CHAPTER 13 : Part 1 – Shogun

CHAPTER 13 : Part 1 – Shogun

That night Toranaga could not sleep. This was rare for him because normally he could defer the most pressing problem until the next day, knowing that if he was alive the next day he would solve it to the best of his ability. He had long since discovered that peaceful sleep could provide the answer to most puzzles, and if not, what did it really matter? Wasn’t life just a dewdrop within a dewdrop?

  But tonight, there were too many perplexing questions to ponder.

  What will I do about Ishido?

  Why has Onoshi defected to the enemy?

  How will I deal with the Council?

  Have the Christian priests meddled again?

  Where will the next assassination attempt come from?

  When should Yabu be dealt with?

  And what must I do about the barbarian?

  Was he telling the truth?

  Curious how the barbarian came out of the eastern seas just at this time. Is that an omen? Is it his karma to be the spark that will light the powder keg?

  Karma was an Indian word adopted by Japanese, part of Buddhist philosophy that referred to a person’s fate in this life, his fate immutably fixed because of deeds done in a previous life, good deeds giving a better position in this life’s strata, bad deeds the reverse. Just as the deeds of this life would completely affect the next rebirth. A person was ever being reborn into this world of tears until, after enduring and suffering and learning through many lifetimes, he became perfect at long last, going to nirvana, the Place of Perfect Peace, never having to suffer rebirth again.

  Strange that Buddha or some other god or perhaps just karma brought the Anjin-san to Yabu’s fief. Strange that he landed at the exact village where Mura, the secret head of the Izu spy system, had been settled so many years ago under the very nose of the Taikō and Yabu’s pox-diseased father. Strange that Tsukku-san was here in Osaka to interpret and not in Nagasaki where he’d normally be. That also the chief priest of the Christians is here in Osaka, and also the Captain-General of the Portuguese. Strange that the pilot, Rodrigues, was also available to take Hiro-matsu to Anjiro in time to capture the barbarian alive and take possession of the guns. Then there’s Kasigi Omi, son of the man who will give me Yabu’s head if I but crook my little finger.

  How beautiful life is and how sad! How fleeting, with no past and no future, only a limitless now.

  Toranaga sighed. One thing is certain: the barbarian will never leave. Neither alive nor dead. He is part of the realm forever.

  His ears heard almost imperceptible approaching footsteps and his sword was ready. Each night he changed his sleeping room, his guards, and the password haphazardly, against the assassins that were always waiting. The footsteps stopped outside the shoji. Then he heard Hiro-matsu’s voice and the beginning of the password: “‘If the Truth is already clear, what is the use of meditation?’”

  “‘And if the Truth is hidden?’” Toranaga said.

  “‘It’s already clear,’” Hiro-matsu answered correctly. The quotation was from the ancient Tantaric Buddhist teacher, Saraha.

  “Come in.”

  Only when Toranaga saw that it was, in truth, his counselor, did his sword relax. “Sit down.”

  “I heard you weren’t sleeping. I thought you might need something.”

  “No. Thank you.” Toranaga observed the deepened lines around the old man’s eyes. “I’m glad you’re here, old friend,” he said.

  “You’re sure you’re all right?”

  “Oh, yes.”

  “Then I’ll leave you. Sorry to disturb you, Lord.”

  “No, please, come in, I’m glad you’re here. Sit down.”

  The old man sat down beside the door, his back straight. “I’ve doubled the guards.”


  After a while Hiro-matsu said, “About that madman, everything was done as you ordered. Everything.”

  “Thank you.”

  “His wife—as soon as she heard the sentence, my granddaughter asked my permission to kill herself, to accompany her husband and her son into the Great Void. I refused and ordered her to wait, pending your approval.” Hiro-matsu was bleeding inside. How terrible life is!

  “You did correctly.”

  “I formally ask permission to end my life. What he did put you in mortal danger, but it was my fault. I should have detected his flaw. I failed you.”

  “You may not commit seppuku.”

  “Please. I formally ask permission.”

  “No. You’re needed alive.”

  “I will obey you. But please accept my apologies.”

  “Your apologies are accepted.”

  After a time, Toranaga said, “What about the barbarian?”

  “Many things, Sire. One: If you hadn’t been waiting for the barbarian today you would have been hawking since first light, and Ishido would never have enmeshed you in such a disgusting meeting. You have no choice now but to declare war on him—if you can get out of this castle and back to Yedo.”


  “And third and forty-third and a hundred and forty-third? I’m nowhere near as clever as you, Lord Toranaga, but even I could see that everything we’ve been led to believe by the Southern Barbarians is not true.” Hiro-matsu was glad to talk. It helped ease the hurt. “But if there are two Christian religions which hate each other, and if the Portuguese are part of the bigger Spanish nation and if this new barbarian’s country—whatever it was called—wars on both and beats them, and if this same country’s an island nation like ours, and the great ‘if’ of all, if he’s telling the truth and if the priest’s saying accurately what the barbarian was saying…. Well, you can put all these ‘ifs’ together and make sense out of them, and a plan. I can’t, so sorry. I only know what I saw at Anjiro, and aboard the ship. That the Anjin-san is very strong in his head—weak in his body presently, though that would be because of the long voyage—and dominating at sea. I don’t understand anything about him. How could he be all of these things yet allow a man to piss on his back? Why did he save Yabu’s life after what the man did to him, and also the life of his self-admitted enemy, the Portuguese Rodrigu? My head spins from so many questions as though I’m sodden with saké.” Hiro-matsu paused. He was very weary. “But I think we should keep him on land and all like him, if others follow, and kill them all very quickly.”

  “What about Yabu?”

  “Order him to commit seppuku tonight.”


  “He’s got no manners. You foretold what he’d do when I arrived at Anjiro. He was going to steal your property. And he’s a liar. Don’t bother to see him tomorrow as you’ve arranged. Instead, let me take him your order now. You’ll have to kill him sooner or later. Better now when he’s accessible, with none of his own vassals surrounding him. I advise no delay.”

  There was a soft knock on the inner door. “Tora-chan?”

  Toranaga smiled as he always did at that very special voice, with that special diminutive. “Yes, Kiri-san?”

  “I’ve taken the liberty, Lord, of bringing cha for you and your guest. May I please come in?”


  Both men returned her bow. Kiri closed the door and busied herself with the pouring. She was fifty-three and substantial, Matron of Toranaga’s ladies-in-waiting, Kiritsubo-noh-Toshiko, nicknamed Kiri, the oldest of the ladies of his court. Her hair was gray-flecked, her waist thick, but her face sparkled with an eternal joy. “You shouldn’t be awake, no, not at this time of night, Tora-chan! It will be dawn soon and I suppose then you’ll be out in the hills with your hawks, neh? You need sleep!”

  “Yes, Kiri-chan!” Toranaga patted her vast rump affectionately.

  “Please don’t Kiri-chan me!” Kiri laughed. “I’m an old woman and I need lots of respect. Your other ladies give me enough trouble as it is. Kiritsubo-Toshiko-san, if you please, my Lord Yoshi Tora-naga-noh-Chikitada!”

  “There, you see, Hiro-matsu. After twenty years she still tries to dominate me.”

  “So sorry, it’s more than thirty years, Tora-sama,” she said proudly. “And you were as manageable then as you are now!”

  When Toranaga was in his twenties he had been a hostage, too, then of the despotic Ikawa Tadazaki, Lord of Suruga and Totomi, father of the present Ikawa Jikkyu, who was Yabu’s enemy. The samurai responsible for Toranaga’s good conduct had just taken Kiritsubo as his second wife. She was seventeen then. Together this samurai and Kiri, his wife, had treated Toranaga honorably, given him wise counsel, and then, when Toranaga had rebelled against Tadazuki and joined Goroda, had followed him with many warriors and had fought bravely at his side. Later, in the fighting for the capital, Kiri’s husband had been killed. Toranaga had asked her if she would become one of his consorts and she had accepted gladly. In those days she was not fat. But she was equally protective and equally wise. That was her nineteenth year, his twenty-fourth, and she had been a focus of his household ever since. Kiri was very shrewd and very capable. For years now, she had run his household and kept it free of trouble.

  As free of trouble as any household with women could ever be, Toranaga thought.

  “You’re getting fat,” he said, not minding that she was fat.

  “Lord Toranaga! In front of Lord Toda! Oh, so sorry, I shall have to commit seppuku—or at least, I’ll have to shave my head and become a nun, and I thought I was so young and slender!” She burst out laughing. “Actually I agree I have a fat rump but what can I do? I just like to eat and that’s Buddha’s problem and my karma, neh?” She offered the cha. “There. Now I’ll be off. Would you like me to send the Lady Sazuko?”

  “No, my thoughtful Kiri-san, no, thank you. We’ll talk for a little, then I’ll sleep.”

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