Kanshigumi: The Ivory Lotus

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.”

Now it was my turn to turn gray. I suddenly felt very keenly three pairs of eyes behind me. I turned to my squad-mates and we returned to our breakfast. Before I had a chance to say what a ridiculous idea my being patrol leader would be, a servant showed up and said that Bayushi-sama wanted to speak with me.

I had not, up to that point, been engaged in a private discussion with Bayushi-sama. The thought of doing so now sounded about as appetizing as marrying Haruko. I knocked on the door and was admitted. Our discussion was brief and principally focused on the idea that he considered me as ill-advised a choice of patrol leader as I did. When he asked me for my thoughts on the matter, I damned myself – I told him I was the best choice of the current patrol members. Suzume-san would not be taken seriously by Great Clan samurai, Hiruma-san was not mature enough, and Shinjo-san lacked decisiveness. Bayushi-sama agreed and I was made patrol leader, though Bayushi-sama had to add a bit about “on a trial basis”, as though I would still be around for demotion if I shamed the group again.

As I walked out, the thought of that horrid party turned in my guts. Now it was all truly for nothing. I had protected Yamizu’s honor for the good of the patrol and now Yamizu would take that defended honor back to Phoenix lands, leaving us with a pariah in charge. I could hardly blame the Isawa for doing his duty to his family; I just wished he could have done it a week ago!

When I presented the news to my patrol-mates, they all bowed, an act I found vaguely unsettling. Suzume-san immediately began to refer to me as “Yoritomo-sama,” which only exacerbated it. Lacking anything clever to say, I put us to work. We spent the morning in kenjutsu practice then turned to our patrol. Today, I needed to speak to the local magistrates. Yamizu had been working on developing some Kitsuki as a contact in the local magistrates, but I could not recall her name. We went to the local bugyo-sho. Every magistrate I spoke to had two traits in common – they were all Kitsuki and they all seemed perplexed by the idea that we were conducting an investigation rather than simply keeping ruffians in line. Finally, we got to speak to Kitsuki Shizuka, who I think was the one I saw Yamizu speaking to. I wondered idly if she had been assigned to keep tabs on what we were up to.

When I asked about Mirumoto Kaido, our murder suspect, I got the same treatment as I had from the other Dragon but with a new twist. As we brought up Ayako and her death, now some two weeks old, Kitsuki-san remarked that they considered that case closed. When I said that we had uncovered testimony that led to Kaido, she asked what we planned to do if we discovered a samurai killer. The problem was, of course, that a samurai killing an eta whore was not a crime, just bad manners. I said I wanted to see justice done, which brought an admonition against vigilantism. I bit back a response about whether we qualified as vigilantes, as I really wasn’t sure how that argument would go. As it turned out, she told us that Kaido lived in the Furukawa neighborhood. At the time, I was still touchy about the vigilante comment, but it took a surprising amount of trust to give us that information. I shall have to do right by her and not forget that favor.

Dinner has transformed from one of my favorite times to a silent nightmare. I have moved to the Patrol Leader’s spot. With Bayushi-sama and Doji-sama both trying to elbow one another off of the dais, that leaves me between Doji-sama and Daidoji-san, with Kiminori-sensei across from me. My patrol-mates are all further down the line. As First patrol made harmless, useless small talk, I ate quietly. Before we departed, Bayushi-sama called me over and told me that we would be getting a new patrol member – a Daidoji. That made three Crane. Apparently, Doji-sama had not taken the addition of a second Scorpion well and had decided to raise the stakes with a new Crane. Still, Naoto-san had proven a capable fighter; we could hope that the new addition would prove the same.

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