Shike – Day 162 of 306

He knew she was right at least in one thing: they were going from one war to another. But he took her hand and said, “We must act as our insight tells us, Taniko. We cannot avoid choice. And every action has its shining side and its shadow side.”

“But, Jebu—” Beneath his hand, her own trembled. “He said he would see me again.”

Part One: The Book Of Yukio

Government is always for the benefit of the governors, at the expense of the governed. Sages who observe this are ever beset by the question: why is it that he who is most able to rule is never he who is most worthy to rule?

The Zinja Manual

Chapter One

The little house was perched on pilings over a pool at the bottom of a waterfall. A winding pathway of great black rocks led to it from the bank. The only sounds were the prattle of the waterfall and the sighing of the wind in the pines. The site had been chosen and the little house designed for seclusion and meditation.

It had been built ages earlier by the ancestor of their host, Fujiwara Hidehira. Hidehira said his ancestor, banished from Heian Kyo, had almost died of longing for the capital until he built this meditation hut and found peace. It was kept in repair and used by every generation of these Northern Fujiwaras.

Jebu took off his clogs and set them on the mossy embankment before trying to walk across to the house. The stepping stones were wet and slippery. When he had reached the house, he climbed steep wooden stairs and stood on the porch. “Ho, Yukio.”

“Come in, Jebu-san.”

Yukio, seated cross-legged before a low table, was wearing a violet robe with a yellow butterfly pattern. The robe looked strange to Jebu: he had grown so used to seeing Yukio in Chinese and Mongol garments. Yukio had brush, ink and paper before him, and when Jebu entered and seated himself, Yukio handed him a scroll.

“You are the first to read this. I plan to have it sent immediately to every province.”

Jebu unrolled the scroll and read, while Yukio sat watching his face. It was a proclamation whose message was familiar to Jebu. Towards the end he read, “Most sorely oppressed by Sogamori and his clan is the illustrious family of Muratomo. Sogamori despoiled and murdered my grandfather, my father Domei, and all my brothers, as well as many other members of my family. I alone, Muratomo no Yukio, survive to avenge them. I now claim the chieftainship of the Muratomo clan and call upon all relatives and allies of the Muratomo, from the furthest provinces to the capital itself, to rally to the White Dragon banner.”

Yukio urged all who read his words to rise at once and attack their Takashi overlords. He promised that all meritorious deeds would be noted and rewarded.

He concluded, “We vow to rescue the sacred person of His Imperial Majesty from the clutches of the Takashi. The Muratomo clan, always loyal to His Imperial Majesty, will sweep away the clouds that obscure the glory of the Imperial house and burnish it till it once again shines as brightly as the sun.”

Yukio’s round eyes were eager. “Well?”

“It’s beautifully written, Yukio-san. Especially that last sentence.”

Yukio bowed. “Thank you. Is there anything I’ve neglected?”

Jebu hesitated. Lately, Yukio had been asking his advice and then doing just the opposite. These Muratomo were stubborn, wilful men. Yukio’s father, Domei, had been like that, refusing to listen to advice, gallantly leading his family and his samurai straight to disaster. Probably Yukio’s grandfather, beheaded after supporting the losing side in a struggle between rival Emperors, had been the same way. Now Yukio had brought the Mongols to the Sacred Islands against the advice of Jebu and his stepfather, Taitaro. He had insisted on landing in the far-northern land of Oshu against advice. Jebu and Taitaro and many other samurai were convinced that there were more warriors in the south ready to spring to Yukio’s support. Now this proclamation. Jebu sighed inwardly. He could do nothing but try.

“By scattering copies of this declaration up and down the realm, you put Sogamori and the Takashi on notice that you’re back and are going to fight them. Why throw away the advantage of surprise? They outnumber us twenty to one.”

Yukio smiled. At least he had not yet lost his temper, Jebu thought, as he often had when Jebu’s advice contradicted his wishes.

“We have no advantage of surprise. It has taken us most of a month to collect all our men here. By now Sogamori’s agents have reported our presence. I learned my lesson when we fought our way out of Hakata Bay. If we couldn’t keep the departure of a thousand samurai a secret, how can we expect to hide the arrival of twelve thousand warriors? Since the Takashi know we’re here, it’s best that all who might rally to our side be alerted as well. Also, as you and Taitaro warned me, there will be people who will imagine I’m an invader, because I brought Mongols with me. This proclamation will allay their suspicions.”

Comments

  1. PPNN Identicon Icon

    PPNN wrote:

    Hello! Lovely to catch up with a good book I read as a young teenager! Second para on this page (162), Fujiwara is spelt with a K by mistake.

  2. ScottS-M Identicon Icon

    ScottS-M wrote:

    Thanks for catching that PPNN. Fixed now.

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