April 12, 988
The group split up to pursue their own interests and investigations before the show. Masaru, who had not been involved in a fair amount of the investigation so far, where it related to the Unicorn commander decided this would be a good time to do so. He didn’t have a clear objective, but he felt it was at least important to try to pin down the correct Unicorn. It was reasonable to suspect Utaku, but that didn’t make it so. Even Numu might not be as completely wretched as he seemed, though that seemed unlikely.
Rather than trying to examine this through military channels, which was more likely to tip him off than provide information, and might further injure the Orange and Black as a whole, Masaru opted for a much more ill advised strategy. He would try a diplomatic approach in the Great clans district. The Unicorn had one of the first full built and operational estates. It seems rather fitting, really, that the clan that most thoroughly understood and appreciated the Gaijin would be something of the ambassadors to the city that would incorporate Gaijin into its very design.
The Flash Cabs, as he liked to call them, even if the name didn’t catch on, made excellent time. The roads were unusually barren, especially for the time of day. It led an ominous air to the day, and events to come. The Unicorn estates were unusual. In truth they reminded Masaru very much of the tenement where those children lived. It had the strong beams and overhangs of a proper Ryokugony building, but it was like the walls were made of mud rather than stacked rocks, or sheets of wood. Rather than tapering into a second floor the building went straight up three flights. It was stark, and somewhat frightening, but fascinating as well.
The guards wore strange outfits, one of them even had what appeared like a misshapen serving dish strapped to his chest. They stopped him, as was right and proper, but were then strangely conciliatory when he told them he had a delicate matter to discuss regarding Unicorn activities in the city. They sent his through and indicated he might find assistance in the back paddock.
As Masaru worked his way through the estate he couldn’t help but be awed and simultaneously disturbed. The architecture was remarkable, but everything, from the buildings to the gardens to the people themselves were a bizarre mishmash of cultural designs. He didn’t want to think ill of them, it wasn’t his way, but it really was amazing they were allowed back into Ryokugon, they were so alien.
Beyond the main building, in the area the guards had called the back paddock, there was a large fenced in space. Most of the ground was torn up and trampled. On the far end appeared to be a storehouse. In front of the storehouse was a man being mauled by twenty of the largest dogs Masaru had ever seen. Masaru knew he wasn’t a large man, but he suspected that if her were only a slight bit smaller he could ride one of these beast like a horse.
Without even considering otherwise, he jumped the fence, his hand gripping his katana as his feet touched the ground and started running full out at the carnage he saw before him. It was too late for the man, but perhaps he could scare the dogs away before there was nothing left of the corpse to morn. Just as he reached the outer edge of his reach, and was an inch from drawing his sword he head a voice.
“Drice, es ur esle”
The voice had come from within the pack and suddenly a large man, with a face so shaggy he could have been one of the beasts himself, rose up from the middle of the animals and immediately they bounded backwards lining up before him in two rows. Masaru was so shocked he just stood there, almost gauping, with his hand still gripping his sword tight. The man quickly noticed him standing there, glaced at the sword then back at his face and glared.
“Ey? Wat ye stannin ther wit ye surd ready ti fight? If ye com ti fight ye ain gon git ver far wonce me buys jounce affer ye.”
Masaru blinked, slowly and deliberately. His mouth opened, then closed and he blinked again. “They… were killing you… I thought…”
“Killin me? Wat? Naw, dey wer jes too heppy ti see me. Ah wern’t eble ti treat dem prupper in thi murn lik ah shud. Dey git ressless an sighted wen der naw trennin.”
Masaru again blinked slowly, his brows curing in a scowl before opening again. The man seemed to be Ryokugony, but it might as well have been another language. Then he remembered a minor bit of history he had read while trying to familiarize himself with Heralds. Unicorns bred the smartest and most savage hunting dogs in all the clans. The Kennel Masters of the clan were revered for their prowess in training and control of their animals, but were to a man noted for their off putting manner and speech. There was a good chance this man was one of the highest ranking men in the estate.
Masaru finally removed his hand from his sword and suddenly a din he hadn’t even noticed died as twenty pairs of dog ears swiveled away from him and toward the Kennel Master, twenty upper lips uncurled, and twenty menacing growled died in twenty throats. Masaru bowed deeply to the man. “Forgive me. I did not mean offence. I thought you were in trouble and I rushed to assist. It was my mistake. I was told to come here by the guards, I was seeking someone with whom I could discuss some possibly grave news regarding the Unicorn.”
The man’s shaggy face lit up and he nearly bellowed a laugh, “Es alrit, ah see yer a kit wa courage an spunk. Ah lik et. Asit abot grav nus? Commer,” he said waving over then turned to the dogs. “De sheer eef dist.” Immediately the animals turned and started running along the perimeter, just inches from the fence, as the Kennel Master walked toward the storage building, Masaru in toe.