CHAPTER 6 : Part 1 – Shogun

CHAPTER 6 : Part 1 – Shogun

 All eyes in the pit went to Blackthorne.

  “What do they want with me?”

  “I don’t know,” Father Sebastio said gravely. “But you must come up at once.”

  Blackthorne knew that he had no option, but he did not leave the protective wall, trying to summon more strength. “What happened to Pieterzoon?”

  The priest told him. Blackthorne translated for those who did not speak Portuguese.

  “The Lord have mercy on him,” van Nekk whispered over the horrified silence. “Poor man. Poor man.”

  “I’m sorry. There was nothing I could do,” the priest said with a great sadness. “I don’t think he knew me or anyone the moment they put him into the water. His mind was gone. I gave him absolution and prayed for him. Perhaps, through God’s mercy…. In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” He made the sign of the cross over the cellar. “I beg you all to renounce your heresies and be accepted back into God’s faith. Pilot, you must come up.”

  “Don’t leave us, Pilot, for the love of God!” Croocq cried out.

  Vinck stumbled to the ladder and started to climb. “They can take me—not the Pilot. Me, not him. Tell him—” He stopped, helplessly, both feet on the rungs. A long spear was an inch away from his heart. He tried to grab the haft but the samurai was ready and if Vinck had not jumped back he would have been impaled.

  This samurai pointed at Blackthorne and beckoned him up. Harshly. Still Blackthorne did not move. Another samurai shoved a long barbed staff into the cellar and tried to hook Blackthorne out.

  No one moved to help Blackthorne except the samurai in the cellar. He caught the barb fast and said something sharply to the man above, who hesitated; then he looked across at Blackthorne, shrugged and spoke.

  “What did he say?”

  The priest replied, “It’s a Japanese saying: ‘A man’s fate is a man’s fate and life is but an illusion.’”

  Blackthorne nodded to the samurai and went to the ladder without looking back and scaled it. When he came into full sunlight, he squinted against the painful brilliance, his knees gave way, and he toppled to the sandy earth.

  Omi was to one side. The priest and Mura stood near the four samurai. Some distant villagers watched for a moment and then turned away.

  No one helped him.

  Oh, God, give me strength, Blackthorne prayed. I’ve got to get on my feet and pretend to be strong. That’s the only thing they respect. Being strong. Showing no fear. Please help me.

  He gritted his teeth and pushed against the earth and stood up, swaying slightly. “What the hell do you want with me, you poxy little bastard?” he said directly at Omi, then added to the priest, “Tell the bastard I’m a daimyo in my own country and what sort of treatment is this? Tell him we’ve no quarrel with him. Tell him to let us out or it’ll be the worse for him. Tell him I’m a daimyo, by God. I’m heir to Sir William of Micklehaven, may the bastard be dead long since. Tell him!”

  The night had been terrible for Father Sebastio. But during his vigil he had come to feel God’s presence and gained a serenity he had never experienced before. Now he knew that he could be an instrument of God against the heathen, that he was shielded against the heathen, and the pirate’s cunning. He knew, somehow, that this night had been a preparation, a crossroads for him.

  “Tell him.”

  The priest said in Japanese, “The pirate says he’s a lord in his own country.” He listened to Omi’s reply. “Omi-san says he does not care if you are a king in your own country. Here you live at Lord Yabu’s whim—you and all your men.”

  “Tell him he’s a turd.”

  “You should beware of insulting him.”

  Omi began talking again.

  “Omi-san says that you will be given a bath. And food and drink. If you behave, you will not be put back into the pit.”

  “What about my men?”

  The priest asked Omi.

  “They will stay below.”

  “Then tell him to go to hell.” Blackthorne walked toward the ladder to go below again. Two of the samurai prevented him, and though he struggled against them, they held him easily.

  Omi spoke to the priest, then to his men. They released him and Blackthorne almost fell.

  “Omi-san says that unless you behave, another of your men will be taken up. There is plenty of firewood and plenty of water.”

  If I agree now, thought Blackthorne, they’ve found the means to control me and I’m in their power forever. But what does it matter, I’m in their power now and, in the end, I will have to do what they want. Van Nekk was right. I’ll have to do anything.

  “What does he want me to do? What does it mean to ‘behave’?”

  “Omi-san says, it means to obey. To do what you are told. To eat dung if need be.”

  “Tell him to go to hell. Tell him I piss on him and his whole country—and his daimyo.”

  “I recommend you agree to wh—”

  “Tell him what I said, exactly, by God!”

  “Very well—but I did warn you, Pilot.”

  Omi listened to the priest. The knuckles on his sword hand whitened. All of his men shifted uneasily, their eyes knifing into Blackthorne.

  Then Omi gave a quiet order.

  Instantly two samurai went down into the pit and brought out Croocq, the boy. They dragged him over to the cauldron, trussed him while others brought firewood and water. They put the petrified boy into the brimming cauldron and ignited the wood.

  Blackthorne watched the soundless mouthings of Croocq and the terror that was all of him. Life has no value to these people at all, he thought. God curse them to hell, they’ll boil Croocq as certain as I’m standing on this God-forsaken earth.

  Smoke billowed across the sand. Sea gulls were mewing around the fishing boats. A piece of wood fell out of the fire and was kicked back again by a samurai.

  “Tell him to stop,” Blackthorne said. “Ask him to stop.”

  “Omi-san says, you agree to behave?”


  “He says, you will obey all orders?”

  “As far as I can, yes.”

  Omi spoke again. Father Sebastio asked a question and Omi nodded.

  “He wants you to answer directly to him. The Japanese for ‘yes’ is ‘hai.’ He says, you will obey all orders?”

  “As far as I can, hai.”

  The fire was beginning to warm the water and a nauseating groan broke from the boy’s mouth. Flames from the wooden fire that was set into the bricks below the iron licked the metal. More wood was piled on.

  “Omi-san says, lie down. Immediately.”

  Blackthorne did as he was ordered.

  “Omi-san says that he had not insulted you personally, neither was there any cause for you to insult him. Because you are a barbarian and know no better yet, you will not be killed. But you will be taught manners. Do you understand?”


  “He wants you to answer direct to him.”

  There was a wailing cry from the boy. It went on and on and then the boy fainted. One of the samurai held his head out of the water.

  Blackthorne looked up at Omi. Remember, he ordered himself, remember that the boy is in your hands alone, the lives of all your crew are in your hands. Yes, the devil half of him began, but there’s no guarantee that the bastard’ll honor a bargain.

  “Do you understand?”


  He saw Omi hitch up his kimono and ease his penis out of his loincloth. He had expected the man to piss in his face. But Omi did not. He pissed on his back. By the Lord God, Blackthorne swore to himself, I will remember this day and somehow, somewhere, Omi will pay.

  “Omi-san says, it is bad manners to say that you will piss on anyone. Very bad. It is bad manners and very stupid to say you will piss on anyone when you are unarmed. It is very bad manners and even more stupid to say you will piss on anyone when you are unarmed, powerless, and not prepared to allow your friends or family or whomever to perish first.”

  Blackthorne said nothing. He did not take his eyes off Omi.

  “Wakarimasu ka?” Omi said.

  “He says, do you understand?”



  “He says you will get up.”

  Blackthorne got up, pain hammering in his head. His eyes were on Omi and Omi stared back at him.

  “You will go with Mura and obey his orders

  Blackthorne made no reply.

  “Wakarimasu ka?” Omi said sharply.

  “Hai.” Blackthorne was measuring the distance between himself and Omi. He could feel his fingers on the man’s neck and face already, and he prayed he could be quick and strong enough to take Omi’s eyes out before they tore him off the man. “What about the boy?” he said.

  The priest spoke to Omi haltingly.

  Omi glanced at the cauldron. The water was hardly tepid yet. The boy had fainted but was unharmed. “Take him out of there,” he ordered. “Get a doctor if he needs one.”

  His men obeyed. He saw Blackthorne go over to the boy and listen to his heart.

  Omi motioned to the priest. “Tell the leader that the youth can also stay out of the pit today. If the leader behaves and the youth behaves, another of the barbarians may come out of the pit tomorrow. Then another. Perhaps. Or more than one. Perhaps. It depends on how the ones above behave. But you—” he looked directly at Blackthorne—“you are responsible for the smallest infraction of any rule or order. Do you understand?”

  After the priest had translated this, Omi heard the barbarian say, “Yes,” and saw part of the blood-chilling anger go out of his eyes. But the hatred remained. How foolish, Omi thought, and how naive to be so open. I wonder what he would have done if I had played with him further—pretended to go back on what I had promised, or implied that I had promised.

  “Priest, what’s his name again? Say it slowly.”

  He heard the priest say the name several times but it still sounded like gibberish.

  “Can you say it?” he asked one of his men.

  “No, Omi-san.”

  “Priest, tell him from now on his name is Anjin—Pilot—neh? When he merits it, he will be called Anjin-san. Explain to him that there are no sounds in our tongue for us to say his real name as it is.” Omi added dryly, “Impress upon him that this is not meant to be insulting. Good-by, Anjin, for the moment.”

  They all bowed to him. He returned the salutation politely and walked away. When he was well clear of the square and certain that no one was watching, he allowed himself to smile broadly. To have tamed the chief of the barbarians so quickly! To have discerned at once how to dominate him, and them!

  How extraordinary those barbarians are, he thought. Eeee, the sooner the Anjin speaks our language the better. Then we’ll know how to smash the Christian barbarians once and for all!

  “Why didn’t you piss in his face?” Yabu asked.

  “At first I’d intended to, Lord. But the Pilot’s still an untamed animal, totally dangerous. To do it in his face—well, with us, to touch a man’s face is the worst of insults, neh? So I reasoned that I might have insulted him so deeply he would lose control. So I pissed on his back—which I think will be sufficient.”

  They were seated on the veranda of his house, on silk cushions. Omi’s mother was serving them cha—tea—with all the ceremony she could command, and she had been well trained in her youth. She offered the cup with a bow to Yabu. He bowed and politely offered it to Omi, who of course refused with a deeper bow; then he accepted it and sipped with enjoyment, feeling complete.

  “I’m very impressed with you, Omi-san,” he said. “Your reasoning is exceptional. Your planning and handling of this whole business has been splendid.”

  “You are too kind, Sire. My efforts could have been much better, much better.”

  “Where did you learn so much about the barbarian mind?”

  “When I was fourteen, for a year I had a teacher who was the monk called Jiro. Once he’d been a Christian priest, at least he was an apprentice priest, but fortunately he learned the errors of his stupidity. I’ve always remembered one thing he told me. He said that the Christian religion was vulnerable because they taught that their chief deity, Jesu, said that all people should ‘love’ one another—he taught nothing about honor or duty, only love. And also that life was sacred—‘Thou shalt not kill,’ neh? And other stupidities. These new barbarians claim to be Christian also, even though the priest denies it, so I reasoned that perhaps they’re just a different sect, and that’s the cause of their enmity, just as some of the Buddhist sects hate each other. I thought if they ‘love one another,’ perhaps we could control the leader by taking the life or even threatening to take the life of one of his men.” Omi knew that this conversation was dangerous because of the torture death, the befouled death. He felt his mother’s unspoken warning crossing the space between them.

  “Will you have more cha, Yabu-sama?” his mother asked.

  “Thank you,” Yabu said. “It’s very, very good.”

  “Thank you, Sire. But Omi-san, is the barbarian broken for good?” his mother asked, twisting the conversation. “Perhaps you should tell our Lord if you think it’s temporary or permanent.”

  Omi hesitated. “Temporary. But I think he should learn our language as fast as possible. That’s very important to you, Sire. You will probably have to destroy one or two of them to keep him and the rest in control, but by that time he will have learned how to behave. Once you can talk directly to him, Yabu-sama, you can use his knowledge. If what the priest said is true—that he piloted the ship ten thousand ri—he must be more than just a little clever.”

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