PAPERBACK BOOKS
Southern Sun Rising

 

'Southern Sun Rising' is the story of the infiltration of the Japanese Yakuza into Gold Coast society, incorporating street kids, drugs, money laundering and police corruption.

 

 

 

In Store Price: $AU19.95 $US10.50
Online Price:  
$AU18.95 $US9.95

ISBN: 1 876882 96 4
Format:
Paperback
Number of pages:
300


Author: Baker, Dianne
Imprint: Zeus
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 1/6/2002
Language: English

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Read the first chapter:

I.

 

The 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 low monotone.

       "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.

       Kazuo 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 swiftly.

       "The 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."

       Then 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.

       "You 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.

       "Nomi 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.

       The '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.

       Some 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.

       But 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.

       The 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 revenge.

       At 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 members.

          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.

       The 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.

       "Hey! 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.

       "We 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.

       "Here, 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 she walked.

   "Hey, Daddio...wanna come my place?" she asked huskily. Then bending over, she massaged his balding pate.

       The 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.

       "Uh-uh. Naughty, naughty! You gotta wait till we're alone, big boy," the hostess snickered and headed for the door.

       The 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.

       The 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.

       "What 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 eyes.

       He 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.

       "May I know your name?" he asked almost shyly.

       "I 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.        

       "What is it, Fumiko?" he asked.

       "Last 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.

       Kakuji 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 kind, Kakuji-san."

           "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.

       Kakuji 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.

       Earlier 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.

       They 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 Tokyo.

          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.

       Yaeko bowed even lower. "Ie, Kimoto-san," she muttered, head and eyes averted.

       "Then 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.

       "Go, check her room," Kimoto snapped, throwing her a bunch of keys.

       Yaeko 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!"

       The 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.

       The 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.

       "Find 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.

       "I 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 beside her.

       The 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 paternal.

       "You 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."

       "Hai," 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.

       After 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.    

       He 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.

       "I-i-e!" 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.

       "You 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 her.

       "I 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.

       "I no please you," she sobbed.

       "Ssh, 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!"

       A 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 kiss.     

          "Tomorrow, if you agree, we will be married at the temple on Mt. Nantai," Tokutaru held her face in his hands, studying her expression intently.

       "Yes, hai, onegai shimas!" she laughed through her tears. "That would be so wonderful!"

       "I 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 form.

       "You 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 hangover.

        Finally, a cranky voice barked, "hai."

          "Kazuo, it's Tok. Are you ok?" he asked softly, trying not to waken Fumiko.

       "I was sleeping. You woke me." Kazuo grumbled.

          "Sorry," Tokutaru apologized, smirking to himself. "How is Yasuhiro?" he asked.

       "He's 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.

       "Why? What's going on?" the younger Kakuji asked in a puzzled tone.

       "I will explain it to you when you get here. I am in room 302. Now, quickly do as I say." Tokutaru spoke sharply.

       "Yo 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.

       The 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.

 

                     ******            

       In 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 fraction.

          "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.

       "I 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 door.

       "You paid Y40,000 for her, and you slept there, alone?" Kazuo pointed incredulously to the makeshift toko on the floor.

       "Ssh! You don't understand. She's still a virgin," Tokutaru tried to explain.

       "Still 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.

       "Have 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 these rules!"

          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."

       Kazuo 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!"

       Kakuji 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.

       Kazuo 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 contentedly.

       As 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.

       "The 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 his words.

          "Damare! Shut up!" Tokutaru hissed, glancing nervously at the girl. "Kazuo has had too much Suntori! Ha ha!" he explained, laughing harshly.

          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 before.   

           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 Chuzenji.

       "We 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.  

Fumiko prayed 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.

       "Ssh!" 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 retribution.

"The girl 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.

       "Kegon," whispered 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.

       "Kawarimino! Nutter!" 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!"

       "Bakayaro!" Kazuo 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 brother.

       "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 benevolently.

       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,

hana shiroshi."

 

He 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 them.              

       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.              

They 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."

 

As 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,"

 

he 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 mountain.

       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 instructed them.

       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 the altar.

       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 sun.

       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 mountainside.

       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 priest.

       "Ohayo gozaimas," the priest greeted her, then once again he gave them both his blessing.

       "Arigato," Fumiko 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.

       "Omedeto," he 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."

 

       Then       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 and whispered,

 

"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."

 

Then 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 away.

       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.

       "Sayonara, shujin," 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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