Chapter 1

It was hot. Unusually hot, even for the harsh desert climate. The heat wave had only just begun and already the temperatures had the ordinarily hardy citizens of Suna abandoning almost all daylight work in favour of retreating inside their sensible mud-brick homes. Unfortunately for the village bureaucrats, the air conditioning units in the parliamentary headquarters shared this sentiment.

Sabaku no Gaara, the village's fifth and youngest Kazekage, was stuck performing the most tedious tasks that desk-work brought. Read the documents. Read through again carefully. Read them a third time, check the fine print. Evaluate. The entire process was mind numbing and made even more frustrating by the intense dry heat and the fact that the dirt on his fingers mixed with sweat to form a substance that left unsightly smudge marks on important contracts and legal documents.

He leaned back in the sticky black leather desk chair and sighed. If this heat wave went on for too long it would begin to affect Sunagakure's already fragile infrastructure. Another headache to add to the list. He tugged at his collar hoping to relieve his discomfort but grunted as his face received a rush of warm, humid air and let his hand drop down beside him.

He sat for some time staring at the dull dusty brown ceiling, on a break of sorts, letting his thoughts wander. Before he had become the most respected ninja in his village he had been completely alone, often with nothing but times like these on his hands. He thought about all manner of things, from love and what it meant to his own fate as a well exercised weapon. Now, those painfully lonely times were behind him, he had overcome his hatred for all human-kind and begun making connections, real connections. It might even be said that he had become somewhat normal for the first time in his life.

But now, at age 21, he found that new pressures had begun creeping into his already hectic life. It was becoming quite apparent to him that there was more to adult socialisation than the connections he had forged with his siblings, teachers and even his adversaries. The cause of this new information was a series of repetitive questions asked mainly by his older brother. Kankuro had often made comment on the appearance of girls in the presence of Gaara which were easily ignored until recently when he had begun asking Gaara's opinion, even suggesting that he approach some of them. Of course, he declined each time in order to avoid any awkward social situations, but the idea that he should strike some sort of specific conversation with a woman was foreign to him at best.

His impromptu break was interrupted by a loud knock at the door.

"Come in-" The door was open before he could finish.

"Hey, Gaara."

'Speak of the devil' "What do you want, Kankuro?"

"Is that any way to greet your brother?" He chided, setting a full cup down on one of the few vacant areas of Gaara's desk space. "Here, it's been a long day."

He grunted in response and watched the condensation slide down the glass and collect at the bottom, suddenly reminded of the heat, he picked it up.

"So, that new secretary on level three, pretty cute, huh? You should talk to her some time, she's really –uh-- nice..." Kankuro continued.

'Hmm. Cold water, just what I needed.' Gaara thought. At least his brother was good for something.

"...and she's got really big- are you listening?"

"Hn." He drank deeply from the glass, savouring the cool feeling that spread through his body as he swallowed.

"I was saying that I'd like to introduce you to that new-"

"I'm not interested, Kankuro." He deadpanned, setting the now empty glass back on his desk. "I have work to do, thank you." He returned to the scrolls and wads of paper stacked on his desk, missing the look of frantic worry that passed briefly over his brother's face.

"Look, you have to be at least a little-" Kankuro paused and sighed. "You know what? Forget it."

Gaara, now absorbed in the mission report of a six-man unit posted at the Wind Country's ocean border, waved good bye.

"Yeah, see ya."

Hours passed before Gaara finished reading the lengthy document detailing an embarrassing near-loss to Kirigakure's naval forces on The Wind's own territory. He frowned. The Wind Country had never been known for it's maritime prowess and it was becoming painfully clear that some kind of action needed to be taken in order to protect the nation's massive coastal border. As it was, Suna's shinobi, though lethal in land combat, were at a disadvantage against an enemy invading from the sea.

Despite this, all recent attempts made by Kirigakure ninja at breaking The Wind Country's hold on its borders had proven unsuccessful for while they had the advantage on sea, once forced to land they were fought back by The Wind's legendary armies.

Gaara narrowed his eyes. Past dealings with Kiri had taught him of their large amounts of well trained ninja. These recent attacks merely served as a reminder to The Wind that the peace treaty between the two powerful countries was shaky at the best of times and that war could break out between them at any minute.

He mentally added this to the ever growing list of headaches he was dealing with at the moment and looked out the window at the slowly setting sun. At least the temperature had dropped somewhat since earlier that afternoon.

Another knock sounded from behind the doors to his office, this time, however, the guest waited for a reply before bursting in.

"Kazekage-sama, a foreign ninja requests your presence immediately." His assistant informed him.

'A shinobi from Kirigakure? No, impossible. They haven't breached the borders yet.' "Who are they?" He demanded.

"She didn't say where she was from only that she needs to speak with you on matters of diplomacy."

Gaara sighed. "Send her in." He cleared away any confidential documents from his desk and locked them in a secure drawer before turning his attention back to the door where a tall blonde woman now stood. He knitted his fingers together in front of his chin. "State your business."

She bowed and replied "I am here, on the behalf of the Fuyouku clan, to give you this." She set a simply decorated grey scroll down on his desk and crossed her arms, clearly irritated at being reduced to the services of a messenger.

He glanced at it. "Is that all?"

She nodded, bowed again and walked out.

Gaara looked down at the scroll on his desk. He had never heard of a Fuyouku clan living anywhere in the Wind Country. Warily, he picked it up in one hand and examined it. It certainly didn't seem to be booby-trapped. He peeled open the seal and unraveled the first few lines of writing.