CHAPTER 10 : Part 2 – Shogun

CHAPTER 10 : Part 2 – Shogun

  “Do you want to rest now?”

  “No, Ingeles. Talking’s better. Talking helps to take the pain away. Madonna, my head hurts! I can’t think clearly. Let’s talk until you go ashore. Come back and see me—there’s lots I want to ask you. Give me some more grog. Thank you, thank you, Ingeles.”

  “Why’re you forbidden to go where you please?”

  “What? Oh, here in Japan? It was the Taikō—he started all the trouble. Ever since we first came here in 1542 to begin God’s work and to bring them civilization, we and our priests could move freely, but when the Taikō got all power he started the prohibitions. Many believe … could you shift my leg, take the blanket off my foot, it’s burning … yes—oh, Madonna, be careful—there, thank you, Ingeles. Yes, where was I? Oh yes … many believe the Taikō was Satan’s penis. Ten years ago he issued Edicts against the Holy Fathers, Ingeles, and all who wanted to spread the word of God. And he banished everyone, except traders, ten, twelve-odd years ago. It was before I came to these waters—I’ve been here seven years, off and on. The Holy Fathers say it was because of the heathen priests—the Buddhists—the stinking, jealous idol worshipers, these heathens, they turned the Taikō against our Holy Fathers, filled him with lies, when they’d almost converted him. Yes, the Great Murderer himself almost had his soul saved. But he missed his chance for salvation. Yes. Anyway, he ordered all of our priests to leave Japan…. Did I tell you this was ten-odd years ago?”

  Blackthorne nodded, glad to let him ramble and glad to listen, desperate to learn.

  “The Taikō had all the Fathers collected at Nagasaki, ready to ship them out to Macao with written orders never to return on pain of death. Then, as suddenly, he left them all alone and did no more. I told you Japmen are upside-downers. Yes, he left them alone and soon it was as before, except that most of the Fathers stayed in Kyushu where we’re welcome. Did I tell you Japan’s made up of three big islands, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu? And thousands of little ones. There’s another island far to the north—some say it’s the mainland—called Hokkaido, but only hairy natives live there.

  “Japan’s an upside-down world, Ingeles. Father Alvito told me it became again as though nothing had ever happened. The Taikō was as friendly as before, though he never converted. He hardly shut down a church and only banished two or three of the Christian daimyos—but that was just to get their lands—and never enforced his Expulsion Edicts. Then, three years ago, he went mad again and martyred twenty-six Fathers. He crucified them at Nagasaki. For no reason. He was a maniac, Ingeles. But after murdering the twenty-six he did nothing more. He died soon after. It was the Hand of God, Ingeles. The curse of God was on him and is on his seed. I’m sure of it.”

  “Do you have many converts here?”

  But Rodrigues did not seem to hear, lost in his own half-consciousness. “They’re animals, the Japaners. Did I tell you about Father Alvito? He’s the interpreter—Tsukku-san they call him, Mr. Interpreter. He was the Taikō’s interpreter, Ingeles, now he’s the official interpreter for the Council of Regents and he speaks Japanese better’n most Japanese and knows more about them than any man alive. He told me there’s a mound of earth fifty feet high in Miyako—that’s the capital, Ingeles. The Taikō had the noses and ears of all the Koreans killed in the war collected and buried there—Korea’s part of the mainland, west of Kyushu. It’s the truth! By the Blessed Virgin, there was never a killer like him—and they’re all as bad.” Rodrigues’ eyes were closed and his forehead flushed.

  “Do you have many converts?” Blackthorne carefully asked again, wanting desperately to know how many enemies were here.

  To his shock, Rodrigues said, “Hundreds of thousands, and more every year. Since the Taikō’s death we have more than ever before, and those who were secretly Christian now go to the church openly. Most of the island of Kyushu’s Catholic now. Most of the Kyushu daimyos are converts. Nagasaki’s a Catholic city, Jesuits own it and run it and control all trade. All trade goes through Nagasaki. We have a cathedral, a dozen churches, and dozens more spread through Kyushu, but only a few yet here in the main island, Honshu, and …” Pain stopped him again. After a moment he continued, “There are three or four million people in Kyushu alone—they’ll all be Catholic soon. There’s another twenty-odd million Japmen in the islands and soon—”

  “That’s not possible!” Blackthorne immediately cursed himself for interrupting the flow of information.

  “Why should I lie? There was a census ten years ago. Father Alvito said the Taikō ordered it and he should know, he was there. Why should he lie?” Rodrigues’ eyes were feverish and now his mouth was running away with him. “That’s more than the population of all Portugal, all Spain, all France, the Spanish Netherlands, and England added together and you could almost throw in the whole Holy Roman Empire as well to equal it!”

  Lord Jesus, Blackthorne thought, the whole of England hasn’t got more than three million people. And that includes Wales as well.

  If there are that many Japanese, how can we deal with them? If there’s twenty million, that’d mean they could easily press an army of more men than we’ve got in our entire population if they wanted. And if they’re all as ferocious as the ones I’ve seen—and why shouldn’t they be—by God’s wounds, they’d be unbeatable. And if they’re already partially Catholic, and if the Jesuits are here in strength, their numbers will increase, and there’s no fanatic like a converted fanatic, so what chance have we and the Dutch got in Asia?

  None at all.

  “If you think that’s a lot,” Rodrigues was saying, “wait till you go to China. They’re all yellow men there, all with black hair and eyes. Oh, Ingeles, I tell you you’ve so much new to learn. I was in Canton last year, at the silk sales. Canton’s a walled city in south China, on the Pearl River, north of our City of the Name of God at Macao. There’s a million of the heathen dog-eaters within those walls alone. China’s got more people than all the rest of the world put together. Must have. Think of that!” A spasm of pain went through Rodrigues and his good hand held onto his stomach. “Was there any blood seeping out of me? Anywhere?”

  “No. I made sure. It’s just your leg and shoulder. You’re not hurt inside, Rodrigues—at least, I don’t think so.”

  “How bad is the leg?”

  “It was washed by the sea and cleaned by the sea. The break was clean and the skin’s clean, at the moment.”

  “Did you pour brandy over it and fire it?”

  “No. They wouldn’t let me—they ordered me off. But the doctor seemed to know what he’s doing. Will your own people come aboard quickly?”

  “Yes. Soon as we dock. That’s more than likely.” “Good. You were saying? About China and Canton?” “I was saying too much, perhaps. Time enough to talk about them.”

  Blackthorne watched the Portuguese’s good hand toy with the sealed package and he wondered again what significance it had. “Your leg will be all right. You’ll know within the week.”

  “Yes, Ingeles.”

  “I don’t think it’ll rot—there’s no pus—you’re thinking clearly so your brain’s all right. You’ll be fine, Rodrigues.”

  “I still owe you a life.” A shiver ran through the Portuguese. “When I was drowning, all I could think of was the crabs climbing in through my eyes. I could feel them churning inside me, Ingeles. That’s the third time I’ve been overboard and each time it’s worse.”

  “I’ve been sunk at sea four times. Three times by Spaniards.”

  The cabin door opened and the captain bowed and beckoned Blackthorne aloft.

  “Hai!” Blackthorne got up. “You owe me nothing, Rodrigues,” he said kindly. “You gave me life and succor when I was desperate, and I thank you for that. We’re even.”

  “Perhaps, but listen, Ingeles, here’s some truth for you, in part payment: Never forget Japmen’re six-faced and have three hearts. It’s a saying they have, that a man has a false heart in his mouth for all the world to see, another in hi
s breast to show his very special friends and his family, and the real one, the true one, the secret one, which is never known to anyone except himself alone, hidden only God knows where. They’re treacherous beyond belief, vice-ridden beyond redemption.”

  “Why does Toranaga want to see me?”

  “I don’t know. By the Blessed Virgin! I don’t know. Come back to see me, if you can.”

  “Yes. Good luck, Spaniard!”

  “Thy sperm! Even so, go with God.”

  Blackthorne smiled back, unguarded, and then he was on deck and his mind whirled from the impact of Osaka, its immensity, the teaming anthills of people, and the enormous castle that dominated the city. From within the castle’s vastness came the soaring beauty of the donjon—the central keep—seven or eight stories high, pointed gables with curved roofs at each level, the tiles all gilded and the walls blue.

  That’s where Toranaga will be, he thought, an ice barb suddenly in his bowels.

  A closed palanquin took him to a large house. There he was bathed and he ate, inevitably, fish soup, raw and steamed fish, a few pickled vegetables, and the hot herbed water. Instead of wheat gruel, this house provided him with a bowl of rice. He had seen rice once in Naples. It was white and wholesome, but to him tasteless. His stomach cried for meat and bread, new-baked crusty bread heavy with butter, and a haunch of beef and pies and chickens and beer and eggs.

  The next day a maid came for him. The clothes that Rodrigues had given him were laundered. She watched while he dressed, and helped him into new tabi sock-shoes. Outside was a new pair of thongs. His boots were missing. She shook her head and pointed at the thongs and then at the curtained palanquin. A phalanx of samurai surrounded it. The leader motioned him to hurry up and get in.

  They moved off immediately. The curtains were tight closed. After an age, the palanquin stopped.

  “You will not be afraid,” he said aloud, and got out.

  The gigantic stone gate of the castle was in front of him. It was set into a thirty-foot wall with interlocking battlements, bastions, and outworks. The door was huge and iron plated and open, the forged iron portcullis up. Beyond was a wooden bridge, twenty paces wide and two hundred long, that spanned the moat and ended at an enormous drawbridge, and another gate that was set into the second wall, equally vast.

  Hundreds of samurai were everywhere. All wore the same somber gray uniform—belted kimonos, each with five small circular insignias, one on each arm, on each breast, and one in the center of the back. The insignia was blue, seemingly a flower or flowers.


  Hiro-matsu was seated stiffly on an open palanquin carried by four liveried bearers. His kimono was brown and stark, his belt black, the same as the fifty samurai that surrounded him. Their kimonos, too, had five insignias, but these were scarlet, the same that had fluttered at the masthead, Toranaga’s cipher. These samurai carried long gleaming spears with tiny flags at their heads.

  Blackthorne bowed without thinking, taken by Hiro-matsu’s majesty. The old man bowed back formally, his long sword loose in his lap, and signed for him to follow.

  The officer at the gate came forward. There was a ceremonial reading of the paper that Hiro-matsu offered and many bows and looks toward Blackthorne and then they were passed on to the bridge, an escort of the Grays falling in beside them.

  The surface of the deep moat was fifty feet below and stretched about three hundred paces on either side, then followed the walls as they turned north and Blackthorne thought, Lord God, I’d hate to have to try to mount an attack here. The defenders could let the outer-wall garrison perish and burn the bridge, then they’re safe inside. Jesus God, the outer wall must be nearly a mile square and look, it must be twenty, thirty feet thick—the inner one, too. And it’s made out of huge blocks of stone. Each one must be ten feet by ten feet! At least! And cut perfectly and set into place without mortar. They must weigh fifty tons at least. Better than any we could make. Siege guns? Certainly they could batter the outer walls, but the guns defending would give as good as they got. It’d be hard to get them up here, and there’s no higher point from which to lob fireballs into the castle. If the outer wall was taken, the defenders could still blast the attackers off the battlements. But even if siege guns could be mounted there and they were turned on the next wall and battered it, they wouldn’t hurt it. They could damage the far gate, but what would that accomplish? How could the moat be crossed? It’s too vast for the normal methods. The castle must be impregnable—with enough soldiers. How many soldiers are here? How many townspeople would have sanctuary inside?

  It makes the Tower of London like a pigsty. And the whole of Hampton Court would fit into one corner!

  At the next gate there was another ceremonial checking of papers and the road turned left immediately, down a vast avenue lined with heavily fortified houses behind easily defended greater walls and lesser walls, then doubled on itself into a labyrinth of steps and roads. Then there was another gate and more checking, another portcullis and another vast moat and new twistings and turnings until Blackthorne, who was an acute observer with an extraordinary memory and sense of direction, was lost in the deliberate maze. And all the time numberless Grays stared down at them from escarpments and ramparts and battlements and parapets and bastions. And there were more on foot, guarding, marching, training or tending horses in open stables. Soldiers everywhere, by the thousand. All well armed and meticulously clothed.

  He cursed himself for not being clever enough to get more out of Rodrigues. Apart from the information about the Taikō and the converts, which was staggering enough, Rodrigues had been as close-mouthed as a man should be—as you were, avoiding his questions.

  Concentrate. Look for clues. What’s special about this castle? It’s the biggest. No, something’s different. What?

  Are the Grays hostile to the Browns? I can’t tell, they’re all so serious.

  Blackthorne watched them carefully and focused on details. To the left was a carefully tended, multicolored garden, with little bridges and a tiny stream. The walls were now spaced closer together, the roads narrower. They were nearing the donjon. There were no towns people inside but hundreds of servants and—There are no cannon! That’s what’s different!

  You haven’t seen any cannon. Not one.

  Lord God in Heaven, no cannon—therefore no siege guns!

  If you had modern weapons and the defenders none, could you blow the walls down, the doors down, rain fireballs on the castle, set it afire and take it?

  You couldn’t get across the first moat.

  With siege guns you could make it difficult for the defenders but they could hold out forever—if the garrison was determined, if there were enough of them, with enough food, water, and ammunition.

  How to cross the moats? By boat? Rafts with towers?

  His mind was trying to devise a plan when the palanquin stopped. Hiro-matsu got down. They were in a narrow cul-de-sac. A huge iron-fortified timber gate was let into the twenty-foot wall which melted into the outworks of the fortified strongpoint above, still distant from the donjon, which from here was mostly obscured. Unlike all other gateways this was guarded by Browns, the only ones Blackthorne had seen within the castle. It was clear that they were more than a little pleased to see Hiro-matsu.

  The Grays turned and left. Blackthorne noted the hostile looks they had received from the Browns.

  So they’re enemies!

  The gate swung open and he followed the old man inside. Alone. The other samurai stayed outside.

  The inner courtyard was guarded by more Browns and so was the garden beyond. They crossed the garden and entered the fort. Hiro-matsu kicked off his thongs and Blackthorne did likewise.

  The corridor inside was richly carpeted with tatamis, the same rush mats, clean and kind to the feet, that were set into the floors of all but the poorest houses. Blackthorne had noticed before that they were all the same size, about six feet by three feet. Come to think of it, he told hi
mself, I’ve never seen any mats shaped or cut to size. And there’s never been an odd-shaped room! Haven’t all the rooms been exactly square or rectangular? Of course! That means that all houses—or rooms—must be constructed to fit an exact number of mats. So they’re all standard! How very odd!

  They climbed winding, defendable stairs, and went along additional corridors and more stairs. There were many guards, always Browns. Shafts of sunlight from the wall embrasures cast intricate patterns. Blackthorne could see that now they were high over the three encircling main walls. The city and the harbor were a patterned quilt below.

  The corridor turned a sharp corner and ended fifty paces away.

  Blackthorne tasted bile in his mouth. Don’t worry, he told himself, you’ve decided what to do. You’re committed.

  Massed samurai, their young officer in front of them, protected the last door—each with right hand on the sword hilt, left on the scabbard, motionless and ready, staring toward the two men who approached.

  Hiro-matsu was reassured by their readiness. He had personally selected these guards. He hated the castle and thought again how dangerous it had been for Toranaga to put himself into the enemy’s power. Directly he had landed yesterday he had rushed to Toranaga, to tell him what had happened and to find out if anything untoward had occurred in his absence. But all was still quiet though their spies whispered about dangerous enemy buildups to the north and east, and that their main allies, the Regents, Onoshi and Kiyama, the greatest of the Christian daimyos, were going to defect to Ishido. He had changed the guard and the passwords and had again begged Toranaga to leave, to no avail.

  Ten paces from the officer he stopped.

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