Translated by Shiba Gunichi
Yoritomo Hiromi swung down off the rigging, landing softly on the deck of the ship. He hardly paused before he was across to the gangway and down to the dock. A few more steps and he shrugged aside a dockworker and relieved him of one of the hawsers that was not secured to Hiromi’s satisfaction. With a deft twist of his body, the hawser sunk deeply around the cleat on the dock. Hiromi straightened and stared at the shocked expression on the face of the dockworker.
“What is your name?” Hiromi spat out his query.
Bowing, the dockworker said, “Uh… Iwao… uh, my lord.”
Hiromi sneered at him. “Who is your supervisor?”
Another man, witnessing the disagreement from a distance ran over immediately and reached the two. He bowed deeply and said, “My apologies, Yoritomo-sama. My name is Junichi and I am at your service.”
“You are the supervisor here?”
Hiromi pointed to the dockworker. “This man is not to handle lines or ships until he can prove at least a basic level of competence. His work also reflects very badly on you, Junichi. I will have to consider whether your position is deserved as well.”
Junichi bowed again, almost doubling over completely across the wide sash at his waist. “As you will, Yoritomo-sama.”
Hiromi glanced up at the ship where Naoto looked down from the gunwale. Did Hiromi detect a look of disapproval on the face of the captain? Such would be unacceptable. Naoto would need to prove more cautious or the ship would require a new captain. Hiromi would not have anyone question his orders. That was a level of disrespect that he could not forgive.
“Lord Hiromi-sama, welcome home.”
Waiting at the end of the dock were Hiromi’s honor guard, made up of members of the Storm Legion. Standing at their head was Yoritomo Harumi, clad in simple, yet well crafted, shugenja robes.
“Sister.” Hiromi acknowledged her with a simple nod.
“How was your trip?”
“Informative. It seems that the reports of ships using out lanes were well-founded. We need to remind some who rules the seas of Rokugan.”
Harumi frowned slightly, but her brother took no notice. “Were they clan ships or just merchants?”
“Does it matter? Our dominion is not limited to merchants. If any of the clans feel they can flout our restrictions, they are welcome to try.”
Harumi’s frown deepened, but she knew better than to press the issue.
Hiromi glanced around. “Where is Tomio?”
“I knew he had many duties before him so I said that I would meet you and present his reports on his behalf. I had wanted to visit the docks anyway and…” Harumi trailed off when she saw the anger passing across her brother’s face. “If I was wrong, I apologize, Hiromi-sama.”
“You were wrong. I left instructions with Tomio that he was to meet me here. As long as he held his post he was always to meet me when I returned from sea.”
Harumi bowed. “I only thought…”
Hiromi interrupted. “I will not have you countermanding my orders. You refused my position. You do not then get to act as if you are Champion.”
Harumi looked aghast. “I had no intention, Hiromi-sama. The Championship is yours and no one knows that better than I.”
Hiromi’s face softened to mere annoyance. “There are those within the clan who see you as the rightful Champion, due to a mid-wife’s blunder that had you born minutes ahead of me. Every time you act with authority you give those voices credence, forcing me to act in ways that are distasteful to both of us. I will now need to relieve Tomio of his duties in order to remind people that my word is not to be questioned. Do you understand, Harumi? Division among the Mantis can never be allowed again.”
Harumi cast her eyes downward, whether in disgrace or to avoid showing her expression to her brother and Champion was unclear. “My apologies again, Hiromi-sama.”
“So, what was his report?”
“There have been problems with the Crane contingent on the mainland. Tomio’s sources have indicated that they are making headway with some of our strongest trading partners.”
“And? How does he suggest we deal with it?”
“He thought it better that he deal with it, without going into specifics.”
Hiromi scoffed. “If I did not already have a reason to remove him…”
“I think it was because he was going to use tactics that may be distasteful.”
“To me? He does not know me very well. What is he going to do? Extortion? Blackmail? Piracy? Does he think these things bother me? First the Mantis and then the Empire will know that the ends justify the means and anything that cements the Mantis as the economic powerhouse of Rokugan is good leadership. It is a new age.”