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The Walls of Kiyosu

Every year in the fall there were violent storms. But other, far more ominous winds were blowing around Owari. From the Saito of Mino to the west, from the Tokugawa of Mikawa to the south, and from Imagawa Yoshimoto of Suruga to the eastall the signs pointed to the growing isolation of Owari.

The storms that year had damaged more than two hundred yards of the outer castle wall. A great many carpenters, plasterers, coolies, and stonemasons came to the castle to take part in the reconstruction. Lumber and masonry were brought in through the Karabashi Gate, and construction materials were piled up here and there so that the pathways in the castle and around the moat were highly congested. The people who passed by every day complained openly about the inconvenience:

"You can't walk anywhere!"

"If they don't finish quickly, the stone walls are going to be in danger when the next storm comes."

But then a sign was clearly posted at the roped-off construction site: "This area is under repair. Unauthorized entry prohibited."

The work was carried out with the semblance of a military operation under the authority of Yamabuchi Ukon, the overseer of building works, so that the people who passed through the area did so in single file, with great deference and constraint.

The construction was nearing its twentieth day, but there was still no sign of progress Certainly it was an inconvenience, but now no one complained. Everyone understood that it was going to take a long time and a good bit of construction to repair two hundred yards of the castle wall.

'Who is that man over there?" Ukon asked one of his subordinates, who turned and looked over to where he was pointing.

"I think it's Master Kinoshita from the stables."

"What? Kinoshita? Ah, yes. He's the one everyone calls Monkey. Next time he passes by, call him over," Ukon ordered.

The subordinate knew that his master was angry because every day, when Tokichiro went to work, he passed the site and never made any salutations. Not only that, but he also walked over the piles of lumber. Of course, there was nothing else to be done where lumber had been put in the paths, but this was to be used for the castle construction, and if anyone was going to step on it, he should have asked the permission of the people in charge.

"He doesn't know his manners," the subordinate said later. "At any rate, he's been promoted from servant to samurai and has just been granted a residence in the castle town. He's new, so it's not that surprising."

"No, there's nothing worse than the pride of an upstart. They're all prone to conceit. Getting his nose put out of joint once would do him some good."

Ukon's subordinate waited eagerly for Tokichiro. He finally appeared in the evening, about the time people were going off duty. He was wearing his blue coat, as he did all year round. As almost all the duties of the men who worked in the stables were outside, it served his needs, but his position was such that he could have been properly dressed if he had wanted. Nevertheless, it seemed that Tokichiro never had money to spend on himself.

"He's coming!" Ukon's men winked at one another. Tokichiro walked by slowly, the paulownia crest showing on his back.

"Wait! Master Kinoshita! Wait!"

"Who, me?" Tokichiro turned around. "What can I do for you?"

The man asked him to wait, and went over to Ukon. The workmen and coolies had been called out and were starting to go home in large groups. Ukon had called the foremen of the plasterers and carpenters and was discussing die next day's work. But when he heard his subordinate, he stood up. "It's Monkey? You stopped him? Bring him here. If I don't admonish him now, he's going to develop bad habits."

Tokichiro came over without a word of greeting, without a bow. And now he seemed to be saying arrogantly, You stopped me. What do you want?

This made Ukon all the angrier. From the standpoint of status, there was an incomparable difference between the two. Ukon was the son of Yamabuchi Samanosuke, the governor of Narumi Castle, and thus the son of a senior Oda retainer. He was far superior to this man who stood there in an old blue coat.

"What presumption!" Ukon's face was flushed.

"Monkey. Hey! Monkey!" he called, but Tokichiro did not answer. This was not like him at all. Tokichiro was called Monkey by everyone from Nobunaga down to his friends, ind the nickname didn't usually bother him. But today was different.

"Are you deaf, Monkey?"

"That's nonsense!"

"What?"

"Calling someone over and then speaking nonsense to him. What's this about a nonkey?"

"Everyone calls you that, so I did too. I'm often away at Narumi Castle, so I don't remember your name. Is it so bad to call you as others do?"

"Yes, it is. There are people who are permitted to call you in a certain way, and others who aren't."

"Well then, am I one of those without permission?"

"That's right."

"Hold your tongue! It's your insolence that is at issue! Why do you trample over the lumber every morning on the way to your post? And why don't you greet us properly?

"Is that a crime?"

"Don't you have any sense of courtesy? I tell you this because you may yet become a samurai. Proper manners are very important for a warrior. When you pass by here, you look at the construction with a smug expression on your face and mumble complaints to yourself. But a castle construction site is under the same discipline as a battlefield. You insolent fool! If you act this way again I'm not going to let you off so easily. When a sandal bearer rises to the position of samurai, something like this is bound to happen." Ukon laughed and looked around at the foremen and his subordinates, and then, to show off his own exalted position, laughed again and turned his back on Tokichiro.

The foremen, thinking that the matter had been settled, crowded around Ukon and went back to discussing the plans. But Tokichiro, glaring at Ukon's back, made no move to leave.

One of Ukon's subordinates said, "We're through with you, Kinoshita."

"You've been reprimanded. Now keep it in mind," said another.

"Well, go on home," said a third.

They made as if to calm him down and send him on his way, but Tokichiro ignored them. He continued to glare at Ukon's back. As he did this, his youthful pride rose to surface like an unchecked bubble, and he exploded into uncontrollable laughter.

The foremen and Ukon's subordinates were startled and looked up. Even Ukon looked around sternly from his seat and shouted, "What are you laughing at?"

Tokichiro laughed all the more. "I'm laughing because you're ridiculous."

"You impertinent" Ukon leaped up from his seat in a rage. "Because I forgave this miserable wretch, he's full of himself. This is outrageous! Military rules apply in the workplace just as they do on the battlefield. You wretch! I'm going to cut you down. Come over here!" He put his hand on the hilt of his long sword. His adversary, however, stood as still as though he had swallowed a stick.

Ukon became all the angrier. "Grab him! I'm going to punish him! Hold him so he won't run away!"

Ukon's retainers quickly drew up to Tokichiro's side. But Tokichiro was silent, and looked around at the approaching men as though he were sniffing at them. They had all thought there was something strange about him before, but this was almost eerie, and though they surrounded him, not one of them put a hand on him.

Master Ukon, you're good at spouting out big words, but not so good at doing other things."

"What! What did you say?"

"Why do you think that construction work on the castle is under battlefield regulations? You yourself have said it, but I'll bet you don't understand what it means at all.

You're not a very good overseer. And you think I'm wrong to laugh at you."

"That is unpardonably abusive language! You miserable wretch! To someone of my rank"

"Listen!" Tokichiro stuck out his chest and, looking at the faces around him, said, "Are these times of peace or of war? The man who doesn't understand this is a fool. Kiyosu Castle is surrounded by enemies: Imagawa Yoshimoto and Takeda Shingen to the east, Asakura Yoshikage and Saito Yoshitatsu to the north, the Sasaki and the Asai to the west, and the Tokugawa of Mikawa to the south." They were overpowered. His voice was full of self-confidence, and because he was not simply speaking his own private feelings, they all listened raptly, carried away by his voice. "The retainers think these walls are impregnable, but if a storm were to blow, they would crumble. It's outrageous negligence that this little bit of construction has taken over twenty days, and is still taking day after tedious day. What would happen if an enemy took advantage of this weak point and stormed the castle one night?

"There are three rules governing castle construction. The first is to build with speed and secrecy. The second is to build with unadorned strength. This means that ornament and beauty are fine, but only in peacetime. The third is constant preparedness, which means to be ready for attack despite the confusion of construction. The most frightening thing about construction is the possibility of creating a breach. The province might fall because of one small breach in a mud wall."

His intensity was overpowering. Ukon was about to say something two or three times, but he was checked by Tokichiro's eloquence, and his lips could only quiver. The foremen, too, gaped, overawed by Tokichiro's speech. Hearing the sense in what he said, no one could interrupt him with either abusive language or force. It was now unclear who was the overseer. When Tokichiro thought that what he was saying had sunk in, he continued.

"So while it's impolite to ask, just how exactly is Master Ukon conducting this enterprise? Where is the speed, the secrecy? Where the preparedness? After almost twenty days, has even one yard of the wall been rebuilt? It takes time to replace the collapsed stones beneath the mud walls. But to state that castle construction is subject to the same military regulations as a battlefieldthis is nothing more than the boast of someone who does not know his true station. If I were a spy from an enemy province, I would see that an attack could be made where the wall is weakest. It's folly to think that this won't happen, and to carry on in a leisurely fashion as though you were a retired gentleman building a teahouse!

"It's extremely inconvenient for those of us who work within the castle grounds. Rather than blame those passing through, why not discuss the matter and speed up the progress of the construction? Do you understand? Not just the overseer but you, too, his subordinates and the foremen."

When he had finished, he laughed cheerfully. "Well, excuse me. I've been rude, just speaking what's on my mind, but we all think of this as an important official matter, night and day. Well, it's gotten dark. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go home."

While Ukon and his men stood dumbfounded, Tokichiro quickly left the castle grounds.

The following day Tokichiro was in the stables. In his new post, his diligence was second to none.

"Nobody loves horses as much as he does," his colleagues said. To an extent that amazed even the other stable workers, he completely immersed himself in the rounds of the stables and in the grooming of the horses, and his daily life was totally taken up with these animals.

The group leader came to the stables and called to him, "Kinoshita, you've been summoned."

Tokichiro looked out from beneath the belly of Nobunaga's favorite horse, Sangetsu, and asked, "By whom?" Sangetsu had developed an abscess on his leg, so Tokichiro was washing his fetlocks with hot water.

"If it's a summons, it means by Lord Nobunaga. Hurry up." The group leader turn and shouted in the direction of the samurais' room, "Hey! Somebody take Kinoshita place and take Sangetsu to the stable."

"No, no. I'll do it." Tokichiro did not emerge until he had finished washing Sangetsus leg. He applied an ointment and bandaged the wound, stroked the animal's neck, and then took it back to its stall himself.

"Where is Lord Nobunaga?"

"In the garden. If you don't hurry, you're going to put His Lordship in a bad mod.t

Tokichiro went into the office and pulled on his blue coat with the paulownia crest. With Nobunaga in the garden were four or five retainers, including Shibata Katsuie and Maeda Inuchiyo.

Tokichiro, dressed in his blue coat, hurried over, stopped more than twenty yards from Nobunaga, and prostrated himself.

"Monkey, come here," Nobunaga ordered. Inuchiyo immediately put up a stool for him. "Come closer."

"Yes, my lord."

"Monkey? I've heard that you shot out some pretty big words at the construction site on the outer walls last night."

"You've already heard, my lord?"

Nobunaga forced a smile. Tokichiro did not seem to be a person who would have 1et out those big words; he was now bowing before him, looking shamefaced.

"From now on, restrain yourself," Nobunaga reprimanded him. "Yamabuchi Ukon came to me this morning with loud complaints about your bad manners. I calmed hir down because, according to others, there seemed to be a lot of sense in your words."

"I'm extremely sorry."

"Go to the construction site and apologize to Ukon."

"Me, my lord?"

"Of course."

If it's an order, I'll go and apologize."

Do you disapprove?"

I hesitate to say this, but won't it encourage his vice? What I said was correct, and his work,, in terms of service to you, can hardly be called conscientious. Even that little bit of repair has taken close to more than twenty days, and furthermore"

"Monkey, are you going to spit out those big words even to me? I've heard your lecture already."

"I thought I spoke what was obvious, certainly not just big words."

"If that's so, how many days should it take to finish the job?"

"Well" Tokichiro became a bit more cautious and thoughtful, but he answered promptly, "Well, since the work has already been started, I think I could finish it without difficulty in three days."

"Three days!" Nobunaga exclaimed involuntarily.

Shibata Katsuie looked exasperated and sneered at Nobunaga's credulity in believing Tokichiro. But Inuchiyo had absolutely no doubt that he could do exactly as he claimed.

Nobunaga promoted Tokichiro to the post of overseer of building works on the spot. He would replace Yamabuchi Ukon, and in just three days, he would be expected to repair two hundred yards of the castle walls.

He accepted the commission and prepared to withdraw, but Nobunaga asked him again, "Wait. Are you sure you can do it?" From the sympathetic tone of Nobunaga's voice, it was clear that he did not want Tokichiro to be forced to commit seppuku if he was to fail. Tokichiro sat a little straighter and said with certainty, "I will do it without fail."

Nevertheless, Nobunaga asked him to think about it a little more. "Monkey, the mouth is the cause of most disasters. Don't be obstinate over such a trivial matter."

"I'll have the walls ready for your inspection after three days," Tokichiro repeated, and withdrew.

That day he returned home earlier than usual. "Gonzo! Gonzo!" he called out. When his young servant peeked into the back garden at his master's call, there was Tokichiro, stripped naked and sitting cross-legged.

"Do you have an errand for me?"

"Yes, indeed!" he answered heartily. "You have some money on hand, don't you?"

"Money?"

"That's what I said."

"Well"

"What about that little bit I gave you some time ago for the various household expenses?"

"That's been gone for a long time."

"Well, what about the money for the kitchen expenses?"

"There hasn't been any money for the kitchen for a long time, either. When I told youit must have been a couple of months agoyou said we would have to do our best, so we've just been getting along as best we could."

"So there's no money?"

"And no reason for there to be any."

"Well then, what am I going to do?"

"Do you need something?"

"I'd like to invite some men over tonight."

"If it's just a matter of sake and food, I'll run around to the shops and buy some on credit."

Tokichiro slapped his thigh. "Gonzo, I'm relying on you." He picked up a fan and fanned himself with wide strokes. An autumn breeze was blowing, and paulownia leaves were falling in profusion; there were also a lot of mosquitoes.

"Who are the guests?"

"The construction foremen. They'll probably all come in a group."

Tokichiro took a bath in the tub in the garden. Just then, someone called from the entrance.

"Who is it?" asked the maidservant.

The guest removed his hat and introduced himself, "Maeda Inuchiyo."

The master of the little residence got out of the tub, put on a summer kimono on the veranda, and peered out toward the front.

"Well, well, Master Inuchiyo. I was wondering who it could be. Come on in and take a seat," Tokichiro called out in a casual manner, putting down some cushions hiself. Inuchiyo sat down.

"I've come rather unexpectedly."

"Is it anything urgent?"

"No, it's not for myself. It's about you."

"Huh?"

"You act as if you don't have a care in the world. You've committed yourself to an possible task, and I can't help feeling worried for you. It was your choice, so you must be confident of success."

"Ah, you mean the castle wall."

"Of course! You spoke out without thinking. Even Lord Nobunaga acted as didn't want you to commit seppuku over this."

"I did say three days, didn't I?"

"Do you have any chance of success?"

"None at all."

"None?"

"Of course not. I know nothing about building walls."

"What are you going to do, then?"

"If I can make the laborers on the construction site work hard, I think I should be able to do this just by using their strength to the full."

Inuchiyo lowered his voice. "Well, that's the question."

They were strange rivals in love. Even though the two men loved the same girl, they had become friends. They did not display friendship in either word or deed but rather in a somewhat uneasy relationship; each knew the other well, and they had entered into a respectful fellowship. Today in particular, it seemed that the nature of Inuchiyo's visit one of genuine concern for Tokichiro.

Have you thought about Yamabuchi Ukon's feelings?" Inuchiyo asked.

He probably bears a grudge against me."

Well, do you know what Ukon is thinking and doing?"

"I do."

Is that so?" Inuchiyo cut his words short. "If you can discern that much, then my mind will be at ease."

Tokichiro stared intently at Inuchiyo. Then he bowed his head in a way that seemed to indicate assent. "You're something, Inuchiyo. Whatever you set your sights on, you set them well, don't you?"

"No, you're the quick one. You're clever to notice about Yamabuchi Ukon, and there's"

"No, don't say any more." When Tokichiro made as if to put his hand over his mouth, Inuchiyo cheerfully clapped his hands and laughed.

"Let's leave it to the imagination. It's better left unsaid." Of course, he was about to mention Nene.

Gonzo returned, and the sake and food were delivered. Inuchiyo was about to go home, but Tokichiro stopped him.

"The sakes just come. Drink a cup with me before you go."

"Well, if you insist." Inuchiyo drank freely. However, not one of the guests for whom the sake and food had been provided showed up.

"Well, nobody's coming," Tokichiro said at last. "Gonzo, what do you suppose happened?"

When Tokichiro turned to Gonzo, Inuchiyo said, "Tokichiro, did you invite the construction foremen here tonight?"

"That's right. We have to get through some preliminaries. To finish the construction work in three days, we'll have to raise the morale of the men."

"I really overestimated you."

"Why do you say that?"

"I respected you as being twice as quick-witted as other men, but you were the only one who didn't guess that this was going to happen."

Tokichiro stared at the laughing Inuchiyo.

"If you'd think about it, you'd see," Inuchiyo said. "Your opponent is a man of little character. He is, after all, Yamabuchi Ukon, a man with limited abilities, even among those ordinarily judged not to have them. There's no reason for him to be praying that you'll successfully outwit him."

"Of course, but "

"So is he going to just sit there sucking his thumb? I think not."

I see.

"No doubt he's planning some obstruction so that you'll fail. So we might be right in thinking that the foremen you invited here tonight won't be coming. Both the workmen and the foremen are thinking that Yamabuchi Ukon is a good bit more important than you are."

"Right. I understand." Tokichiro hung his head. "If that's so, then this sake is for the two of us to drink. Shouldn't we leave it to the gods and finish it off?"

"That's fine, but your promise to do this in three days starts from tomorrow."

"I say let's drink, come what may."

"If you're decided, sit down and let's drink."

They did not drink much, but talked at length. Inuchiyo was a ready conversationalist, and Tokichiro somehow became the listener. Unlike Inuchiyo, Tokichiro had no formal education. As a boy he had not had a single day to spend, as the sons of samurai did,

devoted to book learning and manners. He did not think of this as unfortunate, but he knew that it was a hindrance to his advancement in the world, and when he thought about those who had more education than he or sat in conversation with them, he was determined to make their knowledge his own. Thus he listened eagerly to the talk of others.

"Ah, I feel a little drunk, Tokichiro. Let's go to sleep. You've got to get up early, and I'm relying on you completely." So saying, Inuchiyo finally pushed his cup away, rose, and went home. When Inuchiyo had gone, Tokichiro lay down on his side, crooked his elbow beneath his head, and went to sleep. He did not notice when the maidservant came slipped a pillow beneath his head.

He had never known a sleepless night. When he slept, there was no distinction between heaven and earth and himself. However, when he awoke, as he did early the next morning, he was himself immediately.

"Gonzo! Gonzo!"

"Yes, yes. Are you already awake, sir?"

"Bring me a horse!"

"Sir?"

"A horse!"

"A horse, sir?"

"Yes! I'll be going to work early today. I won't be returning home either tonight or tomorrow night."

"Unfortunately, we have neither horse nor stable yet."

"Dimwit! Borrow one from somewhere in the neighborhood. I'm not going out on a picnic. I need it for official business. Don't hesitate, go out and bring one back."

"It may be morning, but it's still dark outside."

"If they're sleeping, bang on the gate. If you think it's for my personal use, youll probably hesitate. But it's for official business, so it's justifiable."

Gonzo put on a coat and hurried out in confusion. He came back leading a horse. Impatient to leave, the artless new rider galloped into the dawn without even asking where his mount had come from. Tokichiro rode round to six or seven houses of the construction foremen. They received stipends from the clan and belonged to the artisans corps. Their houses were all built with a good bit of luxury, had maidservants and concubines, and were extraordinarily stately compared with Tokichiro's own house.

He went from house to house, beating on the gates and calling out to those still sleeping inside.

"Come to the meeting! Come to the meeting! Everyone who's working on the construction, be at the site by the Hour of the Tiger. Anyone who is late will be dismissed. By order of Lord Nobunaga!"

He gave out this message at one house after another. White steam rose from the sweat-soaked coat of his horse. Just as he reached the castle moat, light began to appear in the eastern sky. He tethered his horse outside the castle gate, took a deep breath, and stood blocking the Karabashi Gate. He held his long sword in his hand, and his eyes were shining brightly.

The foremen who had been awakened while it was still dark all wondered what had

happened, and arrived one by one, leading their men.

"Wait!" Tokichiro ordered, stopping them at the entrance. After they had given their names, the location of their work, and the number of their workers and coolies, he gave them permission to pass. Then he ordered them to wait silently at their work stations. As far as he could see, almost everyone was there. The workmen were standing in order, but murmuring among themselves uneasily.

Tokichiro stood in front of them, still carrying his unsheathed sword. "Quiet!" He spoke as though he were giving a command with the tip of his raised sword. "Fall in!"

The workmen obeyed, but smiled scornfully. It was obvious from the looks in their eyes that they regarded him as a greenhorn, and that they were laughing at the way he stood in front of them with his chest stuck out. To them, his sword waving was nothing more than impertinent posturing, and it did nothing but invite their scorn.

"This is an order for all of you," Tokichiro said in a loud voice, with what seemed to be complete nonchalance. "By the order of Lord Nobunaga, I, as unworthy as I am, will be in charge of the construction from now on. Yamabuchi Ukon was in charge until yesterday, but I will take his place from today." As he spoke, he looked over the ranks of the workmen from right to left. "Until a short while ago, I was in the lowest rank of the servants. But with the favor of His Lordship, I was moved to the kitchens and am now in the stables. I have spent only a short time on the castle grounds, and I know nothing about construction work, but I plan on being second to none when it comes to serving our master. Under an overseer like myself, then, I wonder if any of you will consider working as my subordinates. I can imagine that, among artisans, there is an artisan's temperament. If any of you dislike working under these conditions, please feel free to say so, and I will promptly dismiss you."

Everyone was silent. Even the foremen, who had hidden their scorn, kept their mouths shut.

"No one? Is there no one who is dissatisfied with me as overseer?" he asked again. "If not, then let's get to work immediately. As I've said before, in wartime it is unforgivable for this work to take twenty days. I plan to finish the work by dawn three days from now. I want to say this clearly so that you'll understand and work hard."

The foremen looked at each other. It was natural that this sort of speech would elicit derisive smiles from those men with receding hairlines, who had been doing their jobs since childhood. Tokichiro noticed their reaction but chose to ignore it.

"Foremen of the masons! Head carpenters and plasterers! Come forward!"

They stepped forward, but as they looked up, scorn floated across their faces. Tokichiro suddenly struck the head plasterer with the flat of his long sword.

"What insolence! Do you stand there in front of an overseer with your arms folded? Get out!"

Thinking that he had been cut, the man fell down screaming. The others turned pale, their knees shaking.

Tokichiro went on severely, "I'm going to assign you your posts and duties. Listen carefully." Their attitude had improved. No one looked as if he was only half listening. They were quiet, though not reconciled. And even though they were not really cooperating, they looked scared.

"I've divided the two hundred yards of the wall into fifty sections, giving each group responsibility for four yards. Each group will consist of ten men: three carpenters, two plasterers, and five masons. I'm going to leave those assignments to the foremen. You foremen will each be supervising from four to five groups, so make sure that the workmen are not idle and pay attention to the distribution of men. When any of you have men to spare, move them to a station that is shorthanded. Don't leave an instant for idling."

They nodded but looked restive. They were irritated by this sort of lecture, and unhappy at being assigned to work stations.

"Ah, I almost forgot," Tokichiro said in a louder voice. "Along with the division of ten men for every four yards, I'm assigning a reserve corps of eight coolies and two workmen to each group. When I look at the way the work has been done so far, workers and plasterers are apt to leave the scaffolding and spend the day doing work that is not their own, like carrying lumber. But a worker at the workplace is the same as a soldier on the fied. He should never leave his post. And he shouldn't abandon his tools, whether he be a carpenter, a plasterer, or a mason. That would be the same as a soldier throwing away his sword or spear on the battlefield."

He allocated the posts and divided the men, and then shouted with authority enough to start a battle, "Let's begin!"

Tokichiro also found work for his new subordinates. He ordered one of them to beat a drum. When he commanded the workers to begin, the man beat the drum as though they were marching into battle, one beat to every six paces.

Two beats of the drum sounded a break.

"Rest!" Tokichiro gave the order standing on top of a boulder. If someone didn't rest, he scolded him.

The construction site had been swept clean of the indolence that had prevailed until then; it was replaced by an intensity of activity more common on the battlefield, and by the sweat of excitement. But Tokichiro looked on silently, satisfaction never showing in his face. Not yet. Not like this, he thought.

Taught by their many years of labor, the workmen knew how to use their bodies in crafty ways. They gave the impression of working hard, but in fact they were not wringing out real sweat. Their resistance was such that they took a little comfort by showing obedience on the surface, but not truly working hard. Tokichiro's past life had been drowned in sweat, and he knew the true value and beauty of that sweat.

It is untrue to state that labor is a thing of the body. If labor is not filled with the spirit, there's no difference between the sweat of men and that of cows and horses. Keeping his mouth shut, he thought about the true nature of sweat and work. These men were working in order to eat. Or they were working in order to feed parents, wives, and children. They worked for food or pleasure, and they did not rise above that. Their work was small. And it was mean. Their desires were so limited that pity welled up inside Tokichin and he thought, I was like that too, before. Is it reasonable to expect great works from people with little hope? If he couldn't imbue them with a greater spirit, there was no reason for them to work with greater efficiency.

For Tokichiro, standing silently on the construction site, half a day passed quicky.

Half a day was one-sixth of his allotted time. Looking at the site, however, he could see no signs that they had made any progress since morning. Both above and below the scaffolding, the men seemed to be full of eagerness, but it was nothing more than a sham. On the contrary, they anticipated Tokichiro's complete and overwhelming defeat in three days.

"It's noon. Beat the drum," Tokichiro ordered. The noise and uproar of the construction site came to a halt all at once. When Tokichiro saw that the workers had taken out their lunches, he sheathed his sword and went off.

The afternoon ended with the same atmosphere at the construction site, except that discipline had broken down and indolence was more evident than it had been during the morning. It was no different from the day before, when Yamabuchi Ukon had been in charge. Even worse, the workers and coolies had been ordered to work without rest or sleep from this evening on, and knew that they were not going to be let out of the castie grounds for three days. Thus they begrudged their labor even more and did nothing but think of more ways to cheat as they worked.

"Stop your work! Stop your work! Wash your hands and meet in the square!" It was still light, but the official suddenly made the rounds beating the drum.

"What's going on?" the workers asked each other suspiciously. When they asked the foremen, they were answered with shrugs. They all went to the square where the lumber was kept, to see what this was about. There in the open, sake and food had been put into piles as high as mountains. They were told to be seated, and sat on straw mats, stones, and lumber. Tokichiro sat down in the very center of the workmen and raised his cup.

"Well, this isn't much, but we have three days before us. One day has already passed quickly, but I would like you to work and try the impossible. So, just tonight, please drink and rest to your hearts' content."

His manner was completely different from what it had been that morning, and he himself set an example by drinking a cup. "Come on," he shouted, "drink up. For those of you who don't like sake, there's food and sweets."

The workers were amazed. Suddenly they began to worry about finishing the project by the third day.

But Tokichiro was the first to get tipsy.

"Hey! There's plenty of sake. And it's the castle's, so no matter how much we drink, there'll be more in the storehouse. If we drink, we can dance, sing, or just sleep until the beat of the drum."

The workers soon stopped complaining. Not only were they being released from work, but they were also unexpectedly receiving food and sake. More than that, the overseer himself was relaxing and mixing with them.

"This gentleman has a sense of humor, doesn't he?"

When the sake began to take effect, they started to tell jokes. But the foremen still looked at Tokichiro coolly.

"Huh! He's being clever, but it's transparent." And this made them even more hostile. With looks on their faces that questioned the propriety of drinking sake in the workplace, they didn't touch their cups.

"Foremen! What's the matter?" Tokichiro got up, cup in hand, and sat down amid

their cold looks. "You aren't drinking anything at all. Maybe you're thinking that foremen have responsibilities much like generals and therefore shouldn't drink, but don't be so anxious. What can be done, can be done. What can't be done, can't be done. If I was wrong, and we can't do this in three days, the matter will be closed with my suicide. Forcing the foreman who had the bitterest look to take a cup, Tokichiro poured from the flask himself. "Well, if we're talking about anxiety, it's not so much this particular construction project or even my own life that concerns me. I worry about the fate of the province in which you all live. But taking over twenty days to do just this little bit of constructionwith that kind of spirit, this province is going to perish."

His words were charged with emotion. Suddenly the workers fell quiet. Tokichiro looked up at the evening stars as though in lamentation. "I imagine that all of you seen the rise and fall of provinces, too. And you know the misery of the people who lived in fallen provinces. Well, it's something that cannot be helped. Naturally enough, His Lordship, his generals, and those of us who are the lowest samurai do not forget about the defense of the smallest part of the province, even when we sleep.

"But the rise and fall of a province is not in its castle. It's right here, in you. The people of the province are its stone walls and moats. Working on the construction of this castle, you may feel as though you're plastering the walls of somebody else's house, but youre wrong. You're building your own defenses. What would happen if this casste was burnt to the ground one day? Surely it would not be the fate of the castle alone. The castle town, too, would be engulfed in flames, and the entire province would be destroyed. It would be like a scene from hell: children ripped away from their parents, old folks looking for their children, young girls screaming in panic, the sick burnt alive. Ah, if the province were to fall, it would really be the end. You all have parents, children, wives, and sick relatives. You must always, always remember."

Even die foremen stopped sneering and looked serious. They too had property and families, and Tokichiro's words struck home.

"So why is it that we are at peace today? Fundamentally, of course, it's thanks to His Lordship. But you, the people of this province, most certainly protect us with this castle as your very center. No matter how much we samurai fight, if the heartthe peoplewere to waver" Tokichiro spoke with tears in his eyes, but he was not pretending. He grieved from the heart and meant every word he spoke.

Those who were struck by the truth of his words were immediately sobered and hushed. Someone wept and blew his nose. It was the carpenters' foremanthe most influential and oldest handwho had been more openly opposed than anyone to Tokichiro.

Ah, me!Ah, me!" He dried the tears on his pockmarked cheeks. The others looked on, amazed. When he realized they were all looking at him, he suddenly pushed through his colleagues and threw himself down in front of Tokichiro.

I have no excuses. I understand my own foolishness and superficiality now. You should tie me up as a lesson, and hurry on with this construction for the sake of the province." Head bowed, the old man trembled as he spoke.

At first, Tokichiro looked at him with blank amazement, but then he nodded slightly and said, "Hm. You were told to do this by Yamabuchi Ukon, right?"

You knew it all along, Master Kinoshita."

"How could I not know? And Ukon told you and the others not to come to my house when I invited you."

"That's right."

"And he told you to be as slow as possible at the construction site, to delay the work purposely, and to disobey my orders."

"Y-yes."

"It's not surprising that he would do such things. And if all of you made a mess of things, your heads would be lined up too. Well, all right, don't blubber. I'll certainly pardon you for realizing that you've done wrong."

"But there's more. Yamabuchi Ukon told us that if we worked as poorly as possible and slowed things down so that it exceeded three days, he would give us all a load of money. But listening to what you just said, I know that accepting Master Yamabuchi's money and setting ourselves against you was working toward our own destruction. Now I see things clearly. As the leader of the mutineers, I should punished, and the construction completed without delay."

Tokichiro smiled, realizing that with a single turn, a strong enemy had become a sincere ally. Rather than tying the man up, Tokichiro gave him a cup. "There's no guilt in you. At the instant you come to this realization, you become the most loyal citizen of this province. Come on, have a drink. Then, after a rest, let's get to work."

The foreman received the cup with both hands and bowed from the heart. But he did not drink. "Hey! Everybody!" he shouted, suddenly jumping up and lifting his cup high. "We will do exactly as Master Kinoshita says. After one drink, let's get to work. We should be ashamed of ourselves, and it's a wonder that we haven't been punished by heaven. I've devoured rice in vain so far, but from now on I'm going to try to make up for it. I'm going to try to be of real service. I've made up my mind. What about the rest of you?"

As soon as the foreman had finished, the others stood up all at once. Lets go!

"We'll do it!" they all shouted.

"Ah, thank you!" said Tokichiro, raising his cup too. "Well, I'm going to put away this sake for three days. When we've finished the work, we're going to drink it to our hearts' content! Also, I don't know how much money Yamabuchi Ukon said he would give you, but after we've finished this job, I'll reward you as much as I'm able."

"We won't need anything like that." With the pockmarked foreman leading, they all downed their cups in one gulp. And, just like warriors about to fight in the vanguard of a battle, they dashed back to the construction site.

Watching their spirit, Tokichiro experienced heartfelt relief for the first time.

"I've done it!" he blurted out without thinking. He was not going to miss this chance, however; he mixed with the others, working in the mud, laboring like a madman for the next three nights and two days.

* * *

"Monkey, Monkey!" There was somebody calling him. He saw that it was Inuchiyo, looking unusually agitated.

"Inuchiyo."

"This is good-bye."

"What?"

"I've been exiled."

"Why?"

"I cut someone down in the castle, and Lord Nobunaga reprimanded me. For the present, I've been made a ronin."

"Who did you cut down?"

"Yamabuchi Ukon. You'll understand my feelings better than anyone else."

"Ah, you were too quick."

"The hot blood of youth! I thought of that right after I cut him down, but it was too late. One's nature comes out unconsciously, even if it's repressed. Well then"

"Are you going right away?"

"Monkey, take care of Nene. This shows that she and I were not meant for one another. Look after her."

About the same time, a single unruly horse pierced the darkness as it galloped from Kiyosu toward Narumi. Seriously wounded, Yamabuchi Ukon held fast to the saddle. It was eight or nine leagues to Narumi, and Ukon's horse galloped quickly.

It was already dark and no one could see, but had it been daylight, passersby would have seen the blood that fell with the galloping of the horse. Ukon's wound was deep but not fatal. Nevertheless, as he clung to the horse's mane, he wondered which would be faster: the horse's hooves or death.

If I can only make it to Narumi Castle, he thought, remembering that when he had been struck by Maeda Inuchiyo, Inuchiyo had almost flown at him, screaming, "Traitor!

The voice that had brought down this accusation was like a nail driven right into his skull, and would not fade away. Now, between his hazy consciousness and the wind that cut through him on the galloping horse's back, his thoughts wandered. How had Inuchiyo found out? As he considered how this event was going to affect Narumi Castle and the fortunes not only of his father but of his entire clan, panic seized him and he began to bleed heavily.

Narumi Castle was one of the branch castles of the Oda clan. Ukon's father, Samanosuke, had been made Narumi's governor by Nobuhide. Nevertheless, his vision of the world was limited, and what he saw did not portend a great future. When Nobuhide had died, Nobunaga was fifteen, and his reputation was at its lowest. At that time Samanosuke had given up on him and secretly allied himself with Imagawa Yoshimoto.

Nobunaga had discovered Narumi's treason and had attacked the castle twice, but Narumi had not fallen. There was reason for it not to fall; it was supported at the rear by the mighty Imagawa, both militarily and economically. Nobunaga could attack in any way he liked, but his own strength was always spent in vain. Nobunaga understood this and ignored the rebels for a number of years.

But the Imagawa, in their turn, started to doubt Samanosuke's loyalty. Narumi was being looked upon with suspicion by both sides, and being regarded in this way by the ruler of a large province could only advance one's own demise. So, whatever his real intentions, Samanosuke went to Nobunaga, lamented his many years of misconduct, and

begged to be returned to his former position.

"The branch never outgrows the trunk. It would be good if you understood that. Try to be loyal from now on." With these words, Nobunaga forgave him.

After that, the public works of both father and son were many and impressive, and their former treachery was forgotten. But what had been well hidden was seen by two men: Maeda Inuchiyo and Kinoshita Tokichiro. Ukon had been worried about these two or some time, but then Tokichiro had taken the position of overseer of building works, and the following day Inuchiyo had attacked and wounded Ukon. Now, assuming that he had been discovered, and stumbling from his wounds, he fled from the castle and made his way to Narumi.

It was dawn by the time he saw the gate of the castle. When he was sure he had arrived, he fainted, still clinging to the horse's back. When he came to, he was surrounded by the castle guards, who were attending to his wounds. When his head cleared and he got to his feet, the men around him looked relieved.

The situation was quickly reported to Samanosuke, and several of his attendants rushed out, their eyes wide, asking anxiously:

"Where is the young master?"

"How is he?"

They were dismayed. But the most shocked of all was his father. Seeing his son helped into the garden by the guards, he ran out himself, unable to suppress a father's anguish.

"Are his wounds deep?"

"Father" Ukon collapsed and said, "I'm sorry," before he fainted again.

"Inside! Quickly, take him inside!" Samanosuke's face was suffused with regret for the irrevocable. He had been anxious about Ukon's serving Nobunaga from the very beginning, for Samanosuke, not having genuinely returned to the Oda clan, was not yet committed to submission. But when Ukon was opportunely appointed to the post of overseer for the rebuilding of the castle walls, Samanosuke saw it as an opportunity for which he had been waiting for years, and immediately sent off a secret message to the Imagawa:

Now is the time to strike at the Oda clan. If you strike at Kiyosu Castle with five thousand men from the province's eastern border, I will raise my forces and take the offensive. At the same time, my son will throw the castle into confusion from within, by setting it on fire.

Thus he hoped to move Imagawa Yoshimoto to a manly resolution. The Imagawa, lowever, did not move suddenly, despite his request. Regardless of what was said, the Yamabuchiboth father and sonhad held long service with the Oda. The Imagawa vere suspicious of their plan. Hearing nothing from either the first or second messengers he had sent, Samanosuke sent a third two days later, with a note saying, "Now is the time.

Meanwhile, Ukon had been wounded and had fled back alone. And it did not look like a private quarrel. It seemed as though their plot had been discovered. Samanosuke was dismayed, and called his entire clan together for a conference.

"Even though there may not be cooperation from the Imagawa, we can do nothing more than make our military preparations and be ready for the onslaught of the Oda. If word of our rebellion reaches the Imagawa, and they join the fray, then our original hopes of crushing the Oda with a single blow may yet be realized."

Nobunaga had little to say after exiling Inuchiyo. Taking his moods into account, not one of his attendants talked about Inuchiyo. But Nobunaga was not fully satisfied, and he said, "When two warriors fight in camp, or a blade is drawn on the castle grounds, it is an absolute rule that the punishment should be strict, regardless of the reasons for the argument. Inuchiyo's a valuable man, but quick-tempered by nature. And this is the second time he's wounded a retainer. Magnanimity beyond this cannot be permitted by law."

Later that night he grumbled to the senior retainer on duty, "That Inuchiyo! I wonder where he's gone, now that he's been banished. Being a ronin is good for the soul. Maybe a little hardship will do him some good."

And how were things going at the construction site? Nobunaga thought with bitter regret that it was the evening of the third day since Tokichiro had taken over as construction overseer. If he did not finish by dawn, he would be forced to commit seppuku, no matter how much Nobunaga regretted the matter. He's a stubborn man, tooNobunaga said to himselfblurting out absurdities right in front of everybody.

Retainers like Inuchiyo and Tokichiro were in lowly positions and were young, but he knew well that among the retainers left from his father's time, there were few men with their talents. These two were rare men, he thought with some conceit, not only in his own small clan but in the world at large. What a loss! But he could not show his concern and hid it from his pages and older retainers.

That night he crawled into the mosquito net early. But just as he was going to sleep, a retainer crouched in the entrance of his bedroom. "My lord, it's an emergency! The Yamabuchi of Narumi have unfurled the flag of revolt and are making a show of their defense preparations."

"Narumi?" Nobunaga came out from under the net and, still in his white silk night clothes, went into the adjoining room and sat down.

"Genba?"

"My lord?"

"Come in."

Sakuma Genba came to the edge of the next room and prostrated himself. Nobunaga was fanning himself. In the evening one could already feel the cool of the early fall, but there were still swarms of mosquitoes in the castle grounds with its thick stands of trees.

"This is not really so unexpected," Nobunaga said at last, almost as if he had chewed the words and spat them out. "If the Yamabuchi are rebelling, then the boil that had been healing is festering a little again. We'll wait until it bursts by itself."

Will you be going in person, my lord?"

"That won't be necessary."

"Your troops"

"I don't think this will require a salve." He laughed and went on, "I doubt if they have the courage to attack Kiyosu, even if they are making military preparations. Samanosuke panicked when his son got injured. It would be better to watch them stew for a while from a distance."

Shortly after that Nobunaga went to bed again, but he got up the next morning earlier than usual. Or perhaps he couldn't sleep and was waiting for the dawn. He may have been far more worried in the back of his mind about the fate of Tokichiro than about the incident at Narumi. As soon as he got up, Nobunaga went with several attendants to inspect the construction site.

The morning sun was rising. And in place of the previous day's battlefield, not one piece of lumber, not one stone, not one clod of earth or speck of sawdust had been left behind. The ground had been swept clean. With the dawn, the construction site was no longer a construction site. This exceeded Nobunaga's expectations. He rarely experienced surprise, and if he did so now just a little, he did not show it. But Tokichiro had completed the job in three days, and, beyond that, anticipating Nobunaga's inspection, had had the remaining lumber and stones hauled out of the castle and the site swept clean.

Without thinking, Nobunaga's face glowed with joy and surprise. "He did it! Look at that! Look at what Monkey did!" Turning to his attendants, he spoke as though it were his own achievement. "Where is he? Call Tokichiro here."

"That seems to be Master Kinoshita coming across the Karabashi Bridge,"an attendant said.

The bridge was directly in front of them. And there was Tokichiro, running across the bridge toward them.

The logs for the scaffolding, as well as the leftover lumber and stones, the tools and the straw mats, were piled up into a mountain beside the moat. The artisans and laborers, who had spent three days and nights working without rest, were sleeping soundly, like so many cocooned caterpillars. Even the foremen, who had worked together with the workers, had lain on the ground and fallen asleep as soon as the construction was finished.

Nobunaga observed this scene from a distance. Once again he realized how he had undervalued Tokichiro's abilities. That Monkey! He knows how to make men work! If he has the ability to get laborers to work themselves to death, I should put him in charge of trained soldiers, and he might make quite a commander. It wouldn't be a mistake to send him into battle at the head of two or three hundred men. Nobunaga suddenly recalled a verse from Sun Tzu's Art of War.

The most important principle

For victory in war

Is having your soldiers

Die gladly.

Nobunaga repeated this over and over, but he doubted that he himself had that ability, which certainly had nothing to do with strategy, tactics, or authority.

"You're certainly up early this morning, my lord. You can see what we have done to the castle wall."

Nobunaga looked down at his feet and there was Tokichiro, already kneeling with both hands pressed to the ground.

"Monkey?" Nobunaga burst out laughing. He had just now seen Tokichiro's face, which, after three days and nights without sleep, looked as if it were covered with a

half-dried, rough plaster coat. His eyes were bloodshot and his clothes were smeared with mud.

Nobunaga laughed again, but quickly felt sorry for the man and said seriously, "You've done well. You must be sleepy. You'd better sleep for an entire day."

"Thank you very much." Tokichiro basked in the praise. To be told that he could sleep all day to his heart's content, when the province itself did not have a day of rest, the greatest praise of all, Tokichiro thought as tears soaked his drooping eyelids. Even as he felt such satisfaction, however, he added, "I have a request, my lord."

"What is it?"

"A reward," Tokichiro said clearly, startling the attendants. Wouldn't this alter Nobunaga's rare good mood? They were concerned for Tokichiro.

"What do you want?"

"Money."

"A lot?"

"No, just a little."

"Is it for you?"

"No." Tokichiro pointed in the direction of the moat. "I'm not the one who did the construction. I would like just enough to divide among the workers over there, who are so tired they've fallen asleep."

"Speak to the keeper of the accounts and take as much as you need. But I should do something to reward you, too. How much is your stipend now?"

"I receive thirty kan"

"Is that all?"

"It's more than I deserve, my lord."

"I'll raise it to one hundred kan, move you to the spearmen's regiment, and put you in charge of thirty foot soldiers."

Tokichiro remained silent. Strictly in terms of the office, the positions of overseeing charcoal and firewood and overseer of building works were reserved for high-rank samurai. But the blood of youth ran through Tokichiro's veins, and it had naturally been his hope for a number of years to see active service with the archers' regiment or the musketeers. Being in charge of thirty foot soldiers was the lowest rank of troop leader among the commanders. But it was a job that pleased him far more than being in charge of stables or the kitchen.

He was so happy that he forgot discretion for the moment, and spoke thoughtlessly with the same mouth that had been so courteous before. "While I was working on the construction, there was something I was constantiy thinking about. The water supply in this castle is poor, no matter how you look at it. If the castle were besieged, drinking water would be lacking, and in a short while the moat would dry up. If something were to happen, the castle would only be good for making a sortie. But in the case of an attack by army that had no chance of victory in the field"

Looking off to the side, Nobunaga pretended not to hear. But Tokichiro was not going to stop halfway. "I've always thought that Mount Komaki was far superior to Kjyosu both in terms of water supply and in terms of attack and defense. I would like suggest strongly that you move from Kiyosu to Mount Komaki, my lord."

At this suggestion, Nobunaga glared at him and barked, "Monkey, that's enough! You're getting carried away. Go away and sleep right now!"

"Yes, my lord." Tokichiro shrugged. I've learned a lesson, he thought. Failure is easy under favorable circumstances. One should be rebuked when he's in a good mood. I'm still not experienced enough. I let my happiness get the better of me, and went too far. I have to admit I'm still inexperienced.

After he had distributed the reward to the workers, he still did not go home to sleep, but rather walked around the castle town alone. In his heart, he could see the figure of Nene, whom he had not met for some time.

I wonder what she's been doing recently? As soon as he thought of Nene, he began to worry keenly about his self-sacrificing and obstinate friend, Inuchiyo, who had left the province and turned Nene's love over to him. Since Tokichiro had served the Oda clan, the only one to whom he had opened up his heart in friendship was Inuchiyo.

I'll bet he stopped in at Nene's house. Having to leave the province as a ronin, he wouldn't know when he would be able to see her again. No doubt he said something to her before he left, Tokichiro thought. To tell the truth, more than love or food, Tokichiro needed sleep right now. But when he thought about Inuchiyo's friendship, courage, and loyalty, he couldn't just sleep.

One true man will recognize another. So why did Nobunaga not recognize Inuchiyo's true value? Yamabuchi Ukon's treachery was known for some time, at least by Inuchiyo and Tokichiro. He could not figure out why Nobunaga was not aware of this, and he wondered with displeasure why Inuchiyo, who had wounded Ukon, was being punished.

Well, he said to himself, maybe it was punishment, or maybe banishing him was really an expression of Nobunaga's love. When I spoke thoughtlessly, with a know-it-all face, I got a good rap from him. I have to admit that talking about the poor water supply and advocating a move to Komaki in front of the other retainers was bad manners, he thought as he walked around the town. He was not ill, but periodically he felt as though the earth were moving beneath him. In his sleepless state, the autumn sun seemed horribly bright.

When he saw Mataemon's house in the distance, it seemed as though his drowsiness had been shaken off; breaking into a laugh, he hurried his step.

"Nene! Nene!" he shouted. This was the residential quarter of the archers, and not an area of imposing roofed gates and mansions. The small, snug samurai houses with their neat front gardens and brushwood fences were lined up peacefully in rows.

It was Tokichiro's habit to speak in a loud voice, and when he unexpectedly spied the figure of his sweetheart, whom he had not seen for some time, he waved and hurried along with unfeigned emotion. So much so that every house in the neighborhood must have wondered what was happening. Nene turned around, her white face showing open surprise.

Love was supposed to be a well-kept secret. But when someone calls out so loudly that all the neighborhood windows open, and even her mother and father hear inside the house, it's only natural that a young girl would be embarrassed. Nene had been standing in front of the gate, staring vacantly at the autumn sky. But hearing Tokichiro's voice, her face turned bright red and she hid, trembling, inside the gate.

"Nene! It's me, Tokichiro!" At this point, Tokichiro raised his voice even higher, and ran up to her. "I'm sorry to have neglected you. I've been very busy with my duties."

Nene was half-hidden inside the gate, but since he had already greeted her, she bowed gracefully through necessity. "Your health should come first," she said.

"Is your father at home?" he asked.

"No, he's out."

Rather than inviting him in, she stepped back a little.

"Well, if Master Mataemon is out" Tokichiro quickly realized how she might be embarrassed. "Then I'd better leave."

Nene nodded as though this was what she wanted, too.

"I just came to ask if Inuchiyo had dropped by."

"No, he hasn't." Nene shook her head, but the blood rushed to her face.

"He came, didn't he?"

"No."

"Really?"

Watching the red dragonflies flit about, Tokichiro was lost in thought for a moment. "He didn't show up at your house at all?" Nene hung her head, her eyes filled with tears. "Inuchiyo has displeased His Lordship and left Owari. Did you hear?"

"Yes."

"Did you hear this from your father?"

"No."

"Well, whom did you hear it from? No, there's no need to hide it. He and I are sworn friends. It doesn't make any difference, whatever he might have said to you. He came here, didn't he?"

"No. I found out about it just nowby letter."

"A letter?"

"Just a moment ago, someone threw something into the garden outside my room. When I came down to see, I found a letter wrapped around a small stone. It was from Master Inuchiyo." As she spoke, her voice faltered. She began to cry, and turned her back on Tokichiro. He had thought of her only as a wise, intelligent woman, but she was, all, a girl.

Tokichiro had discovered yet another level of beauty and appeal in what he had seen of this woman until now. "Would you let me see the letter? Or is it something that shouldn't be shown to anyone?" When he asked this, Nene took the letter from her kimono and meekly handed it to him.

Tokichiro opened it slowly. It was unmistakably Inuchiyo's hand. Its contents were simple. But to Tokichiro, the letter conveyed far more than was written in it.

I have cut down a person of consequence and must leave Lord Nobunaga's blessed province today. At one time I had dedicated both my life and my fate to love, talking it over honorably and man to man, we determined that you would be be off with Kinoshita, who is the better man. I leave, entrusting you to him. Please show this letter to Master Mataemon, too, and please, please put your mind at peace. I am not sure we will ever be able to meet again.

Here and there, the characters were wet with tears. Were they Nenes or Inuchiyo's? No, he realized, they were his own.


* *

Narumi was prepared for war, and watched the movements at Kiyosu. But as the year came to an end, there was no sign of an attack by Nobunaga.

Doubt and suspicion troubled the Yamabuchi, father and son. Their distress was augmented by yet something else. Not only had they deserted Nobunaga, but they were also being viewed with hostility by their former allies, the Imagawa of Suruga.

At this juncture, a rumor was spread around Narumi to the effect that the lord of the neighboring Kasadera Castle was in collusion with Nobunaga, and was going to attack Narumi from the rear.

Kasadera was a branch castle of the Imagawa. Whether by command of the Imagawa or by collusion with Nobunaga, an attack was certainly possible.

As the day passed, the rumor grew. Among the Yamabuchi clan and their retainers signs of panic were finally becoming apparent. The prevailing opinion was that they should mount a surprise attack on Kasadera. The father and son, who had taken such precautions shutting themselves up in an empty shell, finally took the initiative. Moving their army in the middle of the night, they set out for a morning attack on Kasadera Castle.

The same kind of rumors had been circulating at Kasadera, too, however, and had caused the same kind of nervousness. The garrison was quick to take countermeasures and was now on the alert.

The Yamabuchi attacked and the tide of battle quickly turned against the defenders, who, unable to wait for reinforcements from Suruga, set fire to the castle and perished fighting desperately in the midst of the flames.

The Narumi army that rushed into the charred castle was reduced to less than half strenght, owing to heavy losses. But they drove on with their gathered momentum and stormed the smoldering ruins, waving their swords, spears, and guns.

All of them joined in the loud shouts of victory. At which point, mounted men and soldiers arrived from Narumi, having escaped in miserable disorder.

What happened?" asked a surprised Yamabuchi Samanosuke.

Nobunaga's army was incredibly fast. Somehow he knew what was happening here, suddenly swooped down on our lightly guarded castle with more than a thousand men. The attack was furious, and we never had a chance!" The wounded man somehow made his report, gasping for breath, and went on to say that not only had the castle been taken but Samanosuke's son, Ukon, who had still not recovered from his wounds, had beencaptured and beheaded.

Samanosuke, who had just now raised the victory song, stood in a silent stupor. The area around Kasadera Castle, which he himself had attacked and taken, was nothing more than an uninhabited, burnt-out ruin.

This is heaven's will!" With a shout, he took his sword and disembowelled himself on the spot. It was strange, however, that he should cry about it being heaven's will, for his end surely was one made by man and fashioned by himself.

Nobunaga had subjugated Narumi and Kasadera in a single day. Tokichiro had gone off somewhere soon after the construction of the castle wall was completed, and had not been seen for some time. But as soon as he heard that Narumi and Kasadera had come into the possession of Owari, he, too, returned unnoticed.

"Was it you who spread the rumors to both sides and caused dissension among our enemies?" When asked, Tokichiro just shook his head and said nothing.


A Handsome Man | Taiko | Yoshimotos Hostage