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.