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Daizen's Despair
Mere hours after what seemed like an eternity ago, Wei still could not get over her shock. Startled awake by bells ringing in alarm, she had dashed to the window and peered out with sleep-clouded eyes. Human figures lay strewn about the streets, and dark clothed shapes flitted in and out of the coronas cast by the roadside lanterns. Frozen stiff with horror, Wei forced her numbed limbs to hastily close the curtains and scurry away to hide in a dark corner. Now, shivering on her doorstep in the hazy morning light, cramped from hours of holding the same huddled position, Wei looked over the carnage that had descended on Zento, chaos previously obscured by the night…
Gozu, always wry in demeanor, grimly appreciated the metaphor that he and the seas were treacherous. Thunderclouds were already massing when his men hastily loaded the ships with treasure pilfered from the vaults of Zento; Gozu regretted ignoring the Captain’s advice to hug the coast and find a safe harbor. In a hurry to escape retribution from Zento harbor and futilely hoping to outrun the onrushing storm, Gozu had ordered the Captain at sword-point to sail west for the rendezvous. Now, even his trusted men harbored mutinous thoughts as the waves pounded the vessel like cannon fire. Better to have faced Zento’s army than this storm.

Traitors are only branded such in hindsight, Gozu mused. If his plan succeeds, the stolen treasures will be used to strengthen the clan and bring about dominance over all of Tokuno. Then he would be titled hero, not pariah. Though his Lord was wise, with honor unquestioned, Gozu argued that his plan to destroy the treasure was more arrogance and useless tradition, than practicality. Once the Hanzagiri were in power, little else would matter. After all, isn’t history written by the victors? Gozu could almost see his Lord silently pleading with him to use the Empress’ horde outside the boundaries of his knowledge. Gozu would be the traitor for his Lord and clan. He would die a Hero’s death, secure in the knowledge that his sacrifice had placed the Hanzagiri back onto Tokuno’s Throne.

Hanzagiri Daizen, Lord of the Hanzagiri clan, former Heir to the Throne of Tokuno, struggles over the rocks down to the shoreline of Homare-Jima for the ninth consecutive morning. His spirit broken like his treasury, a King’s ransom, emptied to fund this daring mission against the Empress; he clings to the small hope that Gozu will arrive successful. His own children dullards and idiots, only Gozu had the temerity of character to lead the Hanzagiri into the future. Daizen was no thief; he did not have the treasure stolen for gain, rather to shame the Empress in the eyes of the realm, most importantly the nobles. If she could not protect her own vaults, how could she protect her subjects? The Hanzagiri struck a powerful blow, but with Gozu and his men lost, or worse, succumbed, the clan could reap no reward from their crusade. Only shame would be harvested.

Daizen searches the horizon as he does every day. Every day the same; no fleet, no army returned. Climbing painfully back up the slope, the former Daimyo returns to his retinue. Unnoticed, resting hidden in the rocks below, silver and gold washed ashore from the savage storm wait for an uncertain future.

Published: January 2005
Please Note: Some dates are estimates as exact dates were unavailable.
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