Shike – Day 211 of 306

“Everyone plots,” said Hideyori through clenched teeth. “No one can be trusted. I can rely on men only to betray one another. Your father pretends to be Yukio’s ally while reporting to me his plans and ambitions.”

“I know Yukio and I know my father. It is Yukio I trust.”

“Yukio killed your son.”

Taniko sighed. “I can never be his friend, but I still believe him to be a man of honour.”

Hideyori’s face darkened. “You are a stubborn woman.”

His anger surprised Taniko. She realized that she was in danger, but his sharp words stung her to a quick retort. “My lord, I am simply setting aside my own feelings about Yukio and telling you what I believe to be true. You did say, only a moment ago, that you think highly of my wisdom.”

“Yukio is my enemy.” Hideyori’s eyes glittered with hate. “From the day he escaped from the Rokuhara he has been trying to make himself chieftain of the Muratomo. While I was held prisoner here in Kamakura, Yukio was loose in the countryside, his every action a provocation to Sogamori to have me executed in retaliation. When Sogamori’s son Kiyosi was killed during Yukio’s escape from Hakata Bay, I was sure I was a dead man.”

Yes, yes, thought Taniko sadly, so much died when Kiyosi died.

“I would have been executed then, had not Horigawa chosen that moment to begin protecting me. Years later, Yukio returned with his army of Mongols and proclaimed himself clan chieftain, as if I were really dead. He found he could not dispose of me so easily. I risked my life to support his campaign against the Takashi, even though I was in a far more vulnerable position than he. I laboured in the shadows to found a new government, without which his victories would mean nothing. I sent him the ships he needed to win at Shimonoseki Strait. What I have done is ignored or condemned, while the land resounds with the praises of Yukio. Always Yukio, the mighty warrior, Yukio the brilliant general, Yukio the shining jewel of the house of Muratomo. I tell you, Yukio is nothing but a bandit, and his mother was nothing but a Court harlot, while mine was the daughter of a high priest. All friends of Yukio are my enemies, and I mean to destroy all my enemies. If you wish to live here with me, if you wish to adopt your Takashi grandson with my approval, you must bind yourself to me and to me alone. Do you agree to that?”

Taniko sat stunned. The wave of Hideyori’s rage had crashed over her and receded, leaving a pool of despair. Much of what he said made no sense. Now she knew that Hideyori’s hatred of his younger brother was a lifelong passion he would never be able to relinquish. Anything she might say to correct or contradict him could mean death for herself and Sametono. She was a prisoner. Hideyori would make use of her intelligence, yes, but for his own mad and murderous purposes. She would have no power as the Shogun’s wife. She could only be the Shogun’s instrument.

“I agree, my lord.” Even though she knew she must hide her feelings, she could not hold back her tears. Hideyori watched her for a moment, then reached out and took her hand.

When he spoke again, his tone was more reasonable. “Taniko-san, I know you feel under obligation to Yukio. Perhaps you feel pity for him. I, too, have not forgotten that he and I have the same father. I fear him because in the capital his innocence can be victimized by flatterers and dangerous influences. He is the sort of man around whom rebellious forces might gather, and there are many powerful persons who oppose the new order of the nation. I simply want Yukio in a less dangerous position.”

Hideyori’s sudden change of manner left Taniko even more uncertain about what he intended. In a way it was more frightening than his previous rage had been. In her mind she said, homage to Amida Buddha.

From the pillow book of Shima Taniko:

It is now eight days since I agreed to Hideyori’s terms. I went to see Eisen and told him of the shape my future appears to be taking. I asked his advice and he merely said, “Show me the face you had before you were born.” Zen monks like to meditate on such strange-sounding problems as this, which their Chinese predecessors called kung-an, questions. Eisen had promised me a kung-an to study, but I hardly expected to get one instead of advice about Hideyori. Is this Eisen’s way of saying I should not think so much about my problems?

“Next time you come,” Eisen said, “bring the boy.”

Messengers have gone to the capital bearing decrees that strip my father and Horigawa of their powers as deputies of the Shogun, charging them with excessive zeal in executing women and children connected with the Takashi. My father is ordered to return to Kamakura. To think that he might have killed his own great-grandson. I am determined that he shall not enjoy power as long as I can prevent it.

Hideyori is also moving against Yukio. The day after we spoke he sent an order that no man under the Shogun’s authority may receive titles, gifts or offices from anyone else without the Shogun’s permission. Two days after that he followed with a letter reprimanding Yukio in insulting language for having accepted promotion to the Fifth Rank of nobility and the title of lieutenant in the Palace Guard from Go-Shirakawa, ordering him to give these honours up at once. At the beginning of the new year, he says, he will relieve Yukio of his command. It seems to me dangerous for Hideyori to offend all his vassals in Heian Kyo at the same time. Might they not band together against him? Hideyori does not think so. He says that if a ruler is going to injure his subjects, he must do all the harm at once, so that it will be over quickly, while benefits should be conferred gradually, so that men will remember them longer. He means only to frighten Horigawa and my father back into line. His attack on Yukio, though, is the first step in stripping Yukio of power. All men will realize that, Hideyori thinks, and they will abandon Yukio, leaving him alone and helpless.

Jebu, as far as I know, is still with Yukio. It has been so long since I’ve seen Jebu. Truly, he has washed Kiyosi’s blood from his hands by his brave rescue of my little Sametono. I pray that he will not be dragged down in Yukio’s ruin. Still, I cannot forgive Yukio for Atsue’s death. Why has Jebu never sent a message to me? No matter, there is no future for Jebu and me. I shall soon belong to Hideyori.

Yesterday, while meditating on my kung-an after my midday meal, I remembered what Hideyori had said about my having been an Emperor or prime minister in a previous life. I set out at once to tell Eisen I had already solved my kung-an. With Sametono perched on the saddle in front of me and the inevitable pair of samurai Hideyori always sends with me whenever I leave the Shogun’s palace riding behind us, I directed my favourite mare up into the hills to Eisen’s temple. It now consists of three buildings. Eisen has four young monks and two elderly retired samurai studying with him. Sametono and I were admitted at once into Sensei’s chamber.

“Show me the face you had before you were born,” he said without a word of greeting as soon as I was seated before him. His own face was as stern as a boulder, and I quailed a little.

“I believe now that before I was born I must have been an official at Court, or perhaps even an Emperor of olden times. This would explain why affairs of state fascinate me so.”

“Rubbish,” Eisen snapped. “Individual persons do not pass from one life to the next. You do not understand the true meaning of rebirth.”

If I do not, I thought, then neither does Hideyori. “Who is it that is reborn then if not the person?” I asked.

Eisen threw his hands in the air and shouted, “Kwatz!” I was startled, even though Sensei has done this to me several times before, usually when I ask him a question about religion.

Sametono was amused. He laughed so hard at Eisen’s outburst that he fell over sideways on the mat. My heart melted at the sight of that round little boy rolling on the floor. He looked exactly as I remember. Atsue looking at the age of four. My eyes grew wet, but I frowned at him for behaving so in Sensei’s chamber.

“This boy has more of Zen in him than many an aged monk,” said Eisen with great seriousness. “Learn from him, Lady Taniko, and protect his attainment. Do not let his Buddha-mind become clouded over as he grows older.”

We left Eisen’s temple, my kung-an still unsolved. All the way down from the hills Sametono kept shouting, “Kwatz! Kwatz!”

-Seventh Month, fifteenth day

YEAR OF THE HORSE

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