Chapter 28: That Shapeshifter, Doubting
If the shogun had ulterior motives in assigned this task to her, he would not reveal them to her so easily. Rin would gain nothing from this conversation with Commissioner Inoue.
She ignored him and thought about Yuzuru’s question. It seemed like a strange question to ask, but Yuzuru was no ordinary person.
To most people, he appeared to be a useless samurai who couldn’t wield a katana and spent his time tinkering with mechanical contraptions like a commoner.
However, he had a fighting prowess that could rival Yoka’s strength.
Yuzuru had a unique mind, Rin recognised that from the moment she met him.
Sure enough, he had a reason for asking this. ‘I think the culprit didn’t use a sword to kill his victims. He used a gun instead.’
A stunned silence filled the room.
The idea that a gun was used instead of a sword had not occurred to any of them.
‘How can that be?’ Nobuyuki blurted out. ‘A gun would have made a lot of noise.’
Guns had been widely used in Japan since the Battle of Sekigahara, but because they were cumbersome and difficult to acquire (due to their foreign origins), most samurai preferred their katana.
Furthermore, guns were not silent the way a sword was; a gunshot in the dead of night would have been as loud as a cannon blast.
Who would carry out kataki-uchi1blood-revenge killing where a samurai could avenge the death of his direct family member by killing the perpetrator in a duel with such a noisy, cumbersome weapon?
The Imperial Commissioner smiled patronisingly. ‘The other guards would have heard it go off.’
Yuzuru grinned. ‘Not if they’ve found a way to make it silent!’
The three doshin2lower-ranked samurai who were police officers that needed to have contact with commoners and conduct on-the-ground investigations exchanged doubtful glances with each other. Nobuyuki held back a snort and waited for the young bugyō to reprimand him for his absurd contribution.
Sure enough, Rin was frowning in dissatisfaction.
This was an extremely far-fetched idea—even more so than a mechanical broom that sweeps by itself.
‘Explain,’ she commanded.
The yoriki blinked in surprise. What was with this difference in treatment?!
Yuzuru made a gun with his fingers and pointed it at Nobuyuki’s head. ’If the culprit used a gun, there would be a gunshot wound left on the victim’s body. That would give away his choice of weapon immediately. What would he do then, if he didn’t want anyone to know that?’
Without waiting for a response, he continued, ‘He would have to use the victim’s sword to cut off his head and take both away to disguise the death as a kataki-uchi.
‘I asked if there was a lot of blood, because if he died by the sword, there would have been a lot of blood. But if a gun was used and his head removed after, the body wouldn’t bleed as much.
Another stunned silence.
Finally, the Imperial Commissioner broke it with a light hum and a meaningful look at the young bugyō. ‘That would explain why the permit was registered under a bogus name.’
Yuzuru smacked a fist into the palm of his other hand. ‘The heads have been discovered, haven’t they? We can check if this is truly the case by having an eta3social class of untouchables with occupations seen as kegare—defilement—like executioners, undertakers, slaughterhouse workers, butchers, tanners examine the victims’ skulls for cracks from the gunshot.’
Commissioner Inoue shrugged. It wasn’t his investigation. Rin raised her chin arrogantly. ’Let’s do that then. Yoka?’
The maid bowed her head. ‘Right away, Ojou-sama.’
Nobuyuki opened his mouth to protest but the young bugyō turned her intense gaze onto him and commanded, ‘I’ll speak with the Dutch captains and the ambassador. You, send your people to search their ships for this silent gun.’
Without waiting for a response, she spun on her heel and stormed out of the Official’s Quarters.
Dejima was the only place in all of Japan that allowed the Dutch to step onto Japanese soil. None of them were allowed to enter Nagasaki without express permission from the shogun, so the foreigners spent most of their time ashore inside the teahouses built along the quayside.
Rin surveyed the blue-eyed men that emerged from one of these teahouses with scantily-clad women in beautiful kimonos plastered to their sides, reluctant to part.
Was this what these foreigners came halfway across the world to do? How nauseating. Her lip curled as she watched them wrap their woman in a deep hug before tearing themselves away with a cheery wave.
Men are the same everywhere.
Would Yoka kill them for her if she ordered it?
The Imperial Commissioner was observing Rin’s strange reaction to the foreigners when his sight of the young daimyo was obscured by the figure of a plain-faced maidservant.
Yoka bowed slightly, her eyes fixed on Commissioner Inoue. ‘Ojou-sama, I have checked with the eta who handled the bodies. Yuzuru was right. There are indeed gunshot wounds.’
The Imperial Commissioner’s eyes narrowed slightly. ‘Are you sure? How did you check that so quickly?’
Yoka looked up and met his gaze with a patronising smile. ‘A qualified maid serving Lord Terazawa must be able to do this much.’
A short Dutchman with a thick blonde beard was the first to reach them. He removed his tricon hat to reveal a weathered face and bright, grey eyes as he greeted the Imperial Commissioner with a firm handshake.
Rin observed their familiar interactions with a frown.
The man appeared to be in his late forties, his lightly-tanned skin turning red as soon as he stepped out into the sun. She had heard that foreigners could down sake by the jug without turning red, but they flushed easily in the heat.
It was her first time seeing a Dutchman in broad daylight.
‘Lord Terazawa,’ Commissioner Inoue called, snapping her out of her reverie. ‘This man is Lord Kampjan, leader of the special embassy from the Dutch East India Company.’
A practiced smile lit up her doll-like face and she gave the foreigner a polite bow.
Lord Kampjan stared at her in surprise and said something to Commissioner Inoue in a bright voice. Rin curled up the fingers that had begun to tremble. He turned back to her and exclaimed in broken Japanese, ‘What a cute child! She reminds me of my daughter.’
He reached out a hand to pat her on the head but Rin shrank back with a snarl, ‘Keep your hands off me!’
Yoka reached out to hold her sweaty hand and gave Lord Kampjan an apologetic look. ‘Please excuse her. My Ojou-sama is not used to meeting foreigners.’
Lord Kampjan looked to his interpreter for a translation of her words, a contrite expression slowly replacing his delight. ‘My apologies, little girl. I was rude.’
Rin gritted her teeth and glared at the Imperial Commissioner who was watching this exchange with the attitude of a spectator. ‘Ask him about the silent gun,’ she ordered.
The corners of his mouth quirked up in amusement but he did as she asked and questioned the leader of the Dutch convoy in fluent Dutch.
The two conversed with each other for some time.
Rin listened but didn’t understand much. Yoka had given her a few foreign language lessons to help her prepare for her responsibilities as bugyō but she also had to learn arithmetic, accounting, etiquette and deal with the affairs of her domain at the same time.
There were interpreters available for her to use if she had to talk to a foreigner and plenty of subordinates to do the talking for her, so learning Dutch hadn’t been a priority for her.
Right now, however, she found it extremely inconvenient to not understand exactly what the pretentious b*stard was saying to the Dutchman.
She tugged at Yoka’s sleeve to ask for a translation, but the maid had her eyes fixed on the group of foreigners that had gathered around Lord Kampjan.
‘Yoka,’ she called sharply.
Yoka turned to her instinctively, her light-grey eyes blank, deep in thought.
The young mistress pursed her lips.
Yoka smiled apologetically. ‘Pardon me, Ojou-sama. I thought I saw a familiar face.’ She began to interpret the conversation between Commissioner Inoue and Lord Kampjan but Rin wasn’t listening anymore.
‘…Lord Kampjan is saying that he has never heard of a silent gun, only one that makes slightly less noise than the ones they have been selling to us…’
A foreigner with a familiar face?
She scanned the group of foreign men who all looked the same to her.
Who could it be?
‘…And if such a thing ever gets invented, it will be revolutionary. Although, it will probably be extremely expensive and difficult to obtain, even for someone like him. Ah, he wants to introduce Commissioner Inoue to someone who might know more.’
Lord Kampjan had turned and called out two names. The others ushered the two people forward.
‘This is Daan Vandervort and Dr. Schamberger,’ he introduced in Japanese.
As soon as the two men removed their hats and bowed politely, Rin knew that Daan Vandervort was the person that Yoka said was familiar.
Not because she knew him—no, she didn’t recognise him at all.
But she did recognise his unusual light-grey eyes.
They were exactly the same as Yoka’s eyes.
Daan Vandervort stared directly at Yoka as he gave his greetings in heavily-accented Japanese, ‘Pleased to meet you for the first time. I’ll be in your care from now on.’