Episode 6: Sakamoto Ryoma’s dark side
Jin delivers a lecture at the Seitokukan in Nagasaki in order to promote penicillin. However, the response he receives from the students is frosty. Their head teacher, the Dutch doctor Dr Anthonius Bauduin, doubts Jin’s medical techniques because he cannot comprehend how a person who has never studied abroad can possess medical knowledge that even he is not aware of.
In fact, Jin has come all the way to Nagasaki not just to popularise penicillin, but also because he has made up his mind to see Ryoma and tell him about the assassination which will be his destiny. However, he is not able to meet Ryoma.
Just when Jin has half given up hope, he hears a familiar voice and runs in search of the speaker. Ryoma suddenly appears before Jin in the company of Higashi and Thomas Glover, whom he calls his business partner. Jin is overjoyed to finally meet Ryoma.
Glover’s lower eyelid has been slashed and Ryoma has brought him to Seitokukan to seek medical attention from Dr Bauduin, an authority in opthamology. Although Glover’s eyesight will not be affected, his tear gland has been ruptured. That ruptured part will be sewn up during surgery, but if the ducts are blocked as a result, he may keep tearing.
Then, Dr Bauduin catches sight of Jin and decides to assign the surgery to him, reasoning that since Jin cannot divulge his identity, he should display his skills. Taken aback, Jin starts to protest, but is pressured to agree! His concern is finding a substitute to a fine silicon tube which can be placed in the duct to prevent it from being blocked when the eyelid is stitched up.
The surgery begins under the watchful eyes of Dr Bauduin and his students. Jin uses a disinfected, thin wire that Ryoma had found, in place of a silicon tube, and the surgery is a success. An impressed Dr Bauduin apologises for his rudeness.
The next day, Jin and Ryoma have an awkward encounter at Glover’s residence. Jin has accompanied Glover in order to familiarise himself with the location when he makes house calls while Ryoma, who did not anticipate Jin’s presence, covers up his surprise with overeffusive behaviour. This strikes Jin as odd. But he only realises the reason when he casually glances out the living room where he has been waiting, in time to see a bundle of what appears to be dried kelp fall from one of the carts being transported by Ryoma and his men through the garden, to reveal guns!!!
Ryoma has been obtaining out-dated weapons from Glover in Satsuma’s name and making money selling them to Choshu because Choshu is at war with the shogunate, but has been banned from buying weapons. “War is a money machine … and penicillin will be a big seller too,” he tells Jin, who realises that the Ryoma he sees is no longer the man he knows.
Even though powdered penicillin can now be made, it is unable to withstand heat and requires care when being transported. This rules out its distribution through Kameyama Shachu as the best solution would be to establish production sites in various locations. It would also mean that Jinyudo will not make any money from this.
That night, Jin tries to tell Ryoma about his impending assassination, but is seized by a severe headache just like the time when they were returning to Edo from Kyoto. Ryoma invites Jin to come to Choshu with him. He wants Jin to demonstrate the might of penicillin by using it to treat injured soldiers on the battlefield so that they can sound out the establishment of a possible penicillin production facility in the domain.
A troubled Jin visits Choshu with Ryoma. What he sees over there are a large number of dead and wounded among the shogunate’s army. They are believed to have been shot with the guns Ryoma had sold. Ryoma coldly watches the battle which he deems necessary to end an era where samurais held sway over the country, whereas Jin wears a mixed expression because all he sees are Japanese fighting each other. Is war the only way to create a new country, he wonders.
As they walk along a mountain road, they encounter three injured soldiers belonging to the shogunate army being stabbed in the leg by Choshu troops. Ryoma dismisses it as part of the war and urges Jin to walk on. However, Jin stares at the suffering soldiers as if rooted to the spot. He reminds Ryoma that in the past, he would have helped friend or foe, but now all he thinks of is Satsuma and Choshu. This makes him no different from a weapons dealer who makes money committing murders. If Japan were unified under such circumstances, the administration of the country would be fraught with problems and violence would only create more violence. Ryoma protests that he is doing this with the country in mind. It had occurred to him as he was about to be killed at Teradaya that if he had died that day, it would not have mattered how good his ideas were.
Jin makes the decision to fight to make the country better in his own way by starting with medical attention for those men. And so, he and Ryoma part ways abruptly and acrimoniously.
After treating the injured soldiers, Jin takes them in search of a resting place. He goes ahead to check on a house in front of them and finds it empty. As he turns back for the soldiers, the sound of gunshots ring out. To Jin’s horror, the men that he had saved are shot in the chest by Choshu troops. In that moment, the words of Shozan come back to Jin, “If God doesn’t like what you’ve done, he will mercilessly undo it!” He cries out in anguish … …
At that same moment, Ryoma, who has been thinking of Jin’s words while walking, suddenly turns back and breaks into a run. He searches for Jin along the dark mountain road, but all he finds is traces of blood and a spent bullet which fills him with dread. They come upon that same house that Jin had checked, and discover the dead bodies of the soldiers inside. Jin is nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, Jin approaches the shogunate’s army base and volunteers to treat the soldiers. After that, he returns to Nagasaki on a shogunate ship, all the while brooding that he may not be allowed to intervene and change the bleak history that would mark the closing days of the Tokugawa shogunate.
At Seitokukan, he meets one of the students he had thought and learns that the man is none other than Tanaka Hisashige, a master craftsman and inventor who started out creating clockwork dolls and later moved on to develop the rapeseed oil lamp, steamboat and telegraph equipment. Jin imagines that he has led an amazing life and professes envy. This turns to shock when he learns that both Tanaka’s son and grandchild had been senselessly killed by members of the Saga clan.
“One may be friends today, but become foes tomorrow in the frenzy of the period.
The reverse is also true.
You are whirled round and round until you lose track of your vantage point.
And become confused about where you are headed.
It makes no sense to get pulled into that frenzy together.
What you must do as a friend is to guide the way.
To become a bright guidepost so that he will not lose sight of his destination even in the darkness.”
Ryoma gazes out at the sea that night as he thinks to himself that he has wandered off onto the wrong path.
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