Chapter 1 - Mail
The big white furry creature licked his master's toe. Its effect was immediate:
The brunette winced as he touched the humongous bump on his head that was pushing its way up. The bang to his head had successfully rendered him wide awake. At the foot of the bed his dog Akamaru wagged its tail. He'd done it again: sat up too fast in his bed and crashed into the one above him.
"Heh." The boy leaned and mussed the hair on the canine's head. "Good morning to you too, buddy!" Akamaru barked, and with a spring, landed right onto his master's lap. Now this wasn't your average dog, mind you. This one was huge. So huge that even his master, Kiba, could practically sit on his back. And naturally the bed creaked dangerously under the added weight.
Kiba pushed his furry companion out of the bed and got up to find his walking gear. And no, he wasn't really planning on brushing his teeth first.
One of his roommates cracked an eye open at him.
"Yo!" Kiba said in acknowledgment. Despite the daily bumps to his head he was always good natured in the mornings.
Sai smiled sleepily in response and reached out for the alarm clock. It was already 8:00 am.
Occupation: Second year Pre-Vet student; works as a veterinary assistant to his sister part-time
"Oi what the hell is this doing in my pile of clothes?" Kiba asked, holding up a green pair of boxers (which had tiny reindeer printed all over it) with the end of a pencil he'd found on the floor.
Sai was trying to fix his clock for the sixth time that week – which he distinctly remembered setting for 7:00.
Not really expecting any response, Kiba flung the offending pair of undies up at his second roommate who was still fast asleep on the bed above Sai's.
Finding his things among the pile of clothes, food wrappers, dog fur, and notebooks, Kiba ran out of the house for his daily run with Akamaru, his pants still only halfway up even as he entered the walkway.
Sai returned the clock to its original place and slipped out of bed, after which he set about his morning ritual: he smoothed out his bed sheets, fluffed his pillows, and folded his blanket. He then stepped back and checked if the corners of his folded blanket were all aligned at right angles. Perfect he told himself.
Now Sai wasn't one to run around half dressed and smelling of morning breath. He had what you call discipline. There were rules and regulations and he'd follow them, even if nobody else did. There had to be some sort of order in his life, or else he found it quite difficult to function. So he strode off to the bathroom and dutifully began brushing his teeth.
Occupation: Second year Psychology (honors) student; accepts art commissions in his spare time
He was hurriedly putting things together for breakfast when he heard the postman drop in the mail. Keeping the orange juice on the table, he sprinted up to the main door. He was expecting a check from one of his 'patrons' for a considerably large landscape he had spent a good deal working on the past month. University students are poor, so the prospect of receiving a check in the mail is, generally, more than just a 'big thing'.
He didn't have to turn the handle though, because a very excited looking Kiba and Akamaru bounded in from the outside and thoroughly buried him under their weight.
"MAAAIIIILLL!!!" Kiba yelled out the obvious, morning breath diffusing its way around the living room.
"Is my check in there?"
"I dunno, but there're two letters for you."
"Oi Shikamaru! Your mom sent cookies again!"
There wasn't really any response but they ripped open the boxed package and helped themselves to the cookies anyway.
Shikamaru's mother always made sure to send them cookies every month. Shikamaru, however, hadn't really had the chance to taste them in a while since he was always too late when he got to them. He was later forced to think up creative ways of describing how he 'enjoyed' them in the letters he wrote home. Yes, he wrote his mother letters, because she was too old fashioned to use email.
Immersed in the yummy goodness that was Shikamaru's mother's homemade cookies, the two boys – and the dog – went through their mail. Sai had received the two hundred dollar check and Kiba had a long RSPCA newsletter, among junk mail and other things.
And then there was a curious letter in a light green envelope at the bottom of the pile. It was addressed to all three of them.
Kiba picked it up first. "Dude, ya think this an invitation or something?"
"Let me see." Sai took the piece of paper from him. He immediately noticed the sender's name: Mrs. T. Kyoto, the landlady.
"It's from Mrs. Kyoto…"
Kiba's features turned into alarm. "Man that can't be good. Could it?"
Sai only shook his head and opened the letter. He grew paler than his usual pale as he read its contents.
"What?! What's in it? What'd the old hag say this time?"
"It seems that Sasuke hadn't paid his share of the rent for eight months before he ran away without turning in his three day notice. There's also a huge bill for excessive internet usage."
"Shit." Kiba felt his throat run dry. "That's a bad thing isn't it?"
Sai nodded. "Really bad," he said, looking at the two hundred dollar check addressed to him.
"What's really bad? And it's 9:00 already, what's for breakfast?" A groggy voice behind them interjected. "I've got a class at 9:15."
Shikamaru was standing right behind them, reindeer-printed green boxers in hand, and sleep written all over his face.
"Why, good morning to you too, Shikamaru-kun," Sai greeted with his sweetest smile.
Shikamaru answered with a brief "Uh-huh" before letting out a tremendous yawn.
Occupation: Second year Physics student; works part time as a teaching assistant at the senior Physics labs
When the situation was explained to him, he only sighed.
"How the hell can you be so calm at a time like this?!" Kiba yelled.
"Ah jeez, don't shout so early in the morning."
"Early in the mor—early? Early my ass!" Kiba was beside himself, panicking at the amount they'd have to pay unless they wanted to get kicked out.
Unfazed, Shikamaru enquired from Sai: "When's the deadline?"
"November twentieth, which is exactly two months from now."
"Holy shit!" intervened Kiba from the background.
"And why hadn't we received any prior warning?" Shikamaru asked, still cool-headed despite Kiba's somewhat contagious panic which had seemed to spread to Akamaru as well.
"Apparently a number of warnings had been issued to Sasuke, but it seems he failed to forward them to us," replied Sai, equally cool.
"And we are to blame for what that loser did?! It's not our fault he suddenly decided to up and leave so he could kill his brother!" Kiba continued to yell in the background. The other two merely ignored him.
"We can't really ask for an extension now, can we?" Shikamaru mused, loudly.
"I don't think that's a good idea since we'd have to pay a percentage more if it gets postponed further."
"Hnn. I guess that's it then."
"You think so?"
"I see. Alright."
Kiba had momentarily stopped ranting. "Woah woah what do you mean by that's it?! You mean you ain't gonna do scrat about it?" He then turned his angry gaze at Sai, who happened to be giving him a ridiculous smile. "And why are you smiling, idiot?!"
"I read in a book that you should smile at a person to make them feel happy, or at ease, or—"
A gruff "ahem" came from Shikamaru, cutting Sai short. He cocked an eyebrow, a sign of petulance, before leaning forward and adding: "Alright listen, here's the plan."
"Wait… so there is a plan?" Kiba sat down with a loud thump and pouted, his one protruding little canine hidden beneath his lower lip.
Shikamaru grunted an affirmative before continuing: "We're going to type out a notice asking for a roommate and print out as many copies as we can. Then we'll paste them all over campus and hope someone calls back."
"But it's the middle of the semester," Kiba offered.
"Yes, but there's no other choice."
"But how are we going to pay off the entire sum? He's only going to be paying his share of the rent, right?"
Sai was thoughtful for a moment before he said: "Must we specify that we're looking for a rich roommate?"
Shikamaru sighed. "I'm afraid it'll look highly suspicious, but it has to be done." Looking around at the thoughtful party, he added: "We will have to device a method of conveniently extracting our new roomie's money without having him notice it though. For this we will need to interview the interested party, before we come to an agreement with him, such that we gain the adequate information. Let's start from there." Unlike Kiba, Shikamaru was able to function well even without any breakfast.
"But this is all Sasuke's fault…" began Kiba.
"Yes, that part comes later," chimed in Sai.
Shikamaru frowned. "The part where we kill him."
Kiba studied his expression closely and then grinned. Shikamaru was serious.
And so, without further ado, the three of them set to work designing their notices and printing them out.
ROOMMATE WANTED (URGENT)
Nice, homely one-bedroom house at 422 North Shinigami Street
1 bath + living room + kitchen
Internet access available
Walking distance to campus (approx 2 miles)
Kiba had initially put an additional touch to his set of notices. He added 'RICH' in front of 'ROOMMATE WANTED'.
Shikamaru had to reprint another fifty fresh copies of the original notice.
Neither one went to class that morning. Priority came first. They had to have every single notice up by the end of the day.
Shikamaru was also informed that he had missed an Advanced Physics pop quiz by Temari, a foreign exchange student who also happened to take the Advanced Physics that he was taking that semester.
"How convenient" was all he could say.
The phone rang at 10:00 that night… and the caller wished to speak to them about the house, in person, the next day.
Shikamaru grinned. All plans for the interview were well under way.
He reached for his mother's cookies but found the box empty.