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Itachi was in shock. He couldn't believe what his father and his clan were asking him to do.
"Now we have a pipeline connecting our clan to the center of the village. Itachi! The information and advantage you bring us are the key to our clan's future. Don't forget that." Every clan member was looking at him. Their eyes red and the Sharingan blazing in the dark.
The memories of that meeting vanished from the forefront of his mind and were replaced with his meeting with Danzo shortly after joining Anbu.
"So you're part of Team Ro huh. With team leader Kakashi Hatake." Danzo mused as he looked over the papers.
"He is a powerful ninja… Do you know what the most important aspect of an Anbu is?" The root commander asked Itachi. Before even waiting for Itachi’s reply he answered.
"It's darkness. The darkness of the heart. Without it you won't survive being Anbu… And when I look at you… I can tell. You have plenty of darkness inside you." Itachi just remained silent as he listened to those words.
Itachi's mind went through the several missions he undertook as an Anbu. Some were assassination missions while others were simple like guarding the Hokage. But there was one mission he wasn't prepared for and it took him by shock. He remembered that day so clearly.
In the basement of the Anbu building several monitors were fixed together. All the screens with pictures of the Uchiha clan compound.
Kakashi stood besides him. "The nine tails attack on our village. The officials suspect an Uchiha involvement. They didn't just isolate the clan compound to the edge of the village. They've decided to monitor the movements of the Uchiha at all times."
Itachi stood still as he watched his Anbu comrades controlling the screens with various buttons.
'There's no way I can tell the clan about this. If they found out that they were being monitored every second of the day it would amplify their rage and it would be the tipping point.'
"Now that you're Anbu, this will be one of your tasks." Kakashi's voice reached his ears.
"You're ordering me to spy on my clan?"
Hearing Itachi's question an Anbu member watching the monitor answered. "A mission is a mission. Your clan summoned the nine tails. So they are now under investigation. Accept it, newbie."
He could never forget that day. 'It was difficult but I did it. And that was also when I found out the existence of the masked man. Ever since he killed Tenma I've tried to find out who he is. I met with all the men in the clan and no one had his chakra aura or voice. I also became sure that there was no one in the clan who could control space time Ninjutsu like that. So I concluded that this masked man was an outsider. An Uchiha who has left the clan… And I was right.'
Itachi investigated the identity of the masked man through several means. He concluded that it was an Uchiha and not someone who stole a Sharingan. After going through several theories and discarding the least likely, he had a suspect in mind. Itachi went through several documents in the archives to confirm his suspicion.
'None of these records verify the death of Madara Uchiha. It only says he died in battle with the first Hokage but there is no other proof. Not the body or the Sharingan was brought back… there's nothing… That masked ninja. I've never encountered a ninja with such an overwhelming chakra and presence… Is it possible… Is he…?’
He kept his suspicion to himself. Weeks passed with his time in the Anbu. It was during this time that Danzo had called him and asked him to report on the clan meetings.
"I need you to report to me the details of the clan meetings. If things progress as they have then there will be chaos for everyone."
Itachi hated it but he agreed with the man. So from that day he started reporting the on-goings of the meetings to Danzo.
Soon after that the day came when Fugaku was discussing the various strategies to be used for the coup.
"We need to make a detailed list of all the people ready to participate in the plan. Our assassination and attack targets and the invasion routes must be precise. If any of you have any thoughts feel free to speak your mind." Fugaku stopped as he looked at everyone.
Itachi protested against the radical methods at the meeting and this earned him the ire of several members. Mainly Yashiro, Inabi and Tekka.
"Who's side are you on Itachi? Who's your Ally? The village or the clan?"
Itachi looked at everyone present and answered. "Isn't it obvious? I'm Itachi of the Uchiha clan."
Itachi recalled Yashiro's angry roar in the Naka shrine meeting. 'They didn't believe me. It wasn't long before they made their move. And they used my friend to do their dirty work.'
The three tasked Shisui to spy on Itachi.
It was midnight. Shisui had asked him to come to the cliff. During his time in Anbu, Itachi had memorized the position and angles of the cameras watching them. He devised a path that allowed him to move without being caught on the cameras. Itachi reached the location in a short while.
"Forgive me for making you wait."
"Don't worry. I just got here too." Shisui said with a small smile.
Seeing his friend's face, Itachi became concerned. "What's wrong, Shisui?"
"There's something I have to tell you… The clan suspects you of being a traitor."
"I know. I already figured."
"That's not all… They've ordered me to monitor your actions and movements."
"What?" Itachi was shocked at the notion. 'I can't believe father would…'
"It wasn't Lord Fugaku." Shisui answered as if reading Itachi's mind. "It was the three officials from the military police. Yashiro, Tekka and Inabi."
"Don't worry. I'll make something up and report to them. You can relax." Itachi trusted his friend's words. Both of them stood in silence for a few seconds.
"If tomorrow's meeting goes as planned then we won't be able to stop the coup." Shisui said to him.
"So what do we do?"
"I have a plan. I'm going to use my Mangekyō Sharingan on Lord Fugaku and trap him in my Genjutsu."
Itachi remembered the plan. He would be absent from the meeting and Shisui would use his powerful Genjutsu on his father and stop the plan. Shisui described the power of his Mangekyō Sharingan and Itachi believed it would work. So he trusted in his friend and waited for the day.
'I had an argument with father the night before the meeting. I was adamant that I wouldn't attend and he was furious. It was then that Sasuke woke up and came near the room… I used him as a shield so father would drop the argument. That look in Sasuke’s eyes that night… Was it jealousy?'
'It doesn't matter now. By tomorrow the only emotions he would feel towards me are anger and hatred.'
Memories of him waiting on the cliff for Shisui came. He had many thoughts in mind at that time. 'What would we do once father was brought down? How would we proceed?' As he thought about what the future would bring him, he sensed the chakra of his friend appearing behind him. 'It's too early for him to be here!'
Itachi turned around and looked at his friend.
"Sorry Itachi. I failed." Blood ran down from Shisui's closed right eye. He slowly walked past Itachi and stood near the cliff.
"What happened to your eye?"
"Danzo… Danzo happened." Shisui turned to Itachi and looked with his single eye. "Itachi…” His friend looked weak. Like he had given up.
'No, don't say it. Please don't say it.' Itachi desperately pleaded in his heart. He didn't want to hear the words he knew his friend was going to say.
“It looks like there's no way to stop the coup. If the leaf starts fighting itself then… The other countries would take action and use the opportunity to attack us. It'll start another war."
Itachi stood petrified as he heard those words. Unaware of his friend's inner turmoil Shisui continued.
"Just when I was about to use Kotoamatsukami and stop the coup Danzo interfered. He stole my right eye. He doesn't trust me. Danzo intends to protect the village his way, no matter what he has to do."
As he heard those words Itachi felt a chill run down his spine. 'A man embodied in darkness.'
"He's after my left eye. Before he gets it, I'll leave it in your hands."
His friend took out his eye and gave it to him.
"You're my best friend. You're the only one I trust with this mission. Protect the village… and the Uchiha name. I'm counting on you… Itachi."
Those were his last words before he jumped into the river.
Itachi opened his eyes and looked at the slowly setting sun. His three tomoe sharingan spinning and forming into a pinwheel. 'I failed you. I couldn't stop them…'
Itachi thought about the rest of the events that took place. Shisui's death temporarily halted the coup d'etat plans. The clan was banking on Shisui's strength to take out difficult targets including the hokage. And with his death they had to stall and recalculate their battle plan.
Itachi then thought about Sasuke. He didn't speak with his brother often those days. Even now, his interactions with his brother were far less than he’d like. But he did see him train. Train much harder and longer than before.
'It came as a surprise to me that there was someone who was strong enough to beat Sasuke and take first place. But it seems that motivated Sasuke to train harder and get stronger.'
Itachi remembered the confrontation that took place with the three clan members during that time. When Yashiro, Inabi and Tekka accused him of being a traitor and killing his friend, Itachi lost his cool. He thoroughly destroyed them within seconds with minimal effort. He only stopped because of his little brother's scream.
'If it wasn't for Sasuke's sake I would have killed them then and there… I can't believe Shisui sacrificed his life for people like them. He worked tirelessly to find a way to save them till the end… And yet… Everyone still decided to go down the path of destruction… This clan… it isn't worth saving.'
Itachi confronted Danzo a few days after Shisui's death.
"Why did you kill Shisui?"
"So you did know… He told you, didn't he." Danzo was calm as he answered the question.
"We had a plan. He was going to stop the coup. It would have brought peace within the village."
"Do you really believe that would have stopped the coup. You and I both know that Fugaku is just a figurehead. Replace him and another will take his place. Shisui wasn't willing to listen to my plan."
"That's why you killed him?"
Hearing that blunt uncaring answer, killing intent burst forth from him. Itachi held a kunai and lunged for Danzo's throat. A root Anbu got in his way and shielded his master. The kunai lodged in the agent's forearm.
Unfazed by the actions of Itachi, Danzo continued to speak. "You already realized it, haven't you?"
"Shut the hell up." Itachi roared at the man.
"How can we protect the village if we're not willing to do what needs to be done?"
"I said shut up." Itachi struggled against the root Anbu and slowly pushed the kunai forward.
"This is what's going to happen if you kill me. When I'm gone, the only thing holding the Uchiha clan back will be gone and they will act unrestrained. And not to mention, the moment you kill me, a village official, you will be branded a criminal and traitor. Even if you somehow make it out of this house alive, my men will pursue you till your death. You won't be able to stay in the village. So when the clan launches the coup you can only watch from the outside as the village slaughters the Uchiha without mercy… This is what's going to happen if you take my life here. So go ahead if you wish to go down this foolish path… Kill me and avenge Shisui."
Danzo had no intention of dying. It was a clear provocation. Itachi knew that. He also knew that killing Danzo won't solve anything. In fact, if he went through with it the situation would only become much worse.
Itachi gritted his teeth and put his kunai back in his pouch. His ambition was bigger than his desire for vengeance.
Itachi sighed thinking about the days after that incident.
'More than a year has passed since that incident. But nothing changed. The Hokage didn't find a solution during that time and the clan kept their heads down and simply waited for another opportunity. The time Shisui bought with his death was for nothing. And now after revising their plans the clan has set a date. In Ten days they would launch the coup. That was nine days ago.'
Itachi then thought about the choice Danzo presented him.
"When push comes to shove Hiruzen will take action. That's the kind of man he is. As the Hokage, his priority will be the village." Danzo said to Itachi as they stood in front of the foundation building.
Itachi recalled Danzo's veiled threat against Sasuke and the outcome of the coup if it was launched. He recalled the choice he was given by the man.
"I want you to choose. Will you side with the Uchiha, launch the coup and be destroyed with your clan? Or will you stand with the leaf and help us eliminate the Uchiha before the coup and save your brother's life… Whatever we do we must do it quickly, for the sake of the village. This mission can only be given to a double agent for both the Uchiha clan and the leaf village. Only you can do it… Itachi…"
Itachi closed his eyes and let out a small breath. He turned around and walked away without saying a word. He soon reached the cliff where he promised Shisui. Tears started falling from his eyes. He cried for a long time. His tears never stopping.
"This is the only way." Itachi told himself.
He tracked down the masked man and confronted him.
"Well then, this is simpler. You know who I am. Then you should know that I harbor hatred for both the leaf and the Uchiha clan." The masked ninja said.
"Let's make a deal. I'll help you kill the clan but in exchange you'll leave the village alone and Sasuke Uchiha. Those are my conditions."
Itachi thought about why the man would agree to him. 'He must have seen my talents and skills. It's why he's agreed to side with me and made that deal. The end of the clan for Sasuke’s life and the village. And then my talents and skills, put to use in his organization.'
Itachi stared ahead and noticed that it was evening.
'The classes must have ended by now. But Danzo has made sure that Sasuke will be stalled in the Academy… It's time… This is the only path available to me.'
More than six hours had passed as he sat there immersed in his thoughts. Several alternative ideas came to his mind but he quickly discarded them. He knew none of them would work.
Itachi got up and took a deep breath. "Haah…"
'All the preparations have been made. Time to move.'
"Alright! I'm going." Those came out of Itachi's mouth as he turned around. Seemingly announced to an empty space. But it wasn’t empty.
Itachi made his decision. A decision he knew was born of failure.
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