If you're curious about the kitchen that I describe, I'm basing it roughly on Dianxi Xiaoge's kitchen. Watch her on YouTube! She's wonderful! Watch Li Ziqi too! I'm using both these lovely ladies for the basis of our MC's experiences.
With this chapter the exposition is basically done! Tomorrow, the plot will kick in and our MC's name will finally be revealed. :D
Originally Posted Nov. 5, 2020
Life in the temple wasn't so bad.
She'd struggled at first. Her 21st century sensibilities made living off the land harder than it had to be, but she quickly learned to set aside her more ridiculous hang ups in favor of, you know, surviving. So, she learned how lay traps and how to kill, skin, and prepare adorable bunnies and birds, her mother and grandfather teaching her through Choumei's memories of their lives. She watched the monkeys for clues on how which plants were safe to eat—she got it wrong sometimes, and boy was that a gross experience—and how to build makeshift shelters from the rain using big, waxy leaves, since none of the ancient buildings had roofs, anymore.
In fact, she was pretty sure the monkeys were going out of their way to show her how to do some things, some of the older females taking extra care to move slowly and where she could see without actually joining their group. It made sense, in a weird way. She was a primate, too, after all, and there was a reason so many scientists dedicated their lives to studying monkeys and apes. It also made her feel a little less alone. Choumei was…nice, but he was a primordial chakra beast whose only real understanding of humans came from her mother and grandfather and their evil village of doom. The monkeys couldn't talk and she didn't know any sign language to teach them, but they looked at her and saw a poor baby with no adults to care for her and took up the mantle, themselves. Granted, they didn't exactly welcome her with open arms, but they didn't run for the hills when she joined them at the pool and sometime the juveniles would join her in teasing the turtle. It wasn't fulfilling, by any means, but it was something. Plus, she was eighty percent sure the animals in the Narutoverse were smarter than the ones in her world, because magic chakra~.
The temple's inner sanctum was mostly intact aside from its roof—Choumei showed her how to replace the thatching, but she hadn't got around to it yet—and it was a veritable treasure trove of cool stuff. Apparently, priests and other people used to live there, worshipping Choumei and tending to the animals which represented his siblings, so there was a living area that would probably make her life much easier once she figured out how to use it. There was an oven type thing built up against a wall. It was as tall as she was and had two round indentations that looked suspiciously like built in woks. The platform they were set into was hollow, the inside utterly coated in ancient ash. So, more stove than oven. Now that she recognized it as a kitchen, she noticed the withered remains of plants hanging from hooks and old, rotten baskets piled in corners and broken ceramics littered across the floor. If there was any food there, it was long lost to time or monkeys.
The ceramic jars were her favorite find, since she could carry things around and use water without risking the turtle's wrath. There were a bunch of things she didn't recognize, too, her Western perspective rendering the Asianesque tools formless to her brain. She left those alone. Knowing her luck, if she played with them they would end up exploding or something.
It didn't take long for her to fall into a routine. Every day started out with a quick wipe down of her face and body—as sad as she was to cut her hair, it was so much easier to go about her day without it—and a sparse breakfast of berries and other fruits foraged from the wild. Then, she followed the game trails through the forest, checking the traps she'd laid the day before and resetting them for the next day. Then, she brought her ever unreliable catch back to the temple where she skinned the poor little creatures—blegh—gutted them—hurk—and chopped them up—geck. She'd scrubbed the wok things as clean as she could and she used them to cook her meat with wild onions and a starchy root vegetable that tasted too sweet to be potatoes.* She had no seasoning or anything, but the food came out ok after she figured out how not to burn it. Not particularly tasty, but palatable. Then, she cleaned up after herself and checked on her soap berries to see if she could use them yet—no, because of course they took forever to dry—and prepared for the night.
Yes, life in the temple was alright.
It was also abysmally boring.
There was nothing to do. Every day it was the same thing. Over and over and over until she swore she was going to explode.
I don't know what you expected, Choumei sniffed, completely unsympathetic. So sorry my temple doesn't have video games.
A snide piece of her wanted to whine that he should be, but she knew that would be pointless. It wouldn't do to start a fight with her only friend, after all.
How's about you train? Your chakra control sucks.
YoUr ChAkRa CoNtRoL sUcKs. Myeh.
He was right, though. At first, training her chakra was fun—probably because it was new and magical and not about staying alive—but now it was just another thing to put off. She could grab hold of her chakra just fine, and she could command it to a certain extent, but she couldn't use it to climb trees or walk on water. The one time she tried to stand on the sacred pool, she'd blown herself back with a large splash. The turtle still hadn't forgiven her.
Choumei, in his infinite wisdom, had restricted her chakra use to the basic exercise every academy student had to deal with—she stuck a leaf to her forehead and tried to keep it there.
It was so tedious. She hated it. She wanted to do cool shit. She wanted to walk on walls and run at the speed of light and break the earth with her fist! It wasn't fair~!
"Oops, what 'oops'? What did you do?"
Nothing, nothing, he assured her, tone not at all reassuring. I just forgot something.
That wasn't suspicious at all.
He didn't elaborate and she sat pouting for a moment, her back against the mossy wall of the inner sanctum. It wasn't his fault she was so bored, she knew that. She'd lived a life full of instant gratification and now she didn't even have books to read, let alone the mind numbing games she'd lost so many hours to. Hell, she'd take a shampoo bottle at this point. Anything, anything, to alleviate the boredom.
She looked at the beetle on the wall beside her with a strained smile, even though it was a beetle and probably didn't know anything about human facial expressions. She still wasn't used to understanding bugs when they spoke to her. Well, beetles. Though, most bugs were beetles, right? She didn't mind beetles, especially since the ones in the temple were of the massive variety and didn't trigger any 'skittering vermin' instincts. It was their teeny tiny voices that freaked her out. They weren't really speaking. She couldn't hear them with her ears. It was like Choumei, only little.
"I'm ok," she told it. It was kind of cute of it to ask. "Thanks."
Sad? Larva is sad?
Pfft. Was she a larva? In terms of life cycles, yeah, she supposed so.
Such cute things should not be said in such an evil little voice.
"No, I'm not sad. Thank you, though."
Well. It was just a beetle. It was already impressive that it knew what sad even meant, so she really shouldn't have expected it to be smart. It was only a beetle.
Oops. She forgot.
"Help me tell it I'm fine."
Hmm, it can understand you. Maybe you're secretly sad.
"I'm not sad. I'm bored. Is boredom not a thing for beetles?"
Bored? Larva bored? Need fun?
"Yes! Larva needs fun!"
The beetle's back opened with a snap, intricate wings unfolding and catching the light like stained glass. With a buzz it took to the air and she leapt to her feet, following it closely. What kind of things did a beetle find fun?
The beetle flew out through the hole in the wall and straight into the forests. She almost lost it a few times as she struggled through the foliage on her bare feet—curse those Tanuki pups for stealing her sandals—but the beetle kindly waited for her, its shiny black silhouette standing out against moss covered trees and twisting roots. Choumei didn't say anything, but she could feel his curiosity buzzing in the back of her mind. Wasn't he a beetle, too? Plus, this forest was his backyard. Did he really not know what the beetle was going to show her.
The trees started thinning out, sunlight breaking through the breaks in the canopy and illuminating the otherwise dark and spooky forest. If she wasn't a jinchuriki, she'd be scared, but she was pretty sure she was the strongest animal in the forest, so it was fine. There was a breeze that got stronger the further she went and she couldn't help but wonder how strong the beetle's wings were to fly so easily when she was holding a hand up in front of her face to protect it from the increasingly powerful winds.
Where the heck was this beetle taking her?
The question was answered when she came to the last tree. Literally, the last tree. It was hanging off the edge of a cliff, roots clinging to the stone face for dear life. Wind blasted upward and she was again glad she cut her hair or it would be a tangle mess, now. Her heart was thundering in her throat as she looked down down down at the sea of green at the bottom of the cliff, tree tops extending all the way to the horizon, interrupted only by big ass fucking bones. It was amazing, sure, but it was also terrifying. She could fall and die! How was this supposed to be fun?
The beetle hung in the air, magically unaffected by the powerful winds.
Choumei's laughter bounced around her skull, echoing her own amusement.
"Oh, no," she crooned, voice stolen by the wind. "I can't fly."
* She's eating Taro Root.