Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate
water,
    As the poet’s book was cleansed.
    At the end of the poem she had simply written: “
Forgive me—Teiko.

    I thought, perhaps, if one day I was able to forgive myself, maybe then I would find the strength to forgive Teiko. Not this day, but that didn’t matter. I had other business. I put the letter away.
    “
Kampai,
Kanemore-san. Let us finish this jar of fine saké.”
    I knew Kanemore was deeply curious about the letter but too polite to ask, for which I was grateful. He hefted the container and frowned. “It is almost empty. I’ll order another.”
    “No, my friend, for this is all we will drink tonight. From here we will visit the baths, and then go to sleep, for tomorrow our heads must be clear.”
    “Why? What happens tomorrow?”
    “Tomorrow we restore your sister’s honor.”
    The Imperial Court was composed more of tradition and ritual than people: everything in its time, everything done precisely so. Yet it was astonishing to me how quickly matters could unfold, given the right impetus.
    Kanemore kneeled beside me in the hall where justice, or at least Fujiwara no Sentaro’s version of it, was dispensed. The minister had not yet taken his place on the dais, but my attention was on a curtained alcove on the far side of the dais. I knew I had seen that curtain move. I leaned over and whispered to Kanemore.
    “His Majesty Reizei is present, I hope?”
    “I believe so, accompanied by Chancellor Yorimichi I expect. He will not show himself, of course.”
    Of course. The acknowledged presence of the Emperor in these proceedings was against form, but that didn’t matter. He was here, and everyone knew it. I was almost certain he would be, once word reached him. Kanemore, through another relative in close attendance on His Majesty, made sure that word did so reach him. I think Lord Sentaro convened in such haste as a way to prevent that eventuality, but in this he was disappointed. He entered now, looking both grave and more than a little puzzled.
    Kanemore leaned close. “I’ve sent a servant for a bucket of water, as you requested. I hope you know what you’re doing.”
    Kanemore was obviously apprehensive. Under the circumstances I did not blame him. Yet I was perfectly calm. I claimed no measure of courage greater than Kanemore’s; I simply had the distinct advantage that I no longer cared what happened to me.
    “What is this matter you have brought before the Imperial Ministry?” Lord Sentaro demanded from the dais.
    “I am here to remove the unjust stain on the honor of the late Princess Teiko, daughter of the Emperor Sanjo, Imperial Consort to the late Emperor Suzaku II,” I said, clearly and with more than enough volume to carry my words throughout the room.
    There was an immediate murmur of voices from the clerks, minor judges, members of the Court, and attendants present. Lord Sentaro glared for silence until the voices subsided.
    “This unfortunate matter has already been settled. Lady Teiko was identified by my nephew, who died a hero’s death in the north. Consider your words carefully, Lord Yamada.”
    “I choose my words with utmost care, Your Excellency. Your nephew was indeed a hero and brought honor to the Fujiwara family. He did not, however, name Princess Teiko as his lover. This I will prove.”
    Lord Sentaro motioned me closer, and when he leaned down, his words were for me alone. “Shall I have cause to embarrass you a second time, Lord Yamada?”
    Up until that point I almost felt sorry for the man, but no longer. Now my blade, so to speak, was drawn. “We shall soon see, Lord Minister of Justice. May I examine the letter?”
    He indicated assent, and I returned to my place as Lord Sentaro’s stentorian voice boomed across the room. “Produce my nephew’s letter so that Lord Yamada may examine it and see what everyone knows is plainly written there.”
    A few snickers blossomed like weeds here and there in the courtroom despite the seriousness of the

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