It was the pungent, coppery smell of fresh blood that made him finally decide to pay attention.
Gaara had been ordered to stay in this hotel room, so here he would stay. He typically didn’t care about such orders. However, it sounded like it was going badly outside, and he wouldn’t help unless forced to.
There was one other person in the dingy inn room, a boy only a bit younger than himself. Sensing his stare, the boy turned away from the door and stared him in the eyes, something most people wouldn’t do.
Still, he was accustomed to being looked at directly by the boy, his pale pupil-less eyes seemingly unfocused, unmoved. It had surprised Gaara the first time, he’d thought the boy was blind.
The boy gestured with his head to the cracked and beaten door, barely held together by the many nails hammered through it by the hotel’s owner.
“They’re losing.” The touch of fear in Miyasato’s voice disgusted him. The boy was a weakling — Gaara could tell when he’d first met the Land of Wind’s only prince. Usually, weaklings weren’t worth the effort it would take to kill them, but there was something about Miyasato that bothered him.
Ignoring Miyasato, Gaara returned to studying the mold patch on the wall across the room. Miyasato shrugged and turned back toward the door, “I was sure the smell of blood would have riled you up.”
The muscles in Gaara’s face stiffened imperceptibly, the only indication he’d heard Miyasato. When he’d tried to kill Miyasato, he’d been stopped by his father, but there was no one to stop him now.
Gaara felt the sand in his gourd shift restlessly. It was hungry for the boy’s blood.
Miyasato stood abruptly, backing away from the door, and a moment later, it exploded, shards of rotten wood flying. Gaara stared at the cloud of dust kicked up by the door hitting the ground and now obscuring the doorway, .
Three men stepped through the cloud, one coughing hard. Gaara noticed the panic and urgency in their eyes, though their faces were resolved. As the men’s eyes passed over him, Gaara twitched.
“There he is,” one of the men said, coughing as he held himself up with the door frame. Blood poured down his left arm from a wound in his shoulder. The other two, who seemed to be in better shape, grabbed Miyasato, who struggled and tried to fight back.
Gaara watched as the two men quickly overpowered Miyasato and bound his hands together, jamming a sack over his head before hauling him toward the door.
“What about the other kid?”
The man at the door had finally stopped coughing and was tearing a strip of cloth from his shirt. Barely sparing Gaara a glance, the man returned his focus to his profusely bleeding wound.
“Worthless, let’s go.”
They ignored him.
Gripping Miyasato’s shoulder tightly, one stuck their head into the corridor.
“Is the coast clear—”
Hearing his friend start asking him something before going silent, he turned around to find a spike, made of sand, jutting out of his friend’s forehead. The tip of the spear was only an inch from his face, and before he could react, it darted forward.
Gaara retracted the sand, and both bodies fell to the floor in the open doorway.
“No! Stop! What are you-!?”
Gaara narrowed his eyes as the last one, the man with a bleeding shoulder, tried to run. However, the man tripped over the outstretched arm of his dead companion. Flicking his finger, Gaara commanded the sand forward, and a pike formed under the man before being driven out through his back as he fell.
Miyasato managed to wiggle his hands from the hastily tied rope and pulled the bag off his head. Standing up, he brushed what sand wasn’t caked in blood off his clothes.
Gaara watched as Miyasato returned to his bed, similarly dilapidated, and sit down.
Neither said anything for a few minutes, the sounds of fighting outside dying down and the pools of blood under the three dead men slowly growing in the doorway.
“Thank you, Gaara.”
Gaara looked away, ignoring him.
Kazekage Tower, Sunagakure, Land of Wind, EN.
The soft footsteps reverberated across the sandy surfaces as Rasa made his way through the corridor of cells, both occupied and empty. As he neared a little commotion at the end of it, he took off his triangular hat. He only wore it for special occasions, as it hindered his ability to see.
“Rasa-sama,” came from the grim-looking man in the Suna Jōnin attire – dark brown pants and shirt, sandals to match, and a sand-colored vest. As if trying to match his dull and unappealing visage, his face was perpetually in a scowl.
“Captain. I take it that the prisoner is in the cell?” The guard nodded, and he continued. “Have you happened to extract anything from him yet?”
“Unfortunately not, sir. His time in the desert took a toll on his wits. He won’t stop babbling nonsense.”
Sighing heavily, Rasa stroked his temples in thought. “If that goes on, we won’t get anything of use from him. I will talk with the perpetrator. The fool is lucky the guards saved him after running into Gaara at full speed.”
Bowing slightly, the man commanded the stationed guards to open the reinforced steel door, ushering the leader of Suna into almost blinding darkness, save for rays of light from the iron-barred opening in the wall. In the center of the room sat the culprit and a Suna interrogator across from one another at a plain wooden table, locked in a one-sided discussion.
“I’ll ask you one more time: are you a Kumo Spy? We found your headband.”
The two were a stark contrast, a collected Jōnin, and a ragged man in a ruined and tattered robe, sunburnt skin littered all over his exposed flesh. Hunched, he muttered something barely heard.
“Rasa-sama,” came from the interrogator as he noticed Rasa and stood up.
The interrogator continued as he walked up to Rasa, “We’ve been taking turns interrogating the man for the past hour, no torture due to his condition.”
At that, the Shinobi deflated, his voice full of frustration. “Nothing on the case, sir, he won’t answer any of our questions, as if deaf or out of touch with reality. But he won’t stop talking of-”
“T-the stone, they have it…” came from the captive, his form spastically jolting in apparent pain.
“I see, I’ll take it from here.”
As Rasa dismissed the Jōnin, he placed his hat on the table, taking the seat across from the man. His posture was ramrod straight, exuding regality, and strength.
Now alone with the culprit, Rasa carefully examined his face, riddled with baked flesh. Though his injuries were serious and repulsive to look at, what caught his eye was the haunted, ghostly stare. A man of war, Rasa was accustomed to facing death on the battlefield, often bearing witness to a man drawing his final breath, their life flickering out. Though his victims were numerous, he could still see their faces. The eyes of the dead he saw every night were the same that stared at him now.
Cautiously trying to make eye contact, he addressed the man. “The deserts are not kind to the unprepared. What made you suffer it so?”
As his shaking slowed a little, the prisoner slowly lifted his head, staring at something past the four walls. “It came from the shadows…”
Rasa listened intently.
“They chased me… claws, leaving no marks…steps, lacking footprints…” Locking eyes for the first time with Rasa, his shaky voice came forth, “They have the stone.”
“What stone? Who attacked you?”
At that, the man’s eyes rushed to a dark corner of the room; the blank expression on his face turning to one of terror. “They’re still here, they’re never going to let me go! Not till what I saw dies with me…”
“Tell me who attacked you, and we will help you.”
From terror to total despair, he looked back again at Rasa.
“You don’t get it; they’ve got the stone! They’re coming for me!” He shouted, his eyes darting all around the room. “I can hear them breathe!”
“Calm down, sir-”
The man tried to spring from his chair violently, but his restraints prevented him. “NO! NO! GET AWAY FROM ME, I BEG OF YOU!”
Rasa folded his hands in front of his face as he carefully studied the man.
“You have to help me!” The man screamed frantically, causing Rasa to wince a bit at the pitch. The tell-tale sound of insanity was creeping into the prisoner’s voice.
Rasa felt frustration bubbling inside him.
“You said someone is chasing you. Who?”He demanded, bringing the frenzied man’s attention back to him.
“The shadows. They are here, in this room. ”
Rasa sighed deeply and was about to ask another question when the cell door opened, revealing Baki holding a scroll in his outstretched hand.
“It’s an urgent message from the Daimyō, Rasa-sama,” Baki stated.
Standing, Rasa looked down at the man who had returned to mumbling incoherently under his breath. Shaking his head, he picked up his hat from the back of the chair and walked around the table.
Taking the scroll from his second-in-command, he checked the seal. It was indeed the Daimyō’s, and intact.
“Have the prisoner escorted to the Kumo Embassy and make sure he gets there safely,” Rasa ordered as he broke the seal and unfurled the scroll.
Baki nodded and kept the door open for Rasa, who had stopped as he read the scroll. Once done, Rasa rolled it back up.
“Also, send Gaara and Sasori to my office right away.”
Although he had memorized the contents, he still popped the scroll’s latch and unrolled it again. Scanning over it for anything he might have missed, he sighed, rolled it back up, and placed it in a locked drawer in his desk.
Folding his hands on the desk in front of him, Rasa stared blankly at the heavy wooden double doors at the front of his office. The room around him was sparsely decorated, the few decorations there were pre-dated his appointment as Kazekage, and he’d just never removed them.
The desk was relatively new. He’d gotten it a few days after he took up the post. While it weighed a ton and was carved and polished, it was very simple and minimal.
It didn’t bother him. He didn’t want to enjoy being in his office, and when he was here, he wasn’t paying attention to the decorations or lack thereof anyway.
The big double doors opened, causing him to flash and concentrate on who had entered. Smiling, he greeted the red-headed Puppeteer Captain, who bowed in response.
Moving to one of the two chairs in front of Rasa’s desk, Sasori sat down.
Both turned toward the doorway as they sensed the familiar fear that seemed to haunt Gaara’s every step. Neither of them was bothered by the low level of killing intent the Jinchuriki steadily released.
Gaara ignored them and walked over to a corner in the room. Rasa watched him go and sighed silently. Sasori offered him a sympathetic shrug.
A moment of silence passed, and Baki entered. Closing the doors left open by Gaara behind him, he hurried over to the only other available chair in the room. Though he noticed Gaara in the corner, he didn’t look at him.
“Sorry for being late,” Baki said as he kicked Sasori’s weak attempt to block access to the chair with his leg.
“So, what’s going on?” Sasori asked cheerfully as he propped his feet up on Rasa’s desk, causing the Kazekage to scowl. Sasori pretended to have not noticed Rasa’s expression as he pulled out a kunai and started fiddling with it.
Rasa shook his head, letting it go, “I received an urgent message from the Daimyō. He wishes for me to be in Kazedama in three days.”
Sasori leaned back in his chair, causing the wooden legs to squeak. Tossing the kunai in the air, he caught it between his fingers, inches from his face. Baki glanced towards him in annoyance.
“Isn’t it the prince’s eighth birthday in three days?” Sasori asked, slamming the chair back down.
Rasa nodded, “Yes. I am to bring Gaara and two teams of Elite with me.”
Sasori whistled in surprise, “Seems a little overkill for a birthday party, don’t you think? The prince is one of the most heavily guarded people in the Land of Wind, and for something like a birthday party, the security will be even higher. I’ve heard he hasn’t even been seen in public for years.”
“Whatever is going on, the Daimyō did not explain it in his summons. I’m certain that he will explain it when we arrive.”
Sasori raised an eyebrow at Rasa’s choice of words before tapping his chin. “If we’re bringing short, dark, and broody over there,” he said as he jutted a thumb toward Gaara, “Then we will need to bring the seals, we got enough for two teams, you, and me. Chiyo-san made some more a few weeks ago.”
The killing intent rolling off Gaara spiked slightly, but none of them reacted to it.
“Yes. I don’t know how long we’ll stay, so tell the teams to bring stealth gear and long-term supplies. However, we will enter the capital in plain sight.”
“Cool, I’ll get the boys together then,” Sasori replied before vanishing in a swirl of sand. The chair he had been leaning back in fell the rest of the way and crashed against the ground.
Baki rolled his eyes before turning to Rasa.
“I’m assuming I’ll be in charge while you’re away?” He inquired, and Rasa nodded.
“Yes, but don’t announce the visit to Kazedama until tomorrow. You can tell Temari and Kankurō right away, however.”
Outside Kazedama, Land of Wind, EN.
Though Rasa hadn’t been alive to see it, the Land of Wind had once been a thriving paradise. Everyone had wanted to live here with its peaceful breezes and winds. Which was how it got its name.
Many clans had made their home here during the Warring Clans Era, including his own. Families had come and gone since before there were records. Though some like the Uchiha and Hyūga had been around longer than the scrolls tracked.
However, over several centuries, the Land of Wind had slowly withered and dried out. Sand had risen from under the fertile ground, choking the trees. The winds had turned sharp and violent, whipping up massive sandstorms.
Clans had been forced to relocate, the water drying up, and the beasts of prey fleeing to better lands.
It was the story his father had told him.
Rasa chuckled. Despite the land’s uninhabitable state after the end of the Warring Clans Era, the Land of Wind’s forefathers had decided this barren wasteland was the place to build their country.
In the eighty-odd years since the Wind Country had been founded, not much had changed. The desert was as barren and lifeless as it had always been. The hot sun beat down relentlessly on those that were brave, stupid, or unlucky enough to live here.
Though, if he had to give a benefit to this country’s terrain, he would say it was that it weeded out the weak from the strong very quickly. The Suna Shinobi Academy’s final test was to survive two weeks alone in the desert.
Most survived, having grown up in the hot, ruthless wasteland their whole life. However, the bodies of those who did not survive were returned to their families to be buried.
He did wish that the desert was more hospitable to roads, but the shifting surface made it difficult to build anything permanent. And for Shinobi, roads made them predictable and were more of a danger than they were helpful as it only took a Jounin three days to travel from Suna to Kazedama.
No, the best use of them would be for civilian travel. It would reduce the number of civilian deaths and meaningless search missions that resulted in no bodies being found.
Still, some roads had been built despite the odds. The two finest examples were the hundreds of roads constructed throughout the Land of Wind’s many cities, and the Silk Road, which had taken three years to finish.
It stretched for hundreds of miles across the country, beginning in Kazedama and ending in Dango City. Cresting yet another sand dune, the Silk Road came into view in the south. Several small dots traveled over it, some larger than others as civilians pulled carts behind them.
Periodic cleaning of the sandstone brick surface of the Silk Road was a typical D-rank mission for the Shinobi Genin of the cities and villages along the road. Fortunately, not something he’d ever had to do personally. Suna was in the opposite direction of the Silk Road.
Turning toward the east, Rasa smiled as he saw the Land of Wind’s beautiful capital, Kazedama.
Snapping his fingers, he leaped off the sand dune, followed closely by the Shinobi traveling with him. Gaara lingered behind, watching everyone land below before vanishing and reappearing near the group.
They only had to walk a half mile before the desert gave way to the dead-end of a sandstone brick road. The unfinished beginnings of the road to Suna.
Rasa raised an eyebrow at the number of buildings, shops, and homes built outside Kazedama’s high walls. The town had not been designed to be the capital and had finally started to overflow the walls. Homes had been constructed outside the walls to accommodate the ever-growing number of people living here.
As Rasa and his Shinobi walked down the street, civilians nearby moved to the roadside. His bright white Kazekage robes made them stand out from other Shinobi, though Gaara’s killing intent made the most significant impact. People looked around as they started to feel uneasy, trying to discover the cause.
Gaara’s reputation preceded him, and people got away with a bit more energy than was entirely needed.
Sasori discretely signaled to the Elite team, and four of the Shinobi dropped back to include Gaara in the circle. Surrounding Gaara wasn’t a brilliant idea at the best of times, but today Gaara didn’t seem to care.
The large gate into the inner part of the city loomed above them, though there were hardly any shadows. The sun was at its highest point, and the heat was at its worst.
Rasa watched one of the gate guards from under his hat. The Shinobi had seen them approaching and stepped inside a nearby building.
A moment later, a Kunoichi with dirty blonde hair stepped out of the building and started walking toward them.
“Kanade!” Sasori shouted, beaming at the approaching Kunoichi with one of his trademark grins. Rasa watched in amusement as the Kunoichi groaned.
“Sasori… why didn’t I guess you’d be coming?” She replied, reluctantly shaking the Puppeteer Captain’s hand.
“Did you miss me?” Sasori inquired, hopefully.
Sasori seemed to have not heard her and continued, unperturbed, “You’re here to lead us to the palace, right?”
Kanade nodded, “Hai. First, I need to make sure that you have the Jinchūriki under control?”
Gaara noticed her stare and stared back at her. He didn’t react as she released killing intent just slightly higher than he was. Was she going to fight him right now? Gaara felt the sand in his gourd shift.
Rasa glanced over his shoulder and noticed Gaara’s expression. Pulling a seal tag from his back pouch, he deliberately moved it through Gaara’s line of sight before handing it to Kanade. The killing intent his son was releasing dropped drastically.
Pulling her gaze away from the red-headed Jinchūriki, she looked at the tag skeptically. She wasn’t a professional in seals or even that knowledgeable, but she knew what this was.
“No, Ma’am, we all have one.” Hori, one of the Elite Shinobi closest to her, answered, holding up an identical seal.
Kanade’s eyes narrowed, clearly unsure. Glancing between Hori, Gaara, Rasa, and the seal in her hands a few times, she finally handed the seal back to Rasa, who pocketed it.
Rasa could tell the Kunoichi was clearly troubled by the situation, and her gut feeling was probably being overridden by orders from the Daimyō. He couldn’t blame her; he also believed that bringing Gaara here was a bad idea, but orders were orders.
The trip from the wall to the palace took only a few minutes, mostly because Gaara’s presence cleared any street they were on within moments. He made a few inquiries as to the specifics of the situation, but Kanade only told him that the Daimyō would talk to him about it personally.
So, he attempted to take in what he could about the city as they walked. It had changed a lot since he was last here more than half a decade ago. The buildings were different, redesigned, taller. Rasa was surprised to notice a Shinobi restaurant on the top floor of the building nearby, a wide entrance balcony stretching from the front.
Palace guards opened the gates in front of them, and the group started climbing the many steps toward the palace. A beautifully decorated courtyard, filled with plants that were not native to Land of Wind, gave way to another set of stairs that stopped at a set of large doors.
Kanade opened the doors with a firm push and stepped aside.
Rasa smiled as he spotted the Daimyō sitting on the throne on the other side of the large room. The ornate throne glistened in the sunlight streaming in from the top as it reflected off the hard gold.
The Daimyō stood, and Rasa instantly noticed several things that greatly concerned him.
“Rasa, my friend, thank you for coming at such short notice.”
The Daimyō’s bandaged arm held up by a sling. The slight slip as he stood, one of his guards quickly steadying him. Rasa felt anger rise in him, his shoulders tense. Someone had attacked the Daimyō.
Raising his hand, the Daimyō stopped him before he sped across the throne room.
“I’m fine, don’t worry about me.”
The group stopped at the base of the small flight of stairs to the throne, waiting for the Daimyō as he made his way down.
“Welcome to the Capital, Rasa. It’s good to have you back. Our great city rejoices and all that.”
Rasa smiled laconically, “I’m sure the city doesn’t care, Torio.”
Torio grinned in response, “Yeah, you’re right. It probably doesn’t.”
Coming together in an awkward hug, Rasa did his best not to brush against Torio’s bandaged arm.
“What happened?” Rasa asked as soon as they separated. Torio laughed.
“Always right to the point, but don’t worry about it right now, we’ll discuss it later. You and I both know I’ve survived worse than this.” Torio said as he gestured to his arm.
Rasa nodded in agreement, “Nevertheless, I am concerned.”
“Of course, of course. As I said before, thank you for coming on such short notice. You made it just in time for Miyasato’s birthday tonight.”
Accepting that he had to wait for his answers, Rasa moved on.
“This is my youngest son, Gaara.” He said, stepping aside. His hand hovered near his pouch, ready to pull out the seal if necessary.
“I’m glad to finally meet you, Gaara of the Sand.”
Torio wasn’t bothered when the redhead ignored him, and Rasa gestured to the other redhead in the room.
“This is Sasori of the Red Sands, and Captain of the Puppeteers.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Sasori-san,” Torio said kindly, shaking hands with Captain.
“The feeling is mutual, Torio-sama,” Sasori replied with uncharacteristic respect. “How is your son? I’m unsure as to the truth of the rumors I have heard, but has he really never left this palace?”
Gaara glanced toward the Daimyō briefly.
Torio shook his head, almost sadly. “No, he has not. He can’t leave for his own safety, although I doubt he’d have any desire to leave even if I let him.”
“Will we be meeting him?” Sasori inquired.
Torio nodded, smiling, “Of course, he’ll be here shortly.”
Thank you for reading this story! It was finished on 5/27/2020!
This chapter of the story was publicly posted on: 11/1/19
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Special thanks to those that helped create this chapter:
- Hellman, who help with the imagery of the second scene. Much appreciated.
OC Creators of OC’s in this chapter:
- Kanade (Created and submitted by Grimtruth)