Kanshigumi: The Ivory Lotus

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.

One of the challenges of talking to locals and looking for clues is separating out the rice from the millet. For every solid lead, there’s a pile of town gossip, peasant backbiting, and fanciful tales. One of the stranger rumors we’d rustled up in investigating the prostitute’s death was that a ghost was haunting the district graveyard. I have a soft spot in my heart for care for one’s ancestors; it’s the duty of every person, samurai and peasant alike, to properly remember and venerate those who brought them to where they are now.

My own ancestry is all mixed up now. My real samurai ancestors are all still alive, my grandfather quite determined to outlive all of us. Now, that being said, Ojii-san was adopted by the Son of Storms himself, with the implicit understanding that our family was not going to be in line for the throne, well, ever. That tacks on quite the ancestral line and gives us a tangential connection to Kumiko-sama. I’ve never been good at the Filial Piety part of Bushido, forever arguing when I should have been listening, but I’ve been looking forward to the Obon festival as a way to try and make up for some of the lingering ill will. In any event, this little sidebar is to explain that I was more interested in the ghost story than I might have been otherwise and we set out to investigate what lay within.

It turns out that the ghost is a man. A ronin whose name I have forgotten, even as the rest of him was so easy to forget. Masterless and homeless, he lives among the graves, stealing the offerings of food people leave behind for their ancestors. Like a little girl trying to save stray animals, I offered to put him in touch with the a member of the Storm Legion, as I did for Kanburo, but this man had no interest in building a better life. He had no ambition, no aspiration other than to be left alone among the dead.

I commit this story to paper in order to remember the dread I felt at the thought of him. I have been livid with members of my clan and have come close to raising my hand at my fellow Kanshigumi but I cannot imagine what would drive a man to shun all contact, to go live among only the silent dead and wait for people to bring him food and sake, albeit unwittingly.

Tomorrow, we will get back to work. We have a Mirumoto to interrogate (and that might be the most dangerous thing we’ve done to date) and justice to dispense. At Obon, I will pray for my ancestors and, perhaps, for the dead man who may yet live.

(Picture is by jfuechter on Flikr. It has been cropped. Used under Creative Commons. Original here.)

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kitsuki Bookkeeper

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