Naruto Hiden / Naruto Hiden Vol 5 Chapter 2

Section Two: Hakuto

Shinobi are those who endure even the most unreasonable of circumstances.

Shinobi are those who endure. That’s what people say.

But then, there are also people who say that not going back on their word is their ninja way. Shinobi who say they live for the sake of sticking by what they’ve said.

Which saying was the right one? 

The man didn’t know.

If he absolutely had to say something, then all he could say was just that he knew he couldn’t keep enduring the situation he currently found himself in.

Even if that meant taking a path where he would not be someone who endured his circumstances.

He just couldn’t do anything other than make sure his principles were not broken.

That sort of a man existed.

 

The marriage meeting was going to be held in a high-end hotel that was located in a crescent-shaped oasis a little distance away from Sunagakure village.

The oasis was a loud, flashy and gaudy place that was a gathering of eccentric rich folks who said they wanted to see the desert or tourists who wanted to experience the night clubs and gambling that weren’t available in the city of suna.

It wasn’t an area ruled by shinobi, but at the same time, it wasn’t completely under the control of the Daimyou either.

It was the perfect meeting spot for two families of shinobi.

Of course, it without being said that Sunagakure had already told the employees to reserve the entirety of the hotel. The hotel was being run through a dummy company by Sunagakure’s leader precisely for situations like this anyway.

This was Gaara’s new battlefield.

 

 

Tight and stiff.

Gaara was wearing a three-piece suit for the first time in his life, and this was his honesty opinion on it.

“Bear with it, alright. It’s for a marriage meeting after all.” His elder sister said, tying a necktie around his neck. “Okay? You’re the guest of honour today, so nobody can wear clothes of a higher level than yours. You understand the meaning behind that, right?”

“…Yes.”

Important ceremonial occasions were places where you were supposed to flaunt your family’s status. It wasn’t something any Kage could say ‘no’ to.

‘Sunagakure’s Fifth Kazekage was a shabby, seedy looking man.’

If any rumours like that got spread around, then it would wound the village’s image. And, if any of the young shinobi in Suna caught wind of it, there was the possibility of them going out and starting a fight, too.

At first, one might think it was strange for shinobi, who were constantly immersed in subversive activities or spying, could be bothered by rumours, however it was the very opposite of what one expected.

The activities that shinobi carried out couldn’t be made public. So for shinobi, it wasn’t evidence or corpses that showed how many missions they’d taken or how fierce a warrior they were, but their reputation. It was their reputation that decided their fate.

Most importantly, Daimyou could only assess a shinobi by their reputation, because there simply wasn’t anything else.

And that was precisely why every single village was very careful about the level of mission difficulty they set, and the amount of information they realsed in Bingo Books.

But. Still. The clothes were tight.

“I’m fine now,Temari. I’ll do the necktie myself.”

“Oh?” Temari’s eyes narrowed. “Gaara, do you know what kind of knot you’re going to tie?”

“Knot?”

“The tying method!” Temari said, and went back to tightly tying the necktie around his neck again. “You’re the guest of honour today, so you can’t just tie your necktie any way you like. You need to more composed, and give it a dimpled shape…Shikamaru doesn’t understand a thing about this kind of stuff either…I don’t know why all you men are like this… Alright, there we go!”

Gaara didn’t understand what he didn’t understand, or what his sister was happy about, but she looked satisfied with whatever she’d done.

“Let’s go with a silk handkerchief for your breast pocket. Silk has one of the ingredients for antidotes after all. But don’t bring it out unless necessary. There’s a meaning behind even the slightest crease in your handkerchief, you know.”

“Because of a secret code?”

“Because of etiquette!” Temari said, slapping her hands on Gaara’s shoulders, and turning him around to look in the full-view mirror.

Oh, I understand.

It was strange but, he definitely did look different from his usual, everyday appearance.

Gaara was handsome to begin with, but adding the dark blue material that had been specifically ordered from another country did indeed give him a special glow.

His shoes were leather, and polished well. They had indiscreet iron plates for kicking. There were small shuriken on his jewelled tie pin and cuffs, but they didn’t ruin the overall balance of his appearance.

He was, in short,a fine figure of a man.

“Alright, there we go.” Temari nodded, looking content. “Well, this could be the last sisterly thing I can do for you, so, try not to think of it as a pain, okay?”

To think that Temari had been doing everything with that mindset made Gaara feel happy.

 

 

There were so many people to give greetings to, it might’ve been a tsunami made of human or an army full of zetsu. When Gaara finally had the chance to slip away, he closed his eyes.

To think it wasn’t even the day of the marriage meeting yet, just a banquet held on the day before, made a person feel flustered.

At the end of the day, Sunagakure village was in the middle of the desert. The other side of the marriage meeting wouldn’t come all the way out here and expect to be greeted by nothing but the weather.

That was why they’d placed a sort of buffer on the days before and after the marriage meeting, sort of like an eve before an event.

“Gaara-sama, what an event.”

“If the Kazekage ends up getting married, it will be an occasion to celebrate.”

“When it comes to the wedding, please make it another grand event.”

It was a pain even greeting the wave of attacks from guests. It was thanks to Gaara’s great memory that he was able to memorise each person’s face, and speak to them tactfully.

Among the guests, there were also people who had been ordered by his father, back in the previous age, to get involved in his assassination.

Now, Gaara’s battlefield was facing all sorts of people with a forced smile on his face.

So when Gaara happened to spot the brother he hadn’t seen for a while at a bar on the other side of the crowd, Gaara felt relieved.

Kankurou hadn’t taken off the usual hood on his head, however, he looked surprisingly at ease in his tuxedo.

“Yo,” Kankurou greeted.

“Aa.” Gaara replied.

“You look well.” Kankurou said, holding out his alcohol filled glass for a little toast. Gaara clumsily clinked his own glass –full of cold tea– against his brother’s.

“You’re not drinking alcohol same as usual, huh?”

“It dulls my judgement. It hinders my speaking. It’s also a burden on my internal organs. I don’t understand why you choose to drink it.”

“Well, it’s that kind of thing, y’know,” Kankurou wryly smiled, hitting back the amber liquid till there was none left in his glass. “People feel the urge to do things they know won’t do them any good.”

“…That’s true.”

That was something that Gaara did understand. He wasn’t a child who would deny that fact.

At the very least, he thought that he wasn’t someone who was qualified to criticise the irrational actions of others, considering he used to be someone who would keep killing everyone he came across.

His position as Kazekage might’ve made things a little different, but that position was one who had to stick to a certain law. Gaara was no longer someone who could put his emotions first and high-handedly judge others.

“So just think of spending some time with alcohol as another part of a mission.” Kankurou said.

“Is that…how it is?”

“Yeah.” Kankurou grinned, and slid out a glass towards Gaara from somewhere.

Gaara brought the glass to his mouth.

“!”

It tasted awful.

Why do Kankurou and the others drink something like this so happily?

It seriously tasted terrible.

All it did was warm up your stomach, leave a bitter and stinging taste in your mouth, and no matter how you looked at it, it was awful. Gaara thought maybe this was why he didn’t like maron glace.

He’d eaten some bad tasting soldier pills on the battlefield, and gotten wild grass and mud in his mouth during practice, but this was on a different level. It would be one thing to inhale something like this for medicinal reasons, but willingly drinking it for the taste was a completely different matter.

“Is it bad?” His brother asked, grinning. He looked like he couldn’t contain his amusement at the situation.

“It’s not…good.” Gaara replied.

“It’s not supposed to be.”

Gaara didn’t understand what it was supposed to be, but Kankurou was nodding earnestly.

Then, Kankurou slid off his stool.

“…Are you already going, Kankurou?”

“In the first place, I’m only meant to hand over the security here, and briefly show my face. Everything after this is making sure the marriage meeting’ll go smoothly, so I should be heading back. Temari will take care of everything else.”

“Understood. Stay healthy.”

“You’ll do a good job, casanova.”

He hadn’t seen his sibling for a long time, and that was the entirety of their conversation.

But, it was the longest conversation they’d had in half a year.

The younger brother was the Kazekage and the elder brother was the head of the Anti-Terror division, so while that gave them many occasions where they talked business, their talks in private had quickly lessened.

The elder sister who used to stick to them like glue was leaving the village, and now those old days when the three of them would carry out missions like one unit already felt like a far away, fleeting dream.

 

 

Shinobi were running through the dark of the night.

Shinobi did use lightning trains* and steam trains or blimps when the situation called for their necessity, but they were simply faster at travelling by foot than other, normal people. Shinobi could go down a trackless path, and make a journey of a thousand miles without a single break. For them, their own two legs were the most reliable method of transport.

And there was all the more reason to go on foot when travelling in the desert, where no reliable roads were guaranteed. Shinobi were more tenacious than camels, faster than horses, and they flew across the seas of sand with ease.

The head of the group of travelling shinobi was Kankurou. By his side was Amagi, who had healed from his injuries sustained in his last battle.

They’d seen great improvements in the techniques used by their medical-nin, thanks to the engineering collaboration they had with Konoha. The results of the secret medical techniques passed down by the Fifth Hokage, Tsunade-hime, were remarkable, and Amagi had been able to return to carrying out missions after a few days, despite his entire body being scorched by lightning.

“…Kankurou-sama.” Amagi spoke. “At the end, I don’t understand it.”

“Don’t understand what?” Kankurou knew the answer, but he asked anyway.

The young ones around him –well, they weren’t actually all that young– were all disgruntled about something. But, even if he knew what it was, he couldn’t let it show that he did.

“Even if it is for appearances, was that sort of a luxurious celebration really necessary?”

“Nobody’d want it being called a shabby celebration, would they?” Kankurou said. “Sunagakure has to show its power to the Daimyou, and the surrounding tribes.”

“Even so. Sir.” Amagi sounded angry. “Our genin are dying in the midst of the Country of Wind’s limited arms policy, like they’re disposable. And in the middle of that situation, there’s this.”

“…” The shinobi gathered around them didn’t raise a single objection.

Looked like everyone had the same thoughts.

“It’s precisely because we’re under the limited arms ban that we need to put on appearances.” Kankurou said.

“And will those appearances effect the Daimyou’s decision?”

It was a difficult question.

Shinobi had saved the world. It hadn’t been the least bit glorious.

But Amagi and the rest were young, and didn’t know about that battle.They looked at their revered seniors, Gaara and Kankurou, and when they saw that their efforts in the war hadn’t been rewarded, they started thinking that they wouldn’t be compensated for their actions either.

Right now, conflict between countries had dropped sharply, and there were no longer many opportunities for young shinobi to achieve distinguishments.

“Our roles are many, be it the anti-terror unit or hunting down runaway-nin.” Kankurou said, “Shinobi’s jobs aren’t just limited to finding missing dogs of cleaning Daimyou houses.”

“But I can’t see why we do those things for any reason other than trying to flatter the Daimyou and traders.” Amagi’s words were heavy. “I’ve heard about how we shinobi have always been existences who are more than capable of manipulating the Daimyou or ruling the country.”

“We leave politics to the Daimyou.” Kankurou said. “That’s the rule of shinobi. If we get entangled in politics, and drown in things like gold, alcohol, sex, then we won’t be shinobi anymore.”

“I keep the teachings of the Sage of the Six Paths close to my heart.” Amagi replied.

You’d find that one difference between the two chakra users, samurai and shinobi, was their method of receiving the teachings of ‘ninshuu’. Samurai had split off into a branch who were more spiritual and idealistic, while shinobi had taken a similar route to thinking ‘how can we use our chakra to keep people’s bonds alive?’

“Then,” Amagi said, “Isn’t it all the more true that flattering the government goes against the ninja way?”

“Amagi.” Kankurou’s tone turned low.

He’d allow general criticism.

That was Gaara’s policy. He thought that if he didn’t allow general criticism, then nobody would want to follow him, due to his homicidal past. He thought that allowing criticism would make cooperation strengthen, since criticism allowed the citizens to blow off steam and him to fix his shortcomings.

But, there was a limit to what Kankurou could allow.

“Gaara isn’t the sort of man who goes back on his word.” Kankurou said. “He’s fighting for the sake of Sunagakure. That’s a fact.”

“…I know that.”

It was true.

Amagi, and the other shinobi too, had placed their beliefs and hopes in Gaara, and that was why they’d signed up to be shinobi.

Gaara was a hero to the youth, someone who was changing Suna from a village that was ruled by other seniors in power.

And that was precisely why they couldn’t stand it when it looked like Gaara was intertwining with the government.

These young ones were really fastidious.

“Kankurou-sama, you risk your life in the front lines, so for us, you’re our leader.”

Kankurou didn’t like how heavy Amagi’s words felt.

They weren’t spoken out of self-interest or calculation. It was just pure, simple faith.

That’s exactly why I’m troubled by it.

Kankurou missed the days when all he had to think about was the mission.

 

 

The moon’s reflection was shining on a lake’s surface in the oasis.

It looked sharp and clear, and terribly cold.

Gaara was watching the moon from the roof of his suite room. At the end of the day, he hadn’t been able to take a liking to alcohol, but it had been an unusual day where he hadn’t had anything to do, so in a way he had relaxed.

Well, actually he’d wanted to try and find some work to do but…

“Are you an idiot?!” Temari had given a single roar that laid waste to the idea. “Listen, okay? A marriage meeting is figuring out what kind of a household you want to make. How would it look if a guy said he preferred thinking about work at that time? Think about it.”

It was a long lecture. But, at the same time, it was also a fact that he didn’t really mind entrusting others with work.

Gaara had an absolute defence.

In a nutshell, he could face a horde of enemy shinobi and still come out unscathed. It wasn’t an exaggeration.

In the old days, he had never hesitated when it came to hurting others.

Now, it was the reverse.

Now, Gaara understood the bitter pain experienced when others who didn’t have an absolute defence were wounded.

It might have been arrogance.

But, even so, when Gaara was forced to send someone to chase after death while he remained safe, he felt incredibly pained.

“So you were here, Gaara.”

Very few people called the Kazekage by name.

The middle-aged shinobi who showed up at Gaara’s side with a gust of wind, Baki, was one of those few.

He was a man like the desert granite that had been worn down by the wind for countless years, and unwaveringly loyal.

“Baki. What’s wrong?”

Baki had been Gaara’s superior when he was younger and a genin. Now, Baki was technically Gaara’s subordinate, but the truth that he was more of a guardian.

That was why there was no need for any troublesome greetings between them.

They had the trust of a teacher and student, as well as that of comrades in arms. There was no room for showy displays.

“Why was I called here to be in charge of security instead, and Kankurou told to return to the village?”

“?” Gaara turned his head. “Kankurou told me that that was the original plan.”

“I’d heard that Kankurou was personally handling the security since while this was a public official matter, it was also something that intimately concerned the Kazekage household. Then, I received word that I was suddenly replacing him.”

“….that’s strange….”

Even if it was family -no, precisely because it was family, strange happenings couldn’t be overlooked.

“Should I call Kankurou back?”

“It looks like it’s too late to do that now. My subordinates have already gone back. Either way, it looks like the chain of command was broken somewhere.”

“…if this is a plot, it’s a very poorly made one.“ Gaara said. “As long as we check the order of command relay, the person responsible will immediately be exposed.”

“Of course, it could just be an error in communication.” Baki said.

Baki didn’t say that from optimism, or any intention of covering for Kankurou.

They’d lost a great number of key figure veterans during the last war, and every village now had a terribly wide ratio between the young and the old. As a result, the numbers of people who had the experience required for behind the scene work like office work or engineering adjustments had greatly decreased.

One mistake would create another mistake, and things could even end up in chaos.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single human who doesn’t make mistakes, so rather than be unforgiving towards mistakes, they planned everything out with the assumption that there were already mistakes somewhere in there.

“It could be an error, Baki.” Gaara said. “But, it could also be a hastily made plot with people causing trouble before they’re detected.”

“Affirmative.”

“…The marriage meeting is personal business, but, it’s too late to reschedule it. Strengthen security, please. And investigate.” Gaara only hesitated for a moment before continuing. “Call the Konoha shinobi, too. And Temari, as well, privately.”

“Understood.” Baki disappeared.

For a while, Gaara stood there, running his hand down the gourd that he carried. His lips moved, but he didn’t make any sound.

 

 

The softly removed veil revealed beautiful, well-defined features that made you think if the wind took the form of a woman, this is what she’d look like.

She was a very beautiful woman.

It was far too plain an explanation for her looks, but unfortunately Gaara didn’t have a spacious enough vocabulary for any more than that.

“I am Hakuto, of the Houki Tribe.”

Her inky black hair shined like a black pearl, and came down to her shoulders. The kimono she wore looked simple and neat at first glance, but when you looked closer you could see the high quality of the material, and the smattering of just enough –but not too much– gems woven between thread.

Her skin was clear and fair, and she was slender but not too thin, and you could see faint outlines of muscle from a shinobi’s training under her skin.

Beautiful.

That was Gaara’s honest first impression.

There was no affection, or wicked thoughts.

It was a specialty of his to look at things without preconceptions. It was plain fact that decoration-less Hakuto’s face looked as lovely as a golden rayed lily. She was in a league all her own.

The Houki tribe was matrilineal, so the entourage of relatives on her side of the room were all old women, excluding one. Both her parents had passed away in the war. Gaara’s side was in a similar state. Temari was his only attending relative. Gaara hadn’t liked the idea of increasing the numbers, and disliked the idea of mediators.

“I am Gaara, successor of the Kazekage.”

“I hope we get along today.”

“Ah, yes…!”

They were seated in the private room of a restaurant that held a fine view of the lake.

It was the first time in Gaara’s life that he’d sat across a lovely woman in a place like this,

She has a lot of openings in her stance…so, she’s a medical-nin.

Medical-nin were precious assets in the front lines for saving lines, but they couldn’t really be compared to a shinobi of Gaara’s class, because there would be an incredible difference in the skill of their taijutsu. Haruno Sakura of Konohagakure was the rare exception for that rule.

But, it was a different case when it came to the kunoichi wearing very thick glasses that  stood behind Hakuto. The way she carried herself spoke of mastery and betrayed her to be at least jounin-class. In the middle of all the old women, Gaara and Hakuto were the youngest, but it looked like both their guards were about equal.

Well, anyway, since this is about marriage taijutsu isn’t likely to be a problem.

At that thought, Gaara found his face suddenly turn red.

The idea that the woman in front of him could become his wife had finally linked to reality in his brain.

Well, it would only happen if the marriage meeting went well, but still, thoughts were spinning around his head.

“Well then, we’ll leave you young ones to talk.” One of the old mediators casually said, and everyone else got up.

This included the only relative on Gaara’s side, Temari.

“Gaara.” Temari said, moving to speak in his ear.

There was a method used by shinobi when whispering where you mouthed shifts in pronunciation to ensure no one else would hear what was being said.

“You know, the women of the Houki tribe don’t show their face without makeup to any man except the one they’re going to marry.”

“…?”

“Ah, you’re so thick.” Temari teasingly wrapped an arm around her brother’s neck. “I mean, you’ve got hope, do you understand?”

“Oh.” Gaara said. “Ohh…!”

Across from them, Hakuto gave a smile.

 

 

According to ancient shinobi, there are younin who work out in the open, and innin who work under cover of camouflage.

Younin worked in wars of information, analysing the links between people or public knowledge to guess the enemy’s intentions. Their work included Signal Intelligence and Human Intelligence.

Innin, on the other hand, infiltrated enemy territory or caused destruction. They’d also gain the enemy’s knowledge and then guide them to act in a way that their side would find favorable. When people generally thought about shinobi tactics, these are the kind they thought of.

Of course Gaara, being a jounin, had seen various situations at various times. Experienced younin were capable of simply glancing at the iron and steel stock prices in an ordinary newspaper, and then figuring out on the spot whether the enemy was moving their soldiers or whether the rumours of the enemy building a new warship were true.

Thus, there were also shinobi who were experienced diplomats.

During A-B rank missions, there were many cases of making diplomatic negotiations between Daimyou, or large corporations, or negotiations for the release of hostages. And conversely, sometimes the diplomats sent by Daimyo were actually jounin class shinobi who were secretly gathering information.

However, there was a condition.

What allowed shinobi to do all that was the fact that their personal matters were not involved.

It was different from this moment, where a young woman was sitting in front of him and looking at him with a nervous expression on her face. How was he supposed to initiate contact?

Sunagakure village had a lot of kunoichi who adored Gaara.

However, he’d never developed a relationship with anyone, mostly because of Temari’s stealthy handiwork in getting rid of ‘unwanted admirers’, and also partly because he was the superior of anyone who was interested in him.

To begin with, Gaara had never really had any intentions for relationships, and all his subordinates feelings were, to honestly be more accurate, the sort of longing you had for a far-off idol.

And that was why Gaara spent five minutes in silence, completely at a loss as to what would be a good thing to say to Hakuto.

This is bad.

If this was a battlefield, then his silence was the move that would lose him the war.

Shinobi who drained their emotional strength while waiting for the opponent to make a move weren’t protecting themselves, they were driving themselves into a corner, and soon, they would die.

Gaara knew that fact well.

““Uhm.”” They both spoke up at the same time, words crashing into each other in mid-air, and both hung their heads again.

This is really bad.

His sister had given him a furious lecture full of advice before they came here, but somehow, at this moment, Gaara couldn’t remember a single thing she’d told him.

It felt similar to that moment when he had fallen under the Infinite Tsukuyomi.

His mind wasn’t under his control. But, this wasn’t a genjutsu. It was completely different. Something else was affecting him.

But, Gaara was a shinobi. And not just any shinobi. He was one of the Five Kage who stood at the summit of the shinobi world.

He inwardly composed himself, using the concentration techniques he often practiced, and opened his mouth again.

“…uhm, what are your hobbies?”

It was an extremely unoriginal question, possibly so unoriginal that it would never leave the mouth of anyone but him, but he had also learned by watching Naruto that sometimes the most unoriginal and tiny breakthrough could help you change your situation in a battle.

“Reading,” Hakuto answered, “And…the harp, a little. And you, Gaara-sama?”

“Raising cacti.”

 

 

“Oh, that idiot.”

Temari was muttering from where she was keeping an eye on the proceedings in the ceiling.

“There’s a limit to how banal you can be. What part of that was encouraging to the other party? I told you, you listen to what the other person has to say, and then say enough to be encouraging, like passing a ball….” She muttered. “…Good grief, Shikamaru’s like that and Gaara’s like this, why is it that the men around me lose all common sense when it comes to these situations…?”

Of course, Temari was supposed to be talking with Hakuto’s relatives and other persons of interest, but, slipping away from their company had been a piece of cake. She didn’t feel the slightest doubt over whether she was qualified to say she had common sense compared to everyone else.

 

 

“Cacti…?” Hakuto asked.

“Yes, cacti.” Gaara said. “I started off with cultivating them in pots, but lately I’ve been thinking about making a greenhouse.”

Up in the ceiling, Temari made a hopeless face. That had to be the killing blow.

Who told you to talk only about yourself?! She thought. Let your partner speak! A man who holds a conversation well is a good man, I kept telling you that!

However.

“I’ve never been out of the village,” Hakuto said, “So I don’t know, but, cacti, do they need the help of people to grow?”

“Correct.” Gaara said, “Cacti may appear to be things of the deserts, but the truth is they’re plants that mostly sprout out of soil. Storing water is their specialty, but they can’t grow without water, so one must devise a way to give them enough.”

“Oh.” Hakuto looked surprised. “I always thought cacti could grow without being watered.”

“I used to think so too, and they ended up drying out a lot. It turns out they need enough water to ensure their soil won’t dry out completely. They grow slow, so just a little bit is fine. But, if you water them too much, the roots will end up rotting…ah, no, I’m sorry. I ended up speaking too much about my own matters.”

“No, it’s fine.” Hakuto laughed sweetly. It wasn’t fake or forced, “Before we met, I heard you were the feared ‘Gaara of the sand waterfall’, and I wondered how much of a frightening person you might be. But after hearing about your cacti, my impression of you has changed.”

 

 

Oh, ohh?!

Temari was momentarily stunned by the unexpected turn of events, but she immediately threw up a silent fist of victory.

Yes, that’s it! She thought. Keep going! Onwards assault!

The look on her face was very similar to a spectator at a martial arts tournament.

Things hadn’t gone according to her definition of common sense, but in this case, Temari thought that was a good turn of events.

 

 

“Gaara-sama, I’ve never seen a flowering cactus before, but…do they really sprout flowers?”

“Yes,” Gaara pulled out some sand from his gourd behind him, and made the sand take the shape of a cactus, with a large, indescribably pretty flower blooming on top. “The flowers that bloom on my cacti look like this. I’ve heard of cacti that only bloom once every twenty years, but I prefer the ones I raise that bloom once every year or so.”

“It really is beautiful…”

“Thank you.” Like any horticulturist, Gaara’s face looked like a parent whose child had been praised.

The smile on his face was the same one he once used to give his foster-parent Yashamaru.

“After a flower has bloomed, you absolutely can’t move the cactus to another plot.” Gaara continued, “It’s given all of its power to bringing a new life into the world. But, that’s another enjoyable side to raising them…”

Hakuto said, “You’re really very kind, aren’t you?”

“Kind…?”

The word didn’t suit him.

His past self who had been so full of hatred towards the world would’ve never imagined the day would come where someone would call him kind.

 

 

Well, it makes sense. She’s a young noble lady from the Houki tribe who’s never left her village, so of course she doesn’t know about how Gaara used to be.

Human beings will form their impression of a person as they are now while dragging out the impression they had from the past.

The reason the people in Gaara’s surrounding were in awe of him was, as expected, a remnant of the days when he used to be cruel.

So it wasn’t that strange that Hakuto, who’d seen nothing of Gaara’s past, could look at the current him and easily, honestly call him kind.

If that was the case, Temari thought, then it was something to be happy about it.

It was something to be very, very happy about.

 

 

“After you became Kazekage, the Houki tribe’s daily lives became much more peaceful.” Hakuto said, “As you know, my tribe is a house that specialises in medical-nin and information gatherers. We’re called the people who work behind the scenes. And, until recently, none of us has ever been placed in the centre of Sunagakure’s government. You know why, correct?”

“Yes,” Gaara replied. “I heard it was because you were a clan who originally moved down from Konohagakure to Sunagakure.”

The reason such a clan was chosen as the partner for a possible marriage was due to Toujuurou’s strong insistence. The Houki tribe had shown deep loyalty for many years, and they were also on a neutral standing with most tribes, so their influence wouldn’t be overpowering either.

“Exactly. It’s because the Houki tribe is right between the boundary between the land of Fire and Wind that we’ve always been lead around between the two. But you didn’t hold any prejudice against us, and employed us.”

“…You’re making too much of it. I just employed who could be of service, nothing more.”

That was, again, a single fact of reality.

For the brittle Gaara, his political authority had felt like bonds of obligation tied to the past, and there hadn’t been a single resource at his disposal he was content with not using. As the Kazekage, he had been frantically working for his village’s sake, and the results of that had just happened to be fair… Gaara recognised this truth.

“Even if that is so,” Hakuto replied, “It’s certain that I thought I wanted to meet the person who had employed us.”

“Is that so?”

It was a very ordinary conversation, but Gaara felt a sort of relieved emotion he had never felt before.

He thought that this happiness was definitely because he had seen the benefits of the battle he’d kept fighting on the battlefield of politics.

The joy felt similar to the first time he’d seen a flower bloom on one of his cacti.

Extra Translator Notes:

* This puzzle me quite a bit initially, because the kanji literally says thunder/lightening-car but there’s no such kanji used to refer cars in rl!japan, so I initially just went with a verbatim translation. Later though, I figured it out. Train in Japanese is ‘electric car’. Electricity in the nardyverse is powered by lightning. Thus lightning car = electric car = lightning train lol. A lightning train is the equivalent of a rl electric train basically.

 

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