Genma Short Subjects
by Nezuko, Prince of Rats
This is a work of derivative fiction based on the manga "Naruto" by Kishimoto Masashi.
The toothpaste was strange. To start with, the label was in a script Genma couldn't read, and the colors on the packaging were just a little off: blood red script that made him think of the consequences of not brushing, and an illustration of what looked like a sweeping wave of jagged-edged leaves in a color that was neither mint-green nor ocean-blue. He'd assumed it would be some flavor of mint when he'd bought it, but... it wasn't quite. Mint-ish, perhaps, with an odd soapy herbal top note, like maybe it was the custom in this region of Mountain Country to flavor toothpaste with cilantro. The only thing he was certain of was that it wasn't toxic. Probably. Although he wasn't planning on swallowing any, just to be safe.
Buying the toothpaste itself had been an adventure. Just walking into the shop had been cause for considerable excitement on the part of the other patrons, most of them shrunken older women in black head scarves that made him think of photographs of his great-great grandparents that had once stood on his mother's dresser. The women had gasped and clustered together in little knots in the side aisles, casting furtive glances at the obvious foreigner and saying things to one another about him that Genma could only guess at. Then the shopkeeper himself had come out from behind the counter and said something in the local language that Genma didn't understand at all. It was a safe assumption, he thought, that it ran something like, "Foreign devil soldier, buy whatever it is you came here for and stop frightening my customers."
Genma had smiled and bowed and tried not to be quite so tall and muscular and obviously a military man, which had won him no points at all. "I need some toothpaste," he'd told the man, throwing in another ingratiating smile, and was met with a blank stare as the insurmountable language barrier rose between them. So he'd mimed brushing his teeth, which had caused three of the women to make hex signs at him to ward off his evil curse, and probably to cast curses back on him. It was scary as fucking hell being around these civilians who made hand-signs like shinobi, didn't understand the first thing about chakra, and hated outsiders on general principle. In retrospect, though, it probably hadn't helped things much that Genma's response to the women had been to start to cast a defensive jutsu to shield himself. He'd stopped himself before he'd gotten through the third seal, but by then the damage was done.
The women had shrieked, Genma'd raised his hands palms outward in a gesture of surrender, the women had shrieked again, and he'd had to let the shopkeeper hit him with a truncheon just to keep the peace. Rubbing at the newly forming knot on his head, Genma'd tried again to communicate his need. This time with a prop, a hairbrush. He'd mimed brushing his teeth with it. That, at least, got the audience of angry grandmothers laughing. Ahhhh, funny foreigner is an imbecile. The shopkeeper'd produced a toothbrush, held it out for Genma to take, flinching away as soon as Genma's fingers touched it, and then held up four fingers of the other hand to indicate the price.
Which was when Genma sighed and shook his head. "Toothpaste," he'd said, frustrated, and mimed squeezing something onto the toothbrush. And that was when the shopkeeper had finally understood, led Genma to a shelf of cartons of tubes all bearing the unreadable script, with different color combinations. He'd chosen the one he had because it looked a little more promising than the orange and purple packaged one with the smiling eggplant illustration, and definitely more promising than the beige and black one, which had a badly-screened photograph of a ribbon of black toothpaste coiled on the edges of what were probably meant to be bristles of a toothbrush.
In the end he'd had to buy the toothbrush, too, because he couldn't figure out how to communicate that he didn't need it, and the shopkeeper had gotten angry and threatened him with the truncheon again. So now here he was, in his shabby little hotel room, in its astonishingly cramped bathroom, brushing his teeth with cilantro paste. The unneeded toothbrush was still in its packaging, ready to be a souvenir for Raidou. Who had, Genma remembered after it was already too late, used the last of the toothpaste in Genma's kit on their last mission together.
Maybe he'd have to go back to the shop and buy the other two flavors, just to make the gift complete.
For Messypeaches who gave me the challenge, and Darksideofstorm who writes Raidou to my Genma in Fallen Leaves.