Status: Check back on June 23rd 2014 for the second chapter!


04 - Message

Early November brought a chill to the mainland that the island of Kiawa never experienced. I wasn't used to the changing seasons, so I prepared for the colder weather when I left the island. My winter outfit contained metal fibers that I could conduct my electricity through to heat the fabric like an electric blanket, and I refused to wear that ugly cloak. The leader tried to get me to wear it, but he gave up after it "accidentally" caught on fire.

Reiki didn't know that I had returned to the shinobi business, though I did inform him that I had to go back to the mainland. I convinced him that the spy was sent from Kumo, and they had been sending information about me to a team on the mainland. He thought I had to go after them to stop them. At least that's what I told him. Every now and then I would send him a message with a fake update from a fake location to let him know that I hadn't died yet.

After a few months in the Akatsuki, I had the chance to work with each member of the organization except for the leader and his partner, Konan. They didn't trust me enough to let me accompany them. Out of the teams, I preferred working with Itachi and Kisame the best. They were the least annoying and they actually got along well with each other, unlike Kakuzu and Hidan, who wanted to kill each other. Kakuzu mentioned a couple times that he didn't understand why he couldn't just kill me for the bounty, and Hidan cursed much more than I did. Both Kakuzu and Hidan were unsettling to be around.

Then there were Deidara and Sasori. Sasori was alright by himself, kind of quiet. But, when he was with Deidara, they got on each other's last nerve, which got on my last nerve. Also, I'm a close-range fighter. Trying to fight with Deidara's long-range attacks either worked out really well or really bad. It depended on the mission. As for Zetsu and his masked subordinate called Tobi, they were just weird. Everyone in the organization was weird, but Zetsu and Tobi would've won the award for weirdest team in the Akatsuki if there were such a thing.

Not only did I work better with Kisame and Itachi, their mission success rate improved exponentially. Apparently before I came along, they hardly engaged in battle. Itachi would grow concerned that they would draw attention or he would exhaust his ocular abilities by using his Sharingan, so he would want to retreat before they could complete the mission. As I came to know more about their abilities, I was able to come up with strategies that could complete missions without drawing attention and conserve Itachi's power.

Spending time with the infamous Uchiha, I began thinking more and more about who he was and what he did. I could feel his intense power when we were together and it scared the shit out of me. I figured out real soon that I would easily lose to him if we ever had to face each other in a serious fight. But at the same time, I couldn't feel the hatred that he spoke of from time to time. And, I couldn't make sense as to how this man who analyzed everything almost as well as I did, and graciously refused fights, would kill his own family. The profile just didn't make sense. According to what I heard of the attack, a murder that brutal could have only been committed by someone who had a sloppy, insatiable thirst for blood, which the man I worked with did not seem to have. Not to mention, even with his abilities, there was no way a thirteen-year-old boy could take out an entire shinobi clan, especially not the Uchiha. On the contrary, I was quite comfortable around his calm disposition. However, out of my fear of his power, I stopped myself from thinking about it further. I just wanted to stay away from his bad side, which I fortunately never had the chance to see.

Also, despite our first meeting, I actually started getting along very well with Kisame. We both liked to talk more than Itachi, and had more of a sense of humor, even though his was more crooked than mine. We slightly bickered occasionally, though it wasn't hateful bickering. It was just the result of our boredom and a way to lighten our situation as Akatsuki members. We enjoyed each other's company when Itachi didn't talk, which was almost always after missions.

One evening, Itachi, Kisame, and I finally completed a long, tiring mission. We headed to the nearest village to find food and a place to stay. I was not very happy because the only way to get to the village from our direction was a pathway running up the side of a high mountain. But, it was the only village within walking distance and I preferred beds to rocks, so I sucked it up and continued up the cliff after Kisame and Itachi.

The climb was fairly quiet between the three of us, even between Kisame and me. In fact, Kisame was way ahead of Itachi and me because of his longer legs and larger muscles. He had to stop to wait for us to catch up to him. That's when I looked up to see something odd about the soil on the side of the mountain between him and Itachi. I could only yelp half of Itachi's name before an explosion knocked us both off the mountain at a dangerous height.

Itachi grabbed me at the moment of the explosion while I conducted my electricity into the long metal chain that I wore around my wrist, which allowed me to manipulate it. The end of the chain wrapped around the branch of a tall tree to make for something to grab onto. The sudden force caused Itachi to lose his grip on me, but I was able to catch him with my free hand. His heavier weight was too much for my arm, though, and he ended up pulling my shoulder out of place.

As soon as we were on the ground, a group of bounty hunters began attacking us. Even with my injured arm, defeating them took very little effort. Itachi and I both agreed to kill them afterwards. I also took the time to search for their money, smaller weapons, and any valuable items in their possession.

When I was finished, I tended to my shoulder, but my medical jutsu wasn't strong enough to heal it completely. Rather than coming to our aide, Kisame waited on us where he had originally stopped with a grin on his face. "Thanks for the help," I jabbed at him sarcastically. I didn't really blame him for not helping. He knew Itachi and I were perfectly capable of handling ourselves.

Finally, we arrived at a small inn in the village after sunset. Neither of my teammates were very trustworthy, but I figured Itachi was better suited for popping my shoulder back into place than Kisame. He would've had a good understanding of anatomy in Konoha's Anbu Black Ops. I explained to him how to use his weight to move my shoulder as I laid on one of the beds. He was about to push down on my shoulder when I warned him, "Now, I am going to cry. You probably don't care. Just please don't break my arm."

He didn't say anything. Kisame, however, observed closely, grinning like a child watching a tank full of fish. He found my situation much too amusing.

Before I knew it, Itachi let his weight drop onto my shoulder, moving it back into its rightful place. I let out a squealing cry as he did this, and my breathing became uneven in response to the pain and crying. Kisame let out a rough snicker. I whined, cursing at him through my teeth.

"Well, if you'd been more careful, you wouldn't be in this mess. It's your fault those bounty hunters attacked you, anyway." I shot a narrow-eyed glare at him that held almost as much power as Itachi's eyes. He continued smiling at me.

After I recovered from the pain, we decided to go out for dinner since none of us had a proper meal since before the mission began. It was Kisame's turn to chose where we ate, and he picked a fish house that had outdoor seating. His choice of food made up for his taunting. I believe one of the reasons we got along so well was because we had the same appetite despite our different sizes.

While we waited for our orders, a small bird startled me by landing on the table right by my arm. On closer inspection, it was a swallow carrying a little pouch on its back. Reiki must've had something very important to tell me. "What's that?" Kisame asked.

"What does it look like? It's a message," I answered in a snarky tone.

The message was shrunk to accommodate for the bird's size. By injecting a small amount of chakra into it, the paper grew to its original size. My brows furrowed at its content. "I'm going to have to back to Kiawa," I told the guys.

"What, is that man you worked for trying to contact you? Or maybe your sister?" Kisame and I were the only ones talking. Itachi simply listened to our conversation.

"Reiki is dead. There was an accident in one of the fields with the equipment." I rested my head on my fist and the swallow, still chirping, hopped onto my shoulder. "It doesn't make sense, though."

"Reiki is that guy you worked for, right? What doesn't make sense about it?"

"This was sent from a woman who worked for him. Her name was Kione. It doesn't make sense that she would be the one to inform me about his death. Itachi, you weren't spying on us that night during that typhoon, were you? A woman with dark brown skin in a light dress visited Reiki that night." I asked him with the hope that he might have seen or heard something useful that I didn't.

Itachi responded with, "Kisame and I were forced to retreat that night due to the storm. No one besides you and Reiki entered his home in my presence."

"Well, during that storm, this woman claimed to have business with Reiki, so she stayed with us that night. I was asleep when she first got there, but when the lightning woke me up, they were discussing something that I couldn't hear because of all the wind and rain. It seemed like they changed the subject when I entered the room. I think she was up to something that she didn't want me to know about."

"Why is it any of your business?" Kisame questioned.

"Because Reiki entrusted all of his businesses and wealth to me. I need to go back to the island to sell them and take my money."

"You don't think this this woman could be connected to your bounty?" Itachi joined the conversation.

"I don't know why she would be." But then I remembered that Kione compared my hair to my mother's. "Well, she knew my mother, but I don't know anything about their relationship."

Itachi became much more involved in our discussion at that point. "If she knew your mother, she might hate you for what you did to her and could want justice after Kumogakure failed to punish you for your crimes." In order to ensure my safety in the Akatsuki, I never corrected them about what really happened to my mother and those other shinobi. I let them think that I was the one who killed them and Mama.

"I feel like Mama would have talked about her if she was important," I argued. "She loved to gossip. Once she started talking about someone, you couldn't get her to shut up."

Itachi continued to support his theory, "That doesn't mean they didn't have a relationship a long time ago. Your mother was older, correct? Kione could have killed Reiki because he supported you despite what you did."

"It's possible. Or she could just want Reiki's money. I set a trap so that I'm the only one who can retrieve it. Besides, the native islanders don't like shinobi. If she wanted to kill me, I feel like she would do it herself or she would die trying. She wouldn't have issued a bounty to kill me." I didn't have much interest in whether Kione issued the bounty or not, even if she did kill Reiki. However, I was very concerned about her taking Reiki's money.

"She might be trying to kill you for the bounty. Either way, this is becoming a problem, Indira," Itachi calmly lectured me like a sensei. "If the wrong people comes after you, it could endanger the Akatsuki. You should be lucky they were not very skilled, or else you would have gotten much worse than a displaced shoulder. We haven't been given a lot of missions lately. You should try to resolve this while you can."

"I'd like to accompany her, Itachi," Kisame added. " I think we deserve a vacation for all of our hard work."

"I think so, too!" I exclaimed in response to Kisame mentioning a vacation. "We might even get there in time for the Amani festival."

Kisame asked, "What's the Amani festival? It sounds like fun."

"It's so much fun!" My mood perked up as I explained the festival to Kisame, "Basically, it's the celebration of a treaty that the native islanders and settlers from the mainland established. About a hundred years ago, the first mainlanders came to Kiawa after centuries of isolation. At first, there was a lot of conflict and fighting. Eventually they were able to settle their differences and work together to form a new village, which is Tomonoura today, and it's been peaceful ever since.

"We celebrate by dressing up and dancing. And, you can't sleep for four days until midnight on the fifth day. Apparently, if you go to sleep while you're celebrating, the evil spirits that caused the fighting can enter your dreams and give you nightmares. I don't dream because of the Babakoto, so I don't ever stay awake. But, a lot of tourists and islanders try to stay awake as long as they can and most bars stay open all night."

"We aren't going on a vacation," Itachi expressed like a parent would. "This is important. Don't get distracted."

"You're no fun," I whined. "I bet that's the real reason why you're so hateful. You don't know how to have a good time. You need to learn how to loosen up a little!"

"We can't afford to play around."

"It's not healthy to worry all the time. That's why I think everyone's so quick to kill each other! Nobody can get a break, so they break someone's neck. If everyone could find the time to relax every once and a while, the world would be a much better place." Itachi just sighed. He either had nothing to say, or he didn't want to waste his breath arguing with me.
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Check back on August 4th 2014 for the next chapter!