Chapter notes: Wow that took a while. Thank you everyone for reading! Review, it makes me happy and keeps me going! Please? I'll bribe you with cookies :)
Shino took in as much of the room as possible, allowing himself to ignore the guards in the corners and the trio of people in the middle of the room. There was high ceilings, columned walls and doorways, expensive furnishings including many couches and over stuffed chairs. Shino snorted, this place was far too extravagant for his tastes. Turning his attention from the red themed room, he took in the three young men sitting on scattered cushions. Shikamaru he picked out right off, playing a game of shoji against a stern faced boy, and a gentler faced pet, with brown hair tied up into a high pony tail, played with the stern faced boy's hair.
"Kitsune," Puppet introduced; the brown haired boy looked up, giving Shino a quick scan over before smiling and focusing on Shino's mouth. "Koronowae," The dark haired boy turned up two equally dark and foreboding eyes to rake over Shino's body and face. "And Shoji." Shikamaru didn't move, but Shino already had guessed to his identity. "This is Shino. He's the newest Aburame. Shino, it appears that Shoji and Koronowae are busy, but I'm sure we can chat a little with Kitsune." Puppet lead Shino up to the smiling boy, who put in the finishing touches of hair pins into Koronowae's hair.
"Just a little, I have to do Yumi's hair next. He has a lot!" Kitsune turned himself to face them, bowing until his forehead touched the floor. "I am so thankful that you came to our master's rescue. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to please you."
"Um… First you can sit up…" Shino shifted uncomfortably. Kitsune obeyed, sitting up and smiling at Shino's chin. "Why are you doing their hair up like… This?..." Shino eyed the ornate styling of Koronowae's hair.
"Geisha night." Koronowae answered without emotion, but sighed emphatically. "I'll do Shoji's, and the twins if you take on Neko. I do up three, you two. Deal?"
"By the time I'm done with Yumi, you'll be available to hold down Neko. Deal." Kitsune sighed back, standing up. "Unfortunately, I may not be available to chat at all. Koronowae and Shoji will be here for a little while; I must start on Yumi's hair. Forgive me." He bowed at the waist, Shino mimicking the movement slightly, Puppet bending lower. Kitsune glided out the room; one of the guards removed himself from a wall to follow.
"Who'll do his hair?" Puppet asked Koronowae. Koronowae snorted a little as Shoji settled a piece, shaking his head.
"He never loses, does he?" Koronowae shifted to sit behind Shoji, who grumbled and reset the board. "I'll do Shoji's right now, one of you play him. Then we go tackle the Twins, afterwards, while I'm holding Neko still, Yumi and you can do Kitsune's while he's doing up Neko's. Not that he needs much, I'm sure he'll end up ripping it all out anyways. We'll stream line this the more times we do it. It's all on cutting time." Shino kneeled before the board, eyeing Shoji's face, looking for a hint of Shikamaru. Shoji moved the first piece, resting his chin into the palm of his hand and placing his elbow on the side of the board. Shino mirrored his move with his own piece, then followed suit with his posture. Shoji moved another, Shino mimicking him, even hovering his hand above the board, trying to move in tandem with his opponent. Shoji finally looked up at him, exasperated with how the game wasn't progressing. His eyes glittered fiercely, locking onto the sunglasses with an intensity that Shino has only seen before in a competition where he allowed his sensei the first ten moves to make it more even.
"You're still in there…" Shino breathed a sigh of relief, completely oblivious to the silence that resounded after his comment. The moment broke, Shoji's gaze rested back to the board, taking on a bored expression, as he moved another piece. Shino continued to match him, barely waiting until Shoji removed his fingertips from his piece before mirroring Shoji's movement.
"What are you doing?" Puppet asked intently into Shino's ear, watching the whole interaction with rapt attention. Shoji no longer watched the board, staring into Shino's face, slowly showing more and more frustration at the sunglasses reflecting his own gaze back at him. Shino knew that Shoji couldn't tell if he was looking at him or the game, and felt a bit of envy at how Shoji didn't even need to look at the board to know where the piece he wanted was. Turn after turn, Shino didn't answer, mimicking his opponent, until Shoji slapped a hand on the board angrily, launching himself over the board and tackling Shino to the ground, tearing the sunglasses off and chucking them across the room.
"Shoji!" Koronowae sat, holding onto a tuft of hair staring in shock even though it appeared that he wasn't surprised at all.
"Shino?!" The guards had surrounded the two, not moving in any further as Shoji laid out on top of Shino, staring into his eyes as he panted harshly. Shino allowed Shoji to explore his face with his eyes, seething with something Shino couldn't place with hatred, not even so much with anger nor frustration.
"Funny, I always remembered you as a runner when you're scared, but you're fighting here, fighting for your life, out of fear aren't you?" Shoji didn't even blink, staring him down, but Shino was used to this behavior from Kiba. Thinking back to the day where Kiba decided to prove his dominance by sitting on his chest and staring Shino in the face for over two hours, Shino felt that he could handle some glaring from a boy in a red robe with jingling hair pins in his hair. "Do you remember? Do you remember when you used to make people *shadow* you on purpose?... Shikamaru…" Shoji leaped up from the floor, bee lining for the welcoming arms of Shindo. Shino forced himself up form the floor, snarling. "Do you? Answer me!" The other guards moved in to restrain him, grabbing him under the arms. Shoji grumbled. "Speak up!"
"I… don't…" Shoji gritted out, turning his face so that he could be heard. Everyone froze for a moment as Shino began to slowly sag. "I… don't…" Shoji buried his face back into Shindo's chest. A door banged open, a cat skittering across the tiles.
"Kimiko! Kimiko Kimiko Kimiko!" Neko chased after the cat, quickly scooping it up into his arms. Looking up, his face fell as he took in the scene before him. Gasping, he charged through the middle of the group.
"Kiba!" Shino wrested an arm from a guard, preparing to welcome his best friend into an embrace.
"Shoji!" Neko knocked him out of the way with enough force to send him to the floor for the second time that day. Shoji turned to bury his face into Neko's shoulder as the cat toting boy ran to him. "Shoji?" The cat yowled as she was squashed between the two bodies. Neko repositioned it so that it could breathe, but refused to release her completely. "Shoji hurt?" Shoji didn't respond, just stood there unmoving. "Shoji hurt." He glared at Shindo, before surveying the room. "Shoji hurt!"
"Neko-kun, it's okay Neko-kun. Is Shoji bleeding?" Mizuki made his way into the room and began to detangle the cat from between them, though she remained looped around their shoulders.
"A little from the back of his head, he ripped out some of his own hair to attack Shino." Koronowae inspected the wound. "I think I can hide it, but first I need coagulant, let's get him to a medical room."
"Shoji?" Neko sounded completely surprised, trying to look at Shoji's face. Shoji buried it further, slowly following Koronowae's tugs.
"Yes, Shino must have frustrated him some how, and now we need to fix some things before the big party. Shouldn't take too much, but let's hurry." Koronowae was tailed by the two hugging boys and three men, Puppet remaining to ask Shino some questions.
"Where's Hikaru?" Shindo asked, irritated. "Isn't he supposed to be here to guard this one?"
"I gave him leave, I wanted to observe Shino's behavior uninhibited." Hizashi steadied Puppet against his side, already knowing the answers to the questions. "Shoji will be fine, I'm sure of it Shindo. It was a light scuffle, I don't think that most of us need to fill out any accident forms, now do we." Once again, there was no question in Hizashi's voice, and everyone bowed down to Hizashi's dominance. "Shoji did slip on a wet floor unfortunately, and hit his head. We need to resend the notice of making sure to clean up messes on our tile floors, am I correct?"
"I better start on the paper work then, damn accident reports…" Shindo smiled, shaking his head with a little laugh. "Thanks, Hizashi…"
"Thought you would like to keep Shoji from being sent back to the kennel. Show's over folks; get ready for our guests!" Hizashi barked at the remaining guards, who quickly moved out. "Shino, talk to me." Hizashi once again placed his powerful hand onto Shino's shoulder.
"I wanted to see if Shikamaru was still in there, and he is, I saw him look back at me." Shino accepted his sunglasses that Puppet had retrieved. "I just had to get him out of there."
"Shino, you can't do that again. If you do, Shikamaru will be the one to pay for it." Hizashi chose his words carefully. "You don't want to hurt Shikamaru, do you?" Puppet raised his brow, but bit his tongue.
"What if I do? He let us down. He let Kiba down." Shino spun on his heel, trying to march out.
"If I heard right, there were two groups, and two leaders…" Hizashi pulled his empty hand back to cross his arms, his one eye turning back to Puppet to keep the boy silenced. Shino froze, hair on the back of his neck standing up. "And that it wasn't Shikamaru's group who fell first, that actually, most of Shikamaru's group was really with the other leader, and that it was Shikamaru and Kankurou who took out a member of the capture team between the two of them."
"Enough." Shino growled.
"Never again, where's Hikaru?" Shino suddenly found him missing his presence. "And Suichi? Where's Suichi he said he was coming…"
"Suichi fell back asleep." Hikaru strode into the room with his long legs, bright red pony tail streaming behind him. "You alright?" He placed both hands on Shino's shoulders, stooping to look at Shino's face. "I heard you took a hard hit…"
"Fine, didn't even hit my head." Shino almost smiled at him, the worried look on his face making him feel warm inside.
"Shoji's the one who slipped and fell, hit the back of his head on the floor with enough force to rip out some hair." Hizashi picked a loose thread from Puppet's robe.
"Well that doesn't make any sense…" Hikaru raised his brow, standing up. "How did his hair rip out?"
"That's for Shindo to figure out." Hizashi's eye twinkled slightly. Hikaru raised his chin a little in understanding. "Shino is done testing Shoji, I hope he learns from this and doesn't test the other new pets." Hikaru nodded his head emphatically. "We'll work on this together, right Shino?" Shino grumbled at him, heading for the door. "Geisha night Hikaru." Hizashi directed Puppet to another door.
"Got it." Hikaru guided Shino to a different door than the one he originally entered. "You're not ready for a geisha night. Let's go for a jog." Shino raised a brow. "No, really, I've been thinking about if the guest situation was going to be to much for you tonight, and a geisha night is just going to drive you up the wall, so let's go for a jog, get you good and exhausted, and we can't have an exhausted Aburame for the exchange tonight now can we?" Hikaru smiled. Shino sighed, relieved.
"No hair pins?" Shino asked.
"Maybe for a short time, but we have to hurry! Let's go jogging time move it!" Hikaru pushed him along a marked track, Shino recognized it as a gym.
"Why hair pins?" Shino quickly found himself tiring.
"To make it look like we're trying." Hikaru nudged him along a little further. "We have to make it seem like Master Hiroko's idea that you're too tired."
"You're good." Shino panted.
"You may regret saying that, it might go to my head." Hikaru grinned, not even beginning to get winded.
"Let me see there Shoji." Koronowae began to part his hair, dabbing a piece of gauze against the wound. "Yep, just a little bit of coagulant, I'll braid some hair together so that we won't have to stitch him up because, well, I would have to cut his hair to do that properly…" Koronowae took an ointment and rubbed it deep into the wound, Shoji grimacing.
"Shoji cry?" Neko had Shoji's face in his hands, Kimiko wrapped about his shoulders comfortably.
"Does it hurt too much Shoji?" Shindo asked worriedly as Koronowae tied little knots close to Shoji's scalp, closing the wound slowly.
"Shadows…" Shoji whispered, closing his eyes and shuddering slightly.
"Shino really shook you up huh?" Shindo patted his shoulder. "You even wanted a hug."
"Shadows." Shoji said, firmer. "Shadows."
"And we're done." Koronowae began settling in to cleaning the hair of blood. "Now all I have to do it dress up your hair." Shoji sighed.
"I'm a little worried though, will you be alright with all the stimulation?" Shindo firmly held Shoji's eyes in his gaze. Shoji slightly furrowed his brow. "Okay I got it I got it…" Shindo waved his hands in surrender.
"You're gonna wish that you nodded by the time I'm done…" Koronowae mumbled around three hair pins held in his lips, tightly twisting some hair.
"I don't think he can anymore." Wakka chuckled, crossing his huge arms in front of his equally ridiculously large chest. Neko took the opportunity to use him as a human tree, using the crossed arms as a grip point to counter balance him as he walked up Wakka's legs, switching a hand hold to his shoulder to get a foot planted into Wakka's elbow, swinging around so that he sat on one broad shoulder, and poked at the light he could now reach.
"You okay Wakk?" Mizuki held himself at the ready to catch the man climber, who still managed to keep Kimiko around his neck throughout the steep ascent.
"You know, if I wasn't I woulda not let him. I'm used to the climbin from Kazume, that kid is like a monkey you know." Wakka smiled up at Neko, who made himself right at home on one of the broad shoulders.
"Yea?" Mizuki smiled, waiting for something. Wakka nodded his head. "Oh c'mon, yea?" Wakka sighed.
"Ya…" Mizuki spun his hands in a motion to urge him on. Wakka resettled his feet, swaying slightly. Neko swayed the opposite way to keep his seating. "Ya… Brudda." Mizuki gave a little victory leap.
"If only you didn't cut your hair!" Mizuki exclaimed, Shindo shaking his head.
"Look mon, when I was pulled through that weird hole thing I realized I had to fit in ya? So that means changes you know."
"It's hard to fit in when you fall asleep in the onsen, under water…" Shindo leaned up against a wall as Shoji glared at him. "Hey, I'm not the one doing your hair, don't blame me."
"I can't help it brud… Anyways, like I was saying, I can't keep up with the funny talk ya. You know, I have to sound like you guys you know. Besides, isn't it kinda a help to be able to hold my breath for so long ya know?"
"I guess it is. It's just rather creepy when I find you taking a nap in the bottom of the pool."
"What, it's relaxing." Wakka smiled, once again shifting his weight, sending Neko into another rebalancing act.
"Done. Now on to the twins." Koronowae lead the procession out to the hall, heading towards the gardens. Wakka raised one of his arms up to help keep Neko on as he swung one leg out to angle his hip and bend so Neko wouldn't get hit on the head. Kimiko was then gripped by Neko to keep her on, giggling as Mizuki made as if to catch him.
"Can you copy me?" Koronowae asked Puppet as Hizashi lead him down the winding paths of the gardens. Puppet raised his brow, standing behind a kneeling Koronowae, who was behind one of the twins.
"What are you asking me to do?" Puppet asked.
"Watch." Koronowae stuck a hair pin into the hair of the one sitting in front of him, and the mirror image staring at the face of the decorated being reached across and removed it, once again keeping the façade that they were just looking into a mirror. "See? Every time I put a hair pin in, the other takes it out, usually Kitsune and I work on them together. I never really thought of it before, but Kitsune always mirrored me while doing their hair. This must be why. So, can you do it?"
"I'll try." Puppet shrugged, sitting behind the unmanned boy. Watching Koronowae intently, he tried his best to put in everything the same, but the hair was shorter and harder to work with. He could always tell when he did something wrong though, because his twin would reach out and remove the piece Koronowae had carefully put in. "This is rather impossible." Puppet sighed, trying to keep his patience. "This is worse than when Yumi wants to look at the hair pin after I put it in." Hizashi chuckled quietly.
"Want us to hold their arms down?" Two other identical men stood to the side spoke in unison, tilting their heads comically to the side together.
"It won't work. They'll just freak."
"Now, if you don't mind my asking, who are you two?" Puppet asked, finally allowing curiosity to guide his thoughts.
"I'm Akihito." The one on the left pointed to his chest.
"I'm Akihiko." The one on the right gestured to himself.
"We're the twins guarding the Twins." They smiled, nodding their heads.
"Uh…huh…" Puppet raised his chin, slightly nodding.
"We both respond to both names, so it doesn't really matter anymore." Both shrugged.
"We used to get upset," Akihito started.
"When people messed us up." Akihiko ended.
"Then we realized it didn't really matter." Both concluded, Puppet trying to follow who was speaking. "And since we both have relatively the same thoughts, we both speak at once, much easier then having the sentences get broken up, right?" Both settled back onto their heels, clasping their hands behind them.
"It is." Puppet agreed.
"Puppet, keep up." Koronowae rubbed his tired looking eyes, trying to wake himself up. "Geisha night is in a little over three hours, and we have dance practice in full costume."
"I have a costume?" Puppet asked. "I barely have any clothes!"
"Hiroko sama is having you wear one of his ceremonial robes from his younger days. We can't do up your hair because it's so short, and dancing is a no-no for you too." Koronowae sounded border line frustrated. "So you're going to be on witty chat duty with me, and that means that we're going to have to up the 's' factor for you." Koronowae motioned for them to switch places, Koronowae trying to tighten up the hair around the pins to hold them in better. "That also means that Hizashi sama has to be out of sight yet on double duty because well, some people may not know the rules."
"Okay you're going a bit fast for me!" Puppet raised his hands. "Witty chat duty? 'S' factor, and all these rules that no one has told me?" Koronowae sighed.
"Their hair is good enough for now, everyone, get into your costumes!" He shooed away the younger ones, wondering if the twin guards would be willing to hold down Neko, who was still wildly running in circles around Wakka with Kimiko holding onto the newly reinforced shoulders of his robe.
"Follow Kimiko Neko!" Mizuki snatched the cat from his shoulders and took off down a row of flowers after the twins.
"Kimiko!" Neko exclaimed, laughing and running after the cat who was yowling at the top of her lungs. "Mizuki!"
"Kitsune and I termed what we do 'witty chat duty' because we fill in empty spots of conversation with little quips from historical stories. We learn short stories to tell to guests to entertain them, funny little tales from our lives, about the other pets will work for you. People always like to talk about the twins, though I'm sure everyone will want to hear about Yumi. There's your conversation piece. Just sit where people are looking bored and ask how their night is going, and be all happy and perky. Hizashi can't be two steps behind you like usual, but I'm sure he can handle it. The 's' factor and the rules go hand in hand. We have to be, sensual beings… Very, exotic and, well…" Koronowae stepped in close. "Sexual… beings…" Puppet took a big step back, holding his hands up.
"Whoa hey now! That is not what Yumi, Neko, Shoji and I are for!"
"Just listen to me okay? That's where the rules come in. They are not allowed to touch us beyond what we are comfortable with. If you don't want to be touched at all, they have to respect that. We are not expected, nor allowed, to do anything with the guests nor each other. We are sexual beings, getting everyone worked up and stimulated" Koronowae got a look of sexual tension on his face, gently running his fingers in a butterfly touch down Puppet's face. "And then we go to our beds and consider it a good night's work." Koronowae dropped the act, going back to his unemotional stern self. Puppet took a deep breath and let it out with a whooshing sound. "That's why Kanaye is really upset about all us pets. So many little teases, with no release." Koronowae began to lead the way down the row of flowers. "He finds it a waste, which is why Hiroko sama can't leave us with him, not until he sees the world as a sensual place instead of a sexual paradise."
"Or, you know, a hell for him in this case." Wakka chuckled, Hizashi shaking his head. "What? Funny ya?"
"Not so much, because he's going to become our master, and have us do what ever he wants. This includes you Wakka." Wakka swallowed hard.
"Like what?" Wakka asked, sounding unsure.
"Like, hold him down while Kanaye has his way, or even have you join…" Hizashi shrugged, acting as though it didn't really matter.
"I would never!" Wakka crossed his arms angrily, stopping dead in his tracks.
"Wakka, he was joking." Puppet smoothed over the huge muscled man's ruffled feathers. "I hope…" Puppet whispered into Koronowae's ear as Wakka let out a nervous laugh, continuing on the way down to the pet's room.
"Koronowae! I need you!" Kitsune's voice called out into the hall, guards leaning against the wall holding back chuckles. Koronowae picked up the pace. "I'm done with Yumi, sit in his lap or something." Kitsune looked genuinely flustered, hands on his hips as Neko looked up at him with the best innocent face he could muster. "I know you're cute but I have to do your hair, and don't pick up Kimiko you'll get cat hair all over your self!" Kitsune caught the cat in mid-air, returning her to the bed. The cat yowled her discontent, immediately trying to return to Neko. Neko held out his hands excitedly, about to stand up as Kitsune pushed him back into the chair. "I said no!" He tried to fend off the feline, who easily dodged and landed right into the silk covered lap of Neko. Kitsune let out a sound of frustration. "Fine, fine! Kimiko stays with you all the time why not at parties?" Koronowae let out what could have been considered a chuckle, trying to think of a way of keeping Neko still.
"Have you've given him a piece of paper yet?" Puppet raised his brow. Kitsune mimicked him, to frustrated to be able to think. "Give him his sketch pad, here…" Puppet took up the sketch pad and pencils, handing them to Neko. "Draw me a Kimiko in a kimono, please." Neko grinned, holding the cat under her front legs to appear to be standing, put her down on his lap, and began to scratch at the pad with a pencil, head perfectly still.
"That's… all it takes to get him to sit still?" Kitsune breathed, staring at what he considered a very strange sight. Puppet nodded, and Kitsune fell onto the bed in a heap. "Why didn't anyone tell me this sooner?" Puppet shrugged.
"Want me to do his hair?" Koronowae offered, Kitsune sitting up preparing himself to dive in to work.
"I can get it, it just took me a little over an hour to get Yumi's done up properly, and then Kanaye dono came by and took it all out except for three pins. I had it all up too!" Puppet's eyes widened at the thought of seeing the back of Yumi's neck, a rather impossible idea to him. "But then Kanaye dono had to come by and inspect him, he looks better with his hair down he says, why did you hide it all up like that he says, sometimes I wish…" Koronowae grasped both of Kitsune's shoulders tightly, jolting Kitsune from his thoughts.
"Remember, what ever you see is the truth… Just what was for breakfast…" Koronowae looked Kitsune in the eye, Kitsune taking a deep breath. Puppet gave them a confused look, but was ignored.
"Thank you, Koronowae…" Kitsune settled back into his usual calm demeanor. "Kanaye just, gets to me, after the time I saw…" He shook his head. "I'm not going to think of it, nope, let's just work on Neko's hair together, it's pretty short but I think we can fit one into a good braid." Koronowae's face appeared to have a soft smile as he gathered up some hair in both hands, ready to start braiding.
Please read and review! Sorry for the long wait for the update!
I am on narutofic and go by Recita1717.