Chapter One. Flawed Logic.
Thousands upon thousands of years ago, 'Asura' was the name given by those of Hindu faith to the dangerous and very, very real demons that stalked their land. In those times that have now passed, humans, spirits and demons interacted in ways that are known as mere myths today.
The higher castes of spirits, the deities, resided in the upper circles of the sky, and they were the closest to the transcendental forms of Lord Krishna.
The demons came from the earth, from the very core of the world. In terms of the human chakra model, they personified the deep root chakras up to the solar plexus, while the deities and demigods personified the third eye and crown chakras. As much a part of the wheel of life and death as the deities were, the Asura still received the somewhat short end of the stick when it came to dealing with humans.
Humans feared the Asura, for the most part. Many learnt to purify themselves of the Asura's influence by avoiding their ways of eating bloodied meat; some even avoided the killing of animals for food altogether. Devotees of the Lord Krishna also avoided onions and garlic, fruits of the plants that were born of the spilt blood of Asura Saimhikeya
Any human who aligned himself with the Asura was labelled a demoniac, a possessed man.
They labelled the demoniacs as loveless.
They said that the Asura themselves were incapable of the emotion.
But in reality, perhaps love was the most important, for it was the most difficult to understand.
A light wind brushed his cheek gently and he opened his eyes. Everything was a haze – he felt as though he had been in a trance. Not sleep – that would have been dangerous – but a state that was close enough. He rubbed the left side of his forehead as though to steady himself, and looked with trademark wide eyes at the ochre-shaded scenery around him.
Out here in the sparse fields it was quiet. Nobody came to bother this area of Suna-gakure save for bringing precious water to the meagre crops they grew, and that was very rarely, for the plants in Suna had adapted to the desert lifestyle of saving water in their roots whenever possible.
So he was quite alone, which was just what he needed after the return from the fight with Kimimaro.
Since Naruto had fought him back during the Chuunin exams, one of the biggest and most protective barriers in his mind had been broken down. Almost a year had passed between that incident and his return to help out Konoha with the retrieval of Sasuke. At first the transition had been painful and violent for him – and horrifying for the villagers of Suna, who had had to bear with the sandstorms that raged for months outside in the vast desert as he walked alone, trying to come to terms with all the things Naruto had told him.
Now he was a bit calmer and had earned the friendship of his two siblings – the fact that he had chosen to go with them on the Sasuke mission was a testament to this strange new unity.
But it was during this mission that the second barrier to Gaara's mind began to be breached. An important part of his perception had again been shifted. He supposed that the strange trance-like dream he had just been having was a side-effect of it. Unless Shukaku had suddenly felt like giving him a history lesson on demons, which he seriously doubted.
The conversation with Rock Lee after that battle with the ill-fated Kimimaro had shaken him. Of course none of this had been apparent to the rather unique-looking Leaf ninja – Gaara was still the master of covering his reactions up beneath that steely emotionless mask of a face.
So, sitting down in the long, dry grasses, he decided to do something he had only done very rarely before. He decided to talk to Shukaku.
He fell completely silent for a moment, listening to the buzzing in his own head, then whispered softly;
'Well, say something.'
In response, the sand around his body began to slither and swirl through the grasses. Then came the answer, whispering like a breath of wind in his ear.
'I am here.'
Gaara's stomach lurched horribly. The same nauseating lurch that always accompanied that voice. The red-orange-yellow of the spinning chakra around his solar plexus flared slightly.
He controlled it, and turned his attention inwards again.
'You... Talk to me. Tell me what all this means.'
'Tell you,' came the husky, yet strangely shrill whisper, 'what WHAT means?'
Gaara frowned and something snapped inside.
'You're in here anyway, I think you know damn well what I'm on about.' He said it with anger, although his voice retained the same tone and volume as before. But he did drive his fingernails into the earth as he spoke, twisting the soil and upturning it in frustration.
The chakra flared outwards briefly again, then shifted as Shukaku cocked his head to the side and smiled from behind that vast sealed gate in Gaara's soul.
'Let me out and I'll tell you all about it.'
Chills spread up Gaara's body at this. His hand froze in the inch-shallow grave of dirt he had been absently digging. Focus on a spot on the ground...
Let me out, he said...
Focus on a spot on the ground...
He stared at nothing for the longest time.
'Fine. Ignore. Uninteresting.' And with that final hissy growl, the chakra in his stomach dissipated. He let his breath out slowly.
The conversation was left at that and so he went back to thinking about what it was that had shaken him up so much. It was something that he could not, or rather did not, want to make sense of.
According to Rock Lee, a loved one is someone who cares for and protects you.
And from the way that Lee had spoken about his sensei Gai, and even the way that Kimimaro had spoken about Orochimaru before he died, it seemed that a loved one was somebody they looked up to, someone powerful. And someone who they had also spent a lot of time with.
Now Gaara knew that recently, people like Kankurou and Temari were spending a lot more time with him, but for some reason it did not even cross his mind to match the words 'loved one' to someone from the human race.
The one who had spent the most time with him in his life, the one who had protected him the most (regardless of whether this was out of care or just self-preservation, and Gaara had always assumed it was the latter) ...was the Sand incarnate, Shukaku.
And though it was logical, it definitely could not be right.
-end chapter one-