Arc VIII Chapter 9
"It's an honour to welcome such illustrious guests in my modest home." Mitsuhiko, their mysterious client, welcomed them. His greeting was warm.
Asami and company passed the gates, and entered a kingdom of doors, rooms, and tatami mats. A significant number of guards accompanied his lordship. Nothing extraordinary.
Their client was a daimyo, a rich and influential man. Rich and influential men were concerned about their personal health and security. The world was dangerous, and powerful ninja roamed the lands without accountability.
Mitsuhiko bought the best protection money could afford. He recruited samurai and ninja alike, assembling a little personal army.
His guards observed her with open distrust. They followed her movements and Asami sensed their prying eyes. Not that she cared. Mitsuhiko's little show of force amused her.
Mitsuhiko led the way. He was young, handsome, ambitions, a man hungry for the laurels of history.
His face, his eyes, his smile were charming, but Asami distrusted her new friend.
His facade didn't deceive her. His smile was perfect, but his lips lacked genuine emotions. The man was a sly fox despite his young age, skilled in the craft of subterfuge and manipulation.
Asami maintained her smile. "The honour is all mine, Lord Mitsuhiko. Humble ninja like us rarely enjoy the privilege to serve a mighty daimyo."
Mitsuhiko masked his annoyance. So much cheekiness trapped in such a frail body, but the girl was genuine. The girl was Asami. Her pride, her arrogance were legendary. So were her abilities.
Her great betrayal, since what she had done to Konoha, her name was well-known across the lands. The girl razed half of Konoha down to the ground with sword and fire. Blood stained her hands.
Mitsuhiko didn't expect to contract the little princess when hiring Akatsuki. Asami. Her name carried meaning. Her name demanded respect.
Gone was his smile and Mitsuhiko chuckled. "Your tongue is sharp for your age."
Asami giggled. "You flatter me, Lord Mitsuhiko. Anyway, you have a lot of guards." threatened by their presence."
Her words hit a nerve. Mitsuhiko scowled. Of course, he felt threatened by a homicidal girl.
Mitsuhiko mustered a smile. "They are present ... for security purposes. Rebellious elements among the minor nobility are discontent with my rule."
The rumours were true, Mitsuhiko ruled his land with an iron fist. Mitsuhiko was an ambitious man, and ambitious men provoked opposition. Considering men he had under his command, he didn't settle is disagreements.
Mitsuhiko sighed. "I fear a repetition of what happened to my brother. A tragedy."
Asami raised her eyebrow. "You had a brother?"
"An older brother. He died a premature death after succeeding our father. He, his wife, and his daughter died together in a terrible fire. The voracious flames nearly claimed the entire castle. A tragic day." Mitsuhiko didn't care in the slightest. His emotions were hollow.
"We never uncovered the culprits, but we suspect disgruntled nobles were responsible for this heinous crime."
Asami listened and smiled along. Details didnt add up, but Asami refrained from commenting. His older brother died in a mysterious fire only to be succeeded by him. A fortunate turn of events.
Mitsuhiko inspected her company. "I see you brought a girl along with you. May I ask for her name?"
Yuki shared her antipathy for Mitsuhiko, hiding in her silhouette. Yuki clutched her hand and Asami reciprocated. Her little sister was precious.
Asami beamed proudly. "Tsukimi-chan is my little sister. She is a bit shy around people, but isn't she adorable, Lord Mitsuhiko?"
Mitsuhiko chuckled. "Tsukimi, a lovely name indeed."
"Anyway, follow me. We have much to discuss."
A door opened. Mitsuhiko prepared a room as their mission was a matter best discussed behind closed doors.
Asami halted. "Tobi, Tsukimi-chan, you won't accompany me. I will go alone. We will meet up later on."
Yuki looked worried. She didn't want nee-chan to go. "Nee-chan ..."
Asami leaned down and awarded Yuki with a head pat. "Don't worry, nee-chan will return."
Asami observed Mitsuhiko. Guards surrounded him, his most trusted aids.
Asami broke the uneasy silence. Unsolved questions demanded an answer after years of silence.
"Lord Mitsuhiko, your mission ... What does our mission entail exactly? Unfortunately, His Lordship, wasn't forthcoming with the specifics. As far as we know, we are supposed to locate a certain person."
Mitsuhiko sipped on his tea. "Correct, your objective is to locate and eliminate a girl. The girl must be silenced. We will reward you accordingly."
Asami enjoyed her tea. The tea was apparently safe. "I hope so. Our services are in high demand."
"So which girl is destined to die, Lord Mitsuhiko? I need her identity. I need information."
Mitsuhiko agreed. "Understandable, I expected such. Kazuma, hand her the scroll."
Kazuma stepped forwards and Asami accepted his scroll without hesitation.
Mitsuhiko continued his explanation. "The scroll contains all the information we collected. We hope the information will prove useful and aid you in your endeavour."
Asami scanned the contents. Her hand froze and her gaze turned cold. The picture. Her name. Both were familiar.
The picture dated back years ago, but Asami recognised the girl. Her cheeks. Her fluffy hair. Her hopeful eyes. Her cute little nose.
Asami mumbled her name. "Yuki ..."
Mitsuhiko enjoyed his tea. "Your mission is to locate my niece and eliminate her. Unfortunately, Yuki survived the fire years ago and escaped. One of my brother's loyal retainers saved her."
"Yuki is eluding us ever since, which is an issue. My brother's line must end. Her mere existence as the true heiress threatens my legitimacy. "
Mitsuhiko's grin broadened. "We hope you will be graced with more success than your predecessors."
"Even the Konoha jonin I hired failed. Contact ceased. I honestly expected more from them, but the rumours seem to be true, Konoha's quality has declined. Their ninja fall short of their once legendary reputation."
"Lord Mitsuhiko, we must talk." Asami deposited her cup of tea. Her eyes glimmered purple.
Her Susanoo struck. Her skeletal arm pinned Mitsuhiko against the wall, strangulating him. Mitsuhiko suffocated as her grip tightened.
"Mitsuhiko, tell me, more about that night." Asami offered a seductive smile.
"I want to know more."