The Inuyama Rebellion
by Robyn Paterson
Hasegawa Yohei, chief retainer and advisor to the Lord of the Inuyama clan, had said the words to a seemingly empty room where he sat before his Goban studying the Go game laid out before him, and yet, from the shadows a reply came.
“Your ears are sharp, my lord.” A voice chuckled.
“My ears and their sharpness are of little importance,” replied Hasegawa, sounding mildly annoyed. His eyes were still focussed on the game before him, “tell me what you have come to say and be gone.”
“Of course, my lord.” The ninja acquiesced. “As we expected, the Lady Murasaki has sent agents to the Kurokawa to retrieve her sons.”
“Indeed?” Hasegawa said thoughtfully, a wrinkled hand sliding from his robes to lift the steaming bowl of tea resting nearby to his lips. This wouldn’t do, thought Hasegawa, this wouldn’t do at all.
The Sengoku Jidai was an age of nearly constant warfare in Japanese history- clans struggled endlessly against other clans and today’s ally might be tomorrow’s enemy. The proud Inuyama clan that Hasegawa served, once driven nearly to the brink of extinction by their hated rivals the Kurokawa clan, had finally grown in strength enough to face their enemies in a battle for their freedom. But, this freedom had had many costs, for the peace that bought them the time to secretly rearm was paid for with the clan lord’s own sons- held hostage by the Kurokawa in a bargain of peace. Now, knowing that the declaration of independence would surely bring the deaths of her sons, the clan lord’s wife, Lady Murasaki, had secretly dispatched men to the Kurokawa lands in an effort to rescue the boys.
An effort Hasegawa feared would undo everything that he and his lord had worked so hard to achieve. Now, with the signing of the pact against the Kurokawa with the other clans mere days away, if Lord Kurokawa were to learn of the rebellion all would be lost. He felt for the lady, and knew that the loss of her sons would be deep blow to her, but this foolish sentiment could not be allowed to undo years of work.
Hasegawa placed his tea back on the tray next to him.
“Who has she sent?”
“Jiro, and his apprentice, my lord.”
Hasegawa’s concern became a frown for the first time. Jiro was the castle’s former swordmaster, a wily old samurai with a long history of service to his clan. He had arguably been one of the best swordsmen in the land when he was younger, and although age had slowed him down, he was still a dangerous man with a blade. Of his apprentice, Masato, Hasegawa knew little, but then, Jiro would be unlikely to take a man with him on a secret mission if he were not capable.
“Send a messenger to the Tengu telling him they’re coming, make sure to have any documents they’re carrying be brought to me. They may be needed later when the time comes to deal with our troublesome Lady.”
The schemes of women required swift rebuke by their betters.
“As you say, my lord.” Agreed the voice from the shadows. “And the Samurai?”
“Get what information you can, then…remove them from the game.”
* * *
The soft sound of samisen music wafted through the pleasure quarters of Kitsune-bi Town, broken only by the drunken whoops and shouts that accompanied an evening in the floating world. Along the streets two walked among many, both clad in nondescript browns and greys, but their manner, as well as their swords, set them slightly apart from the many other men and women who freely mixed in these busy streets.
In the lead was a grey haired man with a thin build, perhaps in his fifties, with a long angular face, and his long hair tied back into a ponytail. He was perhaps only a bit shorter than average due to his age, but compared with his companion he looked like a diminutive kappa goblin. The boy who followed, for Masato was lying a bit when he claimed to have seen sixteen summers, was a tall and broad shouldered lad with a pock-marked face that might be handsome when he’d grown into it. On his shoulders was a large pack, something he was in no way happy about.
“Sensei, why am I carrying all the gear?”
“Experience before youth, my boy. I’ve got experience, and you’re the one with youth.” Then his teacher grinned and added. “Better your back than mine!”
“Yes…Sensei.” Said the sullen apprentice, glancing at the last of the gaily frolicking revellers as they finished their march through the pleasure quarters. He brought his eyes front again just in time to avoid walking into his elder, who had stopped at the front gates of the large walled mansion that sat at the end of the road.
“Hey sensei, weren’t we supposed to be in a hurry?” Masato asked, peering uncertainly at the plaque above the door. “Why are we stopping here at an inn?”
His teacher seemed to hesitate, as though he was weighing something in his head, and then he nodded to himself in determination and looked over at the young man. “Men in a hurry still have to eat, lad. Besides, I need to see an old friend who works here.”
Jiro laughed. “Something like that. Have you ever been in a place like this before, Masato?”
The lad shook his head.
“Well then,” Jiro smiled. “Follow my lead.”
Once inside the dour looking gates, Masato was surprised to find this place had no less the colour or life than the more wild streets outside. They were in a gorgeously decorated front courtyard with many coloured lanterns hung in lines along the gentle stone pathways that weaved among the beautiful plants and statues. Before them were another row of beautiful flowers, each of the white-faced young women clad in colourful silk kimonos , and at the head of the flowers, an older woman led her charges in a deep group bow to the two men.
“O’samurai-san, welcome to the Inn of a Thousand Lanterns.” They said in unison. Then the older woman stepped forward and gestured at the three women at the end of the line. “Please, come in and relax. These girls will show you the way.”
“Thank you, Obasan.” Jiro said, cheerfully. “But, I’m looking for a specific girl- is Shiori-chan about?”
“Ahhh. You want Shiori-chan.” The woman smiled in understanding, and then she shook her head sadly. “I’m sorry, she’s with a client for the moment- perhaps one of these ladies could entertain you instead?” She gestured to a voluptuous girl in green who stepped forward and bowed to the men. “Reiko-chan is a beauty, is she not?”
If there was such a thing as a fairy, Masato was sure he had just found one.
“Wow sensei, lookit her!” He said, his jaw hanging open in sheer surprise.
The girls covered their mouths and giggled, and Jiro did his best to ignore his gaping apprentice.
“I’m sorry, Obasan, but Shiori-chan is the only girl for me.” He reached into his pocket and produced a silver coin. “Here, take this and show it to her, I’m sure she’ll make some time.”
“But sensei…” Masato started as he watched his teacher handed not just one coin to the woman, but several other coins as well, then was stopped short when the back of his teacher’s hand impacted into his gut. “Uuff!”
The older lady smiled and nodded, ignoring the exchange. “Of course. I will ask if she’s available. Please follow these girls upstairs and they will see to you while you wait.”
“Thank you, Obasan.” Jiro said gracefully, then turned and looked at his charge, who was still gasping from the blow to his stomach. “C’mon lad, just breathe and you’ll get over it. Follow Reiko-chan’s butt and it’ll show you the way.”
* * * * * * * * *
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