Hope Potter was somewhat happy. For the first time in her life, the Dursley clan was forced to bring her with them on an all expenses paid trip outside Britian. They were going to a place called Suna, or as the helpful translator told her, the Village Hidden in the Sand.
Which, upon further questioning, sounded a lot like Egypt. Ron had sent a clipping mentioning the trip they were taking to visit the oldest Weasly son Bill.
Perhaps she would run into them...and possibly escape her relatives before they returned to Britian. Hedwig was staying with her friend Luna, since it was far too hot for the poor owl to survive, and Luna was the only person she trusted with her beloved familiar.
She had lost all trust in Hermione and Ron after learning by accident that Dumbledore was paying them to stay friends with her, even after all the adventures they had gone through. Though in retrospect, she had to wonder if all the near death adventures could have been avoided entirely.
She was quite pleased when she didn't have to pick up the bags, as the helpful 'shinobi' did it for her. Her backpack (she had bought one in Diagon after slipping away from Mrs. Weasly that had a permanent expansion spell on it and a notice-me-not that she cast before leaving the school last year) was still firmly on her shoulders, and she had enough common sense to fill it with a myriad of helpful traveling items she had found in Diagon.
How Mrs. Weasly missed hearing the floo go off so late at night, she would never know. It was a good thing that shop catered to vampires.
She stepped out into the arid air, noting the distinct lack of moisture. Unlike the Dursleys, she didn't mind the heat or the fact that it was so dry. All those summers weeding the garden with little to no water had made her adapt to such conditions.
Dudley and Vernon on the other hand, were huffing and puffing with cracked lips in fifteen minutes. Only Petunia seemed to be dealing with the climate normally, though her lips were starting to chap as well.
Hope had the foresight to apply some very strong lip balm to keep that from happening to her.
Once they knew where they were staying, Hope escaped her 'family' to go exploring. If she went too close to somewhere she shouldn't, the helpful shinobi would politely inform her. Vernon could care less if she got lost and died in the desert.
Hope was, well, hopelessly lost. She had wandered to the market district and from there lost her way. It was just lucky that she took such an interest in Japanese culture, because it helped her to communicate her problem with the villagers. She didn't need a translator.
She went up to the nearest person and asked for directions to the market district.
The boy who turned looked startled, but gave her the directions. He seemed very surprised that she had touched his shoulder. She wondered why, but thanked him and followed his directions exactly. She found herself in the bookstore and went in. Some of the books looked like they had magic in them, but further inquiry proved that you needed a special license. She found one with an odd bookmark that fell out, and put it in her pocket. The book had an orange cover on it.
She left with a few odd books (and learned that some of them didn't require the special license if you bribed the shopkeeper with a sickle or two) and immediately headed towards the blacksmith.
"How can I... Why's a civilian in here?"
She reached into her backpack and pulled out a long tube. Once she unscrewed the cap, she brought her sword to the counter.
"I would like to have this checked for any damage and possibly purchase a kit to keep it in good shape. If you have any books on sword techniques I would buy them as well."
The guy gave her an odd look, but did as she asked. He came back out thirty minutes later with her looking at the tessen with interest.
"15,000 ryo for the yellow one, and 18,500 for the blue," he said without hesitating.
"In your opinion which one is better? And I want your professional opinion, not whichever one looks pretty," she asked.
"The yellow one is good enough to fight with, but it's more of a decoration than anything for the nobles. The blue one is good for channeling chakra, but it breaks easily and it would be difficult to replace. If you wanted something sturdy enough to really fight with, I would recommend this..." he said, pulling out a standard genin battle fan for those just starting out. It had weights to it so the genin could get stronger, but that was about it.
"25,000 ryo. I can give you the kenjutsu scroll for 7,500 and the repair kit for 2,500. 3,600 if you want the instruction manual," he said back.
She reached into her bag and pulled out a galleon.
"This is almost pure gold, and it weighs about ten grams. The exchange rate back home is 5 pounds to a gold coin."
The man looked shocked, but did a quick calculation in his head.
"I would need about fifty of these then," he said.
She pulled them out without hesitation. He watched with interest as she put the weapons back into the backpack, but figured she had a few fuin jutsu on the bag to hold them without breaking. Before she left, he gave her some advice on where to exchange the gold so she would have some local currency.
She left and in an hour she had enough currency to afford an A-rank mission in Suna.
Which meant she was going to have a major shopping spree. By the time she had made it back to the hotel (where she was sharing a room with Dudley to her disgust) the Dursleys were already feeling the effects of heat exhaustion, while she was barely winded from her power shopping. Instead of even considering sleeping in the same room as her whale of a cousin, she politely asked the shinobi guarding their rooms if there was any problem with her sleeping outside.
After spending an entire day 'escorting' the walrus, horse and pig, the man told her that she was free to sleep on the roof if she wanted, but to bring a blanket. Her sympathetic wince for him clearing made her the more likeable family member.
"What's your report?" asked the Kazekage. He didn't want the outsiders here, but they needed the business and Grunnings sold the best drills to dig wells.
"The man's family was ill suited to village life...with one noted exception," reported Baki.
"From what I can tell, the lone female child is unaffected by out climate, and she was reported to have shopped in several stores. I had Temari ask what she bought...apparently she's better funded than the family is because the store owners had nothing but good things to say about her. She was even able to bribe the scroll store owner to selling her a few minor jutsu that Academy students learn and bought a standard battle tessen from the blacksmith. According to him, the girl came in with what appears to be a Muramasa blade in very good condition. There was almost no bloodlust from it."
The Kazekage looked interested in that news. From what he understood, the girl was their niece, and she was the daughter of the wife's sister.
"There is more. She got lost within an hour of leaving the hotel and had a run in with Gaara..."
Now he looked concerned. The Kage motioned for him to continue.
"I'm not sure how or why, but she was able to get past his sand shield and close enough to tap his shoulder to ask for directions back to the market," said Baki, clearly disturbed by that. Gaara was notorious in the village for not letting anyone touch him, not even his sister. For an outsider to get that close and not have the shield react was...strange.
An hour later an even stranger report came in. Apparently the girl decided to sleep outside with nothing other than a blanket...and she had inadvertently chosen Gaara's roof of the night. He switched frequently, in order to avoid assassins and traps. Since he was infamous for being an insomniac, he often killed time reading.
The girl had not only decided to sit next to him, but she was actually chatting with the boy, and he was talking back to her.
"So let me get this straight. Your sister and older brother fight over make up?"
"He claims it's war paint but I've seen the labels. He buys his so called paint from a popular make up store," said Gaara flatly.
"Kinky brother and cranky sister aside, I still prefer them to my so called family."
Gaara's eyebrow raised, and she explained.
"I have a walrus, a horse and a large pig for a family, and they hate me as much as I loathe them. If we could arrange it, we would have nothing to do with each other."
"How bad is it?"
"I'm essentially their personal chef, gardener and maid. They never do anything if they can order me to do it for them," she explained.
"My father sends assassins after me regularly," Gaara replied blandly.
"My aunt would kill me if she thought she could get away with it," Hope replied back.
"...We have seriously messed up families don't we?" said Hope sweatdropping.
Gaara said nothing, but she got the feeling he agreed completely.
"My sister and brother are afraid I will murder them in their sleep..."
"I wish I had siblings. Damn homicidal maniac with hypocritical ideals..."
Soon they drifted off to safer topics, like books. To her delight, Gaara had read most of the same books she had, even if the translation was a bit odd. When she mentioned the orange book, he actually growled.
"That was probably the Icha Icha series that is so popular. My brother and sister have almost complete collections of it, but I have yet to see the appeal."
"I found this odd bookmark in it," she said, bringing it out.
Gaara looked at it under the moonlight, and handed it back to her. He found her soothing to talk to, most likely because she had absolutely no fear of him like the rest of the villagers. He got the distinct feeling that even if he revealed his 'mother' she would still be calm around him. He rather liked the feeling.
"That appears to be chakra paper. You channel your chakra into it to learn your affinity. I had an Earth variant with some wind."
"What's chakra? I heard about it repeatedly today, but I never asked..."
Gaara gave her the rough explanation, which made her eyes light up.
"Sounds like my magic," she mused.
Gaara's eyebrows raised.
"I'm a witch. Can't do anything though or the people who govern us will get onto me again, even if it wasn't my fault the last time..." she muttered.
"Please tell me you aren't like those annoying magical girl animes Temari hates so much..."
It was Hope's turn to raise an eyebrow.
"You mean like Sailor Moon? If anything I'm the opposite of that whiny brat. I don't monologue, I hate those skimpy outfits, and I'm more likely to punch the bad guy than try to use my powers on him. I even own a sword and I recently started to learn how to use it," she said amused.
She reached into her bag, and handed him the tube. Gaara inspected the blade, impressed. It was a well made sword, and he could see the quality even with his inexperience. He handed it back.
"I found that in my school, and I started to learn how to use it through books...my training has been pretty shoddy since there weren't many books on the subject, and the ones I found in the library were for a different type."
"That looks like a tachi. You could probably find a few kenjutsu scrolls you could use in the book shops."
"I picked up a few care manuals at the blacksmiths. He told me the swordsmith who made this was a very famous one notorious for forging bloodthirsty blades. I also got this rather large tessen, though I have no idea how I'm supposed to train with it..."
"Temari could probably help you with that, or at least point you in the right direction. She uses a large battle fan too. Kankuro, on the other hand...he likes to play with dolls a little too much. I've caught him going through my sister's closet to swipe clothes for his puppets..."
Hope giggled, before a yawn escaped. Looking at the position of the moon, she could tell it was either really late or really early. At least three in the morning.
"How come you're not tired Gaara?"
"I'm an insomniac. If I try to sleep a demon takes over my body and causes destruction," he replied deadpan.
"I sometimes get nightmares of my adventures," she admitted. She carried at least a week's worth of dreamless sleep, but she wasn't going to mention that.
"I won't be offended if you fall asleep, Nozomi-chan," he said.
She used her bag as a pillow, and lay down to gaze at the moon. Without realizing it, she was sound asleep with Gaara silently watching guard. His team had been selected to guard the Dursley family while they were here...and he could honestly say that he didn't mind watching Nozomi. She was pleasant, kind and openly honest.
Gaara was positively homicidal upon being stuck guarding Dudley for an entire hour. The boy was brutish, rude, and extremely unpleasant in all sorts of ways. He had heard from Nozomi (he had been unable to pronounce her English name, so he stuck to the Japanese equivalent) that the country she was from was surrounded on all sides by water, though she lived a bit inland from the sea. So why did Dudley smell like hadn't bathed in nearly two weeks? Kankuro was barely able to keep Gaara from killing the boy.
He envied Temari, who was assigned to guard Nozomi. The two had struck up a conversation about battle fans and flying of all things.
When the family went to eat, it was Nozomi who warned Temari about their eating habits. After hearing Vernon's cold suggestion to not bother feeding her, the two girls headed off to a small stand that was much cheaper, but had better quality food. Unlike the Dursleys, Nozomi had no issues using chopsticks or lifting the ramen bowl to sip the broth.
(The Dursleys would spend an entire miserable hour trying to eat the BBQ with their chopsticks, only to give up and use their hands. This resulted in several painful burns, to the amusement of the Sand shinobi.)
Temari and Nozomi went to a little used training ground where Temari showed the girl basic moves that she could use with her new battle fan. To her surprise, Nozomi wielded it a little awkwardly, but that was more out of inexperience than anything else. She soon had the thing creating small tornadoes, to her amusement.
As thanks for the lessons, the two browsed the blacksmith's shop and Nozomi had an idea on how to thank Temari without her knowing it was her. A short conversation while Temari looked at the special stuff in the back proved fruitful...and the next time Temari came in for some upgrades she would find them free of charge. Nozomi felt it was thirty galleons well spent. The blacksmith was really starting to like the foreign girl.
(Especially after she was forced to take Dudley to the shop, and advised him to give the boy something dull and all flash. It was a decorational piece that could be fixed easily when Dudley broke it, which he did a week after returning. She now had it in her bag.)
Out of all the things they talked about, Temari was shocked the most by how Gaara acted around her. Nozomi was the only person he didn't direct a particularly homicidal gaze at, unlike the other three. If anything, he seemed far more relaxed than she had ever seen him... and was really surprised when she learned Nozomi actually talked to him without once being threatened.