Tales of the Sea Bitch (16)


-- Usigo came by room at about 3:30 am
-- We got the clear run of the room about 4 am.
-- It began snowing at 2:30 am.

    It was 4:15 am on the morning of the twelfth day of Winter Court.
    Peter examined the body to determine when he was killed.  He says he time of death was between 2 am and 3 am.
    The door was hanging off the hinges, smashed as if something large and strong had gone through it.
    The last person to enter was Miyara Ryuden, according to an overheard conversation.
    The guards were killed suddenly and quickly, obviously by someone who they did not think was a threat.  The killer was a superb swordsman.  Tony believed it was one person, but wasn't completely certain.
    The battle inside the room took a long time.  Blood was spattered around widely.  Himitsu did not have a weapon.  Tony said the wounds were consistent with defending against a swordsman while unarmed.  Either Himitsu was a really good unarmed fighter, or the battle started unarmed on both sides.
    Tony also suggested there might be two people.  The visitor could have left his second outside while visiting, and when they noticed the noise of a fight the second killed them.  While he was in the hallway, Tony found out that the woman who had the room next door saw the fight happen.  We'd need to talk to her later in the morning.
    I asked Tony about the damage to the window and door.  He said there was no particular impact mark on the door, and he couldn't tell whether it was man-sized or larger.  He suggested finding out whose room was below, to see when they heard something.  Above us was the royal floor and private rooms of our host, so it could be almost anything above this room.  Tony suggested asking about that too.
    Grieg offered to poit himself up to see, but Tony declined the offer.
    The balcony and railings outside were all stone.  Tony pointed out that was unfortunate, as a rope would not have left a mark.  There was no blood on the balcony.
    Lady Miyara had read the letter to us in Imperial.

    There was also a tear in the wall between this room and the one in which the lady saw the fight.  Tony looked trhough the hole but saw nothing; he asked me because he'd heard all elves could see in the dark.  It was a woman's bedroom, with a woman sleeping in it.  There was no suite on the other side of this one -- this was at the end of the building.
    Tony told us that if Miwa had reason to suspect someone, she could talk to them right now.  Talking to someone who had clearly retired to their room would be a breach of etiquette.
    Lady Miyara said we should talk to Ryuden right now.

    One of the guards outside Himitsu's room escorted us to Ryuden's room, and explained to his guards that we were working for Himura Usigo.  They let us in.
    Ryuden was sitting on the balcony.  There were guards inside the room.
    Miwa explained why we were here.
    "I did not do this horrible thing.  I was wiling to give Himitsu an honorable death.  I have been asked to remain iin this room and out of honor ot hour host I must do so.  So you must be the one to clear our family's name."
    He immediately launched into his story.
    I caught Phoebe's eye and signalled her to ask her spirits if this was the real Ryuden.
    Ryuden told us after he talked to Miyara, he went to visit Himistu to see if he could talk him out of the duel.  He explained that he believed he could easily have defeated HImitsuk, and didn't want to kill him.  He just wanted an apology.  It was clear he wasn't remembering things well, his memory was a little clouded and his story bouncing back and forth.  It sounded like he wasn't telling the truth, but he admitted that he and Himitsu were both drunk last night and not htinking cluearly.
    Himitsu did not agree, and after an argument Rkydyuen left.  He went back to bed and slept soundly.
    That was Ryuden's first lie in his story.
    He was woken this morning by guards banging on his door telling him HImitsu had died, and implied him
    He repeats that he did not kill Himitsu.
    That was truth, Phoebe indicated.  She said in IMperial that when he said he went to bed and slept the rest of the night he was lying, but he did not kill Himitsu.
    I asked him straight out, "Did you kill his guards?"
    He jumped up and attacked me verbally for attacking his honor.  As a foreigner and not samurai class, he said, I should not even be here.  As he said that, he looked at Miwa.
    I said I was samurai and would prove it, defend my honor with my sword if need be.  I just sat there and stared him down while my friends freaked out.
    Miwa spoke.  She tried to calm him down, and also point out his insult to her.  She then addressed his lie, although in a very careful Nipponese way.
    Truth is that Himitsu was alive when he left his room, and he did not go back there that night.  His reaction to my question was genuine, and not an attempt to cover a lie.  He seems to have accepted my status now, as gaijin samurai.
    I spoke up again, to cement my status, "Do you have any idea why Himitsu would act in such an offensive way."
    Ryuden considered.  He had a look of exasperation.
    I didn't catch it at the time, but my question was pretty ignorant by Nipponese standards.  Himitsu might be making this up for political gain, but that wasn't his style.  He believed whatever information he had, and honor demanded that he presented that information.  Ryuden would know that too, but felt that honor demanded that he as the future husband of the alleged princess had to defend the honor of the princess, of course.
    Ryuden's answer, exasperation obvious, was as polite as possible, "Because his honor demanded it."
    "Of course," I nodded, and apologized.  My Nipponese skills didn't convey the underlying question of what information Himitsu might have.
    Tony asked if there was someone else who could help restore Ryuden's lost honor for where he was this evening.
    Even I looked exasperated at that one.
    I ask tony if he would permit me to elucidate on that.  He said yes.
    I asked, "Is there anyone else's honor you could help by knowing where they were overnight?"
    "Thank you."
    Personally I didn't care if he spent all night storming up and down on the balcony throwing rocks into the forest, if he didn't have a real alibi it didn't matter.  He didn't kill Himitsu after all.
    Miwa was the one who kind of phrased it enough to call him on his lie and ask him what really happened.  Ryuden clearly knew she was his hope to clear his name, and was helpful.
    Ryuden told us that after he'd left Himitsu, he'd returned to his room, but after some more "thought" (sake) he wanted to reassure the princess that he would do everyhting in his power to defend her hjonor, ieven if it meant killing that dog.  Any stain on Yorushiku's honor would be a stain on the Emperor.  "I would gladly die to prevent any dishonor falling at the feet of the Hantei family."  He slipped out of his room by juimping from one balcony to hte next, slipped in thorugh the next room over.  On the way to her rooms, he met one of the maids -- Kakita Nantoko -- who convinced him that Yorushiku was already asleep.  She talked to him a long time and assured him that Yorushiku was expcting him to win hte duel and save his honor.  She convinced him to return to his chambers, and he did so.  After that he spent the rest of the night in his room.  He looked at me and said, "I did not kill Himitsu or his guards."
    Phoebe signalled his honesty throughout.
    Ryuden asked who had spoken against him.
    Miwa was very vague in her answer.
    Why indeed have the powers that be decided it was Ryuden?
    As I said, "I can't believe you would kill him in his room when you could defend the princess's honor by doing so in the morning."

    It was time to move to the rendezvous at the river.  Miwa had realized that Grieg could take her there and back without any inconveniences with the guards.  Grieg went aside to meditate for his task.
    In the meantime, Tony went to fetch Koan to speak with Miwa.  He was awake, saying he was meditating.  He left with Tony immediately.
    Koan greeted Miwa formally.
    Miwa asked him if he'd heard the news about Miyara Himitsu.
    He had.
    She asked him directly what he knew about what Miyara Himitsu knew about the Princess.
    "I know very little about it.  I know that Niban had something against  since hte first time he saweher.  But then he has something against all the clans, he does not forget past insults." But he was telling the truth -- he trusts he word.  He was supposed to arrive here this morning and was going to be sponsored by Himitsu.  They were also worried about one of hte lords here -- Niban never said hte name, but someone of rank was going to try to kill them when the information was released.
    Phoebe's spirits told her that the only lie was that he only knew a little of what was going on.  Everything he did say was truth, but he knew much more.
    Phoebe looked directly at him and said, "Oh, you know much more than that."
    "No," he said.  He was still lying.
    Miwa said, "I need to know everything you know."
    Koan said that he ackowledged that he owed her more, but politely implied that he'd end up dead if he said any more.
    Tony asked where he went after the poetry reading yesterday.  "You weren't in your room," he said.
    He looked at him, and at Phoebe, and back to Tony.  Very carefully he said that he did return to his room after the poetry reading, he meditated for several hours, and went to try to talk Himitsu out of the duel in the morning.  He talked with Himitsu for a few minutes, half an hour, then returned to his room as HImitsu refused to change his mind.  Himitsu was extremely drunk, and Koan decided to send his assistant to tell Niban about the duel.
    Koan was no idiot.  He had Phoebe figured.  I just hoped that didn't put her in danger.
    Tony asked when Koan left Himitsu's rooms.
    He got there around 12:30, and it was 1:00 when he left.
    Miwa asked if Koan knew exactly where Niban was planning on meeting Himitsu.
    Koan did not -- somewhere on the road near the castle, he said.
    Miwa dismissed him politely, saying she had an appointment to make, and Tony asked a guard to escort Koan to his rooms.

    There was a place where the road crossed the river where it met the lake.  Grieg poited off to there with Miwa.

    ((There was no-one there.  Grieg started meditating immediately, while Miwa looked around for either Niban or an ambush.  An ambush would be hard in this area, but she looked anyway.
    It was about 6:00 when they arrived.  Miwa waited not quite half an hour before she saw Niban and Koan's assistant walking towards the bridge.
    Niban greeted Miwa appropriately.  He was surprised to find her out on the road so early in the morning.
    Miwa said she was here to speak with him in Himitsu's stead.
    "So HImitsu told oyu why I'm here?"
    "He hinted to a large number of people last night that he had something to say, and I now have the letter you wrote to him, but that is all I know.  I need more."
    "Well, with you and Himitsu to vouch for us..."
    "Himitsu is dead."
    "Himitsu is dead?"  Niban was shocked.  "He lost the duel?"
    "He was killed in his rooms before the duel ever took place."
    Niban told her that he owed her a lot already, and he hoped that she would continue to be his benefactor and support him in his statement.
    Miwa asked what his statement was.
    Niban said that the open road was not a good place to be talking about these things.
    She asked him where he would prefer to talk about such things.
    He suggested the privacy of her rooms.
    She asked if he had a way up to the rooms.
    He asked if his feet would not be sufficient.
    Miwa said that would not work.  No-one was allowed in or out of the castle since the murder.
    He said that clearly this was a complicated situation.  16 years ago, he learned that Otomo Yoroshiku was not the rightful heir to the Hantei throne.  "Lord, I cannot and will not say more until I have your word that you will support me in this testimony."
    That was reasonable.  If Miwa chose not to support him and he impuned the honor of Hantei, then she would be honor bound to kill him on the spot.
    Miwa paused.  She paused for a long time.  She asked him about what Himitsu had known before deciding to support her.
    He said that he and Himitsu had several conversations about the princess, but he had no facts that Miwa did not already have.  He clearly was saying he had built up a rapport with Himitsu on the topic that he did not yet have with Miwa.  Niban apologized and said he could not tell her without more direct assurances from here.
    Miwa knew that would have had to have been at the Festival.  She asked if he could tell her how he discovered the information, without telling him what the information was.
    He went into a polite tirade, beginning with he was told by a man, then talked about him as someone who, like so many of his kind, treated bushido as the religion to keep themselves in power and make fools of the rest.  He went on for a while like that, that honor was fake and those who pretended to be honorable were not.  It's clear he was severely burned by some bushi, bushido was hypocrisy in itself.
    Miwa asked, "Why now?"
    Niban said he had tried very hard to put that whole history behind him.  Then he saw her at the festival and it brought it all back to him.
    Miwa asked him if the maid knew what he knew.
    Niban confirmed that.
    She said that she had been silent all these years, and now he thought she would come forward?
    He did not know.
    Miwa asked him why he was doing this?  What was at stake?
    Niban went into a speech again.  Was bushido really a religion for fools, or was it real?
    Miwa answered the rhetorical question and says it was, of course.
    It seemed that Niban was using this as a test case.  He wanted to believe, but this was the test to see if it was real or not.
    Now that was what Miwa needed.  Honor was real.  She had no choice now.  "I agree," she said, "I will support you."

    <insert email here>

    Miwa said she would talk to the maid and see if she would testify.  She asked if he would stay around.
    Niban said he would return to the village of Nightingale, and if she should need him to send Kocho.
    Miwa knew that would be within Grieg's poiting range.  Aloud, she said that Koan's assistant would not be allowed back in.
    The assistant said she would remain in the area, if they would permit it.
    They all went their separate ways.  Once the area was clear, Grieg poited back with Miwa to her rooms.  Then there would be the matter of Iruko, who was Shinjo family.

    Tony spent his time pondering political matters.  Who would benefit most from this testimony?  Eventually he decided that no-one would win at the top, but in the middle there would be shifts of power.  It was not so much who won, as who would lose.

    I spent my time pondering how beautiful Phoebe looked in the morning.

    Neither of us knew what we were about to be thrown into.

Glossary of people who might be important at the Winter Court.

Otomo Yoroshiku - Emperor's Niece, second in line to the throne behind the Emperor's son.
Hida Yauta - Yoroshiku's maid servant, the big one.
Kitsu Saia - Yoroshiku's maid servant
Kakita Nantoko - Yoroshiku's maid servant

Mirumoto Hansu - Yoroshiku suitor, Dragon Clan
Miyara Sanru - Yoroshiku suitor, Phoenix Clan

Miyara Ryuden - Yoroshiku suitor (sorta), Phoenix Clan

Miyara Ujimitsu - Phoenix Champion, Miwa's father
Miyara Himitsu - Young man traveling with Ujimitsu
(wispers are he'll be the next Phoenix Champion)

Shinjo Gidayu - Unicorn daimyo who started your previous journey

Isawa Tomo - Elemental master (of Earth ?)

Asako Kagetsu - Your host at Gisu Palace

Koan - Shugenga from the village of Nightengale

Shosuro Tage - formost actree of the Imperial troupe

Hiruma Usigo - ranking Emerald Magistrate, just retired, headed for
monastery in spring