L5R : Jade Winds
The heavy drapes cover the window. The cold still forces its way into the room. Shosuro Kaito pulls the quilted dressing gown tightly around her. She stares at the steam lifting from the tea on the side table then up to the door. No effort was needed to sense the servant outside the door, Kaito had selected a barely competent servant. Against the wishes of her new aide from the Scorpion Ambassador as well, much to Kaito’s amusement.
She had to constantly dismiss the servant on some errand. But Kaito wanted no help from any of the servants. Her only acquaintance among them was Boo’s wet nurse. Kaito found herself smiling for a brief second. A deep breath removed any show of emotion. Today she had to make the rounds so she must be prepared. Yonaka had brought in some ronin from the Bandit camps. Time to find out if there were any good fish in the catch.
Kaito dressed herself in green and yellow. Dragon clothing was eminently practical for the weather. It was heavy and inflexible, but she had worked the cloth a bit so it was much more supple, a requirement when trying to extract information from men. If they are distracted by a curve or a fold that might be a little loose, then most men will hand over information without any leading questions.
Kaito hoped there might be a lead to the Jade Ki Rin carver, so she pulled a few extra pieces of jewelry. A string of small jade fingers partially hidden in the neckline was set as a trap for any ronin who had a fondness for the gemstone. The jade was a tithe to be sent to the Crab lands, specifically for the Mitanaka prisoners the Hida Nakamuro watched over. She rubbed the jade knowing Nakamuro needed it more than she, but she felt he would forgive her.
Makeup in place, like war paint, Kaito examined herself one last time before leaving. Silently opening the door, Kaito found the servant Maemae asleep against the wall. There was something odd about the girl, but Kaito set it in the back of her mind for consideration. The door slid closed quietly and Kaito left to inspect the new arrivals.
Seven men were at the armorer’s pavilion. Several Stone Dogs hovered around the pavilion looking to stay warm near the forge’s heat. Kaito could tell they had one eye kept on the Ronin. Yonaka picked some very good men for his command. No sign of Yonaka, which was becoming more common, and Kaito sighed a little louder than she had wanted to. Yonaka’s warm body against the Dragon mountain cold nights was what she wanted. But she also understood he would do his duty. She recruited in the cities for him, but the available numbers were dropping.
Kaito walked past the group of new ‘recruits’ giving no indication she even knew they existed. Two of them noticed her. One was subtle with his sidewards glance. The second turned with his mouth agape, he pulled at the sleeve of the man next to him. Now most of the group turned to look. Kaito passed the pavilion then quickly turned back, feigning a remembered question for the armorer. Several of the men tried to turn back but did a poor job of it. Kaito smiled to herself. How easily the rice separates itself. The first man still held his subtle gaze.
Kaito enter the Pavilion and gave a short polite bow to the armorer. She took an aristocratic side step away from the ronin. “Good morning, Master Armorer. I must apologize for the intrusion. I was going shopping but then remembered that Kimme had a delivery of some arms and armor. May I ask your opinion on the quality?” she inquired. Kaito looked at the armorer but could feel the approach of one of the ronin, the open mouthed one. Kaito held herself still.
One of the Stone Dogs appeared swiftly and stepped in between Kaito and the ronin. She again feigned indifference, but was very pleased with how quickly the samurai had moved. The opened mouth ronin spoke, “My Lady if you got this gear for us, I know it must be of the greatest quality,” finishing his sentence with a flourish of a naginata, and back and forth strikes at invisible foes. He was short and had a scar on the top of his head. He also could have held a sign that said ‘Shosuro can make me do anything’. The Stone Dog minder pushed him back to the group.
The armorer appeared a bit embarrassed at the ronin’s display, but quickly spoke up, “My Lady, four Yari and five naginata, plus ten suits of armor. Clothing and blankets as well. And supplies from some of the villages that,” he paused and lowered his voice, ”that wanted to show thanks for the Taisa’s help with the bandits.” The armorer smiled and silently handed Kaito a sealed package, many layers of paper and intricately knotted. The package disappeared into Kaito’s sleeve.
Kaito smiled and turned, ”I will send word that you found them acceptable, and please let me know if you need anything else. I will be dealing with stone workers and carpenters later today. There may be some materials coming to repair the castle walls.” Kaito had noticed the subtle ronin was looking at her neck. Kaito extended her hand to point at something showing a Jade bracelet, and the man’s attention followed. The Kitsuki would never teach anything like that, would they? Kaito would have to watch this man and see if he might hold some small bit of information.
A small disturbance formed outside the pavilion. The Ronin all filed out into the courtyard, and Kaito followed. A retinue of four men entered the gate and behind them strode Mirumoto Yonaka. Kaito felt her breath rattle, Yonaka looked so official. She walked quickly toward him and bowed. As she neared him, his smile was warm but it had a playful edge to it. It almost made her blush, she had very much missed him. The retinue split and she walked to him.
Behind Yonaka, three men charged through the gates with Naginata above their heads. They shouted as they ran toward Yonaka’s back. They wore no clothing on their upper bodies, their skin covered in tattoos. Kaito sank slightly; her knives in hand hidden in her sleeves. Yonaka hugged her and picked her up, moving several steps to the left. She squirmed and spun placing herself between the screaming madmen and Yonaka. They ran past, one of them with a many step lead over the others.
The lead man ran straight at the group of ronin, his naginata crashed down on the short ronin’s head. Splinters flew as the naginata shattered and the ronin was forced to his knees. The attack never slowed as the haft of the weapon spun and struck the temples of the two adjacent men. Then the other two tattooed assailants joined in. The ronin desperately tried to counter but they never connected. “Monks”, Yonaka’s gentle voice settled into Kaito’s consciousness. “We get them for the whole winter, but they don’t eat much.” Yonaka’s voice was happy.
Kaito realized she still was in a stance, pressing herself against Yonaka. Yonaka’s hands slid to her hands, stopping at the knives. Her hands relaxed and her whole body followed. Yonaka whispered “Did you miss me Neko?” Kaito turned and gave a piercing stare, ”What is a day, if it has no sunrise?” she said with a grin and a wink. Her subtle smile disappeared, going back to her game face. “I was going shopping for Boo, and now since you’re busy,” she nodded to the brawl that had two Ronin down already, ”I guess I can leave you to your work. And now that I have money.” She spun Yonaka’s small money purse on her finger, “I take my leave my Lord.” Yoanka stared quickly at his sleeve pocket and back to Kaito.
Kaito bowed and walked out the gate. Maemae had appeared only to be sent back to clean. Kaito walked quickly toward the market with a smile on her face. Maybe tonight she would skip the late night prowl. She had one ronin who came almost wrapped around her finger, and one that had a jewelry fascination. She got a good shipment of equipment from Kimme and a package of information. Information that meant the subtle network was slowly starting to produce results. Nothing earthshaking, she thought of Boo, but everything has to start somewhere.
The hair stick merchant smiled a large smile. If Kaito was happy, he knew he had a sale.