Makahshi would do almost anything for family. He enjoyed his life and all the worldly benefits that came with being an elite shinobi of Kirigakure but he did love and respect his elders. It was for this reason and this reason the only reason that he obeyed them. So when Makahshi was told by his elders to take on a student he grumbled but did as they bid. Now returning from training his student Nozomi, he walked into the Kereko Clan compound content to rest. He had his hands in his pocket and walked through the courtyard towards his own quarters. He saw many young Kereko kids playing, training, and enjoying life in the Mist Village. Their numbers had swollen to nearly triple digits now that the remaining factions had left Kumogakure to join their brethren on the Isles. They were reviled in their home country as turn-cloaks and were viewed suspiciously even here but their wealth had more than tripled over the years. However the Kiri people felt about hosting such strangers on their islands, they had no problem giving the clan coin to do their dirty work. The Kereko Clan was notorious for its skill in Taijutsu and had been employed across the region as mercenaries, bodyguards, and trainers. Their investments were growing and in time they would become just as respected and feared as the Hozuki or Kaguya. Makahshi walked through the large double doors of the main clan hall and was shocked at what he saw before him.
All the heads of the household were present in the center of the hall. They were congregated around a circular table. A katana lay stabbed in the center. Makahshi instantly recognized its significance.
A clan meeting?
He had only attended two clan meetings as a Kereko. The first when his father had passed away in the war and the second upon his promotion to Jounin. Both had been momentous occasions that changed the direction of the clan. The tall black man eyed the group suspiciously wondering if he was somehow being tested. The heads of the household turned to look at him and said nothing. There were nine in all, each representing a distinct family that traced its lineage directly to the founders Karupika Kereko and Ahshi Kereko. Makahshi understood that the silence was meant to insinuate that he was not intruding. He realized that they had in fact been purposefully waiting for him and that an tenth chair was empty. He walked towards it and sat down. Behind his gold rimmed shades his vision narrowed to focus on the clan's de facto heads. Each sat equidistant from the other in separate corners.
"Bout fucking time ninjuh" Mack bellowed loudly. The voice belonged to an elderly and vicious black man who sat to the right of Makahshi. "F'you was any later I'd box the shit out of you young'un". "Nobody told m-". "Nobody told you shit, cuz ya ain't need to know shit till we tell ya need to know shit so shut the fuck up and listen jit!"
Mack (pictured on the upper left), or Katahshi Kereko as he was born, had only recently shown up to Kirigakure. Back when the Sage was alive (or that's how long ago it seemed to Makahshi) Mack's father had traveled to Konohagakure with the intention of setting up a dojo. The plan was for him to establish a beachhead for the clan so that it could in time infiltrate the Fire Country and assist the Inazuma in weakening the Uchiha's hold on the region. Unfortunately, the man had fallen in love with an Uchiha woman and their relations produced the foul mouthed cretin known as Katahshi. No one had heard from Katahshi's father in many years. Some assumed he was dead but others brought back rumors of a curious black Uchiha with a nasty disposition. It was assumed that whatever had become of them did not concern the family as a whole and so they had moved on. After their decision to depart from Kumogakure and align themselves with the Hozuki and Kazehana, the clan would be joined by its other branches over the years. No one however was expecting the son of a long lost Kereko to show up at the clan's doorstep. The man claimed kinship with Makahshi's grandfather. He said they were cousins and could prove it. He had given indepth knowledge of the clan passed down from his father. The man called himself Mack, Lord Mack specifically but would eventually reveal his birth name to be Katahshi Kereko. He was accepted into the clan and his skills earned him a right to govern the clan alongside the other elders despite the fact that he was not very forthcoming about what he had been up to in the Fire Country. The young pestered him about his blind eyes and about being an Uchiha. The old asked what happened to his father and why he had come to Kiri after all these years. Mack answered them in the typical fashion:
"Fuck off ninjuh!"
Pieces of the story trickled in over the years however. The reason for his leaving was not by choice. He had been expelled or exiled due to a disagreement with the Uchiha clan leader and his family. The name Kazuya came up and was usually followed by a string of expletives involving the Hokage, his father, his mother, his brother, and a particularly horny goat. Makahshi didn't care about Mack's past but he was family. Mack's knowledge of the world was surprisingly thorough and his skills rivaled that of his grandfather. Whoever he was, he was a old Kereko through and through. Makahshi would afford him due respect and remain silent.
"Enough" came a gruff voice to the north of the table. The voice belonged to Shi Kereko (pictured upper left). Shi was his grandfather and the only one who could single-handedly kill Lord Mack with impunity. The old man was the eldest son of Roar Kereko who was brother to Mack's father, making him and his siblings cousins to the Blind Black Beast. Shi Kereko was the defacto clan leader although he preferred to rule via council than direct mandate. However, when final decisions had to be made Shi made them and his word was law. "Discretion was critical. We couldn't interrupt anyone's normal activities. The meeting was scheduled by the four of us and kept quiet because of what we're dealing with." A silence had fallen after he spoke followed by a sharp address. "Makahshi!" The Jounin sat up straight and removed his sunglasses. "Your father sat where you now sit. You were the first of your generation to be made Jounin and you've done right by this family. You're a part of this council now and with it comes responsibilities. Your loyalty is always to us first." "Always" Makahshi repeated to affirm his grandfather's words. "Good. Esmiko if you'd be so kind as to begin".
"Shieeeeeet. I thought we'd never get started" came a voice to the left of Makahshi. Esmiko Kereko (pictured bottom left) stood up with her Sunday's best complete with wig and granny crown. The woman was sister to Shi Kereko and the most powerful female Kereko in the clan's history. It is said that she had killed fifteen suitors before their parents agreed to let her remain a perpetual bachelorette. Despite her hatred of men, Esmiko actually liked kids somewhat except this usually manifested in tough love training sessions that churned out some of the most violent and effective Kereko shinobi. An entire generation of Kereko had come to adore and fear the woman. They called her "Granny Esmiko" to her face but behind her back she was known as Old Lady Grippenasty. Esmiko was also a significant point of contact when it came to the clan's various business partners. If Shi Kereko was the muscle of the clan then Esmiko was its brains.
"Ayame is dead. The Old Wolf killed him. Of course I don't give a fuck about that asshole but he was good for business. Ayame let crime run rampant in Kiri. That was more mothafuckin money in our pockets! Bodyguards! Trainers! Assassins! You name it this family provides it! We were on our way to become the richest and most successful private security group in the world! When the Old Wolf killed off Ayame, the roaches went scurrying. Some went legit to fight in the pits others took their business elsewhere. Ayame was a real asshole but he was OUR asshole. We don't know this Nikuyo fuck, he ain't ours and he damn sure ain't ever gonna be ours. He gotta go. We are gonna kill Nikuyo and put in someone who can take us back to where we were"
Makahshi was visibly surprised. He always played it cool and confident but the boldness of his family occasionally shocked his senses. The Kereko Clan is conspiring to kill the Mizukage? He would defend his family to the death but he was convinced this was suicide. Nikuyo had emptied out an ANBU building and murdered the Mizukage all by his lonesome. The people seated at this table were strong but even if they came at him all at once, they would most assuredly lose. Esmiko picked up on his surprise.
"You look shocked boy" she stared at Makahshi.
"Granny with all due respect...you're out of your fucking mind. Even if we could kill the Mizukage what for? He hasn't attacked us directly and Ayame had it coming after what he did. He didn't deserve what happened to his family."
"Deserve ain't got nothing to do with it young-un. Its just his time is all. Its the way he carries himself. Always acting appalled and shit. Always asking 'why'. He was never one of us and never could be"
Makahshi figured that Esmiko was referencing her personal interactions with the man. Sometimes the Kereko Clan Elders got lost in their own thoughts of wanton violence and hatred. It made for some pretty unclear dialogue and misunderstandings. The older a Kereko got the more they were filled with anger and the more it tended to cloud their judgment. Fortunately, their anger only made them more formidable as time went on. Shi cut in to add much needed clarification.
"We never had specific ties to Ayame or his lot but the conditions he created were favorable. Nikuyo is the opposite of that and he represents a threat to our interests. If we make a move on him now, we can get a say on who replaces him. This time it will be a person that we know and can control"
Makahshi fell silent. He knew from experience that if the four of them agreed on something then it was probably set in stone. He turned to Patches who sat at the southern side of the table.
Patches (pictured bottom right) didn't really use his birth name ever. Patches was brother to Shi and Esmiko and was the youngest of the three. None of his siblings used his birth name either and as far Makahshi knew that was his only name. If Shi was the muscle and Esmiko the brains, then Patches was the heart of the Clan. He was uncharacteristically moral and calm for a Kereko but nonetheless quite lethal. He enjoyed reading, writing, and making music leading some to believe that he was not even a real Kereko but an adopted mutt. No one of course said this in the presence of him or his siblings. He fought well enough to be a Kereko but many figured his odd self-naming and unassuming demeanor made him the "black sheep" of the family. Patches looked at Makahshi and spoke.
"He's unhinged. If even half of his story is true then he is a ticking time bomb. Only a matter of time before he acts against us. Nikuyo has nothing to live for except death and fighting. What clan do you think he'll turn against first? The Hozuki? The Kaguya? His own blood, the Kazehana? No. It will be us. Outsiders from a a far away land that have already betrayed the Lighting Country. In addition to what Esmiko and Shi have said, he's a liability not just a obstacle for future growth."
It was useless to argue further and so he instead nodded. The other heads of the households whispered amongst themselves. The talk proceeded for about an hour but the consensus was that Nikuyo would have to die. They also agreed that it could not be anything close to resembling a hostile takeover. The clan lacked the strength and support to make a bold move against him. After some discussion, Esmiko clapped her hands and called them to order again.
"This subterfuge shit requires some top tier strategy shit. Luckily, we have one of the best in the business at our disposal..." Esmiko whistled loudly and a woman appeared from the hall corridor and walked towards the table...