4 Dispatches and Decrees

 

Mikaki mori

Eji no taku hi no

Yoru wa moe

Hiru wa kie tsutsu

Mono wa koso omoe


(Nakatomi no Yoshinobu)

 


Warlord Isanari no Moritake sat quietly for a few moments, looking at the package from the Imperial capital.


Yanagi asked, "Shall we leave, Lord Commander?"


"No, you might as well stay. This will be common knowledge soon enough, I imagine. An hour or two won't matter in your cases." Isanari carefully opened the package and sorted through the twenty sealed letters it contained. "Hmm. Five letters for the Most Noble Prince addressed with ordinary handwriting and marked with personal seals, two letters for the Noble Lord Miyabe no Kagemitsu, similarly addressed and marked. Two letters for the Most Noble Prince addressed in official court hand and covered with official seals ... three letters of credit drawn against the Imperial share of this year's taxes: two in the name of the Most Noble Prince and one in the name of Noble Lord Miyabe no Kagemitsu."

 

The Warlord waved at the waiting messenger. "Have someone take these immediately to the quarters of the Most Noble Prince and return here yourself at once." The man bowed, picked up the letters carefully, and hurried out.


Isanari sat still for a moment, staring at the remaining packets. Three were marked as general proclamations and could be set aside to be read later. As for the rest, the fact that only three were 'official' documents was less than encouraging: the other two, which were marked with the personal seal of the reigning emperor, carried more real authority than the court missives. The Warlord decided to read the 'official' missives first, since they looked short.


The first one was dated the Twenty-eighth day of the Ninth month of the Second year of the current reign: the morning after the Prince's capture. Translated out of formal Court dialect into something approximately resembling ordinary human speech, it said:


Oh worthless and incompetent servant: know that it needed no laggard message from your worthless self to inform Us of Our Beloved Kinsman's torment. Rather are the slumbers of the Highborn distressed and the very sleep of the Heavenborn rendered unrestful. That officer most liable for Our Kinsman's safety, if he yet lives, shall die the most shameful death known to history or custom, regardless of Our Beloved Kinsman's Fate. If Our Beloved Kinsman should die while yet captive, the Samurai administering Our Domains have Our generous permission to remove their worthless selves from the lands of the living. Further instructions shall follow as appropriate.

 

The Warlord passed the missive to the others at the table without comment.

 

Yanagi snorted, "Think Tajima will appreciate the mildness of his sentence now?"

 

"Probably not," Minister Ninori replied, "But I suspect that the suspended sentence will make some of the Clan Lords who disapprove of the efforts spent on the land-healings much more solicitous for the Most Noble Prince's welfare."


"Suspended sentence?" asked Taka.


Kiyoie explained, "Nothing in this kind of message is there accidentally. Sending us a message that includes a conditional death sentence for the Clan Lords is a warning that their lives are forfeit if the Most Noble Prince should come to serious harm at any time in the future."


Warlord Isanari turned his attention to the second message, which was dated the First day of the Tenth month, Second year of the current reign: the morning of the Prince's escape from his captors.


Oh doubly worthless and incompetent servant: know that again your laggard messages prove redundant, for the Power manifested by Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman in smiting his foes did shake the very pillars of Heaven. Should the Power of Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman overwhelm the fabric of the mortal shell in which Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman is presently manifest, Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman shall be fittingly enshrined. Should Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman deign to remain manifest, Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman shall be granted every reverence suitable to a Manifest Power of the First Rank. Nor shall the merest whim of Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman regarding punishment of those corrupt servants that so ignominiously failed in their duty go unregarded.

 

Isanari groaned and passed the second missive to the Archivist. "What does that mean in plain speech?" he asked.


Yamashiro read the message quickly. "The Imperial household felt that last burst of power the Most Noble Prince used to escape from the enemy, and it was enough to qualify him as a First Rank Noble in his own right, as though he were a Divine Power. If he died of a Power overload, we were to enshrine him as a Divine Power. Since he didn't die, we still treat him as a Divine Power, on the same level as the Heavenborn Monarch, but without owing him our direct allegiance ... I'll have to look up the correct forms for address for a Divine Power in human form other than the Heavenborn. The last bit means that the Most Noble Prince has full authority to deal with those involved in letting him be captured."

 

"I understood the last part." Isanari couldn't think of an adequate response to the news that he had a Divine Power living under his roof. Expressing relief that the Twilight Prince would soon be moving out seemed like very bad taste, if not sacrilegious given the Most Noble Prince's new status.


He sighed, and turned to the next message, dated the Fourth day of the Tenth month: three days before the present.


Most abjectly incompetent of servants: know that your incomplete and unsatisfactory accounts of the events that induced Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman to manifest in the full Majesty of His Power have now come to Our Hands. These accounts shall be amended with all possible speed. For all areas outside the boundaries of Amekudare no Miyako itself, as regards both punishment and reward in all matters relevant to the recent desecration of Our Domains by armies from outside, Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman speaks with Our Heavenborn Tongue and strikes with Our Heavenborn Hand.


Isanari quickly opened the three official proclamations and found, as he had expected, that they were rephrasings for public consumption of the conditional sentences on Kanehide and the Domain Lords and the announcements of the Prince's elevation to Divine and Plenipotentiary status. He passed them to the messenger for immediate posting, reflecting that the public announcement of the new status of the Clan of Kawachi was going to seem anticlimactic.

 

The Warlord turned to the twins. "Taka, Moeri. Please find your father and inform him that the Throne has 'requested' a full report on the circumstances surrounding the Most Noble Prince's capture and escape. I realize that the Senior Commander hasn't had much time for his investigation, but I would appreciate an interim report after supper this evening."

 

"I can understand that!" Taka bowed and rose to her feet.

 

Moeri followed her. "The Heavenborn sounds ... annoyed," he commented in his soft voice.

 

The General bowed also, "I think the rest of us have tasks that we should be performing," he said as he got to his feet.


The Warlord nodded a quick half-bow in response. "Yamashiro, stay please. We need to discuss the Most Noble Prince's new status."


The Dragon's Wife and the Minister of Finance and his son immediately bowed, rose, and left.


Warlord Isanari braced himself, and opened the smaller of the two 'personal' messages from the Heavenborn Monarch. Like the last of the official messages, it was dated the Fourth day, Tenth month, Second year of the reign.

 

Moritake: it is Our eventual intent to remove from Our Cousin the present inadequate title of Prince and High Priest of the Shrine of Evening Shadows and devise a new title more suitable to the newly revealed majesty of Our Cousin's Manifest Power. In the meantime it is Our earnest desire that the mundane authorities do everything possible to divert the attention of Our Most Noble and Revered Kinsman from the affairs of Amekudare no Miyako, thus avoiding the impropriety of a meeting between Ourselves and the One who has as yet been so inadequately honored.

 

In the matter of the healing of the land, We recommend that greater care be taken with Our Kinsman's Person in the future, as there is not now in Ashihara Our Cousin's equal in both Power and learning in such matters. Nor should Our Cousin be subjected unnecessarily to the dangers of overwork, lest the majesty of his Power overwhelm him.

 

We recommend also that great care be taken for Our Cousin's comfort and entertainment, as the shell in which His Power is Manifest remains mortal. Our archives suggest that such Manifest Powers are as vulnerable to ill-health due to isolation and excessive asceticism as they are to the hazards of excessive Power use. If Our Cousin should express an interest in establishing a proper household at last, suitable Consorts can be provided at short notice from among the clans of the Highborn. Such other advice regarding proper treatment of a Manifest Power as may be gleaned from the archives will be sent to you under separate cover.

 

Enclosed with the letter was a tiny slip of paper on which was written a single line: "Moritake: Please be kind to Inabikari. Don't let him be lonely. Toyomoto." After a moment's thought the Warlord remembered that the signature was the personal name of the reigning emperor. He decided that 'Inabikari' must be the personal name of the Most Noble Prince, who had been Prince of the Shrine of Evening Shadows from such an early age that he had never been referred to in public in any other way. More than a little shaken, he carefully put the tiny note away.

 

The Warlord opened the large packet, and glanced through its contents before handing it to the Yamashiro. "Archival material on proper treatment of a Manifest Power." He hesitated a moment, then added, "And this," and handed the Archivist the long 'private' letter as well.

 

When he had read it, Yamashiro commented, "Amazing, isn't it, Lord Commander? The Court has never seemed as anxious about the damage caused by the invasion as they are about this matter of an inconveniently heroic cousin."

 

Isanari sighed. "I thought the Most Noble and Revered Monarch and his advisers made their reaction to the recent decrease in tax receipts abundantly clear ... If they had been paying more attention to the progress of the war, I doubt any of us Domain Lords would remain among the lands of the living."

 

"At least they are encouraging the Most Noble and Revered Prince to remarry, which will be a relief to his new vassals in Kawachi," Yamashiro pointed out. "Three years is a long time for a man who is the last of his line and lacks heirs to remain unmarried. Do you suppose he is still grieving for his late wife?"


"You were apparently fortunate enough to avoid dealings with the late Jewel Priestess." The Warlord shuddered, but met Yamashiro's quizzical look squarely: he had no intention of trying to describe the studied cruelties and subtle humiliations of the inner Court to a man who had been spared even his own mercifully brief experiences of them. "Since the Most Noble Prince is a kind man, and seems quite sane, I doubt that he grieved much for her," he said. "More likely, political maneuvering has caused the delay. Since the Most Noble and Revered Heavenborn Monarch lacks children of his own, the father of the Most Noble Prince's bride may well become the father-in- law or grandfather of an emperor."


Yamashiro nodded ruefully. "And the Highborn lords are all anxious to gain that power and prestige for themselves, of course, or at least deny it to their rivals. Sometimes I wonder if the Powers and spirits find our human antics absurd, or merely sad."

 

* * *

 

The Twilight Prince had fallen asleep again after the Minister's party left them. Kagemitsu decided his Lord's need to rest and recover his strength was greater than his need for whatever information might be in the letters.


One of his own letters was marked with his mother's seal, the other, with the seal of Prince Hatoriko Hikagami. Prince Hikagami was a relative of the current Prince and High Priest of the Shrine of Evening Shadows who had been part of the household of the late Retired Fire Emperor (the previous High Priest of the Shrine) and had remained in residence to serve as one of the shrine's priests.


The letter from his mother, Tamae, contained about what Kagemitsu had expected: expressions of love and concern and admonitions to be careful of his own health and safety and that of the Prince. There was also some court gossip, and the usual questions about whether he or the Prince had met anyone who interested either of them as a consort. Tamae had been the Prince's wet-nurse and considered that the Prince could give her grandchildren to spoil as well as her blood son 'assuming either of them ever gets around to having children'.


The letter from Prince Hikagami was much more surprising, and much more worrying.


Dearest Kagemitsu:

As you know, I have never formed a household of my own despite my rank. I have spent most of my adult life as Mirror- consort to the late Retired Emperor, and remained in this Shrine as a priest after my Lord's death to avoid the hazards presented by my enemies among those in power. I now find myself thinking of forming a household, as I have outlived my worst enemies and there are rumors that a new Prince of the Shrine of Evening Shadows will be named shortly.

 

When I do establish a household of my own I intend to ask your dear mother to join me as an acknowledged consort. Formal acknowledgment of your paternal ancestry can also be arranged, if you would find it convenient, as I have heard that the Samurai class you are now dealing with are rather narrow-minded in such matters. Or not, if that is your preference.


I assure you, most humbly, that the depth of my respect and affection for yourself and your mother is now and has ever been beyond measurement.


Hikagami

 

Kagemitsu put the letter down and just sat for a few minutes, stunned. The situation required an immediate response, but he found himself at a loss. He had not the slightest intention of rejecting that hesitant offer of acknowledgment, but feared that too eager a response might imply a rebuke for the previous lack of acknowledgment that he did not intend. It was certainly very odd to be asked at the age of twenty-three to give one's blessing for one's parents' marriage. Finally he got out pen and ink and paper, and began to write.


The Noble Prince Hikagami, Dearest Father:

I cannot remember a time when I was in doubt as to the identity of my father or the love he felt for me and for my mother. I can barely remember a time when I did not understand the danger that your enemies posed for us all. I rejoice to learn that you believe the danger has decreased and that my parents can now govern their lives by preference as well as by prudence.


I truly have not felt any hardship due to being unacknowledged, but would greatly value the privilege of expressing my love and respect for you to the world. Better to have unacknowledged but loving parents than to be acknowledged and orphaned, like our dear Prince, or acknowledged but ignored like so many others among the Highborn. Please look to your own safety and convenience first in this matter.


May I respectfully inquire what family name you wish me to use if you do me the honor of acknowledging our kinship? The name that I adopted when I manifested Power and won my present rank, or the name you yourself were granted after being sacrificed?


Our Twilight Prince has suffered greatly, and I fear the effect on him of the loss of the Shrine, which has been his home and refuge for so long. I would appreciate any news or advice you might provide.


I send my sincerest wishes for your continued health and happiness.

Miyabe no Kagemitsu


Kagemitsu quickly wrote a second note, addressed to his mother and expressing similar sentiments. Then he went out to the administrative offices of the Warlord and made very sure that both notes would be included in the next group of dispatches sent to Amekudare no Miyako.


When he returned to the Prince's suite, Kagemitsu found his Lord just awakening from his nap. The courtier sent a servant for tea and a light meal. It was very convenient to have permission to view his Lord with mage-sight, since he could judge the state of the Prince's recovery much more easily this way.

 


The Twilight Prince demolished the meal quickly: it seemed to him that he was constantly hungry now, as his body replaced the material lost to his injuries and to the healing process. Kagemitsu sent for more food, and brought out the letters from the capital.


The Prince sighed and poured himself more tea before opening the first of the official communications, which had been written on the day of his escape from captivity.


From the Most Noble and Revered Heavenborn Sovereign, to Our Most Noble and Revered Cousin, Inabikari, Manifest Power of the First Rank, greetings: Most Noble, Honored and Revered of Kinsmen, the Power manifested by Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman in smiting his foes did shake the very pillars of Heaven and light the skies of Amekudare no Miyako. Mindful that Our Most Noble and Revered Cousin labored in Our behalf at the time of the events that called forth the majesty of such an outpouring of Power, it is Our sincere hope that Our Most Noble and Revered Cousin will direct no wrath toward Us for the abysmal incompetence of Our servants, that so ineptly exposed Our Most Noble and Revered Kinsman to discourteous treatment. Should Our Most Noble and Revered
Kinsman deign to remain Manifest, Our Most Noble and Revered Kinsman shall of course be granted every reverence suitable to a Manifest Power of the First Rank, augmented in such ways as may seem appropriate as reward for One that has suffered in the service of the Throne. Neither shall the merest whim of Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman regarding punishment of those corrupt servants that so ignominiously failed in their duty go unregarded by any in Our service.

 

"Kagemitsu," the Twilight Prince exclaimed in disbelief, "I've been declared a Manifest Power of the First Rank!"

 

"May the Most Noble and Revered Prince's inadequate servant be permitted to be the first to pay proper respect to the Most Noble and Revered Prince?" Kagemitsu prostrated himself in a full obeisance, with a deliberate and slightly exaggerated flourish.


The Prince grabbed a handful of the courtier's waist-length hair and tugged gently. "Get up, fool," he snorted, "and stop clowning. Come take a look at this ... this ... "


Kagemitsu got up and leaned over the missive. "Must have been written by that secretary who looks like a puffer fish."


"I doubt it, I think he died in the plague. But apparently even puffer fish have apprentices ... I suppose anything written in a style this stuffy has to be authentic," the Prince added doubtfully.


"The Most Noble and Revered Prince, being busy at the time, was no doubt unaware of the Power levels being generated. It is unlikely that any other mage or Power in Ashihara remained similarly unaware." Kagemitsu paused, then added more seriously, "The Manifestation was true, Most Noble and Revered Prince, and the Attribution of Power will hold."


"But, Manifest First Rank? Only deities and dragons count as Manifest First Rank Powers."


"Yes, Most Noble and Revered Prince," Kagemitsu agreed cheerfully. "And Retired Emperors, by courtesy. The Most Noble and Revered Prince will no doubt find that his new status closely resembles that of a Retired Emperor."

 

The Prince groaned theatrically, "With all respect to my Esteemed Great-Grandfather, after spending my childhood in the household of a Retired Emperor, I think I'd rather find a cave to hide in." He sighed. "At least it may take a while for the sycophants to gather, this far from the Imperial capital."


Kagemitsu nodded. "May the Most Noble and Revered Prince's servant inquire what penalties the Most Noble and Revered Prince will inflict upon the military authorities?"


"Oh, nothing ... Senior Commander Kanehide is gone, and none of the others had any real voice in the matter. All this property I've been given is sufficient, especially if it gives me a vote on the council." Kagemitsu looked doubtful, so the Prince continued firmly, "Kagemitsu, I DO NOT punish people for acts that were not their own ... I saw more than enough of that in my wife's household."


The courtier bowed reluctantly. "As the Most Noble and Revered Prince chooses, of course." He still felt that the manners and efficiency of the Samurai would be improved by a demonstration of his Lord's status and prerogatives, but would not presume to dispute his Lord's decision.


The Prince picked up the second official letter, dated three days earlier, and read it.


From the Most Noble and Revered Heavenborn Sovereign, to Our Most Noble and Revered Cousin, Inabikari, Manifest Power of the First Rank, greetings: Having been provided with recent incontrovertible evidence of the inadequacy of Our mundane servants, We have determined to delegate full supervisory power to Our Most Noble and Revered Cousin, that Our Cousin, being best situated to observe the labors of Our revoltingly inadequate servants may also have the authority to chastise their inadequacies. For all areas outside the boundaries of Amekudare no Miyako itself, as regards both punishment and reward in all matters relevant to the recent desecration of Our Domains from outside, it is therefore decreed that Our Most Revered and Noble Kinsman speaks with Our Heavenborn Tongue and strikes with Our Heavenborn Hand. We entreat Our Most Noble and Revered Kinsman that He will occasionally and at His convenience inform Us of the progress of His endeavors.


"So much for a refuge from sycophants," the Twilight Prince commented as he handed the letter to Kagemitsu. "I wonder if Samurai sycophants are any less slimy than the Highborn variety ... I'll have to be even more careful about making casual remarks where other people can hear them: it would be terrible to have someone get killed doing something stupid that he thinks I have ordered."


"Especially if he took others with him, as fools seem prone to do," Kagemitsu agreed, "In all honesty, Most Noble and Revered Prince, this servant does not consider the late Kanehide to be a serious loss to anyone, but it is a pity that the other samurai were also lost."

 

"Mmm." The Prince sipped at his tea.


The courtier watched his lord for a moment, then warned gently, "The Most Noble and Revered Prince will now be held accountable by the Throne for the progress of the war, even if no use is made of this new authority."

 

"I know," the Prince replied wearily, "but ... " He looked down at the letters and fidgeted with them, while Kagemitsu watched him worriedly.


"At least the Most Noble Prince can use his authority to prevents others from abusing their authority," the courtier offered.


The Prince looked away. "Perhaps," he agreed reluctantly. He looked over the other letters, and rather hesitantly picked up one that carried the personal seal of the reigning emperor. It was also dated three days earlier, and said:


From the Most Noble and Revered Heavenborn Sovereign, to Our Most Noble and Revered Cousin, Inabikari, Manifest Power of the First Rank, greetings: We hope most sincerely that You will soon recover from the injuries You received at the hands of Our enemies. We are well aware of Our indebtedness for Your services to Our Throne, the harm You have suffered while laboring in Our behalf, and the honor We have gained through the Manifestation of such Power by one in Our service. If there is any manner in which Our inept servants may work to increase Your comfort, it is Our earnest desire that You should demand it of them. Similarly, do not hesitate to chastise their shameful ineptness: as You have the best cause to know where the rotten branches hang, We trust You to prune them most efficiently. Do not be overly gentle with these fools of the servile classes, for had they previously displayed proper respect for You and dutiful attention to Our commands Your misfortune would not have been possible. We urge You to impose such penalties as You deem fit upon the Domains' Council, in whole or in part. Let them tremble at the thought of Your annoyance and dread the sequel of any future carelessness with Your comfort and safety.

 

It has been represented to Us that, in view of Your newly Manifested Rank and Your current absence from the capital, it would be most proper to install another as High Priest of the Shrine of Evening Shadows and acknowledge another, more appropriate title for Your Most Revered and Noble Self. When the present emergency has ended, a Palace appropriate to Your new dignity shall be provided at a convenient distance from Our own.

 

Kindly inform Us of the title that would be congenial to Your Most Revered and Noble Self. And do not hesitate to notify Us of any accessories, proper to the dignity of One who would rank above the Retired Emperor if such presently existed, which are unavailable at Your present location. In particular, although We are aware that Your memories of Your first marriage are less pleasant than might be desired, We strongly urge You to select consorts of appropriate ranks and clans as soon as may be convenient.

 

Kagemitsu 'saw' the Prince's aura fill with grief, and asked gently, "Most Noble and Revered Prince? Is there bad news?"


The Twilight Prince could not stop the tears that began to flow from his eye, and he began to tremble a bit as he whispered, "I am forbidden to return home to the Shrine of Evening Shadows, and ordered to marry as soon as possible."


The courtier mentally cursed the Nobles who could not even give his Prince time to heal one set of injuries before they inflicted new pain. Kagemitsu put his arms around his friend, hugged him hard, and waited for the trembling to stop. The Prince collapsed against him, sobbing. "Gently, Noble Prince," he soothed, "gently."


When the Prince had regained some of his composure, Kagemitsu brought water so that his Lord could bathe his face and hands. "Does my Most Noble and Revered Prince want the other letters now?" he asked, "Or would my Noble and Revered Prince prefer to rest awhile?"

 

"I might as well read the others now. I suspect I've had all the bad news, now, since the rest are all from friends. Make us some more tea, why don't you ... " The Prince sorted through the remaining letters and selected one bearing Prince Hikagami's seal. Kagemitsu made himself busy preparing the tea, and waited.

 

A moment later the Prince said, "Kagemitsu ... " in a very odd tone.

 

"Most Noble and Revered Prince?" Kagemitsu smiled to himself, but did not look up.


"Did you receive a letter from Prince Hikagami in this set of dispatches?"

 

"Yes, Most Noble and Revered Prince." Kagemitsu did look up this time.

 

"Kage-san, you can look remarkably smug at times," the Prince said with a chuckle, "Well, I'm glad one of us got some good news ... Congratulations. I assume you sent an immediate reply."


Kagemitsu nodded, and the Prince chuckled again.

 

The Prince picked up another letter and read through it quickly. "Do we have plenty of warm clothing for the winter, Kagemitsu?"


"My Mother?"


"Mmm. She's still fussing about the fact that we only took three pack horses when we left Amekudare no Miyako ... She also makes a point of mentioning how many new babies there are in the capital these days."


Kagemitsu grinned, "My Noble and Revered Prince's servant received a similar communication, and assured the Lady Tamae that the local markets could supply any shortcomings."


"Of ladies as well?" teased the Prince. Kagemitsu merely chuckled.


The fourth letter was a gossipy scrawl from the Prince's cousin the Princess Asami, full of hopes for his quick recovery and news of court events that seemed very far away and meaningless. It ended with a promise to come visit him in the spring, if the roads were safe enough. He read it in silence, and sighed a little. It was hard to imagine his fluttery young cousin against the backdrop of the mundane capital, especially in its present grim state.


The final missive came from Asami's mother, with the same date as the letter from the Heavenborn Sovereign.

 

From Yugao, Princess and High Priestess of the Midnight Shrine, to the Most Noble and Revered Prince and High Priest of the Twilight Shrine, greetings.


My Dear, If you have not yet read the latest communications you have received from the Most Noble and Revered Heavenborn Monarch, do so before reading the rest of this letter. Do not worry unnecessarily over matters here, but trust Prince Hikagami and me to watch out for your interests and your personal effects. It is rumored that the Twilight shrine will go to an Air Mage kinsman of the Most Noble and Revered Heavenborn Monarch, most likely one of your late wife's brothers. With Hikagami's aid, who was present from the beginning of your predecessor's tenure, I will ensure that our foes inherit nothing that was paid for out of your personal funds or those of the Most Noble and Revered Late Fire Emperor, our kinsman, even if it means stripping the shrine to its bare walls. I only regret, after the harm they have done over the years to you and Hikagami and others of our kin, that it is impractical to deprive them of the value of the repairs that were made to the shrine itself at your expense or your predecessor's.

 

Do not panic at being urged to marry again: rather consider that this time you will be head of your own household and recall how reluctant the late Jewel-Priestess was to subject herself to the rigors of full ritual observance as practiced in your personal household. Inform the court that you will dutifully accede to their wishes in the matter of your remarriage if they will find you consorts of the highest ranks who will willingly observe all of the ritual prescriptions and prohibitions. It is your right, and the ensuing delay will provide you with ample time to seek out consorts that will please you. If you wish to remain unmarried indefinitely, despite your need for heirs, ask for virgins over the age of 16, or make similar absurd but plausible requirements. Meanwhile, I shall be seeking in the less fashionable and favored circles of the capital for young people you might find congenial.

 

I hope to visit you in the spring, if the Heavenborn, the weather, and the military situation will allow. Please take care of yourself until then, and send me word occasionally. Give my regards to your foster-brother, and my congratulations on his parents' marriage. Yugao.

 

"Noble Powers!" the Prince exclaimed in awe. "Kage-san, look at this!" He handed the letter to his attendant, who read it quickly and began to laugh.


"The Most Noble Princess makes a formidable opponent," the courtier observed. "Your successor has my sympathy. According to some of the older servants, the Shrine of Evening Shadows was not habitable at the time of the Fire Emperor's retirement, so that for three years he lived elsewhere and only came to the shrine to perform rituals while it was being renovated ... The Most Noble Princess' ideas regarding your marriage are also sound, but, if your servant may say so, insufficiently imaginative ... "

 

"What do you suggest?"

 

"The Most Noble and Revered Prince has no particular need for virgins, although to be head of a household and have a chief consort without a squad of other current lovers would certainly be an improvement over my Lord's previous experience. What the Most Noble and Revered Prince requires," Kagemitsu grinned rather maliciously, "are trained Priests and Mages who can assist properly in dealing with the demons ... And are willing to leave the Imperial capital in order to do so."


The Prince thought for a moment, then slowly returned the grin. "With a great deal of emphasis on the need for full ritual observance, and on the demons ... Fetch me a pen and ink and some paper, I need to reply to all of this." He waved at the letters scattered about him, and Kagemitsu turned away to get the writing equipment. "Oh, and Kagemitsu ... "


"Most Noble and Revered Prince?"


"Send for one of the Warlord's official scribes. The Most Noble and Revered Heavenborn Monarch did not write to me in his own hand, not even when discussing my marriage, so it would be proper, I think, to practice a similar level of formality in informing the court of my requirements."

 

Kagemitsu snickered. "Of course, Most Noble and Revered Lord ... Lord Ninori should know who the stuffiest puffer fish is."

 

 

Copyright 1991 Elyse M. Grasso