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
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,
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.