Karura hadn't been able to sleep all night, she had been much too anxious to be able to do it. She had been lying motionless in bed afraid of waking her husband, who was a very light sleeper. She had watched every minute go by and it had seemed like hours to her. She had imagined scenarios, each one more horrible than the other; her children returning wounded, her children dead, her children traumatized by the atrocious situation they had faced...
She had almost jumped out of bed when it had finally been time to get up. She had gone downstairs to make breakfast for her husband and herself, and when he joined her she pretended everything was all right. She hadn't wanted to cause him any more problems, she hadn't wanted to hear his reassuring speech again, to hear that everything would be all right, that Sasori was looking after them and that he was the best person in the whole land of the wind to ensure their safety and protection.
Karura had been a kunoichi, she had been on a mission with the jonin, she had no doubts about his professionalism or his talent but a mission was still potentially dangerous and even Sasori, no matter how gifted he was, was not immortal and if he was seriously injured or killed no one could protect her little ones anymore.
She had forced herself all day long to keep herself busy, body and mind to chase away her anxieties and not torture herself for nothing. She had even repeated to herself several times out loud that the four of them would come back safe and sound and that she was just a fool to imagine otherwise.
At the end of the afternoon she was no longer able to hold on to it and went to the city gates, her basket under her arm. Everyone would think she had errands to run, and that she had preferred to go there at a time when the temperatures were lower.
"Hello Karura-sama," a little girl greeted her.
"Oh hello to you too Maki, are you alone?" she asked, looking down at her.
"No, I was with Pakura-sensei, she's right behind me" she replied.
The wife of the head of the country looked behind the little girl and had no difficulty in finding her friend a few metres away from them.
"Hello Pakura-chan!" she exclaimed when she stood next to them.
"Hello Karura-chan, I hope Maki isn't bothering you too much."
"On the contrary, she keeps me company, I must confess I'm surprised to see you with her."
"Pakura-sensei made me practise shuriken throwing, she says it's very important to be precise and for that you have to train regularly" the child explained.
An amused smile appeared on Karura's lips, she remembered a little girl with bicoloured hair, barely younger than Maki, proudly declaring that the shurikens were useless, that they were even the weapon of the weak and the good for nothing. The other kunoichi must have guessed her friend's thoughts because she cleared her throat, which meant that there was no need to dwell on the subject.
"Were you missing something?" she asked, pointing to her basket.
"Small things, you know me, I'd rather have too much than not enough" she lied to her.
Pakura easily detected the lie in her friend's answer, but she made no comment. She also knew why Karura was walking in this part of the village and understood her concern.
"Karura-sama, have Temari-chan, Kankuro-kun and Gaara-kun returned from their mission?" the girl inquired.
"Not yet, I was taking advantage of having errands to do to wait for them."
"Can I stay with you, I would love to hear the story of their adventure, please Karura-sama?" she begged her.
"Yes with pleasure, you are a nice girl Maki and a good friend to my children," she agreed, stroking her hair.
"Maki" intervened her teacher, "we were on our way back to your father's, he'll be worried if he doesn't see you come back."
"I'll go and warn him and I'll come back," her pupil said before heading home.
"Give him my regards" the wife of the kazekage cried .
Once the little brunette was no longer visible, Pakura got even closer to her best friend and put her hand on her left shoulder (if they hadn't been in a public place, she probably would have taken her hand or hugged her, but here it might have seemed inappropriate).
"Don't torment yourself unnecessarily, Sasori is the best teacher they could have, after me of course," she added with a smile. "Besides, I don't think I'm wrong in saying that our scorpion has become attached to your little ones, even if he'd rather swallow all his potions than admit it."
Rasa's wife could not repress a smile amused and touched by her friend's comment, few people affectionately used the term scorpion when referring to the Akasuna but in Pakura's mouth it was no insult. The little brunette was pleased to know that the bond between her children and their teacher was not a figment of her imagination, an illusion she had created to make her less afraid for Temari, Kankuro and Gaara. If the user of the shakuton had also noticed it then it was real.
"Thank you very much, Paku-chan."
"Pakura-sensei, Karura-sama, I'm back!" Maki cried as she returned.
"What did your father say when you told him you were leaving?" her teacher asked .
"He asked me to thank you for looking after me and he also told me not to come home too late" she said.
"You hear that Karura, I'm a fearsome kunoichi and here I am playing nursemaid," the other woman feigned to grumble.
"It's funny because I thought it was Maki who was watching you" she revealed.
The two adults started laughing in chorus, soon imitated by the girl. She stood silently next to them, listening to everything they were saying to each other with the greatest possible attention. She was with the two most famous female ninjas in all the land of the wind, and she hoped that one day she and Temari would become as famous and feared as they were.
"Temi-chan!" she exclaimed when she saw her best friend.
The latter turned her head in her direction and gave her a small wave of her hand, but did not dare to come to meet her. Karura took a brief look at her sons and daughter and was reassured when she discovered that they were safe. Sasori stopped next to them, and his students realized that they could chat for a few moments. Maki looked up at her teacher, scrutinizing in the eyes of her caretaker the right to chat with her friends (the man was intimidating her and she didn't have the courage to move).
"Don't be afraid Maki, he won't hurt you" she whispered in her ear as she leaned towards her.
The girl regained her self-confidence and joined the small group formed by her friends.
"So this mission how was it, tell me about it" she urged them excitedly.
"It was great but it was also very difficult, we crossed the desert without passing anyone, it was hot and there were almost no shadows..." Kankuro began.
"Koseki's village is smaller than Suna's and even the chief's house is not as imposing as ours" Temari cut him off, ignoring the black look he was giving her.
"They make weapons using fire and strange tools of different sizes and shapes" Gaara said.
"Weapons, what kind?"their curious friend asked.
"Kunais, shurikens, and weapons I'd never seen before" he clarified.
"Neither do I"his eldest sister confessed.
"...and neither do I" his older brother regretted with a sigh.
"It doesn't matter, the most important thing is that you succeeded in your mission" Maki said.
"You're right Maki, we're not shinobis yet, we can't know everything, it's normal" the little blonde said.
"Let's go!" Sasori said as he began to walk again.
He took a few steps, but when he turned around to see if his students were following, he had the unpleasant surprise of discovering that they had not moved an inch and were staring at him strangely.
"I said let's go" the jonin repeated in a tone that meant he would not renew his commandment.
"But sensei the mission is over," the little redhead said timidly.
"Really, you don't learn anything at school" he lamented.
Gaara lowered his head in shame, Kankuro arched an eyebrow reflecting on why their teacher had said this, and Temari frowned and gave her teacher a dark look. He held her gaze, she had ego, and that was a good thing if she wanted to succeed in a male-dominated world, but she also had to spot the moments when she had to put her pride aside and accept criticism without flinching.
"Let's concentrate, Sasori-sensei is not happy with us, what could we have forgotten" the little brown boy asked.
"A ninja gets a mission" his brother began.
"He goes there," his sister continued.
"He accomplished it," the older of the boys continued.
"He returns to Suna," the other boy replied.
"He submits a report to his superior..." their sister added.
The three of them widened their eyes when they remembered this small detail, a shinobi had to give reports to the chief of the country and they had not given it yet.
"Is your mission really over?" the scorpion asked them.
"No, we still have to submit our report to the fourth Kazekage" Kankuro replied with a grimace.
He hated having to use this title when he was talking about his father, he was Kankuro Sabaku No, the son of Rasa Sabaku No, he had nothing to be embarrassed or blushed about, plus it wasn't as if the village liked to reminded him and his siblings of it. They said goodbye to their friend, to Pakura and to their mother and trotted to catch up with their teacher.
"Sasori-sensei does a ninja always have to report as soon as he comes back? Gaara wanted to know, curious.
"That's right, why can't he delay until the next day, it's just paperwork, it can wait" Temari commented.
"You're wrong Temari, it's not just paperwork, it allows the head of the country to make sure his ninjas are well, and to have information that are sometimes very important, which allows him to make decisions as quickly as possible. Sometimes it is simply a matter of time that determines the success or failure of a mission" he says.
"That's why Dad always has his nose in files" the demon carrier nodded pensively.
They soon arrived at the office door of the ruler of the windy land, the jonin knocked on it to signal their presence.
"Come in!" Rasa invited them from the other side.
That was it, it was time for their first official debriefing ever.