The Music of Stone

Shinobi X Duchesse

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ShinobiTruth
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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Sat May 25, 2019 1:11 am

Iwamaru's father was gone on a mission. It was bittersweet that he viewed it as an opportunity instead of worrying about his only parent making it back safely. The irony of that sentiment was not lost on the young man, even as he walked towards Mr Seng's music store. He'd had to travel halfway across the level simply to reach the shop. Mr. Seng's Musical Emporium wasn't simply far away from Iwamaru's home; it was also far away from most of the other buildings in the district. The man had explicitly opened his shop far away from the busy marketplace since he wasn't too fond of large crowds, instead trusting on an aggressive advertising campaign and open demonstrations of both his musical skill and the quality of his instruments to bring in customers. He was either crazy, brilliant, or most likely, a strange and volatile combination of the two. Despite most people's strong desire for convenience, the allure and novelty of someone so talented made his customers willing to search off the beaten path, and many of them had adopted, in some part, his preference for solitude.

It was under these serendipitous circumstances that Iwamaru had been cultivating his skills with the harp in secret. Though many customers gravitated towards the traditional guqin or the more compact lyre, the delicate, seemingly crystalline sounds of the harp had fascinated Iwamaru when he had first stumbled on the store. The solitary old man must have seen some small piece of himself in him, because despite his dedication to his work, he offered to teach him to play any one instrument whenever the young boy had time. Iwamaru had accepted that arrangement, and though it had been stressful to hide this from his father, had he not had the harp, he likely would have struggled even more with his mother's absence.

Walking to the door of the shop, Iwamaru knocked on the doorframe before entering. "Good afternoon, Sensei," he called.
a
Walking out from the workshop, located to the left of the entrance behind the counter and opposite to the viewing gallery for the instruments, Mr. Seng appeared. Well into his fifties, he was short in stature, wearing a long brown da gua fu and black walking slippers on his feet. His sleeves were rolled up, and little shavings of wood hung from the bottom of his wide cuffs on the sleeves. "I keep telling you to call me Mr. Seng," he laughed, poking fun at the boy's excessive formality. "I'm certain one of these days I'll get through to you yet."

Iwamaru gave a big toothy grin. "And disrespect the man who showed me the gift of music? Never. May I go upstairs, Sensei?"

Mr. Seng waved nonchalantly towards the staircase to the right of the counter as he walked back into his workshop. "Yes, yes, go on. It's already set up for you in the testing salon."

With another bow of gratitude, Iwamaru made his way upstairs. Sure enough, in the wide room, the harp stood center in the room. Made of a dark, lacquered wood, the strings were freshly installed, and the pedals shined with their brass coating. In his anticipation, he forgot to completely close the door and immediately sat down and began plucking away to warm up before diving into one of the pieces Mr. Seng had taught him.
Unbeknownst to the young man, his harp music drifted downstairs into the store. Mr. Seng always enjoyed when Iwamaru played, and rarely, if ever, did he bother the young man during his practice.

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Sun May 26, 2019 10:35 pm

It wasn't often that Komiya Shizuo had a day off. When he wasn't assisting in hospitals he was usually doing research, reading up on spirits and trying to figure out what exactly was happening in the Catacombs deep beneath the village. He hadn't made the journey himself. If he were honest with himself he wasn't at all ready to deal with the spirit colony in any way. The stories the village's three new young Bannin brought back were downright terrifying, and although he had been studying fuuinjutsu and tenkujutsu he was nowhere near the level needed to tackle such an endeavor.

Shizuo wandered around Iwagakure's sprawling center market, browsing trinkets and weapons but not interested in actually buying anything. Window shoppers were annoying to many merchants who wanted to make actual sales, but most of the men and women at the stalls were polite enough even after realizing Shizuo was unlikely to make a purchase this time around. Besides, the young man was amiable enough. He made friendly conversation and ensured some of the merchants that he would return and make a purchase some day, and most of the returning smiles were only slightly strained in annoyance.

Eventually the special jounin made his way to a music shop. It was the reason he had set off in the first place, an errand to pick up something or other for his mother. He hadn't known his mom to be a musician, but apparently in her younger days she played the koto. She was hoping to her get hands on one of good quality to play in her free time. He pushed open the door to the shop, looking around appreciatively at all the musical instruments. Shizuo briefly thought he wished he knew how to play one of them and took the time to listen to the gentl music wafting from upstairs. "Nice," he mumbled to himself as he looked around for a merchant. "Excuse me!" he cheerily called out, hoping someone would help him soon.
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Mon May 27, 2019 12:37 am

The sound of a voice calling from the shop downstairs interrupted Iwamaru's immersion into his music. If a customer was calling for someone to help, it meant that Mr. Seng was in his workshop, and considering he liked to work in solitude on his pieces, he might not be out for a while yet. Iwamaru wasn't an employee of the store. Perhaps he should simply let his musical sensei tend to the workshop? Would he be overstepping his bounds by assisting a customer?

Iwamaru stood up. No, he should help. Even if he didn't work for Mr. Seng directly, he knew this store, and most of the instruments in it, like he would his own flesh, and it would hopefully help someone who had taught him such a valuable talent. There was no way he could not help in whatever way he could. Shedding his equipment and leaving it in the corner of the testing salon, Iwamaru called down. "One moment, please!" he replied back. When he went down the stairs, he had naught but his tunic, belt, pants and boots on. His pauldrons, sword, and gloves had been left upstairs. He didn't even necessarily look like a shinobi, and he hoped that no one would take notice or question even if they did realize it. Coming down the stairs with controlled steps, Iwamaru walked towards the customer and greeted him with a bow. "Good morning! My name is Iwamaru. Sensei is currently in his workshop, but I would be more than happy to assist you. What is it you're looking for today?" the young man offered to the pale individual before him.

At first, the fair skinned man looked like any other villager, if not a bit peculiar, but once Iwamaru got closer, he began to suspect that this person might be a shinobi. His shoulders, even through his shirt, seemed more defined than most villagers, and of what little he could see of his arms, he suspected they might be similarly toned as well. This was potentially quite bad. If this person was a shinobi, and word got around to his father that he'd been seen in this shop, there's no telling what kind of chaos that would cause at home. He simply had to play his part and focus solely on helping this individual.

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:52 am

There was a delay in response, so Shizuo took the time to look around the shop some more. There were beautiful instruments lying about in what would have been a tantalizing display for someone more musically inclined, and may tempt someone to spend thousands to get their hands on the best. To the special jounin they were nothing to be so desired; like most in Iwagakure, the young man didn't have much appreciation for the arts. But even he could admit and recognize that these instruments could be wonderful in the right hands. One could use them to make beautiful melodies and harmonies that could soothe the soul or quicken the heart, energize the body or soothe it into comfortable slumber.

Shizuo turned to the boy as he came bounding into the room. The kid was several years his junior based on his height, but it was hard to tell his true age due to his face. Unlike Shizuo's, whose features were gentle and what some might consider handsome, this kid's face was sharply angled and strong. He was a true child of the Stone. "Oh, he's busy?" the shinobi asked, frowning somewhat. "I'm here to pick up an order. My mother wants a koto, and I think she might have had it specially made. I'm not entirely sure though, she didn't give me much information about it."

The thought nearly made him roll his eyes. His mother had become increasingly terse in the past few months, especially after Shizuo decided to move out. It was poorly timed, and his move along with a few other events had caused a bit of a strain between him and his parents. But apparently they were on the mend since she had sent him on this errand. "Is that something you can help with? If not I'll happily wait on Mr....the owner." The shinobi gave a small laugh; he didn't even know the owner's name. He was a bit unprepared for this errand, it seemed.
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:16 am

Ah, of course. Seng-sensei was never particularly great at remembering when he had orders waiting to be picked up. Thankfully, Iwamaru knew where they were kept, and he knew where the keys for the safe were as well. Mr. Seng was always very careful about making sure that the pieces he had guaranteed to sell were secured under lock and key. Even if the rest of the store was cleared out, he would keep his promise to his customers and give them a fine instrument of his own making. "Most certainly, I can. Give me a moment to consult the order receipts," he assured the client before going back behind the counter to find the documents.

It took a few moments, but after shuffling through the papers, Iwamaru was glad to find that there was only one order that fit that description. "Well, I'd normally ask for the name, but it seems that there was only one order for a koto put in within the last few weeks. It must be for your mother, then. Surname Komiya, correct?" the young man confirmed before neatly stacking the papers and retrieving the safe key from a hidden drawer built into the frame of the counter, out of sight of customers.

Once Iwamaru confirmed the order, he'd ask Shizuo to wait for a moment as he stepped into the back. The workshop was located deep within the back of the store, but the product safes were just the next room over from the main gallery. Taking the key, he unlocked the safe and located the piece. Seng-sensei always went the extra mile to make the instruments easier to carry for his customers. Aside from making handles on the pieces themselves, he would craft large reinforced leather satchels with extra padding on the inside for a snug fit and cushioning and a strap to carry it on the shoulder.

Bringing the order back up to the front of the store, Iwamaru pulled it out of the satchel and gently set it on the counter. It was truly a sight to behold. The oak used to create the koto was stained a dark cherry red. A sakura tree was carved and then painted in the middle of the koto, with additional petals drifting off to either side, and a finish was placed over the painted, stained wood so as to preserve it, potentially forever. "Please allow me to check the tuning for you," Iwamaru offered. "Seng-sensei, for all his talent, can sometimes forget to properly adjust the strings."

Should Shizuo accept the offer, Iwamaru would take out a finger pick (he knew not the official name for the tool), and after assuring the strings were in tune, would play a short piece to test the instrument. He was certain, as always, that Mr. Seng's work would speak for itself.
Satisfied with the clarity of the sound, Iwamaru began to repack the koto back into the satchel that was made with it. "Your mother must be a skilled musician to play the 25 string koto," Iwamaru noted. "Most koto only have 13 strings."
Last edited by ShinobiTruth on Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:42 am

"Uh, yes,"h Shizuo replied, thankful that the boy quickly found the order. He was not only quick in finding the receipt, but he only disappeared for a few minutes before returning with the instrument. The koto was huge, easily six feet long and the boy carried it easily, familiarly. It looked completely foreign to Shizuo once it was laid before him in all its glory. Twenty five pale yellow strings stretched over its wooden body, and ivory colored inverted Y-shaped pieces sat at regular intervals on each string.

"Whoa," Shizuo breathed as he admired the instrument, so taken with it that he nearly missed Iwamaru announce he would check the tuning. The boy gently plucked a soothing tune, one that eased the shinobi into a state of nostalgia that was almost overwhelming. It was a confusing sensation, and as he watched Iwamaru's fingers deftly pluck the strings Shizuo could almost remember another pair of hands in their stead - older, larger, and more slender - hands that he had always known playing the exact same song.

The image danced just beyond the boundaries of his memory, frustratingly just out of reach. The song itself, however, evoked an even stronger sense of familiarity. "I know that song," he responded airily, almost as if in a daze. "No idea where I've heard it but, I know it. It makes me sleepy - but, in a good way!" he added hastily, hoping that wasn't offensive. "But...I don't know anything about koto, but I'll take your word for it. She must be; she's not the type of woman who would buy something like this and not use it. I just don't remember her ever playing one or owning one." Somehow the young man felt that wasn't true. The image in his mind of his mother playing the beautiful instrument was too vivid to be something created by mere imagination.

"Give my and my mother's regards to Seng-san, since he doesn't seem to be around. As far as I can tell, it's perfect."
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:16 am

Iwamaru nodded. "Mr. Seng always compares the koto to a raincloud. Sometimes, rainfall can be gentle, soothing, and it can bring peace," the boy agreed. "At other times, it can crash upon you like a typhoon. It is an instrument of many temperaments. Your mother chose well."

As Iwamaru began packing the koto back up, he nodded towards the customer. "Indeed. Seng-sensei apologizes that he couldn't be here to present the instrument personally. He's currently in the process of-"

"I'm coming, coming! Please wait!"

The genin blinked, clearly not expecting the sudden interruption from behind. Had he just finished the project? It wasn't like Mr. Seng to get up in the middle of his work. He must have had this appointment in mind. Iwamaru bowed to the short, wiry elder, easily in his fifties, that emerged from the workshop. "Seng-sensei, Komiya-san is here to pick up the koto for his mother. I separated the receipt for your review," Iwamaru announced, motioning towards the order voucher.

Mr. Seng walked over and looked at the receipt. When he saw the signature, his eyes lit up! "Ah, Komiya-san! Yes, yes, she's been a long time friend and customer. This is her son, you say? Very good to meet you, young man. As you've guessed, I am Mr. Seng," the man in white working garments introduced, bowing as well. "I hope you can forgive my absence. As you've no doubt seen, I take great care in making my instruments the absolute best they can be, and it requires much of my focus... even a bit too much at times, I'm afraid."

Iwamaru bowed again to Shizuo, attempting to excuse himself from the situation. "You'll be in good hands with Seng-sensei. With your permission, I'll-"

"Ah, ah, ah, ah, Iwamaru, wait. I need you still for this package."

The genin looked quizzically at his music teacher. "Seng-sensei?" he asked, understandably confused.

Finishing re-packaging the koto, he picked up the satchel, but instead of handing it to Shizuo, he held it out before Iwamaru. "I need you to deliver this one personally for me, Iwa-boy," he ordered. Before Iwamaru could ask any questions, he continued: "It's not a matter of capability, on your part or Komiya-san's part. Over the years, though she does not know it, her incidental purchases kept my store afloat when times were rough. It's a matter of personal honor."

As soon as the word "honor" hit Iwamaru's ears, a look of reverent recognition visibly crossed his facial expression. "If it is for upholding your honor, Seng-sensei, it will be done," he vowed, bowing deeply to his master. Walking out behind the counter, Iwamaru bowed again to Shizuo. "Please, allow me to walk with you to leave the koto with your mother. For the sake of Seng-sensei's honor, I pray you can forgive my imposition."

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:43 pm

Shizuo watched in silence as the kid and the shop owner went back and forth, feeling a bit awkward as the exchange went on. His mother had never mentioned that she was a musician, let alone her friendship with this Mr. Seng. Even more surprising was the revelation that she had been a patron of this shop for years. He racked his mind for any hint that she was musically inclined, but other than the hazy memory that had only just come to the surface, he couldn't think of anything. It seemed he didn't know his mother as well as he thought.

"I don't mean to be any trouble," the young man sputtered, waving his hands wildly in front of him when Seng ordered the boy to carry the koto. In his mind this was supposed to be a simple errand that would inconvenience him for only an hour or two. But once the word 'honor' was uttered he knew this was already a losing battle that he would never win. "She's most likely out on her own errands so I had planned to just drop it off and uh-" Damn it, the kid bowed. Shizuo looked back and forth between the old man and Iwamaru, hoping that one or both of them would change their minds.

Finally he resigned himself to the inevitable. "If it's not too much trouble, then sure. The house is on the other side of the village so it's a bit of a walk." Shizuo bowed his thanks to the shop owner, feeling more and more awkward by the second. The man had shown such respect to his mother's name, but Shizuo had no idea how important she was to him or who the man even was. The special jounin began to turn away to leave, but the weight of the envelope pressed against his chest stopped him in his tracks, almost as if the package itself cleared its throat to remind him, pay the man.

"Right, right." Mumbling to no one in particular he gave the man the payment, offering it to Mr. Seng with both hands. "She sent this along. I'm sure it's more than enough, knowing Mom." He waited for the man to take the money before turning to leave. "We'll be on our way then. Thanks again!"
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
Hazuki Shuran Jinchuuriki researcher [color=#E854C0]
Enkouten Kaizen Iwagakure councilman [color=#C65871]
Rock Country Daimyo [color=#AC4A4A]

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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:45 pm

Neither Iwamaru, the humble student, nor Seng, the insistent master, would budge on this notion. Iwamaru’s sense of duty to the old man elevated his word to law in his mind, and Seng was kind of man that would lose sleep over the thought of even possibly slighting one of his loyal customers. Still, there was one benefit to all of this: the young man’s mother had prepaid. ”Ah, do not worry, young man. Your mother paid for her piece in advance, though she may have forgotten” he assured the young man, holding up his hand and bowing slightly. ”The only payment I need is for you to take my warm regards to my faithful client.”

Waving goodbye to the two, Mr. Seng stepped back into his store. Iwamaru looked back and breathed deeply. This was his first time doing something like this, and Iwamaru was not great with meeting new people. That sensei of his, did he do this on purpose? It wasn’t outside of the realm of possibility. He’d made Iwamaru attend to a number of different tasks under innocent guises when, in reality, they were meant to make Iwamaru face his personal demons. Still, he would make the best of an unusual situation. ”Do you have any musical inclinations, Komiya-san?” he asked, trying to break the ice. ”Forgive me if I’m prying, but I couldn’t help but notice the way you looked when I was testing the koto.”

A question that showed he was observant, but a question innocuous enough that there wasn’t much risk of treading in territory where he wasn’t welcome. Good. There was absolutely no way this could turn against him.

...Yeah, even Iwamaru didn’t believe that. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:32 am

At the news that his mother had already paid, Shizuo's lips rounded into a small oh and then he rushed to put the envelope back into his pocket. It wasn't like his mother to forget something like that, but he supposed she was getting a bit old. The fleeting thought saddened him, but he immediately recovered and gave Mr. Seng a polite smile before leaving the shop with the young assistant.

"Musically inclined?" he echoed, giving the child a glance. "No, no, I've never even thought of trying. Being interested in the arts as a kid would be like begging to be bullied, and I already had enough on my plate back then. 'Albino freak,' they called me, and that was one of the kinder insults." Although Shizuo didn't often discuss this aspect of his past, it wasn't something he was ashamed of or tried to run from. He had endured his tormentors and had come to terms with his shortcomings and who he was, and in many ways he had emerged stronger because of it. He was candid about many things in his life.

"That koto just...it brought back memories, but not complete ones. I've never seen my mom play any instruments and I don't think she has any in the house. Maybe she does in storage though. But when you played that song, it's like I could almost see her playing it, or something similar to it. It was such a strange feeling." The two walked at a relaxed pace, heading south and away from the markets. Eventually the pathway they took led underground, opening into a huge tunnel. Even as they travelled underground the brightness of their surroundings didn't change; centuries of perfecting the subterranean lighting resulted in the ambience underground being almost identical to that above ground. Even as a young adult, Shizuo was impressed by the ingenuity.

"But no, music isn't something my mom passed on to me. Not that she could. Downside of being adopted, I guess."
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Hazuki Shuran Jinchuuriki researcher [color=#E854C0]
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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:53 pm

Iwamaru listened intently, though Shizuo’s response brought up a well of Iwamaru’s own emotions. In a way, even though their situations were distinctly different from one another, it made Iwamaru’s loss easier to bear, meeting someone whose life had taken unexpected turns... had taken things from him, even. It also reminded Iwamaru to be grateful. He was certain that Shizuo loved his adoptive mother, but Iwamaru knew that he himself had at least had the privilege of having his biological family. He’d known the mother who’d given birth to him...

...Even if fate had taken her away from him.

Iwamaru paused, carefully considering his response. He wanted to make sure that whatever he said was considerate. He has no idea exactly how Shizuo felt about his birth mother, but seemed he at least wanted to know something about her. ”I see. For me, music reminds me of my mother, too. When I was younger, she always encouraged me to try new things, even though my dad thought they were pointless or unmanly. She helped me find Seng-sensei, and he taught me the harp,” Iwamaru explained, not realizing he’d alluded to something having happened to the woman. It wasn’t often he talked to others about his mother, and he was quite terrible at not giving himself away, though he never meant to.

Looking up at Shizuo, Iwamaru made a suggestion. ”Would... would you be interested in learning the koto? Mr. Seng is a stern teacher, but he’s very good at what he does, and he has a love for all instruments,” Iwamaru offered. He knew that might be a risky question, but it was an earnest request.

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Mon Jun 17, 2019 7:06 pm

Shizuo hummed politely as the boy talked about his own mother. By the way he spoke, vaguely wistful in his explanation, it was clear that speaking of his mother and music brought up a number of emotions, but the shinobi was too polite to pry. At the boy's suggestion Shizuo gave a sort of surprised snort before answering, "Me? Learn the koto? I'll have to pass on that. Between missions and my research I don't think I'll have the time. Besides, I-"

"Oi!!! Shizuo!!!" A sudden slap on the shoulder interrupted Shizuo, nearly knocking him down. When he turned he saw a familiar face - a heavily muscled and very hairy man with a dead boar slung over his shoulder. The animal was easily at least 300 pounds, but the man carried it with ease. "Scrawny as ever, I see! Working hard?"

"Hardly working, Togashi. It's my day off. Tomorrow, too."

"Oh? Great, you're taking a break from those damn squiggles and books. Let's grab drinks tonight then! You're paying!"

"Heh, we'll see about that." The other man guffawed and waved as he walked away, and Shizuo turned back to the boy with an apologetic smile. "Sorry about that. That was an old teammate. We go way back, since we were both genin. But since I've been promoted to special jounin I don't see him as much. That kind of thing is more my speed, sorry. What about you then? I take it you're not a shinobi? I don't know very many shinobi who have time to study the arts and whatnot. Does your mom like music, too? Maybe our moms know each other."
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
Hazuki Shuran Jinchuuriki researcher [color=#E854C0]
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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Thu Jun 20, 2019 11:25 am

Iwamaru nodded as Shizuo began to explain why the pursuit of the koto wasn’t quite in the cards for him before their conversation was interrupted by a rugged looking man hoisting an impressive catch, a large boar, over his shoulder as if it wasn’t even there. Iwamaru mentally took note, as the man’s strength had to be considerable to feel the beast. Even with his strength, leagues above any genin and even most chuunin, Iwamaru had managed only to drive such a beast away during his most recent job at cleaning the Jousai’s mountain pass. Togashi. Iwamaru would keep his eyes and ears open for that man. They would likely meet at some point in their career.

Returning to the subject at hand, Iwamaru kept a straight face as the conversation took a turn towards his most tender of topics: his mother. ”Actually, I am a genin,” the boy clarified. ”I reported to the Citadel this morning to clean boulders from the pass with the Jousai. Because of that, today, at least, I have time off.”

Taking a deep breath, he continued. ”As for our mothers knowing each other... that’s not likely. My mother, she...”

Iwamaru shook his head and steadied his wavering emotions. ”I lost my mother when I was ten, nearly five years ago. A freak congenital heart defect. She’s the one who encouraged me to learn music when I showed interest as a boy... When I play, it reminds me of her...”

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:22 am

As the pair talked, they crossed a stone bridge that crossed a wide crack in the earth. The rocks overhead shined with light blue luminescence, some of it natural and some of it enhanced by decades-old fuuinjutsu. They were nearing a wide cavern, bustling with people as they traveled and shopped, chatted and argued. One could almost forget they were nearly half a mile beneath the village. "Jousai, huh? Those guys are something else. Terrifying, actually, from what I've heard. They hardly even seem approachable, especially the youngest one. I've only seen him in passing once and even though he's a kid I could barely make eye contact."

Shizuo led the young boy - now revealed to be a genin - near one of Iwagakure's many subterranean parks. They were nearing the enormous tunnel that would take them above ground and near his family home in the eastern part of the Southern District.

Shizuo heard it in Iwamaru's voice even before the boy spoke the words. Despite the boy's efforts to keep himself steady, Shizuo could pick up on the immense sadness that lay beneath the surface of bravery. He let a few moments of silence pass between them before finally offering his condolences. "I'm sorry for your loss. She sounds like she was a great lady, to encourage you so much. Keep playing your music, Iwamaru. I'm sure she would want you to."

Finally the two reached the surface one more, and Shizuo breathed in deeply, savoring the crisp mountain air. "There's still a chance our mothers knew each other. There's not many people in this village who appreciate music, or anything related to the arts. It might be worth looking into. Here, we're going left." The pair walked past a large gate, its fading dark blue paint slightly flaking, and entered a quiet neighborhood. The houses were fairly large and separated from one another by low stone walls covered with thick exotic vines, but somehow the homes still retained modesty.

Shizuo turned to Iwamaru, his expression sympathetic. "I didn't mean to bring up any sad memories of your mom. If you need to head back, I understand. The house isn't very far from here."
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
Hazuki Shuran Jinchuuriki researcher [color=#E854C0]
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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Sat Jun 22, 2019 10:45 am

Iwamaru nodded his head. ”Thank you. I’m ashamed to say that I have to keep my love of music a secret from my father, so it’s nice to have someone to talk to about it,” he sighed, his shoulders relaxing. ”He never really saw music as a productive hobby. Even when my mother was still around, he only ever talked about training and missions. I love him and respect him dearly, but he’s always been a bit cold.”

Following Shizuo on the left turn, unlike what Iwamaru had been expecting, having someone to talk to about personal matters was rather cathartic. ”That would be rather serendipitous, Shizuo-san,” he agreed recalling the name that his hulk of a teammate had been so kind to divulge. ”My mother did love to visit craft shops in town, so it’s a possibility, to be certain.”

When Shizuo turned and offered to finish the delivery on his own, Iwamaru shook his head, a grin slowly creeping onto his face. ”I would dishonor Seng-sensei if I were to quit now. Besides... honestly, talking about it helped. My dad... he just can’t. It still hurts him too much, I think. So, until now, I’ve held it in. So... thank you. And I’d be honored to meet the woman who raised such a person if you’ll allow it,” he replied, his eyes just a bit brighter than they were before.

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:30 pm

"Ah...." Shizuo responded, trailing off with a faint hint of awkwardness in his voice. He could somewhat relate to having a less than supportive father; after all, his interest in studying and confronting spirits wasn't exactly something either of his parents' wanted him to pursue. "Your dad might be able to talk about it in due time. That kind of grief isn't something anyone can get over in a day, or even from talking about it once or twice. These things take time."

Shizuo headed toward one of the homes, built in the more traditional styles with its largely wooden structure and a curved, tiled roof. Like many of the homes in the neighborhood, only the roof and the tops of carefully cultivated trees peeked above the ground. The house sat in a depression in the earth and was built at and below ground level. The special jounin descended the stairs to the front door and gave a few strong knocks before he turned to Iwamaru, his expression somewhat sympathetic. "I'm sure she won't mind meeting you, especially since you come bearing gifts."

As if on cue the door opened, and out stepped a woman in her early fifties wearing a cheery pink and powder blue yukata. Unlike Shizuo with his pale skin, grey eyes, and stark white hair, her skin was sun-kissed and hair dark brown, and her eyes were a striking shade of green that could make emeralds jealous. "Shizuo, dear," she said with a gentle smile as she embraced him. "You took longer than I expected. Who is this with you?"

The special jounin introduced his temporary companion, adding at the end, "He and Mr. Seng insisted that he come along with. Something about personal honor. He's a musician, too. Iwamaru tested out the koto before we left the store. Really, mom, what else are you hiding from me?" The young man's tone was light and playful, but the way his grey eyes glinted suggested his words weren't entirely in jest. Whether or not the woman recognized this or not was hard to discern; she simply smiled at her son and turned her attention to the genin. She gazed at the boy for a long moment before stepping to the side, moving her hands in a gentle, sweeping motion toward the interior of the house. "No need to linger outside then. Come in, come in."
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
Hazuki Shuran Jinchuuriki researcher [color=#E854C0]
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Rock Country Daimyo [color=#AC4A4A]

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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Wed Jul 03, 2019 10:20 pm

Iwamaru marveled at the architecture of the houses in this district. His own house was similar in its traditional layout, but more modest, despite his and his father's joint incomes as shinobi. His father, ever the efficient man, insisted on having a simple, easily repaired and maintained home and instead invested the extra money in various business ventures and investments to secure the family's future. There was wisdom in such a frugal course, but it certainly wouldn't kill him to invest in the aesthetics of their home, either. His mother had been the home decorator, and most of those decorations had come down once she'd passed away. It was almost like he wanted to erase mother out of their lives, and it was one of the reasons their relationship as father and son had become so abrasive.

Still, one thing his father had firmly instilled in his son was a respect for his elders. Thus, when he and Shizuo finally arrived at the special jounin's home and his mother came to the door, Iwamaru bowed. "Komiya-san, I bring greetings from Seng-sensei" the boy offered. "He wished to deliver this piece personally, but other commissions detained him. I stand here in his place."

The long gaze that the older woman rest upon Iwamaru did not escape the genin's notice. He did not know the reason behind such a lengthy observation, but he knew there was some reason behind it, some sense of familiarity that would compel such an action. But what? They'd never met before. How could such a thing possibly be. He was likely overthinking things, as always. Following her directions, Iwamaru bowed and stepped inside.

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Sat Jul 13, 2019 1:45 am

Ah, of course. I didn't expect a guest, but knowing Seng-san I should have. And please, you're too formal. Call me Tsuru." Shizuo followed behind Iwamaru, closing the door behind them before following the others to a sitting room. Pristine plush furniture met them, appearing as though they had rarely - if ever - been used. Shizuo's mom sat down and gestured for the two to sit across from her on the loveseat. After she moved a few crystal ornaments to the floor, Shizuo lifted the coffee table and placed it several feet away and then helped the genin place the koto in the empty space.

"Seng-san sold me my first koto years ago," the woman began, her voice taking on an airy tone as she dived into nostalgia. "I haven't played music in years, not since Shizuo was very small. But since he's grown up and moved out I have a lot more free time. Though I do spend a lot of that time worrying about my only son." The special jounin responded with silence, his expression stony. For a moment mother and son met gazes, but he quickly looked away and began unpacking the koto.

It had been weeks since he had been in the same room with her for this long, and he was already feeling strained. He'd been purposefully packing his schedule to only allow brief visits here and there, always managing a valid excuse of why he couldn't stay for longer. "Iwamaru here plays the koto, too. Something you two have in common, though he doesn't seem to hide it." There was a slight edge to his voice, but he managed to control and swallow the bitterness. Now wasn't the time, not in front of a guest.

Tsuru's piercing gaze once again found Iwamaru. With her brow raised she said, "You do? That's not a common skill these days. Not much appreciation for music in Iwagakure...." She folded her hands delicately in her lap, and with a small smile she looked expectantly at the boy, then at the koto.
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
Hazuki Shuran Jinchuuriki researcher [color=#E854C0]
Enkouten Kaizen Iwagakure councilman [color=#C65871]
Rock Country Daimyo [color=#AC4A4A]

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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:31 pm

The initial entry into the home was pleasant and uneventful, Iwamaru focused entirely on his duty at hand. The boy felt it was selfish for him to do so, but he allowed himself to relish in the brief reminders of his mother’s serenity. He knew he’d find none once he returned home to sterile walls and a man devoid of anything but dedication to his work that he wondered if he remembered he had a son. It had been so long since he’d felt such warmth in his own home... He’d remember this visit for a long time to come.

It was only as he helped clear the table so that Shizuo could help set the large koto upon it that Iwamaru realized that he was not the only one with family issues. The tension, much like the oppressive heat of lava, was undeniable. Of course, there had been plenty of times that Iwamaru and his mother had quarreled, but losing her had taught the genin exactly how pointless such things had been. They’d ultimately meant less time he was able to spend with her. He was no brute. He would not speak unless his opinion was requested.

Iwamaru was blessed and cursed with being fairly sharp, and as such, he quickly realized that Tsuru was asking him to play. ”Yes, Tsuru-san,” he replied, moving over to the koto. He could not help but be nervous as he placed the tsume on his fingers; he’d never performed for someone before. Closing his eyes, he placed his hands upon the instrument and let the music take him:



Slowly moving his hands to his lap, Iwamaru bowedto the Music that enriched his life. Until otherwise promoter, he would remain silent.

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:16 am

The reaction of mother and son to Iwamaru's playing were quite different. The older woman watched his fingers dance across the strings, deftly and familiarly. She could tell he had practiced for hours and hours and she smiled as the song went on. Shizuo, on the other hand, found he couldn't enjoy himself. The music was good, but the boy's playing reminded him that there was so much about his mother that he didn't even know. He was beginning to see her in a different light, an unflattering light that made her seem distorted and almost alien to him. The special jounin listened politely with his eyes locked onto his hands folded tightly in his laps, tense and slightly shaking.

Finally the music ceased, and Tsuru began to clap enthusiastically. "Very nice. I can tell you practice diligently and that Seng-san has taught you well. I see a lot of potential in you. You remind me of myself at that age! Somehow Shizuo held back a snort. He could hardly think of a time the woman was this eager to praise him regarding his own studies in ninjutsu and tenkujutsu. There was clearly a standard that Shizuo didn't meet. It stung.

"Does this diligence reflect in your training as a shinobi? I'll admit I had no talent for that sort of thing; I was happy to graduate from the academy and never look back. My first love was music, and later I found pleasure in trade and the simpler, safer life of a merchant. Shizuo was different though. It was hard for him at first, but eventually he got the hang of it."

"Much to your displeasure, I'm sure."

"Shizuo."

The young man's cheek twitched in irritation. His career choice has been a source of contention in the family for years now, and recently the conflict had come to a head. It had driven him from the household completely. It wasn't proper time to rehash old arguments; Shizuo knew that. But seeing his mother regard Iwamaru's music skills with such warm approval clouded his head and loosened his tongue. His words remained polite, but each syllable came with the heavy weight of contempt. "You've never liked the fact that I'm a shinobi, mother. You just won't adm-"

Tsuru stood quickly, roughly. Her complexion reddened and her smile had long ago faded. "Our guest needs refreshments." This time Shizuo didn't hide his snort. As his mother disappeared into the kitchen, Shizuo stayed staring straight ahead. Finally, without turning to Iwamaru he said, "Sorry. That was..maybe I should leave. You two seem like you'll get along fine without me."
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
Hazuki Shuran Jinchuuriki researcher [color=#E854C0]
Enkouten Kaizen Iwagakure councilman [color=#C65871]
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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Sun Jul 28, 2019 11:15 am

Iwamaru was not blind. Though he could not have possibly known, he’d struck a nerve with his music and his presence, one already inflamed and rubbed raw. Shizuo was fighting just to keep some level of composure, and though he didn’t yet know why, it seemed to be directed as his own mother. What was he to do? ”I do my best to put my all into everything I choose to do,” the boy acknowledged, trying to do his best to be a neutral influence.

The next minutes seemed to play out like a theatrical drama, with tension and dialogue sharp enough to cut Iwamaru to the bone. He stared down at the koto as the spat between mother and son ran its course, Tsuru leaving with the supposed objective of fetching refreshments.

Shaking his head, Iwamaru finally replied after much thought. ”No... You need to be here,” the genin affirmed. ”I know that I understand nothing about your circumstances. Anything I can say outside of the basics would be ill-informed at best and insulting at worst. I imagine you and your mother have already had countless conversations about why you disagree with each other so passionately, and it’s not my place to judge or point fingers. The only thing I would say is...”

Iwamaru exhaled deeply. ”My mom didn’t want me to become a shinobi, either. She knew that although some of my father’s best qualities came from his patriotism, she also knew that his occupation had also spawned some of his worst, and she feared that I might suffer a similar fate. She was honest with me... but she also said she’d love me, always, and she wanted me to do what I thought was right. We may have disagreed, but we always remembered to tell each other that we loved one another...”

Iwamaru looks to Shizuo, trying to be as empathetic as possible. ”I know it won’t fix everything... but even if she doesn’t say it back, don’t ever forget to say that you love her. I don’t want anyone to regret the things they did or didn’t say or do to their loved ones after their gone... The pain of regret is just as bad as the pain of losing her, Shizuo-sempai. I don’t want anyone else to suffer that. Not anyone.”

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:04 am

Shizuo gave a gravelly sigh as the young genin began to lecture him. The boy's heart was in the right place, but had he been more familiar with Shizuo he'd have known his words weren't reaching the older shinobi. The special jounin was typically a reasonable man, but he was stubborn to the extent that at times advice fell on deaf ears. It was one of his biggest faults, the root of the worst parts of himself. Finally, at the end of Iwamaru's speech, the white haired shinobi turned toward him with a look that was a few steps shy of being a glare.

"Thanks. But you're projecting." He started to leave it at that, to keep the nature of the disagreement between him and his mother completely quiet. After all, if others knew what Shizuo knew about his mother, she would be sitting in a jail cell next to a few others. But the young man was in a bad mood and he had already said more to his mother than what he had planned. "My relationship with my mom isn't the same as yours. Sometimes the words don't need to be said between people. Sometimes 'I love you' can be expressed in running errands despite not wanting to. Or in not reporting people and having them sent to jail. You can say 'I love you' by keeping someone's secrets."

He paused to listen to his mother begin to rummage around loudly in the cabinets. He was sure she had been listening in, and at that moment decided to drown out his words. "Few things in life are simple, especially once you become a shinobi. You have a good heart though. I hope this life doesn't change that. For your sake."

At that moment the ruckus from the kitchen stopped, and Tsuru emerged carrying a large ornate tray. Upon it sat three cups and a steaming kettle filled with tea. There were also a few fresh pastries that had been delivered to the household earlier that morning. "I brought snacks, Iwamaru-kun. In case you're hungry." She poured the tea with the grace of someone who had done so ceremoniously countless times and then added, "You're welcome here any time. Whether it be for music or chatting. Just send word ahead of time, but I'm here quite often lately." The woman pointedly avoided eye contact with Shizuo and didn't move to offer him the tea. His cup remained untouched.
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
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Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
Hazuki Shuran Jinchuuriki researcher [color=#E854C0]
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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Mon Aug 19, 2019 11:10 am

Shizuo's countenance changing showed Iwamaru that perhaps his speech wasn't as well received as he was hoping. The boy felt he could sense more behind Shizuo's frustration, but he clearly was in no position to ask for more details. Unlike his superior, who seemed a bit too frazzled to really hear what the boy had said, Iwamaru did his best to listen to what counsel he was offered. Clearly, this was a more complex situation than he'd realized. The mention of someone being sent to jail certainly put things in perspective. The boy reprimanded himself for making such a baseless assumption that it was mere an issue of employment that divided this family. Had he been paying closer attention and not been so caught up in his feelings, he might have realized that.

Shizuo had been forced to choose between duty to village and duty to family... and he'd chosen his village. His patriotic spirit immediately told him that Shizuo did the right thing, and he agreed. Family or not, there was no excuse for engaging in a life of crime... but Iwamaru had to admit that he didn't know what he'd do if he were put in the same situation. He couldn't simply sit here and assume he wouldn't have the same struggle as Shizuo if their positions were switched. He needed time to think.

As Tsuru came back and offered some refreshments, Iwamaru politely bowed. "Your hospitality is most greatly appreciated, Tsuru-san. I must ask your forgiveness; my sense of time escaped me, and my father will be returning home from his mission soon," he explained respectfully as he moved to rise. "He requests that I be home when he returns to help attend to various tasks. Seng-sensei often has me check on his most valued clients, so I am certain that I'll be in a position to see you again soon."

None of this was untrue, thank the stars. While not at the level of a bannin, Iwamaru's father was a highly proficient and efficient jounin. Whenever they sent him out on missions, he was always quick to return. She'd find no sign of deception in the boy... even if he was using these things as means to exit a situation where he did not belong. Though he'd not meant to, he'd made Shizuo's situation worse, even if only briefly, and remorse and guilt moved him into action.

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The Music of Stone

Post by Kao » Mon Aug 19, 2019 6:34 pm

Both Shizuo and Tsuru hummed simultaneously as Iwamaru excused himself. The sound was a sign that despite their differences, despite the fact they weren't related by blood, they were still mother and son. Tsuru looked disappointed at the sudden exit and couldn't stop herself from shooting a look toward her son. The glance went ignored, Shizuo instead staring into space in an effort to keep the remainder of his feelings to himself.

When the woman spoke her disappointment was evident. "Well if you must go then I won't keep you. But again, you're welcome any time. Take care." Tsuru picked up her cup and gave Iwamaru a smile before disappearing into an adjacent hallway. Her footsteps faded, and once Shizuo was sure she was out of earshot he stood as well. For a long moment it seemed he wouldn't say anything. The shinobi's jaw and fists were clenched and he seemed to be looking at nothing in particular, and a darkened sea of emotions raged behind his eyes.

And then suddenly, he snapped back. His posture relaxed, and the troubled waters behind his gaze calmed. There was still tension in his forced smile but it was all he could manage. "That probably didn't go as well as you'd hope. I'm sorry for that. I thought I could handle being back home but seems I was wrong." He gestured toward the front door and headed that way, intending to walk the genin out. He had failed at keeping his feelings reigned in, but he could at least manage to be a proper host and remember how to be polite.

Shizuo gave a small sigh once he reached the door, turning to Iwamaru with an apologetic smile. "I hope we didn't get off on the wrong foot. If you ever need me for anything, on most days at the Reinō Spiritual Ability Research Department in the Eastern District. The receptionists will help you from there. It was nice to meet you, Iwamaru."
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Akari KotaruBanninIwagakure no Sato Team 18 Jousai [color=#1fb8a3]
Komiya ShizuoSpecial Jounin Iwagakure no Sato [color=#177ba6]
Important NPCsShow
Akari Kanehara Akari clan elder [color=#80A0FF]
Sakata KannaIwagakure Councilwoman [color=#3DA43B]
Hazuki Shuran Jinchuuriki researcher [color=#E854C0]
Enkouten Kaizen Iwagakure councilman [color=#C65871]
Rock Country Daimyo [color=#AC4A4A]

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The Music of Stone

Post by ShinobiTruth » Mon Aug 19, 2019 8:20 pm

Iwamaru nodded at Shizuo's gesture. It was clear that Shizuo also needed his time to sort through the complex feelings that he had raging inside of himself, and that wasn't a space that Iwamaru belonged in. "If anything, I should be apologizing to you, Shizuo-sempai," he assured, bowing. "I didn't mean to intrude on such a personal space. I'll make sure to reach out to you if I'm ever in need. It was an honor to meet you, sempai."

Walking back towards the music shop, Iwamaru had much to think about. He didn't realize that this chance meeting would bring him face to face with his first true test as a shinobi. He would soon find out whether he really was any different from Shizuo...

...assuming he didn't end up in an early grave first.
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