Chapter Twenty Two ~ Don't Die

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I blinked once, then scanned my surroundings. Kakashi was kneeling on the ground, about ten yards in front of me. The old woman had placed her hand on my shoulder—I forced myself not to flinch away—and Sakura stood next to a wide-eyed Naruto.

Naruto and I had been trapped in a genjutsu. Chiyo had forced me out of the genjutsu while Sakura had helped Naruto. Kakashi had attacked to provide a distraction.

And Itachi Uchiha stood in front of us.


Although I was the only one who knew that part.

"What about the shadow clones?" Naruto asked stupidly. I ignored him, studying Itachi as well as I could without looking him in the eye. Something wasn't right. I didn't understand Itachi Uchiha or the stories behind him. And I hated not knowing. Knowledge was power. And Itachi Uchiha was an enigma.

"Alright. It's time to get serious," Kakashi announced. "Naruto. Follow my lead."

I raised my eyebrow, slightly stunned. He hadn't included me. Was it because I was so spectacularly useless against genjutsu? Most likely.

Against Itachi, though, it didn't matter if you were good or not: he was better. Naruto was still staring ahead, eyes wide and shocked. I wondered vaguely what he saw that caused him to look like that. Then I wonder if I looked the same.

I felt shocked and confused enough that I might.

Sakura slapped Naruto lightly. "Snap out of it, Naruto," she ordered, then turned to me, prepared to do the same.

"You lay a hand on me and I will break your wrist," I warned emotionlessly. After that genjutsu, I just might, too. My hand twitched once, and I realized just how much I felt like a Claw, and how little. Claws weren't meant to have emotions, and right now I was on edge. Claws weren't meant to show mercy, and right now I wouldn't, couldn't; I was feral, brutal. I could kill someone and not even blink. I was a Claw, yet I wasn't.

Maybe that's why Kakashi hadn't included me.

Kakashi sprinted forward, immediately dodging a barrage of fireballs from Itachi. We were forced to dodge as he sent another large one towards us. I watched Kakashi as he got in position, and Naruto as he prepared a rasengan. A good plan, but I instinctively knew that it wouldn't work: Itachi was too good. I could never hope to beat him in a one on one battle. I'm not even sure I could beat him even if we were restricted to taijutsu only.

Though I do know I could put up a hell of a fight where taijutsu was concerned.

I had to bite down an ironic laugh as I realized what I was once below average in—taijutsu—was now one of my best areas. And I knew that it made me a terrifying opponent. My taijutsu skills were impressive, but not so strong that I would be impossible to defeat. It was when you added my ability to read people and predict their next move that I became a truly fearsome enemy.

Kakashi attacked with a chidorii, while Naruto appeared above Itachi with his rasengan at the ready. Sakura, Chiyo, and I were forced to take shelter behind the trees as debris flew everywhere. "Did they get him?" Chiyo asked breathlessly.

Sakura peeked out from behind a tree. "Naruto!" She shouted.

I winced and immediately moved to new cover; Sakura had given away our position with her cry. With a quick glance around the tree I sprinted to a different clump of trees and clambered my way to the top quickly, then fell completely still, clamping down on my chakra. I had the perfect vantage point from my position, and could see that Naruto had hidden behind some trees as well while Itachi had managed to dodge the attacks.

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