Tales of the Sea Bitch (17)
It was 7:30 in the morning when Grieg poited back in
with Lady Miyara. She quickly looked around the room, then told
us exactly what happened, in Imperial. Now we knew what this was
No doubt Lady Miyara was pondering the thorny issue
of Iruko. As a Shinjo herself, she could be trouble if she found
out what was really going on. She did know that Lady Miyara and
Grieg had vanished out to see Niban, but that was all. Both the
note reading and the tale from the meeting were told to us in Imperial
None of us said a word. Miwa looked at us in
turn, but we said nothing.
We still had the woman next door to talk to, as well
as various guards who could have seen something. There were
guards on people's rooms, as well as on the wall who could have seen
what or who smashed out of Himitsu's room.
Back to the play, Miwa had wondered to herself, the
actress was watching the princess for a reaction. Did the actress
know about the princess, and was watching to see if the princess knew
With the remarkable lack of opinions from us, Miwa
decided we would talk with the guards first. A good place to
start would be who was climbing around the balconies last night.
We were escorted to the captain of the guard, who
after a while of Miwa persuading him and dropping names, told her we
needed to talk to a woman, Asako Hensuko. She was on the wall
overlooking Himitsu's room.
Hensuko was asleep, but quicky summoned to speak
She said close to 3:00, she saw a large man smash
out of Himitsu's balcony door, and climb down to the ground by leaping
from balcony to balcony and then down the cliff face. It was
already snowing by then.
That would have been hard, but given his obvious
skill with a sword that would not be a surprise. My first thought
was perhaps Niban, who was indeed a large man, but then Ryuden was a
large man too and I was sure he didn't do it.
The guard did not recognize him, but if she saw him
again she would.
Phoebe gave the nod. Hensuko was not lying at
Tony asked how often guests moved from room to room
by climbing the balconies, and she said it was not at all common.
It would take a great deal of acrobatic skill. Tony added in
Imperial that Ryuden had said he had done it. That was just
across one balcony to the next, and would have been easy to miss.
It's not like Ryuden smashed down a door. Tony then said that
illusionists could alter sound and sight and distance, and so perhaps
could teleport and things to -- from an Imperial point of view that
would be true, but this was Nippon. Still, he had to suspect the
There were other guards too, of course. Miwa
asked the Captain if anyone else had seen anything.
No-one reported anything unusual, but the guards
outside Ryduen's room last night were Asako Innasai before midnight,
and Isako Budo after midnight. The Captain told us that late in
the hour of 11, Ryuden left his room and Innasai accompanied him to
Himitsu's room. They argued. Ryuden was very drunk, very
angry, and the talk almost came to blows. Himitsu refused to be
provoked, and Ryuden returned to his room cursing. Himitsu was
very much alive when Ryuden left. Innasai did not see him leave
his room again. Budo said that he did not see Ryuden at all.
The guard on Himitsu's room before midnight watch
change said, in answer to Tony's questions, that Koan did not come to
Himitsu's room during his watch. There were no other visitors
Miwa told the Captain that she didn't need to speak
to Innasai and Budo yet, but may want to later.
The next person to talk to was the woman
neighbor. As we walked up there, Tony said in Imperial that this
was the lady who would not admit that she was peeping through the hole
in the wall.
The woman was an elderly Dragonfly, Tombo
Jehenko. We were admitted and introduced. She was
apparently timid and somewhat shaken up.
Tony stood well back so as not to intimidate her,
and looked around the room to see what her game object might be.
It wasn't one that we had.
Miwa very politely asked Jehenko to please tell her
what she saw last night.
Jehenko blushed at Miwa's compliments on her bravery
and honor. She told us that Himitsu had three visitors last night.
The first was Ryuden. He was drunk, angry, and
shouted a lot. He left after a few minutes of yelling, and she
thinks someone knocked over the sake table.
The second was the ronin Koan. That was much
quieter, and she fell asleep. She did not know when he left.
The last was late in the night, sometime during the
2 o'clock hour. She heard more shouting from the room next
door. She looked through the hole in the wall. She saw a
small woman she did not recognize fighting with Himitsu. The
fight shifted out of her sight, and when it came back it was Ryuden
fighting Himitsu. It was a terrifying bloody fight. She hid
for a few minutes, then screwed up her courage and told the guard at
her door what was going on.
That settled that. It had to be the
actress. The Shosuros were undoubtedly skilled in sword as well
I asked, in Imperial, "But why kill him? And
who was behind it?" Or in Nipponese terms, we pretty much knew
who had the sword, but who killed him?
Tony said the reason he was killed was pretty clear,
but who ordered it was less obvious.
Miwa then asked her if she remembered when the
visitors were there. Ryuden came late in the 11 o'clock hour,
Koan early in the 12 o'clock hour.
Miwa thanked her politely, and we left.
We returned to our rooms to talk about the whole
murder in Nipponese.
In Imperial, Tony said our goals were to make the
murder go away for hte Miyara family, in that he was clearly
deliberately implicated. Second, deal with the Niban issue one
way or another. Third, come out smelling like roses ourselves.
I said that clearly it was a Shosuro who did it, but
who told them to do it, and who told them to implicate a Miyara?
Oh for the west, where if you find out who did it, that's enough.
Grieg said that even in the west there's
complications, like being framed. His wry smile showed his
In Nipponese, Tony said that if it hadn't been for
Koan who would have recognized another mage, Himitsu could have been
already dead and the whole scene at the poetry reading was staged.
That was what I'd thought in the first place, of
course. The part of Himitsu could easily have been played by the
missing actress. That sounded like we needed to speak with the
mage, "Eh, Tony?" I added with a smile.
What was interesting is that right before the poetry
reading, Himitsu came to Miwa to ask a lot of questions about Yorushiku.
I asked if his questions contradicted his later
behavior or supported it.
Miwa said he had been vague, and only later after he
was dead did she consider what he wanted. He was looking for some
sort of information about her, certainly.
As Grieg said, perhaps Himitsu just realized that he
had found out about the princess.
But then Tony said that the meeting with Niban had
been scheduled before.
The letter said, "However, there is something I must
first finish. I have discovered that Y is not what she seems to
be, and honor demands that I bring some formal testimony before the
court." So the letter may have triggered his suspicions, and
after receiving the letter is when he talked with Miya. And that
also had to be considered with the conversation Miwa just had with
Niban earlier that day.
I asked, "Do we know that the person who came to
Miwa was Himitsu and not the actress?"
Miwa said she didn't check, so we didn't actually
know. He talked to her during the general time between when her
father left, and the eleventh day of the horse when the poetry
competition took place.
I agreed that at that point, there was nothing to
indicate it wasn't him. And we did have the eye-witness for when
Himitsu actually died, too.
So when did Himistsu know? We all agreed that
Niban was one of the most honorable people we'd met, and we did not
think he would mislead us.
Tony said that we needed to go back to Himitsu's
room and find his token.
"Why?" I asked.
Peter asked if he was killed for the token.
Tony said that if he followed the rules, whoever had
the match could have asked him a relevant question.
We were running out of ideas. Tony said we had
to speak with the maids, both the old one, Yauta, and Nantoko to
corrroborate Ryduen's story.
I said that we didn't need to corroborate Ryuden's
Tony said that we could find out more from her than
just about Ryduen.
Miyara wondered about Himitsu's retinue, but then
remembered he was travelling with her father and would not have
followers of his own here.
As for Ryuden, he had a suite much like Miwa's, so
while there were others in his suite up until his house arrest, they
weren't there now. They weren't part of any particular
conversations, taking less interest in his affairs than we did in
I wondered if this was the point to re-involve the
Tony, in Imperial, said hte obvious reason to take
him out would be to stop the testimony. That meant there were
people who knew it was politically true and wanted to keep it hidden.
Miwa said there was one obvious person who knew it
was true. Shinjo Gidayu, Yoroshiku's true father. She also
wanted to know whether the Shosuros were playing their own game or if
they were hired.
We really didn't have a reason to talk to Shinjo
Gidayu, and as Miwa pointed out we had lots of good reasons not to talk
to him just now. And as I said, we already knew Shinjo Gidayu was
Tony then said it came down to whether it was in hte
interest of the Miyaras, Phoenix Clan, and the Empire -- in that order
-- whether we kept the princess in or out.
I said that MIwa has given her word that she was
supporting Niban. We did not have a choice.
Tony said we could out this without dishonoring the
Emperor by blaming daddy.
This was not true, however -- if this got out, at
all, it would dishonor the Emperor. Now he could save face by
eliminating her in some other way. It would solve the long-term
problem without the loss of face. The other side of that is if
the princess were to die and it was discovered we were the killer, we
would simply be eliminated. Also, if she were to die in Phoenix
territory, particular at or on her way to or from the Phoenix court,
that would be very bad for Phoenix.
Miwa knew that what to do about the princess was
above her level. Perhaps the most honorable thing would be to
speak up and take hte consequences, but the most political thing to do
would be to reveal it to someone higher up.
I again suggested the Emerald Magistrate.
Isawa Tomo would be the real leader of Phoenix, and he
blamed Ryuden. Unless he has something else in mind, this
happening at Winter Court under Phoenix meant it was more important to
clean it up quickly than to figure out who did it.
It was Usigo who came to Miwa, however, and he
probably actually came to her because of her handling of the Tsume
matter. So he wanted her to look deeper.
Tony said we can't take it to him, he's out of hte
I insisted that he's the highest rank of anyone at
this court, and we should report to him. If there was a politcal
situation that could save face for the Emperor, he could do it.
And Miwa had to be the person to do it.
Grieg was concerned about us not catching hell for
all this, but although I didn't say it, I thought that was way beyond
our control already.
Of course the two issues did not have to be
linked. Tony said we were to look into this without making
Grieg and I disagreed with that strongly.
Now it was clear that Tomo and Asako were planning
to let Ryuden hang for this. Usigo asked us to look deeper, and I
believed we should tell him the real truth. Whether he let Ryuden
take the fall or not, he should know the truth about it.
Outside us, of course, the matter of the princess
was nothing to do with the death. The death was entirely a
Tony says what we know was that there were three
visitors, and the killer either changed faces during the fight or -- as
the woman would believe, that there were two people. No-one knew
who the small woman was. Only one person left the room.
No-one came down the hallway after the killing. He said in
addition we could pass on the conspiracy theory, which cast further
doubt on Ryuden, and may or may not help the Miyaras out of our
Tony asked Miwa who would be next in line to Himitsu
for heir to Phoenix Champion.
Miwa said it was hard to say. Perhaps Sanru,
if he won the hand of the princess. Another rising star would be
Miyara Katsuda, perhaps.
Tony then suggested talking to the gate guards and
asking who came back in before the murder was discovered and the castle
Miwa said we probably had enough right now to go to
Usigo and talk to him about this.
I agreed that even if we didn't tell him everything,
giving him an update was the right thing to do.
Tony asked if we wanted to talk to Yauta first, but
MIwa said that Usigo should be first, and I for one agreed with her.
So we went to see Hiruma Usigo. But as we
stepped out, the guard who had been escorting us before was no longer
there. This one we had seen at our door before.
Miwa asked where the other guard was.
The guard said he had gone off duty, and that we
were free to move about the castle without an escort.
Tony asked who gave him the order. The guard
said it was the captain, and in fact people were moving around without
Miwa knew that Asako and Isawa wanted it to go away
quickly, and keeping people in their rooms was not hte way to do
that. Once they'd decided who was to be the killer, they could
As we walked on, Winter Court had been cloaked by a
bad mood. Much fewer people moving around, and not the lightness
When we reached the foot of the stairs to the floor
of Usigo's rooms, we were told that Hiruma asked us to join him for
lunch here in his rooms. The added implication was to go away now
and come back later.
Tony wanted to go back to Himitsu's room and look
for his token. That too would be on the higher floor, and someone
would need to convince the guard that we had the right to go up there.
That was Miwa's job, of course, and she got us an
escort to where Tony wanted to go.
The room had been cleaned up and the bodies gone, of
course, and the door had been temporarily by a wall. The blood
had been mostly cleaned up.
Tony went to look for Himitsu's token, with others
helping too. I didn't see the point and let them get on with it.
It was quickly clear that all the personal effects
had been removed. We returned to our rooms for a rest and to
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