NIMW Chapter 17: Running through the West of Mino (2)
The morning of February 6, 1567 (10th Year of the Eiroku Era) .
The territory of the Azai clan was full of energy, and the people were running around the towns and villages to further spread the news that was conveyed this morning .
“Oh, did you know? The Daimyo’s northern mansion is going to do a renovation!”
“I know! And if you donate 10 coins, your contribution shall be engraved in a stele!”
“My name in the Feudal Lord’s mansion…”
“That is amazing …”
While the townsfolk were chattering excitedly, I was crossing the countryside with my retainer Naofusa Higuchi .
We proceeded southwest from Odani Castle, keeping Mt Ibuki to our left . The green lands of Omi flickered past as our horses raced towards the looming mountains that stood in our way .
(Is Sekigahara ahead …)
Within my sight lies an unassuming valley flanked on either side by mountains that disappear into the mists .
Yet it is this plain valley that charted the course of the history of Japan for several centuries . In the fifth year of Kaisho (1600), the Eastern Army led by Tokugawa Ieyasu met the Western Army led by Ishida Mitsunari in a climactic battle that heralded the beginning of a new era- the Tokugawa Shogunate .
The only ways to get here from Omi are either through mountainous trails or through cobbled paths that wind across hills and valleys; transportation – thus, is always an issue .
“My lord, from here on, we shall enter into the territory of the Saito Clan . Please be careful . ”
“I understand; thank you for reminding me . ”
Nodding my head at Naofusa’s words, we crossed Sekigahara and headed towards Tohoku .
Sekigahara belongs to Mino Province and is also the territory of the Saito clan, which is currently in the middle of a fierce campaign targeting the Oda clan .
However, since the battle between the Oda and Saito clan is held in the southern part of Mino, Western Mino’s defense was relatively weak .
The reason being that if the Oda’s allies, the Azai Clan, headed for Sekigahara, the Saito’s allies Rokkaku Clan would stab the Azai from the back, and vice versa .
The Saito had chosen an excellent time to wage war, right when the Azai and Rokkaku were conflicted across Omi, thus preventing the Oda from gaining any advantage from elsewhere .
Meanwhile, while their security is lax, I race across their territory on the back of Taishukituskige .
Even though last night was the first time I saw it, that eerie nightmare made up most of my thoughts even as I urged Taishakutsukige to speed ahead .
The devastated Omi Province…
Odani Castle that lies in ruins…
Oichi Hime, who lies among the smoking earth wailing…
And the terror that lurked in the depths of Lake Biwa .
I can’t decipher any meaning from the dream even so its realistic nature and the palpitations that I felt made me convinced not to ignore it .
(If there is an omen, you should be prepared for it–)
I may be impatient to take action so soon .
Or perhaps, I was too fearful instead…
It was hard to tell .
Nestled on top of Taishakutsukige, I stopped to consider for a moment what my intentions were .
But of course .
In the first place, I was still not sure what this world is … “ .
The people here have the same names and stories as the historical characters in Japan that I know .
The sequence of events does not seem to follow history entirely .
For example, the recent attack on Sawayama Castle by the Rokkaku Clan should never have happened .
An even bigger problem is the existence of Demonic Beasts such as Taishakutsukige .
I have no understanding of their ecology, and for now, I haven’t seen any other species other than horses .
I do not know where or how they live and what exactly is their relationship with Humans .
So I hadn’t been sent into the past…
Instead, I had been sent to a parallel world that resembled the past?
Back when I was still a student, I had come across theories such as the “Many Worlds” theory that postulated the existence of an infinitude of parallel universes . While I was no science buff, I could still infer somewhat from what I knew…
For now, it didn’t matter what precisely this world was or how it related to the one I came from . Instead, the question of survival was paramount .
However, the means available to me are limited . I was just an aficionado of history in my previous life, nothing special .
All that I could do was to prepare for emergencies while developing the territory of North Omi as much as I could while accumulating wealth, developing vassals, and doing well in diplomacy . This is because it seems that only these four points could be put into practice .
How easy it would have been if this were a world that moved according to the history I knew .
Even if this world had a life of its own, I still had to do my best, for my sake and hers – Oichi Hime’s!
In my mind’s eye, I could still see the persistence and love of Oichi Hime, who cared for me last night when I was broken .
There is probably no such woman in my previous world, and even in this world, there should be none who showers so much love on her husband .
I can’t make her cry … I can’t make her suffer…
Thus to ensure that things go smoothly, I had sneaked into the territory of the Saito Clan at significant personal risk . The reason was to ensure that I obtain the support needed for victory .
Naofusa and I crossed Sekigahara and came to the eaves of the Nobi plain, one of the largest in the Japanese Archipelago .
The size wasn’t the only advantage this plain had . The soil here was abundant due to the Kiso, Nagara, and Ibi rivers, and the agricultural production rate was abnormally high .
It took a long time for Oda Nobunaga to conquer Mino, but once he had Mino, the rest of Japan soon covered at his feet .
The reason for this was the vast tracts of fertile land that he obtained in Mino .
The one who controls Mino controls the world . It is no exaggeration to say that this is the best piece of land in Japan in this era .
However, we are not heading to Inabayama Castle, which is the core of Mino .
It was Bodaiyama Castle in the mountains, which was positioned diametrically opposite to the Ibuki Mountains where Odani Castle was located .
“My lord, this is the castle of Takenaka Hanbei . ”
Takenaka Hanbei was one of the supporters of Hideyoshi Hashiba’s takeover and was recognized as a master strategist in the Warring States period .
It was rumored that he had a “ladylike” appearance . He died when he was 36 after being bitten by a dragonfly, which certainly wasn’t warrior-like .
Hanbei was the retainer of the owner of Inabayama Castle, Saito Tatsuoki . Possessing an androgynous appearance, he was often bullied by Tatsuoki’s other vassals resulting in him forging a deep hatred with them and the Saito Clan .
His revenge came when in 1564, with just 16 friends, he successfully took down the Inabayama Castle that was touted as impregnable . Surprisingly, however, he didn’t harm the Saito clan members who were inside; instead, after successfully executing his takeover, he handed it back to Tatsuoki and then left the land of Mino, choosing to wander .
I believe that he was tired mentally and physically, so he resolutely abandoned his home, which had nothing but bitter memories after his revenge .
During his travels, he was said to have stayed in Azai territory for a while, living as a guest in the home of Naofusa Higuchi, who was my companion today .
Hanbei was currently retired, living his days in an idyllic manner in the Bodaiyama castle that we had come to .
If we could persuade him to join the Oda-Azai alliance, then the chances of victory would be significantly increased .
The problem was …
I wasn’t sure of being able to persuade him .
As Naofusa and I slowly approached Bodaiyama Castle, the armed soldiers ran to meet us and thrust their spears at us, shouting as they did so . “Intruders, state your purpose!”
Since Hanbei, the head of the Takenaka family, was no longer active, even if the Saito clan had to visit him, they had to send a prior message informing their arrival .
Our arrival was clearly unexpected .
However, seeing that we rode horses, their brows frowned, and they discussed among themselves . “Since they are riders, they must hold a certain status,” one said . “Are they from the Saito Clan?” another questioned with some trepidation . “Hmmph, ” snorted a man who was unmistakably the leader, “Even if they are from the Saito Clan, if they dare to intrude, they shall have to pass through us!”
Seeing that things were turning for the worse, Naofusa hurriedly called out to the guards and said, “I am Naofusa Higuchi, one of the retainers of the Azai . This is my lord, the Feudal Lord of the Azai Clan – Azai Nagamasa Sama! We wish to meet with Takenaka Hanbei dono . ”
The sight of the guards at that moment was pitiful .
Most of them were frightened at the prospect of facing the Azai; after all, the Takenakas were still a retainer of the Saito Clan . Who didn’t know that the Azai clan was in alliance with the Oda Clan – the sworn enemy of the Saito Clan?
What did it mean that the Feudal Lord of the Azai himself was now at their gates?
Their confusion was compounded because they had received no information so far regarding an invasion from the west .
How could the Azai then have breached the borders of Mino so stealthily?
Their questions were destined to go unanswered today .
Seeing that someone so high in the ranking had arrived, the guards decided to leave the matter up to the hands of the higher-ups of the Takenaka Clan; thus, some people ran in to inform them .
While the guards were running to inform the people in the castle of my arrival, I became interested and decided to take a closer look at Hanbei’s court .
Bodaiyama castle is a mountain fortress just like Odani Castle -my base .
There is probably a primary enclosure at the top of the mountain, which is about 400 meters long, and buttresses with fortifications are strewn across the slopes of the hills at vantage points that are hard to attack for an enemy but easy to defend for the soldiers in the castle .
It is undoubtedly the right arrangement, in my opinion .
“Oh . . ! Naofusa Dono! My, if it isn’t Naofusa Dono!”
“Lord Shigenori, it has been a while . ”
A big muscular man resembling a bodybuilder came out of the castle doors; on seeing this man, Naofusa immediately got down from his horse and walked up to him to greet him .
I, meanwhile, was quite frightened by this gigantic being . Not only was his stature rather frightening, the booming voice that came out of the man’s mouth resembled a gale as well, leaving me stupefied for an instant .
He bore an uncanny resemblance to a beefed-up yakuza – the kind that would roam around in night teasing girls and beating men to death .
“And this is …”
“This is our Lord and General of the Azai . Nagamasa – the country protector!”
I stopped myself from saying, “Yo, dude!”
If I do that, I might just be pummeled to death .
I got off Taishakutsukige and reached my hands to the man .
“I am Nagamasa . It is a great opportunity for me to meet the reputed Shigenori dono!”
It was this man in history who defeated Naotsune Endo .
There was no way I didn’t know him .
Shigenori, however, was surprised at seeing my action .
I realize that while I was a Feudal Lord, he was just a retainer of the Saito Clan .
No wonder he looked hesitant to grasp my hand .
Well, it doesn’t matter .
After all, given how huge Shigenori was, there is always a chance that my hand would be crushed .
“… Nagamasa Sama is quite down to earth . ”
Naofusa said so to Shigenori .
“Rather, it would be disrespectful not to take his hand . ”
“Then… Then I am, Takenaka Shigenori . I have long since heard of the fabled name of the Protector of the Azais – Lord Nagamasa . ”
Shigenori bends his hips, holds my hand, and greets me .
Somehow It did not dissuade my impression of him being for the post of a Yakuza .
Not even the slightest .
Though, he did seem too nervous to be one .
“Please come in . Our head, Shigeharu, is waiting for you . ”
We walked through the yawning gates of Bodaiyama Castle and headed towards the main enclosure .
As I left Taishakutsukige at the horse stables, I reminded the grooms to be careful . “If you wish to keep your life, then be careful not to touch her . ”
Taishakutsukige meanwhile looks all around the stable continually, probably searching for a stallion to roll around with .
I patted her restless back and then followed Shigenori and Naofusa .
While taking in the sights of Bodaiyama Castle under the guidance of Shigenori, I was slowly brought to the Lord’s residence .
It was a vast Japanese style house with an air of solemnity that graced it . A mesmerizing fragrance wafted out from it, slowly diffusing through the castle .
In the world that I was in, Japanese styled homes had long since vanished – to be replaced with western houses made of brick and mortar, all of which seem to be carved out of the same mold .
Shigenori opened the sliding door of the building and invites us inside .
The inside of the hall was a little dim, and it took me a while to get used to it as my eyes had been in bright sunlight till now .
We walk along the corridor guided by nothing but Shigenori’s back, which occupies my eye view in entirety .
“This is my brother’s room . ”
Shigenori told us that and then called out to Hanbei, who would be waiting for us in the room .
“Lord of the Azais – Nagamasa Sama and Naofusa Higuchi dono have arrived!”
“Let them come in, please . ”
Shigenori quickly opened the screen and urged us to enter .
What was waiting there was–
“I’m Shigeharu Takenaka . It is a great honor to meet you both who have come a long way . ”
The one who spoke, although clad in men’s clothing, was quite surely a beautiful girl!!!!!!!!!