Bloody hell. Would she ever give him a rest?
It had been a whole month and a half since he'd slept somewhere that wasn't on Kyuuen's couch or inside some tent in the middle of nowhere, and still he'd made an effort to set the alarm so he could get up and get some work done here before he pissed her off. And still she'd woken up and raced off without him.
And gone somewhere that wasn't even the archive room.
In all honesty, where the hell else could she be?
The library was quiet. He was the only one here.
And as worrying as Kyuuen's disappearance may have been, maybe it was best that didn't leave it just yet. This could be his chance to find what they were looking for without being watched.
There was something comforting about the eloquent and organized surroundings, anyway.
No, he knew what that something was.
This place reminded him of home. Perhaps the district where he lived back in Yuki was far more intermingled with the rest of the city and lacked the unsettling solitude, but the similarities were still there and not ignorable. Suna was his place now, but he missed what he'd all this. The order, the regality, the brilliance of noble lifestyle. The thought that this city could be involved in something as deceitful and vile as Kyuuen suspected both saddened and sickened him.
But he supposed that even if these claims of...atrocities really were true, the best thing he could do was expose them. Especially when he was presented with a chance like this.
Unfortunately, he didn't have any idea where to start.
Alright, so since the incidents that Dakara had mentioned had all occurred within the past couple of months, he supposed that the most reasonable course of action would be to start with the most recent archives. But past that, he was out of ideas. Damnit, if only Kyuuen had been here.
There was nothing worth noting about any of these papers, and he supposed he'd held his hopes far too high to have expected anything so obvious. He flicked through stacks of records and domestic agreements, and nothing stood out as remotely out of the ordinary in any of them. There were records of military instructions, copies of signed agreements, records of treason trials and a whole heap of passed budget bills. But it was all...normal stuff. Sure, Suna was involved in all this, but there was nothing of a nature he wouldn't have seen in dad's office.
He'd just about given up when one letter, denoted by a familiar coat of arms, caught his eye. He stopped shuffling through the pages for a second, eyes skimming through the print.
What the hell was a notice from Yuki doing here in the embassy.
Ryou didn't need to read too much before he recognized the document. He snatched the sheet from the pile.
This was the water supply bill he'd asked dad to pass the last time he'd been in Yuki.
But this form specifically pertained to Suna's water, so what on earth was it doing here?
Something was a miss.
Of course the terms would have required the nobility's assent, but it should have been forwarded to Suna immediately after for implementation. A month ago. This seal of Yukigakure...that proved that this was the genuine article - it couldn't possibly be some sort of copy or forgery. Not to mention, it had certainly been opened. But then why hadn't it been sent away already, unless they had, no-
His eyes shot to the bottom of the scroll.
Sure enough, his father's script laced the section of the page reserved for the Snow Country's official.
But beneath that, there was a signature missing.
The City of Seven Valleys had never ratified the treaty.
Ryou ransacked his mind, looking for some string of logic that could possibly explain the Wind Country's rationale for blocking the agreement. Every thought came up empty. Dakara had said it himself at his trial, that Suna had been trying to secure a supply of water from Yuki for years. In fact, increasing their chances had been the primary reason for why he'd been let off in the first place. But if this supply bill was so critical to Suna, what the hell did the nobility have to gain by concealing the document from their own shinobi village?
Nothing positive, that was what.
Excitement and doubts simultaneously surged within him, bringing with them trembles that made it difficult to read anything more written on the scroll. Had he found it? Was this piece of paper the proof they needed . He thought back to the incident at the irrigation plant. He'd brushed the siege off as being the work of an uncoordinated ring of bandits, but now that it occurred to him, something hadn't been right about the sheer number of rogues they'd faced. How was it that such a large group had crossed the desert and infiltrated so far into vital infrastructure completely undetected? There were too many inconsistencies there for that much to have all been resultant of Suna's negligence.
Ryou glanced over both shoulders, ensuring that the library was clear of any prying officials. Then he folded the scroll in half, and half again, and pocketed it. All without too many shudders, he hoped. He'd pay dearly if he was caught stealing from the archives, probably with his life. But this was the type of decisive evidence they'd been looking for. As long as he held on to this, he could say with a degree of certainty that the nobility had a hand in keeping Suna's water from the village.
But was that the only thing?
In either case, there was only one way to find out.
He stood up. What was it that Kyuuen had named her suspicions about? The attack on the BLOSSOM camp? She'd linked that to a group of bandits too, hadn't she? Mostly comprised of refugees. Illegal immigration seemed like a good starting point for further investigation, then.
So 'I'. Ack, now where was that section-
Ryou half jumped, half turned to confront the piercing voice. In that one brief moment, he felt as though his heart had lurched out of his body.
It was the junior secretary. The one who had shown them around the complex when they'd arrived, and led them to this room.
How long had she been standing in the doorway?
Perhaps too quickly, he backed away from the shelf. Probably took him too long to collect his breath, as well.
He struggled to keep himself from touching the pocket where he'd stowed the scroll.
"Oh, hello. Is there something I can do for, ma'am?"
In his present state, every transformation her features underwent as she gave him a smug smile was seen as a mark of her suspicion of him.
Ryou could only hope that that part was his mind and eyes playing tricks.
"No need to be so polite. I was just sent down here to remind you and cohort that the banquet is due to start soon, in another fifteen minutes, I believe. I'm assuming you'd like some time to ready yourself before they commence?"
Th-that was it? Again he found himself over-analyzing her every word in all his panic, searching for any signs that she may be onto him.
He couldn't find anything particularly glaring yet. Ngh, now just got to keep it up.
"Oh, oh-of course. Very well, don't worry, I'll make sure to let the others know on my way up. Thank you."
He bowed, and was past her and out without another word.
Ryou's head spun as he approached the living quarters. And not because he wasn't used to spiral staircases.
That had been too close. If she'd appeared even a minute sooner, who knew what would have happened. And what was to say they wouldn't figure out that something was missing eventually, especially if they'd been guarding the document as purposefully as he'd thought they were. Argh, this may have been such a stupid move on his part.
Now that he had it, there was no reason to waste his effort - and possibly, his life - and not to show Kyuuen.
When he knocked on her door however, there still wasn't an answer.
Damnit, where was that girl? Oh, please don't let her be off trying to accomplish something even sneakier than looting the archives before they'd even had dinner.
Actually, on second thought, trust her to be doing something stupid like that.
And to leave him with absolutely no clue as to what it was.
...Unless he'd actually missed her, and she'd bothered to tell somebody else.
Well, it was worth a try.
"Toya, open up - it's me. Have you seen Kyuuen?"