CHAPTER 9 : Part 2 – Shogun

CHAPTER 9 : Part 2 – Shogun

You will be my vassal, Anjin-san!

  He went down the side of the cliff with great skill. When he was halfway down he slipped. His left hand held onto an outcrop. This stopped his fall, and he swung between life and death. His fingers dug deeply as he felt his grip failing and he ground his toes into a crevice, fighting for another hold. As his left hand ripped away, his toes found a cleft and they held and he hugged the cliff desperately, still off-balance, pressing against it, seeking holds. Then his toehold gave way. Though he managed to catch another outcrop with both hands, ten feet below, and hang on momentarily, this outcrop gave way too. He fell the last twenty feet.

  He had prepared as best he could and landed on his feet like a cat, tumbled the sloping rock face to break the shock, and came to rest in a wheezing ball. He clutched his lacerated arms around his head, protecting himself against the stone avalanche that could follow. But none did. He shook his head to clear it and got up. One ankle was twisted. A searing pain shot up his leg into his bowels and the sweat started. His toes and fingernails were bleeding but that was to be expected.

  There’s no pain. You will not feel pain. Stand upright. The barbarian is watching.

  A column of spray doused him and the cold helped to ease the hurt. With care, he slid over the seaweeded boulders, and eased himself across the crevices and then he was at the body.

  Abruptly Yabu realized that the man was still alive. He made sure, then sat back for a moment. Do I want him alive or dead? Which is better?

  A crab scuttled from under a rock and plopped into the sea. Waves rushed in. He felt the salt rip his wounds. Which is better, alive or dead?

  He got up precariously and shouted, “Takatashi-san! This pilot’s still alive! Go to the ship, bring a stretcher and a doctor, if there’s one on the ship!”

  Takatashi’s words came back faintly against the wind, “Yes, Lord,” and to his men as he ran off, “Watch the barbarian, don’t let anything happen to him!”

  Yabu peered at the galley, riding her anchors gently. The other samurai he had sent back for ropes was already beside the skiffs. He watched while the man jumped into one and it was launched. He smiled to himself, glanced back. Blackthorne had come to the edge of the cliff and was shouting urgently at him.

  What is he trying to say? Yabu asked himself. He saw the pilot pointing to the sea but that didn’t mean anything to him. The sea was rough and strong but it was no different from before.

  Eventually Yabu gave up trying to understand and turned his attention to Rodrigues. With difficulty he eased the man up onto the rocks, out of the surf. The Portuguese’s breathing was halting, but his heart seemed strong. There were many bruises. A splintered bone jutted through the skin of the left calf. His right shoulder seemed dislocated. Yabu looked for blood seepage from any openings but there was none. If he’s not hurt inside, then perhaps he will live, he thought.

  The daimyo had been wounded too many times and had seen too many dying and wounded not to have gained some measure of diagnostic skill. If Rodrigu can be kept warm, he decided, given saké and strong herbs, plenty of warm baths, he’ll live. He may not walk again but he’ll live. Yes. I want this man to live. If he can’t walk, no matter. Perhaps that would be better. I’ll have a spare pilot—this man certainly owes me his life. If the pirate won’t cooperate, perhaps I can use this man. Would it be worthwhile to pretend to become a Christian? Would that bring them both around to me?

  What would Omi do?

  That one’s clever—Omi. Yes. Too clever? Omi sees too much too fast. If he can see that far, he must perceive that his father would lead the clan if I vanish—my son’s too inexperienced yet to survive by himself—and after the father, Omi himself. Neh?

  What to do about Omi?

  Say I gave Omi to the barbarian? As a toy.

  What about that?

  There were anxious shouts from above. Then he realized what the barbarian had been pointing at. The tide! The tide was coming in fast. Already it was encroaching on this rock. He scrambled up and winced at a shaft of pain from his ankle. All other escape along the shore was blocked by the sea. He saw that the tide mark on the cliff was over a man’s full height above the base.

  He looked at the skiff. It was near the ship now. On the foreshore Takatashi was still running well. The ropes won’t arrive in time, he told himself.

  His eyes searched the area diligently. There was no way up the cliff. No rocks offered sanctuary. No caves. Out to sea there were outcrops but he could never reach them. He could not swim and there was nothing to use as a raft.

  The men above were watching him. The barbarian pointed to the outcrops seaward and made motions of swimming, but he shook his head. He searched carefully again. Nothing.

  There’s no escape, he thought. Now you are committed to death. Prepare yourself.

  Karma, he told himself, and turned away from them, settling himself more comfortably, enjoying the vast clarity that had come to him. Last day, last sea, last light, last joy, last everything. How beautiful the sea and the sky and the cold and salt. He began to think of the final poem-song that he should now, by custom, compose. He felt fortunate. He had time to think clearly.

  Blackthorne was shouting, “Listen, you whore-bastard! Find a ledge—there’s got to be a ledge somewhere!”

  The samurai were standing in his way, gazing at him as though he were a madman. It was clear to them there was no escape and that Yabu was simply preparing for a sweet death, as they would be doing if they had been he. And they resented these ravings as they knew Yabu would.

  “Look down there, all of you. Maybe there’s a ledge!”

  One of them went to the edge and peered down, shrugged, and talked to his comrades and they shrugged too. Each time Blackthorne tried to go closer to the edge to search for an escape they stopped him. He could have easily shoved one of them to his death and he was tempted to. But he understood them and their problems. Think of a way to help that bastard. You’ve got to save him to save Rodrigues.

  “Hey, you rotten, no good, piss-cutting, shit-tailed Japman! Hey, Kasigi Yabu! Where are your cojones? Don’t give up! Only cowards give up! Are you a man or a sheep!” But Yabu paid no attention. He was as still as the rock upon which he sat.

  Blackthorne picked up a stone and hurled it at him. It fell unnoticed into the water and the samurai shouted at Blackthorne angrily. He knew that at any moment they were going to fall on him and bind him up. But how could they? They’ve no rope—

  Rope! Get some rope! Can you make some?

  His eyes fell on Yabu’s kimono. He started tearing it into strips, testing them for strength. The silk was very strong. “Come on!” he ordered the samurai, taking off his own shirt. “Make a rope. Hai?”

  They understood. Rapidly they untied their sashes, took off their kimonos, and copied him. He began knotting the ends, sashes as well.

  While they completed the rope, Blackthorne carefully lay down and inched for the edge, making two of them hold onto his ankles for safety. He didn’t need their help but he wanted to reassure them.

  He stuck his head out as far as he dared, conscious of their anxiety. Then he began to search as you would search at sea. Quarter by quarter. Using every part of his vision but mostly the sides.

  A complete sweep.

  Once more.



  What’s that? Just above the tide line? Is it a crack in the cliff? Or a shadow?

  Blackthorne shifted position, keenly aware that the sea had almost covered the rock that Yabu sat on, and almost all of the rocks between him and the base of the cliff. Now he could see better and he pointed.

  “There! What’s that?”

  One of the samurai was on his hands and knees and he followed Blackthorne’s outstretched finger but saw nothing.

  “There! Isn’t that a ledge?”

  With his hands he formed the ledge and with two fingers made a man and stood the man on the ledge and, with another finger, ma
de a long bundle over the shoulder of the man, so now a man stood on a ledge—that ledge—with another over his shoulder.

  “Quick! Isogi! Make him understand—Kasigi Yabu-sama! Wakarimasu ka?”

  The man scrambled up and talked rapidly to the others and they looked too. Now they all saw the ledge. And they began to shout. Still no movement from Yabu. He seemed like a stone. They went on and Blackthorne added his shouts but it was as if they made no sound at all.

  One of them spoke to the others briefly and they all nodded and bowed. He bowed back. Then, with a sudden screaming shout of “Bansaiiiiiii!” he cast himself off the cliff and fell to his death. Yabu came violently out of his trance, whirled around and scrambled up.

  The other samurai shouted and pointed but Blackthorne heard nothing and saw nothing but the broken corpse that lay below, already being taken by the sea. What kind of men are these? he thought helplessly. Was that courage or just insanity? That man deliberately committed suicide on the off-chance he’d attract the attention of another man who had given up. It doesn’t make sense! They don’t make sense.

  He saw Yabu stagger up. He expected him to scramble for safety, leaving Rodrigues. That’s what I would have done. Is it? I don’t know. But Yabu half crawled, half slid, dragging the unconscious man with him through the surf-disturbed shallows to the bottom of the cliff. He found the ledge. It was barely a foot wide. Painfully he shoved Rōdrigues onto it, almost losing him once, then hauled himself up.

  The rope was twenty feet short. Quickly the samurai added their loincloths. Now, if Yabu stood, he could just reach the end.

  They shouted encouragement and began to wait.

  In spite of Blackthorne’s hatred he had to admire Yabu’s courage. Half a dozen times waves almost engulfed him. Twice Rodrigues was lost but each time Yabu dragged him back, and held his head out of the grasping sea, long after Blackthorne knew that he himself would have given up. Where do you get the courage, Yabu? Are you just devil-born? All of you?

  To climb down in the first place had taken courage. At first Blackthorne had thought that Yabu had acted out of bravado. But soon he had seen that the man was pitting his skill against the cliff and almost winning. Then he had broken his fall as deftly as any tumbler. And he had given up with dignity.

  Christ Jesus, I admire that bastard, and detest him.

  For almost an hour Yabu set himself against the sea and against his failing body, and then, in the dusk, Takatashi came back with the ropes. They made a cradle and shinned down the cliff with a skill that Blackthorne had never seen ashore.

  Quickly Rodrigues was brought aloft. Blackthorne would have tried to succor him but a Japanese with close-cropped hair was already on his knees beside him. He watched as this man, obviously a doctor, examined the broken leg. Then a samurai held Rodrigues’ shoulders as the doctor leaned his weight on the foot and the bone slid back under the flesh. His fingers probed and shoved and reset it and tied it to the splint. He began to wrap noxious-looking herbs around the angry wound and then Yabu was brought up.

  The daimyo shook off any help, waved the doctor back to Rodrigues, sat down and began to wait.

  Blackthorne looked at him. Yabu felt his eyes. The two men stared at each other.

  “Thank you,” Blackthorne said finally, pointing at Rodrigues. “Thank you for saving his life. Thank you, Yabu-san.” Deliberately he bowed. That’s for your courage, you black-eyed son of a shit-festered whore.

  Yabu bowed back as stiffly. But inside, he smiled.

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