Poseidon of the East

Chapter 20

5-2 Itan slammed into the emperor’s living quarters. Seeing the emperor lounging there on the divan, he exploded with rage.

“You—you—you idiot!”

Only at that point did Shouryuu realize he was there. He sat up and nodded, as if he never expected to see Itan in any other state. Besides Shukou, right behind him, and Seishou, who must have let them in, everybody wore the same pinched expression on their faces.

“What’s this, all of a sudden?”

“Didn’t an envoy arrive from Gen Province?”

“Sure did. Nice of them to send the provincial prime minister.”

“Atsuyu has reportedly demanded that he be promoted to a place above the emperor himself. And you turned him down on the spot.”

Shouryuu blinked. “You think I should have taken the offer seriously?”

p. 156

“You bloody fool! Why didn’t you play for time? Say you had to talk it over with your the ministers while we figured out a way to trip him up behind the scenes! Time is running out. We have to divine the true state of affairs in Gen, their provisions and actual troop strength. Hasn’t that sunk into that thick head of yours?”

Shouryuu smiled back at him. “I’m sure we’ll think of something.”

Itan was more than furious. He was at his wit’s end. There were 12,500 soldiers in Gen’s provincial guard against the same number in the Imperial Guard. If push came to shove, they could hope and pray to double that number—hopefully triple it—with conscripts. But all the draft notices in the world wouldn’t increase the totals today or tomorrow.

Moreover, increasing the number of soldiers was only half the problem. They would have to be armed and trained, their ranks organized. There was no telling how long that would take. On top of everything else, the march to Gen Province would take a month. Provisioning the troops for the length of the campaign was another question entirely. There weren’t enough wagon trains available to do the job.

Shouryuu said with a startled look, “You must be the only man in any kingdom to disparage the emperor like that.”

“What kind of emperor are you? If you want to be treated like a emperor worthy of respect, then start acting like one!”

“Not that it bothers me one way or the other.”

p. 157

Itan’s shoulders slumped. “Indeed. I have come to the realization that remonstrating with you is a waste of breath.”

“Only now?”

Itan ignored the quip and turned to his colleagues behind him. “Anyway, let’s see what we can make of the Imperial Guard. It looks like we’ll have to face Gen with no more than the 12,500 we have.”

Shouryuu quickly broke in. “That will not be possible.”


“Because Rokuta isn’t here. We need his yea or nay to mobilize the provincial guard of Sei Province. Unfortunately, there’s nobody here to give it.”

“Don’t you know the meaning of extenuating circumstances?”

“It’s not me making the rules when it comes to that sort of thing.”

“This is about rescuing the Taiho! How are we supposed to get his approval if he’s been kidnapped? Are there any brains left in that head of yours?”

“Approval won’t be forthcoming. Looks like we’ll have to give up on that idea.”

Itan felt the world spinning around him. “You do understanding, don’t you, that the Gen provincial guard is at full division strength?”

p. 158

“I certainly do. Say, how about we shake things up in Kou Province?”

Itan’s eyes opened wide. Kou was a big province situated to the northwest of the capital. The tip of its southern border wedged itself between Sei Province and Gen Province.

“Dammit, are you aware of the gravity of the times we are in?”

“It’s certainly my intent to. Retire the province lord. Appoint the chief secretary the Lord Privy Seal in the Sankou. Except for the prime minister, promote everybody in the provincial Rikkan to the Imperial Rikkan. Dispatch an Imperial Edict and haul them all back to Kankyuu. Oh, and Seishou—”

Seishou came to attention. “Yes.”

“By my authority, I appoint you commander of the army of the left. Lead your troops to Gen Province and surround Genboku palace.”

Seishou acknowledged the order with a slight bow

“What do you think you’re doing? At least listen to what people are saying!” The tone of Itan’s raised voice was that of a drowning man clutching at straws.

Shouryuu replied with barely a shrug. “It’s decided. It’s an Imperial Edict, after all.”

“I don’t object to making Seishou a general. But at most he’ll have 7,500 men under him. Laying siege to a provincial capital is no mean feat. How are you going to provision them? How are you going to mobilize them?”

“I thought I was the emperor here.”

“Unfortunately, you are.”

p. 159

“Then is it necessary for me to explain everything I say?”

Itan glared at him. “That doesn’t mean I have to go along with the whimsies of a fool as he leads the kingdom to destruction.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sakes,” Shouryuu grumbled to himself. He got up and said, rapping on the table for emphasis, “To start out with, let’s see if you can digest this much. The eight provinces of En do not answer to me.”

Itan drew a sharp breath. The province lords had, in fact, been appointed by Emperor Kyou. But no one dared voice the obvious implications out loud.

“We can’t go leaving Kankyuu wide open. Dispatch the entire Imperial Army and ne’er-do-wells are bound to start coming out of the woodwork.”


“Just listen. Gen Province has detained Rokuta and is blackmailing us while using him as a shield. Gen has no need to divide its forces and send troops to Kankyuu. Though it certainly does appear that agents aligned with Gen are smuggling a large amount of armaments out of Kankyuu, I haven’t heard any reports of horses or wagons being stockpiled. That suggests no desire to mount a protracted attack on Kankyuu, not in the near term.”

Itan nodded. “For the time being.”

“Nevertheless, we can’t simply bide our timing waiting for Gen to make its move. Because Rokuta is there. If they won’t come to us, we’ll have to go to them. Even with an Imperial Guard of 12,500 against the provincial army of the left with 12,500, even ignoring the fact that they’ll being fighting on their own turf, we’ll still be facing an uphill battle. We got to send all the soldiers we can.”

p. 160

“That’s what I’ve been saying all along!”

“Surround Ganboku and threaten the provincial capital. Gen will be prepared for a siege. The situation will stalemate. It’ll quickly become obvious that this is no overnight campaign. Everybody in Gen will see it coming too. What steps will Gen take next?”


When Shouryuu glanced at him, Shukou said, “Instigate the province lords nearest Kankyuu to hit back. We should assume they’ve been laying the groundwork all along.”

“Exactly. By no means can we leave Kankyuu unguarded and exposed. We have the balance of the provincial guard. Spread the word about Gen’s treason and recruit soldiers from around the capital.”

“Will that be enough to hold ground?”

“We’ll make it be enough. They don’t need swords and spears. Gather a large population of civilians here in Kankyuu. None of the armies of the neighboring provinces exceed 10,000. With 30,000 potentially armed soldiers, none of them is going to risk his neck for somebody else’s vendetta.”

Itan sputtered, “And if one of them does?”

p. 161

“Then I guess lady luck wasn’t on our side.”


“Don’t misunderstand. At this point, it’s all or nothing for us. If Rokuta gets killed, I’m a dead man walking. And I don’t think you’ll be holding onto your posts much longer either.”

Next to the dumbstruck Itan, Shukou broke in, “How many civilians can we sway to our side?”

“Spread lies like chum and cast a wide net.”


“The Taiho is a mere thirteen—no, let’s call him ten. Spin some tear-jerking tales about the tender-hearted nature of our young Taiho and plant the stories where they’ll spread the fastest. The pitiful child is being cruelly held again his will in Gen Province. Oh, and don’t leave out the part about how the emperor is such a wise and inspired ruler.”

The three other men there stood there with thunderstruck expressions on their faces.

p. 162

Shouryuu said with a sardonic smile, “Didn’t the emperor ascend to the throne in answer to the heartfelt wishes of his subjects? Now that newly-occupied throne is under threat. Will the kingdom again fall into chaos, the green valleys and fields once again become home to the nests and dens of youma? We’d all better pray the emperor is that good and smart. Who doesn’t hope this renaissance will continue under his enlightened leadership? True or not, that’s what they all want to believe.”

“You sound more like a swindler than an emperor.”

“We’re merely taking advantage of their faith. The more soldiers there are in Kankyuu, the more secure we will be.”

Even so, Itan grumbled. Next to him, Shukou said, “There’s still the critical strategy for attacking Gen Province.”

“I’ll leave that to you, Seishou. Take all necessary measures to surround the provincial capital with the Imperial Guard’s 7,500.”

“But Gen’s army of the left is at division strength—”

Shouryuu grinned. “I think not. We’re talking about a fighting force scraped together from convicts and the dredges of society. At most, 10,000 souls.”

“Where did you come up with a number like that?”

“First-hand knowledge. I’m a platoon leader, didn’t you know? One of the first green shoots to spring out of the ground after the hay is mowed down. That’s the kind of army we’re talking about.”

Shukou and Seishou exchanged glances.

Itan leaned forward across the table and looked Shouryuu in the face. “Just a minute. You? A member of the Gen provincial guard? Being a platoon leader would make you a warrant officer.”

p. 163

A fully-staffed army consisted of five regiments of 2500 soldiers split into five battalions, and those further divided into five companies, four platoons, and five squads with five soldiers each.

“I was down in Ganboku looking for a good time when I got recruited into the provincial guard. If I kill fifty imperial soldiers, I’d get to captain a company. Two hundred will win me a promotion to battalion commander. Take the head of an invading general and one day I could lead the army of the left in the Imperial Guard. Kill the emperor himself and the post of Daishiba would be mine. Granted, collecting on that last one would be a bit tricky.”

Itan rolled his eyes at the ceiling. “I could weep in sheer amazement.”

Shukou took another deep breath and let it out. “I thought I told you to quit playing spy.”

“But it’s useful, no? Take the long view.”

“Anyway, sieges take time. During that time, the fate of the Taiho will remain all the more in doubt.”

“Pray that it doesn’t.”

“But if the worst comes to worst, the winds of fate will reach you as well.”

“Shukou.” Shouryuu looked squarely into the eyes of his retainer. “Should we hold Rokuta’s life so dear that we yield to Atsuyu’s demands?”

p. 164

Shukou was at a loss for words.

“The kirin chooses the emperor. That is the bedrock principal upon which a kingdom is founded. A single instance of a traitor successfully undermining that principal would bring the kingdom to its knees. Such a bad precedent cannot be allowed to be established. Don’t you agree?”


“Do we favor the kingdom or the king?”

Shukou had no ready answer. If Atsuyu killed Rokuta, the emperor standing before him would die too. That was the way this world worked. If against all odds the struggle turned to the emperor’s advantage, a cornered Atsuyu could kill the kirin. Acting in the best interests of the emperor alone, he should tell him to accept Atsuyu’s offer. But he couldn’t.

“The day we give Atsuyu what he wants is the day this kingdom loses whatever legitimacy it had.” Shouryuu flashed the dumbstruck Shukou a wry smile. “With a little luck, we’re sure to claw our way out of this mess.”

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