Chapter Ten: One thing leads to another

Entering this required a lot more effort than he had expected himself. Even as he was here now, with both Shinrou and Masami. In an effort to find more in a single event, since almost everyone knew everyone here. Which was the point, they would be able to find out more. As the Samurai class was not a large one, and the Kobayashi from the information he gleaned was based in Okiban. The capital city.

Thus, he was more likely to find more information if he remained here. And as long as he looked around for the right sort of information while he was here. It was best for him to really pick this gathering over anything else. He doubted there was going to be anyone important here, as it not hosted by anyone big. One where most Daimyo would have avoided at all costs.

He chose this for those reasons, and many would simply assume that he was here in an attempt to do a little more connections. Assuming that they were from the countryside. It was or necessity to do so. Otherwise, they would need to produce records, verifiable records.

There were many from the countryside who did so, but those need not be kept so accurate as say the city records. Or one which he would need to spend the time to impersonate or to create a lot of paperwork as an addition. Records from there were often brief, with a date of birth, marriage, death and any children. Most of which were not expected to be as in-depth.

“So, you have done all that you can to ensure they can find something.”

“Well I did that for my wealth and explaining why I came inside with so much. I just needed to manipulate that a little, since I stated I had a native father and of course I could simply change him to become the descendant of a minor Samurai clan and a cadet branch.” Who happened to made it big in their business, even if it was not something many would declare proudly.

“So, what is my role?” Masami didn’t need an explanation since Kazuho could say that she was his sister. Here for a taste of the city and the social scene, an attempt to marry through service and in the court. Not through matchmaking, as it would require a lot of wealth and connections to become truly viable. Something which they could not exactly boast of having, and thus it would be better to see just what would fall into their laps.

“A friend, a potential business partner. Just split while we can, so that we don’t have to actually act like we are friendly with each other in a courteous way.” Which they could say they were close, but not in the way many of them would expect.

“It’s settled either way.”

As they stepped inside, he knew full well of the sort of occasion here. This was often always a gathering about books, a chance to discuss old classics or tales for girls. It was as always, a chance to know someone here. A Samurai had never needed these connections more than now, when there were no wars to be fought. And thus, peacetime meant more for bureaucratic endeavors.

And getting a Shogun to declare war is as difficult as it could get, due to the lack of stability and lack of any ambition. As well as needing to stabilize their conquests itself, having foreign territories up north and land to control. Thus, it was a time for many to seek more connections or to push for sons to become a part of the shogunate.

Inside, as he could see was a quiet gathering. This was held by a rich Samurai family, an attempt to show off their wealth and lineage. The front as it could be seen was a tall, large castle. It was renovated recently, with the paint still fresh. Inside, could be said. They were using the study, with scrolls hung on the walls.

Typical of them were the fact they were old books, perhaps already falling apart. Binding them to become furnishings here were always what they did, in an attempt to save. And from what he could see, all of them were faded, old. And suggested that these were copies from a few decades or even a full century back.

“How old do you think that book is?” A man sat down with him. Curious to know what was going on here at the very least.

“A few decades, perhaps fifty.”

“Around there, it’s been with the family for fifty-six years.” He gave a smile.

“Thought so, the book preserved inside isn’t really that old. It’s a recent work, published eighty years ago. A commentary on the classics and their use in such a time.”

“Indeed, it was something which caught my attention because of his views. It was one which were morphed into the reality of the world and how it has changed.” And changed even further in the last half a century. But his was still usable, still made sense to be followed. A book that expanded on the larger details, etiquette in court and the wisdom exercised.

“You must be here to attend the academy.”

Going along with it would be the best choice here. “Yeah, I came here to attend the academy. I came from a family of merchants, and thought that I was good enough for the capital city.”

Something the man could accept, if he had known philosophies and recent works. Classics were the foundation, but commentaries were normal things to be reading. Principles would one day become obsolete, or it would need to change the reinterpretation to suit the time. Every era was different, as that had been made during the fairly open time of a young shogun.

One with vitality and interest to establish and explore his limits, along with inheriting a larger land mass to work with. One which suggested ambition, and diligence. While one written now, would have been different in its scope.

“What’s your name?”

“Kazuho.” He left it at that, perhaps the man would think that he simply wasn’t keen on the idea of telling his last name. Which was perfectly reasonable in such a setting.

“Eisuke.” Just as he took a seat down. There was a certain comfortability here, where he took a seat without any worry. And assured him that nothing was wrong. Something which told him that he was more than likely familiar or was the owner.

Tea had been offered to them. And he remembered the owner of the house had been of the surname Hayashi. Not the reason why he had came, but mostly because this was a small affair.

“So, you must be attending the fall examinations.” It didn’t start until the mid-autumn, something which he knew about, thankfully.

“Indeed, but there hasn’t been much to do and so I decided to follow my father’s instructions to look around. It takes a while, and it wouldn’t hurt to get to know someone.” And pulled his connections to do so, which were not beyond anyone at this point.

“Where did you come from?”

“Fukusei.”

“I could hear the slight accent there which came from the city.” Using his better common sense, he had chosen to pick the city. Because he had lived there, and it was a mess now which almost no one wanted to touch. The shogunate was still trying to push proper governance into the city, after it had been left alone. It was the place in which the malcontent went to, perhaps to find more like-minded people or in an attempt to move out to foreign countries.

“How do you know that?”

“I’m a merchant as well, and I work with that city often as well as a few other places, including Keito.” And if he had chosen some random place, he would need to be careful. The imperial capital was the place the imperial family of Kyokuhi stayed. Even as they did not hold much political power.

It having been in the full control of the shoguns, for centuries and it was waning but not exactly in favor of them. But rather replacing it entirely, and for the Emperor to perhaps fade even further into obscurity from the political center. “So, how is the imperial capital?”

“It was interesting. Fukusei was fascinating, but working there is both a dream and a nightmare.” He gave a laugh, fully agreeing with his view. Just as Masami had joined him, before she brought someone to him. It was a girl, her kimono showed nothing special.

But there was a symbol on her back, one which meant that she came from the Kobayashi clan. It was a stroke of luck to find her here, and he would need to thank her later. Since he was caught up in another conversation.

“Who is this?” Eisuke stood closer, curious to know what sort of relationship they had shared.

“She’s my sister, Masami.” She gave a light bow. And suggesting that she was here for the attempt to join court, perhaps thinking that it was best for her to come with her brother rather than with another chaperon. Since it would save costs, and also allow her to learn about the etiquette needed to be here. Matchmaking was largely not viable these days, unless it was the wealthy.

And for most families which were surviving barely, it was often always better to see the situation rather than pushing for a match without having met each other.

Which often only begin with the beginning of the new year, which meant that she was early. Although not unusual, since the roads were better traveled during the early autumn than the winter. And it could introduce her to the capital, where it became a place of the shogun’s power and a display.

One which forced powerful clans here, and at the same time became the stage for more social events. Since a shogun had to accept the marriage proposals, in an attempt to curb power or for any family to become too powerful. Although he could not force them to marry anyone except make a strong suggestion.

It had been a huge amount of power, as any family which went against him, he could simply withdraw the validity of the marriage. And any heirs born from it would have been considered ineligible to inherit. Even after, it was still not one which could be overturned. And if there were no more children and no other heirs, could they be adopted.

As such, it was a great deal of trouble to not have the marriage been seen as valid. Much more than actually flouting the Emperor or even convention. Although more so for the Daimyos, and a lot less for the Samurais who had seen their rights all eroded. And the fact that the Shoguns didn’t feel the need to try and match them any longer, giving plenty of compliance in terms of their matches.

Mostly a glancing look and a stamp. As far as he knew. “It’s nice to meet you.” He gave a smile. “And is that your friend?”

“No, we just met.”

“It’s Kobayashi Kanna.” She gave a bow and a smile too. And he looked at her, where she returned back a wink. Since she had found someone, whom he could ask about. They could bring up a different story with her.

“See you around. And it’s Hayashi Eisuke.”

Which suggested that he had been right to say that he was the owner of the house. He had been so. Just as they had headed outside, to the gardens which had been empty for the most part. A chance for them to talk in a more private setting than here.

“So, what did you want to ask about my family?”

“Whose your father?” It did not list her, mostly because it was from two decades ago but would have listed all of the names of those who were married.

“Kobayashi Yuto.”

The brother of the man with a foreign woman as his wife then. The man’s name had been Kobayashi Yuichi. “Have you heard of a man called Kobayashi Yuuichi?”

“He’s my uncle, and he hasn’t been seen in almost two decades. His wife also left the country shortly after, bringing his two year old daughter with him.”

“Can I meet your father? I have some questions for him.” She nodded, even as she was skeptical as to why she was asking about it. Her answer was fairly standard, there was no point in hiding something like that. Even as she had not elaborated more.

“You can find him in the city, he’s here mostly to expand to the city and for my entry into the social scene. He hopes I can land a maidservant, just as it might not seem likely due to the current midaikoro who doesn’t need much of them, due to a few visits. And preferring women of pure Samurai background, not merchants.”

Or any family with enough connections and money to offer them. Which suited him just fine, he didn’t need anything other than a chance. “Although, really why are you looking for him?”

He took out the pendant. And pointed to the small inscription which had the surname on there, including the symbol of the family. A series of forests, because of their name itself. In which she now udnerstood why. “So, you’re asking about this?”

“I’m looking for someone, who had this pendant. Mostly to try to understand where she is from.”

“All right. And as you say, my father would have a better idea on that.” She handed them a small piece of paper, and a location. One which would have been invaluable to him. Rather than heading back to Ayakazu to see what sort of price she would demand from him then. In which she had left the place, and they felt that it was their place to leave. The moment they found Shinrou.

“This place has some amazing flowers, Eisuke.” Passing through the gardens itself, it was a male voice. Not that of a woman. And he turned to see the symbol of a particular clan, the Sasaki. It was one of black paper. Which could suggest their skills in the espionage and being the people the shogun turned to to get rid of his enemies.

“Indeed it does.” In which Kazuho knew that it was better for him first, just as the back showed a girl with the same crest. Perhaps his sister. Masami gave him a look first, knowing that it was simply better for him to make the choice to find Shinrou and leave her here. He nodded, as he stepped away.

While letting Masami give herself away. The Sasaki clan being here was anything but a good sign. He headed back inside, finding Shinrou in the larger crowd at last. “Where were you?”

“We found what we were looking for, Masami managed to find a young woman of the clan. Who had given me the location, and we encountered the Sasaki clan.” And if he was here, suggested that she was there with them. And that they needed to leave as soon as possible. They had left quickly, and ensure they were quiet.

He had walked into the gardens, remembering how they had entered inside. Before hiding behind to take a look. The clan often meant trouble itself. And best for them to not be noticed. Masami had been talking to the girl, one with black hair and light brown eyes. And a tinge of green in them.

“How about you come to our house for a flower gathering? I’m sure you would enjoy it.” Masami didn’t really like it but was not beyond it. It was a place where it could be assured to find many people who might know something. Or make their acquaintance in case nothing else panned out.

“I’m not sure about it. Although I do also have a friend to bring along, she’s a little new to the place and I’m taking her around.” Perhaps in an attempt to—futilely— get away from this. But he could guess that she wasn’t convinced.

“She’s invited as well. So see you there, it takes place a few days from now. I’m sure you would enjoy the garden if you like this. Ours is a lot bigger and we have all sorts of rare flowers, some from abroad itself.”

And of course, he knew what the conversation started on and where it headed. It must have begun from her asking why she was here, and figuring out that she liked the garden. With the other and Eisuke probably having left for the inside. Leaving only them here. “See you there.”

She left before giving a big wave. Just as she nodded, before being aware that she now got herself into quite a bit of trouble. They had came out after that. “What am I supposed to do?” She finally realized that she was no longer able to deny it.

“Go there, there is quite a benefit to being there. You can look for more clues, and perhaps make a few more. And we have to find that, and it seems that it would bring us closer to the harbors. And it’s best if we have another source if this doesn’t go well.”

“True, but with Yuki are you sure it would work?”

“If anything, she can help with this sort of thing. She knows enough to not blow our cover and can provide a great distraction.” Something which Masami was not nearly as good at, the best thing she did was blend into the surroundings. Not asking the right questions, or asking them in a way which did not raise any suspicions.

“All right, this can be a great help.”

“So, it’s settled.” They had things to do, and to look for a few more clues than they could have. They left the place, having achieved their aim while they were here.

EndlessMidnightMoon

From Singapore, wishes to be an aspiring author. Lover of all things, dark, complex and mysterious. Wannabe time traveler.

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