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
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
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
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
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
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
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