The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.
[I]Geki[/i] Hideki Teramachi said:Waking up to find the room swaying gently from side to side is not so unusual an event to be a cause for alarm, but this time it showed no signs of stopping. The sunlight pouring into the room suggested I had slept through the early part of the morning so it seemed unlikely I was still drunk.
A moment's reflection and I had regained my bearings. The swaying which had so disturbed me was a perfectly normal state of affairs aboard a ship rather than a sign that last night's sake had done permanent damage. I was alone, although the state of the blankets suggested that this had not been the case the night before. Once again I was glad that my beloved wife had opted to stay in Kyoto rather than accompany me to China - her disapproving looks have a nasty habit of putting me in a bad mood and that is about the only luxury I cannot afford.
Having summoned my manservant Tsutomu I had him bring me some washing water and then sent him off to fetch breakfast. Shipboard life is hardly conducive to fashion, but I have standards to maintain and after washing I dressed myself as carefully as circumstances would allow. Having bolted down the rice balls and fruit that Tsutomu had returned with I made my way to the state chambers to see if Yukikatsu needed my services today.
I strolled along the deck allowing the fresh air to properly wake me. It was a fine day with only a little breeze and for that I was truly thankful. The Celestial Dragon was impressive in many ways, but it always amused me that these tower ships - however formidable in war and however opulent when refashioned for more peaceful uses - were not particularly well-adapted to water. The river around us was filled with far more serviceable ships that carried the rest of the court in much greater safety, but my master was keenly aware of the need for spectacle and headstrong enough to see the risks as a challenge.
Skirting round the main entrances to the state rooms I carried on through the guards towards the private cabins, stopping for some banter with Junichi, the officer on duty: apparently I was seen leaving last night's festivities with Chou. Always useful knowing what I've been up to, even if second-hand.
On entering the cabins I was met by Masao, one the interchangeable assistant secretaries. I pride myself on being able to get on with anyone, but these bureaucrats were almost as hard work as the Chinese. We bandied pleasantries about the day and I asked if he had had any news from his brother in Hainan, all the while fighting down the urge to walk off and find something more interesting to do. I did learn that the Emperor was finishing a meeting with emissaries from Wu and would see me when they had left. Although this was good news it did mean there was no polite way of disengaging from the conversation until that time.
After rather too long discussing the ins and outs of buying farmland in Hitachi a bell rang to announce that the Emperor had concluded his audience. Masao scurried off to present my introduction while I took the time to straighten my clothes and compose myself.
I was ushered in to see Yukikatsu in his private office and found him surrounded by his usual daytime entourage of clerks and secretaries. He was dictating a charter or somesuch as I arrived, but waved everyone out of the room as I entered. I approached, bowing deeply.
"After the amount you drank last night I'm surprised you still have your balance", the Emperor said. "We are both too old to behave like young soldiers."
"I recall drinking far less in those days, Majesty."
"Then I fear for your memory as well as your health", Yukikatsu said. "You wouldn't be Hideki if you didn't behave in this way I suppose."
I thought about this, considering whether or not a more modest life would have suited me better. I was certainly getting to the age where I wouldn't be able to stand the pace, but a retirement of quiet contemplation held few temptations.
"No man should be forced to go against his nature", the Emperor continued, "although we do not always have the luxury. I dream of expanding Japan's empire to the four corners of the earth, but find myself constrained by the need to avoid offending states so distant I have barely heard of them."
"It is the nature of the weak to despise the strong and seek their ruin", I replied. "It is still possible to amply exceed your father's ambitions."
"He was more cautious than I", Yukikatsu replied, "but I too see the need to keep the Empire's reputation intact. I must direct my desire for glory into the narrow channels left open to me."
It was already a commonplace among courtiers that another war with Wu was inevitable. The weak despise the strong with good reason, and Wu were very weak. However, until today the Emperor had been careful not to give any indication of his own thoughts.
"What would you have me do?", I asked.
"I need to know the lie of the land and the attitudes of the provincial nobility in Ganzhou and Changsha. I'm sending you as an ambassador to the Wu court. I want you to make the most of your journey both there and back".
Drinking with provincials was one of the less glamourous but definitely safer aspects of my job. It was only when the Emperor told me to be ready to leave with the returning Wu emissaries that I realised we were a lot closer to war than I had thought. This slow procession up the Yangtze suddenly seemed less like a pleasure cruise and more like a floating army.