XI


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Arc XI Chapter 4


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"It is an honour to meet you, Lord Mifune. We must thank you for receiving us in your halls. Your hospitality shall never be forgotten." Asami bowed her head to pay respect to the shogun of the Land of Iron and renowned leader of the samurai. Her long silken hair caressed her refined kimono.

" ..." Mifune opened his eyes after a long moment of silence. The shogun was an old man, and the years had exacted their toll. Wrinkles covered his face and a series of bandages his head, yet the shogun of the Land of Iron exuded, despite his age, an aura of unquestionable wisdom and dignity. Sitting on a pillow, Mifune welcomed her in the halls of his court and castle among tatami mats and wooden frames and architecture. Numerous vassals and retainers together with their retinues filled the hall to attend her audience. They had gathered to assist their lord and liege even in the matters of diplomacy. Their eyes and gazes watched her, judging her every gesture, but Asami remained unbothered. This wasn't the first time that she had dealt with open distrust and scepticism.

Mifune spoke while stroking his beard, "The honour is all mine, Lady Miyumi. I am grateful to meet you in person. Yet I must confess my surprise. With all due respect, Lady Miyumi, you, a girl no less, are quite young for your position. You even belong to the Hattori clan from what I gathered. I find it highly intriguing that you of all people have been chosen to represent Amegakure considering your age and the shared history between your clan and me. An unusual move, I must say."

Asami maintained her smile, not in the least bothered by his words, before taking a seat. Yuriko and a detachment of Ame-nin were guarding her, accompanying their mistress on her mission. "I must agree, Lord Mifune, an unusual move indeed. Yet I must caution you that sometimes exceptions prove the rule. In the end, age is just a number, regardless of whether we are young or old."

Mifune mused, folding his purple sleeves together, "Your words hold merit, Lady Miyumi. Over the years, I have instructed countless disciples in the ways of the samurai. Many of them have indeed proven wise and capable far beyond their years. I cannot deny, though, that I would have expected a more senior member of your clan to appear before me after what had happened so many years ago. Yet here I am, talking to a girl carrying Hanzo's blood. What irony."

"Lord Mifune, history is full of irony." Asami smiled warmly."What is important is that we never become a prisoner of our past. We should always retain an open mind and not let the past dictate our future."

"True words indeed." Mifune nodded. "In any case, I must ask you, Lady Miyumi, what business brings you all the way here up north? It's a long way from Amegakure."

"A matter of mutual interest, Lord Mifune." Asami beamed.

"That remains to be seen ..." Mifune fell silent. "From what I have gathered, Amegakure proposes a defensive alliance between the both of our countries."

Asami nodded. "You are correct. We hope that Your Lordship finds our proposition acceptable. It would be wonderful if the both of our countries could put their differences, either imaginary or real, aside and embark on a journey of mutual peace and prosperity."

"..." Mifune closed his eyes, contemplating. "You have my ear, so please elaborate, Lady Miyumi. "

Asami continued, "We are a small country. We are a small village surrounded on all sides by powerful enemies. We fear the power of Konoha, of Iwa, of Suna, but not any more! Not with you at our side, not if we stand together, not if your samurai and our ninja fight side at side as brothers in arms."

Asami clenched her fist. "Our enemies would not fear us, but an alliance between our nations would deter them from any further aggression. So please, Lord Mifune, open your heart and help us in these desperate times. Amegakure is weak and we are all but alone. We have come to beseech you to lend us the strength of your hands and your honourable blades."

Mifune neither outright rejected, nor openly welcomed her proposal. His enthusiasm was lukewarm at best. "Your words are sweet and your intentions, without question, noble, Lady Miyumi, but why should we join your cause? An alliance between our both countries would benefit you far more than us. You would gain military protection, meanwhile we would be forced to give up our long cherished neutrality to aid a village far away. With all due respect, Lady Miyumi, I fail to see how joining our forces would in any way benefit us. Quite the contrary, in fact. An alliance would only bring war and destruction to our lands. It would endanger our people after two centuries of peace."

Asami folded her hands while masking her annoyance behind a smile. Her opponent proved to be apt in the ways of words, but as much had to be expected from a samurai of his rank. "Lord Mifune, I do understand your position, but you appear to misunderstand our intentions. This alliance is a project far wider in scope than you seem to realise."


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