Chapter 2: Dealing with Yakuza *
Paths come together,
Led by the Forest Priestess.
But where do we go?
~ Miyara Miwa
The rest of the night passed uneventfully, though quickly. The White Faerie took the first watch, then Mongo, then Ash. When we all awoke, we looked through the prisoner's belongings. Aside from the calendar, he also had a set of lockpicks and seven beautiful silk handkerchiefs, in excellent condition. As we were all short of money, we decided to sell them at the market. I offered to add some decorative embroidery to them, to increase the value.
Ash and the White Faerie immediately went downstairs to fix the door. Kyosuke slipped out early, without telling me where he was going. Sutoiko wandered into town. Mongo and I, left alone with the prisoner, decided to interrogate him. We decided Mongo should ask the questions and I should be threatening. So I loomed over him with my sword at his neck, scowling.
We learned a little bit. The prisoner said he was doing a legally sanctioned job, sanctioned by the Thieves' Guild. What a strange place this is, to make thievery legal if one joins a guild! He knew we were here last night because we were making a lot of noise. We were certainly loud and obviously strangers last night. Despite my threatening him with torture and death, he refused to tell us what the secret passwords were for, and informed us that if we hurt him, we would be in a lot of trouble with the Thieves' Guild. I was unimpressed: Who cares what a bunch of thieves think? However, Mongo believed that we could get in trouble with what he called "a mob", apparently something like the Yakuza back home. The prisoner also informed us that torture was illegal. I would imagine so, even here. I had been hoping he would believe that I would torture him. I could kill him easily enough, but torture is beneath me. We asked who he was, and he said his name was Betoludo. I glowered again, and he said nervously, "If you hurt me, the Valentina will get you". He is obviously Tai Lian, and Valentina sounds Tai Lian too.
Apparently having learned everything we were going to from him, I said we may as well kill him. Mongo thought turning him over to the watch might be a good idea. I agreed to that, but then he said, "Of course, the watch might very well charge us for their services." We could not afford that, and Mongo was reluctant to kill him, so we let him go, hands still tied.
Once he was gone, I asked Mongo what a Valentina is. He said it sounded Tai Lian. The prisoner said it like it was a title rather than a name. I asked, "a clan leader, or family leader?" Mongo thought probably like that.
We went downstairs to discover the progress on the door. just in time to see them put the final touches on it. We decided not to buy breakfast at the inn, but rather to head into town and see what we could find. Mongo asked the innkeeper who the Valentina was. He said, "Do not mess with them. They are the premier gang on the docks, led by Emilio Valentina. Their sign is the fig leaf."
We gathered all our items from the room, and I left a small paper monkey behind. We then headed to the market for some breakfast. Mongo sold the items we collected from the "goons" who attacked us last night, and made about 27 crowns, which we decided to share in equally. Mongo gave me the money to hold onto. We bought some food for breakfast, and settled down to cook and eat it. I managed to find some bread and fruit for myself. While we were eating, Ash spoke to me, with a terrible stutter. He said, "I went to Berivila to pick up an item. The man holding it, he was murdered."
"Recently?" I asked.
He answered, "Yes. I think Shatsen Haimeru took the item. The druidess said the paper carver could help with the item. I think you are the paper carver. Do you know the druidess?"
I told him I did not know any druidess. "But," I said, "it is a shame I did not stop the murderer when I saw him."
Mongo asked what he looked like, and I described what I saw: pretty low class, from the Empire from his accent. I recounted my experience in Berivila:
When I was in the mountains, I came upon a robbery/murder in progress. The thief tried to convince me it was none of my business and I should move on. "It is official business of the government of Nulun," he said. "Councilor Oluden Holeru commissioned this work himself." I asked what the man did that the Councilor wanted him dead, and the thief suddenly ran away. The dead man was dressed like a villager. I continued on my way, because it really was none of my business why a Councilor would want a peasant dead.
We put together the rest of the story. Ash found a paper figure I left in the town. He showed me a small flower that I had made and left behind. We each were questioned in town separately. We were both told that there were three strangers in town, and one of us was obviously the murderer. Ash and I each convinced them that we were innocent, and ignorant of the others' identities. The third stranger was Shatsen Haimeru from Nulun. Ash has been looking for one of us two. I did not tell my information to the police, and they never found and questioned Shatsen Haimeru.
As we sat pondering this story, the White Faerie went quiet for a moment, then said, "I have just had a vision of that tree", and he walked over to a near-by tree, looked for, and found a card. He read it aloud to us, "Specialist required for a repossession job. One night's work, legal, some danger. Good money, military background helpful, no time wasters. Councilor Oluden Holeru, Oluden Holeru Mansion, Oluden Holeru Suturasa" The card appeared to be new.
Ash figured we could maybe apply and thus get in contact with Oluden Holeru. The White Faerie agreed, as did we all. We needed cash anyway, as Mongo pointed out. We asked Ash if he knows what item he was looking for, and he said, "No". Apparently druidesses are as mysterious as Buddhist priests.
Mongo went back into the market to get as much information as he could. From the merchant he sold the weapons to, he discovered the location and directions to Oluden Holeru Mansion. Also that Oluden Holeru sits on the town council.
He then took one handkerchief to a merchant who sold such things and tried to get more information from her. She would only give us one crown for the handkerchief, although it was worth four as is. She did not really know anything about him either. She recommended that Mongo go to a particular street for a better deal on the handkerchief.
We decided to go directly to the mansion, and we took the card from the tree with us. On the way, Kyosuke and Sutoiko rejoined us. We found the mansion easily, and the doorkeeper was not surprised to see people like us. After a half hour wait, designed to show us how unimportant we were in comparison to him, of course, he led us to a fancy room with family portraits, oriental rugs, and trophies. A fine barbarian's house.
Aluretu Oluden Holeru sat behind a massive mahogany desk. He spoke to us, "As you may be aware, the Oluden Holeru house is a trading house. We do not want some of our business kept quiet. However, this business must be secret. A certain gem has appeared in the city, acquired for the house of Oluden Holeru by the Shatsen Haimeru gang, who have not delivered it. You should retrieve it and return it here by morning. There are several superstitions about this gem: it came from a ring of Nergal and it inflicts diseases on any who handle it. I do not believe these tales, but I suggest you use this anyway." He pushed a box forward on his desk to us and continued. "This box will suppress any magic within it for 6 hours, which should be enough time. You will leave with a guide tonight for the Asylum, whish is where I think the gem is. Any questions?"
"Yes," said Mongo. "The fig leaf is not a symbol of the Shatsen Haimeru gang is it?" Oluden Holeru said he was not familiar with gang symbols.
Then the White Faerie asked how much the job paid. Oluden Holeru answered, "100 crowns for each of you on delivery."
Mongo asked, "A couple of our crew have been overly warmly greeted by the citizens of your fair city. Could you be of assistance in helping them feel better?" Oluden Holeru said "no problem, but the cost comes out of your pay."
Then he said, "You cannot hire anyone else or tell anyone else. The Shatsen Haimeru gang trade mostly in counterfeit money and stones." Mongo asked how many of them there are, and he said "In the compound, there will not be more than 5 or 6. We think that Kurutz Holden has the stone. The compound crosses the river into the Valentina's territory, and also into the Hunderum. You may need to know the password: Sowito Hana. I do not know any of the other's passwords."
Mongo asked where they got the gem, but Oluden Holeru said he did not know. He did say "You will stay here for the day and be fed, then a guide will show us the way. Mr. Maksu will take care of you today." Oluden Holeru left us alone with Mr. Maksu. We asked him if he would be our guide tonight, but he said no. Mongo asked if we could meet our guide, and were again told no. Mongo also asked Mr. Maksu about gang symbols, but he did not know and did not know anyone who did.
Giving up on getting any useful information from Mr. Maksu, Mongo asked him for paper, and he brought us stack. Mongo thought if I could make some fig leaf figures, we could leave them behind, thus implicating the Valentinas. I immediately went to work, creating a few paper fig leaves.
While eating lunch, we talked about the gem. This had to be the item the druidess told Ash to recover, so we decided to grab the gem and then skip out and take it to the druidess. Ash did at least know where she could be found. Since the druidess told him I could help him, I clearly was supposed to do so. Since we were not going to get paid for this job, we decided to accept the healing services offered us.
In the real world, the Yakuza grew out of bands of ronin, dating from the 1600's, but really didn't exist as the Yakuza until the 19th century. Since this isn't the real world, I decided that the Yakuza do exist in Nippon at this time. They view themselves as another legitimate clan, and are organized in a similar manner, with different families fighting for rank, and led by a single man they call daimyo. Yakuza families are spread throughout Nippon, with one family usually in charge of a given territory. They recruit members from the lower classes and criminals, making those who prove themselves part of the family. The rest of the clans do not view them as anything more than a group of criminals. However, some do make secret alliances with Yakuza members for personal, or even family/clan reasons. If such an alliance becomes known, the one(s) who made it are regarded as criminals themselves. A family may or may not be able to distance itself from such an alliance, depending on who made it and what they do once it's made public.