Lady of the Wind
Setting: AU, but still ninjaverse. Post The Fourth Shinobi World War, but due to my messing a bit with the facts all characters are older than in original (approximately by ten years). Also, I took liberty of making up most of Wind Country's politics, customs, history, laws and general background (I followed the canon where I could, but you must admit there are enormous blank spots in Kishi-san's work concerning this subject – which I eagerly explored).
Genre: romance with a strong political theme.
Pairings: Gaara/OC, side Shikamaru/Temari. Mentioned Gaara/Matsuri.
Rating: eventually M for adult themes.
Summary: When daymio of Wind Country decides to marry off his only child, princess Sayuri, to the Fifth Kazekage the matter is settled without a chance of discussion. Gaara may not be the happiest groom-to-be, but he is intelligent enough to understand reasons behind his Lord's decision. Of course he may decline, but after nearly one and a half year of war he has no wish for another conflict – a civil one at that.
Disclaimer: Long story short – what belongs to Kishi-san, belongs to Kishi-san. What doesn't, belongs to me.
! IMPORTANT ! I'm currently reposting the story with a new, better developed and re-thought version. All my wonderful readers that nagged me to get back to the fanfic and actually made me take another go at it may be a little disappointed I'm not going forward with the plot, but I sincerely ask you guys – just a little more patience. And reading this improved version is a good way to remind yourself about characters and events you probably forgot, while the story was getting cold.
ALSO, a very special thanks go to Krakonfive, who climbed the walls of text I spited out from myself and gave me wonderful feedback and helpful pointers. I hope you'll bear with me to the grand finale of this fic.
Gaara stared down the length of an impressively long table and at the faces of three men sitting at the other end. They had no shinobi training whatsoever, did not carry weapons of any sort and probably had never seen a blood in any form but a black pudding, and yet Gaara's mind and body went on high alert in their presence. He would rather face a Bijuu on a rampage or a resurrected madman hell-bent on destroying the-world-as-all-knew-it any day, than be forced to sit in one room with them. Because though he wasn't a Kazekage for nothing and dealt in death and violence on a daily basis, those three men dealt in politics. And that was one murky pond of goo Gaara avoided purposefully all his life.
Unfortunately, it seemed he would have to change his attitude, it seemed.
But first he would observe. Those three might wield the rule in the Wind Country, which implied they served the same cause as the Kazekage, but they certainly weren't his allies. 'Know your definitely-not-friends' was a basic rule of shinobi profession. So for now he watched closely and assessed possible threats.
The seat at the head of the table was taken by sack of flesh that was Prime Minister Sanada. Shapeless mass of his body looking like folds upon folds of fat and pasty, hairless skin covering it, made him resemble a dollop of dough. It was hardly a deadly image. But Gaara knew this man retained the position of second most powerful person in Wind Country for the last two decades, so he would label Prime Minister Sanada as mellow as a scorpion readying himself for delivering his poisonous strike.
On Prime Minister's left a decidedly less eye-catching figure was seated: Chancellor Nakamura, man trusted with handling most private businesses of the daimyo and his direct representative during this meeting. The way lord Nakamura looked plain and negligible in his modes attire to the point of blending nearly seamlessly with his surroundings had Gaara more than little disconcerted. If he hadn't known better, Kazekage would say this man had a knowledge of art of camouflage that only a shinobi could posses.
The last person facing Gaara was Akihito, daimyo's adopted son and most probable successor as Wind Country's ruler wasn't fortunate enough to be blessed with a male heir of his own blood. Akihito definitely looked his part in ornate robes accentuating his impeccable silhouette and with a face that would appear perfectly on the coins. However, for three hours and twenty-seven minutes they were sitting in this room prince Akihito did not say a word and Gaara started to wonder what exactly was a purpose of bring him in this room.
Or what was a purpose of bringing Gaara himself, for that matter.
Oh, Kazekage, someone would think a man chosen to lead thousands of shinobi into the battle was intelligent enough to figure that part, chided raspy voice inside Gaara's head. As I recall it was stated pretty clearly in that letter you got few days back.
Shukaku. Trust this eaten by fleas bastard to make Gaara's mood just a little bit more foul – even if moments ago red-headed man hasn't thought it possible.
Their 'reunion' after forced parting, was nowhere nearly a happy one but Kazekage had to admit that extraction of a Bijuu left some hole in him, which wasn't filled up until Shukaku had been sealed inside him again. He supposed it was similar to missing a limb that you had from the moment of birth and then you lost it abruptly. Things had changed between them with this second sealing – most prominent difference being that now there was something, what could be named as 'things'. But in moments like this Gaara actually looked back with a nostalgia to the times, when Shukaku was only a carnage-driven beast that wanted to wreak havoc on the world, not snooping on his business and developing a ratty sense of humor.
That wasn't much of an insult if you were aiming for one, my Kazekage. Still dwelling upon why you were called to this meeting?
Gaara prided himself on a superhuman restraint, because he did absolutely nothing about these taunts, but sat still in an artfully sculptured and painfully uncomfortable chair. He knew perfectly well why he was called to the Palace of Four Winds – seat of Wind Country daimyo – not full two weeks after the gore of the Fourth Shinobi World War was ended. He simply did not see a reason, why he had to spend long hours in this precise chamber, at this precise meeting, when he wasn't even allowed to voice an opinion on discussed matters.
Apparently it was an old and reverend custom of Wind Country to forbid soon-to-be-groom from expressing his feelings considering upcoming marriage.
Ah… so you did get it.
Indeed. It was quite hard to miss.
Kazekage forced himself not to grit his teeth at the thought of how this whole situation had started. It was mere days after the final battle and he didn't even make it to Suna by then, still wrapped up in a mess that was army commander's responsibilities, when he received a letter with a seal of his feudal lord. He would actually shred the offending piece of parchment after reading it, if it wouldn't look disgustingly close to throwing a tantrum.
The letter said Wind daimyo sustained a grave wound during the attack attempted by Black Zetsu and that his death was a matter of weeks at most. It wasn't a great attachment to his feudal lord that made Gaara upset. Nor was it a somber conclusion, that losing a ruler just after a major conflict had torn the entire world would undoubtedly lead to all sorts of ugly repercussions. It was last act of daimyo's will as a ruler of Wind and Gaara's liege. For great services performed for the country – past ones as well as the most recent – feudal lord offered Kazekage his daughter's hand as a very palpable sign of his gratitude for all the spilled blood.
Cheap deal, then, my Kazekage. Some people bleed more due to the paper-cut, than you did throughout this war.
Except this was no sign of gratitude, and Gaara was adept enough in political games to recognize it. If the dying daimyo and three most prominent figures of his court were so persistent about this marriage, then there certainly were some ulterior motifs behind this arrangement.
And it was no offer, either.
Gaara supposed he understood the most rudimentary reason behind this whole scheme. The time of post-war perturbations, that already hit the Wind Country, was the worst possible moment for the change of rule and the aftermath surely wouldn't be pleasant. What Wind country needed right now was a semblance of stability and prince Akihito wouldn't probably take smoothly over the throne even in better days. His blood right to the throne aside, daimyo's heir was barely twenty two years of age – he was a callow youth in no way capable of shouldering the responsibilities of the title he would receive. Of course Gaara at this age was proclaimed the field general of entire Allied Forces and had held the office of Kazekage for seven years already, but he also was as far shot from a pampered blueblood as one could get.
Some ugly shit was bound to hit the fan the moment Akihito would be climbing the throne of Wind Country and obedience of the Kazekage was crucial factor in the stability of his rule. Binding said Kazekage to the new feudal lord by familial ties was a proven method of assuring this. So the marriage with a daughter of old and half-sister of new daimyo was essentially a way to put a leash around Kazekage's neck and then pull. Hard.
That's a bit overdramatic, don't you think, my Kazekage?
What Gaara didn't understand, though, was a conviction of daimyo and his three man, that this whole affair was needed in the first place. Kazekage's job was to serve Wind Country and daimyo was the very embodiment of it. Gaara would obey the new feudal lord and support his rule without added incentive, simply because it was his duty as was it during the regin of his predecessor. And that wasn't even taking in consideration the simple fact, that Gaara had more pressing businesses to take care of than undermining Akihito's position and power – namely dragging Suna out of economical collapse caused by this wretched war. Not to mention absolutely no political ambitions to have at least passing interested in this game of succession. All that led him to believe, there was more to this situation. He even suspected what, with fair certainty.
The war might have shaken the Five Great Countries, but it also gave their hidden villages the strength of an inter-village alliance. And five shinobi villages united was something all daimyos' were afraid of – because it held a potential of shifting the balance of power in five great countries and not in a favor of feudal lords. Daymio of Wind Country was apparently no different in this believe. Fortunately for him he had found a way to bind his Kage to the royal house of the Wind in a permanent fashion.
While Gaara was making all this assessments, the negotiations progressed and Kazekage's initial irritation at being excluded from having a say on the whole matter slowly shifted to being glad he could just sit and wait for the end without being bothered. The sheer amount of pettifogging details that apparently had to be discussed would certainly drive him mad if he was expected to voice his opinion about them. As it was, keeping up civil appearances was infinitely easier, when he could keep his mouth shut.
"I'm positive that lord Kazekage would approve of this arrangements", stated Prime Minister Sanada, looking Gaara right in the eyes across the length of the table. His fleshy lips formed most polite smile, but his pupils held nothing but killing intent.
Today, however, Gaara was quite sure Prime Minister Sanada wasn't plotting an insidious murder of the Kazekage he despised of – he was too preoccupied with the value of a dowry Her Royal Highness, Princess Sayuri, would bring into her future husband's hands. Gaara was almost convinced the amount of gold and silk was the most important thing for Prime Minister Sanada right now. Almost.
But Gaara was quite sure when the dying wish of the Wind daimyo was to marry his only daughter off to the Kazekage no amount of gold and silk could make him quiver in this decision.
Still, haggling about a dowry was another piece of old and reverend tradition as well as the fact that groom was represented in this proceeding by his oldest male relative. Although because Kankuro's diplomatic skills might be rivaled only by those of Shukaku in full kill-them-all mode, it was decided Elder Ebizo would be suitable replacement.
The matter of gold and silk was finally settled as well as all the other things on the to-do-list and a scroll with a marriage contract was shoved before Kazekage by Chancellor Nakamura alongside with a golden pen.
So he really was needed here, after all, if only to sign this, Gaara mussed unfurling the parchment. Of course he might decline but Prime Minister Sanada put some serious effort in explaining why exactly this was not an option to be considered and as words like 'civil war' was mentioned, Gaara bit his tongue not to say something that shouldn't be said to the second most powerful man in Wind Country. Even if he was using words he had no idea the meaning of. Gaara on the other hand saw the slaughter of war from the closest possible point of view and would be willing to do virtually anything to avoid repeating it – only now with members of one nation murdering each other.
Marrying a princess he'd never met before wasn't that much of a sacrifice to attain that. Besides it wasn't like he had a fiancée or even someone remotely resembling one, so there weren't any impediments from that side. And Village Council was pressing matters of marriage even before the war, so this situation might actually please someone.
Gaara reached picked up the pen.
You really are going to sign this? Shukaku asked , seemingly quite perplexed. You didn't even saw this girl.
Gaara afforded himself short, unpleasant laugh. It was the last of his concerns. But Shukaku's interjection caused him to think about something else. He wasn't sure weather a girl, who was about to be betrothed to him, will be able to survive harsh shinobi life when all she had known up to this point were luxuries of daimyo's palace. Gaara had been aware before, that he was in no way a suitable party for a daughter of a feudal lord – even with his Kage status – but now the thought crossed his mind that Wind Daimyo really did hate his daughter to give her off to the man that was sharing his body with a ferocious demon and, even years after he had changed his previous murderous ways, was surrounded by air of coldness and cruelty.
You of all people should not be bewildered by the lack of fatherly love.
And Gaara agreed with Shukaku as he signed off the marriage contract.
He almost pitied this little princess.