Chapter 147: Kyoto Epilogue 2--The End of the Ten Swords (End)
Copyright© 2011 by Murasame
Kenshin: Dead? He...
Chou: Yeah. After the last battle, Anji saved his life, and they both turned themselves in. He was waiting for the trial to justify his policy of "the strong live, the weak die" and clear Lord Shishio's name. But he didn't get anywhere. Nothing he said was made public.
Kenshin: I see ... whether in the Bakumatsu or the Meji era, Shishio is the dark shadow of the new age. His very existence can never be brought to light.
Chou: That's why Houji refused the government's offer. "Forget Shishio and work for us. We'll gurantee your safety for life." Under the spell of Lord Shishio's charisma, Houji brought together an army and even purchased a battleship from an underground arms merchant. The government wants skill like that bad. They offered him some pretty sweet terms. They didn't care about his arguments or principles. All they wanted was power. Houji lost all hope. They couldn't publicly try him for high treason. A country in an age that had lost all honor, an age so weak they have to ask an enemy to work for them ... He slit his throat with a small dagger he had hidden. He used the last of his strength to write his last words in blood and died...
With no regrets for this world, I go to join Lord Shishio in hell. (Everyone is silent. Finally--)
Yahiko: Even though we won, it's hard to say who was right.
Chou: That's the way of the world, kid. You'da thought at least Yumi would have come out on top.
Kaoru: You say she died with Shishio Makoto...
Chou: She told me about herself once when we were out drinking. She was once the best oiran in Shnyoshinara, so popular that even a high-ranking official couldn't get near her.
oiran--the highest rank of prostitute in the entertainment district.
Yumi (toying with the ice in her drink): The red-light district looks glamorous, but it's a world of suffering. I went through a lot to become the best oiran. But life is having to choose, and I made my own choices. At least an oiran had honor. Until the Mary Ruth case.
Kaoru: Mary Ruth?
Misao: What's that?
Okina: In 1872 a Chinese coolie deserted from a Peruvian ship lying at anchor in Yokohama...
When it became clear that the ship, the Mary Ruth, was a slave ship and that the coolie had been cruelly treated, the Meiji government liberated him at his trial, showing the world that it was a nation that respected human rights. Peru retorted that Japan had prostitutes living as slaves in the pleasure quarters. Faced with this contradiction, the government eventually stated that if prositutes were to be human beings whose freedom had been stolen, then one might as well say it was wrong to demand payment for cattle and release them. Issuing an emancipation proclamation in this spirit, so far strayed from the rest of humanity, would be just as logical. Yumi: You have to laugh. Slaves are human beings, but prostitutes are no better that horses or cows. We've fallen into this world of suffering and we're doing our best to live our lives. But the Meiji governments says we're not women. We're bitches.
Yahiko: More and more ... you can't tell who was right.
Chou: It's the way of the world. But she was happy that she'd met Lord Shishio. Maybe that was the only thing...
(He sets down his cup.)
Chou: Well, this is getting dull. Time I got going. Oh, almost forgot. There's still two of them out there they didn't catch. They'll never find Soujirou the Prodigy. He's probably drinking tea on some mountaintop about now.
(out in a rustic town, Soujirou is eating dango in front of a tea shop.)
Soujirou: I ought to be on my way, grandmother. Thank you.
Tea Lady: Where are you headed?
Soujirou: Where indeed. I don't have any particular destination. I've decided to wander for ten years.
Tea Lady: Ten years, now.