Brilliance of the Moon (43 page)

BOOK: Brilliance of the Moon
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As they stepped out into the light, the old woman bowed to the
ground and placed the chest at my feet. Shizuka was just behind her, carrying a
second chest.

“Lord Otori,” she murmured.

I hardly heard her. I did not look at either of them. I was
staring past them at Kaede.

I knew it was her by the shape of her outline, but there was
something changed about her. I did not recognize her. She had a cloth over her
head and as she came toward me she let it fall to her shoulders.

Her hair was gone, her head shorn.

Her eyes were fixed on mine. Her face was unscarred and as
beautiful as ever, but I hardly saw it. I gazed into her eyes, saw what she had
suffered, and saw how it had refined and strengthened her. The Kikuta sleep
would never touch her again.

Still without speaking, she turned and pulled the cloth from her
shoulders. The nape of her neck, which had been so perfect, so white, was
layered with scars of red and purple where her hair had burned her flesh.

I placed my damaged hand over it, covering her scars with my own.

We stood like that for a long time. I heard the harsh cry of the
heron as it flew to its roost, the endless song of the water, and the quick
beating of Kaede’s heart. We were sheltered under the overhang of the rock, and
I did not notice that it had started snowing.

When I looked out onto the landscape, it was already turning
white as the first snow of winter drifted down upon it.

On the banks of the river the colts were snorting in amazement at
the snow, the first they had seen. By the time the snow melted and spring came,
their coats would be gray like Raku’s.

I prayed that spring would also bring healing, to our scarred
bodies, to our marriage, and to our land. And that spring would see the
houou
, the sacred bird of legend, return once more to the Three
Countries.

 

AFTERWORD

The Three Countries have enjoyed nearly fifteen years of peace
and prosperity. Trade with the mainland and with the barbarians has made us
rich. Inuyama, Yamagata, and Hagi have palaces and castles unequaled in the Eight Islands. The court of the Otori, they say, rivals that of the emperor in splendor.

There are always threats—powerful individuals like Aral Zenko
within our borders; warlords beyond the Three Countries; the barbarians who
would like to have a greater share of our wealth; even the emperor and his
court, who fear our rivalry—but until now, the thirty-second year of my life,
the fourteenth of my rule, we have been able to control all these with a
mixture of strength and diplomacy.

The Kikuta, led by Akio, have never given up their campaign
against me, and my body now bears the record of their attempts to kill me. Our
struggle against them goes on; we will never eradicate them completely, but the
spies I maintain under Kenji andTaku keep them under control.

Both Taku and Zenko are married and have children of their own.
Zenko I married to my sister-in-law Hana, in an only partially successful
attempt to bind him closer to me in alliance. His fathers death lies between
us, and I know he will overthrow me if he can.

Hiroshi lived in my household until he was twenty and then
returned to Maruyama, where he holds the domain in trust for my eldest
daughter, who will inherit it from her mother.

Kaede and I have three daughters: The eldest is now thirteen, her
twin sisters eleven. Our first child looks exactly like her mother and shows no
sign of any Tribe skills. The twin girls are identical, even to the Kikuta
lines on their palms. People are afraid of them, with reason.

Kenji located my son ten years ago, when the boy was five. Since
then we keep an eye on him, but I will not allow anyone to harm him. I have
thought long and often about the prophecy, and have come to the conclusion that
if this is to be my destiny, I cannot avoid it, and if it is not—for
prophecies, like prayers, fulfill themselves in unexpected ways—then the less I
try to do about it the better. And I cannot deny that, as the physical pain I
suffer increases, and as I remember how I gave my adopted father, Shigeru, the
swift and honorable death of a warrior, wiping out the insult and humiliation
he had undergone at the hands of Iida Sadamu, the thought often comes to me
that my son will bring me release, that death at his hands may be welcome to
me.

But my death is another tale of the Otori, and one that cannot be
told by me.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank the Asialink Foundation, which awarded me a fellowship in
1999 to spend three months in Japan; the Australia Council, the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Australian Embassy in Tokyo; and ArtsSA, the
South Australian Government Arts Department. In Japan, I was sponsored by Yamaguchi Prefecture’s Akiyoshidai International Arts Village, whose staff generously assisted
me in exploring the landscape and the history of western Honshuu. Thanks
particularly to Mr. Kori Yoshi-nori, Ms. Matsunaga Yayoi, and Ms. Matsubara
Manami. I am especially grateful to Mrs. Tokonki Masako for showing me the
Sesshu paintings and gardens and to her husband, Professor Tokoriki, for
information on horses in the medieval period.

Spending time in Japan with two theater companies gave me many
insights. Deepest thanks to Kazenoko in Tokyo and Kyushuu, and Gekidan Urinko
in Nagoya, and to Ms. Kimura Miyo, a wonderful traveling companion, who
accompanied me to Kanazawa and the Nakasendo and who answered my questions
about language and literature.

I am indebted to Mr. Morgi Masaru and Mrs. Mogi Akiko for their
help with research, their suggestions for names, and above all, their ongoing
friendship.

In Australia, I thank my two Japanese teachers, Mrs. Thuy Coombs
and Mrs. Etsuko Wilson; Simon Higgins, who made invaluable suggestions; my
agent, Jenny Darling; my son Matt, my first reader on all three books; and the
rest of my family, for not only putting up with but also sharing my obsession.

In 2002, I spent a further three months in Japan at the Shuho-cho
Cultural Exchange House. Much of my research during this period was useful in
the final rewriting of Brilliance of the Moon. My thanks to the people at
Chuho-cho, in particular Ms. Santo Yuko and Mark Brachmann, and to Maxine
McAuthur. Also, again deepest respect to ArtsSA for a Mid-Career Fellowship.

Calligraphy was drawn for me by Ms. Sugiyama Kazuko and Etsuko
Wilson. I was immensely grateful to them.

BOOK: Brilliance of the Moon
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