Chapter Seventeen: Entering A Road Of No Return

The library was bright that it had been an old building, mostly in style. With the paint slightly faded, suggesting age. Even more so were the steps, which seemed so out of place with the other architecture. And understanding that this was a deliberate move, meant to preserve what little history they had left at this point and little else.

She went up to the steps, feeling as though she was much younger than perhaps the steps alone. Like how the shogun’s palace would really feel, something so removed and has been standing for centuries. Even as the castle was only here for the last two centuries having been damaged in a great fire and could no longer be the residence and moved to than an older but also more massive palace.

While it was renovated and remained the same since. But this was the way they showed they were a powerful clan, that their hold on the country had not diminished. Even as such old buildings still stood in their name. When most would have abolished it. There was beauty in preserving, and she honestly saw why.

Just as they were about to enter, she took in a deep breath. Reading herself for what was within. She was dressed in a black dress, with a similar colored coat as her guide. She was dressed in a simple black haori, although Enyou chose an orange mantle this time around, a loose cape that was worn by women only. As it was rather short but still warm, but only popular with the shogun as it was long but without feeling too warm and adding on too many layers.

Quite unlike the way that the court ladies in the imperial family was treated, raised in seclusion and wearing the twelve layered kimono, or sometimes five. But this was enough. Inside, as the middle of the room was taken up by chairs. And in the middle sat a young woman, while wearing a purple mantle, and inside a light lavender kimono.

Her hair was tied into a low ponytail, by the side of her hair. The lady sat with a book on her lap, surrounded by various other noblewomen as well. Now as they stepped and took the three remaining seats. And shortly after was followed by a young girl running in. The youngest amongst them all.

She closed the book and placed it to the side. “Pick a book, and we shall discuss it, the library here is one of many histories and books that you can’t find anywhere else.”

This was mostly because they were a mighty clan, and many of the shoguns had spent their childhood overseas and traveling and collecting such treasures. Things that the entire country might no longer have or classics. Even as it was clear that none of them could take it out.

And this was also something to amuse her. “Her brother holds another himself, a chance to really interact around with his peers. But my brother does not attend it.”

Which was a good thing, typically. Even as they all got up, knowing what to do. She mostly remained, a little confused as to what was happening. And also taking the chance to introduce her. “This is Sachiko, my friend, and the person I was recommending.”

“I really like books, particularly ones regarding medicines, plants, herbs. Even if they are ancient, which to me were all the better. Sometimes there are things hidden inside them that we would never fully notice.” She gave a slight smile.

“Are you Saitou Sachiko then?” She asked. Which meant that word traveled around quite fast. Or the shogun had kept tabs on her.

“How did you know?”

“You are dressed in black, and you should be around that of an eligible young woman. And so far, there is only Sachiko who is the daughter of the late Daimyo Senwari. I am sorry for your loss.” In a way, she was speechless. It seemed that she did on some level underestimate the shogunate and even her.

The ability to fit, and to commit themselves to memory. And here she thought almost few others knew about her existence. And yet, she was able to. “To rule, we must always know who we are ruling, our subjects even if they may seem small. But even knowing their name goes a long way.”

“You’re right about that. A person who does not care to know the names of the people he is ruling, or even try to know them. Is a monarch who will be reviled and hated.” And of course, showing just how they
had managed to hold onto power for so long. If even a daughter of their clan managed to gain such an understanding of statesmanship and what it meant to rule and the duties that came with it.

She stepped away, to really begin to look for a book.

Enyou led the way for her, bringing her to a small shelve while still keeping a lookout. “Either way, we need to ensure that we are not seen taking a book here. No one comes here simply because it’s too dangerous. If we are found, we can be banished from ever stepping foot into here again.”

Which she did not doubt if this was the place they chose to hide their secrets. Just that few would be able to remember almost anything unless they decided to stay clear and not let their curiosity get the better of them. Something difficult but this was a particular case when it came to them, mostly because Enyou had spent months treading here and learning all the ways they could hide.

Just as Sachiko chose to slide into the nearby shelve before deciding to leave. Allowing them to really pick it. And have them think. “We have fifteen minutes, and so we need to make use of every bit of it as we can.”

It was not a lot of time, and there was only how much they could bluff them into thinking she was lost. Eventually, they would need it while they were nowhere. She quickly started looking, mostly trying to see where it was and trying her best to slowly sift through the large shelf. Entirely off limits which made sense if there were to visitors.

So that almost no one would accidentally stumble onto something which would have been locked away by the country. Made it easier and harder at the same time. Even as she was grabbing the books along until she found one similar, to a record. Also as Enyou gave a light knock and she quickly darted for the opposite while holding a book and hiding its title.

This was a library of many treasures, and thus why they were given so much time to actually really find them. They wanted each as Enyou was convincing them that she was looking while also grabbing Sachiko’s copy according to her own choices.

She had found it, although it was far too early. And she reached a level down at the exact same spot, perhaps guessing that it was the right place to find it. She reached to take out the book, realizing that she was right. This was a pattern that she was seeking. Just as she chose to lower herself once more, in an attempt to really dig it out.

And there was where she found the records of all that existed in the last decade. She snatched it up and scurried over to Enyou. To tell her that they had found it. For Enyou, the tricky part was only because she was alone with no one else. And this was the only environment that this could fly in. Provided Enyou knew how to cover all her angles.

Which was sure given her own personal experiences and also ensuring that this would remain a huge success. She went forward and chose to hide it herself. It was a medium-sized book, although of many pages but manageable. Mostly because she knew that they also needed to smuggle this as well, and making it difficult was still counterproductive to this as well.

She hid it between her sleeves, able to do so, despite it being rather large. It was a furisode, with large sleeves. Even as it was less common in this era, where narrower sleeves were more in fashion. Instead of paired with short coats to give volume, while easy enough for them to remove if need be.

And allowed her the chance to really hide this. As Enyou would be able to keep herself more in it, but this was the dress for mourning. Mostly simple, with no decoration and large sleeves which allowed her to hide a large book. That was enough as she took hers, giving a small smile to Enyou.

Shying away from any word about what they did. Only small hints and clues. Since she would need to be on alert. Just as they returned back to take their seat among the many other girls. All of whom had shown their books.

Deep down, she was nervous, uneasy whether anyone had seen her. And that this was a sign that she could not go back. Such theft was not allowed and was a far worse crime than accidentally taking them out to see those books.

There was a step into a road that she could never turn back on. She held the book, carefully while ensuring that it did not slip. “That’s an interesting choice, Sachiko.”

She looked up, looking around her face but it wasn’t as though they would be allowed to look into their eyes at all. That was disrespect even as times had relaxed and they need not prostrate themselves when they met the shogun, just a deep bow to suggest more. But this was still something they should not do.

She handed them. Using her right hand, to the servant who brought it to Miyo. While feeling into her sleeves. Where she had to ensure that it remained there and nothing could really fall out of it. Once it did, she was done. Enyou kept her eyes in case she needed to intervene but also carefully.

“This is one of the many. An older version of an engineering book, even as the author has been dead for three centuries. But he was one who created the blueprints and invented quite a fair bit of things.” And on the first page, revealed that it was all about weapons and firearms.

Although on it were the scribblings of a child, as well as extra notes on who it was made from and the technology at the time. And she saw it, before closing it. It was not that of anyone, but perhaps someone who had used it as her personal copy. “And it seems that this was also a copy made since scribes did that when any one of them wanted a copy for their own uses.”

These were privileges granted to them, but this was still their library at the end of the day. Even as she had her own suspicions about who used the book. Other than they likely stumbled onto a small little secret, one which she did not want.

The next did not have any but was a far more classic book. A memoir about a man who spent his life in this court and served it to the best of his own ability. This opened to reveal books that suggested wealth, or instead it was a gift.

And for the shogun, it was nothing but the best. The paper was incredibly delicate and thick. Even as there were illustrations during its time, where it was in between the various art styles. When Kyokuhi first opened its shores to the world, just after half a century since the Liang Empire was established.

Where it was trying to find its own footing in the world, and also the fact that nothing remained the same. The shogunate was a fresh new shogunate, as the Tokumoto family had claimed it and started a new period of history. The Bansei period, as well as introducing new laws and customs. According to how they felt about it, and what sort of changes were necessary.

It was likely a copy, as the real copy was now too fragile to be used for anything other than being stored. Besides, she knew that from the paper it was still somewhat fresh. Likely a real copy used and then copied over. The paper had faded, but not too much.

Which meant that there was only around two to perhaps three decades old if they were likely.

And clear what its use was. To show that they remembered their history, and to encourage interest. This was a vast library, and it was stocked fully. Even as she knew that it was not their only one. This was their first by all means.

“I would like to see that book.” Choosing that of the girl who came in last. Her choice was the most unusual, it was that of ideas that went around the country. And one which in many cases were banned or at least disapproved.

The Tokumotos knew full well that it was impossible, but they did not ban the book. Instead, they chose to settle the various problems their country had. Taking the full chance to really reform the country, and to ensure that such grievances were kept to a minimum.

Even as a pistol came straight out. Also as Enyou chose to shoot her fan at her and knocking it out. The guards had come in upon the large sign and were by her side. As it came down. She was close enough to take a shot, and all she needed was to wait.

“Arrest her.” She did not need to say anything else. Her voice was devoid of any emotion, there was no fear. And perhaps she dealt with this far too well, to always have to keep her head on herself or to look over her shoulder.

“Well, this was a book we allowed into the libraries for the lesson it could teach us. The lessons that would ensure that the shogunate would remain strong and stand for as long as it was possible. But of course, it isn’t an easy thing.”

Even as she had just taken care of a possible assassin. “Also, we would like to confer upon her fifty thousand yen, in exchange for preventing this.”

“That is the prize they allow for preventing assassinations, and I can say that I have stopped quite a few as it was.” And possibly why she chose to have her keep the book. Because Enyou would choose such a choice at the end of the day. “And it covered some of my expenses.”

But because of her background, she was too highborn to serve the imperial family as a mere guard. But too low to become a personal servant of her, or rather her family which made it all but impossible. Even as they had spent centuries as their right-hand man.

“I have to report this to chichiue, so today shall end as it is. By the way, Enyou and her friend should stay.” It was clear for Enyou, perhaps for something a little more personal than this was. Or a chance to talk.

Her, she did not know. She did fear the worst and carefully went up. Knowing what to do, even as she was still unsure of the exact amount. She stepped up while knowing what looked normal and what did not by any means. And that was if she were helping it.

Even as Enyou took the chance to go forward to distract her, and she carefully went up before following. While still keeping a considerable distance away from her. “I have to personally thank you again, I am afraid that chichiue still have not decided to return you and your brother to favor. Even as he should.”

And understood deep down what she was aiming for besides helping her brother. “I could try to see if you could enter court this time around, as your family is no longer bearing the fear it did. Now being replaced by another.”

“Which is my clan.” She knew it. “Oto-sama had always kept me from knowing much about what he did, and thus I rarely know.” This was expected of a daughter. Even as she did not know how well it would go with Miyo, who was a far more astute young lady than many would give her credit for. That and her life itself was a nightmare on its own. Despite the immense amount of privilege in the family. It was not one without dangers if today could turn to a moment of bloodshed.

“I’m sure you know more because the higher you are, the more you understand the need to go beyond grooming your sons, you would need to pay attention to your daughters. Especially if you have no other sons.”

“I would say that I know a little, while Masaki knows lesser.” As she was his eldest child, at least so far.

“I would say it’s fair, even as many would unfairly say that it is more of a burden for us than a child. But we have a distinction, in the fact that at least we’re no longer children, and the more we understand, the more we will do for our family.”

“Even if it means putting the chances of marriage into jeopardy, and understanding when they arrange one for us. Marriage is rarely built on love, but more so on alliances and networks.”

“But it does play a part. Otherwise, there would be no such thing as romance in this world. And we would not see so many believe in it.”

“There is an element of truth to them. But I have given it up, I would rather choose the ability to leave behind this life and never come back. Regardless of whether I’m married or not, to me to live for someone else is absolutely pitiful.”

“In its own way, I agree.”

“Well said, I hope to see you around more often Sachiko.” She left the place, even as she turned to see her and her retinue go to the library. While she left as well on her own.

“In its own way, you have managed to avoid leaving first. Which is the most important thing, the moment you choose to leave first it would be dangerous as they would be observing you.” Enyou was right in that regard. “And were you acting or was it real?”

“It was always real to an extent. The best lies were often the ones who had some truth in them, isn’t it?”

“You would have convinced me to a huge extent, and I think she was too.” They left the place before leaving the courtyard without turning back, with the book on her hand. The best decision for her in such a situation. As she now had it in her hands.

While grasping onto the fact that she genuinely could never choose a road of return any longer. Not that she could, either way, if she succeeded she could leave. And that was her only wish now.