Date: September 28, 2013
Kuoroke brings a proposal before the Suna jounin council.
"Follow the Money - Initial Plans"
Kazekage Administration Dome [Sunagakure]
The opening of the Kazekage Administration Dome leads up a flight of stairs, into the lobby of the expansive building. Looking upwards, the entire building is open to the sky. Each floor is a ring, built with a hole in the center to allow a view both upwards and downwards. It is a very impressive sight, with many people visible moving around the upper levels, and stopping to chat around the railings.
The lobby has a tiled floor, with a intricate concentric circular pattern, and the walls themselves have been actually painted, and have designs etched into the hardened sand. The only piece of furniture on the first floor is a desk, and directly behind that, a stair case moving up to the next level. On either side of the desk are Male guards, their faces covered, and a make secretary is seated behind the desk, ready to take any questions or arrange appointments.
No one proceeds to the upper levels without the secretary approving them, and in most cases the armed guards also check them out to make sure they are carrying no weapons. However, there are a few people who can walk back and forth easily without the guards checking them, although all of them must first speak with the secretary.
Having recently returned from his visit to Konohagakure, which has lead to the Hikaze Anzen Chitai mandate, Kuoroke has quite quickly called for a meeting of those members of the Council who were not occupied with immediately necessary matters -those who are, are excused, because Kuoroke wouldn't want to disrupt any vital operation in Sunagakure- and the Kazekage. The subject of the meeting is something referred to as 'operation Copper Swan' - a title as uninformative as any Kuoroke's ever thought up. Luckily, his message goes on to elaborate that the recent agreement opens up a possibility to obtain a considerably more complete picture of many of the world's operations and points of interest.
Itami entered the dome and looked at it as if it was foreign. She hadn't been here in a while and she thinks she's beginning to miss the place. Oh, how things change. But she's not here to dwell on that, no, she's here so she can see to this meeting taking place. The name was unusual enough, but she supposes that will all be cleared up momentarily. "It appears Konoha is a hot spot of activity. I had intentions of going there myself to discuss some things. I think now is the perfect time to do so, after hearing out this meeting, of course."
Sousa likes information. Some types more than others, of course. Information which is the most broadly applicable tends to be of greatest interest to him, because after all, that's what science is all about, isn't it? If what you observe doesn't apply to the world in general, the knowledge you gain is only useful under the conditions under which your observations were made. :P Unfortunately that's what information about the doings of the nations is mostly like: last month's news often doesn't have that much bearing on today's activities. e.e But at least such information can be used to form long-term patterns, and it's better than no information at all. So, an idea for new ways of tracking what's going on around the different countries? Sure, Sousa's in favor of that. Probably. "Hmmm, I hope that your intention is compatible with Kuoroke-san's plan, then."
Kuoroke starts the meeting with a nod. "Greetings. Welcome." He raises a thick tome he's brought with him off the table a bit, and then puts it down roughly enough to send a clear 'thump' through the room. "Thank you for coming. This will be the topic of discussion. This, and the agreement we've recently made with the village of Konohagakure. I'm sure you've seen the text, I've had a copy delivered to each of your offices." He indicates the tome again. "This, ladies and gentlemen, is the ledger of one Kuroyari-Yamamoto Momoe, a merchant and mercenary, visiting out village. It informs her of her expenses, her gains, the whereabout and to some degree the reasons for them. Enough to extrapolate a rough idea of what she's been doing. Now, you may wonder how we came into possession of this ledger. The answer is that she offered it to us to prove that she falls under the definition of a merchant."
There is a pause, during which Kuoroke glances about the table. "Now, there is an old investigative technique: follow the money. I'm sure you're all familiar with it, and I wouldn't bring it up if this weren't an excellent opportunity to apply this technique to the entire Shinobi world, or at least the entire world where any merchants that come here, or may decide to come here -I'll get back to that later- ply their trade." He goes quiet, waiting for the initial reception.
"That, I don't know. These are concerns that are concerning both villages at this point. But, I'll wait and see," Itami stated to Sousa while focusing her attention on Kuoroke or more specifically, the tome he's just dropped. "I did review the copy momentarily, but I think it'll need a more thorough overview once I return to my office. I think I have the…gist of it all, so to speak and I'd like to hear more to see if I'm on the right path," she states. "You're free to continue unless Sousa-sama has anything to add?" She questions and observes him to see if there was anything he had to add. She tried to follow him closely, but was only barely beginning to understand him well enough to be predictive, but she thinks she might be taking the wrong route.
Sousa taps his chin thoughtfully. "Hmmm, that certainly would be a worthwhile thing to keep track of. Since these merchants are supplying us with their records as a part of this new treaty, we might as well study into it as much as we can." Sousa smiles amusedly and leans forward on the table. "Or were you going to suggest something a little more devious on top of that, Kuoroke-san?" ;)
"Oh, I wouldn't suggest they're supplying us, sir. I'm showing you this one ledger because it is, for now, our full library on the matter. Now, we may have more volunteers who want to cut the red tape, but I believe we can't let this happen by itself." Kuoroke answers. "Instead, I would suggest that in the short future, we announce a restructuring of our customs system, our merchants' licenses system, and so on. Basically, all systems a traveling merchant comes into contact with. We can't help these changes: it has come to our attention that our current system is woefully inadequate to fit our treaty, and we couldn't go back on our word, could we?" If one were to go just by Kuoroke's tone and expression, one would think he meant it. "These changes will involve a considerable increase of paperwork for merchants, additional waiting times while things are processed, perhaps some searches. Then, we announce a small administrative tax for those subject to all of this. At the same time, we apologize for the need, and offer anyone the chance to just supply their figures to us and take a shortcut through the red tape. I suggest we call this the 'Trusted Business Establishment Project' or something similar - and that it come from a different angle than the original reform. Perhaps the one suggesting it could even decry my overcomplicated system to lend more credence. I'll leave to you who needs to popularity boost."
"Once we get a decent amount of merchants already in the system, we can put some stress on the others above the administrative tax. We raise the price on protection of caravans for unregistered, calling it a 'discount' for those who fall under the aegis of the treaty. After all, we promised to protect them, so they -deserve- that discount. We throw in some searches - if they're hiding something, they have something -to- hide, after all. We won't get everyone, and we may lose some business among the less flexible, but we will get a far more accurate map of money flows."
Itami likes where this is going. She grins and nods in approval, mostly to herself, hut the gesture was fairly open as well. "Being able to track these movements all by following money is quite useful. It's actually quite simple, but sounds complex at the surface. This treaty sounds favorable." She leans back in her seat and makes herself comfortable by tucking her legs in atop the cushion. "I am not quite certain how my issue may relate. Currently, some Iwagakure forces have been spotted making moves through this land, but they don't appear to be bothering us much, from what I can tell. They are using the land as a means to pass through on their way to the Land of Fire. They have activities taking place along the border that I feel is not good, both for us and Fire. Considering they may be transporting goods, this treaty would subject them to the same rules, yes?"
Sousa chuckles faintly. "And here I imagined you were going to suggest tagging the money that goes to different merchants somehow. Almost literally following the money." ;) Sousa folds his hands behind his head. "At any rate, it sounds like a sound plan. Though I sometimes wonder if we really need as much obfuscation as you like to put into these things. Perhaps the merchants would cope with it just as willingly if we simply told them that sharing their records was a standard part of the treaty." Sousa turns his head to Itami. "That is a touch worrisome, yes. If their intentions were above-board, they would most likely have asked special permission to send a significant number of their troops through our land, or at least notified us."
Kuoroke shakes his head at Itami. "I am afraid not - this plan works only because I ensured the definition of a merchant as someone who makes more than three-quarters of their work by the sale of goods. They, obviously, aren't subject ot that. -However-" He raises a finger. "Since we're not allied to them, we could consider them a threat to local trade caravans, which we've promised to endeavour to protect from such things." He turns to Sousa, and for a few moments considers how to best put it in his words. "No, sir, we do. Purity of the experiment, if you will: I would compare it to a medical trial. In one, you wouldn't tell your patients what you expect them to feel for fear of causing a placebo effect. Ideally, you'd want people who don't know they're being tested. Furthermore, the less direct we are about it, the less likely it will be someone will try to use this channel to slip us misinformation. I feel we will face less resistance if, instead of thinking that -we- need this information, merchants believe -they- are better off giving it to us and we're just graciously accepting it because we're nice enough to meet them halfway."
"In addition, there is one more thing to consider, and this one is somewhat more… vulnerable. According to the treaty, they are to be unaffiliated with us, which means such an offer couldn't be specific to Sunagakuran merchants. Otherwise, it would be too similar to a Sunagakuran merchant's guild or something of that sort. No, we will have to draw in some outside merchants, who can't reasonably be called affiliated with us. How do we do this? The best I can come up with is to promote the Hikaze Anzen Chitai zone as a place of stability and tranquility in the worst of times, which are surely to come, and as part of that highlight the protection to merchants who currently work somewhere else but decide to move their business to us in times of need. Say, if their normal routes suddenly go to a warzone. At no charge or inconvenience to them, of course, so that at least some of them will consider it a wise move to make sure they've a way out. That way, we both stick closely to the wording of the treaty and gain additional information outside our immediate area of influence - provided we /can/ convince at least some of them to cooperate with us on these grounds. Not to mention, such a promotion may balance the lost merchants with merchants who prefer the idea of a safe route. Depending on our degree of success, we may even sharpen the contrast by, hm… providing a few clear examples of the dangers to merchants in other areas."
Itami nodded. "Then this may work out. I thought Konoha could be secure, but only so much as it relates to us and our security. In this case, I believe this treaty could potentially cover Iwa's actions and not damage relations too much. If this treaty covers them as potential threats, which has been noted of them, then everything is fine." She hummed. "There shouldn't be any particular bias to come out of this." She folded her arms and closed her eyes to mull over the subject for a bit. "Are you implying that we stage some issues to make our point clear and convince them to…urge them into these conditions, so to speak? I…would volunteer for the job of influence, but people seem to take me as someone untrustworthy these days. Then again, perhaps this image can be redeemed if I place myself in the position of being someone who can be trusted and make push forth the accommodations to the unaffiliated merchants." She opened her eyes looking between Sousa and Kuoroke both. "I do think this treaty may be beneficial to us and tilt a bit of power into our hands."
"If the need is there, yes." Kuoroke nods to Itami. He smiles faintly: the Kuroki is glad his idea is being accepted and others share his hopes. "Well, that -is- the hope. Our initial steps, however, will be the restructuring and the ensuing offer of simplification. I propose we hold a vote now on both issues. As usually, I will go ahead with the first step and push ahead the initial measures - I can't imagine they will be received well. Whoever wishes to take up the part of my opponent in this, proposing a simple, streamlined approach, should contact me - unless you wish to appoint such a person, Kazekage-sama, in which case I will hear from you. If the situation changes significantly enough, I will put this back up for discussion, but for now I will proceed as discussed. Itami, you've been moving about plenty, and you may be able to use the boost in public relations, as you say, so if not my opponent -we can discuss those details later- then you will at least play the liaison to fully foreign merchants. All in favour, aye?" Kuoroke leaves a pause, and then raises his own hand, giving an 'aye'. "All against, nay?"