The Land of Waves is suffering under Gato's control. With the arrival of the Ninja from the Village hidden in the leaves that may change.
Volume 2: In the Land of Waves
Chapter 11: The Courage to Move Past Fear
The sound of a sparrow brought Haku out of his meditation. One of the lookouts spotted Gato with his usual bodyguards. Given how much noise the three made the sentries were hardly needed. With the loss of the Oni brothers that only left two sentries to keep out any ninja-hunters. Until recently the one people who had even come close to their hiding spot weren’t ninja however but Samurai bodyguard hired by Gato. The Ninja from the leaf village might be a problem, however, but their job was primarily to defend Tazuna and they would be in no position to go after anyone.
“I’m not in a habit of spending good money after bad. Perhaps I should have hired someone from the village hidden in the clouds… perhaps even from the village hidden in the leaves given who just defeated you.”
“They wouldn’t have accepted your mission. I gather the messenger you sent didn’t return.” Zabuza still too weakened to sit up on the bed turned to face their current employer.
“And I’m stuck with a rogue ninja who can’t even clean up after his subordinates. Two failed attempts.” Gato made his way across the room past where Haku sat towards the bed. “You have nothing to say for your failures? Given how much I’ve paid you?” Haku was already moving before Gato could even reach for Zabuza’s mask.
“Keep your filthy hands of him”
Gato could feel almost feel his wrist break as Haku held him in place. He could already hear his bodyguards rush forward. They would take care of this little punk without too much difficulty. When he glanced down at his hand again Haku’s hand was missing.
The two bodyguards with Gato started moving the moment the younger ninja touched their boss, their hands were moving towards their swords grabbing.. air? They could feel cold steel brushing against their necks as they came to a stop. Zabuza’s assistant Haku stood between the two of them their swords in his hand pointing each at its owner. When had he moved? Neither of the bodyguards knew, one moment he was standing beside Gato the next he had disarmed two of Gato’s best guards.
“You had best not to do that now… when I am upset over Zabuza’s condition. I might cut off something you’ll need”
The two bodyguards were terrified. They had heard Zabuza was injured and thought this would be easy pickings but his assistant was as dangerous as Zabuza himself.
“Well there had best not be any more mistakes, I’ll not pay after a third failure” Gato motioned for his men to follow them. For a moment they hesitated to see if the ninja would return their swords but then thought better of it. While a sword could be replaced their own heads could not. As the door closed behind them Haku returned to his seat.
“There was no need” under the sheets Zabuza slipped his Kunai back into its hiding spot.
“True but it’s too soon to kill that slime. We still need him for the moment and killing him would cause far too much commotion.” The wooden tree structure they had used as a headquarters ever since leaving the land of water had served them well. It was small but spacious enough for their dwindling group and more importantly unknown but to a few people.
“For now” Dreams of taking his homeland back had filled Zabuza’s mind as the drug Haku had given him began to kick in Lessing his pain.
Tazuna looked up from his plans to see the dark haired girl shift ever so slightly turning her head only by a fraction. If you weren’t paying attention you would think she was in a deep sleep or very heavy meditation. Her eyes were closed but by now Tazuna had figured out that was no bar to her eyes. Beneath closed eyelids he imagined her eyes had turned to an almost dead like marble look, the areas around her eyes showed the faint veins that appeared when she used her vision. He wasn’t certain all of the things she could see but he was certain that not even a single nail could slip by her inspection of the construction site.
“Are Blondie and that moody boy off to train again? Why aren’t you with them?”
“Kakashi sensei asked me to guard you while they train. The current training for them is chakra control but I don’t currently need that training.” Hinata opened her eyes dispelling her Byakugan “My training is slightly different but it can be done while helping defend you and your crew. We should be fine until Zabuza recovers and by then Kakashi will be there to help out.”
“Do you ever stop training?”
“No more than a master builder stops learning or seeking new ways to build. Anyone good at their profession will spend quite a lot of time training. Every encounter has something to learn from. Back at home I even took on a job which would normally be below my station, but the learning experience was invaluable and I got to spend more time with my best friend so that was a bonus as well.”
“The little blonde? It’s strange to see the head of a clan be friends with a tradesman daughter.”
“It’s a little more complicated than that she comes from a good family as well. The Yamanaka clan has deep roots in Konohagakure… “ Hinata gave Tazuna a slightly mischievous smile “Pun intended.”
Tazuna remembered walkthrough through the village and seeing that flower shop doing a brisk business although when he looked into the shop itself it seemed to him that their customers were probably more interested in the two blonde girls working the counter than the actual flowers themselves.
Hinata watched as a workman nervously flagged down Tazuna. She had seen this happen the day before. Another worker would request to not return to work on the bridge. She wondered if Gato had sent someone to talk to them or if It was general worry about the state of the bridge. Tazuna was steadily losing workers and it wouldn’t be much longer before he was the only one at the bridge. When Kakashi recovered she hoped that more of the workers would return, she certainly knew they would feel rather nervous about being protected by a child even if that child was a trained ninja.
“Giichi you don’t have to come back tomorrow.”
With the loss of another worker Tazuna had called an end to work for the day. They could find some more workers on the way back to Tazuna’s house. There were certainly enough people begging for work, although the trained ones would be elsewhere and a number of them didn’t want to risk their lives on the bridge. The town had stagnated under Gato’s blockade and very little trade was able to escape the island. Worse than that, another blockade runner was found floating near the once thriving port. It wasn’t the boatman who helped them slip past the blockade but she knew it was something Tazuna knew well. The Blockade was doing enough damage, but it seemed it wasn’t accomplishing the mission fast enough for Gato. She’d seen that a few times with people in too much of a hurry to get something done that they overlooked making sure that the system they set up was working properly.
The state of the Grocery store was far worse than it was the day before. She was certain the almost bare store hadn’t received any merchandise past the few items that were grown on the island itself. There was enough fish for the island but fish alone was not enough to keep a population healthy. She knew Ino would have cried at the state of the tomatoes on the island. Cherry tomatoes were her addiction so much so she took to gardening them along with a private plot of flowers in the park in the middle of the Yamanaka clan’s village block.
She was certain that the thief sliding by her was hungry as well but stealing wasn’t the way to go. With quick movements, she brought her hand up tapping him in the chest and shoulder whispering “work for it don’t steal” as the thief stared stunned at her his arm now hanging loosely by his side. They had tried that more when she had first accompanied Tazuna to the grocery store and now word had circulated to all but the most desperate that it was pointless to try to steal from her. Not a single thief could even get close enough without her knowing he was there and each one was convinced she had eyes in the back of her head.
“A bit restrained given what the others would have done.” Tazuna joined her carrying a small bag for the meal tonight.
“Only Sasuke. He tends to be a bit focused. Miku would have cried over the state that guy was in and tried to get him a job and there is no way they would have tried that against Kakashi even if they didn’t know who he was.”
Tazuna shuddered; she did know other sides to Miku but all he could remember was the clone the girl had created that tore into one of those Oni brothers. Miku was a sweet girl but one who could do quite a bit of damage if she ever got upset. He had heard about ninja clones that they were basically an identical copy of the ninja in question but he was certain that the red-haired clone the girl had created was something completely different. Even their leader Kakashi had seemed worried about the clone and what was going on with Miku. “Well if we can just get the bridge built, then I am certain prosperity will return. We don’t have very far to go but at this point, even a few yards may as well be a mile.”
Hinata felt a tug on her outfit. It was one of the many children of the village hoping for candy of some type. She smiled at the young child and offered a piece or two of candy. They wouldn’t last too much longer however given the lack of supplies; still, some candy might brighten their day.
Sasuke watched as Miku landed from another attempt to climb the tree. She was getting better but it was still a long hard process for her. He wondered about the promise she made to the kid Inari, to prove to him that heroes still existed. It seemed a bit foolish. No hero saved his clan the day Itachi turned on them. No hero saved his parents. Sill he found out something he hadn’t known. Miku was adopted and both Hinata and Kakashi knew about it. She shouldn’t be so careless with a secret even to cheer up a child. Cheering him up wouldn’t bring back Inari’s father, only by killing Gato could they have at least peace even if a hole still remained. He could, however, see some small hope returning to the boy, Inari still wanted to believe in heroes despite everything that had happened.
He had thought that being on a team with Hinata and Miku would be less of a distraction but it was starting to look like they were worse. He could feel those two might cause him to forget his vengeance. Each day with them his anger seemed to lessen just a little. Whenever that did happened he pictured the last time he saw Itachi, their parents in the center of the room, his mother cradling his father even in death. It was harder and harder each time. So he sought out something else to be angry about, the way some people in the village seemed to see the Uchiha clan in general, but that too still wasn’t enough. His mind searched and remembered the story Tazuna had told them about Inari’s father, Kaiza.
Kaiza had arrived in the land of waves after being fired for actually standing up to his boss. Who that boss was is unknown but the action did bring him into the lives of Tazuna and his family. Kaiza had saved Inari from drowning after a few bullies had thrown both Inari and his dog, poochie, into the water. Poochie on his own learned how to swim but things did not go nearly so well for Inari who struggled to keep his head above the water. Saving one life brought Kaiza into the family, saving the town by closing a dam door when it accidently opened during a storm.
Kaiza took the risk nobody else in the village was able to. Using a rope he was able to fight against the strong current to close the dam door. Hope had returned to the village. Sasuke wondered about that accident. It would have been enough to break the village had the dam remained open and the one fatality of the day was an unknown merchant. Looking back on the story Sasuke was certain Gato had a hand in that as well. When Gato arrived in the village his thugs proved more lethal than a simple dam. Tazuna had difficulty telling the story and given how Gato had Kaiza executed he couldn’t blame him. The anger of another life filled Sasuke’s heart with the same gloom that filled Sasuke himself in the days after he lost his clan and family.
“Don’t be a grouch Sasuke”
He looked up to see Miku sitting right in front of him and far too close. The scent of orange blossoms hit him at full force. She was too distracting this close to him and even cuter than her sister Ino. “Shouldn’t you be practicing?”
Miku shifted and sat not too far from him but still too close for Sasuke's liking. When he looked back to where she had been practicing he could see several clones. “Isn’t that risky?”
“Not so bad. The extra clone went down to the water and I get a chance to keep an eye on her. I think the shadow clones are helping speed all the training up. Each time I create and dispel shadow clones it gets a little bit easier.”
“So Ino isn’t really your sister.”
“We’re sisters in every way that matters.”
Sasuke could see a stubborn look that practically mirrored Ino appear on Miku’s face. They might not be related by blood but they were nearly identical in so many ways. “I guess your history is similar although I doubt very many people in the village know it.”
“Why would it matter? It takes more than blood to make a family. My daddy is still my daddy, Ino is my sister and my mom is still my mom by birth or not. That is all that matters.”
“So you don’t call him Inoichi?”
“Why would I? He’s my daddy. You know konohagakure is your family as well. You were a lot older than I was when it happened but that doesn’t mean you have to close yourself off so much. There is more to life than a vendetta.” Miku was caught off guard as Sasuke leapt at her a look of rage on his face.
“What do you know!” His rage blinded him, in the place of Miku all he could see was Itachi’s face as he grabbed Miku’s shoulders shoving her backwards and hard onto the ground. His vision returned in time to see the explosion of smoke as the clone he just attacked disappear.
“You’ve got a lot of anger in you” a strange voice drifted from above.
Sasuke looked up to see a fox whiskered redheaded clone looking down at him. Her uniform was similar to Miku's uniform but Black, white and red, the colors of a Fox rather than Miku’s brighter peach and off white cream like colors. The Clone then vanished in a swirl of red and black smoke. As he sat all he could feel now was shame. He shouldn’t let anger gain control of him. “I’m sorry Miku” he looked up to see the other clones were missing as well. He knew another lecture would be waiting for him when he returned. “I’m still not strong enough” he spoke to no one in particular as he headed back to the village. How would he defeat and kill Itachi if he wasn’t able to control his own emotions? If a regular fisherman could control his own fear and emotions to stand up to the likes of Gato why the last of the Uchiha clan couldn’t control his own? A regular fisherman with no training looked death in the face and all Sasuke could see was his own terror hoping Itachi wouldn’t kill him like he had killed the rest of the clan. What was it Kaiza had told Inari. “If there is something you love, you can stand up to any adversity. Even if there seems to be no hope… even if your body breaks… you can have the courage to go on. That courage isn’t the lack of fear, it is just the ability to look at fear and move past it. The greatest of heroes were afraid that their love was stronger than their fear… with that, they could look down even death.” Those who lacked the ability to move past their fear found life in fear far worse than a death. Death is simple. A hero dies but once, a coward dies a thousand times. Every day since the death of the Uchiha clan Sasuke felt that quote. Each day a reminder that he couldn’t, that he didn’t stand up to Itachi when he could have. Next time he faced Itachi he wouldn’t run, he would stand regardless of the outcome and he would win.