Shinigami Chapter 21

Hiza tomo dangō

Hiza tomo dangō: Consult anyone, even your knees

Hiro crashed shoulder first into the wall and crumpled onto the floor. Blood ran from his lower lip and spilled onto his collar as his father stood over him, wild with fury, and raised his hand again.

“Do you have any idea the extensive damage you’ve caused our family? Can you possibly understand how much face the clan has lost in the council because of you?” He hit him again, and Hiro didn’t fight back. He didn’t cower under his father’s wrath, didn’t dodge his hand. He just knelt on the floor, eyes down, and endured whatever was coming to him. He’d broken every tenant of Filial Piety they’d taught him. He deserved everything his father hurled his way. “Do you think laws exist only for commoners? You could have died today!”

Umakai whirled away, unable to bear looking at his son anymore.

“A Fujiwara executed at the hands of the Emperor,” Muchimaro mused, peering inside his sake cup as if he could divine the future there. “Imagine the stain on the family. The humiliation.” He glared at Hiro. “If you were my son, I would have insisted on ten years.”

Only the three of them remained in the hall at the sanctuary. Hiro’s other two uncles had stayed at court to gauge the harm to the clan’s reputation and shut down any gossip.

“How could you be so thoughtless?” Umakai shouted. “Haven’t I told you the effort our ancestors made to raise our family’s power to what it is today?”

“I’m so sorry, Father.” The brass lamp on the wall flickered. “I only wanted a glimpse of Kusanagi. Princess Abe said that—”

“Don’t speak her name,” Muchimaro warned. “She wasn’t there.”

“But she was. It was her idea,” Hiro pleaded.

Muchimaro stood. “I’ll hear no more from you. Princess Abe was not there, and that’s how it will remain.” He stepped onto the veranda. “An evil act runs a thousand miles, nephew. Our family’s name will be slandered in tea shops from here to Naniwa for months because of you. I hope by next time we meet, you’ll understand the damage you caused today.”

When they were alone, Hiro said to his father, “I beg you to believe me, I will do all I can to make amends. Once the exile ends, I’ll—”

“I can’t believe how stupid you are, son,” Umakai said. “You have no idea how to fend for yourself in the mountains. Do you know how to eat from the fruits of the earth? How to build shelter?”

“No,” Hiro admitted.

“You don’t. Do you think you’ll survive your exile when winter comes?”

They heard a shuffle and thump near the door. Umakai turned, but Hiro kept his eyes to the floor.

“Yes, what is it?”

“Master Fujiwara.” Hiro’s head snapped up at the sound of Ryū’s voice. “Allow me to support my master during the exile. I have lived on the mountains. I know how to survive hardship. I can go with him.”

“No, Ryū!” Hiro cried. “This is my punishment!”“It’s done,” Umakai said. “You’ll both leave tomorrow. And, son?” He threw Hiro one last look. “Remember this. Hiza tomo dangō. Whenever you want to do anything, you must consult everyone, including your knees.”

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