There was nothing Tera hated more than hiring civilians, but his hand had been forced. He’d been a fool, and his master would have scowled at the choices he’d made. He had allowed emotions to dictate his actions and had failed to think logically. Many had been lost.
No… he was wrong. His master would have killed him.
Suppressing the Chakra in his core, he deftly slipped past the two Shinobi guarding the gates. There were more in the shadows above him, but they didn’t notice him. Shinobi relied on Chakra for everything, and many forgot to train to detect the basics.
The moon shone brightly on the sleeping city of Kazedama as Tera made his way through the shadows cast by the tall buildings. Peace had dulled the senses of the Shinobi, made them confident. Even with his past intrusions, the Shinobi were not truly on guard.
However, like bees, the nearer one got to the Queen, the stronger the average bee became, and Shinobi were much the same. That was why the Daimyō was protected by the strongest the Land of Wind had to offer. It was just an unfortunate coincidence that the Daimyō had what he wanted.
He was here in Kazedama to check the validity of the reports he’d been getting from the civilians his men had paid. It may already be too late, but he couldn’t afford to ignore the rumors. Of course, none had tried to confirm anything, to be expected of such poor excuses for informants. Only one had even said there was a rumor, but the reports of others appeared to back up it.
The rumor was the prince had left Kazedama unannounced, possibly with the Kazekage. If that was true, he needed to find the prince right away. It was doubtful that the Daimyō didn’t expect them to go after his son, but that didn’t mean a chance to finally capture the prince wouldn’t show up.
Pausing in the shadowy dead-end alleyway, Tera looked up toward the sky. The moon was barely visible beyond the edge of the tall building in front of him. Taking a deep breath, he eased his shoulders. Great physical effort without Chakra required one to relax, to prepare their body.
Stepping back a few feet, he made a running start and ran up the side of the wall long enough to grab the edge of a hanging balcony. Pausing for a moment, he waited to see whether any of the guards, just forty feet away, had sensed him.
Effortlessly hauling his body through the chilly night air, Tera slipped over the balcony railing. It took him less than four seconds to pick the balcony door lock and enter the apartment room. He didn’t bother to shut it behind him. Silently gliding across the room, he didn’t spare the man sleeping in bed a glance.
Delicately unlocking the door to the corridor, he cracked it open just enough to slip through. Repeating the process on the next room across the hall, he stepped out onto the balcony facing the courtyard of the Daimyō’s Palace. No one noticed him on the second floor, which was just high enough to see over the courtyard walls.
Palace security had been beefed up dramatically in the past four years, but it wasn’t impossible to beat. He just wished he’d considered kidnapping the prince to blackmail his father from the beginning. The chance had come four years ago, and he passed it up, instead going for the Daimyō’s wife. Afterwards, it had been too late. More Shinobi were recruited for the Daimyō’s Guard, and walls were sealed and strengthened. It would be impossible to sneak back out while carrying the prince, especially without the use of Chakra.
Rolling his shoulders, he hopped on the balcony railing and jumped. Soaring over a dozen feet through the air, he barely caught the edge of the palace wall with his fingers.
He waited for some time like that, arms taut, straining all his senses for anyone in the shadows he could not feel. Breaking into such a secure location, guarded by numerous high-sensitive sensory Shinobi, required extremes. His core throbbed painfully, the Chakra within desperate to escape, to flow through his body.
He was forcing his Chakra to compress well beyond what most Shinobi would even consider, and he couldn’t make it for long, or his chakra system would die from lack of use. He would indisputably die soon after.
Hoisting himself over the wall, he dropped to the ground below. There was no cover, and he was forced to continue to rely on his ability to suppress his Chakra as he crossed the courtyard. Keeping to the shadows as much as possible, he quickly reached the base of the palace on the left side of the grand staircase.
Once on the thin ledge running along the base of the palace, Tera maintained his balance with ease, although the surface was barely half an inch wide. He reached the corner of the palace base within seconds and peered around it. It seemed that his only concern was a guard holding a bright torch a few dozen feet ahead of him. Most likely doing his rounds.
Tera couldn’t wait for the guard to get farther away. He was vulnerable, and if someone were to look in the wrong direction, they would easily see him. Risking detection, he picked up speed as he ran down the side of the palace along the thin ledge. Leaping into the air, he was able to barely grab the bottom of a hanging balcony.
He pulled himself up and didn’t bother to check the door as he quickly jumped up again and grabbed the overhanging roof, pulling himself up. Hooking his fingers beneath the edge of a cracked open window, he slipped inside onto the third and abandoned floor of the palace.
Darting into the room on his left, Tera closed the door behind him as fast and quietly as possible. Not waiting to see whether he’d been noticed, he sprinted across the empty, colorless room to the far window. Throwing it open, he slipped out and closed it with one hand.
Pivoting on his wrist, he rotated to face the palace wall, keeping his grip tight on the windowsill. He waited for several minutes, ignoring the cold desert winds tearing at his hooded face.
I should have expected such use of Shunshin. It lures an intruder into a false sense of security, unable to detect anyone, then they suddenly appear. Most Shinobi would have been caught there. Brilliant. Tera thought, carefully tracking the unknown Shinobi on the other side of the wall.
After a few minutes, his hand chilled by the biting cold, the Shinobi finally disappeared. He momentarily considered re-entering the palace, but the suspicious number of Chakra signatures in the garden below him was much more interesting. Other than the third and fourth floors, the palace grounds were the only other place where he could feel Shinobi.
Like most Shinobi-infested areas, the first two floors of the Daimyō’s Palace was covered in seals that prevented sensing anyone inside.
Still, for there to be that many signatures in the palace garden was an unusual occurrence, and he decided to check it out first. Letting go of the windowsill, Tera free fell well over two dozen feet and hit the ground with a roll.
Rather than immediately get to his feet, he remained flat, waiting to see whether he had been detected. Missions like this often came down to luck. If someone was looking at the right place at the right time, they’d see him. There was nothing that could be done about that.
It only took a few minutes to get up in the trees and get closer to the signatures. As Tera had suspected, the one in the middle was the Daimyō. He was forced to slow to a mere snail’s crawl as he moved through the last few trees. There were at least a dozen Shinobi there.
Three were under him, underground, four in the bushes, and the last four were in the trees. They were all spread out at different distances, and the apparent gaps in some of the defenses made him worried there were Shinobi he could not detect present as well. He gave those apparent gaps a wide berth.
Peering into the small clearing, Tera saw the Daimyō sitting on the grass next to the prince, reading something to the pale boy. The prince’s face was obscured by a hood, making it impossible for him to be certain. If the rumors were true, then the Daimyō would try to make it look like the prince was still here. Carefully moving his hand, he grabbed a branch behind him. Hearing leaves rustle ever so slightly, Tera froze.
That wasn’t me.
Barely turning his head, his hood moved just enough to give him the vision he needed. Perched on a branch, not even two feet below him, was a Kunoichi. She was staring intently toward the Daimyō and his son. It seemed she was unaware he was there. Tera had already instinctively stopped breathing.
He was trapped until she moved. He couldn’t get to the next tree without using Chakra to obscure the sound, and that would no doubt give him away from such a short distance.
Looking back toward the Daimyō, he noticed that the prince had lifted his hood.
So, it’s not the prince, it’s a decoy kid, Tera thought as he carefully watched the similarly pale-skinned boy sitting next to the Daimyō. Now that he could see their face, he realized their skin was more tan than the prince’s had been. Then where is the prince? If the Kazekage did come here to take him, would he have brought the prince back with him to Suna?
Kazekage Mansion, Sunagakure, Land of Wind, EN.
Naruto lay still, waiting. He didn’t recall waking up, but he recalled being terrified of something. No matter how hard he tried to remember what had caused the sensation, he couldn’t. Finally giving up, he sat up and activated his Byakugan.
Sliding off the bed, he walked over to his wardrobe and grabbed a pair of poorly-folded training clothes off a shelf. He still wasn’t totally accustomed to having to organize and fold his own stuff.
Hearing an anguished scream, Naruto whirled sharply, Byakugan flaring. A moment of complete silence passed as he searched the entire mansion and the grounds outside. There was no one. Kankurō was still asleep in his bed, Rasa had not returned to the mansion last night, and Temari was in the kitchen.
Feeling his neck sting painfully, as if burning, Naruto pressed his hand against the pain, but his neck was cold and clammy to his touch.
What is going on?
Shakily changing into the fresh clothes, Naruto made his way out of the mansion and closed the thick door behind him. Temari didn’t notice him leaving, as he’d been careful to move silently. He paused on the mansion’s front steps. He hadn’t returned to the Academy since Gaara’s attack, and it took him a moment to recall how to get there. After getting out of the hospital, he’d spent most of his time at the public library reading.
His hand shook, as if his body was terrified of something he himself could not remember. Clenching his fist, Naruto started down the steps, his Byakugan roving the nearby rooftops. Rasa had assigned him a personal guard, though Naruto hadn’t met them yet, he’d briefly spotted the Shinobi following him a couple of times. He had a guard now because he’d refused Rasa’s offer to abandon learning at the Shinobi Academy, and instead be taught by a private tutor.
He’d chosen to stay with the Academy because it would have been what his father wanted. Rasa had been against the idea and had assigned him a guard.
Ever since, he hadn’t sensed or seen Gaara at all, and he was beginning to wonder where the Jinchūriki was. He’d refrained from questioning Rasa about it.
The Shinobi academy came into his Byakugan’s range after a few minutes of brisk walking, and making his way to the entrance, he pushed open the unlocked doors. He hesitated a moment at the entrance of the left most hall, his attention drawn to the spot where Gaara had attacked him.
I passed out, I couldn’t break free of Gaara’s grasp. Naruto thought, his earlier confusion returning as he started down the hall. Why am I alive? No one came to save me, according to Rasa. Gaara just… left me? Why would he do that? He won.
Opening the sliding door on his left, Naruto realized no one was inside. Climbing up a few steps at the back, Naruto took a seat at random on one of the many benches. Moments later, his hands still shaking slightly, Naruto became frustrated and drastically expanded his range.
The Academy was empty, he was the only one here.
Naruto deactivated his Byakugan and lifted his blindfold enough to peer out the window. The sun had just barely begun to peek over the high walls of Sunagakure. Class wouldn’t start for at least another hour.
He sighed and decided to wait.
Carefully shutting the iron gate behind her, Temari locked it and looked around for anyone who might see her. There was no one around, of course, there never was.
Hurrying down the street, she rounded a corner and sighed in relief. Kankurō was unaware of her early morning trips, and now that Naruto lived with them, she had to worry about him seeing her as well. If she were ever caught and couldn’t come up with a good excuse, she wouldn’t be allowed to do this anymore.
Temari frowned as she walked the empty streets, memories she’d tried and failed to repress flooding back. Her family didn’t like talking about the night that changed everything. Her father would refuse to speak and just leave any time she brought it up. Kankurō was afraid of what he had seen and would beg her to stop.
Inevitably, she had stopped, no longer even bringing it up with her friends. No one wanted to think about it. She supposed it made sense. Every town probably had something taboo to avoid talking about.
She could understand why everyone was unwilling, afraid even, to talk about that night. She just… couldn’t forget. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t bring herself to forget about it like everyone else. Many people had lost family and friends that night, but for her, she had finally met her baby brother.
Before that, her father had never let her talk with or even see Gaara. She hardly remembered seeing him right after he was born, before he was whisked away by Shinobi. Even so, she vividly recalled her mother’s happiness, her joy. How fondly her mother had talked about Gaara and how happy she was to have another child.
Because of that, wanting to make her mother proud of her, she’d promised to help take care of the family and Gaara once he was born.
It had been a childish promise, but one she’d made, nonetheless. It was not one she could easily forget.
Then disaster struck their family. Just hours after Gaara had been born, her mother died, and her world descended into anarchy. She and Kankurō had never had a good relationship with their father before their mother’s death, and it only got worse afterward. Rasa barely explained anything, and she’d only learned years later that Gaara was being looked after by their uncle.
No matter how much she had asked, Rasa would refuse to tell her anything about her youngest brother, almost seemingly wanting her to forget Gaara existed entirely. Then one night, five years after her mother’s death, her bedroom was rocked by a huge roar of primal anger that sent her running, screaming as things crashed to the ground around her.
A Shinobi had picked her up in the hallway and carried her away from the palace. They’d brought her to the safety of Suna’s walls, along with Kankurō.
What she’d seen that night terrified her.
The sand demon, dwarfing even the Kazekage Tower as it destroyed the city beneath its feet. From her perch high above on the walls surrounding Suna, she had watched for hours as her father, a mere speck in comparison to the demon, fought against the beast, and eventually defeated it.
Temari didn’t see her father for days, but when she finally did, she demanded an explanation, and Rasa finally gave in. He had told her that the demon she had seen… was her youngest brother.
She’d been shocked but had demanded to know what had happened. Rasa had at first refused to answer, but when she hadn’t backed down, he had explained. That night, her uncle had attempted to kill Gaara and failed. Gaara had killed the only person in the village that had ever been nice to him in self-defense, and it had finally pushed him over the edge.
No one else seems to understand that or care, Temari thought as she adjusted her grip on the paper bag in her arms. The bag was still warm, but she needed to hurry.
A month and several failed attempts to find Gaara later, Rasa had finally allowed her to see him through locked bars. Gaara had not been friendly to her, though she hadn’t expected him to be either. Yet, when she’d stared into his eyes, she’d hadn’t seen any hatred for her in them , and that had given her hope.
Perhaps foolishly, she’d begged her father to let Gaara move into the Kazekage Mansion, and surprisingly, he’d eventually agreed. Kankurō had been extremely unhappy with her.
“Good morning, Shinobi-san,” Temari said, bowing to the Shinobi who’d seemingly stepped out of thin air before her. She’d known they were there simply because she’d visited this place so often.
“I assume you’re here to visit the Jinchūriki?” The Shinobi asked although he was clearly not expecting a reply as he unlocked the uninteresting-looking door.
“Hai,” Temari replied nonetheless, thanking the Shinobi as she stepped inside. The door shut behind her a second later. As one might expect, she was the only one who ever visited Gaara in his containment cell. Making her way down the corridor, she waited as another mysterious masked Shinobi unlocked another door. This one was much bigger and made of metal that was several inches thick. It was meant to keep Gaara in, assuming he somehow made it past the water that would flood the lower levels.
Personally, she didn’t think Gaara would have a hard time escaping if he wanted to. She believed that Gaara willingly came here when he wanted to be away from everyone. Nobody bothered him here.
Well… only me.
Accepting the torch the Shinobi offered to her, she began the descent to the third floor of the facility, where Gaara’s cell was. This place had been constructed in secret shortly after the incident and Gaara was sent here whenever he began to act strangely. That, of course, meant when he was trying to kill more people than usual.
Minutes later, she reached the bottom of the stairs and stopped before another door. This one was seemingly opened by an invisible hand, though in reality it was a Shinobi under a Genjutsu. She just couldn’t see them.
Once the door opened, she waited for several minutes as two Shinobi, not obscured in Genjutsu, stepped inside first and began to disarm many deadly traps. Sasori had once told her that the traps here were overkill and would kill most people. However, he’d added that he wasn’t sure it would stop Gaara. They remained untested.
Gaara had never tried to escape.
Walking down the hall, she slipped her torch into a slot next to the iron rods. Sitting down cross-legged in front of the cell, she tried to see Gaara in the gloom beyond.
“Hey, I brought you some rolls. I know you like these.” Temari said as she opened the paper bag and pulled out another piece of paper from inside. Smoothing it on the ground, she carefully lifted two rolls out of the bag and put them on paper.
Tentatively pushing the paper so that the rolls were within the cell, she straightened again. She’d made these rolls as quietly as she could, right before she left, so that they would be fresh when she got here. The silence dragged on, and Temari sighed, struggling to keep the sadness within her hidden. Gaara was ignoring her again. He’d been here for the last week, ever since attempting to kill Naruto, and she’d visited every day.
Gaara had yet to say anything to her. She hadn’t even seen him.
Leaning forward again, she shakily pushed the paper farther into the cell. Despite it all, she could not forget Gaara’s emotionless face as his sand had slammed into her. Another minute passed in silence. Temari waited, her eyes strained, hoping to catch just a glimpse of her brother.
Temari bit her lip, she couldn’t stay forever, and as the minutes dragged by, she was forced to give up. Getting to her feet, she brushed the sand off her clothes.
“I’ll come again tomorrow, Gaara, and bring you some more rolls,” Temari said as she crouched down and put the rest of the rolls on the paper. “If you get tired of them… you have to tell me.”
Temari chuckled lightly to herself as she imagined a life that could have been, although her voice had no cheer. Talking to a voiceless shadow was harder than one might think.
Standing, she crumpled the bag in her fist and started walking back down the hall. Something moved in the corner of her eye, and she paused. A hand had darted out of the cage’s darkness and grabbed one of the rolls.
Temari smiled, “I knew it. Those rolls would always mysteriously go missing at home, and you’re the only one who would steal food from me.”
She waited, but when no response came, she turned to leave again. She’d only taken a few steps when a quiet voice behind her made her pause and turn around.
“What do you mean, Gaara?”
Barely able to hear him, she hurried back and sat down in front of the cell.
“Why do you come here?”
Temari smiled, happy to finally be speaking with her brother. While she had talked with Gaara before, often the conversations hadn’t lasted longer than two sentences and had ended with a threat of death.
“I care about you, Gaara, and I made a promise to our mother that I would help her look after you.”
Gaara’s voice became so venomous even she was shocked it was Gaara, “So it’s honor.”
She hurried to correct him, “No, no. It’s love. I love you. You’re my brother, and I care about you.”
There was no reply, but she waited regardless. This was the greatest progress she’d ever made. Minutes passed before a hand slipped into the ring of torchlight and grabbed another roll. She said nothing as Gaara slowly ate all the rolls.
Once they were all gone, she reached beneath the bars, grabbed the paper, pulled it out of the cage, and crumbled it up with the bag in her hand.
“I saw something.”
Temari tried to peer through the darkness, suddenly desperate to see Gaara’s face. There was an uncertainty in her brother’s voice, something she’d never heard before, and it scared her.
“I saw… I saw a world… burning.” Gaara murmured, barely louder than a whisper. She leaned closer, her face inches from the bars. “There were people… but… they weren’t like… us… still, they could feel pain… and fear.”
Unsure if she should answer as the silence came back, she decided to wait.
“There were destroyers. They burned everything. The people ran in fear for their lives…”
Temari jumped as Gaara’s face suddenly emerged from the shadows, stopping a foot from the bars. The desperation in Gaara’s eyes frightened her more than anything else she’d ever seen in her life.
“But there was nowhere for them to go, they all burned!”
Hearing footsteps, Naruto stirred and focused his Byakugan on the classroom doorway. He’d gotten lost in thought after losing interest in watching civilians nearby begin their day. Here or in Kazedama, however, the life of a civilian was boring to watch, and he’d quickly grown tired of it.
Naruto watched through his blindfold as a Shinobi he didn’t recognize entered. The man paused in apparent surprise in the doorway as he noticed Naruto, but the Shinobi didn’t say anything. Instead, he walked over to the wooden podium at the front of the room.
Naruto remained silent as the Shinobi organized the papers in his hands and carefully spread them out on the podium. Seeing the man look up at him, Naruto lifted his head slightly in recognition as the man cleared his throat.
“Hello, my name is Hirofumi. I will be your Sensei for the History of both Sunagakure and the Land of Wind. What is your name?”
Standing up, Naruto bowed respectfully, his hands tucked away in his sleeves. It was the more formal way of bowing and was only used in higher society. Hirofumi clearly noticed the gesture. “I am Edano Naruto. My father sent me here to become a Shinobi in the Land of Wind’s greatest Shinobi Academy.”
Hirofumi chuckled, “I’m pleased to hear that your father believes this is the Land of Wind’s greatest Academy. Regardless, welcome Naruto. I look forward to being your Sensei.”
Naruto bowed again, although far less than before, and sat back down, his hands still folded in his sleeves. A few minutes passed as Hirofumi seemed to look through his papers before finally finding a specific one.
“I must say I found your file to be very interesting. It’s marked with the Kazekage’s seal.”
Naruto nodded, “Hai. My father asked Kazekage-sama to bring me back with him, as he was concerned about the safety of my journey to Suna.”
“That makes sense,” Hirofumi said, although more to himself than Naruto. “It also says that you were blind but aren’t now. Oh, I see, I missed that before.”
Naruto remained silent.
“Not that it’s any of my business as your History Sensei, but how well can you see using the Echolocation Jutsu?” Hirofumi asked curiously as he observed Naruto’s blindfold. “I learned the Jutsu back in my Chūnin days but never had a situation where it was useful. I’m curious to know if I should spend some time practicing it again.”
“I can see as well as most, though I cannot see color, and obviously, my sight is limited in range. For instance, I have never seen the sun, although it has been described to me.” Naruto lied.
“I see, thank you,” Hirofumi said, once more returning to his papers. “Oh, yes. I nearly forgot. You’re aware that you don’t need to get to this early for class, right?”
“Good, very good.”
Footsteps reverberated through the classroom walls, as if a stampede was bearing down on them, and Naruto shifted his attention to the hallway. A huge crowd of children was entering the Academy, splitting into three groups as they reached the three corridors on the first floor.
The children ranged in age, some close to his age while others were several years older. He noticed a couple carrying a variety of weapons on them, while others looked awestruck by everything around them. Naruto spotted Temari and Kankurō as they walked past his classroom, heading toward the stairs at the end of the corridor that led to the second floor. His attention was drawn back to his immediate surroundings by the sound of the classroom being opened.
A young boy with short hair stuck his head inside and looked around for a second before noticing Hirofumi.
“Is this Sensei Hirofumi’s class?”
“Hai,” Hirofumi answered with a smile and gestured to the rows of benches on the other side of the room. Naruto didn’t react as the boy looked over and stared at him. The boy seemed confused, possibly by his strange appearance, but said nothing. Naruto felt a rush of some strange emotion as the boy choose to sit down on the opposite side of the room from him. He ignored it. Over the next few minutes, twelve more children his age entered the room and found seats.
The last to enter was a boy with streaks of some odd color, Naruto couldn’t tell what it was, through his hair, who choose to sit down next to him.
“Hello, my name is Hogari Sengwari,” the boy said, offering his hand.
Naruto didn’t turn to face Hogari, but slipped a hand from of his sleeve and accepted Hogari’s handshake. He was surprised by the firmness of Hogari’s grip. “I am Edano Naruto.”
“Class is now in session, no more talking!” Hirofumi called out, tapping a long ruler on the chalkboard behind him to get everyone’s attention.
“We’ll be starting with some basic history of Sunagakure’s founding. Some of you may already know about this subject from your parents, but for those who don’t, I want to get you up to speed.”
Thank you for reading this story! It was finished on 5/27/2020!
This chapter of the story was publicly posted on: 2/14/2020
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OC Creators of OC’s in this chapter:
- Hogari (Created and submitted by Grimtruth)