Read the first chapter:
Yoshitsune School of Martial Arts, atop Tokyo's blazoning Haikyo Tower,
resounded with the deafening clash of wooden swords, as students of ninjutsu
learned the intricate art of combat.
The sensei sat cross-legged on the raised podium, observing his students through slitted eyes that glittered like ebony coals in his shaved head. Tokutaru Kakuji and his brother, Kazuo, dressed in black judogi, clashed swords and struggled to impress the master. Outside, the traffic of the great metropolis whirled passed in a cacophony of sound, but inside the dojo, precision of movement reigned supreme.
Tokutaru Kakuji was imagining the
swish of a finely woven silk kimono, parting slightly to reveal a pale thigh,
when the bamboo sword stung his cheek into a welt. His black eyes flashed at his
brother, Kazuo, leering proudly at him from behind his dancing weapon. But this
was only training; today Kakuji didn't need to feed the demon tiger tattooed
across his shoulder, or honour the hungry war-god etched in reds and greens
across the small of his muscular back. He would not take blood, nor lose face
but he would remind his brother to show respect. However, as Tokutaru tightened
his grip on his shinai, a growl came from behind him. The sensei grimaced
fiercely but remained in his lotus position. Kazuo swallowed slowly.
Following the Shindo-Muso Ryu, the two brothers practiced basic blows and
blocks in the form of fluid, formal exercises, called Kata. Tokutaru used the
wooden sword or bokken and his brother used the long stick. During the Kata,
Tokutaru attempted to inflict blows to the upper part of Kazuo's body, then he
tried the middle body parry and Kazuo countered with do-harai-uchi. Finally,
Tokutaru executed the spinning evasion, countered by Kazuo with tai-hazushi-uchi.
The sensei, also swathed in black judogi, remained unmoving until the exercise came to a halt. The Hall, with its wooden floors polished and gleaming, became completely still and silent. The students bowed low and the master uncoiled slowly. He rose effortlessly, in a manner that was both hypnotic and snakelike, appearing not to touch the floor. Suddenly he drew his sword and cut swathes in the air, pushing and pulsating the sound waves inside the dojo.
"Yours is a legacy of service to those in need, protection to those
in distress and strength to those who are overpowered. Your guide is 'nin-po';
the silent means of working your will, without actions. Your reward is spiritual
growth and an active role in the spirit of totality," the sensei spoke in a
"The student of ninjutsu must subjugate the self," he
continued. "Bear the agony of gruelling practice and cultivate calmness of
mind in the face of peril."
"Kazuo, how must the student of ninjutsu achieve total calm?"
The master asked, beginning the fierce, verbal dueling which always followed as
the aftermath of ninjutsu training.
bowed low, prone upon his knees before the sensei, speaking quietly.
"Master, ninjutsu is the art of stealth and concealment, the creating and
perpetrating of an aura of mystery."
The sensei continued to lecture with fierce, staccato inflections.
"The ninja is trained to infiltrate enemy centers. This is known as 'toiri-no-jutsu'
and to cross behind enemy lines, 'chikairi-no-jutsu'. In the West they say, 'pen
is mightier than sword.' In Japan we say, what?" he snapped.
"Bunbu Itchi - 'pen and sword in accord', " Kazuo replied
student of ninjutsu must face death at any moment," continued the master.
"He who can accept death at any moment in everyday life, is a master of
ninjutsu," he hissed with snakelike sibilance. "You must practice
thousands of cuts morning and night, until sword becomes no sword and intention
becomes no intention."
the master bowed and dismissed the class, intoning in a low voice, "Komban
wa." But he nodded toward Kazuo and his elder brother, Tokutaru Kakuji,
waiting till all the other students had left, before speaking to them.
are to meet on Sunday night at the Futaara-san Shrine, Nikko," the sensei's
voice was almost imperceptible. Tokutaru and Kazuo bowed low, lying almost
prostrate before the master, who glided swiftly from the dojo. The two brothers
then moved to the locker room to change into street clothes. Outside, in the
Tokyo night, rain swirled in a fine mist.
ni ikimasho," Tokutaru suggested they have a drink, so they hurried across
the busy intersection, pulling coat collars up to shelter their faces from the
cold, probing fingers of the night. Traffic whizzed by, honking and hooting in
the swirl of spring rains.
'Swinging Lantern Nightclub' was a popular nightspot for the Yoshigawa-Kai.
A red lantern hung outside and the bar was crowded with men having a
drink before returning home from work. There were few women patrons and the
hostesses were being swamped with calls for service. The lanterns were turned
down so that a soft, roseate light, permeated the air and bluish wisps of smoke
palled the atmosphere.
members of the Yoshigawa-Kai leaned on the bar, calling to the Kakuji brothers
to join them. Kazuo ordered Suntori whisky and joined in the bawdy celebrations.
Tokutaru paused briefly beside a table near the stage where gang boss, Yasuhiro
Ogawa, was seated, flanked by five bodyguards. The men were watching scantily
clad entertainers, performing the finale of a lurid limbo dance, and applauded
loudly as the act climaxed.
Tokutaru had no interest in the floorshow. Instead, his eyes were riveted on a
beautiful, young hostess, seated at the bar. He thought she was the most
exquisite creature he had ever seen. Her hair was piled high on her head and
caught with a pearl clip. It was bluish-black, glossy and shining, and her skin
was the palest alabaster, like that of a porcelain doll. Then, with a start, he
noticed she was weeping. Tears glistened in her ebony, almond-shaped eyes, and
slid downward over finely chiseled cheekbones, like petals from the rain-washed
sakura no hana, (cherry blossoms).
Meanwhile, on stage, the limbo dance had reached its grand finale. About
a hundred patrons were applauding enthusiastically. Suddenly, a young man in a
white shirt, stood up and walked slowly toward the table near the stage,
containing gang boss, Yasuhiro Ogawa. Standing about five meters from his
target, the man whipped out a .38 calibre pistol and fired at Yasuhiro. The
bullet grazed the gang boss's neck and he let out a startled scream, as blood
from a flesh wound trickled down his back. Instantly, the bodyguards were on
their feet, and hotly pursued, the would-be assassin fled for his life.
assailant, twenty-seven year old, Ryoichi Takanaka, belonged to the Chobei gang,
bitter rivals of the Yoshigawa-Kai. When Chobei gang boss, Kaoru Osano, was
killed in a territorial war with the Yoshigawa-Kai, Ryoichi and other Chobei
gang members, had swallowed the ashes of their murdered 'oyabun' in a pledge of
the sound of the gunshot, Tokutaru dived for cover into a shadowy corner of the
nightclub. Men from the Yoshigawa-Kai swarmed around to assist Yasuhiro, Kazuo
among them. Ogawa was rushed into a bulletproof Cadillac, which sped, with
police escort, to a nearby hospital, accompanied by Kazuo and other gang
Tokutaru remained standing in the shadows, observing the frenetic
activity around him. He felt strangely detached and unable to move, as if he
were watching a dream sequence. Shortly after Yasuhiro's departure, the
nightclub owner ordered the resumption of the stage show. Mesmerised, as if he
were in a trance, Tokutaru's eyes were drawn back once more to the beautiful
hostess at the bar.
Suddenly, he understood her demise. An older man, seated beside her, was
molesting her. He was of western appearance, fat and balding. He had hoisted up
the girl's finely woven, silk kimono and shoved his hand between her thighs, in
a crude gesture. Nightclub owner and Yoshigawa-Kai member, Mitsuru Kimoto,
suddenly appeared. He was a short, stocky, heavily tattooed man in his forties.
The tip of the fifth digit on his right hand was missing.
obese westerner pulled a wad of notes from his wallet, slapping them down on the
bar. Instantly, Tokutaru sprang forward from the shadows, and extricating a roll
of notes from his billfold, pressed them into the owners' hand.
Waddya think yer doin'?" the American growled, his bloated face reddened
with anger. He had small, round eyes and a pitted nose, caused by too many bouts
with the whisky bottle.
have many girls," the owner blustered, trying to placate the tourist, as he
quickly noticed the pile of notes Tokutaru had pushed into his hand were far in
excess of the gaijin's.
you meet Pearl. She one swinging gal," Kimoto beckoned to a Filipino girl
with a voluptuous figure. The hostess sauntered over, hips swaying enticingly as
"Hey, Daddio...wanna come my place?" she
asked huskily. Then bending over, she massaged his balding pate.
American ogled down her cleavage. "You gotta great set of tits, darlin'!"
he breathed, reaching out to grope her breasts, but she was too quick for him.
Naughty, naughty! You gotta wait till we're alone, big boy," the hostess
snickered and headed for the door.
tourist stood up, swaying on his feet. "Hey, Pearl! Come back here!"
he snorted, then his eyes fell again on the young, Japanese girl still sitting
beside him, head bowed low and eyes downcast. The American drained his glass and
grabbing the ice cubes, snarled, "Keep ya pussy on ice, babe!" Then
suddenly diving his hand under her kimono, he shoved the frozen cubes cruelly
between her thighs.
girl screamed in terror and Tokutaru sprang forward with the agility of a
mountain lion, his thumbs and fingers pressed like the teeth of a feral cat,
into the fat gaijin's neck. The tourist turned purple, choking, his eyes bulging
as he fell to his knees.
Kimoto snapped his fingers and instantly two burly bouncers materialized
from the smoky recesses of the nightclub. One of them, built like a sumo
wrestler, struck Tokutaru a glancing blow on the back of the head, stunning him,
so that he released his grip on the American. In turn, the bouncer inserted his
fingers into Tokutaru's carotid artery, causing him to choke.
do you think you're doing?" he growled. "You're upsetting all the
customers. Now, get out before we call the Keisatsu and don't show yourself here
again!" They pushed Tokutaru out the side door and into the night rain,
where he stumbled and fell over some crates, striking his forehead. The skin
opened up above his right eyebrow and blood, mixed with rain, trickled into his
lay still for a few moments, stunned and bleeding, then suddenly became aware of
a movement in the shadows. He stiffened, ready for attack, as a slim, shadowy
form came toward him. Kakuji smelled her heady perfume as the young hostess bent
over him, speaking softly.
"Arigato," she murmured. "Come, I will take care of
you." Gently, the young Japanese girl helped Tokutaru to his feet and led
him along a back alley strewn with fallen cherry blossoms, ragged and white
against the wet, black, paving stones. They came to a locked door. Soundlessly,
she took a key from her obi and opened the old, wooden door. The building was a
curious mixture of east and west.
"Sssh!" she cautioned as she led him inside, locking the door
behind them and replacing the key in her sash. "They must not know we are
here. We have only a few moments before they discover I am missing." Gently
she led him to a tatami and a cushion in the corner of the heya. There was no
light in the room, save the silvery glint of moonlight, diffused by a
translucent shoji screen. Kakuji sank down gratefully and the young girl applied
a salve to the cut over his eye.
I know your name?" he asked almost shyly.
am Fumiko Toyama," she murmured as she bathed his cut and Tokutaru drank in
the opiate of her perfume, the very quintessence of her being. He longed to draw
her down to him; to bury his face in the firm, young breasts that he saw
outlined beneath her silk kimono. A fire seared his loins and the touch of her
hand stirred him like a butterfly's wing beating on the flower of his manhood,
but he disciplined his mind, turning off the sensuous flow of the moment.
Fumiko applied a sticking plaster, then she straightened up and crossed
to the window. Tokutaru saw her shoulders trembling in the moonlight and he knew
instinctively that she was weeping. He stood up, feeling somewhat light-headed,
and walked close behind her, placing his hands gently on her shoulders.
is it, Fumiko?" he asked.
week, chichi, my father, died. Now I am alone in the world and Kimoto says I
must be hostess. At first I work only as waitress, now I hostess. I no want
this." Fumiko began to cry softly. "Please take me with you. I not
stay here. I not be whore for fat Amerikajin." She turned to him and he saw
the pleading in her eyes.
gazed at the silvered cherry blossom tree, shivering in the moonlit garden
beyond the shoji screen. Then he nodded. "Come with me tonight and tomorrow
I will take you to my uncle's house, high in the mountains above Nikko. If you
wish, oba and oji will take you in," he answered softly. "They are
childless and growing old, with no-one to take care of them."
Fumiko bowed deeply and sighed a heartfelt, "arigato. You are too
"Please, call me Tokutaru. Now, you must collect your belongings and
leave this place forever," he murmured. Once again the young girl bowed
very low and, taking a small suitcase from a low set cupboard, she began to pack
her few belongings swiftly and silently.
slid open the shoji screen and peered through the darkness to make certain there
was no one in the laneway. The couple slipped out into the rain. They sidled
along close to the building, huddled in the shadows until they reached the
corner. Then Tokutaru took Fumiko's arm, guiding her deftly through the city
traffic, across the street to the Haikyo Tower.
that evening, Kakuji had parked his car in the basement, next to his brother's.
He knew Kazuo had accompanied Yasuhiro Ogawa to hospital, so he would be unaware
of the scuffle and Tokutaru's resultant eviction from the nightclub. Otherwise,
his brother would most certainly have come to his aid. Tokutaru was relieved
Kazuo had not become involved, since it was going to be difficult enough to
explain to the Yoshigawa-Kai, his own involvement in a dispute with nightclub
owner and fellow gang member, Mitsuru Kimoto.
took an elevator down one floor to the basement and Tokutaru unlocked his Toyota
Camry. They drove in silence, the rain beating on the windscreen, accompanied by
the soft, rhythmic thud of the wipers. The Kakuji brothers shared an expensive,
modern apartment in a high-rise building in the Roppongi area, close to downtown
Tokutaru knew it was too dangerous to take Fumiko there, so he drove
through Tokyo to an 'Abec Hoteru' or 'love hotel', that he had used occasionally
in the past. Driving into an underground garage, he paid Y5,000 for 'goshukuhku',
an overnight stay. Each room had its own separate entrance and Kakuji knew that
he would not be seen by either the staff or other tenants.
He ushered Fumiko into the
garishly decorated room. The walls were painted a sickly pink and floor to
ceiling mirrors predominated. Looking up, the girl saw that the ceiling above
the bed was also mirrored. She shuddered involuntarily as her eyes lighted on a
colour videotape recorder, resting on a lacquered cabinet beside the bed.
Back in the smoky interior of the
'Swinging Lantern Nightclub', Mitsuru Kimoto became enraged when he discovered
the young hostess, Fumiko Toyama, was missing.
"Yaeko!" he bellowed at the onna-shujin who had been placed in
charge of the other girls.
"Hai,hai, Kimoto-san," Yaeko came shuffling quickly, eyes
downcast in subservience as she bowed low before her irate boss.
"Where is Fumiko?" he roared at her, looking around the Club
and gesticulating wildly. "Do you see her here?" he thundered.
bowed even lower. "Ie, Kimoto-san," she muttered, head and eyes
go fetch her," Kimoto screamed and Yaeko scurried off to check the ladies
room and to ask the other escorts if they knew of Fumiko's whereabouts. She
became visibly upset when the young girl could not be found on the premises. Her
face stricken, she returned to her boss.
"Fumiko is not here, Kimoto-san," she whispered, head bowed
lower and shoulders trembling.
check her room," Kimoto snapped, throwing her a bunch of keys.
shuffled out of the side door and across the darkened path to Fumiko's room,
unlocking the wooden door as the raindrops spattered her face. She lit a lamp,
and crossing to the lowset cupboard, slid the wooden door open. Yaeko saw at
once that the girl's suitcase and belongings were gone. Terror gripped her
heart, for she knew Kimoto would hold her responsible. Locking the room, she
re-entered the nightclub.
Bowing low so that she was almost prone before her boss, Yaeko informed
him that Fumiko had left the premises. Kimoto struck her savagely with the back
of his hand and screamed, "You're fired!"
onna-shujin clutched at her face but made no sound. Bowed over and weeping
silently, she left by the side door to go to her room and pack. After a short
while she emerged with her suitcase and was swallowed up by the rainy darkness
of the Tokyo night.
nightclub owner glanced around and signalled to a heavily tattooed man seated
alone at the bar. He was wiry but well muscled with a swarthy complexion.
Fumiko Toyama!" he hissed. The ninja nodded silently and disappeared
through the side door, his dark clothes blending with the shadows of the night.
Tokutaru stole a glance at the young girl as he placed her suitcase
beside the bed. She seemed even more diminutive than he had first noticed.
Thinner, almost birdlike, her face was ashen and she trembled constantly. Her
cream, silken kimono, was slightly soiled by the crude Amerikajin and her dark,
red lipstick was smeared haphazardly. She stood silently in the doorway with
traditional subservience; head bowed and eyes averted.
"Come, sit over here. Make yourself comfortable." He led her to
the bed and she sat down nervously as he poured her a small cup of sake and
handed it to her saying, "This will steady your nerves." Fumiko took
the cup and drank obediently, but he noticed her fingers trembled.
Tomorrow I will drive you to my aunt and uncle's house on Lake Chuzenji.
They will keep you safe and in turn you will care for them. Is it agreed?"
he asked softly. She nodded gratefully.
must leave Tokyo forever. I must escape from the Yoshigawa-Kai," the girl
spoke with quiet conviction, but Kakuji noticed her hands still shook as she
held the sake cup. He poured himself a Suntori and sat in an easy chair opposite
so he could observe her better. He did not trust himself to sit on the bed
Suntori was doing its work, numbing his senses, relaxing his body, and after the
violent blow he had suffered at the 'Swinging Lantern' he felt strangely
light-headed. He studied Fumiko through lowered eyelids, realizing with a start,
how very young she was - a mere slip of a girl, probably no more than seventeen.
She was little more than a child and he felt protective towards her, almost
must be tired now," he spoke gently. "I will show you the bathroom
then you can rest. We must leave early tomorrow, before first light. It is a
long journey to Lake Chuzenji."
Fumiko murmured, lowering her eyes once more and Tokutaru saw her shoulders
stiffen. Her hands seemed to tremble even more violently than before as she
tried to return her cup to the night table. He took it from her and set it down.
Then he ushered her toward the bathroom. Kakuji crossed to the bar and poured
himself another whisky. He lit a cigarette and stared out the rain-streaked
window at the lights of Tokyo.
about half an hour the bathroom screen slid open softly and the girl emerged.
She was wearing a lilac, silk, embroidered kimono and her hair was damp from the
shower. She crossed quickly to the bed and sat tautly on the edge without
speaking, her head lowered.
Tokutaru entered the bathroom and undressed quickly. In the shower stall
he turned the cold faucet full on, trying to clear his mind of the sight of
Fumiko's exquisite form and the smell of her intoxicating perfume. He had longed
to pull her down onto the bed, to make love to her slowly, inexorably, till the
Tokyo dawn ushered in a new day, but because of her extreme youth, he would not
lay a finger on her.
soaked his head under the cold shower for several minutes, letting the icy water
run in rivulets over his firm, well-muscled body. Shutting off the faucet, he
wrapped a towel firmly around his waist, then was startled to hear a small,
scraping sound, as if someone had surreptitiously entered the bathroom.
Swiftly, he slid open the shower screen, and muscles tensed like a steel
spring coiled for action, he surveyed the bathroom. Amazed, his mouth dropped
open in total surprise as he saw Fumiko standing in the doorway. The lilac
kimono, with silver blossoms embroidered on the front panels, clung to her
figure and her ebony hair rippled loosely down her back in thick coils. Slowly,
she unfastened the silver obi around her tiny waist and the kimono slipped from
her shoulders, lying in silken rivulets at her feet.
Tokutaru gasped as he stared at her naked form. He had never before seen
such perfection. Her firm, young breasts with nipples erect tormented him and
his eyes slid downwards, drinking in the opiate of her being, as his gaze
fastened on the soft whisper of maiden hair between her long, slender thighs. He
longed to suckle the warmth of her nipples, to slide his tongue over her firm,
young belly. Once more, fire seared his loins, and Kakuji ached with longing for
her as his erection mounted painfully.
Suddenly, the girl knelt before him, her hands darting forward as she
attempted to remove the towel from his waist.
A violent rage gripped Tokutaru. He clutched at his towel with his left hand and
with his right, grabbed a hunk of her hair, yanking her head back and forcing
her painfully to her feet.
will not suck me like some cheap whore," he hissed fiercely, striking her
across the face. "Cover yourself," he commanded, pushing her toward
the bed. Fumiko stumbled and fell as she tried hastily to pull her kimono around
only wanted to please you," she sobbed, puzzled and mortified by his
strange behaviour. "You paid Kimoto-san much money for sex with Fumiko. Now
you no want her," she sobbed as if her heart would break.
Instantly, he understood. She thought, because he had paid Kimoto at the
Nightclub, she was obliged to repay him with sexual favours. Instinctively,
Kakuji knew why she had been so afraid and trembling. This was her first time.
She was still a virgin and quite terrified, but she felt she must perform since
it was expected of her. He knelt beside her and gently drew the kimono around
her shivering form.
no please you," she sobbed.
ssh!" he whispered, as he kissed the tears sliding down her delicate,
porcelain cheeks, tasting their salty wetness on his tongue. He held her close
to his naked chest, stroking her hair and murmuring softly.
"Fumiko pleases Tokutaru very much. She is the most beautiful
garufurendo in the world." The young woman smiled up at him, her eyes
brimming with tears. "But I do not want you for my whore," Kakuji
brushed the hair from her face very gently. "I want you for my wife!"
small cry escaped from her lips and he silenced her, sliding his tongue into her
mouth. Fumiko clung to him and her lips parted as she drank in the opiate of his
"Tomorrow, if you agree, we will be married at the temple on Mt.
Nantai," Tokutaru held her face in his hands, studying her expression
hai, onegai shimas!" she laughed through her tears. "That would be so
will come to you whenever I can. But first you must get out of Tokyo. We must
hide you in the mountains, safe from the Yoshigawa-Kai." Fumiko nodded
happily, then he carried her to the bed and pulled the quilt over her slender
must rest now. O-yasumi nasai, darling," he bade her goodnight and padded
softly over to the bar to replenish his drink.
Tokutaru stared through the window at the lights of Tokyo. Spring rains
washed the city streets and swirling droplets spiralled down, pattering on the
glass. Ice cubes clinked in unison as he drank the Suntori and dragged deeply on
a cigarette. He tried to still his thudding heart, but the blood that pulsed
through his veins, played an exquisite symphony of pleasure and pain over the
ache in his loins.
Dossing down on a makeshift toko, Kakuji tried to doze, but sleep eluded
him. He felt very elated. Although he'd had many women in the past none had ever
excited him as much as Fumiko. She fired his soul, emblazoning his body more
fiercely than the whisky that slaked his thirst and burned slowly in his gut. He
tossed uncomfortably till the first light of dawn streaked the Tokyo sky. Then
he rose and telephoned Kazuo. The 'phone rang and rang with no answer but he
persisted knowing his brother was more than likely sleeping off a severe
Finally, a cranky voice barked, "hai."
"Kazuo, it's Tok. Are you ok?" he asked softly, trying not to
was sleeping. You woke me." Kazuo grumbled.
"Sorry," Tokutaru apologized, smirking to himself. "How is
Yasuhiro?" he asked.
recovering in hospital. He's ok. Just a graze. We got that bastard, Ryoichi. He
won't give us any more trouble," the younger Kakuji laughed harshly.
Tokutaru stared out the window. He did not like to be reminded how ruthless his
brother had become since their alliance with the Yoshigawa-Kai.
"Listen, Kazuo. I am at Abec Hoteru. 'The Shiro', in Gotanda. You
must pack some of our belongings and drive to the Gotanda district. Meet me here
as soon as possible. We must leave for Nikko immediately," he ordered.
What's going on?" the younger Kakuji asked in a puzzled tone.
will explain it to you when you get here. I am in room 302. Now, quickly do as I
say." Tokutaru spoke sharply.
shi! I will see you soon, ani," Kazuo replied promptly and hung up.
Tokutaru looked over at Fumiko. She was sleeping peacefully. He made 'ocha'
and placed a mug of the steaming, green tea on the nightstand.
"Fumiko," he called softly and gently touched her shoulder. She
stirred, then opening her eyes, smiled up at him. She sat up in bed and the
damask light of dawn suffused her skin. He gasped at her exquisite beauty,
scarcely able to breathe as he witnessed a glissade of lights glimmering in the
hair that tumbled about her shoulders. Once more, he longed to tear away her
silken kimono and slide his mouth over her belly, sucking at her flesh until he
reached the kernel of her sweetness.
blood pounding in his ears, he said gruffly, "you must hurry. We leave for
Mt. Nantai in half an hour." She looked up at him quizzically and he added
more softly, "soon we will be married in the temple." A radiant smile
lit her face and Tokutaru had the fleeting impression of a lotus flower
illuminated by the morning sun.
He went to take a shower, feeling
strangely, ridiculously happy. Although he had only known Fumiko briefly, he
felt as if he had always known her. The memory of her naked form standing before
him in the bathroom pervaded his senses and he groaned as the icy water pummeled
his skin, instantly shriveling his painful erection.
the basement of his apartment building in the Roppongi area, Kazuo did not
notice a shadowy form watching him. Nor did he see the black Mazda RX 7 that
followed at a distance as he drove to the Gotanda District. A short time later,
he tapped on the door of room 302 at the 'Shiro', and Tokutaru opened it a
"Hairimasu," he muttered. Kazuo entered and looked around
curiously, his eyes riveting on Fumiko as she stood by the bed.
"Ototo, please meet Fumiko Toyama." Tokutaru introduced them
and Fumiko bowed very low several times, then she backed toward the bathroom,
feet shuffling and eyes downcast.
brought her here last night from 'The Swinging Lantern'. You may have noticed
her. She was seated at the bar with an Amerikajin. I outbid him with
Y40,000," said the older brother after the girl had closed the bathroom
paid Y40,000 for her, and you slept there, alone?" Kazuo pointed
incredulously to the makeshift toko on the floor.
You don't understand. She's still a virgin," Tokutaru tried to explain.
a virgin! How can this be, when she works as hostess in Kimoto's
nightclub?" Kazuo's voice rose higher.
"Ssh. Ssh! At first she worked as a waitress.
But her father died recently and she has no other family, so the Yoshigawa-Kai
insisted she work for them as a hostess," the older Kakuji explained.
you gone mad? Tomorrow night is our Initiation Ceremony. Have you forgotten the
three commandments of Tekiya? Do not touch the wife, or mistress of another
member. Do not reveal the secrets of the organization to the police, and keep
strict loyalty to the oyabun-kobun relationship. You will be breaking two of
Tokutaru stood up and placed his hand on his brother's shoulder. "I
am well aware of the oaths, Ototo. But you do not understand. I love Fumiko and
I intend to marry her, in secret."
had sobered up considerably by now. "Bakayaro! Have you gone baka baka shi?
You can never marry her. She is Kimoto's mekake. She is owned by the Yoshigawa-Kai!"
Tokutaru crossed to the window and spoke with an icy calm. "I will
marry Fumiko tonight on Mt. Nantai,
in secret. She will live with Oji and Oba at Lake Chuzenji, as their niece. They
will keep her safely hidden and I will visit her whenever I can. We will never
speak of this again. We must leave now!"
spoke with such authority and finality, that Kazuo was silenced at last. He
bowed respectfully three times to his older brother who continued to stare out
the window for some minutes. He knew the enormous risk he was taking. After
their forthcoming initiation into the Yakuza, his marriage to the girl would be
seen as a crime by the Yoshigawa gang, punishable by death or exile to a foreign
land. But he knew that he loved Fumiko above all else. He had known from the
first moment he saw her, that for him there could be no other. His mind was set
and he would not change course.
The dawnlight pearled over Tokyo with a translucent
luster, as they set out for Lake Chuzenji. Tokutaru drove and Kazuo sat in the
front seat beside him, drawing up his coat collar and sinking down in churlish
silence. He felt that his brother had taken leave of his senses, so besotted was
he by this girl.
studied Fumiko surreptitiously in the rear view mirror on the sun visor in front
of him, as she sat in the back of the Camry. Grudgingly, he admired her beauty,
but her very presence spelled great danger for them both. He dozed fitfully as
they journeyed toward Nikko, but his head ached mercilessly and he wished he had
not indulged in so much Suntori the previous night.
Fumiko also dozed lightly. She sighed with contentment, knowing that at
last she was safe. Tokutaru would marry her and keep her hidden secretly at his
uncle's house. The Yakuza could not find her now, nor could they possess her.
She would not be enslaved into the sex industry like some common whore. Instead
she would become Tokutaru Kakuji's wife! She nestled in the back seat
they approached Nikko, Kazuo awoke, his head pounding. His agitation increased
as thoughts of their impending initiation into the Yakuza and the consequences
of his brother's actions if he were found out, whirled in his brain. He began
arguing fiercely with Tokutaru.
oaths, brother. You must not break the oaths! Yakuza say, you must not take
concubine of other member. If you break oaths after initiation you must
die!" he yelled angrily.
Fumiko was awakened by Kazuo's angry voice and blinked in disbelief at
"Damare! Shut up!" Tokutaru hissed, glancing nervously at the
girl. "Kazuo has had too much Suntori! Ha ha!" he explained, laughing
Fumiko sat up stiffly in the back seat, her heart pounding. The road was
lined with cryptomeria trees and she stared at them in shocked disbelief.
Tokutaru had lied to her. She had trusted him, and he had betrayed her.
Apparently the two brothers were soon to be initiated into the Yoshigawa-Kai.
How they must be laughing at her! She had thought she was escaping, but instead
she was now more firmly entrenched as a prisoner of the Yakuza, than ever
Thatch-roofed, farm houses and centuries old cryptomeria trees, lit by
shafts of sunlight, spun past in a giddying haze. The young girl sat rigidly, a
cold sweat pricking at her skin. Tokutaru drove into the main street of Nikko,
past the small, wooden tourist shops to the crimson Shinkyo Sacred Bridge,
spanning the shining streams of the Daiya River, as it flowed down from Lake
will stop and take a short break," he said gruffly as he parked the Camry
by the roadside, not noticing the black Mazda that slid soundlessly into the
kerb several meters away.
Instantly, Fumiko leapt from the car, running across the Sacred Bridge
with its black girders and stone piers. She thought of the 12,000 year old
legend that tells how Priest Shodo first came to climb Mt. Nantai. He could not
cross the river and prayed to Buddha for help, instantly receiving a bridge of
red and blue snakes by Jao Gongen, deity of reptiles.
to Buddha for help also, and to Jao Gongen, but she prayed that a pit of snakes
would rise up and attack Tokutaru, so he could not follow her. As she ran from
the bridge into the area of the Toshogu Shrine, her feet slipped on the mossy
steps and she fell heavily, striking her head on the stones. Looking up, the
cryptomerias soared high above her, spinning crazily in a giddying carousel,
then Tokutaru overtook her and she fainted with fear.
Bending over her lifeless body, Kakuji did not hear the silent footsteps,
nor see the shadowy form that had followed him among the cryptomerias as he'd
pursued her into the sacred grounds of the Shrine. The ninja had learned the
wisdom of nature, and like a mystical combatant, he had become one with the
whisper of the leaves and the smell of the earth.
Fumiko awoke and moaned softly while Tokutaru carried her to the stream.
He set her down gently on the mossy bank, and cupping his hands, gave her water
to drink. The water was icy cold and she revived quickly, staring up at him in
terror. She sat up, her heart pounding.
Kakuji silenced her, placing a finger to her lips. "You must not be afraid.
It is true; tomorrow Kazuo and I are to be initiated into the Yoshigawa-Kai.
Like you, our parents are dead and without the Yakuza we would have nothing. But
I will protect you and keep you safe from them. I did not tell you last night
because I thought you would not understand. Do not worry, little Fumiko. Soon we
shall be married and you will live safely, hidden in my uncle's house. No one
will know your true identity at Lake Chuzenji. We'll say you're a niece come to
stay with them. Please, trust me."
He spoke with great earnestness
and she studied his face carefully. Fumiko heard the sincerity in his voice, saw
the devotion in his eyes and knew he spoke the truth. She allowed him to hold
her briefly then he helped her to her feet. Neither of them observed the dark
clad figure that blended with the shadows of the cryptomerias as the ninja
stalked them through the sacred grounds. Tokutaru helped the girl, who was still
white and shaken, back to his car where she settled down, her heart pounding
from her ordeal.
"Everything will be
alright," he said firmly and they continued on their journey to Lake
Chuzenji. Kazuo studied Fumiko secretly in the mirror as she straightened her
kimono, her hands fluttering about, smoothing her ebony coiffure. He noted her
compelling beauty and understood his brother's fascination for her, but he
shuddered in fear knowing the Yakuza's reputation for swift and silent
has cast a spell over Tokutaru," he mused silently, "and she will be
the ruination of us all."
The road beyond the Nikko
precincts ran along the Daiyo River before coming to Umagaeshi, then Kakuji took
the thrilling, hairpin, Iroha-zaka Driveway to Lake Chuzenji. At Akechi-daira,
they surveyed the lookout and the base station for the cable car that leads up
three hundred meters to a higher lookout. Tokutaru stopped the car briefly and
stared at the Kegon-no-taki waterfall. The water flowed from the Chuzenji-ko
Lake, which could be seen clearly backdropped by the conical peak of Nantai-san.
Full of water, the thunderous Fall was a breathtaking sight.
Fumiko in wonderment, as she peered out at the colourful and inspiring
waterfall, rainbow lights encircling its base.
They continued on their journey
to Lake Chuzenji, viewing the conical Mt. Nantai as it rose above them. Arriving
in Chuzenji-onsen, Kakuji drove silently through the popular and crowded resort
town, to the shores of the lake. He parked the car and they all stared out in
momentary silence, transfixed by the vibrant, cobalt water, shimmering in the
afternoon light. Tokutaru turned to his brother and nodded toward the lake,
indicating he wished to speak in private. The two men left the Camry and stood
on the rocky shore as they conversed.
"Ototo, you must take the
car and go to the Shrine on Mt. Nantai. It is the last of the three shrines that
make up Futaara-san. You must make arrangements with the priest for us to be
married. After the floating lantern festival, Fumiko and I will climb Mt. Nantai,
and the ceremony will take place. Tomorrow morning we'll drive down the
mountain, leaving her with Oji. Then, you and I will continue on to Nikko, where
we will rest and prepare for the Initiation tomorrow night," Kakuji
instructed his brother firmly.
Kazuo shouted angrily. "You are baka baka shi, bakayaro! Barmy bastard! The
Yakuza has long arms like octopus. We will be caught and punished!" his
voice rose higher.
"Damare, bakame! Shut up,
idiot!" Tokutaru commanded, the whites of his eyes showing as the black
irises rolled in his head. "Ni wa unzarishimas, you! Fumkio and I are to be
married and that is final!"
almost spat the words at his brother.
Caught up in their heated
argument, the two men were totally unaware of the stranger in their midst. No
twig snapped, or grass bent and the breeze that soughed through the cedars gave
no hint of his presence. The ninja blended with rocks and earth, trees and
water, using Goton-Po, the five elements of transformation.
Tokutaru stormed over to the car
and ordered Fumiko to get out, which she did, looking nervously from brother to
"Come, I will take you to
meet Oji," he said more gently. He led Fumiko and Kazuo to a small, wooden
house, close by and knocked softly on the wooden fusuma, an opaque, sliding
door, calling out, "Gomen Kudasai!"
An old man slid the fusuma back,
staring at Tokutaru in bewilderment, his black eyes like slits in his gnarled
and wrinkled face. Then a smile of recognition spread over his features and he
bowed, greeting his two nephews with great excitement. "Dozo! Dozo!"
he cried. Inside the dimly lit heya, his kanai knelt on the tatami, dressed in a
patterned, grey, silk kimono that swirled around her knees, as she performed the
tea ceremony. She stood up and everyone bowed respectfully. Fumiko was careful
to bow yet more deeply, as a mark of great respect to Tokutaru's old oba and oji.
"Please, have some
tea," the elderly woman pointed to the tatamis and they all knelt as she
poured the scalding, green liquid. Looking around her, Fumiko noticed a tokonoma
- a nook in the wall, containing a vase of flowers and a picturesque hanging
scroll, depicting the shrine at the summit of Mt. Nantai.
After they had drunk the bitter
tasting tea, Tokutaru turned to his uncle, "Oji, our friend, Fumiko, has no
family. Her father died recently. Will you take her in? She will care for you in
your old age," he added persuasively.
The old uncle considered the
situation, consulting briefly with his wife, then he smiled and bowed to Fumiko.
"Hai! We will be pleased to have you, my child."
The girl's face glowed with
happiness. "Arigato!" she smiled and bowed low.
"You must do us the honour
of dining with us," the elderly man beamed and his eyes twinkled
They ate a simple meal of sushi,
prepared on a floor stove, and slaked their thirst with hot sake. This was
followed by wagashi, (sweets), then the visitors sank back on their knees,
feeling pleasantly satiated.
"Fumiko and I wish to take
part in the Floating Lantern Festival, Oba. Do you have robes we could wear on
the pilgrimage to Mt. Nantai?" Tokutaru asked.
"Yes, yes," the old
woman smiled at the young couple. "Soon it will be time to light the
lanterns," she spoke in a soft, dreamy voice.
Oba stood up painfully and
shuffled slowly from the room, returning with white robes and a box of paper
lanterns. They went outside as dusk deepened over Lake Chuzenji, staining the
water first cinnibar, then deep magenta. The sound of the taiko, the
unmistakable roll of drums, filled the air, together with the bakabayashi, the
flute and bells. Primitive rhythms, spontaneous and carefree.
As darkness nestled over the
lake, the guests lit the paper lanterns with tapers and pushed them out across
the water. All over the town of Chuzenji-onsen, people celebrated with music and
dancing, aided by a plentiful flow of hot sake. Gardens were lit with brightly
coloured, paper lanterns that swung in the breeze. Food was plentiful and the
merry-making continued far into the night.
"Now, you must bathe in the
lake to purify yourselves, before you make the pilgrimage to the summit,"
Oji instructed them.
It was cold in the night air, but fortified by sake, Tokutaru lifted Fumiko in his arms and waded across the sandy shore, entering the icy lake. She shivered and clung to him as the chilling water saturated her silk kimono and the amaranth depths lapped around their bodies.
"Yoru no ran,
ka ri kakurete ya,
whispered to her, holding her close in his arms.
"You are the quintessence,
the scent distilled
from a white evening orchid."
They bathed together, watching
the lighted lanterns floating out over the lake. He stroked her hair, murmuring
softly as she rested her head against his chest.
"You are the mountain butterfly
that flutters, soaring swiftly
to my dreaming heart."
Oba and Oji stood on the shore,
flanking Kazuo, their kimonos fluttering in the night winds.
"Come now, we must make the
pilgrimage up the mountainside," Tokutaru commanded her. They waded from
the lake and the old woman handed them thick, white towels. After drying their
shivering bodies, they hurried back to the uchi, their wet kimonos flapping
around their legs.
"You must don the pilgrims'
robes and take hot sake before you make the ascent," Oji instructed
After the young couple had
prepared for the journey, the small party walked to the grounds of the
Chugushi-jinja Shrine, the middle of the three that make up Futaara-san. Here, a
museum housed a collection of armour, swords and portable shrines. They walked
slowly around the building to the trail, beginning in the shrine grounds that
led to the peak of Nantai-san, a four-hour climb.
Tokutaru and Fumiko bowed very
deeply to Oba and Oji, as they bade them farewell. "Arigato, arigato,"
the young woman murmured gratefully.
"Kazuo, we will see you on
the summit at midnight," Kakuji firmly instructed his brother once more.
Normally, pilgrims left the lake
at midnight to make the ascent to the top, but Tokutaru was anxious to avoid
prying eyes, so they left early, explaining to the old aunt and uncle that they
wished to climb slowly and enjoy the mountain air. Dressed in white robes and
carrying walking sticks and lanterns, the couple set out on the ascent to Mt.
Nantai, just as Priest Shodo had done 1,200 years before, overcoming
difficulties beyond all words.
climbed in silence for an hour, then turned and looked at the spectacle of the
lake below, with its myriads of lighted, floating lanterns. Fumiko's heart was
light and Tokutaru gazed at her in the starlight, murmuring,
"The moon in your eyes shimmers
and under your gaze
carpets of cascading flowers bloom."
they gazed over Lake Chuzenji, far below, he whispered other haiku verses,
nuzzling his face into her hair.
Then they continued on their
journey up the mountainside in silence. The climb was long and arduous, and many
times they stopped to rest. At last they reached the Senjo-go-hara Marsh, and
weary from the long climb, sank down into the 'watasuge' or cotton grass.
Tokutaru lay beside Fumiko,
marvelling at the endless stars spiralling overhead in galactic splendour. She
lay close to him, exhausted by the climb, her proximity tantalising his senses.
He longed to immerse his body and soul in the warmth of her being, to express
the infinity of love he felt for her.
"Drenched in starlight,
a flower blooms among the grass,
chrystalled and distilled from cosmic choirs,"
whispered to her, caressing her face with one finger. They kissed for a long
moment, drowning in the scent of the night winds. Finally, they journeyed on,
and after climbing for a total of four hours, reached the pinnacle of Mt. Nantai-san.
They surveyed the spectacle of Lake Chuzenji, now ablaze with lighted,
floating lanterns. It was nearing midnight, and some pilgrims far below were
gathering in the grounds of the Chugushi Shrine, preparing to climb the
Turning, Tokutaru saw a shinto
priest encircled by lantern light at the entrance to the Chugushi-jinja shrine.
Kazuo had obviously carried out his instructions and had made arrangements for
their forthcoming marriage. The priest greeted them, bowing as they entered the
torri gate. The shrine, established by Priest Shodo, was erected as the center
of mountain belief. A thick, braided rope, made of rice straw was suspended
between the uprights of the Torri, a shimenawa, put up after the harvest season.
At the entrance there were
carved, stone koma-inu. The mouth of one lion was open and the other closed,
symbolising 'Ah' and 'Um', the sounds of birth and death, the beginning and the
end. The Path of Life separating them, was a reminder to those walking between,
of the shortness of life.
"Kimas," the priest
Tokutaru walked under the eaves
and seized a rope suspended there. He shook it firmly then clapped his hands, as
was the custom at Shinto Shrines, to wake up the gods and get their attention
before praying. The priest entered the shrine and the young couple followed him,
then they were shown separately into small repository rooms at either side of
Bowls of icy, mountain water,
hand towels and fresh, silk kimonos were placed out in readiness. An exquisite,
hand embroidered obi, picturing a bird and a chrysanthemum as the symbols of
matrimony, had been placed beside each kimono.
Fumiko and Tokutaru bathed and
changed into the white kimonos, winding the obis around their waists, in
preparation for the marriage ceremony. Kazuo, dressed in a black kimono, was
seated cross-legged, to the right of the altar. The priest, with shaved head and
flowing robes, sat facing them and the wedding celebrants knelt, prone before
him, heads bowed low to the floor.
The priest intoned the words of
the ceremony and the nuptial oath was taken, as Fumiko and Tokutaru placed their
hands on the sake cup and Kazuo bore witness to their union. Finally, the priest
passed the cup to each of them in turn and they drank a small sip of sake, heads
bowed. The ceremony completed, the celebrant led the newlyweds through a side
door to an old thatch-roofed house, set aside from the shrine. There he blessed
them and departed swiftly and silently into the darkened shadows of the shrine.
Opening the fusuma, Tokutaru and
Fumiko looked at the ancient, polished, wooden floor, gleaming in the
candlelight. Two tatamis had been placed around a low table and a simple meal of
sushi had been prepared for them. In the center of the table, a kabin of night
blooming, morning glory, its richness of colour stained from purple fuji to
scarlet dragon, had already reached full bloom. Fumiko knew that although the
fragrant flowers, eighteen centimeters in diameter, had opened well before
sunrise, their petals would be tightly closed by noon, for protection from the
Lighted incense sticks burned
slowly, and the fragrance of aromatic woods filled the air with a heady perfume.
They left the fusuma open to enjoy the scent of the cedars that spired upwards,
into the shimmering, starry night. The newly weds ate the light meal and drank
warm sake from ceramic cups. After the breakfast, Tokutaru led his young wife to
a finely embroidered, satin quilt, spread over some tatamis on the floor.
Plucking a few blooms from the moonflowers, he scattered the petals over the
quilt, then grasping her hands, pulled her down gently. Fumiko knelt before him,
trembling slightly, as he unwound the obi from her waist and pushed the kimono
off her shoulders. The white garment slipped, with the whisper of silk, to the
floor, and Kakuji cupped her breasts with his hands. Then, taking the cup of
warm sake from the table, he dipped his fingers in the rice wine and slowly
anointed each nipple. Lowering his head, he suckled her breasts, slaking the
sake from her flesh. The woman lifted her head and arched her back in ecstasy.
In the candlelight, her head swam
and the blood pulsated in her ears. Tokutaru put his hands on her shoulders and
applied gentle pressure, until she lay back, naked on the quilt. Then taking the
remainder of the sake, he dripped the rice wine over her belly, massaging her
flesh as the warm liquid trickled down to her mound. Fumiko moaned softly as he
suckled the sake from her maiden hair.
Kakuji stopped abruptly and knelt
over her, one muscular thigh either side of her body. She arched her neck and
closed her lips firmly around his stiffened member, sucking him with wild
abandonment. Gently, as the rippling waves turned into a torrent, he disengaged
himself and sat upright on the quilt, beckoning her to him.
She came to him and with easy
strength he placed his hands under her arms, gently lifting her onto his lap.
Through the opened fusuma they watched the lighted, floating lanterns far below
on Lake Chuzenji and the first pilgrims struggling to make their way up the
Tokutaru cupped her breasts,
rolling the budding nipples between his finger and thumb. Fumiko arched her
back, groaning with pleasure as his stiffened member slipped into her secret
place. He forced her downward; his hands suddenly applying pressure to her hips,
when her relaxed body least expected it. She cried out as he pierced her hymen,
her eyes wide with pain.
Strong, muscular hands massaged
her body in a rocking motion and Fumiko groaned with delight, her pain melting
into pleasure, as she learned the rhythm of the night. Finally, she stretched
her arms upward and fire engulfed their straining bodies. The woman lifted her
head and cried out as his seed sprang forward, impregnating the kernel of her
being, piercing the quintessence of her soul.
Mesmerised, she lay in a trance
on the quilt, and Kakuji sank down beside her, his body satiated. Outside the
fusuma, a hazy moon hung low over Nantai-san yet they did not see a somber,
shadowy figure, emerge from the cryptomerias, nor feel the eyes of the ninja
invading the privacy of their wedding night. Below, lighted paper lanterns on
Lake Chuzenji, dimmed and died in the drenching starlight and on the winding
pathway, pilgrims dressed in white, still toiled up the mountainside.
Tokutaru stirred as the first
fingers of sunlight probed the mountain. He wrapped his young wife's naked form
in the quilt and cradled her in his arms while she slept, watching damask
tendrils of daylight copulating with the cryptomerias. Then, he too, slept.
Before noon, Fumiko awoke and smiled up at him sleepily. He kissed her eyelids
and whispered hoarsely, "it's time to leave." The smile froze on her
lips and tears glistened in her ebony eyes, but she nodded numbly and they rose
to bathe and dress. Kakuji went outside to the shrine to find the priest. They
spoke briefly then Kazuo appeared, silhouetted in the entrance.
"Your car is ready, ani,"
he said quietly and Tokutaru nodded.
Fumiko stashed the quilt away in
a closet, then opened the fusuma and stepped outside into the courtyard. She
noticed the morning glories had already begun to close, as Tokutaru hurried to
meet her. A few tired pilgrims struggled through the courtyard, heading toward
the natural springs that bubbled from deep within the earth, among the woods,
not far from the shrine. Kakuji took his wife's hand and led her to the waiting
"Ohayo gozaimas," the
priest greeted her, then once again he gave them both his blessing.
thanked him for the wedding ceremony and bowing low, bade him farewell.
Tokutaru hurried her toward the
waiting car. His brother greeted them sullenly, darting anxious looks at the
few, passing pilgrims.
congratulated the newlyweds, but his voice lacked enthusiasm. It was obvious he
strongly disapproved of their union.
They drove down the mountain to
Lake Chuzenji in silence. Tokutaru sat in the back with his new wife, holding
her hand in his and smiling at her. Fumiko tried hard to smile back at him, but
finally she lowered her head and hid her face behind an ivory fan, while the
tears slid silently down her cheeks. Kakuji gently removed the fan, took her in
his arms, and kissed away her tears. Then his lips parted hers and his tongue
probed her mouth fiercely. Once more, fire scorched his loins, but aware that
Kazuo was watching curiously in the rear vision mirror, he broke off and lit a
cigarette, trying to douse his passion.
Fumiko dozed lightly during the
remainder of the journey, but as they neared Lake Chuzenji, Tokutaru awakened
her. She was startled and her new husband put a finger to her lips to silence
her scream. Her dark eyes were wide with the misery of their parting.
"Stop the car, Kazuo,"
he commanded, as they approached a heavily timbered section, along the shores of
the lake. Taking Fumiko by the hand, he left the car, and followed a track
through dense woodlands, to the lake. Just before the track reached the
shoreline, he stopped and pushed her firmly against the broad trunk of a cedar.
She moaned as he kissed her roughly, his tongue probing her mouth. Then he
parted her kimono, thrusting her breasts upward and sucking her nipples
hungrily. Fumiko leaned back into the fork of the tree, moaning softly as her
ebony hair unraveled, snaking down her back.
Kakuji placed his hands under her
buttocks and lifted her to him, fiercely. She wrapped her sleek thighs around
his waist, and he thrust himself into the mystery of her warm, moist being. She
cried out in ecstasy as his seed sprang into her belly, unaware of the new life
that kindled there. Still coupled together, Tokutaru cupped her face in his
hands and whispered,
"You shall return to me
As a moth flutters to the flame,
Its wings seared by candlelight."
releasing her abruptly, he knelt before her, and taking a naifu from his
pocket, cut off a frond of her maiden hair. He held it with trembling fingers
"Should my hot tears touch your soul,
It will melt like the tracery
Of autumn's first frost. "
Tears stung Fumiko's eyes and
slid over her cheeks, but she was unable to speak.
Finally, as they adjusted their
clothing, he spoke gruffly, "you must stay with Oba and Oji. I will visit
on weekends, whenever it is possible."
In a trance, she stared high into
the branches of the cedar, and sighed.
"Wind bells chime
And the cryptomeria sighs,
Wreathing its white mist."
she added softly, "Nantai-san will be our toko."
They walked back to the car in
silence and neither spoke again. Kakuji sat in the front with his brother,
instructing him to accompany Fumiko to Oji's house. He sat rigidly, staring out
the opposite window, while Kazuo drew up to the kerb and escorted the young
woman from the car. Tokutaru could not bear to watch as his new bride walked
Fumiko's head drooped as she
neared the 'uchi' and tears stained her cheeks, then she forced herself to turn,
smiling and waving at him. At the last instant he turned and waved also, his
face now a rigid mask.
"Sayonara, kanai, (my
wife)," he mouthed.
Fumiko replied sadly.
Oji appeared briefly, waving
farewell to his nephews as he escorted the young woman inside. Kazuo returned to
the car and revved the motor sharply, then they sped off toward the Iroha
Highway, leading to Nikko. Driving in silence, the younger Kakuji used his
peripheral vision to study his brother's rigid expression. He deemed it prudent
to remain silent, judiciously choosing to concentrate on the forty-eight hairpin
bends of the steep, Irohazaka Driveway.
Finally, Kazuo could bear the
silence no longer. "So, we are to meet at dusk at Futaara-san Shrine,"
he stated, darting a look at Tokutaru, but the other only grunted and scowled.
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