Tales of the Sea Bitch (33)
About three hours after lunch, Kakita Kabe
arrived. He was the former head of the house guard, a Crane like
the previous magistrate, reputed to be who Naritoki used to get rumors
or street information.
Toni went to meet him and bring him to Miwa.
She in turn summoned us to the audience in the court area.
Kabe entered and bowed appropriately, then stated
Miwa introduced herself as acting for the Emerald
Magistrate. She said she understood he acted as head of the
household guard for Naritoki.
He said that yes, he had that honor.
Miwa went into sideways Nippon questions, probing
for his reactions to her asking questions. She did say that since
Naritoki died suddenly, there was no smooth transition, and went on to
dance around the point that she wanted to find out what the heck was
His attitude was clearly that he wanted to be
helpful, although his initial reaction was quite the opposite,
especially when Miwa described herself as "acting" Imperial
Magistrate. Even us foreigners could tell he had warmed to her,
despite his obvious resentment when he arrived.
The next thing she tried to find out was whether he
was worth hiring back again, and if he was trustworthy enough for it
too. I noticed Miwa glance over at Phoebe every now and again to
catch the signals as she relayed what her spirits told her.
Miwa asked him if he collected information for
Naritoki when he was working for him. He answered that with a
straightforward and open, "Yes." On the other hand, he declined
to do the same for the new Emerald Magistrate, not as politely as he'd
wanted. Still, it wasn't an outright no, mostly because it wasn't
clear why he felt that way.
Miwa asked him in a very roundabout way, and found
out that he knew that the actual Emerald Magistrate wasn't here, and
was a Scorpion, and was unknown to him. She then asked if he
would be willing to serve in that capacity for her personally.
Yes, he said, if he could be released from his
Furede had already told Miwa that Kabe was working
in the house where Naritoki's widow was staying. Most likely the
widow had influenced her host to say that he could work in that
house. That would of course have been a large drop in status
compared with his earlier job as head of the house guard, and while the
widow had status of her own, she was not the rising star that Miwa
might be. He was essentially nobody in the new house, just there
to be there, without any real duties. Doing actual work for Miwa
would be much better.
Toni whispered something to Miwa, presumably about
the prospect of making that switch happen for him. He then asked
Kabe how many house guards were here when he was in charge. I
didn't catch the number myself, but from Toni's face it was obviously a
whole lot more than we had now. He went on to ask if there were
any local Phoenix that were qualified to be hired too.
Kabe did know of a few, but there were not many
Phoenix in this city. There were not enough to man these walls,
but he would contact them or give their names if Miwa wanted.
Miwa asked him to contact them. This was of
course something he could do before being released from his current
The whole atmosphere was a lot more relaxed now, and
Toni felt it was time to ask about reputed ninja activity over the last
Kabe smiled, but his answer was serious. He
had not heard of any "ninja" activity in the past few months.
I said to Miwa in Imperial that perhaps it was a
coincidence that ninja activity stopped when the old magistrate died?
Toni asked Kabe that on the night Naritoki had been
murdered, did he have any idea where the magistrate might have
been? We had guessed the Licensed Quarter, but did not know for
Kabe confirmed that he had been returning from the
Toni said we had been planning ot look into hte
Licensed Quarter, and asked if Kabe had a suggestion for somewhere that
might yield answers about the murder.
Kabe said he did not know if it would yield
pertinant information, but he believed that Naritoki favored the House
of Foreign Stories.
I laughed out loud at that. "Sounds like my
kind of place," I said.
Kabe seemed uncomfortable at my reaction.
Toni ignored me. He asked Kabe if he had a
personal theory for who and why the magistrate was murdered.
Kabe thought fror a few moments, then said no.
In a somewhat uncharacteristic letting down of his guard, he stated his
opinion. He could not imagine anyone would have the balls to kill
the Emerald Magistrate. He started to wonder aloud why the
Emerald Champion had not more... and then remembered himself and shut
I grinned broadly and looked at Miwa. Everyone
Neither Toni nor Miwa had any other questions.
Everyone thanked each other for their time, and Kabe left.
After, Toni told Miwa that the danger was probably
greater to us than to hte actual Emerald Magistrate. A larger
house staff should be arranged relatively soon, he said.
Miwa agreed. She resolved to tell Kabe's
current master that she would be obliged if he released him.
Doing that in person would be the best way to do it.
Asking Furede about Ashidaka Michitaka -- the lord
whose house the widow was staying in, and Kabe's current master --
revealed that he was an atypical Crane. He was large, boisterous,
and plain speaking, and obviously Furede didn't think much of
him. He was cousin to Naritoki and took advantage of that, and
after his death he had diminished greatly in influence but not bluster.
Miwa told Furede that she intended to hire Kakita
Kabe away from him.
Furede said that while he didn't know about bushi
and fighting, that he had always found Kakita to be a good and
Miwa told Furede that she needed an appointment with
Ashidaka Michitaka as soon as was convenient. Presumably that
would be the next day.
That evening would be our trip to the Licensed
Quarter. Apparently the correct dress for this would be our
finest Kimonos. I was sure Phoebe would be delighted with that,
and dress up for the occasion with her beads and bangles and
jingles. We would be taking our swords, but would of course
surrender them at the entrance. Toni would be wearing leather
armor -- I couldn't imagine him without some sort of armor.