At their head rode doughty Mononobe-no-Moriya, second son of Okoshi, and present chieftain of the Mononobe clan, yawning the last ghost of his snorting, fang-tusked supper into a silken sleeve. Beside him maintained the Prince Anahobe, half-brother to the passed former King, with all the simmering royal ambitions entailed thereby. And if the Prince and the Mononobe Chief Minister were together not enough to achieve any noble end which they might wish, in this land of the eight islands begotten by the ancestral gods, then behind them trailed as well the young Prince Hatsusebe, half-sibling to the regnant Great King of Yamato—prickling their backs beneath their brigandines with his ever-quiet gaze as they gained augustly southward for the capital.
They were still a motley damned collection in the end, admitted Moriya in his heart. But never could they have been otherwise, when they plotted murder in their midst.
“Thy court kept pure as surface of a mirror,” scoffed Anahobe by his side. “I should with mine own sword to death him put, for such insolence before us all displayed.”
“Verily,” pronounced Moriya, just a half-tone shy of blandly. Since departing that Prince’s gate, he had within the half-hour lost any count of his manifold repetitions of the useful little word, and others broadly similar to it. But if only that were the whole cost of appeasing the Prince’s pride, then he could have droned blithely on away without a care beneath the sky, as if with one of those ghastly recitations of the Boddhists’ … the heretical inaptitude of the image notwithstanding. Only, and this was the whip to the rising hoofbeat in Moriya’s skull—sufficient levy was it not.
He glanced over to the Prince, and carefully reread his expression by candlelight.
He found he needn’t much have bothered.
“Miwa Sakau,” Anahobe cursed, moreso to himself than to anyone else. Indeed, that was the year-round prevailing wind on the roiling sea of the Prince’s thought. It made him an easy mistress, Moriya had adjudged; but a mightily expensive one—which still suited the Mononobe, on overall balance at least. The Nakatomi could never afford his extravagances, for one.
“Miwa Sakau,” Anahobe cursed again, reiterating his present price.
Of Miwa-no-Sakau himself Moriya held no particular enmity. The man was an able minister, a favourite of the late former King’s, and viewed the foreign religion with a healthily jaundiced eye. When Moriya had counselled the former King together with Nakatomi-no-Katsumi towards the razing of the Soga temple and the burning of its Buddha-image, it had been the soft-spoken word of Sakau which had swayed his Majesty to it at the last. But despite this linchpin role in the grand humiliation of the Soga, Sakau had unaccountably still retained the respect, and even favour, of their chieftain Umako … the minister conformed easily, it seemed, to any standard of good conduct and governance, whether of native or foreign faith promulgated.
To say equivalently, he was precisely the sort of man which Moriya could just as well do with as do away. Or he would have been, had Anahobe not ungirt his belt and flopped his ten-span sword upon the scale.
(“ ’Tis sooth,” said Moriya idly, to that Prince’s next complaint.)
Now that particular image was a little more apt … if repellent in its own unsavoury way. The penal offense which Miwa-no-Sakau had ne’er-so-lightly committed against the Prince had been, after all, to bar the gate of the funerary palace erected for the late King’s temporary repose—in prophylaxis of the Prince’s intent to impose himself upon his brother’s grieving consorts. The stymied Prince had stormed and thundered beneath the portico; threatened beheadings and the lash amongst the long-suffering guards; but the good minister had steadied them to their duty, his own name offered them as guarantee.
And now the time was come to collect upon’t—all the poorer for it Sakau. … Thy good name or thy body: what is dearer thee?—thy body or thy riches: what is worthier?
Moriya shivered despite the midsummer, and shook his bearded head; hove up his helmet and foisted a finger in his ear, to extricate the imaginary little voice like bells within. Anahobe in the one ear was palaverous enough, without her taking up mental roost inside the other.
* * *
Distant rushlights crested up, and specked the hills like wanton fireflies. Before them rose the Palace of Twin Elms beside the shimmering Pond of Iware, its eaves, erstwhile vermillion by light of day, now cutting ink-black against the night.
But not a candle paused now to admire it. Instead they streamed themselves down the slopes in haste, and ringed in force around the capital. They compassed in between them the grand walled compound and artificial lake, their flame-licked ring of bronze and iron broken only by the monumental earthwork of the dam of Iware Pond. Their brightest ones reinforced themselves by a selected cadre of Mononobe nephews and close cousins, and handily secured entry past the guarded gate with an annihilating volley of noble names and lofty ranks.
Once within, like leashed hounds, the Mononobe sniffed and stalked throughout the night: throughout the various streets and royal ministries. They did all to find their man which kept above the line of impropriety, and dipped, at times, the heel of a boot or a scabbard-chape below, when they felt the delineation renegotiable enough.
In short, they hunted Miwa-no-Sakau.
They hunted him through half the bloody night.
“Not a hair,” reported Mononobe-no-Nagae, and was dismissed by a sour wave of Moriya’s hand. The Mononobe chieftain, and the Princes Hatsusebe and Anahobe, stood in half-circular council on the topmost floor of Sakau’s abandoned ministry; arms folded; helmet-brims low; nursing vinegared, bland, and simmering mugs respectively.
Privately did Moriya worry of the latter’s boiling over; and so he occasioned here and then to keep that Prince’s focus straight, lest it bend to a direction untoward the Mononobe and himself.
“Man must be half an eel,” he slandered thus, “not hair nor hide of him to leave around.”
“I’ll butterfly him like one, too,” vowed Anahobe, “whene’er I on him get mine hands. Pull out his spine …”
“I doubt he were with bones in-born at all. He hath the dirty luck of Hiruko; … was like as not the same way misbegot …”
So they stood, and creaked the floorboards as they listed their weight from boot to deerskin boot. But as the fruitless reports amassed, and despite Moriya’s best endeavours, the Prince’s ire steadily swelled upon them; and Mononobe-no-Moriya, distant mortal issue of the heavenly deity Futsunushi who had once conquered the world of men by sword, began to pray him silently for relief.
It was granted him.
No sooner than had Anahobe finally cast at Moriya a venomously narrowed eye did the balcony door behind them slide a silent hand-span open; and a voice, radiantly mirthful, issue forth, obliterating every tenebre of their privacy.
A mirthful, singing voice of yore it was.
And auncient Chinese poetry sang the voice.
“Grene, grene þe brymme gresse bysyde; Lusche, lusche wylowes inne þe worthe. At hyȝe wyndowe a comly, comly wyf, Bryȝt, bryȝt þe trelesse stod bihynde, Daynté, daynté wyth rede blusche ydaubed.”
Thus lilted the familiar voice like laughing bells; and as the conspirators fell over themselves from their great startling there reached out from through the gap a slender, shapely hand—and without need of estimation did Moriya know that the both to her belonged.
“A quyte hande tretys, tretys raȝt.”
“Futo,” said Moriya, at length.
“Elder brother,” Mononobe-no-Futohime repaid.
“I wot not that thou couldst ride, that thou art here,” … he said.
“Ride? … Yes; ride … Indeed thou witest not. And more is there, which doth from thee escape, so seemeth it.” … She cast open the partition fully then, and her pair of goose-grey eyes cast airily over the trio of accomplices. “Three wheels,” she counted them aloud; “why, verily, Mi Wa—and Sakau hath you beturned all.”
Beyond her rose in silhouette the sacred mountain of Miwa, thickly forest-girt and faulded by a forbidding, numinous fog.
“… And how camest thou to know,”—had Moriya scarcely begun, but Anahobe trampled over it:
“Where is he, then!” he hissed, who had just then sheathed out his sword, and now strangled its filigreed hilt with whited fingers as he waved it perilously about.
But if the flickering iron held any trepidation for Futo, then sooth to say she surely shewed it none.
“Thou’dst not been greatly subtle of intent,” she said plainly, in answering their questions both. “Thy Miwa’d up his mount already flown, by th’evening hour of the Boar.” Her dainty nose pricked lightly up as she stressed the final word, and she gave a clairvoyant glance to Moriya’s belly before continuing on. “I ’spect he shall the Dowager’s country-palace at Camellia Cross have gained; and I aver that if thou pryest closely there, that thou shalt surely there Sakau harboured find.”
Moriya stroked his beard irritably—finding that his fingers came away with lingering pork grease on their tips, and a rising tremouring besides. He suppressed the both stiffly in a fist against his hip. His sister had always been fond of such modest divinations, he knew, to the chagrin of anyone who enjoyed a modicum of privacy in the inaner details of their lives. But simple deduction was all that they had been, no more albeit no less; and it was certainly no cause to believe in any oracular pronunciments which she might pretentiously have given out.
Thus would he have challenged her now—but Hatsusebe had reasoned by a straighter path, and did so in his stead.
“On what authority dost thou of this give tell?” the young Prince queried her. “Hath he to thee divulged his such design? … Or didst thou him there arrange, by any mean?”
“Gods’ wounds!” exclaimed Futo; “why, truly, thou art sharp! Indeed, I him there flew by Fūjin’s winds to-night. And ’pon the boat Iwafune rode we, like Wang Ziqiao upon his loyal crane …” And, honing her wit up to a razor edge, she flapped her overflowing sleeves in pantomime.
The Prince broke into a gracious smile of defeat, and sensibly restrained his tongue for the remainder of the night.
“Insincerity doth become a woman not,” said Moriya, quite tiredly by contrast.
Futo only put her sleeves together primly. “If thou wilt not from me the matter hear, the time thou lose shall only be thine own. Thou’lt hear as much from others come the morn. … From Miwa Shiratsutsumi, p’rhaps. Or Miwa Yokoyama might give tell.”
Moriya marked the names in his mind with scanty satisfaction, and discarded as chaff the unarguable rest.
Briefly he glanced aside, and saw that Anahobe, too, seemed mollified; or perhaps only stood confused; or at least he saw that the Prince had put away his sword. Hastily in his heart he propitiated Futsunushi, and begged leave of his princely compatriots. Then he hauled up that heavenly god’s latter-day namesake by her petit waist, invoking the last resort of wearied elder brothers, and carried her to the balcony to confer more privately with her aside.
“And what of Soga, then?” asked Moriya, when she had finished up her elaborated protestation.
“Of Soga whom?” said Futo, still petulant.
“Of Soga Umako thy spouse,” said Moriya. “Of him.”
“Ah!” she mouthed; “the percèd sparrow didst thou mean!”
Moriya soured further. True, that he and Umako had exchanged insults upon the late King’s funeral. True, that Umako had delivered his eulogy still wearing his new-made sword. True, that Moriya had for it compared the Soga chieftain to a bird shot through by a hunting-shaft. True, that he had delivered his own oration with a tremble in his limbs; and true that Umako had in turn recommended little bells be hung on him.
True, it is to say, that they had both been artlessly drunk—their sole salvation the predictable temper of Anahobe, whose own grand outburst had overweened their follies all.
But she had chosen an oblique direction from which to needle him, and now he noted it:
“… Shouldst thou thine husband such a thing becall?”
She gave reply in lilting Chinese verse.
"A syngyng maid in house watz I bifore; Now wyf of schaualdour am I becom. My schaualdour retornez not aȝayn: Fro falowe bedde no joye gete I, but payne."
“Somehow do I thy such interpretation misdoubt,” said Moriya.
“Oh, fie upon thee, sib,” she said, pouting. “Thou knowest not the man like as have I.”
“And thank the ancestor for such a grace.”
“It is an ancestor precisely who my present lot hath predesigned from birth,” said Futo crossly. “Now I only mean the best of it to make. I thee give Miwa Sakau, despite mine husband’s better wishes for the man.”
Moriya stated the obvious: “But plainly thou dost not Sakau give.”
“I give him without giving, dost thou see? … ’Tis precept of inaction in play.”
“The Dao,” he named.
“Soga Umako conniptions shouldeth have, of hearing that.”
“Conniptions shall he have, when Sakau the drink of death dost thou pour down his throat.”
“I ’spect his Highness shall prefer the sword.”
“Howbeit. For his faith doth sooth decree, that th’Age of Dharma cometh to a close, and Lawlessness the land benight shall soon.” Her voice crested into high drama as she spoke: “He shall of Miwa Sakau despair, and see the world in deepest, direst straits! He shall become aggressive—”
“Good for thee.”
There came a rising rumble from Futo’s throat, not unlike from a small and piebald animal’s. “I give thee opportunity, dear sib!—”
“Thou giv’st prognostication. Nothing more.” … Moriya held up his hand when she made to contest this, and doffed his helmet, letting loose a long, baritone rumble of his own. He brought up his vambrace absently to his face; then, noticing it, turned the arm around, and wiped off his moustache with the inner wrist of his sleeve, heedless of the garment’s finery. “… I worry thou’rt over-clever at times,” he said finally, slowly. “And I wish that Father had not thee off-wed … and speciall not to Soga Umako. Not even as a poniard in his back.”
Futo retrieved the helm from beneath his arm, and interposed it as a shield when Moriya reached out gently to palm her head.
“… Thou worryguts,” she said, into its hollow dome.
But soft, to her surprise, Moriya quoted haltingly of Chinese verse himself.
“The years of life reach not one hundred full; Yet worry doth besiege the heart an age. The day is short, whilst bitter night is long: Why not go wand’ring out by candlelight? …”
He faltered then; but Futo finished it, and in doing so gave it a force of thoroughly her own:
“And work for happiness without delay: How canst thou wait for Providence to come!”
“… How canst thou wait for Providence to come,” repeated Moriya.
Futo cradled the helmet to herself, and slid her fingers along the banded feathers in its top, soothing the pheasant rectrices with her touch. Then she looked up again to Moriya, and thrust the helmet out against his chest, the demand of an ancient promise all aglister in her eyes.
Moriya smiled wide at her like he was a twelveyear boy, and took up the weighty promise in his hands.
* * *
The years of life reach not one hundred full; Yet worry doth besiege the heart an age. The day is short, whilst bitter night is long: Why not go wand’ring out by candlelight? And work for happiness without delay: How canst thou wait for Providence to come? A fool doth cherish crass expenditure, Yet in the end derision is his lot.
O thou, immortal Wang Ziqiao, the sage: How never lightly is thy peerage gained!
>>43282 It's pretty easy. Just remember the following:
- thou goes with -est - he/she/it with -eth - thou is the singular; you is the plural - thou is the subject; thee is the object - my/thy goes with words beginning with consonants; mine/thine goes with vowels - initial h counts as a vowel - actually, thou is only used for friends and inferiors, while you is used as a respectful form, like French "vous" or Spanish "usted" - the word order of a sentence is SOV, except when using V2 word order in which case the finite verb is moved into post-initial position - Syntactically, V2 requires a left-peripheral head (usually C) with an occupied specifier and paired with raising the highest verb-auxiliary to that head. V2 is usually analysed as the co-occurrence of these requirements, which can also be referred to as "triggers". The left-peripheral head, which is a requirement that causes the effect of V2, sets further requirements on a phrase XP that occupies the initial position, so that this phrase XP may always have specific featural characteristics. - ... Actually, the syntactic shift from SOV to modern SVO word order had already begun in Middle English. - Even if you get the syntax right, you'll never get the diction or the register, because you are not a 16th-century Englishman who lived and breathed in the Britain, full fair, which far over the French flood Felix Brutus built on many a broad bank and brae. - Not even if you're Tolkien. - I can't write Elizabethan English. - You can't write Elizabethan English. - Shakespeare couldn't write Elizabethan English. Who the fuck really talks in iambic pentameter? - William George Aston, translator of the Nihon Shoki, couldn't write Elizabethan English. He has everybody refer to everybody else as thou. Weren't there politeness forms in Old Japanese? - Wait, were there? - Let me look that up. - I can't read Old Japanese. - You can't read Old Japanese. - Wait, the Nihon Shoki wasn't written in Japanese at all. It was written in Classical Chinese. - I can't read Classical Chinese. - You can't read Classical Chinese. - The Nihon Shoki isn't an accurate reporting of historical speech, either. Historical documents never are. - Better build a time machine. - Actually, time travel is impossible, because—
>>43285 Most modern theories have it that Japanese and Chinese aren't related or can't be established as having any genealogical relation. But anyways I just wanted to have some Middle English for shits and giggles, as a joke on the way people usually translate Futo's diction; and it's not like I know shit about Norman French or Latin or Greek or anything. I referenced the Middle English using Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, too, so a Midlands dialect;—I thought maybe that would be Middle enough for the Middle Country, as it were.
And just for completeness' sake I'll mention I didn't write the poems myself; I only translated them from the Han-period Nineteen Old Poems (numbers 2 and 15).