Flower Spelling - Chapter 26
Chapter 26 – Hanami
Walking through the town, there was a certain exhilaration in the air as people passed by. Everyone was sensitive to the fact that spring was approaching, despite the repeated cold and warm weather.
This year, I wanted to enjoy cherry blossom viewing with everyone at the residence and with Ohana.
Sogetsu watched with impatience as the cherry blossoms began to bloom, one by one, in pale pink.
Last spring, Katsura, and Ito were taken to the magistrate’s office, rendering cherry blossom viewing impossible for everyone present. At the end of last year there was the burning of Gotenyama, and most of the perpetrators, including Kusaka, had departed Edo early, leaving only Takasugi, Ito, and a few others.
Ever since that incident, Ito had yet to meet Hanabishi again.
Having discussed with Takasugi the possibility of at least letting them say their goodbyes properly, he replied back that it would be unwise for others to interfere with a relationship that was already settled.
Maybe so… But this way of saying goodbye, it’s desolating. They were so close to each other. I want to do something for them.
Unable to formulate a good plan, she returned to her residence only to discover that she had received a letter from Bain.
Casually skimming over the contents of the letter――it dawned on her.
After a sharp return of cold, the weather continued to warm up for a few days allowing the cherry trees to start blooming at once. Even though the cherry blossoms were still half in bloom, Bokutei, one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in Edo, was packed with fastidious Edo people. This year’s crowds were even greater than usual, as the cherry blossom viewing at Gotenyama was not possible.
“Hey, Sogetsu, no urgent work at noon, right? Would you like to go out with me? I hear there’s a freak show going on in Ryogoku.”
Coming out of a room in Yubikan with Takasugi into the corridor, Ito spotted Sogetsu strolling towards them and called out to her.
“Sorry, Mr. Ito! I have something to do after this. Please invite me another time!”
Without stopping, Sougetsu flew away like a whirlwind.
“I wonder what’s going on with Sogetsu these days. She doesn’t seem to be working, yet every day she appears to be busy going out somewhere.” Ito tilted his head quizzically.
It was not until two days later that the plot came to light.
Ito and Takasugi received a letter from Sogetsu. On the front, in black ink, was written in large letters, “A letter of challenge.”
“… Is this a deal?”
As a matter of routine, Sogetsu’s behavior was unpredictable, and he laughed while opening it――
『 Tomorrow, the time of the snake.
Please come to Gotenyama.
You will see what it is like to be part of Somo joi.
“Hah!?” Ito, who was reading aloud, fell back in the middle of his sentence, so astonished was he.
“Sogetsu’s idea of ‘Somo joi’ is, I believe, to interact with foreigners to deepen mutual understanding, right?… But what on earth is she planning to do on Gotenyama?”
“Who knows. She can’t be guessed by ordinary measures.” Takasugi lifted the corners of his mouth in amusement.
“Let’s see how it goes.”
And the next day.
Facing Gotenyama, Takasugi and Ito were awestruck by the sight before them.
Gotenyama, which had supposedly been closed and unpopular after the burning, was overflowing with people who looked as if they had gathered from all over Edo. Under the cherry blossoms in full bloom, people happily ate lunch boxes, drank sake, played the shamisen, and sang loudly. Merchants selling dumplings and sake were among them.
To their amazement, even the appearance of foreigners can be seen here and there.
Yet, in the midst of all the festive revelry, foreigners or otherwise were irrelevant, blending into the hustle and bustle with no apparent discomfort.
“What is the meaning of all this?”
Upon spotting Sogetsu in the crowd – who was happily playing the shamisen with poor skills – and asking her about it, the Hakama-wearing lady, bold despite her mundane appearance, smiled like a child whose prank had succeeded.
“When I learned that Mr. Jude and his friends were coming to Edo today, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to carry out the principle of Somo Joi movement. The Japanese love cherry blossom viewing, don’t they? People in Edo were itching to go to Gotenyama to view the cherry blossoms, so I thought if I said we could do it here, they would come. So I approached everyone I knew and asked them to pass the word on. Even Mr. Jude, I explained the situation to him and asked him to bring some of his colleagues… Needless to say, permission to enter the mountain wasn’t granted, leaving us to our discretion. However, when people from all over Edo come in droves, it is impossible for the government officials to contain them, isn’t it? So let’s all enjoy the cherry blossom viewing to the fullest until backup arrives!”
Sheesh, this one really is…
Watching Sogetsu’s beaming smile, the laughter gradually began to build up.
“Okay, then I shall thoroughly enjoy myself!”
Taking the shamisen from Sogetsu’s hand, he struck the plectrum with a bang! And played the plectrum, producing a beatific sound.
The music was so moving that everyone around them started to dance, and soon the circle of dancers spread throughout the mountain in a big swell.
Meanwhile, Sogetsu gently tugged on Ito’s sleeve and murmured something to him. No sooner had Ito disappeared into the crowd than a familiar stranger arrived, his golden hair fluttering in the wind.
“Mr. Jude! Are you having fun?”
“Yes, Miss Sou. This is the best! It was worth the trouble of dispersing the guards.”
“Hmm, that’s good.”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Mister Takasugi too.”
“So it’s Jubei.”
For an instant, Sogetsu was taken aback, but the two greeted each other naturally.
“You’ve been instigated by Sogetsu, I see.”
“Who wouldn’t want to be part of such a fun festival?”
“By the way, what happened with that?”
Takasugi remarked that, somehow, Bain had his hands full of dumplings and sake. The combination of an Englishman dressed in Western clothes and dumplings on a spit was so incongruous it was almost funny.
“This was… recommended to me by a very kind, elderly lady.”
Bain, being the gentleman that he is, phrased it in a highly euphemistic and favorable way.
“… Mr. Jude, just be clear and say that you were forced to buy it by a pushy lady.” Sogetsu chuckled. “But I’m glad that Mr. Jude and the others enjoyed it. The idea came to me when I read Mr. Jude’s letter.”
“My visit to Edo in the company of the minister was accompanied by a grand cherry blossom viewing event. When I first heard of it, I was surprised… But now I’m truly glad that I came. I have such a good time with the Japanese.”
Looking up at the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
Under the pale pink flowers, everyone was smiling and enjoying the moment. There were no national differences between the people gathered here at this moment.
As the sun rose into the middle of the sky, the sound of a gong abruptly pierced through the festive bustle.
“What happened, what’s that sound?”
“It’s Mr. Ginji! That’s the signal that the officials have arrived! Mr. Jude, take your friends and flee swiftly!”
Sogetsu also clanged her gong. “Everyone! It’s the officials! Hanami is over! Get out of here!”
The crowd, which had been so busy, receded like a spider’s web. Yet the expressions on the faces of those fleeing were somehow joyful.
“Sogetsu, we have to escape too!”
Following Takasugi, they dashed down the mountain path. Once they reached the beach and were certain that nobody was in pursuit of them, they let out their breaths and simultaneously burst into laughter, as though to indicate their mutual agreement.
“I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time!”
“It was really fantastic! The timing to escape from the officials was pretty close to perfect.”
“I’ve never heard of ‘pretty close to perfect‘ before. Does it mean ‘just in time’?”
“Oh, yes, that’s right.”
Ever since their last big fight, Sogetsu had adopted her everyday language only when she was alone with Takasugi. These days she no longer tends to use katakana words unconsciously, but even so, being able to speak without worrying about the language was much easier than she thought it would be.
“… I wonder did Mr. Ito meet Ohana?”
“That’s also what you’re aiming for?”
“Yes… Even if they had to part ways, I wanted them to have at least the memory of viewing the cherry blossoms together. But it’s also true that I wanted the people of Edo and Mr. Jude and his friends to enjoy the cherry blossom viewing together.”
Sogetsu trailed off once and glanced back at Gotenyama behind her. “Mr. Takasugi, you said it once before. Anyone can complain. The key is to think and act for yourself… It may be a small step, but for me, this is the first step of thinking and acting on my own. Even if people say I’m naive, if today has made us a little closer to each other, that would make me very happy.”
Japanese or foreigners, from different countries, with different agendas. Hating, hurting, killing…
Not that it would be that easy to forget all that and get along with each other. But at least for today, let’s just enjoy the cherry blossoms together. That’s what she thought.
Gazing up to the sky, Sogetsu thought of Bain.
Did it reach you?
Around the same time, Bain was also gazing up at the sky.
Miss Sou. I believe in it too. One day, a future where foreign countries and Japan can share a smile together.
Far apart in the distance yet united in their feelings.
Pretty close to perfect – The line is written in modern Japanese words
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