A/N. Gah! So sorry for the late update! -bows head in shame- Bad me, bad me...
Wahhh, poor Haku is so overlooked! I couldn't bear leaving this fanfic to rot. Haku needs more love! x333
Anyway, on with the story! x33 Remember to review, please! Long live Haku and Zabuza! x3333
Chapter 2 - Beautiful Memories
I'm so happy.
Haku granted me such a marvelous opportunity. I loved seeing the horrified shock in Kakashi's eyes. Haku's blood is everywhere - all over Kakashi, spilling all over the ground, dripping from his wound, staining my clothes and skin.
Haku is dead. But does it matter? He gave his life, granting me such a splendid opportunity to finish off Kakashi.
But if I'm so pleased and glad...
Why do I feel this sickening coldness in my heart?
I quickly shook it off, closing my eyes to block out those guilty, remorseful thoughts. I laughed.
"Splendid, Haku," I whispered. I grinned as Kakashi's eyes widened. Slowly, my hands clenched my weapon as I heaved it over my shoulder to swing it at Kakashi. "I sure picked up a treasure in that gutter!" I laughed triumphantly. To think that I had been doubtful about taking in Haku when he was a boy. He was a real treasure, after all. "To think that he'd grant me this marvelous opportunity!"
Kakashi's eyes widened once more as he struggled to pull his fist out of Haku's chest. But Haku's grip on his wrist was firm, even in death.
This was it...
I'd get to witness the defeat of Kakashi. I felt so delighted at the thought of seeing Kakashi's blood spill from him that I forgot that I would slice through Haku if I wanted to kill Kakashi.
That icy chill ran through my veins again, almost making me stop my weapon in mid-swing. Suddenly, a flashback from many years ago flickered through my mind...
"Haku, unfortunately, I have to leave the Country of Water tonight." We were standing on a cliff, overlooking the country below us. I noticed the way Haku stood beside me - tall, broad, firm, proud...exactly the way I stood.
I smiled to myself, but it was hidden under the bandages wrapped around the lower half of my face. Haku was becoming like me. I couldn't help feeling satisfied and proud.
"But I shall return to this country," I added. "I will control it. In order to do that, I don't need affection nor love..." I turned to look down at Haku, who was staring back at me respectfully. "What I need is..."
My eyes widened the slightest bit.
Haku cocked his head slightly and smiled. "I am your tool, Zabuza-san. Keep me by your side, and I will strike whenever you tell me to strike, kill whomever you tell me to kill."
Pride spilled over me as I smiled softly down at Haku. "Well said, child..." I remarked quietly, gazing down at Haku, the little boy who was cursed with tainted blood, the little boy who was part of a feared bloodline, the little boy who would be my tool...forever.
Then another flashback came to me. I remembered standing out in the snow, holding Haku to my side, feeling his adoring gaze pentrate through my icy mask, feeling the warmth radiate off his skin. I couldn't help but remember how glad I was to take him in when I found him near that bridge that day.
Could I bring myself to slice Haku's fragile body? Haku, my tool? Haku, the boy I raised until now? Haku, the boy who looked up to me like he would to his own father?
Did it matter? What did it matter if I sliced Haku...when he was already dead?
That reassured me. I swung at Kakashi, but he grabbed Haku as he dodged my attack.
I couldn't help feeling a bit glad that I didn't slice through Haku. I brushed away my guilt by laughing, my broad shoulders shuddering. "So you were able to dodge that...because poor Haku is already dead."
I heard a growl come from one of Kakashi's brats from the sidelines - the blonde one, I think. He snarled something at me, trembling from anger, but I ignored him.
"Naruto, stay out of this!" Kakashi ordered.
Kakashi set Haku down gently, brushing his hand down Haku's face to close his eyes. The pity and sympathy in Kakashi's eyes shifted into burning anger as he looked up from Haku to glare at me.
"This is my battle!" he snarled.
Then we engaged in a battle, using our weapons. The clash of our weapons echoed in the cold area, ringing in my ears with a cold chill. I knelt, panting heavily.
Why...? Why can't I keep up with him?
I rushed towards Kakashi, growling, raising my sword to strike him. However, he held up his fist and struck me with ease, knocking me off balance. He sent his fist flying at me again, and I grunted as he sent me skidding back.
I swung my sword at him angrily, but he easily dodged it. I panted again, only to suck in my breath and widen my eyes in shock as Kakashi disappeared. Immediately, I felt his hand grab the back of my neck. I stopped. It couldn't end this way...no, it couldn't!
"In the state you're in now...you can't win."
I narrowed my eyes. "W-What did you just say?" I hated how my voice came out. Desperate and...scared?
Since when did the great demon of the mist Momochi Zabuza become scared?
I hated how I sounded at that moment. Weak, vunlerable, afraid...
"You don't understand the true meaning of being strong."
I could feel a trickle of sweat sliding down my cheek, soaked into the bloody bandages around my face. I heard Kakashi twirl his shuriken as his hand moved swiftly to thrust his weapons into my skin, and instinctively, I swung my blade with all of the strength I could muster. The soft hiss of the blade slicing through thin air echoed dimly in my ears, and I grunted in agony as I felt a sharp chill stab into the inside of my elbows. My blade went skidding across the ground, shrieking with a dry whisper.
"Now you can't use either arm," Kakashi stated grimly. I could practically feel his triumphant and satisified gaze penetrate through my back as I struggled to recover my strength. "No spells, no katas, no chakra."
As if I didn't know that! Furious at Kakashi and at myself, I continued to pant heavily, wondering how I could possibly defeat Kakashi in this state.
"Well, he's certainly made a mess of you! What a pity, Zabuza!"
My eyes slightly widened as a tingling chill ran down my spine. I recognized that voice. I turned and narrowed my eyes at the sight of Gato...with a large crowd of his men!
What was going on?
"Gato...what are you doing here?" I managed to muster, staring wildly at the large number of men. "And why...did you bring all of...them?"
Gato laughed. "There's been a slight change of plan, Zabuza. Or of your plans, anyway. You're going to die...here and now!"
My eyes widened. "What?" What was this fool rambling on about?
"You must have guessed...I never intended to pay you!" Gato chuckled again, tapping his cane upon the ground. I narrowed my eyes again. I should have listened to my instincts...a part of me knew he would turn around and doublecross me. But... my thirst to dye my hands in my enemies' blood and my hunger to kill Mizukage, the Water Shadow, the leader of my people, made me so foolish and naive.
Gato went on to explain that if he hired a skilled ninja, it would be such a bother to pay him so much and deal with the problems that arose when he decided to betray them. I was only half listening...the other part of me was bewildered and desperate. Even if I was powerful, I wasn't sure if I would last against Gato and his men in my state.
"...It's so much simpler to hire exhiled ninja like yourself. No one cares what I do to your kind once the job is done. All of you ninja are so eager to fight each other. Once you've worn each other down, common thugs can finish the rest. It's a great business plan - efficient and inexpensive."
I growled under my breath. Of course. Why hadn't I realized his plan before?
"My only mistake was hiring you in the first place. Calling yourself The Demon of the Hidden Mist is just plain false advertising!
Heh heh...you're no demon! More like a baby demon, if that."
All I could hear was the roar of laughter of Gato and his men, as well as the hiss of my blood boiling and my pulse pounding in my ears. Baby demon? How dare he! I wanted to swing my sword at him so badly...if only Kakashi hadn't immbolized my arms...
Without keeping my eyes off Gato and his men, I spoke. "Forgive me, Kakashi. Our fight ends here. I no longer have any reason to want to assassinate Tazuna...which settles our differences."
I sensed Kakashi's hesitance in the empty silence that followed. Finally, he answered, "Yeah, you'e right..."
Tapping his cane rhythmically on the ground, Gato advanced towards us. "That reminds me..." I stiffened. "I still have a score to settle."
I noticed that his rueful glare was directed towards Haku's body. I narrowed my eyes. I had forgotten Haku during the entire time when Gato had arrived here, but now I wondered what Gato intended to do to Haku.
...Did it matter, anyway? It wasn't as if Gato could do anything to Haku...Haku was dead. He could feel nothing.
"You...crushed my arm until you almost broke the bones!"
That made me remember when Haku gripped Gato's hand and broke it easily when Gato tried to do something to me. Apparantly, Gato intended to make Haku pay for breaking off his arm, even if Haku was already dead.
Gato gave a forceful kick at Haku's carcass and laughed. "Hah. He's already dead."
I could feel my blood hissing in my ears. That scoundrel...who did he think he was to kick Haku like that? I wanted so badly to rip out his throat and to feel his blood run over my hands. But I could do nothing. Anyway, what did it matter? Haku was dead...he couldn't feel a thing. But...what is this I'm feeling for Haku...?
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU CREEP?" Kakashi's blonde student screeched. I could hear his feet scrape harshly against the ground as he tried to make his way over to Haku and Gato.
"Stop. Don't move so carelessly," Kakashi ordered. Obviously, even with my back to the two, I could tell that Kakashi was restraining the brat with difficulty. Why did the brat care what happened to Haku? Didn't he hate Haku for what he did to his comrade?
"HEY, WHY DON'T YOU DO SOMETHING?" I narrowed my eyes, realizing that he was talking to me. "HE WORKED FOR YOU! HE WAS PRACTICALLY YOUR SLAVE!"
That made me feel a bit guilty...just a little. I had indeed treated Haku like dirt...like a slave...like a significant tool that had to be thrown away when it had no more use...
...Isn't that what Haku chose to become? My slave...my tool?
Those thoughts reassured me. It wasn't my fault that Haku chose to do this. It wasn't my fault Haku chose to die for me. It wasn't my fault...so I have no regrets and sadness for what happened to Haku.
...Or did I?
I cleared myself of those foolish thoughts. I had no regrets.
"Like what? Haku is dead..." I spoke coldly. Even if I did want to do something, what could I do? Haku was already dead. Dead...as in gone forever...and never coming back...
"But..." he tried to protest. He huffed a bit from yelling so much, but it seemed that he hadn't quite lost his voice yet. "BUT YOU SHOULD CARE! THAT FAT SCUMBAG IS DESECRATING HIM! HE WAS YOUR COMRADE...YOUR PARTNER...HE WORKED FOR YOU FOR YEARS!"
"Gato's been using me...and I used Haku. Weren't you listening? It's a shinobi's lot. All of us are either users or tools...or both. I didn't value Haku for himself...but for the taint his blood carried...and for what his talents could do for me. We ninja are tools. I wanted his abilities, not him. I have no regrets."
I myself was both a user and a tool...using Haku to achieve my own dreams, only to have these dreams shattered when I came to realize that I had been used as a tool to achieve Gato's dreams. Haku...was just a tool. He was too kind to use someone as a tool to achieve his dream...so he decided to live as a tool...my tool.
"You...do you really mean that?" the blonde boy snarled. I could practically feel his angry glare burn holes through my back. I could tell he was trying to get to me again, but Kakashi restrained him.
"Stop it, Naruto!" Kakashi scolded. "Leave him alone! Our quarrel is over! Besides which..."
"SHUT UP!" the boy screeched. I glanced at him from the corner of my eye to see him pointing a shaky finger at me. "HE'S STILL MY ENEMY!"
Why was he so stubborn? Couldn't he just accept that fact that I never had and never will care about Haku?
He was just a tool that was significant for some time...only to be thrown away when he was of no more use to me. Shinobi lead these lives, and Haku chose and accepted this life. Why was the boy blaming me for what Haku inflicted upon himself?
"Who is that obnoxious brat?" Gato stared curiously and ruefully at Naruto. "He's been making quite a nuisance of himself!"
Really, I agreed.
The blonde brat pointed his finger towards Haku's body, trembling. "He...He really loved you!" he shouted at me. "He really, really loved you!"
I didn't say anything. Of course I knew that. I always knew that Haku loved me like he would love his own father. When he was abandoned and left alone in the world, I took him in. From that day on, he had treated me adoringly and tried to gain my respect. I was special in his eyes; the only person that mattered to him.
But, really...did Haku and that brat think that I would see Haku any more than a mere tool? Haku...was my tool. My tool, and nothing more...right?
"He was devoted to you! You really don't think anything of him? You really...really don't think anything of him?"
He...Haku was my tool. Just my tool...wasn't he?
I...I don't know anymore. A part of me always saw Haku as a mere tool that would simply be cast away once he was of no more use to me. But...inside, I always thought of Haku as my own son...
...What is this I'm feeling for Haku?
"Are you really that heartless?"
Shinobi have no emotions...they feel nothing. So...why does he expect me to stray from the philosophy of the shinobi? Why does he expect me to feel...for Haku?
"When a person becomes as strong as you," he continued softly, sniffling, "do they start to think like that...?"
I always treasured power. It was my dream...to have power. To feel my enemies' blood run over my hands, to feel the delight of plunging my weapon through one's heart, to hear the anguished screams, to see the fear in my enemies' eyes as I watched them die...
Power...that was what kept me bound to the shinobi philosophy. In doing so...I gave up what made me a human...emotions.
"He sacrificed his life for you!"
Haku...he didn't care if I only thought of him as a tool. He didn't care if I didn't love him...he didn't care if he would bear pain...he only cared about saving me.
He threw away his life for me. He threw away his existence just to help me achieve my own dreams. I...I feel so horrible. All this time, I never even cared about Haku...
Or maybe I did. I just had too much pride to show how much I cared about Haku...
He was like me. Haku wanted to be needed. He yearned for someone to look at him with faith and longing. He wanted someone to look past his cursed bloodline and love him for who he was, not what he was. He wanted to be appreciated and loved.
...I admit, I had always wanted to be needed. I wanted someone to need me, and I wanted to need someone. And when I came across Haku that day...my life changed.
"Your eyes are like mine, mister..."
I will always remember those words Haku spoke as a child.
Yes, it was true...our eyes are alike. Even though mine are cold and blank, while his are gentle and kind, our eyes were alike. We wanted to need someone, and we wanted to be needed.
I needed Haku, and he needed me. We filled up the empty voids in each other's heart just by being beside each other. I was a fool to have never noticed how much Haku changed my life...and how much I cared about him for needing me being there for me when I needed him.
"He...he..." The boy was crying hard now. He didn't even try to snifle his sobs. He...was willing to show weakness and let his emotions out. He wasn't afraid to defy the philosophy of the shinobi.
I, on the other hand...I allowed my greed for power to wipe the existence of emotions...I was no longer human. I gave up being a human to become...a demon.
"He couldn't even see his own dream!" he sobbed, tears rolling down his face.
His dream...was to fufill my own dreams. He told me so many, many times. I would simply nod and say "Good boy, Haku." I would always be proud when he told me that, but now...I just feel so horrible.
His dream...was my own dream. And so...he really never had his own dream. He couldn't see his own dream...he just saw my dream. His love for me shaped that dream into his mind...but it was only my dream. He never had a dream of his own, nor did he dare to shape his own dream into his mind...
I let that dream stay within his mind. I was so selfish. I didn't want him to have his own dream. I wanted him to share my dream...but in doing so, he could never dream of his own happiness.
Of course, if my dream were to come true, I would be glad...and he would be happy too. But...that kind of happiness isn't the same kind of happiness you feel when your own, true dream becomes reality.
I denied Haku that happiness. I feel...so guilty...and sad...
"To die as a tool... is just...too painful..."
...It is painful.
That kid...just by talking some sense into me, he made me shed my skin of a demon and grow back the skin of a human. I was feeling emotions once more...
I...feel strange. I was so used to concealing my emotions...and yet...now as tears run down my face, I feel...free. I don't care that these tears make me weak in everyone's eyes...I just allow them to streak down my face, leaving behind trails of emotions that had been denied to be released...
Haku...he was always denied happiness...and he led a life full of pain and misery. And...I allowed him to lead that life...
I feel...so horrible. I can't describe the emotions that were being relieved within my heart. Guilt and sadness surges through me as I realize that Haku threw away everything for me - his dream which was mine, his life, his happiness...everything.
"Kid..." Some of my tears strike the ground with a light sound. "Don't say anymore."
I could practically sense everyone's shock and surprise as they watched me cry. I didn't hate the kid for making me cry. In fact...I intended to thank him. He taught me how important emotions are...how important being a human is. We are all human...with emotions all-too human.
Instead, I hated myself for never realizing it until it was too late. It was too late. Haku...was gone.
"Haku...Not only did he hurt his heart to fight for me, but he hurt his heart for you guys too."
I suppose the kid didn't understand what I meant by the confused look in his eyes. He would know...sooner or later.
Haku...he didn't kill that black-haired boy. He just put him in the death-like trance I had been in when Haku plunged the needles through my neck. Even knowing that he was going against me, he saved the boy.
He was too kind...too gentle.
"I know. He was...too kind."
I began to bite through the wrappings around my mouth, my teeth tearing into the fabric until I felt the light pressure of the wrappings disappear.
"Yes...Kid, it's like you said. Ninja are human too. They might not be able to become a tool without emotions."
Haku...was a tool, and yet, he still managed to have emotions. He still managed to be human.
I, being both a user and a tool, had too much pride to keep the emotions that would make me a human. I wanted to be strong in everyone's eyes; I wanted to be bound to the philosophy of a shionbi. But...now, I realize...shinobi can still be shinobi with emotions.
I realized that too late...and now, I've lost everything...my dream, my title as the Demon of the Hidden Mist, my demon blood...and...Haku.
"I lose. Kid, give me your knife."
"Hunh? Uh..." The kid sniffled as he took out his knife. "Sure." And with that, he tossed me his knife, which I expertly caught between the two sets of my teeth.
Before my feet regained enough strength to move, my mind was swept back to the time when I first found Haku at the bridge. Then my mind called to the scene when he vowed to become my tool. After that memory faded from my mind, I visualized Haku's sad face, his hair whipping softly, his face half hidden in shadows, a lonely frown marring his face.
This was for Haku.
I charged into the crowd of men, slightly relishing the fear and shock I saw in Gato's and his men's eyes. Gato was the first to regain his composure.
"That's enough! What are you waiting for?" he shouted at his men. "Kill all of them!"
With a loud roar, the men charged at me. The men and their weapons were a blur, and the pain I felt as their weapons plunged into my skin was inanimate as my determination to get to Gato grew stronger with every step that took me closer to him.
I didn't care about anything...except making Gato pay for what he did. It wasn't just his betrayal that angered me...it was the fact that he was responsible for Haku's death...and he was the one who fed my pride as a demon, which denied me to become a human...
Gato would pay.
I pushed past the last set of men and plunged the knife into Gato. I almost grinned at the sight of him gasping and backing away from me in fear. I grunted as I felt more weapons being thrust into my back.
"Why won't you die?" I heard some men yell angrily.
I won't die...not yet. Not until I make Gato pay...
I loved seeing Gato so scared and desperate. "I-If you're in such a hurry to be reunited with your little friend...go alone!" he sputtered at me, a thin river of blood trickling from his mouth.
Whoever said I wanted to go with Haku? Well...I truly did want to go with Haku...but I know the gods won't let me. I have too many sins that can't be forgiven...
But if I can't go with Haku, I'd like to go to the same place Gato is going...so I can make him suffer over and over.
"I...have no intention of going to the same place as Haku..." I managed to muster, my chest heaving as I stared spitefully at the wound in Gato's chest.
"Wh-What are you babbling about? Uhn..." he groaned.
"Heh..." I looked up, straight into his scared eyes. To think that he had slaughtered so many people and laughed at their deaths...and now, he was scared of his own death. The irony...
"...I'm taking you with me...to Hell!" I growled, pulling my knife from his chest. Blood poured from his wound, and Gato gasped, trying to block the flow of blood as he stared frightfully at me.
"Even an ogre in name only...a washout from the Village of the Hidden Mist..." I continued stonily, grinning cruelly. "...can become a true demon in how he meets his death!"
I thrust the knife into him again, and an anguished scream escaped his lips. "Once we're in Hell, I can take my time...and show you over...and over...who is, or is not, a 'baby demon!'"
With that, I sliced the knife straight across his neck, and his head flew off and rolled down the ground. Gasps from everywhere erupted as wide eyes stared at the head. Even though I was glad that I had killed Gato...I felt no triumph...only terrible sadness.
Was I really doomed to stay in Hell, where I would be punished for my sins? I'm...I admit, I'm afraid now. I want to go to Heaven with Haku...I want to be with him forever and beyond. I want to spend the afterlife with him, together. I want our next life to be happy and spent together. But...I know I can't.
The knife dropped from my mouth as I tried to gather enough strength to walk over to Haku's body. I wanted to see his face again...even if he was dead. Even if we can't be together in Heaven...I want to have one last look at him before I leave his world.
My vision is growing blurry, and the energy is draining from my body. I strain my eyes to look at Haku's body, and instead of seeing his lifeless form, I see him standing there in his pink kimono, smiling at me, beckoning me with no gestures to come to him. I tried to obey, but I just didn't have enough life in me anymore.
I smiled sadly. "It's goodbye now, Haku..." I whispered softly. "Thanks for everything...and I'm sorry."
With that, I dropped to the ground, and my world went empty and black.
After what seemed to be an eternity, I awoke to a loud commotion of yelling and cheering. Gradually, it faded away, and I strained my eyes to look for the one person who could help me now...
He stepped in front of me. I smiled bitterly. "Looks like it's over now..." I croaked gently, staring up at him sadly. "Eh, Kakashi?"
"Kakashi...do me a favor?" I asked softly.
"...What is it?" he replied hesitantly, yanking his headband to cover his right eye. He looked a bit grim and stern, as if he hadn't completely forgiven me for the trouble I've caused him.
"...I want to see his face again." That was enough. Kakashi's eyes softened and he yanked his headband again before replying, "...Sure."
He slowly knelt and gathered me in his arms, his left arm supporting my neck and his right arm under my knees. He walked over to Haku's body, and I blinked in puzzlement as I stared up at the white drops of fresh snow falling from the hazy sky.
"Huh? It's...snowing..." I heard the confusion in the blonde boy's voice as he, too, stared up at the falling snow.
"In the middle of summer?" Whispers broke out in the bewildered group of villagers as they watched the snow pour softly from the sky. I guess I was the only one who knew what this snow meant...and why it would fall so softly and sadly in this time of year.
"Haku...are you crying?" I murmured. Just as those words escaped my lips, Kakashi set me down on the ground beside Haku's body.
"Thanks, Kakashi..." I managed to smile weakly. In his eyes, I couldn't see any signs of hatred. I was glad he didn't bear a grudge against me any longer. I was glad he had forgiven me for everything I've done. Hopefully...the gods will find it in their hearts to forgive me as well.
Even in death, Haku's body didn't feel cold...it felt...warm. I was immediately swept back to the memories we developed together. I will always remember the smile he smiled only for me; the words he spoke only for me; the love in his eyes that he gave only to me.
If I can't go to Heaven with Haku, I wish I can be connected with him through our memories. Memories...are painful things...yet very human and very beautiful.
Haku...you were at my side from the start...so I'm at your side now, in the end...
My hand trembles slightly as I raise it weakly to touch Haku's cheek. "If I could...if I were able to...I would want...to go to the same place as you..."
His skin is softer and more fragile than anything I've ever touched, tainted with the chill of death, yet blessed with a strange warmth I only found it Haku.
A drop of snow lands on Haku's eyelash, and as it does, a single tear squeezes its way from his eyelid and slowly rolls down his cheek.
I close my eyes, allowing myself to be swept away into the darkness that would take me to Haku. Wherever I'm going, I will always be with Haku. If I'm going to Hell, my memories will keep me connected to Haku forever. If I'm going to Heaven, I will surely find Haku...and when I do, I will stay with him...for an eternity.
Haku was always a pure spirit...just like the snow. I have always loved the snow...but not as much as I love you, Haku.