Chapter Twelve: Showing up unannounced

He had thought about it, having decided to take a day to think about the situation. Going to Ayakazu was difficult, since he knew that she would demand the full price from him now. There was just no way that she would let this slide, since she had done so previously.

Shinrou understood his hesitation, mostly because he did not want to give something that he did not want. “And that she will ask for a secret that she knows is personal, and can be almost viable.”

He had not disagreed, knowing that it needed to be weighted cautiously. Even as he took the next move, unrelenting in seizing the upper hand of the game. Even as it has been rare, and even then playing in favor of Kazuho. He easily made a decision, ensuring that he was still on steady footing while they were at this step.

“Even that couldn’t get you.” Just as they were busy discussing it while they were playing. No better way to help a tactical discussion.

“I mean, you have been trying for three years.” Which made his own intentions fairly obvious while they were here. At least while he was still trying to land a win against him.

“One day, I will be able to beat you. If Yuki managed to do it, then I can do it one day.” Yuki gave a smug smile, suggesting that she was happy with this. And Shinrou turning back to make another move. Something that he could again, easily handle.

Even as they noticed a fan land right before them. He knew the emblem, it was that of the Sasaki’s. He looked up to see a dark kimono, and fall leaves embroidered into it. Looking up, it was Enyou. Her hair was still loose, with no hairpins. She stepped forward, with a small smile on her face.

Before taking a seat beside the table in which Shinrou and Kazuho was playing shoji. He picked it up and passed it back to her. He didn’t really know what else to do. With Masami making the rough decision to boil some tea, before serving it.

“Never had someone show up unannounced?”

“No, but most of them go through other people instead of you just staring straight into my face.”

“Those are servants.” Enyou pointed out, which was true. Otherwise, he would be able to deal with her without being at a complete loss for words. And gave himself away as someone with a much more complicated background, and he could no longer claim he was a humble merchant.

“So, was that to test my reaction?”

She shrugged. A little on both, liking the idea of scaring someone but also revealing if they were just a normal person or perhaps something more. “A little bit, and so far I have never seen someone as clueless as you are. You probably had them all your life.”

He could deny it, it was true. Just that he was always used to having all of this taken care of, and this was a change. One which didn’t matter since he was not going to invite anyone over at all, and as such mostly let his guard down.

“Does this tell you anything about me?”

“To be honest, absolutely nothing. Other than you’re probably rich.” Which was the case as most families could afford them if they had the money to do so.

Even as Masami served tea, having had it done within a short while. “What are you doing here?” He asked.

“A little curiosity, and that some tracing brought me here.” Not that he didn’t cover up well enough, but rather the fact that it had been largely useless to do so. Unless he drew attention to himself, and even in this situation it could be said that it was only them.

“How much money did it take you?”

“Quite a bit to reveal everything, surprisingly.” She looked into his eyes, staring into them. A sign that she knew that he was not who he said he was. But willing to give the benefit of doubt to her, if she was here. “Although really, what are you’re motives?”

“Then, why have you chosen to come to this house? I could kill you to silence you, I could possibly hold you ransom.” Just as Shinrou held his own blade, looking out the window to see a woman holding a rifles behind them, aiming directly for his head. Masami held a blade straight to the neck of another, who was standing upside down.

She was well protected, despite all. Clear that he was in no position either, and neither did he want to. “It doesn’t seem you’re unprotected either.”

“They aren’t my subordinates, we’re friends first and foremost.” He didn’t feel as though he needed to do anything in such a scenario. They kept their blades, and she came through the window. The house was spacious, even if it was a little small.

“Because I’ll just like to talk.” She was honest here, they weren’t surrounded. Just enough that it constituted protection. He nodded, just as he picked up the cup of tea.

“Ask what you wish from me.” He didn’t want to fully dodge, he was here for personal reasons not anything which they would find wrong. They could remain suspicious, but he could simply say that he had no contact. Something which was true.

“Why are you here?”

“For some business, I’m hoping to expand.” He had not done anything to suggest otherwise, and at the same time none to say he was pursuing it.

“In what?”

“I wanted to see what was profitable. I’m more of someone who invests in a wide variety of them, and it’s a chance to really begin to expand. Just in case.” She knew he was rich, that was expected from the beginning. Now was his chance to spin it to his own advantage.

“Is there a way to verify it?”

He rolled his own eyes. “I bought this house, do I need anything else?”

“All at once?”

“All at once.” Suggested that he was intending to stay here for an extended period of time, just as the country was once more picking up in its economy. Where it was beginning to see a resurgence, and many of them saw an opportunity and seized it. As expected.

She could see him like that. But he did not want to reveal any more personal reasons while he was here. “Fine, I can believe that. Yours can meet it fairly well, even if it is clearly not the reason why.”

Given that both Masami and Yuki were here. And with Shinrou and Masami revealing their own skills, it was possible to say that it was more than that. “But I’m not saying that I’m going to reveal you or anything, just that our clan would like to talk to you. I mean, this can travel to the shogunate.”

And it could be tricky, or not. But it was just merely the two of them and could be answered. “Caught me there.”

He wasn’t in any position to decline at this point, all he could do was accept and see what would come out of it. The invitation was on the table, he picked it up. “How can I be sure that I won’t be forced to do anything against my will.”

“My word, and you can bring her along.” Even as it was a choice to make him as weak as possible, Yuki did not reach for anything during it. Not Shinrou or Masami who through their actions would convince many that they were a threat. He knew that this was still leaving him in a poor position, but showed that this was to get him there.

Not decide to have him leave the country the first chance he could. “All right, I accept.”

She gave him it and could tell that it would take place soon. He was a man whom they deemed dangerous to a large extent, and as such would not delay it. Not when he could simply just take off with no sign of him before. They knew that which was why she balanced it carefully.

“I hope to see you there. And we’ll be looking at the docks tonight to see if you leave.”

“I won’t, I’m here for personal reasons.” Not explaining them, even as he was certain to be here. She left in the next instance. Just as Kazuho now looked at it, realizing that they had been found after all. It complicated matters.

“Didn’t you secure everything?”

“It’s not hard to look for us, since we bought the house from a man on the market. And he would easily provide her with the details, and of course the records of our entry.” Which was easy enough, as ships needed to be recorded upon their entry to the harbor. And when they left.

“And if we kept ourselves low, they would not look. But since they did, finding everything is not a surprise.” At least to him. He knew that even if he were watertight, it would still have been found. It was a waste of resources to continue to hide things like this, over trying to spend it on better things.

“So how would you decide?”

“I’ll go with Yuki and see where it goes.” Yuki hiving a light smile in return, not being it. Even as the location was already on there, and it was Houya inn. It was not anything he found to be strange, but rather seeing it as what it was. Masami leaned in to take a look.

“It’s not their home.”

“Which is a good thing, even as it’s still on their turf. But it doesn’t seem they are keen to see whether we’re a threat or not.”

“Because they no longer have that authority, and it seems that they don’t really seem to care.” Just as losing it meant losing their protection against others, or at the very least being in a position to take revenge. And of course, meant they had something more in mind.

The young man didn’t intend to leave, but he did want to know just why he was doing this. Even as it would mostly boil down to the possible reasons for approaching him, based on what he had seen.

Sachiko looked at the letter of the names, in which he was true to his word. Asking Suzumi to summon them, perhaps for a meeting or two. Not through her. And she was in her quarters, for this regard. Dressing as Kaede while she was Sachiko. She held the bottle, one which made others leave her alone or pass her by. She got up only to enter inside the room, where the two servants were seated.

Both of them were nervous, perhaps Suzumi revealed what she learned from them. She went to the front, quiet enough that her footsteps was the only sound. As she got up for her to seat. Both of them looked in confusion, before realizing that she was Sachiko.

One was a man, while the other a woman. A couple, from what Suzumi told her. Or was it an act? She didn’t wish to question something like that, for it mattered little. Rubi and Reo, from what she learned.

They both bowed upon meeting her. “Don’t bother, I don’t like it when someone does that to me.”

Especially when all she did was simply be at the right place at the right time. Such was the nature of nobility, where people were born and raised to be powerful. Just as it could be a way to assure power, particularly if they had been in the public eye for a while. A chance for them to know their future sovereign, and to some that was a better bet than a man whom many won’t know what he was like as a child.

Even as there was those who disliked it, as it was dependent on luck. The shogunate was torn, even as the shogun was a man largely not reared for this. As the third son, he was merely expected to take on the role of assisting his elder brothers. Even as it seemed to have never worked in his favor.

“I’m not punishing you for this associated, because Sasaki and I have made an alliance. Something that will benefit us, but I need a way to communicate with him.” And they were the best she could do, familiar with such correspondence. Knowing how to default to certain signs and hints. This was precisely what she needed.

They lifted up their own heads, knowing that this was a positive improvement. “If this goes well, I can say there will be a reward. But it would depend on whether you both are found out or not since if you are I can’t do much.”

This was meant to be under the table, something that was hidden in plain sight. She was in no position to assure them of anything, but simply a chance for them to try.

“I accept.”

“I accept.”

This was the first step, the next she knew was to ask of what they knew about the shogun’s spy. Something that he hid, because letters were not the best place for such information. It could be intercepted and told, but being said was a lot more difficult to remember.

“Do you know who’s the shogun’s spy?”

“Kin. A servant who serves Masaki-sama.” And intended to keep an eye on her brother above all else. “She has not come near you at all, mostly keeping to the boy and serving him.”

Even as her arrival would have not been seen as anything normal, she knew that. Which meant that to an extent, this was playing to her plans. That her father’s disappearance would draw her here. He had been declared dead and meant that she was in mourning.

The perfect chance to dance around suitors, and still having no pressure to commit. The furthest she could go was courtship, with no engagement in sight at all. Sure, she could be a little more liberal and choose to marry once a year passes. Even as most of them in those cases were either aging women or young men with no other brothers who did those sort of marriages. The shoguns often married within the first few years if they had been unmarried, or were already so when they ascended.

She was neither, and thus it would serve as a reason to wait for three years.

“Have you intercepted her correspondence before?”

“Quite a few times, hime-sama. We mostly report them to Sasaki-sama where he pays us after each letter.” For there would be no incentive to continue otherwise. And meant that she could ask quite a bit.

“What does she say of me?”

“Not much, other than you might consider joining the court in the service of the midaikoro.” Which was something she planned to do once the new year came around, as it was the only time to enter into service. Most girls came here in the fall, largely because of the cool weather and also using less traveled roads. Winter was a much tougher time, and thus it was easier to choose now.

With the added benefit of the court. “I might. But is there anything she finds strange about my behavior?”

“None, she spends quite a bit of time looking at you when you’re with Masaki but not alone. Perhaps thinking that you’ll only bring it up when with him. But little else outside.” Which was the opposite of her own choices. Her brother had hinted he knew, and read it. But she felt that revealing it in front of him was a reckless effort since he was looked over more closely.

“Perfect, there’s a few things I need you to do. I will have Suzumi pass you the letter once it’s done. And keep an eye on her and see if there is any changes.” She knew that she would send letters out once a month, or if there was anything specific.

And their job was to take it to Sasaki. “I wish for it to be in person, or through a trusted person. Find someone to do it, but make sure it enters his hands.”

“Of course.”

“I’ll do the same as he does, and when you complete one I will reward you.” She stood up and left, having said what was necessary. Now was simply the time for her to write a letter.

She did not want it to be intercepted, just as she could understand why he chose to take those letters. It was simply self-preservation, to see if there was anything which suggested hard crackdown. And she had plenty of questions she wished to ask Sasaki now that she had established the connection.