Shike – Day 251 of 306

“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.”

Bokuden managed a ghastly smile. “So. The three of you intend to try to bring me down? I should have known you would all put personal ambition before family welfare. This is very foolish of you. I am still Regent as well as head of this clan.” He tried to stand up, but age made him stiff. Munetoki helped him to his feet. Then he pulled his arm away.

“You are Regent and clan chieftain only until we can gather the Bakufu Council and charge you with plotting to murder the Shogun,” said Taniko.

“You think to bring charges against the Regent?” Bokuden laughed shrilly. “It is you who will face charges for rebelling against me. Out of my way.” He hobbled to a window and slid back the screen covering it. “Guards!” he shouted. There was no response from the courtyard outside the window.

Munetoki spoke quietly. “Sorry, Uncle, but we took the liberty of disarming your escort and locking them up. Sad to say, none of them wanted the privilege of dying to protect you. In case any of your other retainers should feel differently, this mansion is now surrounded by three thousand samurai chosen for their loyalty to the Shogun and the Shogun’s mother.”

“The Shogun’s mother!” Bokuden spat. “You are responsible for all this, Taniko. You have always been a disobedient, ungrateful daughter.”

Taniko laughed bitterly. “All my life you have looked upon me as a piece of goods to be traded when it suited you. Should I be grateful for that? Should I be grateful to you for plotting to murder Sametono? Being a woman, perhaps I am not capable of understanding the principle involved.”

“Kill me,” said Bokuden, “and a father’s curse will follow you through the Nine Worlds.”

“We want to see you praying, Father, not cursing,” said Taniko with a smile she knew would infuriate him. “We hope you will live a long time. We feel no need to kill you. We do not fear that you will become a rallying point for those who may oppose us. You are not the sort men rally around. You have spent over seventy years of your life absorbed in the affairs of this world. Now we would like you to enter the cloister, shave your head, and turn your thoughts to the next world. Your worthy nephew Munetoki volunteers to take on the burdens of the Regent’s office.”

Bokuden’s face reddened with fury as he glared at his daughter, his brother and his nephew. After so many years of scheming and plotting, Taniko thought, it must be unbearable to have the ultimate prize snatched away by your own family.

“I made our family first in the realm,” Bokuden sputtered. “Your ingratitude will bring you a terrible karma.”

“Excuse me, Brother, but it is karma, not your efforts, that put our family in this position,” said Ryuichi. “You were merely carried along, as a piece of driftwood is lifted to the crest of a wave.”

After Bokuden had been ushered off to a guarded chamber in Ryuichi’s mansion, Taniko’s uncle said with a smile, “He is right in holding you responsible for our effort to depose him, Taniko-chan. If you were not as clever and resolute as you are, I would have preferred to send you and Sametono into hiding and let my brother have his way with the Regency and the Shogunate.”

“That would have led to disaster, Uncle,” said Taniko. “In six months he would have infuriated the other great military families and they would have rebelled against him. And they would doubtless have felt compelled to kill all of the Shima for the usual reasons. This will keep the Regency in our family, but Father will be out of the way.”

Ryuichi laughed. “With no father or husband to rule over you, you are now the real chieftain of our clan, though I will now take the title. I shall ask that you be invited to meetings of the Bakufu Council, as the former Shogun’s widow. Such things are not unheard of. Right now the Sung Empire—what’s left of it—is ruled by the boy-Emperor’s mother, the dowager Empress. And among us samurai, it has always been the custom for a wife to take over her husband’s duties if he is killed or too badly hurt to manage his own affairs. So now, behind our little Shogun will stand his cousin, the Regent, and behind the Regent will stand the Ama-Shogun—the Nun Shogun.”

“I am far from ready for the nunnery, Uncle, regardless of what my father said,” Taniko answered, thrilled, but casting her eyes modestly down. But without those years of study and meditation with Eisen, I would never have been ready to seize this moment. I would not have known how to protect Sametono from assassination and save the Sunrise Land from the disaster of Bokuden. Just in time, too. The Elephant will undoubtedly be sending an army to wipe us off the face of the earth. And I know more about the Mongols and their Great Khan than anyone in the Sacred Islands.

Except for one other person, she thought, who knows more than I do about how they make war. But how can I find him?

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