"What the hell are you thinking?" I shout at my father. He sighed and sat back in his chair, tapping his fingers on his leg. His face was almost entirely covered by his white Raikage hat, but I knew he was watching my face.
"I know it seems like you've been abandoned, but trust me, Seluni, it's all for the best. You have to see that –"
"I haven't been abandoned, I've been sold! By my own father, and what's more, you have no reason to do so!" My face grew red in rage, but my father looked up at me calmly.
"Now that's not true, Seluni. You know that the Lightning Country's relation to the Wind Country is deteriorating. We need a hook, something to fasten our country to theirs, before they decide to take advantage of our weaknesses." He paused. "Don't be so selfish as to think I would put you before the well-being of our country."
That last remark hurt. My father was never an emotional person, but I had never heard him speak so cruelly to me before. I knew this was something I could not win.
"So, you feel nothing for selling your own daughter for peace, to a blood-thirsty country I've never been to?"
My heart broke as he shook his head. I hung my head and turned to the door.
"Don't think about running away, Seluni, I have all our ninja on lookout. And one more thing –" I turned to face the man I called father.
"You haven't even asked me whom you are betrothed to."
"You mean sold to," I spat. I didn't care who it was. The Wind Country was on the other side of the known world, so anyone would be a stranger.
"You are to belong to the Fifth Kazekage, Sabaku no Gaara," He cleared his throat and awaited a response from me.
I just looked at him. The Kazekage? The best ninja in the country, basically the complete ruler of it, needed a wife . . . My head spun at the thought of it. I had assumed I would marry some lower lord, but the Kazekage? This was impossible.
My father smiled at my shock. "Seluni, dear, I would not give the daughter of the Raikage to just anyone. Although I did not hesitate to offer you to him, I know you will do fine on your own. You are doing the nation a great favor. I know you never felt true attachment to the Lightning Country, but by marrying the Kazekage you are ensuring my – our – country's peace. Now pack up, you leave tomorrow morning."
I walked out of his office in a daze. Leaving tomorrow? I had to say goodbye to my friends, had to pack up all my belongings and never return. This was happening too fast.
I entered my room and walked to the window, seeing the same landscape that greeted me since before I could remember – hundreds of dull gray rooftops, wide crowded city streets, empty hills beyond that, and past those hills, a few low mountains. Beyond those mountains, I had a husband, no, an owner, waiting.
The rest of the day, as I said my tearful goodbyes to my friends and schoolmates, I realized that my father had been serious in suggesting I not try to escape. Around every corner, or just a dozen steps behind me, Lightning ninjas watched me. Their cold eyes met mine whenever I made a sudden move. If I walked too close to one, they would disappear in a flash. I was watched and followed meticulously the entire day as I lapped the city, saying my goodbyes and hugging old friends.
The last person I visited was Aleitryi, my best friend since childhood. When I told her the news, she cried and hugged me, pleading for it to be a bad joke. I tried to cheer her up. I told her I would write, and if things were bad she could visit. After an hour of reminiscing and promises, I gave her one last bear hug and left, tears in my eyes and pain in my heart. I would miss her most, Aleitryi, the friend who was always there for me. I might never see her again.
Upon returning to my room, I saw that my luggage had already been packed. I bitterly realized my father wanted me gone as soon as possible. Throwing myself on the pillow-less bed, I wondered what Sabaku no Gaara was like, and whether he would approve of me.
The main journey was long and uneventful. Over mountains, across borders, sleeping in hotels and naps in the wagon. I was led by a group of seven ninja, who constantly maintained a circle around the horse and covered wagon I rode. Our little caravan earned stares in each country we passed, and I realized how obvious it was that I was someone of importance. If we were attacked on the way, I had no trust in the Lightning ninjas to protect me.
We stopped somewhere in the Fire Country, apparently waiting for some Wind Country ninja to meet us. After three days of waiting, my escorts decided to leave. But within minutes of us leaving the hotel, we were stopped and I heard voices. I had been dozing in the wagon, but got up and lifted the flap when I realized the voices were friendly.
The sun blinded me for a minute. I heard a sharp intake of breathe. On the road with my escorts were two Wind Country ninja, both no older than twenty, one a blonde woman with fishnet clothes and a huge fan on her back, the other was a man dressed in black with purple markings on his face, which was staring shocked at me. He spoke,
"Damn, Tenmari, I had heard she was pretty, but she's fucking hot!"
The girl growled at him. "Shut up, Kankuro, make a good first impression, this is our sister-in-law!" Kankuro looked slightly put out and reached out to shake my hand.
He introduced himself and his sister. "We're Gaara's siblings. We're gonna lead you the rest of the way, so you can send back your escorts."
"But you don't understand, my father's men won't obey me –"
One of the escort ninjas smiled. "We do have orders to obey these Sand Jounin though. Goodbye Raikage no Seluni!" he nodded at the others and they were gone in a flash.
I blinked and looked at my two companions, not sure what to do. The man looked over my shoulder and into the cart. He put his hands on his hips.
"You can't take that with you," he said simply.
I turned and looked at my belongings. It was true, I didn't really need any of it. I pulled out a picture of my father, my favorite book and my identification papers and put them in my bag. I jumped out of the cart wondering what would happen to it. But, I was far more concerned of what would happen to me.
The girl looked me up and down, and motioned to go. Both teens disappeared.
I stood speechless for a minute until they returned, looking slightly confused.
"I'm not a ninja," I stated what I thought was obvious. I could never match the speed of a Jounin traveling long distance.
The man sighed and scratched his head. "Hm. I'll have to carry you, slow-poke." I tisked at the insult and jumped awkwardly onto his back.
Immediately there was a rush of wind as the boy took off. I held on tightly as the pair bounded through the trees, never missing a step or hitting a branch.
Kankuro's hands tightly grasped my legs, and slowly began moving them up as we went. I tried to squirm out of his reach, but he held on tightly, and I didn't want to fall.
I tried to yell at him as his hands reached my ass, but the wind was loud in my ears and it took my breath away when I opened my mouth. I sucked it up and prayed he would do no more then feel me up a bit. Thankfully, his hands stopped and the rest of the trip, I went unmolested.
The trip took a few hours, and it was nightfall when we reached the country. It wasn't all deserts, as I had expected, but as we traveled deeper into the country there was more sand than anything else. If we had traveled slower, I might have been able to witness more of the landscape. But Jounin travel fast; their leaps were fast and strong, yet graceful and silent.
We finally reached the Hidden Sand Village, where the Kazekage lived. I only recognized the village by its tall walls and a wide road leading to it. As we neared the front gate, the pair slowed down and Kankuro placed me down amidst the wind. I looked up at him sheepishly but his gaze was focused sternly on the village.
We passed through several checkpoints where Tenmari and Kankuro were nodded past and I was made to show identification papers. Inside the village, the wind ceased noticeably and I was amazed by the hive-like buildings made of sand. The windows were round and glassed, and people were dressed in layers of cloth, sometimes almost covering their faces.
The two Jounin escorted me in silence to a huge castle-like building in the center of the village, and I was made to wait as they discussed my papers with some ninjas on guard. Eventually, I was led into the building and through long hallways lit by circled windows. The walls, ceilings, and floors were all made of hard sand, and I took a breath as we walked up to the third floor. Somehow, the buildings stood strong.
I was led to a bedroom suite on the third floor, and told to wait there for further instructions. Tenmari told me that I would meet Gaara the next morning, and we would no doubt be wed within the week. She made sure not to leave me before Kankuro left the room. I silently thanked her for that.
I put down my bag and sat on the large bed. I was exhausted from the trip, yet I knew trying to fall asleep now was impossible. Tenmari never told me when to expect them back. Was I supposed to join them for dinner, or stay here until tomorrow?
I walked to the window and looked longingly outside. The village's design was artistic yet morbid. The streets curled out like snakes from the village center, and interlocked and divided like veins. But the village itself was quiet, and the replicated buildings seemed depressing. I almost cried right there realizing that this was the view I would wake up to from now on.
After using the restroom and getting a feel for the suite, I began taking out the few belongings I brought. I wondered briefly where all my other things were, in the wagon still, on a road in the woods? Or had someone already come across the poor horse and taken my belongings?
It was late when I finally decided to go to sleep. The room was already dark but for the moonlight that fell from the windows. I lay out over the covers and began to doze.
I woke up with the feeling I was being watched. I looked over at the clock, which shone 4:17 in bright red. I rubbed my eyes and sat up, unable to shake the feeling. As I did so, I heard a sharp intake of breath.
My eyes darted to the far corner of the room, where I could just make out a dark figure standing in silence. I froze and held my breath.
"Who's there?" I whispered. The figure stepped forward into the blue light of the window. A young man, tall and handsome, dressed in maroon. His hair was brown and his eyes were bright, but rimmed in dark shadow. I watched in awe as he walked to the bed, never taking his sharp eyes off me.
The boy stopped and looked down at me almost condescendingly.
"I am the Fifth Kazekage, Sabaku no Gaara," he said, "Are you are Raikage no Seluni?" I nodded slowly and pulled my legs over the edge of the bed. Gaara sat down next to me and looked at the floor.
There was a moment of silence where I realized the Kazekage was uncomfortable.
"So," I began, "Is there any reason you're in my room right now?" I meant it as a bit of a joke, but Gaara looked up at me with wide, anxious eyes.
"I was told you had arrived," he began. His voice was sweet, but tinged with doubt. "And I had to see you. After all, we are to be wed this week. I wanted to see my bride." While he spoke he didn't take his eyes off of me. He touched my chin and raised my face to his. I closed my eyes and felt his soft lips kiss mine. His hand stroked my cheek as he slipped his tongue into my mouth. I ran my hand through his hair and felt him shutter at my touch.
Gaara's hands wrapped around my waist and pulled me closer to him. I exhaled into his mouth as my chest met his. Suddenly he began to get rougher, kissing me more passionately and rubbing my body.
"Gaara, please, wait –" I began, but he pushed me down onto the bed and kissed my neck. I sighed in pleasure as he began nipping and sucking. He bit down hard and I gasped in pain. He licked off the blood and moaned my name, in a different voice.
I tried to push him off me, but he was far too strong. He pried open my legs and lowered his hips to mine.
"Damn, Gaara, stop it! Please!" I wriggled up the bed, away from the man.
Suddenly he grabbed his head and began to shake. Gaara hissed in pain as he slumped to his side on the bed. He mumbled incoherently for a few minutes, then there was silence.
I looked at him for a minute, and crawled over to him. "I'm so sorry," he mumbled, "I – I can't control Shikaku sometimes. When he – we – want something, he takes over and . . . I'm so sorry!" He pulled himself up to give me a strong hug, and disappeared in my arms.
He seemed so upset, I couldn't help but comfort him. I didn't know who Shikaku was, I didn't know if he was lying or crazy, but I felt as though I knew this man already, and I held him in my arms until his breathing slowed to normal, and I began to drift into sleep.