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Ichika Zukumiki
Ichika Zukumiki
Survived 2021
You've completed the Christmas Event of 2021 and qualified for the last reward, by partisan you are awarded this fancy badge!
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Clan Specialty : Genjutsu
Village : Konohagakure
Ryo : 42000

The Long Departed [P] Empty The Long Departed [P]

Thu Dec 30, 2021 8:45 pm
Mission Specs:

Death came for everyone eventually. Young, old, happy, and sad; the call of the crypt did not discriminate nor did it play favorites when it came knocking. Shinobi and kunoichi alike, however, seemed to run headlong into death's cold embrace without regard for what lay in store for them. Every mission, no matter how small, carried some risk of an early grave. And yet, countless young genin and academy students aspired to be shinobi all the same. Perhaps, Ichika wondered, they were simply not aware of the reality of things, she certainly wasn't at their age, after all. Nonetheless, here she was on yet another mission for a village that would one day surely send her to her death.

Clearing her head of its darker thoughts, the Uchiha girl cast her mind back to the task at hand as she made her way through the village. The mission itself was easy, hardly something that she would have expected to be a C-rank, but she certainly wasn't about to turn down quick and easy cash. On its face, cleaning the tombstones of shinobi and kunoichi long past would be a walk in the park. Though it wasn't the most exciting assignment in the village, she was more than happy to pitch in where she could. Plus, the burial grounds always had a certain allure for the diminutive girl—it was the only place in the entire village where she could feel the weight of history all around her.

The village hidden in the leaves had by no means had an easy go of it since the rule of Viper Uchiha. Conquered, humiliated, and subjugated by a foreign power, Konohagakure stood as a shadow of its former self. No longer did it beat the drums of war as it had under Nashua, Viper, or Navi. Rather, it took on all the characteristics of a village in decline from its once lofty position as the preeminent power in the world. It cowered before nations it once ruled and jumped at its own shadow. All that remained since Viper's departure from the world was a dried-up husk led by a string of faceless, ineffective Hokage.

Perhaps looking to the past could do some good.

All that said, the village of Konohagakure that rose up around Ichika as she made her way towards the burial grounds seemed every inch the village it was years and years ago. Merchants milled about, restaurants enthusiastically invited guests in, and new construction sprung up everywhere the eye looked. The only thing missing was certainty in the future; something difficult to come by in the best of times, but after what the village had been through next to impossible to do currently. The village needed strong leadership and a path forward because, for the time being, it lacked both, and it showed in the people walking by.

Taking a left off one of the main boulevards, Ichika found herself on the tree-lined corridor that led to the burial grounds. A few steps in and hustle and the bustle of the village proper fell away leaving a certainty serenity only found in holy places and empty classrooms. Framing the approach to the graveyard, the trees on either side of the young teen stretched up and to the sky like the petrified fingers of giants down below, making it seem as if the ghosts of generations past might just reanimate them to spite the living above. Of course, nothing of the sort happened, and the genin took her first steps into the vast graveyard of Konohagakure.

The graves themselves stood in even, resolute rows. Each one carried a name, their years of service, and in some cases, a clan emblem. The further one wandered into the burial grounds the older the graves got. Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one; Ichika counted the era of each kage as she passed by progressively older and older graves. Some eras ballooned out into larger areas than others, while some saw barely a row of shinobi and kunoichi laid to rest, a testament not to the activity of the shinobi and kunoichi of the era but rather the Hokage's tenure. It felt, uncannily, like taking a step back in time.

Hashimoto Uchiha

Stooping down next to one of the first gravestones near the beginning of Kenal's reign. The poor Hashimoto had only a year of service to the village, but still the emblem of the Uchiha burned strong on his final resting pose all the same. Taking a washcloth to the gravestone, Ichika began the task she had been sent to complete, cleaning up the burial grounds. Fortunately, the few people present seemed to pay her no mind—they were far too busy mourning over a long-lost loved one or reminiscing about days long since passed, one small raven-haired girl wasn't enough to pull them from their grief.

Soon the names blurred together. Uchiha, Hyuuga, Nara, and so many more names passed that the genin no longer bothered reading them as she first had. Somewhere near the tails end of Nashua's reign, all her brain saw was a messed spot here and a first smudge there. She had brought the art of gravestone cleaning down to a science. It only took three swipes if she was lucky unless a leaf had fallen onto the headstone leaving a difficult-to-remove imprint that required more scrubbing. As with any repetitive job, space and time fell from the fore as she continued seeing only the next gravestone, never the whole burial ground.

As she worked, her mind wandered to the people six feet below her. They all had hopes, dreams, and families like her, but now they were only remembered by the rows of graves. Even kage shared the same fate she found, though their graves stood a bit taller than others they died all the same. The whole business of being a shinobi, she thought, seemed rather grim when put into this kind of perspective. Though, by that same token, she could appreciate the idea of being immortalized in a graveyard one day where a genin like herself might come upon 'Ichika Zukumiki' one day. It was very much a strange comfort that, in the end, life ended all the same for everyone as a great equalizer.

Early morning soon moved into early afternoon, and Ichika had only made it to Ashi Inuzuka's reign. Sweat on her brow, dirtied rag in her hand, and ache in her back from bending over so much, the genin took a break. Sitting cross-legged in one of the rows, she indulged in the bottle of water she'd brought along and a small package of cookies her mother had made up before heading out for the day. Who would have thought something as easy as graveyard upkeep could be so tiring?

Of late, her mother had been taking longer and longer business trips up north. She claimed it was on clan business that Ichika didn't need to worry herself with, but the teen had her doubts, especially when her mother came back with a twisted ankle. Of course, she could have very well twisted it in the snow as she claimed. However, Ichika had never known her mother to be particularly clumsy. In fact, she seemed quite the opposite. Then again, perhaps the raven-haired girl worried for nothing, it certainly wouldn't be the first time and not likely the last either.

Returning to work once more, Ichika moved through the motions like a robot. Swipe up once, then left, and lastly, right, then move to the next, rinse and repeat. Ashi's reign bled into Risako, Risako into Kinzoku, and on and on and on until, with the sun low falling from the sky, she arrived at the current Hokage's reign, Ishimaru Shinkou. Fortunately, there were, as of yet, mercifully few graves in this section just yet. Though the genin knew little of the latest leader, he seemed more subdued than past leaders. To his credit, however, he had negotiated the freedom of Konohagakure from the yoke of Kirigakure so there was that, at the very least.

Asuma Zinko.

The latest grave in the burial grounds still had freshly churned earth over it and a carefully placed flower arrangement atop its headstone. According to the freshly hewn headstone, Asuma served Konohagaure for twenty years, two years longer than Ichika had lived for. Straightening the flower arrangement and giving the grave a once over, the genin refrained from wiping this one down—it was far too recent to justify the effort. And just like that, she was done—the gravestones of every fallen shinobi and kunoichi now sparkled in the dying light.

Standing up from the final grave, she squinted her eyes out across the burial grounds. Truth be told, she could barely tell the difference from a distance; the gravestones all look as they had before. However, walking between the rows once more, she caught small details and recalled certain names, the evidence of her work lay in the small things, not the overall effect. Perhaps, she pondered, there was some wisdom in that, though her growling stomach had no intention of letting her reflect on it.

Following her stomach to the Ichiraku Ramen, the raven-haired genin found a seat by the darkening street. Lit by lanterns and filled with people finishing their days, the restaurant had a certain warmth to it that Ichika enjoyed after the cold solitude of the burial grounds. She ordered a basic ramen with a bit of spice, nothing special. She never much cared for anything too special when eating out, it got expensive rather quickly. Far better to save the ryo and spend it elsewhere if she could—homecooked meals didn't pay for themselves, after all.

Topping off her meal with a thimble of sake, Ichika settled up and went on her way. She typically didn't drink, however, after today's close encounter with death, she liked the warmth it filled her chest and cheeks with. It all made her feel very much alive, which was something she couldn't quite say during her stint as a grave tender. How strange it was, the human instinct to do anything and everything to feel alive. Perhaps that was why so many shinobi and kunoichi threw down their lives, to feel alive.

The rest of the night went as one might expect from a young teen. She read a book, took a shower, and slipped into pajamas for bed. One could say many things about the Uchiha girl, but she did not live the most exciting life as a genin. By all measures, she lived in the lap of luxury and was fortunate to have the tall, thick walls of Konoha to call home. And yet, she felt no more alive than the erstwhile Asuma.

Laying in bed, her mind returned to the graveyard. Names came back in a flash, clans formed up in her head, and each headstone played back through her memory. Generations of shinobi and kunoichi lay interred beneath six feet of soil a mere twenty-minute walk away from her. How bizarre it was to think that the land of the living and dead were so close, and also a literal lifetime away.

Sleep offered little respite from the girl's meditation on death. Asuma and Hashimoto followed her into her dreams, each rising from their graves like some sort of zombie. This imagery played on repeat in her head all night, though the mission was complete it seemed that the ideas it instilled in the young genin would remain for quite some time. Soon the corpses danced around her like some kind of macabre ballet of the dead, then everything went black and she was falling. She fell and fell and fell until she found herself in a wooden box all her own. Detached from reality her whole world spun, she screamed a soundless scream that devolved into the sound of knuckles on wood.

She awoke to a frenzied knocking on her door.

Her mother was dead.

TWC: 2017
+ 4000 ryo from C-rank mission completion listed above
+ 20 AP from C-rank mission completion listed above
+11 chakra
+9 vigor
+ 568 words towards Mangekyo Sharingan, fully unlocked (568 + 3432 = 4000/4000, WC cut in half by 50% discount used here)
+ 1000 words towards sharingan genjutsu to A-rank, fully upgraded from B-rank
+ 449 words towards Demonic Illusion: Shackling Stakes Technique
Stat Page : Fu's Fat Stats
Familiar : Archie the Bear
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Village : Hoshigakure
Ryo : 176650

The Long Departed [P] Empty Re: The Long Departed [P]

Fri Dec 31, 2021 12:42 pm
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