In anticipation of the sequel, I have decided to do a re-write of The Guardian. I have hunted down some typos, plugged some plot holes, and generally tried to give the story a bit more depth. Welcome to my new readers, and welcome back to those returning!

I own nothing!

Chapter One


Twelve year old Itachi Uchiha had just been inducted into the secretive ranks of Konoha's ANBU. Even at his young age, he was already a well-known Jonin, feared by the enemies of the Leaf. He had made the decision to join ANBU knowing that there was little glory to be had in the assignment. Most of his missions from here on out would be highly classified; unknown to the village and unacknowledged by its leaders. Itachi had chosen ANBU because of a philosophy taught to him by a man he considered to be his older brother: A true shinobi is defined by self sacrifice; protecting the village from within its shadow.

Itachi had taken the ANBU oath, sworn in by the Third Hokage. He was now not only the youngest Jonin in the Leaf's history, but the youngest ANBU recruit as well. He was still only probationary, however. A veteran operative had been assigned as his sponsor; a mentor of sorts who would teach him the basics about how ANBU operated and would eventually determine whether or not he was ready to work on his own. It was tradition for the sponsor to provide a recruit his first mask and apply his ANBU tattoo once he had proven himself.

Itachi stood up as the door opened. He immediately recognized the operative who entered despite the cloth mask covering most of his face. He was even more feared a shinobi than Itachi himself.

"You're my sponsor, Kakashi-sempai?"

"That's what they tell me," The Copy Ninja replied, "Apparently they think that prodigies should stick to together, whatever that means."

"I'm honored, Sempai."

Kakashi Hatake was a legend, but beyond that, Itachi had his own connection to the man. Kakashi possessed an eye—a Sharingan—that had been given to him by a member of the Uchiha clan. Obito Uchiha was Itachi's cousin and the older brother of his best friend Shisui. Itachi and Shisui had looked up to him as children, and his death had been a painful blow to them both. Kakashi had been both Obito's best friend and his worst rival, so he was well known to Itachi.

"Apparently the way this is supposed to work is that I give you a mask." Kakashi said, "So I picked this up on the way here."

He tossed the mask to Itachi, giving him a chance to get a good look at it. It seemed that Kakashi had a sense of humor after all.

"A weasel?"

"Oh, is that what it is?" Kakashi asked innocently, "Anyway, you'll be wearing that whenever you're on duty from now on."

"Yes, sir."

"And don't call me 'sir' either. I'm your sponsor, not your commander. We have a mission in the morning. I'll be evaluating your performance. If you meet my standards, you'll earn your tattoo. If not, you'll stay probationary until I change my mind, they pass you off to another sponsor, or you get sent back to the Jonin Corps." Kakashi explained.

Itachi had wonder what exactly Kakashi's standards entailed—he had heard horror stories from his previous charges—but he only nodded.

"Be at the main gate at sunrise with supplies for at least a week."

"Understood."

With his briefing complete, Itachi rushed to change into civilian clothes. There was something important he did not want to miss. He made it to the Academy just in time. He saw his little brother walk out the main doors, and caught his attention with a wave. Sasuke's face lit up and he ran over.

"I thought you were gonna be busy, Aniki!" the six-year-old exclaimed.

"Did you really think I would miss picking you up from your first day of school? Come on. You can tell me about your day on the way home."

Sasuke chattered eagerly as the brothers made their way back toward the Uchiha Compund.

"My instructor's name is Iruka-sensei. He says we're his first class."

Itachi knew Iruka Umino. They had graduated the same year, though Itachi was five years younger. Iruka was young himself, but from what Itachi knew of him, he was a natural teacher, despite his reputation as the class clown. Itachi was confident that Sasuke would be in good hands.

"Who else is in your class? Anyone you know?" he asked.

"Sort of. Your friend's brother is there."

"That's good. Who else?"

"Um… I don't know anybody's name yet. There was this one kid who was asleep on his desk all day, and one with all these creepy bugs all over him. I hope I never have to sit by him."

"He must be an Aburame."

"Oh, and there was this one noisy kid who kept telling everybody he's gonna be Hokage."

Itachi smiled, "Maybe he will. You never know. So did you have fun?"

"Yeah… I'm kinda nervous about tomorrow though. Iruka-sensei said we have to take a…an attitude test."

"An aptitude test. Don't worry, just do your best."

"Did you have to take it?"

"Yes, I did."

"What was your score?"

Itachi hesitated. He was one of only a handful of students ever to achieve a perfect score on the Academy's initial aptitude test, but if he told Sasuke that, it would only set a standard that would crush him not to meet. Their father's expectations were a heavy enough burden.

"I did pretty well," Itachi finally said, "But don't worry about my score. Just focus on doing the best you can. I know you'll do great. We can celebrate when I get back from my mission."

Sasuke's face fell, "You have to leave?"

"It's my first ANBU mission. It might take a week or two, but it's important. I'm sorry."

"I know it's important, I just… I was hoping you could help me with my homework and stuff…"

"I'm sorry, Otouto. As soon as I get back. I promise."


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