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Arc X Chapter 14


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As so often in the history of the realm, the venerable matters of statecraft and politics, regardless of importance, are not discussed behind the secrecy of thick walls and closed doors, but rather in broad daylight, in the ear of the public. In this case, while wandering along the tatami covered floors of the Hattori clan's compound.

"And this is how we returned, Lady Kaoru, from the far, frozen north, we travelled all the way back to Amegakure, our precious home." Asami beamed with the pure innocence of her pubescent cheeks. No shred of malice could ever cross her lustrous lips. Her listening counterpart, in the meanwhile, proved certainly less receptive to her suave words.

Kaoru, head of the Fuma clan, her counsellor for military matters, her sword and shield, followed her steps, decisively unimpressed. "An amusing tale, no doubt, Lady Asami. So that is why you diverted from your plan at short notice and without informing us. Not the most professional behaviour, if I might add."

"Opportunities are like sparrows. Fleeting and momentary. You need to seize them as long as you can. Time can be regained, opportunities, however, not."

"I can't disagree, Lady Asami, yet your little journey was certainly on the more adventurous side."

"Possibly so, yet it was productive. The council will be pleased to hear about the progress achieved. Masanari and the treasury will be happy. Makoto will be happy. You will be happy. The industrialists will be happy. And by extension Amegakure will be happy. Everyone will be happy."

"What a truly joyous outlook~." Kaoru clicked her tongue.

Asami chose to ignore Kaoru's remark. "Don't be so harsh, Lady Kaoru, not only did we succeed in securing sizeable portions of our funds, the fire daimyo proved far more willing and malleable than the reports suggested, but we also succeeded in securing a most useful ally with the Land of Snow.

With Koyuki installed as the new daimyo and Sandayu at her side as her right hand, they remain indebted to us. We are now indirectly able to influence the Land of Snow from within. I persuaded Koyuki to sign a mutual defence pact and treaty of military cooperation. We also negotiated a very favourable trade agreement, allowing our industry to access the Land of Snow's vast mineral wealth, their considerable iron ore deposit, especially.

And to make matters even better, I even reminded Yukigakure, after their heinous betrayal, of their sacred duty to the sole true daimyo. Yukigakure will now aid our cause and contribute a contingent of ninja. We will integrate them into our forces. All that just took some minor persuasion and gentle probing." Asami beamed.

Kaoru scoffed. "'Minor persuasion and gentle probing'... My men told me you threatened the elders with burning down their entire village and crucifying any survivors along the road ..."

"Lady Kaoru, you make me sound like some kind of villainess."Asami giggled. "These are just details. Ways to provide my arguments with the proper persuasive power. Personally, I prefer the terms 'productive and fruitful cooperation on a voluntary basis'."

"..."

A sigh escaped Asami's lips. "Don't look at me like that; Lady Kaoru. The world of politics is harsh, unforgiving one.

It is them who betrayed their true lord and master either by gross negligence, or by intent. Do you really think Yukigakure played no part in this game? That Doto's henchmen were just rogue-nin without orders? I doubt so.

The elders knew the risks and willingly accepted them. They knew their betrayal would be punished with death, that they would pay for their sins with blood. It seems wrong to blame me when it was the elders who conspired to murder Koyuki's father in cold blood. In the end, curses always come home to roost."

"..."

"You still look not very convinced, Lady Kaoru. Let me ask you, Lady Kaoru, what would you have done in my stead?"

Her words elicited surprise from the Fuma clan's head. Kaoru furrowed her eyebrow.

Asami giggled. "I know you Kaoru. In fact, I think we are very much alike. You, the daughter of a once unimportant clan rising in prestige. It is not a coincidence that I have chosen your capable hands.

Tell me, Lady Kaoru, if the cuckoo doesn't sing, what would you do?"

"Lady Asami, I think I can't follow ... ..."

"Makoto would coax the cuckoo to sing. Considering his background, he would naturally resort to deception and trickery. The shadows are his realm.

Masanari would wait for the cuckoo to sing. He is a patient man. As the head of an once proud clan fallen into dishonour, he bides his time.

But what would you do, Lady Kaoru? What would the bellicose Fuma clan do? You are a woman of ambition.I think we both know the answer."

"..."

"You would kill it, wouldn't you?"

"..." Silence.

"As said, we are not much different in terms of methodology."

"..." Kaoru lowered her gaze. "... To be honest, I doubted you at first, Lady Asami. A young girl without pedigree that one day appeared out of nowhere ... But they way you speak ... They way you act ... They way you think ... At times, I think your youthful appearance belies your true age, Lady Asami."

"I will take that as a compliment." Asami beamed.

"..." Koaru fell silent. Amegakure had changed. Barely two months passed, yet so much had changed. The people were different, rising from their misery, driven by the promise of a bright future with crime silenced and the economy united. It was a strange feeling.

Kaoru knew one thing for sure, Asami would reward their loyalty. Her clan would rise above its humble origins, beyond Amegakure, beyond mere village politics. And that was something she looked forward to.

Koaru grinned. If the cuckoo doesn't sing ... She truly wondered what Asami would do.


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