Chapter 05:

The Others


This autumn will end. 
Nothing can last forever. 
Fate controls our lives

 - Yosano Akiko


Yokoshibahikari, Chiba Prefecture



It was another quiet night; nothing much to report and only one prisoner (a local drunk) lay snoring in his cell. Officer Aoi – who just turned twenty-two about a week ago - yawned and flipped through the pages of the girlie magazine. He whistled in appreciation at the sight of Shizu-chan’s double A cup-sized breasts and wondered if he could get away with jerking off for at least half-an-hour since he was all alone in the station.


His partner, Officer Kenzo, had gone off to do one more patrol around the block; something Aoi had rolled his eyes about when the older man made the announcement. Though he was technically still a rookie, Aoi did not understand why Kenzo had to be so meticulous about everything. Nothing much ever happened in this damn town except arresting the occasional drunk or dealing with a domestic brawl. People seemed more concerned with their personal business and generally stayed out of trouble.


Aoi felt he could run things on his own; after all that training to become a watchdog, he knew he was capable of being in charge. However, Kenzo – who really should have retired by now – didn’t seem to want to let go of his position. The old man was pushing his late sixties, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, he would always claim he was a member of the famous Uchiha clan; something Aoi scoffed at that. Everyone knew most of those guys were either dead or stuck in the North at the revered Byaku-Shinkyou, so Kenzo was clearly losing his damn mind.


Poor guy’s getting Alzheimer. Next thing you know, he’ll claim he was once an emperor.


He chuckled and flipped to the next page of the magazine; a hand absently moving down to the growing bulge within his pants.


He would have just enough time to admire the dusky nipples of Kiyoko-chan’s full breasts, before the sudden explosion would rip his body into barely identifiable pieces.




Yainazu, Fukushima Prefecture



“Fi…Fire!” came the strangled scream. “Fire!!”


Eyes watering, stinging, burning; his throat parched and breathing extremely difficult, he coughed and tried to reach for the fire alarm; but someone else beat him to the punch. The shrill sound ricocheted off the walls of the police station, causing the few officers on duty to begin evacuation procedures as quickly as they could manage it.


“Did someone call the fire station?”


“I heard the siren! They’re on their way!”


“Jesus fucking Christ! How did it start?”


“Who the hell knows?! It’s spreading faster, man!”


“The whole place is gonna blow any second! Evacuate the sinners! Evacuate the sinners!”


It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault, were the only words Officer Kyoya could think as he struggled to make his way out of the building. He had only gone down to the storage unit to do his nightly check of the weapons in stock. He had definitely not expected to see tendrils of smoke emanating from beneath the doors or to almost get blown to smithereens when said door suddenly exploded in splinters and ash. He was lucky to still be alive, that’s for sure.


There was a mini pandemonium occurring and even as he felt himself dragged out into fresh air; even as the panicked voices of the sinners being evacuated danced within his frazzled mind, even as the locals began to trickle out of their homes to see the commotion, and even as the firemen finally arrived to do their duty; Kyoya knew there was really nothing anyone could do.


The fire had now completely consumed the building and everything within the vicinity. The home of the watchdogs was simply no more.




Kanan, Osaka Prefecture



Officer Higashi Shibito was a realist.


As captain and a member of the watchdogs for over twenty-years, he had seen his share of failures and successes in this line of work. He had dealt with the worst of the worst; child predators and killers were usually at the bottom of his totem pole of sins. He never felt more rewarded than having to accost one of those sick perverts under his watch. As a father of two young boys – whose photographs sat proudly on his desk – he couldn’t imagine having any of them go through what the other innocent victims must have endured. It literally made him sick to the stomach having to go to crime scenes where children – some as young as three-years-old – were found dead and mutilated especially after being sexually abused.


Yes, he could deal with the petty crimes and the drunks, but when it came to those perverted humans, they did not deserve to live another day.


He sighed and closed the folder of the latest sinner responsible for the hideous rape of seven-year-old twin girls, whose bodies had been found in the woods not far from here about a week ago.  Higashi could still remember the mother’s distraught tears (she was simply inconsolable), the father’s stoic expression of buried shock, and as for the sinner? Currently sitting in solitary confinement before being transported to Byaku-Shinkyou tomorrow. In a way, it made Higashi wish he was still at the northern headquarters where he could personally organize the sinner’s torture until Gudan.


However, as he glanced at the photographs of his family, he knew there was simply no way he could have remained there. His need to get married to his long time high-school sweetheart, settle down, and raise a family had taken precedence; hence his eventual request to be transferred. He was happy now. Happy and blessed. And in about two years, he knew he would hang up his uniform and call it a day. Retirement – at this stage of his life – didn’t seem so bad. He certainly looked forward to lazy days spent on his fishing boat off the coast of Okinawa.


The sudden shrill ring of his phone had him reaching for it almost absently. Expecting it to be a report from downstairs, he was pleasantly surprised to find it was his wife on the line.


“How much longer?” she asked in that sweet voice that always brought a smile to his face.


“In a few hours, my dear.” He leaned back in his chair. “I still have a lot of paperwork to complete.”


“I miss you, you know,” she whispered.


“And I miss you too, but I’ll be home soon. I promise.”


“Don’t forget to pick up the sauce for the soup when you pass the store, okay?”


“What am I? Your personal errand boy?”


Her giggle made him feel warm and loved, and as he glanced at the clock, he wished time would move a little faster so he could return home and creep into bed to be by her side.


“I love you, Higashi,” she muttered shyly. “We love you.”


If he had any more tears to shed, he would, but he did feel his heart stir with that emotion he felt he could never get tired of. “And I love you too, Miyaki. I will see you soon, okay?”


His attention was distracted at the sight of the rookie officer hovering at his door, and he motioned with a hand for the young man to enter. Hanging up the phone, he finally noticed the man had a parcel in his hands.


“Mail?” Higashi asked with a raised brow of curiosity.


“It was left at the front of the station, sir,” came the bemused reply. “I kept asking the others who it might be for, but they weren’t sure either.”


“Hmm.” Higashi sighed and held out a hand. “Let’s see it then. Might just be another misplaced delivery. I swear these mail men are slacking off at their jobs.”


The younger man – he couldn’t have been older than eighteen – smiled tentatively and wondered if he ought to remain in the room. Being in the presence of his boss was always intimidating after all.


Higashi eyed the box. Whoever wrapped this thing hadn’t done a very good job. The brown paper was generic and the thick string in itself was frayed at the edges. It looked like it had been sent from place to place for a while, and the various stamped dates and locations made it difficult to trace its exact starting point. It wasn’t even really addressed to any one person in particular. So who…?


Shit! Shit! Shit!


He had softened over the years, for such a stupid, silly mistake would never have escaped the Higashi of old. He should have seen the trap and signs from the moment the officer had walked into the room. And even before the final – yet barely audible – click was heard within the box, Higashi Shibito was at least allowed to have one final thought.


I’m so so sorry, Miyaki. I guess I won’t be coming home after all...






As heard on the ten o’clock evening news...


“…with the most recent explosion in Meiwa, there have now been ten reported cases of mysterious bombings or arsons committed in various towns across the country. These attacks seem to be targeting only the police stations; something that has not escaped the Superintendent General. In a statement released last night, Councilman Shimura Danzo stated that he and his department will be working hard to catch the perpetrators of these acts of terrorism. All stations have doubled up on security and anyone looking even remotely suspicious is brought in for questioning. So far, there have been many false leads, but no concrete suspects arrested or claiming responsibility for the attacks. Over a hundred police officers have either been killed or injured due to these events; something that has left many in these towns worried and concerned for their safety…”






Knowing his master’s routine by now, he waited patiently – almost an hour after Lord Sasuke was done reading his passages – to finally excuse himself. His master could be quite stubborn even when it came to that natural instinct - sleep. He would watch as the young lord studied for hours on end until the wee hours of the morning, and even when his head would begin to nod or droop in weariness, Sasuke would force himself awake with a jerk; literally slap his cheeks and try to focus on the scrolls or books before him. It was cute to see his master that vulnerable and ‘human’; for watching Lord Sasuke at work during the day could be difficult. The Sasuke he knew at night or in his private quarters was sometimes a far cry from the detached, aloof, and ruthless captain that was feared by everyone. Well, mostly everyone.


When alone, Sasuke did like his peace and quiet. He always favored Haku playing on his shamisen or listening to classical music on the radio, and though his master had the opportunity to have a television, he did not seem to like watching it or want one in his room. He was definitely more relaxed when he was away from the administrative side of his work, but not so much as to completely let go of his inhibitions. Haku was yet to see his master laugh out loud about anything or to give a genuine smile of warmth and not one of sadistic pleasure or triumph.


However, the other night when Haku had performed the massage…needless to say, it was definitely a side of his master he had never seen before. Besides the bodily reaction to his touches (seeing his mater orgasm had been more than rewarding for Haku), it was the quiet almost tentative question Sasuke had asked that still stuck with him.


/Do you think me heartless? /


It was puzzling; perplexing that his master would even want to get some kind of answer from him – a mere lowly servant who was nothing more than a tool or weapon to be used at will. Haku was under no pretense that Sasuke saw him as anything but that. For most of his life, he had been raised to believe that was the case. His individuality would have to remain on the back burner, while he pleased others to the best of his abilities.


It was the role Lord Orochimaru had set for him the moment he was brought to Byaku-Shinkyou almost thirteen years ago.


Orphaned at a young age (his parents had been killed by wandering ronin who also set fire to their small home in the countryside), his life had been spent on the streets surviving on a day to day basis while praying for death. Every day was a lesson in survival, for sustenance included rummaging through trash, hunting for rats, stealing, or begging strangers for something to eat. He slept in abandoned homes or on doorsteps, and in the bitter winter, would sneak into stables to snuggle between fat, muddy pigs or if he was lucky, warm hay among horses.


Like most orphans that roamed the street, he was seen as nothing more than an object; sometimes kicked around and bullied by the bigger kids (or adults) who seemed to take pleasure in humiliating him. He had always been a quiet kid, hardly speaking unless spoken to, and would never scream or fight back much while he was tormented. Many a time had he run away; naked and crying while he was flogged or stones thrown at him. Sometimes he would be left for dead; having lost consciousness after a particularly harrowing time with his tormentors.


It was how Kimimaro had found him; almost frozen and half-dead in the snow just on the outskirts of town. Drifting in and out of consciousness, Haku had barely registered the sound of footsteps crunching on the thick snow before they came to a stop beside him.


“Is it dead?” someone had asked impatiently. “I really do not understand why I have to pick up every stray rat we come across, Kimimaro.”


“I’m sorry, my Lord, but…” Haku was nudged gently with a black boot. “This one seems alive.”


The loud neigh of a horse and a light grunt signaled someone getting off a horse. Haku did not know who they were…did not care to know who they were…he just wanted to live; to get out of his hell and to find salvation somewhere…anywhere.


“It’s a girl,” came the low voice of disdain. His body was nudged again; this time a little harder. “I will not have females in Byaku-Shinkyou. I already told you that. Let’s go.”


No…please…don’t leave me…


“What in the…?” Kimimaro stopped as he felt the light tug on the hem of his hakama. He looked down to see the frail, pale hand; trembling but still holding on tight to the cloth.


“Pl…” Haku tried; really tried to get the word out of his frozen lips, but he just couldn’t seem to form them. Tears of frustration filled his eyes. He was hurting and bleeding in several places. He couldn’t even run after them if he wanted to. There was no doubt these men were powerful leaders; at least one of them was a watchdog, but unlike the simple black uniforms the others wore in the town, this man must have been a high-ranking official. Either way, Haku knew he was taking a big risk by being so bold. Nothing stopped them from killing him off and ending his miserable life.


“What’s holding us?” came the annoyed rasp from the other man.


“She’s not letting me go, my Lord,” Kimimaro replied with a light shrug. “Perhaps we can find some use for her…”


“I am not running a goddamn orphanage!”


“But my Lord…”


Orochimaru gave a long-suffering sigh, shook his head, and mounted his horse again. “I swear, Kimimaro, you will be the death of me someday. I thought I had managed to eradicate that kind streak of yours.”


“I apologize…”


“Save it for another day. Until then, I do not want to see the little runt around the grounds. She will be your responsibility. Is that clear?”


“Yes, my Lord.”


“One month with her and then she’s gone.”


The horse gave another neigh and with a sharp command from its rider, galloped away in a cloud of snow, leaving Kimimaro and his new ward to look at each other for a long minute.


“Well…I guess it’s just you and me now,” the white-haired man said as he shrugged out of his overcoat to drape it around Haku before lifting the tiny body within his arms. “You are all sticks and bones,” he muttered to himself. “Guess you need a good meal and then…then we’ll figure out what the hell to do with you.”


It had taken almost two days for Haku to recover, and that was because true to his word, Kimimaro did look after him like a doting father. Looking back now, Haku was sure it was a side of the older man that Orochimaru hated to see or would not acknowledge or perhaps did not really know. Either way, Haku had vowed there and then to give his life to the officer with the beautiful face. His life was Kimimaro’s, whether he wanted to accept it or not. It was also during this time – when he was finally given a bath – that his real sexual identity was revealed.


“Lucky you then,” Kimimaro had said with a smile and a ruffle of Haku’s long hair. “Guess we can talk my Lord into letting you stay.”


Now cleaner, well-fed and rested, Haku was presented to Orochimaru at the end of the month; much to the older man’s delight. He didn’t mind that he was inspected like a newly purchased item, or that Orochimaru now had a gleam of devilish intent within those serpent-like eyes, Haku was just happy that he was accepted and ‘loved’ by someone.


“You are a very beautiful child,” Orochimaru had praised with a caress of Haku’s cheek. “But come, I want to introduce you to someone. You just might be interested in him.”


That ‘someone’ would turn out to be Lord Sasuke, who had been training in the dojo at the time. The then eight-year-old was engaged in a spar with a much older student, but it was clear that Sasuke already had skills that rivaled any veteran fighter. He was small, but his speed was exceptional. Hence his ability to dodge blows coming at him from his opponent was a sight to behold. Haku wasn’t aware he had been holding his breath in awe (and perhaps jealousy), until the order was given for the fighters to acknowledge the presence of their Lord and Master.


“Look, Sasuke-kun,” Orochimaru said with an indulgent smile as he presented Haku (who bowed in respect to the older boy). “I brought you a new playmate. His name is Haku. Don’t you think he’s lovely?”


Haku had looked up shyly; only to wince inwardly at the cold glare he received from the panting boy before him. Still drenched with sweat from his spar and not exactly in the mood for Orochimaru’s gimmicks, Sasuke had only scowled in distaste before replying flatly,


“I don’t need a playmate.”


He slammed back the protective mask over his face and with a barely noticeable bow of acknowledgement to Orochimaru, jogged back to the mat to face another opponent.


Haku tried to mask his disappointment and hurt at being rejected so openly, but Orochimaru only patted his shoulders in reassurance. “He’s always like that. Such a grouchy, ungrateful little bastard, but he’ll come around. Until then…” He looked closely at Haku. “You might want to learn a few tricks yourself.”


“ Lord?”


“Well if you’re going to remain at Byaku-Shinkyou, you might as well learn how to fight. So…which is going to be your weapon of choice? The sword or the gun?”


Haku swallowed tightly and stole another glance at Sasuke who was going at it with his bokken in a manner so effortless and yet intense, it was beautiful to watch.


“The…the sword,” Haku finally whispered. I want to be just like him. To be as strong as him. To make him like me someday and have him respect me.


“The sword it is,” Orochimaru had announced. “And I have just the teacher to help you with that.” He snapped his fingers. “Fetch that brat Momichi Zabuza!”


Momichi Zabuza.


It would be the beginning of a friendship/relationship that would last for quite a long time. Though – to be honest – the teenager had scared the shit out of him at first sight; and hadn’t always been the most patient of teachers. Still, Haku knew he owed a lot to Zabuza’s teaching and reluctant friendship. He was not only able to hone his taijutsu and sword-fighting skills, but he also became adept at other weapons including throwing knives – which were his personal favorite. And although Zabuza wasn’t much of a talker, he did listen and didn’t seem to mind if Haku talked his ear off during moments of rest between trainings.


It was Zabuza he turned to when the ‘other things’ had started. The first time the ‘other thing’ happened Haku hadn’t really understood what role he was to play. All he knew was that he was being groomed for something; for he was taught how to wear more effeminate clothing, play the shamisen, and learn how to entertain the guests Orochimaru invited to his private quarters. He usually ignored the lecherous looks that came his way as he’d serve the older men during the dinner parties or when he was made to dance for them. At thirteen years old, he and about ten other boys who looked like him (pretty that is) were almost always at these weird parties. It wasn’t until he found himself in a private room with one such guest, did Haku finally realize just what his new role had become.


He couldn’t really remember all the events of that night, but did know he awoke the next day with an inexplicable soreness in his buttocks and groin area. He had nearly screamed at the sight of the blood that still trickled from his anus, but had bore the pain and allowed himself to be purified. Orochimaru had praised him for doing such a good job, and Haku – as naïve and gullible as he had been – truly believed he was doing the right thing.


It was Zabuza who had told him otherwise. The older boy would all but shake him for being such a damn fool and allowing himself to be used by Orochimaru.


“You’re nothing but a sex slave to his sick friends!” he’d scream after a particularly strenuous spar session. “Is that what you want to be for the rest of your life? Some sex slave for Orochimaru and his cohorts?!”


“But…but…” That’s all I’m good for, Haku would argue within himself. As he’d lay on the futon and allow his body to be toyed with (all the while fighting tears of humiliation or pain during each session), he wondered if Zabuza was right after all. Was this really what his life would continue to be? To be nothing more than a vessel for these men to pour their frustrations upon? With every thick spurt of semen left within him, Haku felt himself die a little more inside. Even with all the purification rites he was made to go through, he still felt unclean…sullied…tainted.


He could remember eventually sobbing in resignation in Zabuza’s arms one night they had sat on a roof simply staring at the landscape in companionable silence. He must have muttered something about wanting to die or kill himself, and either to shut him up or to show him otherwise, Zabuza had finally silenced him with a kiss…his first real kiss that didn’t consist of large quantities of saliva being shoved into his mouth and down his throat.


Did he love Zabuza? He wasn’t sure. He did know that being in his arms was definitely better than being with those other bastards. He would eventually come to find refuge in Zabuza after his ‘duties’ for Lord Orochimaru, finding pleasure and comfort within those strong arms that would never hurt him. However, they both knew it was a relationship that would have to be kept a secret, and it did work for a while until Zabuza was suddenly given a transfer order.


“It’s because he knows about us,” Zabuza had deduced as Haku clung to him desperately. “He’s getting rid of anyone who will get in the way.”


“I hate him,” came the whisper filled with venom.


Zabuza laughed and tipped Haku’s chin gently. “Get in line then. You’re not the only one who wants to see his guts spilled all over the floor, but until we find someone with balls enough to step up to him…we just have to wait.”


Wait? For how long would he have to wait? How long would they all have to wait? Haku wasn’t sure if that day would ever come, but he was aware that there was something happening…something about to change the course of their history. Perhaps it was in the way Zabuza had spoken to Sasuke-sama the other day. There had been no fear…no real concern for his future, and when their eyes had met, Haku had seen something within those sharp black eyes. Zabuza had secrets to share, and this was why Haku found himself walking briskly across the courtyards this cold night to find the answers.


He had to wait until he was sure his master was completely asleep before daring to leave the private quarters, otherwise he would have risked having to field questions about his decision to see his long-lost friend and partner.


“Halt,” came the sudden sharp cry which had Haku gasping in mild panic. “Who goes there?”


He had wrapped a thick scarf around his head, neck, and even covered his nose and mouth with the cloth. However, he lowered it a little to reveal most of his face to the guard stationed before the path leading to the East Block.


“Ah, Haku-san,” came the familiar greeting as the other man relaxed. “What brings you here this time of the night?”


“I have a message for Officer Fudo,” Haku lied and showed just a bit of a scroll (which actually contained nothing) within his kimono. “From Sasuke-sama. It’s urgent.”


At the mention of his master’s name, the guard stiffened and saluted before stepping aside. It never ceased to amaze him how his master’s name could elicit such a reaction, and Haku thanked his lucky stars (for the one-millionth time) that Sasuke had finally chosen and accepted him as a servant.


He would still never know the real reason behind Sasuke’s decision, but it had all happened when his master turned eighteen and Lord Orochimaru had thrown a large party for the very blasé birthday boy. It had been a big brouhaha, with Orochimaru decorating the large banquet hall with the finest silks, the richest trinkets, the most expensive foods and wines, dancers and musicians from India, and a cake that was large enough to feed the entire police force on the compound. However, the guest list was mostly made up of officers and a few of Orochimaru’s buddies. There was hardly anyone of Sasuke’s age, let alone anyone that could be considered a friend to share such a milestone with him, and though he had been dressed in a custom-made silk kimono (yet another gift from Orochimaru) and looked positively resplendent, one seemed to get the feeling he was only there to please the older man and nothing more.  


Haku could still remember watching the parade of young men brought before Sasuke for him to make a selection. As per Lord Orochimaru’s tastes, they were of the same stock; beautiful and pliable.


“You’re becoming a man now,” Orochimaru had stated with a flourish. “You will need someone to be at your beck and call and to assist with your duties. I know you want to do every damn thing on your own, my dear, but trust me; having a man servant is very important. Now then…” He picked and sucked on a strawberry from the tray Haku was holding out to him and grinned at Sasuke. “Pick one or two, doesn’t matter to me.”


Pick none of them, Haku had secretly prayed; though he was dismayed at even thinking of that in the first place. There was just no way Sasuke would have even looked twice at him. In fact, he was sure since that day at the dojo, Sasuke had barely said more than ten complete sentences to him in ten years. So why in the world would he even assume he’d be considered for the role?


“Anyone?” Sasuke had drawled lazily. There was a mysterious small smile on his face now, and Haku couldn’t help the flush of color that came to his cheeks as he felt the weight of those piercing dark eyes fall on him for the briefest of moments. He lowered his gaze and had to grip the tray a little tighter so its contents wouldn’t spill to the floor.


“Anyone at all,” Orochimaru replied. Even he couldn’t contain his enjoyment at this moment. He cradled his chin within a palm and waved toward the buffet of eager young men, who were all but literally drooling and begging to be chosen. I mean, who wouldn’t? This was only THE Lord Uchiha Sasuke, who everyone knew was the most respected first captain and fighter in Byaku-Shinkyou. He wasn’t bad on the eyes either, and being a manservant to a man like him would be the highest of honors!


“Then I pick…” Sasuke paused; pretended to examine each blushing male before him intensely, before giving a sigh (as if suddenly weary of the game) and pointing his chopsticks at the young man kneeling beside Orochimaru’s chair.




Orochimaru looked bemused. Haku even more confused. He even glanced behind him to be sure there was no one else lurking there. But there wasn’t. Unless Sasuke had a thing for bronzed statues of gods. He turned back to see Sasuke was indeed staring at him. By this time, Orochimaru had straightened up in his chair; his eyes flashing with mischief and obvious interest.


“You want Haku?” he asked as if wanting to be sure of exactly what his stubborn ward was requesting.


Sasuke shrugged lightly. “You did say I could pick anyone, or were there limits to who was available?”


“And here I thought you didn’t want a playmate.”


Sasuke’s cheeks burned at the reminder of his rudeness all those years ago, but he kept his gaze stubbornly trained on the older man. It was clear he wasn’t going to back out of this.


“All right then. You may have Haku, although I will miss him,” Orochimaru added as he pet Haku’s head lightly as if he were nothing more than a house cat. “He has given me many nights of pleasure after all.”


If the ground had cracked open at the very moment, to swallow them all whole, Haku would have welcomed it gladly. Not only had Orochimaru managed to cheapen him to nothing more than ‘used goods’, Haku wondered if Sasuke-sama was now having regrets at having chosen him. The last thing he wanted to do was give his new master the impression that he was only good in the bedroom, and later on that night – as he had knelt uncertainly outside Sasuke-sama’s door – he was pleasantly stunned to hear the young man’s curt instructions.


“I am not like them,” Sasuke had announced succinctly. “So you can be rest assured your body will not be tarnished any longer. You will be my manservant, but only for the usual things and nothing more. If anything extra is required of you, I’ll let you know.”


Haku had really not planned to burst into tears of gratitude, but they had come anyway. He knew his sobs were embarrassing to his new master, but he couldn’t control them even if he wanted to. For the first time since Zabuza had left him all alone (and Kimimaro when he thought of it) there was someone else who saw him as more than an object of desire. And just as he had vowed to give up his life to those who genuinely cared for him, Haku swore there and then that he would become Sasuke’s shadow, even if it meant taking a bullet for him.


He reveled in being Sasuke’s closest companion on a daily basis, even if his master rarely spoke and had a tendency to lose his temper often. In the year plus they had been together, Haku had come to learn so much (and yet nothing at all) about a young man he had admired and worshipped in silence for ten years. He had seen sides of Sasuke that no one else could understand, and it hurt (and annoyed him) when he overhead other servants or soldiers mocking his master behind his back.


Stepping into the cool confines of the East Block was always disturbing to Haku. The security here was much tighter than the other places, and as one of the guards began to lead him past the steel gates - with seemingly a thousand locks - and into the dank bowels of the earth, Haku shuddered and prayed he would never end up in such a place.


The East Block, simply put – was a torture chamber. Catacombs devoted to the most cruel devices and methods to place any human being through, could be found in here. Even before they had gone past the first level, Haku’s nostrils were already filled with the stench of pain, suffering, and death. He could hear the faint screams of agony coming from deeper within the caves; a sign that yet another sinner (or sinners) were going through their rites of passage. It was colder down here as well causing Haku to wrap his scarf a little tighter around his body.


“Officer Fudo will be here shortly,” the guard said as they came to a stop on level five. The levels went as far down as ten; with level ten reserved for those sinners bound for Gudan. Haku had heard horrific stories of what those sinners had to go through, and goodness knew he wouldn’t have wished that on anyone.


“You can wait here…”


“Uum…could you tell me which room Momichi Zabuza was sent to? I believe he was brought here a few days ago?” Haku asked breathlessly. He could see the guard’s brow rise in bemusement, but since this was Sasuke-sama’s personal manservant…who was he to question his decision to see anyone?


“Momichi Zabuza is a level below,” the guard finally replied. “Just walk down the steps; first cell on your right.”


“Thank you.” He was almost about to bow, but then remembered that guards were technically below him in status.


He could feel the guard’s gaze trained on him as he descended the uneven stone steps. He felt his heart in his throat as the hollowed screams of torture echoed and bounced off the cave walls. He wondered if Zabuza was still undergoing any right now, but he doubted it. Just the thought alone made him want to throw up. Now out of sight of the guard, Haku felt he could breathe again; however there was another set of them on this particular level, but they both seemed engaged in a card game and paid no attention to the slender figure who did his best to slip past them unnoticed.


First cell on right, first cell on right, first cell on right, Haku thought frantically. It was hard to tell since most of the cells here seemed to be carved right from the caves themselves. He had to hold his nose as he walked past several; blood, feces, urine, and that sickly stench of ripe wounds churned his stomach. He would have walked right past the very man he was looking for, if it wasn’t for the familiar low rasp as his name was called.






He spun around and then stooped to his haunches before the cell; his eyes welling with tears as they struggled to make out the figure of the man he considered a friend and lover. It was hard to see anything at first, since the dungeon was so dark, and the lanterns on the outside didn’t really illuminate much, but eventually Haku’s eyes adjusted and he gasped at the state of the man who had revealed his well-built body many times in the past.


The once proud officer was now a shadow of his former self. Zabuza was literally caked in blood for he had been flogged – goodness knew how many times – until strips of his flesh literally dangled off his body. His face was swollen; his eyes nearly shut with whatever beating he must have received. His nose and lips were clearly broken and cracked, and when he tried to speak, it was an effort in itself.


Haku couldn’t believe it. His hands trembled around the steel grilles and his sob of misery was almost thunderous in the relative silence.


“Zabuza-san,” he moaned; wishing he could stretch his hand in to touch the older man, but there wasn’t even room to do so. “What have they done to you?”


Zabuza, who was lying prone on the ground and could barely lift his head, tried to chuckle bitterly; but even that alone wracked a new wave of pain that had him sucking in a harsh breath.


“Your master did this to me, remember?” he tried to sneer and the end result was a ghastly expression that made Haku shudder. “That man you work for…did this to me.”




Haku was torn. His loyalties to Sasuke did take precedence over Zabuza’s plight, and yet seeing his partner in this condition lit a dull flame of anger at this unjust punishment. Could he really blame Sasuke-sama for this?  


“I will probably die here,” Zabuza was saying, and Haku – already grief-stricken – couldn’t and wouldn’t bear to think of it.


“No, you won’t,” he whispered harshly. “You’ll be out of here soon. You’ve got to survive, Zabuza-san. You promised you’d get me out of here someday, right? One day, Sasuke-sama will get tired of me and then what will I do? Where will I go? I need you, Zabuza-san.”


“Stop it,” came the harsh reprimand, though it was clear that Haku’s words had affected him. Though his eyes were almost shut, it wasn’t hard to see the pain yet determination in them. “Stop your crying, Haku. That won’t get us anywhere, remember?”


The servant could only sniffle and nod softly in agreement.


“Besides, I really don’t know why you came down here…to see me…like this…”


“I had to see you…”


“You’re a fool then.”


“I don’t care.”


Zabuza looked up again to stare at the younger man, who was so close yet so far away. He hated to see Haku crying. It annoyed him, yet made his heart break a million times over. Hadn’t he once foolishly told the young man that he would never make him cry?


He tried to crawl a little closer – to at least touch that beautiful face – before his life was extinguished. It was the only thing that kept him alive to be honest, but first…


“There is something I have to tell you,” Zabuza whispered. He crawled another inch and had to pause to take a break. His body felt like it was falling to pieces with every movement. “Lean closer, Haku.”


The servant did as he was told; watching with bated breath as Zabuza forced himself to move again. “How many guards are out there?”


“Just two,” Haku replied.


Zabuza nodded and lowered his head to catch his breath. When he spoke, Haku really had to strain his ears to catch all of what he was saying.


“The revolution…is starting,” Zabuza seemed to be saying. He licked his bloodied lips and struggled to continue. “All over the country…they are beginning to rise up against the watchdogs…against Orochimaru and his doctrines.”


“What?” Haku was confused. He really did not understand what was being said to him as he tended to steer clear of such politically-charged topics.


“Listen to me,” Zabuza hissed impatiently. He lifted his head and this time his gaze burned with passion and intensity. “It’s only a matter of time before they come back here to take his head... even that one you call a master. Though he’s too stupid to realize that they are doing all this for him.”


What in the world is he talking about? Someone was after Sasuke-sama’s life? Wh…why?!


“You tell him to watch his back,” Zabuza panted. He could barely speak now. “You protect that son-of-a-bitch with everything you’ve got. There are some people…out there…who want…who want…everything…destroyed...we…we were all fighting…for the cleansing…”


Zabuza was clearly rambling now, and Haku was deathly afraid of what he had just heard. He could hear the guards approaching and knew that his time was up.


“Zabuza-san,” he whispered desperately. “Please survive. I beg of you. Until then, I will keep what you’ve said to heart. I have vowed to be Sasuke-sama’s shield and will protect him as best I can, but you must keep your end of the bargain and live. Please.”

“Who’s there?” came the harsh call, which had Haku rising quickly to his feet; covering his nose and mouth again and lowering his gaze to the ground just as the guards made the turn to see him.


“Who are you?!” the second barked, and then stilled when Haku lifted his head. “Ah, my apologies Haku-san. But what are you doing down here?”


“I was looking for Officer Fudo,” Haku lied.


“Officer Fudo is off duty. Is there any message we can deliver to him?”


Haku glanced quickly towards Zabuza’s cell, and felt his heart sink when that body barely seemed to move a muscle.


“No,” he finally whispered thickly and with heaviness in his heart. “There is nothing you can do now. Absolutely nothing at all.”







“Welcome back.”


A snort. “Now he finally comes to see me. ” A hairy hand reached out with an offering. “Smoke?”


“Don’t mind if I do.”


He plucked a cigarette from the box, placed it between his cold lips and allowed it to be lit by the bigger, older man. He waited for the familiar rush of nicotine to infiltrate his lungs, before letting it out with a sigh of relief.


“Cold night,” his companion observed dryly. Tendrils of smoked danced off his cigarette as he spoke, coupled with the one emitted from between his lips.


“Winter’s here.”




They fell into amiable silence; watching the sway of the trees with the night breeze. From their perch on the roof of the townhouse, Byaku-Shinkyou was beautiful beneath the pale glow of the moon. Its haunting silence broken only by the sounds of several guards patrolling the grounds or the occasional rustle of the leaves with the breath of wind.


Shikamaru flicked aside some ash and raised his knees to his chest. He stared morosely out to the mountains and once again thought of the one he had left behind.


“How is she?” he finally asked quietly.


“All right. Much livelier than the last time I saw her. Doctors say she might be leaving soon – give or take a month.”


Shikamaru felt his heart lurch with relief, and he had to close his eyes for a moment to gather himself.


“How much do you have today?”


Shikamaru dug into his kimono to withdraw the folded bills. “Last month’s pay. Hardly enough I know, but it should help…right?”


His companion accepted the money and counted the notes carefully beneath his breath. He nodded and tucked it within his yukata before sighing heavily. “Every bit helps, kid. She’s still holding you to that wedding. You know that, right?”


Shikamaru had the grace to blush. “Yeah…as soon as I get out of here, that’s the first thing we’re going to do.”


“How much longer did they say?”


He scoffed absently at a piece of the roof’s red tiles with a toe. “One more year. One more year in this dump then I’m out.”


“Heh, at least you survived. Count yourself lucky.”


“Ain’t that the truth. Just remind me never to get involved with the Syndicate again.”


Asuma’s hearty laughter erupted from deep within his gut before he could control himself. He flicked aside some ash from his cigarette before stealing a glance at his partner. He seemed to debate within himself on whether or not to bring up the topic, but he must have noticed something in the younger man’s eyes that made him go “fuck it”.


“I saw something rather interesting the other day, kiddo. Something related to your silly little crime.”


Shikamaru raised a brow, but said nothing.


Not deterred, Asuma continued quietly. “There was a new sinner brought in about a week ago. Blond hair…blue eyes…”


“Uzumaki Naruto,” Shikamaru replied quickly, which caused Asuma to blink in surprise.


“Oh? He’s already popular, eh?”


“Not really,” came the careful reply. “He’s been in the East Block for the past two days now, right? Been locked in his dungeon before that. Poor bastard. He’s hardly seen fresh air besides the inspection.”






“Didn’t you find him…different?”


“In what way? That he talks too damn much when you let him?”


Asuma chuckled, but it was a half-hearted attempt. His brows were soon furrowed in thought. “Those scars on his face…”


“Yeah…those definitely stand out…”


“Don’t you remember the history of the family who once had scars like that? A long time ago?”


Shikamaru glanced at the older man in confusion. “I don’t get…”


“Ever heard of the Senju Syndicate?”


Senju Syndicate? “Jesus, those guys were wiped out like…centuries ago.”


Asuma shrugged and took another drag. “That’s right. You could consider them the godfathers of organized crime, oh clueless buddy of mine. If you think the Bakufu are the shit now, you should have seen the Senju back then. They fucking owned Japan . In fact, they were so big, their empire extended all the way to China , Hong Kong , Korea , the United States , and even our neighbors upstairs… Russia . They controlled everything.”




“Wow, indeed.”


“So how…I mean if they were so fucking huge…how did they get wiped out?”


“The head of the Senju Syndicate wanted to become legitimate. He basically wanted to take the underground to the ‘upper’ ground; to get respect as true businessmen instead of dealing with the darker, illegal side of things. I guess he was getting sick of all the murders and drug dealings his syndicate was becoming known for. Anyway, as you can well imagine, this wasn’t received well by everyone and the syndicate began to fight within itself. Factions rose against factions; those who wanted to be ‘good’ and those who wanted to remain in the ‘dark’. Get it?”


Shikamaru nodded.


“Well, turns out those who wanted to remain in the dark won, and in about five years, the Senju Syndicate as we knew it was no more. Its new leader renamed themselves as the Bakufu, and the rest – as they say – is history.”


“What happened to the old head?”


“Assassinated. He and anyone related to him. For years the Bakufu sought out anyone who was remotely related to the Senju clan because they feared there would be another uprising; those ready to take back the syndicate from the Bakufu. They did their homework all right and probably got them all, but I’m guessing that our new friend here came from a family who managed to escape the persecution.”


“…wouldn’t they suspect he was a member of the Senju with the way he looks?”


“Pfft. This war happened back in the 19th century, Shikamaru. Do you really think the bosses and dime-and-nickel yakuza these days really give a shit about something that happened so long ago? If any of them took the time to read through the history of their precious Bakufu, I’m sure they would have read about many members of the Senju with those scars on their faces. It’s a rare thing, but a dead give away of who they really are.”


Shikamaru frowned in thought. If what Asuma was saying was true, then it meant that the young man being tortured within the bowels of the earth – at this very moment - was actually the true successor and leader of one of the most feared syndicates in all of Japan.


Holy shit.


“I know what you’re thinking,” Asuma said quietly, “but I can assure you that even if it were possible to want to take over, it won’t happen without some major bloodshed. Besides, the Senju are so diluted now, it’s hard to find anyone willing to want to pick up a sword or gun to fight these days. He might be one of the last pure members of the clan, but it doesn’t mean he’d want to be in charge of something like that.”


That was true. Having seen a bit of Naruto’s personality, Shikamaru could not reconcile the notion of that blond moron being the leader of the yakuza anytime soon. It just wasn’t going to happen.


“This is why you are going to be his bodyguard, Shikamaru.”


“Huh?” He looked up with widened eyes filled with confusion. “What the hell…?”


“All I’m saying is that you keep him under your care. I don’t think Lord Orochimaru knows about this yet, but I have a feeling that once he gets wind of Naruto being here, he’s going to use that kid for whatever diabolical plan he’s got in mind….just as he’s been using Sasuke all these years.”




“Oops. I spoke too much.”


Asuma smiled, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Shikamaru was dying to know more, but with Asuma now rising to his feet and stretching his large frame while yawning, he knew he was going to get nothing else from his friend tonight.


“Get some sleep, Shika-chan.”


“Stop calling me that.”


Asuma snickered and reached out to pet the pouting man’s head gently. “Seriously though, get some rest. I know I heaped a lot of info on you tonight, but you’re a smart kid and I know you’ll do the right thing.”


He sighed and looked toward the mountains; a pensive expression now on his visage. “The tides are beginning to change, Shikamaru. The rumblings are becoming a little louder, and it will only be a matter of time before we all have to deal with our fates.”


Shikamaru opened his mouth to ask just what he meant by that, but Asuma was already descending the ladder to return to his quarters, but not before waving a hand in farewell. Snorting in frustration, he remained motionless for almost half-an-hour, still on the roof, and lost in his troubled thoughts.


In a year, he hoped to be free to be with the woman he loved. In a year, he hoped to be walking down the aisle and exchanging vows. In a year, he hoped to be living as far away from Byaku-Shinkyou as possible. He wasn’t supposed to be in this place to begin with, and he hadn’t been lying to Naruto when he said he had been incarcerated for some ‘stupid shit’. A night of drunken fun, with friends, had ended up with him trying to break into a house (on a dare) to steal something. Unfortunately, they had chosen the house of a Bakufu faction boss, and needless to say, Shikamaru had been charted off to prison before the sake had even worn off.


Spared from the sentence of Gudan, he had proven to be a hardworking, purified sinner (though he had to admit that the whole process was a big joke). Still, Shikamaru kept to himself, did as he was told and began to use the little money he made to pay the hospital bills for his girlfriend who had been involved in a car accident on her way to visit him here. During that time, Asuma had become an unlikely friend – probably because the officer had bummed a pack of cigarettes from him one time and they had ended up talking for the rest of the night. Shikamaru liked the older man and genuinely enjoyed his company especially when they’d play shogi or go (which Shikamaru won all the time).


It made living in this place a little more bearable, but still…his heart yearned for his girl and the future they could have together.


Sigh. This is such a pain-in-the-ass, I swear.


As he began to climb down the ladder to head to the workers’ quarters, Shikamaru pondered on his latest ‘assignment’.


To protect Uzumaki Naruto, who could (or could not) be the likely successor to the Bakufu Syndicate nee Senju, if he was so inclined to pursue it. It might all be a big mistake. It might end up being just a fluke of Nature that Naruto had been born with those scars on his face, and that it might mean absolutely nothing at all. Hell, he could have been scratched by wild animals when he was a baby!


Yeah, but those scars are too damn ‘neat’ and aligned properly to be just random scratches from weird animals, Shikamaru. You know that damn well.


He stopped as a sudden gust of wind nearly knocked him off his feet, and as he looked up to the full moon that graced the skies over Byaku-Shinkyou, Asuma’s haunting words seemed to meld and drift with the night breeze; sending a chill through his body.


/ The tides are beginning to change, Shikamaru. The rumblings are becoming a little louder, and it will only be a matter of time before we all have to deal with our fates. /





Chapter 06

Naruto Home



















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