Summery: Haku lay dead at his feet, killed by Naruto's own hand. Looking upon the face of a person he had respected, Naruto knew what being a true shinobi meant. But as the vessel of the Kyuubi was soon to find out, life was full of challenges, especially his. And killing Haku, would cause much to change from its original path.
Rating: PG-13, for swearing, fighting, ext.
Disclaimer: Last time looked at the cover of Naruto I saw the words 'Story & Art by Masashi Kishimoto.' Not Story and Art by SilverNinjaHikaru. Does that tell you something? Plus, I can't draw that well. So if there was a 'Naruto by SilverNinjaHikaru' it would have been a piece of fiction.
WARNING! SPOILER ALERT! WARNING! This story has some major spoilers from Chapter 30 in the Naruto Manga and around episode seven or eight in the Anime. Actually, it's a spoiler for the whole Wave Country arch. Then it will start to incorporate spoilers for the rest of the anime and Manga released in America, and the Manga released in Japan.
Shadow of Kyuubi
Chapter I (redone... again, Update 3! Date: 4-06-07 )
In all honesty, it was habit. Habit to keep the bandage like wrapping on the handle of the kunai. Why he and most other ninjas did it was for a simple reason, comfort. It was more comfortable for a ninja to hold onto the wrapped metal then the metal itself. Other then the bandage though, the entire kunai was metal. Blade, handle and the ring. All cold, unforgiving, cruel steel.
Naruto's azure eyes looked to the renegade hunter ninja in front of him. Haku was his name, the loyal servant of Zabuza, the Demon of the Mist. 'Please. Take my life,' Haku had just asked.
Zabuza was the enemy, Haku served him without question. As long as Haku was alive, Tazuna the bridge builder was in danger. Tazuna's protection was the mission Kakashi, Sasuke, Sakura and Naruto had set out on. Kakashi was fighting Zabuza, Sakura was protecting Tazuna, and Naruto was faced off with Haku now.
And Sasuke lay on the ground behind Naruto; Haku's needles sticking out of his body and neck. Naruto hadn't found a heartbeat when he had checked him.
Even though Haku was Sasuke's killer, it didn't make Naruto hate him. The demon carrier just couldn't. He was filled with many emotions though. Dread, about how to break the news to Sakura. Fear, what would happen to the team after the mission. Sadness, for Sasuke had been comrade. A mix of so many emotions. But not hate, not anger, he couldn't bring himself to feel those.
The thick mist didn't let Naruto see the end or beginning of the bridge, nor the sides. It blocked his view from seeing Sakura, Tazuna, Zabuza and Kakashi. But Naruto could see Haku in front of him. The boy, no older then Naruto or his fellow Genin, was just standing there. Arms hanging limply at his sides and the fight gone from his eyes and posture.
The only other thing Naruto could see was the body of Sasuke behind him, if he turned his head around to see over his shoulder. Naruto did. "He… Sasuke had a dream, too." Naruto said distractedly. Mind drifting.
Finally his gaze dropped to the kunai loosely grasped in his hand. The wrapping was white. A pure, innocent color. White was the color of purity and innocence. Unstained and untainted. But this color was never associated with ninja in Naruto's mind. Red, like that violent chakra that Naruto had just channeled, or black like Sasuke's eyes. But not white.
"If we'd met some other way, some place else," Naruto said. "You and me… we'd probably would've been friends." His fist clenched around the kunai. His eyes cut to Haku, and he lunged.
As his feet carried him towards the hunter ninja, he heard a quiet "Thank you."
Haku looked as his killer came towards him, the distance between them melting away. You're going to be very strong, he thought. Eyes unafraid as he looked upon the orange clad genin.
The mist was a thick, light grey. Depressing, in Sakura's mind, for she couldn't see how Sasuke was. "Huh…" Tazuna, the bridge builder she was guarding, said. "That super thick mist… its starting to dissipate…" Sakura looked up. Still holding the kunai in ready position as taught at the academy.
"I see two people." Sakura said. She couldn't actually see people, but she could see two people shape blurs. "But it looks like they're just standing there, glaring at each other…"
"It's hard to make out..." Tazuna started, pushing up his glasses. "Which one is your master, Kakashi?" Sakura looked harder. Her pale green eyes narrowing.
"OH!" She took a small step forward. "One of them's moving!"
Naruto ran forward. Eyes closed for he had no wish to see his own hands kill Haku.
'Always keep your eyes open' Iruka had often said in the Academy. 'Always keep your eyes open and on your target. It could mean the difference between life and death for you or a comrade, the success or failure of a mission. Always keep your eyes open.' That's what the teacher, and Naruto's favorite person, had said over and over so often that Naruto even heard it when he was asleep in class.
Naruto opened his eyes. The blue orbs locked on his target.
Both of his hands gripped onto the kunai. Naruto didn't know if it was he wanted to just get it over with or something else, but he moved even faster then he had ever before in his life. Part of his mind, the part that had been cultivated since the first insult was hurled at him as a child for being a 'monster' and a 'demon'- that cold, indifferent part- scoffed at the cliché way that sounded, though at this moment it was quite true. His eyes latched onto Haku's neck, so he wasn't able to see the look of dread that suddenly crossed Haku's face nor the shudder that ran though the ice mirror users body.
Before Haku could discern what it was that filled him with such fear, Naruto was already upon him.
Naruto had never killed before; he had never really paid much attention in his classes. So as he brought his kunai up to the taller Haku's neck, he knew it would be messy. It was that little bit of him that couldn't help but mention this little fact to himself, the little bit that was slightly heartless from the people of the village for years scorning him because of his lot in life.
When did he get so fast! Haku wondered as he briefly forgot that he sensed danger to Zabuza.
Naruto's hands shot forward. And as his kunai bit into Haku's neck, he understood what being a shinobi meant. For a brief second, he and Haku stood staring at one another. The grief in Naruto's eyes- the tears that were already gathering in his eyes- the shock in Haku's. All was at a stand still.
Then Naruto felt something warm drench his hands. Or more accurately, he became aware of the wet warmth that covered his hands and begun to soak into his sleeves. Haku collapsed, eyes sill opened wide with shock.
Looking at Haku's neck, Naruto found that his cut was long and deep. Cutting through the turtle necked outfit that Haku had worn.
The kunai was bloody, blade, handle, and even the ring. The purity of the wrapping stained. Tainted because of his actions.
Naruto's hands were drenched in blood.
He dragged in a shuddering breath, let out a shaking one. Then continued the cycle. He didn't realize when the kunai had fallen from his hands and clattered onto the battered cement, only that the blood on his hands was already forever ingrained into his mind. His sapphire eyes locked onto the ruby coating on his hands.
With the Chidori (One Thousand Birds) chirping in his hands, Kakashi slammed the fist full of lightning into Zabuza's chest. The man fell over and the summoned dogs, once dismissed from Kakashi, disappeared in puffs of smoke.
Almost immediately, the mist started to lighten, the battle was over. Almost anti-climatic, in Kakashi's mind, he had half expected that masked boy to jump out and help Zabuza. Letting out a sigh he didn't know he was holding, the copy ninja headed over to where he had left his students. Hoping that the genius Sasuke, the pink haired Sakura, and the hyper-active Naruto managed to stay alive and keep the old man Tazuna alive as well.
"Look." Tazuna pointed over Sakura's shoulder. "It's the loudmouth."
Only the loudmouth didn't look so loud now. In fact, he was barely breathing, though there wasn't a mark on him. In Sakura's mind, that was odd, because Naruto always managed to get hurt on even the simplest mission. And since he wasn't as good a ninja as Sasuke, he shouldn't be uninjured unless Sasuke was sparkling clean.
"NARUTO!" Sakura yelled. The blond didn't move, staring at his hands as if he had never seen them before, and such a thing horrified him. "NARUTO! WHERE IS SASUKE-KUN?!" Sakura asked, wanting to go but told to stay with Tazuna. A tiny bit of worry flashed through Sakura for her blond haired teammate. But it was overwhelmed for her worry for Sasuke when she still couldn't see the Uchiha.
"Let's go find him." Tazuna offered. Placing a warm hand on her shoulder. They trotted over to where the Makyou HyouShou (Demonic Ice Mirrors), Haku's Bloodlimit, had been. Puddles of water and half melted clumps of ice showed that one of the mirrors had been shattered.
I know Sasuke is powerful... Sakura thought.
But this is ridiculous. Inner Sakura added.
Then she saw a pale skinned, black haired boy clothed in Uchiha clan clothing lying on the cement. "S-S-SASUKE-KUN!" The single name tore itself from her throat, and she rushed over to the prone form on the ground. The pink haired kunoichi fell to her knees. "He's so cold…" She muttered as Tazuna came up behind her. "This… isn't and illusion… is it?" She asked, reaching out a manicured hand to touch her crushes face. "So cold."
"It's okay to cry." Tazuna told her, looking away from the body of the young boy. Sakura sniffled. "Don't hold back for my sake. There are times when it's right to give in, and shed some good, honest tears."
"I…" Sakura started, her mind drifting. Inner Sakura was sobbing, Sasuke-kun, Sasuke-kun. Over and over. "I always got perfect scores on all my tests in school… in the ninja academy." Tazuna glanced at her, worried for how the boy's death might be affecting her. "I memorized each and every one of The One Hundred Rules of Conduct for Ninja and Shinobi. I used to write them out with pride."
Tazuna opened his mouth to say something, but the girl continued on, as if she couldn't see or hear anything else around her. "We… had a test one day. And the question was…" She paused for a second. Tazuna was unsure of why, but the pause was pained. "The question was, 'What is the twenty-fifth rule of Shinobi Conduct?' And, just like always, I wrote it down perfectly, without hesitation or mistakes."
Tazuna jumped a little when a sharp, wet sniffle sounded. Not expecting such a loud sound during her quiet, somewhat calm speech. "I had written 'No matter what happens, true shinobi must never. Ever. Show their emotions!'" Tears were streaming down her face, and her nose was running "'Th-the mission is the only priority. Carry that in your heart. And never, never sh-shed a tear'…" The mixture of tears fell upon the Uchiha survivor's cheek.
Sakura collapsed on top of Sasuke and totally broke down. Tazuna awkwardly stood behind the girl.
So, this is what it means to be a ninja. Tazuna thought. It's unbearable. Though he knew these kids were trained to do this, he also knew that it was his fault, his lying, that pushed them into a mission they were far from ready to do. "Naruto." He called to the orange clad blonde. "What's wrong?" Naruto turned around, and Tazuna took a step back, they boy's outfit was ripped as if he, like his dead companion, had suffered attacks from the one ninja's needles. But unlike his dead companion, besides being alive, there were no needles nor visible injures on him.
Though his hands were covered in blood, that wasn't what scared Tazuna. It was the boys blue eyes; they lacked emotion, and life.
The boy might be alive, but his eyes reminded Tazuna of his grandson's, Inari, right after the boys adoptive father was killed right before his eyes, the once hero dishonored and called a traitor before the boy who looked up to him the most. No, dead wasn't the right word.
For it's the soul in the body that makes it live, it's the soul that experiences the emotions. Without the soul, all that the body is, is a corpse. With out the soul, all the mind is, is a lump of brain that had potential at one time. The soul was everything, yet nothing with out the body to contain it or the mind to help direct it.
But when death came, the soul continued on. At least, that was what Tazuna believed. When the body was decomposed and the mind lost in the ocean of time, the soul continued on. Forever immortal.
Kakashi carefully approached Naruto. Unsure if the chakra of the Kyuubi he had felt earlier meant if or if not the slipped seal was back in place or if it had cracked. "Naruto?" The boy turned away from Tazuna. "Are you okay?" The boy blinked lifeless and emotionless eyes, and then looked down at the body that lay at his feet.
"HA HA HA HAHAHAH!" Laughter rang across the battle field. Kakashi turned to the voice and Naruto looked up, as did Tazuna. Only Sakura remained too detached to the world to notice it. Still sobbing into Sasuke's chest. "It's good to see those mist dogs are where they belong. In HELL!"
Kakashi started to wonder at the sanity of the business man Gato, the one whom wanted their employer dead. At lest a hundred mercenaries, none ninja by what Kakashi's trained eyes –sharigan and regular- could see, stood behind the short man whose left arm was in a cast.
Naruto flinched at the man's voice, his blank mind registering who this man was and his relation to the boy who had died by Naruto's own hands. Gato, the man who had employed Zabuza- and Haku by default- who wanted Tazuna dead. Gato who owned an industrious shipping company that wanted to destroy the people of Wave's hope by cutting off all trade to them but for his own company, taking over the islands of Wave in a flexing of economical power.
"In truth, you just made things easier. Now my men here." He motioned to the unpleasant lot of mercenaries behind him, "Can kill you and then kill the bridge builder behind you."
The mercenaries laughed, talking loudly of how easy it would be to take out the two exhausted ninja, the one crying behind them both, and the builder.
"It's a pity though." Gato continued on. Taking only a few steps forward, so he was near the safety of the mercenaries who would protect their meal ticket. "I had wanted to get back the long haired brat for hurting my arm!" He spat on the ground, since he was too far away from Haku to spit on his corpse. "He's dead though, as he should have been long ago!"
Naruto's fists tightened, causing still wet blood to leak between his fingers. His eyes closed as he remembered, again and again the last moments of Haku's life, overlaid in his mind with the last words uttered by the greedy man before him.
Naruto's eyes snapped open to reveal the blood red and slit pupil eyes that spoke of Kyuubi's influence. Though this time it wasn't chakra, but strength.
This man, all the events that had taken place during the last week or so had all happened because of this man. While his one kunai lay at his feet, Naruto didn't reach for it but rather the extra he kept in his utility pouch. Yet another thing Iruka had embedded into Naruto's mind. 'Always have a backup.'
Moving quickly, Naruto grasped it, mind, body, and soul intent on one thing. Vengeance for Haku's death in some way. Twisted as it might be, for it was Naruto who had killed him. It was this man who was at much at fault as was the Kyuubi carrier.
Because of him…! Naruto thought. Grabbing his kunai. His arm whipped around as he threw it, a roar tore out of his fanged mouth, claws biting into the palm of his hands. Because of this man! The kunai was hurling through the air, whistling as it rapidly approached the short, greedy mans head. No. Images of the people of Wave, beaten, and without pride trudging up and down the streets looking for jobs that were not available. Of shops closed or only selling a few of their scant remainder stock. Of an innocent island's suffering because of one mans greed. Because of this monster!
Kakashi's eyes widened as the kunai shrieked towards the company owner over the great distance. The speed and power behind the kunai, so quick that Gato had no time to save himself, so powerful that it sunk into the mans forehead to the place when the blade and the handle met. He heard Naruto's ragged breathing besides him, but that was all. When he glanced at Naruto, he saw only the slight clenching and unclenching of a child- a genin's- hand. Such strength for a genin, much less a mere child, was impossible.
Even the mercenaries were quiet.
Besides the black nothingness, the only thing he could register was a slightly muffled sound of loud sobbing. "Sasuke-kun…" Didn't he know that voice? Then he registered an aching pain all over his body, a feeling of stiffness even as he lay unmoving, his own body unresponsive to his commands.
That sobbing still continued. As did the "Sasuke-kun…" that was being repeated over and over. Something on his chest felt wet…
…and heavy, making it painful for his already aching body. More sobbing, he knew he had heard that voice from somewhere before. Sakura…? The dark nothingness went from a big black blur to a big white blur. Am I… am I…!
Now that white nothingness became something. He could see Sakura half on top of him, sobbing. "Sakura…" Sasuke wheezed out. "Your arm's heavy…"
He was lying on concrete. And now that the feeling was returning to his limbs, he felt sore all over. Breathing wasn't as easy as it once had been, probably due to the needles he could see sticking out of his own neck. The old man they had been assigned to protect, Tazuna, and his teammate Sakura stared at him in shock for a moment. Sakura snapped out of it first, and flung herself again onto the boy as she let tears flow freely down her face.
"Sasuke-kun! Sasuke-kun! SASUKE-KUN!" She shouted over and over. The injured prodigy gasped as the girl slammed into his sore body.
I'm so happy for you, Sakura. Tazuna thought, happy that the girl who had protected him most on the journey had her teammate and crush back.
"Sakura. You're hurting me…" Sasuke managed to wheeze out.
"OH! S-sorry." The pink haired girl loosened her arms around his neck, but kept them in place until Sasuke had collected himself enough to sit up on his own.
"I'm all right…" Using his arms to brace himself, the Uchiha shifted so he could kneel. "How's Naruto?" Collecting himself again, Sasuke prepared himself to stand up. "And that… little creep in the mask… what happened to him?"
"Don't try to move!" Sakura gripped the boys arm as tightly as she dared in his injured state. "Naruto's fine! And the boy in the mask is dead…" She trailed off when she saw Sasuke's shocked expression.
"DEAD!" His voice actually got louder then Sakura remembered ever hearing him. "Did Naruto…" Standing up was long forgotten.
Sakura's hands dropped from Sasuke's arm. "N-no… well I mean… I'm not sure. I didn't actually see it, with the mist and all. But you don't actually think Naruto could have killed the ninja who nearly killed you!" She paused for a bit. "…right?" Sasuke seemed to be contemplating what she just said, so Sakura plowed on. "I… was afraid… I thought…" After reaching up to clean off her face as much as she could of her runny nose and tears with her forearm, Sakura clasped her hands before her. "Your so amazing Sasuke-kun! You survived a deathblow!" Her face lit up.
Sasuke-kun is invincible! Inner Sakura chirped in.
"No…" Sasuke looked down. Remembering the battle. Not me. Him. That boy in the mask never planed to… from the start…
"NARUTO!" Sakura screamed.
Ignoring Kakashi's glance, Naruto focused on pushing back whatever that… thing inside him was that rose up and made him get so strong. It was the same… thing… that had been present when that red chakra had exploded from him when he had fought Haku in the Makyou HyouShou (Demonic Ice Mirrors). No amount of pushing was able to force that presence back, but focusing on the task allowed Naruto a way to gain control over his emotions. Only when his emotions were under some kind of control, not much- but better then before- was the presence forced to retreat back into the depths of the blonde's mind.
"NARUTO!" Sakura's voice cut thought his thoughts.
Sakura-chan! Naruto turned his head so as to see over his shoulder. The pink haired girl had her hands cupped around her mouth as she yelled to him.
"IT'S SASUKE. HE'S ALL RIGHT! HE'S ALIVE!" She called to him.
Twisting his head into what would have been a painful position if the adrenalin hadn't kicked back in, Naruto looked frantically over his shoulder for Sasuke.
The black haired boy raised his hand in a simple gesture in response. Bangs hiding his onyx orbs from Naruto's sight.
A watery smiled pulled at the whisker scared boys features despite the sorrow that still kept a vice like grip upon his heart.
"I've been worrying since the fight began… but…" Kakashi spoke. "Sasuke made it after all. Fantastic!" Both Naruto and Kakashi watched as Sakura continued to cheer 'Sasuke-kun!' Peace, once again resided over the team.
For a moment.
"HEY!" One of the mercenaries yelled out. But decided against stepping forward like his former employer had. "Ain't you sweethearts forgettin' somethin'!" He slammed his metal staff against the concrete. Team seven and Tazuna turned their attention towards the group.
"You ninja killed our meal ticket!" One mercenary, who seemed to be the spokesperson for the group, said. "And now your gonna DIE! The only way we can even break even now… is to overrun the city and loot every business and home!"
"OH YEAH!" The group behind him agreed.
"LETS GO!" the spokesman ordered, and the group charged forward.
"Uhhh… this isn't good." Kakashi told Naruto.
"Kakashi-sensei. Isn't there a technique you can use to take them all down at once?" The demon vessel asked.
"I'm afraid… with the chidori, the illusions and summons… for the moment I've exhausted my chakra!" He moved into a battle stance as well as he could from his crouched position on the ground.
An arrow whistled through the air and implanted itself in the ground before the mercenaries. With the formerly lethal obstacle in the way, they stumbled to a half.
Looking back towards the village, the mercenaries, Team Seven, and Tazuna was greeted with the sight of the people of the city, armed and standing up straight and proud for the first time in months. In front of all the adults, was little Inari wearing a pot tied over his head and holding a small, makeshift crossbow. "Stop where you are!" Inari instructed, backed up by the small army behind him. "This island is our home. One step further… and you'll die where you stand!"
"Inari…?" Tazuna blinked back tears. "All of you…?"
"INARI!" Naruto greeted the boy.
The youngster giggled. "Its being a hero, you know? All that nick in time stuff!" He said, using the words Naruto had told him only an hour ago when the blond had rescued Inari and his mother from two of Gato's thugs.
For a moment it was quiet on the bridge. Fierce, blooded mercenaries facing off the exhausted team seven of Konoha and the makeshift fighting force of the Wave.
"Good one." Naruto praised the boy. "Mind if I join in?" Though Naruto was tired, physically, and emotionally, he wasn't known for having freakish stamina for nothing. Kage Bunshins (Shadow Clones) appeared in a cloud of smoke behind him. Though there weren't many of them, the mercenaries were hesitant. It had been this boy who had killed their boss from far away with a single kunai.
I can't manage anything solid with my chakra so low. Kakashi sighed to himself. But a bluff should be enough for these bozos. Making a sign with his hands, Kakashi made normal, illusion Clones spring up. The mercenaries couldn't tell the difference between illusion and Shadow, and started to back away.
"Now…" One of the clones asked its comrades. "Shall we?"
With cries of 'Never mind!' and 'Run away!' The mercenaries fled. Some raced across the netting connecting the bridge to their small boat; others just jumped into the water or fell in from a comrade shoving him aside to make way.
Cheers arose from the people of Wave. Heads were raised high in pride as more and more added their voices to the thundering roar of glee, and returned hope.
Dismissing the Clones, Naruto and Kakashi batted the ninja smoke away from their faces. And Naruto felt the sadness fall over him again as snow began to fall.
"Snow… in the middle of summer?" One of Inari's solders questioned.
"He… Haku was born in a village where it snowed a lot." Naruto explained to Kakashi as he felt the stinging fire of held back tears, or tears that refused or couldn't fall, behind his eye lids.
"I see." Kakashi said, more for the boys benefit then his own actually understanding. Kakashi reminded himself to talk to Naruto later about how he managed to kill the mist ninja and about the chakra he had sensed. And perhaps try and offer some council to the distraught vessel. "He was a pure spirit, as pure and clean as newly fallen snow." When he looked back at Naruto, he asked "Naruto! Are you all right?"
Naruto had clutched at his head; it seemed as if the world was fading in and out. It was all just too much. Channeling the red, furious chakra, and that foreign strength. The exhaustion on his body from both the aforementioned problems and the battle with Haku, as well as his sprint from Tazuna's house, half way to the bridge, back to the home and then finally all the way to the bridge. The emotional rollercoaster with Sasuke dead, then turning out to be alive. Dealing with the mercenaries, and killing Gato. Killing…
Naruto fell into the abyss of unconsciousness. "NARUTO!" Inari's scream was the last thing he remembered. Just before the image of Naruto's own blood coated hands sprung up into his minds eye. Then all went black, still, and silent.
Well? What do you think? Any questions, comments, ideas, or constructive criticism?