The encounter with Zabuza the Rogue ninja leads to more questions as a shinobi hunter shows up.
Volume 2: In the Land of Waves
Chapter 10: The Shinobi Hunter
Zabuza was struggling far more than he would have liked in the situation. As much as he boosted holding Kakashi prisoner in a water cage was a rather large strain on his chakra level. He should have enough to handle three genin, however. The one with long black hair edged closer to Tazuna moving into what appeared to be a defensive posture, an open fist stance? The other two genin took to the offense, the dark haired boy moving up the center while the girl stood by. Wait, creating clones, no those aren’t illusions they are solid. Zabuza thought to himself as he could see the pressure the shadow clones formed by Miku placed on the ground. A genin knows the shadow clone technique? And furthermore, can use it?
These clones spread out in a half circle facing towards Zabuza’s water clone. Still not a problem the Jonin thought but he could see now how they were able to handle the Oni brothers, even kill one of them. The blonde girl had more chakra than he did if his senses were correct. He watched as the boy made quick symbols and drew a deep breath cupping his hand in front of his mouth then sending a rush of chakra between his fingers as he blew out a breath of pure fire. The edges of the flame lashed out at Zabuza’s clone sending clouds of steam backwards towards where he stood on the pond surface. Shadow metal struck solid water as the girl’s clones rushed towards his. They weren’t enough to handle his clone but there was far more of them than he could block. Spouts of water splashed from his clone as the girl’s clones struck smaller blows while his own clone fended off the larger more dangerous ones.
This fight can’t last much longer. Zabuza thought to himself as his clone struck one of the girl’s clones causing it to disappear in a puff of smoke. She might not be a talented fighter yet, but she’ll overwhelm my clone eventually. It was then he felt the killer intent below his feet. He cursed himself for making such a mistake in the heat of battle as he looked down. Red eyes glowed in the water below his feet as a clone leapt up at him; this one was different, blonde hair with red roots and streaks of red woven in the hair itself. The girl didn’t punch him but rather sank her claws deep into his chest as he staggered backwards releasing the prison that held Kakashi causing him to simultaneously lose control of his water clone which soaked the genin on land putting out the boy’s flame.
As Zabuza looked deeply into the fox clone girl’s eyes he could see echoes of his own during his villages genin trials. A water clone he had created looked back to see those very eyes he saw now, the same killer instinct. He was too far gone during that battle, so much so he attacked his own clones during the battle. It was only luck that saved him this day and his knife/sword as he twisted around striking the clone with the sword he still wore on his back, a desperation move that should have gotten him killed. The momentum of the move sent him reeling away from Kakashi skidding along the water’s surface towards the opposite shore of the pond.
The fight wasn’t going as planned. It shouldn’t have taken this long and he shouldn’t have been taken by surprise in such a manner. He would have to fight Kakashi now; the same trick wouldn’t work a second time against the copycat ninja. As his hands moved to form the signs for his next attack part of his mind noticed Kakashi mirroring his actions. Zabuza ended the signs with the sign of the bird releasing his chakra into the water causing it to rise from the pond forming the head and legs of a massive water dragon. Steam poured from the nostrils of the dragon as a ball of chakra formed in the head of the massive beast. Zabuza could see the water shrink as the dragon pulled on it, but it shrank far more than he had expected as the pond quickly emptied. On the other side of the now muddy field stood Kakashi behind another water dragon almost identical to the one Zabuza had formed.
The two massive water beasts roared at each other releasing the ball of chakra they held. The balls of chakra struck each other sending lances of chakra into the ground with all the power of a lightning bolt sending mud and water flying in all directions as the dragons exploded along with the chakra balls they created. Zabuza staggered as a hard water claw dug into the claw marks the fox girl had created earlier. This isn’t right Zabuza thought to himself as he staggered to the side, Kakashi mirroring his actions as the two moved on the rolling waves of the quickly reforming pond. He’s copying my every move. His hands were already working on the signs for his next attack but something caught his attention. The pattern on Kakashi’s Sharingan eye shifted moving like a pinwheel and for a brief moment, he could see his own reflection standing behind Kakashi. It was at that moment Kakashi struck using the same attack Zabuza was planning on using. Water style, Giant Waterfall, struck him full force as the pond emptied moving in Zabuza’s direction in a massive wave lifting him up and throwing him hard against a tree lining the shores of the pond.
He could feel sharp objects strike both his arms followed by two more striking just above his both his knees as he leaned against the tree struggling to catch his breath. “Can you see the future?” He coughed out through his soaked mask.
“I see your death”
Zabuza’s chakra was just about exhausted and his mind rushed towards some strategy to handle Kakashi when it struck him, darkness embraced him.
Kakashi didn’t even notice the presence until he saw two acupuncture needles strike Zabuza’s neck. “Your prediction came true” a higher pitched voice drifted from a nearby tree. Kakashi’s eyes quickly scanned for the source to see a smallish ninja dressed in dark robes and wearing a mask with wave designs very similar to those of the Konohagakure’s Anbu ninja. On the forehead of the mask, the markings of kirigakure, the village hidden in the mist clearly marked the allegiance of the ninja. Kakashi flash stepped towards where Zabuza lay placing his hand on the fallen ninja’s neck searching for a pulse and found nothing. He had been among the living one minute and about to attack again, swift death had altered the course of the battle.
“I thank you for your help and apologize for the intrusion, however, after tracking him for so long I could not resist striking the final blow myself. He was, after all, my responsibility.”
Kakashi returned his attention to the masked ninja, “Your mask is very familiar, a Shinobi-hunter from the village of Kirigakure?”
“Indeed, you seem well informed. I have been tracking Zabuza for a month now after my team was ambushed. I could not return empty handed and I thank you for assisting me in this.” The masked ninja leapt from the tree branch landing next to the rogue ninja he had been hunting. “I can take it from here. I’ll dispose of the body in private. You do understand… don’t you?” The smaller ninja lifted the body partially making a few quick motions then vanished. Kakashi was far too exhausted to track the ninja. By the size and sound of his voice I doubt he’s much older than the genin I have with me and already a hunter.
“Kakashi-sensei, what was that about?” Miku was at his side before Kakashi even realized it. Had he lost that much chakra in this fight?
“You’ve seen Anbu ops before right? They are shinobi hunters who also perform delicate missions. The job of shinobi hunters is to eliminate rogue ninja like Zabuza.” Something about the whole exchange was bothering him, but for some reason, he could barely focus on the information. He reached up to pull down his headband over his left eye again before it used up any more of his chakra. As his eye returned to darkness again the world around him began to wobble and then tilt, then darkness
He could hear the sound of waves as he opened his eyes again looking upward right into the eyes of a worried Hinata and Miku shocking the two girls causing them to fall backwards. Tazuna’s home? His eyes searched the main room of the building. The architectural design was very similar to the one preferred by fishermen of the land of waves, a large open main room attached to the kitchen allowing a good amount of breeze to flow through the room. Likely Kakashi thought to remove the scene of fish. Standing beside Tazuna was a younger woman perhaps in her late twenties or early thirties. She introduced herself as Tsunami.
“Are you okay?”
“In about a week I should be back to normal.” Kakashi could feel the weight of blankets covering him.
“Well, you took down your strongest opponent so far so we should be able to relax a bit.” Tazuna felt a bit guilty at Kakashi being injured, but it did mean they would be around while Kakashi recovered. Maybe the problems with Gato could be handled by then. There was far more than a week’s worth of time on the bridge but if they could buy some time the risk of traveling had been worth it.
“Maybe, the more I think about it the more I realize that Zabuza isn’t dead.”
“But I thought you said he was dead sensei.” Miku settled next to him offering some tea while Hinata helped Kakashi to a sitting position.
“He should have destroyed the body in that moment, but he didn’t. He took the body with him which makes me wonder more about the attack itself.”
“You mean the acupuncture needles? Aren’t they mostly used by medi-nin?” Hinata spoke while Kakashi shifted his mask enough to drink the tea offered.
“Normally. They can be fatal, but only if you hit a very precise spot. Shinobi-hunters have to have knowledge of medicine in order to destroy a body and that is where we may have a problem. I should have pressed more but I didn’t have the chakra to handle that ninja as well.”
“So now Zabuza will attack us again?” Tazuna felt a bit panicked by the idea. That one ninja nearly took down the entire group and now they were back in his home with his daughter and grandson. He already had lost one family member to Gato, he couldn’t bear to lose another.
“That may take some time. If that ninja put him into a near death state he will need at least a week to recover his strength. We have that much time to train you three. The training will have to be limited but it should hold us over until we return home. Even if I am wrong Gato may have other ninja to send although Zabuza may be the worst one for the moment. So we’ll begin with chakra control…” Kakashi spoke as Miku and Hinata helped him to his feet, “Time to climb trees”
A look of confusion passed over Tsunami’s face. “Climb trees?”
The masked ninja had settled Zabuza’s body some distance from where the battle had taken place. It wasn’t very easy to carrying the much larger ninja and there was the chance that a needle could work its way into a vital area. The ninja removed a tool pouch from his robe laying it out pondering the many medical tools it held before selecting a pair of scissors. He would need to cut Zabuza’s mask first to allow the blood to escape. He was inches from doing so when a hand grabbed his arm. Zabuza had recovered enough for that already?
The only reply was coughing as blood flew from the now recovering ninja’s mouth as he struggled to his knees, his hands groping for the needles in his neck.
“Careful, if you just rip them out you really will die.”
“Gato isn’t going to like this, Haku.” Zabuza struggled to his feet with the help of his partner. “You can remove the mask anytime; it’s a bad enough reminder of the past.” A year after his failed coup a group of Shinobi hunters did run into his small group. The fight had been brutal leaving only three survivors from his original group, Zabuza himself and the Oni brothers. This contract they had taken with Gato had cost him dearly already. One of the Oni brothers was dead at the hands of a blonde girl child, the other in the hands of Konohagakure ninja. It would not be easy to free him from that prison, but perhaps they could exchange Kakashi for him, should he be able to defeat that Sharingan eye. “A week is a long time for a man like him.”
“Will you be okay next time?”
Zabuza wasn’t certain but it was far too late to turn down the contract now. They would only need Gato for a little while longer at any rate. It was almost time to try again to take control of Kirigakure. The chaos raging in the land would surely have made the fourth Mizukage of the village much weaker by now. “I’ll break that technique next time”
Sasuke half paid attention to the lesson as team seven took advantage of the islands tall forest for shelter from the sun. Chakra control seemed to be the issue at hand, or rather their lack of chakra control. It bothered him more than it should that Kakashi spoke to Hinata as if she had already mastered chakra control. He knew he should be happy for her but it felt like something was dragging him into darkness. He felt the same way towards Miku, it was the second time she had gotten in a major attack on him. She took down an Oni brother, which Kakashi praised her for doing and she was instrumental in freeing Kakashi from the water prison Zabuza had trapped him in. He should have been the one to take the lead, not her. How could he be expected to rebuild the Uchiha clan if he was allowing someone else to take the lead when he should have? He would simply have to press himself harder.
“The key to this exercise is in precise control. You’ll need that if you don’t want to waste chakra when pulling off techniques. This type of training will press you a bit into managing your chakra. Too little chakra and you won’t make it up the tree, too much chakra and you’ll be repelled from the surface. The key to this is in keeping a steady rate of chakra flowing into the truck of the tree.” Kakashi spoke as he took a tentative step moving slowly on crutches as he walked up the tree as if he were walking on flat land. Sasuke could see how easily the jonin controlled the chakra even maintaining it while giving a lecture on the subject. Roughly fifteen feet from the ground Kakashi made his way down a rather large branch hanging upside down as a possum would. “I want you to attempt this now and mark the highest point you can obtain” with that he tossed three kunai at the feet of his students.
Each of the three genin looked at each other before attempting the run. They didn’t have the confidence to just walk up the tree like their sensei. Miku had reached her fifth step before she slide down the tree scraping her arms on the trunk on the way down. Sasuke made it further but rather than sliding down he was repelled from the tree landing a few feet from the tree itself. This was a bit harder than it looked. He looked towards where Hinata should have been to see, nothing. What? Where was she? He looked upwards towards the top of the tree to see her standing there smiling back down at them.
“Way to go Hinata” her friend shouted.
Sasuke knew he shouldn’t feel it but all he felt was anger. He wasn’t performing nearly as well as he should have. The anger, however, did disturb him even more. He could remember not all that long ago when he wouldn’t have felt this way. That was of course before his family was murdered. What would have been worse, dying or being left behind? He would just have to work harder at this. This was no time for doubt or second guessing, neither of those feelings would allow him to climb the tree. So he looked up at the notch in the tree that he had made and tried again. I will make it to the top of the tree even if it kills me.
Kakashi watched the scene taking in the information. It was about what he had expected. Hinata had the best control over her chakra and a good amount of chakra to back it up. Sasuke wasn’t as good with his chakra but did quite well for a first attempt. Miku was still having problems with her chakra and most of it came from nine tails. That imbalance of chakra will be something that will bother her for some time until she can master nine-tails interference. However imprecise she was with her chakra Miku had more chakra than the other members of her team combined and that didn’t even count the amount of chakra that nine-tails himself possessed. Once Miku mastered that she would be a fermentable ninja. The good thing was that her nature was still cheery and he could thank the Yamanata clan for that. Whatever curse she had been left with they went out of their way to make sure she knew she was loved and that showed. Now if he could only get Sasuke out of his gloom things would be going much better for the team. Already he could see Miku calling Hinata down. No doubt to ask her for tips on how to work on the exercise. That was the hardest part for some. To admit they didn’t have the answers and then to seek help from someone. Pride could be an issue with some people. Would Sasuke do the same? Only time would tell.