Miyasato had never done much walking in his life. While he had gone through some Shinobi training, most of it was chakra based, some Ninjutsu, and most being academic. The palace had an extensive library, but it lacked training grounds. The Daimyō who’d built it hadn’t taken Shinobi needs into consideration, it had been something his father had complained about repeatedly.
After an hour of being carried at speed beyond his comprehension, Sasori had set him down. He could no longer see Kazedama, though Rasa had pointed out what direction it was in when he asked. They were now on top of the Great Oniringo Mountains and traveling away from the capital.
The terrain was uneven, often there were sharp drop-offs that he had to be carried down. There were no paths to follow, as civilians never traveled this way.
They’d been walking for close to five hours now, and his legs were hurting badly. Several things prevented him from saying anything about it, though.
His father had told him before the Kazekage had even arrived, that the life of a Shinobi wouldn’t be easy, and he’d accepted that. Miyasato was also concerned that saying anything that made him look weak might cause Gaara to attempt to kill him again. The Jinchuriki hadn’t even looked at him since they left Kazedama.
He’d tried to focus on the surroundings to distract himself from his burning legs, and immediately tripped. He couldn’t trust the ground in front of him and had to continually scan it with his Byakugan. It was infuriating.
Observing Rasa stop ahead of him, he also stopped. Able to finally focus on something else, he immediately noticed the camp hidden in the mountains ahead of them. It was about half a mile away, and with regular sight, only the smoke from the campfires was visible.
Miyasato noticed that no one seemed concerned or surprised about the camp. Looking closer, he realized that was because it was a bandit camp. About thirty or forty men inside, each carrying a weapon of some kind. Some were still eating breakfast, but most were moving about the clearing, packing things up.
“What’s going on?” He asked. The camp was outside the range of his Echolocation Jutsu, so he pretended to be unable to see it.
“There is a camp ahead, bandit camp,” Sasori replied. Everyone besides Gaara was looking toward Rasa for orders, and Miyasato noticed the Kazekage looked unsure about what to do. What’s going on? Surely he isn’t going to attack the camp, that would draw attention to us. Going around would make more sense. Miyasato thought.
Rasa came to some sort of decision and sighed, “You are free to go, Gaara.”
Miyasato honed in on Gaara and Rasa, trying to understand what just happened. Rasa looked sad about something but resolute. Seeing the excitement in Gaara’s eyes, he felt himself getting excited for some reason. He’s letting him loose, they’re all going to die!
Gaara vanished in a swirl of sand. Miyasato immediately tried to locate the Jinchuriki but was distracted as Sasori once more picked him up, this time taking him through a shunshin. Usually, it was a nauseating experience for most people, but he’d gone through enough training to no longer feel sick. Kanade didn’t want him to throw up in the middle of an attack and had Shunshin’ed him back and forth until he got used to it.
It took him a few moments to get his bearings. Rasa and the rest of the Shinobi appeared next to him in similar swirls of sand. All stood silently as they watched the scene playing out below. Miyasato finally spotted Gaara on the far side of the camp. No one inside had noticed him yet.
A crushing weight suddenly abruptly drove Miyasato to his knees as Gaara released more Killing Intent than he’d ever felt before. His Byakugan deactivated as he struggled to breath. His vision went dark. His body refused to stop shaking, the pressure weighing down on him.
His father had trained him to resist Killing Intent, but never nearly this much. The pressure was worse than his father or Kanade had ever focused on him, and not even his first experience with Killing Intent had been this bad.
Anger rose up inside him as he was unable to even stand up. I will not cower in fear of such a pathetic weakling!
Fighting against the Killing Intent, he managed to finally get to his feet, though unsteadily. His Byakugan flared to life behind his blindfold, and the world came into view once more. Gaara was now in the center of the camp, dead bodies strewn behind him. Most were crushed into bits, blood soaking into the sand and sandstone.
Gaara didn’t have a drop of blood on him.
Sand roared around him as it stopped all the weapons thrown at Gaara. There weren’t that many, those around him being unable to stand up under the pressure he was releasing. The Jinchuriki radiated death, his eyes wide and bloodshot as blood seeped across the sand around him. Only his wild eyes conveyed Gaara’s excitement. His body was relaxed, his arms folded in front of him.
Miyasato watched in morbid fascination as sand wrapped around a bandit trying to run away, quickly cocooning them.
Gaara turned to look at the immobilized screaming man and raised his hand toward them. They began to beg desperately to be spared, but Gaara ignored them.
Closing his hand sharply, the sand contracted. Nearly instantly, the man’s body exploded under pressure. Miyasato watched as bits and pieces of the man flew through the air, though most of his blood was absorbed by Gaara’s sand.
Quickly finishing a set of seals, Gaara pointed his open palm toward the ground. Miyasato could see chakra pumping throughout the sand. There were about twenty bandits left, some of which had passed out from fear.
The sand began to vibrate rapidly, causing everyone within the range of the Jutsu to sink through the surface of the sand. Gaara stood unaffected in the center. Miyasato watched as all the bandits were sucked a dozen feet underground, completely unable to move. Within seconds, they were all crushed to paste.
I wish Miyasato didn’t have to see this, but it’s needed, Rasa thought to himself, sighing sadly.
Suna, Land of Wind, EN.
“You ready?” Ochida asked as he and Baki climbed the stairs to the top floor of the Kazekage Tower.
Baki scoffed but patted himself down anyway. He’d never forgotten to grab all his tools and weapons before. He’d also never been this stressed before either. It had been five days since sending out Hamada and Pakura with messages to Kumo and Kazedama.
He’d heard nothing back from Pakura, but Hamada had returned the third day and informed him that the Kumo Shinobi were on their way. He’d run into them at the border with the Land of Mushrooms.
Ochida had just informed him that the Kumo team had arrived at the gate and were being passed through security. Not that it did much good other than knowing what weapons the Shinobi were carrying, and their identities. No country would try to force a Shinobi to disarm unless they wanted to piss off said Shinobi, or had a really good reason.
Reaching the top of the stairs, Ochida held the door open for Baki.
“It’s unlike you to care, Ochida-san.”
The normally stoic and emotionless puppeteer shrugged and lit a cigarette as they walked down the hallway. Smoking was a favorite pleasure amount the puppeteer brigade, and expensive. While a lot of Shinobi in Suna bought the rolled-up herbs and paper, no one purchased as many as the Puppeteers did.
The merchants for the stuff made a killing.
“I’d hate to be you right now,” Ochida commented unhelpfully as they stepped into the Kazekage’s Office. Baki sat down in the large leather chair behind the desk and looked at Ochida expectantly.
“Care to share why?”
Ochida snorted, pointing his thumb back down the hallway, toward the front gate of Suna. “Leader of the Kumo team is a guy named Taguchi. A raging asshole. Met him before on a mission near the Land of Lightning.”
Ochida cut Baki off before he even began to say anything, “They’re being escorted straight here by two Elite teams.”
Baki sighed and moved the chair closer to the desk. He wasn’t at all sure how this meeting was going to go. As a stand-in for the Kazekage, he had a large amount of power, but he wasn’t sure if that included declaring war on another country.
Hamada had been unable to tell him anything about the Kumo Shinobi’s intentions, so he was going into this completely blind.
Leaning back in the chair, he slowed his breathing. He let his concerns and fears fade away as he focused on the wooden doors on the other side of the room. Being unofficially next in line to be Kazekage made him the most qualified to handle this, and he was determined to handle it well.
Baki and Ochida sensed the unmasked signatures of the Kumo Shinobi as they entered the building at the same time. Looking up and seeing Baki was focused, Ochida nodded to him and vanished in a swirl of sand right before the doors opened.
“You’re not the Kazekage.” The one at the front said immediately upon seeing him, Baki nodded.
“The Kazekage is in Kazedama and has been for a while. I was left in charge in his absence. Hamada delivered a scroll to you on my orders.” Baki said. He’d added the last bit to give himself some credibility. Dealing with Kumo Shinobi meant showing authority and strength, always and as frequently as possible.
Briefly, the idea of folding his hands on the table in front of him came to mind, but he dismissed it. He would really be impersonating Rasa at that point, the Elite Shinobi would never let him hear the end of it.
Out of the four Kumo Shinobi, only the one in the front with blonde hair seemed bothered by him.
“My name is Baki, I assume you’re here to investigate your embassy.”
“Taguchi.” The blonde one replied as he sat down in the left chair in front of the desk. “I’ll accept this, though I would prefer talking to the Kazekage.”
Baki nodded. Kumo Shinobi were famously known for not respecting anyone. Except those above them in their chain of leadership, or those they saw as powerful and deserving of respect. Not many people got that honor. Kumo’s culture derived from how the first Raikage had run Kumo, and eventually all of the Land of Lightning. Only the strong were allowed to rule. Every Raikage had fought to earn the position against others who wanted it. There was no right to anything in Kumo.
Personally, he’d always seen it as a somewhat flawed system. Someone with a lot of power could keep the position even if they were a tyrant, but so far, that hadn’t happened yet.
“What can you tell me about our embassy?”
“We don’t usually have much interaction with the Kumo Embassy, so we only noticed something was off three days after when we believe the attack happened.” He explained. Baki noticed that the other three Kumo Shinobi had spread out around the office, but pretended to ignore them.
“Yes, your scroll explained that.” Taguchi said, cutting him off, “What do you know about who killed them?”
Baki hardened his expression, making sure that it was clear he didn’t like being interrupted. Everything was a game of power with Kumo Shinobi, if they decided you were weak, it was over.
“Very little. The murderers were highly-skilled, capable of sneaking through not only our defenses but also taking four of your Shinobi unaware. The evidence suggests that all four died within seconds of each other. Without a fight.”
Baki put emphasis on the last part, knowing it would hurt Taguchi’s pride.
“There was surely a fight! Why weren’t any of your men nearby to assist my comrades?” Taguchi demanded, sitting up sharply.
Baki refused to back down.
“There wasn’t a fight. They all died silently.” He deadpanned. Taguchi was visibly angry and looked like he was about to stand. Rotating his wrist, Baki confirmed that the Kunai hidden in his sleeve was still there.
The Elite Shinobi hiding in the room wouldn’t do anything unless he was attacked, or signaled them to do so. He didn’t want to fight unless absolutely necessary.
He countered Taguchi’s sudden wave of Killing Intent immediately, refusing to let the man have the upper hand. He didn’t move as Taguchi stood up, glaring at him.
Looking to his left, Baki saw that the Shinobi who’d spoken was the one by the door. It was a Kunoichi, but the cloth covering her face had made him think they were a Shinobi. They’d just taken the fabric off and were striding up to the desk.
Baki let go of his Killing Intent as he felt Taguchi’s fade away. Whoever the Kunoichi was, Taguchi clearly respected her as he stepped out of her way and sat back down.
He nodded, a bit surprised to see a Kumo Kunoichi. It was a rare occurrence in Kumo as the academy graduating requirements were insane. Even by Shinobi standards. Though if Baki had to think about it, Kumo was probably one of the fairest militaries in regards to gender. If you could prove your strength, no one cared what your gender was there.
There had never been a female Raikage simply because a Kunoichi had never won the fight to become one.
“With your permission, we would like to conduct our own investigation alongside your Shinobi.” The Kunoichi requested, having taken the other chair.
“Iwata Kayami.” She supplied, and he nodded.
Gesturing to her teammates, Iwata stood. Taguchi still looked irritated but stood up as well. He refrained from commenting on it. He’d been under the impression that Taguchi was the leader of the Kumo team, but it seemed like he might just be the most brazen.
“Before you go,” he said, standing as well. “We had a man who we believed to be a Kumo Shinobi come into Suna, dehydrated and covered in burns. The man immediately ran straight into Gaara, and because we suspected him of being a spy, he was rescued. We interrogated him, as per our agreement, and delivered him to the embassy within three hours.”
Iwata seemed to be thinking.
“I bring this up because we delivered the man to the embassy the day before the embassy was attacked.
“Is the man alive?” Taguchi demanded abruptly, but shut up when Iwata glared at him.
“Not that we are aware of…”
Iwata nodded, more to herself than him. “I understand this violates the agreement our countries have but did the man say anything that might help us?”
Baki shook his head, “No. He was extremely dehydrated and delirious. We weren’t able to get anything out of him.”
“Thank you, Baki-san.”
Gesturing to her team, they all vanished in four simultaneous lightning bursts.
Baki stared at the spot they’d been standing in for a few moments before rubbing his head. He’d gone through the whole conversation again. Hopefully, he had done the right thing. He hoped Rasa was making his way toward Suna by now.