Kanshigumi: The Ivory Lotus

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.

We got our new Crane settled on Yamizu’s old tatami and it was time for training. I paired Daidoji-san with Hiruma-san and Shinjo-san with Suzume-san. Mayu and Taifuu had squared off yesterday in jiujutsu and Taifuu had ended up with a new black eye by the time I got out there – Ueda had taken credit for it, but Mayu was staring at the ground the whole time. The spar went off well: our new Crane does not own a katana for purely decorative purposes. We broke for lunch and I explained that, as part of our patrol tonight, we’d take a sidebar trip to the Furukawa neighborhood. I also explained to the others the legal niceties of a samurai murdering a whore. Suzume-san was the one to put the question to me, damn her earnestness.

“So, what are you planning to do?”

I answered honestly, “I don’t know yet. First, we have to find who actually killed her. We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.” Damn it, that was a useless answer. Surely a leader is supposed to be able to figure out these things. Surely a leader would have figured out how to get the Mirumoto to confess and see justice done, all while not thinking inappropriate thoughts about Suzume-san. Surely…well, our last leader was Yamizu, so maybe not surely. Jigoku’s spit, time to make the best of things.

The patrol was quiet enough – a lot of people were deep into preparations for Obon, so families had the younger ones out running errands and gathering things while the samurai families were preparing for the festivities, including the grand dance at the Imperial Palace. Many of those samurai seemed to live in Furukawa – it was clearly the finer part of the Dragon district. Kaido’s family lived in a very posh estate with a carved wooden dragon above the gate. We weren’t precisely expected, so I presented my chop to the servant at the door and said we were there to talk to Kaido about a recent incident. Unlike the Crane, Dragon that disdain you only make you wait ten minutes.

Also unlike the Crane, they send their wives to do their lying for them.

Mirumoto Eriko opened the screen and came in to speak with us. She spun us a tale of how Kaido had been at a party at home on the night of the murder. I’ve been a policeman long enough to hear all sorts of badly spun fantasies and this Mirumoto was clearly unused to having to speak falsely. I did not call her a liar just then – that’s a quick way to a duel and I’m not idiot enough to invite a duel with a Mirumoto. She also threw in that the in-laws were up at the palace for the dance, a not-so-subtle hint that Kaido was protected politically as well. This just keeps getting better. I made a vague threat about the perils of maintaining a reputation and we made our way out. Her lies had made Kaido seem more guilty, but they’d also neatly covered any obvious avenues of forcing him out. Still, I needed some testimony as to whether that party had actually been going on.

We were finishing up our day at Iyashite Kudasai when I hit upon an idea. The usual suspects were there drinking and I noted the firemen holed up on a corner. Ordering up a bottle of shouchu, I asked them about how one gets permits to keep the lights on for evening parties and who’d be the thug to ask about such permits in Furukawa. They drank the shouchu and coughed up the name Shineda. We had one more trip out to make tonight.

When we got back to Furukawa, I left Hiruma-san and Daidoji-san to keep an eye on Kaido’s house and we went to find Shineda. My reputation as an emasculator of firemen apparently preceded me and I found him quickly enough. He couldn’t remember whether that house had held a party on the night in question, but did say they held parties regularly. He promised to send word after checking his records.

We returned to Kaido’s home to discover that Taifuu and Katagi had gone missing. A minute later they appeared – climbing out over the wall of the house! Bakayaro! I leave them alone for 15 minutes and they’re breaking and entering! Katagi said that there was some sort of argument between the husband and wife but he hadn’t discovered about what. That seemed to fit the pattern but all my evidence amounted to a pile of scraps that made a very thin tapestry. We returned to Kitsuki-sama’s estate, everyone was wondering what the next move was and I was wondering whether every leader spent this much time feeling blindingly incompetent.

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