CHAPTER 6 : Part 2 – Shogun

CHAPTER 6 : Part 2 – Shogun

  “You’re more than just a little clever.” Yabu laughed. “You’re put in charge of the animals. Omi-san, trainer of men!”

  Omi laughed with him. “I’ll try, Lord.”

  “Your fief is increased from five hundred koku to three thousand. You will have control within twenty ri.” A ri was a measure of distance that approximated one mile. “As a further token of my affection, when I return to Yedo I will send you two horses, twenty silk kimonos, one suit of armor, two swords, and enough arms to equip a further hundred samurai which you will recruit. When war comes you will immediately join my personal staff as a hatamoto.” Yabu was feeling expansive: A hatamoto was a special personal retainer of a daimyo who had the right of access to his lord and could wear swords in the presence of his lord. He was delighted with Omi and felt rested, even reborn. He had slept exquisitely. When he had awoken he was alone, which was to be expected, because he had not asked either the girl or the boy to stay. He had drunk a little tea and eaten sparingly of rice gruel. Then a bath and Suwo’s massage.

  That was a marvelous experience, he thought. Never have I felt so close to nature, to the trees and mountains and earth, to the inestimable sadness of life and its transience. The screams had perfected everything.

  “Omi-san, there’s a rock in my garden at Mishima that I’d like you to accept, also to commemorate this happening, and that marvelous night and our good fortune. I’ll send it with the other things,” he said. “The stone comes from Kyushu. I called it ‘The Waiting Stone’ because we were waiting for the Lord Taikō to order an attack when I found it. That was, oh, fifteen years ago. I was part of his army which smashed the rebels and subdued the island.”

  “You do me much honor.”

  “Why not put it here, in your garden, and rename it? Why not call it ‘The Stone of Barbarian Peace,’ to commemorate the night and his endless waiting for peace.”

  “Perhaps I may be allowed to call it ‘The Happiness Stone’ to remind me and my descendants of the honors you do to me, Uncle?”

  “No—better just simply name it ‘The Waiting Barbarian.’ Yes, I like that. That joins us further together—him and me. He was waiting as I was waiting. I lived, he died.” Yabu looked at the garden, musing. “Good, ‘The Waiting Barbarian’! I like that. There are curious flecks on one side of the rock that remind me of tears, and veins of blue mixed with a reddish quartz that remind me of flesh—the impermanence of it!” Yabu sighed, enjoying his melancholy. Then he added, “It’s good for a man to plant a stone and name a stone. The barbarian took a long time to die, neh? Perhaps he will be reborn Japanese, to compensate for his suffering. Wouldn’t that be marvelous? Then one day, perhaps, his descendants would see his stone and be content.”

Omi poured out his heartfelt thanks, and protested that he did not deserve such bounty. Yabu knew that the bounty was not more than deserved. He could easily have given more, but he had remembered the old adage that you can always increase a fief, but to reduce one causes enmity. And treachery.

  “Oku-san,” he said to the woman, giving her the title of Honorable Mother, “my brother should have told me sooner about the great qualities of his youngest son. Then Omi-san would have been much further advanced today. My brother’s too retiring, too thoughtless.”

  “My husband’s too thoughtful for you, my Lord, to worry you,” she replied, aware of the underlying criticism. “I’m glad that my son has had an opportunity of serving you, and that he’s pleased you. My son has only done his duty, neh? It’s our duty—Mizuno-san and all of us—to serve.”

  Horses clattered up the rise. Igurashi, Yabu’s chief retainer, strode through the garden. “Everything’s ready, Sire. If you want to get back to Yedo quickly we should leave now.”

  “Good. Omi-san, you and your men will go with the convoy and assist Igurashi-san to see it safely into the castle.” Yabu saw a shadow cross Omi’s face. “What?”

  “I was just thinking about the barbarians.”

  “Leave a few guards for them. Compared to the convoy, they’re unimportant. Do what you want with them—put them back into the pit, do what you like. When and if you obtain anything useful from them, send me word.”

  “Yes, Lord,” Omi replied. “I’ll leave ten samurai and specific instructions with Mura—they’ll come to no harm in five or six days. What do you want done with the ship itself?”

  “Keep it safe here. You’re responsible for it, of course. Zukimoto has sent letters to a dealer at Nagasaki to offer it for sale to the Portuguese. The Portuguese can come and collect it.”

  Omi hesitated. “Perhaps you should keep the ship, Sire, and get the barbarians to train some of our sailors to handle it.”

  “What do I need with barbarian ships?” Yabu laughed derisively. “Should I become a filthy merchant?”

  “Of course not, Sire,” Omi said quickly. “I just thought Zukimoto might have found a use for such a vessel.”

  “What do I need with a trading ship?”

  “The priest said this was a warship, Sire. He seemed afraid of it. When war starts, a warship could—”

  “Our war will be fought on land. The sea’s for merchants, all of whom are filthy usurers, pirates or fishermen.” Yabu got up and began to walk down the steps toward the garden gate, where a samurai was holding the bridle of his horse. He stopped and stared out to sea. His knees went weak.

  Omi followed his glance.

  A ship was rounding the headland. She was a large galley with a multitude of oars, the swiftest of the Japanese coastal vessels because she depended neither upon the wind, nor upon the tide. The flag at the masthead carried the Toranaga crest.

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