Date: March 20, 2011
Mizukage Hikan meets with Kazekage Sousa to find answers about Sunagakure's support of Konohagakure. He leaves with both more and less than he came for.
"Broken Memories Pt. 3 - Games of Diplomacy"
Bottleneck Entrance [Land of Wind]
To the East a trail following a jagged and rough cut mountain path, leading through the rough territories of the Wind Country. To the south of that trail are mountains, and well to the north? Some rugged outcroppings and a sheer drop, the distance far enough that faint wisps of cloud can sometimes be seen. Whether these clouds are sand or moisture is undetermined. And to the West, a path that leads to o a junction of trails.
There is a point as the path changes directions, away from switchbacks and possible deadly falls, where the land actually levels out and weary travelers can either rest or pass each other on the long narrow and winding path. There are easily hundreds of hiding spots within eyesight of the camp, including caves, rocks, boulders, outcroppings, and other such protuberances to hide behind.
Not long into the War with Konoha, it had become somewhat obvious that Sunagakure had allied themselves with Konoha officially. This was a most … unique turn. One which the Mizukage had not expected to happen. Sure, the Leaf and Sand had some dealings in the past. But were they truly friendly enough to shed blood together? Hikan didn't know that.
On anyrate, upon this discovery, the Second Mizukage had sent a private message to Sousa for an exclusive meeting. This would be the first time they would meet face to face, considering it had only been several weeks since Hikan took the position from Mitsuo. Hikan needed to establish himself as far more diplomatic than the First Mizukage was. He was about thinking first, not so much throwing punches and THEN asking questions.
It had taken some time to organize of course, but finally, here it was. The meeting would strictly be between the two of them. No guards or escorts required. Although whether any of them actually obeyed this rule was up for question. As a sign of good faith, Hikan had ventured personally all the way from the Land of Water to the Land of wind — Sousa's own country. By himself, no less. He probably would have gone all the way to Sunagakure, but … that likely would not have panned out so well.
And thus the Mizukage waits in a small cave, by himself. Hikan actually does /not/ have any guards or shinobi with him. He wanted to be honest from the get go, and as such, has lived up to his word regarding that. With a small camp-fire crackling against the wood, the Mizukage sits upon a smooth rock. His sleek prescription glasses reflecting the flames before his body. Long, shoulder-length hair tied back. Evening has come to the Land of Wind, leaving the fire to be the only source of light.
He just sits there — silken tunics washing over his form. He has no attire to indicate that he's the Mizukage whatsoever. You can't draw attention to yourself like that, after all.
Does Sousa intend to put forth the same sort of good faith? Not by the sand that sticks under his robes. X) He's dealing with a largely unknown person from a culture known for violence and cunning, and he is himself a prime target for any number of shady dealings whether they involve another country or not. Showing up alone at a lonely location after being specifically invited would be just plain unwise. Nevertheless, Sousa does show the courtesy of leaving his guards a short distance from the cave, after they do a quick scan of the area to make sure there are no obvious traps or ambushes waiting.
Sousa approaches the cave alone, walking with his cowl pulled over his head like the traveling monk he used to be. As he enters the mouth of the cave, he looks around briefly. Still no apparent dangers. The cowl is slowly pulled back. "Shirayuki Hikangoku-sama, I presume," Sousa remarks. "An honor to make the acquaintance of the new Mizukage. I imagine you've been provided with my likeness, but just in case, I am Kokoroe Sousa."
Sitting on his rock, Hikan turns slightly to spot the hood-wearing monk enter. "Kazekage Sousa." Standing up, the Mizukage dips his head a little. "The honor is mine, Kazekage. Thank-you for agreeing to this meeting. I feel like I have much to talk to you about, but in reality … I suppose it is not much." Gesturing forth to another rock for Sousa to sit down on if he so wishes, Hikan takes back his seat. Glasses are pushed back up the bridge of his nose.
"I shall attempt to not take much of your time, as I assume you are just as busy as I." He begins, folding arms across his chest loosely. "To begin with, I know I cannot wash away any grudges that Mitsuo may have left you. But I wish to personally say that Kirigakure does not have a problem with Sunagakure. Our grudge and battle is with the Leaf, not the Sand. Even though you have chosen to ally yourself with … them." He states, as if having some trouble saying that. "…I believe that it is possible for us to gain a fresh start." He nods a little here. "I do not presume us to become the best of friends, or perhaps even allies at all. But I hope to gain a mutual respect for each other at the least." His eyes travel from the Kazekage to the fire before him.
"Our vendetta with the Leaf will continue. I just find it unfortunate if we will be killing Sunagakure shinobi, who we have no problem with in the least."
Sousa takes the seat as indicated. He listens with a bemused smile while Hikan makes his case. Taking a stick from the firewood pile, Sousa begins to draw in the sand scattered across the cave floor. By the time Hikan has finished, Sousa has made a rough outline of a multi-sided game board. "Hikan-san, have you ever played any wargames with several sides? Preferably as many as five or more, though three would do to illustrate."
Sousa starts drawing in simple symbols, circles and squares and triangles and the like, representing different armies. "The peculiar thing about such games is that they are rarely decided by who is the best strategist, or has the strongest force, or even the greatest luck. It's primarily a matter of shifting loyalties." The circles and triangles surge toward the squares, beating their forces down to a fraction of their original strength. "Any player who brings to the game loyalties from outside its context is liable to suffer for it." A fresh force of x's sweeps in behind the tired circles and triangles before they can finish off the squares. The circles fight back against the x's, but the triangles cut their losses and retreat, leaving the circles caught between x's and squares. "Similarly, those with the inability to put aside their anger at other players will pursue them to their own destruction." The squares voraciously pound down the remaining circles with the help of the x's, then find themselves trapped by their 'allies'. The x's move to finish off the squares, while the triangles spread out behind them. The triangles take notice of this greater threat and try to turn their attention to dealing with it, but the few remaining squares attack their flank doggedly. The triangles surround both of the other armies and slowly swallow them up.
Sousa glances up at Hikan. "Of course, that is only a simulation. It has certain limitations, not the least of which is that all the forces must be determined to destroy the others in the end. However, I believe it is sufficient to demonstrate my point." Sousa folds his hands into his sleeves. "I did not have any particular problems with Mitsuo-san. Nor does Sunagakure have a standing alliance with Konohagakure. In your determination to do combat with this nation and that nation, you may find Sunagakure shinobi fighting against you one day, alongside you another, and totally absent yet another. It all depends." Sousa picks up the stick again and draws a nebulous cloud around the entire game board. "Of course, under the circumstances…I would prefer it if you were able to at least postpone your vendetta until such time as trivial disputes might be safely indulged in."
Hikan watches with interest, the various symbols beating each other up and the such. His head tilts, the light of the fire providing enough source to make out everything that is happening. "I am indeed young, Sousa." The Mizukage muses. "But I have not played War games such as these. Even in childhood." He waves a hand. "But I am aware on the rules of strategy, of course." He tilts his head a little, looking from the diagram to the Kazekage.
"Unfortunately, that is out of my power to perform sometimes, Kazekage. Between just us …" He leans forward here, as if talking in secret. "If I had it my way, Kirigakure would never have invaded Konoha in the first place. At least right now. Biding my time would have been a much more preferred way of starting my reign of Kirigakure." No, not terror. >_>; A pause. "I believe the Water Damiyo insisted on this plan, along with his servants, the Swordsman. I was led to believe it was perfect." He leans back to let out a short laugh. He then shrugs. "Nevertheless, what has happened has happened. I cannot change that. Only shape what happens in the future."
He shifts a little bit on his rock. "I hear many people claim that your Village is one built out of neutrality. You say that you have no standing ties to Konoha, yet there have been several reports of Sunagakure youngsters getting mixed up in these affairs. What does 'it all depend' on, exactly? What interest do you have in preserving Konoha? Or is it more so to keep us from expanding?"
Sousa smiles cryptically. "I'm afraid it would be a poor move for me to answer that question entirely, Hikan-san. Another common aspect of these games is that secrecy of one's own plans is vital. I rather wish it weren't, I much prefer games wherein all knowledge is open to all players. But as I cannot compel the other players to abide by such rules, I must play to my own advantage within the rules imposed by nature."
Sousa taps the cloud around the game board. "I believe it would be to my advantage to reveal this much, though. There are forces at work quite aside from the Great Shinobi Villages and their nations. Powerful forces, linked to the recent disaster in the Land of Whirlpools. I was informed beforehand that they would demonstrate their capability using that region. Precisely how powerful they are I cannot say; I rather doubt they are as strong as they would like us to believe. But evidently they can cause a great deal of devestation." Sousa draws circles, squares, triangles, and x's around the edges of the board. "We would be wise to put aside our internal squabbles to deal with this threat. Of course, until we are able to ascertain how to confront them, that primarily means simply curbing aggression toward one another."
Hikan can only smile lightly at the answer which he is given. A small nod, as he adjusts his glasses just a smidgen. "Perhaps you should play snakes and ladders then. A game based far less on strategy than on luck." Just an idle comment, really. But when Sousa grows a little serious, it manaes to capture the Mizukage's attention.
He listens to the entirety of the story, his dark eyes narrowing ever so slightly. "The Land of Whirlpools, huh…" Yes, he had heard a little about this disaster. One of epic proportions to be sure. "I guess revealing who 'they' are is not a sound strategy either. That, or you don't know that yet." When the 'proposition' of sorts is made, Hikan leans back. "Truly, we would be a fool to take such a threat on individually. Partnering ourselves with you is of little consequence or issue. I have no personal issue with that. However, you should know that I stand with the Water Damiyo regarding our relations to Konoha. I would rather see them suffer the same fate as the Land of Whirlpools. But if it came to our own destrouction or … working together for a /very/ temporary time…" He pauses into thought, as if considering who he would have to bribe for that to happen.
"You are planning to unite every Village? The Raikage too?"
Sousa shrugs. "Well, 'unite' is perhaps too strong a word, at least until matters become drastic enough that all parties are forced to attend to the issue. At present, I am hoping more to…arrange matters such that our collective strength is as ready as reasonably possible to deal with the issue when the time comes. I am speaking relatively plainly with you because I believe you will cooperate. I may find opportunity to bring others into confidence, perhaps including other Kage; if not, I will simply do what I may to influence events toward a favorable outcome."
Sousa taps his chin. "Speaking of which, you'll need to do the same within your own nation. From the sound of things, your village and your Daimyou would not easily be distracted from their enmity with the Land of Fire in favor of guarding against an ephemeral threat. They are unlikely to simply take the word of the Kazekage that the threat exists." Sousa steeples his fingers. "If, on the other hand, their own Mizukage were to be the one to unearth this insidious plot…"
"Yes…" Hikan says, almost indifferently. "Kirigakure works quite a bit different than Sunagakure. I may be so bold as to mention that each village has a different way of working matters. The Hidden Mist, Swordsman and Damiyo are always quick to focus their gaze on the newcomer. Even if that newcomer is the Second Mizukage." He shrugs. "I welcome such gazes, to better prove my worth. I know that my … youth has been called into question plenty of times in recent weeks. Some even believe it is the reason we failed against Konoha." He smiles a bit, before pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose so that sit in front of his eyes. "Regardless. If I were to propose to the other leader that we need to ally with Konoha without any substantial proof, I would be killed. Not that I would blame them. To be honest, the mere idea of this makes me … sick. Those bastard Leafers." His fists suddenly clench a little bit, and the temperature, Sousa may notice, will drop a few degrees. It passes though, returning to normal.
"But the monkey must sometimes grasp onto a shaky branch if it wants to get to the next tree. I shall put intelligence into this matter, and work to uncover more of this plot."
Sousa stands up and dusts the sand from his robes. "You may not have to ally with them at all, really. Just try not to bother with them for the time being." Sousa walks toward the cave entrance, then pauses. "If your people really must take action against the Hidden Leaf, however…there is one avenue which may be productive."
Sousa turns around again. "The machinations of this outside force seem to center around certain stones, which were held in those towers which mysteriously appeared from the earth in recent years. Konoha is in possession of at least one of those stones. If I were able to study such a stone, it may yield clues as to our enemy's intentions and movements. Of course, they would be unlikely to give up such an item willingly. 'Too dangerous to fall into anyone else's hands,' and all that."
Sousa tilts his head. "If your people become too anxious to remain still, perhaps you could at least convince them to begin with a rather…covert type of action."
With Sousa standing and making his leave, Hikan does the same. Although he doesn't quite walk out with Kazekage. Not yet, anyway. His arms remain folded loosely across his chest, his eyes down on the fire. As if deep in thought. "Yes. I know of these 'Stones' which have started appearing." His eyebrow quirks a little.
"Do not misunderstand, Kazekage. Whilst I have remained friendly and of good faith to the promises in my message to you … I would not hand off one of these Stones to you. At least until I could determine that it gave you no significant advantage over the rest of us. Much would be the same if the case were reversed, I imagine." He pauses, looking up to Sousa through the top of his rims.
"As I said, I do not expect us to become the greatest of allies, or the best of friends." A small smirk. "Just Villages that have a mutual respect for each other."
He tips his head in a nod. "Thank-you for your time, Sousa. You have given me much to consider. Until we meet again."