Phoebe's Journey Part 4

Chapter 13: Cash Flow and Targets

Some things are the same the world over. Magda sent over an apparently hefty bill. So much so that Sun extracted Lady Miyara's promise that we wouldn't so anything so expensive again. Sun's pulling a long face over figuring out how to pay the bill, but I can't imagine Lady Miyara can't find the money somewhere. I suppose if she couldn't finance it herself for some reason, surely she could get the money from her father. He's got to be just crazy wealthy.

Though that's probably unfair. I'm not sure I can imagine Lady Miyara asking for help for so trivial a thing.

Mehli was disappointed in not being able to go back tonight. I was a little disappointed, myself. Mehli offered to and work it off, but Lady Miyara gave her that Look. Unacceptable. Besides, she said, it would take many years to pay off that bill in kind. So I guess it was a pretty huge bill.

It wasn't itemized, and Mehli and I wondered how the charges laid out. She thought Tony spent the most, but I don't think so. Lady Miyara ordered all the food and half the drink. And then Mehli and I each went upstairs. And I can't imagine the opium Pathik and I shared was free. No, I had a sinking feeling that my expenses might have been towards the top of the list.

But I didn't feel bad for long. And I'd like to go back.

The only think planned for the day was the afternoon meeting with Ide Baranato. So I spent some time practicing knife-fighting with Tony, and I experimented a little with a couple other things. Hiding knives on my person, for one. And throwing them. I can't get any force behind a knife, but I'd imagine having one stick into you from nowhere might distract one's attention for a moment. Besides, I discovered that throwing a knife and having it strike a target where you intended is strangely satisfying.

Ide Baranato was a gentleman. That was obvious, no matter where you might be from. He served us tea and Lady Miyara extracted a lot of information from him. In the usual Nipponese round-about never-quite-say-what-you-mean way. It was a long afternoon, and the words flowed like water in a river during spring thaw. I can't remember what was said exactly, and I'd be up until dawn trying to write them all down even if I did. So, here's a summary of what Lord Ide said. You can figure out what direction Lady Miyara took the conversation by that.

About Ashidaka Naritoki, His Death, and His Concerns

Naritoki was an honorable man in a difficult situation. He was good for the city, and did good work in most areas. It was a shame Naritoki wasn't more successfuly against the opium cartels, but a man in his position was limited in what he could do. Naritoki seemed most concerned with the ninja crimes and Fade and his bandits.

The fact that he was assassinated makes his already sad death even sadder. He offered two theories he'd heard: that Korechika believed that Naritoki had allied with Hyobu against him, and took him out; Michitaka was tired of playing second fiddle and killed him in a fit of jealousy. We all didn't think much of the second one, but the first seemed likely enough. I do remember what he said. "Korechika has the power, the resources, and the balls for it. Of course, I have no evidence against him, and I'm sorry for that." Well, he didn't say it exactly like that, but it's what he meant. And he was genuinely sad about not having the "evidence" against Korechika.

About the Emerald Magistrate's Priorities

The bandits are least important, though he wondered why Naritoki hadn't brought in an Emerald Legion against them. The ninjas don't really don't rate an Emerald Magistrate. Still, they're both a problem and he'd like to see the Emerald Magistrate take care of them.

About the Opium Cartels as a Whole

Lord Ide was bitterly hateful against the cartels and opium. He offered to give Lady Miyara any help he could in her crusade against them. And of course, the three leaders are constantly back-stabbing each other. Despite the cartels' power, he said the forces of good and honor haven't been defeated yet and still battle them. He said there were no hidden powers in the city. I'm not sure I believe him, but we haven't seen any signs, I guess.

About Shosuro Hyobu

She's capable and powerful. Powerful because she's the governor of the city. Since everybody across the empire depends on the continued existence of this city, she can call on favors and help from even people who might otherwise hate her guts or oppose her. But they need the city to exist, to operate, not to fall apart. She is the most powerful of the cartels, but she doesn't dominate the others.

About Bayushi Korechika

Don't let his polite sophistication fool you, Lord Ide warned us. He is the most violent man in the city and possibly in all of Nippon. While he is not prone to acts of personal violence, although certainly capable of it, his style is more to slowly take your family, clan, and house apart while you watch it crumble and let you die of grief and loneliness. There don't seem to be any local connections to anyone he's taken down. I think Lady Miyara was looking for possible allies.

About Soshi Seryoku

Where Lord Bayushi cares very intensely about his family and loves them very much, Lady Soshi cares about nothing and no one. She would kill you without caring and would burn down the city and her own empire if it suited her whim. She's a sociopath of the first water and given she cares about nothing, it's impossible to say what drives her.

About Bayushi Yojiro

Lord Ide knew little about him, and got Lady Miyara to "confirm" that he's late because he's on some special project the Emerald Champion gave him. She was playing her cards a little too close to her chest, but I don't think it really matters.

He finally got around to asking her some questions, and she was pretty open about where she stands on the investigation into Naritoki's death. He again offered his help, and the meeting slowly wound down from there, and we finally returned to the house in late afternoon.

Jorege was there, and he, Lady Miyara, and Tony went into the office for a while. I shucked off my social clothing and got into a house kimono, then wandered back downstairs. The others were in the front parlor, with some sake, tea, and appetizers. I sat next to Mehli and grabbed a cup of tea. Lady Miyara and Tony came in, sat down, and explained things.

On the one hand, if Lady Miyara can't pay the bill, it puts her in a bad spot. It makes her and the office of the Emerald Magistrate look bad, makes it harder to collect taxes, and puts her somewhat in Magda's power. On the other hand, she wants to leave so she probably doesn't care that much whether the bill gets paid, the amount -- although large to us -- is small to her patrons who probably also won't care that much if it doesn't get paid, and Magda can't go anywhere if Lady Miyara doesn't sign her travel papers.

I think Lady Miyara intends on just ignoring the bill for now. But she did set Jorege to finding ways to bring in a little money. I'm sure it'll come in handy. Maybe we can even go back to the House of Foreign Stories.

My Mehli has her own plan to solve the problem. Take out the pirates -- aka Fade and his bandits -- and claim their treasure for our own. Lady Miyara smiled and put her in charge. I think Mehli plans on finding them and taking them out, one at a time, from a distance with her bow.

Sometime after dinner, a messenger delivered Naritoki's journal. We stayed up far into the night while Lady Miyara read it to us. I believe she now intends to take down Bayushi Korechika. Evidence doesn't mean squat here. It's all power-based, so whether or not she can do it depends on if she can marshall enough powerful people to back her up. I hope she can do it.