Shike – Day 215 of 306

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.

Chapter Twenty

From the pillow book of Shima Taniko:

Hideyori tells me again and again how valuable my counsel will be to him when I am his wife, but he rarely consults me these days. Marriage seems no closer. Horigawa still lives. All my news comes from the various lords and samurai officers who flatter me by calling on me when they come to Kamakura to report to the Bakufu. I suppose they cultivate me because I am close to Hideyori, but I like to think they also find my company interesting for its own sake.

Uncle Ryuichi is particularly helpful in keeping me informed. He says Yukio has disappeared and that he has only a dozen followers left, if that many, in the whole country. Last month Yukio raised a rebellion against Hideyori. He claimed that Hideyori had sent assassins to kill him. Hideyori, of course, denied it, charging that Yukio had arranged the incident to give himself justification for making war on his brother. Go-Shirakawa was convinced, though. He gave Yukio a commission ordering him to chastize Hideyori as a rebel against the throne and an enemy of the Court. But Hideyori had already sent the Mongols to arrest Yukio, and Yukio was forced to flee the capital. When the Mongol army got near, Go-Shirakawa withdrew the commission and sent an apology to Hideyori, saying he had issued it under duress. Yukio fled south to Hyogo with a thousand warriors.

When he sailed from Hyogo one of those great storms that the Chinese call tai-phun came up and wrecked his ships near Shimonoseki, the very place where he won his great victory over the Takashi only two years ago. It is said that the angry ghosts of the Takashi called up the storm. I wonder if the ghost of my beloved Atsue was among them. There are rumours among the local fishermen that the shells of crabs caught in Simonoseki waters bear the imprint of the faces of Takashi warriors.

Yukio left his mistress, Shizumi, behind at Hyogo, which probably saved her life, but she was quickly captured by Hideyori’s men. Poor thing, I hear she’s pregnant. Now Hideyori has his men searching everywhere for Yukio. Even though Yukio was generally loved, when it came to an open break between the brothers, almost all samurai hastened to side with Hideyori. He has lands and offices to give away while Yukio has nothing to offer but an unprofitable struggle against injustice.

For it is an injustice, what Hideyori is doing to Yukio; even I admit that in my heart.

Insisting that Yukio is still a threat to the peace and good order of the realm, Hideyori has extorted enormous concessions from the Court. He has been granted the power to tax the rice harvest of every estate in the Sunrise Land, income which he says he needs to pay for troops to search for Yukio. He also has the authority to appoint stewards and oryoshi in every province to enforce his decrees and collect the taxes. Land, after all, is everything. Now Hideyori has control of all the land in the realm, and Yukio helped him get it. Also, at his insistence, the vacant throne is at last to be occupied by the Imperial candidate of his choosing, Kameyama, a young grandson of Go-Shirakawa. So Hideyori is now a maker of Emperors. I have known many leaders—Sogamori, Kiyosi, Kublai Khan, Yukio—but Hideyori has started with the least and accomplished the most of all of them.

It does not trouble me that he is too busy to pay much attention to me. Another man now absorbs all my time and thought, even though he is only five years old. Of course, I could let my ladies take charge of his care and education, but I do not trust the women Hideyori has appointed to serve me. Some are doubtless spies who might report any careless remark or small act of Sametono’s to Hideyori in an unfavourable light.

I am seeking music, poetry and calligraphy masters for my grandson. There was a time when it would have been impossible to find a first-rate teacher of any art in Kamakura, but now that the centre of power is here, accomplished men are drawn to the north as bees to a flower. My cousin Munetoki has agreed to teach Sametono the martial arts. And, of course, the most important part of his education is that which he receives from Eisen.

Another friend we often see is Moko. He has two children now, a thirteen-year-old son named Sakagura, who was born the year we all left for China, and a new baby girl. He is on the way to the five—or was it six?—children he claimed when Jebu and I first met him. His shipbuilding trade, he says, is prospering. Whenever he comes to call, the first question we ask each other is, “Do you have any news of Jebu?” Neither one of us ever does, and we shake our heads together in disappointment. If Jebu is still alive he is surely with Yukio, sharing his fate.

-Fifth Month, twenty-first day


At the beginning of summer, to celebrate the destruction of Yukio and his acquisition of new powers, Hideyori gave a great feast at the Shogunal castle in Kamakura. Over three hundred kenin, the highest ranking samurai, filled the reception hall of the castle. Most of the guests sat at low individual tables enjoying the delicacies Hideyori had selected for the occasion. While their costumes were less elaborate and confining than the dress of the Imperial Court, these new masters of the Sunrise Land wore equally fine materials, no less handsomely adorned. The treasures that had gradually been accumulating in Hideyori’s castle, gold and silver drinking vessels, T’ang dynasty porcelain, ebony and rosewood tables, statuettes and vases of jade and ivory, ancient scrolls on which Buddhist verses were painted in gold leaf, all were brought out to decorate the hall. Five groups of musicians from aristocratic families played in turn, so that there was continuous music.

Hideyori’s most important vassals sat with him on a dais at the north end of the hall under a canopy of plum-coloured silk. Among them were the heads of the powerful Shima clan, the brothers Bokuden and Ryuichi, as well as Ryuichi’s son, the strapping young Munetoki. With them sat the chieftains of the Ashikaga, the Hiraga, the Wada and the Miura clans. Taniko knelt just behind Hideyori, silently pouring sake and serving morsels of vegetable and fish and rice to the Shogun.

Hideyori’s eyes tonight were bright and beady, like those of a crow that has just captured a tender bit of meat. He wore a black ceremonial robe and a tall black cap of lacquered silk. Midway through the banquet he clapped his hands for attention, and the hum of conversation and the clatter of eating and drinking in the hall died away. The musicians fell silent.

“I have a special treat for all my guests now,” Hideyori announced to the hall at large. “Here is a woman reputed to be the greatest dancer in the Sunrise Land. She comes to us from the Court at Heian Kyo, where she gave much delight to our new Son of Heaven, Emperor Kamayama, as well as to His Imperial Majesty’s most honoured grandfather, the Retired Emperor. As well as others who were recently at the Court.”

There were a few chuckles in the hall from those who realized who the lady was and what Hideyori meant by “others at the Court.” Taniko sensed what was about to happen, but somehow she had not thought Hideyori would stage this kind of public spectacle.

“In return for our hospitality this lady has agreed to entertain us,” said Hideyori, pleased with himself. “Noble lords of the Bakufu, I present the Lady Shizumi.”

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