Shadow on the Sand
"How it must feel…so much hatred and hostility…to be treated with an animosity so intense as to be annihilating…to have around you many who would deny you even the right to exist…"
~ 3rd Hokage
"Shikamaru. . . Please. . ." The sixth Hokage gasped, using the last bit of his power to keep the nine tailed demon fox at bay. He wouldn't let go, no matter what. The bloodied jounin beside him shook his head. "I can't do that Naruto! I can't do that to them!"
"I. . ." Naruto gasped in pain,"I wouldn't ask you. . . Something so hard. . . if it wasn't for the village."
Shikamaru's mind searched for any answer, any alternative, any way to save the people dearest to him. There was no other way. Biting his thumb, and struggling to ignore the howls of the demon, he began to form the seals. I'm sorry Temari. . . forgive me for this. . . . Using the last bit of his chakra Shikamaru Nara formed the seal, establishing the next jinchuuriki of the hidden leaf. In the destruction of the night, a newborn child began to cry.
Thirteen years later.
"Are you ready Tami- Sama?" Haru asked. Tami nodded slowly, setting her unfinished lunch on the bench beside her. Standing, she grasped her small fan in one hand and her kunai in the other, following her sensei to the center of the training room. The walls where high, built of solid stone and circular shaped, as everything was in the desert so as to shed the wind and sand. She tried to smile reassuringly at her sensei as he clipped up his anbu face mask and took a defensive stance in the center of the room.
Angling her feet slightly, Tami focused her chakra. She was getting better, more controlled. She actually felt like this was going to be fun. Not the taunting sort of fun that hurting people often brought her, but the thrill of mastering the art of the shinobi. She took a deep breath, and smiled. "I'm ready Sensei."
He nodded, pulling his throwing stars from his belt.
Tami swung her fan, spinning and dodging the array of kunai and other sharpened objects. She ducked. Hot red chakra sparked at her fingertips. Oh no! Tami thought in panic, trying to push the power back down. Control, her uncle had said, It takes a strong mind to fight with Demons. With a tearing burst that she could feel through her entire body, the chakra burst forth, adding to her own weak wind style jutsu. She only had enough time to see the frightened look in her tutor's eyes before he was violently thrown backwards.
Haru raised his arms to protect his face, sandals sliding across the floor as he fought for a grip. There was a quick stop as his head snapped against the wall with a sickening sound. He fell limply with a plop, dazed for a moment.
Tami quickly lowered her fan, eyes wide. Na! Don't do this now! "Sensei!" Haru groaned and rolled over, clutching his head. He slowly stood, face pale. "Alright Tami. . . lets try again, keep control."
"No," Tami said, shutting the small hand fan. The purple cloth folded easily in her fingers as she made a protective fist around it.
"Tami, we're trying again. Use less chakra this time and focus on more blows rather then just one large one."
"Come on, you can do this. We've been preparing all day. Shorter bursts, more control."
I could kill you. Tami thought. The idea didn't sound half bad, He was obviously weak if he couldn't even take a proper blow. Tami shook her head, chasing the thoughts away. Stop it! She thought. He's extra strong, and he's the only one who has actually cares if I graduate or not! He's the only one who's stayed! She took a deep breath, flipping open her fan with a short flick of her wrist. ". . .I. . I'll try. . ."
She was still trying to get used to the movement of the fan, trying to figure out how to connect her chakra with that of the air around her, controlling it to her will. While many students her age already had full sized fans, her teacher had given her a simple hand tool, really no more then six inches tall, if that. She had to aim steady and sure to make it work properly. Everyone seemed to think that since her mother had been such an expert with wind chakra that she ought to be as well. Well I'm good at one thing. Tami thought, watching her teacher slowly and painfully retake his position. I'm good at hurting people. "You asked for it." she whispered, making a sign with her hand. With a wave of her hand she felt the power break forth. She cringed as she watched her sensei get thrown backwards again. Still, she did feel more focused then before. Lessen up a little. Keep going. . . Finish what you started! Tami spun, pulling the air around her so that she had even more force. The power hit her tutor as he tried to dodge. The air spun him around as he flew upwards. Haruo turned slightly, making a controlled hit to the wall and jumping downwards again. Tami was ready for this. Forcing her chakra into her major chakra points, she sent a burst of wind towards him, shaking everything around her. Her sensei went flying again, hitting the wall behind him and collapsing to the ground in a heap. He didn't get back up this time.
NA! Tami thought in panic. She tossed the fan away as if it were some sort of monster. Haru rose slowly and painfully, only able to rise to his knees. He clutched his chest and coughed blood.
"Sensei?" Tami took a step forward to help him.
"Stop," he gasped, warning her away.
Tami froze. "Sens. . ./" She could hear footsteps outside the training room door. The other students where coming in from field practice. Her sensei was going to die, right here, right now, in front of everybody; and it was all her fault. Not even the Kazekage could hide this from everyone.
Haru coughed again.
"I'm sorry sensei!"
He weakly raised a hand to silence her again, then stood slowly. Not meeting her eyes, he stumbled out of the room and away from her.
"Sensei!" her fists trembled as the other students came into the room. The instructors struggled to shut the doors as quickly as they could, shutting out the growing storm outside. Then the silent whispers started, the fearful glances. Tami lowered her head, trying to turn invisible, but it never worked.
"Is that blood on the floor?" Someone whispered.
"Where's her guard?"
"We shouldn't be here."
"Shut up. Do you want to tick her off?"
Suddenly, the outside door of the arena flew open. A wave of sand blew upward from the storm. It threatened to come inside, but was pulled back by the shadowed figure in the doorway before it could cross the threshold. The Kazekage entered and everyone fell silent. The last time he had visited this school was when Tami had sent her entire class to the hospital during sparring trials. Tami looked away quickly, not meeting the man's face.
"I need this room." The kazekage said. He looked at the students through dark rimmed eyes, though the pupils were an aqua green. "The rest of your classes will be held in the second training building."
There was no argument, everyone in the room left as quickly as they had come, even with a storm outside. Tami stared at the floor,"I'm sorry. . . I told him to stop, It's his own fault. I said I was done. I'm done."
The Kazekage walked up to her, arms folded in front of himself. Even though he was not considered very tall, he still made an imposing figure.
"I'm sorry!" she blurted quickly. "Is he going to be alright?"
"He'll be fine. I want you to spar with me for the rest of your lesson," Gaara said.
Tami looked away. She normally loved to spar with her uncle, but lately there had been a growing fear that someday. . . She might hurt him too. "I. . . I can't" she stuttered. The Kezekage looked at her sternly, his eyes unreadable as he stared into her soul; he was the only one who fully understood what was hidden there.
"I'm tired of people being afraid of me!" Tami wiped her eyes quickly. "Sensei Haru too, I thought he cared about me, he tried so hard too! But he's scared. Just like everyone else. He ran away."
"He did not run," The Kazekage said.
"Haru-san was not running from you. He heard the others coming in from practice and did not want them to see the injuries you caused. He didn't want them frightened."
"How can you be so trusting?" Tami shouted "You don't understand!"
"Do not lie to me," Gaara said, "especially when you know the truth. Fight me."
When she did not answer, his expression darkened, "Try to destroy me Tami I know you want too."
Tami glared at him, her chakra building with excitement. This was someone she could lash out on, someone she could pretend to blame even if it wasn't his fault. She could use everything she had and it didn't matter if foxy had a bit of freedom because no one, not even demons could possibly hurt her uncle. "You asked for it" She flipped open her tiny fan.
A large cork flew across the room and landed at her feet. "Concentrate." The Kazakage commanded. "Talk out loud if it helps you."
Tami faced her opponent, "I've been practicing," she said.
"I hope so." Gaara replied.
Tami held her fan, raising her other hand into a sign. "Wind Saber!"With a sharp twist of the wrist she sent her shot lashing forward, balancing on her feet carefully as she focused to control the invisible blade. She had to be strong, precise,and fast; to even have a chance of getting through her uncle's sand shields. Gaara moved his fingers in front of his eyes. He didn't have to say a word.
A burst of sand shot forward, blocking her blow before it hit. In the same instant the sand rushed across the floor. Tami gasped and spun away, rolling into a crouch. The desert grains swerved to hit her and she jumped. As she landed she spun and waved her hand, throwing the sand away from her. She smirked at her uncle, only to see his emotionless eyes directed to a point somewhere past her shoulder.
Oh crap. She ran to her left, only missing the sand by a hair's width as it fell from behind her.
"You need to stop the source of the attack." Gaara reminded coldly.
Ya, I know that! Tami thought, grimacing as she fought the sand with invisible knives made of chakra. But to do that I have to get close! She made a series of signs, and with a yell jumped upward, feeling the wind lift her. While in the air she forged another blade. "Wind Blade of death!" she shouted.
Gaara raised his eyes slightly, That's a new one. His niece had a habit of randomly naming any new technique she came up with on the spot. The chakra blade was well formed and dense however, and he he watched carefully as Tami pulled it forward. With a flick of her fan she sent it towards him. The air sparked with power, The aura of her own chakra, infused with the hot red power of the demon.
As the saber neared it's target, Tami reached into her belt and pulled out her throwing stars. She tossed them after the blade. If Gaara focused on the first attack the throwing stars might still get through his defense. Tami smiled inside herself. This could work. She had used just the right balance to complete her task without destroying anything unintentionally. Take that Demon Fox. She smiled, using her fan to send a second chakra blade just in case the first one didn't work. Then she felt it. The Kyuubi inside her raged, throwing her chakra out of balance. Darn it! Not now. Not again! The blast sent her backwards into a wall. Uncle Gaara!
Gaara smashed her first wind blade, and the throwing stars hit a thick wall of sand. He chose to dodge the second blade, replacing himself with an random object from the other side of the room as the sand shattered beneath the force of wind. Tami hit the wall gasping for breath. She felt herself falling. I can't fight without destroying everything, and I can't control it while fighting. . .
Sand rose like a wave and crashed down on her, wrapping like a snake around both ankles, her waist, then crisscrossing around her shoulders. She cried out, looking down to see Gaara's hand outstretched towards her. The sand covered her face, her nose and her mouth. She shut her eyes against the sting. The Kyuubi moved about, irritated and worried by the sand, but Tami concentrated all her chakra on the seal, she felt herself relax as she fell.
She landed softly. The sand broke away as it hit the floor, forming a cradle to cushion her fall. For a moment Tami just lay there, stunned and dazed. The netting around her legs were full of grit. Next time, I'm wearing long sleeves she thought, rubbing the scratches on her arms and rolling over to brush off her skirt.
Gaara appeared in front of her, "Stand up." he said coldly.
She did so quickly. The sand around her feet retreated, flowing back up into the gourd Gaara wore strapped to his shoulder: All except for a little wisp of sand which swirled upward into his hands. He toyed with it there, and it calmly and obedient did as he directed, never breaking free from the invisible cage he made with his fingers. "We're not finished yet."
Tami rubbed her arm tentatively, and nodded.
". . . I want to teach you a new jutsu"
"A new one? But. . . I can't even do these others! They never work right for me!"
"Don't argue. Just get ready."
Tami breathed deeply, trying to calm her chakra.
Gaara watched her, letting the sand fall through his fingers. It floated upward and latched itself onto the gourd, becoming a part of it. Tami had her mother's wind chakra, just as she had her eyes and hair. However, she lacked control, perhaps because of the Demon Fox within her.
Gaara shut his eyes, breathing deeply. Nothing seemed to work for the girl. She had no restraint, She knew she had a demon yet she made no effort to control it's power. The wind chakra in and of itself was wild and unwieldy, she needed something that took focus. She needed to learn not to let it control her life. He opened his eyes and looked at his young niece as she straightened her pony tail. "Follow me."
"Where are we going?"
"Outside. We need sunlight."
Perhaps he should have taught her her father's jutsu long before this.
"Now what?" Tami asked, squinting in the sun. The freak sand storm had vanished as quickly as it had began and the sand now lay in waves. The air shimmered with heat.
Tami did so obediently, ". . . Okay."
"What do you see?"
"That's my jutsu, not yours. Try again."
Tami bit her lip. Her uncle hardly ever played with her like this. Playfulness meant he was about to do something she wouldn't like.
"What am I supposed to be seeing?" she asked coldly, her guard up.
"Don't use that tone of voice with me." Gaara said
Tami glared at the hot sand beneath her sandals. "I see sand Uncle, sand, my feet, and my own shadow. That's all."
Gaara's eyes calmed, "That's right. Now, focuses your chakra on your shadow."
Tami felt her skin go ice cold. "No!" She kicked the sand underfoot, sending it up in a golden cloud.
"Tami, calm down." Gaara said.
"No! Everyone hates me as it is; I'm not learning a leaf village ninjutsu! Not ever. You can't make me!"
"The village hidden in the leaves have been our allies for a long time Tami. You are a part of them rather you like it or not."
"They used to be our allies. That was a long time ago. A time that ended with my birth!" She scooped up a handful of sand and threw it at Gaara's face, something she hadn't done since she was a very small child. (He'd not let her go on camping trip with the other kids in the village.)
"How can you still trust them?" She shouted, "They're not our friends anymore. I don't know what Mom saw in my father but it couldn't have been much! I refuse to learn his jutsu! ever" She was breathing hard, hands trembling at her sides.
"Are you finished?" Gaara asked.
Gaara folded his arms, shut his eyes against the glaring sun, and waited.
"If you think you can turn me into my father, you're wrong! I know you said he was great, but that's a lie! No one could possibly be great who would. . . who would. .. . would..."
Gaara's eyes flashed open, "Seal a demon within their own child?"
An awkward silence grew between them, nothing could be heard but the distant wind beyond the city.
Gaara stood silently and stoically in the sand, "We gain many gifts from those before us Tami. You have your mother's hair, her eyes. . . her attitude. From your father you have skill and wit; then there is the demon. It's not a part of you however. I know these words can do little to calm your ache and hurt, but you must listen. The kyuubi is not a part of you, you are it's keeper and it has no control over your destiny. Yes it affects it, everything we touch, see, and breath changes out lives. But in the end it is your choice. It has always been your choice."
"Well then, I choose not to learn this jutsu."
"And I choose to teach it to you anyways. I have all day to stand here, and you know I don't sleep."
Tami glared. This wasn't fair. What kind of choice was that?
The shadows on the sand had moved from being just an afternoon spot around their sandals, to extending several feet to the side, "Fine." Tami said, finally giving in. She could wait until the sun disappeared completely, but her uncle was just crazy enough that he might actually make her stand out there all night like he'd threatened. Although he did sleep, his time spent as jinchuuriki to the sand spirit had made his 'stay awake' endurance a lot stronger then hers.
Gaara told her the hand signs one by one; and Tami repeated them grudgingly, focusing her chakra to her feet, and then to her shadow.
"Aim at me." Gaara commanded.
Focusing her chakra the best she could, Tami felt her shadow, almost as if it was another person. She could feel it running out of her body and towards Gaara. She shut her eyes to focus, pressing her fingers together. Come on! Come on! she thought. With a snap, she felt her shadow grasp something. She looked up, blinking once.
Her uncle faced her steadily. His hands were near his face, his fingers copying her sign. Tami lowered her hands, watching as he did the same.
She gasped, "Did . . . Did I do it?"
"Yes. It's weak and ill executed. I could easily break it if I wanted."
Tami reached up nervously to brush her hair from her cheek. She quickly stifled a laugh when the Kazekage did the exact same thing, mirroring her because of the shadow possession.
"Don't play around." he commanded. As if to prove his before mentioned point, he moved his hands and Tami's shadow shortened and jumped back to her.
"Try it again."
By the time the sun set over the village wall. (a feat which took several more hours,) Tami could consistently make shadow possession jutsus, even if they didn't last long, reach far, nor hold well. She did however, almost manage to get the Kazekage to pick his nose.
After that, he spent a good hour lecturing her on useful tacticsfor the shadow possession. It was more words then she had ever heard her uncle say all at once and she determined not to embarrass him with shadows ever again, or at least not till her ears stopped ringing.
"There's no sun." Tami said out of breath. Although she hadn't moved much since they started the exercise she was physically and mentally exhausted. Gaara just stood there, waiting. Tami sighed and moved her fingers near her chest, "Shadow possession jutsu!" Who came up with that name anyways? Her shadow shot waveringly along the ground; taller then she was but thinner, and nowhere near tall enough to reach Gaara.
"See, I told you it wouldn't reach there's not enough sun."
"Keep it there," Gaara said.
She did so for as long as she could. Anytime she would glance up to see if she could let it go, Gaara would give her a death glare that told her she better not stop. So she held on to the chakra induced shadow, keeping it there until it was no more then a dark smudge on the ground. Finally, with a little burst of energy, it was gone.
Tami collapsed on the ground, trying to learn how to breath again.
"That was good Tami. You did well." Gaara said gently, standing above her.
She glared up at him, "I hope you enjoyed it, because that's the last time you will ever see me do it."
He said nothing, it was the kind of nothing that made her nervous.
"Aren't you going to tell me that I have to?"
"I told you. We all have a choice in the matter."
"Are you hungry?"
Her stomach conveniently growled in answer. "No," she lied.
"Shame. I had ramen prepared for us at the house."
Tami's eyes grew wide. "Really? You. . . You did that for me?"
Gaara nodded once.
"I'm starving!" She stood quickly, pausing when he smiled "Wait. You're just trying to make me feel guilty aren't you?"
"Why would I do that?" Gaara asked, then gestured her forward towards the house. Tami couldn't help but glance back at the sandy ground once. I'm still not doing it. She promised herself. I don't need some leaf village jutsu, and I don't need HIM.
Author Notes: Alright. There is chapter one of a story I should have been completely finished with months ago. Updates are going to a be a little slow because I'm working in a place where we don't have internet access, or even constant electricity. The good news is; this story is mostly already written. CaptainFlye has encouraged me to finish it up and get it posted. Since he deserves it, I'm going to try the best I can. (That's meant to be a good 'deserves it'.)
Anyways, please read and review, and look forward to the next chapter where Gaara and Tami get into another battle (A little more intense then this last spar) and Suna gets a couple visitors, one might just be familiar to all of us :) I bet no one's going to be able to guess who it is though. :)