Whilst the real Ryoka stayed in Kirigakure overseeing the necessary day to day functions of Kirigakure, Ryoka had sent a shadow clone of herself to go meet with the Daimyo. It being a more formal – if not urgent – occasion, she didn’t simply take the time to travel through the woods and camp along the way. Instead, she was taking an escort, a carriage and a train of other shinobi and administrative assistants. She was wearing her full kage regalia, a silken white cloak falling smoothly on her skin and a hat adorning her head. It was an outfit she very rarely wore, and one she never understood why other kage frequented. In the cart that was bringing her to Shunto, the location of the Daimyo’s palace on the Ocean’s Cradle, was also Genji Shimada, the captain of the ANBU, and Emiko Tori, a sensor specialist who headed the village security. None of them said a word on the relatively short carriage journey; the two villages were close to each other, being linked as they were.
The purpose for their journey was not a happy one, and an uncomfortable air hung heavy in the carriage. Ryoka was simply staring out the window at the gathering mists of the dawn. It was an early morning journey for them the day after the destruction. From what Ryoka had already heard, the Daimyo was not a happy campy, and neither were the village elders. Every turn of the wheel that the carriage took closer, a deeper pit of dread developed in Ryoka’s stomach. She would stand her ground, her natural assertiveness taking over, but she couldn’t help but feel like this was it. This failure was too great, and something had to go, and that something was going to be her.
Upon their arrival, there were guards waiting to escort them into the Daimyo’s palace. They bowed upon Ryoka’s exit, and solemnly began guiding her into the building. It was built in an ancient style seen through much of Kirigakure’s architecture, the brick and clay rising with domes and winding green vines being a prominent feature. Ryoka and her company entered into the palace. The inside was minimalistic, with traditional art hung on the walls. They were guided through a hallway to the front and then to the left, where a large room with a round table stood. Already in the room was Hirohito Nobutsu, the Daimyo of the Land of Water, and three of the elders of the village: Kami Higana, Inoru Watanabe, and Jun Inoue. Ryoka recognized them from when she had first been appointed kage; they were three who had voted her in. She wondered where the other elders were briefly as she entered the room and darted her eyes around quickly.
She and her companions gave a deep respectful bow to the elders and the Daimyo as their titles were announced. Some other ANBU and Jounin had accompanied them, along with one of Ryoka’s main secretaries, Shizuna. The group took their places across the table from the Daimyo and the elders and their guards, and the meeting was set to begin. Ryoka took a deep breath. She would not be making the introductions. She merely needed to field the inevitable flood of disappointment she was going to get.
“Lady Ryoka, thank you for joining us on such short notice. We’re sorry the other elders could not be present, but you understand the timing of the matter,” Inoru began. Ryoka gave a nod. He smiled sweetly; he was an elderly man, kind and gentle but not to be taken lightly when challenged. “Let’s cut right to the chase. We’ve received reports, naturally, of this minor disaster that has occurred in Kirigakure. Naturally, though, we would like a full report from you and your shinobi.”
Ryoka gave a small nod to the elders, half a bow. “Of course. It is with our greatest sorrow that we have to have this meeting. Shimada-sama, can you please report to the elders what transpired at the office complex?”
Genji gave a nod and a bow himself; the elders’ attentions turned to the head ANBU. “An unknown assailant attacked the Mizukage’s office yesterday, leading to the murder of two Kirigakure shinobi: a one Naitome Hoshigaki, Jounin, and Mei Yoshiro, Chuunin. There were three civilian casualties as well, so far as we have counted, and many more injured. The wreckage was due to the use of extreme force against the assailant.”
“Who still managed to get away without identification,” Jun sniffed haughtily, interrupting Genji’s message. Genji flashed a glance in Ryoka’s direction; the Mizukage nodded solemnly.
“Unfortunately, yes, the assailant was undiscovered and escaped. We are currently doing everything we can to discover the identity of this attacker, as well as their motives,” Ryoka said.
Once more, Jun sniffed indignantly, causing Inoru to give him a glare and tell him to hush. Jun, however, would not have it. “This is disgraceful. We selected you, Ryoka Mizuki, to prevent this very sort of thing from ever happening. And yet here we are, and you can’t even give us a straight answer.”
“Inoue-san, please,” the Daimyo began, but a simple hand raise from Jun silenced him. The Daimyo grunted, dismissing it with a hand wave of his own. “Do not presume to silence me. Ryoka-san is young, of course, and inexperienced. Has she not proven to be just in her position so far?”
“Just!” Jun said, anger mounting in his voice. “She hasn’t done anything we requested. Where are answers to the assassination of Lord Benjiro? Where is the end to this supposed Johatsu and these sick experiments that have been coming to light? No, I’d say she’s hardly done anything. And here we have another mess on our hands.”
“I agree with Inoue-san,” Kami began, stroking his beard. “We selected her for her proven experience in her field, but perhaps it was a mistake. Perhaps she is too young for leadership, despite her track record.”
“I believe you will find the Lady Mizukage to be very effective at her job,” said Genji carefully. “With all due respect, as you said, this is simply a misfortune that we must sometimes deal with, and we are presently doing everything in our power to rectify the situation.”
“That is good to hear, though of course words of assurance aren’t exactly what we’re after,” the Daimyo said with a sweet smile, though Ryoka could tell there poison in that honeyed expression. “What we want is some action, and we want it soon. This meeting will be brief, of course, but we called here today to read your full report and to tell you this in person, Mizukage-sama and company. If we don’t start seeing some results, well… do we have to reconsider our choices?”
Ryoka could feel her face burn, but she kept as composed as possible. She gave a low bow to the Daimyo and the elders. “No, you do not. I promise I will uphold the duties assigned to me upon my selection as Mizukage.”
“That is good to hear,” the Daimyo said, standing. “I believe we have your full report in writing then? Unfortunately I am a very busy man, you see. I must be on my way now. You are welcome to stay the night, if you wish, but I hope you have a good journey back nonetheless.” And with that, the man would exit the room, accompanied by most of the guards. The elders bowed as he left, then turned their judgemental eyes back towards Ryoka.
“The Daimyo believes there is something you can still do, and it is true that this is the first crass mistake since you have become Mizukage. But these are already trying times, as you know. Before things get worse, Mizukage-sama, we expect to see improvement and order in Kirigakure.”
Ryoka gave a low bow. “And I promise to deliver.”
Kami clapped his hands together. “Very well then. Let this meeting be adjourned. As the Daimyo said, our hospitality is extended to you should you wish to take it. Otherwise, we bid you farewell, Lady Ryoka. We hope our next meeting is on better terms.”
“As do I, elders. Thank you for your patience and mercy,” she said, a bitter taste in her mouth. These harsh old men, just like all old men who had always had their way in life were… she shook her head, pushing the angry thoughts from her mind. Genji gave her another glance and then stood with a sigh.
“You’re going to disperse now, yes? If so, I will see you tomorrow when I return home. I need a drink after today.” Emiko offered agreement in the form of an exaggerated nod, an exasperated expression on her face. “Count me in with the drink, Shimada-san,” she muttered, the few words she’d managed to get in all day.
Ryoka nodded solemnly. “I will see you tomorrow, then. Goodnight. Safe travels back to Kiriagkure.” And with that, once everyone had left the room, the clone would disperse and return its memories to the original.