The Mizukage of Hidden Mist was no stranger to betrayal. His shinobi had bathed in the blood of their own so many times that the stains would never wash away. For the Mist, war was a family affair. How many times had they turned on their own? How many times had they turned on him?
But he was still standing. Still the leader of the impenetrable kingdom of the Mist. Despite the betrayals and the attempts on his life, he was still the Mizukage, but he knew full well that he owed that fact to those who were most loyal to him. The loyalty of a handful had saved his life and his rank when the traitor, Momochi Zabuza, had attempted a bloody coup.
It was then that the Mizukage discovered who he could place his trust in. And he trusted no one more than Shinichi, a mere child at the time, only just a chuunin. The emerald eyed boy had placed himself between his Mizukage and his own brother, his only family. The boy had never stood a chance against Zabuza, one of the Legendary Seven Swordsmen. But the fact that he had tried was enough. He had broken the bonds of family for the Mizukage, and so the Mizukage had taken him under his wing, placing utmost trust in him.
But for Shinichi to do this… to walk in his older brother's footsteps and betray him, was unthinkable.
"Where is he?" the Mizukage said, his voice like gravel over silk.
"We don't know Mizukage -sama," his advisor apologised, "he covered his tracks extremely well."
Of course he did. The Mizukage had taught him after all.
"His mission was to find his brother, Momochi Zabuza," the advisor continued, "to kill him and destroy the body."
The Mizukage knew this. He was the one who granted Shinichi permission to join the ranks of the hunter-nin. He had been against it at first, Shinichi' speciality was intelligence gathering and stealth, and while those skills would aid him as a hunter, his combat abilities would pale besides the likes of his brother.
But Shinichi had been adamant that he should be the one to take his brother's life. The bonds of blood are not so easy to break after all, and Shinichi had been alone but for Zabuza for more than half of his life. Zabuza had not just betrayed the Mizukage, he had betrayed the only person on this sorry earth who loved him. Shinichi needed to be the one to kill Zabuza, for his own revenge, and because he would never allow anyone else to take his brother's life.
Despite his reservations, the Mizukage had assured Shinichi that if he made jounin he would be a hunter-nin, and he would be free to find his brother. So when, at the age of nineteen, he had passed the jounin exam, the Mizukage had handed him the red and white mask and wished him luck.
"In his last report he stated that he had picked up Momochi Zabuza's trail," the advisor said nervously, "however that was months ago, and he has failed to check in since then."
The Mizukage glared at the man before him, waiting for the words that he knew would come.
"Mizukage-sama," the advisor said softly, "too much time has passed. I realise it is difficult to accept, but we have to consider Momochi Shinichi a missing-nin."
After a minute's tense silence the Mizukage sighed and lowered his head, "very well. Notify the hunter-nin and make his desertion official."
The advisor bowed and hurried from the room.
The Mizukage wanted Shinichi to be dead. He wanted him to have found Zabuza and have been defeated. As much as it would hurt to lose the boy who had been his most loyal shinobi and treasured student, it would hurt more to have been betrayed by him. Too many people had shattered his trust, but never Shinichi.
So where had the emerald eyed hunter-nin vanished to?
Like any good shinobi, Shinichi knew his strengths, and was aware of his weaknesses. He was crouched beside one of those weaknesses, smoothing his palm over the cold, decaying flesh of his brother's forehead.
He had seen the sword, stabbing the earth and glinting in the light of the setting sun. But he had to know. He had to be sure. So as silent tears that he never thought he'd shed traced the contours of his face, he dug up the graves.
For a shinobi, love is a liability. It is blind devotion and utter submission. It is handing over your soul to another person and thus giving them the means with which to destroy you. Shinichi had loved his brother, even after his betrayal. He loved him enough to want to be the one to kill him. But that had been taken away from him.
Zabuza's body was riddled with vicious bite marks, torn flesh where sharp fangs had pierced the skin. His arms had been rendered useless, just hanging strips of limp flesh, and his back was a constellation of stab wounds from various weapons. No one injury would have stolen his life, but a culmination of the violence his body had seen had eventually defeated him.
The death of Zabuza's companion was easier to determine. There was one single clean cavity eating into his chest. A hole piercing his heart, the size of a palm. The flesh around the gaping wound was burnt, the organs within had been cauterised and the ribs charred and shattered.
Shinichi knew he should burn the bodies. As a hunter-nin he knew his responsibilities. He should burn the bodies, eradicate any evidence of their existence and go home.
Beneath his mask the tears dried to his face, irritating trails of grief and anger that itched at his skin. He rolled his brother's body over and knocked it back into the grave. A hunter-nin would destroy the body, but a brother would lay the body to rest. When he stood, he slid the mask off, and dropped all that was left of his duties into the grave with the body of his older brother.
He left the graves as he had found them, and faded into the shadows. He had no tears left, only aching regrets and a burning anger. His soul had been his brother's, and a part of him had died when he found those graves. There was a gnawing hollowness inside his chest, whispering his failure into the crevices of his heart.
Despite everything, his brother had anchored him to this world. Everything Shinichi did was with Zabuza in mind. To become strong enough to defeat him, skilled enough to find him, worthwhile enough to redeem him. Now he had lost his anchor and he could feel himself floating, without purpose.
No, he still had one purpose left. He recognised the gaping cavity in that boy's chest. He made the connection with the bite marks marring his brother's body. Shinichi had promised that he would be his brother's demise, and Sharingan Kakashi, the Copy-Nin, Master of a Thousand Jutsu and shinobi of the Hidden Leaf, had turned that promise to dust.
Shinichi was a good shinobi. He knew his strengths and was aware of his weaknesses. He would never match the legend of the Copy Ninja in battle, but Shinichi had other skills. Shinichi had loved his brother, despite everything. So he would find out where Hatake Kakashi's heart resided, and then he would break it.