Thunder and Redness
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loud tapping of a sword scabbard on the iron dungeon bars jolted me from
an exhausted sleep. I'd rested quite well despite the chilly nights and
the stone cold floor. When I peered out that tiny window I saw that the
sky was still dark, but it was the light blue of early morning. Birds chirped
outside and the droning sound of the crickets faded with each pulsing chirp.
Silhouetted against the royal sky were the towering pagodas of Amakusa
Jo. Black clouds loomed over the fortress and spit forth tiny lightning
bolts. Every time I looked at that place there were black clouds.
The rest of
us quickly arose to the clanging of metal, which resonated throughout the
whole dungeon. I turned my head to notice General Watanabe standing outside
the bars. He didn't stand tall and commanding as usual; he didn't wear
his majestic gold lined, silk kimonos and his hair-usually tied in a neat
queue-was astray. Instead he wore a dark grey kimono-much like what Kei
used to wear. Dark lines surrounded his eyes and his skin appeared pale
and ghostlike, especially the way his torch cast heavy shadows from his
room took on a silent air. My heart jumped for a moment; the thought of
our execution could be the cause of his solemnity. Slowly, he unlocked
the door and it swung open; the scraping metal made us cringe. All of us
waited in silence for what he would say.
He took a few
moments and began speaking. His voice was very quiet-a bit shaky-and he
lost his commanding air.
has happened during the night. . ." he began, folding his hands in front
of him. "I had sent my troops in order to arrest that man-the man supposedly
responsible for the Christian uprisings. His fortress is quite close-right
on one of those islands, in fact. You can see it clearly. Yet it was the
strangest thing. There was not one guard or watchman, and the main gate
to the fortress was unlocked. The door was cracked open-practically inviting
an invasion. I led my troops across the drawbridge and infiltrated the
castle, pouring through every room until we found the man.
"Two of my
honorary soldiers and myself located him at the top, where I believe he
resides. It was a large room with high arched ceilings and a large stained
glass window with a dark red cape draped over it. He was all alone-no guards,
no one to protect him. The man even stood with his back to us, until he
slowly turned his head to eye us, with this smug look on his face. We guessed
that he was the one, for he wore Amakusa's old clothing and his pendant,
but he was a younger man-probably near his mid years. He had high cheek
bones and slicked black hair, and these strange eyes. One was brown, but
the other-it was some sort of bright gold color.
"The air began
to take on a cold feeling and all of a sudden the man began to ascend,
without being pulled by a rope and that golden eye gleamed even brighter.
We could not help but watch him. He floated above the ground, about a knee's
length high. I broke the cold silence and informed the man that we were
going to have him arrested and informed my men to have their arms ready.
"I told the
man that he was disturbing the peace of the country and had to be put away,
but he gave me a look of defiance. He asked me what 'peace' was; I told
him it was harmonious unity and he was breaking it. And he said, 'If that
is your definition, than you are all hypocrites. For if you allowed the
practice of certain religions than there would be no dissent.' And I: 'You
Christians are pests, invading our land and taking over all we have and
enforcing your perverted views on the minds of our children.' And he: 'I
am not a Christian, so please let me alone to attend to my business.' And
I: 'My Lord thinks that you are responsible for the war on this island.'
And he: 'Your lord 'thinks'-therefore he assumes. I have nothing to do
with Christianity. In fact, I loathe Christianity almost as much as your
heathen faiths.' And I: 'Even so we will still arrest you, barbarian, because
you are fueling the rebellion. What my Lord says is the law of the land.'
And he: 'I refuse to submit myself to you Samurai. You are all slaves,
yet the more of a slave you are, the more honor you think you have. What
is the honor in slavery?' And I: 'We are not here to discuss Bushido.'
my men to arrest the man. They approached him, their swords waving in the
hair. His eyes were blazing so bright I thought I saw them glow red. He
didn't even attack or flee-he just stood there, waiting for us to strike.
One of my Samurai shot him with a rifle and hit him right in the heart.
He staggered a bit, but regained his posture. I expected blood to rush
forth from the wound, but there was not one drop on the floor. The hole
in his chest somehow magically recovered, as if he'd never been shot. The
other Samurai sliced at his shoulder with his sword, but there was no blood
and the cut healed itself!
walked over to my troops, who stood frozen in awe and placed his hands
on their shoulders. All of a sudden they began to shudder and their faces
were contorted. They shook as if some arthritic pain had spread throughout
their bodies. The man let go and my men fell to the ground; their movement
was no more. I had no choice but to run.
"My Lord found
out later tonight when I ran back and told him. He was not only angry about
the power of this man and the deaths of two of his finest soldiers, but
that I had fled. It was an act of a coward. Tonight I am to commit seppuku
for what I did, but beforehand my lord asked for me to tell you that he
would like to speak with all of you right away-and not just one. I-I believe
that he is interested in what you have to say."
solemnly walked from the door and beckoned for us to follow him. The room
was so silent that our foot-steps on the stone floor seemed loud and cold.
One by one, we filed from the prison and followed his dimming torch-just
like a funeral procession.
Above the prison
was a mighty castle, where the Lord's court and servants bustled about,
not concerned about the surrounding wars and looming dangers. They seemed
intent on their jobs, whether it was cooking or cleaning or delivering
messages. I watched as General Watanabe walked slowly and dragged his feet.
Each person lower than his rank bowed deeply to him and honored his presence,
but he merely nodded his head. It seemed like that had no importance once
he knew he would have to die.
All of us looked
around at the large court and the never-ending tapestries that graced the
walls. It was well-lit from both the sun and the blue lanterns which hung
from the ceiling. I entertained myself by observing the murals, which displayed
scenes of both war and peace. On one side I saw a Samurai warrior, dressed
a lot like General Watanabe, standing victoriously over his dead enemy.
On another one I saw three women dressed in pink kimonos playing a game
under a gingko tree. The place was what I has always imagined a great palace
should look like, and I wondered what it would be like to live in this
castle as a daimyo-to have all these people serve me, bring me hot tea,
draw my bath; and these Samurai ready and willing to die for me. Just like
I tried not
to think about Watanabe's fear or the death that he would have to face.
My father said A great Samurai never fears death. But I knew that
Watanabe did. I'd always thought that a great Samurai who knew that he
was going to die would stand upright and not let the others see his fear.
down a large corridor, Watanabe halted us at a shoji screen. Two Samurai
stood tall and erect on each side of the screen, their faces serious and
"I need to
take them into see the Lord."
answered and bowed, slowly sliding open the door.
a large room with a floor that was covered by soft tatami mats. There were
more tapestries on the walls and lanterns that hung from the ceiling. It
all looked so nice and beautiful, and I felt a bit shameful in my dirty,
I noticed Lord
Tsunemoto sat on his knees with his hands folded. He was at the far center
at the room, with two Samurai and some consorts by his side; the room was
surrounded with Samurai. They sat in a semicircle around the daimyo and
more stood with their backs to the walls. Those who were sitting all sat
on their knees with their hands in their lap-just like their Lord.
was an aging man-probably in his early fifties. His hair had already begun
to gray and he had a belly that protruded a bit. He wore a golden kimono
embossed with white cranes and wide black pants. The air of the room felt
defensive; all these Samurai watched us and waited for an attack. But Lord
Tsunemoto's face seemed blank, not scrutinizing. His eyes were overcast
and cloudy-looking and he did not even bow to greet us.
"Bow to the
Lord," Watanabe commanded, but his voice lacked much force.
We got on our
knees and bowed deeply. He merely bowed back, just as Watanabe had greeted
his court and servants.
"My Lord wishes
to speak with all of you about this man, for he believes that you may have
some valuable information. He also wishes to give you his utmost apologies
for imprisonment and will compensate for that. Remember, do not speak unless
he speaks first."
Watanabe turned and slowly left the room, dragging his feet. The two Samurai
at the shoji screen slid the door shut behind him. We were alone in the
room with Lord Tsunemoto.
There was a
moment of silence as he eyed all of us. He did not seem critical or hostile
towards us yet there was no joy in his face. He had these droopy eyelids
and saggy cheeks like a street-dog and wrinkles already forming around
his mouth. The man appeared bored and lazy; he'd lived a decadent life,
hand-fed like a bird. The only sound in the room was his ragged breathing,
which was slow and heavy.
been a tragic death of two of my best Samurai by the hands of a very dangerous
man," he sighed. "I feel not pity for these men, yet I feel fear-bone-biting
fear. Anxiety has loomed all over my province and all of Kyushu ever since
these wars started. Petty at first-but they began to grow and grow. And
they have found a leader-one they can lay upon all their vengeful feelings
as he feeds on their support. They called him 'Amakusa', just like their
old leader. At first we assumed that he was some crazy fool just riling
the people to cause trouble, but last night's event-of which I you've been
informed-has led me the believe that we are dealing with a much more dangerous
force-and the anxiety has heightened significantly. . .
that we have taken lightly your beliefs, and that you were trying to warn
General Watanabe of him. But he-both of us-had valuable words locked away
in a dungeon. We feel absolutely terrible for our wrongdoing and wish to
listen with all ears open, and to hear what we should have heard earlier.
Please tell me all that you know."
speaking of Ukyo and how he brought back Amakusa's spirit, and that the
spirit in turn possessed his body. She told him about Kei and how her life
was ruined by it all. By then it had all sounded the same-just mere, expressionless
words describing a horrific and powerful situation-with a hinted tone of
plea for the listener to believe such a strange tale. Lord Tsunemoto merely
nodded as she rambled on, as if he had expected her words beforehand.
her account, he turned his cloudy eyes to me. I knew that it was disrespectful
to look directly into the eyes of a man of his status, but his weary gaze
stunned me and I couldn't help but return my own.
"And you must
be Tomura Haohmaru, son of Tomura Akira, I presume?"
I bowed. "Hai,
"Ahh, I most
certainly see a resemblance. Your father was a fine man. I met him once-so
tall and noble, even into his mid-years. Of course he never lived any longer.
It seems so odd that my general had found the son of such a noble man lying
parched next to a stream in ratty clothes. Why is it that you hid yourself
from the people, when you could have become your father's dream?"
to eye him, my heart pounding in my chest. Even though his questions were
piercing, his countenance still remained distant. It embarrassed me that
I would have to answer his question-to tell a daimyo that my own bitterness
and anger had kept me from fulfilling my destiny. I had this sensation
of my bowels dropping as soon as he asked the question. I knew that it
would be dishonorable to not answer a lord-honestly-so I sucked in my breath
and began to tell him my woeful life in the woods.
". . .and I
couldn't bear to live, much less pursue my father's dream. And each day
I see him standing over me with a scolding look on his face. . ."
I tried unbearably
to restrain my tears, which were flooding my eyes and causing my bottom
lip to tremble. Charlotte inched closer to me and placed an arm around
". . .so I
hid in the woods, avoiding all human contact, for I knew that humans meant
nothing but trouble and loss-they were two-faced and cruel-all appeared
the same to me. I had, however, practiced some of the swordsmanship that
my father taught me, but I know that I can never take his place or resume
nodded dispassionately. "I see. . .but what brings you here?"
I huffed that name I loathed so. "After Nakoruru told me that he was back
I had set my goals to not becoming what my father envisioned, but to kill
Amakusa once and for all and send him back to the hell he came from. Nakoruru
joined me and then-then the rest came-for the same reason I did."
still eyeing me while rubbing the peppery stubble on his chin. "I see.
. ." he sighed. "Oh, I remember Amakusa as well. A fiendish man, he was!
And that Shogun who anointed him as a daimyo to reform the
Christians-what a mistake that was. You know, Haohmaru, there was
a Council which met to try and change that, but there is no questioning
the Shogun. And not to mention the man had picked his friends well. . ."
continued to gabber on about Amakusa. We appeared to listen intently-sitting
on our knees with our hands folded in our laps. I felt myself begin to
topple over and I tried to support myself. My head felt as heavy and leaden.
I tried not to allow my eyes to wander, for the Lord could see that; I
did see that Galford's chin was pressed against his chest and he was snoring
rather loudly. It seemed strange that this man would talk so long about
Amakusa. Was he trying to inform us? Or was there something else behind
his motives. . .
With one clap
of his hand Lord Tsunemoto jarred us awake and restored us to attentive
positions. He sighed again. "I see that I have been boring you with my
idle talk. I try not to ramble I really do. It just shows how it's all
falling apart-falling apart. . ."
He cupped his
head in his hands. For a moment I thought that he was going to cry and
weep in front of us, but he merely breathed another long-winded sigh and
lifted his head again. I felt his eyes on me-directly on me, yet there
was more than blankness in his eyes. They seemed sharp and keen, boring
into my head to find every detail about me-my thoughts, my life-everything.
Then he slowly
stood up from the small pillow he was sitting on and moved closer to me;
he sat himself down again even closer-an arm's span from me-and I could
meet his eyes. He placed a hand on my shoulder. The others stood silent-suspending
their breaths as to hear Lord Tsunemoto as clearly as possible. My head
was bowed, for I was too afraid to look him in the eyes; even so, I could
feel that the eyes of the others were open and watchful.
when I touch your shoulder I feel your blood boil-so hot and youthful-and
intent. And I feel your intention so strongly-to put Amakusa in his place.
You will stop at nothing. I am wondering why the kami had not brought
you to me sooner. You are perfect-perfect to lead the troops and stop these
wars and bring peace to Japan again. I need a man with the ambition and
bravery to do this for me-who will not scurry from the first attack. Haohmaru-san,
if you cannot take Watanabe's place as a general somehow I know this country
is doomed to unsettlement."
As he was talking
his words seemed to sound farther and farther away, as if the wind had
carried them-or was it that my own thoughts were becoming closer and closer.
I could not help but sit in silence-in this dreamlike stance. A daimyo
had asked me to serve him-and that he would be honored. All I knew of Samurai
generals and battle was from my father-and perhaps from where my memory
cannot recall but I knew from my ancestors and Father, as their experience
was passed on to me through blood.
There was no
other answer I could give except a bow and, "Hai."
Even if I were
to fail-in my lifetime-to die in the hands of Amakusa-I would have achieved
the greatness of my father and died with his honor.
And my father
once told me that A man who was born a great Samurai has no more honor
than a man who had to strive to become one.
new lord-sighed again, yet this time it was a sigh of relief. His voice
sounded less sullen and hollow and more elated, "I knew that I had chosen
the right man. You are a gifted man, Haohmaru-General Tomura Haohmaru-san-and
I beg of you to not fail me. I order that tommorow you begin on your quest
to annihilate these Christians. . ."
I heard a shrill
scream near me. To my side was Charlotte, whose eyes were wide and her
mouth covered. My heart leapt in my throat. She had not only spoken before
being spoken to, but she interrupted. I quickly prayed to the kami to not
let her be executed.
which had surrounded the room quickly moved in on us and withdrew their
swords from their scabbards. They were going to attack her! I saw no sign
from Lord Tsunemoto to halt their attack, and they continued to approach.
The guard nearest to her already had his sword in the air, and just as
he was about to slice her into, I grabbed her in order to protect her.
I tried to thrust my body in front of the attacker he could not kill me
General Tomura Haohmaru I had higher rank than he and I wouldn't let him
kill her. . .
"Stop!" I cried.
The guard had
his sword suspended in mid-air. He bowed and apologized and scurried back
to his post, probably praying that I didn't order him to commit seppuku.
She was trembling in my arms.
you cannot do this," she said, her voice shaken yet firm at the same time.
She was next to a whisper to not let the guards or the daimyo hear her.
"They are innocent people who have nothing to do with Amakusa."
my grip on her as she ceased her trembling. "You must keep quiet." I whispered.
"I can't let them kill you. I won't let them."
eyed the two of us entangled in each other's arms. I noticed his soft,
doughy face begin to wrinkle for a short moment before it returned to its
dull, glazed-over shape.
"Is the woman
a Christian?" he asked me.
"I am a Christian
and I can speak for myself," she spoke defiantly. I could hear the rest
of the room suck in their breaths.
is your protocol?" he inquired.
is your compassion?" she hissed back.
She began to
rise, preparing for a heated debate with this man of power. I gently took
hold of her wrist, trying to pull her back. She resisted.
tongue. This is not your even in your country-and even if it was your motherland
you would have no say-so, woman."
"I have a name
and you shall call me by it."
your foreign land you may, but here you will be called gaijin."
to glare at him with her icy eyes.
"I don't think
that she understands the customs here, Lord," I bowed, trying to apologize
for her. "I am sorry for her being outspoken. She has strong feelings about
her religion. . ."
"Then she must
be put to death at once," he said coldly.
I saw the guards
begin to approach her again, their swords sliding from their scabbards,
ready to slice at her.
do that!" I retorted, then covered my mouth for speaking against my lord.
she has spoiled your mind! But I cannot kill you-you must not listen to
her-please-for your country-and your father. . ."
How could he
be so cold to her-to give her a death sentence with no feeling or regret
in his voice? How could he spit those words as if her merely having a conversation-throwing
the words from his mouth as if they were garbage she doesn't deserve
to die I can't let you do it no you can't put your weapons up Samurai I
order you she is a good lady who didn't come here to die-
I opened my
eyes again and saw many people standing over me-Lord Tsunemoto, my companions,
and the guards, who restrained her arms so she couldn't move them. I even
saw a little, elfish-looking old man peer over me.
has definitely plagued him," the old man said. His voice was high and squeaky.
"My Lord, I must take a look at him. My, he sure seems disoriented. . ."
suddenly faded again. . .
must rest awhile before he takes your troops into battle. . ." I heard
the little old man speak.
When I woke
up I saw him hovering over me and probing my skin. I figured that he was
the court doctor and he thought that I had some illness. It only took a
short while before his poking and prodding began to irk me, so I sat up
immediately. I startled the little man and he dropped his tools, which
scattered on the ground.
"Oh, my, you
are awake for good now, Haohmaru-san. . ."
I noticed that
I was in a small room with a bed and table with many bottled liquids atop
it. The doctor, and Lord Tsunemoto were in the room with me. The Lord kneeled
on a pillow in one corner of the room, his fat fingers tapping on his knees.
He did not take his eye off of me and watched the little doctor with scrutinizing
"You see he
is fine." He inched his pillow to the futon that I was laying on and motioned
to the doctor to leave. The dwarfish man seemed hesitant at first, but
then he scurried out like a frightened rabbit after my Lord's constant
demanding that he depart.
The small room
seemed to expand before my eyes; I felt somewhat isolated, even though
Lord Tsunemoto was in the room with me. Yet he seemed so far away, as if
we were sitting on opposite corners-even though he sat rather close to
me. These feelings vexed me somehow-in some way I knew that it wasn't right.
I wanted to know where the others went-especially Charlotte-and I hoped
that they didn't execute her.
"Where is she?"
I demanded, my breath stopping short.
"Oh. The Christian
woman. She is in another part of the palace right now. Under close watch.
. ." he voice began to lower.
He smiled at
me and nodded after what he had said. His face chilled me, and those soggy-shaped
eyes of his had begun to take on a more keen appearance-and it was a keenness
that was plotting something cruel. It made me shiver in a way. I grabbed
for my sword, which I instinctively did when something threatened me, but
I noticed that it wasn't there.
"You seem very
worried, Haohmaru. I have it. You will receive it when you go to battle
tomorrow-unfortunately-as much as I despise that little doctor's order."
"What is happening?
Where are all the others? And what have you done with Charlotte??"
"She is fine.
The others are fine, enjoying the luxuries of this palace."
"Is she with
"No. But I
assure you she is well, yet orders are orders and she broke them."
His grin seemed
wider and wider with each word that he spoke. His answers were very incomplete,
and I knew that there was more to what he was saying. Lord Tsunemoto-Lord
Tsunemoto-he was my Lord, and I was not to question him. I served him-I
was to drop dead if he asked me to. But I couldn't let him do anything
to her, and I knew that he had some scheme. It would be dishonorable to
defy his words. I wanted to tell him that she was a good woman and she
meant no harm, but he seemed convinced that she was feeding horrible thoughts
into my head.
He placed his
thumb and forefinger on his chin. "I wonder-why does a man such as yourself
associate with these foreigners? You seem to have a strong bond with her."
a friend that I have had for a long time."
She's a nice lady who doesn't mean any harm, and I don't know why you have
to imprison her."
the rules." He spoke emphatically. I withdrew myself.
"Now, why don't
you get some rest. Tomorrow-your battles begin."
He slowly stood
up and turned around, holding his head high. From where I lay, I watched
his immense robe trail behind him and slither out the door.
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