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An Ill-Fated Messenger

Hideyoshi had not moved. Fine pieces of ash were falling around the base of the lamp- probably the remains of Hasegawa's letter.

Kanbei came limping in, and Hideyoshi greeted him with a nod. Kanbei bent his crippled leg and lowered himself to the floor. During his captivity at Itami Castle, he had developed a chronic scalp condition that had never fully cleared up. When he sat close to the lamp, his thinning hair seemed almost transparent, giving him a grotesque appearance.

"I received your summons, my lord. What could be so urgent at this time of night? Kanbei asked.

Hideyoshi replied, "Hikoemon will tell you." Then he folded his arms and hung his head with a long sigh.

"This will come as a shock, Kanbei," Hikoemon began.

Kanbei was known for his courage, but as he listened, he blanched. Saying nothing, he sighed deeply, folded his arms, and stared at Hideyoshi.

Kyutaro now edged forward on his knees, and said, "This is no time to be thinking of what is past. The wind of change is blowing through the world, and it's a fair wind for you. Time to raise your sails and depart."

Kanbei slapped his knee and said, "Well spoken! Heaven and earth are eternal, but life only progresses because all things change with the seasons. From a broader perspective this is an auspicious event."

The two men's opinions made Hideyoshi smile with satisfaction, because they mirrored his own thoughts. Yet he could not admit to those feelings in public without running the risk of being misunderstood. For a retainer, the death of his lord was a tragedy, and one that must be avenged.

Kanbei, Kyutaro, you've given me great encouragement. There's only one thing we can do now," Hideyoshi said with conviction. "Make peace with the Mori as quickly and secretly as possible."

The monk Ekei had come to Hideyoshi's camp as the Mori's envoy to negotiate a peace treaty. Ekei had contacted Hikoemon first, because of their long acquaintance; then he had met with Kanbei. Hideyoshi had so far refused to come to terms with the Mori, regarddless of what they offered. When Ekei and Hikoemon had met earlier that day, they had parted without reaching an agreement.

Turning to Hikoemon, Hideyoshi said, "You met Ekei today. What are the Mori planning to do?"

We could conclude a treaty quickly, if we agreed to their terms," Hikoemon replied.

Absolutely not!" Hideyoshi said flatly. "As they stand, there is no way I can agree. And what did he offer you, Kanbei?"

The five provinces of Bitchu, Bingo, Mimasaka, Inaba, and Hoki if we lift the siege of Takamatsu Castle and spare the lives of General Muneharu and his men."

A handsome offer, superficially. But apart from Bingo, the four other provinces the Mori are offering are no longer under their control. We cannot accept those terms now without arousing their suspicions," Hideyoshi said. "But if the Mori have found out what has happened in Kyoto, they'll never agree to peace. With luck, they still know nothing. Heaven has given me a few hours' grace, but it will be tight."

It's still only the third. If we requested a formal peace conference tomorrow, one could be held in two or three days," Hikoemon suggested.

'No, that's too slow," Hideyoshi countered. "We have to start immediately, and not wait until dawn. Hikoemon, get Ekei to come here again."

Should I send a messenger right now?" Hikoemon asked.

No, wait a little. A messenger arriving in the middle of the night would make him suspicious. We should put a good deal of thought into what we're going to say."

Following Hideyoshi's orders, Asano Yahei's men began a close inspection of all travelers going in and out of the area. At about midnight, the guards stopped a blind man who was walking along with a heavy bamboo staff and asked him where he was going. Surrounded by the soldiers, the man rested on his staff. "I'm going to a relative's house in the village of Niwase," he said with extreme humility.

"If you're going to Niwase, why are you on this mountain track in the middle of the night?" the officer in charge asked.

"I couldn't find an inn, so I just kept on walking," the blind man replied, lowering his head in an appeal for sympathy. "Perhaps you'd be so kind as to tell me where I might find a village with an inn."

The officer suddenly yelled out, "He's a fake! Tie him up."

The man protested, "I'm no fake! I'm a licensed blind musician from Kyoto, where Ive lived for many years. But now my elderly aunt in Niwase is dying." He pressed his palms together in supplication.

"You're lying!" the officer said. "Your eyes may be closed, but I doubt if you need this!"

The officer abruptly grabbed the man's bamboo staff and cut it in half with his sword. A tightly rolled letter fell from the hollow interior.

The man's eyes now blazed like mirrors at the soldiers. Looking for the weakest point in the circle of men, he tried to make a run for it. But with more than twenty soldiers around him, even this fox of a man could not escape. The soldiers grappled him to the ground, trussed him up so that he could hardly move, and hoisted him over a horse like a piece of baggage.

The man heaped insults and curses on his captors. The officer stuffed some dirt in his mouth. Whipping the horse's belly, the soldiers hurried off to Hideyoshi's camp with their prisoner.

That same night a mountain ascetic was challenged by another patrol. In contrast to the cringing manner of the fake blind musician, the monk was haughty.

"I'm a disciple of the Shogo Temple," he announced arrogantly. "We mountain ascetics often walk the whole night through without taking a rest. I walk where I will, path or no path. What do you mean by asking me a trivial question like where am I going? Someone with a body like traveling clouds and flowing streams has no need of a destination."

The ascetic continued in this vein for a while, and then tried to run away. A soldier caught him in the shins with the shaft of his spear, and the man fell down with a scream.

Stripping the monk half-naked, the soldiers found that he was not a mountain ascetic at all. He was a warrior-monk of the Honganji, who was carrying a secret report to the Mori about the events at the Honno Temple. He too was immediately sent like a piece of baggage to Hideyoshi's camp.

There were only two captives that night, but if either of them had slipped through the cordon and accomplished his mission, the Mori would have known by the next morning about Nobunaga's death.

The fake ascetic had not been sent by Mitsuhide, but the man posing as a blind musician was an Akechi samurai with a letter from Mitsuhide for Mori Terumoto. He had left Kyoto on the morning of the second. Mitsuhide had sent another messenger that same morningby sea from Osakabut storms delayed him, and he reached the Mori too late.

"I thought we would be meeting in the morning," Ekei said after he greeted Hikoemon, "but your letter said to come as quickly as possible, so I came immediately."

"I'm sorry to get you out of bed," Hikoemon replied nonchalantly. "Tomorrow would have been fine, and I'm sorry my ineptly worded letter has deprived you of your sleep."

Kanbei led Ekei to an isolated spot vulgarly known as the Nose of the Frog, and from there to the empty farmhouse where they had held their previous meetings.

Sitting squarely in front of Ekei, Hikoemon said with deep feeling, "When you think about it, the two of us must be bound by a common karma."

Ekei nodded solemnly. The two men silently recalled their meeting in Hachisuka some twenty years before, when Hikoemon was still the leader of a band of ronin, and went by the name of Koroku. It was during his stay at Hikoemon's mansion that Ekei first heard about an extraordinary young samurai by the name of Kinoshita Tokichiro, who had lately been taken into Nobunaga's service at Kiyosu Castle. In those early years, when Hideyoshi still ranked far below Nobunaga's generals, Ekei had written to Kikkawa Motoharu: "Nobunaga's rule will last for a little while longer. When he falls, Kinoshita Tokichiro will be the next man with whom to reckon."

Ekei's predictions were astoundingly accurate: twenty years ago, he had perceived Hideyoshi's ability; ten years ago he had guessed Nobunaga's fall. That night, however, there was no way he could have known how right he was going to be.

Ekei was not an ordinary monk. When he was still a young acolyte studying in a temple, Motonari, the former lord of the Mori, had ordered him to enter his service. During Motonari's lifetime, his "little monk," as he affectionately called Ekei, had accompanied him on all his military campaigns.

After Motonari's death, Ekei had left the Mori and wandered throughout the empire. When he returned, he was made abbot of Ankokuji Temple, and served Terumoto, the new lord of the Mori, as a trusted adviser.

Throughout the war with Hideyoshi, Ekei had consistently argued for peace. He knew Hideyoshi well and did not think that the west would be able to endure his onslaught. Another factor influencing him was his long friendship with Hikoemon.

Ekei and Hikoemon had met any number of times before, but each time they had parted ways at the same impasse: Muneharu's fate. Hikoemon thus addressed Ekei:

"When I spoke to Lord Kanbei earlier, he told me that Lord Hideyoshi was far more generous than he has been perceived to be. He suggested that if just one more concession were made by the Mori, peace would surely ensue. Lord Kanbei said that if we were to lift the siege and spare Lord Muneharu's life, it would seem to the world as if the Oda army had been forced to conclude a peace treaty. Lord Hideyoshi could not present those terms to Lord Nobunaga. Our only condition is Muneharu's head. You should have no trouble bringing the matter to a conclusion."

Hikoemon's terms had not changed, but he himself seemed a different man since their last meeting.

"I can only restate my position," Ekei replied. "If the Mori clan cedes five of its ten provinces, and Muneharu's life is not spared, they will have failed to abide by the Way of the Samurai."

"Nevertheless, did you verify their intentions after our last meeting?"

"There was no need to. The Mori will never agree to Muneharu's death. They prize loyalty above all else, and no one, from Lord Terumoto to his most lowly retainer, would berudge the sacrifice, even if it means the loss of the whole of the western provinces."

The sky was beginning to grow paler; a rooster was heard in the distance. Night was turning to the dawn of the fourth day of the month.

Ekei would not agree, and Hikoemon would not give in. They were deadlocked.

"Well, there's nothing more to be said," Ekei concluded fatalistically.

"With my limited abilities," Hikoemon apologized, "I haven't been able to find common ground with you. With your permission, I'd like to ask Lord Kanbei to take my place."

"I'll be happy to speak with anyone," Ekei replied.

Hikoemon sent his son to get Kanbei, who soon arrived on his litter. He alighted and sat down clumsily with the other two men.

"I was the one who encouraged Hikoemon to trouble you once more for a final discussion," Kanbei said. "So, what is the outcome? Haven't the two of you worked out a compromise? You've talked half the night."

Kanbei's frankness had the effect of raising their spirits. Ekei's face brightened in the morning light. "We tried," he said, laughing. With the excuse that he had to prepare for Nobunaga's arrival, Hikoemon took his leave.

"Lord Nobunaga will stay for two or three days," Kanbei said. "Except for the time we have now, it's going to be difficult to meet again for peace talks."

Kanbei's diplomacy was simple and straightforward. It was also extremely highhanded: if the Mori wanted to argue about terms, no outcome but war was possible.

"If you can help the Oda clan today, surely you will be guaranteed a great future," Kanbei said.

With this change of adversary, Ekei lost his former eloquence. His expression, however, appeared to be far more buoyant than it had been when he was negotiating with Hikoemon.

"If there is a definite promise that Muneharu will commit seppuku, I will ask His Lordship about the condition of ceding the five provinces, and I'm sure he'll agree to a compromise. At any rate, won't you ask Lord Kikkawa and Lord Kobayakawa to reconsider the matter once more this morning? I suspect it will make the difference between peace and war."

When Kanbei put the matter in this way, Ekei felt compelled to act. Kikkawa's camp at Mount Iwasaki was only one league away. Kobayakawa's camp at Mount Hizashi was a little less than two leagues. Soon after, Ekei whipped his horse into a gallop.

After seeing the monk off, Kanbei went to Jihoin Temple. He looked into Hideyoshi's room and found him asleep. The lamp had gone out, the oil having burned dry. Kanbei shook Hideyoshi awake and said, "My lord, the day is breaking."

"Dawn?" Hideyoshi asked, rising groggily. Kanbei immediately told him of the meeting with Ekei. Hideyoshi scowled but got up quickly.

The pages were waiting at the entrance to the bathroom with water for his morning wash.

"As soon as I've eaten, I'll make a round of the camp. Bring my horse out as usual, and have my attendants stand by," he ordered as he dried his face.

Hideyoshi rode under a large red umbrella, preceded by his standard. Swaying slightiy in the saddle, he rode under the new leaves of the flowering cherry trees that grew along the road from the temple gate to the foot of the mountain.

Hideyoshi's daily round of the camp was never at a set time, but it was rarely so early in the morning. Today he seemed in better humor, and from time to time he would joke with his attendants as if everything were perfectly normal. There were no indications that morning that news of the incident in Kyoto had leaked out even among his own men. After confirming this for himself, Hideyoshi returned to his headquarters at a leisurely pace.

Kanbei was waiting for him in front of the temple gate. His eyes told Hideyoshi that

Ekei's mission had ended in failure. The monk had ridden back from the Mori camp a little before Hideyoshi's return, but the response he brought had not changed:

If we allow Muneharu to die, we are not living up to the Way of the Samurai. We will not agree to a peace that does not spare Muneharu's life.

"Have Ekei come here anyway," Hideyoshi ordered. He did not look in the least discouraged; in fact, he actually seemed to be growing more optimistic by the minute.

He invited the monk into a sunny room and made him comfortable. After talking over old times and relating gossip from the capital, Hideyoshi moved the conversation on. Well now," he said, broaching the main subject, "it seems as though peace talks have stalled because both sides cannot agree on Muneharu's fate. Couldn't you go privately to General Muneharu, explain the circumstances to him, and recommend that he resign himself? The Mori will never order a loyal retainer to commit seppuku, but if you explained the Mori clan's distress to him, Muneharu would gladly give his life. His death, after all, will save the lives of the men in the castle and save the Mori from destruction." With these words, Hideyoshi abruptly got up and left.

Inside Takamatsu Castle, the fates of more than five thousand soldiers and civilians hung in the balance.

Hideyoshi's generals had brought three large ships, equipped with cannons, over the mountains, and had begun to shell the castle. One of the towers had almost collapsed, and there were many dead and wounded as a result of the bombardment. Added to that, it was still the rainy season, and more and more people were falling sick and food supplies were spoiling in the damp.

The defenders had collected doors and planking and built light boats with which to attack Hideyoshi's warships. Two or three of the small craft had been sunk, but the survivors had swum back to the castle to lead a second attack.

When the Mori army arrived and their banners and flags were sighted from the castle, the defenders thought they had been saved. But soon after, they understood the impossibility of their situation. The distance between their rescuers and themselves, and the consequent operational difficulties, would not allow for rescue. Although they were discouraged, they never lost the will to fight. On the contrary, after their realization they were clearly resolved to die.

When a secret message came to the castle from the Mori giving Muneharu permission to capitulate in order to save the lives of the men inside, he sent back an indignant response: "We have not yet learned what it is to surrender. At a time like this, we are ready to die."

On the morning of the fourth day of the Sixth Month, the guards on the castle walls spotted a small boat sculling toward them from the enemy shore. A samurai was handling the oar, and his only passenger was a monk.

Ekei had come to ask Muneharu to commit seppuku. Muneharu listened in silence to the monk's arguments. When Ekei had finished, and his entire body was soaked in sweat,

Muneharu spoke for the first time. "Well, today is truly my lucky day. When I look at your face, I know that your words are not fraudulent."

He did not say whether he agreed or disagreed. Muneharu's mind was already far beyond consent and refusal. "For some time, Lord Kobayakawa and Lord Kikkawa have been worried about me, worthless as I am, and have even advised me to capitulate. But I have not considered surrender just to save my own life, and so I refused. Now, if I can believe what you've told me, the Mori clan will be assured of security, and the people in the castle will be safe. If that's the case, there is no reason to refuse. On the contrary, it would be a great joy to me. A great joy!" he repeated emphatically.

Ekei was trembling. He had not thought that it would be so easy, that Muneharu would welcome death so gladly. At the same time, he felt ashamed. He himself was a monk, yet would he have the courage to transcend life and death in this way when his own time came?

"Then you agree?"


"Don't you need to discuss the matter with your family?"

"I'll inform them of my decision later. They should all rejoice with me."

"Andwell, this is difficult to say, but it is a matter of some urgencyit is said thai Lord Nobunaga will be arriving soon."

"It's the same to me whether it's done sooner or later. When is it to be?"

"Today. Lord Hideyoshi said by the Hour of the Horse, and that's only five hours away."

"If that's all the time there is," Muneharu said, "I should be able to prepare for death with ease."

* * *

Ekei first reported Muneharu's agreement to Hideyoshi, then rode at full gallop to the Mori camp at Mount Iwasaki.

Both Kikkawa and Kobayakawa were worried about the reason for his sudden return.

"Have they broken off talks?" Kobayakawa asked.

"No," Ekei replied. "There are prospects of success."

"Well then, Hideyoshi has yielded?" Kobayakawa asked, looking a little surprised. Ekei, however, shook his head.

"The person who has prayed more than anyone for a peaceful reconciliation has of fered to sacrifice himself for the sake of peace."

"Who are you talking about?"

"General Muneharu. He said that he would repay with his life Lord Terumoto's protection for all these years."

"Ekei, did you talk to him at Hideyoshi's request?"

"You know I could not have gone out to the castle without his permission."

"Then you explained the situation to Muneharu, and he offered to commit seppuku of his own free will?"

"Yes. He will kill himself at the Hour of the Horse, on board a boat in full view of both armies. At that moment the peace treaty will be concluded, the lives of the defenders will be saved, and the safety of the Mori clan will be assured forever."

Full of emotion, Kobayakawa asked, "What are Hideyoshi's intentions?"

"When he heard General Muneharu's offer, Lord Hideyoshi was deeply moved. He said that it would be heartless not to reward such matchless loyalty. Therefore, while your promise had been to cede five provinces, he would take only three and leave the remaining two, out of regard for Muneharu's sacrifice. If there is no disagreement, he will send a written pledge immediately after witnessing Muneharu's seppuku."

Soon after Ekei had left, Muneharu announced his decision. One after another, the samurai of Takamatsu Castle came before their lord to beg him to allow them to follow him in death. Muneharu argued, cajoled, and scolded, but they would not be mollified. He was at a loss what to do. But in the end he did not grant anyone's request.

He ordered an attendant to prepare a boat. Bitter wailing filled the castle. When the requests of all his retainers had been withdrawn, and Muneharu seemed to have a little breathing space, Gessho, his elder brother, came to speak with him.

"I heard everything you said," Gessho said. "But there's no need for you to die. Let me take your place."

"Brother, you are a monk, while I am a general. I appreciate your offer, but I cannot let anyone take my place."

"I was the eldest son, and I should have carried on the family name. Instead I chose to enter holy orders, putting you in the position that I should have taken. So today, when you have to commit seppuku, there is no reason why I should prolong what's left of my own life."

"No matter what you say," Muneharu replied, "I will not let you or anyone else commit seppuku in my place."

Muneharu refused Gessho's offer but allowed him to accompany him in the boat, Muneharu felt at peace. Calling his pages, he ordered them to put out a light blue cereonial kimono for him to die in.

"And bring me a brush and ink," he ordered, remembering to write a letter to his wife and son.

The Hour of the Horse was fast approaching. Every single drop of drinking water had been regarded as essential to the lives of the people in the castle, but that day he ordered a bucketfull of water to be brought in, to clean off the dirt that had accumulated on his body during the forty days of the siege.

How peaceful was this lull in the fighting. The sun seemed to climb innocently to the middle of the sky. There was no wind at all, and the color of the muddy water on all sides of the castle was as murky as ever.

The small waves that lapped gently at the castle walls glinted in the sun, and from time to time the cry of the snowy egret could be heard in the silence.

A small red banner was raised at the Nose of the Frog on the opposite shore, indicating that the time had come. Muneharu stood up abruptly. An involuntary sob came from the midst of his attendants. Muneharu walked quickly in the direction of the castle walls, as though he had suddenly become deaf.

The oar made a loose pattern in the water. The boat carried five men: Muneharu,

Gessho, and three retainers. Every single man, woman, and child in the castle was perched on the walls and rooftops. They did not cry out when they watched Muneharu go but either folded their hands in prayer or wiped the tears from their eyes.

The boat sculled peacefully over the surface of the lake. When he turned around, Gessho could see that Takamatsu Castle was a good way behind them, and that the boat was halfway between the castle and the Nose of the Frog.

"This will do," Muneharu instructed the oarsman.

The man pulled up the oar without a word. They did not have to wait for long.

When the boat had set out from the castle, another had left the Nose of the Frog. That one carried Hideyoshi's witness, Horio Mosuke. A small red banner had been fixed to the prow and a red carpet spread over the wooden floor.

The little boat bearing Muneharu in his death robe floated gently as it waited for the Mosuke's boat with its fluttering red banner to pull alongside. The water was at peace. The surrounding mountains were at peace. The only sound to be heard was the oar of the approaching boat.

Muneharu faced the Mori camp on Mount Iwasaki and bowed. In his heart he gave thanks for the many years of patronage he had received. Gazing at his lord's banners, his eyes filled with tears.

"Is this boat carrying the defending general of Takamatsu Castle, Shimizu Muneharu?" Mosuke asked.

"You are correct," Muneharu answered politely. "I am Shimizu Muneharu. I have come to commit seppuku as a condition of the peace treaty."

"I have something else to say, so please wait a moment," Mosuke said. "Bring your boat a little closer," he instructed the retainer at the oar of Muneharu's boat.

The gunwales of the two boats lightly brushed each other.

Mosuke then said in a dignified manner, "I have a message from Lord Hideyoshi. Peace would have been impossible without your consent in this matter. The long siege must have been trying for you, and he would like you to accept this offering as a small token of his feelings. You should not be concerned if the sun climbs too high. Please finish your leave-taking at your leisure."

A cask of the best sake and a number of delicacies were transferred from one boat the other.

Muneharu's face was filled with joy. "This is unexpected. And, if it is Lord Hideyoshis wish, I will gladly sample them." Muneharu helped himself, and ladled cups for his companions. "Maybe it's because I haven't had such fine sake for a long time, but I'm feeling a little drunk. Please excuse my clumsiness, General Horio, but I would like to perform a final dance." Then turning to his companions, he asked, "We don't have a drum, but would you clap and beat the rhythm and sing?"

Muneharu stood up in the small boat and flicked open a white fan. As he moved the rhythm of the clapping, the boat swayed slightly, making small waves. Mosuke could not bear to look at him and hung his head.

As soon as the chanting stopped, Muneharu spoke distinctly once again. "General Mosuke, please witness this carefully."

Mosuke looked up and saw that Muneharu had knelt down and cut straight across

his stomach with his sword. As he spoke, his blood turned the inside of the boat red.

"Brother, I'm coming too!" Gessho cried out, slashing his own belly.

After Muneharu's retainers had handed the box containing Muneharu's severed head to Mosuke and returned to the castle, they followed their master in death.

When Mosuke arrived at the Jihoin Temple, he reported Muneharu's seppuku and displayed his head in front of Hideyoshi's camp stool.

"Such a pity," Hideyoshi lamented. "Muneharu was an excellent samurai." He had never appeared more moved. But soon thereafter, he summoned Ekei. When the monk arrived, Hideyoshi immediately showed him a document.

"The only thing that remains now is to exchange pledges. Look at what I've written, and then I'll send a messenger for the Mori's pledge."

Ekei looked over the pledge and then respectfully returned it to Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi asked for a brush and signed. He then cut his little finger and affixed a seal of blood next to his signature. The peace treaty was signed.

A few hours later, shock and a sense of loss swept over the Mori camp like a whirlwind with the report of Nobunaga's death. In Terumoto's field headquarters, the faction that had opposed peace all along now spoke up loudly, clamoring for an immediate attack on Hideyoshi.

"We were fooled!"

"That bastard completely took us in!"

"The peace treaty should be torn up!"

"We have not been deceived," Kobayakawa said firmly. "The talks were initiated by us, not by Hideyoshi. And there was no way he could have foreseen the disaster in Kyoto."

His brother Kikkawa, who spoke for those who favored the resumption of hostilities, urged Terumoto, "Nobunaga's death means the disintegration of the Oda forces; they will be no match for us now. Hideyoshi is the first one you'd name as a successor to Nobunaga, and it should be an easy matter to attack him here and now, especially considering the weakness at his rear. If we were to do that, we would become the rulers of the Empire."

"No, no. I disagree," Kobayakawa said. "Hideyoshi is the only man who can restore peace and order. And it's an old samurai saying that one does not strike an enemy in mourning. Even if we were to tear up the treaty and attack, if he survived, he would come back to take his revenge."

"We cannot let this opportunity slip by," Kikkawa insisted.

As a last resort, Kobayakawa brought up their former lord's dying instructions: "The clan must defend its own borders. No matter how strong or wealthy we become, we must never expand beyond the western provinces."

It was time for the lord of the Mori to give his decision. "I agree with my uncle Kobayakawa. We will not break the treaty and make Hideyoshi into an enemy for a second time."

By the time the secret conference ended, it was the evening of the fourth. As the two generals walked back to their camp, they met a party of their own scouts. The officer in charge pointed excitedly into the darkness and said, "The Ukita have started to withdraw their troops."

Listening to the report, Kikkawa clicked his tongue. The opportunity had already passed. Kobayakawa read his older brother's thoughts. "Are you still feeling some regrets? he asked.

"Of course I am."

"Well, suppose we did take over the country," Kobayakawa continued, "do you think you'd be the man to rule?" There was a pause. "Judging from your silence, I suspect you don't think so. When someone without the proper ability rules the country, it lead certain chaos. It would not stop at the fall of the Mori clan."

"You don't have to say any more, I understand," Kikkawa said, turning away. Looking up sadly at the night sky over the western provinces, he fought to hold back the tears were rolling down his cheeks.

Characters and Places | Taiko | Requiem of Blood