and going down some thirty feet deep. After brainstorming, Yachiru and Itachi had aerated the earth that they wanted to lift – Yachiru with her airbending techniques, and Itachi with a powerful Fuuton jutsu that he had stolen with his Sharingan some time ago. This had served to make the earth much lighter than it would have been earlier, and therefore leagues easier for Yachiru to earthbend out of the way.
Being the best cook among the three, Kisame had kept them fed and watered as they worked... and they had worked virtually non-stop. It was tedious, but Yachiru was good at what she did, and she worked fast. Presently, sweat was draining down every inch of visible skin on Yachiru – she had tossed her Akatsuki cloak aside a long time ago – and she had her slightly dusty hair tied up in a large bun on top of her head. She rested her hands on her hips with a satisfied grin and chuckled.
"How's that for fast work?" she said, grinning. "If we get some rest, we can clear another storey easily tomorrow morning and start working on the infrastructure." Itachi was quite pleased. He was not one for manual labour, as such, and there was only so much he felt he could do at this point, since this was way out of his forte, but he could at least help her to flame-harden the walls when it came to that point.
"Grub's up," Kisame intoned, his deep voice rumbling across the clearing from where he sat next to a fire. Lightly salted fish was still sizzling from their place suspended over the open flame and Yachiru had to admit that the scent was very, very tempting. She wanted to eat, bathe, and get some shut eye. As it was, her muscles were quietly screaming from the excessive use. She stalked over to Kisame, the grass underfoot cool on the soles of her feet.
"Smells good. I want to eat and then get clean," she stated, letting Kisame know, not in so many words, that she was expecting him to unseal her toiletries from the scroll she had convinced Hidan to fill earlier. She knew from what Kisame and Hidan told her that kunoichi didn't regularly bathe in open air missions, saving that privilege for missions that involved inns, but Yachiru wasn't a waterbender for nothing, and she was very much a woman who liked being clean. Simple hygiene, right?
She sat next to the blue man and gratefully accepted her fish, which was impaled on a stick. She took a ginger bite of the hot meat, sighing in appreciation, literally feeling the hot meat sliding down her throat and into her rather empty stomach. She turned her head, feeling Itachi's stare pinned on her.
"What?" she said after swallowing, staring balefully at the Uchiha. He blinked, and Yachiru swore she saw the ghost of a smile on his lips before he turned away. One of her eyebrows rose, then she turned her attention back to her fish.
Itachi knew it was illogical to want to see what was going on behind the earthen walls of Yachiru's 'shower' stall. Water and soap suds were running from behind the wall obstructing his vision, and Itachi found himself wishing for the first time that he had the Byakugan instead of the Sharingan. He caught the thought and sent a blast of Ameratsu at it in his mindscape. There was no reason to think such thoughts.
"No matter how hard you stare at that wall, it's not going to turn invisible, 'tachi-san," Kisame mumbled without looking up from the fish he was munching, his tone dry, as if he had entertained thoughts of what went on behind that wall as well. Itachi coloured against his will.
"Shut up, Kisame," he growled, turning his back to the offending wall. Kisame only chuckled darkly in response. Itachi hated that even though his back was turned to the wall, it was still the object of all his attention. He also hated that he could smell the stark difference between himself and Kisame, and Yachiru when she stepped out of her 'shower'. She smelled clean. His thoughts must have shown on his face, because Yachiru chuckled, and the next thing he knew, his sweat was lifted off his skin and discarded in the grass. He turned sharply to face her and she gave him a grin.
"There is water in the gourd if you're so inclined, Itachi," she smirked, jerking her head towards her gourd which was standing next to the wall. However, Itachi didn't see it, because her hair was hanging down her back and over her shoulders in wet, white ringlets, and the firelight was casting an orange glow over her skin and hair. She also smelled really good... Itachi could smell her from where he sat. The scent was of standard issue bar soap... and her original scent mixed in. He swallowed, standing abruptly.
"Is there soap?" he asked blankly, sparing her a sideways glance. She grinned in response and nodded while pulling the water from her hair with her left hand while blowing a draft of air through the strands with her right hand.
"Washcloth and towel as well. Kisame, I don't suppose you will want to shower too?" she joked, grinning in Kisame's direction. The blue man scoffed, proud of his rather pungent scent. It wasn't all that bad, once you got used to it... just very male... and earthy, with the slightest tinge of sweat. It wasn't Kisame's style really to shower at the first opportunity. Itachi didn't care what Kisame thought. If there was an opportunity to have cool water crashing over his skin after digging a helluva hole all day, he would take it.
"We're buying shovels tomorrow, Kisame," the Uchiha said before disappearing behind the wall. Yachiru smothered a giggle at the unspoken half of the sentence and at Kisame's scowl. 'Because you are digging right along with us tomorrow.'
Visibility was constantly declining as it got later, but it would not have mattered to Ichirou anyway. He only needed his feet to know where he was going. The only other person like himself that he knew of was Kurokka Yachiru. Ichirou gazed at the stars above as he allowed his mind to run on her.
She used to be one of them. She used to be their senpai, but she left. Deserted them. Deserted him, and Ichirou was unsure of whether or not he could ever forgive Yachiru for that. For leaving him behind. Ichirou clenched his teeth and his fists, his eyes hardening. He should be moving faster, hurrying to get back to Rikkato-sama so he could report that Yachiru was indeed alive, as they had suspected. He should be hurrying, but he couldn't bring himself to. She'd never really wanted to stay, and he'd always known it.
Ichirou could 'see' his two travelling companions with his feet. Nitori to his left... and Sanari to his right. Nitori's hair hung in perpetually damp black ringlets to his collarbones, whereas Sanari had close-cropped, spiky red hair. Ichirou's was the colour of his element, dirt brown, and he wore the soft curls tied back at the nape of his neck.
"Ano... Ichirou-senpai... we should really be moving faster, shouldn't we?" Ichirou turned at the calm voice of one of his partners. He only gave a noncommittal grunt in response.
"Hn... I like this pace just fine," the third of the trio muttered under his breath. "Nitori, I honestly don't see why you are so anxious to get back to ... well... home." Ichirou smiled inwardly at Sanari's tone of derision in regards to their place of abode. It wasn't without reason, Sanari's tone, because in truth and in fact, home was not a place Ichirou longed to get back to, even though it was all he had.
"Oh, shut up, Sanari," Nitori said, scowling at the smaller male. "Just because you don't like to train and please Rikkato-sama does not mean I don't." It was no secret that Nitori was the most faithful to Rikkato-sama. Nitori was the only one that had come from nothing into this... arrangement.
Ichirou ignored them both and continued on his pace. A gust of wind wafted over the trio, blowing their kimonos open and revealing the tattoos emblazoned on their skins. Ichirou had the kanji for 'ichi' (one) on his left pectoral muscle. Nitori had the kanji for 'ni' (two) on the side of his neck and Sanari had the kanji for 'san' (three) on the right side of his chest. That was the only choice they had gotten to make, really. It struck Ichirou that the only thing he'd actually gotten to choose since Rikkato-sama had taken him in was where he wanted his tattoo placed. Yachiru hadn't gotten one. Maybe that had been the first sign... the introduction of the first little niggling thought that Yachiru didn't want to be a part of their group.
Well, Ichirou wanted to be wherever Yachiru was. He only hoped she would come back, because there was no way for him to leave like she did; Rikkato-sama was way too strong for him to escape, and Nitori was way too loyal to Rikkato-sama for him to get away now. He was stuck.
The other two fell silent, and for a while, only the soft crunching of dirt beneath their feet, their breathing and the sounds of the night filled the air. Ichirou was just relaxing in the silence when Sanari broke it. He scowled in annoyance.
"Rikkato-sama will not be pleased when he hears that she is with the Akatsuki," Sanari muttered. Ichirou was not sure he had ever heard the redhead speak above a mutter. Sanari scowled and constructed a ball of air at his feet, easily hopping on with his legs crossed and allowing it to carry him.
"What?" he asked defensively at Nitori's deadpan look. "It's easier than walking. Just because your element is water and you can't do this, doesn't mean you have to act like that every time."
"You evade everything, don't you," Nitori said disdainfully, being the type to be up in the middle of the night practicing his water control. Ichirou glanced over at the heavy gourd on Nitori's back. It was a good thing, he supposed, that his element was earth, because it would suck to have to carry such a heavy load everywhere he went. He preferred to feel the ground under his bare feet, the mud sliding between his toes if it was wet, rather than carry a gourd of water with him all the time.
He tuned out the voices of his teammates and his memory flitted back to Yachiru. He missed her. She'd been gone for what seemed like forever, and he missed her pranks, and her stupid attitude when she got pummelled in a fight, and... and he wouldn't spend time thinking about all the things he missed.
"Where do you suppose they disappeared to?" Sanari mumbled. "We had them in our sights and then they were gone." Ichirou gave the wind-user a baleful look.
"With teleportation, it could be anywhere... and she was with Kisame and the Uchiha, so the possibilities are endless," Nitori snapped. "Rikkato-sama will know what to do... we just have to freaking get there, already!"
"Boys, boys... is this how you argue every time you think I am not close by?" a fourth voice said. The three males hid their surprise and looked up in the direction of the voice.
Half emerged from the trunk of a tree, a smirk on his lips and his blonde hair and green cloak fluttering around him, was their master. Nitori met the sparkling moss-green gaze with his sky-blue one and grinned, the moonlight reflecting off his teeth.
So... the introduction of the Divine Three... or Kamisan...and Rikkato-sama... So, sorry for the incredibly long wait, but I was at a creative impasse for this story... lol. And this chapter was not necessarily as funny as the others, but it was kinda necessary... Review, my lovelies!