10/12/08

Disclaimer: the characters in this fic such as Baki, Fourth Kazekage, Gaara, etc. don't belong to me, although if they did, all the Sand ninja would be getting much more screentime.

Dedication: God, my parents, my fans, Masashi Kishimoto for creating the Naruto series and giving us these colorful characters, and especially to my beloved friends, especially Nymyrra, Zero-Nightmare, Kzdatgurl, Nakoudo Byakugan, PhoenixSong4232, GaaraXmatsuri, T. A. Raskelt, narufangirl16, Francisco Devilman Warrior, and all of you other wonderful readers!

Special dedication to: Nymyrra, for her awesome rants on our mutual beloved and disliked characters, and for requesting this set on Baki.

Naruto: 20 Sword Swings

(20 Truths About Baki)

By Tiger5913

Theme #1 – First Impression

As Baki is leaving the Kazekage's office one day, he passes Yashamaru and young Gaara in the lobby.

He knows little about Yashamaru, only that he is a medical shinobi of the Chunin level, and the brother-in-law of the Kazekage. But everyone in the village knows about the red-haired child, the demon vessel for the sand spirit, Shukaku.

Baki dutifully nods a greeting to Yashamaru, but avoids eye contact with Gaara, even when the boy waves hello in an attempt to be friendly. He simply leaves.

He doesn't care to associate with such a dangerous and unpredictable entity of destruction.

Theme #2 – Beginning

Baki doesn't get startled very often, but he blanches on the day that the Fourth Kazekage assigns him a certain squad of three siblings.

In particular, he is wary of becoming the sensei of the uncontrollable demon vessel. Something must have happened to his previous caretaker, the medical shinobi named Yashamaru. But Baki wisely stays silent instead of asking any questions to quell his curiosity.

"He might not be a failure just yet," the Fourth Kazekage says, despite the grimness in his voice. "Make him useful."

"Yes, my lord," the Sand Jonin replies as he dips his head in respect.

Theme #3 – Teaching

Teaching the three siblings provides Baki with a wide array of challenges.

The fan user and the puppeteer are compliant most of the time, but he learns very quickly that when Gaara doesn't want to do something, there is no way to force him. When Baki tries to instruct the boy about chakra control, Gaara just responds by staring back blankly. Baki tells him to attempt the technique, and the boy walks away instead of obeying the command. He persists, but stops at the redhead's cold glare.

It is very difficult, trying to teach someone that doesn't want to learn.

Theme #4 – Fear

A teacher shouldn't be afraid of his or her own student, but Baki admits to feeling concerned for his safety.

Gaara has no emotional attachment to his teammates, despite them being his siblings. He doesn't spare a single thought for their well-being. In battle, he fights ruthlessly and selfishly, deeming the others a mere hindrance to his strength.

Baki tries to teach them about teamwork, and while Temari and Kankuro pay attention, he can tell his words are unheard by the redhead.

But of course, a cruel and malicious monster cannot understand the compassion and unity of a human heart.

Theme #5 – Failure

The Fourth Kazekage demands frequent status reports, and Baki obediently delivers.

It's easy to give praise to Temari and Kankuro – the two are very skilled Genin, and can advance to the next rank in a short amount of time.

But Baki knows that the Kazekage is really interested in hearing news about his youngest son. The village's ultimate weapon that he helped to create, and yet couldn't control. He wants Baki to remedy the situation, or tell him that Gaara could not be fixed.

And every week, Baki would state that he needs more time to make such an assessment.

Theme #6 – Temari

Temari is strategic and levelheaded most of the time, but like Kankuro, emotions can dictate her actions.

Out of the three, she has the highest chance of being the first to advance, and Baki knows she is eager to succeed. But despite her abilities, the Kazekage doesn't seem too interested in hearing about her progression. Baki sees her swallow back the vile of disappointment when she doesn't hear any comments directed toward her, and then she returns to training with almost vengeful vigor.

But as her sensei, he encourages Temari as often as he can, for she shows great promise.

Theme #7 – Alliance

The Leaf Village is too arrogant for their own good.

The Chunin exam proctor has some nerve, spying on their supposed ally during a private conversation, never mind the topic of discussion.

Baki defeats the intruder with little difficulty, and plans of the secret invasion are protected.

He catches a pleased smirk on Kabuto's face, and returns the gesture dutifully. Even if Baki doesn't trust the Sound Village entirely, he will do what he must to help Suna achieve the status of great power.

Who knew what the future might hold? Alliances could be so fragile… easily germinating new enemies.

Theme #8 – Defeat

After the failed invasion, Baki notices that his students have changed.

Their perspectives were altered by either the events that occurred in Konoha, or some people from there. Temari's docile behavior isn't too surprising – she hardly favors war. But even Kankuro seems unusually quiet and pensive. Astonishingly, Gaara hasn't shown any hostility toward them since they all left the Leaf Village.

The siblings don't offer any information, and Baki doesn't press them. He himself is still recovering from the discovery of their murdered Kazekage. So the Sand had been foolish to trust the Sound.

That mistake couldn't be made again.

Theme #9 – Chunin

The next time he accompanies the three siblings to the Leaf Village, they take the Chunin exam in earnest.

Baki is aware of the suspicious stares from some of the villagers. They don't trust the Sand shinobi after the previous attempted invasion. He instructs his students not to pay any attention to possible provocation, but that warning isn't necessary. Gaara, Kankuro, and Temari are only concerned with one task: passing the exam so they could become Chunin.

Their objective is met, and Baki congratulates them on their success. He doesn't say it aloud, but pride lingers faintly within his eyes.

Theme #10 – Student

When Suna opens a new Ninja Academy similar to the one in Konoha, Baki is amused by the choice of instructors. Instead of choosing Chunin or Jonin to teach the Academy students, the administration has appointed three Genin. They are relatively advanced for their ranks, but Baki isn't sure if they are informed enough to teach. Would any of them willingly train under Gaara? Doubtful.

So Baki is startled to hear the report of one student being kidnapped shortly after the Academy. Apparently, the girl is Gaara's student, stolen away by the enemy to lure him out of the village.

Theme #11 – Vulnerable

For a couple of years, Suna has no leader.

The council assembled by the previous Kazekage makes all the executive decisions. They seem content with their position of power, of course, but the people want a new Kazekage. The villagers feel more secure and assured with someone powerful in-charge. Everyone knows who is the strongest shinobi in all of Suna, but fear often overrides reason, even in sensible minds.

Baki briefly entertains the possibility of becoming the next Kazekage, but that is just a fleeting thought. Surely there are other shinobi better suited for the position… or perhaps just one.

Theme #12 – Decision

Baki is shocked to hear the council's decision, as are most of the other villagers.

They have just decided to appoint Gaara as the next Kazekage.

It's not the age or lack of experience that concerns the people. Without a doubt, they are understandably wary of the terrifying power inside him. Even though he has shown signs of change, he can still lose power someday and bring harm to others.

Baki isn't sure how to react. His fear of Gaara has ebbed in the last couple of years. At any rate, he is concerned about the defenseless villagers, not himself.

Theme #13 – Distrust

Following the appointment of the new Kazekage, the council asks Baki to serve as Gaara's advisor.

He has no objections to working alongside his former student, despite the danger he represents. But a special stipulation makes him hesitate to accept.

"Keep a close eye on him," one of the council members commands firmly, "If he shows any alarming behavior, report it to us immediately."

So they want him to spy on their Kazekage. Baki grimaces mildly in disapproval, but he nods stiffly as reply. It is, after all, up to him to decide what kind of behavior constitutes as alarming.

Theme #14 – Succession

Several times each year, Baki goes to the grave of the previous Kazekage to pay his respects.

On one particular visit, nostalgia surfaces strongly within him. He recalls the amount of time he spent serving the Fourth Kazekage, always obeying orders, even when his actions might conflict with his personal feelings. The Fourth Kazekage was far from perfect, but Baki did not consider him to be horrendously fiendish either. He was… idealistic, perhaps overly zealous at times, but ultimately flawed, as all humans were.

Baki wonders how he would have reacted to the knowledge that his youngest son succeeded him.

Theme #15 – Defense

With Yura and his defense forces nowhere in sight, Baki finds himself issuing the orders of counterattack. But first, he instructs the medical shinobi to construct barriers around the most important buildings to protect the citizens. The Sand Jonin regrets not being able to assist his Kazekage more effectively, but only Gaara has aerial capabilities. Shooting arrows of fire and paper bombs is the best support the ground troops can provide.

Later, after the enemy has fled with the captive Kazekage, Baki feels shame in failing his leader. He wonders if he subconsciously allowed the Akatsuki ninja to get away…

Theme #16 – Kankuro

While Kankuro is fighting for his life in the infirmary room, awaiting a miracle cure, Baki grimly wonders if the younger Jonin will die.

Each sibling has their respective strength and weakness. The puppeteer's most detrimental fault is his impatience, his spontaneity. Since Kankuro was a Genin, Baki tried to help him change this potentially-dangerous habit, but it is apparent he still has a lot of room for improvement.

And if he is truly unfortunate, then he will pay for this mistake with his own life.

Baki sighs and lowers his head to offer a silent prayer for Kankuro's recovery.

Theme #17 – Change

The day that Gaara returns to Suna after the tense Akatsuki incident, the village throws a celebration at nightfall.

Baki glances at the other villagers with a bit of amazement. The air is filled with excitement, and practically everyone seems ecstatic. An outsider wouldn't be able to tell that their attitudes were completely different before, that they used to fear and resent Gaara. But clearly, their opinions are changing. As is Baki's.

He certainly doesn't want to submit to ignorance when evidence of the truth is in front of him. He will make an earnest effort to start trusting Gaara.

Theme #18 – Forward

The first few weeks following the Fifth Kazekage resuming his duties, the Sand Village struggles to prove their status of strength. Just because Gaara has lost the demon spirit doesn't mean his powers were extracted along with it.

Baki and many other Sand shinobi take on as many missions as possible to show that the village has not weakened even a sliver. These efforts are exhausting, but it is necessary to discourage invasions from neighboring villages.

Over time, demand slowly returns to normal, and Baki feels certain that the Sand Village will only keep improving its reputation, never receding again.

Theme #19 – Strength

Long ago, Baki felt wary when he was given the task of teaching the Fourth Kazekage's children.

But now, he is very proud that he aided them in the process of their growth. At present, Temari and Kankuro are Jonin, and their youngest brother is the Kazekage of Suna.

Not that Baki can claim complete credit for their rise in ranks – each of them had the capability to become stronger. He must treat Temari and Kankuro as equals, and Gaara as his superior, regardless of their ages and experience.

Together, they all cooperate to protect and improve the Sand Village.

Theme #20 – Redemption

Two years have passed since the Sand Village's young Kazekage was brought back to life. Most of the Akatsuki shinobi have been eliminated since then, and peace is settling over the Five Great Nations.

As Baki stands by Gaara and observes the way he leads, the Sand Jonin thinks back to the night when the Fourth Kazekage asked him to become the sensei of the three siblings. He remembers the skepticism expressed by his leader, but his fears were unfounded, as Baki has realized over the recent years.

Rest assured, my lord, he muses silently, Gaara is not a failure.

The End

Author's Note: Ack! Many apologies for the long wait yet again, my dear readers, but I've been drowning in schoolwork since this semester started. I just try to write whenever I have free time, which isn't often enough, unfortunately. But I do have some good news, hehe. I'm in the process of starting a new multi-chapter GaaMatsu story that follows canon events in Naruto, but with an AU twist. I have ideas for the first few chapters, and I'm very excited to get into this story as soon as I can. Keep an eye out for the first chapter!

With regards to this set of 20 truths, I certainly hope Nymyrra doesn't find these drabbles disappointing. Sorry this took so long, my dear! There's just no telling when inspiration will hit, but I'm glad I finally got these done. I can't make any promises right now on sets for Kankuro and Temari, but I'll definitely do my best. Oh, and from now on, I'm going to try and be consistent with the tense changes for all of the 20 truth sets.

My readers, please leave a review as usual, and tell me your thoughts on these 20 truths about Baki!

With love for my fans,

Tiger5913