Hurried footsteps echoed on the wooden floor of the Hosokawa castle. Lady Tama sat in her room, dressed in a brilliant white kimono. She watched the flickering light within the paper lantern as she clutched the beads of her crystal rosary. Tama felt as if her strength was as feeble as the light; only Deusu could give her the strength she needed now. She began to recite the Lord’s prayer.
“Ten ni imasu watashitachi no chichi yo…”
Ishida Mitsunari’s men would arrive any moment to take her hostage. She could escape like many of the other daimyo wives, but if she did, her husband Tadaoki’s loyalty to Tokugawa Ieyasu would be questioned. Tadaoki told her that if Ishida attempted to take her hostage, she would have to die.
I cannot bear to think of losing you…but I must think of what would happen if you were taken.
It was not uncommon for entire families to be killed, much like what happened to her parents and siblings. She did not blame Tadaoki for such a decision; in such a tumultuous time, tragedy was inevitable.
“Lady Gracia.” Tama turned at the sound of her baptismal name. Her maid, Kayo, stood there between the shoji, holding Tama’s two-year-old sleeping daughter O-Man in her arms. Twelve-year-old Tara stood next to her, head bowed. Tama struggled to hold back her tears as she approached her children.
Tara looked up at her mother. Her noble composure broke, and she embraced her mother. “Okāsan, don’t leave us! Please…” She broke into a fit of sobbing.
“Musume, you know I must stay here.”
“But why? Why must you die?” Her grip around Tama’s waist tightened.
“If I die, our family will be safe.” She pulled Tara away from her and looked into her daughter’s tear-filled eyes. “You must be brave for your siblings and for Otōsan.” She kissed her daughter’s forehead. “This is not forever, Tara. One day Deusu will call you home, and I will be waiting.”
Tara nodded and stood next to Kayo, her head bowed again.
“Kayo, may I see O-Man?”
Kayo solemnly handed over the sleeping toddler to her mother. Tama buried her face in O-Man’s downy hair. “Little musume, be faithful to Deusu and He will always be with you. Remember your okāsan ….grow up strong.” Tama handed her over to Tara, afraid that she would break if she held her much longer.
“Kayo…” Tama turned to her maid.
The light reflected the tear trails on Kayo’s face. “Yes, my lady?”
“You have been my closest friend. If not for you, I would have never made it through those years in exile in Midono. If not for you…I would not have found Deusu.”
“Oh, my lady!” Kayo fell to the ground on her knees, burying her face in her hands.
Tama bent down and embraced her friend. “Please watch over my daughters for me,” she whispered.
Kayo looked up into Tama’s eyes. “I will watch over them as if they were my own.”
“Arigatō, Kayo. I have been blessed to have you as a sister in Christ.”
Suddenly, shouts of alarm came from down the hall. Ishida’s men had entered the castle. Little O-Man heard the noise and awoke, terrified and crying.
“Go now, Kayo! Go with Deusu!”
Kayo embraced her one last time and grabbed Tara’s hand. “Sayonara, Gracia!” The three figures disappeared into the darkness. Tama could hear Tara’s sobs and O-Man’s cry for her. Her heart shattered at that moment, longing to go after them. Sayonara, my little ones.
“Lady Tama!” It was Ogasahara Shosai, one of the retainers of the castle. It was his duty to carry out what would come next. “We…we must act now before…” He was out of breath; the halberd he carried in his hand was shaking. Tama knew that it could not be easy for him to kill his master’s wife.
“I understand. I am ready.” Tama calmly knelt down at the entry way of her room and pulled back her ebony hair. She opened the neckline of the kimono, exposing part of her chest. Deusu, be my strength.
“Forgive me, my lady!”
Tama smiled at him as the halberd thrust into the soft flesh of her chest. The pain was fleeting; the background of the earthly realm faded into a radiant, remarkable warmth.
Tama’s death caused such an outrage that Ishida was forced to abandon his plan to take his adversaries’ family members hostage. Tama’s family escaped harm.
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