Hi, reader, and thanks for dropping by. This story, The Broken Tool is my attempt to flesh out Haku in an action/adventure with a little romance thrown in too. "My" Haku is a little harder-edged than any I've read yet, based on the short montage of him from the anime where he's killing other ninja pretty much at-will with his senbon. Plus, I figured that Zabuza wouldn't be the easiest guy to stay alive around even if he liked you. Other than that, I try to stick fairly close to the manga/anime with a story about Haku trying to deal with the drastic changes in his life while fighting a variety of new challenges, temptations and adversaries.
I hope you like it.
The Broken Tool
Oh nobly born, that which is called Death being come to you now,
"Oh, now is the hour of death! By taking advantage of this
death I will so act for the good of all sentient beings as to obtain the
Perfect Awakening by resolving on love and compassion toward them
and by directing my effort to the Sole Perfection."
-- Bardo Thödol – The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Like a leaf trapped amidst the torrents of a raging river, the boy, Haku, rose and plunged in the darkness he found awaiting him in the afterlife.
Cold…so, so cold! the thought boomed as he found himself overwhelmed by the sensation. New shocks of confused terror flooded through him for, without a body, without substance how should he be able to feel anything at all?
Images flashed like lightning across his consciousness – his defeat at the hands of that strange boy, Naruto. How could he ever have guessed that the goofy, yellow-haired, orange-clad genin harbored an almost inconceivable power? He might have died then and there at his hands if the leaf-ninja had the heart to execute the sentence.
The scene shifted abruptly. Haku stood now, proud and resolved -- a willing human shield for his master, his sensei, a man who was dearer to him than his own life. Zabuza's enemy, the leaf-jonin, Kakashi, who stood poised there just in front of him with his hand thrust into Haku's bloody chest, looked into the young ninja's face in shock. For a brief moment, the last moment he would spend in this world, Haku's heart melted at the expression of anguish he saw there in his killer's eyes -- one blue, the other bright red and whirling with tomoe droplets of black, the copy-ninja's famed sharingan.
Shrieks startled him, moans and wailing that informed him that he'd arrived…and of where he'd arrived.
Did I really expect anything else? the fallen ninja lamented, but then his thoughts turned, as they always did, to the man, Zabuza Momochi. Was HE alright? Did he manage to kill Kakashi or the bridge-builder? Failing that, was he able to escape?
Even where Haku found himself, dead and facing an eternity of torment, he couldn't stop worrying about him. If his master had gone on, survived, and maybe was proud of him at last then this would all be worthwhile.
Please, oh, please…let him be alright! he begged existence and could swear he felt tears flow.
In the corner of the dank, dim basement, Mari Tezuka hovered over the worktable and the body that lay atop it, with both hands gathered anxiously at her chin. Her uncle Maceo, half again her height and many more times her weight towered next to her.
"Will he make it?" the girl asked in a faint, desperate whisper as she looked up with a plaintive look in her soft, brown eyes. She was fourteen, and so lean from a combination of hard labor and poverty that her stained, well-worn, white coveralls seemed to hang from her shoulders.
Her uncle, tall, dark, bushy-haired and bearded, spat out a caustic laugh. "Of course not!" he growled in his resonant, sand-and-glue, baritone. "He is not alive," the man insisted then pointed emphatically. "This is a dead body, and you ought to return it to wherever you got it from!"
The subject of their conversation lay inertly before them – a boy no older than fifteen, dressed in a knee-length, short-sleeved robe of muted jade green trimmed in tan, worn over a brown, turtle-necked shirt and baggy hakima-style pants. All were rent, scarred and burned from some terrible battle. Strands of his long, black hair fell over a smooth, delicately-featured face that was marred by scratches and bruises. But what horrified, and made any who looked at him cringe, was the grizzly, blood-crusted wound that marked the left side of his chest.
"But, Uncle --!"
"'But, Uncle'…nothing!" he barked, his whole body shaking with consternation. "Honestly, child, I'd hoped that all the peculiar notions and interest in the outré rested exclusively with me. It pains me to no end that, out of all the little brats and miscreants this family has vomited upon the world, it's you, the normally well-mannered and industrious one who's proven me wrong!"
"But Uncle," Mari tried again, un-phased by her elder's antagonism. "He moved. I saw him! He's still alive!"
Maceo clicked his tongue as he shook his head. "Dead bodies do that," he explained with professional impatience. "Nerves twitch and fire, muscles relax and contract, gasses expand and equalize. Why, it's not uncommon for a corpse to sit suddenly bolt-upright!"
The two gave the boy a tentative, anxious look for a moment then relaxed as he, thankfully, remained still.
The girl turned away, her brow narrowed in a serious expression. She then crossed her arms and tried to find a spot in her uncle, the artist's, strange domain where she could rest her eyes without distraction. Along one wall towered shelves with strange sculptures of clay and plaster – creepy, human-like figures married with mechanisms, gears and wiring, which, Uncle said, were 'heterotopic'. Stacked up there were paintings that featured clowns, platypuses, hats, bells and various other motifs that figured prominently in Maceo's personal symbolic language. Everywhere else hunkered his collection of old furniture, projects abandoned or 'in-progress', and various other aesthetically appreciable pieces of junk that he said were 'found objects'.
Sudden screams and shouts echoed shrilly from the floor above – the all-too familiar voices of the girl's argumentative brothers, followed by pounding footfalls that made the floorboards creak and the cobweb-draped joists bounce. The dangling bare-bulbs swayed and puffs of dust drifted into the air.
"Hey, up there!" erupted Uncle, who punched the low ceiling hard with his thick fist. "Settle the hell down or I'll crack your asses the other way!"
Mari cringed from his outburst and then again as he turned toward her.
"Why did you bring him here anyway?" he whined, his deep voice surfacing into unfamiliar octaves. "Does that wound look survivable? Does this look like a hospital? Do I look like a doctor?"
"Well," the niece argued half-heartedly, "you were."
"Years ago!" he countered fiercely. "And I am happily retired, thank you! Though I'm honored that you hold such a high opinion of my art that you think I can raise the dead!"
The girl hung her head. "I'm sorry, uncle," she whispered sadly and in a tone so heartfelt that it doused Maceo's anger. "It's just, that he seemed so…"
"Alive," the man finished for her. "Yes, I believe you thought so." He turned toward the boy's body then gripped it by the chin and turned the head left then right. "He was beautiful, that's plain enough," he appraised and expressed a sigh. "What a damn waste. I suppose, from the silly way he's dressed and the obvious injuries he sustained, that he was one of them ninjers."
Maceo canted his head, folded his arms over the shelf of his protruding belly and studied the corpse for awhile deep in thought. "He really is a stunning subject like that; perhaps I should paint him before you take him to the dumpster," he thought out loud. "I'll call it: Rewards for a Youth Misspent."
"Uncle!" Mari objected and swatted his arm.
"No, I'm serious," he said in return, then reached over his subject to snap on a floodlight. His thick, scarred and stained fingers pinched its clamp open then affixed it to the bottom of a joist, positioned just-so to bathe the boy's face half in bright light and half in stark shadow. "Ah," said the artist as he stepped back and framed his composition.
"Uncle!" his niece shouted again in dismay and stamped her foot.
"It's almost perfect, except," Maceo moved forward again to tweak the light's position then stopped suddenly. "What in --?" he began with surprise then leaned closer toward the body. The former doctor's eyes widened as they tracked a teardrop that gathered in the corner of the boy's eye…then trickled slowly down his temple.
Dawn's light cut through the mist, revealing five figures who stood upon the wide bridge in a half-circle. Four of them wore the voluminous, obscuring black robes and white zodiac masks natural for hunter ninja of the Village Hidden in the Mist. The fifth, a stocky figure, stood at their center with his arms crossed. His gray, black and white camouflage pants were tucked into mud-crusted black boots. Black, thick-framed, thick-lensed glasses rested on his face. His multi-pocketed vest bulged with contents, and had been reinforced and patched with duct tape in places where it had worn or been cut.
"So," said Toru Yamashite introspectively as he chewed, "this is where Momochi and his 'little pal' bought the big one."
The hunter-ninja on the man's right pulled his mask up set it atop his head, revealing a surprisingly mild face. "'Looks that way, Chief," he offered in a tired, nasally voice.
The big man paced forward and scratched his stubbly cheek as his eyes searched out the scars in the new bridge's concrete. There was a patched crater here and there, and a great, sweeping gash that had been filled in and leveled, but the new concrete didn't quite match the original. "Ok," Toru began. "What's the story, 'Masa?"
The first hunter, Yukimasa Sakurai, cleared his throat as he produced a notepad then began his synopsis. "Local engineer named Tazuna hires a leaf-ninja cell comprised of Kakashi the copy-ninja and three genin to protect him from Gato's assassins: that's Zabuza's gang. Here's where it ended up."
"Huh." Toru suppressed a wince that a citizen of the Land of Waves would resort to hiring bodyguards from another ninja village like that, but had to admit it was a smart move. "So the leaf-ninjas killed him?" he asked and turned his head toward his junior.
"No, Chief, it was Gato's own guys," 'Masa clarified. "But he didn't get his money's worth, 'cause Momochi killed Gato first."
The pack-leader barked out a laugh. "What do you know, Zabuza Momochi --public servant!" The ANBU shared the irony and chuckled until Toru fell silent, then said, "It's hard to believe it could be over after all this time. What's it been, like two years already?" He looked around with a sweeping glance. "What's the name of this place anyway?"
"The Great Naruto Bridge," offered Aya Sakamoto's demure voice from behind her stylized 'horse' mask.
"Whoever that is," piped Orimi Hirai more gustily.
'Masa sighed, then explained, knowing how it would be received, "Get this -- it's one of the leaf-genin."
Toru's eyes bugged. "You're sh-ttin' me? PLEASE tell me you're sh-ttin' me!"
"'Serious, Chief," said 'Masa hesitantly. "Yeah, everyone around here was so impressed with the kid that they named the damn bridge after him."
"Hehe, yeah, Chief, you missed your chance," crowed Eiji Tohei, who put up his 'rooster' mask. The teenager's eyes were dark, narrow and fierce. "If we'd gotten here last week it could've been The Great Akita Bridge!"
The hunters laughed.
Toru too chuckled at the mention of one of his many nicknames which he tended to collect because of his peculiarities. That he disdained the traditional cloaks and zodiac masks required by on-duty ANBU hunter-ninja, stating without apologies that it was ridiculously theatrical, was just the beginning. 'Akita' was because of his personality, 'Goggles' because of his glasses, 'Calabash' because of his shape, and 'Fish' because of his breath. Only this last one made him particularly self-conscious and so he'd adopted a habit of chewing anise seeds with a mind toward sweetening his exhalations. He didn't really know if it did any good or not, but it was beside the point because he was now addicted to their licorice taste.
"All right, all right," Toru announced, knowing how ridiculously easy it was to distract his cohorts. "We're getting off track here. 'Masa, where're they now?"
"Buried, up on the high ground," the ninja answered and cocked his head in the direction of the hills beyond.
"Alright," said Toru. "Let's put it to an end. The sooner we process those bodies, the sooner we can get out of this sh-t-hole and move on."
The tranquil forest clearing afforded a magnificent view of the channel below and the so-called 'Great Naruto Bridge', and was clearly marked. All five hunters stopped dead at the sight of their enemy's massive, distinctive and inimitable sword stuck in the ground to mark his final resting place.
"Heaven and Earth," whispered Orimi, who spoke for them all at that moment. Slowly, she removed her 'rat' mask. Her face was thick and rounded but still feminine and quite pretty. "Could he really be dead?"
Toru glanced at her and suppressed a grin. He'd always suspected she harbored a more introspective nature though she tried hard to keep it under wraps. And with Eiji around it was probably a good idea. "I reckon we'll find out in a few minutes," the pack-leader stated. "Are you going to do your thing, Aya, or do we get to dig him up?"
Aya startled then moved forward and started to form hand seals. The ground around the two graves turned dark then water bubbled up. The hunters could feel the vibrations in the ground as it started to liquefy under the pressure of Aya's jutsu. In no time at all, two coffins rose up from the earth as if by magic – pushed by hydrostatic pressure.
Toru signaled his ninjas who surrounded the coffin and prepared themselves for battle, while he himself put his fingers together in a jutsu hand-sign of his own.
With utmost caution Eiji and 'Masa took out pry-bars and dug them into the seam beneath the lid of Zabuza's coffin then, only after everyone had given the 'ready' sign, popped it off.
A man's bloody corpse lay within. It was tall, dark-haired and fearsomely muscular.
All five ANBU gathered around and stared.
"Well," ventured Eiji, "it sure looks like him. Don't you think?"
Toru spat out a troublesome anise-husk. "Thinking we don't need," he stated flatly. "I mean, none of us have ever seen him without his face covered. We need to know. Orimi?"
The kunoichi brought out a shotglass and filled it with clear water from her canteen. She knelt gracefully at the head of the casket and cradled the glass in her hands. After sitting quietly for awhile, with everyone watching and waiting, the water rose slightly – tilting toward the body of Zabuza.
"It's him," said Orimi who looked up at the group.
"Are you sure?" Toru asked with eyebrow raised.
The woman gave him a moderately-offended glance. "Pack-leader Yamashite," she reported firmly, "I am sure."
Toru backed off and raised his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay, you're sure."
"Wow," 'Masa observed. "We usually don't get this lucky."
"That's true enough," agreed Orimi who raised her hand to her cheek as she looked down at the conquered Zabuza. "I wonder why those leaf-ninja didn't take the body."
Their burly chief scowled then blew out a breath as his eyes narrowed. "Maybe all those 'secrets' we hold so dear aren't worth knowing anymore." As wide-eyed looks fell over him, he regretted having said that. His cynicism was well-known, and if anyone didn't like it they had two choices: get used to it, or get out. This time, however, he knew he'd gone too far. "Sorry, team," he offered with contrition and pushed his heavy glasses up to rub the bridge of his nose. "It's been awhile since I've had a break. Maybe they were so wore out from fighting him that they didn't think about it."
"Sure, chief," agreed 'Masa, and rest nodded obligingly.
One after the other, they gathered around the body of their former adversary until they all stood around him in solemn contemplation.
Toru snorted sharply, breaking the mood. "So here it is – the not-so-glorious end of the Demon of the Hidden Mist. After everything he did, all the people he slaughtered, the uprising he lead and his attempted assassination of our Mizukage, after all that, here's what he came to – just another dead sack of sh-t. A year from now, no one will even remember his name." The hunter paced forward, cleared his throat and sinuses noisily then let fly a glob of spit and phlegm that dashed over Zabuza Momochi's lifeless face.
"A moment of silence if you please," said Toru to his pack in a serious tone. "Not for this piece of trash but for all his victims. Remember, there were many."
The team of ninja-hunters fell silent with their heads lowered in thought or prayer. "Ok," said Toru after awhile. "Back on the clock."
Having said that, the man pressed his hands together to form a seal. At once, beads of water began to form on their quarry's corpse until they started to run off his body and soak into his clothes. Vapor then poured off him, rising up in angry, white billows like steam from a kettle. When the senior ANBU had finished, there was nothing left of Zabuza's body but a carpet of dust. Under the desiccating power of the ninja's technique, the bones and even the clothes had been reduced to a grayish powder.
"Bag him," said Toru, but his team was already on it.
Eiji picked up the coffin and shook it smartly until all the remains had collected into one corner then tilted it into a canister that Yukimasa held ready. While 'Masa screwed the lid on tight Eiji set the coffin down, ran his finger along the inside of it then rubbed the residue on his gums, shocking Aya and Orimi.
"What are you doing?" asked 'Masa with his trademarked restraint.
Eiji grinned. "After so long, I just had to try me a taste," he explained. "That's one-hundred percent pure Momochi!"
"Uh, yeah," said Orimi with a clever smile, "and some of the Chief's loogie!"
The young mist-ninja's beady eyes widened then the smile fell from his face. "I forgot."
"All right, all right you slugs," announced Toru as he restored order and made his way toward Haku's casket, "enough fun and games. Let's do the girlfriend."
As before, the hunters all stationed themselves in a circle and got ready while Eiji and 'Masa pried the lid open.
Aya gasped. Eiji yelped in disbelief.
"Well," muttered Toru direly. "That's mighty disappointing." He allowed a few moments for it to sink in with his younger team members that the coffin was indeed empty. "Ok, everyone…your thoughts?"
The jonin tended to ask open-ended questions like that from time to time so that his team wouldn't become complacent or look to him too much for leadership. More than that – he wanted someone to step up and show that they could replace him if necessary.
Yukimasa looked back and forth dumbly between Toru and the empty coffin.
"It's those damn leaf-ninja!" cried Eiji, face flushing with anger. "They took him!"
Orimi shook her head. "Unlikely," she judged. "After all, why would they take Haku and leave the Demon?"
Eiji sputtered as he tried to speak before he knew what to say, but Aya intervened. "Maybe," she young woman began, "the Hidden Leaf Village has some way to mine the secrets of his kekkei-genkai."
Eiji looked at her and nodded vigorously, then turned to Toru and nodded some more. "Yeah!" he piped. "That's GOTTA be it, Chief."
"We could catch up to them," Orimi suggested.
"Hell-to-the-yeah we could catch up to them!" agreed Eiji instantly. "With our mirror-gate jutsu, we could be on 'em like a glove before they even knew it!" He laughed and looked at Toru. "Hey, Chief, 'you take down Copy-Ninja Kakashi and you'll be famous."
Toru coughed and shook his head. "That kind of fame I don't need," he grumbled and rolled his eyes.
"Yukimasa," inquired Orimi. "Is it possible the boy could have survived?"
The shinobi looked back at her, surprised by the idea. "Well, I," he began uncertainly then gathered himself. "I talked to people who saw the body. Haku had a big hole burned into his chest. I don't have an answer for there being no body here, but I don't see how he could have survived."
"Other ideas?" Toru suggested, whereupon the discussions ranged widely from predation by wildlife to body-snatchers to some sort of secret alliance between Haku and the Hidden Leaf Village. None of the hypotheses seemed probable at this point and so the pack-leader brought the matter to a close. "That'll do for now," he said firmly then knelt next to the empty coffin and pointed. "That there looks like a blood stain to me, so I think it's safe to assume that the boy was inside at some point." He looked up and smiled. "I assume we can all agree on what to do next."
All nodded, brought out their canteens and poured them into the coffin. Aya then began to make her hand signs while Toru watched. The water swirled around the coffin then rose up into the air in glistening, silvery streams. They coiled and spiraled around their master, Aya, who raised her delicate hands, lowered them then cast them forth. Like dogs chasing a thrown stick, the water eels flew off toward town in search of their prey.
"With any luck," said Eiji, "we'll have him bagged by lunchtime."
Hi, everyone. I hope you like what I've written. I always liked Haku because he was quieter, deeper and more interesting than almost any other character in Naruto. I thought it sucked that he got killed off so quickly, even though it made sense in the story, and I haven't seen any stories here on fanfiction that was the kind of story that I really wanted to read about him.
Anyway, if you have any comments, parts you like or dislike, please drop me a review. I don't always know what I'm doing, so I need all the help I can get ;)