Hearts Igniting (Yu & Tsunekiyo)

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Vladimir the Great of Russia died in 1015. Treachery now reigned in Russia.

Vladimir had a few hundred concubines for many years in Russia. When Vladimir died, his eldest son Sviatopolk was disliked by the people. Therefore, Sviatopolk’s retinue concealed from him his father’s death, so that he would not claim the throne in Kiev. But when Sviatopolk learned of his father’s demise, he seized power in Kiev almost immediately.

The citizens of Kiev did not show much sympathy for Sviatopolk. So he tried to send them presents to win them over.

Boris learned of his father’s death when he returned with the Russian army to Alta. When informed of Sviatopolk’s accession to the throne and when urged to replace him, Boris said, “Be it not for me to raise my hand against my elder brother. Now that my father has passed away, let him take the place of my father in my heart.”

But Boris presented the most danger because Boris had been in charge of Vladimir’s personal guards and army. Regardless of Boris’s decision to step aside, Sviatopolk sent Putsha and the boyars of Vyshegorod to execute his brother. They stabbed Boris and his manservant as they slept in a tent.

The Varangians discovered Boris still breathing while transported in a bag to Kiev. So to put him out of his misery, they thrust him through with a sword.

Sviatopolk then sent for Gleb, giving him the impression that his father was not yet dead. He rushed Gleb to his father’s death bed. On the way, their brother Yaroslav learned of Sviatopolk’s treachery and urged Gleb not to meet Sviatopolk. But while Gleb prayed to his deceased brother and God, Gleb’s cook, Torchine, cut Gleb’s throat with a kitchen knife.

Boris and Gleb were murdered in 1015, to become saints in the Russian Orthodox Church, because they gave their lives rather than oppose their brother, to prevent bloodshed in Russia.

Relatives of Boris and Gleb and others of Vladimir’s many children (who wanted to escape from this treachery) ran for their lives to the south, and then headed east on horseback.

One of the escapees, renamed himself Yaroslav to honor the Yaroslav left behind. This child of Vladimir the Great of Kiev, rather than go to war with Sviatopolk, left Russia. He took with him, his new bride Sara, but would have no relations with her till they reached their new home. Pregnancy was far too dangerous on this journey. Disguised as traders, using gold from savings, they bought food for themselves and their horses through mountains of death. The Silk Road often claimed traders’ lives. On horseback, they traveled light, and forged through glaciers, deserts and mountains.

These Russian royal escapees by-passed the hunter-gatherers who populated Siberia and surged on eastward, perhaps wanting to create a distance between themselves and Sviatopolk, to ensure they were beyond his reach. They also wanted to honor their deceased relatives Boris and Gleb by avoiding further bloodshed, choosing to relocate far away from danger, not sure what lands lay to the east, only knowing they had to find a safe place to live.

Reaching China over a year later, they launched by boat for Northern Japan with news that people lived there who looked like them. After eighteen months of yearning for freedom and life, Yaroslav and the children of Vladimir the Great ended up with the Emishi of Japan.

By 1017 they had all arrived in northern Japan, and discovered there intelligent hunter-gatherers who invited them to become their new leaders. These intelligent hunter-gatherers who adopted them were the Emishi, a minority in Japan, who needed more people.

The Emishi representative to Japan’s Court, Otona, met with them, to decide their fate among the Emishi. Otona advised them to keep as a deadly secret between him and them their royal Russian ancestry, to which they agreed. Therefore, his date and place of Abe no Yoriyoshi’s birth are not known. All the Russian royals were given new names immediately and told to never mention their old names or speak any languages besides Emishi languages. Otona told his fellow Emishi that these Russian royals were Emishi who escaped to China after the defeat and murder of Aterui in 802 against the Crown troops, and had returned.

Their first week in Japan, one night both Sara and Yaroslav had the same dream.

The leader of the Emishi, General Aterui, yelled to his troops. “This is our moment!”

The Emishi were a hairy people, Caucasian in appearance, who resisted the rule of the Japanese Emperors in the late Nara and early Heian period (seventh to tenth centuries A.D.). They relied on their horses in warfare, where horse archery and hit-and-run tactics held back Japan’s imperial forces, which used slow, heavy infantry. The imperial armies were no match for Emishi guerilla tactics.

But when Japanese imperial armies developed horse archery and Emishi tactics, this would lead to Emishi defeat.

So, today in 802 A.D., was different.

Forty-five thousand Japanese against an Emishi army in the hundreds clashed in battle. The imperial forces had adopted Emishi methods for warfare. Samurai swords slashed in the river and bodies fell from both sides.

To spare life, the Emishi General Aterui agreed to a truce and tromped proudly over to General Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, the Japanese general. The Emishi leader flung his sword to the ground, signifying his temporary surrender, his head held high. “Freedom!” he yelled.

On April 15, 802, the Japanese leader reported the most important success of all in this campaign. “The Emishi leaders Aterui and More surrendered with more than five hundred warriors.”

The imperial forces threw the Emishi leaders into their wooden cage, their prison. Aterui stared defiant, while his companion More screamed at him, his face red with passion. “Why did you agree to this truce! They are playing games with us. We should not have surrendered, we should have fought to the death.”

Aterui held his head defiant. “If they kill us, our death will be a light in the darkness, like a star spinning from the darkness bursting into flames.” Aterui stared outside, through the wooden bars of his prison. “Killing us will only set our dead bodies on fire. On fire!”

General Sakanoue, knowing how Emishi revered their General Aterui, pleaded for the government to let them live. “We need to maintain trade with the North. If we execute their leaders, this could be jeopardized.”

General Sakanoue no Tamuramaro safeguarded Aterui and More to the capital on July 10, 802. Tamuramaro tried to persuade his superiors and Emperor Kanmu to save Aterui and More’s lives, so that they could appease the Emishi and have a good relationship for trade. But the Emperor Tanmu never agreed with Tamuramaro and sent Aterui and More to Sugiyama Kawachi-no-kuni, the area now known as Hirakata City, Osaka and beheaded them.

On August 13, 802, the heads of Emishi Generals Aterui and More swung in the breeze, dangling from a wooden rectangle over the ground.

The wind howled with Emishi fury. Aterui’s last words echoed in the heavens. “This day will be remembered!”

So, by mid-ninth century the Japanese armies from the capital had at last conquered the Emishi or Abe.

Yaroslav woke up screaming “Revenge! Revenge!”

Otona’s mouth agape, told them the story of their hero Aterui who the Crown beheaded centuries earlier. It matched exactly the events of their dream. He asked them if they knew about Aterui, to which Yaroslav said shamefully he had not bothered to study their history. The news spread quickly among the Emishi that their Emishi brother who returned from China had this dream, along with his wife.

Yaroslav’s new name in Japan would be Abe no Yoriyoshi. For a decade the Emishi secretly educated him about their history and taught him and the Russian royals their languages. They hid from Japan’s Court that they were training their new leader.

The Emishi could not forget the portentous dream and decided the gods ordained Abe no Yoriyoshi their new leader.

The Emishi, desperate to regain their lost independence, saw intermarriage with these new arrivals as an opportunity to save themselves from annihilation.

The Russian royals agreed to take on Emishi leadership. Thus, the Russian royals were able to escape from one royal family in Russia that wanted them dead to another in Japan that welcomed them as saviors.

The Emishi hoped this infusion of new royal blood into their Emishi leadership would help them regain the independence they had lost. To ensure this plan would work, Otona had instructed the Russian royals to keep their Russian royal heritage a secret, so that the Japanese emperor would not assassinate them.

Because Vladimir the Great was a handsome man with dark hair and dark eyes, with hundreds of concubines, who produced attractive children, these Russian royal women who arrived in northern Japan, quickly became the concubines or wives of the ruling Emishi.

Among this group of new arrivals in 1017 was the young married man (renamed Yoritoki or Yoriyoshi in Japan) who would become the leader of the Abe in Japan. To maintain secrecy about his Russian royal ancestry and to keep him alive, his birth date and place of birth in Russia were kept secret. Therefore, his date and place of birth are not known.

His Russian name was changed to an Abe Japanese name (Abe no Yoriyoshi). As soon as he arrived in Japan, the Emishi adopted him and taught him their culture. The Emishi put these new royals in charge of their military operations and basically handed over to them Emishi leadership. The Emishi loved their new leader, hailing him as their Savior, as the one who would help them regain the independence they had lost.

In the meanwhile, Abe no Yoriyoshi had Emishi concubines and Sadato was born in 1019. His wife from Russia, Sara, eventually gave birth to a girl named Yu. Yu was Abe no Yoriyoshi’s only child with Sara. Yu would end up his most important child. Yoriyoshi needed to blend in as an Emishi and not stand out as a Russian royal, so he stopped lovemaking with Sara, but loved her anyways, and changed her title from wife to concubine. This ruse worked because Mizuno, his official wife, despised Sara. Yu’s Russian features were explained away as a quirk in genetics. After Yu’s birth, it was decided that her mother Sara would become a prophetess and so, to protect the Russian royals, Sara stopped having relations with Yoriyoshi. This was to ensure the Russian royals could blend in with the Emishi unnoticed.

Their Russian royal ancestry wasn’t even mentioned to their children. The secret remained hidden, only revealed in their thoughts. Not a word passed between them about their true origins. It was as if their Russian past had died.

Abe no Yoriyoshi of royal Germanic bloodlines now ruled the Emishi in northern Japan. He was married to one of the Russian royals (Sara) who escaped with him from Russia, who had also learned the way of the Emishi. Both Abe no Yoriyoshi and his wife Sara were deeply religious and incorporated much of their former Russian culture into the Emishi, thus creating a new Emishi-Russian religion that became incorporated into the Emishi culture.

They created a unique mix that made the Abe clan unique, keeping the Abe separate from mainstream Japanese culture, incorporating aspects of bear worship from Russia, believing the bear carried the spirits of their Russian ancestors, and mixing this with Emishi nature worship – a desire for harmony between nature and humans.

So, just as Catherine the Great, a German, ended up as ruler of Russia – Abe no Yoriyoshi, of royal Germanic bloodlines (the same gene pool that would produce Catherine the Great later), ended up as ruler of the Abe in northern Japan.

Like Catherine the Great, he learned a new language and culture and became totally welcome and accepted in his new country. Unlike Catherine the Great, he had to keep his real parentage a secret, or the Emperor of Japan would have him assassinated.

So, thanks to their new leadership, the Emishi continued in northern Japan as subjugated and powerful Emishi families. This Germanic blood mingled with Emishi blood, creating semi-autonomous feudal domains in the north. So that about thirty years later, in 1050, a few of these Emishi domains became regional states that came into conflict with the central government.

Their Caucasian blood mingled well with the Caucasian appearance of the Emishi.

The genes of Catherine the Great now infused political brilliance into the Emishi leadership, enabling them to regain ground they lost to the Japanese after their defeat in 802. To assist them in keeping secret their new arrivals from China, the Emishi maintained independence from Kyoto. They knew the Emperor would find any royals from another land in Japan a threat.

From these Russian/Germanic Abe leaders would evolve a woman born with the genetic profile of fifty percent King David of Israel and sixty percent Catherine the Great. This was Gail Chord Schuler in 1957. Satan would try to change history to destroy this baby.

Fujiwara no Tsunekiyo was a Japanese, who was a member of the martial Hidesato branch of the Fujiwaras. He would become the father of Fujiwara no Kiyohira, the founder of the Northern Fujiwara dynasty in Japan. Tsunekiyo came from the Watari District in now southern Miyagi Prefecture. He served as military bureaucrat at Fort Taga in modern day Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture.

It was December 1049. Fujiwara no Tsunekiyo, a man with royal Fujiwara blood, wanted to perform a Buddhist rite to gain wisdom. Why could not his Fujiwara family, assigned to babysit the North, subjugate the Emishi rebels? Emishi raids into some of Japan’s territory troubled him. But not all the Emishi rebelled. Perhaps Japan could come up with a consistent policy, with no exceptions for the rebels. Japan was anxious, feeling the rumbles of war.

He, along with others, bowed their heads with respect before Buddha, actually Jesus, with their hands clasped in prayer, asking Jesus through Buddha to help them finish what they had started, to reign in the rebellious North. Thoughts clashed through his brain, like swords and armour clashing. His Fujiwara family reported their failure with the Emishi to the capital, Kyoto, and waited for a response. For now, a stalemate seemed best, meaning Japan must abandon its goal to bring all of Japan, including the rebellious North, under Kyoto’s control. Kyoto’s policies failed in the North. Emishi rebels asserted their independence.

On another day, Tsunekiyo wandered outside and heard Imperial soldiers bantering with each other.

“I have heard rumors that in Thailand, sixty thousand soldiers battled for eight days and everyone died on both sides!”

Tsunekiyo wandered over to them.

The soldier turned and recognized Tsunekiyo and smiled. “That’s what I heard, and I’m still here. Looks like I will live forever.” He laughed. “But we still have a bit to go before the end of the year.” He laughed again, and lifted his hat upon seeing Tsunekiyo. “The emperor claims that all of Japan is on his side, though.”

A courier on a horse delivered a message contained inside a rectangular metal box to the soldier. The soldier grabbed it, musing to himself. “Our dilemma has reached Kyoto, apparently, and I hear they have made decisions. Our General Takamura has deserted. A problem with his conscience.”

Tsunekiyo grabbed the box, which contained a missive in the shape of a scroll from the capital. “His conscience?”

“Yes,” the soldier said.

Tsunekiyo visited his father, a Buddhist priest, to discuss the missive from Kyoto, which he had laid out before him.

“Tsunekiyo,” his father stared ahead with blankness, “Our Fujiwara family has teamed up with the Minamoto clan for a military campaign against the northern Abe, and what has been the result?”

“Without permission from the Imperial government, we fired six leaders, who worked under Takamura.” Tsunekiyo tried to maintain a positive outlook. “We have made progress in our economic dealings with the Abe. Hopefully, this will be a gold leaf to pacify the Emperor and means we are closing in on the Emishi rebels.”

“So one stone is captured, then four birds, and eighteen others.” His father mused. “I knew Takamura would resign.”

“On the twenty-fifth, we should receive a large shipment of rice from the North,” Tsunekiyo said, with a smile. “So matters have improved. It’s not quite like we hear in the reports.”

“Yes,” his father said, “and some have blocked the inlet for this trade, so that not all the rice makes it to us.” The father gazed ahead and looked tired. “We need to consider the future. I knew it would be difficult for the imperial family to invade the North, such a vast unknown. You’ve been on this assignment for less than six months, and now, you’ll be living in that cold, barren land.” He looked at Tsunekiyo with depths of sorrow. “I wish the Imperial army would tire of fighting. But they keep on.” He sighed. “The Emishi make examples of us, even after their defeat. The imperial government treats our soldiers like Chinese toys, sending them with no experience in Emishi warfare.” He looked ahead with a blank stare. “So. . .you are going there in another vain attempt to finish this war, not knowing what you must do, a floundering pioneer in a never-before-done experiment, under the guise of civilian duty.” He sighed. “What a joke. Civilian duty.”

“Father,” Tsunekiyo said. “My life is complicated, the future uncertain.” He tried to cheer up his father. “We have decided what supplies I’ll need.” Tsunekiyo removed his father’s garb and guided him to lie down on his mat.

The father lay on his back and stared at the ceiling. “From now on, write out what you’ll need.”

Tsunekiyo covered his ill father with a garment. “Here we go,” he said to his father, laying him down on a mat. Then he gazed away, deep in thought. “I am wondering if the great Avenger for the Abe, Sadato himself, will meet us. That would surely start another war. But Sadato will probably leave us alone.”

“Yes, so they say. . . but often war is the final outcome.”

Tsunekiyo offered his father some tea.

His father refused, looking troubled. “So in the spring and summer we’ll be advancing a four pronged operation, at the invitation of the Taira leader Kiyomori, who promises us a generous gift if we cooperate with his proposals. I remember once I had a job like yours. I succeeded the former person at his post. Then they appointed me to take his place. I became the Kyushu director of the East. But it turned into a contest between sides. I remember. . .the Imperial government used us like Japanese pork, cooking us on a charcoal stove.”

“Cooked on a charcoal stove. . .” Tsunekiyo repeated, musing over his father’s words, and feeling a bad omen overcome him.

“After six rounds, we won on the seventh. Five years of that game was like drinking arsenic.” His father sighed and closed his eyes. “Oh, I long for rest and heaven.” He put his hands together into prayer and mumbled, “Ah. . .the ways of men.”

Almost ready to go to the North, he visited his family, where his sister lived.

Somewhat troubled, Tsunekiyo ate his breakfast with chopsticks from his rice bowl, while his sister spoke to him. “Tsunekiyo, it amazes me how quickly your life has taken a turn for the worst. Don’t you agree?”

“Yes, I know,” Tsunekiyo replied.

“Listen to me!” his sister said. “Our mother looks out for me, your sister. I heard today that two thousand people have started a rumor about your loyalties. How do I deal with all these rumors about our family? For the third time, mother asks, ‘Who do you love?’ ”

“Here we go again,” Tsunekiyo said.

“We’ve had nine plans, four attempts, and two wins. The other side has two wins and is currently the winner.” The sister’s voice was disdainful and filled with contempt. “So, I am just a part of the crowd, a nobody to you.”

“You don’t seem to understand that the differences between us and the Emishi are not easy to fix!”

“And in our few dealings with them, we’re barely half way there.” A scowl came over her face. “This whole situation is a joke. We’re not even at first base with them. For three years I have felt unsafe here.”

“I can’t stop. I have to finish the job that Kyoto has commissioned for me! Our leaders say things are going well.”

His sister sat up straight. Her face grew cold and disdainful. “Most of them lie. They have to lie so we can save face with other countries watching us. Mother is worried sick about all this.”

Tsunekiyo chomped down his food, gulping it down, disturbed.

Early in the morning Tsunekiyo on his horse, with his companions, headed north in the snow, that so blanketed them, they could not see more than thirty feet ahead of them. But they felt good about embarking on this journey today.

The weather was such, that they had to stay a night at a mansion. The next morning, they headed for the port of Osaka, the snow came down in sheets, so they abandoned their horses and traveled using a rectangular, wooden boat which hugged the coast. They shoved their oars into the ocean, shoving the boat forward from the ocean floor.

“What a morning! What a mess this is.” Yoshifumi, the leader of their party, was a short, stocky man, who commanded authority. “The blizzard has worsened. We shall have to inform the capital we’ll be two days late.”

“I will do so,” his subordinate said. “We also need to mention our need for more supplies.”

“The Abe must be having a party over this weather we are experiencing,” Yoshifumi said.

“For the first time in this match, the nobles need repair.” Tsunekiyo smiled. “But it is December.”

“The weather is part of such efforts,” Yoshifumi said. “When the Abe summoned us to their wedding, they should have allowed us to attend in writing, rather than in person.”

Tsunekiyo ushered Yoshifumi inside the boat’s cabin and shut the wooden door behind them, blocking out the snow and cold winds.

Inside, with bamboo mats for walls, Tsunekiyo gulped from his bowl and lay it down. “Our leaders are excited over this breakthrough. For the first time, the Abe leader’s children will work with us in a joint venture. I’ve been informed that the Abe leader is fifty-seven. I’m looking forward to meeting him.”

“What they say in writing and what they really mean are two different things.”

“The loan for this project was frozen up until now. We now have one-sixth of the loan amount,” Tsunekiyo said. “Our leaders must expect me to make a significant break-through with the Abe leader.”

“No, not exactly,” Yoshifumi said. “You’re only getting 7.424 million items for this venture.” He laughed with a guttural laugh, filled with cynicism. “What you’ve received are show pieces to appease Sadato. Think about the 10.15 billion items they didn’t use. Such, are the promises made in writing.”

“Yes, I agree, part of the performance we play,” Tsunekiyo said.

“So, the Abe might sacrifice their daughter for gold. That’s Abe justice for you.” Yoshifumi’s eyes widened in amazement. “You know, at the ceremony, we shall be on trial. Our venture would be truly groundbreaking, if the Abe themselves invested a lot of money into the marriage.”

“The Abe are doing this for their family,” Tsunekiyo said. “I noticed Sadato was not mentioned in the huge agreement anywhere. If he’s abandoned his rebellion against us, we’ve made a breakthrough.”

“That is, if he has abandoned his rebellion.” Yoshifumi was cynical. “They surely play this game to gain advantages over us.”

“You talk like a yellow bellied coward,” Tsunekiyo said.

“Oh, that reminds me. I want to show you something at once,” Yoshifumi yelled at his servant. “Here is some booty from our previous conflicts with them. Bring out the sword!” He whispered to Tsunekiyo. “In the early days of our dispute with the Abe, I was in charge of six of their provinces. Our relationship with them is not what you think. I know you don’t want to hear this.” He lowered his head. “Yoriyoshi treats these Abe like they are teenagers in some sort of game.” The servant placed the sword in his hands and he handed it over to Tsunekiyo. “Here, take a look at this.”

Tsunekiyo grasped the sword, about five feet long, glistening and sharp.

“Why don’t you add this to all the decorations you will hang on your wall?” Yoshifumi said, with a straight face.

Tsunekiyo pulled it out of its sheath and held it up high, admiring it. “But the contract is signed and we must proceed.”

“I wonder how it would feel to have that sword in your gut?” Yoshifumi pondered over his words. “So, while you are enjoying your ceremony with the Abe, I wonder why they designed a sword like this?” Yoshifumi and his companions laughed. “To kill, of course!”

Tsunekiyo stared at the length and strength of the sword, and lost his smile.

From land, came a canoe, with those inside waving flame torches in the night, signaling that Tsunekiyo’s party had finally reached their destination. Those onboard Tsunekiyo’s boat waved flame torches in return to acknowledge the coming canoe.

Yoshifumi emerged from his cabin and faced the dreary night, with snow still falling on his face.

“We’ve made contact with the Abe!” the subordinate said to Yoshifumi. “And a messenger from the capital is part of the greeting party.”

“How auspicious. Six-party talks, using Taira no Hisashi to report on our progress to the capital.” Yoshifumi seemed unimpressed.

Hisashi and his companion, in the approaching canoe, bowed their heads before Yoshifumi. Yoshifumi’s ship got so close to land that it was said that crabs from Osaka could have climbed onboard. They dropped anchor, and Yoshifumi removed his cloak, ready to go down the planks to meet the Abe party waiting for him. It appeared that all Abe leaders from every Abe district were there.

Tsunekiyo held his leader’s arm guiding him down the planks, but Yoshifumi yanked him off. “It’s okay!” A scowl and disdain covered his face. He walked with dignity, without assistance, to the Abe who greeted him.

Tsunekiyo and his party bowed slightly to Abe Muneto, the Abe’s spokesperson, to show respect. The greeting Abe formed a procession, with each person holding a flame torch to the ground or a sword, forming a lane of greeting for the arriving party to walk through in the night.

Hisashi made the introductions. “This is Abe Muneto. The imperial family has assigned me the job of making introductions and translation.”

Abe Muneto broke out into a wide grin and bowed with cheerfulness to Yoshifumi. “This is an auspicious moment. We all came out here to greet you first before the ceremonies. All Abe are united in our support for this venture.”

“Is that so?” Yoshifumi said. “And where is General Sadato? Does he feel as you all do?”

“Yes!” Muneto said. “He supports this venture. Now we must go tired to our destination.”

“No, there is too much snow for this,” Yoshifumi looked up at the snow falling on his face, bored.

“The snow migrates over us like storks,” Hisashi said.

Tsunekiyo stepped forward to introduce himself.

“This is Fujiwara no Tsunekiyo,” ambassador Hisashi said to Abe Muneto.

“I’ll be living at Oshu,” Tsunekiyo said to the Abe spokesperson Muneto.

“It’s as if we’ve discovered the treasure chest in you.” Abe Muneto had a warm smile.

The comment embarrassed Tsunekiyo. “Yes, as a result of significant progress in our talks.”

“It’s amazing how money has enabled this first venture between us,” the ambassador Hisashi joked. “May we have many more.”

Abe Muneto laughed in delight at the joke.

“Yes, money seems to buy love,” Yoshifumi agreed.

“Please, let us go now to the cheap accommodations we have for the night.” Muneto led the way.

The imperial entourage followed them, all wearing high black caps about eighteen inches tall, smooth and round. The Abe caps looked more like caps, bent in the middle and slanting forward.

Once inside the building and out of the cold – beautiful Abe women, with white faces and brilliant black eyes, gushed attention on the Imperial leader Yoshifumi showering him with cups of warm tea and caresses. Their feet in white socks, creaked on the wood floor as they scampered about him. They offered tea and food to all the Imperial visitors.

“With riches as a mutual goal, we all seem interested in peaceful relations,” Yoshifumi said. “That is why such a crowd has appeared.” He faced Tsunekiyo. “Tsunekiyo! Ensure that the pension for this marriage is taken care of.” He faced Muneto now. “It is rare to be able to focus on the cold practicalities of this transaction, while drowned with such attention.”

“If what we’ve offered is not good enough, we can make the offer better,” Abe Muneto said.

“Thank you,” Yoshifumi said.

“This building and all its furnishings will be used as a testing place for the couple, to see if they want to live here,” ambassador Hisashi said.

“Oh!” Yoshifumi said. “I can see the furnishings.”

He just noticed the urns, ceramics and wedding gifts before him, many designed to enhance the honeymoon.

“They built this in a hurry for the wedding,” Hisashi said. “We hope these gifts will assist the couple on their wedding night.”

“I like this,” Yoshifumi said.

“I heard also there will be a religious service here as part of the ceremony to honor the beginning of our venture together.” Ambassador Hisashi paused to consider his words. “Surely General Sadato must support this or he would have opposed this extravagance. To him, it must be a sure match.”

Abe Muneto smiled. “Also, when the couple have had their night, all the servants who attended them are theirs to keep.”

“If we can agree on an amount and if the terms acceptable to all parties, we must first ensure we get the necessary consent to move this marriage forward,” Yoshifumi said. “We’re acting as though the marriage has already taken place!” Yoshifumi then laughed like a hyena. “Even if the couple have a disappointing night together.”

Tsunekiyo bowed his head and smiled, feeling a bit embarrassed.

The next night, Tsunekiyo wandered outside as the wind howled about him.

“It seems it’s been fifty years!” He heard a voice yell at him from a distance.

He put his hand onto his sword as a gut reaction, turned around, and recognized Hisashi. “So it looks like our ship has already been brought onto land. So soon.” Tsunekiyo seemed to feel that there was no turning back now.

“That is an Abe custom,” Hisashi said.

“We’ve made great progress with the Abe,” Tsunekiyo said. “It seems we both share similar goals.”

“As the first to live in this prefecture from the South, let me give you some guidance,” Hisashi said. “Come follow me to Sendai.”

At Hisashi’s Sendai Residence, Tsunekiyo lit a match stick to give them light in the darkness. They both wore men’s kimonos and the tall Fujiwara caps, their shadows dancing and flickering from the flames of the lamp against the bamboo mats that formed the walls of the residence.

“I was not aware about this scandal and big secret.” Tsunekiyo was amazed at what Hisashi just disclosed to him.

“We are being discreet and polite, and have kept this Sadato incident out of the spotlight for over a year now,” Hisashi said. “Yoriyoshi feels it’s wiser to not disclose this while we try to build relations with the Abe.” Hisashi paused. “At first, the woman’s death was a mystery. Her occupation was listed as unknown. She turned out to be an actress. A child was witness to the murder, and some people on one of ten ships that we investigated had heard about it.”

“Please give me a full report by the morning.”

“Of course.” Hisashi seemed lost in thought. “The child who witnessed the murder was clever and docile and Sadato did not know someone witnessed him with the actress. Though he heard a child cough and went after the child, who escaped. We cannot disclose this about Sadato to the public. The Abe leaders have kept this from their own people, too. What happened at the Kitakami River showed how the Abe will band together and unite like a fortress of stone if we confront them.”

Tsunekiyo knew his history, how in 789 AD at the Battle of the Koromo River, Emishi General Aterui with a thousand Emishi defeated the four thousand strong Japanese army as they tried to cross the Kitakami River. The imperial army suffered its most stunning defeat, losing a thousand men, many of whom drowned.

“My negotiations have prevented war in the past year,” Hisashi said, “along with political parties that have worked with me for peace. If we allow this Sadato incident to go public, it could ignite the flames of war.”

“I hear it is the young people who most want war, and they propose this as the solution, taking over the negotiations,” Tsunekiyo said.

“Yes,” Hisashi agreed. “Even the young people on our side are advising General Yoriyoshi to prepare for war. In fact, we wanted to cut military spending, but three young advisors (that expanded to thirteen) under Yoriyoshi insisted we not do so.”

“So it’s like a cancer from within,” Tsunekiyo said. “Perhaps we could start a coalition to oppose these youngsters and prevent the military build-ups.”

“No,” Hisashi said, “it’s already too late. The young people have started a commission devoted exclusively to strengthening our military forces. So, I am going with the flow. I told them, based on my own observations, that we may need an additional 2,008 new troops this year. They are also increasing troops by forming alliances with other clans. I have noticed that Kyoto is losing its voice and has turned into a showpiece. Young people in the samurai are rising in power and influence, ignoring the Emperor. Their drive for unity in military power across the clans cannot be ignored.”

“Now onto a brighter note, I can promote the development of the dance center here and of community services,” Tsunekiyo said. “We can expand sporting events, archery and promote Abe culture in the interest of creating a bond between us.”

“And don’t forget about your wedding to the Abe leader’s daughter Yu.” Hisashi laughed. “That will surely prevent a war!”

“Oh, that’s right. Her name is Yu.” Tsunekiyo laughed so hard, he fell backwards to the floor. “I guess they think that Yu will be our next ambassador for peace.” He and his friend leaned back and laughed so hard, they fell backwards to the ground laughing.

Tsunekiyo wandered into the night, on horseback, with his companions, wearing fur coverings to shield from the cold and head garbs to cover their ears and head, to scout out the area, hoping not to encounter the feared Sadato. Tsunekiyo’s mere presence in northern Japan was deemed a threat to some Abe leaders.

“I’ve heard rumors the Abe are secretly building up a military presence. We need to go out and investigate their territory and see what we can find.” They heard the sound of troops marching off in the distance. He galloped with his horse in the direction of the sounds, to see what he could find. “That must be the sound of their reserves, in case our agreement does not work out,” Tsunekiyo said. “They march at night hoping we won’t see them. They plan to make an example of us again. What we are hearing must be their underground military operation. ”

Suddenly, it turned into morning.

In the middle of his venture, he stopped and offered written prayers to Buddha inside a clay pot over a pile of sticks for burning. He folded his hands in prayer, leaned forward and offered chants to Buddha. “Bless our journey with good weather,” he chanted over and over.

Surrounded by whiteness, the wind picked up and a blizzard again overcame the sticks for trees and howled with ferocity over the barren white snow. They slushed and stumbled and crawled through about three feet of snow on the ground, with poor visibility, surrounded by white flurries and many feet of snow drooping off of tree stick branches. Furs covered their chests, with belts, and all their heads were wrapped, covering their ears.

“Certainly, the marching sounds we heard earlier came from a secret, underground operation started by the Abe young men, who oppose our negotations with them,” his companion said. “I have heard all sorts of rumors about this. It’s the talk of the town.”

Finally, the snow stopped – leaving a white glow over the hillsides, with whiteness interrupted by sticks protruding upwards to the sky. Tsunekiyo and his party grabbed their horses by the bits over their mouths and led them forward through the snow. A hawk squawked nearby, flying overhead.

Ahead of them, Tsunekiyo saw a group of people, a mining community. He stumbled ahead, knee deep in snow, running forward to see the view.

The sound of picks and shovels interrupted the breeze, miners were hard at work digging into the ground underneath the snow. The mining community used wooden steps leading to wooden caves inside the mountain, where all the miners ventured in and out, carrying baskets that flung with ropes attached to sticks on their shoulders. Thatched huts, held up by sticks, protected their heads from the snow. Wooden sticks made rails beside wooden stairs that led from one operation to another on the mountainside.

The three men, Tsunekiyo and his companions, were so mesmerized, they lost themselves into the moment as they watched the workers below them in the valley of the mountains surrounding them.

“What is this?” Tsunekiyo stared at the miners in astonishment.

“What a rare find this is!” his companion exclaimed.

“We have definitely pounced upon a rare find,” Tsunekiyo agreed. “That is a gold mining operation. A mining town for gold! This probably finances the six Abe districts. This may explain why Hisashi told me our military has added a new division, with 2008 soldiers, assigned to this area. He must know about this. Such an increase in troops, and so fast. The Imperial government wants our military built up by autumn.” Tsunekiyo continued to stare in disbelief at what he saw before him. “I must let the head of our new military division know about this gold mine. I don’t think Hisashi has told him. We need to take this into consideration in our agreements with the Abe. The Abe, apparently, wanted to get all the gold out of this mountain before we learned of it and took over their gold mine.” Tsunekiyo’s mouth remained open in awe. “So this is why they want me to marry their daughter, so that if the Japanese takeover the operation, the Abe can share in the proceeds.”

“Indeed,” his companion agreed.

Arrows whizzed through the air and pierced the snow within feet of them. Yells from the nearby hill could be heard and then Abe men appeared. Surrounded by about twenty men, they stood helpless before the attackers who had their bows stretched and their arrows ready to fly. Their attackers wore the Abe daytime clothes of a brown shirt dress, made of a light fur, with a belt.

The Abe leader of this group was an older man with grey hair, but with a muscular physique. “For God’s sake, what are you doing here at our goldmine? So, you think you’re being cute? You don’t want peace with us. You plan to report this gold mine to your authorities, and then will make war with us to get our gold!”

“After seeing this mine, we’re not sure we can trust your motives for wanting peace with us,” Tsunekiyo said.

The Abe leader launched a stick at them, pointing, and another Abe apprehended them.

“How dare you!” Tsunekiyo’s young companion yelled at the Abe who grabbed him, trying to free himself. “Within a year, we’ll get our revenge for this.”

The Abe placed Tsunekiyo and his companions inside a prison, shaped like a large cube, made of wooden bars, while the two parties hurled insults at each other in the process.

“So look what a mess you got us into, by your curiosity to scout out the area!” Tsunekiyo’s young companion yelled at him, obviously frustrated at being imprisoned. “They plan to make examples out of us.”

Tsunekiyo grabbed his companion and brought him to his side, embracing him. “If we are missing, it will alert the Imperial authorities. Then they’ll have to deal with an army of 177,778 soldiers inside their border.”

“But perhaps, they don’t care,” his young companion said. “We are only two disposable people, and if they kill us, then we won’t inform our authorities about their goldmine. The financial deals between the two sides are still undecided. Knowledge of this goldmine would greatly change the picture.”

“They may have planned to make war with us all along using a preemptive strike, in order to keep their goldmine. It must be nice to have the easy life, getting all your money from a goldmine. Giving up such a life would be hard to do,” Tsunekiyo said.

“So what did you hear was our military strategy?” the older one asked Tsunekiyo.

“We are trying to decide if they are being up front with us about peace or are just trying to buy time to build up a military force with which to strike us.” Tsunekiyo looked outside at the Abe soldiers guarding their imprisonment. “Now that we know about their goldmine, my marriage contract with them seems uncertain.”

“Maybe we should pretend that we know nothing about this goldmine,” said the first man who spoke. “It was a picnic to be out there in the blizzard compared to this!”

A woman’s voice, speaking with authority, appeared on the scene, speaking to the Abe man in charge of the prison. “So, the same old story. It looks like we have found some bargain-hunters in the shape of large men. We have two countries here that want to protect their economic interests,” she said, with conviction.

The woman wore a fur coat that wrapped about her like a coat with a hood and a belt. With  eyebrows like sparrow’s wings and brown eyes that danced with brilliance and beauty, she seemed to have a backbone of iron, and looked somewhat different from most Japanese women, with Caucasian features on her face. “Let me deal with them,” she said.

She approached the prison, as if eyeing an opponent and sizing him up. Upon arriving at the prison doors, made of criss crosses of wood, she spoke. “So who is the Tsunekiyo who just arrived by boat from the Watari region?”

“The boat has anchored. I’m Tsunekiyo and am angry that the Abe came and apprehended us.” Tsunekiyo sat up tall and straight.

She drew in closer to the prison and her eyes met his, penetrating his soul. “You know you won’t get out of here, don’t you, unless you pretend to be in love with me? So it’s better to subdue your anger. I have arranged for you to attend a major event that will honor our wedding. I know this would greatly interest our Abe leaders, because I’ve told them I’m in love with you. I attend all Abe events.”

“So I’m in love with you, and you want me to invite all the leaders on my side to this event?” Tsunekiyo said, his eyes brightening at the prospect of being released from his jail.

“Yes,” she said.

“Wait a minute.” He paused, remembering he already had commitments. “I’m not sure about this. I’m promised to another. This would mean I have betrayed her.”

“They want me to marry men who are vulgar. What luck that I have met you here. I don’t want to be stuck in marriage to a vulgar man or to marry for politics. I want my marriage filled with passion and for my husband to love me. Do not mention our meeting here. We will find a way to love each other.”

“Our leaders will all agree to this?”

“We don’t want them to know about our meeting here now.” She paused to collect her thoughts. “What a breathtaking love we will have! My heart was dark with sorrow and now I see a light.”

“So you no longer feel like you will die. . .and I no longer marry the Abe princess.”

She smiled. “I will be the song of your princess.” She opened the prison door to let them out. “I sing a song for the summer when we marry, and you will talk to our leaders and make history. Come on out, samurai.”

He walked out and started going forward.

But she leeched onto his fur coat. “Wear full military regalia for the event. I really like you. I can’t wait for our bodies to come together in passion. Sounds so awesome. . .” Her eyes seemed to go off into her dreams as she savored their consummation.

Tsunekiyo looked into her eyes and saw that she had feelings for him.

Tsunekiyo’s companion spoke up. “We’re out! We’re out! I still hope they won’t make examples out of us.”

Tsunekiyo backed away from her, in shock over all this and jumped onto his horse to gallop away. Then his head turned to look back at her, sensing her feelings and feeling a bit overwhelmed, as if in the throes of a new passion.

His younger companion flung some snow at him, then answered for him. “We don’t know yet, because he –” His companion decided it better not to reveal everything to this woman.

Tsunekiyo and his companions galloped away.

The woman then ran up to them and stopped, and gazed at Tsunekiyo with longing as he galloped away.

The longing he saw in her eyes, gave away her heart; and her feelings for him drowned over him. But wasn’t he already committed to marry the daughter of the Abe leader? This woman was beautiful and had feelings for him. But, politics, it appeared, would decide the fate of his heart.

The next day, true to her word, a group of people from her family came to his place and escorted them to the event she had arranged for him. To his amazement, an entire Abe town greeted him, all outside of their homes staring at him as if he was an honored dignitary from another country. He and his companion from the imperial government, Yoshifumi, the leader, strode in on horseback and an entire Abe town greeted them as they rode on horseback to the event this woman had arranged for them. The Abe all wore shirt dresses made of coarse fabric with belts, and gazed with wonder at these strangers in their town.

As they neared the house, about thirty Abe warriors with crocodile, black helmets drew their swords. He heard the clash as they raised their swords high into the sky.

He and his companion, Yoshifumi, jumped, while riding on their horse, both suffering culture shock.

Then the Abe banged drums. Apparently, this was how they greeted strangers to their town. One of the soldiers grabbed the rein of their horses and led them in.

An Abe bowed before Yoshifumi. “We have had talks before, but today we have come far. This is an auspicious day.”

“I want to celebrate,” Yoshifumi said.

The Abe grabbed Yoshifumi’s horse by the mouth and led them all into the Abe compound.

“So you will not allow Sadato to choose your wife. You want to pick the Abe woman you want for yourself,” Hisashi said to Tsunikeyo as they rode into the compound.

“Looks like all the leaders are here from both sides,” Tsunekiyo said. He now remained silent, too shocked to say a word. The Abe buildings were white with wood beams holding up the panels for walls. All roofs and the countryside around them were covered in snow.

They passed underneath a wooden rectangular opening and through a shrine. They all got off their horses and walked underneath the rectangle towards the main compound.

“We’ve climbed a mountain today and have brought down the barriers between us!” Their Abe guide yelled to those ahead of him.

The Abe ahead of him were seated, all in a row, on the ledge of their building, and bowed down to the wooden floor in greeting.

They entered into the house where they needed to go and sat down on the bamboo mats, cross legged.

All seated themselves on mats.

“Our disagreements unfortunately have resulted in edicts that have caused war between us, but today it is better to fall in love,” the Abe representative said to Yoshifumi, bowing before him. “We have rewritten our agreement to accommodate our improved relations.”

“That man speaking, makes the laws.” Hisashi explained to Tsunekiyo. “Four years ago, I thought the possibilities for peace between us were hopeless. We threatened each other and carried it out in blood. Now because of a bride we have a breakthrough. The wall has fallen down.”

“So we make promises in gold,” Yoshifumi referred to the financial agreements made because of the wedding.

The Abe leaders laughed. “We will give you some advances.”

“My mother thanks you,” Yoshifumi said.

They all laughed.

The Abe lawmaker and his companions rose up and left.

Hisashi whispered to Tsunekiyo. “I would like to note, that that man who just left was not the bride’s father.”

Another Abe approached Yoshifumi, knowing he was the appointed leader for the Imperial government. “We had great disagreements among us, with seventy objections, but all of a sudden, that has come to an end.”

Hisashi whispered to Tsunekiyo, “We have put fifteen people on the boat ready to transport the Abe gift to our leaders. Most are in agreement on both sides now. Because of the progress we have made today, the incident with the actress is overlooked.”

All the important leaders of the town came forward one by one to introduce themselves.

Suddenly, all who were seated in the room bowed their heads down to the floor, and a person with great authority entered the room, followed by what, it appeared, was his family.

The person who entered the room was none other than Yoritoki, the Abe leader. The fierce features of his face were softened by eyes filled with warmth and devotion to his people. He stopped and bowed before his guests, giving them respect.

“This is the royal Abe family,” Hisashi explained to Tsunekiyo. “The one coming out now is Sadato, his eldest son, who is thirty. Yoritoki has a total of seven sons, who will take part in the ceremony.”

Sadato, his son, wearing a gorgeous garb of gold, with a belt, stopped and gave a respectful bow. Abe passion was part of their fierceness, like a pure mountain stream coursing through rocks, which tumbled down waterfalls with courage to the death into the chasm below.

More people came out one by one in a line.

“Who’s coming out, now?” Tsunekiyo asked.

“These are close friends of the family, nine people in all.”

Yoritoki, smiled and laughed, his laughter bubbled over with warmth, as if embracing his people. He seemed to want all in the room to relax and have a good time, and took the time to speak to his people and crack jokes with them.

He then turned and faced his guest, his face in awe. “Oh, who is this? The head of Mutsu.” He sat himself down before Yoshifumi.

Yoshifumi realized that the Abe head now addressed him as the one the Imperial family assigned to govern the Emishi territory, which was called Mutsu.

Yoritoki and his sons sat down and bowed before Yoshifumi. “We apologize that it took so long for us to reach this stage. It seems we were stuck at first base in the toilet. Let us fall in love and start a new day.”

“What a surreal day. We will do our part of the agreement and give you an advance also,” Yoshifumi said.

“We will certainly do our part as well.”

Yoshifumi turned to Sadato. “Hmmm, and this is Sadato?”

Sadato looked embarrassed.

“We’ve set the date of delivery for the tenth. The agreement is easy to understand. We don’t need to forward this to the Imperial government for consent, even though Sadato has caused big problems in the past,” Yoshifumi said.

Yoritoki smiled. “Sadato takes the traditional approach. But we all like the comfortable life we get from such an agreement, so let us start a new day. We humble ourselves on this new day and go forward.”

“We can agree on this agreement here and now just between the two of us. I consider this agreement final,” Yoshifumi said, looking at Sadato. “Out of so many possibilities, this outcome is a new precedent. We are in agreement, we shall prepare the documents.”

Hisashi interrupted to interpret for the Abe to the Imperial government. “Sadato wants to celebrate after the wedding . He would now like to speak.”

“Thank you,” Sadato said. “Can you all attend my celebration after the wedding ceremony?” Sadato asked Yoshifumi.

“While we are celebrating at Sadato’s we will work out the fine details of the contract, and hope this will appease your General Yoriyoshi,” Yoritoki said.

“So we shall discuss the details at Sadato’s celebration? Is that alright?” Yoshifumi said.

“It is okay,” Yoritoki answered.

One of Yoritoki’s sons rushed up to Yoritoki and lay down the present to be given to Yoshifumi. Yoritoki presented it to Yoshifumi. “Please, take this. It is a large masterpiece.”

Yoshifumi lifted a bowl made of gold with a stand as part of its structure, which made it look like an offering plate, that could sit upright on a table. “This symbolizes wisdom.”

“We concluded that my daughter should make the final decision about this marriage. This makes it interesting,” Yoritoki said.

“That is great. This cup is heavy, to look at the surface makes one’s eyes tired. It looks like a large mouth ready to eat.” Yoshifumi laughed. All laughed for several minutes and Tsunekiyo looked embarrassed. Yoshifumi laughed like a hyena.

Just then, Yoritoki’s wife and daughters appeared in a line, making introductions one by one. Tsunekiyo’s eyes landed immediately on the group of women entering the room.

The first was Yoritoki’s wife. She did not smile, but bowed with politeness before her guests as did all the women who followed her.

When the next appeared, Hisashi made introductions to Tsunekiyo. “This one is the wife of Sadato.”

The next one who appeared was exceptionally beautiful. “This one is named Noriko. I am engaged to marry her,” Hisashi said. “My plans are set with this beautiful daughter of Yoritoki.”

Indeed, these were beautiful women, with pure white skin, and glowing dark eyes, with thick lashes and brows.

The fourth woman who appeared was the woman who freed him from prison! He caught himself staring at her in amazement. Already enchanted by the first three women, when he realized that the woman who freed him from prison was Yoritoki’s daughter, he began to see her in a new light. This woman who wanted passion in her marriage was a royal princess! Now, she seemed enchanting, no longer abrasive and abrupt. Her directness was her courage, coming from a heart filled with passion, it seemed. Apparently, she approved of her father’s plan to use her to bridge the gap between the Japanese and the Abe. Indeed, this woman was much quieter and respectful and behaved like royalty today, unlike the other day, when she manipulated him to accept her proposal to meet her family. She was a brilliant performer, who adjusted her behavior as needed to accommodate her goals.

She, apparently, was not a typical Abe woman and became direct only when necessary, like when she met him in the prison. Now that she got him here, she behaved with the decorum expected of her rank.

“Is this a daughter of the Abe leader?” Tsunekiyo asked his interpreter Hisashi, realizing now that the woman who met him at the prison may have been the woman of his arranged marriage.

“Her name is Yu,” Hisashi replied. “She is Noriko’s sister.”

Tsunekiyo now felt an attraction for this royal woman, the daughter of the Abe leader. How clear her skin was, how her brown eyes sparkled with life and courage.

“Yu is beautiful,” Hisashi said. “We will have an elegant evening.”

“This evening, I am the fool,” Tsunekiyo said.

“Yu attends this ceremony out of kindness for the union,” Hisashi said.

“So she does.” Tsunekiyo said, feeling a new and deep respect for Yu. “She is a worthy woman.”

At Sadato’s ceremony, Abe in military regalia guarded the compound holding their swords upright, with flames set in basket stands to light the compound in the night. An Abe woman brought in the legal documents, which they would finalize over the next three days and nights. The ceremony would last until the agreement was finalized.

The Abe all settled down with their guests and seemed to abandon the formalities and get down to business. Sadato sponsored a party on another day to greet his new visitors.

“Congratulations! Make a wish,” the Abe said to Yoshifumi.

Yoshifumi bowed and laughed.

Tsunekiyo was with Hisashi and his fiance Noriko, who was Yoritoki’s daughter. Yu’s sister had a face clear, white and beautiful like the finest china, with deep, pure eyes that sparkled with purity.

“We are spending hundreds of millions of yen for this celebration,” Noriko said.

“I want to challenge my competitors to a dual for my bride,” Tsunekiyo said.

“Don’t make it easy,” Noriko said, with a sweet smile. “It seems you’re destined to go outside.”

“You must have a contest that matches the beauty of the woman,” Hisashi said, gazing with approval at his radiant fiance, Noriko.

Yu sat silent and observed Tsunekiyo from a distance. He turned to look at her and caught her staring at him.

“Yu is disappointed that our mother seems undecided,” Noriko said.

Tsunekiyo sipped from his bowl, feeling a bit uneasy. Yu just sat there, away from him, and did not approach him. She did not smile.

“But it is beautiful here in June,” Noriko said, glowing with happiness. “But if your engagement will be like mine with Hisashi, you may have to wait one and a half years for the actual wedding.”

“The negotiations involved in these transactions are, in my book, rather boring,” Hisashi said.

Sadato was in a circle with his mother and wife. Sadato’s wife seemed uneasy.

“Indeed, Abe women are very beautiful” Tsunekiyo gazed at Yu, who stood a distance from him and gazed back at him, her beautiful eyes seemed set and determined today.

Some men in the group joked. “We’ve lost our opportunity to snatch a beautiful woman. What a blue day this is.”

Sadato, dressed in a gold silk dress shirt and a brown belt over pants, jumped and stumbled over to join Tsunekiyo’s group. He plopped down, as if a bit drunk, to the floor in front of Tsunekiyo, “Tsunekiyo, hear me out.” He lifted a bowl to Tsunekiyo. “We must have a serious celebration.”

Tsunekiyo bowed before Sadato. “Tonight we truly celebrate a turn-around in our relations.”

Sadato continued holding his bowl to Tsunekiyo, “Come on, in front of everyone. Let us have a commemoration service!”

Tsunekiyo took the bowl offered him, while Sadato grabbed an urn, and tipped it over the bowl Tsunekiyo held, filling it with sake. Tsunekiyo bowed and brought the bowl to his mouth and drank the sake.

All in the room were silent, intent on the unusual transaction between the Abe General Sadato and Tsunekiyo. After Tsunekiyo finished, he gasped for breath, as if it was difficult to swallow it all in one gulp.

“You need confidence for sailing,” Sadato said.

“What a thing to say. What an expression,” Tsunekiyo answered.

“You seem stiff and uncomfortable,” Sadato said. “Look at me as you drink.”

“No, I’m not uncomfortable,” Tsunekiyo answered. “I am learning your ways as I listen to you.”

“You promenade for Yu, my sister, but each side still attacks the other,” Sadato said, challenging him.

“I have arranged peace on both sides,” Hisashi interfered.

Tsunekiyo now offered to Sadato the same bowl, and made determined eye-contact with Sadato through it all, while filling the bowl with sake until it overflowed.

Sadato looked at him with daring. “We’ve crossed our swords in friendship. We are in the big leagues now.”

“All barriers are gone,” Hisashi announced.

Sadato gulped down the sake from the bowl, staring at Tsunekiyo the whole time. Tsunekiyo never broke eye contact the entire time. Their friendship was sealed.

After this, the Abe had a troupe of performers who tossed balls and banged drums in a festive dance and played flute. This was the Abe wedding dance, which indicated that Sadato accepted Tsunekiyo’s offer to marry his sister. The Abe men and women wore tunics and pants, a favorite Abe outfit. All the Abe present smiled, pleased with this development, while Tsunekiyo and those who represented his Fujiwara family watched in awe.

It seemed they had removed the barrier that kept the two sides at war with each other.

Hisashi seemed at peace and exulted in this victory.

Yoshifumi watched the dance with mouth open.

Tsunekiyo had a look of determination on his face.

Yoritoki smiled to himself, moved by this epoch in the history of his people.

On another day, Yoritoki spoke with the Abe religious leader or sage, an elderly man, he often went to for advice. The sage wore a cap, that sat flat on his head and covered all of the top and sides of his head. Yoritoki’s Emishi-Russian wife Sara sat in silence, listening to her husband and the sage in their discussion. “We’re setting up our payment system to the Japanese. We’ve set up an operation with which to ship gold, using five women on an island. We have promised the Imperial government our first shipment. Those at our gold mines who do not cooperate, we let go. We are ensuring that no shipments get lost or misplaced. Some of our Abe leaders are furious about this agreement and think we are being taken advantage of.”

“This is all helpful to know. Let me know how it goes,” the sage replied. “And what has been the response of our leaders? We don’t want to rush ahead without studying their response.”

“We are all in a delirium. Future prospects seem uncertain. Because of disagreements, it seems we are returning to few options. In the west, they pretend to cooperate. Others are slow to do what we have asked them to.”

“After one of our leaders has a twelve year term of office, it then is reduced to two years. People who disagree with you will cooperate with you one time, after that they just pretend at cooperation. Eventually, there will be an uprising and a stand-off, where they will try to get the people to side with their rebellion against our policies. In the meanwhile, I shall strive to be a voice for peace. Go ahead with our agreement with the Imperial government, and, if necessary, we may need to use the military to enforce our policies,” the sage said, sipping his tea.

“The problem is that most of the promises have been by mouth only. This is a weakness in our agreement. I will need to put all this in writing and publish it everywhere so everyone understands the terms of the agreement. I will create a bulletin that will put in writing the agreement. This bulletin needs to be read by both sides, the Abe and the Imperial government. The mere fact that Yoshifumi made an appearance should result in a payment to the Japanese. We would like to carry out the first parts of the agreement, without having to first meet with our leaders to discuss our differences. I don’t want to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

“A problem we have is that some of these gold mines were stolen from the original owners. We may have to use mediators to work out differences. So the next question is, what if we have to use a strong whip on some of our own Abe leaders?” the sage asked. “This will be like whipping a strong and vicious dog, knocking down his pride. People are proud of their money.”

“I promised a large reward to the Imperial government,” Yoritoki said. “For now, we will use the workers we currently have in the towns to transport this reward to the Japanese. We will make the Shinjuku factory our headquarters. This factory has most of the people who are different from the rest, who seem undecided about this. We have set things up for medium and long-term financing. But, I must let you know, this is all experimental and we shall see how it goes,” Yoritoki said. “An alternative would be to have a big sale, and invest this in a new company that we can create to carry out this agreement.”

The sage laughed upon hearing this. “You may have some problems with your son Narito. He thinks he has the respect of the elders on his side. He may form a conspiracy against you and start his own company, too. When these promises we have made become tiresome, the whole system you have set up will fall apart in weeks. Narito will tire of this.”

“Then it will be the battle of the empires, in my own family,” Yoritoki said. “Please speak to the people and emphasize how important it is for us to get along with the Japanese and to ensure peace for our people.”

“I will emphasize that it is better to play it safe than to risk angering the Imperial government,” the sage said. “These old tricks have worked with those who have rebelled with us in the past. To resort to the adage that this is the way it has always been done, may work in the first round, to discourage the people from taking matters into their own hands. With luck, we can keep most of our people in line. But we will need a strong person in charge of our prisons for those who rebel.”

“Those who steal and don’t turn over the proceeds properly could end up in prison for ten years. All new companies will need to give us reports of their activities, so that we can monitor them,” Yoritoki said.

“We will need the names of all those in our civilian companies, so that we can keep track of them and ensure accountability.”

Yoritoki’s wife had been quiet up until now. “We will be dealing with one hand that doesn’t know what the other hand is doing. I feel as a result of my prayers, that this will turn into a war between four clans.”

The wife may have been referring to a war between the Fujiwara, Genji, Abe, and Heishi clans, which were the four major samurai clans in Japan at the time. Yoritoki’s wife was a religious leader for the Abe, which meant she was a type of fortune teller.

Yoritoki laughed. “Surely they would not disrespect Buddhism and start wars over gold. I cannot see all four clans fighting each other. That would be a desecration of their deepest beliefs.”

“But we need to watch the general of the Imperial side, Yoriyoshi!” the sage said, with conviction. “We won’t rely on fortune tellers to decide how to handle him.” The sage disregarded what Yoritoki’s wife just said, which was her fortune telling prediction that all four clans would fight each other. “We shall keep an eye on Yoriyoshi. If he starts stealing more of our territory, we shall possibly overlook this a couple of times. But if we are only left with barely half of our land, we shall have to band together and fight him in war, to protect our clan from a downfall. When it comes to protecting our territory, we are not religious every day of the week. We shall watch to see how much of our territory they steal. It will be cheaper to go to war than to lose over half of our land. We will play with this Imperial spider while he stretches his legs into our territory. They have pulled this trick on us before. But they stretch too far and we go for the kill. They tried charming some of our leaders in the past, before they went in and tried to steal their land. Our leaders responded with a single strike on them and took them out. For the time being we will play their game. But, in the end, General Yoriyoshi will attack us. Human nature is never satisfied. It always stays the same.”

Yoritoki bowed his head with reverence, deferring to the wisdom of his elders.

In the meanwhile, the imperial leader assigned to the North, Yoshifumi, had discussions with his men, including Tsunekiyo and Hisashi.

“It appears that the Abe leader uses his daughters to further his political agenda,” Yoshifumi said to his men.”Moreover, I’ve heard rumors that they are secretly preparing their military to attack us. Our General Yoriyoshi made need to trade with these Abe in person. Don’t you think so? We must allow Yoriyoshi to be involved in these negotiations with the Abe.”

Tsunekiyo felt troubled by these comments.

“It’s also a fact that for a period of time,” Hisashi said. “Rumors circulated in the Abe villages that we could use Abe merchants, like we did at Kyushu.”

Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island, became the gateway for trade with China and Korea. Its main city, Hakata, developed as a major center for merchants.

“Is that so?” Yoshifumi added. “But how can this happen when we know so little about their operations? Only about 21.1 percent of the Abe’s trade transactions are known to us. The result of our wars with them has been that they have the luxury of keeping big secrets from us. We devoted sixty-six minutes in our meetings, when we made our agreement with them, and there was no mention of their secret trade agreements with Fengcheng, China. This seems insufficient. How can we allow them to have secret trade negotiations with Fengcheng, China? One of our popular writers has written that even if we don’t have a big center for trade in the North, we need to have a stronger voice in their government, and members of our clan should participate in the Abe government. Because of our military victories in the North, we’re entitled to this. We also discovered as a result of our management of one of their prefectures, that they have a compound for tourists. I wonder who the visitors are? We need to launch investigations. We will have our art of war, like the great Chinese General Sun Tzu. In the light of all this information I’ve uncovered, we understand why they so gush in their promises to us. They take advantage of this intermission in our war with them to gain advantages for themselves.” Yoshifumi yelled. “Tsunekiyo! Hisashi!”

“Yes,” they both answered, looking very troubled.

“From now on, we take a new approach. I now believe that our meeting with them was not as momentous as it appeared. The barriers between us still exist.”

Tsunekiyo turned at looked at Hisashi and saw that he appeared as disturbed over their leader’s new attitude towards the Abe as he was.

“Gold!  They have gold,” Yoshifumi said. “They are rich.” He lowered his head, and screwed his eyes together, as if deep in thought. “I heard that there is a gold mine in the district. I need to know what they’re doing with this gold. I want us to take a look at this treasure in their mountain.”

Tsunekiyo now realized that his promise to Yu to keep secret the gold mine incident to the Japanese was all in vain. He felt his heart drop. Yu had rescued him and his companions at the gold mine, in order to keep secret the Abe gold mine, to prevent a war between the Abe and the Japanese, so she could marry Tsunekiyo. This was like Romeo and Juliet, with Yu as Juliet and Tsunekiyo as Romeo – star-crossed lovers who only wanted to left alone to love each other in peace, who didn’t care about all the politics, but just wanted to be lovers. But somehow word about the goldmine got out. He wondered if it could have been his fellow prisoners at the goldmine who betrayed the Abe’s secret.  But why would they divulge this, when it would only anger the Abe, and jeopardize their new treaty with them? He had to find a way for him and Yu. He was in love with her. But how? His love for Yu would seem youthful foolishness to a world-weary cynic like Yoshifumi. Perhaps Yoshifumi had secret dreams of living a life of ease off of the Abe goldmine. He looked into the eyes of his leader and disliked what he saw there. Yes, it was surely a waste of time to convince Yoshifumi that to be a great lover was more important than to know what the Abe did with their goldmine.

Back at the Abe conference table, one of the Abe’s respected religious leaders warned Yoritoki.

“Tsunekiyo has requested that we allow the Japanese to look at our gold mine?” Yoritoki was alarmed.

“They claim that they need to know all about our gold shipments to China,” the sage said.

“This is a kindergarten war strategy used by many countries when they have invaded a new country, to first launch an investigation into how that new country’s riches are used, and now because of the fame created by Tsunekiyo marrying your daughter, they create another story about how Tsunekiyo discovered our gold and learned our riches go to pay China to betray the emperor. Once they get this rumor started, they then have an excuse for war to get the riches for themselves. There is also, apparently, some poor correspondence going to the capital in the Nara prefecture, by those assigned to monitor our region. The emperor has lost a lot of his power, but his six grandchildren have much power behind-the-scenes. All the Imperial government needs now are rumors that we have betrayed the emperor. That will be just cause for war against us.”

Yoritoki’s face showed alarm, and he became very concerned about this new development. “So Tsunekyo is interfering with our goldmines.”

The Abe kept their end of the deal and shipped to the Japanese what was stipulated in the contract, part of this was a generous wedding present to Tsunekiyo for the holidays, that made it to him in spite of the blizzard. The presents were luxurious and lavish.

Yoshifumi picked up one of the wedding urns that Tsunekiyo received from the Abe. “The Abe have kept their end of the deal, but how do we arrange for a second meeting to discuss our discovery of their gold mine?”

“I will try to get an opening,” Tsunekiyo said, “and arrange for another meeting.”

“And what if they don’t agree to this meeting?” Yoshifumi said.”They, apparently, want to keep this topic dead. To discuss this with us, apparently, will be like waking up a sleeping mother bear. It will cause an uproar.”

“No, to do so will advance peace and encourage open communications between us.”

“I’m afraid,” Yoshifumi said, “that a second meeting will be of no use. It will fail to disclose to us their secret objectives with the goldmines. They will betray us for sure.” He held the wedding urn, a beautiful ceramic vase. “Apparently, the only thing they want to discuss is your wedding to Yoritoki’s daughter, the rest is a mute topic. If they won’t let us deal with their gold and what they do with it, we may just have to cleanse the Abe goldmine corruption with another military attack.”

Tsunekiyo pondered over Yoshifumi’s words. “I’ve been thinking. . .you can select a new route.”

“You can go on dreaming about love and peace, but all those dreams indicate your inexperience and youth.” Yoshifumi became serious. His eyes looked determined. “From experience, I know the best way to deal with traitors. You cannot change them. I’ve had experience with them. We must demand they deliver all the contents of their goldmine over to us for inspection by the end of the year! Don’t expect parents of robbers to turn in their children. Even punishing them will not be enough. Our punishments will be like a walk in the park to them.”

Tsunekiyo turned and faced his leader. “But think, you want to wipe them all out at once without giving them a chance to redeem themselves. Perhaps, their religious leaders can move the people to give us full cooperation. I’ve had dealings with their spiritual leaders. These leaders have great influence among the Abe. Until now, we’ve never tried to appeal to their sense of conscience and morality. It is better to win their hearts than to conquer them.” Tsunekiyo paused to consider. “We can ask them to double their payments to us.”

“We need 15,950 yen which we’ll use for military spending to enforce the contract with the Abe,” Yoshifumi answered.

“I further believe that if we no longer have a border, and open our borders, we won’t need to attack the Abe militarily. This will create a barrier-free zone for trade.” Tsunekiyo leaned forward, striving to convince his leader to adopt a more conciliatory tone with the Abe. “We need a more flexible position to open the way wide for peace negotiations, to take advantage of the major inroads we’ve made with them in the past year.”

Yoshifumi laughed at Tsunekiyo, like Tsunekiyo was a schoolboy. “The way things stand now, we will just have to squeeze them more and more until they rebel and fight us, then everyone will need a sword. We may as well just take them out in one stroke, since they will fight us no matter what we do.” Yoshifumi sneered at Tsunekiyo. “So you think they will listen to their spiritual leaders, and this will stop their rebellion? We shall continue our previous strategy, to go in and attack them. This will be the second phase of our war with them.”

Tsunekiyo was feeling deeply troubled.

In the background, a woman’s voice was heard, yelling. The bamboo walls of their compound echoed with her voice. The door to their compound opened, and one of their soldiers barged in holding Yu who tried to wrest herself from the soldier’s grip. Yu wore her long hair to her waist in a ponytail.

“This woman barged into our compound at midnight!” the soldier said.

The soldiers brought her into the meeting. They had apprehended her. Yu was huffing, obviously trying to free herself from the soldiers. She lifted her head and stared down Tsunekiyo.

“It’s like you fell from the sky,” Tsunekiyo said, staring at Yu in astonishment.

“Liar!” she yelled to Tsunekiyo. “There has been a new development. There are rumors overseas that ships of your soldiers are on their way to us and that this is only the first shipment, more are to come! I thought we were to be married!”

Tsunekiyo’s mouth dropped and he stared in disbelief at Yoshifumi. He was truly embarrassed now. “This is amazing news. I had no idea!” His facial expression clearly indicated his shock. “So soon. . .”

Yu softened upon seeing this.

He looked around himself as if in a daze, like he was in a nightmare and wanted to wake up. He rose from the floor and stumbled over to Yu. “We are engaged. It’s the talk of the town.” He lifted her to him. “Yes, we’re to be married.”

Yoshifumi then said, “Ohhhhhhh. . .how cute.” He paused and then continued. “But the self-defense forces we are sending to the Abe are not an empty threat. It’s true.”

Yu released herself from Tsunekiyo and stared at Yoshifumi.

“We are opponents,” Yoshifumi said to her.

“I did not know this was part of the agreement,” Yu said. “Because of this, our leaders have decreased their payments to support our marriage by eleven percent.”

“Yu!” Tsunekiyo said, grabbing her and seating both himself and her before his leader. “We will have to think of a way to work around what my side has done. It won’t be easy.”

“On the Abe side are also new developments,” Yu said. “I guess what was between us was just a performance and now the show is over. If our love recovers from this, I have a responsibility to you to let you know something, even though I did not intend to be a news messenger or to take sides when I came here. But the Abe have already assembled an army with seven hundred thirty-seven soldiers.”

Yu gazed into Tsunekiyo’s eyes. She looked determined and strong. Tsunekiyo saw that she still had feelings for him and knew not what to say to her, only feeling caught up in a tidal wave of war that he wished was a nightmare from which he’d awaken.

For more about this future writing project, visit Gail’s Books in Progress page.

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