Tan-tan. Let the tale be told, honestly and artfully, to delight and enlighten those who were not there. Inari, mistress and master, lend your servant the best words to tell the tale of how a wrong was righted, how an unhappy ghost found peace, how three lowly creatures achieved greatness, and how an actor lost everything and found something else. Begin: I see a storm approaching. Tan-tan.
Jiro and Akihiko were sitting on the ship’s deck, out of the way of the sailors, playing cho-han, as they had done every day since they had sailed from Edo. Jiro shook the dice and turned the cup over, revealing that he had lost his bet. Akihiko smiled.
Jiro had lost all the money he had won over the past two days.
This, however, was merely a sign that the dice were about to start falling in his favor again. He handed the cup to Akihiko, who dropped the dice in and gave them a shake.
A sailor shouted, and they looked up. A wall of black cloud had appeared on the horizon, and as they watched, an outrider gust of wind raced across the water, and threw spray in their faces. The ship trembled.
“I cannot be delayed,” said Akihiko. “I must deliver the gift in time.”
“Are you telling this to the storm?” said Jiro. He had a feeling of dread, and suspected that this was the culmination of his life’s misfortunes, the final event that would make all else of no consequence.
The ship’s crew were furling sails and crying prayers. Another gust hit the ship.
“No!” Akihiko protested. “I am trusted with this… I cannot fail! The gift!” He looked at Jiro, as though his companion could supply an escape.
Jiro watched the blackness, driving toward them like avenging fury. He had already endured the wrath of Lord Hideyoshi, which had led to banishment; but this power was beyond all entreaty. Fear urged him to run, but there was nowhere to go. He decided to face his doom right where he was. In the wind’s roar, he barely heard Akihiko, saying something — no, shouting — about the wedding present. And then the great fist struck them.