Matsudaira Terutsuna. He wrote the name again in the bold, thick letters of Chinese calligraphy. His tutor had a far more flowing hand, but Terutsuna's mother made sure that his education was masculine to a fault, and thus he wrote his characters squarely, with firm brushstrokes. Untidiness was masculine. Carelessness. Hands too fat and strong to hold the delicate brush. Sometimes it made Terutsuna angry, that he was not permitted to see beauty in men or enjoy refined poetry or perfumes like his father and the other men did, but he knew why. No-one questioned Baron Izu's manhood, but anyone could question Terutsuna's.
He had always been a strong child, his body as broad and hearty as his mother's, and though he liked to wrestle as much as his brothers did, he was the daughter of a noble household and must learn to be a valued wife one day. His strong body would produce many healthy children, just as his mother had done, and in the meantime he enjoyed the bright colours, sweet dishes and pretty clothes he was given.
"You have no taste at all!" His needlework teacher grew increasingly exasperated with his desire to use only the brightest fabrics and boldest threads, no matter what she instructed, though his mother only laughed and gave him a treat, having a wetnurse wrap her latest baby in whatever gaudy cloth Terutsuna – then O-Shizu – cared to make. Only three of those children, the daughters, survived the Redface Pox – all nine boys died within week of each other, along with almost all of the young men of the castle and a substantial portion of the older men.
Baron Izu, his face still wet from the tears shed over his eldest son's deathbed, crouched down and took Shizu by both hands.
"Terutsuna did not die," he said, plainly. Shizu nodded, confused – the fourth son had been the first to die, his breath rattling in his throat. "You did not die."
It was a logic puzzle with a simple solution. "I am Terutsuna."
His father took concubine after concubine, women selected by his mother for their strength and good health, for their living brothers and nephews, for the hope of some chance that their sons would survive the dreaded pox. Not one male child survived beyond the age of seven. Terutsuna, surrounded by a flock of little sisters, carried his father's hopes alone. His writing must be impeccable. His archery and swordplay were far from the most skilful, but no-one could question his determination or endurance, or his ruthlessness. And if he felt the stirrings of attraction for other men, well, he just had to laugh it off with a fifth helping of dinner and another round of drinking with village women, blocking out the sounds of his comrades' love for each other. "Cho Hakkai", his friends called him, and at first, Terutsuna took on that name with good will. Far better that they think him the greedy pig-man than attribute his gluttony to the weak will and sweet cravings of a woman.
"Strength," he wrote, in his bold hand. "Knowledge." "Justice." Other men could be more than just their bodies and appetites; other men could use their brains and hearts along with their strength. Even Cho Hakkai had grown and learned from his travels, and perhaps Terutsuna could put aside his fears – and his father's fears – to do the same, despite the lack of a guide.
He wiped the brush and laid it down. Tomorrow he would travel with his father to Edo, to meet with the Shogun. The current Shogun's grandfather (now deified, the Great Gongen, Light of the East) had been known as a man of great cunning and learning, as well as a military leader; if the young Shogun himself showed these qualities, perhaps Terutsuna could look to him. Terutsuna put out his lamp. It was time to sleep, now, to put aside all such thoughts. Tomorrow, he would take up his duties again, his strong body never failing, but this time with his eyes and heart open.