Phoebe's Journey Part 4

Chapter 9: The Doldrums

Mehli explained about "doldrums" once. It's areas in the seas where the wind dies and the tides don't take you anywhere, and your ship just floats aimlessly. Until the next storm blows up. That's where we were. For the second day in a row, we didn't leave the house. There were no appointments with anyone. There were so many directions to go in, but nothing to push us one way or another. Left to ourselves, we stayed put and considered options.

The theorizing began over breakfast.

Tony's pet theory was that the fake Ninja and the ronin Fade are related somehow, and Mehli agreed with him. They wanted to go out and look for "Ninja". Tony wondered what they're getting out of this. Stealing? Shaking people down? Who are the victims? "Perhaps we should speak with them," he said.

Lady Miyara rolled her eyes. She stressed yet again that there is no such thing as ninjas ... either people pretending to be ninja, or just the people in Ryoko Owari ascribing anything weird to "ninjas". I'm pretty sure we're weird.

Mehli suggested hitting the bars in the Licensed Quarter, figuring that's the place to find rumours and stories and information on "ninjas", and probably bandits, too.

Lady Miyara and Tony both agreed that getting Mehli into a bar to ask questions is a good idea: she's just the type who can find answers in a bar. I nodded. A bar is a nice, public place. And we'll go in a group. Better that than wandering around town, or outside, at night looking for bandits and ninjas. And yet, I didn't want to stay at home by myself, either.

Lady Miyara told Furedu that she wanted to pay a social call on Ide Baranato sometime. Fred asked when and was it anything besides a social call? She said just for a social call alone, paying respects to the powerful people in the city, as expected. As for when, she said at his earliest convenience.

Tony asked Furedu where and from whom Ashidaka got his answers and info, but that's not something he knew anything about. But he did say that Ashidaka used a ronin named Ample to "collect" people who needed questioning.

Lady Miyara looked him up in the scrolls, and read what Shigeko said about him. He's a large, fat man who worked for a gambler named Lean Meat as muscle. He was known for breaking arms and for some sort of combat maneuver called a two way throw. Shigeko said Ample was stupid adn rough but could be dealt with once you convinced him to respect you.

Shigeko also wrote an entry on Lean Meat. He runs a regular dice game at the harbor. She described him as a scoundrel with no honor, but then said he appeared to be merciful and ran a relatively clean game. Better him and his game than someone else, she said. Apparently Lean Meat -- whether through mercy or good business sense -- doesn't accept bets his customers can't afford.

Someone asked about the ninjas again, and the Emerald Champion had a long list of their crimes, which were pretty standard. Not pretty, but nothing especially ninja-like. From there, Lady Miyara moved on to Fade, the bandit.

His list of exploits, considering it was all within the last two or three years, was also lengthy. He was a very successful bandit. Lady Miyara pointed out three especially interesting notes.

  • He only attacks Scorpions. Even though there's plenty of traffic from all over the place, he only attacks Scorpions. How does he know? He must have someone on the inside.
  • He's only lost once so far. One of his men captured, gave up one of the hideouts under torture, and escaped, probably with outside help. Although it wasn't long after that the Naritoki executed a guard involved in another escape.
  • He last took a large convoy of armor and weapons. Now he's very dangerous. The Emerald Champion guesses that within a four years, he will be leading a small, private army.

Furedu came back in and announced a caller. Some merchant wanted his traveling papers signed. Lady Miyara considered for a moment and then said she was available. They went to the office. Toni followed, to "watch" from outside. The rest of us wasted time in our own way. Mehli went to the courtyard to practice with her bow, which means that she attunes herself to the spirits around her and in her bow.

We lost track of time in the timeless now of the spirits. Apparently the merchant came and went, and then Tony and Lady Miyara talked with Joregu again. We regathered for lunch and heard about the morning's meetings.

The merchant transports legal, medicinal opium for Shosuro Hyobu. Lovely. If Lady Miyara doesn't sign his papers, the governor and head of a powerful opium cartel will be very annoyed with her, and I have a feeling people she's very annoyed with tend to disappear or die. I could be wrong about her, I suppose. Maybe I'm just overly suspicious. Anyway, if she does sign his papers and then he gets caught transporting illegal opium, then it reflects very badly on her and her family. And it's an imperial matter that I suspect wouldn't go well for her.

She didn't say any of that, I sort of read between the lines and made some guesses. So if the next chapters of this journal go in another direction entirely, it was just me making poor guesses.

Tony seemed to have gotten an appreciation of Imperial tax laws from Jorege, but that was it. Oh, and a name: Kakita Kabe, who acted as Ashidaka's advisor.

Furedu said he's Crane bushi who acted as Ashidaka's head of household guards. Toni said, "Bring him here this afternoon, in 2 or 3 hours. We're going to the Licensed Quarter tonight."

Oh, good.