A Princess Without a Knight Virgo

"She's beautiful."

"Thank you. Our little princess, she is."

"It's so nice to get together again, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's been far too long. How've you and yours been?"

"Oh, we've been great."

"I hear your little boy's something else."

"Yeah, you'd be amazed at how clever he is."

"Here, those two can play in this room while we catch up."

"Good idea, there's so much we have to talk about."

She watched as the adults left them alone before she turned to the boy with her. He didn't seem much interested in the things around them, his heavily lidded eyes roaming the room slowly. For some reason, that lazy look was already starting to bother her.

"Hey." She said. He didn't say anything. "Hey!" She said a little louder.

"I heard you the first time." His voice was husky for a five-year-old child, but the flatness of it made her frown.

"Then say something so I know that you did."

They both stayed quiet for a moment, his back was still facing her.

"Weren't you going to say something?" He asked. She felt a vein twitch in her forehead.

Instead, she controlled her voice the best she could. "Don't you want to do something?"

"Not really."

She pouted a bit. "Aren't you bored?"


"Then don't you want to play a game?"


"Why not?"

He finally looked over his shoulders, dark eyes closed, lips twisted in a bit of a scowl. "Because that's boring, too."

Something snapped at that. "And how would you know?" She cried, angry. "Are you saying I'm boring?"


"I am not!"

"You're noisy, too."

"I am NOT!"

His scowl deepened and he turned to her fully. "Yes, you are."

"I'll show you." She sniffed before she strode proudly over to him. "Here." She tugged him to a small stool off centered from some building blocks. Setting him bodily down on the stool, she pulled back his long black hair, bunching it tightly in her hands.

"Ow! What're you doing?"

"I'm fixing your hair."

"Why? Ow- stop that!"

"Because," she answered, snapping a rubber band against his scalp, patting the end of the high ponytail in order to make it bush out, "it looks better."

"It hurts." He said shortly.

"Well you have to do what I tell you to." She said haughtily, moving around in front of him, arms crossed and an overbearing look on her face.


"Because, we're going to play Princess and Knight."

"That's boring."

"No it's not!" She snapped. "And as your princess, you have to do what I say."

"I don't wanna be your knight."

"Well I'm making you one!"

"This is stupid."

"Shut up! It is not!"

"You're going to be a kunoichi, aren't you?"

"Yeah, so?"

"Kunoichi's aren't supposed to be weak like princesses."

"Who says I'm going to be weak?"

"Knights are supposed to save princesses."

"Well this princess can fight!"

"That's stupid."

"No it isn't!"


"This is stupid.. why am I doing this?" He looked up at the arena and wished he were somewhere else. Preferably somewhere where no one could find him. "Che. I don't even like fighting. I should've just thrown the first match." He rubbed the back of his head. "I would've if I didn't have to fight a girl. Especially Kin.." He scowled to himself. Losing to the Sound genin was the last thing he'd allow himself to do. And so instead he's still fighting. "This is so stupid!"

"Aw, are you upset you still have to fight?" A teasing voice asked from somewhere behind him. He made a not entirely pleased face.

"Oh. Ino."

She raised a brow. " 'Oh. Ino.'? That's the appreciation I get for coming out to cheer for you?"

Shikamaru scowled, scuffing a foot in the dirt. I'm not the one you came out to cheer for, he thought brutally to himself. "What do you want?"

Ino came up behind him, leaning her head over his shoulder. He could almost feel the velvet heat coming off her cheek. "Oh, come on. This next round really couldn't have gotten you in that bad of a mood. I mean, so what if you have one more round than everyone else?"

His mood visibly darkened. Thanks for reminding me, he thought, hands stuffed into fists at the bottom of his pockets.

Noticing his worse than normal mood, Ino became a bit concerned and put her hands on his shoulders. "C'mon, Shikamaru. Is this match really bothering you that much?"

Slowly, he turned his head to face her, agitation melting to something that made him seem older and weary. He brought a hand up to her hair. "I liked your long hair better."

Ino couldn't help but blush ever so slightly at his sudden change in attitude. "O-Oh?" She moved her hand up to self consciously feel the tight bun she kept her hair in and jolted when her hand came into contact with his. "It's.. it's just hair. It'll grow out."

He turned away, scowling again. "It was stupid to cut it. Clever plan, but stupid."

She smacked his shoulder. "You're such a jerk, Shikamaru. Really." He just shrugged. "You know.. I was just thinking, a couple days ago, when we were kids. You remember, right? When our parents left us in a room to play in while they talked?"

He looked away, reflectively. "I remember it was some of the most boring moments of my life. And you were always so noisy and bossy about everything."

Ino's eye twitched a bit. "Well," she tried to keep her voice level, "do you remember the game we always played?"

"You mean the one you kept trying to make me play." He corrected.

"You know what I mean." She returned. She collected herself then and reached into one of her pockets, taking out a red, silken rose. "Well, a princess has to have a knight, doesn't she?" Shikamaru turned to look at her, not entirely understanding just what she was going to say. "When you win this round, I'll make you my knight." She smiled, not that sexy smile she always used on guys, or when she just had to get her way. Just a simple, shy, girlish smile that made her look innocent and vulnerable. "Well?"

He didn't say anything, but averted his eyes, feeling a sort of pleasant uncomfortableness at her smile. After a long while, Shikamaru answered, ".. I.. will do what I can."


He huffed, wind billowing around him and the tree he used as shelter, watching the few wisps of clouds that moved freely in the sky.

"Man.. I wish I were a cloud. Then I wouldn't have to be doing all these stupid things, I could just float around and do nothing all day.."

He could still hear the crowd booing at his lack of performance over Temari's giant fan and the wind that she kept streaming at him. He didn't know what she thought she was going to accomplish by her actions. To eventually blow the trees out of the ground? Hope maybe he'd choke to death on the dirt being kicked up? Stupid girl..

She was taunting him, insulting him, demanding he come out and fight, but Shikamaru couldn't help but to let out a grim smile. There was only one girl he'd ever let boss him around, and that's only because it was the easiest way to get her to shut up. But then.. his smile became a bit more sentimental, maybe it was because it was the only way to get her to pay attention to him. He liked to think that he was good at anticipating and reading other people, but he never knew what exactly Ino ever thought.

"Go for it~! Shikamaru~!"

How could it be, he wondered to himself, that he could hear her voice over everyone else? Maybe she really was just that noisy.. Speaking of noisy, he could hear Naruto from the sides too, that damn idiot. Shikamaru made a mental note to himself to pay the fox boy back for pushing him over the railing.

He spotted the holes in the ground, and an idea formed in his head. Before he had a chance to act, though, Temari began her attack once again, in earnest. The winds were much stronger this time, shaving through the trunks of the trees, carving deep grooves into the walls of the arena and slicing open his skin.

"Shit," he muttered, "she's getting a little too intense.." But the wild billowing kicked up a good veil and he immediately formed the well familiar In, hands clamped in 'Ko' form, and he could feel the shadows around him. His mind felt them swirl around him and he watched them form and move at his mind's command and he saw it shoot forward and disappear through the dark clouds, aiming for his opponent. His specialty: Ninpou Kagemane no Jiyutsu.

He knew she was too skilled and smart to simply get caught in his shadows, but he seriously doubted she could figure out his true intent. Ah well, all the easier for him. He watched as the shadows met their maximum length, Temari marking it with a gashed line in the sand with her fan. Shikamaru gauged the distance critically. It wouldn't take that much longer, if he could curve her around, she'd be right where he wanted her. That information secured in his thoughts, he settled into his favorite time- passing position. He could spend all day just to get everything set to implement his plan. Or until she made a mistake. Either way, he cleared his mind and waited, senses alert to every move she made. Besides, if it gave Sasuke time to get here, he wanted to see Gaara's ass kicked after what he did to Li.

Attack if you want, Shikamaru thought, but that wind'll be far too weak to do any damage from that distance, and you know better than to get any closer..

The only problem he had was that while he waited, his mind had a tendency to wander. Not that he didn't mind the thinking, but at that moment, it tended to be.. a bit distracting. His ears strained, trying to hear Ino cheering for him like she said she would. And she was there, cheering louder than anyone else, the only one that was certain, from the very depths of her soul, believing that he would win this fight. Naruto just didn't want another village coming out on top, let alone a girl. Asuma and Chouji.. though they knew he was perfectly capable of winning, were expecting him to give up. But Ino knew he would win.

'When you win this round..'

She knew he would win against Temari. It was obvious, wasn't it? She was so static in her attacks, but he was flexible, he knew how to attack his opponents without being noticed. But then.. would Ino cheer so loudly if he were fighting someone else? Dosu, Shino.. maybe even Kankurou she would have. Neji or Naruto.. it would've been an extremely slim chance, and given Naruto's past performances, Shikamaru would've given up at the other's sheer stubbornness than anything else. It would've been '/If/ you win this round.. Gaara.. oh if it were Gaara, he'd be dead before he could get the In for the Kagemane off, there'd be no hope for him if it were Gaara. He was already on the Sand genin's hit list as it were..

And if he were fighting Sasuke?

Shikamaru violently broke out of his thoughts. He couldn't sit around, he didn't want to think about that. He reached into his back pouch to grab a kunai just as Temari readied another attack, apparently building enough strength to let off a stronger offensive.

In the stands, his minds eye could see Ino, hands clenched tightly on her thighs, watching him with worry. "Shikamaru.." Her voice tight and quiet.

"Che!" He braced his back against a tree trunk, slipping out of his jacket. He had to stop this, this fight ended now..

He tied his band, jacket and kunai together, using Temari's wind stream to send the pseudo-balloon into the air, waiting for its shadow to connect with his. With the extra mass, the shadow shot forward once more, this time, he curved it, pushing Temari into the final position for his trap.

Shikamaru smirked, watching as Temari suddenly stopped in the middle of her movements, muscles straining and the arena became dead quiet, uncertain as to what had happened.

"I win." He said to himself, moving forward, allowing Temari to see just how he had captured her. After all, he supposed it was only fighting. But then, despite his obvious victory.. the closer he came to Temari, a deep, sinking feeling writhed in his stomach, a cold, heavy snake that pressed inside of him. After this, it would be more training. After this, it would be more fighting. As far as skill went, he was on par with Shino, he could probably win. But after that.. three opponents he could potentially have. Gaara, he knew he didn't have a chance with. If Naruto could make it to the finals, he doubted he could beat him. And Sasuke..

"All right, Shikamaru!" Ino cried happily from the stands, jumping from her seat, urging him on. Cheering out her heart, just like she had for the entire match. Just like she said she would. Just for him. But that fact made him feel cold and useless.

Because if he were fighting Sasuke..

Shikamaru raised his arm. Temari shut her eyes as she was forced to do the same.

"I knew you could do it!"

He saw Ino smiling at him, the way she did before the match.

He choked inside.

"I give up."

Again, the arena fell quiet in disbelief. "It's too much of a bother." He explained. "I already have my next moved planned out and my chi won't run out for another ten seconds, but this is just becoming too much trouble for me. I'm giving up." Scratching his shoulder, Shikamaru hid his trembling frown in the crook of his arm. I'm sorry, Ino.. but I can't let you chose. Because I know I'm not the one you'd cheer for.

And in the stands, Ino felt something inside of her break, silk rose falling from her numb fingers.