“So… what are we doing?”
The look Baki gave Sasori was clearly full of annoyance, though Sasori didn’t pay it any mind.
“Did you not read the mission scroll before we left?”
Sasori smiled, “Nope.”
Sighing, Baki shook his head before checking that Gaara and Naruto were still following them. They had left Suna a few hours ago and had been running across the desert since then.
“Our mission is from a civilian-owned company in Wani City. They were contracted by the mayor to build a new well in the center of the city, due to the old ones beginning to run dry.”
“So, we were hired to help them dig a hole?” Sasori asked, not at all looking forward to the prospect. I could just make Naruto do all the work, Sasori mused.
“No. They’ve already begun digging the hole for the new well.” Baki explained, “We were hired because they hit a rock that won’t break no matter what they hit it with.”
“Interesting,” Sasori replied, clearly not interested.
“A simple Jutsu will most likely suffice,” Baki finished.
Pausing for a moment as they dropped off the edge of a vast sand dune, Sasori landed on the ground like he hadn’t just fallen several dozens of feet and continued running.
“So, this is truly a getting the prince’s feet wet mission then?” Sasori inquired, but Baki ignored him. Turning to look over his shoulder, Sasori tried to see if he had gotten any reaction out of the pale-skinned blindfolded boy, but Naruto’s expression was blank.
Since they’d all met up at Suna’s front gate, Naruto hadn’t said a word, and Sasori was determined to get him to say something.
However, Sasori had to acknowledge that the scene he was seeing was hard to believe. If even a couple of months ago, someone had come up to him and told him he’d be going on a D-rank mission with Gaara, and the Prince of the Land of Wind, of all people. He would have laughed them out of the room.
Yet, here he was, doing little more than babysitting the Prince. He didn’t think Gaara was going to try to kill Naruto again. Still, he did understand why Rasa wasn’t willing to take any more risk than he already was.
It isn’t the real reason I’m on this mission anyway, Sasori mused. It’s likely the group that attacked Torio knows Naruto is here by now. If they attack, it will be up to Baki and me to protect Naruto. There is no guarantee that Gaara will defend Naruto of his own volition.
Sasori couldn’t complain though, they were at least traveling at a Shinobi-level speed. However, it was barely above Genin level. If they’d been forced to walk across the desert to Wani City, Sasori would have been forced to carry Naruto on his shoulder the whole way.
“I see you’ve been improving Naruto’s speed, Baki-san,” Sasori commented, and his friend nodded. “I was surprised, I must admit. When I heard that Rasa had selected you to be Naruto’s Sensei, I didn’t believe it.”
As Sasori had known he would, Baki frowned and turned away.
It was an old jibe, dating back to Baki’s early Jounin days. The poor man hadn’t known what he wanted to do with his Shinobi career and had tried to become a Jounin Sensei. However, the Academy had ended up kicking him out after a month. He was too harsh on the students, and many had quit under his teaching.
Deciding he’d harassed Baki enough, Sasori turned his focus towards Naruto.
“So, Naruto-san, is Baki-san teaching you well?”
Sasori expected the Prince to elaborate, but he didn’t. Frowning, Sasori decided to change the topic.
“So… are you two getting along now? No more trying to kill each other?” Sasori inquired, carefully watching Gaara’s and Naruto’s expression. Surprisingly, Naruto actually turned and looked at Gaara, seemingly also wanting to know the answer to Sasori’s question.
Gaara ignored the question.
“Seems like it, since you’re following Naruto around all of the time, Gaara,” Sasori said.
“I don’t know why Gaara is following me,” Naruto said as he turned away, and Sasori got the sense that the Prince was lying. It was hard to tell with the blindfold.
Sasori was about to ask another question and noticed Baki’s look out of the corner of his eye. Letting it go, he turned back and focused on the smooth surface of the desert in front of him. They would be arriving at Wani City soon.
I’m too used to harassing my own men, Sasori mused.
Wani City, Land of Wind, EN.
Due to the harsh sandstorms common to the Land of Wind, all cities and villages were required to erect walls around them. Wani City was no exception to the law, however, Naruto could tell they did not meet the law’s requirements.
Once the city came within his range, Naruto immediately noticed how short the walls were. Naruto had seen sandstorms before from the protection of the Daimyo’s Palace, and very few had ever made it over Kazedama’s impressive wall.
However, some had.
Which was why Naruto was amazed that Wani City was anything more than just another sand dune. The walls barely reached two stories high, and would be utterly useless should a sandstorm arrive.
It wasn’t his problem to deal with, and Naruto put it out of his mind as they reached the front gates.
“Where are the guards?” Naruto asked, having expected to find Shinobi hidden in the shadows of the wall when he saw the gate lacking protection.
“Wani City is one of the few places in Suna that doesn’t have its own Shinobi,” Baki replied as they stepped off the sand and onto a paved sandstone road. “Due to its close proximity to Suna, the Wani City’s mayor relies on us for such things.”
“That seems dangerous…”
Naruto didn’t finish his thought as the relative silence was shattered by an ear-piercing shriek of terror. Turning his attention toward the sound, Naruto saw an older civilian woman pointing at them, her expression one of pure horror.
“It’s the Sand Demon!” The civilian woman screamed as she turned and fled down the street.
Naruto watched as civilian after civilian turned toward them, their faces quickly becoming one of fear and terror before they too turned and ran.
Hearing someone laughing, Naruto was surprised to see it was Sasori.
“Sasori-sama, why are you laughing?” Naruto inquired, confused.
Sasori grinned at him before pointing at the fleeing civilians, the street quickly becoming a ghost town.
“You don’t see that happen in Suna, do you?”
Naruto shook his head.
“That’s because the civilians back home have learned that screaming just draws more attention to themselves,” Sasori explained, gesturing to Gaara as he did so, and Naruto finally understood. The civilians were running because they were afraid of Gaara.
It makes sense, Naruto mused as he followed after Baki, who had continued to walk down the street.
“The company that hired us is named Izumiya. They own a building here, and that’s where they requested we meet them. After that, they’ll show us the well.” Baki explained, and sure enough, after a few minutes of uneventful walking through empty streets, they arrived at a building with the company’s name carved into the door.
As Baki stepped up to the door and knocked, Naruto peered through the walls. There were eight men inside, all civilians. Two were on the top floor, seemingly sorting through shelves of books. Another two were in a room by themselves, sharpening, and cleaning construction tools.
The last four men were sitting around a table in the middle of the main room. They had been discussing something, but at Baki’s knock, the oldest one got to his feet and walked toward the door.
Unsurprisingly, the civilian was terrified as soon as he opened the door, his eyes immediately drawn to the red-headed Jinchuriki standing off to the side.
The door slammed shut.
Sasori laughed, and Baki shook his head before pushing open the unlocked door, seeing that the old man had run in fear.
“What did you expect was going to happen?” Sasori asked as he waited for Naruto to follow Baki inside. “This is going to be the most interesting part.”
Through the wall, Naruto could see the men were now hiding in the tool room.
“Actually talking to the person that hired us,” Sasori finished, laughing again.
Noticing that Baki was looking around the empty and abandoned room, Naruto pointed to the door at the back. “Six of them, including the old man, are in that room. There are two more on the floor above. They don’t know we’re here.”
“Thank you,” Baki said as he walked across the room and attempted to open the door. It budged slightly but didn’t open. Gripping the door handle tightly, Baki yanked hard and broke the broom handle that had been blocking the door from opening.
Baki stepped inside and closed the door behind him.
“This is why Gaara is only sent on assassination or mass-killing missions,” Sasori commented after a moment. “He just ends up hindering any mission he goes on.”
Naruto looked at Gaara, but the Jinchuriki didn’t seem to have heard Sasori.
Why did Gaara come on this mission then? Rasa-sama didn’t force him too, it was offered, and Gaara accepted, Naruto mused. Is he here to protect me? Why would he do that? Who would be after me? Do the Assassins know I’m here?
All he had was questions, and asking Gaara for answers would be pointless. He would have to find the answers himself.
Hearing the door open, Naruto saw that the old man had apparently calmed down enough to leave the safety of the closet.
“This is Magohachi. He’s going to lead us to the dig site.” Baki explained, and Magohachi nodded nervously as he watched Gaara.
It was apparent the old man expected Gaara to attack him, but Naruto knew that Gaara wouldn’t kill Magohachi. There wouldn’t be any satisfaction in it.
“If-if you’ll follow me…” Magohachi stuttered, and Baki gestured for him to lead the way.
Stepping to the side, Naruto let the old man pass by and saw Gaara staring across the room at the door behind which the other five civilians were hiding. As Gaara’s hand begin to rise, Naruto walked up to him, causing the Jinchuriki to turn away from his prey.
“Don’t, Gaara. You won’t enjoy it.”
Turning away, Naruto hurried after Baki and Magohachi. Catching up just as they stepped outside, he paused at the door, holding it open.
Gaara stared at Naruto for a moment, his hand still half-raised in the air. He could smell the fear just beyond the door.
Waiting for Gaara to walk by, Naruto closed the door and ignored Sasori’s inquisitive look as he stepped down the building’s small flight of stairs.
After a few minutes of walking, they arrived at the city plaza.
It quickly descended into anarchy.
Naruto had seen the area, which seemed to act as a market place for the city, long before they had arrived.
Baki’s firm grip on Magohachi’s shoulder prevented the man from joining the others in their fear-fueled dash for safety.
Idiots… fools… all of them, Naruto thought as he watched the civilians run away, abandoning their stalls and belongings. Deciding to ignore them, Naruto focused on the hole in the middle of the plaza.
It was close to fifteen feet deep, and Naruto could see where Magohachi and his men had tried to break through the stone, but they’d clearly been unable to even crack the rock.
Expanding his range, Naruto was shocked to learn the size of the stone. It was entirely smooth, and shockingly, almost half the size of Wani City. With his increased range, Naruto located the other four wells dug throughout the city, and found that most of them weren’t even near the stone. However, one had just barely missed it by a few feet.
Pouring more Chakra into his eyes, Naruto gazed through the rock to find a vast cave filled with water beneath.
“Such a simple mission, surely… surely he didn’t have to come?” Magohachi whispered, and Naruto limited the Chakra flowing into his eyes, focusing back on his immediate surroundings.
“Tell me about the rock you’ve found,” Baki ordered, ignoring Magohaci’s question.
“We were making good progress for the first couple of days, and then we hit the rock. Our picks don’t have any effect, they just bounce off. I nearly took out Taroemon’s eye a few days ago.” Magohachi explained, seeming to have lost some of his abject terror. Baki nodded.
Leaning over the edge of the well, Baki examined the smooth black surface of the stone at the bottom, though it was covered in a thin layer of sand. The well’s walls had been constructed already, as digging in sand required that process to be done as soon as possible. Noticing a rope hanging over the edge of the wall, Baki walked around.
The rope was tied to a pike buried deep in the sand, and after giving the cord a pull, Baki turned to Magohachi.
“Thank you, Magohachi-san. You can leave now, we will take care of the situation and inform you when we’re done.” Baki said, and the old man nodded quickly before turning and walking away as fast as he dared.
Naruto watched the man retreat.
“Guess we should start with the obvious solution,” Sasori commented as he walked up beside Baki and peered over the short sandstone brick wall. Forming a couple of seals in rapid succession, Sasori whispered the name of his Jutsu.
“Earth Release: Flying Thrown Stones.”
Chakra erupted from Sasori and rapidly dived underground until it reached sandstone. Naruto watched the Chakra as it carved chunks of sandstone out and reinforced them before lifting them through the sand and into the air.
“Here goes nothing,” Sasori remarked as he backed away from the well, Baki doing the same.
The chunks of sandstone darted forward and disappeared over the edge of the short wall. Less than a second later, Naruto heard them hit the stone and saw them break apart into tiny pieces.
Sasori whistled in surprise, “that is one hard rock.”
Baki couldn’t help but agree. Vaulting over the wall, he caught the rope and used it to slow his fall.
“You didn’t even dent it!” Baki called to Sasori, who just shook his head.
“What do we do now?” Sasori asked, and Baki shrugged before leaping up the side of the well and hauling himself over the wall.
“If we use a stronger Jutsu, we’re going to obliterate the well, and it will fill back up.” Baki admitted, “We could end up damaging the plaza and cause it to collapse entirely.”
“What do you see down there, Naruto?” Sasori asked after a moment’s pause, surprising Naruto.
I didn’t even think about whether or not Sasori knew I had the Byakugan before telling Baki where the civilians were… Naruto realized. It seems he knows as well, though.
“It’s close to a mile and a half wide, and we’re standing at the center of it,” Naruto explained, getting a look of surprise from Sasori and Baki. “It’s close to half a mile thick, and there is a large cave full of water trapped beneath it.”
“Makes sense,” Sasori replied and turned back to the well, “I’m surprised that none of the other wells hit this thing.
“The south well came close. It missed by a couple of feet however,” Naruto explained.
“That Byakugan of yours sure is useful,” Sasori commented, and Naruto quickly checked that no one was nearby. His father had ordered him to be very careful with using the name of his Kekkai Genkai in public.
“I suggest we go and rent a hotel room for the night,” Baki said as he turned away from the well. “It’s going to get dark soon, and I’d like to talk to Magohachi about this well.”
“Without him pissing his pants, I assume?” Sasori joked, and Baki nodded.
“That would be ideal.”
“Seems good to me,” Sasori said before turning to Naruto. “Alright, lead the way, Mr. All Seeing.”
Naruto hadn’t thought he would get to look at the moon tonight, but since everyone around him already knew his secret, there was no need to hide it. Bowing his head, Naruto slipped his blindfold off and deactivated his Byakugan.
Moving to the edge of the bed, Naruto found the moon in the sky through the hotel room window.
It was beautiful.
The Byakugan drained the color out of everything, and he was often surprised by how vibrant some things were when he removed his blindfold. Not only that, but the moon was impossible to see with his enhanced sight.
It was why it fascinated him.
When he’d seen it for the first time, he had activated his Byakugan to observe it more closely. Instead, it had disappeared. Naruto’s father had explained that it was because the moon was too far away. That had only frustrated him.
For some reason that he couldn’t explain, he wanted to observe the surface of the moon more closely than his regular sight would allow.
Twice before, he had tried to force his Byakugan beyond its limit, and the pain had been too much.
It was just too far away, and he knew that, yet he couldn’t resist the urge to try again and again.
Several minutes passed before Naruto pulled himself away, finally giving up.
Instead, Naruto turned his attention to Gaara. He had never seen Gaara normally, and he was surprised to see how different the redhead looked. The most noticeable difference was the tattoo on Gaara’s forehead. In reality, it was black, but in the Byakugan, it glowed brightly with Chakra.
Naruto had at first assumed it to be a seal of some kind, but was at a loss for what it did. The purpose of the seal on Gaara’s stomach had been obvious. Naruto could see it using the Chakra of the Bijū that Gaara contained to keep the demon locked inside.
Physically turning his head, Naruto looked at the hotel room’s door. Though he couldn’t see Sasori, or even sense him, he knew the Puppeteer was on the other side, hidden by a Genjutsu as he stood on guard.
Looking to the right of the doorway, Naruto strained his eyes to see his Sensei in the darkness. He was barely able to make out Baki’s rising and falling chest. Though, without his Byakugan, he couldn’t be sure his Sensei was actually asleep.
However, Naruto didn’t need to guess whether or not Gaara was asleep. Despite the redhead’s eyes being closed, Naruto knew they were completely awake.
Gaara didn’t sleep.
It had been something he’d discovered a few weeks after moving into the Kazekage Mansion. He’d woken up in the middle of the night again, and had decided to try to find Gaara. After an hour of searching, he eventually had found Gaara sitting on top of a closed restaurant, meditating.
However, Gaara hadn’t been sleeping.
The next night, he’d found Gaara somewhere else late at night, and the Jinchuriki still wasn’t sleeping.
Naruto had been unable to deny his curiosity. So he’d lied to Temari that he’d noticed Gaara didn’t seem to sleep on the way back from Kazedama and asked her why. She’d explained it to him without question.
Apparently, when Gaara’s seal had first been created, something went wrong. The effects weren’t that bad in the beginning, and Gaara was able to sleep when he was very young. That changed when Gaara accidentally killed his uncle in self-defense.
After that, Gaara couldn’t sleep without the One-tail he contained escaping, forcing him to stay awake all of the time. Because of this, Gaara meditated instead of sleeping.
A horrible situation, and it explains why Gaara acts so strangely, Naruto mused as he picked up his blindfold and slipped it over his eyes. Activating his Byakugan, Naruto immediately noticed the bright Chakra flowing through Gaara.
Realizing that Gaara was manipulating sand, Naruto looked at the floor, expecting to find sand flowing toward him.
There was nothing. The floor was barren.
Focusing on Gaara’s Chakra, Naruto followed it through the gourd attached to the Jinchuriki’s back and out the top. From there, it dropped to the floor and was slowly flowing through a small hole in the wall.
The walls are full of sand, Naruto realized as he followed the chakra stream. What is he doing?
Rapidly scanning the walls, Naruto tried to find some sort of answer. His original assumption had been wrong, only the wall directly behind Gaara, and the one to his right was full of sand.
Noticing Gaara move, Naruto froze. Gaara lifted two fingers and covered his left eye before slowly forming a hand seal with his other hand. Naruto watched Chakra explode into the air as Gaara activated a Jutsu.
As quickly as it had exploded outward, the Chakra imploded and shot through Gaara’s body. Naruto was barely able to keep track of it as it passed through the sand in the wall. Separating itself, the Chakra pulled some of the sand after it through a crack and began to condense into a small ball.
Attached to the side of the hotel wall were two Shinobi dressed in black as they slowly crawled toward the window. Looking back at Gaara’s Jutsu, Naruto was shocked to find an eyeball made of sand.
The eyeball was staring at the two mysterious Shinobi climbing up the wall.
He knew they were there, that’s why he put sand in the wall, Naruto realized. He’s going to kill them.
The realization was exciting.
Honing his enhanced sight on the Shinobi, Naruto tried to find anything to identify who they were or where they were from. However, they’d clearly expected this, as neither of them had anything on them that could be used to identify them. Naruto didn’t recognize them either.
“The Jinchuriki doesn’t sleep, so be careful.” One of the Shinobi signed at the other, who nodded in response. Naruto was glad he’d learned sign language in the Shinobi Academy before leaving to train under Baki.
Naruto jumped as sand spikes shot out of the wall, impaling both of the unknown Shinobi through the head. They died instantly, and Naruto watched as the bodies fell, the sand retracting as quickly as it had appeared.
It was only when the bodies hit the sandstone street below that Naruto noticed more of Gaara’s Chakra concentrated in the sand. It took Gaara a few seconds to break through the road with the sand. Once he had, the sand grabbed the bodies and hauled them underground. The street was repaired a moment later.
How many times has he done that already? He’s protecting me… Naruto thought. Turning to look at Gaara, Naruto found Gaara staring at him as the sand in the walls retracted back into the gourd.
Naruto knew that people were afraid of Gaara, but he’d never really thought about it. As he waited for Sasori to pay for their stay in the hotel, Naruto watched the civilian woman on the other side of the hotel registration desk carefully.
He hadn’t paid attention to her when they’d come in to get a room last night, however, when they’d entered the lobby to leave the building, he’d immediately felt her fear.
Gaara was completely disinterested, but Naruto was fascinated.
The woman was clearly terrified of Gaara, and Naruto was sure if Gaara even looked at the woman, she would flee in terror.
Doesn’t she know that her fear makes her more noticeable? Naruto wondered as he watched the woman shakily accept the coins Sasori was handing her.
Hearing the front doors open, Naruto forgot about the woman and turned to find Baki entering the hotel lobby.
“How did it go?” Sasori asked, having just finished paying for their stay.
“I talked to Magohachi. He understands if we have to destroy the well, but if we can find another solution, he asked that we try that first,” Baki replied. Sasori chuckled as he walked past Baki and pushed open the doors.
“Pretty sure we’re going to have to destroy it no matter what,” Sasori commented before turning and gesturing for Naruto and Gaara to follow him. Noticing Gaara staring at the woman behind the counter, who seemed too scared to even breathe, Sasori located the sealing tag in his kunai pouch.
“Come on, Gaara,” Naruto said, and Sasori was surprised as Gaara turned away and walked over. Sasori looked at Baki in astonishment, but Baki just shrugged and stepped out onto the street.
As they walked past the street that ran down the side of the hotel, Naruto couldn’t help but look at the two bodies buried a dozen feet below. When he’d woken up, he’d immediately found them, proving that the night before hadn’t been a dream… or a nightmare.
Since then, Naruto had been debating whether or not to tell Sasori and Baki what had happened.
Would telling them betray Gaara’s trust? Naruto wondered. It doesn’t seem like he wants them to know…No, I won’t tell them.
That decided, Naruto reduced the chakra flow to his eyes and focused on his immediate surroundings.
As before, the streets quickly cleared in front of them as they walked, though with noticeably less screaming this time. It only took a few minutes of brisk walking to reach the plaza, which was devoid of life before they got there.
“So, are we going to try the Rock Pillar Spears?” Baki asked as they walked up to the well.
“We can, but I don’t think it’s going to do much. The density of that stone is much higher than what we’re going to be able to create. The fact that my Jutsu yesterday didn’t even scratch it is concerning.” Sasori replied as he leaned over the wall.
Naruto wasn’t paying attention to Sasori or his Sensei. Instead, he was silently watching Gaara as the Jinchuriki pumped wave after wave of Chakra into the sand beneath his feet.
Baki shook his head, “who would have thought this D-rank mission would turn into this?”
“Not me,” Sasori admitted, “We could try-”
“What are you doing, Gaara?” Baki demanded, causing Sasori to quickly get to his feet. Naruto could only stare in amazement at the sheer amount of Chakra flowing through the sand beneath the plaza.
A distant scream filled the air, and the ground rocked.
Four columns of sand exploded into the air at the edges of the plaza, rising higher and higher.
As Gaara lifted his hand in the air, Baki realized what was happening. Grabbing Naruto, he picked the boy up and leaped for the edge of the plaza. Sasori quickly followed.
“Should have known he’d get bored,” Sasori commented, laughing as the sky began to darken.
The sand had come together in a massive cloud above Gaara and was beginning to spin rapidly.
Gaara lifted his other hand.
The sand condensed, spinning faster and faster as it took a drill-like appearance.
“Sand Waterfall Imperial Funeral!”
Gaara slammed both of his palms on the ground, and the drill dropped. For a second, everything was silent.
Naruto stumbled as the ground shook again, and immediately covered his ears in a futile attempt to block out the horrible screeching. The air quickly became filled with a sand cloud as Gaara’s drill chucked the debris into the air behind it.
Spotting Gaara in the cloud, Naruto saw that the sand was protecting Gaara, despite him standing right at the edge of the massive hole.
Peering through the ground, Naruto was shocked to find the drill had almost reached the other side. A moment later, it was through. Naruto expected Gaara to simply drop the sand drill into the water below, but instead, it reversed course.
Lifting the heavily condensed sand into the air, Gaara moved it to the side and let his hand fall.
The ground trembled slightly as the sand dropped with a thud.
Sasori burst into laughter.