The birth of a future ruler of the Tokugawa Clan is wrought with war and despair.
Lady Tokugawa Tsuruhime offered the tea bowl to her husband with as much of a bow as she could handle, being eight months pregnant with their first baby. Returning the bow, Lord Tokugawa Ogimaru accepted the tea bowl. He placed his left hand up and flat, under the bowl. With his right hand he cupped the bowl, turned it a quarter turn, and sipped.
In the background a servant girl played a shamisen. She plucked the strings gracefully producing a calming melodic tune.
With his last sip, Lord Tokugawa made a slurping sound to indicate his enjoyment of the tea. Lady Tokugawa hid a faint smile. Lord Tokugawa used his thumb and forefinger to wipe the bowl where he sipped from and dried his fingers on his folded silk napkin. Lord and Lady bowed to one another as they exchanged the tea bowl one last time.
Lady Tokugawa placed the tea bowl on the tray, in front of her. She poured a small amount of hot water into the bowl. With the bamboo whisk she circled the inside of the bowl once, brought the whisk sideways up to her eye level, and then lowered it to the edge of the bowl. She repeated this two more times and placed the whisk upright on the tray. With one hand Lady Tokugawa tipped the water into a larger ceramic bowl and began to ceremonially wipe the tea bowl dry.
“Why do you insist on placing the tea spoon cock-eyed on the tray?” Lord Tokugawa asked, with a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“To remind you, my love, that this is not a perfect world. Things do not always go as you plan.” She replied with her head bowed. “I understand you want your father to be proud of you, but if tomorrow’s battle does not go as planned, please do not do anything drastic. I want you to return home.”
Lord Tokugawa stood. Trying to hold her pregnant belly for balance, Lady Tokugawa struggled to stand from her kneeling position. He stepped forward and took her hands to lift her up. The shamisen player stopped as the two stood.
“It is an honor that my father, has called upon me and our soldiers to help in the battle. I do not want to disappoint him.” After a breath, “I also love you and do not want to sadden you. I will do my best to honor your request, once I have helped my father.”
As was Lord Tokugawa Ogimaru’s tradition on the eve of battle, he was served tea by his wife and love. Now he would walk among his men to inspect their readiness for the next day.
He sat on the edge of the house’s walkway, as a servant slipped on his Geta sandals. The Lord stood and the same servant covered him with a heavy kimono, to protect against the cold night air. The Lord made his way out into the courtyard, with his scribe and assistant closely behind. He took a deep breath and let the fall chilled air wash over him. He felt the nip of the air on his skin. Within a month would come the snow and his first born child. He thought of the peace winter would bring. War was never good in the cold. He hoped the hostilities would stop soon. He would then be home with his wife and child.
Lady Tokugawa waited on the edge of the walkway, watching her husband walk into the darkness. She turned to see a servant had picked up the tea tray and exited the room. The Lady pictured her Lord Tokugawa walking into the dark, beyond the courtyard. The picture in her mind showed a pair of eyes looming through the trees in the courtyard.
A twinge shot through her pregnant belly, as she spun on her heels to search the garden. There they were. Two blue glowing eyes. The candle lights of the house shined on the stranger’s visage. A rush of adrenaline electrified her and Lady Tokugawa turned to the wall behind and dashed for her Lord’s display of Samurai armor. Quickly she grabbed the spear off the wall. The Lady held the spear in a fighting stance, with butt held level with her head and the point down, in front of her.
“Go get Omo Tokugawa, now!” She ordered the shamisen playing servant. The servant dashed out through the door at the back of the room.
Slowly Lady Tokugawa moved forward, holding the spear, like a prowling tiger. “Show yourself, yokai!” she yelled at the darkness.
The silhouette of a man wearing an amigasa, made of rice straw, with black and white kimono robes moved from the garden into the candle light. His hands held out to his sides and wearing an evil grin. “ Josei Tokugawa, I am no yokai. I am merely an izado. It is a pleasure to finally meet you.” He said with a bow.
“Eizo.” Lady Tokugawa growled. “You are not welcome here. My Lord will meet you on the battlefield tomorrow to end your life. Go and enjoy your final hours.”
Eizo continued to slowly approach her. “There is no need for such rudeness. I only came to deliver a message to Omo Tokugawa.”
“Deliver it and leave.”
“Oh, I intend to.” Eizo raised his hand to call a second spear from the wall behind her. She spun to her left to dodge the flying spear, which the izado caught in his hand. He raised it level to his waist, in attack.
Lady Tokugawa lunged from the deck, swiping Eizo’s spear out of the way, with her own. Eizo swung back with his spear, but she was ready with a parry, holding the spear vertical. She spun her spear upward, catching Eizo’s spear point with the hook on the end of hers. With a small twist and a yank, the Izado’s weapon came loose and clattered to the ground. Lady Tokugawa swung her spear in front of her, slashing at Eizo. He jumped back to avoid the cut.
Lady Tokugawa was ready for such a move. She stopped her swing short and lunged again at Eizo, burying the blade of the spear in his thigh. He grabbed the blade with his hand, as she twisted the spear in his leg.
Blood dripped from Eizo’s hand to mix with the blood running down his leg. He smiled crudely of triumph and vengeance. His eyes turned bright blue, as did his hand that was holding the blade.
She tried to pull the spear from the intruder’s leg, but he held it in place, with steely strength. In the blink of an eye a white pulse traveled from the izado’s hand, up the wooden handle of the spear, shattering into hundreds of splinters. Lady Tokugawa laid sprawled on the walkway of her home.
Hearing the explosion, a servant rushed in to find Lady Tokugawa unconscious on the floor. She slid to her knees, propping her Lady up on her lap.
A strong gust bent the trees and vegetation of the courtyard over. The servant shielded her Lady’s bloodied face with the flowing cuff of her kimono and squinted up at the end of the courtyard, to see the lights reflecting off a shiny black dragon. The Izado was limping towards the dragon, where he hefted himself up on its back. The Izado yelled out and another strong gust of wind burst through the courtyard. The black dragon lifted into the night sky, where it disappeared with its rider.
The young servant dispatched by Lady Tokugawa to find her husband sprinted blindly through the night, toward the front gates. She stumbled and slid on her face in the ankle high grass and mud, only to get up and run as fast as she could again. The young servant saw a terrible vision in the night sky above the Tokugawa land’s gate. A winged beast spewed forth fire at the ground. The light of the fire reflected off the dragon to show a bright red scaly skin.
Archers stood firm, launching volley after volley at the dragon. Soldiers with large shields formed walls around the archers, to protect them from the beast’s flames. A lone man stood in the middle of the soldiers and archers, yelling directions where to shoot and when to take cover.
Fear gripped the young servant as she fell to the ground once again. Freezing, she contemplated if she could survive running out into the chaos. The servant knew she had to try, for her Lady’s sake. Up on shaky legs, she ran screaming towards, the wall of shields, “Omo Tokugawa! Omo Tokugawa! Omo Tokugawa!”
The shields formed a thin opening for the young servant to dive through. Another line of fire roared past where the girl had leapt through the shields. She landed on her hands and knees, at the feet of her Lord.
“What is it!” Tokugawa Ogimaru snarled at the servant.
Before the girl could answer a shrill shriek ripped the air above the men and the red dragon glided over the top of the soldiers, forcing all to duck down. The Lord immediately stood straight pointing towards the beast, yelling for his men to take aim at the belly. The attacking dragon broke off and swung out of range of the arrows. Tokugawa Ogimaru and his men focused on the red dragon. They never saw the oily black dragon sweeping in from behind them.
“Tokugawa!” screamed Eizo, from atop the black dragon. He held his hands out low to his sides and small cobalt spheres of light spilled from out of his hands. The orbs smashed into the ground around the shields, exploding. Other balls bounced on the shields, exploding. The metal shields were twisted and torn from the percussion. Men flew through the air, in pieces.
Tokugawa Ogimaru stood from his spot in the mud and grass, to see Eizo lifting up into the sky, on a black dragon with the red one close behind. He watched until the dark of the night sky enveloped them.
With a small tug at the bottom of his kimono, Lord Tokugawa’s attention was drawn to the whimpering at his feet. Peering down expecting to see one of his soldiers, he found the young female servant, who played the shamisen so beautifully for his wife and him. She was lying on her back, grasping at her missing arm. Her white clothes now singed and muddy. Lord Tokugawa got down on his knees to help her sit up.
Panting through her words, “Omo Tokugawa! It’s Ojosama Tokugawa! An intruder is in the courtyard!”
Lord Tokugawa pushed through the wreckage of shields, running at break neck speed. A handful of soldiers followed, while several remained to see to the wounded and dying.
Rushing over the uneven ground and the puddles of water and ice, Lord Tokugawa never missed a step, unlike his following men, who flayed and splashed into the puddles of mud only to be up and running before they could stop sliding.
Tokugawa Ogimaru sprinted into the courtyard. He was met with servants running to and fro across the house. A senior servant was yelling orders. Where he left his wife earlier in the evening, he found a gaggle of young women. They all bowed upon seeing their master. Most of the girls made their way to other parts of the house.
He pushed through the remaining group to find the midwife standing between the legs of his love. The midwife was soft, but firm in her orders to Lady Tokugawa Tsuruhime, who was lying on the deck. Another servant was knelt under his wife’s head and shoulders. The left side of Lady Tokugawa’s kimono was shredded and barely covered her body. Her skin was peppered with splinters small and large, all embedded in the skin of her presgnant belly, chest, arm, and face.
Lord Tokugawa knelt down next to the young woman holding Lady Tokugawa and gently moved under his wife to continue supporting her. He looked down at his wife, pain shot through her barely conscious expressions. The Lord looked to the midwife.
She glanced a grim look at her master and then back down on her work. “Ojosama Tokugawa’s water broke and went into labor. She is weak and barely awake. I am trying to get her to push just enough, that I may grab the newborn and pull the rest of the way out.”
Lord Tokugawa wanted to caress his wife’s face, but could not because of the pain it would cause, with all the splinters in her face. He instead cupped the back of her head and bent to kiss her on the forehead.
Lady Tokugawa opened her eyes and smiled faintly up to her husband. “I am sorry. I think I made a mistake.”
“No. I made the mistake. I should never have left you unprotected.” Lord Tokugawa said.
“We did not know the Toyotomi Clan would be so brazen.”
“My Ojosama,” broke in the midwife, “I need you to give one more push for me and I’ll be able to grab your baby.”
Together Lady and Lord breathed deeply several times. Lady Tokugawa bore down one last time, with barely a sound escaping her lips and collapsed in her love’s arms. The Lord tried to shake her awake.
A baby’s scream tore the silence that had fallen over all gathered. The midwife quickly handed the baby to a woman servant and scrambled up to the Lady’s face. Bending down, the midwife listened for breathing and a heartbeat. She looked up to her Lord. The tears in his stone like manner, said he already knew.
The midwife and one other servant lifted the Lady up off Lord Tokugawa. Her body was carried away to her bed chamber, for cleaning and to be readied for mourning.
Their Lord sat still as a statue, with tears streaming down his face. The soldiers that had followed him knelt down and bowed to the ground to pay their respects. The other servants followed their example. All waited for Lord Tokugawa to say something. All but one, she entered back into the room, carrying a bundle. The servant stopped when she realized what she had just walked into. Cautiously, she knelt down to the side of her master, with the bundle and sat quietly with her head bowed.
Lord Tokugawa turned to her and she offered the bundle, “It is a girl. She is healthy.”
Tokugawa Ogimaru took the baby girl into his arms. His first thought was how she was not a boy and his family lineage would die, for he would not marry again. He looked into the baby’s twinkling eyes. He was swallowed up by her dark brown eyes. He could see the possibilities this little life in his arms held. How she could bring down Eizo and be a force to reckon with, in the Tokugawa Clan.
When he came back from those tiny innocent eyes, he knew what was to be done. He announced, “This is my daughter.” Pointing out at the soldiers, “You six soldiers that are here will be devoted to her safety.”
Without moving the six soldiers loudly and clearly said, “Hai!”
Lord Tokugawa continued, “The senior servants of my household are charged with teaching her the ways of being an Ojosama and running a clan.”
The senior servants present sang in unison, “Hai!”
“You six who have pledged your life to my daughter, will also be responsible to teaching her the way of Bushido and the Samurai.”
The six soldiers raised their heads, keeping their bodies still, looking up at their Lord. This was unheard of to have a woman taught to be a Samurai. They wondered if in their master’s grief he was being foolish, but it did not matter. He was their Lord and they obeyed. “Hai!” rang out their reply.
The Lord held the baby girl up for all to see. “This is your next ruler of the Tokugawa Ogimaru Clan. She will be known as Oneka.”