Drawing upon the spark of divinity within her had been a calculated risk. Using any jutsu in such a heated situation without first asking permission could have been the spark that sets the entire power keg of tension that ran thick throughout the room ablaze. The only reason Ryuko had done it was because she trusted Shimiko to trust her.
Seeing the look of defensiveness in Shimiko’s eyes and that her sister had activated her dojutsu stunned the priestess for a brief second filling her with a profound sense of sadness. She was a Vestal, someone trained heavily to be able to detach herself from her emotions and always think with a clear head.
She wasn’t perfect at doing that, She wouldn’t be human otherwise (A subject that was debatable for her as the extra spirit inside her placed her closer to the realm of the gods then of humanity.) But the very thought she would ever seriously raise her fist in anger to such a close friend was enough to make her feel sick. Even if that wasn’t the case the second she did so she would have already lost the debate and her ideology would crumble.
She had always ever been the voice of reason and a master at defusing conflicts but today she was finding herself put to the test. She hadn’t expected convincing Shimiko to be easy or she wouldn’t have literally burned some of her own soul in order to be able to make the best argument possible and it seemed that even that might not be enough as her sister chose to stubbornly cling to her animosity like a drowning man clinging to a float.
At the end of the day she was just being a really really sore loser. What did Nozomi even have to pay for in relation to the nation? The damage at the valley could be squarely placed on Honiko’s shoulders and for all the talk about nearly killing Natsuru the statuesque woman had walked away from the encounter with barely more than a few scratches and bruises. Hardly the type of thing that warranted a death sentence.
When it came to your normal life experiences Shimiko was no stranger to loss in more than one sense of the word. She had experienced the feeling when a close relative passes away more than once. Ryuko had seen firsthand how devastated she had been when they had thought they had lost Seigi to the plague. She was also no stranger to romantic loss as well having Sakata walk out of her life.
But when it came to combat she was virtually peerless. She was the champion of her church and she’d never failed to bring down a target before until she had run into Nozomi at the Shinobi world tournament. Having come face to face with someone she couldn’t beat must have been an extra shocking experience for her. Part of her must have been unable to accept that somewhere there existed someone better than her. She was acting like an Alpha predator that couldn’t book the existence of a potential rival.
A small part of the priestess, the part that was still childish, selfish and petty wanted to slap her friend in frustration but the bigger part of her knew such an action would be futile. That would only serve to wound her friend pride further accomplishing nothing.
Ryuko listened to every word Shimiko had to say, carefully weighing and evaluating them in her head as they led her to a new understanding. With her brain turbo charged it was like a fog she hadn’t been aware of had lifted, allowing her to grasp at straws that would have otherwise slipped through her fingers.
Was this what it was always like for people like Akihiro or Damian? The one percenter intellectual titans of the world? She was using an unstable power that only came at a steep cost but thankfully once it was activated it wouldn’t damage the soul barrier any further so she had no reason to turn it off. The priestess was bound and determined to ride this wave for as long and as far as it could take her.
It was almost as if the fates themselves were telling her to choose between the two most important people in the world to her. As if they were saying she could only have one by sacrificing the other. But hers was now hands that could twist the very bonds of destiny, overturning them to open a new path. All she had to do was push herself to her very limit and beyond, plus ultra.
For her to succeed and achieve the happy ending she desired she need to save not just Nozomi from the gallows but Shimiko as well before her own anger consumed her leaving nothing but an empty husk of a murder machine behind. Just like how she done at the dinner party many moons ago she would not allow this to become an argument that would never clear. “No, I don’t think I shall.”
said Ryuko gently from the spot where she was still kneeling on the floor feeling that it was now her turn to be stubborn. Given her friend's agitated state she had to do something drastic to release the tension before things escalated into a truly dire situation.
Moving her hands slowly so that Shimiko would easily be able to see what she was doing Ryuko began to unclip her weapons holster letting it drop to the floor with a loud clatter. She was signalling her unhostile intentions with actions not words, disarming herself to the point that she was now virtually at Shimiko’s mercy. She still had some of her armor on but if the twin tailed girl attacked her now she really would be in deep trouble.
But such was the level of deep unfettered trust that Ryuko held in her friend as she stood up once more and moved towards Shimiko with her arms held out wide in an attempt to embrace the other girl and pull her close into a hug.
“I think you're mistaken by at least one think Shi-chan. That was no ultimatum. I said I would never forgive you, but I don’t think tis possible that I could ever stop loving you.”
and with those words she reached up a hand, using it to gently cup Shimiko’s face wiping the tears of blood away before leaning in and trying to kiss the other girl full on the lips.
If that act wasn’t enough to shock Shimiko out of her anger and blow it out of her mind then Ryuko feared nothing would do the trick. There was nothing sexual or romantic about the kiss, nor had she calculated what effect it would cause. The priestess had just done it on a whim because it had felt like the right thing to do at the time.
The Greeks believed in many forms of love and Ryuko was overflowing with several of those towards Shimiko. Philia a form of platonic love between friends, Storge the love between family and most importantly of all Agape, selfless unconditional boundless compassion.
Love was something that everyone must have. They must have it because their spirit feeds off it. Without love self esteem weakens. Without it courage fails. Without love we can no longer look confidently out on the world. Instead we turn inwardly and begin to feed upon our own personalities and little by little destroy ourselves.
Shimko was someone with precious little love in her life. Her marriage was purely political and she had killed her own parents leaving a gaping hole in her heart that the presence of the twins and her brother were not enough to heal leaving her cold and ruthless to anyone outside her small family unit.
In Ryuko's heart she held one simple wish that she prayed to any god that could hear to grant. That the warmth and depth of her feeling would reach the girl she was holding in her arms and wash away all the negative emotions that had been festering for the last several years. That she might finally be whole again once more.
Then she unleashed her ultimate weapon as she began to sign in a crystal clear voice the words to a song that Shimiko knew well. The same song she had sung to stop Shimiko and Natsuru from fighting when they had been at the brink of dissolving their friendship/rivalry permanently.
The history it had with them gave the tune an immense amount of emotional weight that packed far more of strength then any speech she could have attempted to give could ever hope to reach. Ryuko might not have her instrument at the moment but she hardly needed it when her voice sounded like it had descended from the very chorus of heaven itself.
♪Sister, my sister.
Tell me what are you fighting for
We’ve got to stop this war.
We should love one another
Oh can’t we just pretend
this feud never began?
Oh can’t you try
Sister, my sister.
You face each other from different sides.
The anger burns can’t remember why.
It’s kind of crazy, to hold such hate
Our foolish pride makes us act this way.
We watch our worlds fall apart,
Tell me what good is winning
When you lose your heart.
Sister, my sister
Tell me, what are you fighting for?
Isn't life just worth so much more?
We should love one another
Oh, can't we just pretend
This feud never began?
Tell me why!
Sister, my sister
Yes can’t you try?
Sister, my sister.
Let's take a moment and look deep inside…
And say we're willing to give love a try.
Your not as different as you think you seem to be,
There's so much more to each other than what you see!
You don't have to be this way,
Think about the consequences,
don’t turn and walk away!
Sister, My Sister
Tell me what are you fighting for?
Isn't life worth so much more?
We should love one another
Oh can't we just pretend
That this feud never began?
Oh please try,
Sister my sister.♪
Once she was done she let go of Shimiko, taking one step back and following up by giving one last speech anyhow because she felt the burning need to clear up another misunderstanding on Shimiko’s part and to make clear the direction she wanted to take this country in.“I do not seek a politician from you Shi-chan but rather a role model. The fact that you are a killer is indisputable but is that really all that you think you are? I think the Twins and your brother would be rather quick to disagree.”
said Ryuko with a radiant smile.“Before I met you I used to think that Jashiniest where nothing but filthy indiscriminate murder hobos. I thought how could a God of Pain, death and destruction be anything but evil? But that was nothing by my own prejudicious that had been indoctrinated into me from a young age. You were the one who taught me otherwise, about how the faith of Jashinism is devoted to the enlightening of the public to the suffering they are inducing.”
explained Ryuko. It was something she'd never wanted to admit but Shimiko had forced her hand.
Not to say that there weren’t bad apples among the faithful. Those who took the teachings too far and too extreme for the public to tolerate. The fanatics that had triggered a civil war that had nearly torn the country in half. The Twins had told Ryuko they had a plan to deal with those and it was now the Priestess job to reconcile with the rest. If she did her work properly it could potentially usher in a new golden age. Shimiko’s presence was the key to making that possible, she was quite literally indispensable.“You are a saviour and a mother. A philosopher, diplomat and poet! Tis no need to pigeonhole yourself just to the role of enforcer and executioner any more than we need to pigeonhole Nozomi to the role of enemy or threat. Not when you both could be so much more.”
said Ryuko wisely. “That line of thinking that every great nation needs colony’s is exactly why the society even exists in the first place. Conquering by force, trying to keep a dangerous monster on a leash with a sword of damocles makes us no better than the other Major nations. One merely has to look at where that got them to know that is not the way.”
She was referring to how Konoha had grown by four nations in a single night only to lose it all just as quickly. To how Kiri for all it’s atrocities had been unable to hold onto its new territory for long. Neither was a great model for long term stability. Their actions only serving to breed more chaos, suffering and resentment.
‘We must do better, We must be better in order to flourish. Only by being our best selves can we build a legacy that will last the test of time. To do otherwise would be but sheer folly as one day your children will look you in the eyes and see nothing but a monster.”
declared the soon to be queen. “Tis wrong to keep an innocent child in captivity. A cage is still a cage no matter how gilded. Tis even more disturbing to think of taking their life just to prove a point. Have some empathy and think of how you would feel if someone pulled that on you with the Twins. Tis not a very pleasant thought to consider, no?”
asked Ryuko rhetorically.
Ken was a monster but even someone evil like him had a flicker of good in him as he actually cared about his daughter. Even he didn’t deserve to have his love used against him. Even trying was sure to bite them in the ass in the long run as he would stop at nothing to see that his daughter was safe and once that was accomplished, rain hell on her captors for daring to threaten her. “Do you truly believe the Society fears us?”
asked Ryuko with a light chuckle. "Why would they when all they have to do is stand aside and we tear ourselves apart?”
she asked. Even now they were still cleaning ashes from the recent civil war off the street. Unrest was still heavy in the air and It was going to take a lot of work to make her coronation go smoothly and not re-spark the conflict once more.
“The two of us and our churches must stand together or divide we shall fall. Only United can we overcome to perial that lays before us. Nozomi might be the leader of the Society on the surface but in truth she is little more than a figurehead taking orders from Honiko. I strongly suspect that someone even more dangerous is behind the white witch, pulling the strings and manipulating them to their own ends…. “
said Ryuko as she placed her hands behind her back and began to pace on the spot.
She thought back to the inscription on the Tomahawk that Honiko had left them. ‘The end draws near. If you seek salvation for your loved ones, slay them and bring their remains to the three wolves mountain in three years. Then and only then shall they have life anew’ and somehow she knew that meant life anew in a literal sense and not just a spiritual one.
If Rafaela could eventually grant her the power to bring back the dead then who was to say she was the only one who had such a thing. If the Society had such an ability the question was what would they use it for and who would they seek to bring back? Given what she knew of Honiko's goals from what the woman had said she wished to overturn everything and return it to the natural order.
It was almost as if she wanted to turn back the clock and redo everything if not literally then at least figuratively. If Ryuko wanted to do that, what better way than by bringing back the Sage of the Six paths or his disciples. To most people they were supposedly just a legend, the eastern equivalent to King Arthur and the round table but Ryuko knew better.
The Church of Hakkin was an ancient organization dating back over a millennium. They had records in the depths of their vaults that only the highest members could access that she had seen that spoke of the sage verifying his existence though it wasn’t as if they had any details on the location of any of their actual graves.
The sage himself likely wouldn’t go along with their wishes as enlightened as he was supposed to be but the Disciples were another story. If even one of them decided they didn’t like the way the world had turned out in their absence it would be no laughing matter. If even half the stories were true they would be Z rank to Ryuko and Shimiko’s X which would make for a very uphill battle to overcome.“That’s why I need Nozomi alive. Not out of some sense of sentiment or because of my personal feelings but because she’s the number one best source of information we have and the key to discovering the true culprits. If we can turn her to our side we couldn’t ask for a better woman on the inside.”
Shimiko had admitted to herself they had tried to infiltrate the Society with Ken and failed. Ryuko’s relationship with Nozomi might just be the ticket they needed to get to the bottom of things if they only played their cards right. “Besides if I’m right and they do have an overboss more powerful then Honiko or Menza we’ll need every X-class ninja we can get on our side. If it helps think of her as a bolt of lightning. It might seem dangerous at first glance but it can also be harnessed to generate electricity. You simply need the proper kite.”
said the priestess referring to a particularly famous experiment.
With a sigh Ryuko wondered why everything had to be so gosh darned complicated. Things would be so much similar if Nozomi was the true head of the society. She was reasonable enough that they could just talk things out rather than worrying about facing some super being hiding in the shadow or the return of long lost demigods.