Ryoka’s face burned with some embarrassment at Shouko’s reaction. She hadn’t meant for it to sound like she was ending things between them, and she wondered for a minute if perhaps she was taking herself too seriously. With Shouko’s continued reaction, this idea grew in her mind, as the girl she had chosen to love took everything Ryoka had to say so far in stride. Perhaps she had been taking herself too seriously for a long time, and perhaps that had been necessary at one point. And in any case, Shouko herself was a Jounin at this point, had gone to war. She was right in saying that she had grown too, more and more matured and wise and womanly by the day. When Shouko put her forehead down on Ryoka’s shoulder, Ryoka’s hand instinctively went to her hair on the back of her head.“Well,” she murmured, “I feel a bit foolish for worrying about that for so long.” She gave Shouko a crooked half smile. “I guess those things were such a big part of my life for so long. When I first became a shinobi, I lost sight of myself. When I was younger… I never thought I’d be a shinobi at all. I grew up on a farm way out in the country, and life was… simple. There was a lot of hard work but I had so much freedom to be my own person.” She often felt embarrassed of her past and realized that she hadn’t ever really talked to Shouko about it. The words now came freely and easily, though. “I left that farm because my mother died, and my father was a powerful shinobi. I changed so much after being a shinobi became my focus, and not always in a good way.” Ryoka looked away from Shouko for a moment, a dark look crossing her face, and then turned back to face the girl.
She paused to marvel for a second at how different it truly was than when they had first met. Ryoka was still new as a kage, Shouko just starting to try as a shinobi. They’d both changed and grown so much since then, and it had kept them apart. But Ryoka felt it was finally time to cast all that aside. They had grown on their own terms long enough. It was time to grow together now. She took a deep breath. “All of this to say, I joined the war for the wrong reasons. When I was made Mizukage, it came as a surprise to me, and it was because of my background as an assassin and spy that I had been chosen to root out several threats at the time. I… let it carry over too much, I think, into my other decisions. For generations now Kirigakure has maintained a vision of peace and isolation, and of course my job had been to maintain that vision from the shadows. I realize now I hadn’t stopped to consider how my own actions and choices to try and join the war on my accord might affect everyone else and our nation. Of course I said it was voluntary, but that was selfish, and I didn’t realize how much more would go into it than that.” She paused now, looking at Shouko with a frown and a dark look on her face.
“There’s a part of me, of course, that you know, who is dedicated to Kirigakure and my people and those I care about, but I mentioned that bit before because… when I sort of lost myself in my job, a part of me became… bloodthirsty. Some things I did as an ANBU were selfish and grabs for power, and I fear that carried over. I don’t know if I wanted to fight in the war for the right reasons. I don’t know if it was because I cared, like I said I did, or if a part of me longed to be back in the position to… to…” Ryoka took a deep breath and didn’t continue that thought. She couldn’t quite say out loud that there was a part of her that longed to push her sword through human flesh. “That’s why I visited the snake sage, and ultimately why I quit the job of Mizukage and spent time in the countryside where I grew up as well. I think now that both parts were true, but I don’t know if I can be the leader this village needs as I am.” She looked now to see if Shouko had anything to say to all this, as it was a lot and sort of a heavy subject.