Kazekage Tower, Suna, Land of Wind, EN.
Every time he covered for Rasa, the dread of one day becoming Kazekage himself got a little bigger.
Clipping the scroll closed, Baki dropped it into one of the large desk’s many drawers and closed it. Rubbing his face, he tried to wake himself back up, but it wasn’t working very well. It was late, really late. He wasn’t anywhere near as good as Rasa was at shifting through the dozens of requests, reports, and spending bills.
While the Kazekage certainly stretched his legs more often than, say the Daimyō did, the position still had way too much paperwork. Especially during times of peace. Baki had declined two different requests to build a night club in the exact same place. They had enough of those as it was already.
Everything had to be looked at from several standpoints. Whether or not it would harm the city’s security, how the population would receive it, could they afford it, did it benefit the city as a whole?
Baki chuckled. Rasa had stopped caring about what a lot of the civilians and even the Shinobi population thought of his decisions sometime ago. Baki respected that.
He had just stood up, deciding to quit for the night when a Shinobi threw the doors open, failing to knock entirely. They were lucky Rasa wasn’t here right now, he hated when someone did that.
“Baki-sama! The Kumo Embassy has been attacked!” the Shinobi, Miyazawa, shouted. He barely managed to slow down before colliding with the desk, having to take a second to catch his breath.
By the time he did, Baki was already gone. Shaking his head, he turned around and sprinted back down the hallway.
Reaching the window at the end of the hall, Baki threw it open and jumped out, landing on the curved roof below. Leaping into the air, he landed on a nearby rooftop, keeping his momentum.
It only took him a few minutes to make it to the embassy, but it felt like years. He could sense the team of Elite Shinobi, one of which was sitting on the roof of the embassy, manipulating a low-level Genjutsu and preventing the passing civilians from noticing the rest inside.
It was always best to keep civilians out of the loop.
“There you are. Took you long enough.” Ochida commented as Baki touched down on the roof of the building adjacent to the deathly-quiet embassy.
“What’s the situation?” Baki demanded. Ochida tended to be uncooperative with him, though the Senior Puppeteer always listened to Sasori of all people.
“Five dead. One of which was the prisoner we delivered to them four days ago.”
“How long have they been dead?”
Ochida took a cigarette out of his kunai pouch and put it in his mouth, the edge catching on fire out of thin air. He inhaled deeply before replying, “Guess.”
Baki rubbed his face. His eyes badly wanted to shut, but he had to deal with this now. Something made him suspect he probably wasn’t going to get any sleep tonight.
A junior Puppeteer appeared on the roof in a swirl of sand. They took their sweet time brushing the sand off their clothes before acknowledging those present. Ochida scoffed.
“Everyone inside has been dead for four days, each died from having their throats cut open and bleeding out.” Reijiro said, “We’ve been unable to find any trace of the attackers so far.”
“We need to inform Kumo of this immediately,” Baki decided, Reijiro nodded.
“I’ll wake up Hamada then,” Reijiro said, vanishing in a swirl of sand a second later.
“Shouldn’t we inform Rasa-sama about this first?” Miyazawa inquired.
Baki shook his head, “We don’t have the time. They unquestionably had a regular time to communicate with Kumo, chances are they’ve missed that date at least once.”
Baki turned back toward the tower and initiated a shunshin, vanishing from the rooftop. If he didn’t play his cards right, then Kumo could decide to go to war with them, and it would most definitely be his fault. The power-hungry country just needed a reason at this point.
Daimy ō’s Palace, Kazedama City, Land of Wind, EN.
Rasa was shocked. At a complete loss for words, all he could manage was a nod.
Torio understood how his friend felt, but this was necessary.
“How is it coming along?” Torio asked, having turned to look at Kanade, standing at attention as she had been for the last hour. He was extremely grateful that she’d been the one to accept his request to the Wind Sage more than four years ago. Without her, he probably wouldn’t be alive.
“As you ordered, sir. It took him a half-hour to reach the garden.” She said tersely.
Rasa looked at Kanade in confusion. Getting to his feet, he walked up to the balcony and looked down at the vast garden below. “What’s happening?”
“Gaara’s in the garden,” Torio replied calmly. Rasa started to leap over the balcony, but Torio’s hand on his shoulder stopped him. “This needs to happen.”
Rasa was torn between trusting his friend and his instinct. It wasn’t an order, Torio was giving him a choice to trust him. Taking a deep breath, he backed away from the railing.
“This is too soon, Torio,” Rasa argued.
Torio shook his head, “This is the best time.”
Rasa sat down in defeat, “So we just wait?”
Looking out at the garden, he spotted his son at his favorite place in the garden: A large rock in the center of the biggest pond.
The sun had finally disappeared beyond the mountains. The moon just beginning to shine around the edges of the palace; it wouldn’t be visible for several hours.
Miyasato regretted that he wouldn’t be able to see the Jessamine flowers open tonight. A white rabbit peeked its head out of the bushes to his left, sniffing the air.
Deciding it was safe, the furry creature ventured out onto the path around the lake. Its mate followed behind it as they hopped to the edge of the water. A merchant had been selling them in the market square a couple of months ago, and he’d seen them from the palace.
One of the guards had gone and bought them for him before someone purchased them to be eaten. White rabbits were scarce in the Land of Wind, usually dying as babies. He’d nurtured them back to health, and they now lived in the garden. It was the right thing.
Looking toward the Palace, Miyasato could see his father talking to the Kazekage on a balcony high above him. He turned away quickly, not wishing to intrude on his father.
Instead, he found the Koi fish in the water beneath him. Having brought food for them, he pulled the small bag out of his pocket and scattered its contents across the surface of the pond.
He smiled, watching the fish gobble up the bread crumbs.
Something moved in the trees behind him and Miyasato froze. It was Gaara, staring at him from the cover of the shadows. He hadn’t seen the Jinchuriki leave the palace, but obviously, he’d gotten past the guards.
Sand poured silently onto the ground around him from his gourd as he crouched in the trees. He’d been watching Miyasato for several minutes now, and no one had shown up to protect him. He couldn’t sense any guards, but that didn’t mean anything.
What was important was if they could detect him, and he was beginning to suspect that they couldn’t.
Stepping silently out of the trees, Gaara stopped at the edge of the pond, staring at Miyasato, who had his back to him.
He waited. No one appeared, no one tried to stop him. Raising his hand, the sand around him lifted into the air, undulating around him.
“Are you going to enjoy killing me, Gaara?”
Clenching his fist, sand formed into a spike in the air next to him.
The spike started to spin.
“I would enjoy killing you too.”
Punching forward, the sand flew toward Miyasato’s chest. His head pounded, blood rushing in his ears as the spike drew closer to Miyasato’s chest. He’d savor the feel of their blood. Mother will be happy.
Gaara barely sensed the chakra surge behind him before his sand spike exploded.
He tried to move his arm to command his sand to attack again, but he couldn’t move. Looking down, he found himself encased in gold dust, constricting him. Sand streamed out of his gourd, trying to reach his father.
The back of his neck stung horribly, and he dropped his control of the sand, causing it to crash to the ground with a thud. He could feel the accursed seal only an inch from his spine, sucking away his chakra.
“Gaara-san, is this the way you treat your hosts?”
Looking back toward the pond, Gaara saw the Daimyō was now standing next to Miyasato. The boy was looking toward him, slightly standing behind his father. His sand was gone, having sunk to the bottom of the pond. The Daimyo had stopped his attack at the last second.
The Daimyo waved his hand, and the gold dust restricting him fell away. Gaara was surprised but showed nothing on his face. The sting on his neck faded. Sand darted back to him, circling around him protectively.
Hardly a second passed, and his sand once again moved on its own. Springing up on his left, it barely stopped the sharp edge of a war fan inches from his neck. Slowly turning his head, he returned the Kunoichi’s cold stare.
More sand poured out of his gourd as it reinforced the sand holding back the war fan. He was losing. The edge slowly got closer to his neck as the Kunoichi applied more and more pressure to the back of the fan.
His sand fell to the ground as the Kunoichi vanished, reappearing next to the Daimyo. Her expression hadn’t changed at all, but her message had been clear. She could and would kill him if he attempted to kill the prince again.
“Please forgive my son, Torio. It’s my fault.”
Gaara looked at the Daimyō, wondering if he’d be executed for attacking the Prince of Wind. Would this be what finally outweighed his value as one of the Land of Wind’s greatest weapons?
Suna had tried to get rid of him before and never succeeded. His father was too weak to kill him.
The Daimyō was about to reply, but was interrupted when Miyasato walked in front of him, “Why would Gaara want to kill me, Rasa-san?”
Gaara could feel everyone’s eyes on him, though Miyasato continued to stare blankly out at nothing. He could sense his father moving the seal closer.
“I wanted to.”
Gaara looked over at Miyasato, who stared back at him. He’s not blind, Gaara realized.
“You’ll be watched heavily by my guard, Gaara, but I still wish for you to attend the party tonight,” Torio warned and gestured for someone in the trees to come out. A servant stepped out of the shadows and walked across the surface of the water.
Helping Miyasato down from the rock, Riko carried him across the pond and set him down on the raised wooden pathway. Gaara watched, disgusted. The boy was weak, pathetic. Why had he wanted their blood? He would never be a threat.
The Kunoichi and Daimyo vanished in a swirl of sand, leaving Gaara and Rasa alone in the garden.
“Do not try that again, Gaara. I will seal you.”
Gaara said nothing.
“Thank you, Riko-san. Leave now.”
Riko bowed before quickly exiting his master’s room. He had just finished helping Miyasato dress in his clothes for the party when he was dismissed. Heading toward the kitchen, he decided to see if there was anything he could help with.
Miyasato watched his servant go before turning his attention to himself.
He was wearing a bright white kimono, with gold edging, specially tailored to fit him. Riko had brushed his long dark-brown hair and tied a bang together with a silk bandage on the left side of his face.
He didn’t have many things to remember his mother by. In fact, he didn’t remember her at all. However, in one of the paintings of him and his mother, his hair had been tied together with a bandage on the left side of his face. There was no way to tell if that was something his mother or done, or perhaps an artistic liberty the painter had taken, but it made him feel like he was carrying something of her with him.
It was childish.
Smoothing the front of his clothes, he noticed his hands were even paler than they had been a few weeks ago. They almost seemed to disappear against the pristine white cloth of his kimono.
Miyasato didn’t know why his skin was so different from everyone else, especially as most people were tanned from the Land of Wind’s sun. He’d thought it was because he never went outside, but he’d proved that wasn’t true.
If he had some sort of disease, his father would have told him, but nothing had been said.
Miyasato stepped out of his bedroom and closed the door. Quickly checking the hallway and nearby rooms, he found himself alone. As long as no one could see him, it was safe to walk alone.
Of course, the guards can still see me, Miyasato mused. He couldn’t see the guards in the shadows above him most of the time, though sometimes he caught their movements for a short second.
He was so tired of pretending to be blind, only able to walk normally when he was alone with his father or his father’s guard.
It took him a few moments of searching to find his father, during which time he stood still in the hallway before he saw him talking with the Kazekage, walking toward the dining hall.
Gaara was precisely where he expected him to be, inside his cell-like room. Asurami was guarding the door, but no one else was in Gaara’s hallway.
Miyasato changed direction and entered the room on his left. Navigating through a maze of rooms and halls, he eventually reached Gaara’s hallway a few minutes later. Asurami nodded to him but didn’t say anything.
Stopping outside Gaara’s room, he watched as Gaara turned and looked at him through the door. After a moment, he walked away, heading toward the dining room.
Gaara opened his door, though the hallway was once again empty. Considering his options, Gaara took off his gourd and set it in the room before following after Miyasato.
Rounding a corner, Miyasato stopped next to Kanade, who placed her hand on his shoulder. She pushed open the doors to the dining hall and pretended to help him over to the head table.
Almost everyone in the entire palace was in the dining hall, all eyes on him, though the room didn’t contain even half the people it could hold.
His father smiled at him as he sat down, though Miyasato pretended not to see it. While it looked to everyone like he was staring out at nothing, he was watching Gaara, who’d just reached the dining hall, through the wall behind him.
He didn’t react as the massive dining hall doors opened once again, causing everyone else to look over. Miyasato noticed the Suna Shinobi and Rasa had stopped as soon as Gaara entered the room, and were carefully watching the Jinchuriki. Kanade had not yet left his side.
Gaara walked behind him toward Rasa, and Kanade gripped her war fan tightly. Gaara won’t attack me here. There wouldn’t be any enjoyment in it. One has to savor their kills, Miyasato mused.
After Gaara had taken his seat next to Rasa, Torio stood and clapped his hands. The conversation quieted and went silent, all eyes on his father.
“I want to start by thanking all of our guests for coming on such short notice. A journey across the desert isn’t kind to anyone.”
There was a rush of applause, and the Suna Shinobi smiled, nodding in thanks. They were all gathered together at their own table near the head table.
Torio raised his good hand, and the room quieted again.
“I next want to thank all of the servants, guards, and members of my personal guard for their years of invaluable service.” Torio started clapping, and almost immediately, everyone joined in. When it had quieted down a few moments later, he continued. “Some of you might not be aware, but I was attacked a week ago here in this very room.”
Miyasato observed the Suna Shinobi’s expressions. They were concerned, not shocked. They knew to some extent there had been an attack, but probably not how recently, or the severity of it.
“Without the dedication and sacrifice of those here, that willingly took an oath to serve me, my son, and I wouldn’t be here today. Thank you, all of you.”
The dining hall once more broke out into loud clapping. The palace servants and guards were grinning and slapping each other on the back. It was the appropriate response, many had come close to dying, and many more had died. Eighteen of the Royal Guard died protecting him long enough for his father to arrive.
Things had to change.
The delicious smell of the food beneath his nose kept distracting him. He’d tried a few bites. It was delicious as always, but he was trying to focus on what was happening around him. Miyasato had tried to eat and observe other things around him before, but it had always ended badly. Usually, it was blamed on him being blind. But he didn’t want to embarrass himself tonight.
Gaara hadn’t touched his food or even looked at it. Wondering if perhaps Gaara had already eaten, he scanned the Jinchuriki’s stomach, finding it entirely empty.
That was when he noticed a layer of colored sand covering Gaara’s entire body, entirely invisible to regular sight. The guards had been ordered not to allow Gaara to enter with his gourd.
They don’t know Gaara has sand on him. Does Rasa even know? Miyasato wondered. Perhaps Gaara would try to kill him here. It wasn’t likely with all of the guards being on high alert, but it was possible.
Deciding to enjoy his food before it got cold, he began eating, savoring every bite. Rushing through a meal, like some people did, was a crime. Every mouthful brought an exquisite battle of tastes in a way only his father and Chef Kakuzo could create. Miyasato was always amazed at the food they produced, despite them arguing over it the entire time.
He’d seen the eight women hidden around the dining hall before even leaving his room, and realized his father wanted to surprise him. So he hadn’t commented on it. As the conversation began to pick up again, eight women, each wearing a highly-decorated dress and mask, stepped out from behind the pillars.
Meeting in the center of the room, the dancers bowed to the head table and began to dance the Kabuki.
Some of the servants had left their tables and were now moving around the dining hall, clearing the plates. The palace’s two musicians entered the room with their instruments and began to play music for the dancers.
Several conversations were happening around the room, and he quickly stopped trying to read the lips of everyone talking. The dance slowly came to a conclusion, and everyone clapped. The dancers bowed once more and left the room.
Torio stood once more, drawing everyone’s attention.
“Eight years ago, my son was born, and the doctor informed my wife and me that Miyasato was blind. We tried everything. Only one doctor was able to help, and they could only improve Miyasato’s sight enough to see a little bit of light and shapes.”
Many of the servants seemed surprised at this.
Torio shook his head, “Yura-chan and I were dedicated to finding a solution, but sadly she died before we could. A year after her death, I did find a solution. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing. I taught Miyasato to unlock his chakra as soon as possible, and he’s been working to learn a special technique ever since.”
He stood, seeing his father motion for him to stand.
“Miyasato, would you explain how the technique works?” Torio asked, and he nodded.
“I cannot see color or light with this technique. By pulsing my chakra regularly, I can reassemble the space around me in my mind based on the way the chakra hits my body when it returns to me.” He explained. The Suna Shinobi nodded, understanding how such a thing would work. Truthfully, it did work, because it was a real technique.
It was called Ekorokeeshon no Jutsu and was usually used by shinobi to navigate when visibility was extremely low. He had learned the jutsu so that he could answer questions about it if needed. However, he didn’t use it.
Torio nodded, and he sat back down.
“Something is preventing Miyasato from taking this jutsu to the next level, and that is the small amount of light that he can still see.”
If everyone wasn’t paying attention before, they were now. Some of the Suna Shinobi were whispering to each other, trying to guess what was going on.
His father pulled a box from his pocket and handed it to him. He took it without turning to look at it.
“Happy birthday, Miyasato,” Torio said, smiling. Opening the case, he found a light grey band made of some sort of cloth. It was incredibly smooth to the touch. Setting the box down, he held the fabric in front of him.
“Put it on.”
He slipped the band over his head and adjusted it across his eyes. It was comfortable and didn’t put any pressure on his eyes.
“Thank you, father.”
Torio patted him on the shoulder before turning back toward the guests.
“Now, for the main entertainment!” Torio said, clapping his hands together.
There were several yells of surprise from the servants as the tables and benches vanished in large swirls of sand. All of the Suna Shinobi caught themselves with ease.
Before anyone could ask what just happened. Asurami appeared in the center of the now cleared dining hall in a swirl of sand. His snake mask obscured his face, but Miyasato could see his grin. His father had told him beforehand some of what would happen. Because he needed to act appropriately. However, he’d reached the end of his advance knowledge.
“Doton: Ishi Ayatsuri! (Earth Release: Stone Manipulation!)” Asurami shouted.
The floor shook violently, and four posts rose, emerging from the floor around him. Moving like a liquid, the stone split off, connecting the four pillars. Shifting his handseal, Asurami jumped up as the stone began to spread, filling in the box they had created. When he landed, the jutsu had ended, forming a raised platform.
Bowing deeply to Torio, Asurami vanished in another swirl of sand.
“You see before you a sparring platform,” Torio said, looking immensely entertained at everyone’s confusion. “Oh yes, we’re doing exactly what you think we’re doing. Everyone is invited to spar against anyone of their choosing. Should the challenged person refuse, they must instead put on a show for everyone to the best of their ability.”
Torio sat back down, enjoying the sudden conversation around the room as people discussed who they wanted to fight. “Oh, and I forgot to mention. Anyone does really mean anyone. Who’s going first?”
Miyasato didn’t expect Rasa to stand, and only noticed he had when the man appeared in the center of the platform.
Rasa bowed to Torio, getting a bow in return.
“I challenge Miyasato Sakamoto.”
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