Shike – Day 244 of 306

She dug through the scrolls, foraging for the ones that looked most recent. At last she came upon what must have been the last scroll Horigawa had written. It began over five years ago, with the prince gloating over Yukio’s impolitic involvement with the Court, his acceptance of the ancient office of Lieutenant of the Palace Guards, and Hideyori’s rage when Horigawa reported it to him. Sadly Taniko traced the downfall of Yukio and the success of Horigawa’s efforts to intensify the enmity between the brothers. Horigawa recounted Yukio’s flight from the capital, his shipwreck and disappearance, and his subsequent emergence in Oshu. Then came an entry for the Year of the Rooster that made Taniko gasp:

Eleventh Month, fourteenth day:

Attended upon the Shogun in his castle. He ordered me to go to the land of Oshu and persuade Fujiwara no Yerubutsu to permit the Mongol general Arghun to cross his borders and kill Yukio and his remaining followers. “Tell Arghun that Yukio and all with him are to be killed on the spot and their heads sent here for identification,” he said. I asked him, “Would it not be easier to arrest Yukio and bring him here to Kamakura for trial so that all might know the justice of your case against him?” He rejected my argument. “There are many who sympathize with Yukio and whose feelings would be aroused against me by a public beheading. Let him die obscurely in a far-off part of the country and he will soon be forgotten.” So will end the one general who might be able to stop the Mongols.

Taniko stared at the scroll in the flickering lamplight. Hideyori had said his order to Arghun was to arrest Yukio. But there was no reason for Horigawa to lie in a diary intended for his eyes alone. The next entry had been made here in Heian Kyo and bore a date in the Second Month, after Yukio and Jebu were already dead. Taniko began to cry as she read the details of Horigawa’s final encounter with Yukio and Jebu on the mountainside in Oshu:

. . . Truly, though Arghun has spent years in our country he does not understand how the samurai feel about their Emperor. As soon as Arghun suggested that Yukio might supplant the Emperor, he lost him, for which I am thankful. It was the greatest delight of my life to see the frustrated rage on the face of the monk Jebu, as he tried to come at me barehanded and was stopped by Arghun and Torluk. If there was anyone in the world whose death I desired more than I want life for myself, it is that obnoxious Zinja. On my way to the capital a messenger brought me news of his death. He fell, pierced by innumerable Mongol arrows, into the gorge below Yukio’s fort. The men of Oshu collected his head, as they did that of Yukio, and sent them to Kamakura. Good riddance at last.

Taniko sat back, eyes shut, trembling, as she was swept by waves of rage and grief. She had thought she hated Hideyori for killing Shizumi’s baby. This was far worse. She saw now that she had deceived herself about what Hideyori was. Out of her yearning for safety for Sametono and power for herself, she had blindly bound herself to Hideyori and believed what he told her. She was furious with herself now. She sobbed and felt to the floor, pounding it with her fists. A maid, heavy-eyed and confused, jolted out of her sleep by Taniko’s cries, peered into the chamber. Taniko screamed at her to go away. Lying there in her agony, she saw with clarity that there was only one way to extricate herself from the trap in which she had caught herself. She must face Hideyori and tell him everything she knew. It would be unbearable to try to maintain a pretence of ignorance to preserve their marriage.

Surprised at her sudden resolve, she asked herself, how could I know so easily what to do? Even though I have not achieved enlightenment, those years of meditation have changed me. The knowledge of what to do comes from the face I had before I was born. For a moment she thought she had solved her kung-an, but when she groped in her mind for the insight, she could not recapture it or put it into words.

“What you told me about the way my son died—I suppose that was a lie, too.”

“It happened as I said. I did leave out one detail. After Jebu captured Atsue, the boy stabbed him with a dagger when Jebu wasn’t looking. Yukio killed Atsue to save Jebu, and he didn’t know he was your son until after he was dead.”

That was the crossroads, Taniko thought, desolate. That was when I broke in my heart with Jebu. That was what drove me to Hideyori. And it was all a lie. Hideyori’s voice was calm, careless, as if he were reporting an anecdote of no importance. Taniko covered her face with her hands. She stood on a stone path in the middle of a Rokuhara garden, her back turned to Hideyori. They had chosen this open spot to avoid being overheard. Hideyori put his hand on her shoulder and she wrenched free.

“You used my son’s death to turn me against Yukio and Jebu. You lied about not wanting the Takashi children killed. You killed Shizumi’s baby with your own hands. You lied about ordering Yukio and Jebu killed. Why have you done all this to me?” She whirled to face Hideyori, letting him see her ravaged, tear-streaked face. His black eyes were opaque.

“You would not have married me if you had known it all.”

“Did you think I would never find out?”

The cold, bottomless eyes reflected her image back at her. “You are my wife now. My destiny is your destiny. My well-being is your duty. I have done nothing that was not necessary. I expect you to see these things as I see them.”

She was stunned. “You thought that my obligation to you as your wife would stop me from hating you?” Her voice rose to a shriek on the last words.

His tone remained calm. “I thought that by being married to me you would learn to understand me. You told me to kill Horigawa, and you did not condemn me for having it done. Yet I killed him for the same reason I killed all the others whose deaths upset you so. He was my enemy, and so were they.”

“Horigawa actually betrayed you. What harm did Yukio do you, or any of those children?”

Hideyori took her shoulders in his hands and stared into her eyes. It was like looking into a night sky that had lost all its stars.

“Their mere existence threatened the security of the realm,” he said. “That made them my enemies.” He was mad, Taniko decided. Or, at least, in this belief, which had already driven him to kill hundreds of innocents, there lay the seeds of madness.

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