Kanshigumi: The Ivory Lotus

Follow the Leader, Final
Dispensing Justice

11 Monkey 1169

The problem with events like the death of a comrade is that they are, within hours, a part of the past. The present will not wait and neither does our duty. Having met with no success in our interviews with Mirumoto Kaido or his wife, I decided to see if the servants knew anything. Katagi-san offered to learn where we might be able to speak to one of them outside the estate walls and set forth. I probably should have asked how he intended to acquire that information, given the lengths I had seen him go to for reconnaissance, but I confess that I was distracted by guilt. Wandering through the Furukawa district, I got the information from the Firemen on the estate Kaido lived at. It turned out that they had held a party on the 24th of Goat. Ayako’s body had been found on the morning of the 27th. So there was plenty of opportunity there. The only useful bit of information we had managed to wring from Kaido was that he had been out on the evening of the 25th and had returned after midnight. I was slowly but surely building a timeline of events but I was also a very long way away from being able to make any sort of real accusation.

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Follow the Leader, pt. 3
Remember the Dead

10 Monkey 1169

I don’t know if I can write this.

I don’t know if I can avoid writing this.

Shinjo-san is gone. No, he is dead. We owe only truth to the dead and Shinjo-san did not wander off or join a monastery. He died tonight.

But that is how this ends, not how it begins.

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Follow the Leader, pt. 2
Sound and fury, signifying nothing

9 Monkey 1169

This morning we met our new Crane – Daidoji Katagi. It took him a few minutes to get his bearings, but it took me a few minutes to remember that I was now the patrol leader and ought to escort him to meet Bayushi-sama. We went to the squad leader’s room to find Bayushi-sama and Doji-sama lying in wait. Doji-sama was positively delighted to see the third Crane in our squad. Bayushi-sama’s reaction was utterly unreadable but I could imagine. Funny, no one held a quick reception to greet me when I arrived.

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Follow the Leader, pt. 1
Who's in charge?

8 Monkey 1169

Today my world shifted a little bit.

Last night, upon our return from the graveyard, Suzume-san was waiting with a letter for Isawa-sama. As I sat to write in my journal, I noticed his face begin to turn gray. He left us for a bit (in order to talk with Bayushi-sama, I discovered later), then called us together. His father had taken ill and the Phoenix had requested that he return home to take over as head of his family. I considered what it would do to me to learn that my father was ill or that I was suddenly to be responsible for my family’s well-being. My sympathies went out to him. We helped him pack.

This morning, we had breakfast together and saw him off. As he headed out the gate of Kitsuki-sama’s home, he turned and looked at me.

“I spoke to Bayushi-sama and recommended that you take my place.”

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The Dead Man

I could tell you about our meandering searches for clues about the prostitute’s death. I could even tell you that we have a lead on a suspect – a Mirumoto! That will be sure to make us immensely more popular, living, as we are, in the Dragon District of the capital. But, that is, incidental. Crime will come and go and I need to record this to remind myself when life gets hard.

I met a dead man today. He was not physically dead but, like the girls at the House of the Lotus Root, he was moving largely from forces not under his own control rather than any will to serve or achieve or…or, I don’t know, live.

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Yakuza Problems
Working the low end of the food chain

We Mantis are often accused of being “jumped-up,” that we forget our place and origins and pretend to be of a class with samurai who are vassals of ancient Great Clans. Tossing aside the easy response that it is impossible to forget our humble origins because so many people spend so much time reminding us of them, I am constantly reminded of where I come from – a magistrate lives among such people. The upper crust never meets a man like me in the course of business, even when they trample over the laws of the lord or the Emperor – that’s what Emerald Magistrates and house arrest and assignment to some shameful post are for. Everything is swept away and peace is maintained by politely ignoring those who would disturb it.

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Shopping
How much are you charging for pride?

5 Monkey 1169

Like any bad news, the tale of our less-than stellar performance at the party raced to the ears of those who sit above us. It didn’t help that Seppun Denjiro himself was at the affair, ready to bear witness to our lack of readiness. He was at Kitsuki Atsumori’s house the next day to speak with Bayushi Tatsuo-sama. From there, it was a quick jump to Isawa-sama. Hiruma-san, like a dolt, attempted to listen in and I, like a bigger dolt, did not stop him. Always try to compound error with error, I always say.

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Quiet as a Mouse
in wooden geta

4 Monkey 1169

After the Isawa left, Bayushi Tatsuo sat quietly on a stone bench in the tea garden, contemplating the maple tree. His feet faced away from the tea house and the black lacquer of his zori was stark against the white gravel. He had been there for about twenty minutes when he spoke – apparently to the tree.

"Tea is much more enjoyable inside the tea house than underneath. Perhaps next time you would like to join me there?"

There was a pause.

"Hai, Bayushi-sama." The chagrined voice came from behind Tatsuo, accompanied by a slight crunching of gravel.

Another pause.

"Well, you'd better go share what you've learned, Hiruma-san."

And another.

"Shitsurei shimasu, sama."

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Hot Water Through Snow
-so blame cuts from the highest to the lowest

On the morning of 2 Monkey, Seppun Denjiro arrived unannounced at Kitsuki Atsumori's gate. He and Bayushi Tatsuo spent an hour or so behind closed doors while the rest of the household fretted quietly. Seppun-sama left without speaking to anyone else.

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Party People
The third Kanshigumi Story

1 Monkey 1169 

Otomo Michinaga requests the pleasure of your illustrious company on the twenty-eighth day of Doji at a moon-viewing party to celebrate the Honorable Otomo Hidetome's appointment to Alternate Undersecretary, third rank, in the Ministry of Ceremonies.

We had been invited to a party.  Officially, we were escorting a young Doji, whose parents were unavailable.  Unlike every other escort headed for this party, we would be allowed to take part in the festivities.  Isawa-sama announced all of this to us with the fanfare of an Imperial Herald.

The invitation was printed on fancy paper and with expensive ink. Isawa-sama held it in his hands as though it were declaring his promotion to Alternate Undersecretary.  Hiruma-san and Shinjo-san stared in an endearingly bewildered fashion.  I was looking at it like a Death Sentence.

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