"Was that really necessary?" A melodious female voice rang out in Ragyo Kirin's ear.
The robust old man with salt and pepper hair and a grey handlebar moustache replied calmly, "Yes, yes it was."
"But it wasn't them who did it. The highest cultivation was that of a Tier 4 shadow mage. That too one who had promoted recently." The woman continued to interrogate.
The current leader of the Kirin clan and the father of Risa and Ryuugen shook his head as he kept his gaze fixed on his children's grave. There was only one. Despite his mixed feelings on the topic, in death, he couldn't bear to separate them. "It's the principle of the thing. We are at war. My children died in that city; in enemy territory. It is fitting that the strongest warriors there accompany them to the afterlife. It's not like I slaughtered wantonly. I harmed none below Tier 3 and I even let that Tier 4's wife go at his request."
"But she will be back," accused the woman.
Ragyo shrugged, "She will. I will grant her the death she desires when she does." Turning away from the grave the Kirin faced the woman with a frown, "Enough of these inane questions. Did the solemn Demigod of the Waves come here to disturb my communion with my children in heaven? Or do you have something important to say?"
The transcendentally beautiful woman who had supressed Koschei along with her colleague the Floating Earth Demigod frowned slightly at the impolite expression of interrogation but her temperament had always been as calm as the sea before a storm. Angering her took a lot more than that – though the consequences of when it finally happened were proportionally serious.
"You seem awfully unflustered to have me pay you a visit," she remarked. "Especially after your recent deeds."
The man shrugged again. "I know of the treaty you signed. Demigods cannot interfere in the war. Only when unbound beings like Koschei start to wreak havoc can you take action otherwise if you started getting involved, the war would escalate to mutual destruction pretty soon."
The woman frowned.
The Kirin continued, "I also know that you propositioned for even the Tier 5s to be restricted and the war to be resolved via a tournament between juniors but the proposition was rejected." His tone grew patronizing. "You might have talent but you after all are too young. We are at war, girl. War is not a game. It's two nations trying to wipe the other one out. Values, culture, history… everything. You think we will sit back and accept the result of some dolled-up squabbling between Tier 1s? Even if we won, would you really surrender the gambling stakes. Would you give up your homeland just because some kid fought and lost?"
The Demigod of the Waves was silent.
Ragyo shook his head and walked past her, heading back to his camp. "People will fight. People will die. Some will surrender. They will live on dishonourably. Those are the only options."
Suddenly, the woman chuckled bringing Ragyo up short. "They told me you were a warmonger. I just didn't know the degree of it. The Shogunate only wanted to consolidate this strategic victory. They pulled a fast one over us with great difficulty. They just wanted to rest and recuperate. But you didn't want that, did you? Your merit wasn't enough. The Kitsune clan was in the lead with Hotaru Vulpine's role in orchestrating the entire event. So, you collaborate with your very own Shogun to have your children killed so you can capitalize on that and exacerbate the situation. Putting us at loggerheads. Making war inevitable." Her tone had been growing more and more disgusted until it was practically dripping with loathing. "Ragyo Kirin, there is very little right now stopping me from breaking the treaty and ending you. Give me a reason to let you live."
A monstrous pressure crashed upon the elder Kirin's mindscape like high sea waves during a storm.
Ignoring the pressure, the man rounded on her and interrogated, "What's this about the Shogun?!"
Surprised both by his resistance to soul pressure and the look of genuine astonishment on his face, the female Demigod narrowed her eyes and withdrew the soul pressure. "Well, when I checked the location, I could sense the water mana in the area being manipulated by something similar to the Authority the Ryu-o clan has over water. I found characteristics of all the other five Daimyo clans as well. Unless this was all due to some internal strife in your nation – it is the work of your Shogun."
"Damn," cursed the man softly. It was the first time in their conversation that he had lost his composure.
"You didn't know?" asked the woman uncertainly.
"No. It is impossible. He wouldn't be able to take on Ryuugen, let alone Risa," he muttered under his breath. "But still… there were reports of seeing the rain rewind to the sky and the heavenly rings."
Ragyo turned to the woman. "While I do support the upcoming war. I would never harm my children to force the policy through. I fight for broader lands and a better future for my children. What would be the point if I sacrificed them?"
Taking a deep breath, he bowed to her slightly. "I will prioritize the investigation of the murderer with the new clues you have provided. If your speculation turns out to be true and it is the Shogun's doing, then I will do my best to stop this war to spite him and cooperate with you to capture him. If it turns out to be some other nation trying to goad us on, I promise to attack them along with Regiis before we decide upon our new borders. And as for those who have died, I will accept a Mortem's duel from anyone in their family at any time."
The Demigod of the Waves was taken aback at his sudden change in attitude. "So, you are telling me that after killing so many of our citizens simply for being in the wrong place, you want to sue for peace with the offer of a Mortem's duel?"
"Yes," he agreed easily, "Knowing that there is a third party wanting us to go to war, and that he is the murderer of my children, I will obviously destroy his plan."
The woman didn't say anything. Turning around, she left silently while in her mind thoughts welled up. Ragyo Kirin like his late daughter was a monster. In Tier 5 there were very few who could call themselves his match. Finding someone in the family of the people he had killed to face him was nearly impossible.
The man was trying to weaken Regiis by putting himself at risk to take out one of their Tier 5s. As for the Shogun, she still believed that it was a ruse by the Shogunate.
She sighed. At least she had gotten the man to accept some sort of culpability. If she really couldn't find a match for him in the duel, she would just have to break the treaty and kill him herself. Then she would have to undertake the sanction of the other Demigods.
A sacrifice she was willing to make for her late countrymen.
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