Shike – Day 214 of 306

When the ch’ai was brought, Jebu sat companionably on a straw mat beside the prisoner, who refused even to tell his name. Jebu poured a cupful of the steaming green liquid for himself and a cup for the monk. To the monk’s cup he added a white powder from a paper packet. When he held out the cup, the monk pressed his lips tightly together and shook his head. Still smiling, Jebu reached over and pressed a spot under the monk’s ear. The shaven-headed man’s mouth dropped open, though he remained seated upright. Jebu put his hand over the monk’s face, pinching his nostrils together and tilting his head back. He poured ch’ai down the captive’s throat.

“Now you will join me in prayer,” Jebu said. “Homage to Amida Buddha.” Slowly, softly, Jebu droned the invocation over and over. At first the monk sat silently. Then, as if his lips and tongue had acquired a life of their own, he joined in the prayer. “Very good,” Jebu said. “Continue by yourself, please.” The monk went on repeating the invocation, his voice flat, lifeless. At last Jebu said, “Now stop.” He leaned forward, bringing his face closer to the other man’s.

“What is your name?”

“Yato,” said the monk in an empty voice.

“What monastery are you from, Monk Yato?”

“The Rodojo-ji, at Hyogo.”

“That temple was endowed by the Takashi,” said Yukio. “Hyogo was their chief seaport. This monk must have been trying to avenge them.” He was sitting on his sleeping dais, dressed now in tunic and trousers, his sword in his lap. Shizumi crouched in a corner, the dark eyes in her pale face like two inkblots on a sheet of paper.

“I doubt it,” said Jebu. “Now, Yato. You are a holy man. You have taken the Buddhist vow never to injure any living thing. You should take up arms only in defence of your temple. Yet, you tried to assassinate this noble lord who has never harmed a holy place. You have broken your vow, have you not?”

“My abbot commanded me,” said Yato dully. “I could not disobey.”

“So, you had to choose between your duty to your abbot and fidelity to your vow,” said Jebu gently. “That must have been hard. You carry a heavy karmic burden. If you tell us now why your abbot commanded you to kill Lord Yukio, it would lighten your karma somewhat.”

The monk’s shaven head glistened with sweat. “I am not permitted to tell.”

“Your superiors have forfeited their right to your obedience,” said Jebu. “You are guilty of many wrongful deaths. The men you hired to help you in this attack, the guards you killed breaking into this mansion. Their angry spirits will pursue you until you atone.”

“We did not kill any guards. We bribed those who were on duty to let us in.”

“We will have to discover and execute the guards you bribed,” said Jebu. “You are responsible. Who instructed your abbott to send you?” The monk’s lips moved, but he made no sound.

“You must tell me, Yato.”

The cords in Yato’s neck stood out as he struggled with himself. At last, in a strangled voice, he said, “It was the lord of Kamakura.”

“No!” Yukio cried.

Now that the barrier was broken, Yato’s words poured out. “It was Muratomo no Hideyori, honoured Shogun of the Sunrise Land. He promised benefits to our temple if we did what he asked of us and said we would suffer great harm if we did not. My Father Abbot told me I would be acting for the protection of my temple.”

“This monk lies,” Yukio snarled, gripping his sword hilt.

Jebu held up his hand in a restraining gesture. “In his present condition, he cannot lie. You do not want to see what is so, do you, Yukio-san?”

Tears sparkled in Yukio’s eyes. “It is the end of all my dreams. I’ve helped to rebuild this land, and now there is no place for me in it. I can’t rebel against my brother. All I want to do is serve him. Why won’t he accept me? Why does he try to kill me? There is only one thing left for me to do. I must go to Kamakura alone and unarmed.”

“Do you think this monk is the only assassin your brother has sent out against you? He is too careful for that.”

“The Zinja monk speaks the truth,” a hollow voice said unexpectedly. Yukio and Jebu turned to Yato.

“What more can you tell us?” said Jebu.

“My abbot said that whether our effort to kill Lord Yukio succeeded or failed, the lord of Kamakura is sending an army to seize Heian Kyo and wipe out all Lord Yukio’s friends and followers. The barbarian horsemen from the Sunset Land are even now on their way.”

“The Mongols?” said Yukio, stunned. “Have the Mongols turned against me?”

“Were they ever really for you?” said Jebu. “You no longer have an army of your own to command, Yukio-san. You cannot make a stand here. We must gather those we trust and escape from the capital at once.” A picture of Arghun Baghadur riding at the head of his tuman arose in Jebu’s mind. If the Mongols travelled with their usual speed, they might be here before the news of their coming could precede them.

Staring uncomprehendingly, his cheeks still wet with tears, Yukio slowly stood up. Jebu had never seen him like this. He had to resist an impulse to shake his friend. He gestured to Shizumi, who was already gathering Yukio’s robes, to help him dress and went out to give the necessary orders to the household.

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