CHAPTER 13 : Part 2 – Shogun

CHAPTER 13 : Part 2 – Shogun

 “Good night, Tora-sama. Sweet dreamlessness.” She bowed to him and to Hiro-matsu and then she was gone.

  They sipped their tea appreciatively.

  Toranaga said, “I’m always sorry we never had a son, Kiri-san and I. Once she conceived but she miscarried. That was when we were at the battle of Nagakudé.”

  “Ah, that one.”


  This was just after the Dictator Goroda had been assassinated when General Nakamura—the Taikō-to-be—was trying to consolidate all power into his own hands. At that time the issue was in doubt, as Toranaga supported one of Goroda’s sons, the legal heir. Nakamura came against Toranaga near the little village of Nagakudé and his force was mauled and routed and he lost that battle. Toranaga retreated cleverly, pursued by a new army, now commanded for Nakamura by Hiro-matsu. But Toranaga avoided the trap and escaped to his home provinces, his whole army intact, ready to battle again. Fifty thousand men died at Nagakudé, very few of them Toranaga’s. In his wisdom, the Taikō-to-be called off the civil war against Toranaga, though he would have won. Nagakudé was the only battle the Taikō had ever lost and Toranaga the only general who had ever beaten him.

  “I’m glad we never joined battle, Sire,” Hiro-matsu said.


  “You would have won.”

  “No. The Taikō was the greatest general and the wisest, cleverest man that has ever been.”

  Hiro-matsu smiled. “Yes. Except you.”

  “No. You’re wrong. That’s why I became his vassal.”

  “I’m sorry he’s dead.”


  “And Goroda—he was a fine man, neh? So many good men dead.” Hiro-matsu unconsciously turned and twisted the battered scabbard. “You’ll have to move against Ishido. That will force every daimyo to choose sides, once and for all. We’ll win the war eventually. Then you can disband the Council and become Shōgun.”

  “I don’t seek that honor,” Toranaga said sharply. “How many times do I have to say it?”

  “Your pardon, Sire. I know. But I feel it would be best for Japan.”

  “That’s treason.”

  “Against whom, Lord? Against the Taikō? He’s dead. Against his last will and testament? That’s a piece of paper. Against the boy Yaemon? Yaemon’s the son of a peasant who usurped the power and heritage of a general whose heirs he stamped out. We were Goroda’s allies, then the Taikō’s vassals. Yes. But they’re both very dead.”

  “Would you advise that if you were one of the Regents?”

  “No. But then I’m not one of the Regents, and I’m very glad. I’m your vassal only. I chose sides a year ago. I did this freely.”

  “Why?” Toranaga had never asked him before.

  “Because you’re a man, because you’re Minowara and because you’ll do the wise thing. What you said to Ishido was right: we’re not a people to be ruled by committee. We need a leader. Whom should I have chosen to serve of the five Regents? Lord Onoshi? Yes, he’s a very wise man, and a good general. But he’s Christian and a cripple and his flesh is so rotten with leprosy that he stinks from fifty paces. Lord Sugiyama? He’s the richest daimyo in the land, his family’s as ancient as yours. But he’s a gutless turncoat and we both know him from eternity. Lord Kiyama? Wise, brave, a great general, and an old comrade. But he’s Christian too, and I think we have enough gods of our own in this Land of the Gods not to be so arrogant as to worship only one. Ishido? I’ve detested that treacherous peasant’s offal as long as I’ve known him and the only reason I never killed him was because he was the Taikō’s dog.” His leathery face cracked into a smile. “So you see, Yoshi Toranaga-noh-Minowara, you gave me no choice.”

  “And if I go against your advice? If I manipulate the Council of Regents, even Ishido, and put Yaemon into power?”

  “Whatever you do is wise. But all the Regents would like you dead. That’s the truth. I advocate immediate war. Immediate. Before they isolate you. Or more probably murder you.”

  Toranaga thought about his enemies. They were powerful and abundant.

  It would take him all of three weeks to get back to Yedo, traveling the Tokaidō Road, the main trunk road that followed the coast between Yedo and Osaka. To go by ship was more dangerous, and perhaps more time consuming, except by galley which could travel against wind and tide.

  Toranaga’s mind ranged again over the plan he had decided upon. He could find no flaw in it.

  “I heard secretly yesterday that Ishido’s mother is visiting her grandson in Nagoya,” he said and Hiro-matsu was at once attentive. Nagoya was a huge city-state that was, as yet, not committed to either side. “The lady should be ‘invited’ by the Abbot to visit the Johji Temple. To see the cherry blossoms.”

  “Immediately,” Hiro-matsu said. “By carrier pigeon.” The Johji Temple was famous for three things: its avenue of cherry trees, the militancy of its Zen Buddhist monks, and its open, undying fidelity to Toranaga, who had, years ago, paid for the building of the temple and maintained its upkeep ever since. “The blossoms will be past their prime but she will be there tomorrow. I don’t doubt the venerable lady will want to stay a few days, it’s so calming. Her grandson should go too, neh?”

  “No—just her. That would make the Abbot’s ‘invitation’ too obvious. Next: send a secret cipher to my son, Sudara: ‘I leave Osaka the moment the Council concludes this session—in four days.’ Send it by runner and confirm it by carrier pigeon tomorrow.”

  Hiro-matsu’s disapproval was apparent. “Then can I order up ten thousand men at once? To Osaka?”

  “No. The men here are sufficient. Thank you, old friend. I think I’ll sleep now.”

  Hiro-matsu got up and stretched his shoulders. Then at the doorway, “I may give Fujiko, my granddaughter, permission to kill herself?”


  “But Fujiko’s samurai, Lord, and you know how mothers are about their sons. The child was her first.”

  “Fujiko can have many children. How old is she? Eighteen—barely nineteen? I will find her another husband.”

  Hiro-matsu shook his head, “She will not accept one. I know her too well. It’s her innermost wish to end her life. Please?”

  “Tell your granddaughter I do not approve of useless death. Permission is refused.”

  At length Hiro-matsu bowed, and began to leave.

  “How long would the barbarian live in that prison?” Toranaga asked.

  Hiro-matsu did not turn back. “It depends how cruel a fighter he is.”

  “Thank you. Good night, Hiro-matsu.” When he was sure that he was alone, he said quietly, “Kiri-san?”

  The inner door opened, she entered and knelt.

  “Send an immediate message to Sudara: ‘All is well.’ Send it by racing pigeons. Release three of them at the same time at dawn. At noon do the same again.”

  “Yes, Lord.” She went away.

  One will get through, he thought. At least four will fall to arrows, spies, or hawks. But unless Ishido’s broken our code, the message will still mean nothing to him.

  The code was very private. Four people knew it. His eldest son, Noboru; his second son and heir, Sudara; Kiri; and himself. The message deciphered meant: “Disregard all other messages. Activate Plan Five.” By prearrangement, Plan Five contained orders to gather all Yoshi clan leaders and their most trusted inner counselors immediately at his capital, Yedo, and to mobilize for war. The code word that signaled war was “Crimson Sky.” His own assassination, or capture, made Crimson Sky inexorable and launched the war—an immediate fanatic assault upon Kyoto led by Sudara, his heir, with all the legions, to gain possession of that city and the puppet Emperor. This would be coupled with secret, meticulously planned insurrections in fifty provinces which had been prepared over the years against such eventuality. All targets, passes, cities, castles, bridges, had long since been selected. There were enough arms and men and resolve to carry it through.

  It’s a good plan, Toranaga thought. But it will fail if I don’t lead it. Sudara will fail. Not through want of trying or courage or intelligence, or because of treachery. Merely because Sudara hasn’t yet enough knowledge or experience and cannot carry enough of the uncommitted daimyos with him. And also because Osaka Castle and the heir, Yaemon, stand inviolate in the path, the rallying point for all the enmity and jealousy that I’ve earned in fifty-two years of war.

  Toranaga’s war had begun when he was six and had been ordered as hostage into the enemy camp, then reprieved, then captured by other enemies and pawned again, to be repawned until he was twelve. At twelve, he had led his first patrol and won his first battle.

  So many battles. None lost. But so many enemies. And now they’re gathering together.

  Sudara will fail. You’re the only one who could win with Crimson Sky, perhaps. The Taikō could do it, absolutely. But it would be better not to have to implement Crimson Sky.

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