Tales of the Sea Bitch (32)


    Today we would Investigate some more.  Toni had a theory that the supposed ninja and Fade were related, and I agreed.  He suggested finding who the victims were, and trying to figure out what activities they had been up to.  I suggested hitting the bars in the Licensed Quarter.  He said if this was a miltary campaign, he take a map and plot their attacks and feints.  I said, "Do that, and then we'll go to a bar."
    Toni thought my idea was good for me.  He didn't know bars, but someone who spent a lot of time in them should be better getting information.
    Toni then pestered Furede for a map of the city, and where the ninja attacks had been.  Furede said that none of that was his area, but that there was a map of the city in the cabinet.  Toni went off for it immediately.  When he returned, he added that they could ask the magistrate, but she'd just say that ninjas didn't exist.
    Miwa had other plans.  She wanted to make a social call on Ide Baranato.  That seemed like a good idea, but it would get in the way of my drinking plans.
    Toni and Miwa both agreed that a pub crawl sounded like a good idea for me, but in the evening, not during the day.  So we had the day to spend on Nipponese formality,
    Toni asked Furede who he got street rumors from, how he got information.  He said that Naritoki used a ronin called Ample to collect people who needed questioning.
    OK, this is a paraphrase from the scrolls: "Ample was a large fat man, grotesquely so, working for a gambler called Lean Meat, providing threat services.  He's had a few run-ins with all kinds of magistrates and so on for snapping arms.  He's fairly stupid and rough, but is reasonable when he respects you.  He is an expert at the jujitsu move Two Way Throw.
    "Lean Meat is a scoundrel without honor, but charming.  He runs a floating dice game in the fisherman's harbor.  He runs a largely harmless game, and even will refuse a bet if he thinks the person can't afford it.  Better him than some really crooked gambler."
    And further in the scrolls was talk about "ninjas" who did all sorts of stuff, and even might imply there's a central organization of them.  They may not exist, but they sure did a whole lot.  There was a gang posing as ninjas, just not all that supernatural stuff.  The magistrate had gone after them enough that these fraudulent ninja could have been the assassins.
    Then there's Fade.  He's been around for a couple of years.  He started out by capturing hte cargo of a silk caravan, intercepted a shipment of gold, robbing a tax collector while collecting taxes from a Scorpion village, and did a lot more stuff too.  Mostly to the Scorpion clan, of course, because that's who was around here, their territory.  They did actually lose to a bunch of dignitories here for the governor's birthday, got people killed, had one of their people captured alive.  He led them to the location of a hideout, then escaped.  Later, in a similar escape, the magistrate implicated a prison guard and had him executed.
    On the other hand, there were a lot of other clans moving through this area, and Fade attacked only Scorpion merchants or tax collectors.  Guess he did have a grudge.
    Now merchants were moving goods more by barge than road -- sensible people -- but Fade had shifted with them.  Now he's got about 35 men and bravely attacked a tower and took a bunch of stuff, including weapons and armor.  The Emerald Champion estimated he'd have a private army within 4 years.
    Naritoki suspected Fade of being a former samurai, possibly Unicorn or Lion, but both clans of course denied it.  Fade surely had a purpose other than survival or greed, was after something else.

    At that point, Furede came in to tell us that Miwa had a caller.  A merchant who wished to have his travelling papers signed was here.  Travelling Papers were necessary for anyone to go anywhere, even for us.  And certain people had to have their papers signed by an Emerald Magistrate.  Presumably this was one of these.  Miwa looked a little reluctant, but went with it and went to her office to receive him.
    Toni went off with her, but I wasn't going to get involved in that stuff.  In fact, the less I knew, the better.  I gather Miwa told the guy to come back in a week.  Whatever.  For a while she fussed about doing Magistrate stuff.
    I went and practiced my bow in the courtyard while Phoebe watched.  Between visualizations I noticed Jorege arrive, presumably to talk to Toni.  About what I neither knew nor cared.  All I really noticed was the swirl of the air in the courtyard, how the breeze moved around the roofs, the downdrafts and updrafts, how an arrow would move as it flew through those shifts and patterns, how it would move from the straight line but strike home in the pupil of an eye.
    After all that, two days from then would be a meeting with Ide.  There would also be a meeting with Kakita Kabe, according to Toni an "information source," an "adviser" who would know where Naritaki was getting his information.  Or so Jorege said, apparently.
    Son had been arranging the household.  Now we had cooks, staff, and a basic set of guards -- enough to open and close the gate, but not a defensive force.  If Miwa or Toni wanted a significant presence, there was the money to retain them, but they would have to take them into the household because they'd be samurai.  Toni wanted to talk to Kabe before deciding whether we needed it or not.  Miwa could also send to her father's household and ask him to send men.  Although that would take a lot longer, Miwa clearly liked that idea much better.
    We would see Kabe that afternoon.  That evening, Licensed Quarter.