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redeyedavenger in narukorp

[closed thread] Christmas @ Kiba's [Sachiko, Sakurai, Kiba, Hinaji, Asuka, Kureno]

"All right."

Sachiko stood in the doorway to the clan kitchen's main cooking area. It was well-lit and all quite warm; done on purpose as she had only finished cooking earlier that day and more than a few dishes were still in the ovens, keeping warm until transport to the Inuzuka compound. Eying the many many containers stacked on the countertops and table-islands, and knowing there was more in the refrigerator as well as the ovens she began wondering if it maybe would be easier to get a cart to carry everything. Instead of lugging everything by hand.

"...We're going to need a cart," she said to Sakurai. "I knew I'd need a lot of food to be able to feed them, and I know I'd made a lot of food, but I guess I didn't really realize how much until now." Granted, the fact the food orders had been delivered to the compound on flats carried in carts really should have tipped her off, as was the fact that Kiba had given her a rough figure of about sixty people and thirty dogs. Ignored the obvious, that what she did. Asuka'd skin her. She frowned to herself, searching her brain for what might suffice from what was in the compound. And then flicked a finger against her own forehead. Of course. The clan had had its own merchants and grocers. Those buildings would have had carts, because the merchants had been more comfortable in gathering up the materials from in-village suppliers themselves or having them delivered to the compound entrance instead of inside the compound itself. So they would have needed carts of their own. "Come on, I know just the place to grab one."

The building that had housed the grocer was only two blocks away, and had been the place to go for planning the feeding of the clan for one of their major shindigs. The windows were mostly opaque, with a few aged signs still in the window and faded fliers for available deals and delicacies. Sachiko walked round to the back instead of going in the front, where two large, wide doors were chain-locked and barred shut.

She pulled out her keyring and selected a certain key. Unremarkable except for its antiquity, it was an honest-to-goodness skeleton key that unlocked every door in the compound and was owned only by the clan head. Sachiko hadn't known about it until she read about it in the archives, a locksmith's journal who had complained about the challenge of making individual locks for each business and house that nevertheless still could be opened by the master key. The key had to be shoved in, and wrenched to the point that Sachiko feared for twisting the metal or snapping it clean off, but finally the tumblers turned and the arm of the lock popped up. A quiet sigh of relief as she put the keyring away, then she got to removing the freezing cold chain and with Sakurai's help removed the door-bar.

The doors opened with about the same difficulty as the padlock but but they were much more noisy about it, screeching loud enough that it was a wonder the whole village hadn't heard. It was also much, much colder inside the building than outside. Sachiko breathed on her hands and rubbed them briskly to try and use friction to warm them up. It didn't help all that much.

Cold winter sunlight was their only illumination, and what it being late afternoon the shadows were already very long. Adjusting to the low light took a bit of time, but the light-colored canvas covering the cart certainly helped. She moved towards it slowly, moving around obstacles of boxes and crates so that she didn't trip or knock anything down. She instructed Sakurai to go to the opposite side, loosening any tie-downs if he saw them. When they reached the back, they pulled the canvas off together to reveal a moderately-sized flatbed four-wheeled cart with low walls and long-pole handlebars sticking out of the front, and a veritable blizzard of thick dust. A low-level wind jutsu blew the choking cloud outside so that she and Sakurai could breathe without feeling they were drowning, then she returned attention to the cart. To judge by the cart's construction, clansmen were what pulled the cart to move it to where it was supposed to go and probably needed three people to move it. It should be big enough for all the food but not too big for them to handle, even when loaded. If nothing else, she thought with a glance to Sakurai, they certainly had strength on their side.

She just hoped the cart itself would still be up to working. A decade was a long time to sit idle when you're made entirely of wood.

They tried moving it, but it wouldn't budge. Sakurai managed to drag the whole mess outside while Sachiko stood to the side and tried to figure out why the front wheels weren't turning. Then--of course! The brakes were still on! Finding the release mechanism took a bit of time to find and then a proper leverage of strength to undo, but the cart squeaked and moved, slowly. Sachiko walked around the cart, inspecting it. It didn't look too bad. Some of the wood looked a little warped and while time had rusted nails and screws, but overall she supposed it looked okay. She climbed in and walked around, testing how it held her weight. The wood creaked, and in places it bowed a little, but it felt solid over all. If nothing else, she felt confident that it should get everything to the Inuzuka compound. She grabbed a few crates and put them in the cart. They would hold the hot food, which she would cover with old blankets and sheets to help keep them warm.

They wheeled the cart back to the kitchens and found a kind of loading dock to the side. Sachiko was pleased; they wouldn't need to climb in and out of the cart, and could instead just walk onto the bed as if it was an extension of the floor. "Cold stuff first," she said before heading towards the walk-in refrigerator.

Comments

Sakurai nodded and followed Sachiko's lead, much as he had been doing since he got here. He just wasn't familiar with the compound at all, and still at a quiet awe and curiosity to better know the place Sachiko had once called home. She'd been very happy here once, after all, and that made him want to learn everything about it. But it didn't feel very appropriate to ask her for a tour of the site that technically was the slaughter grounds for her clan. Maybe she was okay walking around the few areas he'd followed her to thus far, but he wouldn't doubt if she were still avoiding other areas. He might get her to tell him more about it and her family some day, but not now. Right now they had a job to do.

Sakurai remained impressed by the quantity of food Sachiko had made. Looking around the cooking area, it seemed impossible for them to actually compact it into that cart she'd found, but as they gradually began loading--Sakurai was glad when they got to the warm foods, as the ovens made the kitchen a relief from the winter air and fridge--everything began to find a place and order. It took a couple of tries for some things, rearranging boxes, crates and containers, needing to follow certain rules about keeping hot and cold separate, until they pieced it altogether. They actually made a good team; Sakurai liked puzzles, and Sachiko was a natural genius. He wouldn't have been surprised if they'd completed the task in a faster manner than normal.

"Is that everything?" he asked her from the doorway, watching her trace through the kitchen checking off some memorized list.
She didn't reply immediately as she walked through the kitchen. The cold stuff was in the back of the cart, the hot food in the front so it could be offloaded first but in the meantime was buried under blankets; the necessary utensils for cooking and for serving were in their own crate. The blankets covering the hot food could be used as pot holders to keep from damaging the tables if there was worry. She doubted there would be; Inuzuka liked their furniture sturdy, after all. A double-check of all the ovens and stove tops both for food and to make sure the gas wasn't still on. The fires that had provided the heat for the ovens Sachiko used a fire-suppression jutsu to douse, but the brick and clay would need hours to release all of the heat. The refrigerator and the freezer were both empty, too, and she felt a momentary pang of loss. At least this time, they were empty because all the food was going to people who would eat it.

She made a mental note to call an electrician after the new year to get him to turn off the power to the building again.

"That's everything," Sachiko confirmed. They went outside and she made sure to lock up before looking at the cart. "I'll take the left side, you take the right?"
"Actually, I was just thinking of using this." Sakurai retrieved the pole they'd recovered in the back of the cart when sweeping it out before putting the food in. At first it appeared rather random, but soon became apparent to both of them that it was meant to fit in the slots on the handles, turning into a sort of pushcart. Although, for the wagon's size and current purpose, it was likely still to trail behind them. Or him anyway.

"Why don't you hop on? I'll get us there." He didn't want to quite say managing his chakra-strength might be a bit more difficult if he had to negotiate for hers and make sure he never went over. One side of the cart would start getting away from the other in that case. Besides, it was possible a little tiny bit of him wanted to show off. ...Just a bit.
Sachiko hesitated. "Are you sure?" she asked. It didn't seem fair to have him do all the work. But he nodded cheerfully enough, so she relented and climbed up with all the food. She would keep an eye on the food itself, and probably be able to better tell if the cart felt like it was going to come apart.

Plus...

She flexed her fingers, considering, as Sakurai got them underway. The idea of just sitting while he pulled the cart along grated on her; she disliked being useless. Therefore she decided to take the opportunity to experiment with the no-smell genjutsu Asuka-taichou had taught her back when on the Akatsuki-hunting team. The Inuzuka's clan-wide ability to smell out practically anything (with some much better than others) was well-known. That clan was already expecting her to bring a meal, but she wanted the actual details of the food to remain a secret for as long as possible. Therefore, she could get a chance to practice both the no-smell and casting focus-genjutsu.

She moved carefully, not wanting to jostle the food or cause any unbalance for Sakurai, but she knew the no-smell was working when she could smell the sharp cold better than the food she was staring at. A faint, pleased smile passed over her face before she resettled herself in the tiny clear spot by the edge. If nothing else, no one else in the village would wonder too much why Sakurai was hauling a cart of food across the village. They would simply wonder what he was hauling and why.
At first the moving was slow as Sakurai adjusted his chakra to match the weight he was pulling. This wasn't a circumstance where he could throw his strength around without thought, like he often could do in battle; this demanded more concentration and caution. After all, pulling a cart along and carefully not spilling or disrupting its contents required more discipline than just chucking it several yards away. But the farther along they got, the smoother the ride. Well, smooth for all Sakurai could help anyway. Not much could be done now about the lack of shocks on this wagon. It was pretty old. Sakurai was glad he'd put his gloves on before really hauling it over town, to protect him from the dry wood.

The hidden scent of the food was almost lost on him, as the smell tended to drift behind them as they went, but just before turning onto the street where they'd be finding the Inuzuka compound Sakurai caught on. He glanced behind him to look at Sachiko, finding her looking rather pleased by her genjutsu. The young man just grinned in kind and looked back ahead.

"Here we are," he said, slowing them down before they reached the gate so that they were able to stop right in front of it. It suddenly occurred to Sakuai that he'd passed by these impressive gates many times before, but had never been inside them. Looks like that was going to change today however. He tried to remind himself there wasn't anything to worry about and that all the rumors were complete nonsense. ...Except the ones Shishou assured him were true. Especially about their alcohol.

Stepping out from behind the front of the cart, Sakurai stepped over to one of the gate's large knockers. It creaked as he lifted it, and before he could even bring it down the first time there was the sound of dogs.
Poor Sakurai. He had no idea what he was in for.

The barking grew louder as the pair waited and soon was punctuated by yelling and laughing from children. There was a scuffle from behind the door and some yelling ("No, that's my part! Mine!") before the door itself creaked and was pulled open. A gaggle of dogs and children were on the other side, jumping all around and laughing. Kiba was in the midst of it all, a child dressed in a coat and... shorts, apparently, on her shoulders. Akako was behind her and she shouted her own hello in the form of a loud bark, her butt practically wiggling her tail was wagging so fast in her excitement.

"Hey guys!" Kiba said, grinning as she started to shoo away the children and some of the dogs too. Most of them scattered and ran off, starting an apparently confusing game of tag, and laughing. A few hung around and two ran to the guard at the door, handing him a delicious smelling and steaming bag. He himself grinned and waved to the new arrivals before he dug into the warm food, making sure to share scraps with the dog at his side. There was a curious sniff to the food they were carrying, by Kiba, before she laughed and started to usher them in.

"Nice Sachiko, nice," she said, flashing fangs. "I'll take you to the place where you can set up all the food and stuff. Things are a little hectic right now, well... a little more so then usual, don't be surprised if you end up with tag alongs. If they try and filch anything, either tell me or just give them a look- it should work."

The compound was busy at this time, far busier then Sachiko had ever seen it. There were more people out (a few slightly inebriated already) and the kids were running everywhere excitedly. Even the dogs seemed to be more excited then usual. Other visitors besides Sakurai and Sachiko where around as well, talking to Inuzuka and helping with apparent food and party preparations. True to Kiba's words, several kids and dogs started to follow them, asking questions asking to be allowed to ride along too and did they have any candy canes and why was everyone talking about toes and THEY WANTED TO BE ON SOMEONE'S SHOULDERS TOO, IT WASN'T FAIR.

All and all, really, typical of Inuzuka kids.
Not that Sakurai was really aware of that, but somehow the behavior seemed perfectly fitting. Still, it was a bit much to take in as he toted the cart in at a much slower rate (afraid he might squash someone who got underfoot) while following Kiba. He managed to deflect a few requests to ride by either explaining the cart was already old and rather full, or telling them they needed "Sachiko-oneesan's" permission. He was sniffed out for candy and presents, which was a little odd and uncomfortable, didn't get to answer half the questions thrown at him (ignoring that, "Are you Sachiko-oneechan's boyfriend?" one completely, though not without a small blush on his part), and by the time they reached the dining area Sakurai had already been volunteered to participate in several games.

He looked back at Sachiko, unable to have kept an eye on her during the move, wondering if she'd fared any better.
If Sachiko fared better, it was probably because she had more experience with these people. Meaning, when the cart stopped and the ride-denied kidlets (who were actually semi-dressed against the cold, instead of their typical lack of any clothing if they were young enough) crowded her and/or wouldn't stop peppering her with questions, she either used her foot to kick nudge them firmly aside or simply ignored what she didn't want to answer in favor of directing what the self-appointed helpers were to take from the cart and where she wanted them (after double-checking with Kiba that yes, the areas of the kitchen she had requested use of were in fact free for her to use). The "Sachiko-oneesan/chans" made her smile a little, though she kept them quick. Even knowing she was accepted by them, she still felt a combination of self-consciousness and amazement that they did accept her. Wisely, though, she kept the thoughts to her self lest she risk a tackle/noogie from Kiba.

Sakurai had been moved to the head of the swarm, with a mass of container-carrying kids around him. She made sure the cart was completely empty before leaving it, telling one of the adult Inuzuka that soon as the food was temporarily squared away, she and Sakurai would move the cart to a more out-of-the-way place. Said place being a place rarely frequented. She did not want it accidentally destroyed when two or three imbibed too much of the clan's strong drink and decided to brawl for fun.

Very lively people, these Inuzuka.

"Is there anyone else here that Sakurai or I would know?" she asked of Kiba once the cart was put away and Sachiko could start the last round of preparations in earnest.
Removing the young boy from her shoulders, and stepping aside as he ran outside to join his comrades in arms, Kiba nodded cheerfully to Sachiko's question. Patting the head of a child who was hiding shyly behind her leg, she explained, "Hinaji is here somewhere, I just saw him before you arrived- the cousins probably tried to abscond with him. And I'm pretty sure Kureno-sensei is coming with Asuka-sensei."

It only took those two long enough.
Sachiko raised an eyebrow at the implication in Kiba's voice. "They're finally being official-for-real now?" she asked blandly. The only time she had seen the pair looking like they were on a date had been during Kureno's genjutsu test, when she finally snitched the origami bunny from him. She did feel a bit....something....about how they'd be here. She couldn't identify the feeling, but it wasn't a nice one. There was just something about having a comfortable space invaded by your illusion instructor and your jounin sensei that simply didn't sit well with her. She shrugged a mental shoulder; she'd simply have to deal with it.

Meanwhile...

While Kiba and Sachiko chatted, Sakurai found himself a little overwhelmed by the number of children and dogs running underfoot. He didn't often work in pediatrics, so he felt a little inexperienced already, but even when he did help with the kids it had never felt this chaotic before. (And for another thing, animals were not allowed in the hospital unless they had specified permission.) It felt like some of them were in danger of getting stepped on as Sakurai found himself being dragged further away, despite his half-hearted protests that he needed to help unload the food cart. Apparently games were much more important. Ah, to be young again.

At a certain point, Sakurai kinda gave up on fighting them and figured if he promised one game to them, he could hold them to an obligation to let him help the adults as needed. It wasn't until he was being pulled out into a courtyard of sorts that he ran into another familiar face who seemed to be heading towards the kitchens he'd just been kidnapped come from.

"Ah, Hinaji. You're here too, huh?"

...in a far off place...

Hinaji had his own gaggle of kids around his feet, but he'd grown at least semi used to it, and he rather liked the change from the stoic and silent Hyuuga compound. Although he did feel bad for feeling overwhelmed most of the time, since Kiba always seemed so happy when he visited. He'd nearly made it to the doors to the kitchen, one toddler on his shoulders and two others clinging to his legs, when he heard someone he hadn't expected to.

"Sakurai-san?" He smiled brightly to see the other man being pulled by kids, and carefully slogged his way towards the other ninja as the kids around his ankles protested. "I didn't know you had arrived yet. Kiba said others were coming, but I never heard a specific time." He glanced back at the kitchen area. "Are the preparations already finished?" More than likely not, considering the chaos that was the Inuzuka Compound, but he felt it polite to ask.

...in another time...

"Just got here a few minutes ago. I didn't know you'd be here at all. Wow, guess this place is the hot spot for the holidays, huh." Sakurai eyed the number of kids Hinaji had hanging around him and wondered if there was any particular reason why these children had apparently chosen them as their playmates. Maybe they just knew better than to mess with women when they were busy. Hm, smart kids.

"The food still needs to be unloaded but I think Kiba and Sachiko are handling it. I was going to help, but I kinda got kidnapped. ...Literally," he added after realizing the pun.

...something happened.

The Hyuuga boy smiled at the pun. "Yes, that happens a lot around here. They aren't afraid of outsiders at all." He ruffled the hair of one of the kids attached to his leg and the boy grinned. He finished his slow trek towards Sakurai and the kids released him to tackle their kin around the other man. "And I don't think Kiba-chan would mind too much if we didn't help, so long as we keep the kids away." He'd come to realise just how important that duty was to this clan.

"This is your first time here, right?" The girl on his shoulder tugged at his hair and he winced slightly but began to move around again. "Is your family not doing anything for the holiday?"