Date: November 1, 2016
Taiki and Takeo have a long overdue discussion…
Poster's note: foul language filtered in obvious places.
"Politics and the Path to Family"
Military Commander's Office
Takeo's spending a rare day in his office, catching up on a small tower of paperwork he's allowed to accumulate over the week. Such is his habit. To the eyes of someone like Taiki, the sage looks rather older now than when he left Konoha. His layers of kimono are draped over the back of the chair he's reclining in, exposing his partially visible torso, still scarred in so many ways from battle and torture. Even the scar of his old Jinchuuriki seal lingers, protruding from beneath the bandaging wrapped about his lower torso.
Every so often, the man clamps his less fangy teeth about the slender stem of a pipe, exhaling what smells like medicinal smoke thereafter. The scars must be painful, but then, he started smoking the stuff after he lost Isobu and his chakra circuits shattered. When he's not doing that, he's glancing over a paper in hand before putting it down, scratching out his signature with the tip of a claw dipped into an ink well.
There's a knock at the door, and when Takeo answers, a non-descript chuunin on receptionist duty opens it and says, "There's a rather strange… peerson here to see you Takeo-sama. I'm not exactly sure what they want, but one of them wears the hitai-eitai of Konoha, and mentions he's here to discuss something privately with you. He hasn't given a name, but he's accompanied by some of the biggest dogs I have ever seen…" She looks rather nervous, but that could be because of the dogs, since she looks backwards and /up/ for a moment, as if looking at someone or something taller than her.
Takeo turns his head to listen to the chuunin's explanation, his brow furrowed as he takes a slow drag from his pipe. "No dystopia? Really?" Apparently, the man already has a wager on who his visitor is, or at least /what/ they are. Comes as a surprise, too. How to confront this? "Well, c'mon in, then. You've come a long way, though I thought it was against the rules to talk to me or something." He puts another paper down and scratches out his name with the tip of his claw. One gets the sense that Takeo just might sign some of these things without actually reading them through.
When Takeo calls for them to come in, the chuunin hurriedly moves herself out of the way to admit Shinobu and Nozomi first. Both seem half-amused and half-disturbed that a chuunin from Kumo would be so scared of them, but they seem to be taking it in stride. Right behind them is, as Takeo probably guessed it, Taiki. He's pretty much decked out in his Clan Alpha regalia, but he has a slight smile on his face. "And just who do you think makes those rules, Takeo-san?" he asks as he enters. He pauses just long enough to look at the chuunin to say, "I'm Inuzuka Taiki, Clan Alpha of the Inuzuka, by the way. Sorry if my partners make you nervous, but as your superior can attest, they're rather harmless to allies. And sorry for not introducing myself, but I wanted to surprise him," he says, adding a slight wink at the end. After apologizing to her, he stops to glance around the office while Takeo takes care of anything he might want to tell the chuunin.
"Shinobu. Nozomi," Takeo offers by way of greeting. His blood may be stripped of any bonds to the nin-ken, but he spent more than enough time around the pair in his youth to remember them both. So, the big man himself's come for a visit. "Probably Daisuke. After all, the last time I threatened to come back to Konoha, he said he'd put the arrow through my heart himself," he reasons, setting aside his pipe and his paperwork for the moment. Leaning forward, Takeo rises from his chair without bothering to don his mostly ornamental kimono, no doubt intended to better portray him as a sage. A light, staying gesture with a clawed hand signals to the chuunin that it's fine to close the door.
Takeo steps around his desk and meanders closer to Taiki, glancing him up and down. "I haven't heard from an Inuzuka since I left. Not even my former fiance," he says, demonstrating unusual sentimentality as he pinches his fanged engagement necklace and lifts it from his chest for a moment. "Ah well. I've died so many times, I've learned my lessons about letting the past be. Still, you're an unexpected visitor. What brings you?"
Biologically, he's really not Inuzuka now beyond the claws. That Alpha mentality never really slips away, though. When Taiki presents himself in full regalia, he meets him in full confidence. Far more mature looking, too, at least physically. The mentality could use some work.
"In part, you would be correct. But he cannot block me from performing my duties as Clan Head, not without breaking some treaties in the process, anyways…" Taiki corrects as he comes closer. He doesn't sit quite yet, instead he appears to assess Takeo for a few moments, "Time appears to have had its way with you, for both good and ill," he adds.
In the meantime Shinobu and Nozomi both nod toward Takeo and move to take a seat on either side of the door, with Shinobu on the side that the door opens to. "Hello," Nozomi speaks out in human tongue. Since the chuunin had left, they both seemed to relax a little and appeared content to simply watch what was going to happen with interest.
Apparently satisfied with what he saw for now, Taiki continues on, "Well, I came to talk to you, since current political situations between Konoha and Kumo appear to have changed in a manner that would necessitate a discussion. Do you have time at the moment?"
Takeo bares his fangs as he grins mildly. "You don't look as young as you used to, either," he retorts. "Still strong enough to do my job and to get laid, though! I'll be more troubled when I'm a toothless old hound." The matter of duties and restrictions is waved off lightly. "Daisuke's in an awkward position there, honestly. None of you can be kept from speaking with an allied military commander. He wouldn't even hit me, last time we talked, on account of my being a sage. So, feel free to visit whenever you like. The more muckraked he is, the more delighted I'll be." A wink ensues.
He gestures with a large hand for Taiki to come in and have a seat. Figuring it might be more comfortable for his visitor, he settles in on a thick fur spread in one corner of the office and gestures for the leader of the Inuzuka to do the same. "I'm not sure of what I can do for you; they don't involve me much in the diplomatic matters. Nice that you're here to see me, though. I don't get that much."
Taiki takes the proffered seat and nods slowly as Takeo makes his point. "Trust me, I'm as dangerous, if not more so, than I was when we last met Takeo, which if memory serves, was at the downfall of the Recluse?" When Shinobu barks once in agreement to Taiki's observation, he nods and says, "I'm sorry for all but ignoring you then, but you must understand that I was preparing myself for the fight of my life, a fight that would decide our clan's future. I wasn't talking to much of anyone beyond that which was absolutely necessary. That, and there were… complications… between us at that time."
Taiki takes a moment to pause, then decides to plunge directly into the business he had today, "Indeed, at that time, and even more so recently, you have presented an interesting delema for the clan for a while now. On the one hand, you left the village, and in doing so, left the clan, even if the later came later on by your perspective. On the other, this was at the very least not fully voluntary on your part, so I could not call you a traitor. And Daisuke did not indicate a preference as to how we should consider you, rather saying that you presented an ultimatum that forced him to banish you. Given our position in Konoha, and the fact I could not readily get your side of the story, I took the only avenue open to me, and ordered the clan to leave you alone. I ordered that there would be no hunts, as you well know I have authorized in the past. Instead, I told them to let you live your life, and that we should only watch in the off chance you became a danger. I regret that saw you basically abandoned, but it was the best I could do, all things considered."
"Last I saw you was after Isobu was ripped out," Takeo says, briefly drumming his claws against the scarred seal upon his stomach. "That's where all these wonderful torture scars come from, too. Afraid you all were just a /bit/ too late on the rescue, but from what I hear, Isobu's inheritor is a much more welcome replacement. Good for him." The warning about Taiki's strength draws a mellow grin, once more. "Yes, yes. Alpha, Alpha, Alpha. We could both whip them out from our loincloths, but they're both big, so let's just agree not to menace each other."
He settles into silence for a moment as he relaxes upon the fur, listening to what the Clan Head has to say. "An ultimatum. I always figured he'd be half-represented about saying what happened in his office that night," Takeo comments, looking aside in what's still mild disbelief. "Let me clue you in. I waited, and worked, and served. My entire life, that's all I did. I watched, again and again, as he promoted shinobi I had rehabilitated from criminal acts over my head. Finally, I went to him to find out what was wrong. I went to ask for my fair due. Long story short, I called him a controlling tyrant - he had been since he was my sensei - and he called me a power-hungry sorcerer. That's verbatim, by the way. I wouldn't compromise my beliefs, so I left. You're right about his not giving me much choice, though."
Leaning back against the wall, Takeo looks to the ceiling, recalling the time mentioned. "Well, Daisuke wouldn't harm me, so I figured nobody else would do the same. It was no secret that he and I had been at each others' throats for years. After I left, I was living by a waterfall, unsure of what to do with myself. I'd probably still be out there if Hiei hadn't tracked me down. Here's to old friends who recognize your worth."
<Weather> Not a single cloud can be seen in the sky, where a thousand stars twinkle merrily. The air is cool for the time of year, but warm enough for cloaks to be disgarded.
Taiki listens to the story and doesn't seem all that surprised, really. While the specifics that Takeo filled in were certainly more than what he had known before, his experession, which he was not controlling at the moment, showed that it followed in generality what he knew. "I had figured the argument beforehand was somewhat mutual," he finally says, not really pulling punches here. "But from what I understood, you had basically told him that he could promote you, or you would leave. And he told you to leave. That is where the dilemma came in for me, as this entire argument, at least from my perspective, does not have a good guy. In fact, it reminds me alot of my arguments with Naru when we were first trying to figure out what we meant to each other. Neither one of us was totally right, and neither one of us was totally wrong. In the end, we just disagreed. Only this disagreement carried with a price that didn't just affect you, but everyone around you."
Taiki takes a deep breath and then lets it out slowly. "Since then, you made a home here in Kumo, and did rather well for yourself, from what I can see. But before we go any further, there's one thing you must understand. I'm not here as a Jounin from Konohagakure, or even as a leading medic-nin from the same town. I'm here solely in my role as Clan Alpha, thus the reason I'm dressed this way. I have to make this crystal clear, as nothing I say here has any binding concerning the issues you have with Konohagakure. While my decisions here today may have some effects in the political structure of Konoha, my decisions here today are made purely as Clan Alpha, no more, no less. So this isn't something that your diplomatic corps can't handle, this is between you and your clan."
Takeo leans forward for a moment, so that he can speak more quietly but with greater emphasis to Taiki. "I didn't make that decision lightly," he says, looking the man in the eye. "I'm grateful to the people here for taking me in as one of their own. Still, though? I /dream/ of being in Konohagakure again. Going to the ramen bar, training the young people, being on the council, walking between the trees under the moonlight. Not a day goes by when I don't miss home, so don't you doubt it for a minute. I miss my family more than any of the above. Here, I have no clan. Here, I'm alone." The point is made with a nod toward Taiki before he leans back and relaxes his voice again.
"So, you're not here to speak of political matters between the villages. This is about the Inuzuka and I," says Takeo. He averts his gaze courteously, as if to spare Taiki his pride, and inquires, "Are you asking me to come back?"
Taiki sighs sadly and shakes his head. "To ask you to come back would be to pronounce a death sentence upon you, and we both know why," Taiki says with a tinge of sadness to his voice. "While it warms my heart that you feel the way you do about our clan Takeo-san, it also complicates matters for me. You are not the only Inuzuka that currently calls Kumo home. Another Inuzuka, adopted though he may be, was forced to move here with his… well, now fiance, because her clan didn't approve of their union. In fact, they took some rather… drastic measures to assure that their secret techniques and dojutsu would not fall into anyone's hands, even our clan's."
Taiki explains this so he could bring up his next point. "With the new treaty in place between Konoha and Kumo, it gives any Kumo shinobi travel rights within both the Fire Nation and Konoha, which are reciprocal to Konoha shinobi. It also states that Kumo cannot harbor Konoha missing-nin, and vice versa. Because of this, you find yourself in a difficult situation, and part of my purpose for visiting Kumo was to try to find a way to alleviate the potential problem with minimal fuss for all people involved."
Taiki takes a deep breath and then looks to Takeo. "This solution begins with me determining your final status in regards to the Inuzuka Clan. Are you banished from the clan? Do you hold the responsibility to help represent our clan here along with your fellow Inuzuka? Can you even work with that Inuzuka and his soon-to-be wife? These are questions we must answer, because failure to answer them could cause rather severe problems for all of us in the future."
"I'm not missing-nin. Problem solved," Takeo says, lifting a shoulder. "Konoha's always known exactly where I am, and Daisuke permitted me to leave. He told me that I was exiled the moment I stepped through the gates. So, again, not a missing-nin. An exile, whose circumstances have now greatly changed. Unless he'd sooner see Konoha fight its battles alone, he can suck it up and work with me in times where we're both menaced. Imagine that, me coming up with the mature solution." He turns his head to the right and comments, "Too bad you're not asking me to come home. I'd have considered it seriously. If you pressed Daisuke and some minor terms were met, I might even just take the leap."
He scratches his neck lightly and chuckles. "It's Hige, isn't it? I've heard his name floating around ever so lightly," Takeo mentions. "I've no problem working with Inuzuka, or anyone else from Konoha, for that matter. I love my homeland and its people. There's only one man there who I had a problem with, and who can't pull his fangs out of an old grudge."
Taiki then shakes his head and frowns slightly. "No, Hige is still headquartered in Konoha, and he was born Inuzuka. In fact, he serves on the Clan Council now. He's just over here a lot as part of establishing diplomatic ties," he explains. When Takeo talks about one Inuzuka he can't stand, he looks over toward Shinobu whose ears lay backward. A silent communication seems to pass between them before Taiki sighs once again. "No, the Inuzuka I am referring to is Inuzuka Soren, and his fiance, Hyuuga Yuuki. Soren-san was adopted into the clan, and because of personal issues between his fiance and her old clan, they were forced to move here."
Takeo gives a thoughtful 'mmm' at this revelation. "Soren. There's a name I haven't heard in a long time. Good with a sword, if I'm not mistaken?" Again, he lifts a shoulder. "My answer remains the same. I take no issue with having him in my life, if that's what you're asking me to do. If you're asking this to be more formal without inviting me back home, well …"
"I'll offer you this," he says, gesturing toward Taiki. "We have two options. The first is for me to come to Konoha on promises of no violence, the Hokage and I shake hands, and we deem old grudges to be resolved. Whether I stay or go can be determined thereafter. If you want to propose that to him, I invite you to do it. I'll take the risk of showing up."
Takeo leans back and looks up at the ceiling. "Otherwise, if you want to declare me a clan representative? That's fine, on one term. Clan /Council/ representative acting abroad as a representative of the Inuzuka. If you can't get me home, then at least let me /feel/ like part of the family again."
"At this time I was not looking to make anything formal as far as representation of the Inuzuka to this village is concerned due to the intensive amount of politics that must be observed. At the very least, I have to make sure such a move would not be considered sedition against Konohagakure, since our treaties bind the Clan as a whole there. It would also necessitate a meeting with Kumogakure's Raikage and possibly senior staff, which you would have to recuse yourself for due to conflict of interest. So I cannot promise any such designation such as the last one you put forth at this time. To do so would be to cause significant problems politically within Konoha at best, and possible sanctions from the Hokage against the entire clan more likely."
Both Nozomi and Shinobu lay down and put their paws over their heads as they hear this last part. They too shudder to think what performing such a move would cause for the clan. "But bear in mind that any Inuzuka represents the entire clan to whatever village they're in. Whatever you do not only affects how they feel about you, but also how they view the Clan. That is the representation I speak of today. Anything more formal would, as I outlined earlier, take a lot of delicate maneuvering that admittedly would not normally be in place if we were talking about only Konoha, or about the people involved. No, my decisions here today are based on more if you still consider the Inuzuka family, or if you feel too betrayed by the Clan, especially given the problems I just listed."
Takeo finally does show a bit of a temper, but not toward Taiki, exactly. He has that dominant familial mentality in his psyche, too. "Oh, politics. Sanctions. Caution. Delicacy. All of these little /rules/ when everything could be resolved so simply." Leaning forward, the man stabs a claw into the fur rug to punctuates, "We're both of the Alpha line. We can bare our teeth and speak to the plain truth! This is problem exists solely because Daisuke holds an old grudge even as I am willing to set it aside in person, at potential risk to my life. In the end, I compromise on the beliefs I left over for the good of both villages. Isn't that what our choices here should really focus on?"
With an irritated 'tsk' slipping between his fangs, he drops back against the wall again and looks aside. "So ridiculous. If he'd just been a little less stubborn, none of it would've ever happened. Sorcery? Me, a sorcerer? I always thought I was a dumbbill thug who tended to give a little too much of himself. A whole lifetime of himself." Seemingly not conscious of his actions as he says that last line, his claws trace the scar that was once his seal. Testament to his once having been a weapon of war.
"Anyway. You've got me confused now. If you're asking me to make Soren a part of my life, then I will, to the extent that he's willing. Do I feel betrayed by the clan? No, just Daisuke. Only him. A little saddened that no one came after me, or tried to argue for my return? Maybe, but that's not hatred."
"My intention here today is to figure out what you wanted. I gave myself a month here to figure out how to best go about solving this problem Takeo-san," Taiki says, seemingly ignoring the rant, though anyone who knows him would know that it was noted almost word for word. "I have a couple of different options ahead of me, including my intercession on your behalf to Daisuke. Why was this not done earlier? My reason is that while my word is law within the Inuzuka, there are still limits I cannot breach, especially when those limits concern people outside of the Clan. With my not knowing the entire situation as it stands, it is difficult for me to accurately make decisions. However, I will say that the clan appears to have misinterpreted my statements to them concerning you, primarily based on my not being 100 percent clear. When I told them to leave you alone, I meant that there should be no harassment, not that you should be cut off. For that, you have my humble apologies."
As Shinobu and Nozomi both uncover their heads, Taiki reaches down to scratch Nozomi behind the ears. "Personally, I believe it is high time that the both of you met to attempt to put this behind you, at least to the extent that you can work together should the need arise. If I understand your position here correctly, you are just behind the Head Ninja in commanding land-based military forces here. That means that you, Atsuro, and Daisuke-sama must be able to work together. Even if the banishment were lifted, you now have an obligation here that you must fulfill. Any attempt to leave that position would be seen as an insult Kumo, thereby tainting the honor of you, the Inuzuka, and ultimately Konoha itself. No, even if I can work things out, you're here for the long haul, as the saying goes."
Taiki takes a moment to think things through, then says, "The other option was to declare you no longer part of the Inuzuka. This path I would have to take if it appears it would be in both your best interest and the interest of both villages to give you the freedom to choose another family. This is the decision I must make while I'm here Takeo-san. Do I fight for you as an Inuzuka, or do I point out to Daisuke that banishing one of the head military leaders of an allied village would cause political ramifications he does not want, thereby working from the angle of an ally, not family. That is what weighs heavily on my mind right now. As far as Soren goes, I'm not asking you to do anything with him, for him, or against him. I am merely reminding you that as an Inuzuka, you are not alone in Kumo. How you view him and your interactions with him, are your business."
Takeo pinches the bridge of his nose for a moment before allowing his hand to drop. "Hiei would let me go with blessings. We're brothers, and he knows how I miss my true home. He knows that I had no option but to come here after the exile. It was that or live as a sage of the wildlands."
"To be completely honest, I'm caught a little off-guard. It might be because of the mistake you blame yourself for," Takeo says, "but I assumed after the years of silence that I was plainly considered to no longer be a member of the clan. The fact that I now find out I am, and must choose whether or not to stay that way, is a little sudden."
Takeo takes in a deep breath and then exhales slowly. "Well, then here's my answer, if you even want me to give you one. You can name me a Council representative, you can ask me to watch after Inuzuka here, you can offer Daisuke the opportunity to meet me in person and make amends. On that last point, I think he'd be wise to accept, as it shows he has the maturity to see the bigger picture. Having said that, I will /never/ voluntarily cast off my status as a member of the Inuzuka and my family members therein. Once, I considered joining Hiei's family, but that was it and it didn't work out. Even then, the Inuzuka would have been my own. For me, on that point, there's no question."
Taiki considers Soren's words for a moment, then nods slowly. "I'll accept that, and I am glad you told me of the attempt to join another family," he says succinctly. "As I mentioned before, the position of Council representative for here is something I had not considered yet, and there is much I will have to do to even consider it, so for now that issue will have to be set aside. As far as the other Inuzuka here, again, I already stated what you do on that front is up to you, since I put that forward as an option for you. I doubt he is even aware of your status, so that will have to be something I have to bring up with both him and his fiance. On the last, given the animosity you displayed a short time ago, I would advise you to be prepared to meet him half way. Does that mean make all the concessions? Anarchy no. But that means that you need to attempt to see things from his point of view, even if you don't agree to it. Difficult, yes. But this needs to be done. I will have to talk to more people here in Kumo, but you'll have my decision before I leave for Konoha." Taiki seems to consider things for a moment before adding, "Is there anything else I need to know about your time here Takeo-san?"
Takeo shakes his head loosely. "Don't worry so much about Soren. If he's Inuzuka, then I'll consider him a brother and meet him. I know a shred of what he must be feeling right now, adrift in a very different ocean. We'll find our ways of relating." As to the rest, it's met with an upheld index finger. "That goes both ways. When he and I last spoke, neither of us were willing to compromise to any extent. This time, if we're to make amends, then we /both/ give a little bit. It's a fair request, and if he agrees to it, we avert any political issues the moment he and I declare our issues resolved and my status in Konoha as not being criminal."
That last question prompts him to look Taiki over slowly. "Well. I've made some friends here, I have no enemies that I know of. This used to be my favorite vacation spot, so it's no wonder I adapted," he says. Grinning with fangs bared as he leans a bit to the side, he notes, "It /can/ be a little boring in certain ways, though. Do you remember how I used to try and get you to share furs with me? We're on one right now, and we could definitely make this reunion a positive memory for me." Takeo wags his eyebrows.
Taiki listens carefully to what the man sitting across from him has to say, then nods once. "Okay. The part about Daisuke meeting you half-way would also have to be a given, or at least considered. It may take time and some doing, but if I can get Atsuro on my side, we can work on it, especially since he is currently Jounin Commander of Konoha. So regardless of my decision on your status in the Clan, that I will work on. As far as sharing furs goes, you keep forgetting that I am straight and have a strained but ongoing relationship. I'm not sure where it is at the moment, but I'm not giving up on it quite yet." Masochist much? When it comes to Naru, yes! "So my answer will have to be no."
Takeo shakes his head and sighs. "Boondoggled shame. You might be a bit older, but you're still good to look at, you know." He reaches behind his own neck and undoes the clasp on his fanged necklace, which he holds out for Taiki to take. "My engagement necklace with Atsuro. I've never taken it off until now. Bring it to him and tell him to do the right thing for both villages, if only as a last favor to someone who misses him very much."
Taiki takes the necklace and nods slowly as he puts into a pouch. "I still have just over two weeks here. In that time I have a number of people to talk to. So in the meantime, I'll leave you to your paperwork and leave here before we inadvertently terrorize your receptionist even more." With that he stands up, quickly joined by his ninken, and waits for any parting remarks before he leaves.
Takeo laughs lightly and shakes his head. "She'll get over it. It's good for her! Steels her nerves," he says as he pushes up in time with Taiki. Now comes the awkward part. Scratching at the back of his neck with his claws, he clears his throat roughly and looks slightly off to the right. "You know, it doesn't have to be the last time we spent time together. These two weeks or otherwise, I mean. It might be nice if… Well, you know."
Taiki grins a little and chuckles. "Sure, we'll see what we can do. But you know me, even on a supposed vacation I still find far to much to do. But I"m sure we can find some time." Then, to remove any further awkwardness, Taiki walks to the door and leaves.