Shogun in the Dark

Mineko: Shogun in the Dark – Not a final edit.

The small shoeless woman, her ragged clothes tattered, torn, reeking of urine and dirt, curled up in a ball as the broad-shouldered guards kicked, pushed and prodded her. Delicate yellow and white flowers, handpicked, that she wanted to sell for a copper coin, lay wilted and broken around her. She reached for them with grime-covered hands between wails of pain, asking, begging for mercy from the guards; she used an ancient tongue from north of the Hitachi province.
The stern and brown weathered face of the lead guard laughed. He watched drool escape from between her lips, his pointed sword just a hands length away from her throat. Not understanding her dialect, “This old woman is crazy,” he declared to the others as he sheathed his tachi. Charged with protecting the old stone gate, he placed a foot against her shoulder. He shoved her hard enough that she tumbled backward awkwardly. Rolling down the slightly inclined path that led to the large gated opening, the beggar’s arms flayed about as she shrieked in pain.
Pedestrians gave her a wide berth as she tumbled into dusty the road. The guards continued to call her names, stomping the Iris flowers into slippery pulp beneath their hard-soled shoes. Smooth stones were thrown, chasing her away, just as one would a stray dog.
Swaying, she scampered to her feet, stumbling, bumping against unsuspecting men and women as they made their way back and forth through the busy street. All of them pulling away, yelling at her in disgust at the foul sight and smell she emitted.

Once on the outside of town, away from the eyes of others, the woman made her way through the thick trees and green underbrush, towards the sound of running water. Reaching the sandy banks of the waterway, she pushed off the disgusting cloak that covered her long hair and mud-caked face. Dropping the tattered rags that doubled as clothing to her feet, she stepped naked into the cool and crisp waters, submerging herself in its cleaning powers.
Recovering the black cotton bag, hidden, hanging in the branches where she had left it, she dressed in black cotton pants, black tunic and long black cloak. After her split-toed socks and sandals, she pulled on a wide straw hat. Its narrow string draped around her neck. Her mind raced with the knowledge of all that she had observed. She had seen the small and rough stones that projected outwards from the smooth and tilted outer granite walls of the castle. The inner wall, almost as tall as the outer wall, a short distance away. There was a multitude of interior guards, protecting the inner passageways, gleaming swords on their sides. Servants scurried about, backs bent, carrying heavy loads in woven straw baskets. Livestock tracks from goats, cows, and oxen in the soft soils. The areas where the brick and stone did not cover. Spires and clay roof tiles, peeking out from within the old camphor trees, left growing too close to the outer walls. Yes, this and more she had noticed while the Samurai guards were busy kicking, laughing and turning her away. Little did they know or suspect her true intent.

Mineko, refreshed from the river bath, smiled to herself as she felt the comfort of the deadly katana once again strapped across her back, pressing against her body.

Soon, it would begin.

Copyright © 1975-2020 RG Dillon. All Rights Reserved.

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