Kakesu’s hood draped over his hair as he moved with nervous excitement towards a place that he had long dreamed of visiting. A vast cityscape that he had often peered at in the distance. It was a place that his folks thought was sinful, but that did little to satiate his curiosity about it. He trudged across an open plain through mud and rain to get there.
His first obstacle to entry was a checkpoint that stood on the outskirts. There were other travelers gathered under an outdoor weather shelter with a glass roof. Lines of tables were present as everyone was made to remove their belongings for search. Shinobi in white uniforms with rebreathers over their mouths and noses patrolled the ground, stopping occasionally to sift through people’s goods for weapons. The sound of muffled radio traffic that followed them around was alien to young Kakesu.
He looked around confused, staring in ignorance at the instructions printed on the wall. Someone eventually came and began rummaging through his stuff, but he wasn’t carrying any sort of weapons.
“What is your lot number?” the man checking his things asked through his rebreather, his voice sounded metallic like a radio transmission.
“My what?” Kakesu asked in confusion.
“Your lot number,” he asked again, pointing at the sign.
Kakesu squinted at the sign, pretending to read it. “Uhhhhh K? K-234?”
“What, are you messing around kid?” the guard asked.
Kakesu looked like he was in some trouble with the security. He looked left and right with eyes begging for help from the other travelers, or anyone really. He couldn’t read, so he had no idea what to do.
Hiding outside the rainy city, there was a small hill that overlooked the north-eastern side of the great moat-lake. Few knew of its existence and even fewer had ever been there. Far from any of the city gates and blocked by one of the many slick skyscrapers, it was usually a lonely place. Topped with a small boulder and an immense tree, one of the few pieces of nature that near to the industrial and grey trophy of mankind's progress, it provided shelter from the rain to only the most inquisitive of Amegakure's residents.
On this rainy morning, one young Genin was on his way to that very tree. To him, it was an important place. From the top branches of the tree, one could see far out above the muddy swamps and plains surrounding the village - and on a good day, the sun might peek out behind the furthest clouds. And if you looked hard enough, far, far away, you could see something that you'd never find inside the city.
With hurried steps, Tooru wove between and around the many pipes that punctuated the alley-like corridors circling the village. Ducking underneath obstacles with a hand on the city walls, his fiery head of hair popped into sight near the eastern city gate. An older man with dark eyes glanced at the boy with an apathetic gaze, before continuing on his way out of the city. That same sense of indifference lingered in the moist air as busy people, bored people, passed by.
His eyes followed the man towards the gate, when a scene caught his attention. Another boy, with a few more years under his belt, looked to be having some trouble with the gate guards. His cloak had caught some dirt and dust from the road. Tooru assumed he was some kind of traveler, free to go and come as he pleased, whose worn clothing seemed nearly as old as himself. The wanderer's head moved back and forth, before coming to settle on the young Ikeda. One and a half sets of green eyes matched and the call for help clearly visible in his eyes compelled Tooru's feet to trod towards him.
"Your lot number," Tooru overheard as he approached. The newcomer squinted towards a sign, before giving an answer the guard didn't seem too keen on. For whatever reason, he seemed to be having a tough time and with no reason other than childish glee and naivety, Tooru decided to help him.
"E-385," He said assuredly. "Long road, right cousin?" With a smile, he looked between the guard and the traveler.
With a crackle from his rebreather, the guard sighed and looked them over.
"Sure thing kid, just get a move on. You're blocking the line." With a wave, another guard handed Kakesu's things back to him and gave a light push on his shoulder.
The two walked into the dark city, finding reprieve from the rain under an overhang. Tooru looked up at the other boy with a look of expectation and excitement.
“Oh thank you!” Kakesu said. He quickly scrambled to stuff his things back into his pack: a good number of medicinal herbs inside of cloth bags needed tied back up, a couple of strange jade crests he picked up somewhere on the road, wooden carvings but no carving knife, little woven bracelets, and other odds and ends. His hands were quick and he got it all packed away, swinging it back over his back.
He turned and noticed the other boy was still around him. He nodded as he realized he was being escorted and followed them into the city. He gave a small laugh and returned the smile to them with his eyes shut.
“Well I din’t even know I had a cousin in Ameg-amega-... the city!” he said. His voice didn’t seem to have any sarcasm in his voice. Whether that meant he actually believed it or if he was just really slick about his joking was for the other boy to decide.
He turned his attention back to the city, his eyes gawking the towering buildings and blinking at all the lights. It was a sight to behold. He couldn’t believe that he was here. Not even the rain drops getting in his eyes could stop his moth-to-the-flame gawking.
“Wow! You live here? It is even bigger up close!” he said. Just as much as the stranger was captivated by the world outside of this place, Kakesu imagined what it must be like to make this place a home. Each building probably had a different story, just as many as the paths that he had walked along the world’s trails. “I am Kakesu, what’s your name?” he asked without taking his eyes off the city for a second.
The rain pattered around them, clinging to the pipes above and congealing into large drops that splattered on their heads. They walked away, smiling and laughing softly as the wanderer joked.
They paused for a moment. The newcomer's gait slowed as his eyes looked up to the cityscape, with a kind of reverence not too unfamiliar. That same life filled Tooru's own eye from time to time, whenever he had the chance to see the outside world. Whether it was in a book, from the top of a building, or from his little hideaway, did not matter. Even if the sight from the city was little more than grey swamps and flat marshes, he could still imagine what it was like far beyond - rolling green plains dotted with flowers, deep forests that hid thousands of years of history, or even small villages made with wood. Wood! Something so rare here, not because of price or necessity, but because it had been deemed obsolete. The few wooden buildings that remained had been darkened and warped by decades of rain - splintering into shards and rendered uninhabitable.
From the way Kakesu spoke, he could tell he'd never been here before. Maybe he'd seen the towering spires from the road once or twice and heard tell of the "greatest city in the world". Even for all the advancements and technology, the people here were no happier than outside. Tooru couldn't have known it, but the constant war and fear had changed the people of the city. A new, bright face could surely only be a taste of the better world that waited for him.
Tooru's mind wandered back and forth, remembering all the little trinkets Kakesu had stuffed away. It had seemed almost like a bottomless bag to him - all manner of things that one would hardly ever find in the city, aside from small shops tucked deep into the darkest corners of the city, thrown in haphazardly as if they were the most everyday objects. Called back to the present by the traveler's voice, Tooru shook off his thoughts.
"Yeah, I live here. Never been very far outside of it either." The words left a grinning mouth, but the very corners of it almost looked pained. "Want me to show you around? I could take you just about anywhere you'd want to go!"
"There's a skyscraper near the center that has a pretty good view of the city, and we can talk a bit on our way there." They began walking in that direction as he continued on. "What do you want to know? And why'd you come here, of all places? Looks to me like you could go anywhere you liked."
“I’d sure appreciate it, I ‘magine I’d get lost runnin’ around here all by myself,” Kakesu admitted. “You mean we can go up on one of those big things? That sounds funner than getting lost, that’s for sure.”
He continued forward, following the lead that the shinobi gave him. As they walked he responded to the other question. “I wanted to see what kinda people lived in a place like this, the man with funny mask was pretty weird, but I guess it can’t be so bad with a nice person like you around.”
There was a smell thick with fired food as the passed some simple stalls on the way to the skyscraper. He looked over all the food options, seeing some food that he recognized and others that he did not. The people out and about often had umbrella they carried opened up. His ears could hear the sounds of music playing over strange devices hanging from low points of skyscrapers, speakers that had covers installed to keep the rain off: not that he knew what they were.
“Is it always so busy?” Kakesu asked. Even though it was just a normal day, the number of people out and about were more than he was used to seeing in an average town. “Do you ever get lost?”
Tooru smiled as they walked, excited to get to talk to someone from outside the village for the first time in what felt like forever. Kakesu speaks sort of oddly, but he seems nice too., he thought to himself. I wonder where he's from - probably somewhere nice, somewhere far away.
All of the wanderer's questions were answered with a smile and a polite explanation. "Busy? This is pretty normal. There'd be even more people here if they weren't all out there fighting, but you know how it is - right?" A toothless grin followed.
Tooru laughed a little at Kakesu's suggestion of getting lost. "Lost? I've lived here my whole life! It's actually pretty hard to find somewhere I haven't been to."
The two were approaching the large skyscraper. Stepping in, Tooru led Kakesu to an elevator that led to an observation deck high above. A short silence followed, with cheesy low-quality music playing out of an old speaker in the corner of the carriage.
"Where are you from? It looks like you've been all over! I'd love to hear about the places you've been - it can be a little suffocating here sometimes."
"This elevator ride is pretty long anyway, since its so slow. But you'll love the view when we get there!"
Kakesu glanced over with his mouth slightly ajar in surprise as Tooru seemed to dismiss the business as the norm. He looked at the lift with a bit of confusion at first, until he saw an adjacent lift moving upwards. Childlike wonder continued to be written on his face as he took a step inside the strange moving closet.
“I am from well… the for’st,” he said. “Somewhere in between Tsuchi and Hi no Kuni, I think. We don’t really pay mind to those kinds of things.”
As the elevator began moving, he braced against the wall for a moment. He wasn’t afraid of heights, having climbed many slopes with the help of doton to make the ascents, but the mechanical movements brought on by the unseen lift operator came as a surprise to him. Without knowledge of how it worked it seemed like some sort of magic must have been at play.
“I’ve been all over and haven’t seen something like this before, too many stairs to climb I reckon,” he said in a matter-of-fact voice. He thought to himself trying to think of some sort of wonder that he had come across that might match up with the marvel of this city. “This one time, I accidently wandered into a tunnel with some strange patterns on it. It went really far down, and eventually there were electric lights sort of like what you see in the city around here.”
The forest, Tooru thought. What a place to be from. Most I've seen are the distant tops of gnarled trees on a clear day. It made him long for places he'd never been, like some kind of ancestral memories. He couldn't wait till the day he'd venture out with his platoon on a mission far away. All the peoples and locales he had long imagined they'd find filled his mind. All this endless boggy swamp couldn't compare to the lakes and oceans he'd read about - and that was only this continent. What strange sights await beyond?
The names of the lands in the known world were familiar to him, recited many times in the books and maps he'd read and seen. They fit together like little jigsaw pieces in his mind, a kind of encyclopedic knowledge he didn't have for anything else. Etched in white against the black of his mind were all the borders and subdivisions of the major countries along with all their satellites and dependent lands, enough to make a strategist jealous. But who hated who and who was allied with who didn't factor into his mind at all.
Kakesu's story intrigued Tooru, places like that made him want to explore - even if they ended up empty. He'd snuck into various run-down parts of the city before, but usually he'd find nothing of interest. It never stopped him though.
"A tunnel? Like some kind of mine? And what were these weird patterns?"
The talk of underground tunnels reminded him of his family's basement, with all its branching corridors that lead to numbered and sealed-off rooms containing all manner of things. Maybe this wanderer would trade something of the outside world for a trinket or two. Tooru had never seen any of his family seal anything particularly dangerous away. There couldn't be anything too crazy down there, he thought.
"It looked like you collect a lot of different stuff in that bag of yours - maybe you'd trade me for something? My family has got all kinds of little things lying around."
The elevator slowly creaked along as they talked and before long they would reach the top of the building. Tooru couldn't wait to see Kakesu's face once he saw the commanding view, from which one could see almost every nook and cranny of this part of the city.
"There's plenty of odd stuff down there - some of it's so old not even my mom and dad know what's sealed inside. I think they brought it with them when we came here - stuff that belonged to my extended family: a rabbit foot, all kinds of different scrolls and books, a bat wing from a cousin, all with stuff sealed in them!" He hoped Kakesu would have some nice little part of the outside world to swap - an accessory made by a far-off people, a map of distant lands, or even just a fancy piece of rock.
“I um… I couldn’t read em, must have been writing in some strange language,” he fibbed. He couldn’t read any language, so how could he have been sure. “It seemed like the kind of place that they didn’t want people in. Whoever it belonged to. I bet they had some cool things to trade for though.”
Upon mention of trading some of his things, he lit up with activity as he started to dig through his bag. He pulled out a maneki neko cat figurine that was black and white and could fit in the palm of his hand. It held a paw up in greeting. He presented it to Tooru with a grin on his face. “I got this really far to the east,” he said. “It was in a village with a lot of hot springs, which had a lot of old people, but not a lot of people my age. They were pretty nice though, I bought this there hoping to trade it. I’d honestly trade it for a hot meal. I haven’t been home in a long time, and I usually have t’ eat whatever is in the wild. Maybe you have somethin’ to spare at your house. Wait do you live by yourself?”
As the elevator reached the top and the doors opened up into the overlook, he lost track of the conversation for a moment as he felt the weight of the great height that they had climbed to. Even as someone who had climbed mountains before, the sheer drop down into the cityscape below made his mouth fall ajar.
Still, he showed only a small hesitation, he eventually walked right up to the railings and looked straight down with his chest hanging halfway over.
Tooru was sort of jealous of Kakesu. His young mind couldn't help but drift off imagining all the possibilities of what could lie without the place in the wanderer's story. "Wow, that sounds pretty interesting! Maybe you'll take me there one day," he joked. "You should have snagged something! Finder's keepers after all," he said with a naive grin.
He watched with interest as Kakesu pawed through his bag and pulled out a little black and white cat figurine. Tooru smiled at the sight of it and waved back at the little neko, admiring all the little intricacies of its crafting. He listened attentively as Kakesu relayed the story of how he obtained it, then offered to trade it. A smile cracked across his face. "Yea, we've got food at home. I live with my family, but they're all gone to work around this time. Lots of home visits and stuff. I can cook a bit though, then we can take a look through some stuff in the basement! This is worth a lot more than just a meal."
The railing of the elevator pulled away as they finally arrived at the summit of the building. The two stepped off into a light drizzle and Tooru watched as Kakesu took in the view. Spires of buildings surrounded them, with sheets of water flowing down the slick metal sides of some. Wires and a maze of pipes connected a number of them further below.
They walked closer to the edge and Kakesu threw his upper body over the railing to stare down below at the great city and all the covered-up people walking far below, as small as ants. "Is it really not like this anyway else? Surely there are other big cities like this," Tooru said. "I'd trade this view for almost any other."
A good while after the two had reached the summit, and after they'd stopped to look at a good number of things Tooru had pointed out to Kakesu, they arrived outside the entrance gate to the Ikeda family's residence. It was nice as far as Amegakure was concerned, since the Ikedas had never been a poor family, but it seemed little more than a hole in the wall to Tooru. He pushed open the metal grate that covered the entrance tucked underneath a much larger builing and they descended down the stairs to the front door. Streams of run-off water flowed beside them as they approached the front doors.
"Well," Tooru said as he pushed open the front doors. "This is my house." They walked inside - Tooru ducked under a hanging collection of bones that nearly smacked Kakesu in the face as he followed. The rest of the entrance room was just as the chaotic as it would seem, with piles of books and scrolls stacked in corners and on top of chairs and tables. Many different knick-knacks hung suspended from the ceiling, slowly twirling in the air as though animated with inner life.
He led Kakesu through the maze-like room with graceful familiarity, tasking him with not bumping into or knocking anything over - surely a nigh impossible task. After they navigated through the foyer, they came to the dining room where a long wooden table sat. Its surface was nearly totally covered with open scrolls and maps and more, though a few open spots did still exist at the furthest end.
"Sorry, if it's a bit cramped," he laughed. "It's just how we like it." Showing Kakesu the way to the chairs at the end, he darted away into the kitchen to prepare some food while he left him to observe all the items that covered the ceiling, walls, and shelves of the room.
After a short wait, Tooru appeared around a corner carrying two plates with steaming food on them - each laden with a full serving of steak, eggs, biscuits, and salad. Laying one down in front of Kakesu and the other near his own seat opposite, he took a scroll off of a rack that was on the wall. Rolling it out between their spots, he nonchalantly unsealed it.
A full compliment of condiments popped into existence on the table - salt and pepper, various kinds of sauces and gravies, many other spices and toppings, almost anything one could wish for in this day and age. "Go ahead and help yourself!" Sitting down across from Kakesu, he quickly sprinkled a number of toppings on his own food and dug in.
He laughed at the thought of trekking back into that strange place with Tooru. “I shoulda, I started gettin’ a bit braver with that kind of thing lately,” he said as he felt the coins in his pocket that he had taken from the purse Ms. Makoto’s nice dog had brought to him. “Finder’s keepers seems like a good philo-osophy.”
He went silent and mouth flattened over the course of the rest of the conversation.
“Family,” Kakesu repeated as he continued to gaze over the city in all of its splendor. There was a softness in his voice, like perhaps his breath was taken away from him. He turned back to look at the boy of similar appearance with a very dissimilar life. His smile was a bit meek for a moment but replaced with his normal grin shortly after. “Yea that sounds like a good idea. I’d love to see your house if it isn’t too much of a bother.”
As they arrived at the peak his eyes would widen further as the expanse of city became even more apparent. He shook his head no, but found his breath taken away by the site. He would take in everything that Tooru could point out to him with a good deal of interest, even when he didn’t even understand what the meaning of certain things were.
Arriving at Tooru’s home, again Kakesu was impressed, though perhaps not as much as he was at the tower. “I sort of expected you all would have one of those big tower buildings per family,” he said with a laugh as he wondered just how many people lived in this city.
The hanging bones on the way inside the house caught him by surprise, but they were actually somewhat familiar to him as his own family had hung bones as a means of alarm. He wasn’t sure if they served the same purpose here or not.
He stepped carefully behind Tooru avoiding run ins with all the clutter. His eyes were scanning all the cool things lying about, taking note of what they were for the sake of his own curiosity. “Haha, yea it is super cramped in my house too,” he said but kept his eyes from Tooru as he spoke it. He let out a sigh as they left the room and continued exploring things with his eyes.
When the food arrived, he looked down at the plate that was laid before him and his mouth began to water. He looked up at Tooru with a mouth agape. “This is so much, are you sure this is just for me?” he said with surprise. Assuming there was assurance, he would start on the steak without putting much seasoning on it at all. Just the luxury of fresh meat was nice to him. “I used to have fresh meat sometimes at home… father’s a good hunter…”
As he ate there was a small tear that rolled down his eye. He wiped at it and continued eating.
“S-Sorry,” he said. “I haven’t had anything but mushrooms in a few days,” he said with a light laughter.
He tried a little bit of everything that Tooru had brought for him, finishing up a lot more of the proteins than anything else. His body had been crazing it. For a person from the forest his eating habits weren’t too bad. He ate slowly and didn’t stuff himself like a barbarian, although he had a bad habit of making sounds of joy as he ate.
“That- was delicious!” he said patting his tummy. There was still probably a quarter of the food left on the plate, but he couldn’t think of eating anything more than that.
“So, you’re a shinobi, right?” he asked. “I always thought that was really cool. I like to collect those throwing star things,” he said. He reached into his bag and started to place his collection on the table. He had a few from the Hidden Stone, one from the Hidden Sound, and one from the Hidden Mist that was tarnished with rust. They were all roughly the same concept but had slightly different sizes and cuts to them.
It might have become obvious he was hoping to get more shinobi gear to add to his collection with the things he had to bargain. It was his polite way of starting up negotiations.
Surprise caused his head to tilt. "Is food really such a big deal?" His smile faded a little as he watched the tear slide down Kakesu's face. "Why'd you leave? Your home, I mean." Even if he was a naive child, he still knew instinctively that not everyone had a family or life like his. He realized he didn't want to prod Kakesu too much, regretting saying anything about it. "Sorry," he muttered under his breath.
Kakesu's mention of a diet of mushrooms for multiple days caused Tooru to cast his eye down at his plate in doubt. "I guess I never really thought much about food on the road, but to me a hungry stomach would be worth all I'd get to see. I just hope I'll know which mushrooms to pick," he joked.
"But I guess that's one good thing about the city then?" Nodding in assurance, he made sure Kakesu knew the food was for him. "We've got plenty here - my family makes good money in our trade."
A smile slowly returned to his face as they ate, glad that he could help the wanderer. He hoped they could be friends. It'd be nice to know a lot of people on the road, he thought.
Once they'd finished eating, he quickly bussed the plates back to the kitchen and hastily resealed all the condiments away and took a seat in time to hear Kakesu mention shinobi tools.
Reaching under the table, he retrieved a miniature hand scroll from a hidden compartment. Rolling it out revealed a simple pattern had been used to seal it, and using an equally simple method, Tooru placed his hand on the paper and produced a small cache of shuriken, kunai, and senbon. Pushing most of them away to the side, he left a single example of each remaining on the scroll.
Placing each item of Kakesu's own collection on the paper, he began to speak. "Here, watch. I'll teach you." With a simple motion he sealed them all away into the scroll. "This is pretty much the basics of fuinjutsu," he said while repeating the motion. Adeptly explaining the basics of how to use one's chakra to perform the Unsealing Technique and reversely, how to seal them away again, he demonstrated it a number of times. Ending with the tools unsealed and on top of the scroll, he moved on - leaving whether to even attempt it or to simply shove everything into his bag up to Kakesu.
"I'd bet being able to seal things would help a lot out on the road," he said a smile. "Otherwise, you'd just have to carry all those little trinkets loose." It was his own way of hinting that he expected something in return, though exactly what that was was up to the wanderer. Tooru watched him with earnest excitement.
Kakesu Aoki | WC: 474 | Maybe a necklace or something like that that he could wear? We'll head down to the basement after this, so it can be a pretty short post
“I’m on the road to sell things to bring back,” he told Tooru with a voice that drew into itself quietly. “Not suppos’ to return until I have a lot of stuff. Got to earn my keep and all. I’d probably eat better if I was a better hunter, or if I could spend more of the money I get from trading. I’d teach you about foraging, but sometimes I accidently eat the wrong kind of mushrooms,” he admitted.
Kakesu watched as Tooru unsealed a scroll. There was a look of familiarity in his eyes. “Oh! I’ve seen some people I’ve traded with doing that kind of magic before. It looks neat!” he said. “Never had it explained to me before. I’ll have to try it out!”
His first attempt at forming the seal of opening didn’t work, and even with some guidance it wasn’t budging for him, but he didn’t seem overly discouraged.
“It took me a while to figure out earth and water magics, so I am sure I’ll get it eventually, it’d sure be nice not to have to carry so much stuff!” he said as he took it and put it away into his bag. He placed the little cat figurine down on the table, but he thought that it might not be a fair trade for a demonstration and pre-sealed scroll for him to practice learning fuinjutsu with.
He started digging through his bag again, rummaging through different bits and bobs until he found something that he thought was pretty cool. He found an old koban coin that had the legal markings of the Old Land of Fire on it that he had crafted into a necklace with some plant fibers and a hole punched into the middle of it.
“What about this? Pretty cool huh?” he asked as he held it out as an offering.
Magics? Odd name for it, but I guess he's not a shinobi. He didn't bother to correct Kakesu, simply happy to help in any way. A wide smile found its way onto Tooru's face as Kakesu placed the cat figurine onto the table in front of him, quickly grasping it in his hands like a young child who'd found a new toy. He passed it around his fingers, inspecting it in detail with awe before setting it back down to the side.
The sound of hands picking through a bag looking for something caught his attention. What is he grabbing now? A green eye opened further when Aoki pulled out a necklace of sorts; it was an old coin from the former Land of Fire.
Engraved upon it was the now-forgotten symbol of a country long gone, the '火' kanji that Tooru had only seen a few times before in context: hidden in old scrolls detailing ancient business transactions of long-dead Ikeda, smuggled history textbooks, and ill-intentioned graffiti.
The surface of the coin was worn and it had a hole punched through the upper middle of it, with a plant fiber cord threaded through it to allow it to hang. Tooru eagerly took it into his palm when it was offered. "This is amazing, Kakesu!" His sincerity was clear through his toothy smile and tightly shut eye.
"You don't see this kind of thing everyday! I don't think the people in charge here like stuff like this much, too. Stuff from the old Land of Fire, I mean. So it's doubly rare!" He slipped it on around his neck, settling it underneath his scarf and shirt. "I love it! I'll wear it everyday."
With another smile he pushed himself up from the table, grabbing the neko figurine and pocketing it. "I think it's time to go check out what we've got down in the basement!"
With more hop in his step than before, he led Kakesu through a number of rooms until they reached a small library. It was filled to bursting with scrolls of all sizes and shelves adorned with many books, but Tooru headed straight for one in the middle of the northern wall. Grabbing a red book by its spine, he pulled it.
Nothing happened at first, but Tooru opened the book and exposed what appeared to be small summoning contract upon which his name, among others, was written. Biting his thumb, he smeared his blood on his other hand and placed it onto the page. A very small 'poof' noise could barely be heard on the other side of one of the bookshelves.
"Toooooooooruuuu?" A small and extraordinarily slow voice said. "Yep, it's me, Taidapuchi." Tooru said. "Ooooooook," the small voice replied. Another, louder, poof noise. The sounds of a chain being picked up and moved followed, then a louder but still sluggish grunt. Loud clinking noises could be heard, and suddenly the bookcase begun to swing inward. After a moment it had fully retracted. Two more poofs and they were left in silence.
Without mentioning the event, Tooru beckoned for Kakesu. "Come on!" The two headed down into the opening and descended a long set of wooden stairs. Suddenly they found themselves at an intersection. There were doors on both sides on them, but the one on the right was covered in talismans and locks.
"I was gonna take us though there," he said while pointing down the rest of the straight hallway they'd been taking. "But even though we're technically not supposed to go in there, for a friend, it's fine." Tooru remarked while smiling, deviously yet innocent.
The left door creaked open to reveal another hallway, this one flanked by a number of doors. Each had a set of bars rather than a window, and were adorned with sealing tags that covered the seams. A sign above each door hinted at their contents. They slowly walked down the hallway.
'Rice-Cooking Machine | Green Man', said one door.
"There's all kinds of weird stuff down here," Tooru said while they strode down the hallway. "Some of the stuff down here might not even have anything in it, but with a clan as old as mine, sometimes you end up with things that you have no idea of what's inside."
Most of the signs, in fact, didn't even attempt to say what was inside other than the object itself. There were scrolls, household items, weapons, and more. Every door down here had a piece of colored paper upon it, green for safe, red for dangerous, and yellow for unknown. Most were yellow, and stayed that way. Unsealing random items wasn't the safest of endeavours, proving to be the end for a number of Ikeda. Tooru'd even heard of one relative who stole a number of items, before or after going crazy.
They stopped in front of another sign that remarked 'Many Concentric Dolls*' with a piece of paper attached to the door further down. Whatever it had once said was faded away, leaving only: 'Not... Could be... Unseal...' There was a piece of faded yellow paper upon it, so old it was almost falling apart.
"I've always wondered what's in this one." The sealing tag on the seam easily came off with a light pull, causing the door to eerily creak open. "Nothing in this wing could be too dangerous though, since all the really bad stuff is kept in the other side."
They slowly walked in.
Inside was a small dirt room with a pillar in the middle. Upon the pillar was some kind of doll, with a seam in the middle of it. Tooru picked it up, surprised by its light weight. "Let's see what's inside!" He popped the top off, revealing another, smaller doll.
Pop. Another doll.
Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
Finally they saw the smallest doll, the only one with no seam. It was no bigger than a thumb, but was almost entirely covered in seal markings.
"Shall we?" he asked, looking to Kakesu for affirmation.
“I am glad that you like it! I found it somewhere close t’ home, I think,” he said. He shared in Tooru’s excitement with a dumb grin on his face with his outh partially open. “I made the cord myself, but you can replace it with something more durable if you have it.”
His mouth closed and his expression rested as the basement was mentioned. He followed Tooru’s lead past several rooms. The small of old paper filled his nose as they arrived at the destination, flaring out along with his eyes as he looked over the collection of tomes that had been amassed. He brought his hands in front of his chest nervously as he looked at all of the books. When he heard the disembodied voice, he shuddered and put his back against a bookcase. It started to move and he stumbled forward clumsily, giving Tooru a toothy embarrassed smile before they began to descend down the stairs.
“As long as you’re sure you won’t get in too much trouble,” he said when they stood in front of the door covered in locks. As they entered each and every sign that Kakesu passed was a curiosity to him. He squinted as if he were trying to make out the lettering, but each sign was unfamiliar to him beyond recognizing the word food and the word cat jumbled in with other things that were beyond his literacy.
As they moved into the room with dirt flooring and Tooru began opening up dolls he would tilt his head to the side in alternating directions with each pop like a puppy. “There couldn’t be ‘nother one in there,” Kakesu said in disbelief, crossing his arms. “It is too small!” he protested.