The last time Imino had done her rounds around the village she come across a rather strange thing. A self-proclaimed tea merchant yet from the countless times she visited her across a few days, he appeared to never once brew a good cup of tea. Some were lukewarm, some too hot on other days they would be dirty with pieces of leaves sunk at the bottom. Not too mention his fingers were perfectly fine. His body had a stronger scent of dried sweat than fermented leaves and his leathery skin suggesting many things but not what he claimed to be.
Naturally, Shizuka had reported this first to her clan. A household of secrets and whispers. Upon hearing such disturbing news the Clan's executioner would be on the case. To find out more. They would not report it to the village quite yet. After all, the man could simply be a former of something else, recently converted into a tea merchant. If Shizuka found more then they'd report it to the village.
In various different disguises, Shizuka approached the man. At times from afar or even letting him pass by on some of her routes. He was never one for much talking, hastily serving his tea, and moving on. His attention was always elsewhere and his mightly average tea always found him with very little customers. Yet, he never seemed to mind. A man of seemingly impoverished wealth yet he made very little effort.
One night Shizuka had followed him home. A small upstairs apartment shared by 3 other men. He'd park his little cart downstairs and join his roommates for the night. They did nothing special, drink a few, come outside, and smoke once in a while and they'd always go to bed early. Yet she couldn't shake the feeling something was amiss. The following days Shizuka would seek the help of her fellow clansmen. They'd each follow the roommates and observe them. For they all looked like the first man, tanned beyond the normal person, hands calloused on the palm.
The next day it would come to light these other men, they also had jobs that didn’t quite fit their job description. There was a shoe shiner who had no idea what he was doing. He rubbed polish in the inside, tangled up the laces, and even broke a shoe. There was another peddler who sold fruit, unripe, and some not fit for eating. The question of who even sells fruit in a moving cart arises. Then there was another man who was a so-called street performer but all he did was break twigs on the side of a street.
Shizuka had planned to spy on them one by one, get her own take on it. Imagine her surprise when she could see all four of these poor businessman in one frame of her vision. The tea merchant was selling his usual slob, the fruit vendor left his goods in the sun, the shoe shiner was trying to figure out what a certain oil was and the last man was simply eating the unripe fruit. They occasionally moved around but never too far.
All this smelled like a stakeout. Thieves and bandits observing their mark. It was a what Shizuka would have done, albeit much better than these amateurs. They’d have to see routines, how the goods moved in and out, exits, security, and anything else that would help them get the job done smoothly. Yet what Shizuka couldn’t see was the target. These merchants were day by day, living off daily profits. The banks were a whole district away. So what money was there to rob to warrant a week-long stakeout?
Shizuka and her team would observe further. Across a few days, they started keeping journals of their own. One would make up a list of potential targets within the area and together they’d see if this is what the bandits were doing. However, with the limited information, they had no store or vendor that was worth all this effort. It was only on the 8th day did the answer finally reveal itself. A rather large caravan was seen entering the markets. Slowly they stopped by each shop and collecting money. So that’s what their target was. It wasn’t just one store they were trying to rob it was all of them. It wasn’t a building they were scoping out it was the roads themselves.
They studied the flow of people and carts how tight spaces were and if certain places could be used to make a quick exit. They intended to rob the armored caravan that collected money for the merchants. Now, this was something they could definitely report to the village. Shizuka would compile a report, one she could submit to the village, and await further instructions. If what they suspected was true, the bandits were going to rob the entire market district which lands a huge blow to both the welfare of the people as well as the village operations.