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What If?

Chapter Text

A gust of wind swept up through the woods, rustling the leaves around. Immediately Itachi's eyes slipped down towards the threads they had spun from tree to tree, making sure they were still set. He didn't need to check. His teammates had done a good job at setting the traps and they simply had to wait for their target to come along. Still his mind was restless. There was something about today that just didn't feel right. Ever since he had left home that morning it had been there, the feeling that something important was going to happen today. Folding his hand into a fist Itachi tried to squeeze it out and hopefully put his body at ease. This mission was important.

Together with two other ANBU Itachi had received the mission to keep an eye out on a carriage coming from Iwagakure. The leaf was expecting this carriage and a regular team of ninja would be waiting for them about a mile from here, but the relationship between the two villages was a difficult one. No mutual trust here like they had achieved with Sunagakure. They were send out merely as a team to check up on everything and make sure the carriage would not be a threat towards the village, but Itachi knew better than that. This is why they had spun the threads all along the path, attached to exploding tags. This carriage was not safe at all and would not be allowed to continue after this. The safety of the village was what was most important here.

Crouching down on the branch he was standing on Itachi let his Sharingan eyes slide through the forest. It was still silent, meaning Iwa was late. Itachi took this as highly suspicious and signalled to the other two to move forward slightly, defending the border they had set up.

The simple cat mask was still firmly in place to hide his features and the white cloak draped over his shoulders let everyone know he was the leader of this squad. Something he had achieved at a very young age, but now at 21 he was not sure if he wanted this job for long. It was not an easy one, but he held a certain responsibility and there still was nothing more important to him than the village. Konoha needed to be safe and this way he was right there on the front line, defending it with his life.

The female with the bear mask on the other side of the road shifted in her position, trying to make herself taller and see over the trees. Itachi would not even think her name while on a mission, even if he knew what it was. The risk would be too great if there were great ninja around who had ways to read their minds. Something as simple as a name could be used against you in horrid ways.

Silently the other male of the team landed down beside Itachi, him wearing a blue outlined bird mask, the beak sticking out as if the man had a really big nose. He was part of a big family in the leaf with abilities that were of good use for this mission. Itachi's eyes could only reach so far, but this man's bugs reached much further.

'They have just crossed the perimeter.' His voice sound dull due to the mask, unrecognisable, so no one in the village could guess it was him behind the mask.

Letting his Sharingan eyes slide through the forest once more he finally found the carriage, it speeding across the road as the two horses galloped forward, trying to make up for the delay they had suffered. There were only two people sitting on the carriage, the load they carried stacked in boxes in the back.

'Get in position,' Itachi murmured and the other ANBU disappeared again, hiding a few trees in front of Itachi.

The whole forest was once again silent, except for the bouldering sound of the horses galloping on, the boxes in the back almost crashing off by the sheer force they sped on. It was on odd sight to see it all from the way up here, hidden away behind a tree. They had their chakra masked, so they wouldn't be noticed by someone who could sense it, but there were always ways to find someone hiding out like this. So they were all prepared for a sudden attack, may it come.

The carriage had almost reached the threads and Itachi was waiting for the tags to finally explode. Then they would move in and see what exactly was in those boxes. But about ten feet before they had reached it, the man holding the reigns suddenly halted the horses and stopped right there. The horses were breathing heavily, exhaustion pulling at their leg muscles. Chewing on the metal in their mouths they curiously glanced around, not understanding why they had stopped here at all, but not minding it either. The two people on the carriage were just sitting there, silently.

The feeling off something being off struck Itachi again and he was about to signal at his team to move in and kill this moment instantly. Since they had stopped right in front of the spun threads it was safe to say they had known about this meet up. Or at least had been expecting it. Nothing could be this coincidental. Raising his arm he saw his teammates get in position to jump down, but then out of nowhere another person appeared, landing right between the threads they had spun across the road.

A dark brown cloak was hanging from his shoulders, hiding away his entire uniform, but spilling out of it came this long blond hair, part of it tied up in a ponytail on top of his head. The muddy brown mask was enough of a signal to tell Itachi where he was from. The Iwagakure emblem stamped onto it only confirmed Itachi's idea. An Iwagakure ANBU. Both villages had had the same idea about this meet up it seemed.

Slowly Itachi lowered his hand again, waiting for what would happen now. Leaning his arm against the bark of the tree he felt the metal of his protector digging into his skin, but he ignored it, keeping his red eyes completely focused on the person below.

Curiously the person was following every thread they had spun, finding every tag they had attached to it, easily scouting them all out. The blond hair whipped up when another gust of hair slid through the forest, the rustling of trees masking every sound one could make. Itachi tried to keep his cool and see this all from a rational point of view, but his heart kept on fluttering as he stared down at the male. This was what his body had been anticipating for. This strange turn of events. He knew immediately that he could not trust this man.

Minutes ticked on as the man reached down and touched one of the treads, mocking them for the work they had done down there. It felt like Itachi was being personally judged for this amateur work they had delivered. And then he saw the man's face slid up, following the line of a tree and look up at the woman in the bear mask on Itachi's left. Itachi's heart caught in his throat. The man knew she was there! They had to move in now!

The one in the bird mask in front of Itachi had the same idea and was about to move over to her, but just as casually as the Iwa ANBU had looked up, he was now looking away again, as if nothing was amiss at all. It was aggravating to see this. Simply jumping in could actually be dangerous since they had no idea what would be waiting for them down there. Maybe there were more ANBU around, but no matter how often Itachi looked around, sweeping his Sharingan eyes through the trees, he found no one. But just like they could, the ANBU from Iwagakure could hide their chakra levels as well and that was the danger of this. They hadn't seen this one coming either.

Crouching down the Iwa ANBU let a hand slide over the soil of the road, as if testing if it would not be triggered as well by something, but that would be more fitting for their ANBU. Earth was still their strongest element. So Itachi did not trust this movement either and he knew he had to come up with a plan soon, because the longer he waited, the closer they were getting to being ambushed.

Slowly the blond hair ninja stood back up straight and then glanced up at the sky, trying to find an answer in the clouds for what was happening here. The leaf ANBU in front of Itachi saw this as an opportunity to move towards the female on the other side and make sure she was safe, but as he jumped across the road, a sudden explosion went off as he was in mid-air, striking him full force in the chest.

Seeing the man tumble down towards the ground Itachi blamed himself for not coming with something sooner. Now they had to move though. No sudden attacks would come again and now Itachi was certain there were more people around. The ANBU below had hardly moved, so he couldn't have delivered that attack. Again he swept his eyes through the forest, but there was nothing. Gritting his teeth he took his resolve and knew it was time to put his eyes to some other use. Perhaps going in blind like that was not smart, but they had no other choice.

And right as Itachi was about to jump down and confront this Iwagakure ANBU, he noticed the masked man was now glancing straight at him. It might him stop dead in his tracks and stare right down at the man. The smirk cut into the muddy brown wood gave the man this eerie look, the mocking tone of before lingering right in those features. Then adding those bright blue eyes staring right up at him continued to gloat, because he knew he was one step ahead of them, knew he was in control in this very moment.

The slow raise of the man's hand signalled something was going to happen and the female to Itachi's left side was now shouting at him to move, to do something and command, but Itachi could not. This mocking look on the ANBU's face was holding him right into place and moving seemed impossible. It was as if he had been put under a genjutsu he could not break.

Two hands clasped together and the blond made a sign Itachi's was familiar with, though he did not know the outcome of that sign.

Far too late did he notice the small creature climbing up the tree, the small white critter easily sliding up the rough bark and moving towards the branch Itachi was currently standing on. The soft sound it made when it had finally reached its destination made Itachi finally turn his head and look down. There perched on his arm was a white spider, the holes where its eyes should be looking up at him as if it wanted to become friends. And then he heard the spoken words, knowing instantly it was too late to react.

'Katsu.'