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 Kinto.

    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 unaccompanied.
    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 convey.
    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 Magistrate.
    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 afternoon.
    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 swordmakers.
    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 court.
    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 break it."
    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 name.

    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 substance.
    Toni asked if someone could take us to that spot tomorrow.
    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 getting dark.
    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 if necessary.
    "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 body.
    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.