Tales of the Sea Bitch (25)
Ahead of us that afternoon lay the appointment with
the governor. This would certainly be interesting. I was
expecting quite a contrast with our morning visit to Asako
This was going to be quite the occasion. We'd
be dressed in full regalia, which for me wasn't a big deal, but for
Miwa it certainly was. Toni took it seriously too, but had to
choose between Nipponese and gaijin outfits. If he wore Nipponese
he would be judged as a Nipponese, which if he made the slightest slip
would be a really bad idea. So he strapped on his suit of chain
over leather -- no doubt he'd take off that pot of a helmet once we got
there, or at least I hoped so. He also put aside his Nipponese
weapons for his old broadsword and shield.
Miwa told us to "dress the best as you." For
me, that would mean my leather.
For Phoebe, that would mean ... something quite
bizarre, certainly to the Nipponese. She was all beads and
feathers and bracelets and jewelry, and she looked delightful to me.
Miwa told us that it would be unlikely that we'd get
to see the actual governor, Shosuro Hyobu. There are all sorts of
reasons why she might want to meet us in person, but they'd be her
reasons and not ours. It would be a serious feather in Miwa's cap
if she could wrangle a meeting.
Now of course the Emerald Magistrate would outrank
the governor, so if Miwa could play the card of it being the direct
instruction of the Emerald Magistrate to see her, that would
work. But that was way too much risk to try to push that with the
governor at this point.
So off we went to the governor's palace.
At the front gate, some minor official was waiting
for us. There would of course be another guy whose job it would
have been to rush off and arrange things based on who and how many
people turned up. The first guy's job was to delay us long enough
for the other one to make it look like they'd known well in advance who
exactly was going to arrive.
He did that very well, while slowly walking us down
the hallway and showing us the paintings and so on. Our job was
to play along and look like we didn't mind. Which we didn't.
Eventually we reached a room and there were informed
that Yogo Osako, one of the governor's magistrates, would see us.
Yogo Osako walked in shortly after that
This was odd. Miwa brought a retinue of five,
and it would have been expected for Yogo to bring about that number,
more or less depending on the status message they wanted to send.
Miwa clearly had no idea what this walking in alone was supposed to
Yogo was a woman in her late 20's, definitely bushi
but in working armor rather than full regalia. She introduced
herself formally, and by her dress and mon (a clan symbol on her
clothes) she was clearly Scorpion. She welcomed us, and asked
Miwa how governor Shosuro could be of service to the Imperial
It was a straighforward open question, and Miwa
obviously took an instant liking to her. She said that what would
be most helpful to hte Imperial Magistrate right now would be the
report from the official investigation into Ashidaka's death.
Yogo said it would be sent to her office this
That was all Miwa needed.
Yogo then asked when the new magistrate, Bayushi
Yojiro, would be arriving.
Miwa said she did not know.
Yogo gave her a look like Miwa was playing some sort
of game, but didn't say anything. There was a pause, perhaps
struggling with herself a little, and then she said offhandedly if Miwa
would do the honor of introducing her to her retinue.
Antonio di Tagliaboshi was first. Yogo bowed
to him, welcomed him to Nippon, and asked how he found their
Toni replied that the ones he had the honor to deal
with were among the best in the world, he was sure.
Yogo looked a little taken aback by something, then
turned back to MIwa for the next introduction.
Mehli Tashonai of the Sea Elves. We bowed.
She asked me "Where do you live," and as an
afterhtough, "Whne your;'e not in Nippon.":
"On board ship. We do have settlements, but my
family spends most of their time at sea."
It was obvious that cleared something up for
her, but it was not clear what. Yogo turned back to Miyara
for the next one.
Phoebe, a priest among her people.
Suddenly the doors were opened, and a whole bunch of
retinue and functionaries poured in, maybe ten of them, surrounding a
woman who could only be the governor.
Yogo stopped, turned, and introduced formally and
completely the governor herself. That took a while.
We bowed as deeply as appropriate.
Miwa responded as the assistant to the Emerald
Magistrate. Being the daughter of the Phoenix Champion would take
a back seat to that in the case, although obviously you'd have to be
pretty stupid to ignore that.
Shosuro Hyobu asked how the phoenix champion was.
Miwa said he was currently enjoying hte emperor's
THe governoer said it would be helpful to understand
the Emerald Magistrate;s priorities.
I thought, "Oh god, they're doing that again."
At least I didn't say that out loud. But they were.
Toni would say later that everything after asking
about the old magistrate was just delaying tactics. As soon as
that came out, the governor would be on her way. They were doing
that again indeed.
One of these days, I replied, Toni and I would get
drunk together and have a competition at talking sideways.
Miwa's answer was, "Of coure, the most pressing
business is the death of hte previous magistrate."
"Of course. We have neither the skill nor the
resoucrees of the Emerald Magistrate, but we have gathered the evidence
in preparation for the next magistrate." It would be a little out
of place for her to have said that. Evidence didn't play a huge
role in Nipponese justice, not in our experience -- maybe it was
different in a big city, or for scorpions, but I doubt it. It
would have been out of her jurisdiction to do that, as it would have
been perfectly within her rights to do nothing at all. Te fact
that she had something done was surely significant.
Miwa said she was sure the governor's magistrates
had performed admirably.
She responded with a hope that the Emerald
Magistrate found them deserving of Miyara's praise. She paused,
perhaps waiting for more priorities.
Miwa twitched a slight unconscious smile at having
shaken things up enough, and apparently figured that was enough.
Putting togher a household and collecting the Emperor's taxes would
certinaly not interst her.
Shosuro said, "my magistrates are at the emerald
Magistrate';s disposal for anyh questions he might have about the
dxeath of Ashidaka." She closed with a speech: "Ryoko Owari is an
extremely complicated city, and if you should have any questions on
matters of jurisdiction or priority, I am more than happy to help."
Miwa thanked her and said she was too kind.
"You are welcome, child." She wasn't really
old enough to say that, although she was getting on. Perhaps she
was saying, "It's fine if you want to play with our city, but don't
It was clearly also a dismissal. We left.
We returned to the house. We had no other
appointments, and so peeled off our armor and relaxed in our casual
clothes, I'd taken to wearing the Nipponese silks around the
house, mostly because Phoebe liked it.
Donku, meanwhile, had put hte fear of hte emperor
into a few local food merchants and had managed to get plenty of food
and drink delivered. The houswe wasn't up to serious
entertaining, but there was a general sense of relief throug the
household. A real meal on the table at dinnertime was apparently
a novelty to them.
Toni found Furede and clarified some details about
Ashidaka's death. True Word, the deputy with him, was
shugenja. He was also ronin, which is why he didn't have a family
The report arrived about two hours after we
did. It came in the form of another city magistrate. He
introduced himself and had a written report but was here to deliver the
verbal one first.
AN died with TW between hours of ox and hare on 3rd
day of the month four months agol. He was found in the
neighbourhood of Little Gate, and there were no witnesses. He was
found inside the burned wreckagte of his own carriage. The eta
who examined his body said it had been burned and stabbed through the
carriage walls. It was believed that his carriage door was
blocked, preventing him from leaving hte carriage. There was also
evidence that his carriage had been coated in some form of flammable
Toni asked if someone could take us to that spot
The man said he was at our disposal.
Toni nodded and said that we should go there
tomorrow. It would do no good to look at it now, since it was
Miwa asked what had blocked the carriage door.
The man said they did not know. Whatever it
was, was not there. There was just a burned carriage.
"What lead them to believe something was blocking
it?" asked Miwa.
"He didn't leave his carriage." Ashidaka was
not old or infirm, he said, and could easily have smashed the door open
"Aside from the stab wounds," I said, a little more
cynically than I'd intended.
"The stab wounds weren't serious?" asked Miwa.
He said that the wounds were serious, but it was
clear he really didn't know. That was expected, as it just wasn't
somehting samurai looked into. AN died of being burned and
stabbed -- which was more serious just wouldn't have occured to him, of
course, and only the eta would have examined the body.
It was very odd that someone actually examined the
body at all.
Toni asked if someone asked for the eta to look at
The man said someone did, and told us the name of
the samurai. He said that this eta was skilled at this sort of
examination and had been used several times to study people who had
died -- something he clearly found revolting, but seemed to be trying
to reassure us that the eta knew what he was doing. The eta's
name was Eyebrows.
He handed us a scroll that covered all that
too. Well, most of it -- the report didn't mention the eta or
even that the body was examined.
The report did have some extra information on True
Word. He was found 6 paces in front of hte wagon, several scrolls
scattered around his body. He had been beaten and stabbed by
short bladed weapons. He was found clutching his katana, but had
not drawn it. He had apparentlyh died on his knees. There
was a strong acrid smell around his face, and his face, hair, and
kimono were wet. The report said that presumably his face was
sprayed with vinegar to prevent him reading his scrolls.
True Word did not always travel with Ashidaka, but
did often. Obviously the assassins were well prepared.
There was no doubt that this was a thoroughly
planned assassination. As Toni said, there had to be at least two
on True Word, and two or more on the carriage. It had to have
happened simultaneously so one could not help the other. This was
a pro job.
Peter pointed out that they also used a flammable
liquid. That indeed meant they planned to burn the carriage.
Toni suggested he might also have been poisoned or
at least drugged, perhaps even at the entertainment that he'd
presumably been doing until the early hours of the morning. He
also added that the horses would have to have been cut loose so they
didn't pull the carriage away.