Chapter 30: That Shapeshifter, Deducing
When Rin arrived at the Magistrate’s Office the next morning, she was led upstairs by Yoshimoto to where the Imperial Commissioner, Akihiko (another yoriki), Dr. Schamberger and Daan Vandervort had already gathered.
She sat down at the head of the table and joined the quiet group of people who were waiting for her. With a scowl, she pointed a finger at the two foreigners among them.
‘What are the two of them doing here?! This is an official investigation, unauthorised people are not allowed!’
Vandervort blinked with feigned confusion though his lips curved up into a smile, while the doctor turned anxiously to Commissioner Inoue.
Sure enough, the pretentious bas—eh, the Imperial Commissioner, explained calmly, ‘They have been granted permission by the shogun to enter our land. The shogun wants to meet them and has ordered me to take them with me to Edo once this mess has been sorted out. For now, I have invited them to be a part of this gathering since the Terazawa-bugyō believes their goods are involved.’
Rin glared at Commissioner Inoue. ‘How can you be certain that they are not the culprit behind these murders?’
It irked her that the Imperial Commissioner decided to include them in their discussion of the case without first consulting her, especially since he had previously emphasised that she was responsible for the re-investigations.
Was he making her life difficult on the shogun’s orders?
‘We’ve placed them under watch yesterday after the search for the silent gun was conducted, so I’m sure the culprit isn’t one of them. None of them were allowed to leave Dejima. They’ve all been accounted for.’
The young mistress clenched her hands into fists inside her sleeves. Frustration simmered in her chest. ‘That might be, but Nobuyuki was found with his head intact and his katana strapped to his waist. The murderer is aware we already know the kataki-uchi is a ruse.’
It was obvious how the victim died this time. No effort was taken to conceal the round, gaping hole in the middle of his forehead.
The body was still warm when the doshin emerged from the police headquarters and stumbled across their superior’s corpse at the end of the street.
Akihiko unfolded a handkerchief to reveal a bullet and a gun on the table. ‘The doshin dug it out of the wall and compared it to the bullets in the warehouses at Dejima. They are exactly the same.’
Rin folded her arms. ‘How are you going to defend the foreigners this time, Commissioner Inoue?’
Commissioner Inoue opened his hands casually, ‘I won’t. I’m on your side after all, Lord Terazawa.’ His eyes darkened. ‘Just in case you’ve forgotten.’
Rin hadn’t. But she wasn’t about to admit that he had a point.
It was extremely unlikely for that the Dutch foreigners to brazenly kill a yoriki right under their noses. If it was their intention to introduce the silent gun to Japan, revealing its existence openly would be more profitable for them.
They had nothing to gain from making small private transactions and risk getting caught and banned from trading like the Portuguese.
Pinning the murders on them would simply be a convenient way for Rin to close this annoying case and get back to other more pressing matters in her domain.
‘Tch!’ The Imperial Commissioner’s words were a clear warning that if she did that, she would fail whatever test the shogun gave her this time.
Did he think she was a fool?
Rin smiled. ‘Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten. I am merely being careful. After all, the one who placed all these restrictions and extra eyes on Dejima is the shogun himself. As the current bugyō, I have to make sure the shogun’s suspicions about the foreigners are laid to rest, don’t I?’
A dry smile ghosted the lips of the Imperial Commissioner. ‘As expected of the shogun’s loyal dog.’
Rin ignored him and turned to Akihiko. ‘Follow Commissioner Inoue to Dejima and account for the whereabouts of everyone that the Dutch might have had contact with. Bring back anyone who doesn’t have an alibi.’
Akihiko gave the Imperial Commissioner a nervous look. He didn’t understand what the two of them were saying but he could feel the hostility emanating from both of them throughout their exchange.
He should take orders from Lord Terazawa, but it seemed as though the Imperial Commissioner was sent by the shogun? What should he do if the man gave him a contradictory command?
Thankfully, the tall, imposing man didn’t cause any trouble. He merely raised an eyebrow and asked, ‘And what are you going to do in the meantime?’
Lord Terazawa stood up and took her time brushing down the creases in her skirt. When she was done, she lifted her chin and pointed to the gun on the table. ‘I’m going to see if Yuzuru can turn that into a silent gun.’
Because Nobuyuki’s death proved that Yuzuru’s theory was right, the Imperial Commissioner couldn’t say anything about his involvement with the case. Rin returned to her residence in triumph…
Only to have her path blocked by yet another irritating presence.
Tsuguru ran up to her the moment she entered the gate and grabbed her by the shoulders, examining her from head to toe, this way and that. ‘Are you okay? Did you get injured? You’re not hurt anywhere, right? I heard a yoriki died…’
A work-roughened hand pried his fingers from the slender shoulders of the young daimyo. Light-grey eyes smiled politely at him. ‘You’re scaring her. Please keep your distance, Shinji-dono.’
‘Ah.’ He took a step back, his face flushed with embarrassment. ‘My apologies, Rin-chan. I didn’t mean to startle you. I-I was just really worried that something happened to you.’
Rin looked up at him expressionlessly even though her heart was beating fast. For a moment, a memory of when they were younger flashed into her mind.
She had run off to the castle town in a fit of anger with her father and played with the children at the street corner until sunset. When she returned, a little panting Tsuguru hurtled himself at her, red-faced and out of breath. ’Where did you go?! I’ve been looking everywhere for you! What if something happened bad to you out there? I was so scared, Rin-chan.’
His face had matured a lot since. His cheeks were no longer chubby and his jaw had become more prominent now. Only the light in his eyes remained the same.
‘The murder happened last night. There’s nothing to worry about now,’ Rin responded curtly. ‘Please move aside, Shinji-san. I have things to do.’
Tsuguru stepped aside instinctively, but followed after the young mistress like a tail. ‘What do you need to do? I can help.’
Rin ignored him and made a beeline for the storage shed behind the bugyō’s residence. After their trip to Dejima yesterday, Yuzuru asked for one of the foreign guns and closeted himself inside the shed to take it apart, saying that he wanted to try making a silent gun.
The Imperial Commissioner had returned from Dejima after they did, so he didn’t know about this beforehand.
The young mistress is very cunning, Yoka thought.
Inside the shed, Yuzuru sat at a low table, surrounded by pieces of wood and metal. The gun she gave him had been dismantled into many parts.
A blueprint of these parts had been drawn onto a large piece of paper.
The samurai guard himself was now hammering holes into a wooden pipe. He looked up when Rin opened the door and grinned.
‘You figured out how to make a silent gun?’ Rin asked with a tilt of her head.
His smile faltered. ‘Not yet. But Ojou-sama, I’ve discovered something. This gun is so much better than the ones I’ve used before.’
Yuzuru jumped to his feet and showed her the dismantled rifle body.
‘Our people have been using a matchlock-type gun1the matchlock fires a bullet when a smouldering match at one end of an s-shaped piece of metal is used to ignite the gunpowder in the flashpan since the Battle of Sekigahara, but this foreign design uses a flintlock2the flinklock, on the other hand, fires a bullet by a trigger that strikes flint against steel to light the gunpowder in the flashpan. It can be reloaded twice as fast and doesn’t require a lighted match. If there’s a way to make it silent, it will be revolutionary!’
‘…’ Even Tsuguru stared at the excited samurai guard with a blank face.
Yuzuru cleared his throat. ‘To put it simply, I don’t think the culprit would have needed to test the silent gun so many times if he obtained it from the foreigners. But if the one turning this into a silent gun was a Japanese gunsmith…’
Rin’s ink-black eyes flashed.