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There had been a time where Rokumaru had neglected taking opportunities to improve his skills or educate himself, a time he looked back on with embarrassment for the way he had wasted entire weeks doing nothing but resting and completing an obligatory mission to keep his superiors off his back. His thinking at the time had been that the noble-born redhead would have decades to spend improving his talents as a shinobi, simply because there had never been anything pushing him to better himself. Relying on his family to keep him honest and working diligently had been useless; Roku was simply one of several siblings among an entire clan dedicated to the life of a shinobi, dozens of his kin possessing far more talent and ambition than he ever had. So long as he put in some noticeable effort others would leave him alone, a deal that he had gratefully taken advantage of to lounge around Suna like an indulgent wastrel. What was the point of studying Fūton theory or devising new applications for his Sabaton if it came at the cost of enjoying his youth? Rokumaru had always done the bare minimum expected of him, hoping instead to truly begin his training by the time he was an adult with all his wild oats sewn long ago.

It was for this reason now that the homeless, resourceless redhead found himself so frightened of how weak he was, now that there was neither a strong village to protect his life or a wealthy clan to provide him with the resources to quickly improve himself. Whereas once he looked upon others his age who’s power exceeded his own and felt detached envy, excusing his own shortcomings through flimsy promises to begin training in earnest just as soon as he had gotten his full of leisure and relaxation, he now instead saw the faces and abilities of potential attackers and murderers looking to rub out another threat to their schemes and ambitions. The boy had lost his sensei the young and idealistic Kazekage during the massacre, the woman likely a charred skeleton occupying the glass graveyard with his family, squad and superiors; the odd umbrella-user Kisei had been the only fellow comrade he had met so far who had escaped the slaughter, the Exam participant Rhys being another although he had never met the distantly-related magneteer, and whether Kuno or Otter had survived was becoming less and less certain with each week that passed. It was a lonely, frightening time for a young man who had lived his entire life in the privileged extravagance life of a noble-born shinobi; it was the critical need to learn to defend himself from Jounin-level shinobi that currently kept Rokumaru’s nose to the proverbial grindstone. With the constant imagined scenarios involving his death at the hands of village-nin, other wanderers and even the wildlife of Hi no Kuni, the primal animalistic part of his brain that selfishly valued survival at all costs continued to push the desert dweller into scenarios his laziness would otherwise keep him from.

For now, in this ambiguous epoch taking place between the complete incineration of his home and the genocide of its people and whatever chapter of his life would come next if he didn’t find himself a decaying corpse dumped in the underbrush of the forest, Rokumaru pushed himself to take advantage of the opportunistic afforded to him by the Village Hidden in Leaves. His ignorant opinions towards the foreign villages had more or less survived through this stressful period and had survived serious introspection, but that did not mean he was foolish enough to isolate himself from a whole village full of those who possessed knowledge that could strengthen him.

Every time that he would complete a D or C-Ranked mission, normally a duly occurrence as it helped pass the time and distract Romumaru from negative thoughts, he would set aside a small portion of the ryo earned that was not needed for lodging and buying food. Not enough to see a sizeable pile of loot to grow, only a few dozen ryo at a time, but after a few weeks of routine missions and strict budgeting Rokumaru had close to a thousand ryo saved away. Not exactly what he considered pocket change during his days as a decadent waste of space back in the Sand, but it certainly felt like much more money now than back then when ryo was a simple request away. Sometimes, Roku had to appreciate the kind of hardship he had went through as it really highlighted how spoiled and foolish he had truly been. Still was, admittedly, but you couldn’t rush progress and expect favorable results.

With this cash the redhead decided to make use of the services available to shinobi here in Konohagakure, the birthplace of modern shinobi culture. At first he had entertained thoughts of commissioning brand new modifications for the rather basic puppet he had bought just before the attack on the village had happened. He had always wanted to become very proficient with the skill as it was highly valued and respected in the Hidden Sand, an easy stepping stone towards attaining the respect and importance he had hungered for. And while the craftsmen here on the Leaf did not have the experience or trade secrets that puppet artisans in the Sand had been so respected for, the Village was still large enough to have a healthy market for creating the constructs. And now that the largest supplier of puppets had been reduced to glass, it was up to the artisans here in Konoha to pick up the slack and bear the responsibility. Surely they had been busy enough over the past few months to improve their craft enough to satisfy his high standards for puppets, and there was a good chance that any surviving puppet-makers from Suna might have moved shop to the closest village where they could pick up where they left off. More than enough to reach the standards for puppets that Rokumaru had, surely.

But there had been a growing resentment for the art within Rokumaru; the fact that he was reliant on merchants and craftsman to add to and improve puppets was close to a dealbreaker, as the redhead was beginning to dislike things that forced him to depend upon people that he could not trust. Anytime he would have a new idea for a modification or another was not working as expected Rokumaru would be forced to race back to a puppeteer who could modify the construct for him. If he wanted to cut out the middleman and create the puppets and mods himself then he would be forced to deal with the unions and guilds that regulated the trade of puppets, apprenticing for a few months or years to reach the necessary skill level needed to create strong combat-ready puppets, a timesink he did not know if he could afford to pursue. There was also the fact that puppets were horribly expensive if you wanted serious quality that was pushing Rokumaru away from the discipline entirely. There was something about the idea of his multi-thousand ryo puppet being destroyed during the course of a fierce battle, leaving him without a tool to defend himself with and requiring repairs if he happened to survive the encounter, that left a sour taste in his mouth. Perhaps if Sunagakure still remained and he could train under more skilled puppeteers then he would have continued to pursue puppeteering, using his stipend the Sabaku afforded each of its shinobi members to fund the endeavor, but now that it was just himself all alone in a world full of dangers and enemies, he needed to stop wasting time and resources on that dead-end specialization and begin learning something that would serve him better as a wandering rōnin.

Taijutsu had come to mind, a shinobi skillset the frail and sedate redhead had always neglected to hone, and high atop his list was creating a rigorous workout routine to improve his physical fitness and prepare him for close-combat with brawlers and weapon users. Hyūga Tsuyo was a man who had a very obvious amount of fitness and strength packed into a slim, fit body corded with stone-like muscle that Rokumaru envied and he planned to use the opportunity to train under the retired Leaf to copy his workout habits, needing serious help with overcoming his aversion towards physical activity. If anything he could just ask the man to knock the redhead around a forest clearing for a few hours to adjust to what a beating felt and think of ways to evade faster and more skilled opponents. He would call upon the man soon, as the Hyūga’s patience for waiting was likely growing thinner and thinner.

As soon as he could break through the ceiling of his Jiton powers and finally figure out how to alter the unique magnetic field his Kekkei Genkai allowed him to create, currently stuck with a magnetic field that attracted only the grainy silicates of sand and tiny rocks, Rokumaru would begin training weapon styles and finding a type of weapon that would complement his skillset well. Just as soon as he could figure out how to alter his own magnetic field to mimic the charges that attracted metals, then he could break into the new plateau of power having full control over Magnet Release would offer. He had several ideas of ways to mix his projectile weaponry with new iron-sand techniques, but it was his own inexperience that was holding him back. For now he simply created sand versions of weapons as he worked on binding the aggregates together into solid objects that could hold up to abuse, something that was slow to progress.

Another skillset that the young redhead had his eye on was the study of Medical Ninjutsu; being on his own was dangerous and sooner or later he would find himself wounded or in critical condition, and having the ability to heal himself was insurance that could save his life someday. Of all the skills that a shinobi could learn, healing through the application of chakra was the one that would yield the most use immediately and could hardly be called a time waster like puppetry had become. And it’s offensive properties were nothing to scoff at either; Rokumaru had seen enough demonstrations in the Academy to know that wounds created through Iryōjutsu were difficult to heal without even more Iryōjutsu, necrosis that killed the body’s cells or lacerations created without breaking the epidermis that cause horrific internal bleeding, and being able to heal these kinds of trauma would be a thousand times more beneficial than wasting time with puppets. It was definitely a specialization he would study one day, sooner or later.

But what really called to Rokumaru was the abstract field of Fūinjutsu. While not an inherently powerful skillset on its own, more of an intermediary between chakra and jutsu, but it was among the most versatile specialization that a shinobi could learn and master. With seals a practitioner could adapt the more common variants to tweak their effects, or even create brand new seals and techniques if they had the ingenuity to safely experiment until they yielded promising results. Ninjutsu and Sealing was a powerful combination as well, both complementing the other and allowing for complicated techniques to be used; as someone who primarily used Ninjutsu, Roku could only improve his current skillset and expand his potential beyond what it would have been if he was able to use the Sealing Arts for his own purposes. The sooner he began studying the practice and became familiar with the most basic concepts that went into the art of Sealing, the quicker he would be able to grow his power.

Using the ryo that had slowly been building up after weeks of saving a portion of his mission rewards, Rokumaru had sought out a tutor among the countless Leaves in Konohagakure. There was a thriving industry within the massive village that involved training others in low-level shinobi skills, which made sense given the sheer amount of soldiers Konoha had and how a huge part of its economy seemed to revolve around supplying and maintaining its military. No institution would risk teaching the extremely powerful and complicated materials as it was dangerous to give strangers such power, but for the purposes of understanding the basics of Fūinjutsu and giving him foundation knowledge to be built upon, such general and basic training suited Rokumaru’s needs perfectly.

He had taken a few days to explore his options when it came to who to go to for training and he visited several shops that, in addition to selling supplies such as chakra ink and the special lacquered paper most seals were scrawled upon, offered beginner and intermediary courses in the Sealing Arts. But these establishments were also heavily monitored by the Leaf administration due to the dangerous skills they taught to anyone who had enough money; even the simple registration forms he had seen upon expressing his interest in enrolling in classes were multi-paged and asked almost as many questions as he had been asked while registering as an Academy student back in Suna. He would have to openly label himself as a vagrant foreigner and give the Leaves far more information on his current abilities than he felt entirely comfortable with. Having a paper trail that could be followed and giving others a clear indication about where his training would take him was a nightmare for a paranoid and anti-social soul like Roku was. Days were wasted after he eliminated the chance of enrolling in one of these professional classes.

So instead Rokumaru had taken to the streets and shops of Konohagakure in search of a private tutor, someone who could be more discreet about his involvement and more forthcoming with information than was available at the shops with their strict restrictions against what could be taught. And certainly there had to be a suitable tutor here in the strongest shinobi settlement on the planet. The only issue was finding one discreetly without drawing attention to himself.

Salvation came one rainy Wednesday morning while the grungy youth had been wandering the streets of Konoha’s Bazaar. No, he had to remind himself they just called it the market here. While traversing the market, idly window shopping while browsing luxuries that he could no longer afford, he had seen a man walking with his groceries in hand narrow avoid a Konoha Genin who was tearing through the streets for some reason or other. His plastic bags loaded down with foodstuffs and toiletries did not fare so well, snagging on a kunai tip hanging from the Genin’s waist and spilling its contents all over the busy street. Several people moved to help but Rokumaru had already joined the man on the ground scooping up items from the cobbled stone and handing them back to the stranger who thanked the youth for his help, and muttered something under his breath about ninja brats.

Having gathered all the missing groceries back together the man had surprised Rokumaru by nipping the tip of his finger causing blood to well up, swiping the crimson droplet clinging to his skin against a black, abstract tattoo running down the length of his left forearm. Without even a puff of smoke the groceries disappered in thin air, only the sound of displaced air indicating that they had ever been there in the first place. The stranger chortled at the redhead’s surprised interest in the body seal, lamenting that he should have just stored them away there in the first place. That was how Rokumaru came to be acquainted with Namikaze Tadaaki, retires Special Jounin of Konohagakure and expert in the Sealing Arts. The man invited Rokumaru to lunch at his home in the residential district just a few blocks over, as thanks for his help despite how insignificant the gesture was and to get some insight on what Suna had been like just prior to it’s destruction, and the redhead agreed whole-heartedly to the proposition.

He walked with the man, blonde and tanned like many in this village but beginning to lose the toned fitness gained from a martial career, as they traveled to Tadaaki’s home. Feeling it was best to let the stranger know he wanted something from him, Rokumaru remarked on the seal across his forearm and stated that he was looking for someone to tutor him in Fūinjutsu discreetly. Tadaaki initially waved him off, sighing and saying he had just about enough of Fūinjutsu to last his lifetime, but reconsidered after seeing how dejected Rokumaru was despite the redhead brushing off the declined offer. The Leaf told Roku that he could offer the youth some manuals and practice supplies that were laying around his house, the man’s family apparantly being wild about the Sealing Arts almost to the level the Uzumaki were. Figuring he could teach himself using reference guides and the tried and true method of trial-and-error, he gratefully accepted the man’s offer.

While not among the strongest in the village Tadaaki had done well enough for himself to amass a small fortune that he planned to use to launch his writing career; the idea of a Fūinjutsu practitioner writing books was a humorous one, as Roku imagined the man lining his pages with discreet genjutsu seals that made the reader inherently enjoy the words written. When asked about what genre he planned to author in, Tadaaki giggled quietly and stated it was nothing you’d find on the shelves of a public library.

His home had a modest appearance, a moderately-sized two-story building located in a neighborhood inhabited mostly by civilians and petty merchants, but the interior was decorated with ornate seals along the walls, doors and windows while another flowed across the floor, faint blue light illuminating the wood-tile hallway with every step he took and Tadaaki warned that it’s primary purpose was not to make walking around at night easier. From upstairs Tadaaki’s fiancé came down to greet her loved one, a dark-skinned woman in the very VERY late stages of pregnancy, and after exchanging brief pleasantries with their foreign guest she pointed the two off towards the kitchen where she had made okonomiyaki using the remains of yesterday’s dinner. She disappeared back upstairs to pick up on the nap she had been woken up from and the two men moved to the kitchen.

After they each grabbed a ceramic plate and piled it high with pancake-like discs of shredded lettuce and the tempura Tadaaki and his wife had enjoyed the night before, they had a brief chat about the current Exams going on and what Rokumaru had seen while proctoring a day of matches just this past weekend. The blonde listened to the redhead’s retelling of the events while they slowly dismantled the tall stacks of pancake-like wheat discs; Tadaaki asked more about the Leaf Jounin Rokumaru had met while attending that event, the pale Nozara with scarred arms and hands, but it did not seem like the two men knew each other.

It reminded the older man of his own experience with the Chuunin Exams and he told Rokumaru about the time the event had been hosted in Sunagakure several years back. Rather than preliminary matches and brackets of fights to narrow down the competition, that old Exam instead forced the Genin to navigate the desert and find a tower among the sweeping dunes to even qualify for further participation which Tadaaki barely managed to reach. Although he had been promptly defeated by a Suna-nin in the following round the Leaf had apparantly done well enough to qualify for a promotion upon his return to the village. For the next several years he spent his time as a Chūnin alternating between perming clerical work for the administration, gaining a bit of notoriety by coming up with a strengthening seal that was added to the security seals lining the tall walls surrounding the village, and taking part in field missions to improve his combat abilities. The blonde freely admitted that his skills as a shinobi were not suited for a life of conflict and war and that he did not have the qualities that made his fellows such accomplished killers, and after a few years he had been working with the village administration exclusively. Years of exceptional service yielded Tadaaki a promotion to the rank of Special Jounin, boosting his income by a staggering amount, and soon after met his soon-to-be wife Reika while the woman was a part of the previous Kumo ambassador’s entourage. Love had been enough for the woman to leave her life in the Cloud behind ( which seemed to work out as Tadaaki had many, many more family members here in the Leaf than she did as an orphan from the remote, mountainous village far to the Birth), and they were to be wed as soon as Spring returned to Hi no Kuni.

Soon enough, after Roku had eaten his second dish while Tadaaki was finishing off his sixth or seventh, the blonde cleared away their dishes and bid his guest to wait in the kitchen while he retrieved a few items that he could borrow. Tadaaki made it explicitly clear that he was only lending Rokumaru his old study guides, that he was not to leave the village until each and every one had been returned in pristine condition, or he would have a buddy still in ANBU come after him. The redhead nodded emphatically, not planning to swindle this helpful local, and with that Tadaaki disappeared further into his house where the man’s study was.

He quickly returned with a small stack of journals and notebooks that, when he dropped them on the kitchen table before his guest and the redhead quickly thumbed through the pages, had every page covered front and back in notes, diagrams and schematics for various sealing styles from cover to cover. Mind boggling at the amount of effort that had been put into studying this craft Rokumaru was suddenly rethinking his pursuit of Fūinjutsu if it required this much effort and practice to get to a respectable level of control over it, but his tanned host reassured him that it would become easier as the basics were figured out. Unhappy with the prospect of poring over someone else’s notes and analyzing what was written as a guideline he asked if Tadaaki was willing to work with him as a tutor and teach him this material, an offer the blonde seemed to want to decline but thought on it regardless. After a moment of silence, the older man drumming his fingers against the polished wooden table rhythmically, Tadaaki hesitantly agreed on the condition that it would take place just dusk as that was when he would have time to train Rokumaru, but with the birth of his child soon to arrive any day his wife was his primary concern and this tutoring would be second in priority. And that Roku would pony up for the private lessons, Tadaaki said with a grin, as it was never too early to start saving up a trust fund for the kid. Muttering his protests around an eager acceptance of the man’s offer, the redhead truthfully found it to be a mutually beneficial offer and was amused by the soon-to-be father’s words.

And so, every weekday night just after the sun had disappeared beyond the roiling sea of leaves and swaying treetops, Rokumaru would study under the tutelage of the retired Namikaze. Although progress was slow the redhead began to grow more and more familiar with the basic theory of sealing and the applications for it over the course of a few days, and within two weeks Tadaaki determined he was proficient enough to begin practicing the creation of seals. This bout of progress was interrupted by the arrival of his daughter, features a healthy mix from her exotic mother and robust father, but after a few days they picked up where they had left off. By the time the Chuunin Exams had arrived, Rokumaru determined he had the absolute basics down. The two men continued to meet as they grew into something that resembled friendship and camaraderie, the younger Suna-native happy to have someone willing to train him while the Leaf found the dirty, grungy foreigner nice enough to waste his time on.

[Thread Exit]

Unlearning Puppetry-> 0
Learning Fūinjutsu from an NPC -> 1500 (+1000 ryo)
Fuin D to C -> 1500
Saved WC -> 1154


Ninjutsu: S-Rank | Fūinjutsu: A-Rank
Doton: B-Rank |  Fūton: S-Rank | Jiton: B-Rank
-Mission Count-

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