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A Living Lie @pencyke
Cranked up to Eleven

Okay, you guys!

Thanks for waiting, it's been awhile.

I just wanted to let you all know that it's important to let those around you know how you feel.

Just a little nugget of advice.

Haku had been wandering around the forest, looking for a specific herb for Zabuza, when he happened upon one of the Leaf ninja, passed out on the ground. The (fake) hunter nin's eyes narrowed as he recognized the unconscious boy before him as the one that had been able to land that debilitating hit on Zabuza. Haku sighed, I had heard that Leaf ninja were cut from a different sort of cloth, but to use such an attack? The boy's face glowed in embarrassment at where his enemy's fingers had gone, I didn't think that a hidden village would teach their genin to be that type of ninja.

Looking at the peacefully sleeping brunette, a shiver ran down Haku's spine. He resolved, right then and there, to never touch the boy or, more importantly, let the boy touch him in any way, shape, or form. The self proclaimed tool made this decision, not because of any concern for the other boy, but as a mechanism of self preservation. Haku would give his life for Zabuza, indeed he owed the former swordsman of the Mist a life dept, but nothing, nothing was worth even the slightest chance of being infected with something as sick and foul as perversion.

Somewhere on the roads of the Elemental Nations a white haired sage sneezed.

"Oh?! Someone dares speak about the gallant Jiraiya?! I wonder if it's a pretty woman!"

With that final decision made, Haku turned on the heel of his foot and strode right out of that clearing at a noticeably faster pace than before.

It was some time after Haku's departure that Sasuke arrived on the scene, having been chosen by Kakashi to retrieve Ryuto from where ever it was he'd disappeared to. The self proclaimed avenger poked his way through the brush, just as Ryuto awakened with a groan. Sasuke silently watched for a moment as his teammate ran through some simple stretches, trying to find any kind of hidden meaning in the boy's movements. Then the moment passed and the Uchiha realized that he wouldn't be finding the secret to his teammate's power just be watching him stretch.

"Hey, Ryuto." The brunette paused in his stretches, maintaining a particularly painful looking position as he turned his head to face where Sasuke had emerged from the bushes.

The boy smiled a too wide smile, even as his body changed positions so that his left knee rested directly behind his head, "I hope you're enjoying the few Sasuke, 'cause that's as far as you'll get. I'm not into guys." Ryuto chuckled as he switched sides, "What's up, Dusty?"

Sasuke was too busy trying not to murder his teammate, while simultaneously trying to wrestle down both his embarrassment and his blush to notice the use of his hated nickname (Sasuke didn't even know where his fellow genin had even come up with that one) and therefore was unable to correct his teammate. The raven haired boy was only just able to choke something about "breakfast" and "-Kakashi's orders" before stomping off to go burn something.

Ryuto scratched his head as he stood up from the last of his morning contortions, mumbling as he headed off to see what Kakashi wanted, "It was just a joke…" The boy paused on his walk out of the forest as the memories from another of his training clones flowed into him. He took another moment to sift through the experiences, and then burst into a face-splitting grin as he continued his short journey, a bit more pep in his step.

As it turned out, the cycloptic sensei of squad seven simply suggested his student stay for the day to sleep inside so as to be well rested and sparkling with energy incase Zabuza shows up for round two. Ryuuto just nodded, ate breakfast, and headed back outside to train. He had been getting tired of sleeping on the ground anyway, so he had no qualms with Kakashi's veiled order.

The jonin left with the bridge builder, and Ryuto quickly noticed that he was being watched, not by any sort of ninja, but by that mopey brat who hung out in the corners, trying to make himself look even smaller than he already was. When the ninja openly looked at the boy, the kid ran off. Ryuto shrugged to himself and continued with his training, though he quickly ran into another problem.

He was bored.

Ryuto pondered this new predicament, in the leaf village there had always been something to do, somewhere to go, someone to spy on. Here he had to stay in the general vicinity of Tazuna's house, and with the imminent chance of a battle happening the genin didn't feel comfortable starting an intense training session, as much as he wanted to. So Ryuto was left to puzzle out a solution to this new problem.

Well, he could go check on his teammates…

Nah, if they really wanted to see him they could walk over on their own two legs.

He could leave a shadow clone in his place while he went off to explore…

But what if an enemy launched a surprise attack?

No that wouldn't do either.

Just as the boy was getting ready to pull his own hair out in frustration (and completely smear his powder dye which despite being water proof would still come off if someone pulled hard enough) his nose twitched. The disguised ninja followed the scent that had caught his interest into the bridge builder's house and straight to the kitchen where Tsunami was humming a quiet tune to herself as she set out their meager supplies in preparation for lunch and dinner after that.

"Need a hand?"

The bridge builder's daughter smiled pleasantly even as she began to turn the boy down, "Oh, that's quite alri-"

-And promptly began the process of picking her jaw from where it lay on the floor as Ryuto, with a flourish of a scroll, materialized more base ingredients than Tsunami had ever seen in one place(since Gato arrived), and proceeded to cook up a storm. Tsunami was so shocked at the boy's usurpation of her kitchen that when he turned his head and ordered her to get to work she could only nod and do as she was told.

Thus, when the rest of team seven returned from their various day activities along with Tazuna and even the wayward Inari, They found themselves at the receiving end of a huge feast. There were trays of food neatly taking up every square inch of the original dining table and the two others that the bridge builder had no idea about. Ryuuto and Tsunami were still moving about the kitchen in a culinary dance of sorts, chatting like a couple of old housewives, "-and then I said, 'Oatmeal! Are you crazy!' and she had the nerve to laugh! Can you believe that? What kind of psycho bathes in hot oatmeal? I mean-"

Kakashi cleared his throat, cutting Ryuto off from whatever he was going to say next and affectively getting everyone's attention, "Well, I suppose it is possible to learn something new everyday. Ryuto, I'm surprised to see you working in the kitchen, I thought you'd still be out training."

Ryuto nodded in acknowledgment of his sensei, "I got bored, so I found something productive to do." He gestured at the beautiful bounty spread in front of the slobbering group. Kakashi admitted to himself that he'd be lying if he said that the smell coming from that food didn't make him salivate as well, "Unless you guys don't want any of the food that I have prepared with the wonderful Tsunami's help?"

There was a rapid influx of apologies and shaking heads as the group was finally knocked out of their stupor. Soon, they were all seated and enjoying the fruits of Ryuto's (And Tsunami's) labor, silent with the exception of the sounds that people make when they eat.

Sakura and Sasuke didn't know what to think of this sudden development, as Ryuto had never shown any kind culinary skill. They were both curious as to where he'd learned and why he was only revealing such talent now of all times. They were both curious, though it was Sakura who broke the silence, "W-wow, Ryuto. I didn't know you could cook at all, let alone like this." Her voice changed from an impressed tone to a slightly joking one, "So the great Ryuto Shota is really just a big Mama's boy, eh?"

Sakura, Tazuna, Tsunami, Sasuke, and even Inari, expected embarrassment, shouts of denial, maybe even proud acceptance, what they got was completely different.

Ryuto's smiling face darkened in an instant, his expression stealing the life out of the room, and then the moment was over and he was smiling again, though it was just a bit too wide. He quickly excused himself from the table, claiming to be full despite having been devouring his meal with more furor than the rest of them combined. Sakura looked up, face full of confusion as her sensei patted her shoulder, "Sakura," The scarecrow's eye looked at the doorway where his other student had disappeared through, "Ryuto's an orphan."

Her eyes widened in realization as confusion turned to shock.

That night Ryuto's clones finished the mist technique, though he couldn't quite muster up the effort to be happy about it.

He knew that Sakura and Sasuke didn't know that he didn't have parents, he never told any one when it wasn't absolutely necessary. That didn't mean he felt any less upset at the girl's complete lack of tact, wasn't she supposed to be the smart one?

These were the thoughts that were running through Naruto's head just before he heard a scream. He instantly recognized Tsunami's voice and shot off toward the bridge builder's house. There was Tsunami, screaming in terror. Inari stood, hands balled into fists, a look of determination in his eyes even as the glint of steel flashed through the air.

Blood splattered on the short pier, only the mist moved, drifting lazily, unaware of the events unfolding.

A thump, quickly followed by another.

The mist cleared, revealing Ryuto as he stood above the bodies of two of Gato's thugs, Kunai firmly set in the backs of their skulls.

The ninja spoke in an intense voice, soft, yet powerful, "Get inside, I've got business to attend to." Tsunami rushed to obey the genin's command, pushing her son toward the door, and valiantly ignoring her shaking hands. Just before Inari lost sight of Ryuto, the older boy looked back with a proud smirk, "Nice work, kid." And then he was gone.

Sasuke refrained from panicking.

He knew he had the advantage in a strait taijutsu fight, and when that masked ninja started doing single handed hand signs, the Uchiha had kept his cool and defended as best he could, waiting for the opening that would let him end the fight. Then his opponent had somehow summoned these ice mirrors that let him move faster than Sasuke could see and things had gone to hell from there. His fireball couldn't melt the damn things and, even if he could get close enough to use his fists, or even his weapons, he doubted he'd be able to make any noticeable dent in the ice mirrors. There was also that little fact that the young Uchiha was starting to resemble a pincushion more than a ninja.

Seeing her teammate was in trouble, Sakura threw a kunai with an explosive tag attached. Sasuke had tried to capitalize on the opportunity his pink haired teammate had provided, blowing another of his fireballs, trying to hit the mirror from both sides with the hope that the double impact would be enough to take it out. But Zabuza's accomplice was too fast, in the blink of an eye he'd pierced the tag on the kunai with multiple senbon needles, rendering it useless, kicked Sasuke's feet out from under him, disrupting his technique and sending him hurtling into the frosty ground, and returned to the safety of his ice mirrors.

This ninja was on a completely different level than what Sasuke had ever faced before, but he'd rather go to hell than give up. If he couldn't beat some freak in a mask how would he ever be able to face That Man when the time came?

With a grunt of effort, Sasuke lifted himself from the ground and settled himself into a defensive stance. This kind of technique would have to take a lot of chakra. Sasuke Uchiha of team seven from the village hidden in the leaves would wait out his opponent.

Ryuto studied the battlefield from his perch at the top of the crane the construction workers had been using to help with the bridge.

Kakashi and Zabuza were somewhere in that cloud of mist, though they seemed to be at a standstill if the lack of violent sounds were anything to go off of. Sakura had tried to help Sasuke from her post guarding Tazuna, though that masked ninja had nullified her effort to be useful. Sasuke was getting his ass handily handed to him on an icy platter. Well, it was obvious who he should help. His sensei was (hopefully) worried about his student's help and that would hinder his ability to fight to his fullest potential.

Mind made up, Ryuto made a shadow clone who immediately jumped down. As the clone fell from the heavens He enveloped himself in his own cloud of mist, saturating the air with his chakra in the process. The original, still crouched high above the others, focused on the chakra maintaining the mist that his clone had produced during it's decent and molded the water element already infused in that mist, condensing it into dozens of long, sharp, clear needles.

The clone landed, immediately forcing a substitution with Sasuke, and dispelling, giving it's creator the signal. Feeling the tingle in the back of his mind as memories folded themselves back into his psyche, Ryuto sent the needle rain hurtling through sky, targeting the dome of ice mirrors and the space within. For those near the point of impact, the sound was nigh on deafening, for Ryuto, it was still quite loud.

Tazuna nearly wet himself.

Sakura blinked in disbelief, wondering what could have caused the enemy's ice mirrors to shatter so spectacularly when even Sasuke's fireball hadn't done anything to melt them.

Kakashi and Zabuza engaged in another bout of combat, each filled with worry for their own subordinate.

A badly damaged Haku lay bleeding on the ground, surrounded by the remains of his technique, his body riddled with tiny holes, his clothes soaked with a mixture of water and blood.

Sasuke voiced what all of them were thinking, "What the hell just happened?"

Instead of getting his answer, Sasuke watched as Haku rolled out of the way as his teammate landed, cracking the surface of the bridge and clearing a significant amount of the mist, allowing everyone present to witness as the leaf genin fought the ninja trained by a former swordsman of the mist.

It was easy to tell that whatever had broken Haku's mirrors had heavily damaged him as well. The feminine boy's movements weren't as graceful as when he'd fought Sasuke, every movement seemed to cause him to flinch slightly in pain. But, despite the pain, the ice user didn't stop moving, in fact, it seemed he was trying to get away.

As soon as Haku had seen that the brown haired leaf ninja was after him, he'd tried to form a mirror to escape through, but before it was even finished he felt his opponent's completely envelope and extinguish what chakra he'd put in and suddenly the boy was in front of him, fist already in motion. Zabuza's self proclaimed tool tried to dodge, the punch clipping his shoulder instead of slamming straight into his face. Being a trained ninja, Haku rolled with the hit and struck back with a fist full of senbon, even as he once more moved to escape.

This time the ice user was doubly thwarted, as Ryuto grabbed the offending arm by the wrist, forcefully spun the slightly older boy around, and (still holding his forearm) slammed the masked boy face first into the pavement, shattering said mask.

In stupefied shock, Sasuke was unable to stop himself from saying, "You're a girl?!"

At this proclamation, Ryuto paused in his brutal smack down, allowing Haku the chance he needed to escape through a mirror he formed on the ground. The ninja appeared halfway between the Uchiha and the threat before answering, "I can assure you that I am, in fact, a boy."

This time it was Ryuto who pointed in shock, "I call BS! Shenanigans! You've gotta be lying! You're more girly than Ino and she's the girliest girl I know!"


"I can assure you that I am indeed in possession of fully functional male anatomy."

In the background Kakashi and Zabuza were locked in mortal combat, each dodging the other's strikes by centimeters.

Ryuto shook his head in exasperation, "As much as I don't want to believe you, I'll take your word for it." At the questioning glances from his teammates, Ryuto could only shrug, "This is too weird, can we get back to fighting now?"

Just as they prepared for another bout, the smell of ozone and the sound of chirping filled the air. Kakashi had summoned his nin-dogs to immobilize the missing nin as he charged his attack, "Raikiri!"

Haku's eyes widened as he took in this new development and made a split second decision. He would give his life to save his master's, he'd die as a tool was meant to. Yet even that was denied to Haku as, in the split second it took for the two ice mirrors to form, and the next that it took for Haku to travel between the two, Haku found that his exit mirror was't were it was supposed to be when he came out. Instead of him by his master's side to the very end, instead of him fulfilling his purpose in life, that wretched leaf ninja had stopped him! He'd changed places with Haku's ice mirror, the one that would have let him save his master's life.

Blood splattered on the forsaken bridge, and Haku saw red.

So, what did you guys think? I'm always looking for feedback, so if you think what I'm doing for the finale of the Zabuza saga is weird, let me know how so, and if you've got one, a more appealing way to go about it.

Also, I'm thinking of ending this story in a few more chapters. I'd like your opinion on that as well.



1. Chapter 1 3061 0 0 2. The second chapter 2732 0 0 3. Third time's the charm! 2789 0 0 4. Four Man Team! 2365 0 0 5. Five on One 2229 0 0 6. Six Eyes Watching Me 2654 0 0 7. (Un)Lucky Team Seven 2637 0 0 8. Ate the Dust 3084 0 0 9. Nine Tales 2692 0 0 10. Pending Ignition…10…9… 2800 0 0 11. Cranked up to Eleven 3131 0 0 12. Twelve Tolls of Death's Bell 1761 0 0 13. Baker's Dozen 1970 0 0 14. Break time 3032 0 0 15. Tantrums Work! 2291 0 0 16. Oh boy, FLASHBACKS! 1110 0 0 17. Smoke signals 2153 0 0 18. Great Acting 2812 0 0 19. Days Spent Well 4242 0 0 20. The First Bout 2116 0 0 21. Sasuke vs Kiba 1170 0 0 22. Sakura vs Tenten 1579 0 0 23. The Rest of the Prelims 3112 0 0 24. Emergency Therapy Session! 3230 0 0 25. A Real Bad Time 3083 0 0 26. True to Form 2871 0 0 27. Impact 2434 0 0 28. Aftermath 2859 0 0 29. Day 1 2520 0 0 30. Memory Lane 2884 0 0 31. Midnight Stakeout 3346 0 0 32. Tournament Part 1 3358 0 0 33. Tournament Part 2 2864 0 0 34. Tournament Part 3 2300 0 0