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Thread: Dawn in the East--A Japan AAR

  1. #301
    He was not sure what Ieyoshi’s reaction would be to his return. Nishimura had been sent, so his return would obviously be welcomed. But would he return to be a puppet or a ruler? Osahito remembered Tanaka’s words before arriving in Singapore. He could not be certain without scouting ahead of time. But now he had a spy who was lodged with him. It would be difficult to explore Ieyoshi’s likely reaction with Nishimura following him everywhere.

    The solution was simple: he would need to lose Nishimura. That, or kill him. That last bit was unpleasant to think of, as it would lead to an immediate confrontation with Ieyoshi, something he could ill-afford. That left him no choice. It was fatiguing to be forced into one decision based on circumstance, much as he had been his entire life in Japan. His flight had permitted him to learn how to decide on his own. But now, Japan was already forcing itself back upon him.

    His teachers had taught him a little bit of evasion, in case he might need it as a prince. All princes were marked men, more from their siblings than any outside force, and were expected to protect themselves. The hiring of assassins and use of rogues to keep tabs on potential rivals was commonplace in Imperial Court life.

    There were two ways to lose a shadow. Evasion, which took time, skill, practice, and luck, and what Tanaka had called the ‘Noonday Sun’. The premise was simple. Just as a shadow disappeared during midday, you could lose a pursuer by feigning ignorance, lulling them to sleep, forcing them to drop their guard. Once done, the pursuer would not keep up the watch he was supposed to, which allowed freedom of action to the pursued.

    It was an elegant method, though Osahito was not aware of it having succeeded. Generally no spy completely let his guard down as in the ideal, and it took a lot of time to lull the agent to sleep. In the Court, one rarely had the time to execute such a stratagem. Perhaps it would work here. It would be at least two weeks until their arrival in Deshima, more if struck by storm. Plenty of time.


    Nishimura kept watch on Osahito inconspicuously. He was certain Osahito was completely oblivious to his second, more important task. Never had a man been so easy to keep an eye on. In fact, while doing so, he made a habit of practicing English with James Wallace, one of the sailors on the merchantman. English was a hard language to learn, and one had to put extra effort into figuring it out. Dutch was almost as bad, but there were no Dutchmen on this ship, so no chance to learn that tongue.

    Last evening, he had spent the whole evening playing cards with James and his mates. It was an interesting little game called pokeher. A game of skill if he had ever seen one. It was almost as difficult to master as igo, though Nishimura confessed to himself he had never had the tutoring most daimyo sons had.

    He looked up at the end, heart jumping in realization that he had not looked at Osahito all night. Osahito was leaning back on the crate, joking with one of the junior officers in English. Nishimura forced himself to calm. Yes, Osahito was oblivious. He made a mental note to have a bit more fun on the journey back, as his life would be filled with duty once his feet rested on Japan’s shores. A man needed a little bit of fun, even if it was with barbarians.
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  2. #302
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    It appears that Nishimura is starting to wilt.
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  3. #303
    Colonel kingmbutu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stnylan
    It appears that Nishimura is starting to wilt.
    so it seems
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  4. #304
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    I'm seeing a nice little game of cat and mouse growing. A very interesting theory of pursuer and pursuee.
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  5. #305
    A cold wind swept down the snow-capped mountains into the town of Tōkch’ōn. The cool early May morning air was brushed aside for the icy touch of winter. Shopkeepers, sweeping out their shops of the dirt that inevitably collected in a day’s work, muttered curses, dashing inside for heavier coats. Doors were barred, in hopes that the extra bit of weight would keep the wind outside. The hope of spring had been dashed. Pessimism and doubt ran through the village.

    The freezing wind, having accomplished its goal, moved further down the valley, striking fifteen more villages in succession, leaving the same measure of hopelessness in its wake. Chūng’kō, the great lake, stood just beyond the last village, whose mighty air currents forced the wind up above the tree line, sparing the rest of the population. The wind reached the coast, and headed west across the sea, when it ran into the wake of a squall, whose natural rotation forced the wind southeast.

    The overcast sky threw its gloom over Deshima as the few Dutch merchants residing on the tiny island got up to begin negotiations with the Shogun’s government roused themselves. Servants scurried around in the dawn hours, preparing for the day. The wind sliced through the island, the small buildings providing little cover for the defenseless population.

    The Dutch offered fervent prayers to their God, assuming the worst, which was not unnatural. Typhoons occasionally struck Deshima, and each one could wipe out the fortunes of those intrepid entrepreneurs who abandoned the comforts of European life to make it big in the Orient. Their Japanese servants, however, were much more practical. The kamikaze occasionally swept in, caused some damage, and moved on. The kamikaze was a natural part of life, and was immortalized in Japanese folklore as divine wrath.

    Osahito and Nishimura waited for the wind to cease, which it did after twenty minutes of fury. They left the hut in which they had taken refuge to survey the devastated island. None of the huts had collapsed, which was good, but one of the warehouses had a wall broken in by a hurtling sapling. The precious vases stored there had been broken to pieces. A Dutchman sat in the warehouse, crying. Osahito surmised he was the owner. The poor man had lost a fortune.

    Nishimura watched the pathetic parasite crying over the destruction of his ill-gotten goods. He bought the goods for next to nothing, and sold them in Amsterdam for a thousand times as much. Even losing all this, he would still be a rich man.

    Much unlike young Dirk Zeilenader, who had lost his entire stockpile of rice paper tapestries when his hut was demolished by fire. Zeilenader, a devout Christian, did not believe in maximizing profits, but in giving everyone a fair deal. Zeilenader’s funeral had been funded by the Shogun’s representative, in tribute to a good man.

    Nishimura nudged Osahito, motioning towards the undamaged ferry which had just arrived from Nagasaki. Osahito shook himself, and strode towards the ferry which only took Japanese nationals. This would be the first test. His Japanese was rusty from disuse, and he would have to explain that he was shipwrecked, and that the Dutch returned him. This would not be easy if his vocabulary had suffered in his self-imposed exile.

    His thoughts must have betrayed him, as he had stopped in hesitation, earning a inquisitive look from Nishimura. He shook his head slightly, and stepped forward to the test.
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  6. #306
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    An interesting comparison between the two Dutchmen.

    At what point will Osahito try to loose his shadow? Sooner rather than later I would think.
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  7. #307
    Colonel kingmbutu's Avatar
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    I think his language will come back to him more readily than he fears.
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  8. #308
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    A very interesting progression of events. I like the way you are drawing it out!

    I also really liked the whole scene with the wind. It reminded me somewhat of how Robert Jordan handles weather (one of the many things he's good at, as opposed to the many things he's not good at!).

    And, like Osahito, the wind lulled us into dropping our anticipation slightly for the moment when Osahito will make a break for it!

    Great work, as always! I love your pacing.

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  9. #309
    stnylan: Osahito's escape is coming, but the time is not yet right.

    kingmbutu: Fluent speech in a language can be hard to regain once lost through disuse, as I have learned. However, Osahito does not need to learn much, just to speak a couple phrases like a native. For now.

    Rensslaer: Well, you certainly figured out where the inspiration for the wind came from.

    I really didn't know if the wind would work all that well, but apparently it did, which is good.

    All: This should be updated by the weekend.
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  10. #310
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    Oh, it did. It worked extremely well to give the scene that follows a feel. And I too think his language skills will return just when he needs them, or enough at least so that he will get past this test. He has harder work ahead, it would seem.
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  11. #311
    coz1: Thanks.

    With luck, the update should arrive tonight.
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  12. #312
    Osahito watched with a sense of near-wonder as the oarsmen pulled the barge through the water. Rippling muscles and sweat covered backs glinted in the sunlight. Osahito had not been on a muscle-powered boat since he had left. The thought that every society had used the exact same form of propulsion since the beginning of the human race began to emerge. Osahito did not know whether to laugh or to cry. A sneaking feeling of inferiority crept in, which Osahito struggled to suppress, to no avail. Why had the Europeans succeeded, and progressed, while Japan stagnated?

    The ferry sped along the water, the wave troughs noticeably deep. The channel had not yet recovered from the kamikaze, it seemed. In fact, the rough waters reminded Osahito of the English Channel. The very thought gave him shivers. He never wanted to go through such a squall again, even in a European ship.

    Passing the halfway point, Osahito peered forward at the Nagasaki harbor. Not much had changed in the harbor itself. Fishermen still took their tiny boats out to collect their daily catch. The small boats wandered to and fro, mostly by small sails, though a couple also employed oars. Contrary to the technique of leisure fishing popular amongst the Dutch bureaucrats, no fishing poles were to be seen. Instead, the far more effective fisherman’s net was employed.

    Movement to the right, up high, attracted Osahito’s attention. An eagle circled slowly, finally diving for the water. A large splash concealed the bird from view for a few seconds. The eagle rose from the fray, a fish in its talons. From his seat on the ferry, Osahito could not possibly guess what kind, but that eagle soared gracefully to the heights. That was a bird of prey. He shook his head slightly in admiration. No wonder so many European monarchs used it as their crest. The very sight of one conveyed majesty.

    Osahito’s attention returned to the harbor, now rapidly closing with the ferry. It was odd to think of it that way. Perhaps he was merely apprehensive of meeting Ieyoshi once more. Perhaps he feared the future, and deeply wished to not have such a burden forced on him.

    Nishimura nudged him, and motioned towards the shore with his head. “My Prince, does Your Grace see the larger ship there?”

    Osahito nodded. The ship was large, indeed, easily sixty meters long. It seemed motivated by observation of the Dutch merchants at Deshima. Even so, it would be a very observant and smart man who designed it.

    “Construction just began when I left. It is a ship designed for large-scale fishing, so as to vastly increase the collection per man. It is said that Iesada had a hand in the design.”

    “He did, did he?” Nishimura nodded carefully. Osahito had adopted that dangerously light tone.

    Nishimura hesitated a moment before nodding. “Yes, My Prince. Though some have expressed doubt, as Iesada is not known for his craftiness.” That would not be enough to placate Osahito, though it was a good start. “I believe someone else wished to avoid responsibility, for whatever reason. I do not see why. It is a beautiful ship, and her architect is deserving of much honor.”

    Osahito grunted at that. “Nishimura, some men do not seek glory, and instead flee it while helping their neighbors as much as possible. Such men drive progress, and harnessing them will lead to further Imperial greatness.”

    Nishimura nodded again, slightly chastised. “Yes, My Prince.”

    Osahito began to turn to the pier, a mere hundred meters off. The oarsmen began to slow, allowing the ferry to coast, with only the tiller guiding the craft into its place. Nishimura gave a polite cough to regain Osahito’s attention.

    Osahito’s head swiveled like his favorite bird. Nishimura bowed from his seat, and muttered an apology, then continued. “My Prince, I did not speak of the second part of my orders earlier. They come directly from the Shogun’s own lips.”
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  13. #313
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    Oh, so what has Ieyoshi had to convey that he only wanted to be heard when Osahito was already in Japan? All my suspicions are getting fired up again.
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  14. #314
    Colonel kingmbutu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stnylan
    Oh, so what has Ieyoshi had to convey that he only wanted to be heard when Osahito was already in Japan? All my suspicions are getting fired up again.
    mine too
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  15. #315
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    I am getting the feeling that Osahito's learning has given him an elightenment of sorts. His thoughts certainly play on that theme. It will be interesting to see how that enters the picture as he becomes more involved in the Imperial destiny.
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  16. #316
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Hmm...

    It is carefully obscured, if so, but you may have just told us that the ship's design was actually Osahito's. Very interesting.

    And interesting, too, that Iesada, then, took credit for it. Though Osahito would be naive not to have expected that.

    I am glad he is contemplating the reason for Japan's backwardness, compared to the Western powers. It is the crux of many an interesting alternate histories with regard to Japan.

    Anticipation builds!

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  17. #317
    stnylan and kingmbutu: All shall be made clear in time. Your suspicions are rightly aroused, though in this case, it may not be as bad as one might think.

    coz1: Yes, Osahito has picked up a radically different world-view than his countrymen. Of course, we shall see if it is an asset or a liability. Or both.

    Rensslaer: Hmmm, has someone been analyzing my writing?
    Actually, now that I reread the last update once more, it dawns on me that one other individual could have been involved, based on a little bit of ambiguity in the writing. Ah, well. Ambiguity makes it fun, right?

    All: Thanks for reading. I should have an update up by the weekend, when a few of the issues raised by my wonderful commentAARs will be addressed.
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  18. #318
    It was good for him that Ieyoshi’s orders to Nishimura had included a command for the utmost secrecy in the return of the wandering Prince. Of course, the reasons Osahito had given Nishimura were not the reasons he held close to his heart. True, it would be wisest for his return to be announced with the authority of the Shogun at his back, rather than rumor sweep Edo and Kyoto before Osahito had even made Hiroshima.



    Okayama was a middling sized town, nestled between the mountains of Southern Honshu and the Inland Sea. It was busier than usual, thanks to the plentiful fish shoals a mere dozen miles offshore. The townspeople felt they were truly blessed to have such a fortune grace their community.

    Osahito frowned at his companion. Though Nishimura was the kind of man who one almost wanted to trust, he was unable to do so. The omission in Nishimura’s briefing in London was merely too suspicious. Perhaps it was nothing. Perhaps Nishimura honestly forgot. However, the price of being wrong was far too high. Better to trust nothing.

    “My Prince?” Nishimura’s quiet voice was pitched so as not to be heard by any of the other townsfolk in the crowd. “We will not make Kobe by dark. It might be prudent to find an inn here, so as to not be forced to sleep amongst the peasants.”

    Osahito began to reply, when a familiar face appeared in a shop window. It looked at him, and winked. Osahito quickly averted his gaze, so as to not let Nishimura know things he should not. Nishimura glanced at him quizzically. His silence had been noticed. To throw Nishimura off the scent, he shook his head, as if ending a day dream. “Yes, that may be prudent. We need more supplies anyway.”

    Nishimura nodded, and worked his way through the crowd to a less crowded side street. An inn stood off to the left, dark red sign prominent against the afternoon sky. The weathered wood had a green tint, though paint or fungus, Osahito could not say. He tugged the cloak closer to his body, mindful of the breeze. As they approached the inn, Osahito felt someone’s eyes on his back. Most would not have noticed it, but years of instruction by Tanaka had left a sixth sense. Without turning his head, or changing pace, Osahito continued towards the door. Nishimura stepped inside first, and Osahito quickly followed.

    As Nishimura arranged for rooms with the innkeeper, Osahito looked around the common room casually. None had paid the slightest attention to his arrival, which meant that most were watching him. It didn’t matter, though, as most would merely put him down as an outsider, and not inquire further. Any who did go further would find a shallow grave, courtesy of Ieyoshi’s hound.

    Nishimura concluded his haggling with the innkeeper, and dropped some coins into the fat man’s hand. Nishimura stepped towards Osahito on his way to the stairs. “Fourth door on the left”, he muttered on his way past. Osahito took a seat in the corner away from the door, with a mind to only sit there for a couple minutes, so as to deflect any association between himself and Nishimura.

    Nishimura came back down the stairs a couple minutes later, without his bags. Without looking at Osahito, he walked out. Nishimura would collect the needed provisions, and return later. Osahito found the handcarved chair oddly comfortable, though it did not seem quite so much when his shadow walked in.

    The cloaked man took a seat across from him, and reclined on the back legs of the chair. “My friend, I had not thought to see you for a while longer”.

    Osahito gave a slight smile. “Yes, it was time to return. You know Nishimura?”

    The man gave a slight laugh. “Yes. I was there when he swore to find you. Never fear, my friend. I have a couple of my protégés out in the market, who will keep him busy. Now for business.”
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  19. #319
    Colonel kingmbutu's Avatar
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    the plot thickens
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  20. #320
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    I do not think Ieyoshi is going to be happy with his hound by the time this day is done. Mind you, I doubt his hound will be happy either.
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