Daimyō’s Palace, Kazedama, Land of Wind, EN.
Rasa’s attention was drawn away from the Daimyō as a door was pushed open to their left. Torio turned around, following where he was looking.
A young boy, followed by a servant who had a hand on their shoulder, had just entered the room.
“Ah, Miyasato, over here,” Torio said, confusing Rasa.
He’s blind, Rasa realized as Miyasato changed directions sharply, turning toward his father’s voice. Rasa hadn’t noticed his eyes at first, having been confused by the servant holding on to Miyasato’s shoulder. The servant was acting as a guide for the boy, making sure he didn’t run into anything.
“Father,” Miyasato said, giving a bow. He didn’t turn toward Rasa or the Shinobi with him, only staring blankly toward Torio.
Torio walked up beside his son and turned him toward Rasa.
“As I’m sure you can tell, my son is blind and has been since birth.”
“My name is Miyasato Sakamoto; it is a pleasure to meet you.” The boy extended his hand in front of him, though not toward anyone specifically. Rasa smiled and stepped forward, taking the boy’s hand.
“It is a pleasure to meet you as well, Miyasato-sama. My name is Rasa.”
“You are the Kazekage? My father has told me much about you.”
“Yes,” Rasa replied, getting a small nod from Miyasato. He looked up as Kanade appeared in a swirl of sand next to Miyasato, her eyes focused on something behind him.
Rasa turned quickly, finding Gaara staring intently at Miyasato. There was no Killing Intent coming from Gaara, which was unusual, but he located the sealing tag in his pocket nevertheless. His men did the same, each spreading out slightly, prepared to restrain Gaara if necessary.
“Who are you?” Miyasato asked behind him, making him glance back at the boy. Miyasato had turned his head slightly, looking more in Gaara’s direction. Rasa looked at Torio, but his friend seemed unconcerned by the situation. Kanade, however, had her hand on the fan strapped to her back.
Miyasato bowed slightly. Gaara’s eyes narrowed, making Rasa pull the seal from his pocket. He hoped his son wouldn’t be stupid enough to try to attack the prince, but it was possible.
Gaara folded his arms in front of him, “You’re weak.”
Sasori stepped out of Gaara’s way as the red-headed Jinchuriki walked toward the open doorway. Rasa signaled his men to follow Gaara.
“I assume you have a place for us to stay?” Rasa asked, getting a nod from Torio.
“Kanade, please make sure they find their rooms,” Torio ordered, getting a nod from the Kunoichi, who vanished in a swirl of sand a second later.
“My apologies,” Rasa offered. Torio nodded, understanding.
“Don’t worry about it. I took precautions regarding your son. His reputation is nothing to be scoffed at.”
Torio still had his non-bandaged hand on Miyasato’s shoulder, who was looking out across the throne room blankly.
“I’d like to go to my room,” Miyasato stated, getting a nod from Torio.
“Riko-san? Please take my son back to his room.”
“Of course, Torio-sama.”
Miyasato accepted Riko’s grip on his hand, following the servant out of the throne room. Rasa turned back toward Torio, skepticism on his face. Torio raised an eyebrow.
“He’s not blind, is he?” Rasa asked.
Torio sighed, “We will talk later. Please, see to your son and the accommodations I had prepared for him and see if they are acceptable.”
Rasa hesitated before nodding, leaving the room by the exit Gaara had taken.
He had to ask a servant to point him toward where Gaara was staying, unable to sense him, which was unsettling. Walking briskly down a hallway, he spotted a palace guard at the end of the hall. The guard bowed before opening the door ahead of him, and he was immediately able to sense Gaara inside. Rasa wasn’t sure why placing a Chakra Signature Blocking Seal was necessary, but clearly, his son’s room had one. Stepping inside, he could see the other signature he’d detected in the room.
“Rasa-sama, I was just making sure my buddy here was settled in.”
Sitting on the bed was Gaara, staring at him blankly. To the right of the entrance, leaning against a wardrobe was Asurami. Rasa had met him before, a little over a year ago.
“Asurami-san, it’s good to see you again.”
The Shinobi hadn’t changed much. His sandy brown hair was still cut short. His clothes were different, now wearing the uniform of a Daimyō Guard as opposed to his dirt-colored camo suit. Rasa thought perhaps he’d put on some more muscle since joining Torio’s Guard, though Asurami was still tall and lean, similar to most of his clan.
Asurami took off his mask, and Rasa was once again able to see the rare Kekkei Genkai the man possessed.
It only happened every couple of generations, and even then it was rare. The left side of the man’s face was scaled, a rattlesnake-like pattern on it. Both of his eyes were yellow with vertical pupils, and his tongue was slim and forked like a snake.
“I was surprised when I heard you joined the Daimyō’s guard,” Rasa commented as he looked around the room, noticing the lack of windows. It was richly decorated, but highly secure as well. He could sense the iron in the walls, at least two inches thick. It was, in essence, a decorated prison cell.
“I got bored chasing down bounties, and the offer had been standing for a while,” Asurami replied casually, his forked tongue darting out and testing the air before vanishing. Pushing off the wardrobe, the snake shinobi looked toward Gaara, who stared back.
“Settled in here, Gaara?” Without waiting for a response, Asurami walked toward the exit. “Okay, good. If you’ll follow me, Rasa-sama?”
Rasa nodded and followed the man out of the room, the palace guard closing and locking the heavy metal door behind them.
“I assume you’re in charge of security for Gaara?” Rasa asked. Asurami nodded.
“Yes, I have the most experience with your son, and I think I understand him pretty well.”
Rasa sighed, agreeing with the Snake Shinobi. “You probably know him better than I do, to be honest.”
When Asurami had come to Suna, before becoming a part of the Daimyō’s guard, he’d been hunting down a professional criminal. Whoever had hired Asurami had failed to keep the mission a secret. The criminal learned that Asurami was coming for him and fled through Suna, heading toward the border.
Asurami asked Rasa to send someone with him to help, as he was concerned about running into a trap. Rasa decided to send Gaara. His son hadn’t been on a mission in a while at the time, and civilian deaths were rising. It had been better for everyone to get Gaara out of Suna.
The mission had taken a week to locate and kill the criminal, and during that time, Asurami had come to understand Gaara somewhat. Mostly through fighting, as the Jinchuriki had tried to kill him multiple times. Rasa had warned him about the possibility beforehand though, so he’d been on guard.
Asurami shrugged, deciding not to continue the point.
“I have two criminals who are to be executed in a few days nearby…”
“I’ll have Sasori give you one of the seals.”
“Thank you. If you’re going to Torio-sama next, he’ll most likely be in the kitchen.” Asurami offered.
“Don’t be surprised if he’s taken over the entire kitchen by himself. Really pisses off the servants when he does that,” Asurami called after him.
As Rasa stepped into the adjacent hallway, he barely heard the end of what Asurami was saying. Something about the servants complaining about Torio doing their job for them, and how useless it was to complain. Rasa wasn’t paying much attention.
Luckily, he’d passed the kitchen on his way earlier, so he didn’t have to ask for directions this time. The palace hadn’t changed its physical layout in the last eight years; however, the decorations were entirely different and didn’t match his memories of the place. He’d never really liked the palace anyway and had rarely spent much time here before becoming the Kazekage.
Arriving at the entrance to the kitchen, he had to step out of the way of several servants carrying large plates of food. They all apologized profusely, turning and walking sideways as they hurried past him. Catching the closing door, he slipped inside.
He was still wearing his Kazekage robes, so he stopped just inside the doorway, noticing bits of food and liquids on the carved stone floor.
Scanning across the busy room, he located Torio near the back, standing next to one of the chefs. They looked to be conversing intensely about the bubbling pot of stew in front of them.
Rasa couldn’t hear them over the din of conversations, and movement in the kitchen. Contemplating what to do, he heard Torio’s voice suddenly over the noise.
“Fine!” Torio yelled in exasperation. “Do it your way. It’ll be entirely your fault when it’s terrible!”
“As if! If it’s the best stew you’ve ever had, you’ll just take credit for it, Torio-sama!” The chef yelled over his shoulder as he returned to stirring the pot.
Torio turned toward him and waved, making his way slowly through the crowded and hectic kitchen. A moment later he stepped up the small flight of stairs to the entrance of the room, next to Rasa.
“Apologies, I didn’t notice you’d come in,” Torio said, gesturing toward the doorway. “Let’s go somewhere quieter to talk.”
When someone thinks of a palace, the first things that come to mind are usually “massive in size, expensive, and filled to the brim with decorations and items that cost a fortune each.”
Rasa certainly hadn’t expected to find the third floor of the palace completely barren, only a few torches here and there. The decorations he remembered were all gone. Even the walls had been stripped down to the paneling and supports.
Every door in the hallway they were walking down was open, the rooms beyond barely lit or not at all.
“I’ve never had any use for the third and fourth floors of this place, so I had everything in them sold and used the money for other things,” Torio explained as he limped along beside Rasa. They were heading toward the one closed door in the hallway.
Rasa nodded, agreeing with Torio’s decision. He had always wondered why the previous Daimyō hadn’t done the same. The man hadn’t cared for material objects either. No one ever came up this high in the palace anyway.
As they reached the door, Torio waved his hand, and it swung open ahead of them. Rasa shook his head and chuckled, amused by the small trick. It had become prevalent among Shinobi a few years past, started by the Puppeteer brigade in Suna. It was so overdone by this point that it was rare to find a civilian impressed by it.
They stepped out onto a surprisingly well-lit balcony, the extensive palace gardens sprawling out on the ground dozens of feet below them. The sun was slowly setting over the mountains in the north, casting a warm light over the palace. The cooling night winds had reached Kazedama and were a welcome relief from the hot day.
Torio sat down in one of the two chairs on the balcony with a small wince, offering the other to Rasa, who politely declined.
“I don’t remember the garden being this… beautiful,” Rasa commented. The garden hadn’t seen a lot of care in the previous Daimyō’s reign, but it was full of exotic life now. Every section had different plants, the colors contrasting with each other exquisitely.
Torio chuckled, “I wish I could take credit for that. However, it isn’t something that interests me. No, that’s all Miyasato’s work, a hobby of his.”
Rasa looked over at Torio. His eyebrows raised expectantly.
Torio nodded slowly, “Yes, Miyasato isn’t blind.”
Looking back at the garden, Rasa spotted several servants moving along the paths, lighting up lanterns.
“So that was the Byakugan.”
The silence seemed to drag on, and Torio could tell Rasa was trying to figure out how something so impossible, was possible.
“I’m sure I don’t have to explain how confidential and secret this is, but I will anyway. You will not speak to anyone of this.” Torio’s tone made Rasa straighten his back, recalling the memories of his friend giving orders to the Shinobi under him, commanding respect and obedience. It was undoubtedly an order, the second one Torio had directly given him.
The first had been during the end of the Second Great Shinobi War, Torio’s leadership the sole reason they won the last battle. Rasa’s throat constricted as he recalled the horrible stench of that final battlefield. The bodies of hundreds of his comrades and enemies strewn about him.
“Of course,” Rasa replied sharply.
Torio sighed, his posture deflating as he sunk into his chair. Rasa stepped away from the balcony and took his seat.
“I don’t possess the Byakugan, and to my knowledge, I don’t have any Hyuga heritage,” Torio began. “Furthermore, the Byakugan, to my understanding, is either something you have, or you don’t. I couldn’t find anything to prove that it could be a recessive trait.”
Rasa propped his elbows on his knees, folding his hands in front of him as he supported his head with his hands.
“Miyasato isn’t your child,” Rasa said after a moment’s silence. It wasn’t a guess.
Torio nodded, “I don’t know who his father is either.”
Rasa took a deep breath through his nose and leaned back in his chair, “Yura cheated on you?”
Torio stared at the floor and didn’t answer for a few moments. “I only found out about it when she tried to have the child aborted secretly. The Captain of her guard came to me and requested that my guard follow her, as she’d dismissed her guard without explaining why and he was concerned.”
“And you kept it secret because you loved her and couldn’t stand to see her reputation ruined,” Rasa guessed, getting a silent nod.
Torio took another deep breath, “I put her under constant guard, and made sure the baby was brought successfully into the world.”
Rasa heard his friend’s voice crack ever so slightly.
“She hated me, Rasa. I never could understand why. She refused to tell me who the father was.” Torio shook his head, finally leaning back in his chair, having to adjust his bandaged arm carefully. “As you know, she died of an illness when Miyasato was three, and he doesn’t remember her.”
Rasa stayed silent, noticing that Torio was nervously rotating the wedding band he still wore.
“So, I claimed Miyasato as my son, and he isn’t aware that I’m not his biological father. I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can, but I fear tonight is the beginning of the end of that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Miyasato is smart, brilliant even. I taught him how to unlock his chakra at five, as is customary, and he figured out how to use the Byakugan a few months afterward. Since then, he rarely deactivates it.”
“So he can see us right now?” Rasa inquired curiously. He hadn’t noticed any Byakugan blocking seals.
Torio nodded, “Yes, but I set several rules for him. Not spying on my conversations was one of those.”
Rasa was skeptical, “Do you think he’s following that?”
Torio just shrugged, turning and looking out at the mountains, the last little bit of the sun disappearing. “The seals required to prevent Byakugan sight are a closely guarded secret of the Land of Fire, and on top of that, the Uzumaki invented them.”
Rasa understood. Torio had a lot of visitors as the Daimyō of the Land of Wind. Diplomats, other leaders, Shinobi, and Clan Heads, among others. Occasionally, Uzumaki would come to Kazedama to purchase specific plants for their sealing.
The Uzumaki Clan had an uncanny ability to sense seals, especially ones that their clan designed. At the very least, it seemed like they could sense them. It was better not to risk it. The Uzumaki was famously protective of their work.
“Because of these complications, I had to take measures to keep Miyasato safe. That’s why he’s never been seen by anyone outside of the palace. Miyasato isn’t even his real name.”
Rasa raised an eyebrow, surprised. “I can understand keeping him out of the sight of the public, the Land of Fire would have a huge problem with someone outside of the Hyuga clan having the Byakugan. On the other hand, I don’t understand why you have him go under a fake name?”
“Do you remember Yabūchi?”
Rasa nodded. Yabūchi had been the Daimyō before Torio’s predecessor and had been a complete disaster, unfit to rule. He’d given his Shinobi orders which put them in danger and were impossible to complete. He demanded things that only benefited him and harmed the Land of Wind. This over-sized palace had been built on his orders and filled to the brim with useless, expensive decorations.
“Even though that man was horrible, my predecessor was the complete opposite. Nevertheless, he grew up in a similarly rich family here in Kazedama.” Torio left the thought unfinished.
There wasn’t much Rasa remembered about Yabūchi, having been very young during the Daimyō’s reign, so he waited for Torio to continue.
“The difference, Rasa, is that my predecessor went through the Academy and became a Shinobi, and Yabūchi didn’t.”
Rasa tapped his fingers on the armrest of his chair, “You want Miyasato to become a Shinobi?”
Torio nodded, “Yes, it helps with character, maturity, leadership, strength, and will give him the ability to defend himself… His life isn’t going to be easy.”
“So how do I play into this? You mentioned an attack in my summons. How long ago did it happen? I haven’t seen anything to indicate an attack here on the palace.”
“I did, yes.” Torio seemed to psych himself up. Rasa narrowed his eyes. “The first attack was a little over two years ago. They came after only me the first time.”
Rasa sat up abruptly, “Why am I only hearing about this now?”
Torio could tell his friend was upset; it was apparent from the complete lack of emotion in Rasa’s voice. He hadn’t seen Rasa get visibly angry many times in their friendship, and hoped today wouldn’t be another.
“Secrecy,” Torio took a deep breath, looking away from Rasa. “The group that has been attacking me is somehow aware of my Kekkei Genkai—”
Rasa stood abruptly, “That’s impossible!”
Torio dismally shook his head, “Someone must have seen me use it, Rasa, someone we missed.”
He didn’t look up as Rasa began to pace back and forth on the balcony.
“The group is good, really good. We barely managed to defeat the first attack, a team of ten.”
Rasa stopped pacing, coming to a stop at the railing. Torio heard the sound of wood cracking as Rasa crushed the balcony railing under his hands.
“Kanade can give you a much better explanation than I can. She’s been in charge of the defense since the first night. My previous Captain, Yayoi, died defending me that night.”
Kanade had appeared when Torio spoke her name, standing behind and to the left of Torio’s chair. Attached to her back were two massive folded up war fans.
Clearing her throat, she began. “The first attack was sudden and unexpected. We barely noticed their presence in the palace mere seconds before they attacked. The group is extremely skilled at remaining hidden, nearly invisible to sight and chakra sense.”
“Do they have a name?” Rasa asked, releasing his grip on the railing as he calmed himself down. It infuriated him that Torio hadn’t told him about this threat before. He was the Kazekage, damn it, this was his job.
“We don’t know their name, but we have been referring to them as the Assassins for now. As Torio-sama said, the first attack was targeted at him. We did hundreds of searches and found nothing. Three weeks later, they attacked again.”
Rasa had calmed down enough to sit back down and was listening intently, his face an emotionless mask.
“For the first six months, they attacked about every three weeks. Since then, the time between attacks has steadily grown.” Kanade sighed, “We have never been able to tell which one was the leader out of the group of ten that attacks each time. All of them wear pitch-black ANBU-style clothing underneath a large, similarly-colored cloak with a large hood. We’ve never seen any of their faces either.”
Rasa’s face clearly expressed his disbelief. “How is that possible?”
“Suicide,” Kanade deadpanned, “We’ve killed a large number of them, even caught a few alive, however they all suicide before being identified.”
Rasa shook his head, realizing what Kanade was talking about, “It’s probably a seal above the heart, which they can activate willingly, and most likely, it activates when they die, completely incinerating their body almost instantly.”
“I’ve seen that before when I was young. I went on a mission to hunt down a missing-nin, who had several subordinates, Chūnin-level missing-nin mostly. All of them had that seal because their boss didn’t trust them,” Rasa said, getting a nod from Kanade. It made sense, it ultimately prevented them from being tortured for information, or even identified.
Torio chuckled dryly, “It gets worse.”
“One got away during the first attack, and when they attacked again, they went after both Torio-sama and Miyasato-sama. There were ten of them again, splitting into groups of five. It was one of the strongest attacks we’ve had from them. We were prepared; otherwise, we would have lost.”
Torio nodded in agreement, “I was forced to use my Kekkei Genkai to kill them before rushing to Miyasato and helping the guards.”
Rasa was shocked, and Torio could only smile grimly.
“The Assassins are extremely strong and patient. We had hoped they’d given up since they hadn’t attacked in nearly four months before this most recent attack. However, with this most recent one, they’ve attacked eleven times in two years. Additionally, it’s always been eight to ten Assassins.”
“Why haven’t they attacked with more Shinobi?” Rasa asked.
“You’ve not been here in some time, Rasa. In recent years, the other four of the Great Five have put their embassies extremely close to this palace.” Torio explained and Rasa immediately understood and was impressed.
“They don’t want the secret of your Kekkai Genkai getting out any more than we do,” Rasa said, thinking out loud. Torio only nodded.
“Do they know Miyasato has the Byakugan?” Rasa asked. Kanade shook her head.
“As far as we know… no. It’s possible, though. We believe they are going after Miyasato because they think he has Torio-sama’s Kekkai Genkai. If not that, then to use him as blackmail.”
Torio sighed, chuckling to himself, though there was no joy in it. “I think you can understand my situation now, Rasa. The Assassins are just as paranoid as we are about another country learning of my Kekkai Genkai. Which means, I can’t do anything to make any country suspicious.”
Rasa finally let his anger go, “You didn’t call me because a reason would have to be obvious that held up under scrutiny. I only got Gaara under control this year, and it wouldn’t make sense for me to leave Suna during that. So, you summoned me here under the pretense of attending Miyasato’s birthday.”
Torio nodded, smiling wryly. “Yes, but you should also try to enjoy the party.”
“You were also summoned because the situation changed last week. For the first time, the Assassins attacked with a group of eighteen. We lost five of the Daimyō’s guard, and thirty of the Royal Palace Guard. Torio-sama was badly injured, and we only won due to his Kekkei Genkai,” concluded Kanade.
“What do I need to do?“