Shike – Day 250 of 306

Munetoki’s voice trembled with anger. “I have the honour to be the young Shogun’s teacher in martial arts. No one knows him as well as I do. His character is perfectly pure. There is no sign of any bad influence anywhere about him.”

Ryuichi spoke with uncharacteristic sternness. “Munetoki, be silent. I forbid you to contradict your uncle, who is chieftain of our clan as well as acting head of the Bakufu. You forget yourself. Apologize to Lord Bokuden.”

There was a long silence. When Munetoki spoke again, it was in a firm voice that Taniko knew was the result of rigorous self-discipline.

“Please accept my apologies, honoured Uncle,” he said. “I am ashamed of myself.”

“That’s better,” said Ryuichi. “Now, Lord Bokuden, you have pointed out some of the boy Sametono’s shortcomings as Shogun. But to whom else could the office be given with confidence?”

“There is the son of my oldest daughter, who is married to Ashikaga Fukuji. The Ashikaga are a branch of the Muratomo. There is also the son of my second daughter, who is married to the chieftain of the Nagoya Muratomo. With Hideyori and Yukio dead, the Nagoya Muratomo are now the senior branch of the clan.”

“Excuse me, honoured Brother,” said Ryuichi, “but why would these other grandsons of yours be more suitable than Sametono?”

“They are Muratomo by blood, not by adoption,” said Bokuden. “And they and their mothers would obey me in all things.”

“Of course,” said Ryuichi. “Still, there are many serious objections to both those young men. For instance, the Nagoya Muratomo fought on the Takashi side almost until the end of the War of the Dragons. And to choose a Shogun from the Ashikaga would arouse the envy of the Wada and the Miura. Surely these points have occurred to you. Do you have any other candidates to put forward?”

“If there are too many objections to any other candidates I can only, in all humility, offer myself.”

There was a long silence. Even Taniko was shocked. She knew her father had a high opinion of himself, but she had no idea that his vainglory verged on madness. His hold on the Regency was precarious enough, and now he wanted to reach higher still.

“There is no impediment that excludes me from consideration,” Bokuden went on. “And there is much that qualifies me. I am head of the most powerful family in the realm. I am the late Shogun’s oldest and staunchest ally. Without me, he could never have overthrown the Takashi. Finally, I am a man of advanced age and much experience.”

“Indeed, you are superbly qualified, Brother,” said Ryuichi. “But there is one stumbling block. Just as there is no rule for choosing a Shogun, there is no legal procedure for removing a Shogun from office.”

“We will have to eliminate him, of course,” said Bokuden blandly.

“Kill Sametono?” cried Munetoki, shocked into speaking again.

“We cannot permit him to survive as a rallying point for opposition forces,” said Bokuden. “Many of the other families will be envious when the Shima step forward to take the Shogunate. Rival claimants to high office must be eliminated, no matter how young and innocent. I have been thinking, Nephew, that since you are the boy’s teacher you might be in a good position to arrange an accident for him. It would be better if it did not appear to be an assassination.”

“Munetoki,” said Ryuichi sharply. “You will listen to your uncle and obey him in whatever he tells you to do.”

“Yes, Father,” Munetoki muttered, his voice shaking with suppressed rage.

“The extent of your devotion to the nation amazes me, honoured Brother,” Ryuichi went on. “That you would actually sacrifice your own great-grandson for the security of the realm fills me with awe.”

“Every tree benefits from pruning,” said Bokuden sententiously. “Besides, the boy is not a true Shima anyway. Munetoki, you may be reluctant to help Sametono into the beyond, but remember that you would be my heir. I have no sons, after all. Look here, Ryuichi, we’ve seen the Fujiwara, the Takashi and the Muratomo each rule the land in their turn. All this time we’ve just been supporters of the great families. Isn’t it time the Shima had their turn at ruling? Think of how rich we could make ourselves.”

Taniko stood up and stepped out from behind the screen. “It is not the Shogun who needs deposing, but the Regent.”

Bokuden, looking like a large, malicious insect caught in a granary, stared at her. Moon-faced Ryuichi rose and backed away from his brother with an expression as if Bokuden gave off an unpleasant odour. Munetoki stood towering over his uncle with a grin of satisfaction. His fingertips stroked the hilt of the dagger hanging at his right side.

“I’m not surprised at your willingness to murder your great-grandson,” Taniko said. “A lizard has more love for its offspring than you do. What does amaze me is that you have actually deceived yourself into believing that the great clan chieftains, generals and scholars my lord Hideyori gathered together here in Kamakura would be willing to take orders from you.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)