The Journal of Ashidaka Naritoki
Naritoki's pillow book. It covers only three months: Tiger, Rabbit, and Dragon. His death closely followed his last entry. One wonders where previous volumes are, if there were any. Did he only begin writing this one because he was increasingly unbalanced?
He was a completely corrupt official, yet everything he did was to keep peace in the city. Or so he told himself, anyway. He had deals with the former leader of the "ninjas". He maintained a system of bribes with merchants. He knew about and was complicit with the opium cartels, and accepted bribes from them, too.
The only force in or around the city he was 100% against was Fade and his bandits. And it seems that this is what ultimately caused his death. Not that Fade was directly responsible.
There are 14 entries, and so we sat up late into the night as I read them to my horde and we discussed them, lubricated with sake. I summarize them here.
Third day of the month of the Tiger
- Laments that Magda is as demanding as wife.
- "J" (some merchant) wants too much of his taxes written away for the "measly" 100 koku bribe he gives Naritoki.
- Some general whining
Seventh day of the month of the Tiger
Memoirs of an Opium Eater -- the edited, public version -- arrived in Ryoko Owari. He read the original a couple months ago. He deflects it by pointing out nonexistent discrepancies. He believes anyone who is mentioned in the book should at least recognize themselves, but it gets harder after that. He says Hyobu probably read it through a couple of times and quickly filled in all the names.
Fourteenth day of the month of the Tiger
- Fade struck again: his single act of piracy on the river.
- Naritoki believes Fade must have been raised a samurai, as no peasant could possibly have the tactical or leadership skills Fade exhibits.
- He spends some time in deeper conspiracies, but chides himself: the simplest explanation is probably the true one, and there is no connection between Fade and the ninjas.
- Magda treated him nicely and got an unknown girl to walk on his back.
Twenty-second day of the month of the Tiger
- Korechika berated him for not having caught Fade yet.
- Then, in private, expressed concern about ensuring that Fade wouldn't cut off his opium distribution channel on the river.
- Naritoki made a poor joke about how lucky Korechika was to have him, since any other Emerald Magistrate would be too busy tracking down the opium cartels to worry about bandits. Korechiko took it as a threat, which Naritoki laughed off.
- "E" [MM: Eyebrows?] overheard and stated that perhaps it would be no bad thing for some opium shipments to go missing. Naritoki berated him for his lack of understanding of the big picture and how important it was too keep the opium flowing to keep Ryoko Owari healthy to keep the Empire healthy. Naritoki figured a peasant couldn't see things from the top view. He expressed some concern in keeping "E" happy, however.
First day of the month of the Rabbit
- A minor noble expressed his belief that Naritoki was the Memoirs author's lover. He laughed about it and pointed out his several absences from the city during specific times her lover was mentioned in the book. He knew, as do we, that her lover was Shinjo Jocho. [MM: Referred to as "SJ", which differentiates him from "J".]
- He made a breakthrough on the ninja case.
- Turns out he had an understanding with the former leader of the ninjas, where they restricted their activities and he didn't have to chase them down. She's disappeared and someone else (unknown) took her place and is running amok.
- Captured a few ninjas, tortured information out of them, but too slowly to do any good. The names and places they gave were long gone.
- Considers accepting Osako's offer to borrow her torturer, but doesn't want to put himself in her debt.
- He did find out that a Scorpion magistrate not too far away (Shosuro Rei) caught someone traveling on fake papers. He believes this may be one of the "ninjas" and sent her a request to delay his execution and let him interrogate the man first.
- Magda introduced him to a new girl, "G". She's the one who waked on his back. Apparently she's training the girl to become the mistress of someone "discerning and powerful", whom Naritoki believes will be lucky to have her.
Sixth day of the month of the Rabbit
Naritoki compares and contrasts Fade and the "ninjas".
Fade and his bandits:
- All leads on Fade are dead ends.
- Fade inspires personal loyalty through admiration instead of fear. They rarely leave wounded behind, and if captured are less likely to betray Fade and their fellows.
- Fade's bandits are "extremely mobile and violent". They strike no more than a few times a year and hide well in between, planning carefully for the next strike.
- Fade is always in the thick of it with his men.
The "Ninja" Gang:
- The "ninja" recruit the dregs, who are thus willing to betray others.
- The "ninjas" are confined to the city and subsist on small and constant crimes like graft and extortion.
- It's easy to find and take the lowest levels, but the leader carefully insulates himself.
Shosuro Rei brought the man to him in question to him. He states that she seems to assume he's crooked and finds it amusing. Normally, Scorpions assume your crooked and simply accept it because they would do the same thing, and blackmailing you is just business. She seems to add the threat of a magistrate to the usual threat of a blackmailer. But he figures perhaps it's just that southern Scorpions have a different manner than those here. And besides, he comforts himself by reminding himself that she can't really accuse him of anything because an Emerald Magistrate carries a much higher status than a mere Daimyo's magistrate, and Hyobu would be likely to back him up as well. So perhaps all his surmising is just nerves, he thinks. And Magda's whining at him again.
Eleventh day of the month of the Rabbit
- Got the names of two more ninja from Shosuro Rei's prisoner
- He's ticked that the new leader of the ninjas doesn't see the advantages of allying with him like the last leader, Ayako, did. They had a deal where she kept the ninja activities low-key and profitable, and he set up show arrests to make himself look good. The new guy, unknown to Naritoki, killed Ayako, took her place, and ignored Naritoki.
- He considers using the two contact he just got to infiltrate the ninjas. Help them prosper, keep them safe, and when they get high enough up, use them to get to the leader and take him out.
Twenty-second day of the month of the Rabbit
- Just got back from reporting to Emerald Champion.
- Talks at great length about him.
- Returns, exchanges flattery with "G", decides two mistresses would just be asking for trouble.
Last day of the month of the Rabbit
- Approaches one of the two ninja contacts. Won't do as an agent: a bad liar who intends to betray Naritoki and probably blackmail him.
- He, True Word, and Ample move in to take them. There was a third man, unknown to them, with a bow.
- It ended with three dead ninjas, a burnt-down building, and Naritoki blaming True Word and Ample for their part. He regrets his quick temper.
Third day of the month of the Dragon
- True Word is sulky after AN berated him for his failings against the ninja.
- Fade's trail is cold.
- Ninja quiet for the moment.
Eighth day of the month of the Dragon
- Naritoki meets with the leaders of the opium cartels: first time he was invited to a meeting with all three of them.
- Complaints about their territories, arguments over who has the worst prospects and the harder time of it. Dickering over territories and trading small portions, but the status quo wins out: no one wants to give up anything.
- Korechika is trying to streamline his distribution lines, but Hyobu thinks he's trying to gain more power at her expense.
- Korechika wants to trade his large Scorpion territory for her small Mantis territory. AN is certain he has a very good reason. Using the coast to sneak into other territories, perhaps.
- Soshi Seryoku complains that too few Unicorns buy opium, and Phoenix is too far away. She contemplates secretly poisoning magistrates' food with opium to get them addicted, then using that addiction to aid in her distribution efforts.
- AN supports Korechika adding land distribution routes to his river routes, and supports the status quo in everything else. Receives his bribe from them.
- Korechika suggests that although AN is certainly easier to get along with, Shigeko was easy to misdirect and didn't require bribes.
- After the others leave, Hyobu expresses concerns about Korechika's new routes. AN says "I told her that I was unwilling to cross him for her unless she was planning to destroy him." She understood and said his impartiality made the three-cartel situation more stable.
Sixteenth day of the month of the Dragon
- Muses upon his cordial relationship with his wife, Yoshino. She gives him good advice on things he can confide with her on. But he keeps the seamier side of his dealings to himself. He wants to keep her safe and untouched in case he ever becomes disgraced.
- Still, he has to talk to someone, so he goes to Magda, and he writes in his book.
- He's tired of it all, and is tempted to drop all the little and big lies. Perhaps he could tell everyone about all the bribes and claim it was all a con from the start, to find and catch the dishonest.
- But he knows he can never do that. It would wreck the city. And he'd probably not live long, with all the powerful and annoyed people he'd leave in his wake.
- Does consider being more stern in the future.
Twenty-ninth day of the month of the Dragon
- Fade struck again, and took armor and weapons destined for the city's ormory.
- Fade lost the largest number so far: 12 dead bandits. [MM: considering the take, probably well worth it.]
- Naritoki cannot ignore this strike. The "ninja" are merely embarrassing. Fade has escalated into a clear threat, both to Ryoko Owari and to Nippon as a whole. Plus, people lose confidence in the Emerald Magistrates, and therefore in the Emperor.
- Naritoki sent a letter to the Emerald Champion, explaining the situation and requesting that he send an Emerald Legion to take out Fade. [MM: before Fade's bandits become Fade's army.]
Last day of the month of the Dragon
Sending for an Emerald Legion, solely to take down Fade, was his death sentence.
- Hyobu recommended against the request, and her agent Bayushi Shoju spoke to the Emperor himself against it. [MM: Another damned Bayushi!]
- Naritoki must show additional need to get the Legion he requested.
- Hyobu is apparently afraid that the Emerald Legion would be a threat to the opium cartels, despite Naritoki's belief that he could keep them far too busy with Fade to take an interest in opium.
- Korechika also strongly against it. He insinuated that Naritoki was going to betray them and wanted the Emerald Legion there to protect him.
- Naritoki declares (in this book, not to their faces) that his "career as a criminal is over". His last sentence is "Let's see how they like running the city without the Magistrate helping them."
He was killed three days later.
[MM: Korechika likely, followed by Hyobu. Could be both together. No mention here made of Soshi, but she could also be in on it.]
[MM: Even Shigeko felt that Hyobu was an adequate governor. Taking her down would likely destabilize the city while the Scropions fought amongst themselves for the position. Taking out Korechika for the crime, if possible, still sends a clear message that Emerald Magistrates cannot be killed with impunity. This must, I think, be the primary goal now.]