The Story of a Madwoman


Yasumoto Noboru stood before the gate and stared lazily for a few moments at the guardhouse. Queasy from a hangover, his head weighed him down.

"I guess this is the place," he muttered to himself. "The Koishikawa Charity Clinic."

His mind filled with thoughts of Chigusa. As he stared at the guardhouse, he recalled Chigusa's face. The soft lines of her tall, lithe physique, her long pale face with sharp features. The instant flush of her cheeks whenever he touched her. Her glistening eyes. An invitation to him seemed to rise in those eyes.

"Has it been three years?" he said to himself. "Why didn't you wait, Chigusa? Why?"

He turned to see a young man walking toward the gate. He immediately knew from his clothes and hairstyle that he was a doctor. Noboru returned to his senses and followed the young man to the guardhouse. When he gave his name to the guard, the young man turned and came back. He asked, "Are you Yasumoto-san?"

Noboru nodded.

"I know about you," said the young man and turned to the guard.

"I'll escort him."

He greeted Noboru with a modest affected bow and walked beside him.

"I'm Tsugawa Genzō," the young man said amiably. "We've been waiting for your arrival."

Noboru looked at him but said nothing.

"Yes, well," Tsugawa smiled. "Now that you're here, I can leave. You're taking my place."

Noboru looked skeptical and said, "I'm only here because I was invited."

"So you studied in Nagasaki," said Tsugawa, changing the subject. "How long were you there?"

"Three years."

Noboru recalled Chigusa with the words three years and frowned. "This place is awful," said Tsugawa. "You're wondering how awful? You'd never be able to understand if you weren't here to see for yourself. Anyway, the patients are riddled with fleas and lice and covered with tumors. They all stink and are ignorant poor people.

"The pay couldn't be lower, but Red Beard will work you hard day and night. I was cursed for wanting to become a doctor. It's awful. This place is the pits."

Noboru said nothing.

I only came because I was invited, thought Noboru. I have no intention of being shut up in a so-called charity clinic after being trained in Nagasaki. That fellow should have asked for references. He was mistaken.

After they walked only fifty steps from the gate down the slushy pebble path, they came to the building. The antiquated awning at the entryway was warped. The roof tiles were skewed. The two ward wings slammed by ocean waves were off kilter.

Tsugawa Genzō went to a side entrance, pointed out the cabinet for shoes, and stepped inside with Noboru.

Around the corner down the hall was the waiting room full of people. They were probably patients waiting to be examined. The middle-aged and older men and women and the children were all poorly dressed. A pungent odor like discarded garbage or rotten fruit filled the space.

"These are outpatients here for treatment," said Tsugawa while wiping the tip of his nose with his hand. "Everything from the examinations to the medications is free. For this bunch, dying would be better than living. He made a sour face and gestured to one side. "This way."

They went down a connecting hall and turned right. Tsugawa stopped in front of the first room in the hall and announced himself.

From inside the room, they heard "Come in." The deep voice was rhythmic and resonant.

Tsugawa whispered, "That's Red Beard," signaled Noboru with his eyes, and slid open the shōji door.

The long room had six tatami mats in two rows. Opposite the door was a waist-high window. Cabinets with three levels were on the left and right sides and solidly built from aged yellowish oak lumber. The top two levels were shelves and the bottom had a drawer on the left and right. Of course, the medicines were probably locked up. A card written with the medication's name was affixed to each concoction.

The window faced north. The stained shōji door was discolored in the cold light. The sturdy broad back of the older man and his unkempt gray hair reflected the light.

Tsugawa Genzō sat, gave a quick greeting, and introduced Yasumoto Noboru.

The old man, still silent, turned to a small desk and wrote something.

He wore hakama trousers of a strange dark gray color, the same color as his tight-sleeve, lined kimono. Rather than the usual flowing split skirt-like hakama trousers, he wore the pants-like tattsuke sewn to resemble leggings. Pleats circled his waist but were finer around his shins. The leggings were tightly closed around his ankles with strings.

This room did not have a wooden brazier. It faced north and received none of the sun's warmth. The air thick with a medicinal odor was frigid. The cold rose from beneath their knees and spread into their entire bodies.

Eventually, the old man put down his pen and turned to them.

He raised his bald head with its wide forehead. His features were angular. A thick beard grew from his mouth to his chin. Intense eyes gleamed below the long, thick eyebrows found in the common saying, "Long eyebrows, long life." His lips closed to form an upside-down U and his eyes simultaneously reflected the sarcasm of a cynic and the curiosity of a child.

Noboru thought, Of course, he's Red Beard.

His beard was whitish gray, but his headstrong expression gave the impression of Red Beard.

He was somewhere between forty and sixty years old. His masculine intensity of a man in his forties and the steadiness of one in his sixties were a little unnatural but seemed to come together in one body.

Noboru bowed and introduced himself.

Red Beard said, "I am Nīde Kyojō," and stared at Noboru. His eyes, as though trained by a drill, assumed a pointed, impertinent expression, and locked onto his face. As if taking Noboru to task, he said, "You will begin training today. You may have your luggage sent here."

Noboru stuttered, "But I ... Wait a minute. I'm only here because I was invited."

Kyojō interrupted, "We're done here," and said to Tsugawa, "Show him to his room."


Yasumoto Noboru lived at The Koishikawa Charity Clinic as an intern.

He objected vehemently. He planned to become a doctor of the shogunate. He would study in Nagasaki, return to Edo, and be assigned a post as a government doctor.

His father Yasumoto Ryōan was a town doctor with an office at 5-chōme, Kōji-machi. Amano Genpaku, a friend of his father who carries the title of Hōin, the shogun's lead physician, recognized Noboru's talent early on, arranged for Noboru to study in Nagasaki, and promised to recommend him for a post as a shogunate physician.

Noboru explained this to Tsugawa Genzō.

"You had that support, but this happened anyway," Tsugawa started to say, but his smile insinuated, What happened?

"Well, I give up. I knew you were coming about two weeks ago because, for some reason, Red Beard seemed to be interested in you."

Tsugawa took him to his room.

On the right side of the hall after turning left from Nīde's room were three similar small rooms. Tsugawa went to the first room and introduced Mori Handayū, a fellow intern, to him. Handayū was a thin man, twenty-seven or -eight years old. He looked miserable and listless from exhaustion.

After introducing himself, Handayū said, "I heard rumors. This place is fairly tough, but if you're serious, many subjects are available for you to study that will be of great use in the future."

Handayū's voice was gentle but felt like a razor wrapped in cotton. A razor also seemed to be hiding deep in his bright, peaceful eyes.

Noboru realized Handayū ignored Tsugawa, never responding to anything he said or looking at him.

"He's the second son of a wealthy farmer somewhere in Sagami," said Tsugawa after they went out to the hall. "He doesn't care for me, but he is a prodigy."

Noboru ignored him.

Tsugawa's room was next to Mori's, and the last room was Noboru's. All the rooms had an area of six tatami mats covering slightly less than twelve feet by nine feet. The interior was dim with a window facing north. Only a thin beri rush mat covered the wood floor. The room felt bleak. A small old-fashioned desk was placed below the window. Its seat was a round straw mat woven from cattail. One wall was cracked. A closet with a heavy wooden door occupied the other.

"They haven't gotten around to laying down the tatami yet?"

"Not anywhere," said Tsugawa, spreading his arms wide. "The medical staff's rooms are all like this. The ward also has thin beri mats spread on the wood floor for the bedding."

Noboru grumbled in a low voice, "It's like a jail cell."

"Everyone says that, especially, the patients in the wards," said Tsugawa sarcastically. "They are poor people and feel inferior for having to be treated at a charity clinic. Even the kimonos conform to this style."

Noboru recalled what Red Beard wore and Mori Handayū wearing the same clothes.

He asked and was told the medical staff wore the same colored outfit in winter and summer, all the time.

The ward patients, both men and women, wore white tight-sleeve kimonos with attached strings, like the kimonos worn by children. These uniforms could be quickly untied for examinations, but the patients didn't like them. They constantly complained about the construction of the rooms with thin mats on wooden floors and the kimonos resembling jail uniforms.

"Has this been the rule for a long time?"

"It is Red Beard's reform," said Tsugawa with a shrug. "He's the dictator here. He's skilled at performing any treatment he is enthusiastic about. Men as reliable as he are rare even among daimyos or wealthy men. Too many decisions are tyrannical and made without consulting anyone else. Most people hate that."

"It looks like the braziers aren't used."

"At least, outside of the wards. He claims the coldness of Edo benefits one's health. The budget only includes coal for the wards. Let me take you on a round," said Tsugawa, and they left the room.

First, they saw the cramped room of on-duty doctors, then the front room where outpatients were examined, the room for preparing medications, the reception area for admitting patients, and the doctors' dining hall. Tsugawa put on his garden geta sandals and went out the south door.

This door was at the corner of the connecting hall. Once outside, they were across from the kitchen.

The one-story, tile-roof building was close to one thousand square feet. Beside it was a roofed water well. Four or five women were washing vegetables, probably for pickling, and building a mountain of washed vegetables. The white stalks and the greens bathed in the morning sunlight and looked strikingly fresh and vibrant.


Tsugawa pointed out one woman.

"See the young lady second from the right with her sleeves pulled back with the yellow tasuki sash. The one stacking vegetables. That's Yuki. She's Mori-sensei's girlfriend."

Noboru looked at her with indifference.

An eighteen- or nineteen-year-old woman came from the ward and called to Tsugawa. She could be a maid in a prosperous merchant's home given her elegant features, personal appearance, and speech. She probably ran here and was trying to catch her breath. Her face was flush and tense.

She impatiently said, "She's getting painful spasms again, but the medicine is gone. I'm sorry, but could you please make more right away?"

Tsugawa answered, "You have to ask Nīde-sensei. The other doctors aren't allowed to touch that medication. He's in the front room." She glanced at Noboru. Perhaps she felt his gaze on her and shot a quick look sideways at him. While her cheeks blushed, she bowed and trotted back through the south door.

Tsugawa prompted Noboru to walk. They hurried to the South Ward beside a wide, empty lot measuring 7,000 square feet. At the far end of the lot, a fence surrounded the medicinal garden.

Originally, the garden was called Koishikawa's Medicinal Garden. Medicinal plants were cultivated under the direct control of the shogunate. Two eight-acre gardens were planted and spread to the north and south divided by a road.

The clinic was located in a portion of the southern garden. That area was on a high hill on the western end. The medicinal garden was in the highest part and provided an enjoyable panoramic view extending to the west.

The garden was bland during the winter. Most of the medicinal trees and herbs were withered. Small placards written with the product names were set up on the sides covered by straw to protect against frost.

They walked down the raised path slushy from melted frost. Several official gardeners spreading out dirt and replacing the straw covering greeted Tsugawa, who introduced Noboru to them. They politely introduced themselves to Noboru.

The huge, fat, older man was Gohei. The expressionless young man, lanky like a withered tree, was Kichitarō. Noboru remembered the other names: Jisaku, Kyūsuke, and Tomigorō.

Tsugawa asked, "Gohei, how are you feeling? Can you do it, yet?"

"Maybe soon," said the old man. While his fingers scratched his fat double chin, his eyes narrowed as if spellbound, and nodded. "Yes, maybe it will be soon."

"I'll stop at the end of this month. I'd like to taste it by then." He cautiously added, "I think maybe it's for the best. I wonder how it is."

"We should go to the shed," said Tsugawa and started off.

As they walked, he said, "I'm making sake from Korean grapes. It's black and feels too thick on the tongue but tastes good. Red Beard had me make it for medicinal uses and plans to use it someday."

When they left the medicinal garden, Tsugawa headed to the North Ward.

Woods of large beech trees, Mongolian oaks, camellias, pine or cedar trees, and a deep bamboo grove were planted as a windbreak. A new home was built and surrounded by the bamboo grove. Tsugawa started toward the house but seemed to change his mind and walked by while shaking his head.

"Sugi from earlier, the woman we met at the south door," said Tsugawa, still walking. "She lives in that house and is the nurse to the sick lady of the house."

"Is that house part of the clinic?"

"The young lady's parents built it with their own money. Their daughter is a special patient."

Tsugawa's voice sounded dry.

No one knew her identity, which was a strict secret, but she seemed to be the daughter of a comfortably wealthy man. She was around twenty-two or -three. Her name was Yumi, and her looks were striking.

She fell ill when she was sixteen. From the beginning, no one knew she was insane. She was engaged to a man, but he broke it off and married another woman. She fell into a melancholy that lasted a year. Around that time, we thought she could be cured, but then she killed a shop clerk.

Seventeen or eighteen men worked for her father's business. Over a short two years, she attacked three of them. One was saved from danger, but she killed two young men.

"She did not simply kill. She seduced them and killed them after robbing them of their freedom as men," said Tsugawa and licked his lips. "This is the story of a man saved from danger. At first, she loved the man and snuck him into her bedroom. She seemed filled with sensuality and drove the man crazy. When he could no longer resist, she stuck him with an ornamental hairpin."

Noboru frowned and quietly muttered, "The origin was betrayal by a man."

Tsugawa licked his lips again and said, "Red Beard's diagnosis is different. He said it is a variety of innate sex mania. More than madness, Red Beard says it is the physical manifestation of insanity."

The phrase sexual pleasure from murder floated into Noboru's head. During his studies in Nagasaki, he learned about a case like this from a Dutch medical book. It said this condition had been in Japan for a long time and mentioned several similar cases. He took notes.

The daughter's crime disappeared through her parents' power. The murdered man was a shop clerk who snuck into the bedroom of the proprietor's daughter and tried to rape her. That was what it looked like. A dead man tells no tales. That was how it ended.

However, when she stole the life of the third man, a clerk, others understood what was happening for the first time and summoned Nīde Kyojō. He said to build a confinement room and to shut her in there. Otherwise, she would surely kill again and again.

Unlike other types of insanity, this one originated from lust. Not at all different from a sane person, he emphasized there is no way to prevent this crime other than imprisonment. However, the public objected to the plan to build a confinement room in a home with a family and many servants and to imprison her there.

The parents claimed she was being treated at the clinic because the house was built on its grounds. They donated the building to the clinic and would spare no expense to treat the madness of their daughter who would die a lunatic if no cure were found.

In the fall of the year before last, the house was built. The young woman accompanied by her maid Sugi moved in.

Tsugawa said, "The entire building is a prison. Inside is a two-room kitchen. Sugi does all the cooking and washing. Necessities for daily use are brought in from the parents' home once every three days.

"Sugi has a key. No one is allowed inside the house. The daughter lives alone and never goes outside. Only Red Beard goes inside."

"Is there a treatment protocol?"

Tsugawa shook his head. "Well, more than treatment, the problem seems to be intermittent attacks. Therefore, the medication especially compounded by Red Beard is collected by Sugi. Red Beard never allows anyone else to prepare the medication. The medicine seems to have an extremely positive effect."

Noboru pondered sexual pressure from murder. When it is a physical manifestation and congenital, the daughter's transgression is no more her crime than the repulsiveness of an ineptly carved wooden statue is the crime of the wooden statue… But Chigusa's situation is different. Chigusa is a sane young woman.

Noboru bit his lip.

"I feel bad for Sugi," Tsugawa continued. "She's a live-in servant and has no choice but to live in a house built as a jail to care for the young madwoman. She has no idea when this will end."

"If she's a servant, she can quit."

"No, she can't. From the bottom of her heart, that young woman has compassion for her employer. It may be love more than compassion."

Tsugawa shook his head and sighed. "I may not be the least bit reluctant to leave this place but have lingering regrets about no longer seeing Sugi."

Noboru recalled Sugi's blushing face a short time ago.


Sugi's face did not blush because of Tsugawa. He seemed to talk amiably with Sugi but did not think about her at all. When Noboru first met her outside the south door, Sugi's cheeks flushed. She shyly gave a slight bow and noticed Noboru staring at her. He heard this from Sugi after they became closer friends.

Eventually, Noboru and Sugi got to know each other well and didn't hide their meetings from others. Thinking about it later, it was not from pure feelings. He fell into various situations, repressed feelings of desperation, and wanted a companion to hear his grievances. This might have happened because he was curious about the affliction suffered by the young woman Yumi. Thus, Sugi became his best companion. Noboru talked about his dissatisfaction with joining the clinic and even about Chigusa. This confidential talk made him feel tender warmth and serenity.

"I never thought that," he said to Sugi. "What kind of crafty plan is that? If I annoy him and break his patience, I intend to find a way to ask him why he asked me to come."

"Can you?" Sugi did not sound convinced and tilted her head. "But I think Yumi's situation is not related to your joining this clinic."

This was the first time Sugi expressed her opinion. Noboru looked doubtfully at her.

"Why?" he asked. "If it's as you say, Amano-sama should pay compensation. Even if compensation is not paid, the promise of an appointment as a government doctor for the shogunate must be forcefully protected."

This first unhurried talk Noboru had with Sugi happened one evening at the end of February.

A bench was set up in front of the bamboo grove about sixty feet from Yumi's home. Seven benches for patients being admitted were set up in sunny places. The bench in front of the bamboo grove was for Yumi. A garden alcove with a roof was built. No one went near it at night.

That evening, after an argument with Nīde Kyojō, Noboru had the gardener Kichitarō buy the sake he was drinking in his room. He couldn't stand it and went out. He was drinking the sake from a gourd at that bench when Sugi appeared.

She had prepared Yumi's rice gruel and was surprised to find Noboru there. She said she was there to look around.

A short time ago, Yumi had an attack. Sugi gave Yumi her usual medicine. After she fell into a deep sleep, Sugi said she locked the door and came outside. Noboru asked her to speak slowly because he was drunk. This was the first time they talked like that.

He said, "You're good-natured. Are they that honest? I have problems in this world. I think if I joined this place, this job wouldn't be worth the trouble. I know it was a trick."

"I believe Nīde-sensei called you here."

Noboru took another drink from the gourd.

"For a long time, the sensei has wanted better doctors to work here. He said he wanted a skilled doctor at this clinic who would do his best to cure the patients better than anywhere else."

"So he shouldn't have called me. You don't become a good doctor only by studying. Time and experience are also required. Of course, I'm still a beginner."

He gave a quick nod for emphasis. "Yes, that's the only reason he called me here. That's what I was arguing about with Red Beard."

"Oh, so you're a Red Beard."

"There are many Red Beards," he said like he was spitting.

After dinner that evening, Nīde Kyojō summoned Noboru and told him to submit notes and diagrams from his time studying in Nagasaki.

Noboru refused. He studied every subject of Dutch medicine but labored to learn internal medicine. He devised methods for diagnosis and treatment. They were his achievements understood only by him.

Those notes and diagrams would promise him a grand future. If made public, their value would sink.

Isn't there a doctor who gained fame from a treatment for cataracts and made a fortune?

Noboru said, "My medical techniques are newer, have great value, and were achieved through my hard work and at my expense. I can't show it to others. I shouldn't be obliged to."

However, Kyojō disagreed and took him to task.

"You refused, but I will not listen to your babbling. Hand over all your notes and diagrams. That is your only business."

Noboru told Sugi he had no choice but to do as he was told.

"If Red Beard summoned me here, that was the only reason," said Noboru, while licking the gourd. "So he didn't bother me until now. I won't wear that uniform. Even if I do nothing and goof off, he acts oblivious to it all."

"You're drunk."

"I'm drunk? I only drank this much," said Noboru and took another swig. "I drink because it's prohibited. Anything forbidden here, I will do."

"Please stop," said Sugi and tried to take the gourd. "I hate drunks."

Noboru roughly grabbed the hand she reached out. Her hand was soft, cool, and warm. Sugi didn't try to move away but stared while still being held. On the bright starry night, the air was warm. The fragrance of winter daphne drifted in from the medicinal garden.

"Do you hate me?" Noboru whispered.

Sugi calmly said, "I hate you when you're drunk."

Noboru was silent for a short time and then released her hand.

"Well, go home."

"Please give me that gourd," said Sugi. "I'll keep it until tomorrow."

"Leave me alone," said Noboru and took another drink. "You're probably satisfied taking care of that batty daughter. Don't worry about me."

Sugi took the gourd from him. She snatched it with such force Noboru couldn't stop her.

Sugi stood. "You'll get this back tomorrow," she said and returned to the house.

Noboru said nothing and listened to the sounds of Sugi's zōri sandals growing faint.


After that night, Noboru and Sugi got closer.

He intended to never become an intern. He had observed that life here was messy, listless, and boring.

A village official managed this clinic, commonly known as a charity clinic. The hereditary post was held by Ogawa-san. The shogunate assigned an assistant.

Ogawa-san had a separate estate, but his office was in the front building. He did the accounting and conducted other business there with the assistant.

There were five on-duty doctors on the medical staff. Their office was a part of the wards and connected by a corridor to the front building.

The on-duty doctors were Nīde Kyojō, the medical director; Yoshioka Itetsu; Ida Goan; Ida Gentan; and Hashimoto Genrōku. They worked in the fields of internal medicine, surgery, and gynecology. The Idas were father and son and also worked as town doctors in Shitaya Okachi-machi. Three to five town doctors commuted to the clinic and worked on commission.

There were two interns. This pair and Medical Director Nīde were the only full-time staff doctors. These three were mostly responsible for treating the admitted patients. The other doctors were not enthusiastic about the outpatients and often careless in their treatments.

The two wards were the North Ward and the South Ward. Each ward had three ten-tatami-mat sickrooms, two eight-tatami-mat sickrooms, and two six-tatami-mat sickrooms for seriously ill patients. More than thirty patients were admitted. Most were elderly people, women, and people who were carried in with external wounds or had collapsed.

As Tsugawa Genzō said, all the sickrooms had thin, bordered mats on the wood floors. The bedding was laid on top. The thin mats were changed every five days, and the bedding every seven and exposed to sunlight and wind.

The patients, whether young or old, male or female, were given white, tight-sleeved cotton kimonos that were tied using attached cords. Even women were not allowed to tie their kimonos with obi sashes or wear colored kimonos.

"They call this a charity clinic, so we should at least be allowed to sleep on tatami mats."

"Since I brought one, they should let the women wear colored kimonos because the white ones make us look like convicts."

The patients' discontent never ended.

All their discontent and dissatisfaction were directed at Nīde Kyojō. These were decisions made solely by him. Even the way he handled the treatments was gruff. His coarse language upset the patients, repelling not a few of them.

Kyojō often went out to visit various daimyos and wealthy families, as well as, his private patients he treated on house calls.

At those times, the two interns were left in charge. Although that was fine while an on-duty doctor or a commissioned doctor was present, they lived elsewhere and commuted. If an emergency patient appeared at night, unforeseen events the interns could not handle were common.

Immediately after Tsugawa Genzō departed, Noboru was called by Mori Handayū and was treating his third admitted patient. He was called and went with Mori to the sickroom, but Noboru only watched and did nothing.

It could not be said Handayū forced him to be a helper, but probably the third time, when he finished the treatment and left the sickroom, he stopped Noboru in the hallway. Handayū was breathing heavily and asked, "What are you doing?" and glared at him. "How long do you intend to continue behaving like this?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Your passive resistance," said Handayū. "How long do you intend to carry on with that stupid resistance to draw attention to yourself? Do you think anyone sympathizes or is Nīde-sensei wrong?"

Noboru was so angry he couldn't speak.

"Please, carefully consider this," whispered Handayū. "No one else is harmed but you, Yasumoto-san."

Noboru wanted to slug him.

He quickly guessed Mori Handayū was devoted to Kyojō. Tsugawa told him Mori was the second son of a wealthy farming family in Sagami. Maybe to a man from the countryside, the charity clinic administered by the shogunate and its medical director Nīde Kyojō are splendid and should be revered.

Oh, that's stupid, thought Noboru. Handayū has hardly spoken to him, but when he unexpectedly did, a burst of scathing sarcasm poured out. Noboru had to use all his might to keep from punching him. He never told Sugi about that incident. Handayū had the sincerity of a man raised in the countryside and was liked by his colleagues and patients. Once in a while, Sugi praised him.

A young woman named Yuki lived at a cookhouse called Makanai-jō. Tsugawa told Noboru she was Handayū's girlfriend. However, Sugi said Yuki's love was unrequited, and Handayū avoided her.

"She seems to be head over heels," said Sugi one evening while seated on the usual bench. "It's kind of pitiful to watch. Mori-san's reliable nature is impressive, but when I think about Yuki-san, I hate him."

"Stop talking about Handayū," interrupted Noboru. "I want to hear about Yumi-san. Have you been with her for a long time?"

Sugi took on a cautious tone.

"Why are you asking about her?"

"Because I'm a doctor," he said, "Unlike Mori, I came here with formal training in Western medicine. I know diagnoses and treatments unknown to Red Beard."

"So why won't you become an envoy of that knowledge?"

"At a dump like this?" he asked, waving one hand. "I won't become an intern in this sort of charity clinic. I have no intention of training to become a doctor here."

"You're drunk again."

"Don't change the subject," he said. "I refuse to be an intern and am not interested in any old disease contracted by anybody. However, if a person with a rare illness appears, as a doctor, of course, I'd like to become involved. At this place, Yumi-san is that case."

"I don't believe you."

"You don't believe me. What don't you believe?"

"Everybody's feelings," said Sugi. "When Yumi's story is mentioned, your eyes take on a lascivious and obscene expression. But Tsugawa-san is the worst, no one other than Kyojō-sensei is serious."


Noboru looked at Sugi in the darkness.

"I didn't know about that. What did Tsugawa do?"

"I'm not talking about that."

"It's all right, Sugi-san," he said in a different tone. "I'm a doctor who came here to learn the latest medical techniques. If I know details about the symptoms, my treatment may be different from Red Beard's. Tell me and we'll see. Do you think it's a waste?"

Sugi looked back at him. "You sound so serious."

"You should know me better."

"You're drunk," said Sugi. "Goodnight. We'll talk the next time we meet."

"Why won't you tell me?"

Noboru tried to grab her hand. She avoided his hand and stood. While stifling a laugh, she said, "Because you act like that."

"This and that are different."

Noboru quickly stood and embraced Sugi. She stared at him. He placed one hand on Sugi's back and the other rounded her back in a tight embrace.

"You love me, don't you?" he asked.

Sugi said, "You —"

"You love me," said Noboru and pressed his lips to Sugi's. "I love you."

He felt the power drained from her body, which became supple and heavier. Noboru was about to pull her back to the bench, but Sugi slipped from his arms and jumped back while suppressing a smile.

"I hate you when you act like that," said Sugi, "Goodnight."

"Do as you like," he said.

He didn't see Sugi again for five or six days.

It was probably the middle of March. The cherry blossoms on the grounds were in full bloom. The late-blooming medicinal trees and plants in the gardens had all budded. And early ones bloomed into flowers. Passing winds left the air laden with the strong fragrance of these flowers.

After lunch, Noboru took a walk to the medicinal garden and met Sugi on her way back from doing laundry. While walking a slight distance apart, he asked, "Why didn't you come in the evenings?"

Sugi answered, "I caught a cold. I've gotten better and intended to go tonight." She lightly coughed as she spoke and sounded hoarse.

"Are you still producing mucous?" he asked. "You must take care of yourself. It may be better if you don't come out tonight."

Sugi was smiling when she said, "What?"

"You can't hear me well," he said and moved a little closer to her. "What happened?"

Sugi answered, "I'll come tonight."

"Don't overdo it. Are you taking any medicine?"

"Yes, Kyojō-sensei gave it to me."

"Not overdoing it is best. I'll prepare a medication for your throat."

Sugi nodded and smiled.

That day, when he ate dinner in the dining hall, Noboru was notified of a visitor at the entryway. Kyojō had gone out and hadn't returned. Mori Handayū pretended not to know anything. Since he was forbidden to leave during a meal, Noboru asked what sort of visitor. He was told she was a young woman named Amano Masao.

Amano Masao?

Noboru did not recognize her name but made a quick guess. Chigusa had a younger sister who was still a girl. He hardly knew what she looked like but knew her family name, Amano. He was sure this younger sister had come here to see him.

I guess she's that young woman.

Noboru wondered why she came. He couldn't figure out whether she came on her own or did someone else push her to come. He couldn't carelessly meet her.

"Tell her I'm not in my room," said Noboru to the receptionist. "Please, ask if she'd like to leave a message because I can't see her now."

When dinner ended, the receptionist came and told him she wanted to see him and waited but eventually went home.

She didn't leave a message and said she'd come again. Mori Handayū heard this answer from across the way. Noboru realized Handayū had been nonchalantly listening, stood up making a racket, and left the dining hall. He would make the gardener Kichitarō go buy sake. The tall, lanky young man was weak-spirited and stuttered. He was reluctant to buy sake.

As usual, Kichitarō wanted to say something when he was discovered and yelled at, but his severe stuttering prevented him from saying what he thought. When Noboru shouted, he stopped speaking and left scratching his head.

Noboru grumbled to himself, "She sent her younger sister. What is she planning this time? This trick isn't clever."

The sake came. Noboru drank it cold. After he was fairly drunk, he left carrying the sake bottle with the remaining sake.

On the hot, cloudy night, no moon was in the sky, and no stars could be seen. The air smelled of dirt and flowers, slightly sweet, steamy, and humid. At those times, he could feel the strong aromas. It was dark, and he was probably drunk. He passed in front of the bench without noticing her, and Sugi called from behind to stop him.

He said, "You came?" when he went back to her.

"Yumi-san is asleep," said Sugi. She spoke in a barely audible, hoarse voice. "What happened?"

"I stumbled," he said and staggered to the bench and sat. "Come here."

Sugi sat apart and said something.

"I couldn't hear you," he said and shook his head. "I can't hear that voice well. Come a little closer."

Sugi slid a little closer.

"Here," he said, took out a medicine bag from his sleeve, and passed it to her. "Infuse it in tea and drink it. I wrote down the directions for infusion. It should help your throat get better."

Sugi thanked him and asked, "Did you bring sake?"

"A mouthful is left."

"I brought something, too."

"What?" He moved his ear closer to her.

"Your gourd," she said, displaying the gourd. "I've had it for some time and forgot about it. Yumi-san drinks this delicious sake. I brought a little."

"Ah, this sake is probably brewed from the fruits of shrimp grapevine grass."

"You know about it?"

"Red Beard has me make medicines from it. I've tasted it several times in Gohei's hut," he said and took the gourd. "I'm amazed you brought sake."


Noboru drank from the gourd. It was dark, faintly sweet, and had a medicinal scent. When Tsugawa was still there, he tasted it when he visited Gohei at home. He only had a teacup's worth; he couldn't drink anymore. Its flavor was too rich.

This time he was drunk. The sake felt differently on his tongue and seemed more delicious than before. While listening to Sugi, he was oblivious to the large quantity he drank. She talked about Yumi.

"It's true. I think it's different from Kyojō-sensei's diagnosis. Yumi-san is not insane. I am sure of that. Please, listen carefully to what I'm saying."

"Honestly, you're not telling me everything," he said. "But tonight, that's all right."

"Because you are drunk."

"Your voice sounds strained."

"I'm fine. On the other hand, you're talking like a stranger." To remind him, she said, "Please, listen carefully."

Noboru reached out a hand and grasped Sugi's hand. Leaving her hand in his, she said, "When I became a live-in maid, Yumi was fifteen, two years older than me. She was the eldest of three sisters. The middle sister was twelve or thirteen. The youngest was seven.

"Yumi had a different mother. Her mother didn't die but was divorced for some reason and seemed to leave on her own. No one I asked knew the details. Since she was a little girl, Yumi knew her mother was different but brushed that aside.

"Yumi was much prettier than her sisters. She had an unyielding spirit and tomboy traits but was deeply compassionate. Her stepmother, two sisters, relatives, neighbors, and even the employees liked her and depended on her probably because she was the heiress.

"When Yumi was fourteen, a year before I became the live-in maid, she was engaged to marry.

"On the surface, everything was fine. She grew up normal and happy. From a young age, Yumi experienced misfortunes she shared with no one. They were all related to sexual matters. The first time was when she was nine."

Sugi whispered in her raspy voice, "I can tell you because you're a doctor. Please understand that if you weren't a doctor, I wouldn't say a word."

"I understand," he said, feeling a little dizzy. "Sexual play between children is not uncommon."

Sugi said, "Yumi's situation was different.

"When she was nine, a sales clerk in his thirties molested her. He threatened to kill her if she spoke a word to anyone.

"Despite being so young, she thought the queer sensation she felt in her body was a sin. The words 'I'll kill you' if she told anyone paralyzed her.

"That clerk left the shop after six months, but he did the same thing several more times before he left. Each time, he made the same threat. This seemed to leave a deep scar in her mind.

"Nearly two years after the clerk left, a neighbor, a young man of twenty-four or -five, molested her in a different way than the clerk.

"Next door was a large merchant's house with a storehouse having thick earthen walls and three doors. Sugi never said what type of merchant.

"The young man was an uncle of the daughter. He was staying at the house because of some trouble.

"The daughter was the same age as Yumi, who often went over to play. One time, they were playing hide-and-seek in that house. Yumi hid in the storehouse. Usually, unused objects, such as antiquated dressers, oblong chests, and wicker clothes hampers, were stored and stacked in there. Four tatami mats were laid out in the center.

"Yumi had been hiding for a short time in a gap between a clothes hamper and an oblong chest. The young man entered carrying a paper-covered lamp with a wire mesh stretched over it.

"Yumi thought it was the seeker and relaxed when she saw who it was and quietly called to him. The young man jumped in surprise."

"'It's me,' whispered Yumi. 'We're playing hide-and-seek. Be quiet or she'll find me.'

"The young man played along. He took something out of an old dresser and lay on the tatami. He drew the lantern close and began reading a book. The seeker came to look around one time but quickly left. Eventually, the young man called over Yumi.

"He said, 'The seeker won't come back again. Come here. I want to show you something funny.'

"She went over to him. He made her sit beside him and showed her the opened book. There were pictures, but Yumi didn't understand what they meant.

"He asked, 'Do you understand this one?'

"'Come closer to get a better look," he said and unexpectedly pulled her to him. Yumi forgot about the picture but didn't realize what he was doing. She felt he was acting like the clerk once did. She stopped breathing, more from fear than surprise. She heard a voice say, 'I'll kill you if you tell anyone.'

"The voice was like the clerk's and the young man's. The mesh sliding door of the storehouse was closed. She looked at the wire screen stretched over the sliding door. The metal screen of the sliding door closed Yumi in there. She thought it blocked her escape route.

"When she felt the eyes of the metal mesh blur and her limbs shrink, Yumi was delirious.

"'You're going to kill me,' she said.

"He laughed. That laugh was scarier than the threat to kill her. She could not forget his callous laugh. He said, 'Come back here tomorrow.'

"Yumi did as she was told. She thought he'd kill her if she didn't.

"After the young man left until her engagement, three men molested her. Each time, Yumi thought she felt the eyes of the metal screen blur and heard a voice say, 'I'll kill you.'

"Her good looks, boisterousness, and deep compassion made her adorable and treasured by all. However, these terrifying experiences were the underside.

"Then there was her future husband. They exchanged nuptial sake cups in a private ceremony. Although her adoption into the groom's family was set for the following year, the other party broke the promise. Her husband-to-be went off with someone else. Although she did not understand the reason initially, she soon heard rumors.

"The reason for breaking off the marriage was her birth mother."

Her mother was famous for her striking good looks and accomplishments in traditional performing arts. However, the year after Yumi was born, she ran off with another man who murdered her in Hakone.

One story was it was supposed to be a lovers' suicide, but the man survived. The other, she was supposed to marry this man but was killed by him out of malice for marrying Yumi's father.

It didn't matter which story was true. Yumi's heart was bewitched by the sin of the secrets between a man and a woman, and the accompanying inevitable deaths.

Sugi said, "The thought, I'll be killed. He'll kill me, stuck in Yumi's head. Sometimes a woman must be that way with a man. But when she did, she would be killed. Yumi always believed that she would be killed like her mother."

Noboru shuddered. Sugi's voice changed. His ears caught the change a little while ago, but he ignored it. Her voice was no longer hoarse and didn't sound like Sugi's normal speaking voice.

"You probably understand," she said in a voice that wasn't hers. "If the man does something like that, I think I'll be killed. I'm not bad and do not wish that, but later I'll be killed."

Noboru's head was spinning.

She's Yumi, he thought. He tried to let go of her hand but was paralyzed. She slid closer to him and wrapped one hand around his neck. Noboru screamed, but his voice made no sound, and his tongue did not move.

This isn't Sugi. This is Yumi.

He was gripped by terror that seemed to make his hair stand on end. The woman held down Noboru, embraced his neck with one hand, and brought their chests together. While speaking, she gradually forced him onto his back and gently got on him.

She said, "The first time, the shop clerk snuck into my bedroom, I thought the same thing. Eventually, he would kill me. The next time, he'll kill me. Then I took out this hairpin. See. Look at it."

She showed one hand holding a glittering, flat ornamental hairpin to Noboru. The hairpin gripped like a knife in her hand looked like silver. He could see its shiny two legs with sharpened tips in the dark.

She whispered, "I waited silently."

Her hot breath and hushed voice drunk on a secret pleasure were right next to his face.

"The shop clerk came in, lay by my side, and extended his arms to embrace me."

She made that action as she continued speaking.

"Like this. Do you know what I did with the hairpin? I thought, I'm going to kill the man who was going to kill me. I wasn't the only bad person. It was not my wish to do that. If he was going to commit that crime, that man must die. That's what I thought."

Noboru saw her face spasm. He saw her facial expression twist and her lips pull back exposing her teeth. He tried to push away her body, but his entire body was limp and numb. He felt like he couldn't even move a finger.

It's a dream. This is a dream.

Noboru thought, I'm having a nightmare. She quietly pushed the hairpin gripped in her hand behind his left ear.

"I did it like this," she said. "Before the shop clerk realized anything, I extended my hand and was free. While muttering lies, I put all my might into that hand. Like this."

She showed how she killed the shop clerk. Noboru went blind, but her voice filled his ears. She shouted triumphantly.

"That time, I pushed this pin in deep, right here. I relied on my strength. I left it to my strength."

Noboru felt a violent shock somewhere on his body, heard a woman's scream, and passed out.


Noboru saw Red Beard seated before him, beside him sat Mori Handayū. He could hear Red Beard talking to Handayū.

Am I still dreaming? he thought. The two figures right in front of his eyes looked to be far, far away. Their voices did not resonate and sounded like he was listening through a wall. It felt surreal.

I'm sure this is a dream.

He shut his eyes, then carefully opened them again. Mori Handayū was gone, and Nīde Kyojō sat alone.

"Sleep. Go to sleep," said Kyojō. "It'd be good to sleep one more day. Don't think about anything, just sleep."

Noboru tried to speak.

"Don't worry," said Kyojō, shaking his head. "She made you drink medicinal sake, a medicine I compounded and mixed in sake. It was a special medication to quiet the young lady's spells. She heard about you from Sugi and looked for a chance to do this.

"You were drunk like a fool. If you hadn't been drunk, you would have immediately known she was a different person."

Noboru shook his head. He wanted to say he was drunk, but it was also dark, and her hoarse voice fooled him. He tried to speak but could only shake his head. His voice didn't come out, and his tongue didn't move.

"If I had been a little delayed in going home, you would be dead," said Red Beard. "Sugi was at home asleep. She unknowingly drank the same medicinal sake. When I saw that, I rushed to the bench. Now, Yumi's head is wrapped in bleached cloths, but she's fine otherwise. I had no choice. Look at my arm. She was crazed like a beast."

He rolled up the sleeve of his left arm to show Noboru. Bleached cloth wrapped his arm from his wrist to his upper arm.

"She bit me in five places here," said Kyojō and lowered his sleeve. "No one knows about this incident, including Handayū, so don't feel ashamed when with others. You've learned from this mistake, haven't you?"

Noboru felt tears well up and fall from his eyes.

Kyojō took paper tissue from his pocket, Noboru thought he would wipe away his tears but didn't. He wiped around his mouth. Noboru was embarrassed, thinking he might be drooling, and closed his hardened eyes.

"You idiot," said Kyojō. "Go to sleep. We'll talk after you recover."

Kyojō stood and left. Noboru's ears followed the sounds of his footsteps and whispered, "Red Beard's not a bad guy."