My first shot at making some drabbles. Enjoy.
Of Ramen and Wooden Skates
The Determined Chuunin
The first Ichiraku Ramen House was not located where it stands today, though I must say I favored our last location to this one. Unlike today, in which Ayame-chan and I are constantly battling the problems presented by a tight street, our first location was close to one of Konoha's squares, and therefore very spacious. It was also a nice location where the greater part of Konoha's population noticed us. These days most of the time, Naruto was the only distraction around. Unless he manages to drag his friends, and I am always very thankful for that.
I was a struggling entrepreneur in those days. There was not much competition, so I had a head start on ramen. Oh, the merchandise was not as popular as takoyaki or sushi, but it still had its own fan base. I knew I loved ramen enough to turn away from the lure of the Ninja Academy, which coincidentally, was located just a few steps from our old house.
Managing the first Ichiraku was not hard, except when lunchtime hit the clock. I had no helpers then, and serving orders took a little more three to two minutes. People rarely complained, but I made a mental note that I should probably hire an extra pair of hands. It wouldn't take much time, no...and I had in mind that whoever would apply would need only come at lunch times.
I put up a homemade sign around a twenty-meter radius from the shop. I waited for two weeks if anyone would care, but no applicants came. Konoha's youth was far too busy aspiring to become Shinobi, and its adults were far too busy maintaining their Chuunin and Jounin ranks to pay attention to the small salary of 200 ryo offered from a starting ramen house.
My mind was already half-forgetting the posters I've put up when one night, at around closing time (approximate eight in the evening), a young girl came up to my door holding one of my posters in her hand. I stared at her. She was deathly pale, with sleek black hair I was sure not even my mother could have matched. Her eyes were inhuman golden, framed with purple tattoos, and her stare told me that she brooked no nonsense. It was not until she spoke that I realized him for what he was.
"Do you have a vacancy?" he asked quietly as he showed me the poster I wrote with my own hands.
He had the build of a genius. He stood erect, and his aura demanded respect at first sight. His voice was tempered with the onset of puberty and tinged with a faint hiss that reminds oneself of snakes. I gave him my warmest smile and said yes, that I did have a vacancy.
A relieved smile made its way onto his rather guarded young face, and he pulled himself on one of my high chairs before the counter. He tapped the poster lightly.
"So...I need only come at lunch times?" he asked.
I nodded. "That is mostly when I will need your hand the most. Can you wash dishes, do some deliveries on foot and quite possibly...cook?" I asked as I served him some tea. "Don't worry; deliveries and helping with the cooking won't come unless we get our hands very full. That's rare."
He gave me one calculating look before taking a sip of tea. "I can cook." He said. "And I can deliver ramen thirty minutes faster than someone on a bike."
"That's good." I said. "Your name?" I inquired.
I gave a start and looked at him again. He was busy sipping the tea I supplied him, all the while his golden eyes rested upon me. I put my pen down. "Aren't you...the Hokage's student?"
"The one who passed the Chuunin exams with the other students of the Hokage?"
"Yes." He said.
I smiled again. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but don't your missions as a ninja would provide you with more money than working for me?"
Orochimaru shrugged. "Contrary to popular belief, sir, missions rarely head a ninja's way. Most of the time we have no choice but to lounge around hoping for that opportunity to come. It's hard to budget things if you rely on one job only."
"I see." I wrote down his name. "So, 200 ryo is all right with you?"
There was a slight pause as he regarded the poster again.
"What if..." he hesitated for a moment. "Why not 300 ryo a month, but I work for you from 6 in the morning to 8 in the evening, every day except on mission day?" There was a slight pleading in his tone. I could almost see it in his eyes.
I raised an eyebrow. "You need money that much?"
He bowed briefly. "Well...the rent has hiked. I've no choice unless I want to sleep under a bridge."
I laughed. "All right, deal."
He took my extended hand and shook it awkwardly, as if he was not used to the whole ritual of it. "Could I start tomorrow?"
"Aren't you in a hurry? Of course. Six in the morning sharp. I don't like latecomers."
He smiled as he hopped off the high chair. Later I knew that I was one of the handful of people ever to see him smile.