Rewritten again: 12/11/09
Every time I try to "somewhat edit" my stories, I end up rewriting the entire thing basically.
So thanks to each and every one of my reviewers--your insightfulness makes me feel like this story is worth all the damn soul-searching :)
Saepe Creat Molles Aspera Spina Rosas
1. Temari was not royalty. Unlike the Hyuuga and Uchiha clans, her family did not establish the nobility of their line by founding an empire. Rather, her family became Sunagakure aristocracy by wresting power away from the ruling class.
The blood that ran in Temari's veins was not royal blood—it was a life force corrupted by megalomania. But in the end, she was the daughter of the Yondaime Kazekage and the older sister of the Godaime Kazekage and that made her a princess.
2. Temari would have traded her title in if she could. Traded it in for a caring, loving, normal family. To her, the power of the crown meant nothing but the coldness of a father, the premature deaths of a mother and an uncle, and the tainted innocence of three childhoods. Multiple lives…all ruined by the temptress that power is.
Even if it was for control over a kingdom, it was a poor trade.
3. She was around three years old when her life changed. It seemed like standard procedure; the Wind daimyo cut the budget reserved for Suna's defense and redirected the funds to departments in serious need of support. He had hoped the military force would continue to operate at its previous levels but instead, the amount of ninja fell drastically. In an effort to regain manpower in the quickest way possible, the Yondaime decided to seal a bijuu within his unborn son.
Quality over quantity.
What a flawed concept.
4. Temari was too young to fully understand the gravity of the situation but she was a precocious child. Her mother Karura had gone to the grave with a rancorous heart, eyes alight with a murderous glint. It was a striking contrast to the gentle woman with sandy brown hair and a soft smile always on her face.
The discrepancy was not lost on Temari.
5. When she finally figured out the whole truth, Temari didn't know whom to blame.
There was the Wind daimyo, whose politics set off the tumultuous chain of events.
There was her father, whose ruthless, one-track mind made the cruel choice to sacrifice both his wife and youngest son.
There was Chiyo, the village elder who followed her father's orders and sealed Shukaku within Gaara.
There was her mother, whose bitterness and refusal to serve her country made her curse her child.
There was Yashamaru, the seemingly warmhearted uncle whose pleasant temperament belied the hatred that resided within.
And there was Gaara…the very reason Temari's life became a living nightmare.
6. Temari feared her brother. She feared him for the same reason everyone else in the village did—because he was the container of Shukaku. But the terror was that much more real for Temari because Gaara lived with her, breathed the same air as her. He was always there, always conscious when everyone else wasn't for fear that the demon within would take over when he let his guard down.
Temari resented her youngest brother too, partly because one tends to fear what one hates and partly because he was the easiest target for her anger. The Wind daimyo and Chiyo were not a part of Temari's life. Her mother and uncle were dead. And there was no point in blaming her father when she already had all her life for being more of a ruler than a parent.
Blaming Gaara for killing her mother and tearing apart her family was the simplest way for her child's mind to deal with the tragedy. But deep down, Temari knew her brother was just as much a victim of circumstance as she was. At times, she found her reserve faltering and instead of despising Gaara, she pitied him. Because it was still her younger brother that sat by himself on the swing, watching the other kids play together longingly. It was still her brother that tried to help the kids out when their ball rolled away from them, only to be run away from in thanks. And then Temari would feel a stab of guilt, knowing that she was just as bad as the village children.
How could she have done anything else though? The day Gaara completely transformed, extreme unease became full-fledged terror.
7. The encounter with the creature from another world was a seismic upheaval of Temari's way of life. She had always known a dark entity was residing within her brother's body but she only knew what she had heard and therefore could only speculate about what kind of evil it was and be apprehensive in her uncertainty. Then she saw the monster in the flesh and realized that she had gravely underestimated the severity of the situation. Shukaku was no boogieman that lived under beds and hid in closets—it was a Jinchuuriki capable of massive destruction.
When their father dispatched assassins, Temari couldn't deny the sense of relief that washed over her. For the greater good, she steadfastly told herself, quelling her rising guilt by convincing her conscience it wasn't her brother they were killing but a monster.
8. Her sense of relief was short-lived for every mission the Kazekage ordered ended in failure. Suna lost even more of its ninja, all of them killed by Gaara and his deadly sand. Realizing that it was next to impossible to rid his hands of the failed experiment that was his son, the Yondaime decided instead to utilize Gaara as a tool in the upcoming Chuunin Exams in Konoha. The Leaf was aiding in the erosion of the Sand by eagerly accepting the Wind daimyo's commissions. As the Kazekage, he had to put a stop to it—not just to save the village but also to ensure that power stayed within the Sabaku family for as long as their bloodline was alive.
Too bad his daughter did not share his visions of everlasting glory.
9. Temari was a study in contradictions.
On the outside, she was tough and slightly crude, more of a man than a woman with her overbearing demeanor and authoritarian manner. She had grown up in the harsh desert of Suna among the most cruel and ruthless of men and that had made her just as unforgiving as a result. Kill or be killed wasn't just a saying in her world—it was a mantra to live by.
But Temari was hardly as merciless as her exterior suggested either. In truth, she was more compassionate than one would think possible with a background as tainted as hers. She hated unnecessary conflict because of the pain it brought. Every time she was required to kill, Temari found her sense of duty warring with her sense of identity.
10. Like the time she went to Konoha to participate in the Chuunin Exams. She knew the real reason she and her brothers were entered in the contest and though she went willingly, she questioned her father's motivation for creating a false sense of security for Konoha. Whatever happened to diplomacy? Respect for others and the belief that strength of character comes not from power and status but from the goodness of one's soul?
Angered at being forced to contribute to the façade, Temari succumbed to her inner bloodlust and fought brutally. In the preliminaries to the third round, she was pitted against a Leaf kunoichi who only wielded weapons and within minutes, the girl's attacks were all negated. Temari had meant to spare the child from landing on her own toys by catching her with her iron fan, but when Tenten's body landed on it with a sickening crunch, Temari couldn't deny the twisted sense of satisfaction she felt. She would have prolonged the feeling too by changing her mind and deciding to throw the bun-haired girl onto the weapon-strewn ground had it not been her teammate.
11. Was she psychotic? No—that was Gaara. But she was a Sabaku and by default, there was a savageness in her that, try as she might, could never be erased.
She knew how she and her siblings must have appeared to the younger Leaf Genin. When Tenten's teammate had jumped in to save her, he had looked at Temari with a mixture of anger and disgust in his doe eyes.
"Why did you do that?" He yelled. "Is that something you should do to someone who fought her hardest?"
She wished the boy hadn't seen the ruthless side of her. But then again, this wasn't a game and they were the enemy. If she wanted to come out alive, she had to show them no mercy.
12. That was the practical side of her speaking. Temari had always been a brilliant strategist and in terms of brain power, very few could match her mind's hundred mile per hour pace. She wasn't necessarily book-smart but she was street-smart, a kunoichi more calculating and cunning than scholarly and studious. In her opinion, facts and figures weren't what mattered on the battlefield but ingenuity and the ability to improvise.
Temari was older and wiser than the prepubescent girls of the Leaf. That, coupled with her ninja skills, made her the strongest kunoichi at the Chuunin Exams and it wasn't a surprise when she was the only female to advance to the final round.
13. She was matched up with Nara Shikamaru, some Leaf Genin who specialized in shadow jutsu. Temari hadn't expected anything of the kid. He just seemed so slow; unresponsive, vacuous—someone who never tried nor saw any point in doing so. When he unceremoniously fell into the arena from twenty feet up as a means of an entrance, Temari was far from impressed. What an embarrassing way to start the match off. With monstrous strength, she slammed the length of her fan into the ground he was laying on.
That got him moving.
"I don't care if I can't become Chuunin," he drawled, standing in front of her, "but a man can't lose to a woman."
She was going to kill him.
14. In her fury, Temari had overlooked one key note: Nara Shikamaru was an even better strategist than she was. Blessed with an IQ over 200, Shikamaru was like Temari in that he wasn't what he seemed. Just as she was pugnacious and headstrong yet tenderhearted and soft, he was lazy and average looking but exceptionally intelligent and a formidable shinobi.
Temari gave the fight everything she had but in the end, Shikamaru won. Even if he forfeited, everyone—including her—knew who the victor was. He said he was at the end of his chakra but in truth, he just didn't want to hit a girl.
Temari couldn't decide if he was a gentleman or just a coward.
15. It didn't matter what he was because the Kazekage's plan was still in full swing. Shortly after her match, Sound and Sand invaded Konoha and with Kankuro, Temari rushed Gaara away from the village so he could recover from his battle with Uchiha Sasuke.
She was still torn over the situation. What was the point in disturbing the peace of Konoha besides ruining the lives of all those children? She thought of Tenten and Shikamaru and how they were going to experience the same fear that controlled her childhood. She may not have liked the Leaf Genin but she wasn't so cruel as to wish the torturous life she had on them.
Temari didn't consider herself much of a believer in divine providence but when the plot against Konoha failed, its proponents fleeing for their lives or already dead, she felt there was justice in the world.
For example, her father. Perhaps he had good intentions, attacking Konoha in order to save Suna from annihilation. But there was a hunger for power involved as well, a desire to preserve their family's credibility back home. That lust—the same lust that drove him to sacrifice his wife and son and use his three good-as-orphaned children for his own purposes—was enough to condemn him to the flames of hell for all eternity.
16. The collaboration between the Sand and Sound was a catastrophe but Temari had to thank her father for one thing: his foresight. In retrospect, the war was necessary. It forced Konoha and Suna to realize the precarious situation they were in politically, allowing them to wipe the slate clean and rebuild the shaky alliance they had previously in the name of peace. It ushered in a new age of government for both nations, one that was less aggressive and more assertive in Suna and one that would bring a new style of authority to Konoha in times of rapid change.
But what Temari was most grateful for was how the conspiracy mended her broken family together. Gaara, having found someone he could identify with in Uzumaki Naruto, was no longer the dehumanized monster that harbored malice towards everyone around him. He took the first step to heal the gap between him and his siblings by apologizing to her and Kankuro, easing the fear and hatred that had plagued them for so much of their lives. It came at the best of times for their father, the last member of their family, had been murdered.
They were truly alone now, with nobody but each other.
17. Their new status as orphans hardly crossed Temari's mind for she was struck with the realization that she was finally under no one's control and in full command of her life. Fueled by the power of her independence, Temari pushed herself to her limits in becoming stronger with a gritty determination that was so characteristically her.
At eighteen, she became the only female of her generation to achieve Jounin status. Her skill was so considerable that as Suna's ambassador to Konoha, she traveled the two-day path between the two countries alone and without an escort. She didn't worry about rapists or kidnappers; even though she was beautiful, with her bedroom eyes and enough curves to override the slimming effects of black clothing, she was strong and in no way incapable of defending herself.
18. Temari was no damsel in distress but if there was one female stereotype she filled, it was that of a mother. She hadn't meant to do it but it came so easily to her that she didn't even realize it. As the oldest of her siblings and a female, it was only natural for her to take on a maternal role to the men around her.
When Shikamaru came back from the failed mission to retrieve Uchiha Sasuke, he was bawling his eyes out for failing the mission and injuring his teammates. Temari simultaneously reprimanded him for his lack of emotional control while comforting him.
When Akatsuki member Sasori poisoned Kankuro, Temari rushed home from Konoha to look after her brother while planning to rescue Gaara, who had been kidnapped before the fray.
And then there was the time Temari accompanied Gaara to the Five Kage meeting. While there, a massive fight erupted between Uchiha Sasuke and the five Kages. One Samurai from the Land of Iron had been hit with Amaterasu and in a bid to save his life, Temari cut off his burning armor.
The life of a shinobi was dangerous, too unpredictable and so fleeting. Just as Gaara sought to redeem himself by putting the safety of his villagers before his own personal welfare, so Temari looked for salvation for the wrongs she committed before by saving the innocent.
19. When Temari died, she was buried with the large iron tessen she had carried all her life. Most people assumed it was because part of her identity as a kunoichi was defined by the fan that allowed her to use powerful jutsu but for those who truly knew her, they knew it was because that fan was a part of her.
A childhood burdened by tragedy and suffering had hardened her, made her build a wall around her as impenetrable as the cold steel of her weapon. Like it, she was always closed up, opening only to unleash destruction. What the fan was capable of represented the deadly kunoichi that Temari was, the part of her that was cruel and merciless.
But the fan itself was who Temari the woman was. Beautiful in its latency, it was a thing to be admired, appreciated—a thing whose aesthetic properties were fragile and delicate. For when opened, Temari was just like it: beautiful, vulnerable.
The most rare of desert flowers.
20. Saepe creat molles aspera spina rosas.
Often the prickly thorn produces tender roses.
I love this Latin quote. I think it fits Temari perfectly and I rewrote this piece with her contradictions as the main theme.
When I was writing, I watched old episodes of Naruto for research. Somebody tell me how Tenten gets cut up by Temari's wind during the Chuunin prelims but Shikamaru doesn't in the finals. Does having a penis automatically give you some type of immunity?