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As we approached the outskirts of the city, the smell of the human inhabitants hit my nose like a hammer. I leaned over to Mir’Itus. “You smell the human smell, yes? What are they eating, do you think?” He frowned at me. I twitched my whiskers. “What? We speak in Nezumi.” He shook his head. “That doesn’t matter. We are outsiders here and you would do to remember that.” I sighed. “Yes, Granny.” I said in English. Neiki smiled at my comment but made no move to speak.
As we reached to top of the hill we could see the city walls. Guards walked the battlements. Past the walls the city spread out. Smoke hung low and the smell was stronger. The wind blew in our faces. “Oh, tis’ ma’lal! That smell!” Nya rode near me. “Did you say something, Mistress Rat?”
“Oh I talk-talk on the view. Yes, how it speak in English? The vista. It is fine-fine.” I bowed slightly.
“You need to watch your tongue, young one!” I rolled my eyes at Mir’ Itus. “Yes-yes. I hear your words, honored one.” And I did. He always watches out for me, Mir’ Itus. Gami-Gami watched all of this without comment.
As we got closer to the gates, a guard came out and inspected the papers that Nya offered. He looked at the papers closely and then looked at each of us. In a low voice he said to Tatsuoh, “We have a Nezumi population here. They are fine candle makers and, of course, garbage collectors. But they keep to themselves. These among you, they don’t have to stay in Nezumi-town, but you must vouch for them.”
I sighed to myself as the guard approached us. He bowed. “Nezumi! And Hengeyokai, of course (he mumbled), please listen to our laws! You will defer to a human in the streets! You will speak when you are spoken to! You will keep your eyes down. You will not be on the streets unescorted after dark.” We all bowed low and remained silent. He obviously felt he had done his duty and we were allowed to enter Shiro Kuni.
The Princess was discussing the plans with Tatsuoh. “I think we have to sell the wagon. Even I have heard of the narrow cavern passes.” Suddenly, as always, Grandpa was in my head. “Please tell my granddaughter that the horse monger on the Street of Green Leaf will offer a good trade. He was once known to me and his children will treat my children with honor.” I sighed, but spurred G’ dah’la forward. “My Princess. Te’ Ka’ Mok would speak.” I could see her suppress a smile. She nodded gravely. “Honored Grandpa, he say to me: Go to Green Leaf Lane, yes? Horse man there give good trading. Grandpa horse man knowing you grandpa and you get good-good deal.”
“Well. Thank you, Te’ Ka.” She turned to Tatsuoh. “Do you know where the Street of Green Leaf is? We should seek out this horse man.” Tatsuoh started to speak and then just nodded.
I rode back to Mir’ Itus and Gami-Gami. She was wide eyed, looking around the city. “You new to city life, yes?” Gami-omi nodded at me. I looked at Mir’ Itus. “What name of inn for us to stay? Tell Gami-Gami and she go explore city.” I got out a few coins.
“But I must protect you, Mistress Rat.” I shook my head. “You must live a little. Go. Shoo-shoo. But be at inn before nightfall! Remember guard’s words, yes?” She nodded but her eyes were already on the marketplace.
The Princess first stopped at the magistrate to report o the troubles in Midaki. We stayed outside, to keep the transaction simple. No Nezumi to discuss and fret over. It seemed to take forever but finally the Princess and Neiki came out and we headed to the marketplace. Mir’ Itus and I stopped at the edge of the market. It was busy with humans. They looked like ants swarming over. He looked at me and I looked at him. “We going to Nezumi-town, yes?”
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