Karal swallowed dryly, untangling his fingers. The tension singing between Kero and Sejanes was making his stomach churn. “Look, I’m – not a fighter. What aren’t you two saying?”
“Lord Yamagata’s a war leader,” Kero stated.
“A Choshu war leader, at that,” Sejanes put in. “Who’s about to see his clan’s rivals and reluctant allies lose serious face when Selenay’s people ask pointed questions about just where that cannon came from. Who may well see a way to put them in his debt, and regain face lost to all of Valdemar by the clans’ mishap in the Jump, and rub Satsuma’s noses in the mud at the same time.”
“You think he’ll want Kenshin,” Karal realized.
“He’d be a damn fool if he didn’t,” Kerowyn said bluntly.
“And that’s why you wanted to talk to me, isn’t it?” Karal kept his face sober, turning toward the mage he could not, himself, see.
“It is,” Sejanes said, equally sober. “A few subtle, dropped hints from the ambassador of Karse. Some of my own as a representative of Tremane and Hardorn. Yes, I think the two of us could go far in impressing on Yamagata’s people the need for inner stability in Valdemar for the good of the allied kingdoms.”
“Hold up there, Instructor.” Kerowyn held up a halting hand. “Aren’t you taking this a bit too seriously? Scooping up a handy hitokiri’s one thing. You can’t possibly think Yamagata would use Himura as an excuse for a revolt! Valdemar took his people in. Selenay’s given him nothing but honor and fair treatment.”
“Yet before all that, their slip with the Jump inflicted on the samurai the mass insult of surrendering rather than dying with honor.” Sejanes stood. “There’s a moral quandary taught to young samurai in Yamato, Captain. A man has murdered your father. You’ve pursued the killer for years. During that time, he’s shown nothing but honorable behavior to his enemies and allies alike; an honor he shows once more, for you’re pursuing him across a harbor in a boat, which is sinking, and he turns his own boat around to rescue you. There’s no other hope of surviving. What do you do?”
“Let him rescue me, and give it up as a bad job,” Kerowyn said tartly. “Enough’s enough.”
“And that would earn you a caning, at least,” Sejanes wagged a finger at her. “For a samurai, the proper answer is to let yourself be rescued, thank your rescuer with all due politeness – and execute him the first moment you can.”
Kerowyn stared at him a long moment. “That’s insane.”
“Choosing your ruler based on talking horses who are servants of the gods, rather than a council of the great lords and a civil war or two,” Sejanes said dryly. “To Yamagata’s people, that’s insane.”