3 Chapter Two: Reality isn“t hard to face - Within A Grey Twilight
Sachiko looked outside her palanquin. A difficult feat she managed to achieve. She was staring at Okiban. The capital and center of Kyokuhi, a place where she could seek answers. The only place she knew to have the ones she looked for.
The ones she sought for so long, and the ones she was interested in. Ever since her father died, in such a way that piqued her curiosity as much as it angered her.
"Kaede, is it going to be within the hour?" She asked her maidservant on the outside.
"If it was, I will be smiling." Because it meant that she will no longer be shivering on the outside, even with an additional layer of haori.
"That's certainly true. Maybe you want to switch places with me." The suggestion was ridiculous, although the palanquin was far too warm. And being out in the breeze will be far better than being stuck in here. Not even a chance to stretch her legs for a bit.
"As much as I like the idea, but I like to still have a life to return to." Kaede stared at her, glaring was definitely out. And quickly turned to the front. She simply covered herself with the fan.
As much as she figured out how to fan herself without anyone hearing. It's called adapting, if they will not allow her to be cool, then she could find ways to make herself cool. It's not as though they checked, if not they probably will have noticed the tiny bits of clothing that she donated at every stop.
They could use it more than she did, it was more of a nuisance to her in the first place.
"Catch." She passed her a haori. One of hers. Although she was thankful that by no means did she have to wear a junihitoe, she was baffled by how anyone could wear that layer of clothing and not faint from it.
Sadly, their next stop was Okiban. And all she knew was that it was better not to attempt it, even then she only attempted it at small villages or towns they stopped at.
She did like cold weather far more, although the warm weather created more of an excuse to be comfortable. Kaede doesn't say a word. After all, Sachiko passed her one of fine quality but without much embroidery to show it. At least that was an intelligent move.
And kept herself from being noticed by the men carrying the palanquin. And the Samurai who escorted her. Sachiko simply stared forward again, pretending nothing has happened.
Just an hour or two more. If she couldn't bear it, maybe she should toss another layer off to another maidservant who looked cold. She certainly knew that if Kaede was shivering, the rest might just fall ill.
And she still knew that despite all, staying in here has made it possible for her to think of her future decisions. At least making some sense to stay in here, to think about her next move.
After all, she came for one reason only.
To find the truth behind her father's death and to restore balance to Koshima. As of now, it could go either way.
In a coffin, with the body far too decomposed to determine the cause of death. And one where it was too strange, her father went missing while he was in the sea. Many did think he drowned before reaching the city when he was supposed to.
She held faith, although it diminished as days passed by. Now, she came to terms that there was nothing more than a body could be found. And it was almost unrecognizable. Only found due to the words
Being lost at sea, while traveling between two cities. Due to a storm was normal, but now she didn't think so. What if it was nothing more than an event, which was used to cover? It couldn't have been planned since it was too well known. And the weather was not something anyone could control.
Being out at sea was a vulnerable time regardless of when, and anyone could take full advantage of. It was easy because a crew member could be used to handle this.
No one will suspect a thing.
Besides, her father was an enemy of people with both power and at the same time wealth. Both of which allowed this matter to be covered and left alone.
For Sachiko, she knew that if she simply wished it away, it will never be so. She doubted any person could, it just a matter of whether they were strong enough to pursue their suspicions.
She will not let herself think that keeping quiet was the best option. That it was the only option she could choose, that will allow her to investigate.
For she wanted to know the truth.
And that was why she chose to be here. Even if the way she had to go was terribly difficult and even harsh. No one will smile kindly upon her actions, for they will think that she should have simply given up.
And she should have simply resigned herself to hope that her brother was strong enough.
That was a mark of a fool and a coward to her. It was a guarantee that nothing will change, and her fate was simply in the hands of the other.
Safety was the same as surviving, but it wasn't exactly living. Living meant being able to make choices, even if they will invite mockery.
She will rather risk that than have her life become that of many women, someone deciding who they stayed with, who they married and even when they died. And to follow their husbands even to their deaths.
The litter stopped as the destination. More than happy to do so, she got out. Inside was stuffy, to the point it almost became unbearable. If not for the fact that she could use this solitude to think of a solution.
Entering the house the place her younger brother called home the moment his presence was asked by the Shogun. Five years ago, when he was only nine. He came here alone with his servants, to this manner.
He should be fourteen now. He should be taller. But it seemed that he wasn't around.
"Where is my otōtō?" She asked a servant around.
One of them asked. "May I ask who are you?" The maidservant looked at her, in the eye. As though she has never seen her before.
Oblivious to everything, even when her dress will have revealed her. She was wearing a pale pink kimono, with most of her black hair loosely flowing. It was rather clear for it was a hairstyle only worn by Samurai women.
She wondered whether he was even listening. Kaede stepped in to answer. "She is Sachiko-hime, his one-san." The servant nodded. Kaede has done it well.
If it could not be clearer from her attire. This maidservant didn't really know too much about her family. Perhaps she was only hired when he moved here.
Not that her father spent much time here either.
"He isn't around, he is at the palace. He is a companion to them." A much older woman arrived, one that was familiar to Sachiko. Her hair was beginning to gray but was as youthful as even the youngest. She was Suzume.
And the one she was looking out for.
"I see." She signaled to the rest of the servants. "Leave, except you." She turned to face her.
"Yes." With her command, they all left. Suzume was left behind.
"I believe that nothing good happened." The woman came to the correct conclusion if she showed her face here. That she had better things to do than this.
"You're right." Nothing was ever good if she has to choose to go to Okiban. For it was a city known for the secrets it buried within its serenity.
"I haven't heard from tono-sama regarding anything in particular. Suspicious, doesn't it?"
"Chichue's body has been found and even buried." The woman raised an eyebrow on this. Knowing that the chances of this even happening was unlikely.
"I came to find some aid." Aid that will help her cause, as much as there were many secrets that her father hid from her.
"There are only two factions which you can turn to."
"Either I look towards those loyal to the Shogun or those who wish for something different." Reformers, as they called themselves. Their actions were largely still peaceful, to present backlash.
She knew that it was either way. Her father did the impossible after all, managing to keep himself neutral to all of this. Never once revealing his true sympathies. A difficult task to keep.
"But also one which is dangerous. As he only intends to maintain the balance, but his support could be dire in swinging the fight either way."
"Well, it just makes me even more keen to seek out neutral groups. Sadly, there aren't much of them around." As all have made their choice within the past eight years.
"Then, remember, your father hired us for a reason." Of course, she did, keeping and ensuring that the peace of Koshima remained. That none of the south will be torn into the divide of the north. That he will not harden his position against them.
She entertained the idea that he had something to prevent him from being assassinated within these eight years.
"Is it something like a friend in high places?"
"Not exactly, but I believe to show you the truth of why he has me here." The woman asked for her hand. She took it. This was after all someone her father deeply trusted, in order to allow him to look over her younger brother. Whose situation was even more delicate to deal with, and that anyone could very much use him.
If her father had sense, he will have done something to ensure that Koshima could keep its neutrality in this situation.