The song of discontent [SSM]

Oct 23, 2012
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Yen
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[OOC: Bit of background music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_M4K5wk9DCM

A large bonfire crackled, its glow cutting through the strangely chilly air in this, the main center of the normally bustling marketplace in the Oak District. It was early evening and the last rays of the sun had retreated behind Hokage Mountain, the shadows of those leaders eventually fading into the night.

Around the bonfire danced a circular piece of white material, placed there by black-clad men and women and affixed by heavy metal poles. The glow of the fire accentuated the purity and cleanliness of the screen, for this indeed was the backdrop to what was going to be an interesting performance. Crowds started to gather, curious as to what this strange object was going to do. The Elderly amongst the village nodded sagely as if knowing what this was and the young simply looked on with rapt attention.

A lone figure, dressed in a plain black hooded robe with a blank white mask appeared and started to circle around the screen. People started to murmur about that person being ANBU, but the mask suggested something more akin to a street performer than one of Konoha’s elite. The graceful movement also suggested that this person was in fact a she.

A drum beat. Another.

The crowd would watch in silence as another black-clad masked figure would appear as if out of the shadows with a large drum. The steady rhythm of the beat would build, its speed seemingly affecting the hearts of those listening and heightning their attention. This would be joined by a lone shamisen, its sharp notes dancing along with the rumbling of the drums thunder. Another figure, again dressed in black with a plain white mask, would appear. The uncovered hands the only hint as to the gender of the player.

“A tale.”

The masculine voice seemed to come from the darkness itself, strong, precise and clear.

“In a land not unlike our own, nations fought for dominance. Each thought each other better than the other and desired what the other had, and so wars were fought.”

As if my some form of magic the once pure white screens would burst into activity as shadow puppets, intricate and detailed, would start to run across the screen. A battle was taking place, with arrows, fireballs, kicks and punches all played out by the numerous puppets. Gasps could be heard from the audience - watching a movie was one thing, but a puppet performance was another.

“Lives were lost, and yet the nations could never overcome each other.”

It was then that the black-dressed woman would start to dance, the black robe accentuating the movements she made. Those well-versed in taijutsu would notice the intricate kata the woman was weaving as she nimbly rotated around the screen. In her hands however was a small begging bowl - it seemed she was the one taking any offerings.

“Whilst the leaders of the land demanded battle, the people of the land sought only peace.”

On the screen, the battles faded into the light - leaving only the fallen forms of those who had been killed.

“For it was the people who suffered most of all.”

Lone puppet figures would move amongst the dead, their hands holding their faces as if crying. An elderly woman sitting in the audience would start to tear up, the moisture on her face a clear indication that she had lost someone in similar circumstances. In fact, she was not the only one who now seemed to be emotionally affected by the simple performance.

“But the people were strong and knew that one day peace would return.”

The shadow puppets now showed people planting trees, holding hands, and going about their normal daily routines. A small cheer erupted amongst the young as a shadowy building appeared, very similar to the outline of the Academy.

“The people knew that the future was in their hands.”

Small figures of children dancing would appear, and cleverly the figures would be drawn back from the screen, increasing their size as if they were growing up.

“Yet more conflict began, and as one ended it seemed another would grow in its place.”

Again the call of battle came from the steady beating drum, accentuated by the shamisen.

“For sitting in the clouds, the leaders could not see the plight of those on the ground.”

A shadowy figure, clearly an Emperor or Daimyo, would appear on the screen, the elaborateness of his costume as well as his crown making him easily identifiable. Elevated on a throne he could not see the pile of dead that were beneath him, nor the familiar figures of the crying puppets.

The Emperor raised his hand, indicating yet another call to battle.

A wave of figures, armed and dangerous, would wave across the screen, cutting down the previously ‘growing’ figures.

“And so history repeats itself, and this is where we set out tale.”

The music paused for a second, before the steady drum started up once again.

“Two brothers once lived in a village. Each one had lost family, and knew the pain of poverty.”

Two shadowy figures would appear on the screen - bedraggled boys that looked like many of the unfortunate ‘Gavroches’ of the world. Several of the old-timers in the village seemed to nod, knowing this story. The story of the founders of the village… yet this seemed somehow different from the old tales.

“But each brother carried within him hope. Hope for a better future.”

The boys seemed to dance around, happy despite their circumstances. Again, the backdrop of the academy appeared alongside claps from the children, and it would seem that both of these figures were ‘attending’ classes there.

“And so they learned and grew, each becoming knowledgeable in many ways.”

One tended trees whilst the other practiced throwing kunai - each depicted by puppetry.

“But, with knowledge, came questions.”

The pair of brothers now stood amongst the piles of dead, watching the puppets once again start to cry.

“How could peace be brought to the land? Could it be done with peaceful methods such as diplomacy?”

One brother now spoke with the Emperor puppet, seemingly explaining the plight of the people.

“Or through conflict itself?”

The other brother now stood on top of more bodies, leading a group of people against a common foe.

“Is there really an answer?” The music stopped abruptly, as if allowing the audience to think about the question posed. After a time the music once again started up.

“The first brother found that the Emperor did not want to listen. He did not want to hear those things that he could not control. And so, dejected, the brother went back to his village.”

The hunched form of the first brother puppet slunk back, clearly upset.

“Here he became bitter, understanding that it was human nature to desire conflict and control. Fear was the reason.”

“The second brother, having become strong in arms and might, killed his enemies but in doing that created more enemies. He knew that the more he fought, the more he would need to fight. And so, dejected, the brother went back to his village.”


The form of the second brother puppet strode back, clearly angry.

“Here he became angry, understanding that it was human nature to desire conflict and revenge. Fear was the reason.”

The puppets were removed from the screen, the white light of it glowing in the night as minute sparks of flame burst from the bonfire, crackling.

“Both brothers now knew that peace could only be achieved if there was no fear. But how does one combat fear? Each brother knew his own strength, and so each devised his own quest to defeat fear itself.”

“The first brother, kind of heart, believed that fear was the result of intolerance, and intolerance was the result of misunderstanding. To him, knowledge was the key and so he buried himself in books, hoping to find the answer.”

The image of a man reading now appeared, turning pages as if looking for something important.

“The second brother, noble of heart, believed that fear was the result of a lack of discipline, and that lack was the result of a lack of willpower. To him, strength of character was the key and so he left the village, seeking solace within himself, hoping to find the answer.”

Another image appeared, that of a man sitting in a zen state, looking inwards for something important.

“Each tried valiantly in their own way to find the answer.”

A loud crash of the drums caused the audience to jump. A very fast tempo was set as a multitude of puppets raced across the screen, each depicting what appeared to be a heavily armoured man armed with a katana.

“It was at this time that, out of fear, the Emperor decided to attack his own people. In a desire to prevent others from questioning or challenging his actions, he decided to act.”

Now several of the older members of the audience would look with anger, disgust, or dismay. This was now getting very personal for them, despite the thinly veiled storyline.

“Watching his village be destroyed, the first brother knew that knowledge, without action, was meaningless as he was swept amongst the dead.”

The figure of the man was carried off by the Samurai.

“The second brother, seeing the destruction around him, hid away and struck out when he could, killing those who had caused such problems, but causing more problems in the process. In doing so, the second brother knew that action, without knowledge, was meaningless as he faded into obscurity.”

The figure of that man faded slowly from sight.

“A new generation was formed and fought back against the Emperor. Despite their losses they and newfound friends rebuilt that which was torn down.”

Again the cheers from the children as the academy appeared. Rigid determination could now be seen amongst the veterans as if this simple play was tapping into feelings both forgotten and repressed.

“The village grew stronger, and this new generation used both knowledge and action to combat fear. But success drew fear from others, and with that greed and a desire for revenge. Thus, the cycle continued.”

The screen itself would now start to spin, the puppets holding their heads as if in confusion.

“This new battle, not of the people’s making, again threatened the peace of the village. Its noble warriors prepared, ensuring that the people were protected and had no fear.”

Cheers and clasp started to sound out from amongst the villagers and even some watching shinobi.

“For the people knew that armed with knowledge and the courage to act they could combat fear. And so the people prepared.”

The puppets that once had planted trees, held hoes and played now picked up weapons, each seemingly arming themselves for an upcoming battle. Others ensured the safety of others by standing in front of them, or leading them elsewhere.

It was then that a sharp-eyed child cried out, pointing to what appeared to be the ‘emperor’ puppet, sneakily leaving the assembled puppet throng. The audience’s attention was suddenly drawn to the figure.

“Others grew fearful and, because of that fear, decided to leave those who they were sworn to protect.”

The emperor figure ran, followed by the boo’s of the audience. Some of the adults in particular looked at each other, unsure why the ‘emperor’ was still around.

“Regardless, it would be the people that decided their fate.”

The music ended. The voice, now carrying a melodic yet sad timbre, echoed throughout the silent audience.

“The wheel continues to spin, and tales continue to be told.”
“The people’s will be heard, their hearts and minds unsold.”
“Konoha shall never yield, nor succumb to fear”
“Knowledge and Action are our legacy to bear”
“Though those in power flee from our sight”
“We, the people, are armed for the fight”
“For we have that which burns so bright”
“The Will of Fire, united, defeats the night!”


With a sudden burst of flame, the white sheet was engulfed in flame, burning as if consumed like paper and causing those watching to turn their gaze from the sheer intensity of the light. It was as if, for a second, the brilliance of the sun could be seen.

As the audience first gasped, then returned to look towards the screen, there was nothing. The figures in black, their instruments, the screen and the bonfire had all seemingly disappeared. In the place of the fire was a small wooden bowl, a few yen resting at the bottom of it.

The voice continued however to linger in the night…

“Though those in power flee from our sight”
“We, the people, are armed for the fight”
“For we have that which burns so bright”
“The Will of Fire, united, defeats the night”.


A moment of silence followed.

“That is the tale.”

The elderly, knowing how these things worked, started to clap. The story had given them a range of emotions, and now they were happily showing their appreciation at the message. Others soon joined in, and many whistled and called for an encore. Of the performers there was no sign, even when the crowd started to place change into the small bowl.

Pale hands joined in the clapping, watching with crimson eyes as the crowd started to die down. The words he had carefully put in had been performed brilliantly…. Simply… and the seeds had been sewn. The Hokage, the 'emperor' would be watched by the people, and if he truly decided to leave the village they would know. It was a subtle ploy... either the Hokage would stay and defend his people, or they would see him for a coward.

Migoya was a Nara after all...

He overheard a young girl speak to her father.

“What happened to the brothers papa?”

The man gently took the girls hand. “I think they died unfortunately. War is a very bad thing.”

“I don’t want a war.”

“No-one does. Well, at least no-one who has to fight in one does.”

Migoya watched as the pair walked away, secure in the knowledge that his plan had worked. If only they knew that the two brothers still lived. Sitting down on a nearby bench, he watched as the families drifted off into the night, noting that soon he was alone. His own clan had performed well, and they deserved the rest that came after a job well done.

“Though those in power flee from our sight…”

The song had been catchy - after all his nephew, a fine musician, had written it. He heard it echoed as villagers sang it, whistled the tune, or stumbled over its meaning and smiled to himself. He sat alone under the moonlight, a small smirk gracing his features.

Mission accomplished.

[WC: 2412]