CHAPTER 7 : Part 1 – Shogun

CHAPTER 7 : Part 1 – Shogun

  Toda Hiro-matsu, overlord of the provinces of Sagami and Kozuké, Toranaga’s most trusted general and adviser, commander-in-chief of all his armies, strode down the gangplank onto the wharf alone. He was tall for a Japanese, just under six feet, a bull-like man with heavy jowls, who carried his sixty-seven years with strength. His military kimono was brown silk, stark but for the five small Toranaga crests—three interlocked bamboo sprays. He wore a burnished breastplate and steel arm protectors. Only the short sword was in his belt. The other, the killing sword, he carried loose in his hand. He was ready to unsheathe it instantly and to kill instantly to protect his liege lord. This had been his custom ever since he was fifteen.

  No one, not even the Taikō, had been able to change him.

  A year ago, when the Taikō died, Hiro-matsu had become Toranaga’s vassal. Toranaga had given him Sagami and Kozuké, two of his eight provinces, to overlord, five hundred thousand koku yearly, and had also left him to his custom. Hiro-matsu was very good at killing.

  Now the shore was lined with all the villagers—men, women, children—on their knees, their heads low. The samurai were in neat, formal rows in front of them. Yabu was at their head with his lieutenants.

  If Yabu had been a woman or a weaker man, he knew that he would be beating his breast and wailing and tearing his hair out. This was too much of a coincidence. For the famous Toda Hiro-matsu to be here, on this day, meant that Yabu had been betrayed—either in Yedo by one of his household, or here in Anjiro by Omi, one of Omi’s men, or one of the villagers. He had been trapped in disobedience. An enemy had taken advantage of his interest in the ship.

  He knelt and bowed and all his samurai followed him, and he cursed the ship and all who sailed in it.

  “Ah, Yabu-sama,” he heard Hiro-matsu say, and saw him kneel on the matting that had been set out for him and return his bow. But the depth of the bow was less than correct and Hiro-matsu did not wait for him to bow again, so he knew, without being told, that he was in vast jeopardy. He saw the general sit back on his heels. “Iron Fist” he was called behind his back. Only Toranaga or one of three counselors would have the privilege of flying the Toranaga flag. Why send so important a general to catch me away from Yedo?

  “You honor me by coming to one of my poor villages, Hiro-matsu-sama,” he said.

  “My Master ordered me here.” Hiro-matsu was known for his bluntness. He had neither guile nor cunning, only an absolute trustworthiness to his liege lord.

  “I’m honored and very glad,” Yabu said. “I rushed here from Yedo because of that barbarian ship.”

  “Lord Toranaga invited all friendly daimyos to wait in Yedo until he returned from Osaka.”

  “How is our Lord? I hope everything goes well with him?”

  “The sooner Lord Toranaga is safe in his own castle at Yedo the better. The sooner the clash with Ishido is open and we marshal our armies and cut a path back to Osaka Castle and burn it to the bricks, the better.” The old man’s jowls reddened as his anxiety for Toranaga increased; he hated being away from him. The Taikō had built Osaka Castle to be invulnerable. It was the greatest in the Empire, with interlocking keeps and moats, lesser castles, towers, and bridges, and space for eighty thousand soldiers within its walls. And around the walls and the huge city were other armies, equally disciplined and equally well armed, all fanatic supporters of Yaemon, the Heir. “I’ve told him a dozen times that he was mad to put himself into Ishido’s power. Lunatic!”

  “Lord Toranaga had to go, neh? He had no choice.” The Taikō had ordered that the Council of Regents, who ruled in Yaemon’s name, were to meet for ten days at least twice a year and always within Osaka’s castle keep, bringing with them a maximum of five hundred retainers within the walls. And all other daimyos were equally obliged to visit the castle with their families to pay their respects to the Heir, also twice a year. So all were controlled, all defenseless for part of the year, every year. “The meeting was fixed, neh? If he didn’t go it would be treason, neh?”

  “Treason against whom?” Hiro-matsu reddened even more. “Ishido’s trying to isolate our Master. Listen, if I had Ishido in my power like he has Lord Toranaga, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment—whatever the risks. Ishido’s head would have been off his shoulders long since, and his spirit awaiting rebirth.” The general was involuntarily twisting the well-used sheath of the sword that he carried in his left hand. His right hand, gnarled and calloused, lay ready in his lap. He studied Erasmus. “Where are the cannon?”

  “I had them brought ashore. For safety. Will Toranaga-sama make another compromise with Ishido?”

  “When I left Osaka, all was quiet. The Council was to meet in three days.”

  “Will the clash become open?”

  “I’d like it open. But my Lord? If he wants to compromise, he will compromise.” Hiro-matsu looked back at Yabu. “He ordered all allied daimyos to wait for him at Yedo. Until he returned. This is not Yedo.”

  “Yes. I felt that the ship was important enough to our cause to investigate it immediately.”

  “There was no need, Yabu-san. You should have more confidence. Nothing happens without our Master’s knowledge. He would have sent someone to investigate it. It happens he sent me. How long have you been here?”

  “A day and a night.”

  “Then you were two days coming from Yedo?”


  “You came very quickly. You are to be complimented.”

  To gain time Yabu began telling Hiro-matsu about his forced march. But his mind was on more vital matters. Who was the spy? How had Toranaga got the information about the ship as quickly as he himself? And who had told Toranaga about his departure? How could he maneuver now and deal with Hiro-matsu?

  Hiro-matsu heard him out, then said pointedly, “Lord Toranaga has confiscated the ship and all its contents.”

  A shocked silence swamped the shore. This was Izu, Yabu’s fief, and Toranaga had no rights here. Neither had Hiro-matsu any rights to order anything. Yabu’s hand tightened on his sword.

  Hiro-matsu waited with practiced calmness. He had done exactly as Toranaga had ordered and now he was committed. It was implacably kill or be killed.

  Yabu knew also that now he must commit himself. There was no more waiting. If he refused to give up the ship he would have to kill Hiro-matsu Iron Fist, because Hiro-matsu Iron Fist would never leave without it. There were perhaps two hundred elite samurai on the galley that was moored to the dock. They would also have to die. He could invite them ashore and beguile them, and within a few hours he could easily have enough samurai in Anjiro to overwhelm them all, for he was a master at ambush. But that would force Toranaga to send armies against Izu. You will be swallowed up, he told himself, unless Ishido comes to your rescue. And why should Ishido rescue you when your enemy Ikawa Jikkyo is Ishido’s kinsman and wants Izu for himself? Killing Hiro-matsu will open hostilities, because Toranaga will be honor bound to move against you, which would force Ishido’s hand, and Izu would be the first battlefield.

  What about my guns? My beautiful guns and my beautiful plan? I’ll lose my immortal chance forever if I have to turn them over to Toranaga.

  His hand was on the Murasama sword and he could feel the blood in his s
word arm and the blinding urge to begin. He had discarded at once the possibility of not mentioning the muskets. If the news of the ship had been betrayed, certainly the identity of its cargo was equally betrayed. But how did Toranaga get the news so quickly? By carrier pigeon! That’s the only answer. From Yedo or from here? Who possesses carrier pigeons here? Why haven’t I such a service? That’s Zukimoto’s fault—he should have thought of it, neh?

  Make up your mind. War or no war?

  Yabu called down the ill will of Buddha, of all kami, of all gods that had ever been or were yet to be invented, upon the man or men who had betrayed him, upon their parents and upon their descendants for ten thousand generations. And he conceded.

  “Lord Toranaga cannot confiscate the ship because it’s already a gift to him. I’ve dictated a letter to that effect. Isn’t that so, Zujimoto?”

  “Yes, Sire.”

  “Of course, if Lord Toranaga wishes to consider it confiscated he may. But it was to be a gift.” Yabu was pleased to hear that his voice sounded matter-of-fact. “He will be happy with the booty.”

  “Thank you on behalf of my Master.” Hiro-matsu again marveled at Toranaga’s foresight. Toranaga had predicted that this would happen and that there would be no fighting. ‘I don’t believe it,’ Hiro-matsu had said. ‘No daimyo would stand for such usurping of his rights. Yabu won’t. I certainly wouldn’t. Not even to you, Sire.’

  ‘But you would have obeyed orders and you would have told me about the ship. Yabu must be manipulated, neh? I need his violence and cunning—he neutralizes Ikawa Jikkyu and guards my flank.’

  Here on the beach under a good sun Hiro-matsu forced himself into a polite bow, hating his own duplicity. “Lord Toranaga will be delighted with your generosity.”

  Yabu was watching him closely. “It’s not a Portuguese ship.”

  “Yes. So we heard.”

  “And it’s pirate.” He saw the general’s eyes narrow.


  As he told him what the priest had said, Yabu thought, if that’s news to you as it was to me, doesn’t that mean that Toranaga had the same original information as I? But if you know the contents of the ship, then the spy is Omi, one of his samurai, or a villager. “There’s an abundance of cloth. Some treasure. Muskets, powder, and shot.”

  Hiro-matsu hesitated. Then he said, “The cloth is Chinese silks?”

  “No, Hiro-matsu-san,” he said, using the “san.” They were daimyos equally. But now that he was magnanimously “giving” the ship, he felt safe enough to use the less deferential term. He was pleased to see that the word had not gone unnoticed by the older man. I’m daimyo of Izu, by the sun, the moon, and the stars!

  “It’s very unusual, a thick heavy cloth, totally useless to us,” he said. “I’ve had everything worth salvaging brought ashore.”

  “Good. Please put all of it aboard my ship.”

  “What?” Yabu’s bowels almost burst.

  “All of it. At once.”


  “Yes. So sorry, but you’ll naturally understand that I want to return to Osaka as soon as possible.”

  “Yes but—but will there be space for everything?”

  “Put the cannon back on the barbarian ship and seal it up. Boats will be arriving within three days to tow it to Yedo. As to the muskets, powder, and shot, there’s—” Hiro-matsu stopped, avoiding the trap that he suddenly realized had been set for him.

  ‘There’s just enough space for the five hundred muskets,’ Toranaga had told him. ‘And all the powder and the twenty thousand silver doubloons aboard the galley. Leave the cannon on the deck of the ship and the cloth in the holds. Let Yabu do the talking and give him orders, don’t let him have time to think. But don’t get irritated or impatient with him. I need him, but I want those guns and that ship. Beware of his trying to trap you into revealing that you know the exactness of the cargo, because he must not uncover our spy.’

  Hiro-matsu cursed his inability to play these necessary games. “As to the space needed,” he said shortly, “perhaps you should tell me. And just exactly what is the cargo? How many muskets and shot and so forth? And is the bullion in bar or coins—is it silver or gold?”


  “Yes, Yabu-sama.”

  “Get the list of the contents.” I’ll deal with you later, Yabu thought. Zukimoto hurried away.

  “You must be tired, Hiro-matsu-san. Perhaps some cha? Accommodations have been prepared for you, such as they are. The baths are totally inadequate, but perhaps one would refresh you a little.”

  “Thank you. You’re very thoughtul. Some cha and a bath would be excellent. Later. First tell me everything that has happened since the ship arrived here.”

  Yabu told him the facts, omitting the part about the courtesan and the boy, which was unimportant. On Yabu’s orders, Omi told his story, except for his private conversations with Yabu. And Mura told his, excluding the part about the Anjin’s erection which, Mura reasoned, though interesting, might have offended Hiro-matsu, whose own, at his age, might be few and far between.

  Hiro-matsu looked at the plume of smoke that still rose from the pyre. “How many of the pirates are left?”

  “Ten, Sire, including the leader,” Omi said.

  “Where’s the leader now?”

  “In Mura’s house.”

  “What did he do? What was the first thing he did there after getting out of the pit?”

  “He went straight to the bath house, Sire,” Mura said quickly. “Now he’s asleep, Sire, like a dead man.”

  “You didn’t have to carry him this time?”

  “No, Sire.”

  “He seems to learn quickly.” Hiro-matsu glanced back at Omi. “You think they can be taught to behave?”

  “No. Not for certain, Hiro-matsu-sama.”

  “Could you clean away an enemy’s urine from your back?”

  “No, Lord.”

  “Nor could I. Never. Barbarians are very strange.” Hiro-matsu turned his mind back to the ship. “Who will be supervising the loading?”

  “My nephew, Omi-san.”

  “Good. Omi-san, I want to leave before dusk. My captain will help you be very quick. Within three sticks.” The unit of time was the time it took for a standard stick of incense to smolder away, approximately one hour for one stick.

  “Yes, Lord.”

  “Why not come with me to Osaka, Yabu-san?” Hiro-matsu said as though it was a sudden thought. “Lord Toranaga would be delighted to receive all these things from your hands. Personally. Please, there’s room enough.” When Yabu began to protest he allowed him to continue for a time, as Toranaga had ordered, and then he said, as Toranaga had ordered, “I insist. In Lord Toranaga’s name, I insist. Your generosity needs to be rewarded.”

  With my head and my lands? Yabu asked himself bitterly, knowing that there was nothing he could do now but accept gratefully. “Thank you. I would be honored.”

  “Good. Well then, that’s all done,” Iron Fist said with obvious relief. “Now some cha. And a bath.”

  Yabu politely led the way up the hill to Omi’s house. The old man was washed and scoured and then he lay gratefully in the steaming heat. Later Suwo’s hands made him new again. A little rice and raw fish and pickled vegetables taken sparingly in private. Cha sipped from good porcelain. A short dreamless nap.

  After three sticks the shoji slid open. The personal bodyguard knew better than to go into the room uninvited; Hiro-matsu was already awake and the sword half unsheathed and ready.

  “Yabu-sama is waiting outside, Sire. He says the ship is loaded.”


  Hiro-matsu went onto the veranda and relieved himself into the bucket. “Your men are very efficient, Yabu-san.”

  “Your men helped, Hiro-matsu-san. They are more than efficient.”

  Yes, and by the sun, they had better be, Hiro-matsu thought, then said genially, “Nothing like a good piss from a full bladder so long as there’s ple
nty of power behind the stream. Neh? Makes you feel young again. At my age you need to feel young.” He eased his loincloth comfortably, expecting Yabu to make some polite remark in agreement, but none was forthcoming. His irritation began to rise but he curbed it. “Have the pirate leader taken to my ship.”


  “You were generous enough to make a gift of the ship and the contents. The crew are contents. So I’m taking the pirate leader to Osaka. Lord Toranaga wants to see him. Naturally you do what you like with the rest of them. But during your absence, please make certain that your retainers realize the barbarians are my Master’s property and that there had better be nine in good health, alive, and here when he wants them.”

  Yabu hurried away to the jetty where Omi would be.

  When, earlier, he had left Hiro-matsu to his bath, he had walked up the track that meandered past the funeral ground. There he had bowed briefly to the pyre and continued on, skirting the terraced fields of wheat and fruit to come out at length on a small plateau high above the village. A tidy kamishrine guarded this tender place. An ancient tree bequeathed shade and tranquillity. He had gone there to quell his rage and to think. He had not dared to go near the ship or Omi or his men for he knew that he would have ordered most, if not all of them, to commit seppuku, which would have been a waste, and he would have slaughtered the village, which would have been foolish—peasants alone caught the fish and grew the rice that provided the wealth of the samurai.

  While he had sat and fumed alone and tried to sharpen his brain, the sun bent down and drove the sea mists away. The clouds that shrouded the distant mountains to the west had parted for an instant and he had seen the beauty of the snow-capped peaks soaring. The sight had settled him and he had begun to relax and think and plan.

  Set your spies to find the spy, he told himself. Nothing that Hiro-matsu said indicated whether the betrayal was from here or from Yedo. In Osaka you’ve powerful friends, the Lord Ishido himself among them. Perhaps one of them can smell out the fiend. But send a private message at once to your wife in case the informer is there. What about Omi? Make him responsible for finding the informer here? Is he the informer? That’s not likely, but not impossible. It’s more than probable the betrayal began in Yedo. A matter of timing. If Toranaga in Osaka got the information about the ship when it arrived, then Hiro-matsu would have been here first. You’ve informers in Yedo. Let them prove their worth.

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