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|Gaara Hiden: A Sandstorm Mirage|
|(我愛羅秘伝 砂塵幻想, Gaara Hiden: Sajingensō)|
|Previous||Konoha Hiden: The Perfect Day for a Wedding|
|Next||Akatsuki Hiden: Evil Flowers in Full Bloom|
|Japanese||June 4, 2015 ISBN (978-4-08-703364-9)|
Gaara Hiden: A Sandstorm Mirage (我愛羅秘伝 砂塵幻想, Gaara Hiden: Sajingensō) is an original story written by Ukyō Kodachi and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. It is the fifth book of the Naruto Hiden series.
Gaara, the Fifth Kazekage, is still having to deal with a lack of funding for Sunagakure. Although the Land of Wind was happy to pay for all expenses that led to victory during the Fourth Shinobi World War several years earlier, the Wind daimyō has been reluctant to fund issues that arose as a result of that victory: compensation to families of shinobi who died during the War or rehabilitation costs for those who were injured. It's currently Gaara's job to try and get the money for those issues from the daimyō.
While he contemplates these issues, Gaara is visited by his older sister, Temari. Temari is to be married to Shikamaru of Konohagakure's Nara clan; their relationship surprised Gaara when he first learned of it and, despite his research, he still doesn't really understand it. Because Temari is a sibling of the Kazekage and Shikamaru is an influential figure in Konoha, their marriage is a delicate political matter that will solidify peace between their two villages. In the midst of careful consideration, Temari and Shikamaru are trying to find a date for their wedding that will appease both sides.
Three days earlier, Kankurō, Gaara's older brother and the recently appointed leader of the Counter-Terrorism Division, led an A-rank mission to capture Kajūra, a missing-nin from Ishigakure. Despite the brief incapacitation of one of Kankurō's subordinates, Amagi, Kajūra's Magnet Release: Lightning God Self was defeated and he was taken into custody. Gaara reports the mission's details, the date for Temari's wedding, and other recent developments to the Suna Council, a group of village elders who must approve all of the Kazekage's actions. They find no issues with anything and, Gaara believes, they were likely already aware of everything he's told them, as these briefing meetings are only covers for the real reason he comes see them: the Elders want something from him.
Ebizō, current head of the Council, asks to discuss something with Gaara. As he slowly builds towards the topic he has in mind, Gaara tries to guess what minor personal issue it is. He is caught off guard when Ebizō reveals that he and the rest of the Council would like for Gaara to get married. Because Temari is going to be married into a Konoha clan, any children she has will be Konoha ninja. If Gaara and Kankurō should die before producing heirs, that would mean that a Konoha ninja will have a claim to the Kazekage position, something that the Council wants to avoid. Therefore, they would like Gaara to find a wife so that he can, in turn, have children.
Gaara tries to deflect their suggestion by pointing out that Kankurō, being older than him, should get married before him. He is informed that Kankurō has already been approached about it and that he successfully argued that Gaara, as the Kazekage, should marry first. The Council insists that their interest in seeing Gaara married is more of a recompense for turning him into a jinchūriki years ago than it is a political matter. Unable to argue out of the situation, Gaara accepts the marriage meeting that the Council has arranged.
Gaara is to meet his possible future wife at a formal gathering of the Land of Wind's various dignitaries. Temari helps him dress for the occasion and Kankurō advises him on being sociable, which predominately involves drinking alcohol. Gaara has little fondness for the alcohol, but he is nevertheless glad for the brief time he gets to spend with his brother and sister. Kankurō is meant to provide security for the gathering, but he is abruptly called away at the last minute, replaced by Baki. Both Gaara and Baki find this suspicious and increase the security for the event in case somebody is planning something.
Gaara meets the woman the Suna Council has found as his partner for the marriage meeting: Hakuto of the Hōki family. His first impression of her is that she is beautiful, something that embarrasses him once he realises that she could possible become his wife. Their handlers leave them alone and Gaara, having never been romantically with a woman despite his hordes of admirers, has no idea how to make conversation, having forgotten all the etiquette lessons Temari gave him. After several silent minutes, Gaara decides to try and emulate Naruto Uzumaki's successes from being unoriginal: he asks what her hobbies are.
Temari, who is secretly watching their one-on-one time, is mortified by Gaara's choice of topic. However, when Gaara starts speaking about his passion for raising cacti, Hakuto is intrigued and it dispels some of the rumours she's heard about him from his days as "Gaara of the Sand Waterfall". Those who live in Suna and were around when he was a child still remember his former violent ways whenever they meet him, colouring their opinions of him. Hakuto, whose family lives on the border between the Lands of Wind and Fire and has thus not met him before, does not have the same preconceptions. She, therefore, declares that Gaara is, "kind". Temari is mystified that the conversation, despite being so casual, is going so well. Gaara is also pleased, filled with the same happiness he experiences when he tends to his cacti.
A distant explosion sounds and Gaara moves by impulse to protect Hakuto. He deduces that the explosion is a diversion intended to draw away the security detail and give the attackers access to him. Two figures appear outside the window and begin attacking them. Gaara correctly guesses that they are only puppets and focuses his counterattacks on the puppeteer, killing them. Suspecting there are others waiting for him outside the door to the room, Gaara and Hakuto exit through the window. They are attacked by a sniper using wind-propelled kunai, but Gaara kills him and his spotters.
Meanwhile, a puppeteer finds Temari's secret hiding place and latches threads to most of her body to restrict her movements. Unable to determine where the threads are coming from, Temari pretends to be helpless, drawing out her attacker and lowering his guard. She dislocates her own shoulder – one of the only body parts she can still control – which frees her movements enough to ready her giant folding fan. Her attack options are limited since they're indoors, but she manages to kill the puppeteer by firing shuriken at him with her fan. Temari collapses immediately afterwards, her body starting to experience the after-effects of her dislocated shoulder. She is helped up by a familiar face who she asks to go and help Gaara.
Gaara is met by the leaders of the group behind the attack: twin brothers Etoro and Metoro Konjiki. The brothers simultaneously attack with their kekkei genkai, one using Lava Release and the other using Steel. The combination of the two abilities is enough to break Gaara's Shield of Sand, injuring him for the first time in several years. Although he has several options of escape, he refuses to do so because it would require leaving Hakuto behind; he does not wish to protect her because she is to be his wife but rather because she is a person in need. The brothers continue assaulting his defences until Hakuto's bodyguard, Shijima, arrives and provides an opening for him to retaliate, killing both Etoro and Metoro. With the fighting done, Hakuto calms herself down from the ordeal by treating Gaara's injury.
In the aftermath, Baki recommends that the proceedings continue as scheduled so that other criminals will not be encouraged to try similar attacks in the future. He also shares his belief that the attack was part of some plot to eliminate Gaara, who plays politics behind closed doors, and replace him with Kankurō, who leads from the frontlines and as such is much-loved by the standard infantry. Gaara instructs Baki to look into everything and returns to Hakuto, only to find she is leaving. They say their goodbyes and, after she's gone, Gaara asks Temari to deliver a letter to someone for him. He finds a place to sleep but is quickly interrupted by Baki, who reports that Hakuto has been kidnapped; Gaara feels guilty for not realising that she was the target of the attack all along.
Gaara leaves in the night to rescue Hakuto by himself, not wanting help from anyone as that would only draw attention to the mission and allow his detractors to use her kidnapping against him. As he leaves, he is met by Shijima, who was easily defeated by Hakuto's kidnapper and says she now wants to help in retrieving her. They travel through the desert, tracking the footsteps that, despite the kidnapper's attempts to conceal them, Gaara is able to follow.
They catch up to the kidnapper in some ruins not far from the Hōki family's compound. He introduces himself as one of Hakuto's clansmen, Shigezane, who Gaara knows by reputation to have been a disciple of the Fourth Kazekage. Shijima begins attacking Shigezane, which he counters using water from deep underground. Once Shijima is defeated, Shigezane turns his attacks towards Gaara, who defends using his sand. Hakuto – who is not bound despite her predicament – warns Gaara what Shigezane is doing: converting the area to quicksand. Gaara could escape if he wanted to, but does not believe he could locate Shijima in time to save her if he did. For that reason, he goes to her and wraps them both in sand as they sink under.
Meanwhile, in Suna, Kankurō is approached by many of the shinobi he's trained, all of them too young to have participated in the Fourth Shinobi World War. They share their plans to make him Kazekage; though they take credit for the scheme, much of the idea actually comes from Tōjūrō, a member of the Council. Kankurō asks what they intend to do with Gaara. They have no desire to kill him, partly because they know they couldn't defeat him and partly because they don't want to risk intervention by other villages. Rather, they want Gaara to withdraw from politics, acting only as an adviser to Kankurō. After making them promise that it will be a bloodless removal of the current power structure, Kankurō agrees.
Gaara wakes up after several hours in the underground cavern that Shigezane drew his water from. Shijima asks why he, the Kazekage, would risk his life to protect her. He replies that all life is precious regardless of one's station, something he learned from Naruto Uzumaki. He knows there are times when sacrifice is necessary, but he tries to avoid that as much as he can. Shijima understands his words; she was once the Hōki family's heiress before she voluntarily became a test subject for Orochimaru. When the experiment failed, she passed her responsibilities to her younger sister, Hakuto. Gaara, finally understanding Shijima's determination to save Hakuto, has her lead the way out of the cavern.
- Chance Meeting
Gaara and Shijima find Hakuto and Shigezane as they're about to enter the Land of Fire. Gaara has long since figured out that they are lovers who planned to use Hakuto's arranged marriage as an opportunity to elope. He is not upset by this as he never intended to force Hakuto to marry him, but at the same time he, the Kazekage, can't turn a blind eye to them becoming missing-nin who would abandon Suna. He asks them to return, believing Shigezane's abilities would be a great asset to the village. Shigezane refuses and attacks Gaara with jutsu specifically designed by the Fourth Kazekage to kill a jinchūriki of Shukaku. His Shield of Sand is accordingly pierced, so Gaara reinforces the shield with his Magnet Release, allowing him to move close to Shigezane and hold him at his mercy.
Shijima threatens Gaara to let Shigezane go. Gaara is already aware that she helped them stage Hakuto's kidnapping, but he repeats that he can't let them abandon Suna. Shijima begins using the dōjutsu she received from Orochimaru on Gaara, planning to kill him and herself so that Hakuto and Shigezane can escape. Gaara asks why she didn't kill him earlier when he was unconscious, to which she responds that it was not her ninja way. He is satisfied by this answer. He resists Shijima's dōjutsu, restrains her, and creates a Sand Sword that he strikes with. Rather than strike Shijima, Gaara hits Metoro, who faked his earlier death and has been following them so that he could take revenge for his brother. Despite his attempts to conceal himself, Gaara has been aware of Metoro's presence the whole time. After confirming that Metoro and Etoro were hired by Tōjūrō, Gaara kills him.
In Suna, Tōjūrō watches footage of Kankurō and his men taking control of the village. When his underling, Maizuru, reports that the coup is complete, Tōjūrō orders that Kankurō be arrested and his entire family be banished from Suna. Once they're gone, Maizuru will be made the new Kazekage, who Tōjūrō will manipulate to his purposes. With this confession made, Maizuru crumbles to pieces. It is revealed that Maizuru was a puppet controlled by Kankurō all along. Kankurō also reveals that the footage is fake and that the men Tōjūrō hired to kill Gaara have themselves been killed by Baki. Tōjūrō surrenders without protest and members of the council sympathetic to him are likewise arrested.
Seeing Gaara ruthlessly kill Metoro causes Shijima, Hakuto, and Shigezane to all lose their resolve, and they wait for the same fate. At first Gaara intends to carry out a mercy-killing on Shigezane and Hakuto, both of whom can neither bear returning to the village or be allowed to leave Suna, but then changes his mind.
At that moment Shikamaru Nara appears, his help having been requested in the letter earlier given to Temari. It is revealed that Shikamaru had been watching over the proceedings, concerned about the well-being of his future brother-in-law Gaara. He had been the familiar face who saved Temari during the attack on Gaara's marriage meeting. Gaara points out how effective his Sand Waterfall Funeral is at eliminating all traces of its victims. Shikamaru says he will file a report testifying that he witnessed Shigezane kill Hakuto, that Gaara executed Shigezane, and will meanwhile help them settle in Konoha as vassals within his own Nara Clan, under new identities. Shijima is overcome with the mercy Gaara has shown in faking Hakuto and Shigezane's deaths so the two can be together in Konoha. Gaara and Shijima return to Suna, Shijima vowing her service to the Kazekage.