CHAPTER 16 : Part 1 – Shogun

CHAPTER 16 : Part 1 – Shogun

  “Perhaps it would have been better to consult me before removing my prisoner from my jurisdiction, Lord Ishido,” Toranaga was saying.

  “The barbarian was in the common prison with common people. Naturally I presumed you’d no further interest in him, otherwise I wouldn’t have had him taken out of there. Of course, I never meant to interfere with your private affairs.” Ishido was outwardly calm and deferential but inside he was seething. He knew that he had been trapped into an indiscretion. It was true that he should have asked Toranaga first. Ordinary politeness demanded it. Even that would not have mattered at all if he still had the barbarian in his power, in his quarters; he would simply have handed over the foreigner at his leisure, if and when Toranaga had asked for him. But for some of his men to have been intercepted and ignominiously killed, and then for the daimyo Yabu and some of Toranaga’s men to have taken physical possession of the barbarian from more of his men changed the position completely. He had lost face, whereas his whole strategy for Toranaga’s public destruction was to put Toranaga into precisely that position. “Again I apologize.”

  Toranaga glanced at Hiro-matsu, the apology music to their ears. Both men knew how much inner bleeding it had cost Ishido. They were in the great audience room. By prior agreement, the two antagonists had only five guards present, men of guaranteed reliability. The rest were waiting outside. Yabu was also waiting outside. And the barbarian was being cleaned. Good, Toranaga thought, feeling very pleased with himself. He put his mind on Yabu briefly and decided not to see him today after all, but to continue to play him like a fish. So he asked Hiro-matsu to send him away and turned again to Ishido. “Of course your apology is accepted. Fort
unately no harm was done.”

  “Then I may take the barbarian to the Heir—as soon as he’s presentable?”

  “I’ll send him as soon as I’ve finished with him.”

  “May I ask when that will be? The Heir was expecting him this morning.”

  “We shouldn’t be too concerned about that, you and I, neh? Yaemon’s only seven. I’m sure a seven-year-old boy can possess himself with patience. Neh? Patience is a form of discipline and requires practice. Doesn’t it? I’ll explain the misunderstanding myself. I’m giving him another swimming lesson this morning.”


  “Yes. You should learn to swim too, Lord Ishido. It’s excellent exercise and could come in very useful during war. All my samurai can swim. I insist that all learn that art.”

  “Mine spend their time practicing archery, swordsmanship, riding, and shooting.”

  “Mine add poetry, penmanship, flower arranging, the cha-no-yu ceremony. Samurai should be well versed in the arts of peace to be strong for the arts of war.”

  “Most of my men are already more than proficient in those arts,” Ishido said, conscious that his own writing was poor and his learning limited. “Samurai are birthed for war. I understand war very well. That is enough at the moment. That and obedience to our Master’s will.”

  “Yaemon’s swimming lesson is at the Hour of the Horse.” The day and the night were each split into six equal parts. The day began with the Hour of the Hare, from 5 A.M. to 7 A.M., then the Dragon, from 7 A.M. to 9 A.M. The hours of the Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Cock, Dog, Boar, Rat and Ox followed, and the cycle ended with the Hour of the Tiger between 3 A.M. and 5 A.M. “Would you like to join the lesson?”

  “Thank you, no. I’m too old to change my ways,” Ishido said thinly.

  “I hear the captain of your men was ordered to commit seppuku.”

  “Naturally. The bandits should have been caught. At least one of them should have been caught. Then we would have found the others.”

  “I’m astounded that such carrion could operate so close to the castle.”

  “I agree. Perhaps the barbarian could describe them.”

  “What would a barbarian know?” Toranaga laughed. “As to the bandits, they were ronin, weren’t they? Ronin are plentiful among your men. Inquiries there might prove fruitful. Neh?”

  “Inquiries are being pressed. In many directions.” Ishido passed over the veiled sneer about ronin, the masterless, almost outcast mercenary samurai who had, in their thousands, flocked to the Heir’s banner when Ishido had whispered it abroad that he, on behalf of the Heir and the mother of the Heir, would accept their fidelity, would—incredibly—forgive and forget their indiscretions or past, and would, in the course of time, repay their loyalty with a Taikō’s lavishness. Ishido knew that it had been a brilliant move. It gave him an enormous pool of trained samurai to draw upon; it guaranteed loyalty, for ronin knew they would never get another such chance; it brought into his camp all the angry ones, many of whom had been made ronin by Toranaga’s conquests and those of his allies. And lastly, it removed a danger to the realm—an increase in the bandit population—for almost the only supportable way of life open to a samurai unlucky enough to become ronin was to become a monk or bandit.

  “There are many things I don’t understand about this ambush,” Ishido said, his voice tinged with venom. “Yes. Why, for instance, should bandits try to capture this barbarian for ransom? There are plenty of others in the city, vastly more important. Isn’t that what the bandit said? It was ransom he wanted. Ransom from whom? What’s the barbarian’s value? None. And how did they know where he would be? It was only yesterday that I gave the order to bring him to the Heir, thinking it would amuse the boy. Very curious.”

  “Very,” Toranaga said.

  “Then there’s the coincidence of Lord Yabu being in the vicinity with some of your men and some of mine at that exact time. Very curious.”

  “Very. Of course he was there because I had sent for him, and your men were there because we agreed—at your suggestion—that it was good policy and a way to begin to heal the breach between us, that your men accompany mine wherever they go while I’m on this official visit.”

  “It is also strange that the bandits who were sufficiently brave and well organized to slay the first ten without a fight acted like Koreans when our men arrived. The two sides were equally matched. Why didn’t the bandits fight, or take the barbarian into the hills immediately, and not stupidly stay on a main path to the castle? Very curious.”

  “Very. I’ll certainly be taking double guards with me tomorrow when I go hawking. Just in case. It’s disconcerting to know bandits are so close to the castle. Yes. Perhaps you’d like to hunt, too? Fly one of your hawks against mine? I’ll be hunting the hills to the north.”

  “Thank you, no. I’ll be busy tomorrow. Perhaps the day after? I’ve ordered twenty thousand men to sweep all the forests, woods, and glades around Osaka. There won’t be a bandit within twenty ri in ten days. That I can promise you.”

  Toranaga knew that Ishido was using the bandits as an excuse to increase the number of his troops in the vicinity. If he says twenty, he means fifty. The neck of the trap is closing, he told himself. Why so soon? What new treachery has happened? Why is Ishido so confident? “Good. Then the day after tomorrow, Lord Ishido. You’ll keep your men away from my hunting area? I wouldn’t want my game disturbed,” he added thinly.

  “Of course. And the barbarian?”

  “He is and always was my property. And his ship. But you can have him when I’ve finished with him. And afterwards you can send him to the execution ground if you wish.”

  “Thank you. Yes, I’ll do that.” Ishido closed his fan and slipped it into his sleeve. “He’s unimportant. What is important and the reason for my coming to see you is that—oh, by the way, I heard that the lady, my mother, is visiting the Johji monastery.”

  “Oh? I would have thought the season’s a little late for looking at cherry blossoms. Surely they’d be well past their prime now?”

  “I agree. But then if she wishes to see them, why not? You can never tell with the elderly, they have minds of their own and see things differently, neh? But her health isn’t good. I worry about her. She has to be very careful—she takes a chill very easily.”

  “It’s the same with my mother. You have to watch the health of the old.” Toranaga made a mental note to send an immediate message to remind the abbot to watch over the old woman’s health very carefully. If she were to die in the monastery the repercussions would be terrible. He would be shamed before the Empire. All daimyos would realize that in the chess game for power he had used a helpless old woman, the mother of his enemy, as a pawn, and failed in his responsibility to her. Taking a hostage was, in truth, a dangerous ploy.

  Ishido had become almost blind with rage when he had heard that his revered mother was in the Toranaga stronghold at Nagoya. Heads had fallen. He had immediately brought forward plans for Toranaga’s destruction, and had taken a solemn resolve to invest Nagoya and obliterate the daimyo, Kazamaki—in whose charge she had ostensibly been—the moment hostilities began. Last, a private message had been sent to the abbot through intermediaries, that unless she was brought safely out of the monastery within twenty-four hours, Naga, the only son of Toranaga within reach and any of his women that could be caught, would, unhappily, wake up in the leper village, having been fed by them, watered by them, and serviced by one of their whores. Ishido knew that while his mother was in Toranaga’s power he had to tread lightly. But he had made it clear that if she was not let go, he would set the Empire to the torch. “How is the lady, your mother, Lord Toranaga,” he asked politely.

  “She’s very well, thank you.” Toranaga allowed his happiness to show, both at the thought of his mother and at the knowledge of Ishido’s impotent fury. “She’s remarkably fit for seventy-four. I only hope I’m as strong as she is when I’m her age.”

  You’re fifty-eight, Tora
naga, but you’ll never reach fifty-nine, Ishido promised himself. “Please give her my best wishes for a continued happy life. Thank you again and I’m sorry that you were inconvenienced.” He bowed with great politeness, and then, holding in his soaring pleasure with difficulty, he added, “Oh, yes, the important matter I wanted to see you about was that the last formal meeting of the Regents has been postponed. We do not meet tonight at sunset.”

  Toranaga kept the smile on his face but inside he was rocked. “Oh? Why?”

  “Lord Kiyama’s sick. Lord Sugiyama and Lord Onoshi have agreed to the delay. So did I. A few days are unimportant, aren’t they, on such important matters?”

  “We can have the meeting without Lord Kiyama.”

  “We have agreed that we should not.” Ishido’s eyes were taunting.


  “Here are our four seals.”

  Toranaga was seething. Any delay jeopardized him immeasurably. Could he barter Ishido’s mother for an immediate meeting? No, because it would take too much time for the orders to go back and forth and he would have conceded a very great advantage for nothing. “When will the meeting be?”

  “I understand Lord Kiyama should be well tomorrow, or perhaps the next day.”

  “Good. I’ll send my personal physician to see him.”

  “I’m sure he’d appreciate that. But his own has forbidden any visitors. The disease might be contagious, neh?”

  “What disease?”

  “I don’t know, my Lord. That’s what I was told.”

  “Is the doctor a barbarian?”

  “Yes. I understand the chief doctor of the Christians. A Christian doctor-priest for a Christian daimyo. Ours are not good enough for so—so important a daimyo,” Ishido said with a sneer.

  Toranaga’s concern increased. If the doctor were Japanese, there were many things he could do. But with a Christian doctor—inevitably a Jesuit priest—well, to go against one of them, or even to interfere with one of them, might alienate all Christian daimyos, which he could not afford to risk. He knew his friendship with Tsukku-san would not help him against the Christian daimyos Onoshi or Kiyama. It was in Christian interests to present a united front. Soon he would have to approach them, the barbarian priests, to make an arrangement, to find out the price of their cooperation. If Ishido truly has Onoshi and Kiyama with him—and all the Christian daimyos would follow these two if they acted jointly—then I’m isolated, he thought. Then my only way left is Crimson Sky.

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