CHAPTER 8 : Part 3 – Shogun

CHAPTER 8 : Part 3 – Shogun

  “Hai, Anjin-san?” the mate asked. He was a middle-aged man with strong white teeth and a broad, weatherbeaten face. A livid bruise marked his cheek where the sea had battered him against the gunwale.

  “You did very well,” Blackthorne said, not caring that his words would not be understood. He knew his tone would be clear and his smile. “Yes, very well. You’re Captain-san now. Wakarimasu? You! Captain-san!”

  The man stared at him open-mouthed, then he bowed to hide both his astonishment and his pleasure. “Wakarimasu, Anjin-san. Hai. Arigato goziema-shita.”

  “Listen, Captain-san,” Blackthorne said. “Get the men food and drink. Hot food. We’ll stay here tonight.” With signs Blackthorne made him comprehend.

  Immediately the new captain turned and shouted with new authority. Instantly seamen ran to obey him. Filled with pride, the new captain looked back at the quarterdeck. I wish I could speak your barbarian language, he thought happily. Then I could thank you, Anjin-san, for saving the ship and with the ship the life of our Lord Hiro-matsu. Your magic gave us all new strength. Without your magic we would have floundered. You may be a pirate but you are a great seaman, and while you are pilot I will obey you with my life. I’m not worthy to be captain, but I will try to deserve your trust. “What do you want me to do next?” he asked.

  Blackthorne was looking over the side. The seabed was obscured. He took mental bearings and when he was sure that the anchors had not slipped and the sea was safe, he said, “Launch the skiff. And get a good sculler.”

  Again with signs and with words Blackthorne made himself understood.

  The skiff was launched and manned instantly.

  Blackthorne went to the gunwale and would have scaled down the side but a harsh voice stopped him. He looked around. Hiro-matsu was there, Yabu beside him.

  The old man was badly bruised about the neck and shoulders but he still carried the long sword. Yabu was bleeding from his nose, his face bruised, his kimono blotched, and he tried to staunch the flow with a small piece of material. Both men were impassive, seemingly unaware of their hurts or the chill of the wind.

  Blackthorne bowed politely. “Hai, Toda-sama?”

  Again the harsh words and the old man pointed with his sword at the skiff and shook his head.

  “Rodrigu-san there!” Blackthorne pointed to the south shore in answer. “I go look!”

  “Iyé!” Hiro-matsu shook his head again, and spoke at length, clearly refusing him permission because of the danger.

  “I’m Anjin-san of this whore-bitch ship and if I want to go ashore I’m going ashore.” Blackthorne kept his voice very polite but strong and it was equally obvious what he meant. “I know that skiff won’t live in that sea. Hai! But I’m going ashore there—by that point. You see that point, Toda Hiro-matsu-sama? By that small rock. I’m going to work my way around the headland, there. I’m in no hurry to die and I’ve nowhere to run. I want to get Rodrigu-san’s body.” He cocked a leg over the side. The scabbarded sword moved a fraction. So he froze. But his gaze was level, his face set.

  Hiro-matsu was in a dilemma. He could understand the pirate wanting to find Rodrigu-san’s body but it was dangerous to go there, even by foot, and Lord Toranaga had said to bring the barbarian back safely, so he was going to be brought safely. It was equally clear that the man intended to go.

  He had seen him during the storm, standing on the pitching deck like an evil sea kami, unafraid, in his element and part of the storm, and he had thought grimly at the time, better to get this man and all barbarians like him on the land where we can deal with them. At sea we’re in their power.

  He could see the pirate was impatient. How insulting they are, he told himself. Even so I should thank you. Everyone says you alone are responsible for bringing the ship to harbor, that the Rodrigu anjin lost his nerve and waved us away from land, but you held our course. Yes. If we’d gone out to sea we’d have sunk certainly and then I would have failed my Master. Oh, Buddha, protect me from that!

  All his joints were aching and his piles inflamed. He was exhausted by the effort it took to remain stoic in front of his men, Yabu, the crew, even this barbarian. Oh, Buddha, I’m so tired. I wish I could lie in a bath and soak and soak and have one day of rest from pain. Just one day. Stop your stupid womanish thoughts! You’ve been in pain for almost sixty years. What is pain to a man? A privilege! Masking pain is the measure of a man. Thank Buddha you are still alive to protect your Master when you should have been dead a hundred times. I do thank Buddha.

  But I hate the sea. I hate the cold. And I hate pain.

  “Stay where you are, Anjin-san,” he said, pointing with his scabbard for clarity, bleakly amused by the ice-blue fire in the man’s eyes. When he was sure the man understood he glanced at the mate. “Where are we? Whose fief is this?”

  “I don’t know, Sire. I think we’re somewhere in Ise Province. We could send someone ashore to the nearest village.”

  “Can you pilot us to Osaka?”

  “Providing we stay very close to shore, Sire, and go slowly, with great caution. I don’t know these waters and I could never guarantee your safety. I don’t have enough knowledge and there’s no one aboard, Sire, who has. Except this pilot. If it was left to me I would advise you to go by land. We could get you horses or palanquins.”

  Hiro-matsu shook his head irascibly. To go overland was out of the question. It would take far too long—the way was mountainous and there were few roads—and they would have to go through many territories controlled by allies of Ishido, the enemy. Added to this danger were also the multitudinous bandit groups that infested the passes. This would mean he would have to take all his men. Certainly he could fight his way through the bandits, but he could never force a passage if Ishido or his allies decided to inhibit him. All this would delay him further, and his orders were to deliver the cargo, the barbarian, and Yabu, quickly and safely.

  “If we follow the coast, how long would it take us?”

  “I don’t know, Sire. Four or five days, perhaps more. I would feel very unsure of myself—I’m not a captain, so sorry.”

  Which means, Hiro-matsu thought, that I have to have the cooperation of this barbarian. To prevent him going ashore I’ll have to tie him up. And who knows if he’ll be cooperative tied up?

  “How long will we have to stay here?”

  “The pilot said overnight.”

  “Will the storm be gone by then?”

  “It should, Sire, but one never knows.”

  Hiro-matsu studied the mountain coast, then the pilot, hesitating.

  “May I offer a suggestion, Hiro-matsu-san?” Yabu said.

  “Yes, yes, of course,” he said testily.

  “As we seem to need the pirate’s cooperation to get us to Osaka, why not let him go ashore but send men with him to protect him, and order them back before dark. As to going overland, I agree it would be too dangerous for you—I would never forgive myself if anything happened to you. Once the storm has blown itself out you’ll be safer with the ship and you’ll get to Osaka much quicker, neh? Surely by sunset tomorrow.”

  Reluctantly Hiro-matsu nodded. “Very well.” He beckoned a samurai. “Takatashi-san! You will take six men and go with the Pilot. Bring the Portuguese’s body back if you can find it. But if even one of this barbarian’s eyelashes is damaged, you and your men will commit seppuku instantly.”

  “Yes, Lord.”

  “And send two men to the nearest village and find out exactly where we are and in whose fief we are.”

  “Yes, Lord.”

  “With your permission, Hiro-matsu-san, I will lead the party ashore.”

  Yabu said. “If we arrived in Osaka without the pirate, I’d be so ashamed that I’d feel obliged to kill myself anyway. I’d like the honor of carrying out your orders.”

  Hiro-matsu nodded, inwardly surprised that Yabu would put himself in such jeopardy. He went below.

  When Blackthorne realized that Yabu was going ashore with him, his pulse quickened. I haven’t forgotten Pieterzoon or my crew or the pit—or the screams or Omi or any part of it. Look to your life, bastard.

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