Gaara of the Desert

Kankuro\'s Rematch

”Ill accept your terms human, with one alteration though. I don want you dying on me since Id die for a while too. If you get in over your head, you give control over to me, ” Shukaku said as he laughed with his ghoulish voice. My eyes narrowed at the thought of handing control over to Shukaku. I didn trust him, he needed to earn that himself. I knew that if I was in his position I would be thinking about how to trick Gaara into letting me get free too. But unfortunately for Shukaku, I need his power as well as his expertise. Even if it was just a small breakthrough on iron sand it would help me tremendously.

”Only if its life or death, nothing less, understand me? ” I really hoped I wouldn regret such a deal later on. Maybe if I was lucky Shukaku wouldn betray me when I needed him most. Thats about how much trust I had in this deal right now.

”Deal, ” Shukaku said with a delish grin. It had been my deal but it definitely felt as if Shukaku was happier.

”Is there anything else you wish to talk about Shukaku? ” It was a bit odd for me to ask a question like that but I had a reason for it. The ultimate goal was to get Shukaku to trust me enough to give me his chakra for One-Tails Chakra Mode. I could achieve this without Shukakus approval by going to the island of Genbu just as Naruto had in the anime. The drawback with that plan was that Genbu was in the Land of Lightning. The Land of Lightning was on the opposite side of the continent, with the Land of Fire and several other lands between the Land of Wind and Land of Lighting. I wouldn be able to get there until the far future and I doubt the Hidden Cloud would take kindly to waltzing onto their secret island. So the best option was to become friends with Shukaku or at the very least allies. Which was why I had asked the question, I didn want our relationship to be strictly business.

”Eh? What are you getting at? ” Shukaku seemed to be genuinely perplexed by my question. Was he really that unused to someone caring about him? Surely he mustve had a friend since the Sage of Six Paths, no one could survive being alone for that long. I remembered that the first jinchurki of Shukaku had been a priest. Shukaku had apparently respected and liked the priest because he treated him as an equal. Maybe I should take a page from the priests book and do the same.

”I just was asking if there was anything else you wanted to say to me while I was here. We will be able to talk outside the mindscape once I loosen the seal of course but I like it when we stand on equal ground in here. Talking face to face is more my style. ” Hopefully, that would resonate well with Shukaku. I honestly couldn read the tanuki at all, he was too sporadic for me to predict his actions.

”I have not a single thing more to say to you human, now LEAVE, ” roared Shukaku. I sighed at his crude reaction. I had hoped for at least a better reaction than another roar.

”Goodbye Shukaku, let me know if you ever want to talk in my mindscape another time. ”

With that, I opened my eyes and looked around. My room was darker than it was before I entered my mindscape, probably because it was later at night. Time really does fly when negotiating with a Tailed Beast doesn it. I stood up and then stretched my stiff muscles. I started getting ready to go to sleep, cleaning up everything I had left out from my iron sand training earlier. Right as I was about to go to bed, I remembered what I needed to do. I reached my hand around to my back and placed it on my seal. I slowly twisted it just slightly, a small amount of heat releasing from the seal as I did. I felt a slight pressure in my head before it dissipated.

”Surprised you held up your end of the deal human, I was sure you were lying, ” said a loud voice inside my head. I groaned, how could Shukaku be so loud even inside my head?

”Could you be a little quieter? ” All I received for an answer was yet another ghoulish laugh from the tanuki. I really hoped I didn end up going insane from this arrangement. Shukaku eventually quieted down from his incessant laughing to silence. Even now he didn want to talk to me. After such an eventful day I was exhausted to the bone. I collapsed onto my bed and quickly found myself slipping into a deep sleep. My life had change dramatically the last time I went to sleep, yet I honestly hoped it wouldn this time. The whole day had been what felt like the best of my whole life.

The next morning I woke honestly expecting to not be Gaara anymore. Fortunately I was still who I was when I went to sleep which was a big relief. I quickly got up, wanting to get an early start to the day. Quickly looking out my small circular window I found it to be just before dawn. I decided that it would be good to get in some training before our team session. I slung my gourd from yesterday onto my back, then attached my sand scrolls to the sling that held my headband. I was surprised Shukaku wasn bothering me, maybe he had decided it wasn worth the effort to do so. Right before I was about to leave, I stop at my desk where the iron sand scroll was.

”Shukaku, will you help me with the iron sand training for a little while? ” I hoped being polite would encourage him to comply with my request. Treating him as my equal will better my chances, at least I hope it will.

”Ugh, why must you bother me so early in the morning? I was having such a peaceful sleep, ” said the annoyed Shukaku. At least he said it at a decent volume for once, one that didn make my eardrums bleed.

”Because I think its necessary, now will you help me? ”

”Alright human, Ill help you with the iron sand just as I did for that Kazekage of yours. ”

”Thank you Shukaku, ” I said in a grateful tone. Finally, I would make good progress on the iron sand today. I might even be able to use it in combat, though I didn want to get my hopes up too high with Shukaku being my teacher. I grabbed the iron sand scroll, which I put with my other two summoning scrolls. I exited my room and then quickly made my way to the arena. Thankfully I was lucky since no one was training there this early. I used the arenas sand floor to form stairs for me to walk down from the upper viewing balcony. I could have simply walked to the stairs in the far corner that lead down to the ground floor, but that was no fun in my book.

”Okay, Shukaku where do I start, ” I asked the tanuki while I summoned the iron sand into existence.

”Hmm, lets see here, you
e going to have to bear with me human. Its been a long time since I helped your Kazekage with the iron sand manipulation. I couldn exactly practice it, with me being locked away and all that. ” Shukaku sounded very irritated when he spoke that last sentence. I guess he had a right to when you considered his circumstance.

”Ill just show you where I left off then, ” I told him as I began manipulating the iron sand. In all honesty, my iron sand manipulation had looked much better when I had done it on my desk the previous night. Now, it looked quite pitiful that I could only manage a thin little whip that couldn even make it to my knee without collapsing.

”You call that manipulating iron sand? Thats pitiful, ” chuckled Shukaku inside my head. The iron sand dropped back into a pile on the ground as I lost concentration from Shukakus comment. I was starting to get irritated, Shukaku should lend a hand with this iron sand, or who knows what Id do.

”Are you gonna laugh at me or help? ” Instead of receiving an answer, I felt Shukaku push something throughout my mind. I panicked, thinking he was trying to take me over. My hand was halfway to the seal to tighten it when I stopped. My mind felt… foggy like someone had hit the reset button.

”That should help, you worthless human, ” Shukaku grumbled. I was definitely the only one being even close to nice. I needed to just let it go, annoying as it may be. I went back to manipulating the iron sand. Except, now it felt so natural and smooth. It wasn the juggling, disastrous thing that I had been doing before my mind had fogged over. What had happened to me?

”What did you Shukaku? ”

”I transferred my expertise to you, basically imprinting what little I remember about iron sand manipulation onto you. ” That seemed surprisingly complex for Shukaku. Then again, I did know very little about his abilities so it wasn totally impossible. The iron sand was much better than what it used to be, granted, it was far slower and unstable when compared to my normal sand. The toughness of the iron sand did a bit to compensate for the unstableness of it thankfully.

”Thank you Shukaku, this helps me out greatly, ” the appreciation in my voice is actually genuine this time. Shukaku had truly held up his end of the bargain. This progress in less than a minute wouldve possibly taken half a year at my own pace.

”Its what you get when you ask for my mighty power, ” boasted Shukaku full of pride. Ill let the arrogance go for now since I was in a great mood. I formed the iron sand into several simple shapes, including a ball, a wall of spikes, and daggers. It was still pretty far off from being mastered, but it might actually be useful in some scenarios. I activated some of the training dummies in the corner. They robotically sprang to life, walking to their spread-out positions before standing still. I shot several iron sand whips at them and watched them explode into wood chips. I smiled in enjoyment as I left not a single dummy standing. The iron sand was definitely more volatile than other sand. When I targeted one dummy, sometimes it would unintentionally go off course and hit targets I wasn aiming for. This was probably due to my lack of control but it couldn be helped right now. It was important to note down though, I needed to be careful with it if close to an ally, or they might be injured. When I tried using it for my sand shield there was a major drawback. That was of course its lack of speed and quickness. It was dead slow when compared to my almost instantaneous regular sand. It may be better at stopping if I could get its shape down better, but it definitely wasn gonna be as fast as the regular sand until I mastered iron sand manipulation entirely.

”Gaara? ” A voice from right behind me made me almost jump. I groaned to myself internally, was I really this bad at sensing people? I guess it could be I was always distracted, Id have to be more vigilant. I turned around to find Kohara standing there fidgeting with her eyes glued to the ground. She looked much more battle-ready than yesterday when I met her at the Sand Archives. Kohara wore her headband on her forehead, with hair that went just beyond her shoulders going over the sides of the headband. Her hair was actually a much darker brown than I thought, probably due to lighting earlier. Kohara also had painted two red circles on her face, one on each cheek. It was a common practice among sand shinobi, to have a colorful tattoo or paint put on your face. She also had a large wrap of combat cloth on her back, obviously, she was here to train with it.

”Kohara, you are up quite early, ” I told her as I let the iron sand pool at my feet. I then made it go in a circle around me so I could see how well I did with it when distracted.

”Yeah, I usually come in here early to train by myself, ” she said with a little bit of sadness. I winced, I mustve unknowingly taken her only time to practice by herself, where she wouldn be judged. With a girl like Kohara, I could see where being watched could really hurt her performance. Perhaps I could help her while also training with my iron sand.

”Whos this weakling? Why does she have such a hard time standing still? ” Shukaku grumbled in a complaint of Kohara. He was really doing a great job getting on my nerves.

”Her name is Kohara, I met her yesterday when at the Sand Archives. Shes just nervous is all Shukaku. ”

”Hmm, why bother with someone like her then? ”

”Shes a friend of mine Shukaku, at least I hope she is. I help my friends when I think they need it and I am there for when they need it as well. Maybe someday youll let me be your friend. ” Shukaku didn say anything after that, in shock or just getting annoyed with the conversation I didn know.

”How are you manipulating iron sand Gaara? ” The tone of Koharas voice was one of amazement as she looked at the iron sand move in a circle around my feet. I smiled slightly at her reaction to my ability. I was very proud that I could somewhat control a weapon considered the most dangerous in Hidden Sand history. I couldn flaunt it too much though or everyone would know about it. I didn need everyone knowing and figuring out its weaknesses.

”Ive been practicing, I also had a little bit of help, ” I told her as I indirectly complimented Shukaku. All I got was another grumble from Shukaku. I really wished I could say confidently that it was a grumble of satisfaction but I couldn . Why did he have to be so hard to please?

”Thats amazing Gaara, I won bother you any longer then. You get back to your training, ” said Kohara as she started to leave.

”Where do you think you
e going? You need to train as well Kohara, get back here, ” I told her before she could bolt. She was definitely going to be a handful until she became confident.

”No I don want to stall your training with iron sand, it is probably very important and- ”

”Quit talking and get ready to spar, ” I quickly said as I cut her off. I didn want to go further down the rabbit hole, being polite was gonna have to take a backseat.

”Spar? With you Gaara? ” Koharas eyes looked like they couldn get any bigger.

”Youll eventually face opponents that are stronger than you, so you better get used to it. ” With that, I sent a whip made of sand from the arena straight towards her. Kohara shrieked and then ducked as my poorly aimed sand whip sailed over her harmlessly.

”Your gonna need to try harder than that, ” I yelled as I sent a few more weak sand whips after her. At first, she was just running away and trying to escape my sand whips without even thinking about attacking me. As time went on though, I saw her demeanor change, then she began predicting my moves. The change happened in an instant, but I saw it loud and clear. The once jittery girl now had an expression of pure focus. It actually scared me quite a bit, to be truthful. With that, cloth from the bundle on her back swirled around her arms. Kohara had obviously infused chakra into it judging by its movements. She sent two whips made of thick cloth, one on each arm. They then extended and met my sand whips. The cloth easily beat the frail whip I had formed.

Kohara was on a rampage, she was weaving and dodging sand whips left and right, making steady progress toward me. I wasn too worried since the Cloth Techniques were developed around the idea of detaining your opponent but not killing them. I had a hunch that Kohara used this Jutsu for just that reason. She seemed like the type that didn want to hurt anyone, even an enemy.

”Close the gap between your attack sequence, it leaves too much room for your enemy. ” I was relatively versed in combat evaluation and could make a few basic suggestions. Id have to see if Koharas sensei was any good, maybe Baki would know.

”Quit going easy on me Gaara, I know you have more than these feeble sand whips. Show me your iron sand, or are you worried you can handle me? ” Where had this new personality come from? It was a startling change, to be honest, but definitely not an unwelcome one. I chuckled a little from Koharas sudden brashness and did as she asked. Four walls suddenly surrounded Kohara and moved to crush her. A small bit of concern flickered across her face but it didn last. Using the cloth around her arms, she shot two thick cords straight at one of the walls. It quickly stuck itself to the sand, then pulling taunt as Kohara used the cloth like a grappling hook. Very impressive and clever use of such a simple Jutsu. My respect grew with every response she formed to my attacks. Maybe it was time to get serious, or at least a little serious.

”You might have a difficult time with this one Kohara. ”

I hadn used this Jutsu in quite some time, since in most fights I wouldn have enough sand for it. I crouched down just like I had down for the Sand Tsunami yesterday and let my chakra flow into the surrounding sand.

”Restless Desert Hands. ”

The whole entire arena was suddenly alive as large hands made of the arena sand shot up. They desperately reached and shoved for anything to grab. Kohara quickly used her clothe to latch onto the balcony on the second floor of the arena to escape. The Restless Desert Hands was a Jutsu where hands sprang up from the sand and tried to grab anything to pull down under the surface.

”You can exactly get me from up there, can you? Nor are you able to effectively defend yourself. ” I formed a small sand spear and sent it flying towards Kohara. I couldn help myself, forcing the spear off course to harmlessly slam into the ceiling. It had still come somewhat close to Kohara, basically, a warning shot that she needed to move. Kohara definitely looked irritated about her current position. She seemed to be looking around for a better position where she could evade both my attacks and the Restless Desert Hands. I wasn going to give her the time though, as I sent three spears straight for here, These were not warning shots like the previous one was. I was taking off the gloves, Kohara needed the challenge. I smiled as they closed in on her, getting closer and closer.

”What will you do now Kohara? ”

((Sorry for the delay from the normal schedule, made this one longer than usual to make up for it. Sincerely, Silent.))

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