Prologue: A Final Decision

There was no future for her. This last letter sealed her fate. There was no one whom she could reach out to; this had been her limit at last. She weathered it for nearly a month, but without someone to become the regent, it would mean the end. A foreign woman would never find a way to become a shogun’s regent. In a country which prevented a woman and a foreigner from ever assuming much power. There had never been a female Shogun, and only one female Empress who had truly governed. Her candidates were occupied with their own matters, leaving her alone.

“Mama.” The side of the door revealed a boy, which had been her son. His hair ended somewhere on the shoulders, right now it was tied up into a ponytail. His eyes looked straight into hers, as he went to clutch her hand. He was tall, almost to her shoulder. And the same height if she had sat down. He could not leave the palace, even inside he must take caution on who to trust or even where to go. It was a life which she never envisioned for any child of hers. But this was not in her calculation at all. She had not expected that to have happen.

His eyes looked into hers, perhaps knowing that something troubled his mother. But she was someone who spent much of her life playing to the intrigues of the court, and that meant knowing how to mask one’s emotion even when she felt overwhelmed. A lady must learn to keep her head high and accept anything and keep herself indifferent to all that was around her. It was a must to accept things as they were and move on.

Even as the peasants outside was demanding her death. That she had been the cause of the misfortune, and to never let a foreigner ever marry the Shogun again. Accusing her for such a death. In any other times, this would have been taken for nothing more than a joke. But they could manipulate it all they wished because they were in control with the numbers outlasting them.

He did not ask whether they could leave, clear that he understood that it was not possible. Not right now when walking out might cause his death, no one wanted a child to become the Shogun. More so in such times, where their influence was waning due to the reforms in pushing for education. Many powerful families were hesitant, as they guessed that such ideas had been from her head rather than the Shogun. Failing to realize just how important was this to the country’s future development. The feudal lords had no wish to lose their serfs, even as they were now free and serving their master was a choice. But it was the fact that education could mean losing many workers who worked a meager wage.

A learned man would know that his situation was terrible and seek a better opportunity, or become a merchant. But one who never learned the letters would never get such ideas into their heads, not while they were surrounded by people stuck in the same situation and unable to see the wrongness of those ideas.

And thus, her death warranty was all but signed. They would continue to demand it, and if she ran she was making herself too much of a target. They would be looking for any ship bound for South with her face plastered all over. It was easier to have her children run as although they were known, not many had actually paid attention to their appearances. The only definitive had been the garments they wore.

She sighed, running her hands through the boy’s hair. There was something she needed to do. Even as the edge revealed her twin daughters, both were looking at her and their brother. Even as her back was facing the window. In which she heard a sound.

“Ayame.” She called out for her servant. A young woman, with black hair, dressed in the kimono with the iris motif. Her hair had been tied into a low ponytail.

“Follow her out. There is a visitor which I need to entertain.” She had taken them quickly, and left the room. Even as he had stepped into the room. It was their guard, who had failed in protecting the Shogun. She didn’t blame him. It was beyond his own ability to control who would have attacked and the reports revealed that the retinue was vastly outnumbered. A single man couldn’t change much in this situation.

But for this, just the death of her alone was enough to turn their attention. Custom demanded that she kill her own children before taking her own life. “What are you planning to do?” He had asked the question out of the knowledge that he would follow her if it was the death. Their deaths could end this, fleeing was out of the question with them.

“Bring me to them.” He nodded before stepping out first, waiting for her to follow. She took a dagger with her before following him.

The next day, it was a moment of silence. As the protests stopped, the uproar had gotten the objective they wanted: the deaths of the traitors. Even as their next move remained uncertain, they celebrated upon the truth. Save for one, a young boy looked up to the display that was before his eyes. He had neither spoken nor moved. For it was his mother’s corpse.