Shike – Day 180 of 306

All that afternoon, while his uncles and half-brothers caroused at the entrance to the Phoenix Hall and the other samurai repaired their equipment, Atsue sat on the hillside playing every song he knew.

Many men in the camp below stopped what they were doing to listen to him. His playing was beautiful to hear.

Chapter Eight

From the pillow book of Shima Taniko:

On receiving word of Prince Mochihito’s uprising, Hideyori at once led a glittering procession of Muratomo and Shima samurai to a shrine to Hachiman, the god of war and patron of generations of Muratomo. Hideyori had the shrine built several years ago, at what my father feels was a ridiculous expenditure. But Hideyori believes in the power of the kami and of prayer, whereas my father only believes in the power of wealth.

Returning from the Hachiman shrine, Hideyori assembled all the nearby warlords and called on them to march south with him. He told them that Hachiman had promised him victory. I was reminded of Kublai’s telling me that the Great Khans of the Mongols always commune with the spirits before sending their armies on campaign. Hideyori told the samurai that their numbers would grow to a hundred thousand before they reached Heian Kyo. He reminded them that they are warriors of the eastern provinces, and eastern warriors are said to be the fiercest in all the islands.

I listened to all this from a window in the tower. Hideyori’s speech was not impressive. He lacks fire. He is a man who has lived in fear more than half his life, and it shows, at least to me. Yet, he is very ambitious and very intelligent. He is determined to destroy the Takashi and restore the glory of the Muratomo, no matter what the cost.

After his speech to the samurai, Hideyori led them out of Kamakura to attack Takashi Kanetake, the most powerful Takashi lord in this area.

-Eighth Month, seventeenth day


“I can’t understand a lady of your station conversing with a carpenter,” said Chogao. “Especially not that carpenter. Those enormous white teeth make him look like a shark. And those eyes. You can’t tell where he’s looking.”

“Moko is a very old friend, Aunt.”

“One does not have carpenters for friends.”

Taniko received Moko in her chambers behind a screen of state painted with peonies. In the dimly lit room the little man looked downcast. He stared at the floor.

“This is ridiculous,” said Taniko. “I’m not going to talk to you through a screen.” She started to get up.

Moko raised a warning hand. “No, my lady, stay where you are. Everything we do and say can be seen and overheard. If you talk to me without a screen it will only cause a scandal and make it more difficult for me to see you in the future.”

“All right, Moko.” Taniko settled down on her cushions again. “Have you found a home in Kamakura?”

“I have bought myself a fine piece of land on a hill overlooking the beach, my lady. I am building a house on it. I’ve sent to Hakata for my son and his mother, whom I plan to marry. I may even at last acquire the five children—or was it six?—I told you of when we met so many years ago. I have also been accepted into the joiners’ guild of Kamakura. That wasn’t easy. They’re a tightly knit lot. I couldn’t do any work here without being accepted into the guild. I promised to help pay for a new guild-hall for them, and I showed them a new system of construction proportions which I learned in China. In the long run I hope to become a shipbuilder.”

A silence fell between them. Suddenly Moko said, “I’m sorry you and the shiké couldn’t stay together.”

Taniko sighed. “Jebu has a war to go to. I must fight a battle inside myself.”

“I was there,” said Moko softly. “I saw him kill Kiyosi.”

“Jebu told me that.”

“I was the first person in all the world to weep for Kiyosi’s death, my lady. Lord Kiyosi was a great and good man. But it is madness to let his death years ago inflict so much suffering on the living today.”

“I agree, Moko. Madness seizes us, though. It does not go away when we tell it to. I can only hope that this madness will leave me in time. I think that it will.”

Taniko felt a tapping on her shoulder. She woke instantly. It was one of her maids. The maid beckoned her. Taniko stood up, pulling her kimono closer around her. A driving summer rainstorm was hammering on the roof of the women’s building. It must be past the middle of the night, Taniko thought. She followed the maid to a partly opened screen overlooking the Shima mansion’s courtyard.

A small band of horsemen was just coming through the main gateway. Their heads were bent against the rain, their faces hidden under hooded cloaks and sedge hats. Something more than the rain had beaten these men down. Their movements were heavy, weary, hopeless. As they dismounted lightning flashed and Taniko recognized Hideyori.

“Does Lord Hideyori have a wife or woman to attend him?” Taniko asked the maid.

The maid shook her head. “His one wife died in childbirth two years ago.”

“Go to him. Tell him Lady Shima Taniko offers to serve him and see to his comfort, if he wishes it.”

The maid looked shocked, but said nothing and hurried away. I’m not going to lie with him, you idiot, Taniko thought. But after what he’s been through, a man needs dry clothes, food, warm sake and someone pleasant to talk to. Surely the head of the Muratomo clan deserves that much.

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