Arc IX Chapter 6
"This girl." Makato lifted his drink. The day was still young, but numerous customers already populated the bars. Nobody batted an eyelid, considering Ame's ghastly weather. The constant rain depressed even the strongest man. Alcohol raised the morale.
Makato chuckled. "Seems like our little ojou-san is serious. I wish her luck."
Shuji studied his old friend. Makato was a good man, one of the old guard, one of the men Amegakure once relied on in the now so distant past. "Shouldn't you lend her a hand? The girl could need your help."
Makato offered a polite smile. "I must decline, I can't fight every battle anymore. I have to choose my battles more wisely these days.
We can't risk offending the syndicates over such a minor dispute. The peace is brittle, and Amegakure can't afford another petty civil war."
"If you say so. Who do you think will win?"
Makato chuckled. His question amused him. "Her chances are non-existent at best. The girl will receive a well-deserved beating. These guys are Tsuyoshi's men. They are no joke. They have a lot of former ninja and mercenaries among their ranks. No wonder they are terrorising the streets."
Shuji raised an eyebrow. "The ojou-san looks confident, though."
Makato dismissed his friend with a hand wave. "Don't be fooled, Shuji, her appearance deceives.
The girl is bluffing, trust me, although her performance is quite convincing. Her acting skills are impressive.
A real shame, the girl has a pretty face."
"..." Shuji didn't react. He minded his work and cleaned glasses above the sink.
Makato chuckled. "Taciturn as usual."
Shuji stole a glance at the girl. Her figure felt familiar. Her regal kimono. Her umbrella. Her long black hair. Her bearing. Her aura. The natural gravitas defying her age. The mysterious girl fitted Takuya's description.
Makato folded his hands. "You seem to think highly of her. So why not make a bet? 100,000 ryo. My bet is on Tsuyoshi's men, yours on the girl."
Shuji considered for a moment. "Why not. I accept."
Makato furrowed an eyebrow. "Really? Bold move, old man. I guess you must have your reasons. I don't see them, but what do I know. I am just an old ninja past his best years."
"Don't worry, I have my sources." Shuji countered with a smile.
Makato scoffed. "Sure, you and your sources. How reliable are they? Drunkards and rumours are sources of dubious credibility."
Shuji merely smiled. "Won't deny that. The later the night, the more nonsensical the rambling."
Makato rolled his eyes. "Whatever, it's not me who is going to lose. Your overconfidence will be your undoing."
Shuji stared in shock, not believing his eyes. The scene was forever burned into his mind. He witnessed the birth of a demon, and the entire street held its breath. Life ceased and time stopped.
The rain kept falling and clouds darkened the sky. This power. This strength. Her will shall not be defied.
His hands trembled. Shuji had seen much in his life. He had heard much in this life, but this degree of power exceeded his imagination. The girl made a mockery out of the fate of mortal men.
Only Makato enjoyed the performance. He shared a hearty laugh. "Oh my, what an unexpected outcome. I guess I have underestimated the little ojou-san.
Serves me right. I should have known better."
The day ended and Makato returned home after losing a negligible sum. The girl cost him a little fortune. Such a nuisance.
The alcohol circulated though his blood, but his senses remained sharp, undulled. Years of service in the name of Amegakure had hardened him.
"You are late, Yuriko."
His daughter appeared from the shadows. "My apologies, father."
Makato didt. His daughter was reliable as ever. A true ninja and his pride. "What ?"
Who is she, Yuriko? How did the girl slip past our attention?"
Yuriko lowered her gaze. "We have no idea. Our contacts reported no suspicious activities in recent times.
We looked into her, but our search yielded little success. Information regarding her is sparse. Her background remains unclear.
No name. No dates. No history. We found nothing. The girl is an illusive figure, but we have good reason to suspect she is an outsider."
"According to rumours, the girl is affiliated with Pain, his newest pet."
"So she is part of Pain's faction?"
Yuriko confirmed his fears. "Probably. Most of our sources suggest so."
Makato clicked his tongue. "That's troublesome. The girl is powerful. Not someone we can face directly."
A new player entered the field. Pain consolidated his position in the village further. Another Akatsuki member. Another powerful piece on his side.
Makato gritted his teeth. "Investigate her! Immediately! Monitor her activities! We need to know as much as possible about the girl."
Yuriko hesitated. "I doubt that's necessary, father. The girl has already moved and initiated contact."
Yuriko presented her father a golden envelope. The envelope was open.
"The envelope is addressed to you, father, Lord Makato, head of the proud and respected Onodera clan. An unknown girl handed it to one of our men. It's probably her. "
Makato eyes widened. The girl knew. The envelope bore his name.
A crest adorned the paper, a crest unknown to him, a purple kikyo on black ground. He didn't recognise the crest.
Makato maintained his composure. The girl outplayed them. "What does she want?"
Yuriko straightened her back. "The envelope contains an invitation. The girl invites us and the other factions to a meeting.
She wants us to put our difference aside and reach a consensus. We are supposed to represent the interests of the ninja and the military as whole."
Makato studied the envelope. His hands touched the delicate paper. The paper was soft.
This girl. Not once, but twice in a single day, the little princess caught him off-guard.
"Yuriko ... The girl is dangerous, very dangerous."