Arc IX Chapter 11
Her continuous knocking finally elicited a response from the deaf servants. Her trusted umbrella protected her from the elements, but standing outside in the cold beneath the pouring rain was not a pleasant experience.
Asami waited before the wooden gate like the good girl she was. Patience was a virtue.
A peephole opened, and a guard greeted her with the kindness of the household, a pair of narrowed eyes searching for undesired intruders. The gatekeeper's gaze fell on her, a petite girl with a cat around her neck.
"State your purpose. Who are you? What do you want?"
The infamous Amegakure hospitality. Always such a treat to be on the receiving end of so much politeness. At least, they didn't attack her.
Asami shook her head. "Unless I am mistaken, this is the home of Hattori Masanari, head of the Hattori clan.
The guard distrusted her. "Possibly. Depends on who is asking."
Asami understood. "My name is ... ... Asami. His Excellency Pain sent me to negotiate with the Hattori clan."
The guard wavered. Surprise was written all over his face.
Her sweet, suave smile broke his remaining resistance.
Pain, his name, was a useful tool at her disposal. His very name opened doors otherwise closed.
"Pain?"The guard's hand trembled. The man was nervous. The name elicited dread and fear across the village.
Asami grinned. "Indeed, Pain sent me, and I desire to speak with the clan head. It's a matter of grave importance."
The guard relented. Friendly persuasion and veiled threats unlocked the gate.
Asami offered a subdued bow. "You have my gratitude, you won't regret your decision.
The guard countered with a wry smile. "We will see."
The man wasn't alone. Numerous clansmen assembled in the front yard, trained warriors and veteran ninja. The men kept theirs hands close to their weapons, prepared to unsheathe their blades at any moment.
Not that Asami expected otherwise. This was the fate of unannounced visitors, of uninvited guests. They were met with suspicion.
His son appeared. Masashige opened the door and offered his respect, kneeling.
"Father, a girl appeared before the gate. The girl wishes to speak to you."
Masanari halted his brush and looked up from his scrolls.
An unusual request in this day and age. People avoided their disgraced clan since the fall of Hanzo.
"Did she elaborate why?"
His son shook his head. "Negative, father. The girl only requested to speak to you, and she claims she was sent by Pain."
His son nodded.
Allow her in. I doubt we can turn her away under these circumstances."
The girl arrived and bowed. Her every step exuded a sense of grace. Her etiquette was impeccable.
Masanari furrowed his eyebrow.
He didn't except so much politeness from Pain. He was usually the man to resort to more brutish method. Instead, Pain sent a little girl.
Her lustrous black hair, her abyss like black eyes, her kimono, her serene gravitas. Such a strange sight. The little princess displayed a natural aura of nobility.
The girl rose again. Her unperturbed gaze met him across the room. Her face displayed no sign of nervousness, no sign of doubt. Her composure suggested experience beyond her age.
"Greetings, Lord Masanari, I hope you had an excellent day. I appreciate your warm hospitality."
Masanari put his scrolls aside. "You flatter me."
The girl smiled. Her smile was cold, but polite. "Not at all, in my line of business, I am used to punches being thrown first and questions being asked later. Your men treated me well. They didn't disappoint."
Masanari smiled. "Glad to hear they left a good impression. They are the pride and joy of the Hattori clan."
"Wise words from a wise man." The girl maintained her act despite being aligned with a known enemy of the Hattori clan.
No signs of hostility, or animosity. He thought Pain sent her to enact revenge, but that wasn't the case. The girl was a guest of his house and so far, she haboured no ill intentions.
Masanari folded his hands. "You are young. You play the game well considering your young age. You have your way with words, I doubt I could have matched you back then."
Masanari offered her a benevolent smile with a hint of sympathy. "Tell me, what brought you to my humble home? I was told you were sent by Pain. So whom do I have the honour to speak with?"
His words pleased her. Her shoulders relaxed, and the girl took a seat, making yourself comfortable.
"My name is ... ... Asami. I speak on the behalf of Pain, as he has little interest for mundane affairs. A shame, to be honest, but I won't complain."
He noticed her choice of words. Her words were deliberate, carefully chosen. The subtle hints in between didn't escape him.
The girl produced a golden envelope from inside her kimono. A crest of unknown origin adorned the paper, a kikyo.
"It's an invitation, an offer to join me."
Masanari narrowed his eyes. "Elaborate."
"The world we know will undergo major changes. Nothing will stay the way it once was. Amegakure will need to adapt. A firm hand will be required to guide the village through the vagaries of fate.
The village, however, cannot be guided by a single person alone. That is why I am currently gathering supporters among the clans, the remnants of the military, the economy. Together, we will restore order to Amegakure.
I want you to be my right hand. Once again. Amegakure needs you, Hattori Masanari."
Masanari stared at the golden envelope. "Why me? Why would you choose me? Why would Pain choose me?"
Asami grinned. "The better question is, why not?
The Hattori clan still commands respect and authority, despite your recent downfall. The fall of Hanzo cost you dearly, but you were lucky to disassociate from him early due to internal disputes and that Hanzo hailed only from an insignificant collateral line. The Hattori clan escaped Pain's blind wrath mostly intact."
You still possess immense wealth. You still profit from old connections and alliances. You still command a sizeable force of trained men, veteran ninja and warriors steeled by countless battles. You still wield power and influence beneath the surface.
It's only proper for a clan of your status to return to the political landscape, to reclaim its rightful position."
Masanari fell silent. Her offer was more than just tempting.
Asami tilted her head. "And you are mistaken, Lord Masanari, it was not Pain who is responsible for seeking you out. It was me."
Masanari's eyes widened. "What do you mean?"
Asami giggled. "Lord Masanari, I might act in the name of Pain, but I don't necessarily act in his interests.
Everyone has their own agenda, their own ambitions. I am no exception."