Of Ramen and Wooden Skates
The Ninja Wars had taken much. I watched my ramen house burn, unable to do anything. All that I had managed to save was the little box where I kept our profit, a wok, five food bowls and a pair of chopsticks. Orochimaru-kun came, clad in his Jounin vest and forehead protector, shouting for help as he dumped water over the fire, trying to stop it. I had never managed to thank him for this effort, but it was a lost cause.
Orochimaru-kun helped me build the new Ichiraku Ramen House. It was smaller than the first, but it was good to be starting anew. Within a week I was back in the business, but Orochimaru-kun rarely dropped in to work, and whenever I saw him he was either unconscious or bleeding heavily from a nasty wound on some random part of his body. The worse had got to be the axe lodged into his back. I wonder if he ever managed to get rid of that scar...
During the times the Ninja Wars had dropped into a kind of stalemate, Orochimaru-kun was back in the restaurant with me. A war really could change someone in so short a time, as what Orochimaru-kun has shown me. He rarely talked to me anymore, and he rarely smiled too. It was as if the young Chuunin who had approached me all those years ago had died and had turned into this zombie of a young man.
I was surprised when he handed me his resignation letter. I knew it was not in me to ask, seeing as I never really knew anything about the world of a Shinobi. I was alone again for some time. Until the news that Orochimaru-kun did not become Yondaime Hokage.
It was the last time I ever saw him. It was midnight, and he was clad in his Jounin vest, with a little satchel with him. He ordered a bowl of ramen and thanked me for everything that we had shared. I didn't have any idea at first where he was going. But before he turned his back on me for the last time...
...he gave me a scroll. Told me to keep it safe for him.
I still have this scroll, though I've never opened it. It's a marvelous piece of art. Just like its owner. Beautiful and subtle.