CHAPTER 5 : Part 2 – Shogun

CHAPTER 5 : Part 2 – Shogun

She smiled. “Yes.”

  “I’m glad. At first I was very frightened. It’s very good to please.”

  Together they dried Yabu gently and covered him with the quilt. Then the boy lay back languorously, half propped on one elbow and stifled a yawn.

  “Why don’t you sleep, too,” she said.

  The boy pulled his kimono closer and shifted his position to kneel opposite her. She was sitting beside Yabu, her right hand gently stroking the daimyo’s arm, gentling his tremored sleep.

  “I’ve never been together with a man and a lady at the same time before, Kiku-san,” the boy whispered.

  “Neither have I.”

  The boy frowned. “I’ve never been with a girl either. I mean I’ve never pillowed with one.”

  “Would you like me?” she had asked politely. “If you wait a little, I’m sure our Lord won’t wake up.”

  The boy frowned. Then he said, “Yes please,” and afterwards he said, “That was very strange, Lady Kiku.”

  She smiled within. “Which do you prefer?”

  The boy thought a long time as they lay at peace, in each other’s arms. “This way is rather hard work.”

  She buried her head in his shoulder and kissed the nape of his neck to hide her smile. “You are a marvelous lover,” she whispered. “Now you must sleep after so much hard work.” She caressed him to sleep, then left him and went to the other quilts.

  The other bed had been cool. She did not want to move into Yabu’s warmth lest she disturb him. Soon her side was warm.

  The shadows from the shoji were sharpening. Men are such babies, she thought. So full of foolish pride. All the anguish of this night for something so transitory. For a passion that is in itself but an illusion, neh?

  The boy stirred in his sleep. Why did you make the offer to him? she asked herself. For his pleasure—for him and not for me, though it amused me and passed the time and gave him the peace he needed. Why don’t you sleep a little? Later. I’ll sleep later, she told herself.

  When it was time she slipped from the soft warmth and stood up. Her kimonos whispered apart and the air chilled her skin. Quickly she folded her robes perfectly and retied her obi. A deft but careful touch to her coiffure. And to her makeup.

  She made no sound as she left.

  The samurai sentry at the veranda entrance bowed and she bowed back and she was in the dawning sunshine. Her maid was waiting for her.

  “Good morning, Kiku-san.”

  “Good morning.”

  The sun felt very good and washed away the night. It’s very fine to be alive, she thought.

  She slipped her feet into her sandals, opened her crimson parasol, and started through the garden, out onto the path that led down to the village, through the square, to the tea house that was her temporary home. Her maid followed.

  “Good morning, Kiku-san,” Mura called out, bowing. He was resting momentarily on the veranda of his house, drinking cha, the pale green tea of Japan. His mother was serving him. “Good morning, Kiku-san,” she echoed.

  “Good morning, Mura-san. Good morning, Saiko-san, how well you are looking,” Kiku replied.

  “How are you?” the mother asked, her old old eyes boring into the girl. “What a terrible night! Please join us for cha. You look pale, child.”

  “Thank you, but please excuse me, I must go home now. You do me too much honor. Perhaps later.”

  “Of course, Kiku-san. You honor our village by being here.”

  Kiku smiled and pretended not to notice their searching stares. To add spice to their day and to hers, she pretended a slight pain in her nether regions.

  That will sail around the village, she thought happily as she bowed, winced again, and went off as though stoically covering an intensity of pain, the folds of her kimonos swaying to perfection, and her sunshade tilted to give her just that most marvelous light. She was very glad that she had worn this outer kimono and this parasol. On a dull day the effect would never have been so dramatic.

  “Ah, poor, poor child! She’s so beautiful, neh? What a shame! Terrible!” Mura’s mother said with a heart-rending sigh.

  “What’s terrible, Saiko-san?” Mura’s wife asked, coming onto the veranda.

  “Didn’t you see the poor girl’s agony? Didn’t you see how bravely she was trying to hide it? Poor child. Only seventeen and to have to go through all that!”

  “She’s eighteen,” Mura said dryly.

  “All of what, Mistress?” one of the maids said breathlessly, joining them.

  The old woman looked around to ensure that everyone was listening and whispered loudly. “I heard”—she dropped her voice—“I heard that she’ll … she’ll be useless … for three months.”

  “Oh, no! Poor Kiku-san! Oh! But why?”

  “He used his teeth. I have it on the best authority.”



  “But why does he have the boy as well, Mistress? Surely he doesn’t—”

  “Ah! Run along! Back to your work, good-for-nothings! This isn’t for your ears! Go on, off with the lot of you. The Master and I have to talk.”

  She shooed them all off the veranda. Even Mura’s wife. And sipped her cha, benign and very content.

  Mura broke the silence. “Teeth?”

  “Teeth. Rumor has it that the screams make him large because he was frightened by a dragon when he was small,” she said in a rush. “He always has a boy there to remind him of himself when he was a boy and petrified, but actually the boy’s there only to pillow with, to exhaust himself—otherwise he’d bite everything off, poor girl.”

  Mura sighed. He went into the small outhouse beside the front gate and farted involuntarily as he began to relieve himself into the bucket. I wonder what really happened, he asked himself, titillated. Why was Kiku-san in pain? Perhaps the daimyo really does use his teeth! How extraordinary!

  He walked out, shaking himself to ensure that he did not stain his loincloth, and headed across the square deep in thought. Eeeee, how I would like to have one night with the Lady Kiku! What man wouldn’t? How much did Omi-san have to pay her Mama-san—which we will have to pay eventually? Two koku? They say her Mama-san, Gyoko-san, demanded and got ten times the regular fee. Does she get five koku for one night? Kiku-san would certainly be worth it, neh? Rumor has it she’s as practiced at eighteen as a woman twice her age. She’s supposed to be able to prolong…. Eeeee, the joy of her! If it was me—how would I begin?

  Absently he adjusted himself into his loincloth as his feet took him out of the square, up the well-worn path to the funeral ground.

  The pyre had been prepared. The deputation of five men from the village was already there.

  This was the most delightful place in the village, where the sea breezes were coolest in summer and the view the best. Nearby was the village Shinto shrine, a tiny thatched roof on a pedestal for the kami, the spirit, that lived there, or might wish to live there if it pleased him. A gnarled yew that had seeded before the village was born leaned against the wind.

  Later Omi walked up the path. With him were Zukimoto and four guards. He stood apart. When he bowed formally to the pyre and to the shroud-covered, almost disjointed body that lay upon it, they all bowed with him, to honor the barbarian who had died that his comrades might live.

  At his signal Zukimoto went forward and lit the pyre. Zukimoto had asked Omi for the privilege and the honor had been granted to him. He bowed a last time. And then, when the fire was well alight, they went away.

  Blackthorne dipped into the dregs of the barrel and carefully measured a half cup of water and gave it to Sonk. Sonk tried to sip it to make it last, his hand trembling, but he could not. He gulped the tepid liquid, regretting that he had done so the moment it had passed his parched throat, groped exhaustedly to his place by the wall, stepping over those whose turn it was to lie down. The floor was now deep ooze, the stench and the flies hideous. Faint sunlight came into the pit through the slats of the trapdoor.<
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  Vinck was next for water and he took his cup and stared at it, sitting near the barrel, Spillbergen on the other side. “Thanks,” he muttered dully.

  “Hurry up!” Jan Roper said, the cut on his cheek already festering. He was the last for water and, being so near, his throat was torturing him. “Hurry up, Vinck, for Christ’s sweet sake.”

  “Sorry. Here, you take it,” Vinck muttered, handing him the cup, oblivious of the flies that speckled him.

  “Drink it, you fool! It’s the last you’ll get till sunset. Drink it!” Jan Roper shoved the cup back into the man’s hands. Vinck did not look up at him but obeyed miserably, and slipped back once more into his private hell.

  Jan Roper took his cup of water from Blackthorne. He closed his eyes and said a silent grace. He was one of those standing, his leg muscles aching. The cup gave barely two swallows.

  And now that they had all been given their ration, Blackthorne dipped and sipped gratefully. His mouth and tongue were raw and burning and dusty. Flies and sweat and filth covered him. His chest and back were badly bruised.

  He watched the samurai who had been left in the cellar. The man was huddled against the wall, between Sonk and Croocq, taking up as little space as possible, and he had not moved for hours. He was staring bleakly into space, naked but for his loincloth, violent bruises all over him, a thick weal around his neck.

  When Blackthorne had first come to his senses, the cellar was in complete darkness. The screams were filling the pit and he thought that he was dead and in the choking depths of hell. He felt himself being sucked down into muck that was clammy and flesh-crawling beyond measure, and he had cried out and flailed in panic, unable to breathe, until, after an eternity, he had heard. “It’s all right, Pilot, you’re not dead, it’s all right. Wake up, wake up, for the love of Christ, it’s not hell but it might just as well be. Oh, Blessed Lord Jesus, help us all.”

  When he was fully conscious they had told him about Pieterzoon and the barrels of seawater.

  “Oh, Lord Jesus, get us out of here!” someone whimpered.

  “What’re they doing to poor old Pieterzoon? What’re they doing to him? Oh, God help us. I can’t stand the screams!”

  “Oh, Lord, let the poor man die. Let him die.”

  “Christ God, stop the screams! Please stop the screams!”

  The pit and Pieterzoon’s screams had measured them all, had forced them to look within themselves. And no man had liked what he had seen.

  The darkness makes it worse, Blackthorne had thought.

  It had been an endless night, in the pit.

  With the gloaming the cries had vanished. When dawn trickled down to them they had seen the forgotten samurai.

  “What’re we going to do about him?” van Nekk had asked.

  “I don’t know. He looks as frightened as we are,” Blackthorne said, his heart pumping.

  “He’d better not start anything, by God.”

  “Oh, Lord Jesus, get me out of here—” Croocq’s voice started to crescendo. “Helllp!”

  Van Nekk, who was near him, shook him and gentled him. “It’s all right, lad. We’re in God’s hands. He’s watching over us.”

  “Look at my arm,” Maetsukker moaned. The wound had festered already.

  Blackthorne stood shakily. “We’ll all be raving lunatics in a day or two if we don’t get out of here,” he said to no one in particular.

  “There’s almost no water,” van Nekk said.

  “We’ll ration what there is. Some now—some at noon. With luck, there’ll be enough for three turns. God curse all flies!”

  So he had found the cup and had given them a ration, and now he was sipping his, trying to make it last.

  “What about him—the Japaner?” Spillbergen said. The Captain-General had fared better than most during the night because he had shut his ears to the screams with a little mud, and, being next to the water barrel, had cautiously slaked his thirst. “What are we going to do about him?”

  “He should have some water,” van Nekk said.

  “The pox on that,” Sonk said. “I say he gets none.”

  They all voted on it and it was agreed he got none.

  “I don’t agree,” Blackthorne said.

  “You don’t agree to anything we say,” Jan Roper said. “He’s the enemy. He’s a heathen devil and he almost killed you.”

  “You’ve almost killed me. Half a dozen times. If your musket had fired at Santa Magdellana, you’d have blown my head off.”

  “I wasn’t aiming at you. I was aiming at stinking Satanists.”

  “They were unarmed priests. And there was plenty of time.”

  “I wasn’t aiming at you.”

  “You’ve almost killed me a dozen times, with your God-cursed anger, your God-cursed bigotry, and your God-cursed stupidity.”

  “Blasphemy’s a mortal sin. Taking His name in vain is a sin. We’re in His hands, not yours. You’re not a king and this isn’t a ship. You’re not our keep—”

  “But you will do what I say!”

  Jan Roper looked round the cellar, seeking support in vain. “Do what you want,” he said sullenly.

  “I will.”

  The samurai was as parched as they, but he shook his head to the offered cup. Blackthorne hesitated, put the cup to the samurai’s swollen lips, but the man smashed the cup away, spilling the water, and said something harshly. Blackthrone readied to parry the following blow. But it never came. The man made no further move, just looked away into space.

  “He’s mad. They’re all mad,” Spillbergen said.

  “There’s more water for us. Good,” Jan Roper said. “Let him go to the hell he deserves.”

  “What’s your name? Namu?” Blackthorne asked. He said it again in different ways but the samurai appeared not to hear.

  They left him alone. But they watched him as if he were a scorpion. He did not watch them back. Blackthorne was certain the man was trying to decide on something, but he had no idea what it could be.

  What’s on his mind, Blackthorne asked himself. Why should he refuse water? Why was he left here? Was that a mistake by Omi? Unlikely. By plan? Unlikely. Could we use him to get out? Unlikely. The whole world’s unlikely except it’s likely we’re going to stay here until they let us out … if they let us out. And if they let us out, what next? What happened to Pieterzoon?

  The flies swarmed with the heat of the day.

  Oh, God, I wish I could lie down—wish I could get into that bath—they wouldn’t have to carry me there now. I never realized how important a bath is. That old blind man with the steel fingers! I could use him for an hour or two.

  What a waste! All our ships and men and effort for this. A total failure. Well, almost. Some of us are still alive.

  “Pilot!” Van Nekk was shaking him. “You were asleep. It’s him—he’s been bowing to you for a minute or more.” He motioned to the samurai who knelt, head bowed in front of him.

  Blackthorne rubbed the exhaustion out of his eyes. He made an effort and bowed back.

  “Hai?” he asked curtly, remembering the Japanese word for “yes.”

  The samurai took hold of the sash of his shredded kimono and wrapped it around his neck. Still kneeling, he gave one end to Blackthorne and the other to Sonk, bowed his head, and motioned them to pull it tight.

  “He’s afraid we’ll strangle him,” Sonk said.

  “Christ Jesus, I think that’s what he wants us to do.” Blackthorne let the sash fall and shook his head. “Kinjiru,” he said, thinking how useful that word was. How do you say to a man who doesn’t speak your language that it’s against your code to commit murder, to kill an unarmed man, that you’re not executioners, that suicide is damned before God?

  The samurai asked again, clearly begging him, but again Blackthorne shook his head. “Kinjiru.” The man looked around wildly. Suddenly he was on his feet and he had shoved his head deep into the latrine bucket to try to drown himself. Jan Roper and Sonk immediately pulled h
im out, choking and struggling.

  “Let him go,” Blackthorne ordered. They obeyed. He pointed at the latrine. “Samurai, if that’s what you want, go ahead!”

  The man was retching, but he understood. He looked at the foul bucket and knew that he did not have the strength to hold his head there long enough. In abject misery the samurai went back to his place by the wall.

  “Jesus,” someone muttered.

  Blackthorne dipped half a cup of water from the barrel, got to his feet, his joints stiff, went over to the Japanese and offered it. The samurai looked past the cup.

  “I wonder how long he can hold out,” Blackthorne said.

  “Forever,” Jan Roper said. “They’re animals. They’re not human.”

  “For Christ’s sake, how much longer will they keep us here?” Ginsel asked.

  “As long as they want.”

  “We’ll have to do anything they want,” van Nekk said. “We’ll have to if we want to stay alive and get out of this hell hole. Won’t we, Pilot?”

  “Yes.” Blackthorne thankfully measured the sun’s shadows. “It’s high noon, the watch changes.”

  Spillbergen, Maetsukker, and Sonk began to complain but he cursed them to their feet and when all were rearranged he lay down gratefully. The mud was foul and the flies worse than ever, but the joy of being able to stretch out full length was enormous.

  What did they do to Pieterzoon? he asked himself, as he felt his fatigue engulfing him. Oh, God help us to get out of here. I’m so frightened.

  There were footsteps above. The trapdoor opened. The priest stood there flanked by samurai.

  “Pilot. You are to come up. You are to come up alone,” he said.


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