Flower Spelling - Chapter 15
Chapter 15 – Signs From the West
On her return to the Yubikan with her hands full of shopping bags, Sogetsu was greeted by the sound of a lively discussion on the second floor.
Even though I have been out for a while, all of you were still as enthusiastic as ever.
Thinking they must be thirsty, she pulled out the tea leaves she had freshly bought and proceeded to prepare the tea.
“Shimazu Hisamitsu of Satsuma came to the capital to lead an army against the Shogunate.”
It was only recently that this urgent news was delivered to the clan’s residence. In the country, it was said that a number of people were fleeing from the clan with their own bodies under the slogan of “great disturbance is inevitable, protect the lord’s father and son”. Learning that Kusaka and others from the Shōkasonjuku were amongst them, the young men of Yubikan were eager to go to Kyo themselves.
Mr. Kusaka, will you be alright?… What if a real war erupts or something?
The bubbling sound of the boiling water roused Sogetsu from her reverie.
Having regained her composure, she poured the slightly cooled water into the teapot. Soon the steam and the fragrant scent of the tea leaves slowly soothed her anxious mind.
“Hey, that smells good.”
A familiar voice spurred her to look around, whereupon she spotted Sufu peering in through the doorway. Last year, as punishment for their arbitrary actions, Sufu and Kusaka were ordered to return to their homeland under house arrest but upon being lifted from their confinement, they were reinstated in key positions and moved back to Edo in April.
This was the first time in six months that she had spoken to him in person.
“It’s been a long time. Have you settled in well here?”
“Yes, thanks to you… Are you looking for Mr. Katsura? Unfortunately, he has a meeting with someone from the Tosa clan today and won’t be back until this evening.”
“I see. It’s okay, it’s not urgent.”
Even as she spoke, Sogetsu’s hands constantly filled over a dozen cups with tea.
“Quite skillful, aren’t you?”
“Is that so? I do it every day, so perhaps it’s a natural progression… Oh, I can pour you a tea too, if you like.”
“That’s great. Well, would you mind preparing two of those to my room later?”
“For two, I understand.”
Sufu’s office was located in the middle of the Omote Goten, the place of administrative work for the chief retainers. Not surprisingly, Sogetsu seldom had access to this room and had only been in it on a single occasion. Merely once, when she paid her first visit to Sufu.
In spite of her hesitation, following the directions provided, she arrived safely at Sufu’s room.
“This is Sogetsu. I’ve brought you some tea.”
“Ah, come in.”
“Excuse me.” Upon stepping into the room, Sogetsu bowed and cocked her head. “Are you alone, Mr. Sufu?”
The interior was neat and tidy, with only the figure of Sufu to be identified. When he said ‘for two’, she assumed a guest was to be expected.
“Oh, that’s for you.”
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other. I thought we should have a nice chat. Have a seat.” In the same uncharacteristically nonchalant manner as ever, Sufu offered the pastry in a good mood. “I received these sweets as a gift, and they are rather delectable.”
It was a bite-sized sweet reminiscent of young leaves, with a pale yellow color. As soon as one bites into it, a hint of sweetness permeates the mouth. In the face of Sogetsu’s relaxed cheeks, Sufu resembled an uncle offering pocket money to his niece.
“Katsura mentioned that you assisted the Yubikan in various ways. He praised you for doing a good job, including this tea.”
“No, I haven’t done much at all. Cleaning, grocery shopping, that’s really all I can do… I am grateful for everything you have done for me.”
“It’s nothing to be concerned about, considering that it was Takasugi and the others who were out of control. You can drink all day and be lazy.”
No, I cannot do such a thing.
He didn’t know what to make of her strained smile, but Sufu stared at Sogetsu. “―And I wonder if your melancholic face earlier was due to Kyo?”
When Sufu observed that Sogetsu shook her shoulders in astonishment, he thought to himself, “I knew it”.
“… Excuse me, I understand that outsiders are not supposed to be concerned with the affairs of the clan.”
“No need to apologize. It is natural to be apprehensive when one fears that war may break out. For my part, when I left Hagi, I was prepared to die.”
Before her head could register what he had simply stated, Sufu added, “But…”
“As far as Keihan is concerned, it seems that things are different from the war.”
“Although we have been probing the movements of Satsuma, it is still unclear where Lord Hisamitsu’s true intentions lie.”
“Didn’t Satsuma raise an army to defeat the Shogunate?”
“In the beginning, that’s how we perceived it. That’s why we rallied to keep up with Satsuma. Recently, however, some observers have suggested that a few radical expulsionists are merely acting on their own initiative… Speaking of extremism, we have plenty of bloody-minded people here too. I hope they don’t get too hasty and cause Choshu to lose its nerve.” He smiled in annoyance, and it was then it happened.
The bloodthirsty clan members burst into the room.
“Report! Our early horse has landed from Kyo, and Kyo is now…! Shimazu Hisamitsu has purged the expulsionists in Kyo! The safety of the Choshu clansmen is uncertain――!”
The world felt like it was in turmoil.
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