Music Box: There are a bazillion etudes written for basically every instrument, but Etude and Variation, Allegro by Shinichi Suzuki was the first one I learned and as such is near and dear to my heart

Etude: An often times short, difficult piece designed to provide material for a particular technical skill

"You are such a girl."

"I am not!"

"I saw you playing the violin, and the piano, and the flute. You're bad at sports, you hum. Plus, your hair looks dumb. You are such a girl."

Brook felt his cheeks flush as the other boys from his dormitory snickered. Alexandrian Nikoli Stephan Wilam III looked up at him and smirked. The shorter but stockier boy had his arms crossed across his chest daring Brook to do something against his tormentor.

But Brook didn't. With his head held as high, he pushed through the ring of boys and went back to his room. Had anyone asked he would have said that the fight was beneath him, but the truth was he didn't want to get beat up again.

He had learned the first time that a black eye, while cool looking, hurt tremendously. The disappointed letter he had received from his brother had hurt even worse.

Once he reached his room, Brook locked the door and slumped to the floor, counting the hours till his break started.

"So, how was your term?" Sanford asked as he shuffled between two massive stacks of paperwork.

"I hate it," Brook responded flatly.


"The subjects are dumb, the other kids are beasts, and I hate it. Please don't make me go back!"

Sanford cocked an eyebrow, still looking down at his papers, "It's not that bad. You'll learn useful skills and make good connections for later in life."

"But…" Brook began.

"No buts. Now, I've got a lot of work to do. Unless you want to help sort out some spread sheets…?" Sanford asked hopefully.

Brook left the room with a huff. Sanford just didn't understand. Private school was fine for everyone else in the family, but learning how to run a shipping business just wasn't him. Sanford, Uncle Jens, and…Father all enjoyed crunching numbers and logistics and spread sheets (the thought made Brook shiver). He liked the piano and the violin and exploring.

The other boy's taunts fresh in his mind, Brook eschewed the drawing room. It wasn't like he could properly practice when he was upset. Master Day highly emphasized a clear mind when playing the piano (something about channeling the composers will through his fingertips), and the older man could always tell when Brook had broken one of his rules.

So the drawing room was out. Brook half-stomped outside to the courtyard. The beautiful day clashed with his foul mood. With no one out and about to complain to, he settled for glaring at a tree. This was extremely unsatisfying and made him feel rather silly. With a small sigh Brook moved on. The branches softly swayed back and forth in the breeze, waving him on as he continued his trek through the grounds.

Crack! Whumph! Thump!

Brook watched in morbid fascination as his uncle got thoroughly trounced in a mock fight with an unknown man. Well, trounced wasn't the best word. Uncle Jens was heavily padded, and both men were using practice swords.

The mysterious man his uncle was fighting was very good. Even though Brook knew nothing about sword fighting, he could tell by the man's graceful movements and superior speed. Even now, after several prolonged rounds, he was barely breathing heavily while Uncle was drenched with sweat.

"Let's call it a day," the man said coolly.

"Alright," Brook's uncle gasped.

"You've improved, Jens. But watch your guard, it still needs work."

Uncle Jens nodded tiredly before making his way towards the showers. The man stayed behind, inspecting his equipment. Brook quietly stepped out from his watching place.

"Like what you saw, boy?" The man asked.

"Y-yeah! The way you danced around Uncle was amazing; he couldn't land a hit at all."

The man grunted. Now that he was closer, Brook could get a better look at him. The man was tall and skinny, not at all the build Brook expected out of an expert swordsman. On his shirt there was an insignia that Brook recognized from the security company that the family used to protect their goods as they were shipped across the kingdom.

"You still here, boy?" the man asked as he inspected his fake sword.

"My name's Brook. How long did it take for you to learn to fight like that?" he asked.

"A lifetime. Now go away. I've got a journey to prepare for," the man said bluntly.

Intimidated by the man's tone, Brook scampered off. It was probably about dinner time anyway.

"En garde! High ya! Take that you scoundrel, and that!" Brook shouted as he bashed his stick against the wooden practice post. Only now it wasn't just a random wooden post in the practice yard, it was Alexandrian Nikoli Stephan Wilam III. In his imaginary battle Brook was winning just as easily as the mystery man did against his uncle.

But alas, even in imaginary form Alexandrian was a formidable foe. In an attempt to perform a complex maneuver Brook tripped over his own feet and landed on the ground in an undignified heap.

To Brook's horror, a slow clap sounded from behind him. Brook whirled around, only to nearly fall over again. When he got his bearings he looked up to see the swordsman from the day before.

"What are you doing there?" he exclaimed, feeling the heat of embarrassment on his face.

"I could ask you the same thing, boy," the man drawled.

Brook glared at him, "I happen to live here. And I told you, my name is Brook."

"You live in the practice yard?" he asked in mock surprise, "Why, I should have known seeing how you masterfully wield that stick there."

Brook grasped the offending stick hard enough that his knuckles turned white. He briefly considered chucking it at the irritating man's head, but knowing his luck he figured he miss and embarrass himself further.

"You are only slightly more hopeless than your father. Although, you do share his enthusiasm. That must count for something, I suppose," the man continued as he examined his nails.

"You knew Father?" Brook asked; indigent.

"I've only headed his security for fifteen years. Of course I knew Bernard. Come here boy," he commanded.

After a moment of hesitation Brook walked up to the man. He deftly plucked the stick from his hand and held it in front of him.

"Pay attention boy, this is how you properly grasp a sword. You'd be disarmed in a second the way you were holding it."

"You knew Father?" Brook repeated.

"Yes, pay attention boy. Otherwise I'd inclined to believe you are as dumb as you look."

Anger flashed through Brook. There was only so much a person could take, and he would not be insulted by an employee.

"I am not dumb!" he shouted.

"Didn't say you were, boy, only that you looked the part. Now, when footing is very important or you'll end up on your ass more often than not. If you stand like this," he said, demonstrating his stance, "you'll have a balanced base to work with."

"What are you doing?" Brook asked.

"Teaching you how to fence, obviously. That is what you want, isn't it?"

"I don't even know your name," Brook pointed out.

"Hmm, you have a point there. Ahem, my name is Ichiro the Safeguard. I head the guards for your family's caravans that go throughout the land. Now, did you want to learn or not?"

Brook thought about it for a moment (he knew Master Day would have a fit), before the scornful faces of his classmates flashed in his mind. He gave a sharp nod to Ichiro.

"Alright then. Let's get started," he said. Then, using his stick to demonstrate, he showed Brook the barest basics of his craft.

"Again," Ichiro barked. Brook shook the sweat from his eyes and lifted his practice sword forced his sore arms through the motions again.

He was starting to hate that word. Between Ichiro and Master Day it seemed like again was all he heard. But Brook still put forth his best effort in an attempt to learn the swordsman's craft.

"Stop," Ichiro finally commanded after he completed the drill. Brook tried to hide the relief from his features. He wondered if he could find a bucket of cold water to dunk his face in. Working with Ichiro was work, something he had never really had to do before. Brook shook the sweat out of his hair and sat on the ground with a thump.

"Boy, what do you fight for?" Ichiro asked. Brook looked up at him as if he had suddenly sprung a second head.

"What do you mean? I don't fight at all," he replied, bewildered.

"Bullshit. Everyone fights, whether it's for survival or power or anything else. What do you fight for?" Ichiro said forcefully.

Brook looked down, deep in thought, "My…my family I guess. I want Sanford to be proud of me, and for everyone to see that I'm just as good an Alvintzi as the rest of the family."

"So you fight for resignation?"

"No! I just want to prove that there's more to being an Alvintzi than our name. We're more than…than shipping, or business, or spread sheets," Brook exclaimed.

"Boy, there is nothing wrong with fighting for yourself. Everyone does it at one point or another."

Brook let Ichiro's words hang before staring at the ground.

"I…I got a C in math this term," he finally muttered. Ichiro looked puzzled by the sudden turn in conversation, but allowed him to continue, "Sanford always got really good grades in math, and apparently so did Uncle Jens. I know that there's more than just math to business, but I'm just not very good at it. The other boys at the school make fun of me, because I'm clumsy and enjoy music. And apparently my hair makes me look like a girl."

At that last bit Ichiro let out a quick bark of laughter. Brook blushed and continued to stare at the ground, before the swordsman put his hand on his shoulder.

"I'm not laughing at you, I promise. Your other classmates must have a, uh, strange idea of what a woman's hair looks like. And as for you being clumsy, of course you are! I've never seen a boy go through a growth spurts like you; coordination will come later and my lessons will help. I don't know about the music thing, but why the hell should it matter? If it's something you enjoy, do it."

Brook thought about what Ichiro said for a moment, and at the practice sword in his hand.

"Anyways, we're done for the day. Think about it, that's what these lessons are for," Ichiro said before sending Brook back to the house to get cleaned up.

That night as he was getting ready for bed, Brook continued to ponder Ichiro's question. He caught a glance of himself as he passed the vanity, and paused. The face in the mirror looked back. Brook have never been one to excessively prune himself in front of his mirror, but his mentor's words made him stop and really look at himself

He was tall, likely to grow even taller than his father, but didn't resemble him much. The curly black hair that stood out so much had come from his grandfather, his eyes from his mother, and apparently his facial features greatly resembled one of his great-uncles.

But he was not his grandfather, or his mother, or his great-uncle. He was Brook Alvintzi. He did not want to run a shipping company. He did not want to be what anyone else thought he should be.

Maybe he was fighting for the right to be himself.

Brook didn't know how to fight for himself, but like everything else he supposed it took practice. Practice that would be harder than any of Ichiro's drills or any of Master Day's etudes.

Still looking at the mirror, Brook gave himself a big grin. The idea sounded like a good one, and he was always up for a challenge.

Finally Brook allowed his exhausted body to plop into bed. Tired as he was, he slept soundly without dreaming. He knew that tomorrow was a new day, and he resolved to make the most of it.

AN: Brook is 8'8''. I can assume that he went through some nasty growth spurts as a kid. (And did you know pre-time skip Brook was 88 years old. There just happen to be 88 keys on a piano…). And in his introduction Brook says he knows how to play every insturment, although I wonder if that's still possible now that he doesn't have lips. Skull joke!

Also, in case anyone was wondering, in chapter one Brook's 7 years old, chapter two he's 10, and he's roughly 13 in this one. I'd say that Sanford's 7 years older than him. I'm so bad at putting details like that in the chapters themselves.

Lastly, I'll be starting school here soon, so updates will probably slow down. I certainly have no plans of abandoning this fic, but grades come first.