You know, gentle readers, that I, Lamathrath, see all that is happening in the Other Worlds, where the “magic” of the Lord governs the natural Laws. But what you do not know is that some of these worlds are facsimiles of the Primary World, where subtle decisions have drastically diverged from the Primary the course of that other world. Here are the tales of such a world.- Lamathrath of the Nexus
Father Joao Tiago
1. The Jesuit Samurai
Alternate World: the Japans, 1565
Nagasaki, Jesuit trading post
Jouncing in the cart, Katsuka relived the events of the past few days. She had been a former geisha turned street performer. The man in charge of her performing troupe, a short fat man with a rather volatile temper had announced that the keeper of the black ships, and head of trade for the orange robes, or Jesuits as they called themselves had bought their contracts and was sending them as courtly entertainers to the court of King Fernando Matteo-Alonzo of Portugal, and thus she had prayed to Izanagi, Izanami, Momotaro and anyone else under the Dragon-laden sky who happened to cross her mind that she would not live to see such an event come to pass.
Through the silk-lined latticework, the young woman could make out two distinct figures, one of her master, the other of a Portuguese merchant, and she could hear the rattle clink of coins. Slowly a third figure, so tall and broad shouldered, it seemed almost like an oni of legend, materialized near the edge of the scene, unobserved by the other two., The seeming oni suddenly gave voice to cry that showed the blood of every woman in the cart. Though her butchered Portuguese was somewhat lacking, she thought she heard the massive figure say “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, forgive me for what I must do.” There was a swooshing sound and the heads of both buyer and seller rolled to the ground. Massive hands thrust open the doors of the cart. A face with the close cropped beard of the Jesuits and eyes that burned with a manic yet compassionate fire bore into her like the blade of a katana. He grabbed her by the wrist and barked in perfectly eloquent Japanese, “if you want to live you must come with me now, wakarimaska?”
She nodded, too shocked to form the word.
To the others he yelled. “Flee! Ima! Flee for your lives!”
He hoisted her onto his shoulder and used his fine hand-and-a-half katana to free one of the horses. The confused girl and her unlikely rescuer galloped away from Nagasaki into the coming dawn.
Once they had written several miles the man stopped by a small pond next to some tall bamboo plants.
It was only then that the freed slave girl had a good look at him. He was a tall man standing at six feet. He had the look of a Jesuit but did not wear an orange robe, having a black kimono instead in the sash of the kimono was a katana worn in the proper samurai fashion, with the blade facing upward in the scabbard. So it could be drawn in one sweeping motion by bringing blade away from scabbard and scabbard away from blade simultaneously in an upward stroke so as to most likely strike a killing blow. And for the markings of a fine workshop though Katsuka, being a commoner, did not know much about katanas, preferring to use the Japanese dagger, or tanto. The man wore the broad-brimmed black hat of a Jesuit, though this along with his skin tone and grooming styles was the only thing noticeably European about him. He smiled slightly as she looked at him.
“Forgive me, ona-gozen. You must, as the shepherds who found our Lord, be sore afraid. You do not even know my name. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Father Joao Tiago, lately of, but not quite, the Society of Jesus.”
“Then what are you doing here? And why in Izanami’s Realm did you rescue me?”
“Oh. Well… that is a long story, that one. I was cast out, for nowadays the church run by the vicar of Peter does not smile upon the science which acquires gold. And so now do I travel the land acquiring the gold of heaven by speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves and defending those who cannot defend themselves such as you. I do not know what have life you had back there but I do perceive that you’ll be much better off with a protector, rather than an owner, for I can plainly see that as far as your life back there is concerned, as we say in my homeland long lost, Innes is dead. What is your name, young one?”
“Katsuka. I owe you my life and the life upon this unknown road is better than being bought and sold like chattel. Lead on.” She bowed slightly.
“I vow that, as I protect my own life, I will protect you, Katsuka-san.”
Katsuka gasped. Never before had any man spoken her name with such honor.
“Where do we go from here, Yashto-san?” Katsuka asked after they had breakfasted next day. Yashto was her name for the former priest, for she could say neither Joao nor Tiago. At which the father smiled and said she would never be able to memorize the disciples of the Savior.
But to the question he answered. “To Osaka village and Castle. There are several good things for alchemy to be obtained at the market there. Also there is talk of a new daimyo. I believe his name is Ieyasu and he comes from the Tokugawa clan. I have never been one to compromise my principles but that is not say that in turbulent new times such as these one should not be in the good graces of powerful friends. I just hope that a certain Jesuit, Rector Miguenillo, is not there. If so, he should watch his purse.”
“Oh. He is a very avaricious man. That and his testimony against me cast me out of the Society of Jesus. I should very much like to see him…Ah, no. No. Ie. I have vowed to take lives only when necessary. For if a man needlessly sheds the blood of another man, by yet another man shall his blood be shed. So it says in the Law of Noah and Moses.”
But let us not talk of such things. It is nearly mid-day and not a fleck of brown rice or orange chicken has danced on my lips.”
“I thought the society only ate the best European breads and pork shanks,” said the younger woman with a thoughtful air.”
“Every stomach in the world must Bloom where it is planted. I know you’re probably not going to like this. But when we going into the inn in that village you must pose as my servant. A Jesuit traveling in the company of a former geisha would arouse suspicion. Sin? That is to say, Hai?”
The girl nodded.
The Orange Shishi was a small inn with a dilapidated sign depicting the eponymous Asian mythological lion dog carved upon it, much of the orange paint now chipped away. Going inside, the Jesuit and his “servant” found a sweaty man behind the counter with several dust ridden people eating bowls of rice, beef and chicken and speaking in hushed voices. “Watered down sake and a bowl of brown rice with orange chicken. The same for my servant please.” The rice paper door swung open and shut and four burly men reeking of sweat and sake staggered into the room.
“Say I, hick, know who you are,” burped the leader, the stench of his breath nearly curling Joao-Tiago’s beard. “You are a Jesuit. Probably have the alms for that new Christian temple in Osaka. Let’s have a look.”
All four men’s hands move toward concealed wakizashis. “Hide under the counter, quick,” he hissed to Suka and then barreled his massive shoulders into the line of drunkards.
Once they were all outside, the Jesuit samurai drew his katana and crouched in a defensive position. “Say,” the leader said, “that’s a Masamune style blade. Very rare nowadays. Should fetch a good price with a ronin.”
The big man charged. But the live Jesuit was too quick and brought the blade over and across in a lightning quick motion across his attacker. Just as the leader started to fall gurgling up blood from the wound the Jesuit pushed the dying man into the two other attackers, causing the ruffians to teeter off balance. Decapitating one, the Jesuit then cleft the other from shoulder blade to hip. The last took flight and the Jesuit did not follow. Instead the father cleansed his blade, sheathing it. Kneeling, he crossed himself and prayed, “O Lord, have mercy on the souls of these prematurely departed. They knew not what they did. Forgive me for the taking of their lives. I did not will it so. Amen.”
He picked up one of the wakizashis that the bandits had dropped, stripped the dead man of the scabbard and went back inside the inn. Everyone had taken cover, for fear that the Jesuit had been outmatched and the bandits would be returning.
“It’s all right. You may all come out now.”
“Domo Arigato. Thank you, thank you, kind sir.” Said the innkeeper. That Ingeko and his band have been disturbing the peace in this village for years. Now at last we are rid of them. Rest assured, you always find friends here. And your meals are on the house.”
“Truly it is the best orange chicken I have ever eaten.”
“What is that for?” Suka asked, indicating the shorter sword.
“This is for you,” the Jesuit said. “Not the best craftsmanship, I’ll admit, but it shall serve its purpose.”
“But it is forbidden for women to carry swords.”
“It was also forbidden for King David of Israel to eat the shew bread. You are no ordinary woman,” the Jesuit said softly.
“But I don’t know how to wield it.”
“Then I will teach you. Come, we have finished our meal. Let us go.”