Tales of the Sea Bitch (34)


    The Licensed Quarter... there were notes on the Island Garden, the House of Foreign Stories, and the House of the Morning Star.
    The House of Foreign Stories had two entries, one from the Memoirs and one from the earlier magistrate.
    The Memoirs said it was a geisha house run by a gaijin, Magda.  She was very unusual looking to the Nipponese, and dressed like a foreigner too.  She told tales of places far away, where there was winter and snowy mountains on the other side of the Burning Sands.  She told of her journey across those sands too.  Wonder what the writer would have made of me?
    The magistrate's dossier said that it was owned and run by Magda, a vassal of the Unicorns.  It was a geisha house, but all the stories and drinks were from foreign lands.  Apparently doing a gaijin house was the only way the Unicorns could dig into the Scorpion monopoly, such as the Unicorn's Morning Star house.  Magda's papers needed to be renewed regularly, which the magistrates had done for mostly "don't rock the political boat" reasons.

    So that was where we went.  We actually had to take a boat, which while obviously tiny at least moved around under my feet.  It was all too short a trip to the dock, but the waiting in the boat to dock was welcome to me at least, although the master of the boat apologized for it.
    Once we got ashore, the dock was small, cramped, and busy.  Everyone moved out of our way, of course, but it wasn't an easy feeling.  We were on the northern end of the island, and had only two ways to go in front of us.  One was through a large dirty servant's gate, constantly busy with people carrying supplies.  The other way out was through the house.  Next to that gate, right in front of the dock, was a very fancy large sword polishing establishment, as if the dock was private to the house.  The dock was certainly inside the wall that adjoined the house.
    We of course went into the house.  We were welcomed in by a very large man, who introduced himself as Gate.  Several young boys stood with large pillows on which we were to leave our swords for polishing.  My rapier drew some funny looks, but I placed it on a cushion.  Everyone else surrendered their weapons too, although it took Toni a while to get through all his.
    We were then shown to the back door, and exited into the island proper.  A small stable lay off to one side, and a main road stretched out in front of us.  We walked out past the Island Garden, a complicated maze of bushes, trees, and flowers hiding people sneaking off for covert assignations of all types.
    A little further on, on the right, was perhaps the largest building on the island.  Miwa told us the stylistic sign said House of Foreign Stories, in Nipponese made to look like a desert lands script.

    The main room downstairs was large and open, lots of people here.  Large sumptuous cushions laid around for seating, a very foreign flavor around the Nipponese low tables.  Artwork was foreign too, and so were the servers and entertainers.  These women were from all over the world, including some elves, but not dwarves.
    We were immediately shown to a table.  Several women came over and asked what we would like.  Miwa simply asked for some sake, and I was going to join her in that.  Phoebe looked completely overwhelmed, so I smiled at her to try to make her feel more comfortable.  The woman asked me if I wanted an elven drink, a particularly rare one to find outside elf society, and of course I agreed enthusiastically.  She went on to offer everyone else drinks from all sorts of places.  No beer, but spirits and wines from everywhere.  Phoebe joined me in the Goldenleaf, a thick rich amber with tiny silvery flakes.
    Exotic foods were also on offer.  Miwa ordered a platter with a spread of finger food from all over the world.
    A woman playing some unusual stringed instrument provided music.
    We sat there for half an hour or so, enjoying the food, drink, and music, and watching people leave in pairs for the upstairs.  Eventually a beautiful Imperial -- or southern middle sea -- woman came down the stairs.  She was clearly Magda.  She circulated through the rooms, and worked our way to the table.
    Magda looked straight at Miwa, addressed her by her formal name -- and the title assistant to the Emerald Magistrate of Ryoko Owari --  and welcomed her, and introduced herself.
    Miwa greeted her politely in return.  She said she had heard she ran the most interesting establishment on the island and was not disappointed.
    Magda complimented Miwa in kind, saying she had heard she was beautiful and intelligent and was not disappointed.
    After a little chat between the two of them, Magda then went around our group in kind.  She came on to the men,  but not to me.  Actually that was kind of a relief, I'd be off with her in a flash.
    After about 20 minutes, she made her excuses, went over to a central spot in the room, and told one of Her Stories.

    It was a good story.  Magda was good.

    After the story, she continued circulating, while we continued to be pampered.  Eventually a Nipponese gentleman came over and introduced himself to Miwa.  He was obviously a minor member of the Governor's family, and asked if he might join us.
    Miwa gestured him to a seat, and he then asked politely how she was enjoying the town, and if everything was fine in her position as Assistant to the emerald magistrate.  He was handsome enough if you liked men, I guess, and seemed genuinely interested.  They talked for a while.
    Meanwhile a very attractive african woman came over and sat down next to me.  She was clearly coming on to me hard.  I glanced over at Phoebe to see if she looked upset, but I wasn't expecting it.  I was a spirit, right?  Heck, just as well go for it.  Magda had gone to this effort, I wasn't going to insult her.  So I dived right in.
    Everyone but Toni was getting someone who seemed to be pretty fine tuned.  Miwa's guy didn't really seem to be coming on too hard to her, but perhaps that was the tuning.

    Upstairs there were private rooms, and less private rooms for more public activities, and a balcony around the whole upstairs for strolling and talking and so on.  That's about all I noticed.  If you want to know anything else you'd have to ask one of the others.

    I heard that Peter spent the time hearing foreign stories.  Phoebe was assailed by a parade of people in groups who came over to talk to her, obviously trying to figure out what her deal was.  She talked, told stories, listened to stories, and so on.  Shortly they asked if she'd tell a story to the whole room.  Of course she did, and of course she was great.  Sorry I missed it.  Well, not that sorry given the alternative, but you know what I mean.  Eventually she went off with someone too.
    For most of the evening, Toni was left to himself.  Later on, though, Magda came and sat down with him herself.  They spent a lot of time laughing and talking.
     Miwa eventually figured out the guy with her was attracted and ready to go as far or not as far as she wanted.  As soon as Miwa indicated the evening was over, he expressed his desire to meet with her again.  They parted on pleasant terms.

    As for me, I was offered tobacco and opium as well.  I declined.  I guessed I might be alone in that, and kind of expected Phoebe to try the opium.  I wasn't going to ask, but if she wanted to talk about it, it was fine.  I must admit I was curious.  But I'd spent my life not getting drunk on board ship, and didn't want another habit that could lead to me falling overboard someday.
    At some point, goodness knows when, aomeone came to my room and politely and discreetly indicated Miwa was asking about me. With a grin I said to tell her I was enjoying my shore leave.  Which I was.

((Miwa did not want to leave without the entire group.  She wasn't too impatient yet at 2 am.  Entertainment continues and the party went on.  It was 4-5 am when she finally got impatient.))

    Much, much later someone came by and ever so gently implied it was time for me to leave with Miwa.  So I came on down.
    As we were leaving, Magda in a more serious tone said she had a very important matter she needed to discuss with Miwa, and would it be possible to meet with her that evening at her office? I didn't catch what she said in reply, but I imagine she agreed to it.

    Miwa had actually managed to remember to ask her man about the magistrate.  Apparently he was a fine and honorable man, possibly the best Emerald Magistrate the city had in many, many years.  It was a great tragedy he died.  He was starting to burn out from the stress of the job, starting to make mistakes and didn't seem to have his heart and mind in the right place as often towards the end of his life.
    Miwa gently asked for specifics.  Gently in reply, he knew that the relationship between him and the governor was always excellent, but towards the end the man heard rumors that there were differences between them.  He was quick to say that nothing that would lead to his death, just disagreements about how to care for the city.