Rasa’s attention never left the scroll in his hands even as he reached across the cluttered table to pick up a coffee cup. “What a mess,” he muttered before taking a sip. Baki had already gone through all the reports around the time it was believed the attack on the Kumo Embassy had taken place and found nothing.
It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Baki, but he liked having as close to first-hand knowledge as possible. Still, Rasa had to admit that he didn’t see anything either. Whoever had snuck into Suna and broken into a highly secure Kumo Embassy was, undoubtedly, extremely skilled. It was probable they hadn’t left any trail at all.
He’d stayed up late last night thinking about it, and one thing had been bothering him ever since he’d returned to Suna. What was the murderers’ motive for this attack? Rasa had concluded that they’d been after the prisoner they’d saved from Gaara. The man had talked about being hunted and it seemed he was right.
Wait… Rasa dropped the scroll he’d been staring at and shifted through the disorganized pile next to him. Finding the manuscript he wanted, he opened Ochida’s ground report at the embassy when he had first inspected it.
Quickly scanning the scroll, he realized he couldn’t remember, because it wasn’t in the report. Where did the suspected spy go? He wasn’t with the other dead Kumo Shinobi.
Rasa took another gulp of his coffee and leaned back in his seat. They took his body. Because he knew something that they didn’t want anyone learning. He said something about a stone… no, “the” stone… could he mean the-
“Good morning, Father.”
Rasa looked up and smiled. Quickly picking up all the scrolls, he dropped them back into the satchel he’d taken them home in. Once space was cleared, Temari carefully set a plate of steaming food before her father.
“Thank you, Temari.”
His eldest daughter bowed slightly and headed back toward the kitchen. A moment after she disappeared, his eldest son walked into the room, carrying his own food.
“Welcome back, Father,” Kankurō said as he set his plate down. “What took you so long?”
Rasa chuckled, “I had some complications on the return trip, but it wasn’t an issue.””
“Well, I am glad you’re home,” Temari announced as she entered the dining room carrying her own food.
Rasa looked at her questioningly. After realizing his mistakes with his youngest, Gaara, he’d been making a pointed effort to improve his relationship with all of his children. Being present for these morning meals was something he tried to always do now.
“Baki-san has been horribly stressed out, though he won’t tell me why, of course,” Temari explained, sitting down at the chair on his right, across from Kankurō. There were eight chairs at this table, and when Gaara showed up to eat, he usually sat on the opposite side.
It didn’t look like Gaara would be eating with them today.
“Yes, some things happened while I was gone, but I’m dealing with them. Baki ought to have some free time soon to train with you again, Temari.” Rasa said, and Temari nodded.
“How has the academy been?” He asked and smiled as his daughter’s face lit up with excitement as she hurriedly swallowed the food in her mouth.
“It’s been awesome. Like you said, I’ve been assigned a war fan! I love it so much.”
Rasa nodded, pleased to see his daughter so excited. He’d done some elementary training with Temari and Kankurō before enrolling them in the Shinobi Academy. What field Kankurō would be best for was unclear, but the right field for Temari had been blatantly obvious from the beginning. Her elemental affinity for Wind only confirmed it for him.
“It’s going okay, I guess,” Kankurō replied.
He sighed inwardly, Kankurō was being closed off again. It’s not that he didn’t want to press his son further; he did, but… what if he messed it up? Rasa let it go. At least for the time being…
Sensing movement on the upper floor, Rasa paused. Temari and Kankurō didn’t know the prince was here. He had brought Naruto to the mansion after his kids had gone to bed.
“Oh, something I forgot to mention. We have a guest. He will be staying for a while.”
Temari stared at him in surprise. They didn’t have guests. This being Gaara’s home usually kept everyone far away from the Kazekage Mansion. “Who is it?”
Naruto’s eyes shot open, and the horror of darkness faded into the soft morning light. He fought down his initial desire to scream for his father and settled for activating his Byakugan to examine his surroundings.
He was alone in his bedroom, safe under the covers of an unfamiliar bed. There was no reason for him to be scared. Rubbing his eyes through his blindfold, Naruto shifted off the edge of the bed and moved toward the wooden closet. Looking inside, he found it empty. He’d have to arrange his own stuff. Unperturbed, he picked up the scroll on his nightstand and unrolled it. Letting his chakra flow into the seal, he backed up as smoke blew into the air with a small pop.
Quickly changing into the new clothes, Naruto shifted his Byakugan to focus on his hair. It was always an unruly mess, but he wasn’t looking for that. Shaking his head in annoyance, he walked to the connected bathroom and stepped inside. Closing the door, he slid off his blindfold and placed it on the counter. Naruto leaned forward just enough to be able to see the top of his head in the reflection of the mirror. He moved through his hair, checking it for a few moments with his real eyes. Satisfied, he attempted to fix his hair and put his blindfold back on.
Activating his Byakugan, he located Rasa on the floor below in the dining room. There were two kids with him that Naruto had noticed asleep last night.
On his way down the stairs, Naruto stopped for a moment just beyond the door into the dining room.
“Who is it?” The girl asked Rasa. Naruto didn’t know her name.
“He’s the eldest son of a rich lord in Kazedama.” Rasa answered, looking at Naruto through the wall, though Rasa couldn’t see him. “The Daimyō requested that I bring the lord’s son back with me to Suna so that he could enroll in the Academy to become a Shinobi.”
Naruto started toward the door. Any other questions about his origin would be up to him now.
“Will he be joining us for breakfast?” The girl asked. Naruto did not see Rasa’s answer because he was focusing on the door handle. “I’ll give him Gaara’s breakfast then.”
Naruto paused. His hand inches away. For the first time, he processed that Gaara was Rasa’s son, which meant that he lived in this house. Expanding his perception, Naruto anxiously tried to find the Jinchūriki. He would always have to be on guard when in the mansion.
“He’s coming,” Rasa said, and Naruto stopped his search. Opening the door, he stepped in and bowed. He pretended to not see the look of curiosity and surprise from Rasa’s two oldest. He was just slightly shorter than the boy, but the girl was much taller than he was.
The moment dragged on awkwardly. Naruto felt it was unnecessary to introduce himself as Rasa already had, though he wasn’t sure if him knowing that would blow his cover. He was about to move to one of the seats when the girl bowed to him in return.
“Hello. Sorry, my name is Temari, and this is my brother Kankurō.”
Deciding it was best to pretend to be ignorant, he bowed again. “My name is Edano Naruto. It is a pleasure to meet you, Temari-san, Kankurō-san.”
His father would disapprove of the second bow, as it indicated that he was weak and submissive. But he doubted that Rasa’s children would notice or care. Extra respect wouldn’t hurt here. Naruto remained silent as the conversation once more ground to a painful halt, Temari staring at his blindfold in confusion. He was probably going to get that reaction a lot. Temari glanced at her father, and Rasa gestured to the seat next to hers. Her confusion was evident, and Naruto shared it.
He stopped the urge to turn his head to her when she turned to face him again, although he wasn’t sure why.
“If you will have a seat, I’ll bring you some food.” She said, her tone polite. It was clear she did not feel comfortable around him. He took the offered seat and thanked her. As usual, he pretended not to see the look of confusion Temari and her brother had as he walked across the room as if he wasn’t blind.
He remained silent as Temari left. Naruto was surprised to find a lack of servants in the large and lavish kitchen. As she walked back in, carrying a plate of food that had been sitting on the counter, he tried to find any servants in the mansion. There were none.
She set the food on the table in front of him, and he thanked her.
“Temari-san,” he said, and she turned toward him, though he continued facing across the table. “Why have you given me this food?”
“What do you mean?”
“You are the eldest daughter of the Kazekage, surely this is beneath you.”
“Oh.” She replied, glancing at her father before looking back at him. “We haven’t had servants in the mansion for years. When I was very young, my mother dismissed them all and did the work herself. She taught me to cook, and when she passed away… I took up tending the mansion and cooking. It isn’t that hard.”
“I see, thank you.”
Taking a bite of the food, he savored it, letting it sit in his mouth for a few moments before swallowing it. It was delicious. He’d had better at the Palace, but that didn’t need to be brought up. It would not improve his standing with Temari to tell her that.
“This is delicious, Temari-san.”
“Thank you,” she replied, somewhat hesitantly. Naruto realized that Kankurō was still staring at his blindfold. Temari was doing the same, and often glanced at her brother.
“Could you teach me how to cook, Temari-san?” He asked, deciding to turn and face her. He hoped he was handling this correctly. His father had told him he would have to socialize with children his age and had given some instructions, but most of it was for him to find out. Other than Gaara, he had never interacted with children his age.
“Uh… sure. I’m fine with that, ” Temari replied.
“Thank you. I never had the chance to learn, despite enjoying good food and wanting to learn,” he explained. “For much of my life, I’ve been blind. It was only recently that I learned the Echolocation Jutsu.”
Temari and her brother’s face lost their perpetual look of confusion, and Temari smiled. “Of course! I would love to teach you how to cook. If you want, I can take you on a tour around Suna. Tou-san said you are enrolling in the Academy?”
He nodded, “Thank you. My father wishes for me to become a Shinobi and thank you for your offer. I accept.”
“We’ll go right after everyone finishes eating. The Academy is closed today, so I have time to show you around,” Temari explained.
Closing the huge front doors, Rasa poured chakra into the locking seal embedded in the heartwood. He had no faith that the seal would prevent a Shinobi from entering, but it was also the only lock the door had. So, it at the very least prevented a civilian from walking up and opening it.
Sprawled before him was the modest walled yard of his mansion. There wasn’t much space here, but it was big enough to have a few decorations if he bothered to add them. Running down the middle was a simple sandstone path from the front steps to the gate exiting onto the street.
He watched Temari hold the front gate open for Naruto, who thanked her and stepped onto the empty street. There were rarely ever any civilians near the Kazekage Mansion due to the possibility of Gaara being here. Rasa kind of liked it.
Rasa heard an unfamiliar noise and was surprised to realize it was the gate closing. He had never used the gate before.
Feeling the concentration of chakra beside him, Rasa turned to see Tanyu step out of a swirl of sand.
“Follow me, we’re going to the Naizen Bar,” Rasa ordered.
Tanyu nodded and activated the first stage of a Shunshin. Chakra streamed out of him in a straight beam until it reached the nearest roof. Turning sharply, it flew straight toward another roof a hundred feet away. The process repeated well over a dozen times, and near instantaneously. Once the chakra beam had reached the bar’s front step, Tanyu released the chakra holding him still.
Like a rubber band, the Chakra pulled him forward at an unfathomable speed, desperate to return to its natural form. In a split second, he had reached the bar. The whirl of sand cleared after a second, and he found Rasa already opening the door.
Pulsing chakra into the doorknob, Rasa felt it unlock and turned it. He nodded in response to some of his men’s greetings as he entered the Shinobi-only bar. This had been his favorite bar for as long as he could remember, so he had had a special booth created in it for him.
Looking over the numerous tables and rowdy Shinobi, he spotted Sasori and Baki already sitting at his booth. It took only a moment to navigate the tables and reach the box. As he crossed the barrier around the table, the constant noise faded to silence.
Rasa and Tanyu sat down, and a moment later, a waiter stepped through the barrier. Quickly taking their orders, Tanyu only wanting water, and Rasa taking a Juyondai, the waiter hurried back out. It was against the rules to stay any longer than absolutely necessary in the Kazekage’s booth.
Sasori looked at Rasa expectantly. Rasa shook his head. They would wait until the waiter returned; he didn’t want to be walked in on. Once the waiter had returned and he’d had a few sips of his saké to make sure it was right, Rasa closed the door to the booth and locked it. It could be unlocked from the outside in the event of an emergency, but it required an extra step and prevented anyone from simply walking in.
“I’m going to begin by explaining in rough summary to Baki what happened at Kazedama. Sasori already knows some of this, and Tanyu knows some things that Sasori doesn’t. I’ll explain as much as I can.” Rasa started, getting a look of surprise from Sasori. Tanyu just took a sip of his water.
Baki leaned back against the booth, waiting.
“As mentioned in the Daimyō’s summons, he was attacked in his home. But these attacks are not new. They have been going on for the past several years, usually a month or so in between each attack.”
Rasa could see that Baki already had questions but kept himself in check. “The goal of the attackers is uncertain, but they seemed to be going after the prince, possibly to blackmail the Daimyō. ”
Baki breathed deeply through his nose, staring at a spot on the table as he listened.
“Because of this, the Daimyō wanted his son to come to Suna to become a Shinobi in secret.”
Baki sat up, “So that kid in your office last night was the prince?”
Rasa nodded and took the opportunity to take another swig from his sake. He’d been craving some Juyondai for several weeks now, and that junk saké at the bar in Nekokami had not done it for him. Overdrinking may not have helped either. “He is known publicly as Miyasato Sakamoto, although his real name is Naruto.”
Baki nodded slowly, “and he’s blind?”
“Almost blind. He can see a little bit of light,” Sasori said, “The Daimyō taught him the Echolocation Jutsu. The blindfold he wears is to block out the last bit of light so he can rely entirely on the technique.”
Sasori paused, noticing Rasa shaking his head. Swallowing the saké, Rasa set the bottle back on the table and wiped his chin.
“He’s not blind at all.”
Sasori leaned forward, his eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“He has the Byakugan.”
Rasa took another swig of his saké, pretending to ignore the look of shock on Sasori and Baki’s faces. Secretly, he enjoyed it.
“If you don’t mind me asking, how does the Echolocation Jutsu work? It sounds cool.” Temari asked. They had just left the public library, one of the first things Naruto wanted to see. She looked at him and was curious to know how he could read the scrolls.
“Why did you ask me whether I minded, but asked your question anyway before I replied?”
Temari stopped walking and looked at Naruto, who was still facing forward. “You’re right. Sorry. Do you mind?”
Naruto shook his head and kept walking. Temari was perplexed for a few moments before shaking it off.
“So… how does it work?”
“It allows me to pulse my Chakra into space around me. The Chakra bounces off things, and when it returns to me, I can see the shapes of what it bounced off.”
Temari was ready with her next question, “Can you see color?”
Naruto was puzzled why that mattered and realized he had no prepared answer for her question. With the Echolocation Jutsu, he couldn’t see color, but he’d said earlier in the library that he looked forward to reading the scrolls.
Temari looked too eager to ask her next question.
“So how could you read the scrolls if you can’t see color?”
The way she asked the question made Naruto think she was purposely trying to expose him as a liar. Regardless, he still had to answer the question. His first impulse was to say he meant others would read the scroll aloud for him, but if she ever caught him reading, then the lie would fall apart. Naruto tried to find some reason for what he said, but nothing came to him.
It’s my first day here, and I’m already failing to keep this illusion together, Naruto thought.
“I try to feel the symbols with my fingers. What I can’t make out, I ask someone to read for me.”
Naruto was relieved when Temari appeared to accept his response. It would be a lot easier to pretend to be feeling the symbols on the scrolls than to have someone read it all out loud. Naruto shifted his focus to the civilians on the street side, noting that several were staring at him curiously. Pulling his sleeves farther down, Naruto folded his arms in front of him in, concealing his hands in his sleeves. Temari noticed the movement and stared at the closest civilian, who avoided her gaze. Naruto was unsure whether to thank her. He didn’t really care that people looked at him, but he didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention.
“Don’t let them bother you, Naruto. You’re not the only one with skin like that in Suna.”
He nodded but didn’t unfold his arms.
“Let’s go to the Academy next, I’ll show you around. It’ll save you time on your first day, and I can get us in easily.” Temari said, sounding as if she was almost boasting, and he agreed.
“Is this allowed?” Naruto questioned as he watched Temari climb over the fence and drop down on the other side. After about thirty minutes of ambling throughout Suna, they had arrived at the Shinobi Academy. He had expected to use the front entrance, but Temari had led him around the back instead.
“It’s fine,” Temari called over the fence. “The Academy is closed today, but I’m allowed in whenever. Kazekage’s daughter and all that.”
He waited patiently for a few minutes as she fiddled with the lock on the gate. Whacking the padlock with apparent anger, she took a step back.
“I can’t get it open… Uh… could you?”
Pulsing chakra through his legs, Naruto jumped. Crouching slightly, he kept his balance centered on the thin, flimsy boards of the fence, his arms still folded in front of him. Temari raised her arm to block the sun behind him.
“Why didn’t you just do that in the first place?” She asked as Naruto dropped down in the Academy yard.
“I thought you would open the gate,” Naruto replied, already walking towards the back entrance of the building. Temari could not tell if he meant something by that, or not.
“Over there are the sparring circles, and that is the kunai range,” Temari said, pointing to each as they walked through the wide, open space. Naruto nodded.
As they stepped up the small flight of stairs to the door, Naruto was concerned she was going to try to lock pick it as well. He was pleasantly surprised when she just opened the door instead and stepped in confidently. He followed and shut the door behind him.
“So, where to start…” Temari said, having stopped farther down the hallway as she peered into various open and empty classrooms. “We have a lot of classes here. Not all of them are required, though.”
Naruto stepped up beside her.
“Oh, over there is Sensei Soseki’s class, he teaches Basic Taijutsu.”
The classroom had mats on the floor instead of chairs or benches. Naruto had already taken a brief look at most of the place, and he was confident he could find his way. He simply needed to learn where every class was.
“I’m not sure what classes you’ll be in,” Temari said, “but I’m sure you’ll start your day off with a history lesson from Sensei Hirofumi. His class is that one there.”
Temari pointed to a room as they walked by it. It didn’t look different from many of the other classes. Beginning in the middle of the room, several rows of benches climbed up a wide set of stairs until reaching the back wall. The room was undecorated and had a simple podium. It appeared to be the default layout for classrooms in the Academy.
“The first few weeks are the worst, but it gets better, I promise you,” Temari said. Naruto was confused by her reassurance but kept quiet. “You’ve got to sit behind a desk most of the time. Then you get to actually practice and train with weapons.”
“Do the students spar with weapons?”
“Yeah.” Temari replied, “Well, they spar without weapons. They usually only allow fourth years to spar with actual weapons, and that’s rare.”
Temari did not notice immediately that Naruto had stopped walking, and took a few steps before realizing. She was about to ask what was wrong when Naruto spoke.
“Temari-san, we need to leave.”
Before she could even ask why, Naruto had turned around and started walking the way they had come. She hurried to catch up with him, trying to read his expression.
She hadn’t heard anything in his voice, but he was walking faster than he had the entire morning.
“Gaara is here,” Naruto answered without turning to look at her. Temari could feel her blood freeze. Gaara was not permitted on these grounds. His protection team should have stopped him from even approaching. Which meant he’d either killed the Shinobi assigned to watch him or escaped them. Neither would surprise her.
Still, the fact that he had done either meant that Gaara wanted something badly. She knew it wasn’t her, Gaara wouldn’t kill her, and if he wanted to, he would do it at night while she was asleep in her bed.
There’s no one else in this building but us, which means that Gaara is after Naruto, Temari realized. She wished she would have thought to bring along her war fan even though she knew it wouldn’t help.
The exit seemed to be farther away, not closer as they rushed down the hall. Something prevented her from breaking into a run, like prey too scared to flee. She could sense her brother’s stifling aura in the hallway behind her, but she refused to turn around.
She lurched as a swirl of sand appeared right in front of them. Grabbing Naruto’s arm, Temari dragged him back as Gaara came out of sand in front of them. She almost fell but managed to maintain her balance.
“What are you doing here, Gaara?”
Naruto didn’t resist as Temari yanked him behind her, shielding him with her body. He wasn’t sure what she hoped to achieve by doing that. Maybe she has some control over Gaara? She is his sister, after all, Naruto thought.
Naruto back-pedaled as Temari shoved him, trying to make room between them and Gaara. The redheaded Jinchūriki hadn’t moved. His pale green, emotionless eyes stared at Naruto, seemingly able to see him through Temari. His hands were folded in front of him, and Naruto could see the sand in his gourd, moving back and forth.
“Gaara, you’re not allowed to be here.” Temari tried to find some way to escape, but nothing came to mind. Running from Gaara was out of the question, and there was no one around to protect them.
Unbothered, Gaara began slowly walking toward them, his expression unchanged. Temari back-pedaled faster, trying to keep the distance between them. There was an exit on the other side of the hallway leading to the Academy entrance. She knew Gaara would never let them get that far. He was playing with them.
Why is he doing this, Gaara traveled back with Naruto from Kazedama, didn’t he? Why would he only try to kill Naruto now? She thought. Turning around, she leaned near Naruto’s ear.
“Run, for the end of the hall. Go!” She shoved Naruto down the hall and spun around. Temari wasn’t sure what she hoped to accomplish by rushing headlong toward her brother, but she had to give Naruto time to escape. Temari was confident that Gaara wouldn’t kill her.
Sand exploded upward from the gourd on Gaara’s back as he unfolded his arms. Spinning through the air, it crashed into the ground and sped toward her. Gaara watched blankly as his sister slammed into the wall and fell to the floor, unconscious. He stared at her for a moment before turning back toward Naruto, who was still standing in the corridor. His eyes narrowed. Naruto should have been running away, but the brown-haired boy was standing still.
Once again, his sand moved of its own accord. Leaping up around him, it created a shield above his head. A katana glanced off the hardened surface with a resounding clang. Turning to look over his shoulder, he caught a glimpse of a Jōnin Teacher before they vanished again.
Twitching a finger, sand flew out in what appeared to be random direction, sharpening as it stretched. Warm, red blood spattered against the sand and Gaara watched the life leave the Shinobi’s eyes as he died, impaled through the heart.
Naruto knew running was pointless, but he hadn’t even tried because he’d hoped to buy the Shinobi hiding in the rafters some time. It was clear, though, that they had never stood a chance against Gaara. They ought to have run and got help.
Now they were dead.
He didn’t have to look back to know Gaara was coming after him. He saw the chakra in the air a split second before the redhead appeared in front of him, staring at him blankly as he stepped out of a swirl of sand. Despite seeing it coming, the muscles contracting, he wasn’t fast enough to dodge Gaara’s hand as he reached out and gripped his throat. He tried to pry Gaara’s hand off his neck, but he wasn’t strong enough. His Byakugan deactivated as he ran out of oxygen, and darkness filled his mind.
Sasori raised his hand, causing Rasa to stop talking and look toward the entrance of the booth, also sensing the Chakra signature approaching. The door to the booth slammed open, and a Shinobi hurriedly stepped inside.
“Kazekage-sama, Gaara has killed a teacher at the Shinobi Academy. We found Temari unconscious at the scene… and a boy with pale skin. We don’t-”
Rasa was already gone. Shooting across the bar, he threw open the door and kicked off, launching himself onto the roof across the street. Putting in more chakra than necessary, he blasted ahead, denting the roof beneath him. Sasori was closest behind him as he leaped from rooftop to rooftop, moving at an insane speed. Baki and Tanyu struggled to keep up with their two leaders.
Sticking to the roof with chakra, Rasa used his foot to propel himself down as he redirected his momentum. Bits and pieces of the roof flew up in the air behind him. Landing hard in the academy’s training field, he darted through the open door without a second wasted. He could sense people in a nearby corridor and quickly navigated his way through the building to appear next to them.
There were several Suna Shinobi there, two of which were putting a dead Academy Sensei on a stretcher. One tended to Temari as they worked on the wound on the back of her head. Tanyu darted past Rasa and grabbed the other Medic Nin’s wrist just as he was about to activate a Jutsu on Naruto.
“I’ll take over here,” Tanyu said, getting a bewildered nod from the medic who backed up quickly.
“All of you clear out,” Sasori ordered, and the hallway emptied almost instantly as the Shinobi activated Shunshin. Tanyu’s hands became engulfed in green flames as he laid them on Naruto’s chest.
“He’s going to be okay, but his trachea is severely damaged. I’m working on patching it back together now. Sasori, pump his chest.” Tanyu ordered. A moment later, Naruto spasmed on the floor under Tanyu’s hands as Sasori pumped his chest, causing him to cough blood onto the floor.
“Looks like your attempt to bond Gaara to Naruto didn’t pan out, Rasa,” Baki remarked grimly as he watched Tanyu work on Naruto’s severely bruised neck.
“He isn’t dead.” Sasori countered as he carefully followed Tanyu’s orders.
Thank you for reading this story! It was finished on 5/27/2020!
This chapter of the story was publicly posted on: 2/7/2020
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