Time Cat: An American Feline in Edo

Tobias is just an average black cat. Well, almost black - he has a white sock on his left rear foot and a white patch under his nose. One day while exploring the yard of his Human, he comes across a curious glowing orb. He begins to investigate it and inadvertently activates it, creating a rip in the very fabric of reality. Much to his dismay, he is sucked into the rip and carried through time and space to an era much earlier than his own. Now he must track this orb across time and space in order to activate it and bring him back home. Don't forget my author page: tinyurl.com/anrisarynfb

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9. Tokugawa Iemochi

         The room was bathed in red; red and gold - the colors of royalty. There was a deep-seated throne in the far end of the room with a large cushion and a high back. It was empty right now, but Hideki had a feeling that someone would populate the spot rather soon.
         The mechanical samurai stood at attention as if awaiting further orders. They all stood in silence surrounding the two men. The torchlight flickered, sending sprawling shadows across the room.
         The rest of the building was lit by some strange orbs, Hideki recalled. Why was this room lit with torches? And, the rest of the facility was completely white. Why was this room red and gold?
         He turned around as the mechanical guards moved to allow a few more people in. A young boy, probably not older than sixteen, was ushered in, followed by another middle-aged man. A chill ran down Hideki's spine. That could have been Hitoshi in the boy's place.
         A small collection of official-looking men with scruffy beards that indicated their status shuffled in. Their robes were black in color with symbols of the bakufu stitched into them. They held their hands at their sides or behind their back, but none appeared welcoming. The stolled in on the raised platform the held the throne so they could look down on their prisoners.
         One man held up a scroll and put on a small pair of spectacles. Hideki grimaced. They were probably barbarian-made.
          "Tokugawa Iemochi welcomes you to his court," the man read.
         Hideki gasped. They were being greeted by the highest in the land. The shogun himself. They only one higher than him was the emperor himself!
         The man looked down at Hideki with an expression that indicated he preferred silence. He waited for a moment then continued.
          "Tokugawa Iemochi welcomes you to his court," the man repeated. "He wishes you a nice stay before you are processed."
          "A nice stay indeed!" Shichiro blurted out.
         The man in black robes cleared his throat. "Please show the utmost respect to Tokugawa-sama," he said simply, glaring at Shichiro. He stepped back as if to allow someone to pass and the door behind him opened. 
         A man dressed in a long black robe entered, his hair tied in a tall bun. A small and thin hat sat on the top of his head, tied with a cloth string and finished with a small, decorative stick on the back. Hideki gasped. This was the traditional head wear of the shoguns and had been worn for almost a century.
         This meant only one thing. This really was Tokugawa Iemochi.
         The prisoners were pushed into a kneel. Hideki didn't resist, but only out of shock.
          "You can stop staring now, peasant," the shogun stated, looking down at Hideki. He held a small fan, which he occassional waved to cool his strangley sweaty forehead. Hideki thought it strange; it wasn't very hot in here, was it? "I am the shogun." Hideki averted his eyes, but his expression turned from shock to anger as he looked at the ornatly patterned rug covering the tatami.
          "Why have you brought us here?" Shichiro demanded, glaring defiantly at one of the the highest authorities in the land.
          "Avert your eyes, peasant! You will not look directly at me!" Tokugawa-sama commanded. When Shichiro refused, one of the men dressed in black robes like the shogun paced over and forced him to look down.
          "Now that that has been remedied," Iemochi looked over the bowing Choshu, "I am obligated to tell you that you have been captured by my personal orders. What I am not obligated to tell you is what will happen to you now."
         The two friends exchanged glances, then Hideki looked over to the other prisoners. They appeared very tired, downtrodden, and overall like they had given up fighting. Their heads were bowed to the floor.
          "Stop looking at each other and take some non-verbal advice from these two!" Iemochi commanded, extending an arm to the young boy and the other man. "They know how to bow before a shogun!"
         As if that wasn't beaten into them! Hideki thought, venomously, flashing the shogun a look that could melt lead.
         Iemochi scowled at him, but didn't reply. "Allow me to introduce to you my samurai," he said, a calmer expression masking his anger. He indicated the bakufu-clad samurai behind the prisoners and approached them, brushing past Hideki without so much as looking at him. 
          "These are my wonderous creations," he cooed, removing the mask of one. The eyes watched Iemochi almost as if they were crying out to be freed. But it had no mouth to express this. Hideki felt a pang of sadness for the creation, almost as if it were alive.
          "What are they?" Shichiro hissed at Hideki.
         Iemochi glared at him. "I am not done talking!" he bellowed. He looked back at his creation much like a mother watching her child, only much more strange. Perhaps it could be more accurately compared to a man and his car, even if that comparison is not historically appropriate. "They are the soldiers that will win me respect and admiration from the Westerners as well as help me crush your puny little uprising." He stroked the bare wire-covered head of the mechanical samurai lovingly.
          "Take them away!" Iemochi commanded the samurai, turning quickly back to the prisoners. "They will all be processed rather nicely."
         Hideki and Shichiro's eyes widened in fear, even if they weren't too sure about what they were going to do. The boy and the middle-aged man went first, dragged to their feet by the strange samurai. Concern at their lack of action raced through Hideki. What had the soldiers done to them that had caused them to give up so easily?
         Hideki thought on how he felt when he first arrived. At first he was angry, and then he was without hope. That is until Shichiro's hole appeared. Was the reason these two did not fight only because they had not had any hope that came from meeting a familiar face?
         The samurai forced Hideki to stand, though not without a fight. The man growled and shook off the samurai, but he could do little else with his hands tied behind his backs. He scowled at the attendants, all dressed in the same black robes as their shogun. The one that had read to them simply frowned. He looked like he was about to say something when Hideki was forced to face the Shogun.
          "Do not bother to fight. My samurai are unbeatable," Iemochi cooed. "You can do nothing to defeat them." 
          "Why have you captured us?" Hideki demanded. "We have done nothing!"
          "Nothing?" Iemochi said, his voice raised in the high pitch of offense. "You think you've done nothing?" If his voice didn't emulate "How dare you?" enough, his expression surly did. "You and your Choshu," at the word "Choshu," he spat on the floor, "have been doing nothing but plotting against the bakufu for years!"
          "We have only wanted our voices heard!" Shichiro chimed in. "We were being ignored!"
          "And rightly so!" Iemochi's voice was now a near falsetto in his anger. "You bunch of barbarians are no better than some of the Westerners! I would even suffice to say that they are more cultured than you!"
          "And you would have us abandon out traditions just to please them?" Hideki spat. "And you call yourself Japanese!"
          "We would far rather work with outsiders with culture and intelligence than deal with the barbarians in our own country," Iemochi said, looking toward his attendants. "Now don't put up a fight during your processing and things will go rather smoothly."
          "What are you even talking about 'processing?'" Hideki refused to be pushed along. The boy and the middle-aged man were surprised he was still protesting. They looked toward Hideki, more curious than hopeful. "You keep saying that word like it's important."
         Iemochi scowled. "I would prefer you not address me so familiarly, but seeing as you are about to be processed, I will allow it." He folded his hand behind him, the fan appearing now much like a wing of some sort. 
         The fan seemed to have a collection of hiragana across it, but Hideki couldn't make out what it said. He could only see two letters: ゆ, and び. Yubi, Hideki said in his mind. These made the word "finger" when put together. Why would that word be in his fan?
         His thoughts were interrupted by Tokugawa-sama speaking again. "You will join the ranks of my samurai here," he made a sweeping motion with his fan, "and be made into one of them."
          "We will never fight for you!" Hideki bellowed, struggling against his captors. The image of the eyes of the mask-less samurai came back to him. That's why it seemed so human. It really was once a human!
          "Ah, but you will!" Iemochi grinned. "There is nothing you can do to stop us now."
         Hideki struggled against his captors, but their grips were like the iron that made them. He was pushed past Iemochi who grinned in victory. He looked back to see Shichiro was in the same sorts, his expression no different than his own.
         They were escorted down the hallway, struggling for the first one hundred feet, but then gave up, their energy spent. The boy and the middle-aged man put up no fight whatsoever.
         The white halls were endless. It felt like they were walking forever. Hideki passed the time by imagining the white walls were made of clouds, something he often did when he was anxious or nervous. It was a habit his father had discouraged, but he always found it fun to defy him in his mind.
         Finally they stopped. It wasn't the end of the hallway; there was more past this room, but they moved no further. The hallway around them appeared to be exactly the same as the rest of it. The doors were no different except for the two letters that adorned the shogun's fan also adorned one of the doors. But there was more than just two hiragana. There were five: ゆ, び, の, く, and ろ.
          "Yubi no kuro?" Shichiro said quietly. Hideki looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "What kind of name is 'the black finger?'"
          "Silence!" Iemochi bellowed, sending echoes bouncing off the walls. It seemed as though the sound would carry on forever. His attendants jumped in surprise. One rubbed his head, his expression saying "Why must I put up with this every day?" 
          "Open the door!" the shogun commanded, pointing to the entry-way with the symbols on it, the oh so familiar letters that often brought a multitude of feelings to those that read them. But today, they brought nothing but dread. Hideki recalled the days when he was just learning to read, but he shook his head. Now was not the time to reminisce, even if they might be about to die.
          "You will never get away with this!" he shouted as one of the samurai pushed the young boy through the now open door.
         Iemochi, who Hideki had always been lead to believe to be a kind and just man, was now grinning with something the man had never seen on any living human's face. Was it victory? Yes, it was victory, but a victory so complete he was sure there was no way anyone could stop him.
         It was at that moment, amid the cried of the young boy's pain and the middle-aged man's feeble struggle against the samurai, that Hideki decided something. He would put an end to whatever was going on here. He gritted his teeth and roared, pushing aside the samurai as if they were chopsticks. He ripped away Shichiro's captors and threw his friend back against Iemochi-sama. The shogun fell backwards and knocked over his attendants - all five of them - like dominoes.
         Iemochi sputtered and flailed, his now closed fan clutched in his hand. The attendants, some of their cooling implements skidding across the floor.
          "How dare you?" Iemochi spat, his falsetto voice returning. He stood up quickly, pushing Shichiro off him. He stepped on a few hands in the process, but ignored their cries. Before he continued, he stopped to wipe off his robes of any dust that might have fallen onto them. Hideki grinned and took the moment to punch the shogun in the jaw.
          "Let's go!" he shouted at Shichiro. He grasped his friend's arm and took off running, the other man stumbling for a few moments before regaining his balance.
          "Where are we going?" Shichiro gasped between breaths.
          "I have no idea!"
         Hideki pulled his friend down the next turn, and then another. Only when the sound of Iemochi's yelling faded away did they finally slow down.
         The hallway was much the same as the rest of the complex. Every door was exactly the same.
          "Hello?" Shichiro called, hoping to get some form of reply. Hideki's hand shot over his mouth.
          "Don't make a sound," he whispered.
         Shichiro was about to ask why when the sound of boots made them freeze. Without a word, Hideki took off down the hallways and Shichiro followed.
          "Wrong hallway!" Hideki cried.
         The samurai, now having spotted their quarry, broke into a jog. The two man ran around every corner they could until they were all turned around, but the samurai kept coming. Every turn was another dead end, either in white wall or samurai.
         Finally out of breathe, there was only one option left.
          "Into a room!" cried Shichiro, dragging his freind into a white-walled cell. Hideki began to grow angry. There was no way he was going back into a cell after they had just escaped.
          "We will not go back! Who knows what will happen if they find us again?" he protested.
          "What other choice do we have?" Shichiro said, gasping for breath.
         Hideki's answer was cut off by the sound of boots. They were surrounded on either side by at least twenty mechanical samurai.
          "The floor is slippery," Hideki observed, rubbing his slipper on the solid ground.
          "So?" Shichiro said, looking around for an escape.
         Without speaking, Hideki raced toward the samurai to the right. Shichiro cried out, but blinked when Hideki dropped to his rear and slid underneath them all.
          "Hurry, Shi-kun! You have to!"
         Shichiro froze. They were getting too close to build up enough momentum. What if he didn't make it.
          "Come on Shi-kun!" Hideki urged. "There's no time to waste!"
         Shichiro took a deep breathe, the samurai pacing closer and closer. He had to do it! He had to! He dropped to his rear, sliding across the floor. Hope swelled in his chest. Everything seemed to slow down.
         Suddenly, red blossomed on his chest. He saw Hideki shouting for him, his expression changing from encouragement to desperation in an instant. He looked down and saw the blade of a katana rising from him. The samurai above him looked down, sorry filling the mechanical eyes. The mask had fallen off and was now on the floor next to Shichiro's hand.
          "Hideki-kun…" Shichiro looked at his friend, his vision blurring. The other man's mouth was open wide, shouting something, but he couldn't make it out. "Tell my wife…I love her…"

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