Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
Rating T (I guess)
Mini author note:
"Konoha" – talking
"Konoha" – Bijuu talking
'Konoha' – Bijuu thinking
A/N: A huge thanks to… well… umm… Let's just get to the next chapter. (TT_TT)
Chapter three: The demon awakens!
'This desert is never ending…' Gaara thought to himself, as he strolled down the scorching hellscape. Always on guard, he cautiously moved forward, his right hand wrapped in ever-shifting sand from his gourd. In his left hand, in a firm grip, he held a kunai – in that rotten place the sands were not to be trusted, no matter their origin. Gaara examined his surroundings.
'Where are you?'
Across the desert, the winds that shifted, echoing a terrible sound. Gaara clenched the kunai tighter, wishing he had wrapped an explosive tag when he had the time. 'Not that it would help…' It never did.
The winds shifted again, rising up a small sandstorm.
Gaara raised his hand to his eyes, shielding them from the sand. After making a few more steps further, the wind speed picked up, reducing his line of sight down to just a few feet ahead. As he trudged through the sandy blizzard, his foot slipped on the slope of the dune he unconsciously was climbing on, making him lose his balance.
Not able to stay upright, he fell down, rolling down the dune's side.
He buried his right hand into the surface of the dune, webbing his own chakra-filled sand into the soil beneath. As soon as he did that, he came to a halt.
The sandstorm ended as soon as it had started, but the bone-chilling laughter that filled the air only got louder.
Gaara's frown deepened. 'Where are you?' he wondered. He didn't need the answer, however – its foul stench was everywhere.
"Right here!" the demonic voice roared.
Gaara jumped up in the air, dodging the sand spikes that burst up out of the ground. He forced more of the sand in his gourd, further coating his right arm. As he did so, from it, sharp tree like branches erupted, each slamming itself into the spikes that came of the ground.
'Damn! Can't stop them all!' The smaller spikes were immediately stopped, but the larger spikes smashed through.
Pulling out more of the gourd's sand, he changed the branches into an oval shield. As the spikes rammed into it, one managed to pierce the shield, embedding deep in Gaara's shoulder, causing him to scream in pain, as he pulled himself free.
Pulling some of the sand over the kunai, Gaara compressed it, implanting his chakra in layers.
As the sand where the spikes came from bulged to form something that vaguely resembled a head.
'Jutsu ready.' He threw the knife. Instantly, it pierced the head-like bulge, causing it to sink back into the sand.
"Not yet!" Midair, Gaara began weaving hand seals. The surface of the sand coating the kunai cracked and, as the jutsu began to deploy, caused the sand to burst deep into the head.
The monstrous voice yelled out in pain.
Gaara seized his chance and released the second stage of the jutsu. Instantly, out of the single sand spike dozens of smaller, sharp sand-made branches burst into its skull.
The monster screamed in agony.
As Gaara hit the ground, he surveyed his surroundings.
In the back of his head, he heard a mocking sound.
"Not bad, kid. This is the longest you've managed to hold against me… But I'm tired of this game… I WANT OUT!"
Almost like the jaws of some giant monstrosity, the sand rose around Gaara, enveloping him… drowning him… pulling him downward…
Into the realm of the Shukaku…
Temari, tossed another branch into the fire. Opposite to her, sat Kiba, half-asleep, his head resting on Akamaru. She shook her head at how the small puppy grew over the past few months. Already, he was too big for Kiba to carry on his head, now being almost double his size from the failed chunin exams. As a mosquito buzzed over Kiba's face, he slapped himself, muttered a course and went back to sleep.
What neither of them managed to notice, was that the gourd, which was laying down on the ground with Gaara leaning on it, began to crack. From those small cracks, sand began pouring out, and little by little, it inched closer and closer to its sleeping user. As it touched his palm, it went up is wrist, up to his elbow and, once it climbed over his shoulder, it began to cluster on his chest and back.
Two hundred meters away, Hinata was performing her duties as a lookout. She too was unaware of the looming threat that hung over their heads.
At the moment, she was sitting high above the ground, in the top branches on a large oak, concealed by its tick foliage. As the seconds passed, she realized that her current position wasn't very comfortable. In order not to get stiff, she moved to another branch to her left, positioning her center of gravity low, so that she could maintain balance easily. Brushing from her face the few strands of hair, which was now long enough to reach to her shoulders, she fixed her gaze on the horizon.
"Byakugan." It was as if someone removed a great veil from her eyes, as the world around her became clear.
The surroundings gave off nothing but the beasts of the forest. She could see a pack of wolves far to the east, and a number of wild eagles soaring proudly through the skies. As she leaned back against the tree trunk, she continued to gaze at the magnificent birds. At one moment, one of them dived towards the ground, then, in the nick of time, burst back skywards, clutching a small animal in its mighty talons. Seconds later, it disappeared from her view.
She continued to examine the surroundings. On the very edge of her byakugan-enhanced vision, far to the northwest, she could see a narrow dirt road, and on it, traveling in a wooden cart, an elderly couple. Ahead of them, maybe by some four of five meters, a young man rode on horseback, with a sword resting on his back. Hinata assumed that he was most likely a son of the couple.
But in the world of shinobi, nothing is certain. Those who would trust reality were only the foolish, the young, and the dead. Shinobi were the individuals that could see beneath the existence of reality as such, those that could see 'underneath the underneath'. As the heiress of the Hyuuga, Hinata learned those lessons well, even if on certain occasions she would choose to ignore them. After all, some things in life can never be learned through lessons of others. That is what he had taught her…
'Naruto-kun…' You had to go and experience things yourself… to fight your own battles – not sit on the sidelines and wait for the echoes to reach you.
She again changed her position to another branch, as it was becoming uncomfortable to remain were she was. The instant she settled in she scanned the surroundings. There was nothing out of the ordinary.
'Shino-kun… I hope you're okay…'
It has been hours since they lost their teammate. It was the most bizarre thing ever. One minute they were chasing down an enemy shinobi, the next Shino seemed to have disappeared in the thin air, along with whoever the shinobi they were pursuing were. Even with her byakugan-enhanced eyesight and Kiba's and Akamaru's ability to pick up any scent no matter how weak it was, they were helpless to find him.
'Gaara-san and Temari-san's brother is missing too. We can't look for them both.' She gripped her head, unable to free herself from this internal struggle. 'What should we do…? What should I do…?'
Gaara was already pulled waist-deep into the sand, as the towering, hurricane-like wall of sand closed around him from all directions.
'Damn.' He cursed, as the last of his tricks failed to hold off the inevitable. Now, it one again came down to raw strength – a battle Gaara always lost.
"Suna no Tama no jutsu!" In an instant, a perfect sphere of sand formed around him, creating a barrier between himself and the murderous sands from the outside. Before he could switch between the defensive and offensive, the sand crumbled away, falling to the ground.
Forcing more of his chakra into the sand, Gaara made it rise again, only for it to fall again.
'Not yet!' he weaved more hand seals. 'If the sand is useless here… Guess I'll have to use that…'
A furious gust of wind blew outwards, blasting the sand away.
Gaara looked down. The sand had reached up to his chest. If he were to fail to stop it, the demon of sand would take over, endangering everyone around himself.
He placed his palms on the surface of the sand.
"Fūton: Dait-" Before he could finish, the sand rose again, trapping his hands. Gaara gritted his teeth, as anger began boiling in side him. "Fūton: Daitoppa!" The sand erupted around him.
'Come on, Temari… Konoha shinobi… someone…' "Wake me already!"
As in response to his desperation, the sands rose again… and this time there was nothing in their way to stop them. Like tentacles, strands of sand crawled over his shoulders, over his chin, nose, eyes…
In a matter of seconds, the desert was barren again, the remnants of the battle that was fought there were already gone.
Hinata kept her eyes on the people on the road, trying to assess whether or not they were a threat. She was unprepared for the bloodcurdling scream that came from the campsite.
Immediately, she jumped of the tree, focusing her byakugan in order to see up ahead. She stumbled at sight of what was there, as the cold claw of fear clutched her heart.
'Is that… G-Gaara-kun?' she forced herself to continue running towards the campsite, even though every cell in her body screamed at her to run away.
Gaara stood next to the flames of the campfire. Sand covered most of his face and body, coating it like a second skin, making him resemble a miniature version of the Shukaku. From his right fist, Hinata could see that some liquid dripped. In horror, she realized what it was…
"What's the matter with you, you crazy monster?" Kiba yelled at him, as he barely dodged a column of sand that whipped past him. 'Shit! Did Suna turn on us again?' He rolled out of the way of a falling tree.
"Akamaru!" The dog barked in replay. "Let's go! Jūjin Bunshin!" The two animalistic Kibas charged at their opponent. "Gatsūga!"
The two flew threw air, rotating wildly, poised to pierce the monster of the desert. It was in the last possible second that Kiba managed forcefully to end his jutsu, as the sand monstrosity that was Gaara opened its chest, with sand flying outwards, like a net.
'More like jaws of some beast!'
He thought back to what he thought a few moments ago.
'Doesn't look like they turned on us…' He ran up a tree. "Akamaru! Dynamic Marking!" He glanced over Temari's body, which lay on the ground. 'If they had turned on us, they wouldn't attack each other! What the hell is going on here?' Temari bled hard from her wound on her shoulder. There was blood on her face too, most likely from when she was slammed into the ground.
'Where are you Hinata!' He couldn't hold his own much longer. He was already down to his last trump card, and he doubted it would do him any good.
Akamaru now transformed back into his original form leapt on Kiba's back. The boy roared the jitsu's name.
"Jinjū Konbi Henge: SŌTŌRŌ!"
Hinata ran up to their campsite, unable to believe the level of destruction that befell the place. Even as she was running, she could see whole trees flying past her, and hear the explosions that shook the ground with their force. As she got there, she could see, even without the byakugan, the giant, two-headed wolf being tossed back through air. It was covered in lacerations. As it slammed into the ground, Hinata could hear the sickening sound of cracking, followed by Kiba's painful scream as his jutsu was dispelled. He was lying on the ground, protecting his unconscious partner with his own body.
One of his legs seemed broken. Gaara, now looking more like a monster than ever before, slowly made his way towards the boy, with murder written on his face. With every step of the way, Gaara slowly raised his hands into the air. The sand went airborne, and then condensed into numerous javelins, each razor sharp, almost screaming in desire to pierce someone's flesh.
Hinata stared at him, unable to move even an inch. Gaara was moving closer and closer. How was he unable to hear the thunderous noise of her beating heart? To her, the sound was deafening. When he got to the place she was hidden, he walked passed her, failing to notice her presence. Mustering all of her courage, Hinata charged with a yell, her left palm shimmering from the concentrated chakra. Gaara quickly turned to counter this new threat – the same sand bust that stopped Kiba's Gatsūga now enveloped her. Hinata struck out with her left hand.
The moment the grains of sand made contact with her palm, a burst of pure chakra pushed the entire flow of sand back, revealing a clear path to Gaara. Not slowing down even a bit, Hinata ran, her right palm glowing fiercely from the deadly accumulation of chakra.
'Four meters… three meters… Two…' Gaara didn't move. Could it be that he still failed to recognize the threat she posed to him? 'Just one more step!' With the corner of her eye, she could see the sand returning. It was almost on top of her.
The sand burst from the ground.
The forest echoed with the terrible sound of a monstrous scream. Half way into the scream, Gaara began laughing manically… hysterically… He forced one of his eyes to open, looking at the girl in front of him, as the sand began falling off her, landing lifelessly to the ground. Her hand, coated in blood, rested on his abdomen. He didn't stop laughing – instead he laughed even harder, enjoying every second of the pain that riddled his body – for the demon of sand, the true demon of sand, the mighty Shukaku was screaming, screaming in agony unlike any it has ever witnessed, in all the years of its existence.
Pausing for a second to catch his breath, Gaara's lips slowly parted.
"Hyuuga… Hinata…" He collapsed over her, as they both fell to the ground. 'A name to remember…'
(Meanwhile, somewhere underground)
Kankuro opened his eyes.
'Where am I?' He wondered, looking at the small cell he was in. It was damp, and dark, with only a single torch lighting the hallway of his prison. He tried to get up, but instantly realized that both of his arms were in casts.
That's when it came back to him – 'I was captured!' He somehow managed to get up to his knees. 'Ah, crap…' Gently, standing up, he walked a few steps over to the bars of his jail. Across the hall, he could see another prisoner resting in a meditative pose. He wore a large, grayish trench coat. On its back, the coat seemed burned, probably in battle that lead to the prisoner's capture.
'Wait – isn't that…? Oh, hell no…' He tried to get his attention.
"Psst! Hey, Shino, is that you?" The person in the other cell said nothing. In fact, he didn't do anything to acknowledge that he was even addressed. Kankuro muttered a silent curse, then tried again.
"Shino Aburame, of the Aburame clan of Konoha shinobi."
Finally, the person seemed to notice him.
"Do not speak anymore, Suna shinobi. I recognize you." Shino spoke. "Why? Because allies remember one another."
"Umm, okay… If you say so…" Kankuro replied, somewhat confused. "So… How'd they get you?"
Gaara opened his eyes. As he tried to move, he felt a wave of nausea filling him up. Somehow, he managed to hold it down. Looking around himself, he was shocked with what he saw – both Temari and the Hyuuga were kneeling next to the boy, who was lying on the ground. From where he was, he could clearly see that the boy's leg was immobilized in order not to agitate the broken bone. The dog circled around them, waving its tail.
Temari saw him move.
"Gaara! You're awake!" She walked over to him. "Don't move, your chakra points were sealed. You won't be able to mold chakra for a while." He looked down at the ground around him, seeing the sand littering the campsite. Gaara shakily lifted his hand, focusing on the sand, trying to force it back into the gourd.
Temari helped Kiba to stand up. They walked closer to Gaara.
Both Temari and Hinata looked away. The Suna kunoichi was the first to speak,
"We have no choice." She said, somewhat embarrassed. "We'll have to split up. There's a small village to the southeast from here, maybe half a day walking." She took out her copy of the map that showed the local terrain. "See?" She asked. "That's where I'll take you," she pointed at Kiba. "There should be a small group of Suna shinobi hired to maintain order and drive away any bandits. They're mostly genin, I think," she frowned a bit, "but they should have a medical shinobi with them." She then looked at Gaara. "You two should continue to search for the enemy."
Kiba noticed the nervous glances Hitata gave to Gaara every now and then.
"Hey, I'll tell Akamaru to go with you." He ruffled Akamaru's fur. "Got that boy?" The dog whimpered a bit, but barked confirmingly.
Temari, strapped her large fan to her back.
"Don't worry, I'll catch up with you in two days. Gaara, leave me signs."
Gaara nodded. Both he and the Hyuuga heiress stood there, meters from the ruined campsite, staring at the backs of their friends.
Once they were out of sight, Gaara held out his hand, focusing on his chakra.
The sand that littered the place seemed as if it attempted to move, but felt a sharp throbbing pain in his abdomen.
"Umm, G-Gaara-s-san?" He looked at her. She looked at the ground. The next few minutes passed in silence. As she tried to look up, she noticed his eyes were still fixed on her face. Mustering up her courage, she tried again.
"Umm, I am, umm… I'm sorry for hurting you."
Since she didn't look up, there was no way for her to notice him walking up to her. Once she finally realized it however, she was surprised at how frail and weak he seemed – a far cry from the terrifying monster she saw before. It seemed that even standing upright was a struggle for him.
He placed his hand on her shoulder, making her wince.
"You are sorry for hurting me?" he asked, then paused. Finally, he spoke. "If… that… from yesterday happens ever again…" He looked her in the eyes.
"Do it without a second of hesitation."
She gave him a quick nod.
As he looked at her, he noticed that her right hand was bandaged up all the way up to her elbow. Gaara looked away, embarrassed by his own weakness. He let her go, walking away.
He stood over a large pile of sand. With his hands stretched out, he tried to force it to move. Little by little, grain by grain, the sand that littered the place pulled itself to him. Finally, after over half an hour of effort, the finished gourd stood before him.
"We should also get moving." He made a few shaky steps before Hinata caught him. When he looked at her, he saw that she was holding a long branch with a 'Y' shaped end. He nodded as she gave it to him.
Tucking the 'Y' part of the branch under his arm, he tried moving again with this makeshift crutch.
Hinata gave her happy smile, as she walked next to him.
Akamaru barked, running in front of them, wiggling his tail.
A/N: I should note that this story will not deviate from the canon in almost no way other than the fact that I'm pairing up Gaara and Hinata. Other than that, this story will easily fit in the three-year gap between Naruto and Naruto Shippuuden series.
As you have probably figured out, the desert Gaara was in at the beginning of this chapter is his inner world; in other words the place where the Ichibi is sealed (just like the sewers in Naruto's mind, where the Kyuubi is sealed). The Shukaku is sealed beneath the surface of the sand.
As far as the way Gaara used his sand to fight the Shukaku, I have an explanation. Because he is locked in battle with the Shukaku for dominance, he can use just a portion of the sand he was able to use before (in the original Naruto series). Because of that, he has to be more creative.
Why can Gaara use Fūton (wind release)? If you check out Narutopedia, you'll see that he has wind nature affinity. It's not so much of a long shot to assume he knows a few Fūton jutsu.
Suna no Tama no jutsu – Sphere of sand
Fūton: Toppa – Wind Release: Breakthrough
Fūton: Daitoppa – Wind Release: Great Breakthrough
Jūjin Bunshin – Beast Human Clone
Gatsūga – Fang Passing Fang
Jinjū Konbi Henge: SŌTŌRŌ – Human Beast Combination Transformation: Double-Headed Wolf
Hakke Kūshō – Eight Trigrams Empty Palm
Constructive criticism and/or reasonable complaints are more than welcome. Flames only with an explanation why – otherwise they'll be ignored.
Hope you had fun reading this. I'll try to get back with an update soon.
PS: Reviews are nice. They don't take more than a minute or two to write, but have the power to brighten up the writer's day tenfold. So, please review.