Nobuko Kaguya is conflicted as she squints at the selection of oil paints. It isn’t as to what she’s going to choose - the art section of the ever-struggling hobby store does not have the greatest selection of pigments. There are sometimes joyous days where the shopkeeper takes a risk and introduces something new, but she usually chooses the same gamut of tones every visit.
Rather, she’s strikingly aware that the forehead protector knotted just above her bangs is visible to the shopkeeper with her back facing her, and is not sure whether she wants her to notice.
“Nobuko! Are you trying to hide from me?! Congratulations!”
“Ah. Thank you,” Nobuko says, turning around with a playful smile. Too late now. “Just don’t want to get you too excited to see me have more income.”
“And added security for me!” the shopkeep adds, with a jovial grin. She’s a sturdy middle-aged woman, more than able to provide security herself. Nobuko’s smile widens. “Security from what? Goats?”
All in all, her first half-day back on the job could have gone worse. Mostly paperwork, she filled in supervising a few academy exercises, and now she just has to get some chores done before heading home. It’s a relief to have the dread of getting back into uniform out of the way.
Nobuko exits the store, bells chiming above her, salt crunching under her boots as she sets out on to the quiet footpath of the village’s business core. A crowd would offer her little anonymity anyway. It's a pleasantly mild day, Nobuko's fiery orange hair getting to spend at least one day this winter free from the confines of a hat. Between her hair, her height, and her striking red makeup (her clan's calling card), she's standing out right now. Next stop: groceries. Most of the street booths are closed up for the season, save for a small handful who put in the work to set back up and enjoy the pleasant weather. Every one of the cozy-warm shops behind them are as welcoming as ever...
"Sir you have a few meetings you can bypass if you'd like. I know its not a lot to do but you need to-" The voice was stopped as the male took a sharp turn and left out of the kage building. He didn't feel like being stuck in the office for too much longer and thought a stroll through the village would be a lot better. The voice who had been talking to him originally had stopped and sighed, knowing what this meant and thus sat the paperwork on his desk and went back to getting the meeting materials ready. Mo-ri Dan had rarely passed up a chance to be around his village since being put in office for Kage, and even with the unrest of the civil war slowly calming down this was an even more crucial moment to do so.
Wearing a normal looking black t-shirt under a hoodie and a pair of slacks, the young Kage took to the streets pulling the hoodie over his head and letting the Chusei Headband that had been hanging from his pockets, but firmly attached to a belt loop show to the world. While he was quite confident people would recognize his face and if not that his unique eyes, he slowly spoke to the people who had passed him. Once it had clicked in their mind they began to swarm by him and ask a myriad of questions before he smiled and began to answer them as they came and as quickly. It was nothing like being out among the villagers to make him feel good. Even those that didn't respect his line being a Kage respected him for his power and came to greet him.
The bustle outside draws Nobuko's attention away from the pomegranate in her hand. She sets it back down in the basket and steps back to the door, opening it a crack to crane her head and peek outside at what's' going on. "Sandaime-sama!" she calls loudly at the sight of the young man, her warm and raucous voice rising above the din of the other villager's greetings. Oh, jeez, that was a little loud, wasn't it?
Nobuko throws Mo-ri a two-finger salute from her temple (from the hand that only has two fingers and a thumb to give, her ring finger and pinkie lost to frostbite during the war) while still halfway out the door. Then she fully steps out to let the grocer behind her get a look! No way he'd be able to peek over her shoulder, with Nobuko standing at six feet. "Which one is he...?" he asks, in a bashful whisper. "He's not in his robes, he's in the all black - oh, my mom would be so mad at that outfit," Nobuko replies, delighted. The grocer's expression brightens with recognition. "Ah, I see his eyes now. It's hard, with the crowd..."
A man clears their throat behind them, and Nobuko and the grocer both glance back to see an unimpressed man at the counter. He does not care to fawn over the young Kage - he needs his smokes and his beef jerky now. The grocer apologetically shuffles back to his post, Nobuko giving him a parting wave for the moment. She'll be back for those pomegranates. For now she puts her hands on her hips and watches with a smile, wondering idly whether she has anything to say to Mo-ri while she has the opportunity. She can't say she's not a little jealous - between his age, coming out of left field to quell the village, and just a little bit of controversy for flavour? He's like a rock star. Surely he'll disappoint soon enough, but for now Nobuko is content to bask in the good vibes.
There was nothing like being among your own, your home and people even if the place was just in its own war. Seeing the smiles? That made things better at least in his eyes. A small goofy grin overtook his face as he leaned down and gave a small child a head pat and lifted them up to see over the crowd. He always had a soft spot for children more than most in his clan probably and a little more than family would. The child would smile and place his hands on top of the Kage's head as it slowly turned to face the direction of a voice. A familiar sound filled his ears as he saw the two finger salute and followed suit, the child imitating him in tandem. Sitting the small child down, the male would smile to him before slowly floating off of the ground and heading to the store where Nobuko had been.
As he opened the door his hood went down and the slight mess of blue hair began to poke and prod out," Well good morning to you all. Hopefully today is treating you all well," his eyes slowly climbing to meet Nobuko's. The woman had been a faithful shinobi and someone he would be happy to call his friend, but meetings like this were never too..abundant. He probably only saw her while he was out and about or on weird occasions, but being in front of the shinobi was definitely new.
Nobuko’s face lights up into an enormous grin at that little kid’s salute… and then her smile slowly weakens, doubt feeding on the innocence of the moment. Wait, why? Nobuko can’t quite tell. Aw, shit, he’s coming over here, smile again…
Bells chime above Mo-ri's head when he opens the door to the grocery, and Nobuko stands from where she was leaning against the wall, ready to follow him inside. If Mo-ri's getting a look at her toe to tip, he’ll see heavy boots well-suited for mountain treks, cozy slim-leg pants cinched at the ankle, and a bulky coat that dominates her silhouette. “Very well. Suppose I can’t ask you to make the rest of my missions this week so easy?” Nobuko says, smiling wryly.
“G’moning. ‘Scuse me sir, ma’am, thank you,” the middle-aged man who’d been waiting at the counter slips through the held-open door past Mo-ri and Nobuko and out into the street, nodding politely at the Yamakage in response to his greeting. The sound of him impatiently clicking his lighter fills the momentary silence between the two from his interruption, until it too fades.
As soon as he’s gone, the grocer eagerly waves them both in. “C’mon, get out of the cold! Wonderful to see you, sir!”
Like many of the shops in Chusekigakure, this grocery is packed with an expensive grab-bag of items - whatever the owner can get their hands on that their competitors can’t. Paper towels and sacks of rice are piled on the shelves, not far from canned mackerel and cookie tins and rows and rows of jars of pickled goods. In the back, past a modest selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, a large freezer hums loudly. It boasts the cuts of venison and mutton too choice to preserve with usual methods, and must have cost a fortune for the owner to get hauled or summoned to the remote hidden village. A tortoiseshell cat with no collar is curled peacefully in an empty cardboard jar tray by the window, hogging a sliver of sunlight filtering through the various products on display.
Nobuko's eyes are drawn to the cat, but she knows better than to disturb him. Someday she'll earn his love...
The grocer is a short, slender man, with tan skin and thinning black hair. Mo-ri may have met him before, or perhaps read the name of the shop going in - in either case, he'll know that his name is Sanraku. "What brings you in today?" he asks the young Kage, stepping out from behind the counter to shake his hand with a polite bow.
It was cold outside. Aiko was no stranger to this weather, but her lifestyle craved the more warmer environments. The girl was lucky enough to carry a Crimson which was firmly wrapped around her neck and allowed for her to bury her mouth into. Her black woolly top which came down just pass her elbows was sadly a little too small. So she had a thick layer of bandages covering what her shirt could not. Her mid drift was was exposed as well forcing the girl to also use bandages to to protect that area. Lucky for her she had gloves! Nice leather finger-less gloves which she accidentally made too big when she was younger. She also was lucky enough to have killed a deer on her journey so she had some mediocre pants. With a tan leather belt holding them tight on her waist and bandages tightly holding the ends of her pants along her ankles, her lower half was winter ready. As for shoes, she wore the normal sandals though hers were black with bandages wrapped around her feet. This was the life of a poor wanderer, a aspiring artist, and thrill seeking kid.
As for head gear, she did not have anything. It was one of the reasons she was in the village. Hopefully they had something she could obtain though totally official means to keep her head nice and toasty. At worst, she still had her long white hair which worked enough to keep her ears warmish. Still, she wanted some ear muffs… and some food… and what was all this commotion?
She looked up to see a group of people crowding around this person in a black hood. This was her first time in Chusekigakure and she was still getting use to how different it was from the Iron City. However, people are still people. They all act the same way when it came to basic stuff. Poor people steal from the more well off. Hungry people do the hardest jobs for the smallest scraps. Famous people or heroes attract crowds. This also include performers and such but those crowds are different from this one. This was the crowd of a hero or a star! Aiko really hoped it was the latter. A couple more hours of cold was worth the once in a lifetime chance of drawing a star!
Reaching into her purse like bag at her waist, she pulled out her sketchbook and pencil. Then she carefully made her way to the crowd. Her first instinct was to go to a high place but city life was dangerous. People did not like those who worked hard to do “superhuman” feats, bunch of lazy jealous people. She her only option was to use her size to sneak in and gather intel. Lucky for her all good, no… GREAT, explores know how to do this. As she finally made it to the perimeter of the crowd, the man was already heading to this store with a sleeping cat with a pretty marble and orange pattern. Aiko could not help but take a quick break capture it. She had time right?
Aiko quickly started sketching away. She did not have enough time for her normal level of detail but she had to capture its essences, its soul. Then she could make up the rest as she went along. Sometimes you have to bend the truth if you are a GREAT explorer. That way people get a fun and interesting tale. However, looking was not good enough. No all great explores must maximize the use of the 5 senses to capture the best story. So she did the unthinkable.
Aiko silently approached the cat and patted its beautiful fur. It was so soft as her fingers ran through the sea of marble with sprinkles of orange. The girl’s eyes grew starie. Her body was numb to the cold now and she craved to study the creature more. Little did she know, the creature wished to be left alone. As she reached down to touch it’s ear, Yellow eyes glared at her. A loud hiss filled the air sending Aiko stumbling back.
“Nice kitty… Nice kitty. I just… I just want to learn about… OH GAWD!”
NYAAAA! The cat lunged at the girl with claws out. Aiko managed to dive out the way in time. It was fast but not faster than a bear. Just as the cat was readying it’s next leap, Aiko clumsily ran of safety into the building.
“EVIL CAT MONSTER…” she complained with her hand over her heart. Only little did she know, she just revealed herself to everyone in the store. The only question now was, did they care about the white hair, red eye girl. Hopefully they wouldn’t.
The goofy smile of the male slowly faded as he scratched his head a bit and looked around, only to pick up an orange and pay for it," I wanted to be among the people of the village instead of spending all of my time doing paperwork and making sure no one is causing trouble. A leader that is seen and known is better than one that is just known after all. So here I am. Well. Until I saw Nobuko and her smile caused me to come over and say hi to her. She's quite the popular ninja you know," and the smile returned as he peeled the orange for himself and soon began to eat some of it, of course sharing it with the owner after shaking his hand and Nobuko if she wanted some.
In response to Nobuko's question there had been a laugh before he spoke," Unless you don't mind being put on temporary leave and helping with the restoration of some of the tombs in the mountains along with some other things. I suppose I could make an exception or two for today. I hope the missions you've been undertaking haven't been too terribly overwhelming?," as another slice of orange went into his mouth before looking over at the ruckus of the cat and sighed. Someone had made the mistake of pissing it off he guessed. The eyes went over as he blinked and tilted his head," One of yours or...Excuse me but who are you exactly?," the question going to the white haired child that he had no recollection of. The perks of being stuck in an office all day was getting to know the faces of each villager and shinobi that graced this humble village, but this small one was drawing a blank for him.
Nobuko raises her dotted eyebrows at the descriptor of ‘popular ninja’. Her smile doesn't falter, but it's much more confused.
"I think that's what we need right now," Sanraku says, a weary hopefulness to his voice. Both him and Nobuko graciously accept a slice of orange. "Pity you don't see the clan leaders out on the street so we can bond with them over fruit too, eh?"
'Lord Tomohito wouldn't eat anything that isn't gilded', Nobuko has half a mind to say. Instead she decides to pop that slice of orange into her mouth. No disrespectful cracks towards the venerated patriarch of the Kaguya today... at least not in public.
The Yamakage's attention returns to her, and Nobuko swallows and wipes her mouth. "Tombs, huh?" She stares into space for a moment with a dopey grin, clearly overtaken by images of deadly traps and forgotten treasures. “Aw, man… I can’t take another leave so soon, but you know weird old bones are in my blood… let me know when the monks need some of this muscle.” Nobuko flexes, showing absolutely nothing because she has an enormous jacket on. She then taps at her cheek with a finger, thinking back to if there was anything that happened at the academy this morning that he might be interested in. "I just spent this morning with the kiddos doing sparring drills. You know, they-"
“Haha! He’s a look but don’t touch type, kid,” Sanraku calls. Nobuko opens her mouth to say something, and then closes it again, her train of thought completely derailed. Another kid learns her lesson about messing with Mr. Sanraku's cat. Nobuko watches the cat skulk back to his resting place with a sympathetic but pained expression... then she glances over at Aiko and her pained expression picks up a healthy dose of incredulity.
"...and what on EARTH are you wearing," she follows up to Mo-ri's question, leaning forward in amusement and covering her mouth with one hand, putting EVERY ounce of willpower she has into not bursting into tears laughing at Aiko's outfit. Bandages? Bandages and SANDALS? They're soaked from the snow, too! She looks like she's half frozen to death! Don't even get her started on those pants!
As much as the girl wanted to capture the scene with minimal attention on her, her stunt had all eyes on her her. Her red eyes bounced between the many stares before stopping on the two ninja sharing a orange. One was laughing and the other was her item of interest. Aiko's face turned pink, or at least would have had it not been cold outside. This would not be the end of the experience. Her item of interest found interest in her or at least interest in who she was. A reasonable request when you have traits as unique as her family. She did was not of Chusekigure nor did she give off the Chusekigure sense. It was like a black stripe in the middle of a rainbow. Something that could only further be verified by the female next to him.
Aiko took a couple of steps further into the store though she now had her notebook held against her chest. There was no hiding now. All she could do was run away or take the task head on. Everyone knows what the obvious choice was for a top notch adventurer. The girl Cleared her throat, "Hi i'm Ai, an uh... how you would say... an explorer type. I travel around and capture the essences of the places I visit in my notebook," the girl waved her notebook in hopes of getting a few eyes off of her for a couple of seconds. She took a deep breath to get rid of the rest of her nervousness. She wanted to get through all of this in one swoop so she could go back to doing what she did best. "This is my first time in a cold place like this. So much snow. I was ill prepared but I got some money so I was hoping to buy some better clothes. But then I saw this man being crowded by a bunch of people. At first i was confuse but then i realized that he must be..." Aiko took a dramatic pause, "A famous Performer! Especial with pretty eyes like those." It was over. The girl expressed everything she needed too for ice breakers. Now she could get what she wanted. "I never met a famous person before. Could you please let me draw you. It will only take a few moments. I pride myself on speed and accuracy. I promise to do justice to your image!" The girl's eyes glowed with anticipation as the desire to draw the man bubbled like a the fizzy juice in the city. She slowly moved forward in hopes to identify the best way to capture his face. It would be the gem, the center piece for this essences that was The mountain country. This as well would be the first chapter of her experience, he best way to start a grand tale.