Tales of the Sea Bitch (22)
Grieg and I were sick with some strange
disease. We just stayed on the wagon while the group travelled
on, looking for the abductors by conventional means.
Overnight Miwa and Toni had managed to organize the
rabble of about thirty warriors into something resembling a fighting
force. The two of them continued working with them all day,
figuring out what skills they had to offer. Miwa picked several
of them who volunteered for scout duty, and sent them to fan out ahead
of us to look for the kidnappers.
Nothing happened that day. None of the scouts
found anything, but we made better time on the road than we had the day
Phoebe checked us out, but wanted to wait until the
next day before trying again. Peter came in, however, and worked
his goddess stuff, and our fever broke but we were extremely
tired. We'd need another night of rest.
Phoebe wasn't done for the day, though. She
went off into the spirit world to see if she could find the princess,
but she was nowhere to be found.
The night passed uneventfully.
By morning, Grieg and I were feeling rough, but able
to go about as normal. Apparently what I was feeling was much
like a hangover.
Miwa guessed that we would reach the village that
day. The scouts were to come back once they'd observed the
village, making sure they weren't seen.
Two of the four scouts returned and said they found
nothing. They reached the turn into the valley of the village,
and came back as ordered. It looked like the village was
preparing to defend itself, or at least everyone seemed to be worked
up. They didn't seem to be mounting any particular defense works,
just not doing their normal activities. They were all standing
around in the village square.
I volunteered to go talk to them. Miwa said
no. I said someone had to stay here to keep this group from
massacring the village.
The leader's intention was to march the group into
the village and look for the princess.
I insisted that there would be a massacre if they
did that. I wanted to go down to talk.
Miwa said she had to be the one to go down alone,
having had previous contact with Niban and the village. She could
perhaps locate the princess rather than go into a pitched battle in
which the princess could be harmed.
In quick succession, six volunteers sprung up to go
with her, including of course Iruko. Grieg and I also insisted
too, although they fell on deaf ears. Miwa chose to take Iruko
part of the way, and stop where she could observe. If Miwa was
slaughtered, Iruko would come back and tell the rest of us.
I didn't care. Right away, I slipped out of
camp to get into a position where I could get a good shot at the square.
((Iruko went to Toni to replace her, because if Miwa
died she would
have failed, and she would have to kill herself after reporting back,
and she doesn't want to do that. So she wanted Toni to sneak
and get the message back while she protected Miwa.
Toni told Miwa that none of us were comfortable with
her and Iruko going in, and that at least half the time Grieg should be
on a peak observing, and if there was any indication he should come
back and start moving in. That was a minimum. He suggested
I should be involved in this, but I was nowhere to be found. He
went on to say that Miwa needed at least Iruko with her so she didn't
look weak, with Grieg watching and ready to go back. Also Iruko
was claiming her honor was based on this.
Miwa reluctantly agreed. Grieg would go off to
a peak, while Iruko would accompany her. Everyone else was to
Toni moved the group closer before starting this
The two of them walked towards the village.))
The square seemed to be divided into two groups, one
behind Niban, one behind his second in command, and the two were
arguing in very loud and angry tones.
When they saw Miwa, the argument slowed down but did
not completely stop.
I was practicing shots, visualizing shooting one and
then the other.
As Miwa came closer, Niban was shouting that there
was no reason, no reason at all.
Second, they are samurai we are ronin, no need for
N do not believe it
S don't care what you say, as soon as steel hits
your flesh you will believe.
As Miwa, with Iruko, came in, she could see that the
village was set up defensively. Archers on rooftops, trying to
stay hidden. She reached the edge of the village square, and the
They all looked at Miwa. No weapons were
drawn, but it was clear that they were ready.
It was clear that Niban was furious.
Miwa called out a polite greeting to Niban and asked
to speak with him.
He just shouted, "Why are you here?"
M we're looking for the princess.
N said angrily What prince... why here?
S to N said They are stalling! Don't listen to
her! she was looking around as if attack was imminent. Many
other ronin were doing so too, expecting an attack.
M ignored S. She said to N calmly, because we
found a note apparently from you that said you had her.
N looked and her and snapped What?
S looked at N with shock and said, Oh my god!
I knew you were crazy! She looked back at N and said he's talked
of kidnapping the girl but I never believed he'd actually do it!
She turned to some of the men behind her, and said Search the
village! Three of them ran off to do so.
I looked for patterns in her motion, her outbursts,
her reactions. I was getting ready for the One Shot, even though
the chances of finding a pattern were slim.
Miwa considered carefully, trying to figure out if
she could be sure S was trying to set up N. She thought N was
clearly crazy. He'd lost his composure. He'd already
started to unravel back at the bridge, and he'd obviously been getting
Miwa asked S (Tobuko, now "T") when N returned to
T paused for a moment, then looked at M and said We
will wait to see what the search turns up. She paused again, and
said We wouldn't want to jump to conclusions.
M It appeared you had already jumped.
Suddenly, the searchers pushed their way through,
the princess between them.
N flipped, jumped, grabbed the princess and backed
away from everyone, knife at her throat.
T snapped out orders to several people, to tell them
to back off. It was clear it was between M and N now.
N was muttering Fucking Shinjo Gidayu! He
tried, he tried so hard, it's a lie.
They were standing still. It was a
standoff. I prepared the One Shot. I felt myself as I would
take aim, I could hear and feel the arrow, watch it strike him in the
face two hundred yards away, watch him drop the knife in shock and
release the princess.
As I did this, M was stalling him, talking him down,
trying to defuse the situation. Miwa was easing slowly towards
him. At about ten feet away, he seemed ready to give up. He
dropped the knife and pushed the princess towards her.
N Go on then, serve your lord, kill me. I am
after all only a ronin.
Miwa paused. Laying hands on the princess was
death anyway, but if he didn't kidnap the princess then there would be
I did not take the shot. I knew I would have
taken him down, killed him with the One Shot, but only I would know.
M made sure the princess was ok, then asked N
directly, Did you take her from the castle yourself?
N said nothing. He stepped forward quickly
towards the girl with her sword, and slammed it down on her head and
struck her down. As he did so, he looked at M and said, Of course
I should have taken the shot. I had expected
Miwa to be able to protect the princess. Not my fault, but I felt
Miwa whipped out her sword and attacked him.
They started fighting, as Iruko dived across to join them.
I would shoot the best I could. It was long
range, and I couldn't make the One Shot, but I could plug in a few
((Grieg poited back to Toni and told him he killed
the princess. Peter and Phoebe both demanded he take Phoebe to
the princess. Toni told him to to do that, then come back for
Niban was looking really good. Miwa was badly
hurt, and Iruko couldn't seem to land a blow.
My first arrow bounced off his armor.
Grieg and Phoebe arrived, just as Niban fell to the
Phoebe rushed forward, grabbed the princess's spirit
and tried to push it back into her body. She fixed the body ready
for the Princess's spirit, and went looking for it.
Toni and the troop galloped in on horseback.
I walked down towards the village dejectedly.
At this point the only thing I could do was support Phoebe if she
needed it. It would take a while, since the road was a fair way
around, and walking through the rice paddies didn't seem to have much
((Phoebe found the princess's spirit and
respectfully tried to get her attention as the girl walked away from
her body. The princess stopped, turned around and listened as
Phoebe tried to convince her to go back. It took a short while,
but it worked.))
Miwa had passed out by now too, while Iruko tended
to her wounds.
The villagers fled their town as quickly as they
could, including T, while the samurai rode in. The place was
empty by the time Toni and his group got there.
Toni ordered that the village be searched, and to
find out the full story, before any attempt was made to pursue the
villagers. The leader rejected that with an exclamation, and lead
the samurai straight through to attack the fleeing civilians.
Nevertheless, a handful pulled up alongside
Toni. He set up a short perimeter.
The princess was awake by now. Peter checked
Miwa first, then when sure she was stable, he took care of Phoebe.
I walked into town without anyone really
noticing. Over the next hour or so, almost all the samurai came
back, having been unsuccessful at catching up. The leader was the
least successful. Those who did not come back must have been the
ones who caught up.
After the princess woke up, she stayed on the
ground. She didn't get up or move for a long time. Peter
checked her out, but while she was conscious and unhurt, she was just
keeping her eyes closed. He reported quietly that she was fine.
Toni asked her who kidnapped her, but she didn't
respond. He snorted condescedingly and walked away.
Peter asked her about making her more comfortable,
if she needed anything, but she did not respond to that.
Phoebe went over to the princess and sat down.
She talked to her gently in her quiet way, but the princess did not
Miwa woke up after some treatment, and when she
spoke to the princess she did respond.
The princess stood up immediately. In a very
imperious voice she said, "Take me to Gisu Castle immediately."
Miwa bowed and said, "Yes," and started gathering
the group to be ready to comply with the princess's command. Toni
had Donku and Sun check the village and bring supplies for the trip
It was late in the day, but not too late to make a
start. Normally we would camp at this time, but we needed to head
out at least for appearances. The princess was given one of the
horses, and would ride with us.
The trip was simple, three days back to the castle,
and nothing happened along the way. That suited me fine. I
kept myself to myself on the way back, not wanting to talk to anyone,
not even Phoebe.
It did become clear that the Princess did not know
who it was that kidnapped her, but her responses to Miwa were too vague
to find out anything else.
Phoebe looked for Niban's spirit, but could not find
him until the last night.
((Phoebe approached him carefully and
politely. She said she was sorry for the way things turned out.
N Me too.
P I realize it doesn't matter on the real side, but
N One of the things I have learned about the
afterlife is that you don't get all the answers. I don't know
what really happened.
That was the truth, Phoebe's spirits told her.
P But you really didn't kidnap her?
N looked at her patiently, and said Do you really
have to ask?
P Not really. She bowed to him, took her
leave, and went back to our world.))
Back at the castle, the leader was hailed for saving
the princess. He didn't give us any credit at all. Toni was
almost ready to challenge him to a duel over it, but Miwa told him not
to do so unless it was a personal insult. She didn't really care
herself, and the man was Phoenix so it didn't impact the clan either.
One reason he might not have passed on any glory to
us is that some people might take it badly if he did, given the messes
we'd been involved in here. Miwa considered that, and thought it
Not that any of us would forget or forgive, of
course. Glory hog or not.
Our hosts attempted to put the festivities back on
track, but it was much subdued.
About a week after our return, Miwa received a
letter from her father saying that she had been ordered (someone above
him, obviously) to report to the magistrate of Ryoko Owari.
This was pretty much unheard of, to be posted somewhere in the middle
of winter court. Someone was clearly sending a message. It
was a bit like being sent to a land posting to oversee ships go in and
out. Miwa knew hte city -- it had the reputation of being one of
the least reputable cities in the empire, the center of hte opium trade
for the whole empire. It was a backwater political appointment.
Me, I thought that sounded a step up from the Winter
Court, several steps up. The only thing wrong with it was that it
wasn't anywhere near the sea. At least it had a river. It
was downstream of the poppy fields, and upstream of many other cities.
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