Tales of the Sea Bitch (28)


    Toni had cleaned up from the duel, and Peter had talked with Eyebrows.  Aside from it being painfully obvious we were not welcome here, we really hadn't learned anything new.
    That night, Miwa gathered us all together and read to us from the scrolls about the city.  This was to become our regular bedtime stories.  Toni immediately went off on all sorts of speculation about the situation here, why the magistrate was killed, and so on.  I must admit I kind of drifted off during all that, just smiling at Phoebe and thinking about her.  I was sure that if there was anything important it would come up later.  I did make a mental note to visit the Licensed Quarter sometime, that sounded the nearest to western dockland than anything I'd seen yet out here in Nippon.
    The best idea Toni came up with was to keep sticking our noses into places until someone attacked us, then we'd know we were on to something.
    Miwa nodded and smiled and pointed out that was what we usually did.

    So next morning we went out to stick our noses in something.  At breakfast, Furede came in to inform us that we had two appointments that day.  One was Bayushi Korichika, who was the local leader of that family, of the Scorpion clan, and a very powerful man in this city.  We would meet with him this afternoon.  The Bayushi family was second only in power to the governor.
    Toni pointed out that the new magistrate was supposed to be Bayushi Yojiro.  If the family also held the Emerald Magistrate position, that could be a significant power shift.  But then the Emerald Champion chooses the Emerald Magistrate, so there had to be some politics going on there.  He did idly wonder if the assignment was really legitimate, or if it had been faked.
    Jorge was also part of Toni's investigation.  Toni had him checking the records to see if there were any gaps in the records that might show significance.
    Our other appointment would be with Ashidaka Noritoki's widow.  This was also in the afternoon, but before the appointment with Bayushi.

    So while the rest of us relaxed around the house, doing nothing in particular, Toni talked with Jorge.  He found that the books were unaltered, and no information had been removed or changed.
    Toni then asked if any of the opium exporters was perhaps better off than their official records would suggest.  Jorge replied that there were three opium exporters -- the largest legal was the governor, the second the Bayushi, the third was Soshi Seryoku.  All were Scorpion.  Those three families had split up Nippon and each had their own area to which they supplied medicinal opium.
    The next question was which family delivered to the region that supplied the capital.  Jorge said it was Shosuro, the governor's family.  Later, Toni asked Miwa if the Emerald Champion made his home at the capital.  She told him that while me spent a lot of time there, he travelled a lot too.
    Toni then asked Jorge who had been reluctant in paying their bills.  Jorge said it was mostly small merchants, and that none of them stood out in particular.  It was those who might otherwise have had trouble paying their taxes anyway.
    That was all Toni had in mind, and so he let Jorge go back to his duties.  He then asked around and figured out what our dress code should be for the two meetings.  He now knew that we didn't want to be walked around the city streets without armor, at least.  Armor would be acceptable for both meetings, since neither of them were formal social occasions but as business of the Emerald Magistrate.  Fortunately his armor would be repaired in time for the meetings.

    Toni was a little surprised that we arrived at the widow's house without incident, but that we did.
    Once the formalities and condolences were done, Miwa started asking our questions.  Phoebe was communicating with her spirits to tell her if the widow was misleading us.
    Miwa first asked if she knew if the magistrate had any concerns in the weeks and months before his death.
    She said that her husband was an honorable and pragmatic man, and that his only enemies were, as she put carefully -- he was very careful not to make an enemy of someone he could not beat.  He was very good at that.  She gave the impression that, for example, the Emerald Champion believed that he was efficiently and fully carrying out the wishes of the Emperor in the city; the opium cartels believed he was honorable and believed in order more than law.  She believed that Shosuro and Bayushi and Ide (a name we did not recognize) held no grudges towards him.
    As for what he was working on, she said that there was a ronin gang lead by the ronin Fade (or that's the translation of his Nipponese name).  There had been repeated stories and reports of a gang of ninja operating in this city.  He -- as she was sure we all did -- did not believe there were actually ninja, just people acting like it, or overactive imaginations attributing things to ninja when there were other explanations.  The ronin certainly had reason to benefit from people thinking it was ninja.
    Miwa was new to the city, she said, and wondered who Ide was.
    She said that the leader of the Ide family locally was Ide Baranato.  Ide was a unicorn family.  Officially he was not the head of the clan here in the city, there being an older man, but the old man was an old man, and so Ide Baranato was effectively the clan leader.
    Phoebe asked if Ashidaka had been worried at all, or had been doing anything out of the ordinary, but apparently he had not.  She had, by the way, been giving the signal that the widow had been telling the truth all along, passing on what the spirits had told her.