Disclaimer:I don't own Naruto or gain or will gain any profit from using the franchise's chars, they belong to Kishimoto.
Italics - Thoughts
Bold Italics - Demons/monsters talking
Bold - Demon influenced/curse-sealed person talking
Beta checked by: Shelvesinthecloset
Reposted on: 05/20/10
"Why? Why did you have to die? Sasuke!" Naruto's mind reeled, his lips twisting into a thin, grim line as water gathered in his eyes. Despite all that had transpired between them, Naruto still cared for Sasuke deeply. Without pausing to think he desperately tightened his hold on his comrade's limp body.
The young Jinchuuriki couldn't breathe; every pant seemed to scrape against the walls of his lungs, and liquid flames seared through his veins. He tried to fight back the tremulous sob that had gathered in his throat, but failed miserably as there seemed to be a gaping, crippling pain in his chest. Thinking had become hard due to the influx of emotions that overwhelmed any semblance of coherence.
Naruto had few precious people in his life and he'd never truly lost one, until now. Was this horrible feeling what it felt like to lose someone? No wonder ninjas were warned to kill off their emotions. This horrible feeling was worst than any beating, curse or wound Naruto had ever faced, and he had been through a lot in his short life.
He didn't know how to deal with this loss. Despite his many exclamations of bravado and masks of indifference Naruto was just a fragile, fractured boy who was dangerously teetering over the abyss of insanity – all he needed was a little push. These overwhelming feelings were something new, foreign and extremely dangerous for when sorrow and rage overwhelm the mind there is only one possibly outlet – violence.
His ears rang as blood pounded through them; the world spinning wildly as his vision shifted from color into a hyper sharp haze of shades of crimson and black. The Jinchuuriki was nauseous, dizzy and disoriented but those sensations were suppressed briefly when hollow, trembling laughter echoed around him and exchanged his previous feelings with trepidation. Perhaps it was just a figment of his imagination, but whatever it was, it didn't matter. All Naruto's mind could truly focus on was expelling the tension boiling within him, preferably on Haku.
Naruto didn't feel his nails lengthening into claws, nor did he wince at the pain accompanying the sharpening of his fangs. He paid no heed to the sizzling sound of his evaporating tears as crimson, ethereal flames of chakra coalesced around his body like a pack of patient vipers ready to strike out at any moment. The corrosive swirls of blood red chakra licked at Naruto's body, contaminating him with their toxic touch – and through him the limp Uchiha in his arms.
The blonde laid Sasuke down reverently and turned to regard Haku. His ears twitching faintly at Haku's remarks regarding the difficulties of killing his own heart and how Sasuke had been a real ninja to sacrifice himself for Naruto.
The guilt exploded within Naruto. "I never asked him to…I was…damn it!" the unconvincing, useless words failed to curb both the growing blood lust and the guilt boiling through the Uzumaki's veins - they only made everything worse.
"Shut up! I'll kill you!"The Kyuubi container growled out in a deep, gravely tone and the crimson cloak of energy erupted furiously around him in a miasma-like construct. It shifted and twirled as if it had a mind of its own and for a moment the androgynous ice-nin's eyes widened in horror behind his mask"What is this evil chakra…was that a fox I saw grinning at me?"He wondered briefly before shaking his head.
Such things were impossible and Haku couldn't afford to succumb to nonsense, not while Zabuza was dueling with a foe as deadly as Hatake Kakashi. The teen struggled and started regaining control of his body, fighting furiously against the paralyzing presence of Naruto's killing intent.
"What…What are you?" the masked ice-nin asked in a trembling voice.
The blonde Genin's body tensed momentarily before he rocketed towards Haku, leaving deep indentions where his feet kicked off the ground, unable to bring himself to care enough to reply in his usual boisterous manner.
Haku's dark eyes narrowed thoughtfully as Naruto's twin orbs narrowed down on him with such intensity it was only sheer will that kept him from looking away. The burning orbs were full of pure, animalistic malice and promising pain and death that shook Haku to the core. "It appears...I'll have to truly kill this time...I can't die here, not while Zabuza-sama needs me!"
Kakashi stayed his hand in the middle of a hand sign sequence; his concentration broken by a familiar tainted feeling he had almost forgotten. He ignored Zabuza's confusion and frowned under his mask "That's the Kyuubi's chakra…Has the seal broken? No…not yet, but who knows what'll happen if Naruto's mind is overwhelmed by the fox. Stay safe…Naruto, Sasuke…I'm coming for you!"
Kakashi's eyes shifted from cold concentration to burning resolve as he stood straight, his posture shifting as he increased the gathering of his chakra considerably. His killing intent spiked oppressively, the suffocating presence of his violent thoughts powerful enough to cause even the Demon of the Mist to narrow his eyes in wariness.
"Enough games Zabuza, this ends now…" Kakashi promised coldly, his mind already devising a way to dispose of the blood-thirsty Kiri-nin. Zabuza's dismissive reply was promptly ignored by the Copy-Nin; he had not survived the ninja wars and been heralded as the genius student of the Yondaime Hokage just to succumb to some overly ambitious nuke-nin with a chip on his shoulder.
He made some quick hand seals and three Kage Bunshin soundlessly came into existence in a small cloud of white vapor: one to his left, one to his right and one in front of him. Before the smoke could even clear Kakashi was rushing into action.
The clones to his sides spread out, running in opposite directions, twin blurs melting into the mist as the final clone in front of Kakashi remained stationary and started making seals of its own at an alarmingly fast pace. Zabuza's predatory teeth grit ground together as he wondered what the Konoha Jounin was up to before his pride reemerged and he sneered at the sharingan wielder.
"You're wasting your chakra, Kakashi! For every clone you make I can make a dozen." The demon of the mist taunted as he formed a single seal, summoning a dozen Mizu Bunshin from the moisture around him and sending them after Kakashi's moving clones.
Kakashi snorted silently. "You talk too much, Zabuza," he chided quietly in an indifferent tone that would've sent his eternal rival into tears of jealousy as his stationary clone finished its seal sequence.
The Zanbatou wielder prepared himself. "It would appear the scarecrow is finally getting serious…sounds like fun…" His chakra gathered at his feet, gluing him to the concrete in reaction to a sudden gale of chakra infused wind that exploded from the copy ninja's direction.
"Fuuton: Daitoppa?" Zabuza murmured thoughtfully as he held his blade across his body protectively, his earlier confidence evaporating along with the rapidly dispersing veil of mist. His dark eyes followed his prey as the original Kakashi brought both hands together, weaving them through a blurry sequence of hand seals at the very moment his mobile clones unleashed a hail of shuriken at Zabuza.
Zabuza laughed joyously as he prepared to deflect the rain of projectiles "That's more like it, Hatake! Show me more!" Zabuza shouted in excitement and slammed his blade into the floor, sliding it across the concrete and preparing to swing it in a wide arc that would deflect the hail of metallic death.
However, he quickly found himself forced to abandon his plan as his survival sense, the same inner voice that had saved him through the bloodline purges and his failed rebellion, commanded him to move. He obeyed it without question and soon enough his eyes witnessed the pair of clones make several rapid seals before crying in unison "Shuriken Kage Bushin no Jutsu."
Zabuza cursed under his breath as the dozen or so ninja stars multiplied alarmingly, making any hopes of escape impossible. The nuke-nin found himself regretting egging on the copy nin as the silver haired Jounin began revealing his legendary genius. Zabuza replaced himself with a piece of nearby concrete, "Is that all you can do…Kaka…" he gloated as he reappeared several feet away from his original position before the sound of shifting rubble drew his attention. "How many steps ahead did you plan?"
He never finished his sentence, the fact that one of the stationary ninjas he'd previously faced was gone was all he needed to know to accept that his fate was sealed. His epiphany had arrived just in time to briefly feel the kunai that lodged itself into his throat, cutting tendon, flesh and skin alike.
Kakashi's soft voice filtered through Zabuza's mind as he took his final breaths; telling him what all ninja ultimately wanted to know – how he was going to die.
"Doton: Shinjuu Zanshu no Jutsu," Kakashi whispered. The sounds of their battle ceased and then the brief silence of Zabuza's undoing was abruptly pierced by the sound of blood and flesh hitting concrete accompanied by the ring of clattering steel, the demon of the mist having been slain and sent back to whatever hell was reserved for his bloodthirsty type.
Haku heaved out blood and saliva, his hand pressed firmly against a set of four deep, bleeding lacerations across his chest. Desperation had already begun to settle deeply within him – the feral looking Genin's monstrous onslaught had stripped him of hope.
The blond haired demon in human form was rapidly closing in on its prey, and death's fingertips were already caressing Haku's soul. His mirrors had long since lost their effectiveness for anything more than substitution techniques and the crimson eyed juggernaut had literally punched through several of them.
The dark haired ninja was low on chakra, dizzy and was nauseated by the sight of Naruto's regenerative abilities in action. No matter how deep his ice cut, or how lethal his strikes were, the crimson chakra healed it in a most grotesque manner that had finally drawn a series of dry gags from the ice nin.
The masked nin paused with dreary acceptance just a moment before he felt Zabuza's chakra signature fade. The sound of his clattering blade chilling him to his very soul as his brown eyes widened behind his mask. "Z-Zabuza…sama" he uttered in a choked tone. The feelings of fear and apathy that were leading him towards oblivion shattered like glass and from the fragments a deep, foreign feeling arose in the Haku - a burning sensation that opposed both his nature and bloodline - hatred.
"Y-you…you…" his voice eluded him as his teeth grit tightly, "m-monster…" his voice whispered out shakily. Haku knew it was foolish to blame the blonde for the Copy nin's decisive victory but perhaps if Haku had not been detained by fighting the berserker ninja he could've stopped Kakashi – for no foe had ever managed to best Zabuza while Haku was at his side.
"If Kakashi took Zabuza away from me…even if I'm a broken tool…then I too, shall…take someone from him" The Hyouton user murmured more to himself than to Naruto, gathering all his chakra in preparation for his ultimate offensive jutsu. It was a technique Zabuza helped him devise only several weeks ago but Haku hadn't been able to bring himself to use such a deadly technique on another living being, until now. Even the kindest spirit can break under the pressure of loss.
Naruto's body trembled, the contaminated chakra coursing through his body numbing the pain, but it couldn't erase the nauseating smell of his rapidly burning skin. He trembled in disgust, fear and shock as he gazed at his hands, knowing that the unhealthy looking red that had replaced his usual slightly tan complexion was cause for concern.
He was starting to get desperate and frustrated. Haku was a better ninja than he was and even his infinite chakra and regeneration couldn't compensate for the fact that the ice-nin was faster and more skilled. It was so hard to think clearly, and nearly impossible to concentrate with that infernal laughter echoing in his ears as the revolting heat burned within him, just beneath the surface of his skin.
The Jinchuuriki knew he should aim his strikes better, waste less energy in his motions or maybe use kunai or shuriken, but he just couldn't stop and think for long enough to translate his fleeting thoughts into action due to the combination of the adrenaline rush, foreign bloodlust and Haku's unrelenting barrage of projectiles and senbon.
He knew one thing and one thing only at that moment, something bad was about to happen. His slit pupils shrunk slightly and he watched in a mixture of awe and trepidation as the air around Haku swirled violently. Tendrils of icy water slithered around visible torrents of super charged wind, the shapeless elements seemed to shift and morph into a massive, cone-like shaped glacier.
"Hyouton..." Haku hissed through violent coughs, his eyes shut tightly behind his mask as he forced his body and mind past his physical and mental limits. Despite how ill and weak his blood loss made him he would do this – for Zabuza. "Seiryu no Fuunu!"
Now that Sakura and Tazuna were finally liberated from the veil of mist they had the chance to see a massive, serpentine dragon of ice being brought into existence. The creature seemed to roar before bursting into motion. Sakura's eyes widened in shock as the bi-elemental jutsu shot forth and slammed into her blonde teammate with incredible force, engulfing him in a maelstrom of freezing liquid and cutting wind.
The impact sent the Uzumaki slamming into the side of the bridge with an audible crash. Naruto vaguely heard someone screaming as the sharp blades sliced through his skin, igniting impossible pain for scant moments before arctic frost seeped deep into his bloodstream, slowing down his body.
His gaze briefly flickered downwards, horror filling him at the sight of the ugly blue signs of frostbite. He realized numbly that the tortured screams were the sound of his own voice crying out in anguish and for a moment he could've sworn a pair of massive, blood red eyes flashed before his own; full of impatience.
"Pathetic…you can't do anything alone can you…?" a booming voice chided before the fire within him exploded angrily and all he could see was white, as his senses overloaded with pain.
Kakashi's lone eye widened in horror as he prepared himself to run towards Naruto only to pause in mid stride as an oppressive killer intent slammed into him, forcing him down to his knees. "I…I don't need you...damn it! I'm the one…I'm the one that won't let anyone…" Naruto's voice hissed out in a broken, gravely tone - inspiring hope and relief in the copy ninja just moments before a blurry shape rushed out of the debris, leaving a deep trail of broken stone in its path.
The ice-nin didn't even have a chance to register what hit him before the force behind a crimson glowing hand tore through him, violating his body as it entered through his ribcage before exiting his back. Haku choked on his own blood for a moment before the life faded from his body, leaving his corpse hanging in a bony heap against Naruto. "...Hurt my precious people!"
"N-Naruto…?" Sakura's voice asked hesitantly as the steam slowly dispersed with the sea breeze and revealed the sickening visage of her half dead teammate. Naruto's upper body was naked, the wind chakra having ripped his jumpsuit to shreds, revealing a series of deep, bleeding cuts.
Sakura vaguely heard Tazuna gag and vomit as her eyes traced over the contours of the blonde's body, his skin covered with a grotesque pattern of blood, sinew and half-frozen skin that was painful to look at. Even worse was the poor state of his right arm which was colored in a deep black blue, hanging loosely at his side; seemingly frozen dead.
The Jinchuuriki bit back the pain as he shook Haku off him and collapsed to his knees. The burning crimson around him swirled ominously as it healed his wounds in a sickening display of reforming tissue and popping bones.
The Jinchuuriki held himself up with his good hand as he violently coughed up blood and bile, his body trembling in a desperate attempt to deal with the painful ordeal and his general wooziness from the exposure to the lethal youki.
Kakashi was tempted to go check on his student but his senses caught the scent of multiple men, steel, oil, tobacco and sake approaching and he forced himself to remain calm and not jeopardize the mission. "Sakura, take Tazuna and go find Sasuke!" Kakashi's voice cut through Sakura's horror-filled trance.
She was hesitant, glancing nervously as her glowing, feral looking teammate. But before she could muster the courage to obey despite the fear gripping her Naruto coughed out a horrible confession in a bitter, morose tone: "don't bother…he's dead…I killed him…"
A gleam of pain and sorrow briefly flashed across Kakashi's eyes, understanding the true meaning of Naruto blaming himself for Sasuke's death. He buried his woe under a mask of cold calculation. "I see…" he said evenly. He watched as Sakura's eyes widened at Naruto's words before they watered. Her previous fear shifted into intense sorrow as no words could be spoken to convey her woe as she bit her lips to stifle sobbing.
"Will you be alright…?" he asked quietly, so only Naruto could hear him, knowing Sakura's soon to come outburst could wait a moment longer.
"It is already healing me…I'll be alright, don't worry Kakashi-sensei…" he said in a small, weary tone. The implications of what he lost and just what exactly he had allowed himself to become dawned upon the blonde. The fox's power faded, his eyes shifting back to blue right before he was pushed him to vomit again; but for a different reason this time – self loathing.
Kakashi winced in sympathy under his mask, he knew Naruto was in a very fragile and dangerous state of mind but helping him would have to wait. "Keep an eye on Sakura, I'll be right back," the Jounin whispered quietly and squeezed his student's shoulder briefly before turning towards the crowd of ronin and mercenaries.
The copy nin pulled down his Headband over Obito's sharingan eye to conserve chakra and eyed the motley crew with cold indifference before he located the instigator of this tragedy and his single visible eye narrowed – it was time to take out the trash. "Gatou…"
While Kakashi was otherwise occupied Sakura's eyes stung with tears and the damns finally broke and she started sobbing; ninja rule number 25 be damned. She mumbed Sasuke's name over and over. She was scared and confused, her mind reeling with the enormity of the events.
Tazuna's wrinkled face twisted into a grimace as he watched with sympathy while kneeling beside Naruto, his wizened eyes narrowing only briefly at the sight of his now unblemished flesh. He held his tongue – that boy had been through hell and back to protect him and his people, so he hadn't a negative word to speak against him or his outlandish regenerative abilities.
They heard the sound of steel cutting into flesh and a scream of pain and fear in the background as the copy-nin tore through the fools from the crowd that dared stand in his path.
Sakura pulled back from the hand Naruto laid on her shoulder. She panted wildly, her mind still envisioning the bestial form he previously held and that horrible, disgustingly evil presence that wrapped around him. This...this wasn't the idiot she tolerated reluctantly only due to the need for three genin on any given cell. Hell, she was pretty sure he wasn't even human!
"Don't touch me! You...you monster! I...why! Why did you...how could you?" Sakura finally spat out after many inaudible stammers. She felt something inside her snap, her panic intermingling with a deep, primal fury as she glared hatefully at the ill Jinchuuruki who had admitted that he killed her Sasuke-kun.
Her tear filled emerald eyes were accusing as she screened out her surroundings, narrowing her attention on the surviving Uzumaki. She ignored Tazuna's look of shock and Naruto's look of surprise.
"I-I can't believe I trusted you! I thought you were an idiot...but, but you were tricking us all along, weren't you? All this time, you were waiting to get revenge on Sasuke-kun for humilating you during the academy…" She spat out and pointed at him accusingly.
The blonde's eyes dulled as he bit his lower lip, submissively facing the stormy countenance of his sole remaining teammate. He weathered her fury without a word and Tazuna could've sworn the child was far older than his years.
Sakura fist slammed into his face, knocking him onto his back before she straddled his hips and sobbed and reached behind her back. Her desperate crying was swallowed by the sounds of an angry crowd roaring ahead of them - the arrival of the citizens of Nami-no-Kuni would've usually been noticed but Sakura was far too absorbed in her own misery and sorrow to care.
"S-Sakura…you've got to stop" Tazuna started trying to placate and somehow salvage the situation by pointing out it was over now. His fellow citizens had helped Kakashi drive the ronin and mercenaries away.
The kunoichi shifted glacier green eyes to him and her icy whisper tore him away from thoughts of salvation. "Stay out of this! You lured us here with your lies in the first place! If you weren't a client…" She hissed through sniffles, ignoring the cheers and chattering sounds that signaled the end of the battle.
Sakura's hand slipped into her weapon's pouch and trembled around the handle of kunai, her eyes turning to the trembling form of Naruto though she hesitated from pulling the weapon out of her pouch and comitting the sordid act. The blonde was painstakingly oblivious to the blame the pink-haired kunoichi had placed on his shoulders for misconstruing his words or her murderous intent.
She had obsessed over Sasuke for years now. She'd dreamt of him, followed him, lived for his approval and love for so long, and it couldn't end like this. She wouldn't let it end with Sasuke fading into the darkness. It wouldn't be fair to Sasuke and she never let Sasuke-kun down – his murderer had to die.
She was about to avenge her precious Sasuke-kun right there and then but was stopped by an oppressive wave of killer intent. "Sakura!" Kakashi's voice cut in icily as the Jounin's hand clasped her shoulder in a crushing, vice-like grip as he pulled her off Naruto.
"What are you doing, Sakura? Get off Naruto this instance. We don't know if more enemies are lurking about. So stop your 'antics' and go and collect Sasuke's body." Kakashi's message was as clear as his voice was cold – they needed to protect the sharingan and her 'intentions' were not helping.
He turned to scoop up his other student gently as Sakura scampered off, pausing as he heard the blonde's voice whisper weakly. "Kakashi-sensei…" The copy nin listened with rapt attention, "What happened to Gato and the Ronin?"
Kakashi's eye flickered to a reassuring gleam as he held the blonde a bit closer. "I took care of it," he said calmly, shuddering inwardly as he recalled a time where his own sensei had used that same sentence to reassure him.
The blonde's eyes traveled towards the crowd gathering around and he vaguely heard Inari shout something about the hero arriving late as the blurry shape of a massive crowd filtered through his hazy vision. "Heroes…I wish…I could be one…and not always…the dropout…" he murmured painfully, his voice trembling before he finally succumbed to fatigue, a single thought still swirling in his mind. "Will you hate me too, Kakashi-sensei? Now that Sasuke is gone?"
Glossary and Jutsu list:
Jinchuuriki:Power of Human sacrifice - a nickname used by ninjas for the containers of the mythical tale beasts.
Fuuton: Daitoppa - Air Release: Great Breakthrough - High level wind technique that Fires off a massive gale of wind towards the target that can level almost anything in its path.
Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu: Shuriken Shadow clone technique: A jutsu that creates multiple solid copies of an original set of ninja stars. The amount of summoned copies varies in accordance to the chakra expended by the user.
Kage Bunshin (no Jutsu) - Shadow Clone (technique)
Mizu Bunshin (no Jutsu) - Water Clone (technique)
Doton: Shinjuu Zanshu no Jutsu - Earth Release: Double Suicide Decapitation technique:Mid-level Earth elemental technique, the user will travel underneath the ground and will pop up beneath its target and pull it into the ground or alternatively can pop up behind it.
Hyouton: Seiryu no Fuunu - Ice release: Seiryu's rage - A high level combo elemental jutsu invented by Haku and Zabuza. Utilizing Haku's unique bloodline he'll form a ice that is wrapped with icy water and wind and slam it into his target. The jutsu will both cut and freeze the opponent fatally upon contact. (Seiryu is one of the four mythological guardians of Chinese mythology)