Tales of the Sea Bitch (23)
Bayushi Yojiro was the magistrate that Miwa was to
be assisting in Ryoko Owari. I wondered if he had any idea what
was behind this posting, or whether Miwa was just shoved here to be out
of her family's hair for a while. Perhaps we'd be as much of a
surprise to him as this posting was to Miwa.
Toni was an optimist and figured we would be going
there to fix problems, but I knew we were the problem and sent here to
be fixed. Iruko wasn't with us anymore, which was a big clue.
Eventually we arrived in town. Why we had to
spend all that time on a horse and cart when there was a perfectly good
river network we could have sailed on is something only the Nipponese
Ryoko Owari was a large bustling city. The
name meant Journey's End. It was very much like any port city,
all the dens of so-called vice hidden behind a transparent facade of
dignity. Apparently it supplied the opium for the whole
country. Now why the country needed that much for the legal
medicinal purposes I don't know -- yeah, right -- but selling it if you
weren't a certain temple was technically illegal, as were forms outside
the normal prescription concoction.
Now this kind of city I knew. I also knew
enough to know that since I stood out, I'd better watch myself.
Sure, there were more foreigners here, but I knew that wasn't going to
provide cover in the town like this.
We arrived early in the day, and Miwa headed
straight for the noble quarter to find the magistrate's office.
For a while we'd be stuck with the noble side of the town, a dangerous
association as I thought. But no doubt everyone else thought it
The magistrate's office was a house, a pretty large
one although by far not the grandest. It did, however, have a
fairly subtle defensive layout that perhaps made it the most fortified
building aside from the governor's palace. The gates were closed.
Tony hammered on the doors. After a really
long time, there was an answer. Unusually it was not a low rank
samurai or even a head servant, but a young woman who bowed low to
us. She said nothing, waiting for Miwa to speak first.
Miwa said she was here to see Bayushi Yojiro.
The woman invited us in, past the solid door into an
outer courtyard. This was like the fortified castles, laid out as
a killing zone. But the garden and ornaments belied its practical
uses, even if the plants were a bit past their prime.
She asked us to wait, then left and bolted the door
After an inappropriately long time, an older
gentleman -- again, not samurai, but more likely to be head of
household staff -- came rushing in. Clearly he'd just pulled on
appropriate clothing. He bowed very low and asked how he might
Miwa said, again, she was here to see Bayushi Yojiro.
He apologized and said we'd been directed to the
wrong house. This was the magistrate's house.
I laughed out loud as Miwa asked where the
He spent a lot of words saying he was sorry, but
magistrate Ashidaka Naritoki had been dead for several months now.
MIwa asked if there was an acting magistrate.
Not to his knowledge, there wasn't. He didn't
actually say that, he apologized mostly, but he only took care of the
Grieg looked very confused. I told him not to
worry. I said, "I feel much more comfortable here." I
I should add a word here about magistrates.
These weren't people who throw you guys in jail every other night, not
like here at all. Magistrates in Nippon had authority over
anything involve foreigners, the shadow lands or shadow land magic, and
anything directly affecting the emperor. That can cover a lot of
stuff, but also doesn't cover a lot of stuff. Petty crimes?
Not their problem.
Most of the group looked confused. Worried,
not yet. Phoebe of course was looking at the flowers, not
concerned at all. Me, I was just amused by this whole mess-up.
Of course magistrate business was magistrate
business. If one died, you'd have to wait until word got back to
the Emerald Magistrate, in charge of the whole organization, which
might not take too long. Then he'd do something.
All we knew here was this guy didn't know what was
going on, and that really wasn't all that surprising. Not to me,
anyway. Miwa seemed pretty confused by the whole thing.
Miwa asked him if he knew Bayushi's name, and the
Now MIwa was asking for Bayushi by name at the gate
guard of the noble quarter. He had no idea who that person might
be, never heard of him. So then she asked him who the current
He said he didn't believe a new one had been
assigned yet. He believed this city was a very safe place and not
really in need of a magistrate. Of course they welcomed the
Emperor's presence here, but considered it much more of an honorary
Yep. Old one got offed, new one too scared to
take up the post. "What's the confusion here?"
Toni and I agreed on what to do next. Red
Dragon Inn, he said, there's always one of those -- I said The Mermaid
was always a good bet. But here, who knew? Maybe there's
But then perhaps, I said, we should take over the
magistrate's house. After all, Miwa had the posting here, she had
a right to be there. Just because there isn't a magistrate
doesn't invalidate her posting as assistant.
Of course another option would have been to impose
on whatever prominent Phoenix might be here in the city. That
seemed a little temporary to me. I liked the idea of busting in
and taking over a hunk of the magistrate's place.
The other option would be for Miwa to pull rank and
insist on staying with the governor. But she was leaning to my
idea. I did think it suited her style more.
Back we went to the magistrate's house.
The older gentleman had opened the door this time,
but more put together. Miwa said she was the assistant to the
magistrate, and she was here to move in. He went off, presumably to
make some arrangements.
At one point, a younger man, 20's, clearly samurai,
looked out of a window at us with puzzlement and then stepped back.
Toni started shifting nervously, readying for
combat. I gave him a nod and followed his lead. My bow was
The servant didn't come back though the servant's
door, but the young man, a bushi Crane, opened the main door and stood
there blocking the way with his hand on his hilt. He clearly was
not inviting us in.
He introduced himself with his name, no title.
Miwa introduced herself as Miyara Miwa, assistant to
There was a flicker of surprise or uncertainty, but
then he composed himself and said that Ashidaka had been dead two
months and it was unlikely that she was his assistant.
Toni made a half-step to address the insult, but
caught himself and waited.
Miwa said she had been appointed to the new
magistrate, who apparently had not yet arrived. She was clearly
not going to take no for an answer.
He paused for a long time, a good half a minute,
then bowed. He asked her the name of her master.
Miwa told him Bayushi Yojiro.
He bowed again, said he was unaware that a new
magistrate had been assigned, and was standing on the memory of
Ashidaka. He said he was an assistant to Ashidaka for several
years. He barked some orders into the main courtyard beyond him,
and a few servants started bustling around. He asked Miwa if she
would like him to show her to her room.
Miwa's room was not large, but really nice.
The magistrate clearly lived well, very well. Her room had a
desk, a bed, all that usual stuff.
Along the way, the samurai said that Naratoki never
had a large staff, and that he was all that remained of that. He
mentioned that the household had been running low on funds, so a lot of
the staff had left. He asked her when she expected the new
magistrate to arrive.
Miwa had of course expected him to be already here.
The man found that surprising too, of course.
As for us, there were other rooms. Toni told
Sun to work with the servants here to figure it all out. We'd
have to double up, but then that's what Phoebe and I would be doing
Once the samurai came back, Toni asked him how his
master died. He was murdered, as we'd assumed, but the murder had
not been investigated.
The man said that the investigation of the murder of
an Emerald Magistrate was way above his pay grade. After our
experiences, we knew exactly what he meant. Heck, he'd probably
not live past the first visit to question someone.
Toni, however, said he wished it was above his.
Me, I saw no reason for it.
Grieg asked if I cared.
No, I didn't, and that's what I told him.
Did I want him wandering around to perhaps kill
another assistant or his staff, asked Grieg?
We weren't the old magistrate, I said, it wasn't our
job to make the same mistakes or make the same enemies.
Toni considered that the murder of a magistrate was
just shy of murder of the Emperor, and therefore our business.
He had a point. I had to grudgingly accept
that. Great. I'd rather deal with dockside roughs than
organized crimelords, but I guess that was it for us.
Speaking to Toni, I thought the first thing we
needed to do was gently figure out what deals the old magistrate had,
and to keep them up rather than stirring waters. We wnat the old
allies on our side, and at least that way we're not building stuff up
from scratch. Formal crime is based on relationships, let's try
and hold up the ones the old magistrate had, at least. I thought
it was probably Toni's area to cover, but he could call on me for
whatever he needed. As I said, I was comfortable on the docks if
that's what he wanted.
Phoebe and I had a room, I supported Toni and Grieg
sharing one by bringing up that Toni could send the poiter around from
their room if he needed anything. Seemed to work, because that
was how they ended up. I gave Grieg a private grin. Peter
could have his own room.
Once we were to ourselves, Toni brought up several
issues with Miwa. First he asked about sending out
communications, whether by letter or by magic, to let people know what
was going on here. Then he brought up what I'd suggested, taking
up the old magistrate's relationships. Then he asked about
whether to keep up with the story of this new guy was the magistrate.
Miwa said that for the moment we'd assume he was on
his way, and stick to that story.
I mentioned it might be unwise to launch an
investigation into the death of the old magistrate. No reason for
us to step on toes yet. I asked if we really cared who actually
killed the magistrate or
not? Truth was so fluid here, we didn't have to go find out what
really happened yet.
Grieg insisted he had a sense of justice and was
a bit outraged at the idea, but I caught Miwa giving a slight nod
even though she didn't say much.
Miwa did need to send a message, though by
traditional means. She wanted Grieg here just in case she needed
him. So for the time she would be the magistrate's assistant and
act for him here.
Time to take on the old magistrate's dealings...
When questioned, the samurai told Miwa that he was
not in charge of the money, and gave her the name of the man who
was. He wasn't sure where he was now, since he was one of the
ones who had left. The man had been the one to keep all the
records, although whether the records were here or not was unknown.
The man's office was here in the outermost rooms of
the magistrate himself. There were cabinets that had probably
contained records -- and still might have contained them -- but they
were locked and the key unknown.
Toni gave me a look and asked if I knew anything
about those locks, but I had to tell him I was not the person to help
There was a writing desk with just some writing
materials, no drawers. There were two seating areas, one set up
superior to the others, and one set up with all chairs at the same
Toni asked the samurai where and how the master was
murdered. The man told us, and when Toni asked said he did have a
family. His wife had left here a month or so ago, and was still
in the city. Obviously the magistrate's personal possessions had
been removed too.
Phoebe asked the samurai how long the magistrate had
been in that post, and was told it had been several years. While
the rest of our group moved around looking for something useful, she
sat down at the desk and looked for something useful from her
spirits. Apparently -- as she would tell us later -- no
particularly emotional events happened here, but the man who sat at
this desk for many years was a man with a finely developed sense of
appearances, mixed with a sense of stability, predictability, and
healthy dose of realism.
The samurai asked if Miwa would like him to find the
record keeper to come and talk to her. Since we knew that might
reveal where the key might be, how the money was collected, where the
money might be and so on, of course we agreed.
He then asked if he might set up some appointments
to visit with various people in town, including a social call with the
late magistrate's wife, and perhaps an appointment with the governor,
and a social call on a few other important people in town.
He mentioned no Phoenix clan family names.
Toni quietly told Miwa that was who she needed to talk to first.
The samurai said he could set that up too. In
what order and how quickly would she like to see them?
Miwa consented to all of this. This was
exactly what we needed. I agreed with Toni -- Phoenix first --
but Miwa wanted to see the records man first of all and then the
Phoenix. After that, the others as convenient, spread out over
the next week or so.
As for how the old magistrate was murdered, well,
I'll tell you that next time.