CHAPTER 7 : Part 5 – Shogun

CHAPTER 7 : Part 5 – Shogun

  “Iyé,” the samurai said, shaking his head. “Kasigi Yabu-sama!”

  “IYÉ?” Rodrigues said. “Kasigi Yabu-sama? I’m from Toda Hiro-matsu-sama, who’s a bigger king than your bugger and Toady-sama’s from Toranaga-sama, who’s the biggest bugger-sama in this whole world. Neh?” He ripped the seal off the door, dropped a hand to one of his pistols. The swords were half out of their scabbards and he said quietly to Blackthorne, “Get ready to abandon ship,” and to the samurai he said gruffly, “Toranaga-sama!” He pointed with his left hand at the flag which fluttered at his own masthead. “Wakarimasu ka?”

  The samurai hesitated, their swords ready. Blackthorne prepared to dive over the side.

  “Toranaga-sama!” Rodrigues crashed his foot against the door, the latch snapped and the door burst open. “WAKARIMASU KA?”

  “Wakarimasu, Anjin-san.” The samurai quickly put their swords away and bowed and apologized and bowed again and Rodrigues said hoarsely, “That’s better,” and led the way below.

  “Christ Jesus, Rodrigues,” Blackthorne said when they were on the lower deck. “Do you do this all the time and get away with it?”

  “I do it very seldom,” the Portuguese said, wiping the sweat from his brow, “and even then I wish I’d never started it.”

  Blackthorne leaned against the bulkhead. “I feel as if someone’s kicked me in the stomach.”

  “It’s the only way. You’ve got to act like a king. Even so, you can never tell with a samurai. They’re as dangerous as a pissed priest with a candle in his arse sitting on a half-full powder keg.”

  “What did you say to them?”

  “Toda Hiro-matsu is Toranaga’s chief adviser—he’s a bigger daimyo than this local one. That’s why they gave in.”

  “What’s he like, Toranaga?”

  “Long story, Ingeles.” Rodrigues sat on the step, pulled his boot off, and rubbed his ankle. “I nearly broke my foot on your lice-eaten door.”

  “It wasn’t locked. You could have just opened it.”

  “I know. But that wouldn’t have been as effective. By the Blessed Virgin, you’ve got a lot to learn!”

  “Will you teach me?”

  Rodrigues pulled his boot back on. “That depends,” he said.

  “On what?”

  “We’ll have to see, won’t we? I’ve done all the talking so far, which is fair—I’m fit, you’re not. Soon it’ll be your turn. Which is your cabin?”

  Blackthorne studied him for a moment. The smell below decks was stiff and weathered. “Thanks for helping me come aboard.”

  He led the way aft. His door was unlocked. The cabin had been ransacked and everything removable had been taken. There were no books or clothes or instruments or quills. His sea chest too was unlocked. And empty.

  White with rage, he walked into the Great Cabin, Rodrigues watching intently. Even the secret compartment had been found and looted.

  “They’ve taken everything. The sons of plague-infested lice!”

  “What did you expect?”

  “I don’t know. I thought—with the seals—” Blackthorne went to the strong room. It was bare. So was the magazine. The holds contained only the bales of woolen cloth. “God curse all Jappers!” He went back to his cabin and slammed his sea chest closed.

  “Where are they?” Rodrigues asked.


  “Your rutters. Where are your rutters?”

  Blackthorne looked at him sharply.

  “No pilot’d worry about clothes. You came for the rutters. Didn’t you?”


  “Why’re you so surprised, Ingeles? Why do you think I came aboard? To help you get more rags? They’re threadbare as it is and you’ll need others. I’ve plenty for you. But where are the rutters?”

  “They’ve gone. They were in my sea chest.”

  “I’m not going to steal them, Ingeles. I just want to read them. And copy them, if need be. I’ll cherish them like my own, so you’ve no need to worry.” His voice hardened. “Please get them, Ingeles, we’ve little time left.”

  “I can’t. They’ve gone. They were in my sea chest.”

  “You wouldn’t have left them there—not coming into a foreign port. You wouldn’t forget a pilot’s first rule—to hide them carefully, and leave only false ones unprotected. Hurry up!”

  “They’re stolen!”

  “I don’t believe you. But I’ll admit you’ve hidden them very well. I searched for two hours and didn’t get a fornicating whiff.”


  “Why are you so surprised, Ingeles? Is your head up your arse? Naturally I came here from Osaka to investigate your rutters!”

  “You’ve already been aboard?”

  “Madonna!” Rodrigues said impatiently. “Yes, of course, two or three hours ago with Hiro-matsu, who wanted to look around. He broke the seals and then, when we left, this local daimyo sealed her up again. Hurry up, by God,” he added. “The sand’s running out.”

  “They’re stolen!” Blackthorne told him how they had arrived and how he had awakened ashore. Then he kicked his sea chest across the room, infuriated at the men who had looted his ship. “They’re stolen! All my charts! All my rutters! I’ve copies of some in England, but my rutter of this voyage’s gone and the—” He stopped.

  “And the Portuguese rutter? Come on, Ingeles, it had to be Portuguese.”

  “Yes, and the Portuguese one, it’s gone too.” Get hold of yourself, he thought. They’re gone and that’s the end. Who has them? The Japanese? Or did they give them to the priest? Without the rutters and the charts you can’t pilot your way home. You’ll never get home…. That’s not true. You can pilot your way home, with care, and enormous luck…. Don’t be ridiculous! You’re half-way around the earth, in enemy land, in enemy hands, and you’ve neither rutter nor charts. “Oh, Lord Jesus, give me strength!”

  Rodrigues was watching him intently. At length he said, “I’m sorry for you, Ingeles. I know how you feel—it happened to me once. He was an Ingeles too, the thief, may his ship drown and he burn in hell forever. Come on, let’s go back aboard.”

  Omi and the others waited on the jetty until the galley rounded the headland and vanished. To the west layers of night already etched the crimson sky. To the east, night joined the sky and the sea together, horizonless.

  “Mura, how long will it take to get all the cannon back on the ship?”

  “If we work through the night, by midday tomorrow, Omi-san. If we begin at dawn, we’ll be finished well before sunset. It would be safer to work during the day.”

  “Work through the night. Bring the priest to the pit at once.”

  Omi glanced at Igurashi, Yabu’s chief lieutenant, who was still looking out toward the headland, his face stretched, the livid scar tissue over his empty eye socket eerily shadowed. “You’d be welcome to stay, Igurashi-san. My house is poor but perhaps we could make you comfortable.”

  “Thank you,” the older man said, turning back to him, “but our Master said to return to Yedo at once, so I will return at once.” More of his concern showed. “I wish I was on that galley.”


  “I hate the thought of Yabu-sama being aboard with only two men. I hate it.”


  He pointed at Erasmus. “A devil ship, that’s what it is! So much wealth, then nothing.”

  “Surely everything? Won’t Lord Toranaga be pleased, enormously pleased with Lord Yabu’s gift?”

  “That money-infected province grabber is so filled with his own importance, he won’t even notice the amount of silver he’ll have stolen from our Master. Where are your brains?”

  “I presume only your anxiety over the possible danger to our Lord prompted you to make such a remark.”

  “You’re right, Omi-san. No insult was intended. You’ve been very clever and helpful to our Master. Perhaps you’re right about Toranaga too,” Igurashi said, but he was thinking, Enjoy your newfound wealth, you poor fool. I
know my Master better than you, and your increased fief will do you no good at all. Your advancement would have been a fair return for the ship, the bullion, and the arms. But now they’ve vanished. And because of you, my Master’s in jeopardy. You sent the message and you said, ‘See the barbarians first,’ tempting him. We should have left yesterday. Yes, then my Master would have been safely away by now, with the money and arms. Are you a traitor? Are you acting for yourself, or your stupid father, or for an enemy? For Toranaga, perhaps? It doesn’t matter. You can believe me, Omi, you dung-eating young fool, you and your branch of the Kasigi clan are not long for this earth. I’d tell you to your face but then I’d have to kill you and I would have spurned my Master’s trust. He’s the one to say when, not me.

  “Thank you for your hospitality, Omi-san,” he said. “I’ll look forward to seeing you soon, but I’ll be on my way now.”

  “Would you do something for me, please? Give my respects to my father. I’d appreciate it very much.”

  “I’d be happy to. He’s a fine man. And I haven’t congratulated you yet on your new fief.”

  “You’re too kind.”

  “Thank you again, Omi-san.” He raised his hand in friendly salutation, motioned to his men, and led the phalanx of horsemen out of the village.

  Omi went to the pit. The priest was there. Omi could see the man was angry and he hoped that he would do something overt, publicly, so he could have him thrashed.

  “Priest, tell the barbarians they are to come up, one by one. Tell them Lord Yabu has said they may live again in the world of men.” Omi kept his language deliberately simple. “But the smallest breaking of a rule, and two will be put back into the pit. They are to behave and obey all orders. Is that clear?”


  Omi made the priest repeat it to him as before. When he was sure the man had it all correctly, he made him speak it down into the pit.

  The men came up, one by one. All were afraid. Some had to be helped. One man was in great pain and screamed every time someone touched his arm.

  “There should be nine.”

  “One is dead. His body is down there, in the pit,” the priest said.

  Omi thought for a moment. “Mura, burn the corpse and keep the ashes with those of the other barbarian. Put these men in the same house as before. Give them plenty of vegetables and fish. And barley soup and fruit. Have them washed. They stink. Priest, tell them that if they behave and obey, the food will continue.”

  Omi watched and listened carefully. He saw them all react gratefully and he thought with contempt, how stupid! I deprive them for only two days, then give them back a pittance and now they’ll eat dung, they really will. “Mura, make them bow properly and take them away.”

  Then he turned to the priest. “Well?”

  “I go now. Go my home. Leave Anjiro.”

  “Better you leave and stay away forever, you and every priest like you. Perhaps the next time one of you comes into my fief it is because some of my Christian peasants or vassals are considering treason,” he said, using the veiled threat and classic ploy that anti-Christian samurai used to control the indiscriminate spread of the foreign dogma in their fiefs, for though foreign priests were protected, their Japanese converts were not.

  “Christians good Japanese. Always. Only good vassals. Never had bad thoughts. No.”

  “I’m glad to hear it. Don’t forget my fief stretches twenty ri in every direction. Do you understand?”

  “I understand. Yes. I understand very well.”

  He watched the man bow stiffly—even barbarian priests had to have manners—and walk away.

  “Omi-san?” one of his samurai said. He was young and very handsome.


  “Please excuse me, I know you haven’t forgotten but Masijiro-san is still in the pit.” Omi went to the trapdoor and stared down at the samurai. Instantly the man was on his knees, bowing deferentially.

  The two days had aged him. Omi weighed his past service and his future worth. Then he took the young samurai’s dagger from his sash and dropped it into the pit.

  At the bottom of the ladder Masijiro stared at the knife in disbelief. Tears began coursing his cheeks. “I don’t deserve this honor, Omi-san,” he said abjectly.


  “Thank you.”

  The young samurai beside Omi said, “May I please ask that he be allowed to commit seppuku here, on the beach?”

  “He failed in the pit. He stays in the pit. Order the villagers to fill it in. Obliterate all traces of it. The barbarians have defiled it.”

  Kiku laughed and shook her head. “No, Omi-san so sorry, please no more saké for me or my hair will fall down. I’ll fall down, and then where would we be?”

  “I’d fall down with you and we’d pillow and be in nirvana, outside ourselves,” Omi said happily, his head swimming from the wine.

  “Ah, but I’d be snoring and you can’t pillow a snoring, horrid drunken girl and get much pleasure. Certainly not, so sorry. Oh no, Omi-sama of the Huge New Fief, you deserve better than that!” She poured another thimble of the warm wine into the tiny porcelain cup and offered it with both hands, her left forefinger and thumb delicately holding the cup, the forefinger of her right hand touching the underside. “Here, because you are wonderful!”

  He accepted it and sipped, enjoying its warmth and mellow tang. “I’m so glad I was able to persuade you to stay an extra day, neh? You are so beautiful, Kiku-san.”

  “You are beautiful, and it is my pleasure.” Her eyes were dancing in the light of a candle encased in a paper and bamboo flower that hung from the cedar rafter. This was the best suite of rooms in the Tea House near the Square. She leaned over to help him to some more rice from the simple wooden bowl that was on the low black lacquered table in front of him, but he shook his head.

  “No, no, thank you.”

  “You should eat more, a strong man like you.”

  “I’m full, really.”

  He did not offer her any because she had barely touched her small salad—thinly sliced cucumbers and tiny sculptured radishes pickled in sweet vinegar—which was all she would accept of the whole meal. There had been slivers of raw fish on balls of tacky rice, soup, the salad, and some fresh vegetables served with a piquant sauce of soya and ginger. And rice.

  She clapped her hands softly and the shoji was opened instantly by her personal maid.

  “Yes, Mistress?”

  “Suisen, take all these things away and bring more saké and a fresh pot of cha. And fruit. The saké should be warmer than last time. Hurry up, good-for-nothing!” She tried to sound imperious.

  Suisen was fourteen, sweet, anxious to please, and an apprentice courtesan. She had been with Kiku for two years and Kiku was responsible for her training.

  With an effort, Kiku took her eyes off the pure white rice that she would have loved to have eaten and dismissed her own hunger. You ate before you arrived and you will eat later, she reminded herself. Yes, but even then it was so little. ‘Ah, but ladies have tiny appetites, very tiny appetites,’ her teacher used to say. ‘Guests eat and drink—the more the better. Ladies don’t, and certainly never with guests. How can ladies talk or entertain or play the samisen or dance if they’re stuffing their mouths? You will eat later, be patient. Concentrate on your guest.’

  While she watched Suisen critically, gauging her skill, she told Omi stories to make him laugh and forget the world outside. The young girl knelt beside Omi, tidied the small bowls and chopsticks on the lacquer tray into a pleasing pattern as she had been taught. Then she picked up the empty saké flask, poured to make sure it was empty—it would have been very bad manners to have shaken the flask—then got up with the tray, noiselessly carried it to the shoji door, knelt, put the tray down, opened the shoji, got up, stepped through the door, knelt again, lifted the tray out, put it down again as noiselessly, and closed the door completely.

  “I’ll really have to get another maid,” Kiku said, n
ot displeased. That color suits her, she was thinking. I must send to Yedo for some more of that silk. What a shame it’s so expensive! Never mind, with all the money Gyoko-san was given for last night and tonight, there will be more than enough from my share to buy little Suisen twenty kimonos. She’s such a sweet child, and really very graceful. “She makes so much noise—it disturbs the whole room—so sorry.”

  “I didn’t notice her. Only you,” Omi said, finishing his wine.

  Kiku fluttered her fan, her smile lighting her face. “You make me feel very good, Omi-san. Yes. And beloved.”

  Suisen brought the saké quickly. And the cha. Her mistress poured Omi some wine and gave it to him. The young girl unobtrusively filled the cups. She did not spill a drop and she thought the sound that the liquid made going into the cup had the right quiet kind of ring to it, so she sighed inwardly with vast relief, sat back on her heels, and waited.

  Kiku was telling an amusing story that she had heard from one of her friends in Mishima and Omi was laughing. As she did so, she took one of the small oranges and, using her long fingernails, opened it as though it were a flower, the sections of the fruit the petals, the divisions of the skin its leaves. She removed a fleck of pith and offered it with both hands as if this were the usual way a lady would serve the fruit to her guest.

  “Would you like an orange, Omi-san?”

  Omi’s first reaction was to say, I can’t destroy such beauty. But that would be inept, he thought, dazzled by her artistry. How can I compliment her, and her unnamed teacher? How can I return the happiness that she has given me, letting me watch her fingers create something so precious yet so ephemeral?

  He held the flower in his hands for a moment then nimbly removed four sections, equidistant from each other, and ate them with enjoyment. This left a new flower. He removed four more sections, creating a third floral design. Next he took one section, and moved a second so that the remaining three made still another blossom.

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