Read an excerpt of THE PILLOW BOOK OF THE FLOWER SAMURAI:
I stroke the dagger at my chest and depart my tent, proceeding through the remains of the battle, the sea’s rumblings as it subsides, and the kites’ screeching as they feast. The cool spring breeze smashes into my face and burns my eyes with acrid smoke. Bile bubbles to my throat with the stench of impromptu pyres and scorched bodies. I swallow and demand myself to be quiet—to be as calm as my thoughts—to be at rest as my spirit is soothed. I do not wish others who may be watching to think I am afraid. With Misuki’s assistance, I sit on the rough green mats, this place which provides the privacy I seek.
“The battle is over, and time is short,” says Misuki—my companion, my friend—who hurries to assist with the ties. Her hands quiver, but together we lash my legs. Her red-rimmed eyes fill as I dictate my requests, complete my story. Not the perjuries my enemies have scattered like autumn leaves. She is the one person who knows the truth. With remonstrations, she does swear to discharge all. I trust this woman with my life’s work, my story. My death.
She practices the sword stroke. Its crisp clean sound is the last one I will hear. Its soft swish brushes my neck. My head lightens with anticipation—to be with husband, lover, perhaps parents and siblings, most of the people I love. Though not all. The dagger reflects Misuki’s sword and catches the last of the sun. A beautiful sunset is imminent, and that I will not see it brings me relief.
In my left hand I hold the pink scrap, all that remains of the smock my older sister embroidered with flowers, the smock I wore the day my life twisted onto this path. My lips roll into a smile as I give this cloth to Misuki. She knows where it must go. Balmy tranquility suffuses my body—with that knowledge, with my life, and with that young girl I once was, the journal I maintained, and the last of my names: Kozaishō—