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Akatsuki and the Quest for Erebor

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Chapter One
'Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall'

They met as flickering apparitions, ghosts imposed in glittering raindrops over the dreary dampness of Amegakure. Pein-sama was the first to speak his piece, detailing a mission that would necessitate a troubling allocation of time and talent to accomplish, but for the possibility of great reward that could be leveraged toward their ultimate goals. When he fell silent, those present knew well enough to assume that he would observe the following proceedings in silence, confident that his will would be done.

There was a taste of doubt and censure that did not usually hang in the air when missions were discussed. It was the oldest among them who broke the quiet.

“If this erebor,” Kakuzu pronounced distastefully, “is as wealthy as implied, our coffers would benefit from accepting this mission.”

Akatsuki as a whole was politely silent.

Hidan made a disbelieving sound and couldn’t entirely be blamed. “It’s in the middle of ass-fucking nowhere,” he stressed. “We have no finger-fucking intelligence about the place other than what this dick-pump provided us with as lube to gently screw us with.”

There was a moment while everyone present uncomfortably sorted through that assessment. It was surprisingly insightful.

“I concur with Hidan-san,” Itachi offered. “The risk of such a venture is likely not worth the potential for gain.” Not to mention it would take him distressingly far from Sasuke-kun, who would hopefully be mounting a rousing murder attempt any day now.

Deidara instantly gained a mutinous expression that implied he would be willing to single-handedly spearhead the debate for the Monkey-Man’s requested mission overseas, now that Itachi had spoken mildly against it.

Hidan threw his head back and tossed out a ‘Ha!’ that really wasn’t a laugh so much as it was a means to gain the group’s attention. “I didn’t say that.” He blew silky bangs off of his face. “I bet heathens there die just like the ones here.” His eyes sparkled, lit with an internal religious spark that would have been much more poetic if it hadn’t been a literal manifestation of a mad god.

Pein blinked. He did not turn to look at Konan. He did not need to.

“We will be accepting this mission,” she spoke for her god, serenely unaffected as always. “We have determined that the possibility to achieve our financial goals is worth the risk.”

Itachi’s lips itched to press into a line with the uncharitable thought that of course she thought so, when the only thing risked would be the lives of people like Hidan and Kakuzu. It wasn’t as though she would be-

“I will be accompanying two of you to represent our organization.”

He accepted the correction to his worldview with his typical aplomb. That is to say that Itachi noted he had been mistaken, attributed it to his own low qualities, and did not for a moment give thought to re-considering his course of action or underlying assumptions. Itachi looked around the open air, cataloging each flickering figure as a possible candidate.

“Kakuzu-san, Hidan-san, thank you for your willingness to embark on this mission,” Konan said diplomatically. “However, it has been determined that your team may not serve as the optimal diplomatic liaison for first contact with this company of duwaruves.”

Meaning of course that they could not be trusted to refrain from murder of important persons. A sound assessment, to Itachi’s mind. That, unfortunately, led him to wonder who in Akatsuki could be trusted to withhold when the temptation to murder arose. It was a distressingly short list. Certainly not Sasori-san. Or Deidara-san, and most definitely not the eternally, demonically hungry Zetsu-san, and-

“These duwaruves do not know our ways or names. Relations will be difficult. It is my hope that they might find Itachi-san’s youth and manners approachable and endearing,” Konan-san informed, tones crisp and cool. “In contrast, Kisame-san should provide a reminder of Akatsuki’s might that Itachi-san and myself fail to convey.”

“So… The bastard’s there to be a pretty face putting them at ease?” Deidara-san asked, delight twisting his words even as he shot a grin across the room.

Itachi did not defend himself. It was unfortunately true that he would be expected to convey approachability while Kisame-san occupied the unenviable task of inspiring fear.

“Makes sense. He is by far the prettiest face we have,” Kisame said mildly. The ex-Mist shinobi rolled his neck, unaffected by the hooting laughter that Hidan-san immediately loosed. Kisame-san was a loyal partner the likes of which Itachi had rarely been honored to work with. Few would have spoken up in his defense, however flippantly. Those words had been dangerous. Deidara’s sudden glower and cry of “Bullshit!” was an obvious outcome as he suddenly cared about his status as 'prettier than Itachi', if not 'prettiest in all the land', but the true danger was in the way that Konan’s eyes had tightened ever so slightly. Hopefully the fallout of those loyal but hasty words would be visited upon their enemies, and not Kisame-san or himself.

"As you say, Konan-sama," Itachi said in lieu of acknowledging the tenseness that Kisame-san had introduced. "I look forward to joining this company on their mission of reclamation."

She inclined her head to him, appearing not as a woman of flesh and blood but as a princess of spirits offering acknowledgement to an unworthy mortal. "I am sure you do."

That was all she said.