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Four thousand ryo.

‘How did it come to this?’ Harue thought to herself as she held in her hands the passbook from the Konoha Bank. It was pulled tautly apart, as if trying to rip the passbook up would magically make her debt go away, yet it ironically only made the four digits stand out even more in their black print against the yellowing paper.

She hadn’t been staying in Konoha for much longer than three months, yet her supposedly meager rent had already drove her debt through the roof. It hadn’t been much. The first month had been just a simple one thousand ryo debt, which she diligently paid down to a hundred. Her second month didn’t even result in any debt, as a passing merchant had offered to pay for it in her stead after she helped him recover a piece of priceless jewellery. The interest from the bank wasn’t much either.

In retrospect, she supposed that she could maybe work her debt down if she decided to forgo her weekendly lavish meals. Furthermore, she was still awaiting pay from the last few missions she had gone on, so that would do wonders in grinding down her debt. Maybe that would be sufficient to work her debt back down to the hundreds, but the entire issue that came with how little she was receiving from D-ranks and the occasional C-ranks made sure that she would never completely write off what she had desperately borrowed from the bank.

“I need to get a promotion soon,” she groaned as she entered a small tea shop.

“Can I get you anything, miss?”

“Just water,” she sighed.

“Coming right up, young miss!”

Harue rested her arms on the wooden table in front of her, ignoring the uncomfortable, wooden and rough texture she felt scraping against her elbows, and proceeded to rest her forehead on the back of her palms. She looked silently down at the bare table in front of her, blinking a few times as she tried to surmise a way to make quick money, before finally just letting her eyes close in deep contemplation.

“I really need a break,” she said to no one in particular.

WC: 372




A gentle blend of contrasting aromas saturated the air within the store. From where he sat Shibirin could smell the sharp spices of the savoury dish being served in front of him, the steam irritating his glare if only just. The soft scent of jasmine tea with vanilla essence corrupted his airflow and he wasn't bothered a bit. Quite the opposite, he marvelled in the aroma, tasted it even. There was always something about small underrated stores that attracted the likes of he - a wondering swordsman with no place to call home. His arms were getting sore under the pressure of his head, the hard texture of the bench underneath them not helping at all. The swordsman sat in front of the main counter with his arms folded and his head resting against them, tilted towards the left and hidden under the cover of a straw hat he wore. The hat shadowed his glare, but he could see out of it quite well. Tilted lightly against the numb hold of his right palm was a small porcelain mug that oddly enough lacked both a handle and any liquids. To an observer, Shibirin looked like a wasted, foreign traveller or worse - a local drunkard.

The door opened behind him and the swordsman didn't flinch. He had learned the rhythmic pattern of the store. One minute the door opens and the sound of a new set of footsteps walked in: it was obvious they were new because they'd sound differently, either lighter or heavier than those he had heard previously and they'd walk at a different tempo and with a different stride. The sound of naked wood scraping across polished wood would pollute the other-wise quiet atmosphere of the store and a few voices would lead the rebellion with hush-toned mutters too loud to be whispers and yet too silent to be speeches. The store owner would ask what the newcomer wanted to order and a few seconds later the sound of silver-plated copper coins would crash quickly into the cash register. It'd close, the stranger would sit and swordsman would purge a sigh. Only this time it was different. The stranger's steps were lighter than the rest, more frequent too. An exchange of coins didn't occur - the air lacked the annoying sound that came with it - the stranger asked for water and nothing else.

Shibirin tilted his head up a bit and his straw hat slid over his back a little. His eyes met with the side of the young girl's gentle face. She had ocean-blue eyes and bits of her outfit were tinted to match. Her hair was clean tint of white and was cut short - the back of it stretched no further than her neck and the rest grew to shallower lengths. She rested her arms on the wooden table in front of her and only then did the swordsman acknowledge her fair skin, spotless as it was. Her build was small and slender like that of a primary school-aged child, but her stance suggested she was more than that. Her curiosity with the wooden counter suggested to the swordsman that she was either lost in her own thoughts and her eyes demanded somewhere plain to rest on, or she was deeply interested in such a boring item as a wooden bench. Shibirin wiped a genuine smile across his lips and watched the girl as she ordered, regardless of what she or anyone else thought of him as he did so. From the corner of his eyes he could see the shopkeeper's daughter or wife staring in his direction, possibly shocked at the idea of a grown man marvelling at the innocence of a lonely young girl, but Shibirin had his own ideas and motives. With her gentle face, her glossy eyes and her snow-white hair, she reminded him of himself when he was young. Though he wore glasses back then.

"What's on your mind kid?" he finally declared, his gaze still fixed on her head, but desperately dancing between her hair and eyes.




“What’s on your mind, kid?” a sharp voice asked, breaking her out of her train of thought.

She looked up for a while, taking a split moment to recognise that the voice originated from her right and turned her head accordingly. She was greeted by the sight of a single purple eye, as penetrating as it was unusual, darting furiously around her face and drinking in the details of her appearance. Harue’s shoulders instinctively stiffened as she herself returned the unspoken favour, taking in this stranger’s appearance, though she had to give up very soon after her eyes scanned his yellow straw hat, white cloak, and matching hair - bizzarre but not exactly unwelcome - which obstructed his remaining eye from view.

Subconsciously, her eyes wandered, tracing the outline of his clearly well-toned body, starting with his broad shoulders and shamefully ending there, as his white cloak and sitting posture left almost everything else to her imagination. It was only when she realised she had been staring - how rude of her, she silently admonished - that she blinked her eyes in rapid succession before meeting the man’s piercing gaze. His one eye easily bore into her pair, not really declaring to whoever was paying attention that he wasn’t to be trifled with, but not exactly hiding that subtly veiled fact either.

“I’m sorry, it’s nothing,” she replied, slightly abashed. A blush formed on her cheeks as she scratched the back of her head absentmindedly in a futile attempt to diffuse the tantamount tension and awkwardness that had risen during their silent exchange. She wasn’t used to speaking with people older than her. Those of her age she was very used to - the teens of Takara’s village had practically gravitated towards her, most of them with honest and non-underhanded intentions. Yet the age of her audience had almost never exceeded her own, so interacting with her seniors did hold a sense of unfamiliarity to them.

“Your water, young lady,” the waiter informed as he sat a glass of cold water, vapour already condensing on its outer surface, on the table in front of her.

“Thank you,” she replied, facing him. Her hands closed around the glass of water, mentally thanking him for his thoughtfulness, given the recent heatwave that had been plaguing the village. Then again, the weather in Konoha was probably always like this, and the fault lay with her for having still failed to adjust to the local environment. She returned her attention to the man in front of her, tipping her head slightly in apology for having sidelined him momentarily to express her gratitude to the waiter-slash-owner. “It’s just a small debt that’s been piling up. I haven’t been able to pay it off lately, but I think it’s just because I haven’t really settled in yet.”

Her eyes then flashed across his figure once more - or at least what was visible of it from the table up. Now more focused, she was able to properly register and process the visual feedback, however little it still was. His sturdy built suggested physical labour was frequent in his line of work. But what kind of work though? Her face scrunched almost unnoticeably as her brain churned. She had a feeling he was invested more into the professional line of work, rather than simply being someone’s muscle when they needed it, if the presence he exuded was any indication. She remembered idly of someone who used to carry himself similarly - Takara Uzumaki, may he rest in peace - and it was distinctly different from the hunters and blacksmith who made up some of the other occupants of Takara’s village.

“I’m sorry, what’s your name again? Where are you from?” she finally managed, hoping that her single second of silence hadn’t discomforted him too much, her debt now the last thing on her mind with the new arrival having monopolised most of her concentration.

WC: 372 + 672 = 1044




The girl took her time in answering his question, let alone acknowledge his presence, but the wait was worth it. She glanced over in his direction and her cheeks flashed a bright pinkish tone. As she steered her gaze into his Shibirin couldn't help but notice her faintly puzzled expression, her attention obviously transfixed on the swordsman's appearance. He assumed she was sizing up his figure; taking in his unusual appearance and mentally forging her own presumptions of his identity. His foreign attire would outcast him amongst the locals and his swords would tell stories of his area of expertise. The lack of body scars or tattoos would suggest the man was either too careful to make mistakes or was exceptionally good and hiding the evidence. The truth had room for both cases. The girl finally rested her eyes in his, and a moment later their conversation truly began.

“I’m sorry, it’s nothing,” she spoke with an innocent tone, un-rushed and unsuspecting. It was pleasant to hear to say the least. Shibirin held his smile and fixed his attention on the girl, though he sensed a bridge between their exchanges. She displayed obvious signs of discomfort as she forced each word out of her mouth. It was as though she was being forced to speak against her will, crippled by the very idea of talking to a stranger, though what else could he have expected? She hesitated for a few seconds and the swordsman gave her all the time she needed to collect her thoughts. The shopkeeper returned before she said anything more and glided across the floor with a glass of water in his hand and offered it to her. She let the man lower the glass in front of her before thanking him and re-directing her attention back to the stranger. “It’s just a small debt that’s been piling up. I haven’t been able to pay it off lately, but I think it’s just because I haven’t really settled in yet.” 'Settled in, she's not a local?' Shibirin couldn't help to think, though he seized his thoughts before they could evolve into assumptions. He masked his mental absence with a worried look on his face that suggested he was pondering her condition, though as he returned his glare towards her eyes he saw that they were once-again focused on his build. 'Did i spill something on my shirt?'

"Mmm," he'd say whilst nodding his head in agreement, as though it were a question. In truth he had no idea how to respond; money had never been an issue for him whilst growing up, so he couldn't say he empathised with the young girl. Still he listened, his fingers now subconsciously twirling the small mug in his hands and attracting his attention at the same time. A second later the girl asked “I’m sorry, what’s your name again? Where are you from?” and the question struck the swordsman through the heart with it's cold metal and sharp edge. It'd didn't take him long to answer the question, he had grown so used to it's frequent appearance at the start of most of his conversation, though each time it demanded the truth and each time he supplied it with a lie. "Call me, Shibirin," he spoke in a flat tone, uninspiring in nature and lacking any emotion. His smile faded into a frown and his eyes were now completely fixed on his fidgeting hands. "I come from a far away place, too far to remember, but i feel at home anywhere and everywhere." He had said more than he should have, but he wasn't hiding under a rock any more. Those times had come and gone. He quickly noticed the gloom atmosphere his tone had invited into the conversation and went about changing it. He smiled, looked back towards the girl and asked, "...and you?"

It was a fake smile, but it was far from empty...




“I come from a far away place, too far to remember, but I feel at home anywhere and everywhere.”

“I come from… far away,” a familiar voice echoed from a long, long time ago.

Harue forced herself to stop that train of thought. Nothing good ever came from thinking of those days long past. Even as she impelled her mind to sideline such thoughts already flashes of red were filling her vision, and screams, however muffled they now seemed, rang out in the distance. She caught Shibirin’s one purple eye staring intently at her, and his sharp look helped her rein herself in. She consciously steadied her uneven breath and relaxed her grip on the glass of water that otherwise remained untouched, lest she accidentally damage the owner’s wares.

Still, even with that slight distraction, Harue’s socially attuned mind helped catch the frown that adorned Shibirin’s features, as well as the small hint of weakness that he most doubtless loathed showing when his hands visibly writhed. He likely didn’t have a pleasant past, and Harue could empathise with having to face one’s demons more than she would like to admit. It wasn’t easy, and she was definitely learning that lesson again, the hard way, as the demons she once thought she had made peace with threatened to bring back a surge of not only evocative memories but also vehemently excruciating emotions that threatened to–

“And you?” Shibirin asked, with a sudden smile plastered to his face.

Too sudden, too soon did the smile come. It wasn’t natural how quickly he had donned it, despite how natural it just seemed to see the gentle upturns of his lips. Just something else to solidify Harue’s thesis. She knew better than to prod in a stranger’s past, though, given what she had done to–

A slap. One, loud resounding slap rang across the village, demanding everyone’s attention. Everyone turned to look at her – at her, always her, why her why her whyherwhyher – with shock. She wasn’t surprised. She was horrified herself. Her right hand had just shot out. She looked at her right palm, as if trying to confirm whether she had actually slapped someone. It stung and pulsed red. Oh no, she did slap him. She did slap him. Now they were going to hate her. They wouldn’t let her stay in her village. They would kick her out. They would leave, just like her parents.

She felt fear – fear of the attention she was currently at the center of. It was rare, but she felt terror well up as the entire village gathered around the two of them. Her, looking at her hand in fear, and Yoshifumi, who was on the ground nursing his left cheek which now stung with equal amounts pain and shame, and an entire flood of disgust. Disgust, directed at her.

She felt a firm hand on her shoulder, and she turned to see Takara’s concerned face. He was saying something, but she couldn’t hear it. She could see his lips move, though. ‘Calm down,’ he seemed to be mouthing. Calm down? What did he mean? Wait… Was she… was she hyperventilating? When had she collapsed onto the ground? Why was her eyesight suddenly dimming? Why were black spots appearing in her vision? She looked around. The villagers were closing in on her. Like a predator stalked its prey, before going in for the kill in the end. They were everywhere she looked. Everywhere, everywhere, everywhereohgodpleasehelpher–

“And you?”

Shibirin’s question shook her out of her stupor. She sucked in a deep breath, and she pushed aside the rest of her dreadful past by shaking her head. She smiled sheepishly about him. “Sorry about that.”

She then placed a finger to her chin in thought as she looked up, trying to recall the name of the village that had taken her in and nursed her back to health, both physically, mentally, and emotionally, before giving her a second family to love like no other. What was the name of the village again? Did Takara’s village even have a name? She couldn’t seem to recall. She and the villagers had always just referred to it as ‘the village’.

“I don’t really remember the name of the village, to be honest. I just know it’s to the south or southwest of Konoha. It’s not really a village as much as it’s a group of people who got fed up with civilisation, but it did trade with some of the bigger cities around it to get by. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have heard of anything like that though,” she ended with an embarrassed smile. “So why is someone from a far away place, too far to remember, but feels at home anywhere and everywhere doing in Konoha?” she asked teasingly, ignoring the very strong urge to puke in the toilet as her memories once more fought for dominance in the present where they didn’t belong.

WC: 1044 + 850 = 1894




The child became lost in a train of thought, however brief. Her facial expression looked numb, her pupils appeared to be more dilated than constricted and her stance was thoughtless. She looked as though her conscience had abandoned her, as though she was desperately searching for herself in some 4th dimensional void, momentarily oblivious to her current situation. Shibirin danced his gaze past the girl to snatch the unsettling stare of an older-looking man seated two tables away to the girl's left. The man was as hairy as he was tall and his outfit looked revolting from his proximity - lord knows what it'd look like from up close - but it was far from garbage. The white-haired swordsman used this opportunity to thoroughly browse over the child's attire and general appearance. She had stated her financial status earlier on at the start of their conversation, but her attire didn't reflect it. Her clothes made poor armour if that's what they were made for, although they were decent clothes; the material used on her garments was cheap to afford, but it was durable and didn't look too bad from a distance. He couldn't identify any weapons on her or spot any bulges that'd allude to such a reality, nor could he see any scars on her body that'd suggest she needed them. She didn't hide too much of her body under cloth, but he would have expected nothing less from a girl her age. 

Open flashback ~

"You could do with a little armour on you," his master said, his eyes averted and fingers busy with themselves as always. Raishi had never been the type of guy to look a man in the eye and tell him his fly was open; he'd always find a better place to lay his eyes whilst he gave the man hints towards the unfortunate truth. Shibirin thought he was mocking his frail body by the remark, but as always with his sensei he could never tell for sure what was on the Jounin's mind. "Thus far i've never needed to shield my body from my foes," the boy replied, his eyes piercing through the man's inattentive gaze and demanding it's audience. They had managed to push through half an hour of training before the Jounin had decided to attack yet another one of his student's many flaws, but for the first time he hadn't been so direct. His jaw sharpened and his eyes met with the boy's. His lips were sewn into a light smirk the kid almost mistook for a frown. "When such a time comes you'll wish you had taken precautions." Shibirin purged a snicker and pushed the idea aside. "I couldn't afford it if i wanted it anyway," he said, but his master insisted on pulling the thought right back. "Then be glad you have a generous sensei like myself, who will look after you when you can't look after yourself," he said, his smirk evolving into a smile and his eyes more focused than ever. 'He bought me armour, but when?' A grin manifested itself across the young boy's lips and his grip gave up on his sword. The metal dropped to the ground before him - protesting in sound as it stroke the hard surface - before dancing to a slow and gradual stop. "You didn't," Shibirin started, but the man unexpectedly agreed. "I didn't. Of course, you'll have to get the armour off of me yourself, otherwise this wouldn't be much of a training session at all, but I can't say i'll be able to take the armour back if you succeed," he said, his smile finally justified. The unexpected words shot out of his sensei at blinding speeds and stroke his thoughts without resistance. "You're wearing it?" he asked, but all the Jounin did in response was take a few steps backwards and readied himself in a defensive stance. 'What an ass hole,' the young boy thought, before charging towards the man - picking his sword off of the ground as he ran past it - and throwing a series of swings against his posture.

Their fight lasted a little over a minute, but every second felt like torture to the young swordsman. His master seemed calm and composed, unharmed by any of his futile attempts, but more disappointed of his pupil's failure to beat him than he was proud of winning. Shibirin had never felt more useless: the feeling was as embarrassing as succumbing to the harmless taunts of a pre-primary-aged child, but not quite as meaningless. His body had taken multiple beatings from the man's bare fists and palms alone, though none of his hits had even come close to touching the Jounin and the few that did had led to his own failure. Every swing he made opened himself up to an attack from the opposite side and no matter how well he guarded that side with his free arm, it was never enough to stop the unexpected counter blows. Whenever he put his blade in-between he and his foe the latter always found a way around it, manipulating the small blind-spot the gesture would create for the former and striking his body where he least expected it. Shibirin now lay on the ground in pain, body covered in deep bruises and shallow cuts across every major part of his body, not one limb left unaffected by his sensei's attack. His breath was hurried and his gaze was troubled by the sweat that rolled down from his forehead and passed through his eyebrows and lashes. His stare was cold and fixed on his disappointed sensei. "Why, why are doing this to me? Why promise me something you aren't even willing to give me," he asked, tears now rolling down his cheeks mixed in with the sweat. "You are way stronger than me, how am I supposed to beat someone that is too strong for me to beat? Why didn't you just give me the armour?" The Jounin turned his back on the chunin and started walking away slowly. "Answer me!" the boy demanded, but Raishi didn't flinch. "Why!!?"

The Jounin finally stopped in his tracks, but he didn't look back at the beaten child. "Easy come easy go, kid. Things that are merely handed to you won't last you a day in this world, if that day lasted for your entire life. A defence that is easily put up can be easily put down and an attack that has little thought invested into it will require little thought to intercept. This fight wasn't about the armour kid, it was about teaching you the difference between a sword that you bought from the shop and a sword you made by hand, a house that you inherited and a house you built from scratch, an attack you threw for the sake of throwing an attack and an attack with meaning behind it and has direction. You fought me with the intention of beating me, not winning the fight, and believe me kid there's a difference. That's why I was able to avoid every attack you threw at me and even fit in a counter move each time; it wasn't because I am stronger than you, but because I put meaning behind all my actions and didn't act with reason alone." The young boy was embarrassed, more so than before, more so than ever. How could he have missed it? Raishi Kanetsu had never done anything for nothing - there was always some greater meaning behind his actions and words - but Shibirin had been such a lousy student that he hadn't even recognised his sensei's pattern and now it had cost him his pride and skill. The armour was by now the last thing on the chunin's mind, though he hadn't completely forgotten it. Raishi let out a small sigh before continuing to walk in the same direction as before, both hands in either pockets and his head bowed low. "That's enough training for today," was the last thing Shibirin heard from the man before the sun had set...

Close flashback ~

Shibirin snapped himself out of his short trance and quickly looked around for the girl before meeting her glare. The swordsman was lucky enough to return in time to hear the girl apologise for her own periodic absence. "Sorry about that," she said, before she placed a finger to her chin, threw her gaze to the ceiling - as though searching for her response within the timber above - and began to share her story. “I don’t really remember the name of the village, to be honest," she started. "I just know it’s to the south or south-west of Konoha. It’s not really a village as much as it’s a group of people who got fed up with civilisation, but it did trade with some of the bigger cities around it to get by. I’m pretty sure you wouldn't have heard of anything like that though,” she was right, the description of the place didn't sound any bells in his memory. She then asked, “So why is someone from a far away place, too far to remember, but feels at home anywhere and everywhere doing in Konoha?” The swordsman could have sworn he picked up a hint of comedy in the way the girl rephrased his statement, word for word, into a question he'd probably later on regret answering. Shibirin took a second to think, though in his mind it felt somewhat longer than that. When he was ready to speak he moistened his lips and began by saying, "When you've walked the type of path i've walked you realise there's no other destination in life apart from death. Our goals and dreams are merely checkpoints we give ourselves to occupy our interests during our journey through life, but what would one do if they ever ran out of checkpoints, but hadn't quite reached the end?" He let the thought sink into the girl's head, but didn't wait long enough to give her time to respond before continuing. "I have ran out of reasons to void travelling, and the promising activity has never been more appealing to me than now." The swordsman kept his eyes on the girl throughout his speech, but once he had stopped he'd allow his gaze to wonder once more around the girl and onto the dirty man to her far left. Something about the man kept demanding the swordsman's attention, though the stimulus wasn't obvious enough to justify. Still, he listened to the girl's response to his follow up question. "How large his your debt, in exact figures?"




Harue was confused at his rhetoric, yet she was glad for it as well, as it gave her a much-needed respite from the painful, haunting memories that had been unusually disruptive in her day. She had thought she had managed to move past most of the negative ones, or at least suppress them so they didn’t prove too much of a hindrance in the present, but her recent episodes with the more painful flashes of her past had proven otherwise.

She let her attention drift back to his words. What did one do when they had run out of checkpoints? What did they do then, when they hadn’t quite reached the end? It was clearly a metaphor, and Harue was glad that the elder back at Takara’s village had educated her enough that she would be able to understand some form of indirect talk. She guessed that he meant that one’s goals in life had been completed prematurely, leaving him with nothing more to spur him forward. She couldn’t say she empathised, as such a concern had never been a primary worry for her. Her life had always been full of things to keep her attention off the very idea that she would have nothing to occupy her mind anymore - her ninja training, the village’s economy, Takara’s health, and now being a ninja in Konoha.

However, she was certainly not a stranger to a similar yet slightly different concept, that of having nothing to live for. It wasn’t so much that one had completed their goals as much as they had their goals ruthlessly ripped away from their reaches. No, she was definitely not a stranger to that. She had lost her mother at the young age of ten. She had woken up expecting a small surprise birthday party by her parents, yet by the end of the day, neither parent was longer breathing, and she didn’t feel so much of an innocent child any further. She could still remember excruciatingly vividly the details of that horribly morbid night in her home, where her mother had bled out as her killer pinned her by the neck against the wall, slowly opening new cuts along her body as he relished in her bloodcurdling screams of agony, which then died down to whimpers of defeat, before giving way to eery silence. She had lost all reason to live on that day, and had actually embraced the thought of death, dying in a cupboard, trapped, and she probably would have been delivered to Shinigami’s shores had Takara not saved her.

Yet, Harue didn’t feel as if that was what Shibirin had meant through his words. He didn’t seem to be the type where his life had its course unfairly changed because someone had taken something precious from him. Or, at least, he didn’t seem to be suffering from it at present. No, he seemed to be the type of person who had surpassed expectations placed on his shoulders and completed every assignment given to him, either by his superiors or himself. Shibirin seemed like someone who had walked the halls of hell and back, seeing equal amounts pain and misery as he had joy, and had completed so much of the impossible in his life that little served to strive him to polish his blade further.

“Well, how do you know if there aren’t any more checkpoints in your life?” she asked. “Checkpoints don’t always come readily. Maybe you just have to search around for them.”

Harue didn’t know what she was saying, or where the words were coming from beyond her lips. She had never really taken that well to philosophy, and it was an unfortunate fact that had greatly infuriated the village elder back at Takara’s village, especially every time he had attempted to educate her on the matters of life and womanhood (though that latter one had been slightly weird learning from an elderly male). His use of metaphors and personifications served little to improve her experience, bar supplying a source of comedy, especially watching the old man throwing the same kinds of metaphors and personifications at Takara, which she supposed summed up the fact that she was an utter tomboy. Of course, what made it all the more humorous would be Takara agreeing unanimously that she was hopelessly lost as an actual girl, yet would not stop grooming her tomboyishness during their training sessions in the ninja arts.

“Wouldn’t the point where you lose your checkpoint simply be another checkpoint in itself? One where your goal is to help other people with their own checkpoints?” Harue asked, surprising even herself.

Harue then registered his following words regarding his reason for travel. So, it seemed that Shibirin was merely a traveller for the wanderlust of it, little different from her dabbling in the ocarina or the kendama. The only difference was that his travels took him from the far west to the far east, while her hobbies were just a simple way of entertaining herself, and sometimes other people, while she was bored in her own backyard.

“I’ve always wondered what it’s like to just travel wherever you want,” Harue said. She had never gotten to explore that option, particularly because she lacked the time to do so, having had to come to Konoha immediately after her departure from Takara’s village. However, a more practical reason had also been the danger that was omnipresent in the shinobi world, even during relatively peaceful times such as these. That Shibirin could do so at his own leaisure spoke either of his wealth or prowess, or both, and she did not know which was more intimidating. “I’ve never actually had the chance to do so.”

When he asked her for her debt, however, she got slightly more hesitant. Four thousand ryo was not exactly a small amount, with her standard and meager paycheck at least, and if she gathered anything by his state of dress, it was that he was at least financially well off. She didn’t want to assume, but she wanted even less to have someone just fork out the money like that. “It’s..” she started hesitantly, “It’s four thousand ryo.”

The answer came with a sigh, as if she was disappointed. And she was. Very. When she had first received the admonishment from the bank manager about her debt, she had been worried, yes, but it wasn’t until she verbally admitted it to someone else that the weight of it seemed to fully crash down on her shoulders, forcing her to realise how deep of a hole she had dug for herself. It had seemed like something so trivial, something she could handle if she just tweaked the small spending habits she had here and there. Yet, she had to admit, it wasn’t a simple at all.

“It’s four thousand ryo,” she repeated again, once again sighing, though this time in defeat. She quickly perked up however, knowing that she wasn’t the only individual in their conversation. “It’s okay, though. It’s nothing I can’t water down myself if I spend judiciously,” she said before taking a gulp from her cool glass of water. Yeah, she could work down that debt.

For some reason, though, the water didn’t seem as cooling anymore.

WC: 1245 + 1894 = 3139




Harue heard the door lock behind her, and she surveyed the state of her apartment, just as was habit every time she came back at the end of the day. It was a beautiful apartment to take in, to be sure, and it was still difficult to believe that such an amazingly furnished apartment was just average by Konoha’s standards. It spoke highly of how lofty Konoha’s living standards were.

The owner of the entire apartment complex, Yoshiaga Gakusha, had been very forthcoming with renting this apartment to her. Part of the reason had been because the previous owner (or current owner, since the apartment was never sold nor did the owner move out officially) had already been placed on field duty for several months without returning, and was slated for field work for the next few years, leaving her apartment to gather dust. The more major reason, though, was because of her connection to Takara Uzumaki, who Yoshiaga himself was familiar with and owed several favours. That latter fact had been what lit up the spark in Yoshiaga’s eyes when she had discussed searching for an apartment, and Takara’s name held enough sway with the man to cause him to lower the absurdly sky high rent to something that she was just barely able to afford.

Said rents were truly starting to build up, though, and Harue doubted her luck would hold out; eventually, she would drown in it enough for Yoshiaga to actually demand his payment or take legal action against her. Takara’s name wouldn’t save her forever, she knew. Maybe she should’ve accepted that offer to pay off her debt from Shibirin, instead of turning it down and engaging in small talk with him before they both left the shop and went their separate ways? He had offered to pay off her piling debt, and it was nothing close to a buff considering the nonchalant yet serious tone he had adopted with those words. With how well dressed he was, it was also not too big of a stretch that he could possibly not only pay off her apartment’s rent, but also buy it over altogether, along with all the furniture. Of course, she didn’t know how Kochiyo would feel about having her apartment just sold like that, but Yoshiaga seemed to be someone who could be tempted to do anything with the right amount of money, even releasing Kochiyo from her lease.

Harue stretched her arms upwards, the set of keys still in her right hand. She then threw said keys onto the carpet, not caring too much about the condition of her living room, as she would tend to it during the weekends when she was less exhausted. Nikko trotted up to her and gave her a small welcoming bark. She scratched underneath his chin humorously and went over to her couch, where she plopped down horizontally, feet dangling over one end as she kicked off her ninja sandals, while letting her head and hands drape off the other end. She stared at the ceiling blankly, faintly registering the feel of Nikko’s fur against her shoulder and neck as he rested his head on her shoulder with an affectionate whine.

Life in Konoha was so much different than in Takara’s village, she reflected, even if this wasn’t the first time such thoughts passed her mind. Drastically higher living standards aside, the people in Konoha were also so much more materialistic than she was used to, and than she was comfortable with. It had taken her three months in the major village just to meet someone who was less materialistic. The offer to pay off her debt notwithstanding, he had also advised her to live the rest of her life debt-free, whether financially or not. While she was doubtful that she wouldn’t be wrapped up in debt once again with the absurdly inflated monthly rent had Shibirin paid it off, it was still a relief to find someone like him. However, disappointment then welled in her chest when she realised that Shibirin, while the first person in Konoha who had acted differently, was also not from the village they met each other in, leaving her pondering whether the entire population of Konoha, and in extension the other major villages, had their minds buried six feet under grandeurs of ryo.

If this overbearing and paradoxically philanthropic village really was the birthplace of Takara’s ninja career, she could respect how strict and disciplined he had had to mould himself before his untimely death, not that she didn’t already have considerable respect for him. It also explained in part how he was as strong and experienced as he was; no amateur would be able to live as long as he had, not just as a shinobi but also one from a hidden village. The costs were still unimaginably high, and Takara had gone through all that and retired from active duty before settling down in the countryside. It also highlighted the huge gap between them that she always took for granted. Sure, she’d been knocked out in three seconds flat without Takara even moving an inch, a lesson for impatiently demanding to learn ‘more impressive ninja work’ when she was tasked with Fuuinjutsu basics, but to be shown her shortcomings in other aspects of her life that Takara had handled more than adequately was another story.

Still, this was what being a life was, much less being a shinobi. One tended to see their own shortcomings, and as a shinobi it was doubly important to patch them up before they cost her.

She was interrupted in her pondering when she felt the weight of Nikko on her stomach, having pounced on her after realising he wasn’t doing enough to get her attention. She looked at him incredulously, and he only made himself comfortable before drifting off to sleep, and Harue gave a small laugh. He always knew how to calm her down and break her from her more unproductive musings, even if he didn’t mean to. She looked at the door once more to double-check that it was locked, and she closed her eyes, resting her left hand over her eyes as another layer of protection against the light. She could turn it off, yes, but that would mean getting up and disturbing Nikko, and he looked far too peaceful to disturb.

Her shortcomings could wait for tomorrow. Her rent could wait for tomorrow. Her problems could wait for tomorrow.

Tonight, sleep.

[Exit Thread]

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