CHAPTER 5 : Part 1 – Shogun

CHAPTER 5 : Part 1 – Shogun

 Just before first light, the cries had ceased.

  Now Omi’s mother slept. And Yabu.

  The village was still restless in the dawn. Four cannon had yet to be brought ashore, fifty more kegs of powder, a thousand more cannon shot.

  Kiku was lying under the coverlet watching the shadows on the shoji wall. She had not slept even though she was more exhausted than she had ever been. Wheezing snores from the old woman in the next room drowned the soft deep breathing of the daimyo beside her. The boy slept soundlessly on the other coverlets, one arm thrown over his eyes to shut out the light.

  A slight tremor went through Yabu and Kiku held her breath. But he remained in sleep and this pleased her for she knew that very soon she would be able to leave without disturbing him. As she waited patiently, she forced herself to think of pleasant things. ‘Always remember, child,’ her first teacher had impressed on her, ‘that to think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever-increasing un-happiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that discipline—training—is about. So train your mind to dwell on sweet perfumes, the touch of this silk, tender raindrops against the shoji, the curve of this flower arrangement, the tranquillity of dawn. Then, at length, you won’t have to make such a great effort and you will be of value to yourself, a value to our profession—and bring honor to our world, the Willow World….’

  She thought about the sensuous glory of the bath she soon would have that would banish this night, and afterwards the soothing caress of Suwo’s hands. She thought of the laughter she would have with the other girls and with Gyoko-san, the Mama-san, as they swapped gossip and rumors and stories, and of the clean, oh so clean, kimono that she would wear tonight, the golden one with yellow and green flowers and the hair ribbons that matched. After the bath she would have her hair dressed and from the money of last night there would be very much to pay off her debt to her employer, Gyoko-san, some to send to her father who was a peasant farmer, through the money exchanger, and still some for herself. Soon she would see her lover and it would be a perfect evening.

  Life is very good, she thought.

  Yes. But it’s very difficult to put away the screams. Impossible. The other girls will be just as unhappy, and poor Gyoko-san! But never mind. Tomorrow we will all leave Anjiro and go home to our lovely Tea House in Mishima, the biggest city in Izu, which surrounds the daimyo’s greatest castle in Izu, where life begins and is.

  I’m sorry the Lady Midori sent for me.

  Be serious, Kiku, she told herself sharply. You shouldn’t be sorry. You are not sorry, neh? It was an honor to serve our Lord. Now that you have been honored, your value to Gyoko-san is greater than ever, neh? It was an experience, and now you will be known as the Lady of the Night of the Screams and, if you are lucky, someone will write a ballad about you and perhaps the ballad will even by sung in Yedo itself. Oh, that would be very good! Then certainly your lover will buy your contract and you will be safe and content and bear sons.

  She smiled to herself. Ah, what stories the troubadours will make up about tonight that will be told in every Tea House throughout Izu. About the lord daimyo, who sat motionless in the screams, his sweat streaming. What did he do in the bed? they will all want to know. And why the boy? How was the pillowing? What did the Lady Kiku do and say and what did Lord Yabu do and say? Was his Peerless Pestle insignificant or full? Was it once or twice or never? Did nothing happen?

  A thousand questions. But none ever directly asked or ever answered. That’s wise, Kiku thought. The first and last rule of the Willow World was absolute secrecy, never to tell about a client or his habits or what was paid, and thus to be completely trustworthy. If someone else told, well, that was his affair, but with walls of paper and houses so small and people being what they are, stories always sped from the bed to the ballad—never the truth, always exaggerated, because people are people, neh? But nothing from the Lady. An arched eyebrow perhaps or hesitant shrug, a delicate smoothing of a perfect coiffure or fold of the kimono was all that was allowed. And always enough, if the girl had wit.

  When the screams stopped, Yabu had remained statuelike in the moonlight for what had seemed a further eternity and then he had got up. At once she had hurried back into the other room, her silk kimono sighing like a midnight sea. The boy was frightened, trying not to show it, and wiped away the tears that the torment had brought. She had smiled at him reassuringly, forcing a calm that she did not feel.

  Then Yabu was at the door. He was bathed in sweat, his face taut and his eyes half-closed. Kiku helped him take off his swords, then his soaking kimono and loin cloth. She dried him, helped him into a sun-fresh kimono and tied its silken belt. Once she had begun to greet him but he had put a gentle finger on her lips.

  Then he had gone over to the window and looked up at the waning moon, trancelike, swaying slightly on his feet. She remained quiescent, without fear, for what was there now to fear? He was a man and she a woman, trained to be a woman, to give pleasure, in whatever way. But not to give or to receive pain. There were other courtesans who specialized in that form of sensuality. A bruise here or there, perhaps a bite, well, that was part of the pleasure-pain of giving and receiving, but always within reason, for honor was involved and she was a Lady of the Willow World of the First Class Rank, never to be treated lightly, always to be honored. But part of her training was to know how to keep a man tamed, within limits. Sometimes a man became untamed and then it became terrible. For the Lady was alone. With no rights.

  Her coiffure was impeccable but for the tiny locks of hair so carefully loosed over her ears to suggest
erotic disarray, yet, at the same time, to enhance the purity of the whole. The red- and black-checkered outer kimono, bordered with the purest green that increased the whiteness of her skin, was drawn tight to her tiny waist by a wide stiff sash, an obi, of iridescent green. She could hear the surf on the shore now and a light wind rustled the garden.

  Finally Yabu had turned and looked at her, then at the boy.

  The boy was fifteen, the son of a local fisherman, apprenticed at the nearby monastery to a Buddhist monk who was an artist, a painter and illustrator of books. The boy was one of those who was pleased to earn money from those who enjoyed sex with boys and not with women.

  Yabu motioned to him. Obediently the boy, now also over his fear, loosed the sash of his kimono with a studied elegance. He wore no loincloth but a woman’s wrapped underskirt that reached the ground. His body was smooth and curved and almost hairless.

  Kiku remembered how still the room had been, the three of them locked together by the stillness and the vanished screams, she and the boy waiting for Yabu to indicate that which was required, Yabu standing there between them, swaying slightly, glancing from one to another.

  At length he had signed to her. Gracefully she unknotted the ribbon of her obi, unwound it gently and let it rest. The folds of her three gossamer kimonos sighed open and revealed the misted underskirt that enhanced her loins. He lay on the bedding and at his bidding they lay on either side of him. He put their hands on him and held them equally. He warmed quickly, showing them how to use their nails in his flanks, hurrying, his face a mask, faster, faster and then his shuddering violent cry of utter pain. For a moment, he lay there panting, eyes tightly closed, chest heaving, then turned over and, almost instantly, was asleep.

  In the quiet they caught their breaths, trying to hide their surprise. It had been over so quickly.

  The boy had arched an eyebrow in wonder. “Were we inept, Kiku-san? I mean, everything was so fast,” he whispered.

  “We did everything he wanted,” she said.

  “He certainly reached the Clouds and the Rain,” the boy said. “I thought the house was going to fall down.”

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