Flower Spelling - Chapter 43
Chapter 43 – Interlude
Where on earth have you gone?
Katsura’s brow wrinkled deeply, crumpling up the letter that had newly arrived from Edo.
『I am heading home』
Nearly a month had passed since Sogetsu vanished, leaving only a short note. However, her whereabouts were unknown despite concerted efforts to find her. Hoping for a ray of hope, he contacted the landlady of Tatsumi Residence.
“Excuse me. I’ve brought you tea.”
Yamada entered the room with a tray of tea sets in his hand. Looking at Katsura’s hand, he said, “Did you get a reply from Edo?”
“Ah… She’s not in Tatsumi Residence.”
Katsura placed the crumpled letter softly on his desk.
“Even the landlady searched all over for her, but none of them appeared to know where she is.”
“Is that so…” Yamada nodded, glancing down.
His topknot, worn in the manner of a merchant, swayed unsteadily.
At present, Katsura, Yamada, and Shinagawa were concealed as servants in a merchant’s house called Daikokuya in the midst of Kyo. Their presence was due to the fact that, since the political upheaval in August, Choshu people had been severely restricted from entering Kyo.
On that day, the Choshu samurai and seven other lords who had fallen from Kyo left for Choshu by boat from Hyogo, but Katsura and a few others turned back to Kyo to work for the restoration of their rights. Yamada and Shinagawa were among the first to volunteer to go to Kyo.
Presently, only a handful of people remained at the Choshu residence, including the retainer Masuda Chikanobu, who was allowed to stay in Kyoto, and Nomi Orie, who was in charge of the residence. The rest of the clan, like Katsura and the others, were forced to hide out in the townhouses to evade the attention of the shogunate officials.
Thanks to the money they had spent on entertainment and hospitality, the people of Kyo were relatively sympathetic to Choshu, and they were grateful for any assistance they could offer. Day and night, he circulated among the court nobles, sought the cooperation of the Tsushima clan, which was a close friend of Choshu, obtained information from Satsuma and Aizu, and tried to liaise with the Imperial Court but was unable to persuade them to reverse their decisions.
Katsura had been informed by Yamada and Shinagawa concerning the affair between Sogetsu and Naito, a samurai of the Aizu clan, but frankly speaking, he had his hands occupied with rebuilding the clan and had little time to be concerned for Sogetsu.
“Sogetsu didn’t come to the rehearsal?”
Half a month ago, Ikumatsu visited him at Daikokuya and revealed the following unexpected news.
“Yes. After everything that’s happened, I thought she might have taken it in, but there is no contact with her.”
In a rush, he sent a messenger to the clan residence to examine Sogetsu’s room and discovered that it was spotless save for a short note left on her writing desk.
“It’s my fault. Sogetsu would never betray us. Even if it was only for a moment, I doubted her. I cannot forgive myself.”
Even now, Katsura remembered Yamada’s grief-stricken face as he reproached himself.
“Maybe she’s no longer in Kyo. Still, if she has not returned to Tatsumi Residence, where else can we look for her――”
“… We don’t know anything about her, do we?” Yamada said in a pensive tone. “We were together so often, almost like part of the Choshu family. Her birth, her family, there is nothing that we know. I didn’t realize this until she was gone…”
At that moment, the banto called to them from the corridor in a reserved manner.
“Mr. Katsura, a meeting with the Tsushima clan has been arranged.”
“… I understand. I will go now.”
Katsura instantaneously shifted his attention to work.
“Ichi, Sogetsu certainly will be safe. Let’s believe that and do our job. When Sogetsu comes back one day, it will not be good if Choshu is gone.”
As if saying this to himself, Katsura stood up to engage in the political struggle.
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