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Sand and Snow

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Sand and Snow

A Kazekage's Tale


 ~Part I~


 

Chapter 1
A Chance Encounter

 

"Get out of here, now!"
"When he speaks... listen to him..."
Endlessly, their voices echoed throughout her thoughts. Forcing her to stay awake as her instincts forbade her rest.

Within the vast barren desert of the Land of Wind...

The desert winds howled violently without end that day. As the young girl in the ragged white kimono weakly tried to keep her pace through the sand, her fanged teeth clenched. She had fair skin burnt by the savage sun, and exhausted lilac eyes that held little hope of surviving the desert's journey. This was a very strange land to her, the near complete opposite of her homeland in the north. Instead of snow and ice, there was sand and desolation. Instead of the cold mountain air, there was the strong heat and blinding sunlight. She was not used to it at all, her body quivering in the heat from each struggling movement. In her mind were racing thoughts, clouding her already foggy vision from the merciless desert. But she had to get away at all costs. She had to escape, even if it was the last thing she did. If she stayed in her village within the far snowy mountains, she would have been killed by the invaders - like most of the villagers who ignored or chastised her existence. Deep down, she knew she had to live on by any means necessary.

Ringing through her senses was the far-off presence of many chakras congregating to a single area, as if her instincts of survival were pointing her to a direction. Could it be a village, hidden away within the vast sands? If so - how was she able to sense it? Desperately, her troubled mind searched for an answer that would not come to pass. Trudging through the dunes, her scorched feet fell weakened in her stance. After hours of aimless travel, she succumbed to the effects of thirst and exhaustion. With a faint thud, she collapsed onto the desert sand at her worn feet. Her faded eyes barely open as her breathing strained her fleeting consciousness.

-…Am I… dying…?- 

As the desert winds swept past her golden hair, her vision began to darken. Was this truly the end to her short thirteen years of life? Having lost all remaining hope, she gave in to the darkness. Welcoming it with open arms from her faint glimmer of an existence…

Within only a few hours, his mission was completed. Without a single flicker of emotion on his pale face, the stoic young boy with crimson hair and ringed turquoise eyes crossed through the endless desert. Although Gaara was now recently a part of the regular Suna troops, he often did missions on his own with no backing, completing each assignment independently and without question. However, two Suna ninja had accompanied him on his mission to the Land of Rivers - by the Suns Council's insistence. As he became more accustomed to working with other ninja, his conscience worried for his comrade's safety of what lay dormant inside of him - Shukaku, the one-tail. Reluctantly, he was slowly allowing those whom he worked alongside to approach closer.

Only months ago, his young life had changed trajectory since the failed Konoha Crush mission due to an encounter with a foe of similar unique circumstance - Uzumaki Naruto, the jinchūriki of the nine-tails. He was a foil to Gaara's existence, valuing the lives of his comrades above all-else and cherishing his village that despised him for having a tailed beast sealed inside of him. Whereas before their battle, Gaara only sought to live for himself and kill anyone who stood in his way - allowing mania to control his thoughts and actions, much to the advantage of the unpredictable and greatly feared Shukaku. After the Chūnin Exams, he was a changed person. By being in the regular troops of Sunagakure, he was edging closer to redeeming himself to his village and its people. Desperately, he wanted to put his cold-blooded killer past behind him and be accepted by his comrades as an ally. He was no longer the feared weapon of Suna his father, the late Fourth Kazekage, created - but a young prodigy who was also the jinchūriki of Shukaku.

As he was making his way through the desert ahead of his two comrades, he saw a faint figure within the distance. Near buried by the sand, its figure appearing nearly white from the gleaming sun. 

"What's that?" He asked himself, unsure of what to make of the sight.

The forceful desert winds pushed against him in his paused stance, whipping his red hair as his ringed eyes narrowed at what lay ahead. Curiosity getting to him, he closed his eyes and formed a single hand-sign. Swiftly, the sand around his feet swirled around him - transporting him within the infinite grains of sand. As if in an instant, he appeared before the figure from his sand. Turning to examine what he saw from a distance, his eyes widened in silent shock. A girl - dressed in a ragged white kimono, laying unresponsive on the desert sands. From the unforgiving desert winds, her gold hair swayed lifelessly in the brewing storm. As he stood above her, she appeared to be dead - claimed by the desert as another unfortunate mortality. Kneeling down beside her partially sand-covered body, he could see a brief fluttering of her chest, her lungs desperately trying grasp the dry desert air to survive. Surprisingly, against all odds, the girl was still alive and breathing. 

-She's alive...?- He thought to himself, perplexed and bewildered of the chance encounter. Those who are from the Land of Wind are aware that the desert is dangerous and not for the faint of heart - was she possibly from a different land? Her oddly dressed appearance made it seem as if she stepped out of the Warring States Era.

Suspiciously, he narrowed his eyes at her - examining her state of struggle. As he gazed down at her fragile defeat, he thought he seen a faint glimmer of her eyes in the blinding desert sun from her partially closed eyelids. They were of a light purple shade - reminding him of the subtle and gentle spring, but held little to no evidence of consciousness - appearing near lifeless. She was moving closer to death each passing second, and her blank eyes conveying her current state with ease and fair warning. After a brief moment, the girl's eyes again closed as she lay injured and helpless on the dunes. Swiftly, the desert winds began to grow more violent, tossing more grains of sand onto her body. Turning towards the east, Gaara could feel a sandstorm growing in the distance. If left there, all chances of survival for the girl would disappear within the sands. Standing, he glanced at her defeat at the hands of the merciless desert - pondering his options. Should he spare her? 

"Gaara!" As he turned to the call, he seen his fellow Sand ninja approaching from behind.
When the two Sand ninja seen the girl at his feet, they froze in their path instantly.

"A girl! W-Who is she?" One of the Sand ninja stammered, shocked.
"Could she be a spy?" The other suspiciously added. "She doesn't look like she's one of ours. A foreigner, perhaps?" 
One of the ninja knelt down, placing their hand on her neck. "She has a pulse! She's alive, but just barely." For a moment, the Sand ninja gazed at the unconscious girl before them - eyes narrowed in suspicion of her origin. While he examined her appearance, her breathing was becoming fainter as the moments passed, just holding on to life. Turning to Gaara - standing silently in expressionless reflection, the Sand ninja awaited a command. "Gaara, what should we do?"

Their words jolting him slightly, Gaara glanced to his comrades and the unconscious foreigner. If they abandoned her, there was no doubt in his mind that she would die - but why should he save her? Known in his homeland and throughout the great villages as 'Gaara of the Sand Waterfall', he was thought of as a shinobi who was cruel, relentless, and selfish - the eerie marking on his forehead conveying the proof of his past mistakes, 'a demon who loves only himself'. Before him, as if by chance, was an opportunity to change his own thoughts of himself. Giving in to his conscience, he made his decision. Slowly, as if with great care, the sand underneath the strange girl surrounded and grasped her, lifting her lifeless body up from the desert beneath - the sand's movement catching his comrades by surprise of his choice.

"We return to Suna." He spoke, turning towards their questioning glances. "The storm is coming, we should be on our way."
Silently, the two Sand ninja nodded in agreement. "Yes, sir!"

Carrying the unconscious girl with his sand, he walked past his comrades as the desert winds howled and drew closer. Sunagakure was still a fair journey away, making evident time was of the essence before their lives would also be at risk from the approaching sandstorm. Hesitantly, his comrades soon followed out of fear for his prowess…