Dead on Arrival
A Xenocide production
AN: Why am I doing this again? All of my works have failed so far, and I have only a handful of reviews total. I'm hoping that this new Naruto fic will at least get me a few flames…
Summary: Death has not been kind to one Mamochi Zabuza. He was destined for Hell before he even set one foot on that Bridge. But, he only has to do one little thing and all is forgiven: Kill the Kyuubi no Kitsune. Simple, right?
Enjoy and review, for the love of God!
Disclaimer: Why do you people insist on making me write these things? Unless you want my share of the perpetually empty bank account, please don't sue! I own nothing, depressingly enough...
Chapter One: Now Serving # 30,000,000,012
The Underworld is not a happy place.
Well, that's a bit of an understatement, now isn't it?
After all, no one enjoys being dead, much less being jammed together with others who are just as living-impaired as themselves.
Fortunately, the Underworld is also only a temporary residence. Think of it as sort of a permanent waiting lounge--with crappy cable, magazines three months out of date, and ridiculously long waiting lines.
There is always an influx of new arrivals, whether it be from old age, disease, famine, or any other conceivable reason. The shinigami are constantly at work, processing new arrivals, assessing their past lives, assigning their permanent place of resting, and filing successful placements in their infinitely large filing warehouses. Being gods of death, they are able to work tirelessly for long periods of time, give or take a couple of decades.
A new arrival has to wait for at least a minimum of three years before they can meet with their appointed shinigami. If there has been a recent war or famine, that time can be doubled, or even tripled. Likewise, when there is relatively little turmoil on Earth, the three years can be cut down to a mere year or even a matter of months. In rare cases, some lucky souls can be processed after a few weeks.
Processing is basically the…well…the process of determining which plane of existence that soul is to spend eternity. While there are many different planes of the afterlife, they can all be classified into two main categories: the Valley of the Clouds or the Lake of Fire. Although these are the 'official' names that higher-ups insist on using, they are much better known to the masses as Heaven and Hell.
Two such individuals were, after a slightly over-average waiting period of three years and three months, finally next in line for their appointment.
"I've half a mind to file a complaint to somebody. Average waiting period, my ass." Mamochi Zabuza was not a happy camper. While a ninja is expected to have near infinite patience, Zabuza never truly applied himself to the concept. Being the owner of a sword named 'Headcleaver', it is safe to say that patience is not the Mist-nin's strength.
"Now, now Zabuza-san, it can hardly be helped. They perform admirably for the immense workload they are given." The boy simply known as Haku is the exact opposite of Zabuza in every way. Though he is the man's loyal servant, acting as his willing tool of death, his soul was still as pure as the spring rain. It's still a mystery, however, how in the world a guy can be so pretty as to be mistaken for a girl. Popular bishounen culture is to be blamed.
Zabuza smirked slightly behind his mask of bandages. "Heh, you're still too nice for your own good. You'd think dying might've loosened you up a bit."
"I could very well say the same for you, Zabuza-san."
A door in the corner of the lounge opened, and a small, timid looking shinigami stepped out, nervously clutching his clipboard to his chest.
"U-umm, c-could Mamochi Zabuza and Miyakawa Haku please stand up?"
Haku looked up at Zabuza from his position on a cushion on the floor. The Mist-nin shrugged and got out of his recliner. Haku followed shortly, laying his 'Bleach' manga to the side.
One good thing about the Underworld, which actually, in hindsight, is the only good thing you can say about the dreary place, is that those who are currently waiting to be processed are not lacking in comfort. Comfy chairs and cushions that can serve as beds are assigned to every new arrival, and they are rotated closer to the front of the lounge every so often. For entertainment, current volumes of popular manga are always in circulation. Is it any wonder that 'Death Note', 'Angel Sanctuary', and 'Bleach' are among the most popular titles in the Underworld?
The ninja and his loyal follower exited the lounge, and the small shinigami shut the door softly behind them.
A droning female voice announced over booming intercoms, "Prepare for lounge rotation, prepare for lounge rotation." Billions of groans and protests from the long, long line of the dead in the lounge met this announcement. "Will sectors Z100 through Z25 please commence shifting to your right. Remember to please shift in an orderly fashion. Shifting of sectors Z through A will be complete in three months." Vile epithets in every language were uttered as the long ordeal began.
Well, it may have been comfy, but no one said it was speedy, now did they?
The complaints department would certainly have their hands full this time around.
Shinigami Hanatarou Takuya, Third Class, Second Rank coughed nervously at the sight of Zabuza folding his arms menacingly across his chest.
The three were sitting around a small table, on top of which laid the deceased's folders.
"Well?" Zabuza growled.
"I-I beg your pardon?" Hanatarou coughed.
"I believe he is referring to our destinations, Shinigami-san." Haku said gently, gesturing at the folders placed in front of them. "I am quite anxious to know myself.
"Oh, y-yes. Sorry about that." Clearing his throat the shy death god first reached for Haku's folder. "Miyakawa Haku, age 14 at the time of death, of Wave country. Your mother was murdered by your father at age four, and attempted to kill you as well. Before he could do so, you killed him in self-defense. At age five, one Mamochi Zabuza took you under his wing. He trained you to be his personal assassin, planning to use you against his enemies in his attempt to take control over the Hidden Village of the Mist. You died three years ago in a mission to eliminate a bridge builder for a local crime syndicate. You sacrificed yourself for Zabuza, placing yourself in the direct path of a fatal attack by an enemy ninja."
Hanatarou closed Haku's file. "Though you did send many people to their deaths, you only did so if you thought they truly deserved it. You even outright refused to eliminate the young grandson of a local merchant for your client."
"Fat lot of good his conscience did us. We had to sleep outside that night. In the rain. Without waterproof clothing." Zabuza bit out each sentence fiercely, glaring at Haku all the while. His partner just smiled widely at him.
"But he was such a nice young man, wasn't he Zabuza-san? And he was so good at drawing too! It would have been a shame to deprive the world of such talent!"
"You really love torturing me like this, don't you Haku?"
"Whatever do you mean, Zabuza-san?"
"A-ahem," Hanatarou coughed yet again, "it is rare that we see such a pure soul such as yours down here, Haku-san. Though you did lead a life of violence, you did not let your soul or your morals fall to the wayside. I can happily say that you are to be given a residence in the Elysian Fields, which is located on the third level of the Valley of the Clouds. Congratulations."
The imposing Mist-nin didn't even try to muffle his snort of annoyance. "Gee, what a surprise. And I thought for sure that you wouldn't make it in."
The shinigami's hand trembled ever so slightly as he reached for Zabuza's ominously thick folder. "M-mamochi Zabuza, age 31 at the time of death, Mist-nin of Wave country and one of the Seven Swordsmen of the Village of the Mist. The life of violence that you've led, starting at such an appallingly young age, is one of the more disturbing cases I've had to handle." The frail lad quailed under said ninja's glare. Lord Hades himself would have been hard pressed to match it. "A-at a-age 12, during your Genin examinations, you slaughtered the entire class, your closest friends included. Your downward spiral continued from there. You defected from your village and vowed to topple the current government to set up your own. And you were willing to do anything to succeed. I-I don't think I need mention the numerous and horrendous crimes that you've committed, mostly because I don't have the stomach for it and it would take up more than our allotted time."
Zabuza grunted indifferently while Haku frowned. Even though he knew of his master's violent past, he hadn't realized the full scale of it before he was apprenticed to him.
"Needless to say, this kind of file would be a no brainer for the Lake of Fire."
Zabuza nodded and deadpanned, "Didn't see that one coming either. I'm completely shocked."
Hanatarou held up a finger, struggling to look imperious and failing miserably. "H-however…"
Zabuza's eyes snapped upon and fixed themselves on the shinigami, who flinched violently at the look in Zabuza's eyes, while Haku perked up noticeably at the delay of his master's sentence.
"How can there be a 'however' in there? I'm an evil bastard, remember? You know, the whole 'butchered my classmates and ate babies for breakfast' routine?"
"That is true, but at the very end of your life, you redeemed yourself with no thoughts of salvation in your heart. You avenged your protégé's death by dispensing justice to a most evil man and his cronies, saving your soul and the lives of those who resided in the village you had pledged to destroy for one 'Gatou'."
The swordsman raised an eyebrow at this statement.
Haku clapped his hands together and exclaimed happily, "So Zabuza-san can come with me to Heaven after all!"
"W-well, not e-exactly…"
Zabuza chuckled humorlessly. "Of course, I should have known. There's always a but in the fine print." He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. "So…who do you want me to kill?"
Hanatarou recoiled, turning slightly green. "Zabuza-san! We wouldn't even dream--"
"Yeah, yeah, all right," Zabuza waved his hand dismissively, "no need to get all holier than thou on me. Killing is my specialty, after all."
Haku clasped his hands together once again inquiring, "Why exactly can't Zabuza-san be admitted to heaven? If you say that his one good deed cleansed him of his past sins…"
The shinigami scratched his head nervously. "You s-see, that's the thing. While it's true that he managed to save himself from the Lake of Fire, he still isn't completely cleansed."
"So, what? I've got to do a little extra soul-cleaning on the side to get in?" Zabuza chuckled at his little joke. His mirth died off at jittery look on the shinigami's face.
"……….You have got to be kidding me….." Zabuza deadpanned incredulously.
Hanatarou shivered at the small amount of killing intent that was rolling off of Zabuza. "O-occasionally, a soul will have only partially redeemed itself, preventing it from entering heaven. So we shinigami assign them tasks that will enable them to completely cleanse themselves."
"What kind of tasks, exactly?" Haku asked.
"It depends on the nature of the soul's transgressions and the amount of good karma it would take to redeem it."
"You mean, like helping little old ladies across the street?" Zabuza growled.
Hanatarou nodded in the affirmative. "Things of that nature, yes."
"What task will you be assigning to us?"
The Mist-nin glanced askance at Haku. "We?"
"Yes," the boy intoned firmly, "we."
Zabuza stared at the boy for a few moments before he shrugged nonchalantly. "Whatever. Not my problem."
"T-that is highly irregular!" The shinigami protested. "I can't let you--" He was cut off mercilessly by a glare from Haku. Pretty boys are famously known for their death glares. Some even have the ability to incinerate a person where they stand. Haku, on the other hand, had the lesser known ability of freezing the recipient of the glare down to their very toes. What little vestiges of courage that Hanatarou had jumped ship and fled like the rat bastards they were.
"N-never mind!" He squeaked pitifully. "The more the merrier!"
The boy-nin looked like the cat that had eaten the canary and had his cream too. "Now, Shinigami-san, I believe you were about to assign us our task?" Haku said, honey practically dripping from his tongue.
"Ahem..well…" Hanatarou took a moment to compose himself. Being optically bitch slapped can do that to a guy. Zabuza knew this all too well. "Your assignment will be a little out of the ordinary. The nature of Zabuza's crimes warrant an extraordinary act of good karma to cleanse the remainder of his soul."
Zabuza snorted in disgust. "Figures."
"….It has come to our attention that a certain organization in your homeland is trying to harness the power of the Bijuu. Their purpose is unclear at the moment, but it most certainly cannot be good. We are also unsure as to how many demons that they are currently in possession of. We know of two for sure."
The partially damned ninja drummed his fingers on the tabletop. "You guys don't seem to know a lot of things. I don't suppose you have any idea of the name of this so-called 'demon hunting' organization?"
Zabuza bolted upright in his chair, slamming both of his palms on the tabletop while Haku tensed visibly, clenching his hands into fists in his lap. "Akatsuki!?! Are you fucking insane!? There's no way in hell I, much less both of us, could stand a chance against those bastards! Those are S-Class nin! Only someone close to Kage level would be able to survive an encounter with them."
Zabuza folded his arms across his chest once again and glowered at the cowering mass of liquefied death god across from him. "I refuse to be an errand boy for you people. Hell can't be that bad."
Haku laid a placating hand on his shoulder.
"There is no need to be so hasty, Zabuza-san. Perhaps we should hear Shinigami-san out?"
The partially damned, now extremely pissed off ninja only grunted sourly in reply.
Hanatarou took that as a tentative sign to continue. He took a deep breath steeling his nerves.
"Your fears are certainly justified, and we agree. It would take several fairly highly ranked shinigami to take down just one of these people. That is why we have decided that a direct confrontation is not in our best interests."
"You got that right." Zabuza muttered out of the side of his mouth.
"Lord Hades himself has decided that it would easier and much more effective if you were to…e-eliminate one of the Tailed Demons themselves."
Instead of exploding in anger, much like Hanatarou had feared he would, Zabuza just hung his head and sighed sadly. "And how is that any better, exactly?"
"If anything," Haku commented gravely, "wouldn't a demon be much stronger than a mortal?"
The shinigami nodded. "Yes, that is usually true. However-"
"There seems to be a crapload of 'however's and 'buts' today." Zabuza complained petulantly.
"-we have come across an unusual situation. It seems that a little over fifteen years ago, a high-level ninja, most likely of Kage status, sealed a demon into the body of an infant. As a matter of fact, it was a shinigami who was summoned to separate the demon's soul from it's body."
"Any idea who the child was?"
The shinigami shook his head. "No idea, unfortunately. The only thing that we do know is that the container was a citizen of the Hidden Village of the Leaf, in Fire Country."
Zabuza whistled softly. "That's not good. In a place as large as Fire Country, it could take us years to find the kid. And that's assuming his dear old village hasn't kicked him out on his demonic ass."
Haku narrowed his eyes slightly. He was growing increasingly uneasy with the path that this conversation was taking. "And what would you have us do with the boy? I assume you would want us to take him into protective custody?"
The elder Mist-nin just closed his eyes, already knowing the answer to Haku's question. The boy really was too damn soft and naïve for his own good.
"N-no….Lord Hades has determined that the container be exterminated, and his body burnt to ashes." Hanatarou lowered his eyes to the table in front of him, unwilling to meet the stare of the boy across from him. "The nature of the seal on the boy permanently intertwines the chakra and life-force of both the demon and the boy. Their personalities have most likely also merged, with the psyche of the demon bleeding into the container. The death of one will result in the death of the other."
"If Akatsuki can't get ahold of all the demons, then all of their plans fall to pieces." Zabuza murmured.
Haku was silent, his eyes sad and his lips set in a grim line.
Zabuza sighed. "In all likelihood, Haku, the boy is nothing more than a shell, most likely consumed by the demon's instincts and desires. You remember hearing about that Gaara of the Desert guy, right?"
Haku nodded. "The Sand's container? He was supposedly their ultimate weapon, right Zabuza-san?"
"Mmm-hmm. He was nothing more than a cold-blooded killer. From what I heard, and what little I saw, the kid would kill someone just for looking at him funny. The Sand, last time I was around there, were hiring assassins left and right to get rid of the brat." He snorted contemptuously. "Hell, they even tried to recruit me, but I'm no fool. Containers are not mere humans that can be turned from their path. While it may look, smell, and even act somewhat human, a demon is still a demon, even it is housed in a human."
After a long moment of tense silence, Haku spoke reluctantly, "As you say, Zabuza-san. If it means being by your side in Heaven, then it is as you say."
Hanatarou let out a quiet breath of relief. He had managed to contract two of the most fearsome ninja, both dead and alive, to assassinate the most fearsome demon in the history of existence.
He would pat himself on the back later.
But now, he had to cinch the deal and get them on their way before their minds changed.
He pulled another folder, one quite thick, from out of a small briefcase on the floor and laid it on the top of the table in front of the two.
"While we may not know the actual identity of the container, we do know the identity of the demon housed in him."
Haku opened the folder and staring straight back at them was a muzzle in a rictus of a smile, fangs bared for all the world to see and two amber eyes swimming with cruelty and malice, framed in blood hued fur.
"Kyuubi no Kitsune, the Nine Tails Fox, the most fearsome and powerful of the Bijuu that walk the earth." Hanatarou was not overly optimistic on his chances of getting through the next conversation unscathed.
Zabuza managed to sum up both his and Haku's sentiments in one, conveniently packaged word.
Yeah well, there it is. Even if you utterly despised this story, at least let me know. Reviews, whether they are positive or not, are the lifebread of struggling authors such as myself. Wah...feel sad me for me!
Anyway, I hope that I can continue on my roll here. This story has some pretty interesting plotlines that I'm toying with. Don't know how far I'll go, but we'lll see, won't we?