Heart of Gold

Chapter V: Frozen Tears

Naruto and the masked hunter-nin leapt at each other again, the blonde demon container's naginata whirling to deflect the multitude of senbon needles launched at him. Haku attempted to flash through a series of one-handed seals, but was forced to pull back as Naruto leapt forward, his weapon nearly slicing off the fake hunter-nin's fingers.

Haku smiled beneath his mask, and kicked the wet ground causing a spray of water to fly into the air. With a single one-handed seal each droplet of water became an ice senbon and almost instantly fired at his opponent. Naruto quickly spun Maru-chan, his seal-reinforced naginata, to deflect them but was a half-second too late. His armor deflected the vast majority of the frozen projectiles, but several of them became lodged in his body, mostly in his unprotected legs. Another ice senbon had gone right into his cheek, he could taste ice and blood in his mouth. Moving quickly, he created a veritable army of water clones and set them upon his opponent.

Many of the clones began twirling their naginatas in a defensive pattern while the ones in the rear waited for an opportunity to attack. A few more leapt into the surrounding trees, looking for an opportunity to attack with ranged weapons. Naruto fervently wished once more that water clones could use ninjutsu. That would have made this so much easier.

Almost as rapidly as Naruto had created and deployed his clones, Haku undid all of his work with two one-handed seals. Suddenly all of his mizu bunshins went rigid, then fell to the ground, crumbling into small pieces of ice. Naruto's mind boggled, and his minute pause almost cause him to be impaled by ice needles again before he was able to pull off a hasty replacement technique. He grimaced, wondering if all of his techniques could be as easily countered by this mysterious Nin.

Haku pursued Naruto through the tress, away from the other two battling ninjas. He caught the sight of his teacher taking another light slash across the torso as he raced after the armor clad jinchuuriki. Naruto had taken to the trees in hopes of robbing his opponent of usable water for those strange ice techniques. He was similarly disadvantaged, but he hoped his longer weapon would make up for the loss.

Haku smirked. The blonde boy's strategy was clear, if a bit off. Having water nearby made his techniques easier to perform, much easier in fact, but it was not a necessity. With enough chakra he could muster a few ice ninjutsu even in a desert. Haku intentionally left an opening as he jumped from one branch to another, pretending to be off balance, and smirked as the other Nin launched forward, trying to impale him on his blade. Consuming nearly half of his remaining chakra, Haku used his Makyō Hyōshō technique. No one had ever escaped from his Demonic Ice Mirrors, not even Zabuza during their frequent spars.

Naruto watched amazed as dozens of crystalline mirrors sprang up around him, imprisoning the young shinobi in a glittering dome of ice. His eyes widened as copies of his enemy sprang up on every surface. He narrowed his eyes in determination and pulled his weapon close, ready for anything.

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Zabuza was sweating, both figuratively and literally. He found himself slowly loosing against the bearded leaf-nin. He felt like an idiot for not retreating earlier, but he had been suckered. He had initially thought that The Fire Guardian Asuma's primary element was fire, his bingo book had even said so. But the man had either done elemental recomposition training in two elements, or had somehow spread false information about himself throughout the elemental nations. Zabuza had discovered this when one of Asuma's trench knives had flared blue and actually sliced through one of his own kunai, removing the last two fingers of right hand. As the two still clenched digits fell to the ground, Zabuza realized that unless the other man made a big mistake or some miracle occurred, he was going to lose. And miracles were in short supply, especially for demons.

Asuma found himself constantly struggling for breath. He had fought other jounin class ninjas before, many times in fact, and almost always he came out on top. He knew that as far a normal, non-bloodline ninjas went he was a cut above most of them. He had known since the age of 8, when his father tested him for his element, that he would not be another Sandaime. His father could wield each of the elements equally, and both the size of his chakra reserves and his control were unmatched. Asuma had tested positive for both fire and wind natures, and was in the 10th percentile for chakra reserves, but he could not match his famous dad. Asuma had had to work for every once of strength he possessed, and faced with such an overwhelmingly powerful father, it was no surprise that he chose to leave home to pursue his ninja career away from the stifling influence of the man who had sired him.

He had enjoyed learning elemental composition from the monks at the fire temple, and had immersed himself in glittering knife dances taught to him by a master assassin who couldn't even use chakra. He had stolen, begged, borrowed and killed for over a dozen rare wind techniques, and created three more himself besides. He had learned every fire jutsu his father would send to him by ninja courier, and more when he returned to Konoha. He had even created his own signature technique, a hybrid fire-wind ninjutsu that could create a cloud of explosive smoke which could be remotely detonated.

He had realized at a young age that he was the only Konoha-nin on record, besides his father of course, who could wield wind techniques. The vast majority of wind users came from Sunagakure no Sato, and it was almost viewed as a bloodline limit by those of the elemental nations. Sure, there were a few ninjas from Kumo and Kusa who could use wind, but they were the vast minority and those countries were severely lacking in techniques which could make wind use a deadly skill. So Asuma, the only Konoha wind user in active service, had decided to keep his primary element a secret and use it only as a surprise trump card. Sure, there were a few extra-knowledgeable ninjas who would could recognize why his knives were so sharp and deadly, but most simply thought it was a trick of regular neutral-natured chakra. No one that he had faced had lived long enough to spread his secret.

As he severed Zabuza's fingers, ending the man's ability to use nearly all ninjutsu, Asuma realize that this legendary Nin would be no different from all the rest. Still, it wouldn't do to get cocky now. Panting once more, a painful stitch digging into his side, Asuma pressed his attack. Barely reacting to the loss of his fingers, Zabuza pulled out another kunai and met the leaf jounin head on.

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"I am sorry, young Jounin, but I must end your life. You are far too dangerous to leave alive." spoke dozens of copies of the masked ninja, Haku.

Naruto winced. This technique must really be something if the boy believed that his death was certain. He knew that he had to get the initiative back, fights like this were never won by defending. You had to attack! He wondered just how sturdy those mirrors were, and how easily the dark-haired boy could defend against his water techniques.

Making a spur-of-the moment decision, Naruto's hands flew through seals, finally ending with his finger pointing at one of the ice mirrors, while crying out "Suiton: Mizu Kousen no jutsu!" He had used his second original water technique.

A thin stream of water exploded from just in front of his finger tip, it's power and velocity incredible. Less than one millimeter wide, the pure force present in the stream was phenomenal. It hit one of the mirrors dead center, and stopped. Naruto felt his ninjutsu co-opted, and the stream almost instantly turned to ice. The blonde ninja jumped back hastily as the end of the stream near his finger suddenly jabbed itself back at him, it's point needle sharp.

Naruto frowned, then paled as a hail of metal senbon were launched at him. He barely managed to dodge the barrage, performing acrobatics that his armor barely gave him the range of motion to utilize. Still, the suit proved it's value as it deflect a handful of senbon that he had not been able to outmaneuver.

'So,' thought the jinchuuriki, 'precision technique are out.'. A wicked grin appeared on his face. If skill wouldn't get the job done, then he would aim for sheer, overwhelming power. Naruto decided to use the sole original non-elemental technique that he had developed. It was a pretty risky move, but something deep inside told him it had a good probability of succeeding. He could almost feel that using that technique was the right move to make.

Naruto stopped dodging senbon, and tucked his face into his chest while hardening his hair with chakra to prevent senbon needles from penetrating his skull. He quickly started to flash through hand signs while being ruthlessly pelted with needles. Realizing that the projectiles were having little effect and determined to stop whatever jutsu the boy was using, Haku leapt directly toward the boy, an ice-elemental chakra reinforced senbon ready to end the young blonde's life.

Then the world exploded.

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Zabuza's eyes went wide and he collapsed to the ground, his mouth bursting forth with a spray of blood. A wet gurgling sound erupted from his throat signaling his demise. And then all was quiet. Asuma wiped his trench knives on the missing nin's clothing and then sheathed them.

Asuma was about ready for a good nights sleep, but first he needed to make sure that his other student was alright. Leaping through the trees toward the original spot where his team met the Mist ninja, Asuma signaled for Shikamaru to follow him then leapt off toward the only other active chakra sources he could feel. He was not a true sensory-type, but he was more gifted than most at feeling chakra at distances.

As Asuma and Shikamaru approached the site of the second battle, the graceful curve of the Makyō Hyōshō came into view. Startled by the appearance of the glittering structure, both shinobi stopped. Their caution saved both of their lives.

Before anyone but Naruto knew what was happening, the entire ice dome exploded, sending out pieces of chakra-reinforced glittering death faster than a claymore can accelerate ball bearings. Asuma quickly snatched up Shikamaru and shielded them with his chakra as best he could. A fairly large and blunt piece of the elemental construct hit the bearded jounin in his right hip, knocking he and his pupil to the ground painfully.

Shikamaru cried out as he felt his left arm snap under the force of their tangled landing. Asuma tried to stand, but his right leg would not support his weight. He ran chakra through it, hardening and reinforcing muscle and tendon, a makeshift quasi-medical technique that anyone chuunin and above knew. He was able to walk that way, or limp rather, but at least he was on his feet. He shot the still screaming Shikamaru a harsh glare laced with not a little of his killing intent, shocking the wounded boy into silence.

Asuma quickly parted the bushes, ready to fight despite what he expected was a cracked or shattered pelvis, his trench knives appearing in his hands as if by magic. What he saw before him shocked and amazed the combat veteran.

Standing in the middle of a devastated clearing was his strongest student, completely unharmed, a triumphant look on his face. The remains of the ice technique were everywhere, as well as pieces of several obliterated trees. The ground was bare mud, whatever technique Naruto had performed had stripped the ground of even its grass. Chunks of the fake hunter-nin could be seen strewn around the clearing, an arm there, a foot over there, entrails all over. A disturbingly intact skull stripped of half it's face was embedded in a tree not three feet from where Asuma stood. The man who had slaughtered dozens of other ninjas and even civilians fought to hold down his gorge at the sight. It wasn't the gore that got him, it was the look of sheer horror etched into the dead ninja's surprisingly feminine face.

Asuma turned toward his student, suddenly bone weary, and wondered what to say. He was saved the trouble as the still grinning jinchuuriki slumped bonelessly to the ground, his cerulean eyes rolling up into the back of his head.

Asuma sighed, then hobbled over to the blonde and roughly threw the kid over his shoulder. He stumbled off to collect his other two students all the while muttering unhappily under his breath, but simultaneously thanking any and all gods that existed that he and his students had survived the day.

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Author's Note: Yeah, I know it's been a while, I sorry, blah blah blah. The only thing I'm really sorry about is that I don't have more time to write. The next time I update this expect to see some profound changes from canon. Hopefully you will be both surprised and happy with them. I promise to keep writing if you keep reviewing! Unless I die or something HAHAHA! :p