The Tokaido Road
Lucia St. Clair Robson
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After the execution of her father, the young and beautiful Lady Asano is in grave danger from the powerful Lord Kira. In order to save herself Asano must find Oishi, the leader of the fighting men of her clan. She believes he is three hundred miles to the southwest in the imperial city of Kyoto.
Disguising her loveliness in the humble garments of a traveling priest, and calling herself Cat, Lady Asano travels the fabled Tokaido Road. Her only tools are her quick wits, her samurai training, and her deadly, six foot-long naginata. And she will need them all, for a ronin has been hired to pursue her, a mysterious man who will play a role in Cat's drama that neither could have ever imagined. . . .
of time she would line up her brushes, ink stone, ink stick, and water pots on the low, lacquered writing desk. Then she would sit, waiting for him in the wide, sun-filled room that opened onto the garden of her mother’s mansion. The room had been lined with shelves of books. The poem scroll hanging in the tokonoma, the alcove, had been changed with the seasons. In honor of sensei’s visit, special incense always burned on a teakwood stand near the low writing desk. Someone else lived in the
treacherous stretch of water called Now Broken. When she reached a fairly deserted area of the highway, Cat showed Kasane the “floating step.” The courtesans had originally used it, but it had caught on among women of fashion in both capitals. Cat was still trying to teach Kasane the various arts of attracting a man. She was hoping Kasane’s suitor would become so taken with her that he would lure her away from Cat’s dangerous company. “Turn your body like this.” Cat swiveled slightly at the
you!” Cat slid sideways, ducking behind the stone fox where Kasane was hiding. She hadn’t much time to observe or to plan. The Tosa bounty hunter was on one side. From the other came a group of men armed with knives and staves. And she couldn’t be sure, but she thought she saw in the shadows a young rnin who looked familiar. He too was advancing with sword raised. “Take off your sandals,” Cat muttered to Kasane. Kasane didn’t question the command. Crouched behind the statue, she could hear the
“The huge, gray, wing-eared beast that was all the talk ten years ago.” Hanshiro remembered it well. He had found the towns along the Tkaid in an uproar because of the elephant and its entourage. Local officials were recruiting farmers to clean the highway even more thoroughly than usual. They had drafted all available laborers to build earthen bridges over the rivers. The shgun banned all cattle and horses from the vicinity of the road so they wouldn’t frighten the huge beast. Citizens had been
other side of the bridge the Tkaid merged with Sanj, Third Avenue, the broad tree-lined thoroughfare that divided the rectangular city from east to west. To the north of it lay the vast, walled compound of the Imperial Palace. “The houses are thick as frogs’ eggs!” Kasane exclaimed. “Hanshiro-san, do you know the way to the Shimabara?” From what Cat had heard, she assumed the best place to seek Oishi would be in the pleasure district. “Perhaps I can find it.” Hanshiro affected an air of