Chapter Sixteen: Decisions Are Made

“You sure this was one of the people you asked to find me?” Kazuho asked. Since they were standing outside a fortune teller, who was simply seating there and having almost no customers.

“He usually has more in the night, and honestly I can tell you that the life of a fortune teller is never as glamorous as it seems.” He stepped forward at the next instance, taking the chance to talk to him. Perhaps to find out a little more. Even as he wondered just how this was safe at all.

And he saw on the sign that anyone found between ten meters of him when he was with a customer would have to sell him a secret or pay a humongous fine. Indeed, a great way to safeguard. Even as he wondered just how much was enforceable.

“There is something that I wanted to ask you.” He passed a photo of Daishin and the Saitou clan. Together, as a sign of what he wanted to ask.

“Those are rather interesting choices, and the fact that they don’t even rank so high anymore. Nowadays I get a lot of people asking me to verify just who is Kouya, bringing me young adults, sometimes even old men, with some of them dying in the same time as he disappeared, sometimes even within days of his last activity.”

He blinked. “Or I get people asking me about just who is this shady person, or who is that shady person. And the Daimyo Senwari is one of them.” Which meant that Daishin faded away, but his patron did not. Someone who supported his ideas and helped him in terms of his finances.

“Well, Daishin did?”

“After nearly a decade of speculation, and his disappearance he faded away almost instantly. Mostly because they were far too focused on you, Kouya.” He knew that since the man was the one who revealed him to be who he was. And one who helped Shinrou find him.

“And this may have been used by him so that when he withdrew, it would not draw the same attention.” This had led him to believe that Daishin allowed him to escape, as much as it was a strong effort on his part to do so. Just that when it happened he thought it was simply better to take advantage of it rather than waste resources finding who he was.

“Either way, he faded. And was eventually replaced by the same man, except that ever since the moment he began no one knew what he looked like any longer. And trust me, many have tried that it is now worth ten thousand yen for a portrait or even a picture. Not even his head.”

And that was a lot of money to be in this. “Well, you are still beating him at fifteen thousand. Even as they are even less successful than you are.”

“I wonder, do you drop any hints at my age?” He asked. Dropping his age would undoubtedly be one of the many things that they would remember.

“No, although it would make a small population very happy. These people were betting that you were a young one, and bringing me any young man or woman, for me to verify.”

“It must be difficult to keep a straight face when the guy you’re looking for is around the same age.”

“But none have borne a striking resemblance to you, that I must admit.” Which meant that few had come close to cracking the code. At least right now.

“So, has Daishin ever come to you?” The main reason why he was here.

“He has, a few times. But he was mostly asking about the shogunate, taking an active interest in the late shogun Shoyasu’s daughters. But not his son.”

“That is strange how?”

“Well, I do receive a couple who bring me the purported Tokumoto Kazuya, the missing son of the late shogun. Not any has managed to convince me that it might be them.”

“Why is that so?” He asked.

“He has almost no pretenders so far simply because he is not someone easy to intimate. He was incredibly articulate, intelligent and brilliant. And so, any young man that is walking right now who can be him would need to be able to speak four languages at least, since he learned close to nine.”

“He probably is focusing on the shogunate, since he is asking about them specifically. And such a move was beneficial to his plans.” Kazuho suggested since he really wanted it to be on point. Even if that very sign itself was a deterrence. “Which means that he has set his sights on them, but how would you suggest someone go look for him?”

“Go back to where he came from.” Which would mean Fukusei was indeed his best shot. As much as this said that he would resurface, or he could be on the lookout for any activity that reminded him of Daishin’s style when it came to executing his plans. He did, after all, spend two years with him and knew a lot about his strategies.

“But what about this man?”

“Well, he hasn’t been seen either. And he also withdrew what sort of support he had for the revolutionary cause.” Even an idiot knew that it was too much of a coincidence on its own. Not without any investigation. And this was something that could be more, and thus he would look into it.

“But finding Daishin right now would be easier than it is on this man. Since the attention is all on his death, many ask about the state of it. But anyone digging into his past would not have an easy time.”

Simply because it was too big, and also too hot. “Besides, the Daimyo Senwari also created his new network of spies. And one which is under suspicion from the shogun, at least underground since his spies has been extensively looking into this.”

Which was normal simply because he thought that they might be making a move against him. Something like this could not exist if there were no reason, there was one. And it seems that his dying or disappearing could be linked to him. “Is it frantic?”

“Oh yes, I can’t tell how many of them have tried to coerce me into giving information about him. Or trying to get me to find out more about them.” Even as the man could read into this. It meant that he likely did not even know what was happening then, as he was trying to make sense of it.

And so, he was right to focus on Daishin. A man who has already slipped from the mind of the public. Which he likely did so purposefully, and now it was also to his own advantage should he look into him.

“What happened to the cause after I left?”

“Some of them left, but most of them stayed on.”

“Who is it under now?” The question that he needed to ask. If it was someone he knew, then he could ask for help. If not, then he would have to start from there.

“A woman, named Jiyuu.” He knew the name, although he doubted it would be easy for him. The woman did not really like him, finding the strange interest that Daishin had in him a little undermining of his own power. Even as he made a note to stay out of her way at all costs.

Without anything else to discuss, he took out the checkbook. The man pushed the ink forward, even as he now tapped into it to write the amount. He knew how much to be deemed necessary, and soon enough he was done with it. He passed it to the man.

“Nice doing business with you.” Kazuho and Shinrou both got off. Just as he turned back. “What can I call you?”

“You may call me Kagetsune.” Even as he left. Once outside, he looked at Shinrou.

Once they reached home did they begin to talk. “That was informative.”

“I agree since we do have a clear direction.” Even as it would bring them to Fukusei out of necessity, to find out more about the man. To discover where he landed. Impossible the last time as he was already away, but now the leads were already cold.

“Are you thinking about the difficulty?”

“Shouldn’t I?” He asked. “It’s been five years, we would need to search for the leads.”

“Aren’t you at an advantage?” Masami took a chance to take a seat here.

“Yes, but I need to find them, and I’m not even certain where they have been. Except for maybe two, and even then it was just their thoughts that they would stay in the city, not a promise they will. And they may have already changed their names. And the entire leadership there is under someone I know for a fact that doesn’t like me.”

With him deactivating everything, it meant that many would need to find new sources of income. And remembering that Jiyuu had taken upon Mamoru, a boy that he knew from young. “So, did the fact that we have our work cut out for us really destroy you?”

He looked up. “No, I may have stumbled onto something that can make it easier. But I’m not sure, and I need to check this. It’s someone I knew back then, that boy who was with me. Except that he would be slightly older than me now. He works under her. He was her errand boy.”

And that meant that he would be able to control this after all.

Sachiko knew where she stood on this. Having taken the time to find out more about the case, and reading up all she could and was available. Not having slept much for the past couple of days, devouring anything remotely related. From newspaper clippings to whatever police reports she could get her hands on.

And of course, asking for more and to be updated if there were any new findings. She came here, dressed like a merchant’s daughter. A simple blue kimono, with a light blue mantle draped asymmetrically. It had been famous for the better part of the century and was still now. It was not getting phased out, merely replaced.

As it was a great way to save costs but still look rather royal. Really only requiring one or two layers, which could be used repeatedly or matched to another. And the skirts need not be as full or as expansive as it used to be. A narrower silhouette was used for this, as it was rather long as well, although pins and clasps held it in place.

She stepped into the inn and led Junri to bring her up to the top. She drew the stares of many, but they also knew that Sasaki was in here today. An intentional way of showing that they were doing business together, except that she was a merchant and not a Daimyo’s daughter.

Once she was there, she opened to find herself staring at Sasaki. The man was now sitting across her, and one for her as well.

She took a step forward. Even as he placed it down. Ready for her to ask any and all questions if it was necessary. Taking a seat, before they were at last ready.

“What is it that you wish to ask me?” He asked. Clear that nothing would be changed in such a scenario or it. The most important question, of course, was how the shogunate functioned. And Sasaki was suited to such items simply because his own family once served as their loyal executioners.

“How does the shogunate tell you when it’s necessary to execute?”

“When they are a bother or a sigh. Some shoguns find it a necessary evil, but do not like the idea of it. My father found the previous two Shoguns of such a character, while some delight in it. Or perhaps the game of it all.”

The fact that the wrong words, appearance could cause death. Not allowed by the law which was governed, but secretly. “And of course, suicide is preferred for them. We often have to offer that way out, for the honor. But usually, they rarely take it, and try to bargain with us.”

And often meant the loss of their heads. It was without a doubt brutal, given the previous midaikoro had found herself beheaded on suspicion of having killed her husband— one of the greatest sins a woman could commit. Even as many could say that she willingly went with them, no sign of her children and no sign of what would happen to them.

Suffer their mother’s taint, or they would overlook it because of their beloved father? A truly polarizing situation. And their disappearance as much of a mystery as it was before. She took a sip, knowing that there was no answer. Perhaps there was, only if his son were to resurface again and force them to take the stand.

Just as it forced the current shogun to abandon his first wife for his second, even if the children were borne by the first. And the couple still remained childless till now, and the marriage was rather cold. With many knowing that his sister-in-law, the Princess Yasu played a more significant role in their upbringing than their stepmother had.

“But this information is often kept in a record. They always keep track of such things. In case some things don’t add up later on.” And she could guess that it was used against them as well. As much as she could imagine that this means that there was a record. He was the most powerful man in the country, even more so than the Emperor. Who had been reduced to a puppet, only having influence but no real power.

And she knew that he was also one with plenty of duties, which made not keeping things straight unlikely. And in case anyone betrayed them.

“Where is it?” She asked.

“A private library owned by the Tokumoto family. It is never opened, although used by the members for any occasion. Or if they wanted to show them any parts of it. Currently, the most common visitors has been the shogun’s daughter Miyo-hime and his son, Tokumoto Tatsumi.” And if she wanted to enter, the sensible thing was to look through Miyo. “I haven’t really made an effort to enter, while Enyou had.”

Something which she had not been surprised over.

Provided they were of the same ranking. Just as she knew that only ladies of noble birth could afford to do that. Since only they had that amount of free time to look around, while the rest had needed to work. Only out of necessity and nothing else.

“And she can lead you.”

“So, what is your cost this time around?”

“The same as yours, the record as well. I am interested to know if he had a hand, and so far Enyou has never managed to find it.” But it would not be the same with her.

“There won’t be any servants allowed.” But she would be able to look or at least distract enough to really begin the search. “Enyou has gotten quite far, and Miyo-hime often does one thing which allows you to wander. It is usually to pick a book, and she guesses about anything and everything.”

Which could be useful about it. Even as she needed to carefully avoid it. “Enyou has managed to chart out where most of the books are throughout her years of playing. Although they tend to keep away from one part of the library.”

“Have you been looking for this for quite a while?”

“I won’t lie to you, I have been looking for this for quite some time. Perhaps to know whether Kouya was in his payroll or not. We have been trying to find this for a full three years now.” And Enyou had played the part, and likely got much of her acting skills from there.

Needing her to really know the limits and perhaps to guess it. And that this won’t be easy, at least on her. “But Enyou has already finished most of the work, but your help would be greatly appreciated.”

It would benefit her as well. “How would you intend to return this?”

“Well, we might just use a shinobi to do it. Someone incredibly skilled enough to sneak inside. Although I won’t say that it would be easy since it is also protected by them.” Although they have done it. And also to protect them. “We are going to pay them or their order when they complete. In exchange for agreeing to shield us and claim that it was stolen.”

“I’m sure I can look into that to make sure it’s a lot easier. Since I have a far-reaching network.” An offer, something for something.

“I’ll take up on that.” Help was always a necessity, and she knew that this had benefited. As much as taking it would already be difficult on its own. “Is that all you’re asking?”

“Yes, yes I am.” Nothing that would be in the speculation area simply because there was too little known. And it wasn’t as though she trusted them to such a degree in the first place. Only a very slight degree, at least in reality.

Even as she stood up, leaving. This was what she needed, also as it took her quite a while to see it. And to understand where she was going from now. There was no turning back, especially if she did this. This was going to be a secret that she must keep, and never to see the light of day. A road of no return.

But if she never took the risk, then will she ever truly see the day she would walk free. She walks away, with a deep breath knowing just what must be done.