This one is two (2) words short of the 1700 minimum wordcount I set for myself at the beginning of the month. However, I have an essay I'm supposed to be writing, so I'll just try and get y'all an extra long chapter tomorrow or Friday.
Beni pushed her hair up and out of her face, the sweat soaked curls now just long enough to be a nuisance. More than two years after she'd cut her hair using chakra borrowed from Choumei, gravity finally asserting itself on the golden coils. She was a little disappointed about that, since she liked the way her reflection in the turtle pool looked sort of like a Catholic fresco, her hair a glowing halo around an indistinct face. She still wasn't quite sure what she looked like, but she found she was surprisingly ok with that. After a lifetime scrutinizing her face and finding it lacking in the most gut wrenching of ways, the years she'd spent without a reflective surface had really helped her self-esteem.
"You're very good with that," Roshi said with a smile, gesturing to the Nyoi Bo in her hands with a jerk of his chin. "Where'd you learn?"
She twirled the heavy staff absently, smiling despite the ache in her arms. "A monkey taught me."
His expression went blank for a second before realization dawned across his face. She laughed, using the magic stick to support her weight as she sank to the ground, her limbs twitching from exertion. Today marked the third time Roshi had joined her for her morning practice, the older jinchuriki coaching her through a spar. In her past life, she was never more active than the public school curriculum demanded, her gym class the only time she exercised, ever. She wasn't in bad shape, but she wasn't particularly fit, either. Now, though, she was buff. A weird term to describe a child, but it was true. She liked looking at the way her biceps moved as she used her staff, liked being able to carry heavy things without help, liked waking up early to work out.
"Are you serious? He taught you?"
She nodded, smirking up at him as he continued to stand there, gobsmacked. She knew from Choumei that he hadn't yet managed to have a proper conversation with Son Goku, though he had tried. Both man and beast had rather…abrasive personalities, on the surface, anyway. The similarities between their bristly exteriors and warm, possessive interiors had Beni wondering just how much a bijuu influenced a jinchuriki's personality. How much had Choumei affected her in their two years together?
Uh-huh. Right. Because she could totally trust the one doing the affecting.
Hey! If you ask me, all the changes have been for the better.
Oh, so there were changes?
Roshi looked like he wanted to ask questions, but Sakumo was sitting on the wall, watching them with dark eyes. She was fine with that, since it wasn't like she had any secret techniques for him to steal, but it did make talking to Roshi harder than necessary. There were a lot of things left unsaid between them after she woke up to find two out of three Konoha shinobi gone and the beetle shaped beans spilled. She was glad that Sakumo didn't know. Konoha was already trying to use her, it would only get worse if they thought they could get their hands on another jinchuriki without having to steal it. Still, she wanted to talk to Roshi about it.
"Having fun up there?"
Roshi had also turned his attention to their audience, his words and expression unfriendly.
Sakumo had a surprisingly thick skin. Maybe it was because she knew how he was supposed to die, but she expected him to be more sensitive. Roshi called him all sorts of names, sometimes bordering on cruel, but he never reacted. With a sad sigh, she realized the words of a stranger from an enemy nation wouldn't hurt nearly as much as friends from his own village.
"Certainly," the White Fang said with false cheer. "It's always fun watching someone else work up a sweat."
Heh. He was right about that.
Beni once again brushed her hair from her face. It wasn't long enough to pull into a ponytail, yet, and she was nervous to even try it. There was an invisible wall between her and her hair in her mind, a threshold she was afraid to cross. She still had no idea how to really take care of it. She did her best using soap berries and the few hygiene products the supply scroll from Konoha had inside, but it was mostly guesswork. She was reluctant to try anything with it, lest she inadvertently damage it to the point of needing to cut it, again. She knew it was silly and vain, since she had no idea what she actually looked like, but she was still attached to the idea of long hair. She didn't know if it even suited her, but she wanted it. So badly.
"Oh?" Roshi bared his teeth at Sakumo, looking very much like Son Goku in that moment. "That's how your village always operates, right? Letting others do the work while you claim the victory."
Sakumo didn't rise to the bait, the faint smile on his face as much a mask as the ivory Wolf mask he'd worn when she met him.
For a man who was doing his best to avoid a war, Roshi sure did try to start a lot of fights.
He wasn't even breathing hard after their spar, though, so he probably needed a stronger opponent to get all his wiggles out. After a lifetime of training for combat, playing around with a kid surely wasn't fulfilling. That being said, playing around with her was very different from challenging a foreign shinobi. If the two adults went at each other, the odds of it devolving into actual violence were too high to risk it. The temple was finally starting to look presentable, again. There was no need to destroy it in a perfectly avoidable pissing contest.
Roshi was sticking around the temple a lot more than he used to. He was probably guarding against Sakumo, but it was clearly making him restless. She never asked what he did when he left the temple, but it wasn't hard to imagine he was fighting. Being stuck in the temple for weeks on end with only a kid and an old man for company must have been incredibly boring.
Sucks to suck. She was having fun.
"Hey, old man!" She loved the way his face scrunched up when she called him that. She probably shouldn't be provoking a man of his stature, but she was a cute little girl his dictator wanted to bring into the fold. He could scowl all he wanted, but he had no choice but to accept her teasing. "Are we gonna learn more, today?"
It had to be boring for Sakumo, too. Day in, day out, all he did was teach her new words from the cookbook—the only one Roshi let him use, since the others were "chock full of Konoha propaganda"—maybe do some stretches or ask about her life at the temple. He never stepped outside the courtyard, likely afraid of not being let back in, so he was probably feeling even more cooped up than Roshi. She, at least, left regularly to find food and just escape the swamp of testosterone gathering in her home. Beetles didn't throw veiled threats at each other or try to one up each other at random tasks. Beetles were happy to just buzz around and go looking for mushrooms. Beetles were the best.
She really did forget how to be a person, huh? Was Choumei doing that? Tch, unlucky.
Sakumo, clearly feeling the burden of being stuck in an enclosed space with a child he wasn't genetically inclined to love. He would be super happy to see his kid when he finally left them. The little Kakashi she remembered was a serious kid, so Sakumo probably missed him extra bad. Beni wasn't serious, at all, and she even went out of her way to be goofier than she might have been, otherwise, since she knew he couldn't really complain. He was trapped and she was gonna take advantage of that for as long as she could.
After all, where else was she gonna find someone to teach her Japanese? Roshi sure as fuck wasn't gonna do it.
He might try, if you implied he couldn't.
Ha! He would, too!
"Sure thing, Beni-chan," Sakumo replied, voice betraying some of his fatigue. "Let me get the book."
He disappeared in a shunshin, leaving her in the courtyard with Roshi. Whew. Crisis averted.
"I don't know why you like him so much," the older jinchuriki grumbled as he began his cool down stretches—never mind that he hadn't even worked up a sweat. "He's such a stick in the mud."
"Yeah," she agreed with a sigh. "But he's cute."
Roshi fell over, catching himself with an open mouthed look of disgust warping his face. Beni laughed, throwing her head back and howling with joy. She stuck her tongue out at him, scrunching her nose for good measure.
"White Fang? More like Silver Fox."
"No! Shut up!" Roshi pressed his hands to his ears, shaking his head like a toddler being served vegetables. "Shut up! I don't want to hear it!"
Ha! It wasn't often she had the upper hand in a bout of teasing, but when she did…Hoh, but she milked it.
"As flattering as that is," Sakumo said dryly, sending a flare of heat into her cheeks as she realized he'd probably heard every word. "I'm afraid I'm not on the market."
Gah! How embarrassing! She was just playing with Roshi, she didn't mean to be overheard!
She had two options: crawl into a hole and die or own it.
She turned to him, the smile on her face just a little too wide. "That's too bad. Not everyone's lucky enough to catch my eye, you know. I have expensive taste."
He chuckled, no doubt taking in her blush and strained expression and finding lots of things to laugh at. "I'll keep that in mind."
Roshi was laughing at her, too! The tables were turned too quickly, she wasn't prepared.
Tch. So unlucky.