Naruto Hiden / Naruto Hiden Vol 5 Chapter 3
Section Three – Moonlight
The man had kept enduring.
He endured for the sake of his family, he endured for the fate of blood.
He thought that not being able to marry someone you loved was something that he couldn’t avoid, as a shinobi.
But the shadow that had appeared in front of him was too magnificent, too dazzling.
He resented the shadow who had everything they wanted, felt jealous of it, broke his heart over it.
Therefore, the man decided to stop enduring.
The name of the shadow was the Kazekage.
Suddenly, the sound of an explosion rang out.
Gaara instinctively leapt across the table, his arms reaching out for Hakuto and throwing them both to the floor.
“Take cover! Don’t speak!”
The young man who had been so frazzled by a young woman was nowhere in sight now. Without the slightest bit of hesitation, he was carefully keeping her down on the ground.
The explosion…came from 200 metres to the West. It’s probably a diversion, but…
There was no guarantee the next explosion wouldn’t be inside the building.
Gaara let his sand flow out of his gourd, making a large wall to act as a shield. He had to put it up, not necessarily for his own sake, but so Hakuto wouldn’t get injured during a shockwave’s thunderous roars.
“Is it…an act of terror?” Hakuto asked.
Hakuto looked a little pale from the shock, but there were no signs of panic.
You could tell she’d been disciplined to face situations like this.
But, she didn’t look like she was ready for a fight. Her face was already turning green, and you could acutely feel how scared she was.
Baki and the others aren’t supposed to go towards the explosion.
The problem with diversionary tactics was that even though you knew they were luring you out, you couldn’t help but lose to the instinct to go and help.
When it came to terror, the offensive side had an overwhelming advantage. Gaara and the others were on the defense, concentrating on guarding all places at all times, whereas the enemy could freely target any one place they desired.
If it was his future brother-in-law Shikamaru, then he’d say:
It’s like a game of shougi with an infinitely wide board, where the enemy’s king can go anywhere he likes. And, what’s worse, since he can see all our battle formations, he can place his own pieces wherever he likes to avoid them too. And on top of all that, you don’t even know where the enemy’s king is placed on the board.
That was their current situation.
What should I do…? Gaara thought. Should I keep holding up the sand barrier…?
That would be faint-hearted, he decided in two seconds.
The automatic protection he received from his sand was powered by his dead mother’s chakra, so it would never stop occurring. However, anything more than the sand shielding him had to be powered by Gaara’s own chakra. Movement, detection, counter attacks– Gaara was collecting the chakra necessary for all that right now. Right now.
It would be best to assume the enemy knows how my abilities work. An attack that can get through my absolute defence will not come.
In the last Shinobi World War, they’d gained many things, but they had lost things as well.
One of those things was the hiden aspects of their jutsu. Shinobi has exposed their hiden jutsu again and again in front of many shinobi from other villages. The results were that the advantages of most hiden jutsu were now a moot point, and Gaara’s absolute defence was no exception.
“I…” Gaara carefully squeezed Hakuto’s wrist. He did it because he vaguely remembered feeling comfort when Yashamaru, or maybe his mother, had done so in the past. “Am going to protect you.”
He released the sand barrier around them.
At the same instance, a shuriken flew towards them. It came from outside the window.
“I predicted you’d do that!”
Gaara began gathering a wind release in the palm of his hand.
There were two figures outside the window.
“Don’t separate from my side.” Gaara said.
He kept hold of Hakuto with his left hand, and leapt towards the wall behind them. Then, with his right hand, he threw the shuriken they’d hidden beforehand towards the upper right, in a direction that was ninety degrees away from the window.
There was a short cry, and then a spray of blood.
At the same time, the two shadows outside the window fell away.
Just as he expected. It was a puppeteer’s jutsu.
They had used chakra strings to control the puppets that were the shadows outside the window, and had planned to assault Gaara from behind when he turned to face them. It was an extremely see-through trick.
Gaara slid across the room, back under the shelter of sand.
Hakuto was light as a feather. She wasn’t an obstruction to his movements, but, she made using his hands difficult.
The guards outside haven’t come, so that means they’ve likely been killed.
He didn’t get scared, and he didn’t get angry.
He just came to terms with the facts that reality presented. Death…was death.
I was careless!
Up in the dark corners of the ceiling, all of Temari’s limbs had gotten tied up thanks to the chakra strings that had burst out of the darkness. Both her feet, her abdomen, her right arm and left hand were all immobile, and she couldn’t move her jaw either. The most she could do was slightly move her left shoulder.
This was definitely karma biting her in the ass for spying.
“Hahaha…!” A ridiculing voice sneered from somewhere in the dark. The shinobi who was controlling the threads. “Keep struggling, just keep on struggling.”
Shinobi only ever thought it was okay to give away their position when they were absolutely sure of their victory. Naturally so.
“Be afraid….and struggle on! But let me tell you, these threads have been made with the chakra of an ancient, giant spider. If you struggle, the threads tighten and steal your chakra. That mere wind release you bastards specialise in won’t cut it, and won’t unravel it.”
Temari twisted her abdomen a little, and found her breathing hindered.
It didn’t look like he was lying.
But…the bastard’s too caught up in his own words.
There were a lot of male shinobi who got overconfident and ecstatic when they saw their opponent was a mere ‘woman’. Conversely, there were also kunoichi who got ecstatic when they saw their opponent was a man, so there was no difference in people’s stupidity.
But, the ones who took advantage of that fact were always kunoichi.
“Ugh…!” Temari grunted. “Just kill me quickly!”
She wondered whether her words sounded too forced, but she was still confident in her move. She made sure to will her voice to be pushed along with the wind so the enemy would definitely hear her.
“Ohh?” Just as she’d expected, there was a sign of movement in the darkness from the enemy.
Found the prey.
Now, all that was left was to reel him in.
Gaara, who’d gotten enclosed near the wall, didn’t become aware of Temari’s presence.
To begin with, even if he had become aware of her, he would prioritise Hakuto.
It went without being said that this wasn’t because Gaara didn’t love his sister, but because he had faith in her abilities.
At the moment, Gaara’s thoughts were first making sure Hakuto lived, and then figuring out how he would live.
“Gaara-sama.” Hakuto’s eyes were looking at Gaara.
Her eyes were wet.
It wasn’t surprising.
She had just seen a person die in front of her for the first time in her life.
Death in the battlefield was completely different from dying in a hospital bed.
Someone who had been moving just fine a moment ago suddenly went completely still, a look of regret frozen on their face. You saw that and then in the next moment you’d think: what if that happens to me too?
The fear felt in those circumstances was severe.
Fear was something brought about by the future you imagined, and the desperation of wanting to live.
In short, it was because you had hope and kept thinking about tomorrow that you felt afraid.
Gaara had seen many people who had past the brink of hopelessness to the point that nothing scared them anymore.
So Hakuto being afraid was a sign of good mental health.
But, this is a bad situation.
She may have been a medical-nin, but it was precisely because she was still at genin-level that Hakuto was a true amateur. The most frightening was the possibility that, inexperienced as she was, Hakuto could lose to her fear and make a movement Gaara didn’t expect, and get hurt.
“I apologise for this!” Gaara said, grabbing Hakuto in his arms and leaping.
He was aiming for the window where the sniper was positioned.
The enemy should be expecting Gaara to make his escape from somewhere other than the window where a sniper had been positioned. There were most likely shinobi lying in wait there.
Gaara exploited that fact.
He kicked against the window sill, and jumped. Underneath him, he could see the hotel’s garden blur away.
It was a poor move. He’d carried a charge he was meant to be protecting while jumping out into an open field where a sniper was waiting.
If this had been an exam at the Academy, he would’ve gotten zero marks.
But, that was exactly why the sniper took action just a second too late.
Right before his eyes, a kunai was rushing towards him with supersonic speed. It’s speed was pretty much equal to that of a wind or lightning release.
If Gaara had been a normal shinobi, then his skull would’ve been pierced before he noticed it, and he’d have died.
But, Gaara’s sand surged out of his gourd and casually deflected the kunai. His sand shield. It was an absolute defence concerned only with protecting him, one that wasn’t even connected to his own will.
Gaara cleared the shock wave from the supersonic speed of the kunai with his wind release. Even if he was carrying Hakuto, he could manage the hand seal movements with just a bit of shuffling.
Gaara kicked off the top of a garden tree. He shaped the sand above him as a soft of glider, leaping towards the sniper’s direction.
There were two camouflaged shinobi lurking on the steel scaffold of a building in progress. They were most likely spotters, shinobi who were guards for the sniper that were also supposed to keep an eye on their surroundings. Gaara saw them fly into a panic when they noticed his approach.
Too late. You people always think the target’s only going to try to escape.
Most assassins who made surprise attacks on other people never thought about the possibility of someone surprise attacking them.
That was something Gaara personally knew from surviving countless assassination attempts himself.
“Close your eyes,” Gaara told Hakuto.
He swooped down from above, a blade of sand beheading the spotters.
Getting rid of the spotters before you target the sniper was the usual practice so as to get rid of the sniper’s protectors.
What kind of shinobi had they been? What kind of lives had they led? To begin with, why had they set out with the intention of killing him?
In this moment, Gaara didn’t think about any of those things.
Those thoughts were left for when he turned back to being the ‘kazekage’.
In this moment he was just a man who wanted to protect the terrified woman he was carrying. He wasn’t some naive youth who was caught up in the feelings of experiencing love for the first time.
He was just a man who had a strong and unwavering will, like the wind that blew across the parched desert.
The sniper had found his mark.
Wind was moving.
They were preparing a Vacuum Wave.
It was a very fundamental technique where one formed a vacuum layer in the atmosphere with their chakra and then used the atmospheric differences to slice at their opponents.
One didn’t need an elaborate jutsu for destroying a human body. Using a highly reliable jutsu instead was very good judgement.
If the sniper’s opponent was a normal shinobi.
Gaara’s sand shield easily deflected the Vacuum Wave.
If his shield had been made of sand and nothing else, it would’ve been destroyed by the Vacuum Wave, but every grain of Gaara’s sand was full of chakra and soul.
In a way, his sand was alive.
The cloud of moving sand took on the shape of a hand, and firmly moved to cover the sniper’s breathing tract.
Gaara didn’t have any intention of killing him.
Dead bodies told no tales, after all.
“Are you alright?” Gaara asked as he put the pale-faced Hakuto down beside the steel frame.
“I am alright. You, Gaara-sama?”
“I’m…” Gaara broke off, furrowing his brow.
He broke off because the construction site’s elevator had started working. Two shinobi stepped out of it, with identical awfully smug grins on their faces. At first glance, they looked like completely normal young men of medium builds.
But, there was a presence around them that couldn’t be ignored.
The smell of blood.
“You’re the Kazekage, right?” One asked.
“And you are?”
“I’m Konjiki Etoro. This is my elder brother Konjiki Metoro. It looks like you’re having fun, so I’m sorry to say this…but please die.”
The man called Etoro had crimson killing-intent in his eyes.
It was something he’d been hoping to see.
“Hehe…you look like someone who’s sensible.” The shinobi said, approaching Temari with a lewd laugh.
Down below, Gaara had left the room, but the shinobi wasn’t bothered by it. So that meant his job was to get rid of any protection Gaara would have.
That being said, it was obvious that if she was defeated here, this shinobi would then go to face Gaara.
Well, she doubted that Gaara would be defeated by this kind of chakra thread user…but still, facing him would take Gaara by surprise.
Most importantly, it wouldn’t do if she ended up dying.
“Even though I act like this, I am a man who knows compassion.” The shinobi said. He’d gotten so close she could feel his breath on the back of her neck.
Temari unhesitatingly moved so that left shoulder –the only part of her she could move– popped right out of its joint.
Of course, just because her shoulder had popped and slipped out of the threads, that didn’t mean the rest of her arm was free. But, thanks to that, the threads that had bound Temari momentarily warped.
It was more than enough time for her to take out the explosive amulet she kept in her sleeve.
“Here we go!”
She wasn’t thinking of doing something stupid like throwing the explosive at her opponent while she was tied up.
No, Temari’s target was her own body.
The amulet exploded at point-blank range.
The man jumped aside.
But, he was too slow.
She could now move her right arm, waist, and left leg.
Just that much was more than enough.
Her whole body ached like it was burning, but that was proof that she was alive.
She avoided more threads the shinobi sent her way, and at the same time, used her right arm to slip her left shoulder back into its joint.
The shinobi attacked a second time.
Temari pulled out her war fan with her left hand, and released a blast of wind that repelled the threads. She was taking advantage of the thread’s being light in weight.
Her right leg was still immobile, but she treated it like dancing around a pole, and spun herself around the fixed point where her leg still hung.
While avoiding the third attack, she fluttered and jumped around, her war fan destroying the remaining threads.
“Now then…” She said. “I’m going to pay you back for the amusement!”
Even now, the enemy was focusing solely on using threads in his attacks, so while his threads had power, that meant he likely didn’t have any other jutsu that were as effective.
But, just to make sure…!
It was hard to rely on her specialty wind attack or summoning since they were indoors.
Temari threw the shuriken she’d had on her body up into the air like one would throw flowers. The man pulled back his threads and formed a shield.
Temari swung her war fan downwards, aiming at the shuriken she’d thrown.
Fuuton, Flashing Fireworks!
Like a shower of meteors, the shuriken her war fan had struck were enclosed in wind, hitting the floor and then springing back up.
The man realised her true intentions.
But, he was too slow.
The ricocheting shuriken stormed back up through a blind spot in the man’s shield, piercing his entire body.
Blood splurted out of the man, and he collapsed.
“Good grief…!” Temari muttered. She’d won, but her own exhaustion was overwhelming her. “I messed up…!”
Temari’s vision was turning shaky and dark.
At this rate…I’m really going to look like an idiot…!
Somebody’s arms were around her, supporting her exhausted body.
In the midst of her fading consciousness, Temari could make out the person’s face.
It was a very unexpected face. But, at least it was an ally.
“Sorry about this, but…” Temari said, “Can I ask you to look after Gaara for a bit?”
The two shinobi named Etoro and Metoro walked across the steel frame with flighty grins on their faces.
Furthermore, there was no more movement from the elevator, or any other killing intent in the surrounding.
It looked like all any other assassin had been subdued by Baki and the rest.
But, for these two to keep approaching Gaara anyway, that meant they were confident that they’d win.
“So you’re the ‘Konjiki Twins’ from Ishigakure, huh. I’ve seen your faces in the Bingo Book.”
“Heh,” Etoro said, “For the Kazekage-sama to know our names, that means we’ve become really famous, huh Metoro?”
Compared to his talkative elder brother, the younger brother Metoro seemed taciturn.
Anyway, Gaara understood that the one wearing the gaudy earrings was the elder brother, and the silent one wearing the flashy ring was the younger brother.
The twin shinobi frequently used their similar appearances as a factor in tricks. It would be good to assume there was another wide variety of factors used too.
“I have heard of you.” Gaara said, “The pair of cowardly runaway-nin who specialise in destroying buildings or merchant ships.”
“Haha. Well, we don’t lose to you when it comes to the number of people we’ve killed. Be they tankers or buildings, we’ve destroyed countless numbers of them.” Etoro smirked broadly as he touched his earring. “But then, you know, we don’t kill people like you do, Gaara of the Sand Waterfall*.”
“We’ve heard of you too. We’re more or less from the same class, you know. We never got the chance to meet face to face since we became chuunin a little while before the Konoha Crush at the chuunin exams, but you were so famous…Sungakaure’s bloodthirsty devil. You killed anyone you didn’t like…you killed anyone who stood in front of you…you didn’t care whether they were an enemy or an ally. Well, compared to you, us brothers kill people with our own intentions, so we’re not totally the same!”
Behind him, Hakuto was trembling from fear.
She wasn’t just afraid of the two in front of them.
She was afraid of him, too.
In that moment, Gaara understood.
The things he had done back when he wasn’t loved by anyone, back when he thought love was worthless.
He understood the weight of those crimes now.
In the same way that the love he received would never disappear, the crimes he had committed would never disappear either.
“Your boasting ends here.” Gaara said.
“Oh, what’s this? Did my words hit somewhere where it hurt, Kazekage-sama?”
He couldn’t say it didn’t hurt, but Gaara wasn’t one for idle chatter or debates.
He’d only been talking all this while because he’d been buying time.
Sand Binding Coffin!
The sand that had been lurking at the feet of his enemies now surged up, swallowing the two in one swift movement.
But, there was no response.
So they were bunshin!
Bunshin were an old trick, but what made the move brilliant was that they had combined the bunshin with a genjutsu.
But, when Gaara realised what they’d done, he spread out the sand he was going to use for the coffin, and used it as a sensor instead. Spreading out his chakra-infused sand over a large area allowed him to verify where there were moving objects. He couldn’t identify what was moving, but in this case, whatever was moving would be the enemy.
Right above, huh.
Right overhead. The brothers Etoro and Metoro had taken a position where they were standing on top of each other above Gaara, the sun hitting their backs.
“Let’s get to it!”
The elder brother used lava release to expand a ring of fire, and the younger used steel release to form a steel ball.
“We’ll let you take a glimpse at it! The killing method of us Konjiki Twins!”
Even if they had created a giant steel lump of some kind, Gaara didn’t think it would breach his absolute defence.
However, the person the twins were aiming at was Hakuto.
It was a very see-through move, but Gaara had no choice but to react. If the Kazekage lost his partner for marriage, his authority would decrease.
No, that wasn’t it.
That wasn’t the problem. That was just his official stance.
The truth was that even if Hakuto had been the unknown wife of some villager, or even if she hadn’t been a woman, Gaara still would’ve protected her.
If someone without the power to fight wanted Gaara’s protection, then they were already within the definition of ‘those he would protect’.
I’m relying on you! Gaara thought, and his sand raised into a giant wall, forming a shield around both him and Hakuto.
“So you went with that option after all!” Etoro said. “It’s a bit late to be acting like a hero now!”
The huge steel projectile was flung through the ring of fire, hurtling towards them.
It’s speed wasn’t as fast as Gaara had expected- for example, like the supersonic kunai from a while earlier. His shield would be more than enough for this kind of speed.
The mass of the projectile as well, it can be easily withstood…!
Those were the facts.
The projectile had hit against the shield of sand, and stopped.
The chakra-laden sand shield repaired itself far faster than it was pierced. In the past, he’d even used his sand shield to cover the entire village when they were being bombed. Gaara could confidently say that his shield could stop even one or two tonnes of boulder.
Hakuto’s warning allowed Gaara to react one second faster.
The projectile had changed shape.
It was the effect of the Lava Release.
When the steel ball was flung through the circle of fire, fire had been sealed inside it, and that lava release flame had exploded.
The energy of the exploding fire inside the steel ball had released in a spiralling shape. The high pressure caused by the shock wave of that had melted the steel ball to a liquid, and, at the moment of impact, steel liquid had spurted past the area of impact on the sand shield.
And the same thing happened with the shockwave.
The steel ball had acted like a barrel head that had concentrated the shock wave onto that single pierced point in the sand shield.
When such a thing happens, what do you think will be the result?
Gaara raised his sand. But, the flame of the lava release that was being concentrated on that one point had great power, and it was drilling through.
The flame pierced through his sand shield, and the sand collapsed, scattering to their surroundings.
They didn’t receive a direct hit. But, the storm of flame covered Gaara and Hakuto.
Wind Release, Multi-layered Gale!
Thanks to the wall of multiple layers of vacuum that stacked on top of each other like a mille feuille, they barely avoided a direct hit from the scorching attack.
There was a burning pain in Gaara’s upper right arm.
It had been a while.
Pain always did teach him a lesson.
I hadn’t intended to underestimate their attack, but…!
“Hahaha! How was that now, how was that? Do you understand why we brothers are so famous now?”
Etoro’s scornful sounds were echoing on the other sound of the storm of dust.
“Indeed. The ninjutsu you use, it’s really overkill. It’s a ridiculously exaggerated jutsu just to kill one person.” Gaara said.
“There’s no body of mass it can’t break, you know. And for you, this had the same value as a castle.”
Of course it did.
Naturally, Gaara still had many options that would let him escape this situation. But, the problem was Hakuto getting hurt while he carried out those options. That was the one thing he couldn’t allow to happen.
Just a second would be enough, if I just had something to distract them…!
He’d expended too much chakra on their current defense. It was difficult to move for an aggressive attack when his opponents were two-on-one and both with jounin chakra.
It wasn’t a problem of winning. It was a problem of how to win.
“If you’re relying on your group of guards, they’re not gonna come…” Metoro said. “There are about 20 very skilled people keeping them company. My group wouldn’t even lose to the Akatsuki.”
Lining their shinobi up with the Akatsuki was probably Etoro’s exaggerating, but looking at the brothers’ skill, there was no mistake that they were both very talented. Baki aside, if you compared the brothers to their chuunin subordinates, it would be sufficient to say they’d be evenly matched.
And there wasn’t a doubt that these two had an assassin’s large war potential. When their two kekkei genkai were combined, they could use it as a sort of pseudo-kekkei touta. You couldn’t even dream up matching that sort of ability.
I can’t rely on the reinforcements. I suppose I should make them suffer a hit, even if it’s just one.
It wasn’t desperation or anything like that.
All shinobi are realists.
He had decided that his reinforcements weren’t going to cut it.
And the largest factor for his victory here, was making sure he protected Hakuto.
He’d sworn that he would. Doing anything that went back on his word wouldn’t be his ninja way or anything worth mentioning.
At that moment.
A single shuriken ripped through the air and rushed towards Metoro.
It was a houshuriken**, a kind of iron rod with no blades around it. It’s cutting abilities were less, but thanks to its weight, if it was a direct hit, it could even bring down a horse.
Metoro, who had reached out to brush away the houshirken with his hand, hadn’t fully appreciated the weight of the weapon.
It couldn’t break the chakra-laden bone, but, thanks to its heavy weight, the houshuriken did cause Metoro’s arm to go slightly numb.
It doesn’t matter who threw the weapon.
He believed it was an ally.
“Whatever will do!”
If he let this pass, he wouldn’t get another chance.
Wolf Corner Sand Castle!***
Sand began to swirl around in a vortex that enclosed his surroundings.
Sand that had scattered from the previous attack was included as well.
He hadn’t just been recieving the attack when his sand scattered.
He had deliberately let the sand scatter as a preparation for his counterattack
He’d just needed one second, one moment of time to make his move come before his opponent’s.
In the middle of the whirling sand, several eyes suddenly popped open.
Every single one of those eyes were connected to Gaara’s own optic nerve.
If it was a normal person, the huge surges of information coming in from those eyes would’ve made them go insane, but Gaara could take it.
Everything that was seen within the sand was immediately known to Gaara.
There was a certain tranquility in this action.
His tranquility was because Gaara’s mother’s soul resided in his sand. Her chakra operated the sand with her own will, separate from his own.
Gaara, who was connected to that sand, felt tired, but not pained, and that was proof that his mother was supporting his decision to protect others.
And that proof allowed Gaara to withstand the burden of having 10 or so fields of vision at once.
“There you are!”
Gaara’s technique lived up to its name, and Metoro and Etoro were covered by a hail of sand bullets from all sides.
“We’re in trouble, Metoro!”
The younger brother raised a steel shield to ward off the sand bullets.
But, the attack couldn’t be stopped with just that.
After all, the sand bullets that Gaara had created attacked the enemy from all sides. He wasn’t just randomly firing them either. He was firing them in synch with what his vision could see, and that’s to that, the two were enwrapped in a war barrier of sand. Etoro and Metoro had their hands full with just barely avoiding taking a direct hit to a vital spot.
“I am here to give assistance.” A voice said, and a figure unfamiliar to Gaara’s eyes alighted next to him.
She was a woman.
The kunoichi was slim figured like Hakuto, in a way that reminded Gaara of a sharp crescent moon.
If you excluded the ill-matchingly thick glasses she wore, you could easily call her beauty first class.
He remembered her.
She was the kunoichi he had seen escorting Hakuto.
He had the sort of impression that he might’ve seen her somewhere before, but he hadn’t thought there was anything to it other than the fact that she resembled Hakuto.
Either way, now wasn’t the time to think about it.
“I’ve been sent here to help by Temari-sama.” She said.
“…You really helped out.”
He didn’t ask how Temari had known where they were. He knew that either way it had been because she’d been worried about him.
“I am Shijima of the Houki tribe.” the kunoichi said.
Houshuriken had appeared like a sleight of hand trick, eight of them held in between her ten fingers.
She ‘struck’ with all eight of them at the same time.
It was fine to use the word ‘throw’ for a rough barrage of shuriken, but that terminology couldn’t strictly be used for this weapon. For a houshuriken, strictly speaking, one would use the word ‘struck’.
For houshuriken, one needed to concentrate on one point on their target and move swiftly with energy to ‘strike them’ and bring them down. It was a weapon that required killing intent, different from things like shuriken or smoke bombs.
The kunoichi who had introduced herself as Shijima unmistakably struck with all her houshuriken, brimming with killing intent.
All eight of her weapons flew like meteors towards Etoro.
“Don’t look look down on me, don’t underestimate me!” Etoro looked angry. “Using mere steel things like this!”
Etoro’s flame melted the houshuriken.
Feeling a change in the atmosphere, Gaara gathered the wind around him.
It was just as he expected.
“Wh-what is this?!”
The eight houshuriken had exploded.
Their scattered fragments had pierced into Etoro’s entire body, and blood gruesomely spurted out of him.
So it was compressed air! She’s a wind release user who shoots houshuriken with large amounts of compressed air inside. If the houshuriken get destroyed by the lava release, then the compressed air inside breaks out, and the fragments of the houshuriken burst apart and take down the opponent!
“…Brother!” The silent Metoro gave a flustered yell.
Gaara wasn’t one to overlook openings in one’s guard.
“Where are you looking?” Gaara asked. “I’m here. Don’t take your eyes off your target, you scum.”
Gaara’s storm of sand turned into a giant blade.
It stretched and slipped past Metoro’s steel shield like a giant snake, slicing Metoro’s body.
“MEOTOROOOO!” Etoro wailed, crying tears of blood.
Metoro’s body fell off the ledge of the building.
He fell from a height that was almost as tall as a skyscraper. On top of that, Gaara’s attack had sliced clean through his vitals. He had no hope of being saved.
“AHHHHHHH! MURDERER, YOU MURDERER!”
Etoro used up his chakra, firing countless flaming bullets.
He was no longer the cool-headed assassin who had come to kill Gaara.
He was a resentful elder brother whose younger sibling had been snatched away.
“You really have a selfish way of thinking.” Gaara said.
The brother who had lost his younger sibling soon ran out of flaming bullets. He was no longer any match for Gaara’s absolute defence.
While protecting himself and Hokuto, Gaara attacked with his sand.
“The buildings that you scum destroyed, and the ships that you sunk, they all had people in them as well.” Gaara said. “But you didn’t even consider that. That is your crime.”
“AH- AHHHHH- MO- MONSTE–”
A huge lump of Gaara’s sand swallowed the egotistical terrorist whole.
It wasn’t surprising that one would look at that spectacle and think it wasn’t the work of a human being.
It was a familiar feeling to him now.
A person’s life got smudged into sand, and disappeared.
“You, and me. We’re the monsters called shinobi. Murderers.
The thing that used to be Etoro, or maybe Metoro, was no longer moving.
“But we’re supposed to open our eyes to that…to live while controlling our power. Somebody who can’t do that isn’t even a shinobi.”
The body was gone.
There wasn’t even a trace.
For Gaara, it was an everyday occurrence.
The first thing Hakuto did when she rushed over to him was take out a beautiful small silk wrapper from the sleeve of her kimono, and move towards Gaara to use it as a make-do bandage for his arm.
“I’m so sorry…you were shielding me and…” Hakuto’s eyes were wet. “At least let me give you medical care.”
“No, this kind of a wound isn’t a problem,” Gaara said, “You don’t need to trouble your hands with it…”
“That won’t do!” Hakuto looked up with her wet eyes to give Gaara a glare. “When we’re in the middle of a battle, I will act according to the Kazekage’s orders. But, the fight is over now, so please listen to what the medical-nin is saying. If a burn is allowed to stay unclean, we don’t know what kind of bacteria could get into it.”
Hakuto’s skill was excellent.
She used wind release to cool down the burn, then rinsed it with a sterile liquid she carried with her, and then used her chakra to heal the cells, while rolling the make-do bandage around it.
“This silk wrapped is custom made so it can double as a bandage as well,” Hakuto said. “It aids your cells natural healing, so please don’t unfasten it later.”
“No,” Hakuto gave a sweet, reassuring smile. “Honestly speaking, I’m still shaking in fear. But, if I do something like this that I’ve practiced doing a lot, it helps me calm down.”
“I’m the same as well.” Gaara said. “If only during a time when you’re using a practiced, familiar ninjutsu to protect someone, it helps make you forget your fear. I’m- shinobi are all like that, aren’t they?”
Thinking that it was something Naruto would do, Gaara clumsily tried to give a smile.
He saw his smiling face reflected in Hakuto’s pupils, and when he saw Hakuto smile back at him, Gaara felt a sense of accomplishment different from killing the enemy.
“Continuing the marriage meeting…?”
Gaara felt bewildered by Baki’s report.
“Continuing would be the customary reaction.” Baki said.
Baki was completely nonchalant, like nothing at all had happened. Gaara had heard that over half the attacking shinobi had been decapacitated by Baki. Even so, there wasn’t so much as a drop of sweat on his face. As to be expected by one of his skill.
“If official business comes to halt thanks to terror, then many people will become active.” Baki said. “It’s no different than dealing with yakuz threats. If you become faint-hearted once, then it’ll endlessly continue.”
“Well, but…I’m fine, but Hakuto could get injured.”
“Ohh?” Baki gave a wide, sly grin. “Does that mean you like her?”
“But, you don’t dislike her.”
“…Well, it is something like that.”
Baki laughed and clapped Gaara on the shoulder. “Then that’s all the more reason for the marriage meeting to continue. Now, I wanted to talk about Kankurou.”
Baki’s eyes met Gaara’s. They were the eyes of a vigilant man who lived in a world of schemes.
Baki pulled out several photos. An unknown young shinobi was meeting with the counsellor Toujuurou.
“The shinobi he’s meeting with is one of Kankurou’s subordinates, Maizuru. The past half-year or so, Kankurou’s been elevating in the eyes of young shinobi who’re dissatisfied with you.”
“…As the eldest son of the Kazekage bloodline?”
“Correct.” There was no emotion interfering with Baki’s words. His tone was that of one merely stating the facts. “Compared to Gaara, who only orders them to face death from behind, the more worthy one is Kankurou, who risks his life alongside them in the frontlines….That’s what they’re saying.”
“And they think Kankurou will turn betrayer?”
“You could say they’re considering the possibility.” Baki said. “In the first place, this talk of a marriage meeting could have been a diversion for the sake of taking you out of the village.”
“It was certainly a well-timed attack. If it wasn’t from the outside, but the inside…”
The foundation of Gaara’s authority wasn’t rock solid.
He had been killed by the Akatsuki once, and during the time his survival had been unclear, his title of Kazekage had been immediately dropped. That was most likely because of the trauma the village had suffered when the previous Kazekage had been killed and replaced by Orochimaru.
That was why Gaara had no choice but to keep investigating conspiracies.
Even if, for example, he ended up having to deceive a dearly trusted ally.
Gaara had entrusted the matters of security to Baki, and was heading back to his allocated room, when he ran into Hakuto in the hotel corridor. Her guard, Shijima, was with her.
“This has all…somehow turned into an unheard of situation, hasn’t it?” Gaara said.
“Yes…I’ve never seen circumstances like this either.”
“My late father once said authority is like a staircase.” Gaara said, and then felt surprised at himself for repeating something his father had said.
The reason for his surprise was that while Gaara had believed his ill feelings towards his father had disappeared after their unexpected re-meeting in the Fourth Shinobi World War, he hadn’t thought he’d retained any specific memories of his father.
“A staircase?” Hakuto asked.
“The farther you go up, the more you’ll be able to see,” Gaara said. “But, you’ll grow unable to see what’s under your feet.”
“I see.” Hakuto smiled despite herself. It wasn’t a discomforted smile at all. “But Gaara-sama, you have plenty of people who are willing to look underneath for you, so I think that’s something to be happy about.”
Gaara stared in wonder, and Hakuto bowed her goodbye and continued walking ahead in the corridor.
He stared after her figure, stock still like a puppet
“You’re doing pretty well.”
His elder sister’s characteristic silhouette hadn’t changed at all when he came upon her at the corner of the hotel corridor, but when her figure came into sight, he saw that she was covered in bandages to the point that it felt painful to look at her.
“Are you alright now?” Gaara asked.
“The Houki’s medical-nin are really excellent.” Temari said, “I’m fine.”
“I see. Then, can I ask you a favour?”
“Hmm? Is it about Hakuto?”
“Yes.” Gaara wasn’t embarrassed or shy about it. He took out a letter. “I’m entrusting you with this.”
“I see. You’ve gotten to understand some things, haven’t you?” Temari’s lips curved into a smile.
“Does something amuse you?”
“You…you’ve taken after dad, too. I just had that sudden thought.”
“You have.” Temari looked up at the sky outside the corridor window. She looked up at the suffocating sky without a single cloud, and no rain.
Suna wasn’t blessed with trees or forests like the Country of Fire was. She was looking up at a sky that belonged to people who lived side by side with the desert.
“All three of us were born here,” She said. “As mom and dad’s kids. If Kankurou or I had just had the qualities necessary, then you wouldn’t have had to be burdened with Shukaku…”
“It’s alright, you know.” Gaara said. “Shukaku is a friend.”
“Thank you.” This time, Temari’s smile wasn’t sad. “Honestly, I worried a little bit. Over whether it was okay if I was the only one of us who got to be happy. But, I’m going to do as I like now.”
“Please do so.”
Gaara knew very well just how much Temari had sacrificed herself up until now, to support Gaara and the village. She was already overdue to pursue her own happiness.
“Alright then,” Temari said, “I’ll make sure to handle this letter well.”
“I’ll be relying on you.”
Gaara didn’t say anything more than that, and went to rest in his allocated room. Sleeping whenever he felt capable of sleeping was a habit that had come into existence after his possession by Shukaku.
Hakuto’s scent faintly lingered on the bandage around his arm, and something about it made Gaara remember something dearly missed from his past.
The remote memory was likely from sometime after he was born. Maybe he was remembering his mother, worrying over his premature self?
Or was he remembering his parental replacement, Yashamaru?
Or he could’ve been remembering something about Temari or Kankurou, or something about Naruto.
Eventually, Gaara drifted off to sleep.
“Something bad has happened.”
Baki’s voice interrupted Gaara’s pleasant dream.
The man had come inside his bedroom without permission and was standing by his bedside, so Gaara understood the urgency of the matter.
He didn’t expect to hear something small.
“What’s wrong?”He asked shortly. Their relationship meant it was fine to keep things short when they talked.
“Hakuto has been kidnapped.”
For a moment, just one moment, Gaara cursed himself for being incapable. Then, he looked at the bandage wrapped around his arm, and changed his way of thinking. It wasn’t the time to think like that.
Both Gaara and Baki had thought the aim of the attack had been the Kazekage.
Shinobi didn’t need regret.
What they needed was to endure, and carry on.
* Mixed up my kanji to write Gaara of the boiling Sand before lol, but nah, it’s Gaara of the sand waterfall X’D
** Better shown than described.
*** The kanji for this is 砂城狼角 which could literally mean both ‘Sand Castle Wolf Corner’ and ‘Sand Castle Wolf Horn’. Corner seemed more fitting to me, since Gaara is pretty much ‘throwing his opponents to the wolves’ in a ‘corner’