Rise of the Kingslayer: The Complete Edition

Takaki Saeko

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Path of the Kingslayer: The Assassination of Kagetsu Kiyo​
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By Imperial Historian Takagi Masao

“So, you want to know who killed the Raikage and connived in the cover-up? Everybody! High officials in all three shinobi branches, missing nin, the NeoKonoha Corporation, and the Shogun himself. Everybody done it – everybody but Yukimura Enishi.”

Kagetsu Kiyo, Seventh Raikage of Kumogakure, was assassinated fifteen years after the start of her second reign in the rear pleasure garden of the Torre Celeste at approximately twelve thirty in the afternoon. Many adult shinobi of Kumogakure, as well as those who have taken a scholarly interest in these unique individuals, remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, and even the topic of conversation at the time at which they first heard the news that the Kagetsu had died, which was considered public knowledge little more than an hour after the event. An independent commission investigating the killing quickly concluded that the assassin, Kagetsu’s own bodyguard Yukimura Enishi, had acted alone and that his actions were the result of the sudden manifestation of a latent personality or an acute psychotic break. Although the commission’s findings were initially supported by the majority of shinobi as well as researchers, there is mounting evidence to suggest that Kagetsu was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy and that many details of the event have been deliberately subject to an information suppression campaign. While there is no evidence to suggest that elements of Bakufuu of Kaminari no Kuni, Holy See of Tenouza, NeoKonoha Corporation, People’s Republic of Marsh Country, or organized crime groups were involved, no one can rule out individual members of these groups, and thus the assassination of widespread debate and has spawned numerous conspiracy theories and alternative scenarios. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Yukimura himself currently remains at large.

It is mainly for this reason that I have embarked on a journey of scholarship attempting to elucidate and clarify many of the facts about Yukimura Enishi, whose role in the assassination, although central, has often been neglected as a subject of study in favor of attempts to discredit the larger groups previously implicated by popular conspiracy theories. He is considered to have been merely a pawn manipulated by a shadowy author meta-gaming against Kumogakure. And yet there is so little organized literature about his origins, life history, and perhaps motivations that I felt the need to rectify this. Fortunately, the basic details of Yukimura’s life are well-known, and it will be possible through interviews as well as collection of primary literature sources to shed some light on the often-ignored “Mad Dog of Cloud”.

Background of the author: Sir Takagi Masao is the senior Imperial Historian in service of the Bakufuu of Kaminari no Kuni and Professor of Military History at Lightning National University at Raiden no Me, with a joint appointment at the Bibliotheca Conscientiae at Kumogakure. His main scholarly interests are shinobi history and warfare and he has published extensively on the subject. His most recent publication, along with Imperial Historian Nakamura Akihiko, is Raikages of Kumogakure: A History of Shinobi Leadership.
 

Takaki Saeko

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Re: Path of the Kingslayer: Introduction

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Path of the Kingslayer: The Assassination of Kagetsu Kiyo
Part 1: Notes from Early Career​
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What follows is a transcription of an interview of a Leftenant-Commander Goemon, a soldier serving in the service of the Imperial Army. As Historian of the Shogunate, I swear to my lords and masters that what I have written is the unaltered truth.

<B>Thank you for agreeing to sit down with me, Leftenant-Commander. I understand that you are a busy man.

It is not an imposition at all, Sir Takagi.

I am one of the Imperial Historians and serve the Bakufuu in this capacity – perhas you may have read my book Raikages of Kumogakure?

I am afraid I am not familiar with that text, Sir.

Oh, uh, fine then. In any case, I am conducting living history interviews in an attempt to catalogue some of the events surrounding the Assassination of the Seventh Raikage of Kumogakure, and I have learned that you had some pretty early contact with one of the key figures in this story.

With all due respect, Sir Takagi, I have no idea what you’re talking about, who the Seventh Raikage is or was, or how I am involved in this.

Understood, Leftenant-Commander. What I am interested in is a particular incident from fifteen years ago when you are involved in the sack of Shimabara in the Daimyo’s service.

That’s a long time ago, Sir.

I’ve been told you have a very sharp memory. Photographic, in fact.

I’m sure that’s a bit overstated. But I’ll help you if I can.

Thank you. Do you remember the battle? Particularly, the involvement of two shinobi from Kumogakure, who you are witnessed to have come into close contact with?

*Sighs* Sadly, yes. Yes I do.

I’d like you to tell me about it. Tell me what you remember.

Very well, Sir Takagi. I’ve been a soldier now for almost thirty years, and I was a Leftenant at the time, having just completed my commissioning from the NCO level. I worked my way up from the bottom. I had recently joined the Fighting Lightning PMC as an Ashigaru and our Commander had taken a contract for the Marquis Amakusa Ryuu ro Kaminari to assist with the suppression of yet another peasant rebellion that had taken place a month ago on his lands.

What are peasant insurrections like?

They’re short, they always fail, and they’re always one-sided. I’ve personally participated in twelve counterinsurgency campaigns over my life and have never lost more than a handful of men in any battle. The reasons they start are always the same, too. A drought hits the land, or there’s a bad harvest, or the local deity gets angry and as a result, there’s not enough crops or water or seed, and they do poorly. The fief-owners usually raise taxes around these times to offset their own falling revenue, and of course the peasants are left with little. This tends to get the young men angry, and then before long, the tax collector gets hanged and mutilated in the town square, barricades go up, and an army, usually a PMC, gets tossed at them.

Do counterinsurgency operations often require the presence of shinobi?

Absolutely not. A peasant attack is a trifling thing. They have no benefit of officers to lead them, nor the basics of formation and weapon drill that even a new recruit has memorized by heart lest his sergeants beat him with greater vigor. Their weapons are a shoddy mix of pitchforks, rakes, and perhaps some rusted swords or pikes that were picked off a battlefield. None of them can fire a bolter nor afford the maintenance to keep one in even substandard condition. Regardless, they simple charge ahead. Our bolter-men can savage their numbers by half when they are being lazy, and the rest of the peasants run right into our pikes. I haven’t had to draw my sword for close combat but twice in many years. Of course we don’t need any help, much less shinobi.

However, for this battle, there were two shinobi involved, weren’t there?

Yes, there were. We were all curious about this, because we know they’re extremely expensive. When I asked my commander why the needless expense, for I am told that even the lowest level shinobi command the daily pay rate of an entire platoon, he replied to me that our employer the Marquis had personally paid for these two to “set an example for the scum” and demonstrate that he was the unquestioned lord of this domain. As if we weren’t enough.

When the two shinobi showed up, what did you think?

It was my first time seeing shinobi from Kumogakure. You must understand, Sir Takagi, that most soldiers never actually see a shinobi, much less one in open battle, and that there are many who believe their very existence to only be a myth. On the surface, they honestly did not look very different from any other nation’s soldiers. Both of them wore battle dress similar to what we employ, which is usually a padded jack with some load-bearing equipment, or a steel cuirass for the officers and those among us who are richer or have scavenged more equipment from the fallen enemy. The only thing very different about either of them from the way they looked was that they wore metal forehead plates with the symbol of Kumo on them, and not even over their foreheads. One of them was taller than the other, and both of them looked quite young, to tell you the truth. The taller one could not have been older than twenty. After hearing of tales of gigantic black-skinned shinobi gods in golden flaming armor named Shinbatsu, I was less than impressed.

When it came time to actually fight the peasants, what happened?

We arrayed ourselves on the battlefield in standard formation outside of Shimbara shortly before twilight. Boltermen in the front with pikemen close behind and cavalry to the flanks and rear to funnel the enemy into the killing zone. The peasant rebels were also arrayed in their excuse for a formation, chanting freedom songs and slogans and banging their weapons on their improvised shields. Usually you don’t have a battle like this so late, but peasant armies are crushed in an hour or less, usually. It was a relatively warm summer day and the winds had stilled, leaving us all sweating in our armor. Back at camp, we were already drawing up plans for victory dinner that same night. To our surprise, Marquis Ryuu showed up personally on horseback at the front, flanked by that sniveling Baron of his as well as the two shinobi.

“You scum are about to learn what it means to cross me!” cackled the Marquis to the peasantry, not even addressing us, and not that we really wanted him to give us a pep talk. He then told our commander to hold back, and sent the shinobi forward, alone. We all rolled our eyes at this point because even against peasants, just two men are going to get killed. You win battles with formation and drill, not by sending teams of two out to get surrounded and hacked to death.

The rebels now charged the two shinobi with the bulk of their forces, probably two hundred of them, mostly men, but some women and even children and elderly. Suddenly, the entire field started to burn as the shinobi made their hand gestures. Geysers of fire blasted from the earth and enveloped dozens of rebels, cooking them alive as they screamed for mercy and a nauseating wave of smoke from burning human flesh hit us all at once. Some rebel heads literally exploded for no reason, eyeballs going opposite directions. Others of them seemed to turn on each other, gibbering and hacking arms and legs off of each other as if possessed, even while their skin melted off in sheets of red ichor. The entire “battle” if you could call it that was over within five minutes. There was literally not a single intact human body on the field from the first wave. The rear line of peasants predictably broke and ran.

Having routed the peasantry from the field, we were now allowed to give chase. Our cavalry managed to cut down a few dozen of the survivors as they fled, but a score or fewer retreated to the actual hamlet itself. At this point, the Marquis ordered my commander to sack the town and told the two shinobi to assist as well. We all marched forward, trying not to actually touch the body parts strewn across the field.

It was now evening. The town was mostly in flames now, but quiet save for the occasional sounds of shooting which I ignored – after all, we were the ones with the crossbolters. I entered a nearby two-story house shortly after, and I admit that I was searching for loot, as is the right of any soldier ordered to bring sack to a city. The house seemed empty, and I had time to set my Kanabo down and prize open a nearby set of drawers. However, I then heard voices coming down the stairs, and reached for my weapon. To my surprise, the two voices were the same shinobi who had accompanied us earlier, who I had only seen at a distance before. I did not know what to do at that point. I had seen them both command the literal fire of Hell at their fingertips only an hour before. I dropped to my knees, only hoping that they would disregard me, which they did. I managed to overhear them speak.

And what did they say?

“What is this, a D-rank mission, Yuki-kun? Wasting our chakra on defenseless sponges so some inbred noble can get his rocks off?” said the shorter one to the taller one, who then answered:

“Actually, it’s a C, Kichigai-kun. And yes, the Marquis is paying Kumo very well to have us pop some balloons, so stop complaining.”

“Dammit, Yuki, we’re trainees for the ANBU! We should be seeking out and fighting missing traitor scum, like Nara Ryuujin!”

“Kichigai, be quiet. When Sennin Santaru Rin gave us our commissions, we promised to serve Kumo to the letter of the law, and if that means wasting our time out here, then we will waste our time and do it well.”

“I don’t get how you can be so rigid, Yuki. Ah well, it’s never fun tying to debate things with you. You’re the most straight and narrow person I know, probably within the entire Corps,” laughed the shorter one. “Hold on a sec, Yuki, I want to find a toilet…” he said.

At that moment, the taller one, Yukimura as I had heard him addressed, simply shrugged and turned to exit. Neither of them apparently cared that I was present, and I prepared to leave. However, at that moment, the shorter one, Kichigai as I had heard him addressed, suddenly cried out in pain, accompanied by the sound of a door slamming open. The kanabo was in my hand and ready to swing, but by then it was too late for Kichigai. One of the peasants who I presume our commander was looking for had apparently hidden in the bathroom of the house, and now had burst out. He was a teenager by the looks of him, but had managed to get his hands on a rusty katana and had sunk it into Kichigai’s belly. I was ready to charge in and kill the rebel, but before I could even move, the boy’s chest exploded, as if a bomb had gone off in his lungs. Yukimura’s hand was outstretched, smoke wafting from it like it had been engulfed in flames just a moment before. He rushed over to his fallen companion, who at the time was still awake.

“Shit! Ryu, are you okay?!” yelled Yukimura, calling the man by what I presume was his first name.

“Yeah, I’m fine… Uggh, I’ll need a tetanus shot. That blade was disgusting,” laughed Kichigai, although now I beheld a thin trickle of blood issuing from his mouth as he coughed. I don’t know if you know anything about battle wounds, Sir Takagi, but if a man is stabbed in the gut and blood flows from his mouth, it means his death is imminent. The enemy’s blade has punctured his bowels, and that even if he does not bleed to death, he will soon succumb to a fever and cataplexy.

“You! Search the house for bandages and antiseptic,” now said Yukimura, addressing me for the first time. I obviously was not going to challenge the orders of a shinobi, no matter if he is outside of my chain of command or not. Not after what I’d seen that day. I ransacked the house, and eventually came back with linens and some soju.

“Shinobi-dono, shall I assist you with carrying him to the company surgeon?” I asked, to which Yukimura shook his head as he poured the alcohol into the bandages and held them against Kichigai’s wound, which did not have much bleeding on the outside.

“No, but thank you, soldier. Part of the rebel’s blade snapped off inside him. I fear that your surgeon’s help will not be enough. I will call my village to send Mednin,” said Yukimura, who was more, how shall I put this, gracious than I had ever expected a shinobi to be. With that, he appeared to dial something into his radio headset, which I was surprised to see – those are usually only issued to company commanders and up. “This is C2 to Command. I need a medevac from Shimabara township, please confirm.”

“C2, this is Sileo Command. Medevac units are unavailable at this time. Continue with your original mission,” responded a voice over the headset.

“Sileo, trainee Kichigai is severely injured. He probably needs emergent surgery. If no medevac is available, I’m requesting permission to transport him back myself,” protested Yukimura.

“Negative, C2. Continue with the mission until the timeframe is up. We will send a medical team tomorrow. Over and out,” said the same headset voice. I saw a look of incredulity and rage pass over Yukimura’s face, before being replaced by a look of disgust.

“Yuki, it’s fine…I’m good. Maybe just let me sleep it off for a few. They’ve got the town under wraps anyway…” said Kichigai now, patting his companion on the hand. I could tell he was starting struggle now. His face appeared flushed and he was sweating despite the cold air around us. Now the shinobi’s eyes met mine.

“Soldier, bring your company surgeon here. I don’t care how many others he has to treat first, this can’t wait. And make sure he washes his hands with alcohol or soap before he touches my comrade! …Please,” said Yukimura to me. I nodded to him. Our surgeon had saved quite a few men before, but usually those were cases where a gangrenous limb could be amputated or a bleeding vessel sewn shut. I had never seen a gut wound like this survive before, but I wasn’t going to question the shinobi.

I made my way back to the field camp and retrieved Major Takanashi, the surgeon, before too long, and we headed back to the house with the surgeon’s assistant following us as well. Although the Major visibly scoffed when I asked him to wash the blood and grime from his fingers before treating to injured shinobi, he assented, probably feeling that Yukimura was in no mood to argue. After all, the Major had seen these shinobi in action same as us.

Yukimura had clearly been active during this time as well. As he approached him, he had his hands splayed open over his companion’s body, a pale green light radiating from them and enveloping Kichigai’s body. But Kichigai now looked worse. His face had gone from flushed and warm, to pale and almost purple around his lips, and instead of forming coherent sentences as he had done before, he now only moaned or slurred obscenities as if drunk. When the Major asked Yukimura if he had given the man alcohol, the shinobi shook his head. We took off the injured shinobi’s armor and clothing. The wound itself, although bloodless, was now a horrid-looking crater that oozed pus, and the man’s abdomen was now grotesquely swollen, as if pregnant.

“He has a blood infection, and his abdomen has gone to rot. There is no surgery or amputation that I can perform to save him at this time. Even Penicillin will be of no avail in this case. I am afraid he’s going to die, shinobi-dono. I’m very sorry,” said the Major, to which Yukimura’s eyes flashed with anger, only to be quickly replaced by tears as he realized the truth of Major Takanashi’s words. He again dialed a signal into his radio headset.

“Sileo Command! This is C2! I am DEMANDING emergency medevac for trainee Kichigai! He is about to die! We have tried everything we can for him here! He needs the Curatio!”

“C2, we acknowledge. We still have no availability. Secure the body for transport to the morgue. Follow appropriate bloodline protection protocols. Over and out.”

“Damn you! Are you even listening to me?! I said he’s going to DIE! Do you not give a fuck!? Once again, Emergency Medevac to my location! The landing coordinates are… Fuck… Alpha Niner …Four Zero Charlie …Delta…dammit…” he stopped as he realized that for the last few minutes he had been speaking to the air. As he sank to his knees, the Major and the surgeon’s mate quietly left, having seen this same scene play out many thousands of times in the past. For some reason, I stayed.

Kichigai’s breaths now grew shallower and shallower, every lungful increasingly hard-won. Now the man was silent, even though his eyes remained wide open, almost grotesquely protuberant. Yukimura was silent now, only cradling the man’s head in his lap. Eventually, Kichigai breathed no more. I sat next to them, transfixed as if I had never seen a man die before. I have killed many in my life, seen many a fellow soldier die in many gruesome ways, but this even gave pause to my hardened core. I realized soon after that the sun was starting to come up. Yukimura now finally spoke to me, without meeting my eyes.

“Solider…you’d better leave. They’ll be sending a body-retrieval team soon. I don’t want you caught up with them by accident.”

I nodded and made ready to depart back to the camp, ready to forget all of this.

“Thanks…” he muttered.

“What’s your name, shinobi-dono?” I asked for some reason, despite wanting to forget what I’d seen overnight.

“I’m…Yukimura. Yukimura…Enishi.”

I left without giving him my name. I somehow did not feel right to burden him with yet another reminder of his companion’s death. As I exited the house, the first rays of dawn hit my eyes, which to my surprise were wet. I know not what became of this Enishi, but I felt sorry for him, even despite the horror he had wrought upon the peasants only hours before. He was in my estimation in that moment the loneliest man on the face of the earth.

My apologies, Sir Takagi, but I really do not wish to speak any more on this. I have been trying to forget that night for a while now.

I understand completely, Leftenant-Commander. You have my gratitude and that of the Shogun’s.

Afterword: I bid my farewells to the Leftenant-Commander and gave my thanks to his superior officer for allowing my interview to proceed. Many think of having an eidetic memory as a blessing. Indeed, for many people it very well may be, however for a warrior such as my interview subject it seems to have been more of a curse. It is hard to believe that this man recounted events to me with such clarity that in actuality took place fifteen years ago, right at the start of the second reign of the Raikage Kagetsu Kiyo, whose murder is what has inspired me to seek out individuals connected with Yukimura Enishi, the man commonly implicated in her death. In the interest of sharing this history with the world, I now proceed to the libraries of Kumogakure.
 

Takaki Saeko

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Re: Path of the Kingslayer: The Complete Edition

Path of the Kingslayer: The Assassination of Kagetsu Kiyo
Part 2: The Assassination​
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In order to better understand the assassination of Kagetsu Kiyo, I decided to start my research in Kumogakure at the very place in which the defining event of the last two decades occurred. That is, the scene of her death. Using my authority as Imperial Historian, and presenting my credentials signed by the Chancellor’s hand to the current Sennin of their ANBU, I managed to obtain an escorted tour of the pleasure gardens, accompanied by the second in command, or Vice Commander, of their ANBU. Coincidentally, the man’s name is similar to mine, and he also had the passion of a historian in recounting the events of the day.

The actual pleasure gardens are a sight to behold. A perfectly-apportioned oasis of serenity in the center of a bustling shinobi village overlooked by the Torre Celeste, itself a symbol of the ultimate authority that the Raikage holds over the lives of its inhabitants. Geographically in the center of the village, it should also be the most difficult to access. The Vice Commander and I stood here in the late afternoon, and he began to speak.

“These are the gardens, where it happened. Where the most shameful event in the history of the Ansatsu Senjutsu Tokushu Butai was allowed to take place. The assassination of a standing Raikage. In our village. In the most secure location within Kumogakure!” growled Takaki, lighting a cigarette now and taking a deep drag from it. Loosening the tie he wore and unbuttoning the top of his shirt, he faced me again. “Kagetsu Kiyo had reigned for fifteen years at this point. Over this time she had made a lot of allies and friends, although she had never taken a husband. If there was any man she would have considered tying the knot with, though, it would have had to be Sunuke. Former Chancellor of the Bakufuu back in the days before Tachibana Ami took control. He had told her he was coming to visit today. She, obviously, was delighted to hear this. In a total breach of all protocol, she dismissed the rest of the Raikage Guard except for Captain Yukimura, who has been her shadow for the last thirteen years and was inseparable from her in public and probably in private. Asshole thought he was her son with some implied incest on top or something, from what I know.

“Back to the Torre now. Onto these grounds on which we walk, the Raikage and Captain Yukimura exited out the back door. They had no idea what they were in for,” said Takaki, gesturing to the iron gate, cigarette burning between two extended fingers. As the Vice Commander spoke, I was able to see the events of the past play for me through my historian’s eye, as clear as day.

Kagetsu and Yukimura emerge from the Torre Celeste, her arm interlinked with his. On her face was writ happiness – and of course she would have no reason to feel otherwise, for this was a long-awaited reunion between her and Sunuke. As had become usual for him in the last year, Enishi was laconic, merely smiling faintly in response to most of her statements.

“Chairman Sunuke stands in the garden, dressed in a dashing white suit, bearing a bouquet of flowers – yellow lilies for her. He is accompanied by two servants, but no bodyguards – after all, why would he need them? This is the Torre Celeste of Kumogakure – the safest godrotting place in the country, probably the world. He now speaks her, presents her the flowers. She smiles and laughs. You can tell that there was probably something else going on between the two other than mere friendship,” Takaki conjectured, closing his eyes and taking a drag off the cigarette.

Kagetsu allows Sunuke to kiss her hand. He lingers a bit overlong – she does not mind at all. A blush falls over her cheeks, and over Enishi’s normally serene expression, a brief, unnoticeable look of pain. As Kagetsu gives the bouquet to one of the nearby servants, she now take Sunuke’s hand and begins to lead him over to a nearby table set with pitchers of ice water and sweet snacks. Two wrought-iron chairs had been pulled out, ready to seat the two for a pleasurable afternoon of chatter admixed with flirtation. Like a perpetual shadow, Yukimura looms behind Kagetsu, his presence not unwanted but also not acknowledged.

Before Kagetsu and Sunuke can sit down, however, a rustling noise from the far wall alerts everyone’s senses, and Yukimura’s ears prick up as well. Silently, he rushes forward, placing himself between Kiyo and the new source of noise. Over the walls leap six men now, five of them with hooded and covered faces and nondescript shinobi garb, and the sixth, in the center, with face uncovered. The lead figure is a blond, shaggy-haired man who looks to be in his thirties, whose forehead protector displays a crudely scratched-over symbol of the NeoKonoha Corporation and announces to the world that he is a missing shinobi. This is Tanaka Daishi.


“Now, they’re staring at six men with bolters drawn, all of them trained on Kiyo. This was not some prank or misunderstanding. This was an assassination attempt…” said Masao, dropping the cigarette on the grass and smothering it under his boot.

Yukimura is stone-faced as his arms cross each other in a fluid motion, hands diving for twin 10mm caliber Gateru M1911A3 pistol bolters holstered under each shoulder. He has been practicing his entire life for this moment, and his training fails him not. His weapons are now pointed at the invaders, who shift their aim from Kiyo to him as he had intended for them to do.

Masao now spoke again, his voice barely audible as he shook with rage. “The Torre Celeste of Kumogakure has just been compromised. The unthinkable has happened. And for a few seconds, this place…this place was Armageddon.” He breathed deeply, surveying the garden.

“THERE WAS A FIREFIGHT!!!” roared the Vice Commander, throwing his hands in the air, fingers spread as if receiving benediction.

The brief moment of shocked silence now erupts into hell on Earth. Around, in front of, and in back of the two, glass tabletops and pitchers of water explode into shards and droplets as bolts pass through them, blowing fist-sized holes in exposed sections of stucco wall. The trunks of the small orange and lemon trees growing in the shade now split and warp as they too are hit, sending their fruit tumbling to the ground. I could now see the servitors panicking, the more cognizant of them dropping their trays and attempting to dive for any cover amidst the exploding grounds, and the less fortunate simply frozen in place, convulsing as the bolts entered their bodies and exited, spraying crimson in the air. They fall to the ground, writhing in their death throes.

As if conducting this terrible symphony, the Vice Commander’s arms waved in synchrony, his face elegiac with torturous ecstasy.

Yukimura bares his gritted teeth now, lips thin and eyes like obsidian as he sidesteps languidly to the left, always keeping himself between the Raikage and the attackers. The twin bolters in his hands fire one after the other in methodical fashion like assault clockwork, the recoil of the projectiles pushing their barrels up slightly with every shot. Bolts crash into his white cuirass, showering sparks as they are deflect, shatter on contact, or penetrate, sending drops of crimson spurting out onto the ground and his armor. His face is stony and registers no pain. Kagetsu attempts to flee behind him, going for the tower as she had been trained to. Her bodyguard is to act as a shield – the last line of defense and offense. Sunuke has rolled out of the way and is nowhere to be seen.

One by one, the hooded men fall, pieces of skull flying in the air as Yukimura’s bolts smash into brain matter or penetrate their armor and sever aortas and rupture hearts. Tanaka Daishi has been wounded in the firefight as well, and his face contorts with hatred as his index finger detaches from his right hand and flies through the air along with pieces of shattered crossbolter. He falls to a knee, pale with blood loss from wounds to his torso, and roars an order at a surviving henchman, who now leaps forward at the same time Yukimura starts to reload. The Captain is no fool and abandons the process, dropping the weapons and starting to form handseals. The attacker however sidesteps around Yukimura, ignoring him while drawing a small, poisoned blade, intending to plunge it into Kagetsu’s chest.

This is where the world starts to unfurl. A small, derringer-style crossbolter now appears in the Raikage’s hand. It is her holdout piece that she keeps strapped to her thigh – more of a fashion statement than actual defense, but still lethal if it hits the right place. With a sharp crack, the first bolt enters the front of the henchman’s throat, severing his spine and dropping him to the ground. And yet Kagetsu is also drowning in a sudden rush of adrenaline, making her unable to recognize that she had neutralized the threat in one shot. Her finger pulls the trigger a second time.

The bolt narrowly misses the falling man’s head and sinks into the small of Yukimura’s unprotected back. It exits out the front of his left lower abdomen, blowing chunks of his already cracked and battered armor forward. His eyes register shock and pain, and a thin stream of red shoots from his mouth as he gasps for air. Reflexively, he completes the handseals he had already begun for an impalement jutsu and whirls around, delivering a response to the threat as he had been trained by his Captains in the ANBU and their Captains before them.

Kagetsu’s eyes widen with shock as the lance of pure destructive energy enters her chest, delivering enough energy to kill a hundred armored men standing in a line before losing potency. It emerges from her back, knocking a head-sized hole in the impregnable stone façade of the Torre itself. Enishi’s gaze now finally meets hers and he realizes what he was done, his horror a stark contrast to the look of serenity in hers as she begins to fall backward.


Takaki now held his own pistol bolter in the air, firing it as he threw his head back and roared in agonized catharsis. He sank to his knees, spent and drenched with sweat.

Yukimura runs over to Kiyo, throwing himself to the ground on his knees next to her as he attempts to attend to her wounds. Checking her pulse and finding nothing, he grabs her by the shoulders, shaking her and screaming at her to wake for him, just once, for the sake of Raiden and Shinbatsu and all that is holy, for she is his mother and cannot die and abandon her son like this. But her eyes remain closed, a faint smile on her bloodless face. Further shaking produces no results, and silently, as he realizes that she is indeed dead, he clutches her tightly, his body heaving with sobs.

The alarms have now reached the rest of the village, and in the distance, a multitude of footfalls can be heard as ANBU Raikage Guard and Mednin Pararescue squads converge on the gardens. Looking up from the Raikage’s body with his blood-and-tear-streaked face, Yukimura’s expression changes to one of resolve. Gently, he kisses her on the forehead one last time and lays her down, placing her hands together over her chest. He rises and turns, striding over to Tanaka Daishi’s prone form and rolling the man over with a foot. Tanaka’s eyes flutter open, and the missing nin tries to reach for a nearby crossbolter, only to have Yukimura’s foot stomp on his wrist.

“Do you want to live?!” he growls to Tanaka as he hoists the man by his hair and holds a knife to his throat. Tanaka can only nod weakly in response. After a second of thought, Yukimura slings the blond-haired shinobi’s body over his shoulder and starts his run toward the walls. With the clanging sound, the gates to the garden now fly open as ANBU storm the grounds. Seeing Kagetsu dead and Yukimura fleeing, they open fire with their crossbolters, but are too late, and with a single leap, Enishi and Daishi are over the walls.


“And that…is how it happened,” said Takaki, glowering. It has been worth it to visit this place. Coming here has allowed me to see what happened that fateful day. To see that Yukimura Enishi was the man who killed Kagetsu Kiyo, but that he would not have done so except for the intervention of Tanaka Daishi. And yet questions remain. Why did he not simply execute or capture Tanaka? Why did he, a senior Captain of the Raikage’s Guard, not submit to questioning when he could have easily given testimony that would have cleared his name? Was it his pride as a shinobi or was it something else? For that, I will have to explore Yukimura’s personal journals.
 

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Re: Path of the Kingslayer: The Complete Edition

Path of the Kingslayer: The Assassination of Kagetsu Kiyo
Part 3: Enishi’s Journal, Entry 1​
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What follows here is a transcription of a journal kept by Yukimura Enishi himself from the early days of his career in the Raikage’s Honor Guard up until shortly before his assassination of Raikage Kagetsu Kiyo. The date of this first entry is approximately summer of 14 BSE, and recounts events of the previous few months which are summarized into his entries. Yukimura did not write frequently in his journal, instead preferring to summarize events of several months, and sometimes years in duration. As can be expected, there are occasional omissions, inconsistencies, factual errors, and much editorial content present in his entries, and these cannot be taken as a completely objective recounting of history. However, they are valuable in that they give us a unique insight into the mental workings of the man, as well as previously unpublished accounts of his interactions with Kagetsu Kiyo.

I wish to thank Sennin Santaru Rin and Vice Commander Takaki Masao of the ANBU, as well as Kagetsu Kiyo herself, who authorized my access to Yukimura’s writings and allowed me to publish the contents as a matter of public record. Obviously, I am subject to Lightning Country regulations forbidding the publication of sensitive military intelligence or information that could affect ongoing shinobi operations or the search for Yukimura himself. I will notify the reader if I have redacted any content within these entries. And now to let the man himself speak.

-Takagi Masao


The things I do for my country. Where do I begin?

My name is Yukimura Enishi. At this time I am twenty years old, and I am a shinobi of Kumogakure, specifically a corporal of the Ansatsu Senjutsu Tokushu Butai, or ANBU for short. We are the secret protectors of our village and country, sent to do the tasks that the Main Branch considers dishonorable, and that the Medical Branch considers too unmerciful. Our job is single in purpose: to extinguish life by any means necessary, if that life should merely think to endanger the nation or the masters who control it. Speaking of masters, mine is the Seventh Raikage of Kumogakure: Lady Kagetsu Kiyo. And it was she who requested that I should start to write in this diary.

Although I am no fool to think that these words shall ever be read by any other than I and Lady Kiyo, I do feel compelled to organize these passages into something more coherent than what I had envisioned at first. After all, The Lady demands perfection from her servants, and most of all those who she is to trust with her life and peace of mind. Therefore, let me start with a bit about myself.

I was born in Kumogakure to shinobi parents like most of my peers, and of course I attended the academy as soon as I was able to mold chakra with my childish hands. Along with the others, I endured all of the privations that at the time were a living hell but now I am grateful for. The forced stretching until our ligaments tore under the strain of hundred-pound weights, the ill-disguised beatings that our instructors administered to us under the guise of sparring practice, the hours kneeling naked in the know in the dead of winter… What I truly feared most was the sensory deprivation tanks, however. Regardless, I survived, and my skills were noticed by the ANBU at that time. I was immediately inducted into their training program, and spent the next five years on battlefields across the country and the world. It is truly amazing what years of fighting, drinking, and whoring will do for a young man’s development. When I finally earned my mask, I was nineteen years old and ready to kill anyone and anything for the glory of our village, our faith, and our society. Imagine my disappointment when I found that my first assignment was not to ruthlessly slaughter heretics and traitors in Shinbatsu’s name, but rather to guard the Raikage in Kumo.

(By the way, one of My Lady’s orders to me as part of writing my diary was that I should above all be honest with my recollection and events as well as my own feelings, even if they are embarrassing or potentially heretical. By writing truthfully, she says, I am forced to confront my own soul on paper and thus overcome my own deficiencies. I wonder if this will prove true in the end.)

I remember that I was resentful. I had finally earned my mask after years of bloodshed and fighting, during which although there were many pleasurable memories, there were also many nights spent shivering and miserable in disease-ridden trenches with the booming of arbalestillery in the background making it impossible to sleep, and many companions lost as well. And now rather than putting my skills to use where they were most needed, I was to let them atrophy making a show of guarding an old woman in the safest location in the safest village in Kaminari no Kuni? I showed up at inspection with a heavy heart and a sour face.

The ANBU Sennin at the time was Akira Saito, who had been called back into duty after the retirement of Santaru Rin, under whose graces I had entered training. He had always been a stern but fair man, and could tell that I was displeased. I expected him to cuff me for my insolence, but instead, he merely gave me a wrinkled smile and playfully slapped me on the cheek after adjusting my cuirass.

“You should always look and feel your best for a beautiful woman,” he said to me before turning to face the Raikage as she entered the room. What I saw took me aback. Despite spending the majority of my training outside Kumogakure, I of course kept apprised of who my masters were back in Kumo, as any loyal shinobi should. I knew that Kagetsu Kiyo, who had originally been the first Raikage, had stepped in to take leadership of the village after Lord Shinbatsu’s sudden ascension. At this point it had been decades since her initial reign, and I expected an old crone who would sooner die of old age than any assassination attempt on her person. The rumors about her not having aged a day past twenty were merely self-serving vanity which we all tolerated because she was our better.

I have attached a small cameo portrait of Lady Kiyo here because sometimes even I cannot still believe my eyes sometimes. The woman who stepped forward to inspect us was not merely some hunchbacked grandmother with crows feet etched into her face, but instead…breathtaking to behold. I am not ashamed to admit that my first reaction was a surge of desire. (You did tell me to be honest in this diary, My Lady.) She was as young and beautiful as that portrait of her in that hoary old “Raikages of Kumogakure” book made her out to be. In fact, she looked even younger than most of us young men and women there, save for her eyes.

I saw that as she silently passed by us, Akira Saito at her side. I think that she managed to look directly into the soul of each of us as she carried out the ceremonial inspection, because when her eyes met mine, I felt as if my very consciousness had been pierced through by a very sharp and old blade that tested my mettle and weighed my conscience to a degree to make any greedy Tenouzan jeweler envious in that half-second. My knees grew weak, but I kept my posture as demanded. After she had cast her gaze over each of us, Akira Saito started to speak.

“New operatives of the ANBU, you have all been selected to the Raikage’s Honor Guard because you were the best. You take on the responsibility of guarding the soul of the village, for if the Raikage should fall, so do we all,” he said, with his characteristic laconic style. It was now the Raikage’s turn to speak.

“Thank you, ANBU of Kumogakure. Many of you know that my first reign ended with a grave mistake that nearly cost our village its identity. I am here to promise you that I will not allow that to happen again. I will secure a future for all of you, my children,” she said, her voice mellifluous and yet calmly assured. With that, our inspection was over and we were sent to the Torre barracks.

In truth, Sennin Akira’s words and even Lady Kiyo’s words did not reassure me much regarding my original worries – that this was in essence a dead-end path for a young ANBU to be sent down early in his career. My fellow trainees who had been assigned to the Hunter-Nin division were excited to have gotten their first missions to track down a group of missing chuunin. Others who I had been friends with were assigned to the Rapid Deployment Force and had just left to quell an uprising near Port Cirrus. And here I was, cooling my heels in the Torre Celeste. As we unpacked our bags and got ready to change into our formal dress uniforms for our meeting with our squad captains, I got the chance to meet some of the others who had been thrust into this dead-end job.

“Hey you!” said a cheerful blonde next to me who extended her hand in greeting. I took hers, shaking it with a limper wrist than I was used to presenting. “I’m Seryuu! Yukibitas Seryuu,” she said, grinning.

“Yukimura Enishi,” I said, tentatively, nodding my head. She was pretty – not as striking as Lady Kiyo had been, but with her own airy charm.

“Ah, so that’s your name! The rest of us were talking about you. The Raikage seemed like she was really interested in you in particular. Don’t sleep with the boss, you hear?!” she said, poking me in the ribs, playfully, to which I gasped and stuttered.

“What?! I would do no such thing…” I started to protest indignantly.

“Relax! I didn’t mean it like that! I can tell you’re a really straight-shooter kind of guy. My justice sensor let me know that,” said Seryuu back to me playfully.

“Of course I am. I want nothing but to serve my Raikage and my country,” I said, clearing my throat.

“You’re pretty cute, you know that? No wonder Kagetsu-sama seemed to dwell on you a bit more than the rest. I’m actually not joking about that. We’re all pretty perceptive, you know,” she said.

“Well, I don’t expect to be here long anyway. I’m putting my request in for transfer at the end of the month as protocol allows. I’ve already decided,” I said shrugging.

“Oh? What do you want to do instead of this?”

“I’m going to go Hunters, of course. Missing traitors and other scum are the most dangerous of threats and my skills are needed to bring swift retribution to their numbers,” I said, smiling back at her.

“Oh, so you’re one of those types,” she said, shrugging. I rolled my eyes – it seemed like they were letting all sorts of delinquent types into the ANBU these days. I would rectify that when I reached command level.

“Yes, I certainly am one of those types. I believe we need to be getting ready to meet with our squad captain, Corporal Yukibitas,” I said to her, annoyed. Really, she was intolerable. I decided to break off the conversation there, only more convinced in the rightness of my decision. She laughed back at me, which I ignored as I proceeded to the separate changing station.

Of course, my fate must have been running out that day, since upon meeting our squad captain, one Jaeda Yomoko by name, I noted that one of the four others in my squad was indeed that annoying corporal Seryuu. As Captain Jaeda went over our duty assignments and shift schedule, I attempted to ignore the girl as best I could. At this point, I was set on doing my required duty and getting the hell out of this assignment as soon as possible. Surely Sennin Akira would heed my earnest pleas and transfer me to the Hunters or at the very least the Rapid Deployment Force.

The rest of the month went by as one might expect – no action, lots of boredom, and lots of annoyance. Granted, not everything was bad about being the Raikage’s Honor Guard. Our uniforms were much fancier than the standard ANBU combat BDU. Instead of a bulky cuirass and stuffy mask, we wore tailored suits of pure white and reflective dark glasses to cover our identities. Our quarters were much better than anything in the Sileo Tempestas, and our on-duty shifts were shorter in general – mainly to keep us at top vigilance. In general I got along with the others. Captain Jaeda was professional and affable, but he wasn’t exactly Sennin material and seemed more concerned with keeping his squad harmonious than advancing his own career. The other two men in the squad, Suoh Tamaki and Ootori Kyouya, were well-mannered but were both best friends from the academy and tended to keep mostly to themselves when not on duty. And then there was Seryuu. Combat-wise she was acceptable, as she proved during sparring and practice. She was disciplined enough to serve as a guard and knew when to keep her mouth shut during a shift. However, in our off-hours, she tormented me to no end with her incessant socialization, insisting that I go out with her for drinks or fritter away my valuable training time on other pointless frivolities. When I asked her if she would be better served devoting her efforts to improving her skills, she would merely giggle and tell me not to be such a “stick in the mud.” Regardless, I maintained my professional decorum and tolerated her silliness like Sennin Akira on the Cross.

I received a summons to the Raikage’s office at the start of the last week of the month. It was early fall, and I was already starting to look forward to my new squad and new career path. This early in one’s career, I knew, to be summoned before the highest power in Kumo was either a really good thing or a really bad thing. Sennin Akira and Captain Jaeda were indisposed, so I went to the office without the benefit of counsel. Outside, two of my colleagues stood watch and silently let me in. I could feel their stares behind their sunglasses and resisted the urge to sneer back. Inside, the Raikage Herself sat at her desk, looking up from a sheaf of papers, and beckoned for me to approach her as the doors swung shut. As had been the protocol during Lord Shinbatsu’s tenure as our Raikage, when I was within a few meters of her, I immediately prostrated myself, forehead to the ground, palms spread and upturned. To which, surprisingly at the time, Lady Kiyo laughed. A musical, pleasant-sounding laugh.

“Rise, Corporal Yukimura Enishi. I am not Shinbatsu, I have never claimed to be a God, and neither you nor any other shinobi of Kumogakure is required to grovel in front of me. I merely ask for you not to fiddle with your cellphone while addressing me,” said Lady Kiyo, bending forward with an amused look on her face. I followed her command, standing at attention and not really knowing what to do.

“Will you take some tea, Corporal?” she asked, to my horror walking over to a nearby tea service and preparing two cups.

“No! I mean, Raikage-sama, you are too kind, but I cannot request, er, I cannot burden you with…” I started to stammer as she brought the steaming liquid over.

“Relax. Now that’s an order,” she said to me. “I always take afternoon tea, myself. And dispense with calling me ‘Raikage-sama’ when we are in private. My name is Kiyo. I understand that you may have some reservations about addressing the Kage of the village by her proper name, so if you wish, you can call me something else, just not by my title. Understood?”

“Yes, My Lady,” I responded. No way in hell was I going to address the supreme commander of Kumogakure by her given name.

“May I call you Enishi?” she now asked.

“My Lady may address me in any fashion she pleases,” I mumbled.

“Thank you. Now, I know we are both busy people, so I will not waste your time. Please take a seat. Do you know why I called you here, Enishi?” she asked me, sitting down at her desk. It was smaller than I expected it to be – certainly no match for the massive granite slab that was Akira Saito’s office space.

“I do not. I hope that I have done nothing that displeases you, My Lady,” I responded.

“No, you haven’t,” she said. I felt a surge of relief – my career wasn’t over yet. “I wanted to talk to you about your transfer request.” My heart sank. Damn that Saito, I thought. He had ratted me out. “Did you not expect me to know everything about the activities of those with whom I am to trust my life?” she asked. I shook my head – it was the logical thing for her to do, after all. “You have an impressive record. Not one criminal offense, academic or training deficiency, or even informal reprimand on your record. You graduated the academy at the top of your class and you were even mentioned in dispatches as an ANBU trainee. ‘Citation for Exceptional Valor’ during the battle of Sekigahara. You also saved your entire platoon from certain death during the siege of Tomoyama. The list goes on and on. You are, in essence, the perfect shinobi of Kumogakure, and the perfect ANBU.”

“My Lady praises me too much,” I said, looking down at my feet.

“No, it’s actually quite justified. Given those facts, you have probably wondered this month why you were placed in my Honor Guard, a position usually reserved for operatives nearing retirement or those with less ambition than yourself. You are wondering why you weren’t placed in the Hunter squads and sent to bring me back the heads of our traitors, right?”

“Yes, My Lady,” I responded, with a growing sense of indignation – everything she had said was correct. So why was I in this position? Without warning, her fingertips were under my chin, lifting my head so that our eyes met. She leaned over the desk, her lips dangerously close to my own. I was of course, frozen in place.

“The reason was because I requested it. I had to see you myself to be absolutely sure, but I have a feeling about you, Enishi. A feeling that you are something more than just the perfect shinobi – the perfect tool - of Kumogakure. I can’t explain the specifics, but as I’ve observed you over the past month I am now absolutely certain that I am correct about you, even if you do not realize this yourself. I would like you to stay with me for the time being. I would like to nurture this unique aspect of yours that fascinates me so,” she said, her gaze intoxicating.

“Does My Lady wish my company in bed?” I asked. Immediately, I regretted saying that – it had been a stupid, impulsive show of youthful bravado and the fact that she was a damned fine-looking woman. I expected a quick slap, but only earned a giggle.

“Please, Enishi. I am old enough to be your mother. Actually, your grandmother. But I appreciate the complimentary thought!” she laughed. My cheeks now burned brightly. “I’m not a nun, mind you, but I don’t think of you that way. Rather, what I was trying to impress upon you was that I see in you great hidden potential that even I do not understand. And I am very curious as to what you might become later. But if you transfer out of my Guard, then we shall not be able to be as close to each other. So I am asking if you’ll consider staying, at least for now.”

“I will do whatever My Lady orders,” I responded, not knowing what to think.

“Unlike before, this is not an order. It’s an actual request. If you decline, I will not punish you. I am sure you will make an outstanding Hunter-nin,” she said, leaning back in her chair. I could not help but notice that the sunlight shining through the glass window in back of her gave Lady Kiyo an angelic appearance. I felt that I could trust her...

“I want…” I started to say, realizing how absolutely ridiculous this situation was. The Raikage was offering me a choice. This was simply unheard of. “I will stay in the Honor Guard…” I said, in disbelief at myself for making such a career decision. “…For the next month, at least,” I added quickly, seeking to give myself some leeway in what seemed like a suddenly permanent situation. Lady Kiyo simply smiled mysteriously in response.

“I will notify Sennin Akira, then. You are dismissed. I will call for you when the time is right.”

And with that, I exited her office unsure of what I had just entered into. That night I also took up Seryuu’s offer to go out as well. Things were starting to change, and I was only barely starting to scratch the surface.
 

Takaki Saeko

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Re: Path of the Kingslayer: The Complete Edition

Path of the Kingslayer: The Assassination of Kagetsu Kiyo
Part 4: Enishi’s Journal, Entry 2

A few days after I formally withdrew my request for transfer, Lady Kiyo summoned me again. I still did not know what she had meant when she talked about developing some inner talent of mine, but I was willing to find out. Kyouya and Tamaki stood guard outside her door and waved me in with their synchronized smiles. Inside, Lady Kiyo sat at her desk, sipping tea.

“Enishi, thank you for coming on such short notice. I have a personal request that falls outside of your normal duties. I hate to sound so lame, but I need you to make a delivery for me,” she said, pointing to a rather simple-looking leather box sitting on her desk. It had a hinged lid and clasp, and as far as I could tell, no lock. That alone was not a problem, given that a live shinobi guard was far better than any tumbler in terms of deterring theft. “I need you to take this box to the Shogun’s Chief Imperial Librarian in Raiden’s Eye. Of course, the contents are classified, and you should not let it fall into the wrong hands. Can I trust you to do this?” she asked.

“Of course, My Lady,” I said, bowing and inwardly rolling my eyes. For all that talk about “developing my potential,” whatever that was, this was turning out to be a rather lame way of doing so. After all, I’d done plenty of petty delivery quests as a genin, and this was really no different save for the fact that I’d be changing cities.

“Thank you, Enishi. Enjoy the fall weather,” she said, bidding me farewell. With a certain bemusement, I picked up the box and made my way out of the Torre and out of the village proper. The trip was uneventful down the mountain and for the remainder of the foothills. The lowlands, however, were a different story. As I rounded a bend between a copse of trees and the riverbank, I detected the telltale signs of an ambush in wait. The signs were not subtle at all, really. The hastily-disguised tracks, the rustling of the bushes, and the sounds of metal scraping against sheaths all signaled that I was about to be the “victim” of a highway robbery attempt. Shaking my head, I continued forward, chuckling at the inevitability of it all. Predictably, I soon found myself surrounded by six men armed with blades and spears, all of them pointed at me.

“Just put the box down and we’ll let you live,” said one of them, a tall, scraggly-looking man who pointed a bolter at my face.

“And I’ll make you the same offer if you put that bolter down,” I quipped back, causing the men to tense. I resisted the urge to laugh.

“We want your money, not your life, but we’ll take both!” insisted another.

“No, the REAL issue is that you’re making me late for an appointment,” I said, sighing. Now this was getting annoying. Did they not realize that I was a shinobi, no less an ANBU?!

“Dammit, just kill him!” said the one in front, drawing his blade to strike. The poor fools still did not know who they were dealing with – or perhaps they were part of a mass suicide cult. Either way, I decided that this farce was over. Before any of them could strike, the box hit the ground and my sword and bolter were in my hands. And three seconds later, which is by the way, slow for me, five men lay on the ground convulsing in their death throes, and my boot was planted firmly on the remaining one’s chest.

“Please…” croaked the young bandit as I stood over him, blade pointed at his throat. I had cut off one of his arms at the elbow joint, as well as his right foot. He would be dead in a matter of minutes, no matter how enthusiastically he pleaded for life. I was able to take a closer look at him now: his cheeks were gaunt and pale, and his teeth rotted partway with scurvy, making him seem much older than he probably was. Rather than being experienced, well-armed brigands, the men I had just dispatched looked more like rice farmers, and thus mostly unfit to fight, as this one had clearly shown. They probably would have shied away from trying to hold up any decently-guarded merchant caravan, but had made the fatal error of misjudging the single courier they had thought me to be, and for their mistake they had received a shinobi’s killing edge. As I flicked my wrist and sent my blade across his neck to give him a quick end, I briefly wondered what had made these farmers desperate enough to turn to highway robbery.

Then again, such matters were none of my concern, I chided myself. I was a shinobi of Kumogakure, and more than that, an ANBU – elite among the elites. I existed to serve the Raikage, who in turn was an ally to the Shogun and whose strength allowed us to live comfortable, well-appointed lives within our village. The peasants of Lightning were mere ants in comparison, and if they suffered, it was due to the will of Raiden. As I whipped my sword in the air to divest the steel of clinging blood, I realized that in my haste to crush my attackers I had become separated from Lady Kiyo’s package. A brief moment of panic ensued, but was quickly replaced by relief as I saw the box laying undisturbed on a patch of gravel nearby. Fortunately my brief moment of negligence had not resulted in any severe consequences, or so I thought.

As I picked it up, I realized too late that the clasp on the lid had somehow come undone, and as a result, a bundle of papers fell to the ground. Truth be told, my first reaction was not anger, or fear, or shame, but rather, incredulity. My lady had told me that I was transporting dangerous cargo that could compromise national security, not a bunch of yellowing documents. At the very least, if it had been money or banknotes, I would have understood, but old and worthless paper? I sighed, set the box down, and started to gather up the papers. This was reminding me of an incident from my youth, in which an academy teacher of mine had once tasked a group of us first years with the task of ostensibly delivering top secret correspondence to the headmaster. We were quite enthusiastic about the prospect of taking part in a top secret mission until we discovered that our true task was the deliver the man his morning coffee and donut.

My eyes fell over one of the documents that had fallen out. Like any good shinobi, and like any loyal ANBU, I knew it was best to avoid actually reading it. However, I did anyway. The words resembled the language we all commonly speak and write these days, but seemed to be more archaic in spelling. Regardless, I was able to understand a good portion of them. The document was titled: “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.” I have copied what I could in this diary based on my memory, with annotations.
The representatives of the French people [Don’t know what a “French” is – some sort of ancient empire?], organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:

1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.

8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.

9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.

10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted. [Shinobi?]

13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.

16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.
I had only intended to glance over the pages, but as you can see, I actually ended up reading the entirety of this document. Oh, I tried my damndest to stop, but I could not pull my eyes from the pages! Of course, the entire thing was blatantly seditious – humans are of course, not equal to each other. The Shogun and the nobility rule over the commoners and peasants because that is the natural order of things. The Raikage controls us shinobi and we in turn are defenders of this country. Of course our power gives us the right to control our lessers.

Still, though, some of the things in that document seemed to make sense – in Kumogakure, the Raikage gives us law, and we shinobi follow it. Shinobi and Kunoichi are legally equal. We are allowed to worship whom we please, whether that means prayers to Raiden or Shinbatsu or Fuujin. We can also speak our minds, that is, unless we are advocating treason. I wondered who had written these words. Perhaps they had been shinobi as well, from some forgotten or ancient nation, I reasoned.

Finally, my rational side won over in an internal debate that I never thought myself capable of. Enishi! Be reasonable! I chided myself in anger for having wasted so much time reading this…this sedition.

Quickly, I gathered the rest of the fallen documents together and carefully replaced them in the box, this time making sure the lid was tight before I attempted to move it. Seeing as the attack as well as reading that “Declaration” had cost me a fair amount of daylight, I doubled my pace toward Raiden’s Eye and made it there without incident just as twilight fell over the horizon. The Imperial Librarian who greeted me and took the delivery was an affable enough fellow, and even offered me tea, which I politely declined. After all, I had promised My Lady that I would be back as soon as possible.

My trip to Kumo was thankfully uneventful, and I arrived at the gates late at night. Although I felt uneasy about potentially waking the Raikage from her slumber, I had sworn to her that I would report back personally upon completion of my assignment. I made my way through the normal gate checks and scans at the Torre, and before long, I was at the door of her office. Kyouya was standing duty at the time, and gave me his usual inscrutable expression as he opened the door. Despite the time, Lady Kiyo was still at her desk working as usual.

“My Lady, I have fulfilled your command. The package has been delivered to the Imperial Library,” I said, hoping that she would not probe further into my journey – after all, what reason would she have to with to know more?

“Thank you. I hope you didn’t run into any trouble on my account,” she replied, seemingly preoccupied with her papers. Thank Shinbatsu, I’m in the clear, I thought to myself. Now I could forget this sordid happening with the document and put it behind me. I could concentrate on my duties like a good solider.

“Not at all, My Lady. With your permission, I will take my leave,” I said, starting to back away. She looked up and gave me a mysterious smile.

“Did you read any of the materials?” she asked. I swore inside. Why in the nine hells would she ask something like that? Had she found out about the attempted robbery? Had she sent spies to trail me? Had she heard something from that Librarian? Had she…arranged for the bandits to attack?! As if reading my spiraling thoughts, she spoke again. “Enishi, you’re not in trouble if you did. I’m just asking because, well, if I were in your shoes, I might have wanted to take a look myself. You might’ve noticed that the lid wasn’t sealed with anything substantial.”

“I did look at the documents. It was never my intent to do so, however,” I said, defeated, but also curious. It was true what she had said; top secret documents were usually sealed with advanced jutsu to prevent just that sort of thing from happening. Lady Kiyo was no fool, nor was she forgetful. Wait, I thought – did she deliberately leave the package vulnerable like that to tempt me into reading the papers inside?! Was it some sort of devious test of my loyalty? Had I failed? I needed to explain myself, and fast. “I came under attack by highwaymen. I dispatched them, but in the process, the parcel’s lid came off and scattered the contents on the road. I immediately gathered them up and replaced them in the box, making sure to do a complete sweep of the area. In the process, I admit I glanced at some of the contents.”

“Which one? The Declaration of the Rights of Man, or Common Sense?” she asked, her tone amused.

“I believe it was the Declaration,” I responded cautiously. “I of course only skimmed the contents to make sure nothing was lost…”

“Oh Enishi, I know you. You read the entire thing in detail. There’s no way that you could not have,” she said, laughing musically. I sighed. There was simply no keeping things from this woman. The best I could do would be to confess my crime completely and hope for a pardon or at least a lighter punishment.

“Yes, I admit it. I apologize sincerely. It was simply to make sure that I could complete my mission,” I said, dejectedly.

“Believe it or not, I…had kind of hoped you would read it,” said Lady Kiyo, smiling genuinely. “Part of the reason I had wanted you in my guard, and thus close to me, was because I know that you are the type who hungers for information. You aren’t capable of truly blinding yourself to what’s going on around you, and ignoring what you see with your own eyes. That’s rare in this village and even rarer in our line of work. In short, you have a philosopher’s soul in a place that no thinking man or woman really belongs in.”

“My Lady, I…”

“Did you agree with it? With the things written in that Declaration? And be honest,” she asked, tilting her head quizzically. I swallowed, trying to think of a diplomatic response.

“I…I acknowledge that taken literally, it advocates treason against our government, and that its existence is a threat to national security,” I said, tentatively.

“Well, obviously. But don’t you think some of the things written there were similar to how we operate in Kumo?”

“Yes, My Lady. We operate under just laws given to us by you and your sennin. We are afforded the chance to defend ourselves against accusations by others. We enjoy privileges that the commoners do not.”

“And do you believe that human beings have innate rights, simply by virtue of being human?”

“Of course not, My Lady. We are only given rights because the Shogun, or you, give them to us. Without you, we shinobi are worthless. Without the Shogun, the common people of Lightning are worthless. That is why missing nin are trash who must be swiftly executed lest they spread their filth to the rest.”

“I see. Let me ask you another question. Who do you think wrote that Declaration?”

“If I were to guess, I would say that the people who wrote that document were possibly shinobi themselves.”

“Actually, Enishi, they weren’t. The people who drafted that document lived a very, very long time ago and knew nothing about chakra. They were ordinary human beings who had just overthrown their former Shogun and were trying to establish their own nation based on these principles,” said Lady Kiyo. Preposterous, I thought. Non-shinobi daring to overthrow a Shogun?

“It’s true. And they did in the end establish their own nation, which inspired other groups of people around the world to create their own similar nations, based on similar principles. And these nations actually grew to be very powerful, even without the aid of shinobi villages like ours. One of those countries is said to have grown so powerful that it sent men into the sky – to the moon, in fact. There were trains like the Raiden’s Breath everywhere. People separated by entire oceans could talk to each other instantly without jutsu or carrier animals. And it is said that the reason they could do this was because their nation’s strength was based on these simple, seditious words that you just read,” said Lady Kiyo, excitedly. “Of course, some of this may just be exaggerations. But based on what I’ve uncovered, perhaps it was reality once.”

“I don’t know what to say,” I replied, which was the truth. She was of course the Raikage, and her word was as good as the honor of Raiden Himself, but this talk of sending men to the moon and nations based on presumptions of equality, it was just too fantastic for me.

“Neither did I at first. But the history, the evidence, is there. I’ve seen it myself,” said Lady Kiyo, rising from her seat and coming closer to me. I tensed instinctively with my next question.

“My Lady, why did you allow me to see the document so easily? You could have easily prevented anyone from laying eyes on it. And if you wished for me to see it directly, why did you not simply show it to me yourself?” There, I was challenging her directly. At this point, events had become so strange that any questions about the health of my career were moot. Now I simply had to know what she was thinking. And to tell the truth, I was a bit angry at her as well. Again, she caught me off guard as she wrapped her arms around my waist from behind, drawing herself close in an embrace. I blushed furiously.

“Because you needed to take the first step on your own. If I’d simply ordered you to read that marvelous piece, you’d have never thought about it again. It wouldn’t have affected you the same way if I’d taken responsibility for exposing you to these things,” she said, laying her head against my back. My heart pounded in my chest and would have burst out entirely if I’d been of a weaker constitution. “There are many other pieces like the one you read - many other works of not only political science, but of art and literature and music of such glorious beauty that to look upon them is to…to behold the Creator’s will itself…” her voice trailed off in what could only be described as reverie. She inhaled, letting go of me.

“They are also forbidden – the law of the land, and the one dictum of the Shogun’s that I am beholden to, is that such works are to be kept from the people of Lightning, even shinobi. I am compelled to send his librarians all materials I find. Of course, I make copies of everything I find, whether books, paintings, music, recordings – and store them in my private archives. I could not bear the thought of having these locked away forever in the Red Palace. But at the same time, Enishi, joys like these are best when shared with the right person – a person who can appreciate these things on a deeper level . A person like you.”

“What…are you asking me to do, My Lady?” I asked, my heart still pounding at the implications of what she had just confessed to me.

“Share this joy with me, Enishi. Read the wisdom of the old world, marvel at the raw passion on canvas, and listen to the heavenly strains that we will never again produce before the end of our dying little world. Quench that burning desire for knowledge and beauty that your soul screams out for. With me.”

“My Lady…I…” I said, my throat closing and my chest aching. What had come over me? What dangerous desires had the mere act of reading words on paper elicited from the hidden chambers of my soul? I was overwhelmed by forces I could not comprehend. I trusted her. I…would agree. “I will join you,” I whispered.

Lady Kiyo dismissed me a short time later, but before she did, she slipped a sound crystal into my hand, telling me it was a taste of things to come. Of course, I had listened to musical pieces before, often during battle – the rousing anthems of our nation were always a favorite for the troops. Other than that, however, I did not have a taste for music. But as I end this day’s entry, I will perhaps play it. As they say, here goes…
 

Takaki Saeko

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Re: Path of the Kingslayer: The Complete Edition

Path of the Kingslayer: The Assassination of Kagetsu Kiyo
Part 5: Enishi’s Journal, Entry 3

It was a short time after that I listened to the recording that My Lady had given me in the aftermath of our last encounter. I had never in my life experienced such a…sensation before. Yes, it was “merely” music, but such music that I never thought possible to exit in this world. Tones of such clarity, order, logic; all united by a perfection of timing and purpose such that to hear it was to have an unobstructed view of the very fabric of the cosmos! Who the hell had written this? Who the hell had performed this? And on what?! These questions burned in my head, while in my heart, something else also smoldered – a slowly growing, insatiable, and totally irrational desire to experience more.

As if my wishes had been broadcast on some sort of unsecured frequency, another package suddenly appeared in my personal footlocker. My initial reaction was suspicion – for days I did not open it, and spent my time zealously watching my fellow squadmates and my commanders for any signs of intrigue. Perhaps they had heard of my personal mission for the Raikage, and were trying to ferret me out as some sort of traitor or deviant? The next week passed by as a haze of paranoia and indigestion, but my investigations revealed nothing. Finally, I gave in and opened the package. Inside, several worn, leather-bound books with yellowed pages, with titles like: Utopia, Leviathan and Common Sense, and a larger one titled The Wealth of Nations by an author whose name I could not pronounce easily. Inside, a simple, unsigned note in My Lady’s handwriting: “Keep these safe. When you are finished with them, we will meet again.”

I will be the first to admit that I was never a bookish type of academy student. Being forced to study those moldy old tracts on jutsu utilization and shinobi warfare, especially the incredibly boring works by that Historian Takagi soured me on reading much. Nevertheless, it seemed that My Lady wanted me to fulfill a certain task, and that was justification enough for me. Over the next two weeks, I read the works, starting with the one called Utopia simply because it was the shortest.

By the time I had finished the last pages of the large book by “Adam Smith,” a change had come over me. I had never finished a book in less than two months. And yet I had just devoured over eight hundred pages in a quarter of the time. Was it because of my motivation to see Her again? To listen to more of that heavenly music? Or was it my morbid fascination with the seditious and treasonous material contained within those pages, which nevertheless left me with more questions than answers in any other period of my life? Again, My Lady seemed to sense my completion of her task, because a day later, I was called to her office again, in private.

“My Lady, I report as ordered,” I said, bowing to her as I entered. She gestured for me to come closer, giving me a wan smile that said: “now we cut to the chase.”

“What did you think of them, Enishi?” she asked, before flashing a coy grin. “Did they anger you?”

“I…can see why the Shogun would want to keep such works suppressed,” I responded, unsure of where she was going with this.

“And why would he want to keep these works suppressed? After all, they were written by men who are long-dead and who existed in a different age than us. They are no different from fantasy, no?”

“But My Lady, the author called ‘Hobbes’ claims that it is not Raiden or Shinbatsu or any of the Gods who gives our Shogun and our Bakufuu the right to rule, but rather that his subjects have voluntarily ceded authority to him. And the other author, ‘Paine’, claims that because of this, if the Shogun’s actions displease the people, that…that the people have the right to depose him or to break away and form their own nation. That’s unthinkable. I mean, for Raiden’s sake, My Lady, what if your subjects started to embrace such a philosophy? Then it means that you only control us because of the authority we as a whole give to you. If someone were to be displeased with such an arrangement, then if he were to go missing, it would mean he was…justified,” I said, gasping at my own realization of what I had said. No! This was treason! I cursed myself for running my mouth. “Of course, I would never make a claim like that! Missing scum are the worst type of traitor! Their lot is only to die by my hand! I…”

Surprisingly, Lady Kiyo started to laugh, which took me aback enough to terminate my rambling.

“It’s quite alright, Enishi. I know you don’t actually think that our missing nin are justified in their actions. But yes, you are correct about the nature of these works. The content, as foreign to our age as it may be, is still incredibly dangerous to someone like the Shogun, who rules based on his claim of divine endorsement. Sure, the Imperial Army can easily crush a tiny peasant rebellion in a remote province, but when the whole populace believes in the existence of a social contract as the basis of rule, then the Shogun of Lightning Country must bow to them.”

“And that’s the same sort of claim that the author ‘Smith’ makes as well, in regard to wealth, isn’t it? That it is not our gold koban themselves which possess intrinsic value, but the efforts of the people who manufacture our goods and grow our food and perform our labor, which is in turn represented by those metals. That without the backing of labor and investment, gold is merely shiny yellow metal with little worth of its own?”

“Imagine for a second, Enishi, what would happen if every rice farmer in the central valley suddenly gave up tilling the fields,” said Lady Kiyo, somewhat devilishly. “Even the Shogun cannot eat gold, despite all apeparances. We’d all be dead or displaced within two years. That is the type of power that the people of a nation have over its rulers and enforcers. And we must never, ever let them know this. Hence, that is why these materials are locked away.”

“Shinbatsu save us,” I gasped, realizing the full import of what she had just told me. The safe, orderly, stable world I had lived in for eighteen years had now been shattered under me. Not because of chakra or jutsu, but because of mere ideas.

“By the way, the time in which those books were written was the same time as when that piece of music you listened to was written. Humanity was undergoing a period of ‘Enlightenment’ at the time, and such dangerous, world-stopping ideas were also accompanied with creativity as well. The composer of that piece was named ‘Mozart’ and he composed hundreds of pieces like that. A few decades afterwards, another composer was born. ‘Beethoven’ was his name. And I will show you how I like to listen to his music. Come with me, Enishi,” said Lady Kiyo as she rose from her seat and gestured for me to accompany her. Languidly, she strode over to a nearby bookshelf, and pulled at the candelabra next to it. With the whirring of machinery and the grinding of metal on stone, the shelf swung outwards. That such a thing existed in the Torre Celeste was unsurprising – after all, we were all shinobi.

Beyond the hidden door, a high-domed, brightly-lit chamber awaited, its inside lined with rippled tiles and in the center, an alien-looking device. At its base, a platform on which spun a large, black disc with tiny grooves cut into it with impossible precision, and issuing from the top, a large, horn-shaped speaker. After making sure the hidden door had closed completely, Lady Kiyo smiled, adjusting a small lever-arm on the device so that its end touched the grooved black disc. I listened, and…

…I found myself on my hands and knees on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably, with tears of joy flowing down my face. There was no other way to describe it; I had heard the voice of the universe itself speaking to me in the most hushed of tones, which was still more than my mortal frame could bear. I had seen a God before in the form of Shinbatsu, but I had never felt the presence of THE creator until now.

The music, no, the irevelation I had just heard now stopped, and all that was left in this soundproof chamber was merely the sound of my breathing.

“Who…wrote this? Was it Raiden? Was it the Dawnbringer?!” I demanded breathlessly, uncharacteristically grasping Lady Kiyo’s arms as I knelt, still overcome with what I had just experienced. She made no effort to pull away, however, merely gazing into my eyes with hers and smiling that mysterious, coquettish smile of hers.

“I told you, Enishi, it was a man named Beethoven. And no, he wasn’t a divine being, or at least, not in the way that you and I traditionally think of,” she said, reaching down and stroking my hair.

“My Lady…I understand why the works of these authors, these ‘Smith’ and ‘Paine’ and ‘Moore’ might be suppressed, but why keep this music hidden away? Why keep it locked up like this?!” I asked, my head still spinning. I wanted, more than anything else, for her to replay what I had just heard. I hungered for it, completely irrationally.

“Because, Enishi, these things impassion the soul. They make men and women forget the bounds of order and stability. They cause chaos. Do you see now? Do you see how powerful and how dangerous and beautiful these relics from the past are? We think of ancient war golems or vile underground plagues or enormous sandworms from the desert as sources of power, and yet these books and these recordings do not possess chakra; they cannot kill by themselves; they are merely words, notes on a page. But they have the power to change the world, more than any destructive device we can ever create. That is why I keep them hidden away. Because I will not repeat the mistakes I made in the past that harmed this village I loved so much…” she seemed to drift off, her expression turning bittersweet for a moment, before she resumed her normal inscrutable visage.

“You can come here whenever you like, by the way. Now that I have shared my secret with you, I expect you to pay me back with your company. You will find that the arts are much more enjoyable when experienced with others.”

“I…I will do so gladly, My Lady,” I said, smiling in anticipation. To have access to more…that was the most important thing in the world at this moment.

“Good. I want someone I can talk to about more than village intrigue or how to refine combat builds or who’s going missing or whether Sand or Leaf hates us more. I want us to talk about philosophy and have debates and even arguments about passion and emotion and the nature of our souls!” She said, grinning before she embraced me all of a sudden, weeping with tears of relief. “Oh Enishi, I’m so glad…I’m so goddamned happy. I looked for years for someone like you. I was so lonely… Stay with me, promise it…”

I merely hugged her tighter, the words between us unsaid.
 

Takaki Saeko

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Re: Path of the Kingslayer: The Complete Edition

Path of the Kingslayer: The Assassination of Kagetsu Kiyo
Part 5: Enishi’s Journal, Entry 3

Alleluia Shinbatsu!

War! At long last, we are at war again!

Today, My Lady made the public announcement to the village that we would be rendering direct combat support to the military of the Serene Kingdom of Bear, our neighbors to the south. For the last few years, they have been fighting a losing struggle against the People’s Republic of Marsh, but at the urging of our Sennin Akira Saito, we are now to repulse the invaders directly. I can sense the excitement in the air as I walk around the village square with Seryuu on my day off – you cannot engage in conversation with anyone without the topic of this “Joseon War” coming up.

And in truth, I cannot blame anyone for this. I must admit that although I have enjoyed the time spent partaking of the wisdom and visceral pleasure of My Lady’s library, I am also a man possessed of the need for violence. Conflict has always run hot in my veins. And if the writings of Jefferson and Madison have taught me but one thing, it is that bloodshed is a necessity for the advancement of human civilization and thought. And what is a village of shinobi, if not a collection of individuals trained in the art of bloodletting? Let no man think that I am a pacifist. In fact, I am quite the opposite.

Tomorrow, My Lady, along with Sennin Saito, five companies of the Main and three of the ANBU and Medical Corps travel to the Serene Kingdom. And of course, my group must be there to protect her. My heart overflows with gratitude to Shinbatsu for allowing me this opportunity, even if My Lady will likely never approach the front lines. Still, the PRMC did manage to assault and kill the Hoshikage of Bear, so there will be a chance for a fight. I await the journey with bated breath.

[Historian’s Addendum: Yukimura was, to put it charitably, unreliable about dating his entries and even more so about elucidating the time period encapsulated in his individual sections of journal. Likely it was because he assumed that no one besides him or Raikage Kagetsu would read his entries. Since most of these cobbled-together paragraphs deal with the time period during which the latter half of the Bear-Marsh Conflict occurred, I am consolidating them for the sake of organization. – Takagi Masao]

[Next Segment]

We have been in Bear now for some time, and the conflict has moved slowly but surely in our favor. Sennin Saito has been made the Field Marshal of our consolidated forces, which include our own shinobi, the surviving Bear army, and the surviving shinobi of Hoshigakure. It is now apparent after several clashes that the reason for the earlier success of the Marsh offensive was that they have been operating with the support of no less than seven rogue missing shinobi who have now shown their faces in response to our arrival. Currently, it is the winter, and no sane army dares to make a move for fear of frostbite and starvation, and so we will spend the next two months encamped near their capitol, Sagishi-Souru. Unfortunately, My Lady’s library is inaccessible to me, and she had forbidden me to take anything with me for fear of discovery by the others. Nevertheless, I admit that I kept a small book of poems by Yeats, which give me comfort during the inevitable times of boredom.

The most peculiar and striking thing about this land is the food. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced in Kumogakure. It is wild, impassioned food full of spice and force approaching vulgarity. This pickled cabbage of theirs which they call kim-chi, smells of rot, but once one starts to eat it, it becomes impossible to stop! I have already downed many jars of the stuff, and eat it with every meal. Rice has become terribly bland without the fiery, sour taste of the cabbage. Furthermore, the people of this land are pathologically enamored of garlic and alliums, which are rarely used in our food back home. Now I understand why we call them the “Garlic Eaters”. Some dishes are too strong for my taste, but others, especially the broiled ribs and the pickled form of garlic and other vegetables, which they call ban-chan, are delicious beyond measure. My Lady recently teased me for appearing fuller in the face than usual, so I know that I will have to moderate my intake of these things.

The native language is incomprehensible, and I do not trouble myself to learn it completely, although I have picked up a few phrases of general utility, such as “hwa-jang-shil ou-di-eh-yo?” which is the common parlance for asking where the restrooms are. I tend to be on edge when I hear the language spoken in close proximity to My Lady, however – I am at a disadvantage when I know not their plans. And the most surprising thing yet is that apparently the people of Bear share the same language as the people of Marsh, our enemies. Perhaps at one point they were unified, but I sense that they will never truly come together at this rate.

[Next Segment]

Tomorrow, we are to fight what Sennin Saito feels will be the pivotal battle of this war. Perhaps sensing the same, the Marsh army and its shinobi have split into two arms and move on our positions. The sixty-thousand man-strong Bear and Hoshigakure forces are to hold Hoengseong Hill against one of the arms, while our Sennin is to take our entire brigade and attempt to smash the other at Chipyong-Ni as they attempt a pincer maneuver skirting the borders of our countries. It will be our eight-hundred against ninety-thousand men. I tremble with excitement, however, because My Lady has also given me permission to accompany Sennin Saito to the battle! She and Seryuu, along with Captain Jeada, Kyouya, and Tamaki have already arrived back in Kumo under the cover of night, and await our return.

I was so excited that I kissed My Lady’s lips when she allowed me this chance. To my disappointment, she did not reciprocate, but merely told me to be careful. Still, I have my battle to look forward to, and Seryuu to take care of my base needs. She I hugged and bade farewell to later, to which she professed that she loved me. I could not lie to her and tell her I felt the same. I merely embraced her harder, a feeling of guilt and shame in my heart. Perhaps the violence of the following day will purge these feelings from my chest.

[Next Segment]

We have victory. We, who numbered eight-hundred shinobi at the dawn of the day, now number a mere half that number still walking. Three hundred shinobi and kunoichi suffer from their wounds, and a hundred names are to be written on the walls of the Torre Celeste as an eternal tribute to their sacrifice. The Bear and Hoshigakure force who held the trenches at Hoengsoeng, who started with sixty thousand souls, are a mere five thousand happy few. The seven rogue shinobi who led the Marsh forces are dead or driven away. As we sat, bloodied and wounded, on the muddy and crimson-drenched remains of the hill, I remarked to the Sennin:

“T’is wonderful,” I breathed, looking over the destruction wrought upon the land and the bodies of soldiers from both sides laying limply in the mud and barbed wire and broken spear shafts. Smashed war wagons burned hundreds of meters away, sending thick black plumes of smoke into the already gray and dreary sky. Saito himself seemed weary, almost smaller than usual, though he is otherwise a massively-built man. His gaze pierced through the grime of war plastered to his face as he addressed us with this orders.

“Come, go we in procession to the village. And be it death proclaimed through our host to boast of this or take praise from Shinbatsu which is His only.”

“Is it not lawful, and please your Senninship, to tell how many is killed?” asked one of us.

“Yes, Captain, but with this acknowledgement: That Shinbatsu fought for us,” said Saito, closing his eyes.

“Yes, my conscience, he did us great good,” I conceded.

“Do we all holy rites; Let there be sung ‘Non Nobis’ and ‘Te Deum’, the dead with charity enclosed in clay, and then to Port Cirrus and to Kumogakure then, where never from Bear Country arrived more happy men.”

Akira Saito rose to his feet, as did we all. On the ground nearby was the body of a trainee whose name had been Mishikku. Twelve years old, he had died late in the battle, taking a rogue shinobi’s knife to his back. Kneeling, the Sennin gently lifted the boy’s corpse and hefted it over his shoulder, marching through the thick, quarrel-strewn mud in the direction of the carts we were to use to transport the dead from the field. As we followed, a Hashigaki began to sing.

We sang and wept and marched, carrying our fallen to the burial grounds. As Saito gently placed Mishikku’s body into a cart, he kissed the boy’s blood-matted head before looking to the sky, grimacing in anguished triumph.

[Next Segment]

On our return to Kumo, we were feted as heroes. My Lady had also been busy, and by the time we made our march back, she had already signed the Treaty of Armistice that bore her name, ending our conflict with Marsh Country and their conflict with Bear. Everyone who had participated in that battle at Chipyong-Ni was given an award token by the Haninozuka King of Bear – a small, golden pin with the Bear and Cloud symbols on it – already rumors were starting to fly that if a shinobi went to the Kingdom and showed his pin, it would mean a free romp through any whorehouse he wished. Personally, I’ll wait until the place is actually recovered from the war.

The next few days were a swirl of constant activity – My Lady had won the International Noburu Peace Prize for her efforts and we spent a few days traveling to the Sasorilands for the ceremony. The followup missions of the war taxed a great deal of our resources, as we chased down leads on any surviving rogue shinobi sightings and helped to patch up the hidden village of Star. Marsh Country is now under new leadership which has taken a hard-line isolationist stance, and no one knows for sure what transpires within their borders.

On our return from the Peace Prize ceremony, however, Seryuu finally confronted me.

“Yukishi, I need to know something,” she said, gently pushing me away from a kiss as I undid her bodice.

“Yes?” I asked, sensing a different tone in her voice.

“In the years we’ve been lovers… You’ve never once told me ‘I love you.’”

“You know I find you beautiful and I enjoy your company,” I said, tentatively.

“But you’ve never told me you love me. I know you, Yukishi. You never say something that you don’t believe in. I thought for a long time maybe you’re just slow to come around, but I know now, you’ll never say those words. Am I not right?” she said, looking at me with watery eyes. I could not bring myself to lie to her. Not loyal Seryuu of all people. I cast my gaze downward.

“You’re…you’re right, Seryuu. I can’t tell you that. I can’t deceive you.”

“It’s Kagetsu-sama, isn’t it?” she asked, a tear falling to the floor.

“What?” I asked, a gnawing feeling in my chest.

“It’s Kagetsu-sama you love, right? I can tell. Everyone can tell. The way you look at her, the way she looks at you. My justice sensor is never wrong, damn you!” she started to shout, her voice cracking. Crap – she had me.

“I…yes. I love the Raikage. I desire her. And no, I’ve never slept with her. She remains inaccessible,” I said, softly and in defeat. “I am sorry, Seryuu, for everything. I will ask to be transferred to another squad that does nights so you do not have to see me again. I don’t know what else to do to apologize. I understand if you never want to speak to me again…” I said, buttoning up my shirt and turning to leave. My heart broke to hear her freshly weeping. Although I did not think I loved her at the time, perhaps my reaction then showed that I do in some way.

“Wait,” she croaked, grabbing my shirtsleeve before I took a stride. I turned, preparing myself for a well-deserved slap across the face. Or even a dagger to the chest. I would accept it, such was my guilt. “Don’t leave,” she said, unexpectedly.

“I…wha?” I stammered, caught off guard by the new expression shining through her puffy, reddened eyes.

“Don’t leave. I just wanted the truth. I deserve that much, don’t I?” she said, trying to smile. My eyes watered uncomfortably. “The truth is that I love you, Yukimura Enishi, and nothing will change that. I know I can’t compete with Kagetsu-sama, but at least I can have you in a way that she will not. As long as I can be with you, that’s good enough. I don’t care if you imagine I’m Kagetsu-sama when we make love. I’ll even pretend to be her or dress up like her if you want me to. At least I’m the one actually with you,” she said, drawing closer and hugging me with a ferocious tightness.

I came away that night with more questions than answers, and still riddled with guilt.
 

Takaki Saeko

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Re: Path of the Kingslayer: The Complete Edition

Path of the Kingslayer: The Assassination of Kagetsu Kiyo
Part 6: Enishi’s Journal, Entry 4

The year after the end of the Joseon War was a flurry of activity at first, but gradually became a time of peace in many ways. The country was now richer than before due to the trade agreements made with the Serene Kingdom. Seryuu and I had achieved an uneasy understanding, for she was satisfied with being my mistress even though I had no wife – I however, felt that she deserved better than that. And as for My Lady, she and I resumed our mutual consumption of the forbidden works that we both enjoyed together so much.

As I further traveled along in the chronology of music in her library, I discovered new sounds and emotions that came from angrier artists with stranger and stranger names, like “Bob Dylan” and “The Who” and “Pink Floyd”. And similarly, the works of literature I consumed also grew more defiant in nature – authors like “Sartre and “de Beauvoir” and “Guevara,” who outright damned the nature of governments like that of our Shogunate. Perhaps I had grown inured to the sedition that these men spouted in their pages, for now I took to analyzing their arguments like a puzzle, rather than my old way, which would have been to recoil and burn the works with a jutsu.

These works especially, I had started to add to my personal library. I confess here that for the last few years I have been secreting away my own collection of literature and music, both on paper as well as on My Lady’s spare sound crystals. At first, I merely sought to have a means by which I could revisit writings and pieces that I liked without imposing on My Lady’s time, but I quickly realized that I was doing this for pure self indulgence. I wanted to possess these things of beauty – to read them more than once and further uncover the hidden meanings within the meanings, especially for those works that grated against my philosophy and my assumptions. From a mere footlocker I had secreted away in a condemned building of the Cronopolis, it grew to occupy an entire root cellar in the same district. I did not realize how this would change my relationship with Her until later.
* * *

One day, as I met My Lady in her office, I also noticed that our Sennin, Akira Saito, was also present. O could not help but suppress a twinge of disappointment at seeing him, as it meant that the two of them would likely spend the afternoon discussing business and I could not spend the day partaking in My Lady’s library. I saluted to the Sennin and he returned my salute, before surprisingly addressing me.

“Ensign Yukimura, I am actually here to see you,” said the man. “Remember that regimental symbol you took at Chipyong-Ni? The Chancellor of our country wishes to honor you at a banquet for your bravery on the anniversary of the battle. No doubt it’s really just a bit of political theatre to whip the council of nobles into shape, but it’s a nice golden medal for you, and more funding for your village. I’m sure the woman will want you to say a few words and such, so make sure you have a good speech prepared,” he said, chuckling.

“Sennin-sama, forgive me, but I’d rather fight the battle of Sekigahara again than face such a large assemblage,” I muttered.

“So would I, but Kagetsu-sama and I will be there, so you definitely can’t skip out. We leave in three days,” he said, before leaving the office.

“Just a few words for the nobles, Enishi. I do this type of thing all the time,” said My Lady, chuckling and I think enjoying my distress. That battle – my part had been so insignificant, and yet they wanted me to go and give a heroic speech for that? The battle had been glorious, but I had played a smaller part than I had wished.

My group had obtained mounts for the battle to give us greater maneuvering capability, enabling us to fight as dragoons. A nearby division of Main Branch had been exchanging fire for the last half hour with massive line of Marsh infantry and were getting nowhere, so they asked for us to attack one of the flanks. We gathered in position under heavy fire. Our Taichou ordered the charge with saber drawn and we spurred our horses into action, causing the ground to thunder with the impact of our hoof beats. A fellow ANBU next to me took a ball to the cuirass and was knocked off his horse but I could not look back to ascertain if he still lived.

“Kumo Forever!” we cried as we charged, and in another five seconds we had smashed through their line and now laid waste about us with our swords and lances. Quarters were too close and we all too packed together for the use of elemental techniques, for fear that we might do more damage to our comrades than our enemies. Fortunately, we had all trained for an occasion like this. In the shuffle of men, it caught my eye – the gilded golden eagle and standard of the Marsh infantry we faced, which I would learn later was the much-feared first battalion of the 45th regiment. I turned my horse toward it and leapt into battle with the small group who protected it.

One made a thrust at my groin, but I parried him off and cut him down through the head. A missing shinobi, one of the Cabal of Seven, now came after me – I threw his lance off by my right side and cut him through the chin and upwards through the teeth. Next, a foot soldier fired at me and then charged with his bayonet, which I also had the good luck to parry, and then I cut him down through the head.

I radioed the Sennin to notify him that I had captured something of note, and he ordered me to return with the eagle for fear that it would be recaptured and used to rally the Marsh forces. I did not want to leave my fellow shinobi, so I removed my headset and dropped it into the muck and kept on fighting. Only after another leftenant came to me and dragged me off by the arm did I finally relent and deliver the eagle to our command tent before riding off again. All in all, a small part that I played, but this time I could not go against my Sennin’s words this time, unlike the last.

So, a few days later, I found myself being feted in the Imperial Diet and under the influence of too much alcohol.

The Chancellor who had wanted me to speak was there - Tachibana was her name - along with some other high-ranked nobles and a conspicuously empty seat where the Shogun would have been. Sennin Saito was there next to me as well, clad in the ecclesiastical robes of the Order of Shinbatsu and engaging in animated conversation with the Marshal General of the nation. But none of them compared to the light that My Lady gave off. She was dressed simply, in red with silver trim, but her face was luminous and beautiful and that was all I desired to see that night. The Chancellor suddenly signaled for all other conversation to stop, and asked me if I would say a few words on heroism.

I had prepared some words with My Lady’s help, but they all flew from my memory, and I was too drunk to make something else up. So I spoke this instead.

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

From the looks on many faces, I could tell that I had been received with mostly confusion. Most of the other nobles returned to their own conversations and within a few seconds the banquet hall was as boisterous as before. Sennin Akira for one seemed to have enjoyed himself. The Chancellor, however, regarded me with a hard, cold gaze, while My Lady’s breath grew ragged for a brief moment. Not realizing the significance of what had just transpired, I continued to drink.
* * *

The day after, I was again summoned to My Lady’s office. Not completely recovered from my hangover, I did not see the anguish borne by her eyes alone until we were face to face in her soundproof chamber and the door had shut behind us.

Her hands were on my throat and I was forced against a wall before I could react – and really, how could I have reacted anyway? How could I have defended myself?

“Do you realize what you’ve done?!” she snarled, her strength enough to lift me to my toes. “The other nobles are stupid and barely literate. Saito is a vulgar man who enjoys violence in all things. But the Chancellor…she is the most learned woman in this country. Of course she knows that you’re quoting William Butler Yeats, damn you!”

“Please…My Lady…I meant no harm!” I protested, panicking at this sudden turn of events. Why was she doing this?

“I don’t care what you meant, Enishi! You betrayed my trust! We were supposed to enjoy these things in private! No one was supposed to know!” she wailed, letting me go all of a sudden. I fell to the floor on my knees, breathing deeply to restore oxygen to my brain. My neck throbbed in pain. “Now she knows I’ve been sharing forbidden materials out of my collection that’s supposed to be suppressed. She’s not like the old Shogun, Enishi! She’s ruthless! She’ll want all of it burned!”

“I am sorry, My Lady…I really am! I did not mean to harm you or your reputation!” I gasped, as I dragged myself to my feet, still weak from her attack. Inside, however, a slow anger grew within. “But why listen to her, anyway? You’re the Raikage of Kumogakure! In fact, why obey this stupid pronouncement that you must keep these things that have enriched our lives away from everyone?! Surely you must agree that there are truths in these old tomes!”

“And what am I to do, Enishi?! Am I to go to Raiden’s Eye and demand that the bakufuu allow some new age of enlightenment to sweep the land?!” she cried, indignantly.

“Yes! Why the hell not?! We are the deadliest fighting force in the world! We have nothing to fear from the Chancellor or the Army or anyone!” I roared back to her, forgetting myself. But at this point, I cared not for decorum or rank. I wished only for her to be happy.

“So I go in and raze the Council of Eleven Moons, ha!” she laughed with anguish. “And then what? We declare ourselves dictators of the land? We spend the rest of our lives watching chaos and rebellion destroy Lightning Country and eventually us? We become the types of rulers that we replaced? I will not allow that! I will not destroy the peace and stability I have created! What took FORTY YEARS to achieve after I fucked EVERYTHING up the first time! Never again! Never again will I abandon this place to the likes of that bastard Sarunishi!!”

“That wasn’t your fault, My Lady,” I said, softly, to which she responded with a slap across my cheek.

“Don’t tell me what was my fault and what wasn’t. It was my responsibility. It is MY guilt!”

She sat on the ground, drawing her knees close to her, her energy spent. I slumped to my knees, defeated and weary.

“What is it you would have me do, My Lady? I will accept whatever punishment you wish. If I must be executed, I accept it gladly,” I said, meaning it.

“...If you really believe that what you just said to me is the right thing for everyone, then I won’t stop you from pursuing your goals. You’ll be free to slip out undetected. I’ll have to declare you a missing shinobi eventually, and I’m sure Saito will want you dead, but…you’ll be free,” she said, tears falling from her cheeks.

“My Lady…what are you saying?!” I protested, my voice a pale whisper.

“I never had a choice as to what I would become and how I would live my life. Freedom is not an option for a Kagetsu. I was always to be the Raikage and that was that. But I want you to have what I never could. Because I love you, Yukimura Enishi.”

“Kiyo…” I said, calling her by her given name for the first time in my life.

“Make your decision tonight…” she said, abruptly rising and fleeing the chamber, and leaving me alone with my thoughts.
***

I spent the rest of the night near the Dawnbringer’s plaza, only a flickering oil lantern keeping me company in the darkness of the morning hours. The gates were poorly-manned as usual, and to slip past the sentries would be an easy task. Similarly, my collection was within walking distance, near a building owned by the Oishi family.

Finally, I made my decision. I picked up the lantern and turned away from the gates and marched toward the Cronopolis. I opened the locked cellar door in the basement of an abandoned building where nearly a decade’s worth of my dreams and hopes had been stored and I tossed the oil lantern against one of the bookshelves lined with the works of Diderot and Locke and watched as the glass shattered and flaming oil splashed over the fragile papers and started its feast. As I watched the flames spread, I started to close the cellar door when I felt the edge of the small book of poems I carried on my person and pulled it out, gazing over its words for the last time. This too I threw into the flames as I shut the door for the last time.

Thus I end my entries here, beloved Kagetsu Kiyo, with a message to you.

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.