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Let's start this from the beginning

Chapter Text

Let's start this from the beginning

 

Prologue I

 

 

When Itachi regained conciseness he was confused.

 

He remembered fighting Kabuto and having a last conversation with his brother before his soul got released from the vile technique that had brought him back, but he should be dead now.

He knew from the first time he died -oh, and didn't this sentence sound ridiculous?- that there wasn't anything but blessed oblivion after death. Of course, it was possible that the Edo Tensei somehow cursed the summoned soul, but he thought it much more likely for the user to be cursed by the forbidden Jutsu instead. After all, why punish the victim for the deeds of the culprit?

 

For a moment he entertained the possibility that he might have been summoned once again, to fight as someone else's slave, but then he realized that he wasn't standing in a coffin but lying in a bed instead. And the reason he wasn't seeing anything wasn't because said coffin was closed, but because he didn't open his eyes yet.

 

Well,  he thought,  that was new.

 

With his senses still a bit fuzzy and his mind still struggling to comparer the situation, he opened his eyes. He didn't know what he had expected, but seeing a very normal celling hadn't been it.

 

Sitting up he instantly noticed two very important things:

 

First, there was a big red and white coloured fan symbol he knew very well plastered on the wall in front of him. He had no idea how he landed at a place with the Uchiha emblem, of all things, but that was exactly what he saw.

 

However, the second thing made him forget about that mystery for a moment;

He was small. And when he said small, he meant tiny.

 

For a moment he only looked at his puny, little hands in confused horror. He opened his mouth, not knowing if he was going to scream, to cry, or even able utter any tone at all, before snapping it shut with an audible clack.

 

He was Itachi Uchiha, and he hadn't survived in the ANBU and as one of the most well-known criminals on the continent by losing his mind every time something unexpected happened. Even if this was a bit more than just unexpected, he would stay calm and collected.

 

He stood up with a forced calm, noticing his difference in height instantly. He planned to look around and see where exactly he was but stopped moving after only a few steps when he finally recognized the room. Now, from the position where he stood in the middle of the room, he couldn’t help but wonder how he hadn't recognized it earlier. The bed, the wardrobe and even the carpet, he recognized it all.

It was his room. Not only that, but it was his room from before his clan had been relocated, just a few weeks after the attack of the Nine-Tailed Fox.

He started moving before he even knew what he was doing. One moment he was standing in the middle of his room, and the next moment he stands in front of a mirror, which was situated in the bathroom. What was looking right back at him was unquestionable his face.

His  much younger  face.

Deciding to do what he should have done from the beginning, Itachi closed his eyes and concentrated on the flow of his chakra but didn’t notice anything strange or unusual. Or at least nothing that indicated that he was influenced. What he noticed though, was, that his chakra reserves were drastically smaller than before. He never had the biggest reserves in the first place, but now they were barely above Genin level.

Ignoring this for the moment, he opened his eyes and activated his  Sharingan , which didn’t notice anything strange either. He hesitated just a mere second before activating his  Mangekyo Sharingan, but nothing changed.If it wasn't a Genjutsu then there was only one other possibility that came to his mind.

 

People had always called him a prodigy, a genius, but you didn't need to be a genius to understand the situation. He looked just like he did when he was a child and had woken up in his childhood home. Furthermore, to bring the point home even more, he recognized all the different chakra signatures he could feel from the outside. How couldn't he, when he had been the one responsible for extinguishing them in the first place?

 

The conclusion seemed obvious, no matter how mad it sounded:

He was in the past.

It should be impossible. The entire idea was ridiculous, because... time travel? Really?

But then again, bringing back the dead did sound mad too before it actually happened.

He frowned and looked around, his gaze accidentally meeting the mirror. Once again his childlike face looked back at him, now with the addition of eyes it wouldn’t have had yet for many years. His eyes followed his tear-troughs, which were not as pronounced as they would be later in his life, and he could see…

He could see! His eyesight wasn’t fuzzy at all!  

This realization would have had a bigger impact if he wouldn’t have started to feel lightheaded. Quickly realizing that his Mangekyo was eating his chakra reserves up at a quick pace he deactivated his Sharingan once again.

With a sigh he leaned against the wall.

So, he thought. To sum it up: I woke up in a house I didn’t live in since the Nine-Tailed Fox attacked the village, by which I can conclude that my body is, at most, five years old. I have matching chakra reserves, but I am also still able to use both my Sharingan and my Mangekyo Sharingan. My eyesight isn't compromised yet, though, and I didn’t notice any problems with my breathing yet, which hopefully meant that I am as healthy as I was when I was a child.

He sighed again. For now, he would just assume that he indeed travelled back in time, no matter how ridiculous that sounded.

 

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

 

He stood in the bathroom for what felt like hours and did nothing but looking at his reflection in the mirror and thinking about his situation.

He just couldn’t understand why he of all people got a second chance. For all his good intentions, he still murdered his own family. Young and old, babes and children, his parents. And not to forget all the crimes he did in the name of Akatsuki, or even in the ANBU before that. The list of his crimes was long, and there were so many people who deserved another chance so much more than he did.

His thoughts were interrupted when he heard a door being opened and a soft, feminine voice he hadn't heard in many years called his name:

“Itachi, I’m home! Are you there?”

His mother. He knew from the moment he accepted, no matter how hesitant he was to do so, that he had travelled back in time, that he would need to face his ghosts soon.

Quite literally.

But now that the meeting with his mother was just about to happen he knew that he wasn’t ready yet. He needed more time. Without much thought he opened the window and jumped outside.

He was lucky that only his reserves and not his control was set back to fit his body, because if not, his attempt to use a Shunshin ( Body Flicker Technique ) would have resulted in a two-storey deep fall. But as his control was still as good as before, even with noticeable less chakra at his disposal, this didn’t pose a problem and he vanished from sight, searching for a place where he could think in peace.

Chapter Text

Let's start this from the beginning

Prologue II

 

It had been four days since the attack of the Nine-Tailed Fox, the third day since he arrived in the past, when he finally decided how to proceed from now. First, he would try to prevent the Uchiha massacre from ever happening. Afterwards, he would need to make sure that Konoha, and probably the rest of the Elemental Nations too, were prepared to deal with Akatsuki and Madara.


If he could deal with Akatsuki and its leader, Sasuke would have a much more carefree life than he had the last time, and there wasn't anything that could motivate him more than doing something for the sake of his beloved little brother.


It was fortunate that his parents weren't in the same room as him when he met his little brother for the first time in this timeline as he couldn't help but cry a bit. He may have seen him just a few hours ago, from his perspective, but you couldn't compare the two versions of him.
One was a young adult, driven and eaten up by hate and anger, while the other one was a sweet and innocent little babe.


He would do everything in his power to make sure that Sasuke could stay as happy and content as he was now for as long as possible. And to guarantee that he needed to start making differences.


Decision made he didn't need much time to conclude that he couldn't do this alone. The easiest way to change something in Konoha was with the aid of the Hokage. Consequently, he would need to share his knowledge with the Sandaime. Now he only needed to find a way to talk with him in private.
Sadly, this was easier said than done.


While there wasn't any official announcement yet, everyone knew that the Sandaime, once again, took the position as Hokage after the Yondaime had died. This meant that he had to do all the regular paperwork a Kage needed to finish, as well as all the paperwork that came up through the reconstruction of the village.


This was rather time-consuming work, which meant that it was rather unlikely for him to receive a five years old child in his office, even if he was the Uchiha heir.
He knew from his last life that the Sandaime used the little free time he had to walk through the village in the afternoon; to see the progress of the reconstructions first-hand and to talk with the villagers. Sadly he couldn't approach him there either. The risk of someone overhearing them was ridiculously high, and he obviously couldn't let anyone but the Hokage know about his second chance.


The only solution he found so far which would make it absolutely impossible to be overheard was through the use of Genjutsu.
This, though, brought its own share of problems. For one thing, the Hokage had his personal bodyguards from the ANBU and he wasn't sure if he could stay hidden from them, especially with his childlike body. Another problem was the fact, that the Hokage would most likely counter his Genjutsu immediately.
Even if he didn't, one of his ANBU guards would notice that something was wrong with the Sandaime and counter the Genjutsu in his stead.
Of course he could just wait until the reconstructions were finished and the Hokage had enough free time to receive visitors again, but he needed to talk to him now.


One thing he wanted to change was the treatment of Naruto.


The general public wasn't informed about his existence until the funeral for all the people who died when the Nine-Tailed Fox attacked the village. Even if he was only introduced as "their saviour" who's sacrifice saved the village, instead of as the Jinchuriki of the Nine-Tailed, everyone soon knew exactly what he was.
He didn't know when exactly the Hokage told others about Naruto's status, but from the fact that he didn't hear any rumours about a "demon brat" or something similar yet he concluded that he didn't do so yet.


Still, as he couldn't talk with the Sandaime in person, Genjutsu stayed his only way to archive a conversation between them soon.
There was only one Genjutsu he knew, that could avoid the before mentioned problems.


Tsukuyomi.


The Tsukuyomi was not only impossible for the Hokage to break free of, but he also could manipulate the time inside the Genjutsu in a way that allowed them to talk for hours and even days, while less than a second in the real world passed. This also guaranteed that no one of the ANBU guards would notice anything, as there was just not enough time to do so. Not to forget the benefits of being able to show the Sandaime things from the future instead of just telling him about them.


The only problem with using this technique was the high chakra consume that was required. He was pretty sure that he could use it, but he would need to use all the chakra momentary available to him. He also was pretty sure, that he would lose consciousness the moment the technique was finished.


In the end he decided to go through with it anyway. Should he lose his consciousness before he was able to stumble in an empty alley he would just claim he overdid it with his training. It was not too far stretched to be true, and he hadn't time to think of something better anyway.


This led him to where he was right now, standing in a street that was connected to the main road. He just needed to look around the corner to see the Hokage building.
He made sure not to be seen by any villagers. The last thing he now needed was a suspicious villager that wondered what he was doing.


He only needed to wait for half an hour until he could feel the Sandaime's presence moving in his direction. It was now or never.
Itachi walked around the corner at a leisurely pace, just as the Sandaime would pass him. Of course, being an experienced Ninja, the Hokage could easily evasive him and prevent them from walking into each other.
This didn't really matter to him. All he wanted to archive was to be close enough to look into the eyes of the Hokage without anyone else seeing his eyes in turn.


The moment the Hokage took a step to the side, Itachi looked up, right into his eyes, activated his Mangekyo Sharingan and thought:
"Tsukuyomi."

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX


Hiruzen Sarutobi was tired.


Never would he have expected being forced to take up the mantle of Hokage again, especially not with a successor like Minato. He was young, powerful, smart, and, maybe most importantly, driven by the desire to do best for his village.
And now he was dead.


He sighed. All this paperwork only added to his already full workload, consisting of meetings with representatives of the village, his advisors Homura and Koharu, as well as Danzo and, not to forget, diverse Clan Heads.
The thought of the latter strengthens his migraine even more. He just knew that most, if not all, of the Clan Heads would try and use the current phase of reconstruction to gain more land for themselves. Some might have legitimate reasons that justified their wish for more space, but most had not.


When his temporary secretary brought another stack of papers, he decided that it was a good idea to make his daily walk around the village a bit earlier than usual and stood up.
He did these daily walks not only to escape from his paperwork but also because it warmed his heart to see the resilience of the people from his home. Less than a week after the catastrophe that was the Nine-Tailed Fox, and a great amount of damage was already repaired. Of course, the areas where its attacks directly hit part of the village's outskirts would need much more time to recover than the centre of the village.


Still, the villagers didn't let themselves get dragged down and went on with their lives. Children run around, people worked together, laughed together and, in some cases, mourned together, before cheering each other up again.
He loved this village, and he would do his duty if it could help him protect his home, even when he wished he wouldn't be forced to do so from the position of Hokage after his predecessor died a violent death.
First the Nidaime, who sacrificed his life during the Second Shinobi War to save him and his team, and now Minato.
He would have dwelled longer in his thoughts, hadn't his instincts suddenly screamed for him to move.


He took a step to the side and turned around, wanting to find out what exactly drew him out of his thoughts like this. What he saw was nothing but a dark-haired child, no older than five, who nearly ran into him. It also didn't help with his confusion that the voice in the back of his mind, which held him alive all those years, told him to take this child more serious.


Before he could decide what to do, the child looked up.


The last thing he saw, were two red eyes that he recognized as the Sharingan, though with some strange muster in them.


From one moment to the next he found himself standing all alone on the same road he was before, with the difference, that nobody else seemed to be there beside him.
One moment later a fairly tall man of fair complexion, with onyx black eyes and long, pronounced tear-troughs, as well as jet-black hair, appeared out of nowhere. He instantly recognized the man as an Uchiha, but not one he had ever seen before.


Before he could even attempt to break out of this Genjutsu the man began to speak:
"Please excuse me for catching you off-guard like this, Hokage-sama, but I didn't see any other way we could talk without being interrupted. I have information I feel important for you to know, so please hear me out."



XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX


It was already dark when Itachi finally arrived at home.


After a long talk with the Hokage, in which he did not only tell him about the future but they also planned together how certain events should play out this time around, he had indeed been able to stumble in an unused alley before losing his consciousness.


It was a relief that he only fainted for about four hours, because like this he was able to return home just in time for dinner. He may have had an excuse if he had missed it, but it was much easier this way. It also helped that he was quite hungry and needed to eat so that his chakra reserves would refresh themselves faster.


But knowing this didn't help him ignoring the unwelcome feeling of nervousness that was starting to build up in his stomach. Even the fact that the Hokage believed him and they already made plans to change the future for the better was barely helpful.


He wondered if eating with his family would ever be the same again.


It didn't help that he recently became the focus of not only his immediate family but also of the entire Uchiha Clan. After all, it wasn't every day that a "five years old" activated his Sharingan.


Of course, Izumi did activate her Sharingan as well when she witnessed her father's death during the Nine-Tailed Fox's attack, but most of the clan was happy to ignore her because of her half-blood status. Itachi quickly threw off the thoughts of Izumi though, this wasn't a topic he was comfortable thinking about quite yet.


The reason he told his father, and consequently the rest of his family and clan, that he activated the Sharingan, was quite simple: he was an adult in the body of a child. He was always rather mature and didn't act like other children his age, witnessing the horrors war at the age of four did that to you, but it was a far cry from the person he became as an adult. No matter how easily he could fool most people, who would just shrug and say that such behaviour was expected from a prodigy like him, people who knew him well would notice that something was different with him.


On the other hand, it was expected that the awakening of the Sharingan would change a person. This was a well-known fact in his clan.
His already mature personality, combined with the awakening of his eyes and a bit of acting, should be enough to fool even his parents.


"Father, mother, I'm home.", he called when he stepped through the entrance and put off his shoes.


Only a few seconds later his mother was standing in the doorframe leading to the living room, smiling down at him. She was a beautiful woman, especially now, when she was nearly ten years younger than the last time he had seen her.


"Welcome home Itachi, you're just in time for dinner." Then she frowned. "You look exhausted, more so than usual. Did you overdo it with your training? I told you to take it easy, didn't I? In fact, I think your father and I told you not to train with your new eyes on your own because you're still getting used to them."


He must look worse than he thought if his mother commented on it. Well, at least her assumption about him training his Sharingan fits with the excuse he had prepared.


"I'm sorry Kaa-san, I won't do it again. I promise."


She looked at him for a moment as if to decide if she believed him or not before she sighed and let it go. "Alright, go wash your hands and then head to the table. Your father is already waiting with Sasuke, and you know how terrible he is with babes. Go rescue him for me, would you?"


Itachi couldn't help but smile at that. It was quite amusing to watch his father when he tried to handle Sasuke, as he never seemed to know how to hold him. It was actually really sad that he couldn't remember this from his last life. It made him wonder which other details he had forgotten.


With a nod he went on his way. Shortly after he sat in front of his father, having taken Sasuke from him and placed him on his laps. It was astonishing to witness Sasuke's effect on him. Before arriving home, he was nervous and uncertain, but as soon as he could hold Sasuke he felt as if everything was alright.


The stern voice of his father pulled him out of his thoughts: "Itachi, did I hear it right, that you trained with your Sharingan without supervision? Such irresponsible behaviour is rather out of character for you."


Well, he thought, here it goes. It wasn't as if he didn't expect this topic to come up. Not after his mother instantly noted his exhausted state. If she could see it so easily, then so could his father.


He nodded. "I did, and I am sorry. I know you did forbid me from training my eyes on my own, but I wanted to test my limits and both you and mother were so busy the last few days, so I decided to go on my own. I will not do it again."


His father didn't give any outward reaction to that, nor gave he anything away what could tell Itachi what he was thinking. Not that this was a problem, he knew his father for long enough to guess his thoughts.


"And how did it go?"


It was as he had expected. While his mother's first reaction might be worry that he overdid it and hurt himself, his father was more interested in the results of his training. He would only inquire about his health or restrict his freedom when there were signs of serious injuries. Looking exhausted wasn't enough reason for him to do so, even if he ignored a direct order of his.


"Everything went well. I expected the increased chakra consume and was prepared for it. The only problem I noted is that I am still too slow. My body can't react fast enough to act on the information my eyes provide."


Oh, how it irked him to confess that. He may have never been too proud of his abilities, but he did grow used to them. For him, not being able to use his eyes to their fullest potential was, frankly speaking, a disgrace.


At least his sight was as good as it had been originally when he was a child and not as terrible as shortly before his death.


"Well," his father hummed, "this is not too unexpected. You awakened your Sharingan with all three tomoe in both eyes,"-here he could hear pride in his voice- "which means that your enhanced perception is already at its highest. It would be surprising were your timing not thrown off." He paused for a moment and looked contemplative for a moment before he continued: "Tomorrow, after I finished all my duties, we will train together. You're the heir of the clan, so you need to master our Kekkei Genkai as soon as possible."


He just nodded. This would be their second training session together, and while he might not enjoy it too much, it would help him master his new (or was it old?) body sooner. Besides, it was surprisingly nice to spend time with his father before he became so obsessed with his plans to higher the clan's standing in the village.


The conversation stopped there, and soon after his mother arrived with their meal. While his parents past the time by talking with each other, he concentrated on his meal and on feeding Sasuke.


XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX



This memorial service reminded him far too much of all the other funerals he had attended in his long life, and he didn't like it at all.


He would love nothing more than just turning back and go home to mourn in private. Hell, even his paperwork seemed a much more enjoyable task than this! But he knew he couldn't do that, he needed to do his duty.
He already held his speech, and everything left to do was for the people to come forward and give their farewells to the deceased. He let his gaze wander over those present as he waited for the service to end and saw several people of note.


He could see Kakashi on the left. The poor boy had already lost his teammates years ago, but now, with the death of both his Sensei and Kushina, he had no one close to him left. Of course, the memories provided by young Itachi showed him that he would get over it, at least as far as possible, and continued living.


What to do with him was one of the hardest decisions he had made. Kakashi's time in the ANBU shaped him and made him the man he had become. It also made him one of Konoha's most powerful Shinobi.
On the other hand, it was also clear that it didn't do anything good for his mentality, not matter that he was able to pull himself out of the abyss of his mind. Hiruzen had to decide now what was more important: the mental health of one of his Shinobi or said Shinobi's potential as a warrior for their village.


Apropos Itachi, the boy -no, the young man- stood in a front row to the right of him, together with the rest of his clan.


He couldn't even imagine how he had to feel right now, standing side by side with members of his family he had killed himself. And not just simply killed, but killed on orders of the village. How he was still able to love Konoha, he truly didn't know. To stay true to his home that brought so much pain for him…
He was sure that even his old Sensei, the Nidaime Hokage, who only rarely had something good to say about the Uchiha and repeatedly warned him about them, would be impressed. Most likely a bit smug too, knowing that his warnings about the Uchiha betraying the village were justified and came true.


For all that Itachi deserved to finally be at rest, to have peace, he couldn't help but be happy that he was given a second chance at life. Not only had he another chance for happiness, but all the knowledge and memories of his would become very useful in the years to come too. In fact, today's memorial service was already different than the one presented to him by Itachi.


The main difference was the fact, that he didn't bring Naruto with him. Knowing what he did now, he couldn't understand what he must have thought the last time around. Why would he show off Naruto like this, or tell anyone about his identity as Jinchuriki, when he knew that people searched for a scapegoat in times of pain and suffering?
To think of all the years of hardship he would have needed to endure, only because of an old man's folly...

He might not have been beaten or continuously bullied by the citizens, but being ignored and glared at for all his life was bad enough in its own right.


But not this time around, he would make sure of it!


Another minor difference was an addition he made in his speech.
One of the main reasons for the dissatisfaction of the Uchiha Clan was the attitude of the leadership of the village and the behaviour of the villagers themselves towards them. An example for the former was the "banishment" of their clan to an outer district, while an example for the latter was the permanent accusations about them being behind the Nine-Tailed Fox's attack. This accusation was mostly based on two points: their absence on the front line during the attack, and the belief that the Sharingan could control the beast.
In his speech he had made sure to thank the Uchiha Clan openly for their service to the village in protecting the civilians and leading them to the shelters. This way there shouldn't be any rumours in future about what they supposedly did during the attack, because everyone already knew.


This was, of course, only one small step. One of many to come.
One of the most important things Itachi and he agreed on was, that they would need to include the Uchiha more in various affairs. Their name shouldn't be only known because of their leadership of the Konoha Military Police Force (KMPF) or their combat powers. They needed to connect more with other parts of the village.


To do this, Itachi would soon bring him a list with the most easy-going and approachable members of his clan who were also jōnin. He would then continue by making them instructors for the new genin teams when the Academy finished its school year.


But Hiruzen had one more idea, one he didn't tell Itachi about.
The Uchiha Clan would need a face by which the rest of the village could identify them, a poster boy, so to say. And who was better for this job than Itachi, who already proofed his loyalty and love for the village?


Noticing that people began to leave he was about to turn around and go himself when he saw a pale-skinned man with long, dark hair standing at the edges of the procession.


Orochimaru.


He was another case he didn't really know how to handle. He loved the man as if he was his own son, as he did with his other students too, but the things he had been told about his deeds and experiments on humans, even babes…
He truly wanted to give him the benefit of a doubt, but he couldn't.


His job wasn't made any easier by the fact that he was currently the only one who could stop him, as Jiraiya and Tsunade were not in the village at the moment.


Tomorrow, he decided. I will decide what to do with him first thing tomorrow.


With that thought he finally turned around and started to make his way home. There was still work for him to do, even on a day like this.

Chapter Text

Let's start this from the beginning

 

Genin days I

 

 

He watched some crows fly by the window from where he sat in the last row of the classroom, all the while still listening with one ear to what the instructor was explaining at the moment. It wouldn't do to be called upon and not knowing the answer because he didn't know the question itself. Not only would his parents undoubtedly hear about that, but his pride also wouldn't allow something like that to happen either. It would be way too embarrassing not being able to answer an academy-level question, no matter how boring he thought the lessons to be.

It was hard to believe that he already spent six months sitting in this classroom and “learning” stuff he mastered decades ago. Of course he knew that this was necessary, as he couldn't become a Shinobi if he didn't finish his schooling first, but it was still boring.
He spent most of the time in class musing about the future, how he could train in private after school or, more simply, how he could spend his time with Sasuke today.

Sadly, his thoughts often wandered off in much more unpleasant directions. One example of an unpleasant thought was the memory of how the Sandaime informed him about his failure in apprehending Orochimaru.
The Hokage had decided to gather information about said Sannin's activities before he would act, to see if he was already too far gone or if he could still be saved. He knew that the snake summoner was like a son to him and that he couldn't act completely unbiased concerning him, but he was still slightly annoyed. It might be hypocritical of him, considering he was the same when Sasuke was concerned, but he couldn't help himself.
It would have been a great boon for them to stop Orochimaru before he could leave the village, but now he was gone, earlier than in the original timeline, and there wasn't anything they could do change that now.

Of course, good things happened as well.
For one thing, the Uchiha Clan hadn't been relocated to the outskirts like the last time. Instead, their new district was pretty much at the centre of the village, right beside the marketplace. Because of that, the clan was forced to interact more with the non-Uchiha population, making their clan look less aloof and unapproachable as it was still the case with clans like the Hyūga.
Naturally there were a lot of protests at first, as many members of his family didn't want to interact too much with the rest of the village, but all resistance stopped as soon as they noticed how the increased number of people from outside the clan multiplied their income.

The only persons who had been quite outspoken against this change had been Danzo, but when the Hokage argued that this placement would allow the KMPF, which was mainly manned by members of the Uchiha Clan, to be everywhere in the village fast enough to be actually able to do something in case of an emergency, and no one else objected, it had been decided anyway.

Another positive change from his timeline was that he still didn't hear any rumours about Naruto, which meant that his status was still very much a secret.
He actually heard his parents argue about adopting him, his mother had been close friends with Kushina after all, but the idea was turned down in the end.

“Itachi-kun, can you tell me for which Jutsu the hand seals I just demonstrated are?”

He looked at the expectant face of his instructor, slightly surprised that he had been called to answer the question. Most teachers had already accepted that they wouldn't catch him by surprise and that he always played attention, even if he didn't look like it.

“The seal is for the Suiton: Suijinheki (Water Release: Water Formation Wall), Sensei.” he answered without hesitation.

His teacher nodded, smiling, having obviously expected him to know the answer.
In his opinion, he should have called upon someone else if he already knew that he could answer the question, but it didn't matter anyway. At least he had been graded up a few months ago, which meant there were no fangirls in this class who could swoon about him.
He suppressed a sigh. If there was one single advantage of becoming a well-known criminal, then it was the absences of fangirls. Not to say that they vanished completely, there were some weird girls out there who actually are into mass-murderer, but it definitively lessened.

Having correctly answered the question, his teacher continued explaining various techniques and their strengths and weaknesses, while he continued staring out of the window and counting the time until school was over so he could get some real training done today.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

The class was just over and he was on his way home when he heard a female voice call his name:

“Itachi! Not so fast!”

He knew who called his name even before he fully turned around, having recognized the voice instantly, so it was no surprise when Izumi suddenly stood in front of him.

“Meh, Itachi, I'm pretty sure I told you to wait for me after school. So why is it then, that I needed to run to catch up with you?"

He was pretty sure that she was glaring at him right now, but to him it looked more like she was pouting than everything else.
Since he awoke in the past he had tried his best to spend more time with the few people he had been close too, which was a pretty limited group of people consisting of Sasuke, Shisui, and Izumi. Probably his parents as well. Sadly he had not much reason to interact with Shisui yet, and his parents were too busy more often than not, so he spent most of his free time, at least the time he didn't spend training, with either Izumi or Sasuke. Sometimes with both of them at the same time.
One of those days had been yesterday. He had trained with Izumi after school, and Sasuke had watched. Of course, when he said 'training with her' he actually meant 'training her' instead.
That had also been when she told him to wait for her after school today.

“You caught up with me just fine, so everything turned out alright, didn't it?”

Her pouting -sorry, glaring- intensified at that. “That's no excuse Itachi! You can't just...”

He just smiled as Izumi continued with her rant. He was used to it by now, having spent quite a few hours with just listening to her talking. That was how they spent most of their time when they weren't training; she talked and he listened. He would chime in with some comment, but not much more. He never was the most talkative person, and the years after his banishment from Konoha only strengthen this habit.

The first time he had met her in this timeline, when they were accepted into the Academy, he hadn't known how to react. It was rather fortunate that he didn't need to do anything but listen to the Sandaime because he wasn't sure he would have been able to even speak.
Izumi's death might be the only one he regretted more than even his parent's, so it was understandable hard to be in her presence.

It helped that they were in the same class, at least before he had been graded up after two months, because he could get used to her the same way he got used to his parents' presence after living with them again for a while. Now that they were close again, probably even closer than they had originally been at this age, he was a bit saddened about the fact that they didn't share classes any longer. He didn't regret it though. After all, being around young children all day was exhausting, even more than it had been the first time around.

They soon arrived at the Dango shop they regularly visited. It was located at the border between the Uchiha district and the greatest marketplace of the market district, with many streets leading to it. Similar to most clans with an own district, the Uchiha surrounded their given area with a wall. Now, a wall between themselves and the marketplace was obviously not a great marketing strategy, so it was decided that one of the four entrances into their district would be connected to it. This entrance consisted of a large gate through which more than a dozen people could walk simultaneously without bumping shoulders. This gate was opened nearly all day, which meant that the Uchiha restrict was included in the daily affairs of the village.

They didn't need to order anything due to them visiting the place regularly enough to be recognized by the owner, so they only gave a simple greeting before looking for a free place to settle down.
Izumi had calmed down by now and looked at her lap sullenly.
After a few minutes of uncharacteristic silence, with the sole exception of a silent 'thank you' to the waitress when she brought their food, he decided to do something about it.

“Are you still angry that I didn't wait for you? I'm sorry, I was somewhere else with my mind. It will not happen again.” That sounded weak, even to him.

Instead of answering, she just gave uttered an incomprehensible murmur.
He raised an eyebrow. Was this really bothering her that much?

Seemingly deciding that he deserved an actual answer instead of some gibberish, Izumi started speaking: “It's not that. It's just... you will graduate tomorrow, won't you?”

At the last part she looked at him with these onyx puppy-eyes of hers.
Itachi sighed. He understood now what the problem was. Izumi had tried her hardest to catch up to him ever since they started to spent more time with each other, maybe even before that. Because of his help her abilities had progressed in leaps and bounds and even allowed her to skip one grade entirely, but it wasn't enough.

“I will participate in the exams tomorrow, yes.”

Izumi scoffed. “We both know you will not just participate, Itachi. You're by far the best student in the entire academy, everyone knows that! If you participate you will finish the exams at the top of your class. That's a fact.”

All fire inside her seemed to die after she finished talking. He knew that Izumi had a crush on him. It wasn't as if she was hiding it very well, even if she was much less obvious, or annoying, than his usual fangirls. In his last life he had had too many other things to worry about, and not quite the capacity to develop a crush on someone, as to reciprocate her feelings, and now... well, he was over twenty years old while she wasn't even ten yet. No matter what he might have felt about her in his youth, he couldn't develop a romantic interest in a child.

Back to the situation at hand.

Izumi's greatest worry at the moment was that they would estrange from each other if he graduated and she didn't. He just had to reassure her that that wasn't the case.

“Izumi,” he said before waiting to continue until she looked up at him again, “even if I finish the Academy tomorrow, we will still be friends. We will still spend time with each other, even if I will need to go on missions and have less free time than I have now. We can manage that, can't we?”

Her eyes started to tear up slightly, but she didn't start to cry. Once again he was reminded of just how young she actually was.

“Really? Do you promise?”

He smiled at her, making her blush. “Of course. And besides, if I get a Jonin instructor I will learn a lot of new stuff. I can teach you whatever he teaches me, which might help you graduate earlier. How does that sound?”

“Yeah,” she replied, finally smiling again, “that sounds great.”

There was a moment of silence before she began speaking again, enthusiasm having returned in her voice: “So, did I tell you what Hana did today in class? She...”

With that their conversation returned to more light-hearted topics, and Itachi couldn't help but smile as he continued listening to whatever came to Izumi's mind.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX


It was already dark outside when Itachi's Kage Bunshin -the original being at home and finishing dinner with his family right now- noticed the person he was waiting for entering the restaurant.

The person was a young man of average height, with a forgettable face and short, brown hair. He gave the waitress a joyful smile before he made his way over to where Itachi was sitting.

“Sōta”, the Sandaime greeted him when he arrived, “it's good to see you. It has been far too long.”

“Hiroto” he nodded back to his leader, “I'm glad you were able to make it.”

Obviously, both the Hokage and Itachi were using a Henge at the moment. There was, after all, no need to confuse people as of why their Hokage was eating dinner with a six years old child.
Meeting like this was not an easy feat. With Itachi's current chakra reserves he wasn't able to maintain more than two clones at any given time, and even that was only possible because of his excellent chakra control. He used the absolute minimum of chakra necessary to create one clone, which resulted in a much weaker clone that it normally would be. Even this version only lasted four hours at most! And the Henge he was using lessened this time even more.

The Sandaime, on the other hand, would easily be able to maintain a clone for a much longer duration, making it possible to meet at another time with the real Itachi, but he decided not to do so. He thought it was a great way of getting him used to the limits of his younger body once again.

As if he wasn't used to it by now anyway, but you didn't argue with the Hokage about something trivial as this.

Sadly, the only time of the day they could see each other this way was the evening, because this was the only time either of them wasn't too busy with other things.
This was, in fact, only the fifth meeting they had since he told the older man about his past life.

“Of course I made it. After all, it was me who asked for the meeting, wasn't it?”

“And what is it that you wanted to speak with me about?”

The Sandaime sighed. “Direct to the point, as ever, I see. But I guess our time is limited, so we should indeed get to it.”

He had started to get a brush and four scraps of paper out of his pocket while still speaking and now continued with drawing some kanji on them. Itachi never delved too deep into Fūinjutsu, but he recognized enough symbols to know the purpose of this seals.
A security ward.
This wasn't the first time he saw the Hokage use these, but he was still amazed by it. With the death of the Yondaime, Konoha had only two Fūinjutsu experts left: Jiraya of the Sannin, and the Sandaime himself.
He doubted there was anyone else in this village who could create a security ward with just four scraps of paper.

“So, now nobody will be able you eavesdrop on us, or even read our lips.” the Sandaime finished his drawing. The next time he looked up, all the easy-going mirth in his eyes was gone, leaving only seriousness behind. “What I wanted to talk with you about, Itachi, is your future.”

Itachi blinked. That wasn't what he had thought this would be about, and he wasn't sure what to think about this topic. He decided to play it safe for now.

“I will graduate from the Academy tomorrow.”

“Yes you will, I'm sure of that, but that is exactly my point. You will graduate tomorrow, but the situation is already different from your last life, which means we need to make different decisions.”

Itachi didn't see where the Hokage was going with this. Of course the situation was different from before, the current location of the Uchiha district was proof of that, but he didn't know how that would have any immediate consequences that they would need to discuss right now.

“In case you didn't notice yet,” the Sandaime continued,
“you're only six years old at the moment. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you were seven when you finished the Academy in your last life, weren't you?”

“That is correct, yes”

Indeed it was.
After the Nine-Tailed Fox attacked the village and killed a great number of Shinobi it had been decided that the current school-year of the academy would end earlier. The graduation class would finish the Academy sooner while the class behind them, the new graduation class, would graduate on the originally scheduled date. This way the village would be able to produce twice a many new Genin as they would have otherwise, thus faster replacing the Shinobi who had fallen in the attack.

With an earlier graduation came an earlier, additional enrolment.
Originally, he hadn't been part of this earlier class. His mother had put her foot down when his father proposed him joining the Academy a few months earlier, making sure that this wasn't going to happen. He hadn't been included in this argument back then, but this time he interfered with it and agreed with his father. Together they were able to wear his mother down, which resulted in him joining this earlier grade. Now he would graduate with the class that would finish their schooling tomorrow instead of a few months later.

Naturally, if the Uchiha heir started schooling earlier, the rest of the clan followed suit. It would obviously look bad if their Clan Head enrolled his child in school and they didn't.

Honestly, he didn't feel like it made that much of a difference if he finished the Academy while still being six instead of seven. It wasn't even that impressive, considering that Kakashi graduated when he was only five.

“Excuse me, Hokage-sama, but I don't understand what's the problem? Should I postpone my graduation until next term?”

He wouldn't like it very much, but he would do so if ordered.

“No, that will not be necessary. In fact, your earlier graduation will come in very handily. You see, your graduation age isn't the only thing that changed. There is also my failure in apprehending Orochimaru, as I'm sure you remember.”
For one moment the Hokage truly looked his age before he pulled himself together.
“What you might not know, though, is the fact that Orochimaru had a Genin team. He told me that he would nominate them for the next Chūnin Exams and that he would probably take one of them, Anko Mitarashi, as his student afterwards should they succeed. Does this match with your knowledge?”

He hadn't thought about that. But now, knowing that the conversation was about his future, he thought he finally knew where this was leading to.

“I don't know anything about the other two members of the team, but I'm aware that Orochimaru took Mitarashi-san with him by manipulating her when he fled in my last lifetime.”

The Sandaime nodded.
“The situation is different now. Orochimaru fled earlier, thus leaving his team before they were able to participate in the last Chūnin Exams. One of his students vanished around the same time as him too, but with the knowledge that he manipulated Mitarashi-san in your timeline it might be possible that this disappearance isn't as voluntary as I have assumed till now. Be it as it is, there is now one empty spot in a team where there wasn't one before. I already found a replacement instructor, but I still need one more Genin for the team. I want you to fill that role.”

Itachi didn't have a problem with that. He wasn't surprised by it either, having known what was going to happen as soon as the Sandaime started to talk about Orochimaru's former team, but he still needed to gather his thoughts for a second. He knew for quite some time now that he wouldn't be part of the same Genin team as before -not that he wanted to, he already interacted with way too many ghosts by simply walking through his family's district- and was fine with it.

The far much more important revelation was that he entirely missed something big as this, even when he knew that Orochimaru left the village earlier than before.
He needed to make sure that he didn't miss anything else after this meeting was over.

“I understand.”

There wasn't much else he could say to that. It wasn't like he had a reason to protest against it anyway.

“Furthermore, your team will participate in the next Chūnin Exams.”

He frowned.“Isn't that a bit early? The next exams start in, what, five months? Wouldn't it be weird for me, the Uchiha heir, to participate after being a Genin for less than half a year? People would see this as favouritism.”

“It probably would be, yes. But if you proved your worth before the nomination, on a mission for example, there would be much fewer protests than you might think. Most people would see this as a good way of showing off how talented the new generation is, especially after the damage we have taken because of the Nine-Tailed. And anyway, the people who have the last word in this would be your assigned teacher and me, so no need to worry about possible protests.”

He stopped himself from frowning even stronger as the gears in his mind began to conclude why the Sandaime was so persisted in having him not only rise in rank, but also gain public recognition and, more important, approval.

 

Deciding to voice his thoughts he began to speak once again: “Why exactly do you want me to become a Chūnin already, Hokage-sama? Why not let me take part in the exams after these, or even later? You are aware that Konoha doesn't need me to show off in front of the other nations, I didn't participate in these exams the last time after all. In fact, I only became a Chūnin when I was ten, several years from now.”

Instead of answering, the Sandaime only smiled. It was obvious that he didn't plan on giving him a straight answer tonight, not about this topic at least.

Even if not answering was an answer in itself.

“I have also received a message from Jiraiya.” the Sandaime continued, changing the topic.
“He has still some business to finish before he can head back, and considering we don't have any immediate need of him I saw no reason to hurry his return, but he will arrive in around two months. We will have another meeting then.”

Itachi nodded. This was well in time on their schedule, so there was indeed no need to hurry.

They spent the next ten minutes talking about some more details before Itachi stood up to leave. His chakra was nearly completely depleted and this Kage Bunshin would not be able to exist much longer.

Meanwhile, the Sandaime started to enjoy his food, which had just been delivered to him by the friendly waitress he had greeted earlier.
This conversation had been very constructive and left him in a good mood, and there was nothing better to celebrate a constructive strategy meeting than good food.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX


The exams had been a joke.
Not that he was surprised, it would be weird if he had had any problems, but it was still disheartening to see how low the standards at the academy truly were. He hoped the Jōnin-instructors would get all the kids in shape soon because they seriously needed it.

He himself had actually fared even better than he had the last time. Back then he had finished the written exams with full points but got only a 98 of 100 in the practical exams. He lost these two points because his teamwork abilities weren't perfect, which was understandable if you considered that he was unable to fully connect and understand other children his age because he had been forced to grow up earlier by his trauma from the Third Shinobi World War. It had still been enough to make him the graduate with the second-highest score in the history of the Academy, only trumped by the Yondaime himself.

Of course he was still unable to truly connect with his “peers”, but he was more than capable enough to work in a team and adapt himself to them. Long story short, he now shared the place for the highest graduation score in history with the Yondaime by graduating with a perfect score in both theory and practical.

His parents have been overjoyed, naturally. Who wouldn't be, if their child's progress was in the same league as the one of the Yellow Flash himself?
Oddly, his mother seemed, while still being proud, saddened too, which made him think:
Did she maybe grief for his non-existent childhood? Did she hope for him to befriend other children while being at the Academy, just to get her hopes crashed for real now? Did she want him to have as much of a 'normal' childhood as possible? After all, she did try to stop him from entering school early.

Honestly, he wasn't sure what to think about all this. Maybe he just thought too much into it, after all, he couldn't have overlooked this in his last life, could he? Which meant this was a recent development...

Anyway, that had been yesterday.

Right now he was on his way to the Third Training Ground (and no, the irony wasn't lost on him), where the instructor at the Academy had told him he would meet his new team.
Right before him was the clearing with its three stumps lined side by side in the centre, and three persons were in front of them.

The first person was a violet-haired girl lying on the ground, wearing a brown-red t-shirt with bracelets, white-shorts and fishnet leggings. Logically, as there was only one girl on the team, this must be Anko Mitarashi, and if the way she played with a kunai in her hand was any indication, she was bored.

The next person was a boy with short, light brown hair and some round glasses on his nose. He wore some blue and simple, but comfortable looking robes, seemingly more interested in feeling at ease than worrying about how others saw him. Right now he seemed busy staring at his feet while the last person in the clearing reprimanded him for something. Although by the way he had his arms crossed in front of his chest it was pretty obvious that he was more miffed than ashamed for whatever he did that incurred the chiding he was getting.

The last person, the one that was chiding the aforementioned boy, was his instructor-to-be, and the fact that he didn't recognize him meant that he wasn't and would never be one of the more famous Jōnin of Konohagakure. He was taller than average, wore a standard Jōnin uniform and had long, brown hair that was tied up in a ponytail and a posture that was basically screaming exhaustion the way his body was slightly bent forwards. Itachi was actually pretty sure he could see the dark rings under his eyes from where he stood, which was nearly 30 meters away.

The first one who seemed to notice him was Anko, the other two being too busy with each other.

“Sensei” she interrupted the one-sided conversation between their teammates, “I think a little squirt has gotten lost here. Shouldn't you help him or something?”

A 'little squirt', hm?

Not the most creative thing he had been called over the years, being constantly the youngest and smallest member of nearly every team he joined for missions.

“Ah, be nice Anko. This will, probably, be your new teammate.”

Hearing the man's voice, his first impression about him being exhausted reinforced even more. He sounded so tired that Itachi was surprised he was awake at all.

Turning to face him now, the man continued: “Well, you must be Itachi Uchiha, correct? My name is Akihito Tanaka. I am the leader of Team 3 and, if all goes well, your future Sensei.”

“Nice to meet you, Tanaka-sensei. My teachers just told me 15 minutes ago to meet you here, I hope I'm not too late?”

“Ah, no need to worry, we just-”

Sadly Tanaka was interrupted by Anko's indignant voice: “Wait for a second, you can't tell me that this dwarf will be the replacement for Nakamura? We are meant to enter the Chūnin Exams in a few months, he will just slow us down!”

Tanaka only sighed, and if Itachi interpreted things correctly he would say Tanaka was already used to being interrupted, before answering her:

“It's not my decision to make, Anko, but the Hokage's. But be assured, the Sandaime wouldn't sort Uchiha-san into our team if he wouldn't think he would fit right-”

Once again he was interrupted, this time by his other student miffed voice: “Well, Hokage-sama isn't perfect. From my perspective, this is obviously a mistake. How do you suppose we can accomplish any missions when we need to drag him along with us all the time?”

“Yukio, I know this-”

“Sensei,” this time it was Itachi being was the one who interrupted the older man, “if I may propose someth-”

...only to be interrupted himself:

“Nobody asked for your opinion, squirt!” Anko scoffed, and promptly threw the kunai, the one Itachi had seen her play around with before, at him.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX


Akihito was tired.
In his defence though, he was already 36 years old, which was a pretty decent age for a Shinobi. Especially one who fought at the frontlines of the last war and had been part of the ANBU for nearly a decade. The average Shinobi died before he turned 35, which meant he already excelled that and he planned to continue doing so.

Right now, all he wanted was to retire and maybe even start a family. To retire as an active Shinobi of Konoha, you needed to fulfil two requirements: First, you must have served in active duty for at least 20 years. Second, if you reached the rank of Jōnin, you must have trained at least one team of Genin. Something about securing the next generation and what's not.

So, here he was. Taking over Orochimaru's former team after said Sannin betrayed the village.
It was much worse than he had imagined.

He took over the team a little more than a month ago, and both his students still hated him. Well, maybe not him personally, but what he represented; a mere replacement for their real Sensei. Not that they wanted to continue training under him either. If there was one person they hated more than him, it was their former teacher. Needless to say, they didn't take his betrayal too well. And naturally they took their displeasure out on him.

They always argued with him, didn't listen to him outside of missions -at least they had the good sense to behave themselves there- and generally had always the exactly opposing opinion than him.

That was also the reason for why he was berating Yukio right now. As soon as he told them that they would get a new teammate today, something he had waited for till now because he anticipated the reaction, the boy had started to argue about how they didn't need another teammate and that he and Anko could win the Chūnin Exams without any additional help.

He stopped doing that though when Anko's voice interrupted him to draw his attention to the new person in the clearing. Of course he had already noticed said person's presence coming closer some time ago, he was a Jōnin and former ANBU after all, and so wasn't surprised.

Still, he stopped chiding Yukio -for now- and faced his prospective new student, not paying attention to the conversation even when he took part in it.

The face that looked at him was the same he had seen in the file the Sandaime had given him beforehand, right down to the mimic. Itachi Uchiha, possible the greatest prodigy of his generation and probably some other too, and also one of the youngest members of his clan to ever awaken their inherited Kekkei Genkai.

There was no hint of him being nervous, or being either intimidated or hurt by Anko's and Yukio's comments. He stood perfectly comfortable in front of him, not even looking at his fellow students. And while he didn't show much of any emotions, he didn't look cold. Only neutral.

He was also smaller than he had imagined, even considering his young age.

Everything came to a head when Anko decided it would be a great idea to throw her kunai at the Uchiha's head.

Akihito could have stopped the weapon, but he decided not to. It was common practice in the ANBU to test new recruits by trial by fire, and while he knew these kids weren't ANBU, he didn't see why he couldn't do the same. Not as long as he was close by and could interfere if necessary.

The kunai flew a straight line before the boy caught it just a centimetre from his head. He had caught the weapon without any indication that he was surprised and was still looking at him, never even glancing at the weapon he had just caught.

He suppressed a smile. What a show-off, he thought.

There was a moment of silence on the clearing before it was broken by a short laugh from Anko. “Well,” she said with a wide smile, “seems like the midget has some balls, I give him that.”

He blinked. Wasn't she still disliking him just a second ago?

“As I was saying, Sensei,” the Uchiha spoke up again, completely ignoring Anko's comment, “may I propose something?”

Sure, why not? Might be interesting.

“Go ahead.” he said.

The boy nodded. “I want to propose a sparring match. Obviously my abilities are being doubted because of my age. If the main problem of me joining this team is the fear of me slowing the team down, the easiest way of reassuring this fear is showing you where I stand ability-wise.”

Before he even had the chance to answer Anko chimed in again: “Oh hell yeah! I like the sound of that! Maybe you aren't too bad, kid.”

“Wait Anko!” Yukio suddenly yelled, “You can't seriously want to fight this kid? Are you stupid, you're gonna kill him or something and then there will be a lot of consequences. That's not worth it.”

“Ah, shut up Yukio. I will just have some fun. And maybe he isn't half bad! Besides, it's not as if Sensei” -her voice dropped in disapproval at that title- “wouldn't interfere should I accidentality go too far.”

“Alright, alright, calm down everyone.” he decided to take control of that conversation again. Turning to Itachi he said: “That's a good idea. It will also beneficial to witness your fighting style to see how it will fit with the rest of the team, so there is that.”

Next he turned to Yukio: “And Anko is correct too. I would interfere if things go out of hand in a simple sparring match, so there is no need for you to be worried.”

Yukio scowled but stayed silent.

“Alright then,” he continued when nobody else said something, “let's start, shall we?”

 

[][][][][]


“On my signal:” he said, standing between Anko and the Uchiha in the middle of the clearing.

While the former was visibly excited, bouncing on the balls of her feet, the latter stood perfectly still, only the tension in his posture and the sharp glint in his eyes belying his outer calmness.
Surprisingly, he hadn't activated his Sharingan yet.

“Three,” he raised his right arm over his head,
“Two,” Anko went still, her body slightly bent forward,
“One,” he readied himself to back away, not keen to end between these two when the fight started,
“Go!” he yelled before vanishing in a Shunshin and reappearing besides Yukio several dozen meters away.

It was obvious from the beginning that the two of them had very different fighting styles. While Anko rushed in immediately to attack her opponent, Itachi stayed still till the very last moment before backing away.
It was clear, for Akihito's eyes at least, that the young Uchiha was, surprisingly, a tad faster than Anko. It wasn't too much, but it definitively helped him evading and defending from her attacks. If she had used any other fighting style it might have been enough to slip under her guard, a feat even more feasible because of his smaller stature. Sadly, she didn't.

Of all of Orochimaru's former students it was Anko who copied the Sannin's fighting style the most.
Her kicks and hits came from strange angles, and she proved time and time again that her agility and flexibility were top-notch.

A kick to Itachi's right side suddenly changed direction, coming down to his head instead, forcing him to jump to his left. He slipped right under her follow up attack, only to back down again when Anko bend her body in some weird angle and tried to kick him into the ground with her other leg.

Next, Anko, who seemingly had the time of her life, rushed in again, only to have her own leg being used as a springboard by Itachi, who continued by connecting his knee with her face.
The attack, which was also the first move that actually hit its mark, threw Anko backwards for a few meters before she recovered in mid-air with a backflip and landed on her feet.
She was immediately forced to jump away, just in time to dodge the kunai and shuriken that embedded themselves into the ground where she stood just a moment ago.

“Hah!” she laughed, ignoring her bloody nose, “you're really a freak, aren't you?”

There wasn't any heat in her words, only approval.

“Let's play with weapons then!”

Anko rushed in again, this time with a kunai in both her hands. In the following clash, the sound of metal hitting metal was added to the already existing sound of colliding body parts. They would meet each other heads on, more often than not initiated by Anko, meeting each other's attacks with their own for a few moments, before parting from each other once again. Afterwards the circle started anew.

After a few rounds of this, Itachi suddenly managed to disarm Anko by ramming the handle of his kunai against the back of her hand and then continued by connecting a kick with her guts that made her fly backwards again. He hurried after her, not wanting to give her time to get her balance back, only to be forced to jump into the air to avoid her counter-attack:
“Sen'ei Tajashu!” (Hidden Shadow Snake Hands)

Several snakes shot out from the sleeves of Anko's shirt and headed towards Itachi, who was still mid-air.

Akihito already prepared himself to jump in and end the fight when he saw Itachi forming hand seals of his own with great speed.

“Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!” (Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique)

An average-sized orb of fire flew towards Anko, burning the snakes and filling the area with the smell of burned flesh.
The girl gave a surprised squeak of her before she jumped to the side to avoid the flames. She managed to get out of the affected area just in time but didn't get a moment to rest because the next second she was forced to defend herself from an onslaught of hits and kicks. Itachi didn't give her a single moment to get her mind straight. Still surprised by the fact that the younger boy could use a wide-ranged Jutsu, as well as having not enough time to fall into the stance of her fighting style, there wasn't much she could do other than defending herself from the worst of the attacks.

Now the boy's greater speed came in handy for Itachi, as Anko wasn't able to block or evade all of his attacks. Especially because she was unable to use any techniques of her own and was as such out of her depth, several of his hits connected.

A hit Anko wasn't able to block hit her left cheek. She blocked a kick, only to be thrown to the side when Itachi's other leg struck her waist. After dodging one of Itachi's roundhouse-kicks Anko tried to use this opportunity to start her offensive but was quickly taught better when he smashed his knee into her face again.

Clearly frustrated with the situation, Anko reached into her waist pouch instead of blocking one hit to her side and threw a smoke bomb to the ground shortly after.

Akihito grimaced. He couldn't evaluate them if he couldn't see them, so this was rather unfavourable. At least he had a pretty good guess about Anko's skills, having trained with her for over a month now, but he wanted to watch the Uchiha a bit more.

The smoke bomb had been a small one, so the smoke was already starting to fade away. It were only a few more seconds before he started to see two silhouettes. One of them, the smaller one, was lying on the ground, while the bigger one sat on top of it. He knew what that meant and already prepared himself to declare Anko the winner when he noticed a third silhouette standing behind the girl.

The smoke was nearly completely faded away when the situation became apparent:
Itachi was lying on his stomach, while Anko was sitting on his back and pointed a kunai at his head. But instead of having a victorious smile on her face, her eyes were wide in shock. The

reason for that was the other Itachi standing behind her, with a kunai of his own on her throat.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

The Art of Genjutsu: Illusionary Techniques


[…] The greatest advantage, as well as the greatest disadvantage, of Genjutsu, is its chakra consumption. While most Genjutsu doesn't require too much chakra in the sense of using and therefore wasting it, they require the caster to use a certain amount of his chakra to flow through his, and sometimes the victim's, body. The amount of chakra that is needed for this flow can't be used for anything else for as long as the technique is active (this being the main reason as for why only people with a certain amount of chakra are able to use the most powerful techniques).
If the caster releases his technique, the chakra used for this process becomes free once again and can be used as usual. Should the victim break the illusion though, all the chakra used for the energy flow will be wasted as if you used it for another technique. […]

[…] Genjutsu, just as Ninjutsu, are ranked depending on the difficulty and the skill necessary to perform the technique. Both types of Jutsu share the same ranking system, ranking from D-rank at it's lowest to S-rank at it's highest.
Shinobi who specialized in Genjutsu more commonly use the terms low-level, mid-level and high-level when they talk about their techniques:

Low-level techniques (generally Jutsu who rank from D-rank to C-rank) describe a Genjutsu, where the quality of the illusion isn't good enough to be unnoticeable and easier to break than mid-level or high-level techniques. The person victim to such an illusion can break free by simply disrupting his own chakra flow. Illusions of this level are generally used by Shinobi who outnumber their enemies because victims of such illusions stay motionless until they break free. This way they're easy targets for one's comrades. Caster of low-level Genjutsu are in general unable to move around themselves for as long as they use the technique, which is why they also require to be defended by comrades while executing the technique.
This is also the most common type of illusion used by Shinobi, as most don't have the chakra control to learn the other types or just don't bother to learn them. Techniques of this level can be used by forming the hand seal for Ram.[...]

[…] Mid-level techniques (generally Jutsu who rank from C-rank to B-rank) describe a Genjutsu, where it's hard for the victim to notice the technique and often stay captured in the illusion until he gets killed. Victims of such illusions move according to what they see inside the Genjutsu, which means the caster can make the victim attack his comrades without him even realizing it. They either need someone else to disrupt their chakra flow for them or experience some pain, for example by stabbing themselves with a kunai, to break free. Furthermore, most casters aren't able to move around themselves, as they need to concentrate to keep the illusion going. Experienced users can maintain some mobility.
Every large-scale Genjutsu, which affects an entire area instead of a single person, is at least a mid-level technique.
Only a small number of Shinobi bother to learn mid-level Genjutsu, as they prefer Ninjutsu because of their more visible effects. Techniques of this level can be used without hand seals if the casters chakra control is good enough, however, diverse hand seals can be used if this control is lacking.[...]

[…] High-level techniques (generally Jutsu who rank from B-rank to A-rank) describe a Genjutsu, where it's nearly impossible for the victim to notice the illusion. To break free from it, the victim does not only need to realize his situation but also needs to possess excellent chakra control. People with such good control are almost as rare as people who able to use high-level illusions in the first place. The only other way to escape is being rescued by one's comrades.
One main difference compared to low-level and mid-level techniques is the additional benefit for the wielder of being able to move around freely once their victim is captured inside the illusion.
Whether the victim stays motionless or not while being inside the illusion dependents on the will of the caster.[...]

[…] While there is no S-rank Genjutsu known to the wider public, such a technique may be in the possession of some clan.[...]

[…] If you fight against certain Kekkei Genkai users, like members of the Uchiha Clan and their famed Sharingan, remember, that these rules don't apply to them in the same way as they do to you ( for a complete list of all known bloodlines limits with ties to Genjutsu, turn to page 128). […]

 

Chapter Text

Let's start this from the beginning

 

Genin days II

 

 

 

The smoke was nearly completely faded away when the situation became apparent:

Itachi was lying on his stomach, while Anko was sitting on his back and pointed a kunai at his head. But instead of having a victorious smile on her face, her eyes were wide in shock. The reason for that was the other Itachi standing behind her, with a kunai of his own on her throat.

 

[][][][][]

 

“The match is over, Uchiha-san has won.”

 

That had been a surprisingly interesting fight , Itachi thought. He had been pretty sure he would win but didn't expect his opponent to resist as much as she did. No wonder she became a Chūnin when she was twelve, she certainly had the abilities. Until now he had only sparred with his father, who obviously held back during their fights and only pushed him hard enough to make him struggle without beating him in the ground, and against Izumi, where he was the one to hold back. This had been his first fight since coming back were he fought against someone who didn't hold back against him  and  wasn't so much weaker in Taijutsu that he would easily win if he wanted to.

Of course he could have used some Ninjutsu he copied in his last life, but that would have been stupid. For one thing, it would have prevented him from testing the limits of his body even further than he already did. For another, it would have been a waste of chakra.

 

A user of the Sharingan was able to copy every technique that didn't require a bloodline to use, no matter it's elemental affinity. Sadly, an elemental jutsu that was not based on the affinity of one's chakra consumed more energy than it would otherwise. This meant that Itachi was currently unable to use Ninjutsu that wasn't a Fire Release or a Water Release without wasting more chakra than he was comfortable with.

 

“You can release her now, Uchiha-san.” he heard Tanaka-Sensei say.

 

He nodded and removed his kunai from her throat. He also released his  Kage Bunshin,  having no use for it any longer.

 

“That was amazing!” Anko suddenly exclaimed, having an excited expression on her face. “That was a real clone, wasn't it? It was definitively not a fake, as the clones of the  Bunshin no Jutsu.  I thought this was one of these 'super-secret techniques', one of those they only teach Jōnin and the rare, lucky Chūnin. How did you get your hands on that?”

 

He looked contemplative at her for a second before activating his Sharingan. “ I saw a member of my clan use it a few weeks ago and it looked useful, so I copied it.”

 

Her mouth fell open. “Wait a second,” she said, “why do you have these eyes? I thought you Uchiha guys didn't awaken it until your teens or something? And why the freaking hell didn't you used it in our fight? Do you think I am too weak to handle it?!”

 

Considering you already lost against me when I didn't use it, this assumption isn't too far from the truth , he thought,  but I guess I shouldn't say that.

 

“Many Shinobi who possess a Kekkei Genkai become dependent on it, and the Uchiha are no exception. I didn't use my Sharingan against you because it's important to me to improve myself without being reliant on my bloodline.”

 

She narrowed his eyes at him for a moment, before she finally nodded. “Fine, I will give you the benefit of the doubt  for now . But you gonna fight me with these fancy eyes of yours soon or I will get really angry, you get me?”

 

“Of course” he readily agreed.

 

“Well then,” their Sensei interrupted their conversation, “now that everything is settled, and nobody can argue Uchiha-san's worth for this team, why don't we proceed by introducing ourselves? After all, we have a new teammate.”

 

Neither Yukio nor Anko seemed impressed by that idea, or maybe it was only because it was Tanaka-sensei who proposed it, but they didn't argue with it.

 

When nobody said something, he started speaking once again:

“I guess I will start then. As I said before your little match, my name is Akihito Tanaka, and I'm 36 years old. I like long walks through the park, as well as cooking. What I don't like are people who ignore other people's privacy. I hope to retire from active duty one day in the near future and maybe open a restaurant or something like that. Ability wise, well, I'm obviously a Jōnin, which means I'm pretty well versed at most Shinobi arts, but I specialized in Ninjutsu. My elemental affinities are fire and earth, but I also possess a fair share of lightning techniques.”

 

He was silent for a second, most likely pondering if there was something he wanted to add, before deciding against it. “Yeah, that's it. Your turn.”

 

There was an awkward silence for a few seconds where everyone waited for someone else to speak before Anko decided to introduce herself next.

“Alright, I guess I'm next. I'm Anko Mitarashi and I'm 13 years old. I like everything fun, but there is nothing better than fighting! My own fighting style focuses on Taijutsu, and I like to use poison too. I also use Ninjutsu, but mainly as support only. My elemental affinity is fire. I don't like vegetables, the stuff is  gross . My dream is to one day become the strongest kunoichi of this village, even surpassing Tsunade of the Sannin!”

 

She stopped talking for a moment and her smile fell from her lips. Somehow, it felt oddly wrong for her not to smile.

 

Itachi could recognize the emotions that danced across her face, no matter how hard she tried to hide it; anger, sorrow, sadness, determination. It somehow reminded him of Sasuke. Not the one of this timeline, but the one from the last. He knew what she would say before she actually said it.

 

Revenge.

 

“And then I'm gonna kill Orochimaru and hang his corpse above the entrance of the village for everyone to see!”

 

Itachi nodded to himself. Just as he had expected.

 

His last teammate spoke up next, stopping him from dwelling too long on this thought.

 

“My name is Yukio Kenshin, I'm 13 years old. I like spending time with my siblings and I dislike doing chores at home. My dream is the same as Anko's: I want to bring Orochimaru to justice. I mainly use Taijutsu, but I want to specialize in Ninjutsu in future. My elemental affinity is earth.”

 

He sounded pretty annoyed, although not as much as before. Itachi wondered if he was the reason for his teammates' bad mood, or if it was the argument he had with Tanaka-sensei before he had arrived.

 

“My name is Itachi Uchiha and I'm six years old. I like spending time with my brother, as well as the rest of my family. I also like to spend my free time reading about history and philosophy. I dislike unnecessary fighting. My dream for the future is to be the best older brother I can possibly be.”

 

He hesitated a second, remembering what his dream had been when he had been six years old, before he continued: “I also want to become as strong as I can to protect the village.”- and end all fighting-  “I prefer using Genjutsu in fights, but I'm also capable at Ninjutsu and Taijutsu. My elemental affinities are fire and water.”

 

Anko snorted. “Are you kidding me? 'Capable at Ninjutsu and Taijutsu'? You kick ass, boy!”

 

“Be that as is may,” Tanaka-sensei chimed in, “I'm more surprised about you having a water affinity. I heard that's rather rare for an Uchiha.”

 

“If my clan's records are correct, which is most likely the case, I'm the first Uchiha with a water affinity in several generations. My father was surprised as well when we tested my affinities with a Chakra Induction Paper.”

 

“I see.”

 

Another awkward silence. They seemed to be somewhat of a regular occurrence.

 

“Well, how about I explain to you guys how we will proceed from here?” Tanaka-sensei asked.

 

“Normally,” he continued after everyone had nodded their agreement, ”the first day is meant for introductions. That, we already finished. The usual procedure would include me telling you, that you can only become part of my team if you pass  my   own,  second test, which would happen tomorrow. Not passing would mean that you were forced to return to the Academy. Now, our situation is a bit different. While Uchiha-san indeed just finished the Academy, the other two of you did so years ago. I think it would be unfair to proceed in the usual way, which means I will not hold some test of my own. Instead, we will start training first thing tomorrow.”

 

Itachi blinked. There would be no test? As far as he knew, Jōnin had to test their new Genin. There wasn't anything voluntary about that.

He blinked again.  Ah , he thought,  I understand.

He would probably watch how well they could work together and decide if the team could continue to exist or not depending on the results. By not telling them about the test he also wanted to guarantee that all of them acted as real as possible, instead of just faking getting along.

 

“You said we will start training tomorrow,” Yukio said, “why not start now?”

 

“Haha, you see, I thought we could use the time for some team bonding, or something like that?” Tanaka-sensei said while laughing nervously and scratching the back of his head.

 

“Especially with Uchiha-san just join-” he wanted to continue, but was ( again ) interrupted by Anko.

 

“Damn, get the stick out of your ass. He's a member of this team now, just call him Itachi.”

 

“It's impolite to just call someone by his name without consent, Anko. You should know that.”

 

Itachi decided to interfere before things could escalate in another fight, even if only a verbal one this time. “I don't mind if you guys just call me Itachi, as long as you don't mind me calling you by your names either. But I will naturally still call you Sensei, Tanaka-sensei.”

 

“Hah! You see? He has no problem with it!” Anko exclaimed victoriously.

 

The Jōnin sighed. “As I was saying; especially with  Itachi  just joining the team, it might be a good idea to get to know each other a bit better. Any suggestions for what we could do?”

 

Surprisingly, it was Yukio who answered first. “There is this tea house I know. It's not very well-known, but the tea is great. You could invite us there?”

 

“Well, going out together seems like a good enough idea, but I don't see why I should-”

 

“But Sensei! You're the adult, act like one and pay for us.” Anko said. “Come on, Yukio, show us the way.”

 

So that's why they so readily agreed for a get-together with Sensei , he thought.  They want something for free. 

 

With that she grabbed the boy's arm and pulled him in the direction of the village, leaving Itachi and their Sensei with no other choice than to follow them.

 

“Oh, and before I forget it,” Anko exclaimed and turned her head around without stopping walking. “Itachi, call me Nee-chan from now, alright?”

 

Itachi only gave her a deadpan look.

That's not gonna happen.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

Mikoto was, all in all, happy with her lot in life. Her carrier as a Kunoichi had been very successful, allowing her to rise to the rank of Jōnin before she even turned 20. While still in active duty she fell in love with the man she would eventually marry and then went on to give birth to not only one but two beautiful children. She was even fortunate enough to have her family -not including her extended family, as that would include her entire clan- survive the last war  and  the attack of the Nine-Tailed Fox both! As if that wasn't enough, the gods also decided to bless her oldest son with abilities far above the norm, making him a once in a lifetime prodigy. What else could she ask for?

 

Sadly, what was one of the brightest stars in her life was also the thing that brought her enough dismay to make her unable to sleep at night.

 

Her oldest son, Itachi, was a genius. There was no doubt about that. Sadly, this made it hard for him to connect with other kids his age, even back then when he was barely more than a toddler. But at that time at least, he had still  somewhat  acted as a child should. Maybe not as childish as others, but still more carefree and happy than he did now.

 

His behaviour had changed shortly after he had turned four.

 

This may be the only thing she would never forgive Fugaku for. Back then, her husband had taken Itachi with him to the Amaterasu-ō-mi-kami Shrine at the border to the Land of Earth, as it was usual to do for fathers with their sons in their clan. It was a tradition the rest of the clan had decided to postpone until after the war was over, but Fugaku had decided that he, being the clan head, couldn't show fear and so he went anyway.

 

When they came back two weeks later Itachi hadn't just witnessed war and the destruction and death it brought with it, but had his first kill under his belt as well. The day they returned, Mikoto had given up on him ever having a normal life, whatever 'normal' actually meant for a Shinobi, and that was her greatest shame. She hadn't tried to talk to him, didn't try to help him overcome the trauma he so obviously had, but instead only watched as he became more and more distant.

 

And then the Nine-Tailed attacked the village and everything changed again. This time, because the attack resulted in the awakening of Itachi's Sharingan.

 

She remembered quite well the day she got these eyes herself, the day her sister had been killed in front of her, and it gave her nightmares to this very day. Whatever Itachi had seen must have disturbed him more than everything he had witnessed on the battlefield, and she could hardly imagine what it might have been.

 

He was more silent since then, which was a hard thing to do considering he never talked much in the first place, and when he spoke it was with some air of maturity he didn't possess before. That had been the moment she promised herself that she would make the rest of his childhood, even if it was more physical than everything else at this point, as carefree as she could. This had been the reason she had been against his earlier enrollment into the Academy. The moment he entered there, another part of his childhood would end, and that wasn't something she was quite ready for yet. She had been ready to fight Fugaku on that, and she did.

 

Until Itachi had gotten involved in the conversation and asked to enter the Academy earlier.

 

She still didn't want him to do so, but then, how could she say no to him? He never asked for much, only ever wishing to be taught something new. She didn't have it in her to refuse him, so she gave her consent. She had told herself that it might be for the best, that maybe he would finally find some friends, no matter how little she believed in it.

 

And then he had befriended Hazuki's daughter, Izumi.

She wasn't sure how this had happened, but she was glad for it anyway. It might not be the kind of friendship she wished for Itachi, where he went out to play silly games with children his age, but she knew how unrealistic this hope was and would take whatever she got. No, all the two of them seemed to do was either meet at the Dango shop at the border of their new district to talk, or training and studying together. For all that this already exceeded her expectations, she couldn't help to think that Itachi acted similarly with Izumi as he did with Sasuke. She couldn't point her finger on what exactly it was, as there were still a number of differences, but it seemed as if he somehow felt responsible for her.

 

She wondered if it might be because of what happened when he saved her life during the attack of the Nine-Tailed Fox.

 

Still, he seemed content, if not happy, in her presence, so she would be happy too.

 

This didn't last long though, as Itachi seemed to tear through the material presented to him in class at an unbelievable speed, finishing the Academy in less than a year.

 

Of course she had been proud of him. She had known Minato quite well, even if they hadn't been as close as she and Kushina, which meant she understood better than most others how much of a genius their Yondaime truly had been. That Itachi matched his score when he graduated the Academy was amazing, even more so if you considered that Minato had been four years older than Itachi was now when he graduated.

 

The main reason she wasn't completely fine with him finishing so early was that this would make the distance between him and Izumi, who was his only friend, grow even more. Still, this time she didn't say anything, knowing that there was no way Itachi wouldn't want to take the chance to rise up in rank. Not when he was so obvious  bored  in class.

 

All she could do now was to support him.

 

[][][][][]

 

She had put the groceries in her bag and was already halfway on her way home when she saw something out of the corner of her eye that made her stop. She didn't need long to see what caught her attention. To her left she saw Itachi, with three people who couldn't be anyone else than his new teammates and Sensei, sitting in a tea house. The only girl in the group was leaning halfway over the table and gestured with her hands in front of her son's face, all the while having a wide, somehow feral looking smile on her face.

 

Itachi didn't seem annoyed by it though and didn't even have his usual neutral expression on his face, but actually  smiled . And while it wasn't as wide as the girl's, which would have looked quite funny now that she thought about it, he still looked genuine amused.

 

Mikoto smiled to herself. Maybe the reason Itachi was never able to connect with others was because he only interacted with children who were around his age. Maybe he got along better with older kids, who were more mature than young academy students.

 

Maybe him graduating early wasn't so bad at all.

 

And now that she thought about it, wasn't there this boy in her clan who was a prodigy in his own right? If she remembered correctly, he was only a few years older than her Itachi. Maybe she could organize a meeting between them?

 

She hummed thoughtfully before turning around and making her way home.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

Itachi sat on a bank close to the playground while he watched Sasuke play with some other kids his age. He wasn't completely sure  what  they were playing, it seemed like some strange mixture of Tag, Capture the Flag, Hopscotch, and Simon Says, but Sasuke had obviously fun so it really didn't matter.

 

The time he spent with his new team at the tea house had been oddly entertaining. Even Anko's attempts at making him call her Nee-chan, as irritating as they were, had been kinda fun. After spending a bit more time with her he could confidently say, that she would have gotten along with Kisame like a house on fire. They had nearly the same sense of humour. Even Yukio had started to warm up to him and come out of his shell, even if he didn't talk too much. In fact, Itachi suspected that he was a rather introverted person and didn't talk much in general.

They had spent a bit more than two hours there before paying and departing home. At that point it had just been noon, so his mother asked him to take Sasuke to the playground and he had been only too happy to concur with that wish.

 

His mother also seemed unusual chipper, which wasn't the case when he left the house in the morning. He wondered what had caused it, but finally decided not to ask.

 

He was pulled out of his thoughts when he saw Sasuke hurrying in his direction. One moment he was running as fast as his small legs could carry him, and the next moment he was stumbling. Itachi reacted without thinking, and a second later appeared in front of his little brother and caught him before he could hurt himself. Sasuke wasn't put off by this in the slightest and wiggled in his arms until he could look at his face.

 

“Nii-san!” he exclaimed happily.

Itachi could hear the parents and grandparents around them swoon right now, and even caught some word like 'adorable', 'cute' and 'admirable older brother'.

 

He ignored them in favour of concentrating on Sasuke. “Yes, Otouto?”

 

“Come playing?” he asked with a hopeful expression on his face.

 

There were enough six-year-olds playing around all over the park, and even if he would look as old as he actually was, it wouldn't be weird if he played with Sasuke in the sandbox. He was his little brother after all. The reason he did choose not to do so till now was that he  felt  weird doing it. He couldn't remember ever playing like this when he was a child himself (which doesn't mean it hadn't happened, just that he couldn't remember it), how could he do so now when he was a grown man? But could he really say no to Sasuke?

 

“Of course,” he said, “show me what you want to do?”

 

Sasuke  squealed  and started pulling him to a spot a bit more apart from the other kids where they were as alone as they could be on a public playground.

 

Sitting on a pile of sand, building a sandcastle with his brother and generally just enjoying himself. He couldn't count how often he had wished for moments like this in his last life, first when he had been too busy with missions and then later after left the village. And while it still felt weird, doing something so  normal , he couldn't deny that it felt quite nice.

 

He was stopped from thinking further about this when he felt a familiar chakra signature closing on on him from behind.

 

“You're Itachi, correct? And this little man must be Sasuke. Nice to meet you.”

 

Itachi calmly turned around, hiding his inner tumult behind a neutral mask. “That's correct. And you are ' Shunshin no Shisui ', aren't you? How can we help you?”

 

Shisui gave a surprised laugh and scratched the back of his head in an abashed manner. “Come on, don't call me by that silly name. Barely anybody does! But yeah, that would be me.”

 

“People aren't calling you that,  yet . I'm sure they will with time.”

 

“Well, I guess it's nice being recognized for one's skills. But couldn't they call me something else? You know, something more flashy?”

 

He had his usual silly smile on his face which made Itachi fight down all the memories and emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. Shisui had not only been his best friend, but also an older brother figure for him, a person he always wanted to surpass no matter how impossible it seemed (Shisui had disagreed, always claiming that he only had the advantage of age and experience and that Itachi would be stronger than him in a few short years). In a way, he had been for Itachi what he was to Sasuke.

 

“Nii-san, who's that?” Sasuke asked, giving him a welcome excuse to stop looking at his old, best friend.

 

“This is Shisui Uchiha, a member of our clan. He came to say hello.”

 

Sasuke frowned for a second, but then seemingly decided that the new person was boring and continued building a 'sandcastle'.

 

Itachi briefly smiled to himself before turning back to Shisui. “In that case, you probably should start creating a nickname for yourself and spread it to the public. Anyway, I ask again, how can we help you?”

 

Shisui sighed. “Did anyone ever told you that you're terrible at small talk? Honestly, it actually went quite well, but you just needed to get to the point didn't you?” He then continued by giving him a long-suffering face.

 

When it became obvious that Itachi didn't plan to answer him anytime soon, he sighed again before continuing the conversation himself. “Fine, be a killjoy then. I heard you became a Genin although you're only six. I thought that we could train together, you know, teach each other some stuff. From one prodigy to another, you see.”

 

Itachi looked at him for several seconds, making him obvious uncomfortable and shifting on his feet, before asking dryly:

“My mother sent you, didn't she?”

 

Shisui's eyes widened a bit before he started to laugh. “Wow, you looked right through me. Amazing. What gave me away?”

 

He shrugged. “You didn't give anything away. It was just a hunch, nothing else.”

 

“A very lucky hunch then,” Shisui readily went with his answer, “but, you know, being sent by your mother doesn't change the fact that we  really  could help each other. So, what do you say? Interested in training with me?”

 

He thought about it for a moment but didn't see why he should say no. He had wanted to approach him sometime soon anyway, so this was as good of an opportunity as any.

 

“Sure. Do you-”

 

“Nii-san! Let's go swing!” Sasuke interrupted him and started to pull at his sleeves.

 

Itachi already turned to reprimand him gently, when he heard Shisui laugh softly. “No need to be jealous Sasuke, I'm not going to keep your brother from you any longer.”

 

Turning back to Itachi he continued: “Do you have time today? I plan to train at the private Uchiha training ground for the next five hours.”

 

He nodded. “I'm not sure how long I will be here, but I should be able to come for an hour or two at least.”

 

“Great! See you then!”

 

With that he disappeared without a trace, making Itachi smile.  That's why people call you 'Shunshin no Shisui', idiot.

 

“Nii-san!” he heard Sasuke exclaim again, already halfway to the swing, pointing at him to come.

 

His smile widened a bit. “I'm on my way, Sasuke. Wait for me, would you?”

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

Just like that, the time flew by.

 

Itachi spent six days a week training with Team 3, first focusing on teamwork, to not stand in each other's way in battle, before going on and actually developing a few combos of their own which could give even more experienced enemies a run for their money. All in all, they were more of a team of Chūnin with an additional Jonin supervisor than a usual team of Genin.

 

Most of his free time he spent training, wishing to advance to his old strength as soon as possible. Sometimes Izumi would join him. At this point he was pretty sure that she was the top student of the academy, at least in Taijutsu.

 

He also made it a point to train with Shisui at least once a week. And while they would probably never have quite the same relationship as before, he could confidently say that they were friends.

 

The rest of his time he spent with Sasuke. His probably greatest regret when he thought back to this time of his life was, that he hadn't paid him more attention to his little brother. This wasn't a mistake he planned to repeat.

 

So, after nearly two months of training and the occasional D-rank mission, it was time for Team 3 to go on their first real mission together.

Chapter Text

Let's start this from the beginning

 

Genin days III

 

 

 

Itachi and Shisui were sitting back at back in the middle of the training ground, both of them trying to stop panting and regain their strength.

 

“Well,” Shisui broke the silence first, “I think it would be safe to say that you mastered the  Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu   (Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique)  and the  Katon: Hibashiri   (Fire Release: Running Fire)  by now. By the way, did your chakra reserves grow? You used these two Jutsu much more than you did in our last match.”

 

“You know as well as I do that the body grows used to a technique with time if you use it often enough, and that it consumes much less chakra to use a technique your body is used to than it would otherwise. I spent the last three weeks, when you were on your mission, nearly exclusively focused on getting my body as used to these techniques as possible.”

 

Sadly this effect would lessen more and more with time until it stopped entirely. Otherwise every Shinobi would train a few techniques like crazy for a few weeks and be able to spam them endlessly afterwards.

 

Shisui laughed. “I know, I know. No need to give me a lecture, I just wanted to test you.”

 

He rolled his eyes, a small smile on his lips. “Of course you did.”

 

“Hey, are you saying you doubt me? I let you know, that I will be promoted to Jōnin soon. Then I will probably be given a Genin team, which means I need to train how to act like a teacher and test my cute little students. And just so you know it, you just took the role of the cute little student.”

 

My pity to whoever is unfortunate enough to become your student,  Itachi thought amused. “Isn't the teacher supposed to be better than his student? I think I won more of our fights than you did so far, didn't I?”

 

His friend spluttered. “Only as long as we don't include Ninjutsu! The times you won then can be counted on the fingers of one hand!”

 

“You're three years older and have bigger reserves than me. That's hardly fair.”

 

Honestly, it probably wasn't fair of him to tease Shisui over his losses either. He knew his fighting style by heart, even after all these years, and his current form was far less developed than the one he would have years later. And with him being faster than he was when he had actually been six years old, although still slower than Shisui, he could hold pace with him enough to win their fights.

 

“Many things aren't fair, Itachi. Enemies will always use every chance they get to have an advantage. You need to be prepared to deal with it.” Shisui said, much more serious now.

 

He nodded, already aware of that.

 

“Anyway,” his friend continued, his voice carefree once more, “why did you choose these two Jutsu? Any special reason?”

 

“Not really,” he shrugged, “they are both rather basic, but have enough potential to be used versatilely. Furthermore, one of them is more offensive orientated, while the other one is more defensive orientated. Seemed like a good balance.”

 

Shisui nodded, not commenting on it.

 

This time it was Itachi who broke the silence, asking the question he had wanted to ask Shisui since he had returned from his mission. “You have been distracted all day now. Did something happened on your mission?”

 

Shisui didn't answer immediately but thought about it for a few minutes before replying. “There were some unexpected interferences. Some missing-nin got involved, and they outnumbered us quite badly. Most of their followers were normal bandits though, no Shinobi, so I'm pretty sure we would have been able to manage them after a while. Just not without casualties. It was fortunate that we were close enough to the border for some ANBU to notice us, or else at least one of my teammates would have died. It was a close thing, had they arrived a minute later it would have been too late.”

 

Itachi nodded to himself. Everything worked out just as he hoped then, nobody had died.

 

Shisui wasn't finished though. He balled his fists, an angry look in his face. “And I didn't even  notice ! He could have been killed and I wouldn't have known it until all the fighting was over! I'm still not strong enough to protect everyone.”

 

Itachi hesitated for a moment, thinking about how he should react, before giving his friend a soft nudge with his shoulder. “Hey, you're not even ten yet but are still considered for promotion to Jōnin. You are strong, and you will only grow stronger. That's what we're training for, isn't it? To get stronger and protect everyone.”

 

Shisui laughed softly but sounded absent when he answered. “Yeah, I guess you're right.”

 

Itachi knew there wasn't anything he could say that would placate the other prodigy, so he didn't speak at all.

They continued to stay where they were for another hour, enjoying the calm and each other's silent company, before standing up and making their way home.

 

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“So,” the old Hokage said, “you think they're ready for their first C-rank mission, Akihito?”

 

Their Sensei nodded. “Yes, Hokage-sama. Their teamwork is faultless, and Itachi fits right in. All of them can defend themselves and they look out for each other. They're ready.”

 

“Well then,” the older man replied with a smile, “I think I have just the right mission for you.”

 

He needed a minute to search through the documents on his table before handing Tanaka-Sensei a scroll. “There is an orphanage located at the coast of the Land of Woods. Since a few weeks ago, children went missing at irregular intervals. As of right now, 28 children are unaccounted for. Since the Land of Woods doesn't have a hidden village of their own, the caretaker of said orphanage sent a request to us instead. We assume that there are no Shinobi involved and that regular bandits are the culprits. They most likely kidnapped the children to sell them on the black market. Your mission will be to find, and to kill, all the bandits, as well as rescuing every child that is with them. If you find out where they sold the other children you're  not  to interfere. Bring the information back home and I will have an ANBU team take care of it later.”

 

They nodded, with Anko and Yukio looking slightly sick at the thought of children being sold on the black market. While he knew that they had their fair share of combat experience, a given with Orochimaru as their Sensei, they seemingly lacked the experience with the other dark parts of the Shinobi lifestyle.

 

They were already half turned when the Hokage spoke up again. “Before you went on your way; Itachi, I have a scroll for your father concerning some of your clan's dealings with the village. Would you mind taking it with you?”

 

Nodding he turned around, walking the short way to the Hokage to receive the message scroll. He took it, not visibly reacting to the hand signs the older man made when his body blocked the view from his teammates, and turned around to join his aforementioned team.

 

Tanaka-sensei spoke up as soon as the door was closed behind them. “We will meet at the entrance gate in an hour. We will need around two or three days to arrive at the orphanage, depending on where exactly at the coast it's located. Keep that in mind when you guys prepare your equipment.”

 

“Hai, Sensei.” they intoned simultaneously.

 

It was amusing for Itachi to watch his teammates interacting with their teacher. On the one hand, they were immature enough to blame him for something that wasn't his fault -becoming their new Sensei after their old one betrayed them and left the village-, but on the other hand, they were mature enough to hide their disdain and act professional while on missions.

 

With nothing else to say they departed, all of them making their way home to prepare for the mission.

 

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As soon as his teammates had vanished he made his way to the closest empty alley and opened the scroll he had received from the Hokage. Just as the Sandaime had said, it was indeed about his clan's dealings as the leading force of the KMPF and how they could possibly work closer together with the ANBU, but that wasn't what interested him.

 

Much more important was the second, smaller scroll hidden in the bigger one. All it said was one sentence:

 

Jiraya will arrive at the village in three days. We will meet him after you return from your mission.

 

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Anko jumped over the roofs for about three minutes before arriving home. Not having any living family members and thus living alone, there wasn't anyone there to greet her when she entered her apartment.

 

She ignored the cold feeling inside her gut and started to collect her stuff. This only lasted a few minutes as she had her equipment already prepared beforehand, to be always ready to depart on a mission on minute notice. She hadn't needed it for a few months now, not since...  -do not think about him, he doesn't deserve it.

 

She was as ready as she could be and very motivated by the thought of saving some poor children from slavery. Having grown up in an orphanage herself, the thought of young children being kidnapped from there was just  disgusting .

 

Just wait you bastards , she thought,  you will pay for this.

 

[][][]

 

Only a few blocks away, Yukio was currently rather busy with soothing his younger sister and his mother, promising them that “ he would be safe ” and that “ this wasn't a dangerous mission at all really” , while his father hurried through the apartment to get his equipment for him.

 

Honestly , he thought while trying to suppress a fond smile,  this is hardly my first real mission. Shouldn't they be used to it by now?

 

His gaze wandered to his sister, the seven years old clinging to his left arm, which made his thoughts turn to a darker tone.

 

This  monsters  who kidnapped children, just like little Yui at his side, didn't deserve any mercy. Just the thought of his sister being one of their victims...

 

Just wait you bastards , he thought,  I will end you for this.

 

[][][]

 

“And you promise me you will be safe, will you? And don't forget to look out for your teammates as well, protect each other. That's what a team is there for, after all.”

 

“Of course, mother. This shouldn't be a very hard mission anyway, just some common bandits making trouble. It will be fine.” Itachi replied while enjoying her hug

 

He had never been very keen on hugs, but Sasuke's and his mother's hugs had something soothing at them that he couldn't help but enjoy. In his mother's case it might be because he felt a bit more forgiven for the sins of his last life when he was in her arms, but he tried to ignore that though for the moment. No need to ruin the mood.

 

She ended the hug a few moments later, just when his father spoke up. “Your mother is right, Itachi. A team is there to look out for each other, and there is no shame in accepting help from others when you need it. False pride will just get you killed.”

 

This  was the father from his earliest memories, the one he griefed for after his death. He  so dearly  wished that he would stay this way, strict but loving, and not turn into that bitter man he had become in his last life.  This  was a man he could proudly call father.

 

“Don't worry, I have no problem with admitting it when I need help. Besides, we trained our teamwork the last few months pretty intensively, so we will have no problems looking out for each other.”

 

His parents didn't get any chance to answer, as Sasuke decided to include himself in the conversation. “Nii-san gonna go? Not playing?”

 

Smiling he knelt down to be at eye level with his brother. “Sorry Sasuke, not today. I need to go on a mission and will not be home for a few days,” -he tapped his forehead, for good measure- “but I will be home before you know it.”

 

I will always return for you. That's a promise.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

They were on the road for an hour now, jumping from tree to tree in a comfortable but still rapid speed. Normally Itachi enjoyed these parts of a mission, before the bloody part started, where he could enjoy the nature around him in silence. Sadly, this wasn't possible at the moment.

 

“You're just annoyed because you couldn't win against him  once  since he joined our team, so do us all a favour and stop whining.” Yukio interrupted Anko in one of her long-winded monologues.

 

“Excuse me?! What has this to do with anything I just said?” Anko retorted irritated.

 

“You were telling us about this 'super strong and amazing Jutsu' you want to learn when we return after this mission! Don't act as if you don't want to learn it solely for beating Itachi.”

 

Anko scoffed. “I don't want to learn it  only  to beat Itachi with it, idiot. It will be useful to know and it's powerful, so I want to learn it. It's easy as that. And if it helps me cleaning the floor with boy-wonder over there, well, that's a nice benefit.”

 

He guessed he was lucky that he was used to Kisame's antics, or else this would have been much more annoying. His Sensei wasn't as fortunate though.

 

“Alright, that went long enough. Calm down, now.” While their Sensei had still the same dark bags under his eyes, the ones Itachi had noticed the first time he had met him, there was no tiredness or exhaustion in his voice now. “While we will be in friendly territory for at least another day or two, we still need to be careful. You never know where you run into a missing-nin, we could even be close to one right now.”

 

Anko and Yukio became serious instantly. It were moments like this where Itachi was happy that he joined an experienced team, instead of working with Genin fresh from the Academy. He was much more comfortable going on missions with people who actually understood the dangers of one, instead of thinking about possible glories.

 

“Hai, Sensei.” they both replied.

 

The Jōnin nodded. “Good. Does anyone have a suggestion about how we can protect ourself from being surprised by enemies? Besides the usual methods I mean.”

 

There was a moment of silence before Itachi raised his voice. “I might be able to get some eyes into the sky to look out for us by using the  Kuchiyose no Jutsu  (Summoning Technique).

 

His Sensei raised an eyebrow in silent surprise, and judging by the eyes he could feel at the back of his head, his teammates had similar reactions.

 

“I wasn't aware that you were in possession of a summoning contract. Funny enough, I didn't even know that there was a summoning contract with animals capable of flight in the village at all.”

 

“I have a contract with the crows. They are more unorthodox than other animals, not requiring me to sign a contract with them. In fact, they didn't even give me a chance to disagree with it. One of them just pricked me with its beak to get some blood and that was enough.”

 

And hadn't that been fun to explain to his parents. And not only once, but  twice . It wasn't as if it was a bad thing, but it was definitively an unexpected incident. As far as he knew, his 'contract' with the crows was unique in the way that he didn't sign a real contract at all.

 

The contract he made with them this timeline had been, for some reason, happened later than it did in the last. He had made the contract just less than a week ago while he had made it months earlier in his last life. He didn't know why they approached him later this time, which was pretty frustrating, but he was happy it had happened at last. He hadn't even realized how much he had missed them, how  lonely  he had been without his constant companions, until they were at his side again.

 

Finally being reunited with them also allowed him to use a few of the techniques that had been impossible to him since he awoke in the past. That was another point in which his crows differed from most other summons; instead of actually, physically helping him fight his enemies, they rather amplified his Genjutsu and allowed him to use some unique techniques. Sadly, to use these unique techniques the summoner and the summon  both  needed to learn them. So even with him theoretically  knowing  how to use them, he wasn't actually  able  to use most of them as of yet.

 

The one exception was the  Karasu Bunshin no Jutsu  (Crow Clone Technique) , for which he was glad. This version of the  Bunshin  required much less chakra than the normal  Kage Bunshin no Jutsu   (Shadow Clone Technique),  while still creating a solid clone of himself. It also had the benefit of being able to reform should it get destroyed in battle, again without using as much chakra as creating a new clone would do.

 

In his opinion, which might be slightly biased he admitted to himself, it was a superior version of the Nidaime's Jutsu. It also solved the chakra problem he had with the aforementioned Hokage's version of the Jutsu quite effectively. At least meeting with the Sandaime should be much easier from now.

 

“In that case,” Tanaka-Sensei said with a small smile, “please do so. Having eyes watching the area from the sky would be reassuring.”

 

Itachi nodded. He then continued by biting his thumb to get some blood before he made the necessary hand seals.

Kuchiyose no Jutsu  (Summoning Technique) !”

 

In a swirl of feathers and screeches, a dozen crows appeared before promptly flying into the air to watch the area. 

 

“Wait, don't you need to tell them what to do?” Yukio asked a moment later.

 

He shook his head. “They knew what I summoned them for from the moment they felt my chakra call them here, there is no need to talk to them. Besides, these crows are still young and inexperienced, so they can't even talk yet.”

 

“Hey,” Anko uttered thoughtfully, “would it help if I summoned some snakes to keep watch when we rest? I would call them while we travel, but I doubt the weaker ones would be able to keep up with us.”

 

Tanaka-Sensei's smile grew a bit bigger. “Yes, good thinking. Please do so when we stop for the night.” 

 

From then on they travelled mostly in silence.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

They crossed the border of the Land of Woods on the third day after of the mission.

 

“From now on we need to be even more careful than before.” Tanaka-Sensei spoke calmly. “We don't want the kidnappers to know we're here, just as we planned.”

 

Itachi couldn't say that he liked their plan. Not that the strategy wasn't sound, far from it, but his role in it wasn't something he looked forward to.

 

The plan was for him and Anko to act like siblings who lost their family and searched for a new home. Seeing that 22 of the 28 missed children were under the age of ten, Itachi was the ideal age to play the role. Anko joined him on this because it was standard procedure to never split Genin teams in a way where a Genin was all alone.

 

The next time the kidnappers would show up to snatch some children away, they would act all defenceless and let themselves be 'kidnapped'. Tanaka-Sensei and Yukio then would follow them, aided by his crows, to find their hideout and fulfil all the objectives of their mission.

 

Honestly, he wouldn't even have a problem with his role in this, weren't it for one single detail...

 

“Finally Itachi will be forced to call me Nee-chan! I can't wait!”

 

He sighed.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

Approaching the orphanage and asking for aid went as well as could be expected.

 

With their dirty and in parts torn clothes they looked just like you would imagine two children would do after they lived some weeks on the streets. The patron of the orphanage had just looked at them for a second before inviting them inside, giving them something to eat and new clothes.

 

The facility was actually in much better shape than he had imagined. The building wasn't run-down at all, they had enough resources to feed and clothe every child in their care, there was some arrangement with a number of teachers who would come several times a week to teach the children reading, writing and mathematics, and there was enough in terms of entertainment to keep the children happy.

 

Anko and he gained a lot of attention for the first few days, seeing that they were the new kids and still needed to 'settle down', but that stopped around three or four days after their arrival. Since then they didn't do much more than waiting for the inevitable.

 

It was exactly one week after their arrival, during a stormy and rainy night, that it finally happened. Midnight had just passed when Itachi's senses woke him up from his sleep, warning him from more than two dozen unknown chakra signatures surrounding the building. He instantly noted than most of them were, as expected, untrained and clearly no Shinobi, but there were exceptions: at least six of them were definitively trained in the use of chakra.

 

He fought down the urge to jump up and prepare to face the enemy, which was a fight he nearly lost the moment eight people climbed through the window of the boy's dormitory, two of which were Shinobi.

 

He didn't fight when someone pressed a hand over his mouth -only struggling as much as would be expected of a child his age.

He didn't fight when the sound of the struggle from the other kids reached his ears.

He didn't fight when one of the culprits tied him up with a rope, and he didn't fight when one of them threw him over his shoulder and climbed out of the window.

 

Not yet,  he thought,  not yet, but soon.

 

They would regret the day they decided to start kidnapping children, he would make sure of it.

Chapter Text

Let's start this from the beginning

 

Genin days IV

 

 

He needed to endure this, frankly speaking, embarrassing situation of himself being carried on a shoulder like a sack of potatoes for nearly two hours, and being soaking wet from the rain didn't improve his mood either. The only positive thing about this situation was that Anko had been 'kidnapped' too, which didn't only mean that she didn't need to sneak after them, but that she was carried the same way. At least this way she would be too embarrassed herself to tease him about it later.

 

Honestly, he couldn't help but think, she and Kisame would be best friends if they ever meet. They have the same sense of humour.

 

Then, finally, they seemingly reached their destination; a part of the coast with no trees in sight, making it impossible to sneak up on them. Looking around further he saw...

 

Boats. A lot of them.

 

Where did they want to bring them? The only location they could reach by boat was... His eyes widened. The Land of Water!

 

But that couldn't be right, the Land of Water was off-limits for everyone. And while nobody else currently knew why it closed it borders yet, Itachi had the advantage of future knowledge. In fact, he even had heard some first-hand experiences from Kisame. He didn't know if the country was already fighting a civil war or if the rebels were just starting to organize for one, but he was reasonably sure that neither side should have had either the time nor the resources to send a team of their ninja to kidnap random children from a neighbourhood country.

 

But if they had the money, which they guaranteed had, they could arrange some mercenaries to do so for them...

 

While he didn't see what one of the Five Great Shinobi Countries could get out of kidnapping civilian children, this seemed the most likely answer.

 

Though he had currently other worries.

 

He couldn't allow either himself or Anko to be transported into the Land of Water. That would be suicide, not just as a Shinobi of Konoha, but also as the wielder of a Kekkei Genkai. By the face Anko was making, she knew that too.

 

He motioned her not to do anything yet. The kidnappers had already begun shipping the first children away, but nobody of them was too far out yet. He had a plan of how to rescue them, he only needed a bit more time. Tanaka-Sensei and Yukio were probably waiting at the edge of the forest, just barely out of sight from where he was currently waiting to be shipped off, too. As soon as he and Anko would start fighting the criminals, they would come to aid them against-

 

“Hey, Taro! Akito and Daichi found some Shinobi sneaking around in the area. They're taking care of them at the moment, but we need to hurry this up a bit. We have no idea if there are any more of them close by.”

 

The person that had been spoken to, Taro, was, if the way everyone listened to his every command was anything to go by, the leader of this group. There wasn't much to see if you looked at him, considering that a coat hid most of his body and the bandages he had wrapped around his head hid everything but his eyes. But Itachi didn't need to see how he looked like to know that he was dangerous. The way he held himself and the fact that his senses warned him from this man was more than enough indications for that.

 

“Well,” Taro said, “that's really annoying. But alright; Dai, Akaya, Benjiro. Go and help Akito and Daichi. No need in risking some random Shinobi disclose on our operation, so make sure you kill them without leaving too many signs.”

 

The three addressed person nodded and vanished in a Shunshin.

 

That changed his plan. With these three gone, Taro was the only enemy Shinobi left. All the other kidnappers, of which only ten were still on land and not in one of the boats, were mere bandits. Anko and he should be able to beat them, no matter how uneasy he felt about the leader. It's not like they had a choice in this anyway, they needed to help their other teammates. While he had no doubts about Tanaka-Sensei's abilities, and Yukio was Chūnin-level himself, five against two weren't great odds. Especially when he didn't know the capabilities of these five enemies.

 

This way there was no guarantee they would be able to do anything for the other children, but hey couldn't let themselves be stopped by this.

 

He freed himself from his bindings but held them in place to make it look as if he was still tied up. No need to give away he was free before he made his move. He needed to wait only a few more seconds before one of the bandits pushed him into the direction of one of the boats and he went along with it, aware that he would be led straight past Taro.

 

The moment he stood before him he began with his plan:

He let the ropes fall to the ground, while simultaneously giving Anko a sign to start her own offensive and looking right into Taro's eyes, Sharingan activated.

 

He used the most powerful Genjutsu he was currently able to use, which was a pretty decent mid-level technique, to immobilize the man. While he wasn't able to move around as fast as he usually could, he was still proficient enough in Genjutsu to not be rendered motionless himself. All he needed to do now was-

 

He suddenly felt a noticeable drain on chakra, instantly recognising the side effect of his illusion being broken, and the only reason he was able to raise his arms in defence to the kick that was aiming at his chest was that his Sharingan was still activated.

 

He flew a straight line backwards, trying and failing to catch himself in mid-air, and landed hard on his back. He continued to slide for a few more metres before finally coming to a stop in a crouched position. He didn't stay like this for longer than half a second before jumping away just in time to evade a bunch of kunai and shuriken that hit the ground where he was only a mere moment ago.

 

“Oh,” Taro commented, sounding amused, “you're clearly not a civilian. Do you belong to these Shinobi that are snooping around here? Why am I even asking, of course you are!” He laughed quietly. “And by the fact that you possess the Sharingan I can conclude that you guys are from Konoha. Well, to be honest, that was the most likely possibility anyway.”

 

Itachi didn't say anything to that. He used the opportunity to catch his breath and by trying to come up with a plan.

 

Considering the way his senses had warned him from his opponent, and how he had freed himself from his rather powerful Genjutsu, this man was at least a Jōnin. Maybe even an elite Jōnin, if he was especially unlucky.

 

Out of the corner of his eyes he could see Anko making short process with the remaining enemies. As no one of them was a Shinobi it was a rather one-sided fight. But even with her aid, this fight would be nearly impossible to win. He might be forced to use his Mangekyo to beat this enemy, and then hope that his Sensei and teammates would be able to take out the rest seeing that he would be unconscious for the immediate future.

 

He wondered why he wasn't doing anything though. Taro was just standing there, watching his subordinates getting killed one after another until only he was left alive.

 

“You're probably wondering why I'm not helping these guys killing your little friend over there.” Taro spoke up as if reading his mind. “Well, you see,... they're trash. You find common criminals like that everywhere, so it's much more efficient to hire a few of them for a job and then kill them after everything is done. It's not like you couldn't replace them easily. You could say your friend is doing me a favour!” He started laughing again, more heartily than before.

 

Anko appeared at his side. “Itachi, are you alright? You hit the ground pretty hard earlier.”

 

He nodded. “We have bigger problems right now. This guy is on a completely different level, he's  at least  as strong as Sensei. Winning against him will be near impossible.”

 

She didn't argue with him which meant she knew that too.

 

“So,” she started speaking after a few moments, “what do you say about going through with 'Plan G' and hoping that Sensei and Yukio will finish their enemies fast enough to aid us?”

 

He gave a humourless smile. “Sounds good to me.”

 

For now , he silently added in his mind. But if they don't come soon I will use the Mangekyo, consequences be damned.

 

Plan G was, essentially, nothing more than fight the enemy with some combos until Itachi got the chance to use a Genjutsu on him. Whoever fought alongside him, which meant Anko in this case, would use the moment the enemy was rendered motionless to go for the kill. And while their opponent already proved that he possessed excellent chakra control, good enough even to free himself from Itachi's currently strongest illusion in barely more than a second, this plan had still some chance of success. After all, a mere second was more than enough time to kill someone, at least for a Shinobi. Taro seemed to know that too, if the way he didn't look into Itachi's eyes was any indication.

 

“So,” Taro spoke up again, still sounding amused, “did you finish your little planing session? I think I gave you more than enough time to do so, didn't I?”

 

“And why exactly did you give use that time?” Anko snarled. “Are you so eager to lose?”

 

Taro snorted. “Hardly. It's just so much more amusing to see the hope in your enemies eyes be crushed slowly but surely. Besides...” He looked right at Itachi, a cruel smile visibly forming under his bandages. “It's not every day that you get the chance to kill a bloodline user as famous as an Uchiha! You need to savour the moment, especially when it's so hard to find a bloodline user at all these days.”

 

If he hunts people with a Kekkei Genkai, then he is probably one of the Mizukage's man, Itachi thought.

 

“Well then,” Taro started speaking again, “shall we begin?”

 

One moment he was several metres in front of them, and the next moment he stood between him and Anko. Itachi, being able to follow his movements with the Sharingan, was able to move out of the way of Taro's attack just in time, but Anko wasn't so lucky.

 

The man rammed his fist into her guts, lifting her into the air with the force behind it. He reached out with the other arm for a follow-up attack but was forced to abandon this plan of action to evade a kunai that flew at him from his right. Itachi hadn't any weapons with him, considering it would have given away his identity if one of the kidnappers found him armed, so he had taken the ones Taro had thrown at him earlier.

 

With a kunai in both hands each, he appeared in front of the man and slashed at him with one of them. His attack got blocked, but he wasn't deterred. Using his small stature to it's fullest potential, he jumped into Taro's guard and tried to break his knee. He was forced to jump back before he could accomplish anything because the man had drawn a kunai of his own and slashed at him with it, the extended range making it impossible for Itachi to break into his guard.

 

He redirected Taro's following palm strike and tried to get some distance from his enemy, but was stopped when he was grabbed by the man and pulled towards him. He would probably have been done for a moment later if it weren't for Anko appearing in the air beside their opponents head and trying to connect a roundhouse kick. He let go of him to raise his arm to block the kick, allowing Itachi to use his momentum to connect a kick of his own with the man's chest.

 

While obviously not hurt by it, the momentary confusion of being hit allowed Anko to rush in again. Her attack to his waist was blocked though, and Anko needed to jump away again to evade his elbow strike to her head.

 

They faced each other just like they did just a few seconds earlier, at the start of the battle, with Anko and him on one side and Taro on the other.

 

Anko gave him a hand sign and he nodded. This time they would be the ones to attack first.

 

Anko kicked forward with as much speed as she could, jumping at the waiting form of their opponent, while Itachi appeared with a Shunshin a bit to his left.

 

Taro was visibly prepared, and probably even excited, for another Taijutsu battle, so he was understandably surprised when Anko came to a sudden stop just outside of his reach and jumped back while making hand seals as fast as she could.

 

Katon: Hosenka no Jutsu!” (Fire Release: Phoenix Sage Fire Technique)

 

His eyes widened momentarily before he jumped back to evade the volley of small fireballs that flew at him, only to suddenly threw his head around when he saw movements from his left.

 

Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!” (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique)

 

Out of nowhere over a hundred shuriken appeared, heading his way.

 

With two different volleys of attacks heading his way from two directions, Taro saw himself forced to use a Jutsu of his own.

 

Suiton: Suijinheki!” (Water Release: Water Formation Wall)

 

He split a great amount of water out from his mouth, creating a wall of water around him that protected him from both their attacks.

 

Using this opportunity where he was out of sight, Itachi quickly created a Karasu Bunshin (Crow Clone) and used the Doton: Moguragakure no Jutsu (Earth Release: Hiding Like A Mole Technique) to hide himself in the underground. While it used more chakra than a Fire Release or a Water Release technique would, it was still a rather basic technique which didn't require much chakra to begin with so it would be fine.

 

He could feel the fight continue a few seconds later, sensing the magnetic forces of Anko and Taro fighting each other on the surface. His clone was a bit more removed from the battle, standing nearly two dozen metres away. He couldn't risk being exposed as a clone, so he limited himself to support Anko from afar by throwing weapons and possibly even some Jutsu.

 

Honestly, the only reason Taro hadn't finished the fight yet was probably that he was enjoying himself far too much. Itachi wasn't complaining though, this behaviour was the only reason they had a little chance at winning this fight after all.

 

He waited until he felt Anko back away to interfere. The moment Taro was nearly upon her, when he needed to make only one more step to be able to reach her, his arms shot out of the ground and caught him at his ankles. Losing his balance, the man fell to his knee and instinctively reached out with his hands to catch himself before his face could hit the ground. Anko, having waited for this opportunity, jumped forward and stabbed her kunai right in the back of his neck.

 

For a single moment Itachi though they somehow managed to beat the Jōnin, but then his hands became wet and he felt how there were suddenly no longer any magnetic force from where the man's body should have hit the ground, and he knew that their offensive had failed.

 

But when had he the time to create a Water Clone? Even with his superior speed, he shouldn't have been able to hide its creation from my Sharingan, unless... His eyes widened. Unless he created it after I started to hide in the underground!

 

That only left the question where the real one could be, as he should have been able to feel the real body's magnetic forces too...

 

The ocean!

 

He was basically going blind as long as he stayed under the earth, so he decided to come to the surface again. He was just in time to see the real Taro, who was indeed standing on the water surface, finishing some hand seals.

 

Suiton: Suiryu Sanrendan no Jutsu!” (Water Release: Water Dragon Triple Step Technique)

 

Three gigantic water dragons rose from the waters behind Taro, showing their majestic and violent beauty, before starting to launch themselves right at them.

 

Anko and he both immediately jumped to the side, hoping to evade the attack, but it was hopeless. While they were able to evade the brunt of the attack, they were still hit and thrown away in a volley of water. They flew in a parallel line to the coast for what felt like an eternity, and Itachi felt his clone being destroyed and his summons vanishing before they finally came to a stop.

 

His sight was fuzzy and his body felt like it had been used as a training ground for Taijutsu for a week straight, but he still tried to stand up. This endeavour was cut short a second later when a foot pushed down on his chest, holding him on the ground.

 

Looking up, he saw Taro standing above him, holding Anko up with one hand at her throat.

 

“I confess,” he stated, “that you are more troublesome than you look like. Seriously, you have decent teamwork and even a pretty good strategy. Didn't saw it coming that one of you would hide in the underground for a trap. Good that I expected  something  though, and created the clone as a precautionary measure. Still, that's it for you. I would say I'm sorry, but that would be a lie.”

 

Itachi just wanted to use his Mangekyo, which wouldn't just make him fall unconscious for a few hours like it did the last time but at least for a week or more if he didn't outright died considering his current chakra reserves, when Anko suddenly spat into the man's face.

 

And Taro started to scream .

 

Itachi instantly knew what happened. Anko loved using poison and other substances in her attacks, something she hadn't been able to do in their current fight because they hadn't been able to bring any weapons of their own with them. At least he had thought so till now. Now it was obvious that she  somehow  managed to bring  something  with her, just waiting for the right moment to use it, and she had just spat it into the man's face. The effect was quite apparent, as the man was still wincing in pain and stumbling backwards.

 

And then Itachi had an idea.

 

Their original plan, 'Plan G', wasn't gonna work. Whatever substance Anko had spat into Taro's face was seemingly not a very potent one, considering the man was already starting to calm down. He would probably be able to open his eyes in a few seconds. Sadly simply attacking him wouldn't do the job, the man was still a Jōnin and fighting without one of your senses was mandatory at that level, but they could use his momentary distraction to make him think he was in a Genjutsu.

 

Using the same Jutsu as before, a combination of a Crow Clone and the Doton: Moguragakure no Jutsu (Earth Release: Hiding Like A Mole Technique), his real body hid in the underground again while his clone took his former position. This time his clone didn't look like a carbon copy of himself though but instead was only half-formed and had dozens of crows flying around him.

 

Just like he liked to present himself to his enemies in illusions.

 

He finished just in time for Taro to open his eyes.

 

“What?” he murmured, pain and annoyance still clearly in his voice, “A Genjutsu?” He scoffed. “That's not gonna work on me, kid, I already proved that didn't I?”

 

Forming the seal for Ram, he noticeably disrupted his chakra flow. Obviously, as they weren't actually in an illusion, nothing happened.

 

Taro blinked. “What the hell? Why can't I break free?”

 

He tried to release the 'Genjutsu' again, and then once more, before looking at him.

 

“You! No way you can use an illusion more powerful than the one at the beginning! What are you playing at?!” he screamed.

 

“Do you understand it now?” his clone asked devoid of any emotions. “Before my eyes, all your skills become meaningless. I may have underestimated you at the beginning, using only a weak technique to bind you, but I know better now. The moment our eyes met, less than a heartbeat after Anko spat into your face, I was able to use the most powerful Genjutsu in my arsenal. There is no escape from here.”

 

Hopefully Anko regains her breath soon and kills him, he thought.

 

As long as Taro thought this was an illusion he would probably not act on anything he saw. If Anko attacked him now he would most likely just assume that it was a trick to lead him to a position of his choosing. Going along with that would be like signing his death sentence. And if he thought nothing here was real anyway, then why should he block attacks, right?

 

“Are you kidding me? No matter how talented you are, there is simply no way a kid like you can create such a powerful Genjutsu!”

 

He shrugged. “My village calls me a once-in-a-lifetime prodigy. Such a title needs to come from somewhere, don't you think?”

 

He growled and threw a kunai at him, probably more out of annoyance than because he thought it would actually do something.

 

He let it hit his clone and it went right through his chest, leaving a hole behind. Not for long though, as some crows flew to him and 'healed' the injury nearly instantly.

 

His opponent scoffed again, having regained his calm. “Nice trick you got there, I give you that. But, shall I tell you something? This doesn't mean anything. The weakness of illusions like this, where you want to manipulate an enemy in the real world through what you show him inside the Genjutsu, is, that your enemies can still use techniques of their own. And seeing that I don't have any comrades in the area, I can just blow up the entire coast!”

 

Itachi's eyes, both the clone's and the real one's, widened. He had no kunai nor shuriken left to throw, and Ninjutsu would be too slow, so all he could do when he saw Taro wield hand seals was to rush at him as fast as he could, even knowing he wouldn't be in time.

 

Suiton: Daibakufu no Jutsu!” (Water Release: Great Waterfall Technique)

 

An absolutely ridiculous amount of water rose from the ocean into the air, just as Itachi recognised the technique as one Kisame would use from time to time. If this hit them, it would be over. There was no way to survive being hit by this technique, not when it was strong enough to hollow out the ground and devastate the area similar to a natural disaster.

 

He saw something fly past him, and a second later a kunai embedded itself into Taro's throat. The last thing Itachi saw of the man were his wide, shocked and unbelieving eyes before the man fell to the ground.

 

But there was no time to celebrate as without the man controlling the water that was already in the air, there was nothing that stopped it from starting to fall down. While this wouldn't be as devastating as the original attack, it would still be enough to kill them. Without hesitation his real body emerged from the ground besides Anko, pushed her as close to him as he could, and activated his Mangekyo Sharingan.

 

Susanoo!”

 

He had barely enough time to create some skeletal protection before the water hit them and his world went dark.

Chapter Text

Let's start this from the beginning

 

Genin days V

 

 

Like any other good Shinobi who didn't know where exactly he was, Itachi didn't give any outward sign that he had woken up. Instead, he let his senses feel out the area.

 

The closest, and only, presence he could feel was right beside him, and he instantly recognised it as Anko's. Deciding that he was in friendly company he opened his eyes and sat up. Anko sat pretty close to his right, and a small, smokeless fire was to their left. He nodded approvingly at that. As it seemingly wasn't night yet (or not anymore? How long had he been unconscious?) the light of the fire didn't give them away, and as Anko had made sure that it was smokeless they wouldn't be spotted from far away.

 

“Itachi!” Anko exclaimed, cutting his thoughts short, “finally you're awake! I don't have enough medical knowledge, so I wasn't able to do more than give you a superficial check. I feared you might have some internal injuries or something when you didn't wake up.”

 

“I thi-” he started to speak before a coughing fit forced him to stop talking.

 

“Hey, take it slowly, you hear me? You just woke up! Here, drink some water. It's from a nearby river and I've already filtered and boiled it, so it should be fine.”

 

He nodded thankfully before accepting the water, drinking it directly from the stone Anko pushed into his hands. It seemed she had taken some big rock and carved into it until it could serve as a bowl.

 

After he finished his drink he tried speaking again, this time with more success than he had before. “I think I'm fine. I don't feel too bad, at least not considering the situation. How long have I been out of it?”

 

Anko nodded acceptingly. “I'm not sure how long we have been unconscious, but I woke up around 12 hours ago. Considering I didn't start to feel hungry until maybe an hour ago I don't think we were out cold for very long, maybe a handful of hours. And before you ask: no, I don't  really  know where we are, but I have a pretty good guess. You should be able to find it our pretty fast too.”

 

Anko was right, he didn't feel too hungry either. Probably more than her though, seeing that he had used much more chakra in the fight against Taro. Apropos Taro...

 

“Congratulations on killing Taro and his subordinates. At least we don't need to worry about them searching for us anymore.”

 

She shook her head. “You're the one who tricked and distracted him with your crows -this half-formed crow clone of yours looked badass by the way-, so it was just as much your work as it was mine.”

 

“Only ' just as much '?” he asked in a slightly teasing voice, one brow raised.

 

Anko huffed. “Yes, only ' just as much '. After all, I can't go around and say I was saved by a midget like you, can I now?”

 

He smiled slightly at that before he became serious again and looked around once more. They were on a small clearing, with their backs to a big tree. Dense fog surrounded them, making it impossible to look farther than the line of trees that marked the border of the clearing.

 

Yes, Anko had been right. He was pretty sure he knew where they were, and he didn't like it. This... “We're in the Land of Water.”

 

She grimly nodded back. “Looks like it.”

 

That wasn't good at all. Taro's attack had obviously swept them into the sea, and from there they must have drifted in the water until they reached land. Honestly, they had had such incredibly good luck that they hadn't drowned, it was hard to believe. And the fact that he had been so close to dying again ... that was terrifying. He pushed that thought aside, for now, he could muse about that later.

 

“As you said, at least we don't need to worry about people searching for us. It's not unlikely that the patron of the orphanage asked for Shinobi to look into all these kidnappings, so Kirigakure will probably assume that their people got killed by the team sent to deal with it. There will be no manhunt for us. And, just in case, I sent some of my snakes in the surrounding area to scout for us.” Anko said.

 

“True,” he agreed, “but that doesn't mean that there will be no search groups at all. It would be careless not to search the area after your Shinobi got killed in such close proximity to your border.”

 

“But we should have a day or two until that happens.”

 

“That's not wrong, but...” he hesitated for a moment, unsure if he should proceed with telling her about the current situation in the Land of Water, before deciding that it was much more important that Anko was informed of it so she could prepare herself than it was to conceal that he knew stuff he shouldn't be aware of.

 

“We also need to worry about the internal problems the country is currently facing.”

 

“'Internal problems'? First of all, what problems, and more importantly, how do you know about them?” Anko asked, crossing her arms in front of her.

 

“My father is the Clan Head of one of Konoha's four noble clans, so he gets more information than most. He decided to inform me, as his heir, of what he knew about the current affairs of the Land of Water as soon as he heard that this mission would bring me so close to its border.”

 

That was a rather believable lie, considering Anko could hardly go to one of the clan heads and ask about its accuracy. The only person she could possibly mention it to was the Hokage, and he would go along with it to protect Itachi's secret.

 

“Alright, and what exactly did he tell you?”

 

“The country seems to be on the brink of a civil war,” he started to explain, “one in which the Mizukage and the people loyal to him fight against every single person with a Kekkei Genkai and their supporter.”

 

“Wait, what?!” Anko exclaimed. “Why would they do that? Kekkei Genkai users are a powerful addition to a village's fighting power. Killing them off would cripple themselves!”

 

“Nobody knows exactly why the Mizukage acts like he does,” -of course there were some very few exceptions who knew about Madara's involvement, but he could hardly say that- “but many of his supporters blame people with bloodline limits for all their hardships and war itself. They think they can achieve peace for their country if there are no 'filthy bloodline limits' left. Obviously there are quite a lot people who are not okay with this senseless genocide, and the way the Mizukage leads his village in general, and these rebels are most likely planning to overthrow the current government. With the country being in such an unstable state, both sides likely have their people patrol the area. And this is, obviously, bad for us.”

 

After being silent for a few minutes, Anko summarized the situation pretty precise. “Wow, this is so fu*ked up.”

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

They were on the road, as jumping from tree to tree didn't seem like a good idea if you were this deep in enemy territory, for about two hours now. They had departed from the clearing Itachi had woken up on as soon as the sun went down and started to head west. No matter where exactly they were, as long as the walked in that directions they should come to the westernmost coast and from there the could run over the water until they reached the shore. From there it was just a small way till they reached home. Sadly it wasn't an option to search for the rest of their team, considering that it was standard procedure to return to the village to get some real search parties if Genin were lost in active duty.

 

Explaining that to his parents later would be fun, he was sure. And Shisui and Izumi too. At least Sasuke was too young to be immediately be informed about him missing, that wouldn't happen as long as no body turned up or the search for them went futile for too several weeks.

 

Both Anko and he had summoned their respective animals to scout the area and warn them if someone was closing upon them. Though thanks to the dense mists his hopes of them succeeding in that were slim. The fact that it was night wasn't improved their chances either. The only way they could notice anyone in that mist was if said person wasn't actively hiding. At least he had some experience with the Soundless Murder Technique through his acquaintance with Kisame, though of how much use that would be to him remained to be seen.

 

The loud croaking of a crow cut through the silence of the night.

 

“Anko,” he whispered.

 

“I know.”

 

They instantly moved closer together, making it look like he was too weak to walk and as if Anko was helping him move forward. They were looking like civilians anyway, thanks to their short time at the orphanage, and their clothes appeared pretty shabby from all the things they had needed to endure in the last 24 hours, so they probably looked like every other pair of orphaned children currently wandering the country. If the people approaching them were the Mizukage's men they would possibly try to kidnap them too, and then their act might allow them to get the enemy by surprise and kill them before it comes to a fight at all. If they weren't part of the Mizukage's party they would hopefully just ignore them.

 

Two men wearing ANBU masks appeared a dozen metres in front of them.

 

“Alright,” the left started to speak nearly immediately, “we know you are not from here, but you are obviously not sent by the Mizukage. I will give you guys the chance to explain yourself right now , and it dependents on your answer what will happen afterwards. So, start talking: who are you and why are you here?”

 

That wasn't what he had been expecting, and it made him unsure of how to act. Knowing that not answering immediately would have negative consequences he planned to give himself some more time to think and opened his mouth to say something, but was deprived of the opportunity when Anko started to speak before he got the chance:

 

“We're Shinobi of Konohagakure, and we stranded here, wherever 'here' actually is, by accident. In fact, we're currently on our way home.”

 

Alright, he could work with that. Frankly, he would most likely have told them the truth too after some deliberating, but he preferred it to think things through more thoroughly before acting. And given what the 'ANBU' had said it was pretty likely that they were rebels, which also explained why they weren't attacked the very instant the met. It seemed that this way of proceeding was indeed the best.

 

The two people opposite of them didn't visibly react, but there was surprise and scepticism in his voice when the same ANBU from before spoke up again: “Shinobi of Konohagakure? And what proof do you have of that? I don't see a forehead protector with Konoha's symbol on it, or even a forehead protector at all.”

 

“We could demonstrate a technique that nobody but a Shinobi of Konoha would be able to use” he decided to speak up before things could escalate. “I think you're aware of Orochimaru?” he asked, and the was they tensed after only hearing his name was proof enough to answer that. “My teammate is his former student, and just like him, she made a contract with snaked. A contract that is only found in Konoha. With your agreement she could summon a snake for you?”

 

It was a bit of a gamble, considering that it would be careless of them to allow an unknown Shinobi to use a Jutsu, but it was currently their best bet.

 

“That doesn't seem like a good idea.” the man replied, his hands slowly reaching for a weapon. “Maybe it would be better-”

 

“I should add that I already sent a message home through my crow summons. If something happens to use our village will know who is responsible, and I'm sure you know what would happen if you kill the Uchiha heir” -he pointed at himself- “and his teammate.”

 

Again, it wasn't necessarily the best way of action to announce his identity and simultaneously threaten them, but the two of them gave him the vibe of being very inexperienced and nervous themselves. This strategy might work, and if not... he was confident they could take them in a fight.

 

“Alright,” it was the other person who spoke this time, “show us the technique.”

 

Anko didn't hesitate, probably having come to the same conclusion as him, and made the necessary hand signs before summoning a little, brown snake.

 

Both people looked at each other for a few seconds, foolishly ignoring Anko and him, before both nodded and the man who had spoken first started talking again: “Alright, I think that's more than enough proof. Under these circumstances, we offer our aid in leading you home, as long as you come with us.”

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

They hadn't had a real choice in that matter, so they followed these two back to their camp. Of course they could have fought them and probably won, the short conversation had been enough to convince Itachi that they weren't real ANBU but more likely Chūnin-level rebels,  at most , who wanted to protect their identity, but even a short fight would most likely attract others their way. That, they couldn't afford.

 

Anko, who had seemingly noticed the same thing, and he used the opportunity to find out some more about where they were and the current situation in the country in general. It seemed that they were on the most western island, the one closest to the mainland. They stranded somewhere on the southeastern part of said island, which was fortunate because this was the part of the island the rebels controlled.

While the situation hadn't really escalated to an all-out war yet, regions all over the Land of Water were choosing sides. It wouldn't be long now, Itachi concluded, until the real fighting started.

 

While Itachi was thankful for it, he was also slightly disgusted by the way the two eagerly told him about the tense situation of their country, as well as all kinds of little secrets. They were lucky that neither Anko nor him, or Konoha in general, would act on this information to wield war on this lands. If he weren't sure before then this would have been the point where it became obvious that they were no real ANBU.

 

The most interesting information they received were the names of the people in charge of the camp they would enter in a few minutes. Especially one name stood out: Mei Terumi.

 

He had been aware that the future Godaime Mizukage was part of the rebellion, and that her achievements there would be part of the reason why she was chosen for the position, but he hadn't expected to  actually meet  her here and now. And that presented him with a problem: what would he do now?

 

The Sandaime and he had made a lot of plans, but most of them focused on strengthening Konoha and  probably  its allies. They prepared to face the Akatsuki, which seemed manageable for the most part considering most members had already been killed when he died himself, thought about ways to protect the Jinchuriki, and tried to improve their relationship with the other villages. Sadly it was especially the last point that was hard to archive.

 

So shortly after the last war has ended most other villages were still licking their wounds and griefed their losses., just as the people of Konoha were doing. The animosity still held strong. Now though, he was given the opportunity to improve the image of Konoha in the eyes of the future Mizukage. The best thing about it was that it would look like they helped them only because of the goodness in their hearts. After all, if you looked at it from the outside, then it was obvious that the rebels were in a worse position then the Mizukage, so there was no real reason to show goodwill to them. It wasn't even as if they could give something back in return for the aid they received. Everything they were given by Konoha would be in the spirit of goodwill, as far as they were concerned. Sure, there would be people that were thinking they were playing both sides so that they would win no matter who won the civil war, but they would have no proof . Besides, how could they possibly know that Mei Terumi would become the Mizukage?

 

The only thing they needed to pay attention to was that they didn't make it look like Konoha was only helping the rebels to further destabilize the country.

 

Yes, this was the perfect opportunity to better the relationships between Konoha and Kiri. Now he only needed to find a way to help the future Mizukage and somehow persuade Anko not to stop him.

 

He wasn't sure what would be harder.

 

“We're here.”

 

In front of them was the camp, located in the middle of the forest with a huge rock face in the back.

 

The 'camp' was pretty much what he had expected. It wasn't very big, and de doubted that it held more than 50 men, and the most complex structures were some tents here and there. Honestly, calling it a camp was kinda inappropriate. It was obvious on the first glance that this wasn't meant as a permanent solution, but more as a temporary location they used for as long they had business in this area.

 

The two 'ANBU' lead them right to what he assumed to be the centre of the place, ignoring the curious and, in part, hostile glances thrown at them. He could feel Anko's nervousness and thought about trying to reassure her, but decided against it. She would probably just take offence from that.

 

The two men stopped and they followed suit. In front of them, sitting at a round table of rock (probably created with a Jutsu , he thought), were six people; four women and two men. And of the woman was very obviously Mei Terumi.

 

He had never met her from face to face, logically, but he had seen pictures, and the auburn-haired woman, easily the youngest person at the table, was definitively her. She looked to be around 16 or 17 years old, which now, that he thought about it, was a big help in creating a timeline. If he remembered correctly, and he was sure he did, then she became Mizukage in her early twenties, which meant that-

 

“Why did you bring some children to the camp?” the voice of the seemingly oldest man, who looked like he was in his late fifties, interrupted his thoughts. “We don't have the capacity to take in every orphan you find, especially not in this small camp. You should know that.”

 

“Excuse us, Takahashi-sama, but-” one of the 'ANBU' tried to explain, but was interrupted by the same old man as before.

 

“There is no excuse! Now that they know our location we have no choice than to let them stay here, which means we have two more mouths to feed! We have not enough resources to-”

 

“Takahashi-san, there is no need to become so loud. Please calm down. You're embarrassing yourself right now.”

 

It was Mei who interrupted the old man, who indeed shut up after a murmured 'Yes, Mei-san'. In fact, every other person at the table looked at her as if they expected her to make the decision.

 

Interesting , he thought, I didn't expect her to be such a prominent figure of the rebellion already. It's even more impressive when you're considering her youth.

 

“You can leave now.” she said to the two 'ANBU', who nodded thankfully and vanished a second later.   “And about you two,” she turned to look at Anko and him now, “would you be so nice and explain who you are?”

 

Anko stepped forward first, looking as confident as ever and not showing any of the nervousness he knew she must feel. “My name is Anko Mitarashi, and this is my teammate Itachi Uchiha. We're Shinobi of Konoha who landed here after a fight at the coast of the Land of Woods ended with us being swept away into the sea. We woke up at your coast only recently, and when your men offered us their aid in returning home we went with them. And now we're here.”

 

Really, it was easy to forget that Anko could be great at negotiations when she stayed calm and collected. It was a shame she only rarely chose to be like that.

 

A surprised murmur broke out after she finished, and even Mei's eyebrows rose in silent surprise. Multiple people opened their mouths to speak, but one raised hand by Mei stopped them in the process.

 

“Shinobi from Konoha? You're far away from home then. Sadly, I don't know if we can actually let you go home as easy as that. Our country's situation is very delicate at the moment you see. We need to discuss this before making a decision, so if you-”

 

“Wait, what?” Anko exclaimed, taking another step forward, “you can't just-”

 

“Anko” he spoke up calmly while grabbing her by the shoulder to stop her from taking another step, “please calm down. We don't need additional trouble.”

 

She glared at him. “You can't ask me to stay calm after she said something like that!”

 

“If you can't stay calm leave the talking to me. I don't want you to offend our hosts, that would lead to really unfortunate consequences we should try to avoid.”

 

She looked at him for a few moments where Itachi was silently surprised no one else interrupted them during that time, before finally nodding and stepping behind him. “Fine, then talk.”

 

“Well,” Mei said and giggled silently when he turned around to face her, “that was interesting. And intense! If you were older I would think you were a couple, you know?”

 

Not looking at Anko, as he was not interested in seeing her reaction to such a comment, he said: “Please forgive my teammate's rashness, patience isn't her strongest suit.” He ignored the glare he could feel at the back of his head. “If I may, could I please ask a question?”

 

“Fire away.” she simply answered with a smile and a careless motion of her hand.

 

“The problem you're facing is that you don't want the other nations to find out about this intern conflict in your country, correct? Because if that is the case I' sorry to tell you that it's too late for that.”

 

Her easy-going attitude vanished in less than a second. “Explain,” she demanded.

 

“My father is the clan head of the Uchiha Clan, one of the four noble clans of Konoha. He gets more information than most, information he often shares with me, so I can confidently say that at least the higher-ups from Konoha already know about this conflict. I can't say anything certain for the other nations, but at least Kumogakure could possibly also know about it. Forcing us to stay here, or even killing us, will archive nothing.”

 

There was a moment of silence before Mei started to speak again. “How did they found out? The borders are shut, no information should be able to enter our leave this country.”

 

“I don't think you're naïve enough to believe that, Terumi-sama. It's impossible to completely shut off an entire country from the rest of the world, there will always be a few people who manage to escape abroad and tell their stories. We encountered a few Kiri-nin on our mission. It's their fault that we even stranded here in the first place.”

 

“And what exactly was your mission?”

 

“We received information that children got regularly kidnapped from an orphanage at the coast of the Land of Woods for the last few weeks. Probably even longer. We were sent with our team to take care of the people responsible, which we assumed to be common bandits. In turned out that the leading force behind these kidnappings were Shinobi though, Shinobi from Kirigakure. And by the comments one of them, their leader, made about my Sharingan and Kekkei Genkais in general, I'm pretty sure they were loyal to the current Mizukage.”

 

“Wait, children, you say?” one of the other women at the table exclaimed in surprise. “We have noted an increasing number of orphan children arriving in several villages that support our cause, Mei-sama! And we just talked about the increased number of vanished people under our protection! This has to be connected! We need to-”

 

“Yes, thank you Ito-san.” Mei interrupted her. Turning back to them she continued: “Mitarashi-san, Uchiha-san, I'm sure you noticed that I and my friends here have much to discuss. I will come back to you later, please enjoy our hospitality until then.”

 

When she turned around once again, to face the other man and woman at the table, an ANBU appeared at their side, and by the way his senses warned him from this one he was sure it was a real ANBU this time, and started to lead them to another corner of the camp. With no other choice, both he and Anko followed him.

 

He could only hope that he wasn't making some grave mistake.

 

Chapter Text

Let's start this from the beginning

 

Genin days VI

 

 

They had to wait for nearly 8 hours, in which Itachi thankful noted that they were indeed treated more like guests rather than prisoners before Mei finally came to talk to them.

 

Sadly he had to spend this time alone with a foul-tempered Anko, and their guard of course, which was everything but comfortable. “It was a stupid idea to come here!” she was ranting. “They have no reason to let us go. And you just went along with it! Are you so eager to die when you're just six years old?”

 

“Technically,” he said, “I would die as a seven-year-old, seeing that my birthday had been several days ago.”

 

Of course, that hadn't been the right answer either.

 

“What?! When? And why didn't you say anything?” she demanded, sounding now more surprised and offended than angry.

 

“On the second day after we arrived at the orphanage. And I saw no reason to tell anyone because we were on a mission, which has priority.”

 

“But you could have told us anyway! We need to celebrate later, you know, if we survive this and all! Oh, what do you say about-”

 

“As interesting as this conversation seems to be, I fear I must interrupt it.” another voice, thankfully, stopped Anko before she could go on about what plans she had for his birthday party (not that he planned to have one in the first place).

 

“Terumi-sama,” he said while turning around, “how can we help you?”

 

“Oh, you already helped me,” she answered with a smile, “the information about your mission was surprisingly helpful. We compared the numbers, and it seems there was an increase in assassinations of our supporters in the villages where also an increasing number of orphan children were reported the weeks prior. While no definite proof, combining this with the information you provided us with it draws a clear picture. These things must be connected.”

 

“Should you tell us that?” Anko asked. “Isn't this some kind of secret you should keep away from us so that we can't tell anyone about it?”

 

Terumi scoffed. “After Ito-san's comment when you were still in our presence I sincerely doubt you couldn't have come to the same conclusion anyway. Be it as it is, we need to do something about it. All the children need to be grouped somewhere before they can force them to obey and spy for the Mizukage and the most logical choice would be their headquarter on this island, which is located on the west coast. As thanks for your help in exposing this trickery we will aid you in returning home. Tomorrow, our people will gather and destroy the headquarter and free the children. We will take you with us until a certain point, from which we will depart from each other and you will make the rest of the way on your own.”

 

“That's great! Thank you ver-” Anko started before Itachi disrupted her:

 

“I want to help.”

 

“What?!” two identical exclamations were heard, and Itachi couldn't help but be slightly smug that he managed to break the till now perfect calm facade of the future Mizukage.

 

“Itachi, you can't be-”

“Uchiha-san, I don't see why-”

 

Surprisingly, both became silent when he raised his hand.

 

“Our mission was it to save the children that were kidnapped. Under normal circumstances, this would be impossible now. We would be forced to retreat. If we join you, on the other hand, success is very likely.  Besides ,”-he quickly continued when he saw both young women open their mouths-” as a user of a Kekkei Genkai myself, I find the philosophy of the Mizukage and his followers disgusting and offensive. I will gladly take this chance to harm his cause.”

 

There was a moment of silence before, unexpectedly, Mei spoke up first: “I understand your reasoning, especially the second one considering I'm a Kekkei Genkai user too, but I don't think that this is enough for us to allow you to accompany us. Besides, your presence alone is unlikely to change the course of the battle. ”

 

“Besides,” Anko added, astonishingly calm, “you would need to explain to the Hokage why exactly you chose to risk your life to aid some foreign Shinobi, even if their goal wasn't to harm Konoha. Of course, you could argue that aiding rebels in overthrowing their current Kage is actually harming Konoha by worsening its relationship with the official government of another Great Ninja Country. And, just on a side note, I don't necessarily want to be the one who explains to your father, the head of the KMPF, why his son died under my watch.”

 

Itachi gave them a small smile.

 

“My safety won't be in danger, so you don't need to worry about that. And you're right, Mei-sama, that my fighting strength will not be a deciding factor in the battle itself, but I can give you something else: I can almost guarantee the safety of all the children.”

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

While not necessarily easy, he had been able to persuade both women to let him help after he explained how exactly he planned to do so.

 

This was rather fortunate, as it helped his long-term plans immensely. He was pretty sure that Termui Mei wouldn't forget about this day and it's events anytime soon, at any rate.

 

His plan was rather simple but effective: First, he would create a Crow Clone to sneak into their hideout. Considering that the ability to use a summons's contract like this was nearly unheard of and impossible to use for anyone who hadn't a contract with either the crows of the snakes, nobody would bat an eye because of a murder of crows. Then he would sneak to where the children were kept and hide them under a Genjutsu that made everyone who came looking for them think they had vanished. Sure, a high-ranking Shinobi would look right through it, but he doubted such a Shinobi would be on watch duty.

 

So it was the early hours of dawn that led to a flock of crows circling overhead the small hideout that had its back on the coast. It was pretty obvious that this base wasn't a very significant one, which wasn't a surprise if you took its location into account. The island it was positioned on wasn't only one of the smallest islands of the Land of Water, it also hadn't any noticeable resources. There had never been any great population on it either, be it Shinobi or civilians. All in all, there were probably less than 1000 inhabitants on this piece of dirt. Its only use was as a warning system in case some country invaded them from the west, in which case this island would be used to slow the enemy down while the other islands prepared to fight.

 

The base was rather small, only three or four times as big as the rebel's camp had been. Even so, much of the space was nothing but empty ground. There were only three buildings: The first seemed to be a tavern of kinds, if the music he could hear was anything to go by, and was located close to the ocean. The second one was rather indescribable, having no special feature to talk about. The third building was also the only construction that looked like someone bothered to keep it in shape. It was a rather big tower, having at least five times the height of the 'tavern', and was build from robust-looking stone.

 

The entire area was surrounded by a 20 metres high wall which was built from the same stone as the tower. While he doubted that it could hold against some really powerful technique, like the ones Terumi Mei at least should be able to use, it looked durable enough. Its main purpose was probably to slow enemies down anyway, so there was no need to be indestructible. He could see people patrolling on it at regular intervals, too.

 

He wondered for a moment where all the inhabitants, which couldn't number more than 200, were sleeping and living, but the logical guess would be that the building continued underground.

 

In all honesty, it was kinda insulting to call this base a 'headquarter'. This entire complex wasn't build to resists a siege, but to serve as a lookout for possible invaders. Once they were under attack, they would be barely more than pigs in a slaughterhouse.

 

But alas, that wasn't his problem.

 

He thought a moment about where the children might be, before deciding that the most likely location would be either the second building or the underground beneath it. The fact that this building was one of the two buildings that had guards, the other being the best-conditioned building that most likely was the hearth of this base, was more than enough to come to that conclusion. It also helped that both guards looked bored out of their mind, obviously not expecting to do anything anytime soon.

 

Deciding to proceed, he followed up on his plan and flew down. The left guard, who had been enjoying his meal for this evening, gave a surprised shout when his food was stolen out of his hand when he was just about to bite into it. His fellow guard laughed for a second before he realized that other crows were rummaging through his bag in a search for more food.

 

Neither they nor the amused onlookers from afar noticed how a few crows flew through the previously closed door, shutting it behind them afterwards. Naturally, with a wall and a door between them, nobody noticed either how said crows formed a body once they were alone in the room.

 

It seemed that the entire building, at least on this floor, was one single room, filled to the brim with weapons. The only other notable detail was the stairs leading downwards.

 

Huh , he thought, seems like this is the armoury.

 

Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, he took a fair amount of kunai, shuriken, some wire, a wakizashi, and some other useful-looking stuff. You never knew when such tools would come in handy. Only afterwards he started to slowly descend downstairs, always moving cautiously but swiftly. He was on a schedule, after all.

 

He needed to follow the stairs for around three minutes before finally seeing its end. He was just about to descend fully onto this new floor when he suddenly stood still.

 

There were voices.

 

“...new bunch didn't arrive yet...”

“...problems?”

“Nah,...Taro...never...”

“But...Kiri maybe...”

 

He could hear three different voices, two male and one female, which meant that there were at least three people. He had no way of knowing if there were more enemies who just didn't speak up yet because he, for some reason, couldn't feel the exact number of presences. He guessed that they must have done something to block the senses of invaders. He couldn't even dare to give a peak, because the corridor seemed, if he interpreted the echo of their voices correctly, to be straight. He would be spotted immediately.

 

He had only a few options he could take right now, and after short consideration he decided to take the easiest one.

 

He used a Henge (Transformation Technique) t o look like one of the guards from outside the building while simultaneity putting his sword, the wakizashi he had taken only a few minutes before, on his back. He also used a Genjutsu to hide the fact that it was there in the first place.

 

Disguise in place, right down to the same bored expression he had seen the man make before, he continued walking downstairs.

 

The people, which fortunately numbered only three, noticed him only a few seconds after he saw them, giving him the chance to determine their threat level.

 

There were two men and one woman, who also seemed to be the only Shinobi the enemies possessed in their group. Of course he couldn't be sure, you didn't need to wear standard Shinobi uniforms to be one and it was quite easy for experienced Shinobi to hide the typical signs that would give them away, but considering that they had no reason to hide their profession inside their base while surrounded by 'allies' he was pretty confident in his estimation.

 

“Shindo? What are you doing here? You know you can't skip your shift or you will be punished again.” the sole woman of the group said, sounding exasperated and annoyed. The way she shook her head, making her brown ponytail shake with her movement, and massaged her brows gave the impression that this wasn't the first time 'Shindo' skipped his duty and that she was used to it by now.

 

He didn't stop walking when he gave a weak smile in response, raising his right hand to scratch the back of his head. Only a few more steps...

 

“I know, I know. But there were this crazy crows, you know, who came down from the sky to...”

 

He didn't finish the sentence. As soon as he was in range he grabbed the handle of his sword with his right hand, the one he had put into position when he had started to 'scratch the back of his head', and slashed it downwards at the Kunoichi.

 

The woman hadn't even time to widen her eyes in surprise before she was dead.

 

Her two companions didn't immediately understand what was happening, and by the time their brains realized the danger they were in and gave the order to scream for help their throats were already cut, making it impossible for them to do so.

 

The entire thing had hardly lasted more than a second.

 

Itachi looked at the two men who were clothed like typical medical personal. He had some very good ideas about what their work here included and didn't like it at all. Even more so when he thought about how their patients were children.

 

Best case, they were there to treat the children after some too violent 'persuasive measures' were taken to make them their spies. Worst case, there were experiments conducted on them. This thought remembered him too much on Orochimaru for his liking.

 

He could see a door around 200 metres from his position. Continuing to walk through the corridor, he inspected his surrounding. He was pretty sure that this underground facility didn't exist when the base was first built and was, in fact, a recent addition. There were no other corridors that were leading away from this one, and neither were there any other rooms other than the one he could see at the end of the way.

 

Before long he had arrived at the door, standing in front of it and stretching his senses to feel if he could determine if and how many people were on the other side of it.

 

Closing his eyes he started counting, finishing at eight people in close proximity to the door. Stretching his senses even farther, he could feel another number of people farther back in the room. He couldn't say exactly how many there were, whatever they did to disturb the senses still hindering him, but by the sheer amount of them he guessed that these presences must belong to the missing children.

 

He felt a wave of relief flowing through his body, happy that he had chosen correctly when he decided that this must be the building that held them. He didn't think that there would be enough time to change his mind now and try to infiltrate another building before the attack started.

 

He opened the door and jumped into action, his Sharingan blazing. Instantly noting that five of the eight people wore clothes that identified them as medical personal he gave them the lower priority and attacked the other three Shinobi first.

 

The first enemy died by getting his throat cut before he managed to do more than reaching out for his weapon. The second one was faster and slashed at him with a sword, which was an attack he blocked with his wakizashi.

 

He jumped away from his spot to evade the third enemy's shuriken, all the while defending himself from the sword strikes from the person in front of him.

 

“How did a damn Uchiha get in here?” one of them exclaimed angrily.

 

“I don't- argh” his partner tried to answer, but stopped talking when one of Itachi's slashes hit his shoulder.

 

Momentary distracted, Itachi gave him a roundhouse kick to the face and moved to finish the job, but was stopped by the last enemy.

 

Getting some distance from both enemies he started making hand seals.

Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!” (Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique)

 

The Shinobi that just had saved his comrade had been in the process of forming hand seals of his own, probably to defend himself and his partner from the attack, but was left standing to gawk at the screaming bodies of the medical personal that had tried to flee the room and had been the true target of Itachi's attack.

 

“Damn you kid!” he screamed and rushed at him with new drive, ignoring his partners cries to stop.

 

Itachi waited until his enemy was nearly in front of him, with only 10 metres distance between them, to simultaneity use a low-level Genjutsu on him and throw his sword.

As he was technically a clone, his chakra reserves were more limited than that of his original self because he couldn't regenerate any chakra of his own. This meant that he couldn't risk wasting chakra by trying to use a Genjutsu on his enemies without being certain that it would bring him the kill.

 

Right now was such a situation.

 

Even if the man had the necessary chakra control, which was a likely possibility, he would be too enraged to concentrate enough to free himself fast enough to evade the sword that was flying at his head. And even if he somehow managed to break out of it before he died, the like-hood of also evade the sword too was somewhere around zero.

 

He didn't break free.

 

Two down, one left, he thought grimly, ignoring the smell to burned human flesh from the corner where the medical personal had died.

 

One second later he had to concentrate on not falling to the ground, as the earth began to shake and the sound of explosions could be heard from the distance. The attack had begun.

 

His attention snapped back to the last living enemy when he saw him forming hand seals from the corner of his eyes. Realising due to his Sharingan what technique the enemy was preparing he quickly decided for a plan and rushed in his direction.

 

Suiton: Mizu Kamikiri!” (Water Release: Rising Water Slicer)

 

A linear wave of water shot out of the man's mouth, but he didn't dodge. Instead, he let the attack hit his body, piercing him right through his head. Instantly the body dissolved into hundreds of crows, all of them flying in the Kiri-nin's direction. The man hadn't time to utter more than a single surprised “What-” before a half reformed Itachi pierced his head with a kunai of his own.

 

The entire fight hadn't even lasted two minutes.

 

He checked his reserves just to realize that he had hardly a sixth of his chakra left. It would be enough for the Genjutsu he had planned, but he doubted he could hold it for more than half an hour. That needed to be enough.

 

He went over to the corner where the children were locked up in the back of the room behind a row of metal bars. He counted them quickly and realized, that there were over 30 of them. Together with the children that were already doing spy work for the Mizukage all around the island, the number of children excelled the number of missing children at the orphanage by a large margin. This, at least, proved his suspicion that the Shinobi of this hideout also kidnapped children from elsewhere than the orphanage, probably from other spots at the coast of the Land of Wood  and  from diverse villages of the island.

 

“Don't worry,” he said while trying to sound as soothing as he could, “I'm here to help you. I will stay here until my friends come to help me get you out of this place.”

 

None of the children, who all cowered as far away from the bars as possible, answered.

 

He suppressed a sigh. It was logical that they didn't trust him after they had witnessed him kill the other people in the room. Even if these people were their captors. He would use a Genjutsu to let them fall asleep, but sadly he couldn't do this with his low reserves because it would just cut off from the time he could hold the illusion to hide all the children.

 

Apropos illusion...

 

He concentrated for a moment before making a few hand seals, creating an illusion that would make it look like the metal bars were destroyed and the children behind it gone. This wasn't an especially powerful illusion, but it would do. He doubted whoever would be sent to check on the kids would expect a Genjutsu hiding them instead of just assuming they were gone, so they would probably not even check for one. And even if they did it was still very likely that they weren't very capable in detecting Genjutsu, and certainly not one created by him, as every talented Shinobi was needed to defend their base.

 

Now he had only to maintain this technique until support arrived.

 

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

 

Around twenty minutes later, and a few kilometres away from the fighting, Itachi opened his eyes with a smile, having just received the memories of his dissolved clone. Looking up, he saw Anko and a clone of Mei Terumi standing beside him and looking down at him questioningly.

"The mission was a success." he said.

Chapter Text

Let's start this from the beginning

Genin days VII

"Thank you for your help," Mei said, "who knows if we would have been able to save all the children alive otherwise. Winning the battle, sure, but saving everybody?" She shook her head.

"There is no need to thank me," he replied, "saving the orphans was part of our mission anyway. It should be me who thanks you for allowing us to end this mission successfully."

"Now that we're already talking about the orphans," Anko chimed in, "what happened to them? Especially the children that weren't from the orphanage but from around this island."

Mei smiled. "We organized for all of them to be brought to the orphanage that you told us about, no matter if they were originally kidnapped from there or not. We have not enough resources to keep all of them under our protection, sadly, and the situation in this country will turn much more violent very soon. That's no place for children, especially not orphans." She made it a point not to look at him when she said that part, but Itachi ignored it.

"We also told all our people on this island about you, so you should have no problem reaching your destination. You only need to run west until you reach the coast, which you should be able to do in two or three hours, and then continue running over the water for another two to reach land once again."

Both of them nodded their thanks at that.

After a moment he started speaking again. "About what I asked you for..."

"We will try, but I can't give you more than a week. We can't spare even one man any longer."

"I see."

One week should be enough for his plan, so there was no need to worry.

"It was surprisingly nice meeting you, given your background and all," Mei said in good humour, "but our time is over now. I have important to fulfil, after all. But rest assured, I will not forget what you have done for us."

With that she vanished with a Shunshin.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

They were running for nearly two hours when Itachi finally decided to break the silence.

"Why are you in such a bad mood? Everything went well, didn't it?"

He had expected some sassy comment or even an annoyed glare, but she only gave him a glance from the corner of her eyes before returning her gaze forwards. "It's just... I was pretty useless, wasn't I?"

He blinked in surprise. "Why would you think that? Both of us would be dead if you hadn't killed-"

"I'm not talking about the mission in general!" she snapped. "After we stranded on this island I did nothing more than follow you around and accept your decisions. I haven't contributed anything noteworthy while we were here, but you somehow managed to get ourselves in the rebel's good grace. But I... I was useless!"

He hesitated. He could be truthful and risk hurting her feelings, or he could try to soothe her to cheer her up...

"You're right." he decided to to go the first option. "After we arrived on this island, where your fighting prowess didn't matter, you didn't contribute anything to our continued survival."

Anko didn't explode or anything, but she started clenching her fists.

"But," he continued, catching her attention, "that's not the case because you're useless or dumb. You just didn't think things through."

"What do you mean?" she demanded.

"You are an impulsive person who lets her emotions dictate her actions way too much. While you manage to stay calm and concentrated in battles, outside of it you loos your calm all the time. I do not doubt that you would be an amazing kunoichi, rather than just one with great potential like you're now if you had better control over your emotions."

Who knows? Maybe telling her the truth bluntly like that might be enough to make her actually think about it and improve herself.

Anko hadn't time to answer, though, as both of them felt a presence closely in front of them. It didn't feel like a Shinobi or even like an adult, but more like...

"A child!" Anko hissed out what he was thinking.

Silently agreeing on a plan of action, both of them closed on to the position from where they could feel the child's presence.

A second later they were crouching on a tree branch, only a few metres above from where they had sensed the child, looking down on it.

It was seemingly a girl that couldn't be older than four or five, wearing tattered and dirty clothes. It was obvious on the first glance that she was too thin, a sure sign that she lived on the streets on her own for some time now and had problems in finding enough food.

Nodding to each other, he and Anko appeared a few metres away from the spot under the tree where the girl was sitting and walked in her direction. There was no reason to scare her by just appearing in front of her out of nowhere, after all.

She didn't notice them until they were basically right in front of her, but instead of reacting startled or scared she only looked at them for a moment before giving them a serene smile.

"Hey," Anko said softly, crouching down in front of her do be on her eye level, "are you alright? You're not hurt or anything, are you?"

She shook her head but didn't speak up.

He hated to see children like that. They were innocent and didn't deserve to live like this. Children were supposed to live peaceful lives, with enough to eat, with friends to play with, and a home with loving parents they could return to in the evening after running around with said friends all day.

Putting a friendly expression on his face he crouched down to be on eye level with her. "My name is Itachi, and that" -he pointed at his teammate- "is Anko. What's your name?"

She frowned at him for a moment, as if puzzled that he would ask her for something like that, before her smile returned. "I'm Haku. Nice to meet you, Itachi-nii, Anko-nee." Afterwards she held out her hand, inviting him to shake it.

He hesitated for only a moment, too brief for her to notice, in which he considered if this was a trap and if she could be a threat before he decided that this was not the case. Also, it wasn't as if she could hide any weapons in her sleeves as her top didn't even have sleeves.

"Are you two Shinobi?" Haku asked once he had shaken her hand, tilting her head to the side in askance.

He and Anko shared a short glance before Anko. "Well," Anko drawled, giving a credible imitation of being amused when in truth both of them tensed up the moment the little girl recognized them for what they were, "aren't you a clever one? What gave us away?"

"Your eyes. They saw death, didn't they? Just as mine."

He intentional didn't react to that.

The girl must be pretty attentive to notice something like that. Of course, neither Anko nor him had really tried to hide their profession, seeing that their non-existent equip and commoner clothes would be enough, but to instantly recognize them was still impressive.

It was also important to note that even the most talented actors often forget to show real emotions with their eyes while they act. This was also one of the most common mistakes Genin made in the beginning that needed to be corrected by their instructors before they could be sent on undercover missions. The only reason that Haku could see something in their eyes was that they hadn't bothered with an innocent expression.

"Ohh~? So you could see right through us? Impressive!" Anko said with a grin.

Haku reacted to that praise with not more than a simple nod before asking something again: "Are you from Kirigakure?"

"No," he said, seeing no reason to lie about that, "we're from Konoha. We came here by accident, and are now on our way home."

Her eyes got wide, marking this as the first time she had any sort of strong reaction since the start of their conversation. "Konoha? That's on the mainland, isn't it? You must be really strong then!"

He wasn't sure how she came to the conclusion that they were strong solely on the basis that they were from the mainland, but he still smiled and nodded in thanks.

"You bet we are, kid!" Anko exclaimed, and Itachi was pretty sure the pride in her eyes was real. She really liked it when people praised her skills, even if this person was just a homeless child, after all. Before she could say anything else though there was some sort of growling noise.

Itachi stretched out his senses, his first instinctive suspicion being that an animal had managed to sneak up on them, but less than a second later he calmed down again, recognizing the sound for what it was. He gave the now blushing girl an amused half-smile before he grabbed for his supplies and subsequently handling her some bread. "Here, you must be hungry."

She looked at the offered food, visibly unsure if she should accept it, before she finally took it and begun to wolf it down. It was probably not healthy to eat so fast, especially as she probably hadn't eaten so much in some time, but he let her do it anyway. He hadn't the heart to interrupt her right now. The moment she had finished it and looked up she saw more food, offered by Anko, and this time she didn't hesitate before grabbing it.

"Haku," he said softly once she finished eating, "you said your eyes saw death too. What did you mean with that?"

Of course he could make a reasonable guess. After all, bandits weren't an unusual sight in a country on the brink of war. It was also possible that some Kiri Shinobi, or even rebels, had some 'fun' in some random village and 'eliminated' the evidence afterwards. He wasn't knowledgeable enough about these lands to know for sure, but if some clan with a Kekkei Genkai was located on this island she might even be a survivor of on of the Mizukage's purges.

The young girl looked at him indecisively. "If you're Shinobi you can do some tricks, can't you? Can you show me?"

He saw Anko furrowing her bows momentarily in wonder before she smoothed them again and gave the other girl another grin. "Sure! Give this a look!" she said, and then proceeded by walking up a tree. Needless to say, Haku was sufficiently impressed. While the tree climbing practice was some very standard technique for Shinobi it still looked quite amazing for civilians, which Haku seemed to be if her reaction was anything to go by. At least this ruled out the possibility of her being from some ninja clan, as she would be used to this sight otherwise.

"And you? Can you do something too?" Haku asked him now.

Deciding to do something simple he looked right into her eyes and activated his Sharingan. "These eyes are something that only my family have." he told the surprised girl. "It's called 'Sharingan'."

"A bloodline...?" Haku whispered to herself before she nodded resolutely. She held out her hands and stopped moving otherwise, only staring at her hands in concentration. She stayed like this for several minutes, and finally, when he already wondered how long she planned to stay like this, dozens over dozens of water drops seemed to be pulled from the area and formed a cone-shaped structure above her hands.

And then it froze.

Haku smiled. "I have one too."

Well, he thought, maybe I was wrong with her not being from a clan. She might not have grown up in a clan, but at the very least she descended from one.

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"Why do I need to carry her the entire time..." Anko grumbled to herself, but he heard her anyway.

"It would be physical more taxing for me, considering that I'm not much older and thus not much bigger than her." he answered her with a smile, making her glare at him.

"We're Shinobi! Use damn chakra to enhance yourself or something!" she exclaimed.

He didn't reply to that. "We shouldn't need much longer until we reach the coast, only about ten minutes. From there we should reach the orphanage in less than an hour."

They were currently running across the water. It was fortunate that the distance between the Land of Woods and the island they had landed on was quite short, less than an hour of running across the water for a Shinobi, and that the sea was relatively calm, as it would have been much more complicated to get home otherwise.

He shot a short glance at his companions and suppressed the anger he felt at the thought of Haku's fate, just as he had when she told them her story. He had a personal history with a person -him- killing his own family, so a father murdering his wife and trying to kill his child hit home closer than he would have liked. Shortly afterwards Anko and he had decided to take her with them to bring her to the orphanage where their mission had started. Making sure that the young girl had a better future was the least thing they could do, especially when it wasn't even a bother in the first place.

Haku herself seemed to enjoy the experience. He guessed being carried over the open sea was quite a spectacle for a little girl.

He sighed.

He wished he could enjoy himself as easy as that as well, but his mind was plagued by too many things right now to even think about relaxing. Just thinking about how he would need to explain his decisions to the Hokage was exhausting him, and if he thought what his family must be thinking right now it gave him the creeps. He did not doubt that his sensei had followed the standard protocol and, after not finding either him or Anko after half a days worth of searching, had returned to Konoha in all haste to inform the Hokage so that he can send a professional search team for them. In view of the dim likelihood of two fresh Genin surviving such an experience, his family must assume he was dead!

Of course it was theoretically possible that his sensei and Yukio had been killed by the enemy Shinobi, but considering that he and Anko had fought the only high-level enemy he doubted that this was the case.

At least he could look forward to seeing Sasuke again.

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"How did that happen?" Anko asked angrily. "We were told this orphanage was under your protection! You shouldn't have let this happen!"

The Shinobi she was talking to, one of the rebels responsible for bringing the children that were rescued earlier to the orphanage, was visibly not amused being talked to like that by a child but didn't reacted in anger. Itachi guessed by the look of guilt in his eyes that he agreed with her, even if he didn't like being spoken to like that.

"The building was already burned to the ground when we arrived, there was nothing we could have done. Believe me kid, I wish we could have arrived earlier to intervene, but no power in the world allows you to change the past" -Itachi felt like the gods were laughing at him right now- "and it's better to accept the situation as what it is instead of crying about how unfair your life is. We should be grateful that there are as many survivors as there are. If it hadn't been for the caretaker who noticed the fire even more children would be dead."

Itachi nodded. He might not like it, but he agreed with the sentiment. "What happens to the survivors now?" he asked.

The man turned his eyes upon him. "Some of my men are currently scouring the area to find a place where we can build a new orphanage. We're not many, our leaders needing most men for the rebellion, especially now that the fighting starts for real, but we will use the limited time we have to help the kids as much as we can. The villagers of a nearby village already agreed to help with the rebuilding efforts as well, and even want to support the survivors with food and water. I think a few might even adopt a child or two. Still, it will not be easy for them to go through the next winter, even with the villagers helping them..." The man sighed. "I guess all we can do is to hope for the best

He saw honest determination and no deception in the man's eyes, so he was willing to believe him.

Anko turned to look at him once they had given their farewell to the man. "If food is as rare as he claims every additional mouth to feed will cause problems," she said. "and it will also reduce the probability of survival of every child as there will be even less food for each individual."

"Anko," he tried to interrupt her half-heartedly, "what do you-"

"Konoha has an orphanage as well," she went on unperturbed, "so we will bring Haku with us and take her there."

He didn't argue.

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He, Anko, and an oddly happy Haku had travelled for roughly a day when they were found by one of Konoha's search teams, and it was honestly a relief. At this point he just wanted to return home and see Sasuke, as well as the rest of his family, again.

He hadn't argued when Anko told him they would take Haku with them, and he didn't regret this decision. She had been right, after all, when she said every additional mouth to feed would cause problems for everyone else. He didn't want to be responsible for another child's death if he could prevent it.

Still, taking a civilian child, and that's what Haku was no matter her heritage, slowed you down considerably. So when the team finally found him his first thought was about how much faster they would reach Konoha now that one of the adults could carry her.

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"It's a relief to see both of you alive and well." was the first thing the Sandaime said after they finished speaking. "We feared the worst when Tanaka and Yukio returned without you."

Both of them were currently standing in front of the Hokage's desk in silence, having just finished a summarized report of the events that had happened after they were separated from the rest of their team.

"I expect a written report from both of you, but taking into consideration that this was the first time for both of you to went missing in enemy territory and since there doesn't seem to be anything that demands immediate actions you will have time all day tomorrow to handle it in. Take today to rest and recover."

Accepting the obvious dismissal as what it was, both of them left the room.

[][][]

A figure stepped out of the shadows of one of the corners in the room just a second after the door was closed.

"So, Itachi, do you care to elaborate as of why you offered this Mei Terumi the possible aid of Konoha for their rebellion against their own kage?" the Sandaime demanded to know.

Itachi had created and hid a Kage Bunshin the moment he had stepped inside the office and noticing the missing presence of any ANBU guards, knowing that there would be an in-deep discussion about his decision during the mission.

"Mei Terumi will become the Godaime Mizukage at some point in a few years. She was chosen for her contribution during the rebellion against the Yondaime Mizukage, being considered one of the main reasons for their success, as well as her outstanding prowess in battle. I made the decisions I did because I think an alliance with her, and through her with Kirigakure, would conform with our long-term plans regarding the village's future."

The old man looked at him and took the time to puff on his pipe before he finally answered. "You will explain to me every single detail; everything you know about Mei Terumi, the people she surrounds herself with, her leadership style, about Kirigakure and the Land of Water after the end of the rebellion, and whatever else you think is important for me to know to make a decision. You will explain to me why exactly you think allying with her would benefit Konoha and why you think these benefits outweigh possible downsides, and finally, you will explain to me how you imagine I should handle this situation and what decisions I should make. Then, after you finished, I will decide what to do."

That will be a long day, Itachi thought.

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Itachi was relatively sure in his ability to look through whatever mask his mother pulled over her face, always able to see her true thoughts and emotions even if she tried to hide them. When he arrived home though, she didn't even try to hide her relief and took him into her arms.

If he were forced to guess he would say that, considering he saw no surprise in her expression, someone already informed his parents about his return.

"I'm so glad you're alright, Itachi. When your sensei returned without you we thought," -she paused for a moment to swallow- "we thought something might have happened to you."

She didn't cry, as she would never allow herself so cry in front of either him or Sasuke, but it was definitively a close thing.

"Don't worry, Okaa-san. Anko and I just got a little lost, nothing serious happened."

At least if you thought about helping rebels in their attempt to overthrow their legal kage as 'nothing serious', that is.

"You must have strayed far off course to arrive so late." another voice answered, and he didn't even need to turn around to know that it was his father. He just wanted to gently release himself from his mother's embrace when he got surprised by his father joining them instead.

"Try not to get lost again, do you hear me? It's not a pleasant feeling not to know if your son is still alive or not, and I would prefer not to feel it again."

Now it was his turn to swallow. He could remember a few times in his early youth where his father hugged him, but it happened less and less over time until it finally stopped.

"I will try, Otou-san."

This was the best he had to offer. Both his parents were Jōnin in their own right, so they knew what the world of Shinobi was like. All he could do was to try his hardest to stay alive.

They stayed like this for only a minute or two before they were interrupted.

"Nii-san?"

Hearing the voice he finally released himself from the embrace to turn around and find his brother standing in the doorway, rubbing his eyes with one hand while holding his plush toy in the other. In addition to that, he was also wearing his pyjamas, making it even more obvious that he just got out of bed.

He couldn't quite suppress the giddy feeling inside his chest at seeing his brother. He had gotten used to seeing Sasuke every day since he woke up in the past, and even a few days without that felt like an eternity. He knew he would get only busier from now, and that he needed to get used to this again, but this knowledge didn't help him right now.

He crouched down and gave his little brother a big, honest smile. "Hello Otouto, I'm home."

Sasuke didn't need any more encouragement than him spreading out his arms to jump into his embrace.

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He wasn't comfortable with how close he had come to dying on this mission.

Sure, he could have used his Mangekyo to kill Taro, but if he needed to depend on this to survive every time he encounters a dangerous foe he would be blind before he turned ten. No, he needed to improve himself, and he needed to do it fast. Sadly there wasn't any real shortcut he could take to get stronger even faster. In fact, he was already cheating thanks to his memories of the future.

Still, he needed to make sure that he wouldn't die.

He didn't want to leave his loved ones behind, not now that he was given a second chance. And there was still so much to do for him, things he needed to do to stop Akatsuki and its true leader. There was only one thing he could do for now besides training himself to get stronger; that one thing was what lead him to where he was right now, standing in front of the big building in the middle of the night after he had sneaked out of the house after everyone had gone to sleep.

With determined steps he entered the Naka Shrine.