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Setting of the Ways


Sarah Tintagyl
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His Excellency Ishima Ryu, Prime Minister of Yamato, requests the pleasure of the company of Her Serene Ladyship Sarah Tintagyl, Lady Protector of the Hanseatic Commonwealth, at a short retreat for the repose of His Excellency in Kagoshima.

Sarah looked at the piece of paper in her hands and leaned back in the seat of the plane. Since the end of the Europa War Yamato had become a much closer ally to the Hansa than ever could have been expected. Especially considering the questionable practices of their foreign minister, the comments about the Hanseatic way of live in general, and Sarah's own persona, it was a wonder that she was even accepting the invitation. But Ishima Ryu had made a great impression on her. They had met in Tokyo almost immediately after Yamato's founding and while Yamato was still a partially closed society, they had made great steps to opening their gates to let in not only foreigners, but friends as well.

When the jet landed down in Kagoshima, Sarah stepped out into the warm Yamatoan sun and smiled. She loved being out of the country again on visitation. Though back in the Hansa there was still a shadow of gloom that hung over Brisbane and most of her advisers had pushed her to get out of the country. Just to get her thinking happy thoughts again.

Which she did with gusto as she walked down the landing stairs to be received by a Yamatoan escort.

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The first thing that the Lady Protector saw was the official state car, the Tenmu Seiki. The escort quietly lead Sarah into it, setting down granite running board steps to ease getting into the limousine.

The Seiki was designed with the rear passengers in mind. Hence, the rear seats recline and the front passenger seat had a fold-down center section so that a passenger in the back may stretch her feet forward. The rear seats are equipped with a massage system. The exterior door handles open the doors electrically since the sound of the door being opened mechanically is perceived as being "too obtrusive". The doors do not need to be closed directly, instead the door only needs to contact the latch, causing the door to pull itself completely closed electrically.

The vehicles interior wass covered in wool cloth, not leather, due to the aroma of leather being less desirable and not as quiet as cloth when sat on. White lace curtains were installed in the rear window, instead of tinted windows, which are perceived to attract unwarranted attention. This particular version also had rice paper headliners, turning it into a true masterpiece of Yamato tradition.

The limousine slowly started heading for the downtown area. The city of Kagoshima was particular in that while one of the largest cities of Yamato, it had a countryside feel to it. Neither bustling nor noisy, it was quite homely. Dominating the skyline was a small mountain.

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Boom

A sprout of ashes came out of the mountain.

"Do not worry my Lady. Sakuajima is the symbol of Kagoshima, and it is one of Yamato's most active volcanoes. It smokes constantly, and minor eruptions take place frequently, with thousands of small explosions each year. We think of it as a normal part of life here, and those dust-falls can bring out umbrellas in Kagoshima the way rainfall does in other parts of the world."

The limo continued on its way, leaving the city and going into the neighboring forests. Passing by virgin trees, it soon came upon a gate.

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Almost silently the gate opened, and as the limo entered the premise, Sarah could see the majestic watchtower of the castle.

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The car stopped, and the escort opened the door for Sarah. The two of them started walking into the main hall, past hundreds of rooms. At the top of the watchtower, open to the surrounding landscape, stood Ishima Ryu.

"Welcome, Lady Tintagyl, to my humble home. Would you like some refreshments?"

Ishima looked at Sarah with avuncular eyes as she gracefully drank the refreshment that .

"I hope that you will be well rested during your stay here. Kagoshima is the most quaint part of Yamato, and here one can truely let one's body relax in the various hot springs, mountain forests, and beaches. You can do whatever you wish during your stay." Noting the surprised look on Sarah's face, he continued. "Yes, my lady, this repose had been scheduled for you. I am only your humble host, who wishes for the full recovery of the Serene Lady Protector's health."

With a somewhat awkward but genuine smile, Ishima moved closer.

"Now, what would you like to do today? We have a week of time."

Edited by Sumeragi
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Truthfully, Sarah hadn't been ready for such display of honor from the people of Yamato. The comments that their media had made about her, only months prior still resided in her head and for all the majesty, she still felt a little uneasy about traveling to her neighbor country. However, from the time she got off the airplane it had been anything but what she had expected. They had shown her the greatest kindness that any nation could for a foreign leader and the scenery of the countryside and the city of Kagoshima itself was positively breathtaking. In all honesty, Sarah enjoyed Japan, the entire island. It had a calmness to it, a relaxation about it, that the Caribbean or the Pacific was lacking in. A silent majesty.

Finally arriving in front of Ryu, she was treated as he had always treated her. With the respect of an empress or some leader blessed with brilliance. Something, she personally believed she never really possessed, but she had learned early on to accept the kindness with a smile and open heart. This was their home, if they treated her too well, that really wasn't a sin. But when he announced that essentially she was on a vacation, especially after the horrors of Brisbane.

"Well, I never would have imagined that this is why you invited me here. But I'm honored nonetheless." She chuckled. "Its quite the blessing actually. I really needed this. But I mean I'm open to suggestions. Though the hot springs do sound extremely interesting."

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"Yes, the onsens of Kagoshima are famous even within what was called Japan, for unlike all the rest, here is a place where the people are truly in touch with nature, and the water pure enough to wash away all impurities a human might have. The people here are a friendly, enthusiastic, and accommodating group, unlike the rest of the Yamatojins, so you should have no problem interacting with them. Just remember that what you experience here may not be what you may find in other parts of Kyushu or Shikoku. Then, shall we began?"

Calling forth a young female guide, he left Sarah to experience the wonder that is this southern part of Kyushu. The first main location which Sarah was led to was the "mist island" deep within the sublime mountain forests, Kirishima. Filled with almost all types of hot springs one can imagine, the onsens in this area are diverse and many offer great scenery. For this occasion, the Myoken Ishiharaso was choosen. The site has a large variety of wild flowers bloom out each season. When looking down in the Amorigawa, Sarah would find signs of fish like sweetfish, Japanese dace and carp. Eagles, grey wagtails, crested kingfishers and common halcyons also visit and play around.

It is said that, of people around the world, the Kyokujitsujins are the greatest lover of hot springs. Hot springs have been drilled out all around the nation and quite a large number of hot spring facilities have been constructed as well. Meanwhile, some people show concerns that recently there are hot spring villages unable to be called right and they do not offer hot spring water properly. Under such circumstances, the people have come to realize there should be a way to control and label the quality of hot springs just as they do for organic vegetables. Out of all these categories, the waters of Myoken Ishiharaso was considered the best, and so this was where the Lady Protector was to stay for a day.

The owers of Myoken Ishiharaso always showed respect to one of the blessings of nature, the onsen, and they have been working on the best way to offer it for their guests without reducing its power. Thanks to technological advancement, currently hot springs can be drilled out from great depths, for example, from 1,000m down underground. In ancient times, the people shared hot springs naturally flowing to valleys and other surfaces with wild animals and birds. Still, in Myoken Ishiharaso, one can see natural hot springs upwelling to the ground surface in Wakeyu Onsen or other hot springs along the upstream of Nakatsugawa river.

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The particular onsen set aside for the personal use of the Lady Protector was called Nanami-no-yu. This common bathroom is named after a Japanese tree called Nanami (Ilex chinensis) producing red fruits. When soaked in the hinoki bathtub made of Japanese cypress offering a splendid flavor, her body was wrapped up with slick, small bubbles of carbonic acid gas. This combination of mineral water and hydrogen carbonate would help restore the body balance, taking away the various poisons accumulated over the years amd relieve the tension of muscles.

After a long and relaxing bath, the attendents helped Sarah into a yukata, and led her into the room where she would stay.

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The dinner featured Satsuma Province regional cuisine: kibi (a kind of tiny fish), tonkatsu (caramelized pork, as opposed to the breaded version encountered elsewhere in Yamaton), smoked eel, and karukan (sweet cakes made from steamed sweet potatoes and rice flour).

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Laying out the futon, the attendents left Sarah to rest peacefully, allowing her to drift into a deep and dreamless sleep, where the pains of yesterday couldn't reach her.

Her stay in Kagoshima were like this: Going to various locations, enjoying herself, being one with nature. From the Kirishima Volcano group to the mysterious Yakushima, everywhere and anywhere, the people greeted her like she had always been there her whole life, attempting to talk with her even though they barely knew any English or Finnish, approving of the Valkyrie of Peace being among them. She enjoyed Sakurajima by taking a soothing seaside bath heated by the volcano itself, bathing in white gowns at Furusato Hot Springs, and squelching in the magma mud baths of Sakurajima Magma Hot Springs, where the water is yellow and she was encouraged to slop volcanic mud all over her body. There she tasted the famous Daikan radishes, enormous fat white radishes that can weigh in at anything up to 30 kg. At the other end of the scale were delicate mandarin oranges that have a diameter of only three centimeters. And as a souvenir, she bought a tea set made using the lava from the volcano itself.

She then moved on to Ibusuki, with its sand baths, and to the South Sea Islands. If she was looking for white beaches, coral reefs, and a crystal blue ocean, then she had come to the right place. With an archipelago stretching way down south toward Okinawa, the islands offered dozens of locations for swimming, diving, camping, marine sports, nature watching, and simply relaxing in a south-sea island atmosphere. There was no better place to linger over a glass of Kagoshima shochu liquor, enjoy the twang of the sanshin lute, watch a spectacular sunset, and feel a million miles removed from the urban jungle. These coral islands also boast a fascinating history to explore, including centuries of trade and exchange with China and Thailand, in particular.

It was at Yakushima she saw Yamato's oldest trees: giant sugi (cryptomeria) that date back thousands of years. The biggest of the lot was the Jomon-sugi, which is 25.3 meters tall, and has a diameter of 5.22 meters, and a girth of 16.4 meters. Serious walkers can spend days trekking through the island's forests and along the shore, and Sarah would spend two days here. Even though it was nearly midsummer, it was quite chilly at the summit. Other enjoyable natural pursuits she did included viewing waterfalls, following the tracks of egg-laying turtles along beautiful beaches, and spotting monkeys and deer in the forests. At Hirauchi, there was a hot spring bath that can be used only when the tide is out; at high tide it's underwater.

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On the final day, she returned to Ishima's castle, where she would have a final dinner with Ishima Ryu before leaving for Brisbane.

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Edited by Sumeragi
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It had probably been one of the most relaxing weeks of her life. The Yamato people without hesitation had opened up the beauty of their country in its entirety to the Lady Protector and between the snapshots of natural wildlife, as well as the sheer beauty of the landscape, Sarah had been left breathless at the end of each day. After her journeying, she had been taken back to the natural hot springs and the superiority of Yamato spa treatments. Coming from months of stress, grief, and sadness, she needed this kind of treatment, more than anything else. All in all, Sarah had been rejuvenated. When she appeared in front of Ryu for their dinner, it seemed as though Sarah had transformed in less that a week to a new being. The paleness of her skin seemed to glow white, her blonde hair hung low below her shoulders and swayed lightly in the air blowing into the room. Her hands smoothed, her face soft, as if she had been reborn in the healing powers of nature. She felt more energetic, stronger, more alive than she had felt in a long while and Ryu was to thank for that.

Sitting down across from the Prime Minister she smiled. "You know I have to thank you Ryu, I haven't felt this good in a long time. I wish that you could do this kind of treatment to everyone in Brisbane, but I think that after seeing the benefits of your spa treatments, I will have a few Australian business owner look into creating something like this in Brisbane." She sighed and looked up at him as she gathered her food on to her plate. "Its been hard really, hard for all of us. This is the second time we've faced such a disaster, and of that type of magnitude, I'm still amazed that the Hansa is still around. I'm still amazed that I'm still around even."

Sarah bowed her head. "I should have been dead a long time ago Ryu, along time ago." She reached across the table and held his hand. "Its because of nations like Yamato that we can say that we're still an influence in the world." She cleared her throat. "I know we had our differences in the past, we have very difference societies. Conservatism and liberalism, but I'm glad that we can get past that as well. So I have to thank Yamato for being there for both myself and my people."

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"I wish Yamato as a whole would have welcomed you. Let me tell you a bit about your closest neighbor in this side of Asia.

First is the position of Yamato. You see, although the outside world believes that the Kyokujitsujins are monolithic, nothing is further from the truth. Even before the fall of Dai Kyokujitsu Teikoku there were subgroups, and who with the scattering that has happened, we can safely safe there are eight groups. The biggest of these is the Yamatojin, who mainly live in Kyushu, Shikoku, and Ryukyu, and this group is the one that is the most nationalistic and closed. It was because of the influence of the Yamatojins that Yamato's early foreign policies were very isolationist.

The giving out of citizenships, and the new territories on the Asian mainland were mainly done as a counter to the Yamatoji. With the influx of the Kanokujins, I have been able to push through the opening of the EEZ and the overall opening of the country. It was also the Kankokujins that kept the lid on Yamatojin dissent when we sided with the Hanseatic Commonwealth. All in All, I have been attempting to dam the flood of ultranationalism that would have turned Yamato into a reincarnation of Dai Kyokujitsu Teikoku

The second issue is Honshu. Even if the Kankokujins balance out the excess of nationalism, nevertheless the Yamatojins remain the most powerful force. There is one region that the Yamatojins crave the most, and that is Kansai, with the spiritual capital of Kyoto located there. Efforts are being made to reduce this irredentism sentiment with Manchuria, but I am not certain if it can be stopped forever. I am telling you this to warn you, that in case there is some friction between Yamato and Hansa on territorial issues, it is the work of a powerful force."

He then paused, as if he was unsure whether to go on.

"Sarah, I have a confession to make. I'm not sure if this sounds strange or not, but.... I consider you..... as a daughter."

Edited by Sumeragi
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Sarah's attitude was like a roller-coast for much of the dinner with Ryu and for the most part, hearing the extremist policies of the inter workings of the Yamato population, or at least part of it, put her a little on edge. Ishima was really a god-send to her at the moment, quelling a sleeping dragon and keeping another foreign affairs problem away from the desks of Diet Hall. While she still didn't agree with some of the Yamato policies, the two countries had made great progress diplomatically. However in bringing up Kansai, she turned her head down to her food. The policies of Splendid Isolation were still fresh in the minds of Hanseatic citizens, in addition to a strange feeling that reverberated around the country after the near destruction of Brisbane.

"Well I can safely tell you that anything to bring our nations closer together I would support. But as to Kansai, Ishima, I will have to presently decline the demand for any transfer of land. For as dear Kansai is to your citizens, it is equally dear to the Japanese citizens of Northern Japan. Though with the Hansa's open borders I don't see why that they couldn't be apart of the city itself. Perhaps not under a flag, but visitation is more than welcome."

But when he brought up about being an architypal father, she looked up curiously.

"A daughter?"

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"Well, the Kansai issue is just something to keep in mind if some of our citizens act in a hostile way. I wasn't asking for it. "

He looked uncomfortably when Sarah asked about the daughter.

"Let me tell you a little about myself."

He stood up and went to the balcony, where the cool summer breeze can through with flowers.

"I once had a daughter, who was about as bright as cheerful as you were. She was, as you might say, the apple of my eyes, and my hope. I also had an older son, but he wa not what you say was a favorite of mine, a black sheep.

Back then I was a Yamato nationalist, even more so than what the average Yamatojin, and was the leader of the Yamato party, whose aim was to establish Yamato superiority over the rest of the Kyokujitsujin subgroups. My daughter, however, was against what I did, and she would leave the house to become a naval officer, dedicated to bring harmony among all Kyokujitsujins. In a sense, she was like you, a young girl on a mission to bring peace. I felt betrayed, and disowned her for it.

The two of us would eventually go opposite political ways, when he managed to win the majority of Parliment, becoming the first female prime minister of Yamato. She, together with the new Sumeragi, worked to turn back the Yamato nationalist tide. Their work would end, however, in the Second Pacific War, when Tahoe invade Kyokujitsu. My daughter, Ishima Kaigen, would die in that war, fighting against both outher and internal enemies, to keep the multicultural Kyokujitsujin identity alive.

It was then, within the destruction, that I realized what she had worked for."

He came up to Sarah, took her hand, and palced it over her heart.

"She knew that all people, regardless of their origins and upbringing, were human, just as all humans have the same beating heart. She wanted for all to be at peace with one another, to work towards the common goal."

He then placed her hand upon his chest.

"And it is only now, after over seventy years, that I realized it. I finally realized what she had been thinking, what she had realized about all people, we all are the same."

Slowly he went back to the balcony.

"I see the determinatioon of my daughter within you, Sarah Tintagyl. I see that you strive for the greater good of humans, and I want to help you along that path."

Turning his head to the side, he looked at Sarah.

"I also see a little girl who is struggling with the great burden she has set for herself, a burden that she never knew she would carry with her. I wish to help that little girl. Although I can never replace her father, I would like, at least to offer a shoulder for her to cry on, a shoulder of a guardian who can give her encouragment, to support her as a secondary father who knows the person, the little girl, behind the various masks of Sarah Tintagyl, the Lady Protector of the Hanseatic Commonwealth, the Valkyrie of Peace.

Would you accept me as such, Sarah?"

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Sarah turned away from him and buried her head in her shoulder. "I...I don't know what to say. Its an honor that I almost feel that it would be too much for me to accept." She looked back up at him, her sapphire eyes twinkling gently. "I am sorry for your loss though Ishima, I lost my brother when I was young, along with my mother, and really my father as well. So my personality I'm sure would be extremely different if things would have gone differently. It just turned out this way."

She walked out to the balcony with him and took his hand. "I can't ask for more, more so rather than between our peoples, but between us as humans. I am sure that my father would be proud of me right now, for what I have achieved. I want and still want greater things for the Hansa and our peoples as a whole." Sarah looked up and embraced him tightly. "I really do appreciate this, I really do and even if you are not my father, I can always rely on you as a guardian that I can embrace like this." She chuckled. "Though I have to warn you, I am still called a black sheep for a reason."

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A hearty laughter burst out from Ishima.

“I myself have become a black sheep of Yamato, just like how my daughter became one voluntarily. I would understand your feelings.”

Retuning the hug, he stroke her hair gently.

“It's been a long time since I've held someone, and especially a daughter at that. Thank you Sarah, for becoming a sunshine of my life.”

Slowly he loosed his embrace, and looked into her eyes with a fatherly glitter.

“If you ever need to talk to me about anything, including love, I will always be there to answer you. You have complete comfidentiality with me.”

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She smiled as she left his embrace. "Its more than I can ask for, thank you Ishima, so I do hope that we'll stay in touch in the coming weeks and months. If it means anything, anything at all, you are more than welcomed to come and stay in Brisbane anytime your heart desires. I think we will have an everlasting friendship from this time forward."

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"I certainly hope so to, Sarah. Just remember, you may contact me at any time for advice, favors, or just for a talk about anything. And make sure you don't play around too much, for it'll be hard for me to stop all the rumors of the little trips you may take from becoming public, even with my money and influence."

Bursts of laughters could be heard as the pale face of Sarah became crimson red.

*******************

The next day, Ishima personally escorted Sarah to the airport, where she boarded a private plane to Brisbane. As he say the jet taking off toward the southern skies, he smiled.

He had gained a daughter, someone who he could protect. He knew that he had been a terrible father, and he wished to make up for it, to help keep the legacy of Kaigen going. He himself had changed, seen beyond the national limits, and there was no turing back now.

He got into his car, his heart warm from realizing he now cared for someone, a little girl who needs a guardian.

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