The weather was unusually icy. Even though it was the dead of winter, the temperature never dropped below freezing in the Land of Fire. Shikamaru, smoking his cigarette outside of the academy, wondered vaguely if the snow would canel out the classes. Sighing, he flicked his cigarette butt to the ground and watched it sizzle in a pile of muddy snow. As he shoved himself from tha wall and turned towards the door, he heard someone yelling his name. Whoever it was sounded panicky.
Turning away from the door, Shikamaru caught sight of Choji. In the distance, his red hair was free of the ponytail he had taken to wearing. His hair whipped around his face. He was in a frenzy. Shikamaru had never seen him like this.
Arching a brow and stuffing his hand deep within his pockets, Shikamaru waited for Choji to finish his run.
The chubby shinobi made it over in a huff, bending over to grip his knees. Shikamaru's frown deepened. Choji was babbling nonsense that Shikmaru, for all his genius, could not grasp.
"Something wrong, Choji?"
"It's Ino," Choji said as he rung his hands. "You know how she's been away on that mission near Yukigakure? Well, apparently there have been a lot of ice storms and blizzards in that area—"
"I'm sure Ino's fine. She's tough, for a girl," Shikamaru butted in.
"You're not listening, Shikamaru! Ino was coming home. I was talking to her on one of those weird portable phones," he practically yelled, distraught. "She was saying how the weather was really bad, way worse than it was even before the dry out. She was telling me how Yuki had her on their railway thing. Then I could hear alarms going off and her muttering about something being wrong. The line just went dead. I tried to call her back but I couldn't get an answer, so I tried getting in touch with the Yuki authorities, but all the lines are frozen up. Ino was supposed to drop in on a friend of the family to stay there until tomorrow, since the weather was so bad, but they just called to say she never showed up."
Trying to take in all of the information, Shikamaru held his forehead. Finally he said: "I thought you said the lines were frozen?"
"Over in Yuki, not here. Ino's people live just outside Yuki, which is why she's on that train."
Processing what was important from Choji's rambling, Shikamaru had to admit that his friend had a valid reason for worrying. Ino was an annoying, opinionated, entirely troublesome female, but she wasn't a thoughtless one. Had she been able to call back, she would have. Since she had not, it was suffice to say that the little idiot had landed into trouble. Yet again.
"Have you informed Lady Hokage?" Shikamaru asked.
As Choji rambled about Tsunade refusing to send anyone, Shikamaru droned him out, grumbling under his breath about the trouble Ino caused people around her. He considered telling Choji to leave Ino wherever she was; she'd likely get herself out of the mess. Besides, weren't there other people on that train? She would be fine.
His frown deepened.
Who was he kidding, he could never do that to Ino. Troublesome though she was, she was still someone he cared a great deal for; she and Choji were like breast buddies to him.
It was more likely that she couldn't get herself out of the mess. The former Land of Snow, now Land of Spring, was known for advanced technology; however the if the storms were as bad as Choji lead on, the train could have taken serious damage. And what of the people she was with? Perhaps none of them were shinobi, but just average people with no survival skills. Ino could have been electrocuted while trying to save the passengers.
"—impossible to go looking for her. That's why I came to get you; I knew that if there was anyone who could save her, it would be you or Naruto, but he's nowhere in sight."
Choji had complete faith in his eyes. It made Shikamaru slightly uncomfortable. It was unnerving that Choji thought he could find Ino without any trouble, especially in the kind of weather they was talking about. Not that he couldn't do it.
Choji crossed his arms to stop some of the wind's chill.
"Shikamaru, I would go, but you're—"
"Whoa!" Shikamaru held up his hands. "I never said I was going. If Tsunade has already told you—"
"It's Ino, Shikamaru. We can't just leave her there, hoping she'll be okay until this storm blows over. What if she freezes?"
Freezes. Blinking, Shikamaru considered the pros and cons of going after Ino. On the one hand, she was an annoying pain in the ass. Not to mention the fact that Ino could possibly be fine wherever she was. Making him go could be a waste of time and energy. But on the other hand, he knew he was just arguing with himself out of sheer laziness. He knew he couldn't deny Ino. Choji was right. Also, if she really was in trouble and he saved her, she'd be in his debt, which was a most appealing thought indeed.
Grumbling for a good minute about the inconvenience, Shikamaru finally gave in, knowing he had meant to go after her as soon all along.
"I'll go," he heaved a heavy breath. "You stay here. If something does happen, we don't need it to take all three of us. Just give me the coordinates."
Darting through snow was one of the most annoying and difficult things Shikamaru had ever encountered. It was as if he was in an ice-cold, white room and it was impossible to see anything around him clearly. Someone could sneak up on him and he would never see it coming. That fact alone made him grip the kunai in his hand tightly.
His mother had insisted on him bundling up when he'd stopped by to grab a few of the things left over from his move, which meant for the first half of the trip he'd been steaming in the heavy garments. But now, he was grateful and even considering thanking her upon return.
The area he was running through was heavily wooded. Every step he took, jumping off the tree branches, caused snow to flutter around him. It was agitating to say the least, what with the white flakes already bombarding him from the sky. It was now that he wished he would have taken his mother's advice about the goggles. But he hadn't, and now he was stuck squinting as he ran closer towards Yukigakure. He was getting near. He could see the large mountains up ahead. The snow appeared thicker the closer he came. And it was colder. He could already feel the frost bite taking place.
Shikamaru's plan was to head straight for Yuki. He knew that the train only went a third of the way from of the Village Hidden (now) in the Spring—laughable, seeing the state it was in—. So if the train only went out far enough to make it to the neighboring village, then it was feasible to say that he would likely come across the train before he got to Yuki. If, for some reason, he didn't find the train first, he would go to the village and see if he could gather a few ninja to accompany him in finding it. It was likely that Yuki did not know of its train's complications, since the lines of communication had been severed.
Coughing into his hand, Shikamaru cursed getting sick. Doing a front flip and landing himself out of the tree and into the large clearing, he sneezed. He landed.
He was sunk waist deep in snow.