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kazeni_naritai in majutsu_shi

RP Log - Shikamaru, Chouji, Temari

Who: ...Shika, Tema, and Chouji. :D
Where: Blue Butterfly, since that's where all the action is.
When: About a month before Tema became queen...it says somewhere in there, I think.
What: A very bored little princess slips away from the castle for a little while and makes a trip to Konoha, where she meets everyone's favourite junior inn keeper and his lazy friend! (I've kind of given up any hope of this ever really being finished, so I'm just...posting it as it is, so anyone apping Shika or Chouji can see it.)
Warnings: None I think? Maybe language? I forget...

 

It didn't rain like this in the desert. As the drops hit the earth, churning it, rending it, they created a pounding, sad song that appealed to Temari...it reminded her of someone, someone who she realized wasn't so far away. She didn't like that thought and changed it in her mind. Konoha wasn't so far away. But as the rain soaked through her cloak-- where Chihiro had gotten these commoner clothes, she had no idea-- she knew that she couldn't continue on much longer. She shifted the long, large package strapped to her back-- her fan. It would probably give her away if she dared to take it out, but she couldn't leave the castle alone and unarmed. But as long as it stayed wrapped, it was just another...thing. Whatever curious eyes made it out to be. Ambiguous shapes tended to spark the imagination.

It was ironically convenient that as she trekked her way down the muddy path, she came upon what appeared to be an inn. Blue Butterfly, the sign read. How sentimental, or something, she thought to herself. But who was she to argue, so long as there was food and a roof over her head. As she made a direct line for the entrance, she grabbed at her belt- at the small sack reserved for the money that everyone would see. With the rest of her things, she had brought more than she was sure she needed...but why show it off? She had tied a smaller sack with only a few coins in it to her belt to create the appearance of a normal traveler. Inconspicuous was the goal.

As she pushed open the door, warmth flooded from inside, lifting the chill that the downpour had left. At least it wasn't cold like the desert. She lowered the hood of her cloak and quickly scanned the room out of habit. It was late, and most of the travelers staying there must have been asleep, hoping to get an early start. She had done her research, planned accordingly, and the effort had paid off. She wanted as few people to see her as possible, because the fewer people she encountered, the less likely she was to be discovered. In one corner were two rather gruff looking men who were downing beers and speaking in hushed voices. They didn't seem to notice her, or didn't care even if they did. And then there was someone else.

He was facing away from her, at the far end of the room, but from his slouch he seemed...tired, or bored, or something. She couldn't quite tell. He definitely wasn't quite as creepy as the other two, and didn't seem to pose a threat. Regardless, none of the three looked to be the innkeeper.

There was a lot of shifting involved in removing her cloak-- the rain had soaked through in a few places, leaving her rather plain outfit splotched-- but she finally managed to hang it up on the provided coat rack and reshouldered her things before making her way between the scattered chairs and tables to the bar, setting her things down gently. She'd have to wait, she supposed.


The scene played out perfectly in his memory while he stared at the door to the kitchen his friend had disappeared through. There was his overbearing mother, hands on her hips and in her element as she bossed the young man around.

“Shikamaru, go find whatever bar your father crawled into and drag him home.”

“It's not like he won't come home eventually.” A cuff to the back of the head told him in quite simple terms that no would not be an acceptable answer.

So he had gathered his trusty faded coat and headed out to the last place his father would be: The Blue Butterfly. It was on nights like these that a quick visit with Chouji would do him some good. Unfortunately, no sooner had he arrived then the rain had started, and now he was stuck. If his father actually made the attempt to stumble home in this weather and got there before him, there would most certainly be hell to pay, but he tried not to worry about that now.

Hearing the door open, he shifted his eyes. He wasn't in the ideal spot to watch the entrance (what with his back facing it and all), but he could at least attempt to make out who it was by the reflection in a glass. He couldn't make out much, but whoever it was seemed like an ordinary person, if you discounted the large, oddly shaped something they had with them. Detecting the slight possibility of something troublesome (just what kind of trouble, he couldn't yet be sure), he made a mental note to keep an eye on this stranger.

One could never be too careful. Looks could be deceiving. And besides, there was nothing better to do at the moment.


Before leaving the castle, Temari had taken her hair out of its signature pigtails and put it into a much more common, pulled back style. She couldn't stand to have her hair flying in her eyes all the time. Now a few strands had broken loose and were dangling in her face. Her bangs didn't seem to want to stay back and it was driving her nuts, but having it all pulled back...she'd been told she looked totally different. She didn't quite like how she looked that way, it made her face look too thin, almost emaciated, but for her purposes it would do.

She took another glance around the room. It was nice, cozy...the stone walls in Suna were cold. You couldn't make buildings of wood there, not only due to the lack of trees, but because the raging sandstorms that sometime graced them would wear away at the buildings if they were made of such soft material. Not only were the buildings in Konoha warmer, but the people were, too.

Except for that boy over there. As she glanced around, she noticed out of the corner of her eye that he was watching her. And he was trying to hide it. Was he suspicious? He couldn't have seen her face, so he couldn't recognize her. And even if he had, he didn't look like anyone who would have seen her to begin with...a commoner. And yet she couldn't let him know that she noticed him. How many regular travelers were that alert? But sitting here was getting boring, and she had come to Konoha to mingle with some of the common people. She had to at least try to get his attention.

"Hey kid," she called out over her shoulder. "You know where the inn keeper is?"


He swore inwardly at himself. Had he confused himself somehow? Had his mind really replaced its 'danger sense' with its 'troublesome woman' sense? No, there was no way to be certain yet. Caution is king, he reminded himself. She looked normal - completely inconspicuous. But then, so did he. No one would ever guess the secrets the simple deer herder held on to.

He sighed and turned his head slowly, sizing up the figure. Yes, she was decidedly female, and decidedly a commoner. Why did he still feel so uneasy, then?

“He's in the back doing some work. Just be patient.” Though that may be pointless. Women are never patient. Like they all think they're princesses or something.


Temari had expected a lack of respect from the people she met, as she was not quite spoiled enough to be blinded to the fact that if she looked like a commoner, she would be treated like one...but she got the distinct feeling that this boy's attitude would be no different even if she were the queen of the world and he knew it. But this did seem like an excellent time to mingle.

Once again hauling her things between the narrow spaces between chairs-- when would she get to just leave the stuff where it was?-- she weaved her way over to where he sat, dropping her things unceremoniously with a bit of frustration, and pulling up a chair to sit next to him.

"Well then," she said with a bit of a smirk, "Maybe you'd be so kind as to keep me company until then."


She wasn't - there was no way - aww damnit, why me? She was heading over, and there was nothing the boy could do to stop her (anything he could do would, after all, just be too troublesome). Keep her company? What did he look like, some sort of bard? He knew he had an affinity for associating with troublesome women, but he didn't realize his curse extended to attracting them like moths to a flame.

He cast his gaze on the girl now sitting next to him - Another blonde, just great - and for the first time in his life, he felt a small pang of regret at not just doing what his mother told him. It was karma, he supposed. Ignore one woman, and run into another.

"I don't think I'd make good company," he answered truthfully, his words coming out almost as a sigh. "You must have me confused with someone else." He hoped she'd get the hint and just leave. But deep down he knew.

Things just never went that easily.


She wasn't sure he'd make good company, either. A lot of these people were relatively unrefined, uneducated...she'd encountered a few other travelers on her way to Konoha, and all attempts at interesting conversation were met with annoyed grunts, one word replies, or looks of confusion. And she knew that while she wasn't perfect and must have still given off some air of royalty, she wasn't all that bad at blending in. She looked around pointedly-- the men who had been there were counting out coins, obviously getting ready to retire for the night-- then fixed the boy with a stare.

"Well I need a room, I've got to wait, and I've got nothing else to do," she said, weariness sneaking some annoyance into her voice. "So whether or not you're good company is irrelevant, really. Assuming this is true, I'd appreciate it if you did me a favor and started by sharing your name."


He sighed, resigned to his fate. All he could do now was pray whatever was keeping Chouji was finished quickly.

"Shikamaru Nara. And yours?"


Temari hesitated, on purpose-- she didn't want to spit out the wrong name and have her cover blown. She stopped herself to make sure she gave the right name, the pseudonym she had taken up as soon as she had left the palace in the dead of night. But of course, so many years of saying the same name, she had never really thought much of it when asked her name. Not that people often asked, but that was beside the point.

"Chihiro. Chihiro Ishida." She had taken her lady-in-waiting's name. It seemed common enough, and it saved her from having to actually make something up, at the risk of any made up name sounding fake. She could tell, somehow, that this kid wasn't going to keep any sort of conversation going, and she dug into her reserves of small talk, as much as she normally hated it. "Are you...from this area, or are you just passing through? Don't worry, I don't usually bite, so you can talk to me."


Hesitation. She's hiding something. A fake name? That would make the most sense. But then, why try to start a conversation when you're in hiding? Following that train of thought, the mind behind his dark eyes sprang into action, trying to decide just what this girl's deal was, and just how much he should be concerned. Of course, the only way he could be completely sure was to keep her talking.

"Yeah. Me and my family live in Konoha." He looked her over again. "Doesn't look like you are though. What's your story?" Through years of practice, he kept his the same dis-interested sound in his voice, despite his mind going a million miles a minute. He didn't want any trouble starting at Chouji's inn, and this girl practically eminated it.


She almost wanted to tell him the real story. It was much better than he made-up one. She'd have so much more to talk about that way. But she had concocted something for a reason.

"I'm just a wanderer," she said with a shrug. "I've picked up some magic here and there, so every so often someone will pay me to help them with something. Otherwise, I find a bit of mundane work in the villages I pass through, stay as long as I please, and when the wind pushes me to leave, I follow it. So tell me then, is this really the most exciting thing around here, that a kid like you spends his free time here?"


She was a bit odd and she was hiding something, but nonetheless, it didn't seem as though she was there to start trouble. He intended to keep an eye on her, but he supposed there was no real reason to grill her - whatever she was up to was her own problem.

"I herd deer. Its the family business, and I'm expected to take it over. When I'm not doing that, I watch clouds, or come here to see a friend. That's all the excitement I really care for in my life." He glanced back over to the backroom, wondering idly again just when his friend would be done with his work.


Chouji chose that moment to finally make an appearance. Toeing the kitchen door open with one foot, he bumbled out of the kitchen holding a full bucket of water in each hand. Stumbled under their combined weight, he took them to the nearest window and hefted it open, before hurriedly chucking the water out into the rain. Wiping his brow with one thick arm, he picked the buckets up and prepared to re-enter the kitchen. He'd barely started working at the place, and he was already almost at his wit's end at how a place that was so rundown had stayed in business this long.

"Oi, sorry for making you wait, Shikamaru! This inn has got holes all over the place. Can you believe that the roof just sprung a leak right over the oven? It's flipping ridiculous. No wonder dad asked me to help out here, I- Oh. Hello. Who's your friend?" he said, noticing the blonde girl standing next to Shikamaru for the first time. She wasn't what Chouji would call pretty, but she was attractive, in a way that similar to and at the same time completely different from Ino. Chouji didn't recognize her, and from her attire she looked to be a traveller. But that wasn't what piqued his interest.


No, the thing that drew his attention was Shikamaru willingly speaking to a girl who wasn't his mother or Ino. Practically unprecedented.

 

It was all he could do to keep the relief sweeping over him from being visible. Finally, Chouji had appeared! And maybe, just maybe, this troublesome girl would get a room, leave him alone, and have the courtesy of never showing up again. But wait, Chouji was holding buckets... he was still busy? Truly, there was no justice in the world - at least not for Shikamaru.

"It's alright Chouji, work is work." His mind briefly flashed to his own long days out with his father, 'learning the ropes' of being a deer herder. It wasn't exactly the hardest work he could have been stuck with he supposed, and it did save him the trouble of having to find an actual job later on down the road. The deer took care of themselves for the better part of the day, and he for the time being, he was relegated to menial tasks. Making sure the deer didn't escape, feeding them, and generally watching them. The biggest downside was he was essentially forced into the elements regardless of the weather. There were days when the sun's rays, beating down from above, we're absolutely relentless - even shirtless, the sweat that dripped down from his toned body never seemed to stop coming. Other days, the clouds he loved so much would turn treacherous and dark, and one of his few pleasures in life would give birth to a troublesome rainstorm.

But that was neither here nor there, and his friend's question brought him back to reality. "Ah, Chouji, this is Chihiro. She wants a room, when you get the chance."

Temari was pleased and disappointed at the same time. She was sure this young man would probably bolt now that his friend-- and apparently, the inn keeper (At such a young age? Wow...)-- had returned. She had rather been looking forward to chatting with him, despite how uninteresting he seemed. It was a change of pace from the stiff conversation of the nobles, where only the words were shuffled but the meaning still remained the same. She wanted to learn something...she didn't even know what, just anything.

She nodded politely to the innkeeper, this Chouji fellow, and pulled the sack of coins off her belt. "Yes, and really...is it possible to get something to eat? You know, I haven't eaten all day..." She realized, she actually hadn't, and it might be an excuse to stay down here, avoid wasting time alone in her room. Anything to avoid wasting time, something she absolutely abhorred.

"Some food? Sure. You've come to the right place." Chouji said, puffing his chest out a little in family pride. It was an Akimichi credo to feed anybody who they found hungry. He was hardly the inn keeper. He'd barely started at the place really, but he was a staunch believer in his family's mottos. "Um, lemme get you a menu or something. I know they have one around here somewhere..." He rustled around under the bar counter awkwardly, still holding a bucket in each hand. "Errr, I don't... really... see one. D'you wanna know our specials though? I think I can remember them from this morning. Let's see, there's leg of mutton. Uhh, the turkey stew is pretty good. I had a couple bowls myself for lunch. Let's see, what else?"

From behind the closed kitchen doors, there was suddenly the sound of roofing falling, gushes of water, and the hissing of water hitting hot griddles. Also, the anguished screams of cooking workers. Chouji paused in his recitation, and grimaced. "Er... and of course I make a mean cold chicken sandwich..."

Finding the situation slightly amusing, Temari stifled back a chuckle so as not to be rude. She was equally amused by the supposed "specials", although her picky tastes wouldn't exactly call them anything special. She had gotten used to it, of course-- she'd had to, there was no one to cook for her on the road, and cooking for herself proved difficult. And the obvious complications out back seemed to limit her even more.

"Oh...how about whatever is convenient? I'm really not all that picky," she said with a shrug. She turned her attention to Shikamaru. "Hey kid, you hungry too? Order whatever, I'll pay."

He grumbled and reached a hand up to scratch the back of his head. He had plenty of objections to that. For starters, he hadn't come to get something to eat, he had just come to visit Chouji. On top of that, there was no way he could allow a girl to pay for his meal. What kind of man would he be? He had already begun building something of a reputation as a lazy guy. He didn't really care about that - the people could say whatever they wanted - but it didn't sit right with him to become the guy that couldn't even pay for his own food.

"No thanks. I'm not hungry." He figured he could leave it at that, but an in-opportune growl from his stomach betrayed him. It seemed his own body parts had turned against him as well.

"Not hungry, huh?" Chouji grinned at Shikamaru. He'd recognize the signs of a hungry stomache anywhere. "Don't worry, I already started on your favorite before I even came out here. You need to eat more. Er, I just hope it didn't get... water damaged or anything. I better go check in there actually. Um..." he turned to Temari. "I'll just go take a look and get back to you? Oh, and you wanted a room too, right? I think we've got some free ones available. I'll go find the ledger after we get some food in you, huh?" There was another crashing sound from the kitchen. Chouji didn't even want to know what that noise had been. For being new to the place, he was surprised to find that he was already more competent in the kitchen than most of the other hired help.

"I'll be right back then, don't go anywhere 'till I come back!" Chouji said, already disappearing back through the doors with his buckets in hand. The kitchen doors closed with a definitive 'thud', leaving the two alone again (but for two drunkards in the corner, but they were too deep in their cups to count much for company) in the common room.

What an interesting fellow, Temari thought to herself. At least he was pleasant--so long as he was nice, she had no qualms with him. She thought that in any other situations, she might have found him to be good company. But such was life, and after she left in a few days, she was likely to never see him again. What a pity.

Turning back to her new friend, she looked him over once again, trying to come up with some sort of conversation piece, some sort of small talk. It was perplexing to her how she could talk to a noble for an hour and say absolutely nothing, but she was at a loss for words here, where there should have been something to discuss, the inhibitions of royalty now stripped from conversation. With so much available to talk about...she had nothing, and found herself tapping her foot impatiently, waiting.

"Are things really always this boring around here?" she ventured to question, not wanting to sit in silence the entire time.

He sighed again. She just didn't get it, did she? That was women for you - you could answer their questions a hundred times, and they'd still ask just once more. If he ever got married ( a subject that both intrigued and disgusted him at the same time), his wife better know better than to ask so many troublesome questions. Assuming of course, that she hadn't broken and whipped him like his father.

"Boring? This isn't boring. Granted, it isn't ideal. Ideal is a bright day with clouds in the sky, a friend at your side, and no worries in the world. Anything else is just troublesome. Besides, what excitement could you possibly want this time of night?"

She didn't quite know what she wanted, but she had at least been hoping that because of the inclement weather, any inn that she stopped at would be a little more lively. Her journey had seemingly followed that trend at least, but she supposed the same couldn't be said for every area. And she had gotten a bit of a later start that morning...other travelers must have been well ahead of her. Who wanted to stop outside of this hell hole anyway, when a civil war could erupt at any moment? Not like it would last very long, she was sure, but no one wanted to be around if that ever happened. And she briefly wondered if coming out here had been a good idea...but she had so badly wanted to be out of that wretched desert for just a few days, on her own, none of that fancy formal crap...

"I was at least hoping to meet someone with a little personality," she sneered. He didn't deserve her annoyance, however mild, but she had no reason to hold back. "I swear, if this is how you are day to day, kid, then you're just about as interesting as a puddle of mud. Your friend there seems a little livelier at least..."

He had tried to be nice, he really had. He had put up with her coming over un-expectedly, he had put up with her incessant questions, he had put up with her attitude, and he had even gone out of his way to answer honestly, and in complete sentences no less. But something about this girl - no, this unyielding, all too troublesome woman - had rubbed him the wrong way for long enough. Who did she think she was? He only put up with this much hassle from two women - his mother, and Ino. She was neither, and damnit, he wasn't about to treat her specially just because she was some wet and tired traveler.

"A puddle of mud? Heh. At least I'm an honest puddle of mud, woman. I'm suprised you'd want to risk things being too lively."

Temari snorted derisively and turned her focus to the wall, not entirely sure of what she wanted to say to that. She hadn't encountered this much opposition the entire way here, and most people seemed contented to mind their own business, whether they found her suspicious or not. She just wished he'd come out and accuse her of something already, although it had occurred to her that the people around here were probably always wary of the king's men and their spies. Like I'd ever want to be one of them. At least if he'd give her some hint as to what he was on edge about, she could work to dispel it.


"I don't want a grand ball or anything," she retorted after sifting through a myriad of replies and deciding on the most tactful one, although saying nothing would have been better. "Even some interesting conversation would be great, and since I don't think you've spent your entire life with your head in the clouds, there has to be something."

Thousands of replies ran through his mind - most of then more venomous than he had ever been before. What was it about this girl that set him so on edge? Despite his brilliance, he couldn't understand that, or just what the hell this girl was still bothering him for. He thought about straight out asking her who the hell she was, but thought better of it - he didn't really care anyways. Besides, starting a conversation like that might lead to something far too troublesome for him to handle - he had his mother and Ino already, he didn't need three violent women.


"I guess that's your problem then. You don't think." ... did I really just say that? So much for not wanting three violent women on my ass.


He glanced over towards the door again. Where was Chouji? He was the one good at this stuff, or at the very least, Chouji was better at random conversation than he. And if nothing else, a sudden intervention from the far-too-gentle giant would spare him (even if only temporarily) from her inevitable wrath.


The kitchen door opened and Chouji came out again, looking considerably worse for wear. He had a slightly wild look in his eyes. Not only that, but he was soaked, with water dripping from his hair and his woolen shirt sticking to his skin in random places. He rested his weight against the door for a minute and breathed deep, twice. No wonder his dad had asked him to come out here just for the day. That kitchen... was a disaster.

But, he was going to be a great chef one day. He couldn't let something like a flooding kitchen stop him from preparing truly excellent meals. "Hah... Shikamaru, here. Your mackeral. I did the best I could. Hopefully you won't be able to taste any sogginess..." Chouji said, and he laid a steaming, immaculately prepared plate of fish down on the table.

He spun to Temari, taking no notice of any iciness which may or may not have developed between her and Shikamaru. "Ahh, okay!" he said, clapping his hands together, which sent a few drops of water arcing to the floor. "Um, yes. We have plenty of mutton and broth left over if you want either of those. Or if you give me a few minutes, I can whip up something else on the menu for you if you like."

Princess or not at this point, no one insulted her like that and got away with it. Instinctively, her hand flew to her fan, propped against the table next to her, every intention of smashing him upside the head. But the creaking door and the reentry of the now-soggy innkeeper kept her temper in check, her hand falling back into her lap reluctantly. As she sighed out her anger, she vowed that she would find a way to get back at him, eventually.

Why it was so important to her, she wasn't sure, but she was more focused on not causing harm to the nearest someone or something, and in the interest of cooling off, she paid no attention to the exchange between the two boys. (although at some point, it did cross her mind that the dish looked rather good, and that Chouji appeared to be a rather good cook.)

"No, no, a little of both sounds fine, if that's alright?" She attempted to keep her voice level, although she was sure a little irritation seeped through, as her attempts to maim Shikamaru with her eyes failed.

"Oh, sure. That's fine!" Chouji said cheerfully. Two meals in one? He liked how this lady thought. He crossed in front of her, neatly intercepting her Shikamaru-eye-dagger. "And then after that I'll get you set up with a dry room. I think I remember how to do it from when Miss Ayame showed me..." He assumed a thoughtful expression as he once more walked through those loose doors. "Now do they sign the ledger first..? Or was that the guest book? Hmm, oh, I'll be right back with your meal, miss!" he called out as the doors closed on him.

His flat face turned up into a half smile as he nodded thanks at his friend, not wasting any time in digging into his food. He wasn't sure why he was so eager to chow down - it wasn't like food in his mouth would stop her from running hers. Still, the food was delicious (as he expected).


He was pretty sure what had slipped out of his mouth had done a good job of upsetting her, and he knew well enough to keep silent and not add more fuel to the fire (not that he had anything to say anyways). His eyes kept sweeping over her casually, as if he hadn't just pissed her off, nothing had happened, and they were two buddies grabbing dinner. Of course, in reality he wanted to be able to see an attack coming. On the off chance she wasn't lying about the magic she had 'happened' to pick up, and on the chance any magic could cause him intense bodily harm, well, it wouldn't hurt to be prepared.


Exchanging awkward, suspicious glances wasn't exactly her thing, but neither was starting trouble when she was trying to stay under cover. And in reality, she shouldn't even have brought her fan along-- she could defend herself well enough with other sorts of weaponry, and even if it was unidentifiable, wrapped up the way it was, it still drew stares. But its presence made her feel safe, and that fact that she could blast this brat into next week was a comfort in itself, and helped calm her down considerably. But he was still watching her for something, and she returned the sentiment. He didn't seem the type to attack, but one could never be too careful with commoners. If it was this easy for her to masquerade as your average traveler, anyone else could be just as deceptive, and their intentions might not be as innocent as hers.

"Fine, then, I'll think of something," she conceded condescendingly. She actually wasn't all that used to starting casual conversation, beyond the normal pleasantries, and the things she was used to discussing--politics, mostly, and the economy--were more than likely to be sore spots for people in the area. And she didn't want to become inadvertently associated with the king and his men. "How did you two become friends, anyway? I mean, you're a complete jerk, but your buddy there seems to be rather friendly, thoughtful even if he would prepare your favorite dish without you even asking."


He couldn't help a small smirk at her word choice. Him, the jerk? Well, whatever. If that was the limit of her anger, he wasn't about to complain. She could think whatever she wanted for all he cared. As for her question... well, it was unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome. Unbidden, his mind floated to thoughts of childhood games, of butterflies and clouds, and of the start of lasting friendships. It never really occurred to him before, but his childhood was filled with some happy times; back when he was too young to care about political upheavals and rebellions, too young to be bothered with  anything other than their silly games, his friends, and the clouds. And in some ways, nothing had changed - he still cared about two out of the three.


"We met when we were kids, playing silly kid games. We just clicked I suppose. So well that we've stayed friends all these years, though we don't see each other as much as we used to." It was such an innocent topic that there was no harm in telling the truth - or at least the partial truth. He had neglected to mention how most of the other kids flat out refused to let the 'tubby' play with them, how Chouji had walked away crying, and how he had come across him and his father in conversation. That would just be too troublesome.


Again the kitchen door opened up and Chouji came through. This time a small puddle followed him out of the kitchen, and his shoes mushed wetly as he walked. He hadn't heard any of their conversation from the kitchen, or he surely would have added his two coin on the topic, his first meeting with Shikamaru ranking up there with his first taste of real steak and his father taking him on as as apprentice as the top highlights in his life.


"Alright, we got your mutton right here. And here's your broth..." Chouji said, laying the plate and bowl along with utensils on the table next to where Shikamaru sat. The two of them had been talking together, so maybe they could eat together too? It was rare for Shikamaru to speak to the ladies, so Chouji wanted to nurture this developing friendship as best he could.


Temari simply nodded to affirm that she'd heard Shikamaru's explanation, and in a way she sort of understood what he was saying for once. Odd, she thought, that she might have a common thread with him, having found him to be less than suitable company. But something told her that they were more than just buddies, but rather good friends, maybe something about the way he said it or the words he chose. She was like that with her lady-in-waiting, as much as she hated to call her that. But even then that seemed like it had to be, rather than it simply happened to be. Like if something went wrong, she would be abandoned in a heartbeat. This seemed to be the real deal, something she'd only heard about but never had experienced. It was just a price to pay for the prestige.


Musing on assumptions would do no one any good, and she was about press further, out of sheer curiosity, but was interrupted unexpectedly (or rather, unexpectedly from her position--she hadn't been paying attention) by Chouji and more importantly, the food he presented her with. She hadn't even realized how hungry she had become, but she hadn't eaten since morning, and being physically used to three meals a day, every day, on a rather strict schedule, adjusting to the different eating pattern left her feeling a lot more hungry than she was used to.


"Thank you so much," she said with a polite nod. Another perk to being undercover and not at the palace was that she didn't have to worry about manners, or using the right utensil, or not eating too quickly, or any of those other annoying things they drilled into her head, and she didn't hesitate to dig in. (But of course, always a lady by training, she made certain not to make a mess--old habits died hard.)


Chouji coughed. Neither of the two were saying much, both seeming occupied with their food. While Chouji could certainly understand that, he was also aware that this was no good. Shikamaru was the type to always go the path of least resistance. And, while Chouji himself didn't mind this about him in the least, it didn't exactly make it easy for him to interact unless he wanted to. But could there be something more to this? Could Shikamaru be... shy?

... nah. That really didn't sound much like him.

But while normally Chouji was the type to lay back and cheerfully follow Shikamaru's lead, in this case he was feeling the urge to push his friend along. Not a big push, of course. More like... a gentle nudge. Chouji did not push as a rule. It was not in his nature, and besides, he did not want to be lumped in Shikamaru's mind as just one more 'troublesome thing', and so he was content to simply stay at Shikamaru's side, never pushing or insisting. Just ready to help him out if he ever needed a hand.


"So, Shikamaru, uh, how long is your friend going to be staying in Konoha?" he said, adressing Shikamaru while attempting to make a face at him which would communicate Talk, man! Nice looking girl! though on his face it probably looked closer like he was having bowel troubles. "Is she planning on seeing any of the sights while she's around?"

Resisting all urge to make a scene, and a loud one at that, Temari set down her utensils gently, pushing her chair back to stand, with her palms pressed firmly against the tabletop-- to keep them from doing anything remotely destructive, naturally. After so many years of her caretakers trying to set her up with this cute prince or that wealthy duke, she had grown accustomed to the talk, tone, and look of someone trying to make her get along with their estranged guest. It wasn't her fault that she beat them up, they were just chauvenistic pigs, and she couldn't let that slide. And couldn't he have asked her directly what her plans were? She was still there, and she was certainly still listening. Nevertheless, while she had taken a liking to Chouji, she couldn't exactly say the same for his friend, perplexed at how two people apparently at the opposite end of the spectrum could fall in together. But neither did she know the two very well-- for all she knew, the one could just be having a great day, and the other a bad one. It wasn't totally out of the question, and that was the only thing that managed to keep her temper in check at the thought of befriending an obnoxious brat like this Shikamaru kid.

"I'm simply passing through, I'd be surprised if I stayed more than two or three days," she interjected, even though she wasn't the one being addressed. Not like he'd know what she was doing, not to mention that she didn't want him passing on his suspicions to the person who was going to give her a room for the night. It would do her no good to get kicked out and spend the night out in the rain. She'd be certain to catch a cold that way. "The meal was wonderful, thank you, as was your company, but I do believe it's about time for me to retire. Were you able to find if there are any vacancies?"

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