Chapter Eighteen: Nowhere, but not done

The book was almost futile. As she scoured nearly every page of the recent month, and still nothing. Enyou took it first, and it seemed that they had not managed to find anything much there at all. If there was anything which suggested something more. And thus, she was on the last few pages. Holding out for something that perhaps or might change the tide as it was.

She flipped to the final, hoping that something might answer the questions in her mind. When she was done, the answer was still nothing.

Going all over the place and yet she still returned back to to the beginning. No further in where she began than when she came. And however, she knew that she had made a stride somewhere. And chose to take this as positive, if there was something she knew it meant that the shogunate was not her answer. It made things harder and easier at the same time.

For it made plenty of sense, given that even they had not chosen to make any move against them currently speaking. Also, as it seemed that it would have made the most sense since they had not moved against her. Miyo knew she was there, there was no denying that the shogunate knew it. Just that they did not see any problem in doing anything for her.

Unless she proved them right. And she controlled the communications there fully, but it meant that they were not interested. Not forcing her brother into anything, and mostly trying to keep everything the same way it was. A bright idea that they were not moving towards them, at least not yet. Not while they were still here at the very least.

This meant that she had to change the way she was looking at this. Or at the very least the way she was viewing this right now. She had to change her mind, or change her head. She had to come to terms with this as it was, and the choices she made here was a sign that she could no longer make any choices to return.

She heard the knock on her door, allowing someone to enter at this point. She yawned, not having much chance to sleep these few days. Expected since she turned her attention, and rested the minimum was required to function and also to not feel as though her eyes were burning or about to close. Or her body would be sluggish and made it difficult for her to focus.

Thus she needed to sleep so that she would be functional but without it so that she could focus entirely on this. As well as returning the book, which was why they had tried to do everything within the shortest amount of time which was legally possible to do so. Limits to what they could do, but she mostly took it when she needed the rest. Having chosen not to sleep for the first night.

And then having it to the Sasaki, who decided to find out what they needed. And the next couple of days where she was entertaining and thus made it almost impossible to set aside time. And enough for them to find what they had needed. She was done, as her search was narrow.

Just that she had been preoccupied with other matters at this point. Not that it mattered other than showing that the shogun did not have a role in her father’s disappearance.

There was a knock on her door, and she knew that it was a must for her to answer it. “Who is it?”

“Your brother wishes to see you.”

“Let him in.” She agreed to it. Even as he stepped inside, knowing that she had not made her appearance for almost two days. And this was slightly worrying and why he was choosing to come here now. Out of concern with her at this point.

He was standing outside, dressed simply. They had not seen much of each other. And guessed that perhaps her own withdrawal had plenty to do with the investigation. The book was there. “I took it from the Tokumoto clan’s private library.”

A theft, something that she could not walk away anytime soon. She had made her choices with this alone. “What did it say?” He asked.

“He wasn’t responsible.” And why she had placed it down. She took a risk, and the result had not been worth it. It didn’t mean that it was all for naught, except that she would need to go through the trouble of placing this back again. Something that she could not be assured that would go well.

Although clear that they did not notice if they were not marching here. “I could guess it, at least in terms of how they were treating me. The same as before, a captive who could not leave.”

And needing her to win his own freedom back. He wasn’t allowed to leave, even as his father was dead, a funeral had taken place back home. And yet, the shogun had not allowed him to do the one thing that was expected of a son. Especially if he wanted to leave this affair as far as possible, release him.

Let his captive be someone else. Which washer? “Bear with this a little longer, I have somewhere I need to go to. I have to go to Fukusei to see what is there. And make my plans accordingly.”

“Find out more regarding the circumstances?”

“Most of it had been strange so far, and you know that some know I’m here but not all. Keep up the ruse that I am.” Something that she was asking him to do. For their family, since it would depend on whether she can find out. It may not be the shogunate, but who was to say that this person might not just consider turning their attention onto them.

It couldn’t have been any more different since they had many many enemies. Or preferably her father had made them but had them focus on him. And why he was no longer here. It was not too far a stretch to finish it off and ensure that they would not be a threat to them at the very least if at all.

“I agree. So far, I feel that no one is out to get me. Perhaps they forgot my existence.”

“It would all change the moment you went back, even Haha can’t protect you fully. You would be required to appear constantly and continue to help out in the government. Just as we remain one of the few members of the shogunate who were independently governing their domains.”

With everyone else had given the lands back to the shogun, or it had fallen back to them through marriage, inheritance or selling. They were one of the few who still had them but were incredibly wealthy and mostly lucky to have retained their land in the first place.

And that they had no heiresses but married a few heiresses here and there when it was suitable for them to do so.

“And it would be best to still find our enemies before they strike again.” She gave a definite nod. A clear understanding that this was what she had meant, and what they were going to be aiming for. At least while they were still here. Since they did not know, and it was the first rule.

A gamble, but she could guess that it was not the last. Ignore the opportunity now, and all she could do was wait until the next. “I’ll do my best to hide your leaving.”

It was going to be difficult, but it was what she needed to do. “I pray that it goes well.” He left the room, suggesting a little more than she did ever know. As a city, Okiban was one who lost is glamor was regaining it. Years of turmoil had finally be returned to their original state, allowing them to really recover after many years of instability.

Just as it became necessary for them to try to regain a tighter hold on their subjects. Due to the loss of two of their shoguns in the recent two decades to assassinations. Not even illness, but unnatural deaths. One without an apparent perpetrator and the other was one where many still had their doubts about.

They accepted it since they had a culprit and enough evidence. But many could guess that it was unlikely to be so as well. He left, while Suzumi remained.

“So, you have made up your mind?” She asked.

“I don’t have a choice. Pass this to Kin and ensure that the Sasaki receive it.”

“Of course, and the preparations you asked for is already complete.” To assist them in returning this volume back. Neither of them found much, but for the Sasaki, they always had a name and someone to look for. She had neither of them.

“I’ll be leaving tomorrow since it’s already almost done.”

“Yes, they are all finished. But shouldn’t you consider taking a servant along with you?”

“That will always be filled in by Kaede, she also knows the city, which is a bonus as well.” Even as it all came back to who she was and how much she could be trusted.

“So, she is from that city?” She nodded. Perhaps knowing that this often meant a suggestion about her background. That it was a little more complicated than even what many could guess.

“Yes, yes, she is.” The fact that no one could really deny it right now.

“That would make her a guide, but it would depend solely on how much you could potentially trust her.” This was something that no one could really deny it about while they were here. This really ended on who she was. “I can’t say, but the final decision rests with you.”

Suzumi had a valid point about the whole situation right now. Kaede was doubtful in terms of her background and the fact that they knew so immensely little about her. And she did not press it, but trusting her with more critical assignments was something that needed to be thought through. At least in this regard.

And paved the way for her to meet with Kaede. “Then, do you suggest I meet with her in an attempt to ask her these questions.”

“Yes, although you can choose to divulge it to me or not. I make no attempt to know the business of others.” Even as many would see such a question as reasonable, but Kaede only revealed it to her. And thus, only she should know and decide based on that.

It only seemed logical to tell her, but at the same time, she left it up to her. Showing that Suzumi was not attempting to control or dictate anything to her. A loyal person, indeed.

“I wonder, will you remain loyal to me?”

“Of course, I was hired to protect the family and protect it, I shall.”

“Then, how did you come here?”

“He brought me in, I served him since I was a young girl.” She turned away, leaving the room.

“That will be the only answer I’ll give you regarding Kaede as well, and it’s as you say, I make the decisions after all. But what do you wish in exchange for such a service?” She asked. Knowing that eventually, it would be necessary. And her advice had been useful for her, as she began her chance to navigate.

“Freedom of movement and do not pry into anything I do will be greatly appreciated.”

“Done. I only want to achieve my ends, and nothing more. As long as you promise to advise and serve me well, that is really all I care about. I do not want to know what happened in your past or who you are.”

“Then, it shall be the same agreement for her?” She asked.

“And for anyone I find.”

“You’re an interesting girl. Most of them would always want to know, to understand them, or to wield it as a weapon against them. By leaving this be, you can choose to make some of your best allies and also enemies. But it is something I accept, and my advice as I promise would not be anything that will be detrimental to you.”

“Thank you.”

“But as I say, this strangeness of yours is also respecting our own pasts and who we are. A lot of us who work for your father has secrets, but he always demands them all when we serve him. An agreement and a written account of who we are.”

She gave a slight smile. “But I do not wish to burden myself with such knowledge, things that I’m better off not knowing. All I need is loyalty, not mountains of information about everyone under me.”

Suzumi gave a slight smile. Having its own irony given that she dealt in information and thus knew the value. “But this is what I’m giving you, the value and the choice of sharing secrets with me or not.”

“If there is anything I need to say, it would be the fact that all of us came to your father through no accident. A lot of us can’t leave or are shielded from our enemies because of him. And now, it will be because of our connection to you.”

“So, in a sense, it is because none of you can leave that you are here?”

“And an exchange with your father, except for Kaede who is entirely found by you.” The woman was likely impressed by her ability to accept someone with a background as dubious as hers and make a friend. Not that she cared for either.

“Are there records?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know, he would never tell anyone of where they are. And if he didn’t tell you, then, it seems unlikely that he would be telling anyone else.”

Just as she had an idea how, or where. “What was my current rooms used as?” She asked.

“Storage mostly. And he asked that it be left empty, and since it was so, it was easy to move your things inside.” She stood up, before entering further. There were places that she had not explored and that she once moved the swords by accident. Late at night, a day ago when she was so tired and accidentally touched it.

It had not fallen off. She went up, slowly turning it. Until it revealed a table with a book on top. She went forward to see what it was. A list of it, things which could be used. She knew what must come next. Burn it in front of everyone if it was possible. “Gather everyone tonight.”

Suzumi left the room, and she stood up, needing to find Kaede. Even as she told her of her own plans to already do so with her. Kaede was sitting outside while holding a drink in her own hands and taking in a deep sip of it.

She placed it down upon seeing her. And asking for the chance to perhaps meet somewhere a little more private and suited to their own needs. At least right now. She had taken out any expensive coat, albeit still dressed far too well for her. Even as she went up and led her into her room.

“So, am I still heading with you to Fukusei?”

She nodded. Since it was very much settled even by this point. Something definite in its own way. “But I want to ask something of you.”

“Go ahead.” There was trust between them, even as neither knew the full picture about the other. But both knew enough to know that there was no malice and a way to assure that they knew each other.

“A loyalty that is bought. I don’t want to know any of your secrets, but all I want is an assurance that you won’t do anything against me. And if necessary, you will be truthful. You’ll gain more freedom in your coming and leaving, and since it’s your home, and I’m sure you would want it.”

“I do, and it would be appreciated. The price is reasonable enough for me. So you won’t ask if I choose to leave.”

She nodded. Clear that this was the arrangement. “Then, I consent to it. You can ask me anything if you want, and I’ll answer or not based on how comfortable I am in it.”

Just as this was a strange deal to be made between anyone.

“Then it’s decision either way. I’ll take you with me, I won’t even begin to ask when or where you’re going. But give me a heads up when you do.”

Late at night, when they were gathering. The first time since she had done so. With various members, all gathered behind in the house bought by her father, although rented to a contact of his. And an easy way for him to summon and assemble them. As well as all the information received which was here as well.

They all had not known what would happen. Other than it was in her control, even as many had their own doubts. For it was a woman who was controlling it, and they were right to be wary. As some accepted it, for she was named because she was an adult and did not despise him. Not in the same way that her mother distanced herself from her father.

“I just took control recently, and in exchange for these years of service to my father, I wish to do one thing.” She had a large brazier there, and a truth that she was burning it. In every sense of the word. She placed it there, and let it sizzle.

“I have no wish to know what was the agreement between you or him, or the reason why you serve him now. You can choose to leave, or stay by me. But do know that when you do, you will serve me when I need you to, but I will not ask of your past.” She took in a deep breath. “But cross me, and I shall not let you off. You can leave, I’m not going to use force.”

“I will be heading to Fukusei to look into my father’s death. So, make sure everything seems as it should be, and Suzumi will be the one you’ll listen to in such a time.”

She took a deep breath, having done with this once and for all. Now, she could focus on Fukusei and finding the truth behind her father’s death.