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The Two Gates

A lonely wind blew through the pines that grew around Mitsuhide's camp at Onbozuka. The curtain of the enclosure swelled in the wind like a large white living thing. It flapped incessantly, singing an eerie, uneasy dirge.

"Yoji, Yoji!" Mitsuhide called.

"Yes, my lord!"

"Was that a messenger?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Why didn't he report directly to me?"

"The report has not yet been confirmed."

"Is there a rule about what can and cannot reach my ears?" Mitsuhide asked, annoyed.

"I'm sorry, my lord."

"Take courage! Are you losing your nerve over bad omens?"

"No, my lord. But I fully expect to die."

"Really?"

Mitsuhide was suddenly aware of his shrill tone, and lowered his voice. He then considered that perhaps he himself should listen to the words with which he had just reproved Yojiro. The wind made a much more lonely sound than in the day. Vegetable gardens and fields lay beyond the gentle slope. To the east was Kuga Nawate; to the north, mountains; to the west, the Enmyoji River. But in the darkness, only the pale twinkling of stars shone over the battlefield.

Only three hours had passed between the Hour of the Monkey and the second half of the Hour of the Rooster. Mitsuhide's banners had filled the field. Where were they now? All had been struck down. He had listened to the names of dead men until he was no longer able to keep count.

It had only taken three hours. There was no doubt that Yojiro had just now received one more piece of bad news. And he had lost the courage to relay the matter to Mitsuhide. Reprimanded by his lord, Yojiro once again descended the hill. Looking around, he feebly leaned against the trunk of a pine and stared up at the stars.

A horseman rode up to Yojiro and halted in front of him.

"Friend or foe!" Yojiro shouted, challenging the stranger with the spear he had been using as a staff.

"Friend," the rider replied as he dismounted.

Just by looking at the shambling gait of the man, Yojiro could see that he was seriously wounded. Yojiro walked toward him and offered him his arm.

"Gyobu!" Yojiro said, recognizing his comrade. "Hold fast! Lean on me."

"Is that Yojiro? Where is Lord Mitsuhide?"

"On top of the hill."

"He's still here? This is a dangerous place for him now. He must leave right away.

Gyobu went up to Mitsuhide and prostrated himself in front of him, almost falling on his face. "The entire army has been routed. The dying fell on top of the dead; so many achieved glorious deaths in battle that I cannot remember their names."

Looking up, he could only see Mitsuhide's white face. It seemed as though it were floating beneath the dark shape of the pines. Mitsuhide said nothing, as though he had not been listening.

Gyobu went on, "At one point, we pressed close on Hideyoshi's center, but when darkness fell our retreat was cut off, and we could no longer find Lord Dengo. General Sanzaemon's division was surrounded by the enemy, and extremely bitter fighting ensued. He was able to escape with only two hundred men. His last words were, 'Go immediately to Onbozuka and tell His Lordship to withdraw to Shoryuji Castle as fast as he can, and then either prepare to hold the castle or retreat toward Omi during the night. I will act as his rear guard until then. After we receive news that His Lordship has withdrawn, we will gallop straight into Hideyoshi's camp and fight to the death.'"

Mitsuhide was still silent. When Gyobu had finished giving his report, he collapsed and breathed his last.

Mitsuhide stared at him from his seat and then looked vacantly at Yojiro. He asked "Were Gyobu's wounds deep?"

"Yes, my lord," Yojiro answered, tears filling his eyes.

"He seems to be dead."

"Yes, my lord."

"Yojiro," Mitsuhide suddenly said in an entirely different tone. "What did the previous messenger report?"

"I will not conceal anything from you, my lord. Tsutsui Junkei's army appeared on the field and attacked our left wing. Saito Toshimitsu and his entire corps did not have the strength to hold them off, and they were completely routed."

"What! Was that it?"

"I knew that if I told you that now, it would be hard to accept. I had truly hoped to tell you when it wouldn't add to your unhappiness."

"This is the world of men." Then he added, "It makes no difference."

Mitsuhide laughed. At least it was something like a laugh. Then he abruptly waved toward the rear of the camp and impatiently called out for his horse.

Mitsuhide had sent most of his troops to the front, but there should have been at least two thousand men in the camp with his senior retainers. Leading this force, Mitsuhide was ready to join up with what was left of Sanzaemon's corps and attempt one last battle. Mounting his horse, he yelled out the orders for the attack in a voice that resounded through Onbozuka. Then, without waiting for the soldiers to assemble, he turned his horse around and started to gallop down the hill, accompanied by a few mounted samurai.

"Who are you?" Mitsuhide asked, bringing his horse to a stop. Someone had suddenly rushed out of the camp, run down the slope, and stood blocking the way, his arms stretched out wide.

"Tatewaki, why are you stopping me?" Mitsuhide asked sharply. It was one of Mitsuhide's senior retainers, Hida Tatewaki, and he quickly grabbed the bridle of Mitsuhide's horse. The unruly animal stamped the ground, unable to control itself.

"Yojiro! Sanjuro! Why didn't you stop him? Get off your horses, my lord," Hida Tatewaki said, scolding Mitsuhide's attendants. Then bowing in Mitsuhide's direction, he said, The man before me is not the Lord Mitsuhide I serve. The war is not lost after one defeat. It is not like you to think about throwing away your life right after one battle. The enemy is going to ridicule us for having lost self-control. Even though you've been defeated here, you have a family in Sakamoto and several generals dispersed in the provinces just waiting for word from you. Surely you must not be without a plan for the future. First withdraw to Shoryuji Castle."

"What are you talking about, Tatewaki?" Mitsuhide shook his head almost in time with his horse's mane. "Are all the men we've lost going to rise up once again and regain their high spirits? I cannot abandon my men to the enemy and let them be killed. I'm going to deal one good blow to Hideyoshi and punish Tsutsui Junkei's treachery. I'm not looking for a place to die in vain. I'm going to show them who Mitsuhide is. Now let me pass!

"Why are my wise lord's eyes so wild? Our army received a blow today, and at least three thousand men died while countless others were wounded. Our generals were struck down, and our new recruits have been scattered. How many soldiers do you think are left this camp now?"

"Let me go! I can do exactly as I please! Let me go!"

"It's exactly that kind of irresponsible talk that proves you're only rushing off toward death, and I'm going to do my best to stop you. It would be one thing if there were still three or four thousand obstinate men here, but I suspect there are only four or five hundred who will be trailing behind you. All the others have slipped out of camp since morning and fled," Tatewaki said, his voice filled with tears.

Is a man's intellect so frail? And once that intellect fails, does he simply become a madman? Tatewaki gazed at Mitsuhide's frenzy and wondered how the man could have changed so much. Shedding bitter tears, he could not help remembering how prudent and intelligent Mitsuhide had once been.

Other generals now stood in front of Mitsuhide's horse. Two of them had already been on the front lines, but, concerned for their lord's safety, they had come back to the camp. One of them said, "We all agree with Lord Hida. Shoryuji is nearby, and it's certainly not too late to go there first and work out a strategy for our next step."

"As long as we're here, the enemy forces will be drawing closer and closer, and everything could come to an end right in this spot. We should whip our horses and move on to Shoryuji as fast as we can."

Tatewaki no longer asked what his lord's intentions were. He had the conch shell blown and quickly ordered a retreat to the north. Yojiro and another retainer abandoned their own horses and walked, each grasping the bridle of their master's horse and leading it to the north. The other soldiers and commanders on the hill followed them. But, just as Tatewaki had said, they numbered no more than five hundred men.

Miyake Tobei was the commander of Shoryuji Castle. Here, too, there were nothing but omens of defeat, and a desolate mood of doom filled the castle. Surrounded by faintly flickering lanterns, all present deliberated over how to save themselves. As they searched for some rational conclusion, even Mitsuhide realized that there was nothing to be done.

The sentries outside the castle had repeatedly reported the approach of the enemy, and the castle itself was not strong enough to resist the crushing force of Hideyoshis army. Even Yodo Castle had been in this condition when he had ordered its repair some days ago. It was not unlike beginning to build a dike only after hearing the sounds of the billowing waves.

Perhaps the only thing Mitsuhide did not regret at this point was that a number of his generals and soldiers had remained loyal and fought a furious battle, poignantly demonstrating their loyalty. It was, in one sense, paradoxical that there were men within the Akechi clanthe clan that had struck down their own lordwho would still not break the bond between lord and retainer. Clearly Mitsuhide was a virtuous man, and those men were manifesting the ironclad law of the samurai.

For that reason, the number of dead and wounded was unusually high, even though the battle had lasted no more than three hours. It was later estimated that the Akechi had suffered more than three thousand casualties, while Hideyoshi's forces had lost more than three thousand three hundred. The number of wounded was incalculable. Thus one might understand the great spirit of the Akechi forces, which was in no way inferior to that of their general. Considering the small size of Mitsuhide's forcenearly half the size of his enemy'sand the disadvantageous ground on which it fought, his defeat was not one that could be ridiculed by the world.

* * *

The moon of the thirteenth day of the Sixth Month was blurred by thin clouds. One or two mounted warriors rode separately on ahead, while others followed a little behind. Thirteen mounted men rode in scattered groups from north of the Yodo River toward Fushimi.

When they had finally entered a dark trail in the depths of the mountain, Mitsuhide turned and asked Tatewaki, "Where are we?"

"This is Okame Valley, my lord."

Speckles of moonlight spilling through the branches fell on Tatewaki and the men who followed behind.

"Do you plan on crossing to the north of Momoyama and then coming out to the Kanshu Temple Road from Ogurusu?" Mitsuhide asked.

"That's right. If we pursue this course and get close to Yamashina and Otsu before it gets light, we won't have to worry."

Shinshi Sakuzaemon suddenly stopped his horse a little in front of Mitsuhide's and signaled them to be quiet. Mitsuhide and the horsemen following him also stopped. Without so much as a whisper, they watched Akechi Shigetomo and Murakoshi Sanjuro as they walked ahead as scouts. The two riders had stopped their horses next to a stream and signaled for the men behind them to wait. They stood there for some time, listening.

Was it an enemy ambush?

Finally, a look of relief appeared on their faces. Following the signals of the two men motioning ahead of them, they once again quietly moved forward. Both the moon and the clouds appeared to be hanging in the middle of the midnight sky. But no matter how stealthily they advanced, when the horses started up the slope, they kicked up stones or stepped on rotten wood, and even the echoes of such little sounds awakened the sleeping birds. Each time it happened, Mitsuhide and his followers quickly restrained their horses.

After their horrible defeat, they had fled to Shoryuji Castle and rested. Later they had disussed what was to be done, but in the end, the only possible plan was to retreat to Sakamoto. All of his retainers had prevailed on Mitsuhide to be patient. Leaving Miyake Tobei in charge of the castle, Mitsuhide slipped out at dusk.

The force that followed him right up to the time he left Shoryuji still numbered about four or five hundred men. But by the time they entered the village of Fushimi, most of them had deserted. The few who remained were his most trusted retainers, and they numbered only thirteen men.

"A great number of us would only stand out to the enemy, and anyone who hasn't resolved to accompany our lord in either life or death would only be a hindrance. Lord Mitsuharu is in Sakamoto along with three thousand troops. All I care about is getting there safely. I pray to the gods to help our poor lord."

The loyal retainers who remained comforted each other in this way.

Although the area was hilly, it had no really steep places. The moon was visible, but because of the rain, the ground beneath the trees was muddy, and the road was dotted with puddles.

In addition, Mitsuhide and his retainers were exhausted. They were already close to Yamashina, and if they could only get to Otsu, they would be safe. That was how they encouraged each other, but to the tired men themselves it seemed more like a hundred leagues.

"We've entered a village."

"This must be Ogurusu. Go quietly."

Thickly thatched mountain huts could be seen here and there. Mitsuhide's followers would have liked to avoid such human habitations as much as possible, but the road led between the houses. Fortunately, not a light was showing. The houses were surrounded

by large bamboo thickets under a white moon, and all indications were that everyone was deeply asleep, completely unaware of the world's confusion.

With narrowed eyes that pierced the darkness, Akechi Shigetomo and Murakoshi Sanjuro scouted far ahead, riding along the narrow village road without mishap. Stopping where the road wound around a bamboo thicket, they waited for Mitsuhide and his group.

The figures of the two men, and the reflection of their spears, could be clearly seen from the shadows of the trees that stood fifty yards ahead.

The sound of bamboo being trampled and the grunt of a wild animal suddenly exploded from the darkness.

Tatewaki, who was leading his horse ahead of Mitsuhide, instinctively looked behind. Darkness lined the brushwood hedge of a hut covered by the gloom of the bamboo thicket. Some twenty yards behind, Mitsuhide's silhouette stood out as if he had been nailed to the spot.

"My lord," Tatewaki called.

There was no answer. The clumps of young bamboo swayed in a windless sky.

Tatewaki was about to turn back, when Mitsuhide suddenly spurred his horse forward and passed in front of him without a word. He was slumped over the horse's neck. Tatewaki thought it strange, but nevertheless followed along behind, as did the others.

They galloped along the road in this manner without incident for about three hundred yards. After joining up again with the two scouts, the thirteen men continued to advance, with Mitsuhide riding sixth from the front.

Suddenly, Murakoshi's horse reared up. In that instant, his drawn sword swept by the left of his saddle.

A loud clanging sound rang out as the sword cut the sharpened tip of a bambo spear. The hands that held the spear quickly disappeared into the bamboo thicket, but the others had clearly seen what had happened.

"What was that? Bandits?"

"It must be. Watch out, they seem to be somewhere inside this big bamboo thicket.

"Murakoshi, are you all right?"

"What, you think I'm going to be hurt by the bamboo spear of some wandering thief?"

"Don't be distracted! Just hurry along. Distractions will be nothing but trouble."

"What about His Lordship?"

All of them turned around.

"Look, over there!

Suddenly they all turned pale. About a hundred paces in front of them, Mitsuhide had fallen from his horse. Worse, he was writhing on the ground, groaning in agony, and looked as though he was unable to stand up again.

"My lord!"

Shigetomo and Tatewaki dismounted, ran up to him, and tried to lift him back into the saddle. Mitsuhide no longer seemed to have the will to ride. He simply shook his head.

"What's happened to you, my lord?" Completely forgetting themselves, the other men

crowded around in the dark. The groans of the suffering Mitsuhide and the sighs of the men filled the air. Just at that moment, the moon shone with special clarity.

Suddenly the undisguised footsteps and screams of the bandits came clamoring noisily out of the darkness of the bamboo thicket.

"It looks like the accomplices of the man with the bamboo spear are coming up at us from behind. It's the nature of these marauders to try to take advantage of any show of weakness. Sanjuro and Yojiro, take care of them."

At Shigetomo's words, the men split up. A spear was quickly positioned and swords drawn.

"Damn you!" With a thunderous yell, someone leaped into the bamboo thicket. A sound like a rain of leaves, or perhaps a pack of monkeys, split the silence of the night.

"Shigetomo Shigetomo" Mitsuhide whispered.

"I'm here, my lord."

"Ah Shigetomo," Mitsuhide said again. He then groped around as though searching for the arms that were supporting him.

Blood was spurting from the side of his chest, his vision was fading, and he was finding it difficult to speak.

"I'm going to bind your wound and give you some medicine, so be patient for just a little while."

Mitsuhide shook his head to show that binding the wound would be unnecessary. Then his hands moved as though they were searching for something.

"What is it, my lord?"

"A brush"

Shigetomo hurriedly took out paper and ink and a brush. Mitsuhide took the brush with shaking fingers and looked at the white paper. Shigetomo knew that he would be writing his death poem and began to feel a choking sensation in his chest. He could hardly stand to see Mitsuhide writing such a thing now and in this place, and in his attachment to what he felt was his lord's greater destiny, he said, "Don't take up your brush now, my lord. Otsu is hardly a breath away, and if we can just find our way there, you'll welcomed by Lord Mitsuharu. Let me bandage up this wound."

As Shigetomo put the paper on the ground and began to untie his own sash, Mitsuhide suddenly waved his hand with surprising strength. Then, with his left hand, he lifted himself off the ground. Stretching out his right hand, he grasped the brush with almost crushing strength and started to write:

There are not two gates: loyalty and treason.

But his hand shook so much that he seemed to be unable to write the next line. Mitsuhide passed the brush to Shigetomo. "You write the rest."

Leaning on Shigetomo's lap, Mitsuhide turned his head toward the sky and gazed at the moon for a little while. When the color of death even paler than the moon had filled his face, he spoke with a voice surprisingly free of confusion and finished the verse.

The Great Way penetrates the font of the heart.

Waking from the dream of fifty-five years,

I return to the One.

Shigetomo put down the brush and began to weep. Just at that moment, Mitsuhide drew his short sword and cut his own throat. Sakuzaemon and Tatewaki ran back in shock and saw what had happened. Approaching the dead body of their lord, each man fell on his own blade. Another four men, then six, then eight surrounded Mitsuhides body in the same way and followed him in death. In no time at all, their lifeless bodies formed the petals and heart of a flower of blood on the ground.

Yojiro had dashed into the bamboo thicket to fight with the bandits. Murakoshi called out into the darkness, worried that he might already have been cut down.

"Yojiro, come back! Yojiro! Yojiro!"

But regardless of the number of times he called, Yojiro did not come back again. Murakoshi had also received a number of wounds. When he was somehow able to crawl out through the bamboo stand, he saw the silhouette of a man passing right by him.

"Ah! Lord Shigetomo."

"Sanjuro?"

"How is His Lordship?"

"He has breathed his last."

"No!" Sanjuro was surprised. "Where?"

"He is right here, Sanjuro." Shigetomo indicated Mitsuhide's head, which he had wrapped in a cloth and attached to his saddle. He looked away sadly.

Sanjuro leaped with a violent force toward the horse. As he seized Mitsuhide's head he raised a long, wailing cry. At length he asked, "What were his last words?"

"He recited a verse that began 'There are not two gates: loyalty and treason.'"

"He said that?"

"Even though he attacked Nobunaga, his action could not be questioned as a matter of loyalty or treason. Both he and Nobunaga were samurai, and they served the same Emperor. When he finally woke from fifty-five years of a dream, he found that even he was not someone who could escape from the world's blame and praise. After saying these words, he killed himself."

"I understand." Murakoshi was sobbing convulsively, wiping the tears from his face with his fist. "He neither listened to Lord Toshimitsu's admonishments nor refused to fight a decisive battle at Yamazaki on disadvantageous ground with a small army, because he depended on that Great Way. In that light, retreating from Yamazaki would have amounted to abandoning Kyoto. When I realize what was in his heart, I can't stop crying."

"No, even though he was defeated, he never abandoned the Way, and doubtless died with that long-cherished ambition. He showed his last verse to heaven. But you know, if we waste time here, those brigands will probably come back and attack again."

"Right."

"I was unable to take care of everything here by myself. I have left our lord's corpse without the head. Would you bury it so no one will find it?"

"What about the others?"

"They all gathered around his body and died bravely."

"After I've carried out your orders, I'll find some place to die too."

"I'm taking his head to give to Lord Mitsutada at the Chionin Temple. I'll think about disposing of myself after that. Well, good-bye then."

"Good-bye."

The two men went separate ways on the narrow path through the bamboo grove. The speckles of light scattered by the moon were lovely to behold.

* * *

Shoryuji Castle fell that night. It happened just as Mitsuhide was dying in Ogurusu. The generals Nakagawa Sebei, Takayama Ukon, Ikeda Shonyu, and Hori Kyutaro all moved their command posts there. Lighting a huge bonfire, they lined their camp stools outside the castle gate and waited for Nobutaka and Hideyoshi to arrive. Nobutaka soon stood before them.

To have taken the castle was a resplendent victory. Both soldiers and officers straightened their banners and looked up at Nobutaka with great reverence. As Nobutaka dismounted and passed through the ranks of the army, he nodded to the men with a friendly expression. He was almost overly polite to the generals, greeting them respectfully and showing his gratitude.

Taking Sebei's hand, he said with special affection, "It is due to your loyalty and courage that the Akechi were crushed in a single day's battle. My father's soul has been appeased, and I will not forget this."

He gave the same praise to Takayama Ukon and Ikeda Shonyu. Arriving a little later, however, Hideyoshi said nothing at all to those men. As he rode by them in his palanquin, he even appeared to be looking down on them.

Sebei was a man of unequaled ferocity, even in the midst of rough warriors, and it is likely that he felt offended by Hideyoshi's behavior. He cleared his throat loud enough to be heard. Hideyoshi glanced out from inside the palanquin and passed on with a parting remark.

"Good work, Sebei."

Sebei stamped his feet in anger. "Even Lord Nobutaka was civil enough to dismount for us, but this man is so arrogant that he goes right by in his palanquin. Maybe Monkey thinks he's already running the country," he said, loudly enough so that everyone around him could hear, but beyond that he could do nothing.

Ikeda Shonyu, Takayama Ukon, and the others held the same rank as Hideyoshi, but at some point Hideyoshi had started treating them as though they were his subordinates They, too, had steadily come to feel that they were somehow under Hideyoshi's command. To be sure, that was not a pleasant feeling for any of them, but no one had protested.

Even on entering the castle, Hideyoshi simply gave a quick glance to the burned-out ruins of the building and gave no thought to resting. Ordering that a curtained enclosure be set up in the garden, he placed his camp stool next to Nobutaka's, quickly summoned the generals, and began giving out orders.

"Kyutaro, lead an army to the village of Yamashina and push on toward Awadaguchi.

Your objective is to come out at Otsu and cut off the road passage between Azuchi and Sakamoto." Then he turned to Sebei and Ukon. "You should hurry down the Tamba Road as quickly as possible. It appears that many of the enemy have fled toward Tamba and we don't want to give them time to get to Kameyama Castle and make preparations. If we're slow here, we're likely to lose even more time. If you can reach Kameyama by midday tomorrow, it should fall without much trouble."

Some, then, were sent hurrying to Toba and the area of Shichijo, while others were to advance to the vicinities of Yoshida and Shirakawa. The instructions were highly explicit and Nobutaka only sat to the side as they were being given. In the eyes of all the generals, Hideyoshi's attitude was nothing less than presumptuous.

Nevertheless, even Sebei, who had at first opened his mouth in anger, meekly accepted his orders like the others. Finally they distributed provisions to the soldiers for the first time since morning, ladled out some sake, filled their stomachs, and once again started off for the next battlefield.

Hideyoshi understood that there was a time and place for making people yield to his control, and his ploy this time had been to wait for the time when each of the generals had just won a victory. But Hideyoshi knew that his colleagues were men of matchless valor and unmanageable courage, and he was not so imprudent as to risk addressing them as subordinates by use of this ploy alone.

An army must have a leader. While Nobutaka should have been the commander-in-chief in terms of rank, he had only recently joined the campaign, and all of the generals recognized the fact that he was lacking in both authority and resolve. That being so, there was absolutely no one left to assume leadership other than Hideyoshi.

Although not one of the generals felt disposed to submit to Hideyoshi, each one knew that no one else was acceptable to the whole group. Hideyoshi had planned this battle to be the requiem for Nobunaga, and he had rallied them together. So if they now complained about his handling of them as subordinates, they would only have exposed themselves to the accusation of self-interest.

The generals had no time for rest but were to set off at once for the new battlefields to which they had been ordered. As they stood up together to depart, Hideyoshi remained in the commander's seat and gestured to each man with his chin.

Hideyoshi stayed at the Mii Temple, and on the night of the fourteenth there was another huge thunderstorm. The smoldering embers of Sakamoto Castle were extinguished, and all night long, pale white lightning flashed over the ink-colored lake and Shimeigatake.

With the dawn, however, the heavens were wiped clean and the hot summer sky appeared once again. From the main camp at the Mii Temple, a thick yellow smoke could be seen rising from the eastern bank of the lake in the direction of Azuchi.

"Azuchi is burning!"

At the report of the guards, the generals went out onto the veranda. Hideyoshi and the rest of them shaded their eyes with their hands.

A messenger reported, "Lord Nobuo, who was camped at Tsuchiyama in Omi, and Lord Gamo joined forces and have been attacking Azuchi since morning. They set fire toboth the town and the castle, and the wind from the lake has engulfed all of Azuchi in flames. But theie were no enemy soldiers left in Azuchi, so there was no battle."

Hideyoshi could imagine what was occurring far away.

"There was no reason to set that fire," he muttered sullenly. "No matter who he is, Lord Nobuo and even Gamo acted hastily."

But he soon calmed down. The culture that Nobunaga had spent the blood and resources of half a lifetime constructing was to be mourned in every way, but Hideyoshi had faith that very soonand with his own strengthhe would build an even greater castle and culture.

Just at that moment, another patrol of soldiers came from the main temple gate. They were gathered around a single man and were bringing him to Hideyoshi. "A farmer from Ogurusu by the name of Chobei says that he found Lord Mitsuhide's head."

It was the custom to inspect the head of an enemy general with grave decorum and etiquette, and Hideyoshi gave orders for his camp stool to be set up in front of the main temple. Soon thereafter, he sat down with the other generals and looked at Mitsuhide's head in silence.

Afterward, the head was exposed at the ruins of the Honno Temple. Only half a month had passed since the morning the standard of the bellflower had been set up amid the Akechi army's war cries.

Mitsuhide's head had been displayed for the benefit of the citizens of the capital, and they swarmed together at the site from morning till night. Even those who had denounced Mitsuhide's treason now said a prayer, while others threw flowers beneath the rotting skull.

Hideyoshi's military commands were simple and clear. He had only three laws: Be diligent in your work. Commit no wrongs. Troublemakers will be executed.

Hideyoshi had not yet conducted a formal funeral service for Nobunaga; the grand ceremony he had in mind could not be accomplished with military power alone, and it would not be right for it to be under only his patronage. The fire in the capital had finally died down, but the sparks had spread to all the provinces.

Nobunaga was dead, Mitsuhide was dead, and there was the possibility that the country would once again be divided into three spheres of influence, as it had been before Nobunaga. Worse, family feuds and rival warlords defending their own local interests might plunge the country into the chaos of the last years of the shogunate.

From the Mii Temple, Hideyoshi moved his entire army onto a fleet of warships, boarding everything from horses to gilded screens. That was on the eighteenth of the month, and the objective was to move to Azuchi. Another military force also snaked its way east along the land route. The line of ships moving over the lake was driven by the breeze that filled the banners, and it reflected the marching land army advancing along the coast.

But Azuchi was already nothing more than scorched earth, and as soon as the troops arrived, they found themselves disheartened. The gold-and-blue walls of Azuchi no longer existed. All the gates of the outer wall and the towering eaves of the Soken Temple had been burned to the ground. The castle town was even worse. There was nothing for which even the stray dogs could hunt, and the priests from the Christian church walked around with empty eyes.

Nobuo should have been there, but he was fighting rebels in Ise and Iga. It became clear that the burning of Azuchi had not been ordered by Nobuo. Certainly the fires had been started by his men, but it seemed plausible that that had been the result of a misunderstanding or perhaps of false rumors spread by the enemy.

Hideyoshi and Nobutaka had traveled to Azuchi together and lamented the destruction with deep feeling. Nevertheless, after they realized that the fires had not been set at Nobuo's command, their indignation seemed to abate somewhat. They stayed in Azuchi for only two days. The convoy of ships once again set sail, this time for the north. Hideyoshi was advancing his main army to his home castle at Nagahama.

The castle was safe. There was no sign of the enemy, and allied troops were already entering the castle grounds. When the commander's standard with the golden gourds was raised, the people of the castle town were overjoyed. They filled the streets through which Hideyoshi passed en route from his boat to the castle. Women, children, and the elderly prostrated themselves in the dirt to greet him. Some people cried, and some could not even lift their faces. There were some who cheered and waved their hands, while others even forgot themselves as they danced with joy. He purposefully passed by on horseback to respond to the enthusiastic welcome of his people.

For Hideyoshi, however, there remained a very serious anxiety, and it grew even more intense after he entered Nagahama Castle. He burned with such impatience and longing that he could not stand idle even for a moment. Were his mother and wife safe?

After sitting down in the inner citadel, he asked the question over and over to each one of the generals who came and went. He was suddenly very worried about the condition of his family.

"We've looked everywhere for them, but no clear report has come in yet," the generals said.

"Wasn't there anyone who knew anything about their whereabouts?" Hideyoshi asked.

"Well, we thought so," one general answered. "But none of the people seem to have seen them. When they fled the castle, their destination was kept an absolute secret."

"I see. It must be true. If their whereabouts had leaked out to the common people the enemy would have given chase, and they would have been in danger."

Hideyoshi met another general and discussed an entirely different subject. That day the enemy troops at Sawayama Castle had abandoned the fortress and fled in the direction of Wakasa. The general reported that the castle had been returned to the control of its former commander, Niwa Nagahide.

Ishida Sakichi and four or five other members of the pages' group suddenly returned hurriedly from an unknown destination. Before they got to Hideyoshi's room, happy voices could be heard bubbling up in the corridor and the pages' room, and Hideyoshi asked those around him, "Has Sakichi come back? Why is he so slow in coming here?" He sent a man to rebuke him.

Ishida Sakichi had been born in Nagahama, and he knew the geography of the area better than anyone. He had thought, therefore, that now was the time to use his knowledge. He had been out on his own since noon, looking for the place where his lords mother and his wife might be hiding.

Sakichi knelt respectfully in front of Hideyoshi. According to his report, Hideyoshi's mother, his wife, and the rest of the household were hiding in the mountains a little more than ten leagues from Nagahama. It seemed that they were barely keeping body and soul together.

"Well, let's get ready to leave right away. If we go now, we should be able to get there tomorrow night," Hideyoshi said, standing. He was nearly unable to restrain himself, so great was his impatience.

"Take care of things while I'm gone," he ordered Kyutaro. "Hikoemon is stationed at Otsu, and Lord Nobutaka is still at Azuchi."

As Hideyoshi left the castle gate, he saw six or seven hundred men lined up and waiting for him. They had fought successive battles at Yamazaki and Sakamoto, and had had no time to rest even at Azuchi. The warriors had arrived only that morning, and their faces were still tired and muddy. Hideyoshi said, "It will be enough if fifty horsemen come with me.

Hideyoshi only said this after the mounted men carrying torches had started to lead the procession. Almost all of the soldiers, then, were to stay behind.

"That's dangerous," Kyutaro said. "Fifty horsemen are too few. The road you'll take tonight passes close by Mount Ibuki, and enemy forces may still be hiding there."

Both Kyutaro and Shonyu were especially vociferous in cautioning him, but Hideyoshi seemed convinced that there was no need for such concern. Answering that it was not worth worrying about, he ordered the men with the torches to lead the way. Leaving the castle gate, they went along the tree-lined road toward the northeast. Riding through the night until about the fourth watch, Hideyoshi progressed five leagues down the road without too much haste.

The group arrived at Sanjuin Temple at midnight. Hideyoshi had thought the monks would be taken completely by surprise, but to his amazement, when they opened the main gate, he saw that the inside of the temple was brilliantly lit with lanterns, water had been splashed over the grounds, and the entire area had been swept clean.

"Somebody must have come ahead and announced that I was coming."

"It was me," Sakichi announced.

"You?"

"Yes. I thought that you would probably be stopping here to rest, my lord, so I had a young man who is a fast runner come ahead and order meals prepared for fifty men."

Sakichi had been an acolyte at Sanjuin Temple, but at twelve years of age he had been accepted by Hideyoshi as a page at Nagahama Castle. That had been eight years ago, and he had since become a twenty-year-old samurai. Sakichi had excellent good sense and was more quick-witted than most people.

At dawn, the outline of Mount Ibuki could be seen against the rose and pale blue hues of the sky, while nothing could be heard but the chirping of tiny birds. The dew was deep on the road, and darkness hung beneath the trees.

Hideyoshi looked happy. He knew that with every step he was getting closer to his mother and wife, and he seemed to mind neither the steep slope of the road nor his own fatigue. Now, the closer he approached Nishitani as the light increased on Mount Ibuki, the more he had the feeling of being held to his mother's breast.

No matter how long they climbed upstream along the Azusa River, they never seemed to come to its source. On the contrary, it opened up and they came out into a valley so wide that they might have forgotten they were in the middle of the mountains.

"That's Mount Kanakuso," announced the monk who was acting as guide, and he pointed to a steep peak directly in front of them. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. The sun had climbed to the center of the sky, and the heat of midsummer was rising.

The monk walked on ahead again on the narrow path. After a while the path became so narrow that Hideyoshi and his attendants had to dismount. Just at that moment the men around Hideyoshi stopped.

"It looks like the enemy," they said with alarm.

Hideyoshi and his small force had just climbed around the peak. There appeared to be a group of soldiers stationed on the mountainside in the distance. Those soldiers, too, seemed surprised, and they all stood up together. One of them seemed to be giving out commands while soldiers scattered in disorder.

"They could be remaining enemy soldiers," someone said. "I've heard that they've fled as far as Ibuki."

That was, indeed, a possibility, and the gunners immediately ran forward. The order was quickly given to get ready for battle, but the two monks who were acting as guides called them back.

"It's not the enemy. They're the lookouts from the temple. Don't shoot!"

They then turned toward the mountain in the distance and made themselves understood by gesturing and yelling at the top of their voices.

With that, the soldiers began to descend the mountain like stones tumbling down a cliff. Very soon, an officer with a small banner affixed to his back ran down to them. Hideyoshi recognized him as a retainer from Nagahama.

The Daikichi Temple was nothing more than a small mountain temple. When it rained, water leaked through the roof. When the wind blew, the walls and beams shook. Nene lived and waited upon her mother-in-law in the main temple, while the ladies-in-waiting lived in the priests' quarters. The retainers who came later from Nagahama built small huts in the area or lodged in farmhouses in the village. So in those wretched conditions, a large family of over two hundred had lived for over two weeks.

By the time news of Nobunaga's murder reached them, the advance guard of the Akechi army was already in sight of the castle, and there was hardly time to think of what to do. Nene had written a letter to her husband in the far-off western provinces, but it was truly at the last moment. Taking her mother-in-law, she had abandoned the castle and fled, leaving everything behind. All she was able to do was load a packhorse with a change of clothes for her mother-in-law and the presents her husband had received from Nobunaga.

In that situation Nene felt the tragic resolve and the great responsibility of a womans lot. She was in charge of the castle in Hideyoshi's absence, and she had to serve his aged mother and run the large castle household. She must have wanted with all her heart the happiness of hearing her husband tell her that she had done well. He, however, was far

away on the battlefield. Until recently she had lived in the safety of a castle while her husband was on the battlefield, but now, suddenly, there was no distinction between them.

During a war, this situation was no cause for despair, but Nene was pained by the question of where to move Hideyoshi's mother. Even if the castle was abandoned to the enemy, she was certain that Hideyoshi would quickly retake it. But as his wife, if she had allowed her mother-in-law to be injured, she would never have been able to face him again.

Please just worry about protecting my mother-in-law. Don't think about me. And no matter how much you may regret leaving something behind, don't let yourselves be distracted by possessions." Thus Nene encouraged the women servants and everyone in the household as they moved desperately along the road to the east.

Nagahama was bordered on the west by Lake Biwa, the north was checked by hostile clans and activity in the direction of the Mino Road was unclear. There was no recourse, then, but to flee toward Mount Ibuki.

When her clan was victorious, the warrior's wife would be filled with happiness. But once her husband had become the loseror they were driven from his castle as fugitivesthe pathetic wife must feel a wretchedness that could not be imagined by a man who n the fields or sold his wares in town.

From that that day on the members of Hideyoshi's household went hungry, lay down to sleep in the open, and were frightened by the enemy patrols. During the night it was difficult to avoid the dew; during the day their white, bloodied feet pressed on in flight.

Through these difficulties there was one thing they kept in mind: when we're captured by the enemy, we'll show them. That was almost everyone's secret promise. The women were of one mind. The feeling among them was that if the fragrance that drifted from their rouge and the loveliness of their black hair did not project from their hearts on that day, they should be disdained and condemned as nothing but shams to hide their uglinesss.

The village was an excellent refuge. Sentries had been posted at a distance, so there was no fear of a surprise attack. As it was midsummer, the bedding and provisions were made to last. Their greatest discomfort was only a matter of isolation. Being so far from human habitation, they had no idea of what was going on.

The messenger should return soon. Nene let her thoughts run toward the western sky. The night before she fled Nagahama she had hastily written a letter to her husband. She had heard nothing from the messenger since then. Perhaps he had fallen into the hands of the Akechi on the way, or had been unable to find their hiding place. She had about those possibilities day and night.

More recently she had heard that there had been a battle at Yamazaki. When told about the event, her blood raced to the surface of her skin, flushing her complexion.

Thats very likely. It's just like that boy," Hideyoshi's mother said.

The old lady's hair had turned completely white, and now she sat in the main hall of the Daikichi Temple from the time she rose in the morning to the time she went to bed, hardly moving at all and praying devoutly for her son's victory. No matter how chaotic the world became, she believed absolutely that the child to whom she had given birth would not turn from the Great Way. Even now when she gossiped with Nene, she still fell into her old habit of referring to Hideyoshi as "that boy."

"Let him return victorious, even if it's in exchange for this old body." That was her single day-long prayer. From time to time she would look up with a sigh of relief at the statue of the goddess Kannon.

"Mother, I have a feeling we're going to be receiving good news soon," Nene said one day.

"I've been feeling that myself, but I don't know why," Hideyoshi's mother said.

"I felt it all of a sudden when I looked up at the face of Kannon," Nene said. "Yesterday more than the day before, today more than yesterday, she seems to be smiling at us."

It was on the morning of Hideyoshi's arrival that the two women had been talking in this way.

The setting sun was bringing the shadow of the valley across the village, and the walls of the temple were already colored by twilight. Nene was striking the flint to light the lamps in the dark of the inner sanctuary, while the old lady sat in prayer in front of the statue of Kannon.

Suddenly they heard warriors hurrying outside. Hideyoshi's mother turned around in surprise and Nene went out to the veranda.

"His Lordship is coming!"

The shouts of the sentinels echoed throughout the compound. Every day sentinels went downstream about two leagues to stand watch. They all looked as if they had fallen on their faces after running up to the main gate, but when they saw Nene on the veranda, they started yelling at her from where they were, as though there wasn't enough time to come closer.

"Mother!" Nene shouted out.

"Nene!"

The old lady and her daughter-in-law embraced in tears, hardly aware that their happy voices had become one. The old lady prostrated herself before the image of Kannon. Nene knelt next to her and bowed with all her heart.

"The boy hasn't seen you for a long time. You look a little tired. Go brush your hair."

"Yes, Mother."

Nene quickly retired to her room. She brushed her hair, cupped some water from the bamboo conduit to wash her face, and quickly applied some makeup.

All of the members of the household and the samurai were in front of the gate, lined up according to age and rank to greet Hideyoshi. The faces of both old and young, many of whom were villagers, peeked from between the trees. Their eyes were wide with curiosity about what would happen next. After a short while two warriors running ahead of the others came up to the gate and announced that their lord and his company would arrive soon. When they finished their report to Nene, they joined the line of men at the very end, and everyone became hushed. Every man waited for Hideyoshi to appear in the distance. As she stood in the shadow of the expectant men, Nene's eyes looked strangely opaque.

Very soon thereafter a group of men and horses arrived, and the air was filled with the smell of sweat and dust and the din and bustle of those who had come out to greet their lord. The front gate of the temple was temporarily hidden by the whinnying line ofhorses and people congratulating the men on their safe arrival.

Hideyoshi was among them. He had ridden the short distance from the village, but dismouted in front of the temple gate. Handing the reins of his horse to an attendant, he looked over at a group of children standing at the end of the line of people at his right.

There must be a lot of places to play in the mountains," he said. Then he patted the shoulders of the little boys and girls standing nearby. They were all children of his retainers, and their mothers, grandmothers, and grandfathers were there too. Hideyoshi smiled at each one of them as he walked toward the stone steps of the gate.

Well, well. I see that everyone's safe. I'm relieved." Then he turned to the people on his left,where the warriors of his clan stood silently. Hideyoshi raised his voice a little.

Ive come back. I understand the hardships you've suffered in my absence. You had to work very hard."

The warriors standing in line bowed low. Beneath the temple gate at the top of the steps, his main retainers and both young and old members of his immediate family waited to greet him. Hideyoshi merely looked to the right and left, demonstrating his own health with a smile. To his wife, Nene, he gave only a glance, and passed through the gate without speaking.

But from that point, the husband was accompanied by the figure of his modest wife. The pages that followed in a crowd and the members of his family either went off to rest as Nene had instructed them or simply saluted him from the veranda, each then disappearing into his own quarters.

In the high-ceilinged main temple, a solitary lamp flickered on a low stand. Next to it sat a single woman with hair as white as a silkworm cocoon, wearing a russet-colored kimono.

She could hear her son's voice as he was led up to the veranda by his wife. Without making a sound, his mother stood up and moved to the edge of the room. Hideyoshi paused beneath the shutter and brushed the dust from his coat. His head, which he had shaved at Amagasaki, was still wrapped in a hood.

Nene came around from behind her husband and spoke in a quiet voice. "Your mother has come out to greet you."

Hideyoshi quickly went up to his mother and prostrated himself. "I've given you so much trouble, Mother. Please forgive me," was all he could say.

The old lady retreated a little on her knees, then repeated her greeting, prostrating herself in front of her son. The etiquette of the occasion required that a greeting be made to the lord of the clan upon his triumphal return; it was the tradition of the warrior class, not a simple, everyday matter between parent and child. But as soon as Hideyoshi saw his mother safe and sound, he was unable to feel anything but affection for his own flesh and blood. Silently he approached his old mother. With modest manners, however, she resisted him.

You've returned safely. But before you ask about my hardships or well-being, why dont you tell me about Lord Nobunaga's death? And tell me if you've destroyed our hateful enemy, Mitsuhide?"Hideyoshi unconsciously straightened his collar. His mother continued, "I wonder if

you know that what your old mother worried about day after day was not whether you were alive or dead. I worried about whether you would act like the great General Hideyoshi, a retainer of Lord Nobunaga. Even as I wondered about how you would manage after the death of our lord, I heard about your march on Amagasaki and Yamazaki. But after that, we heard nothing."

"I was slow in letting you know."

Her words seemed reserved and spoken without love, but Hideyoshi trembled with happiness, as though his blood were rushing through his entire body. Rather than being soothed by a natural motherly love, he felt that his mother's present admonishment showed a far greater love, and it gave him encouragement for the future.

He then told them in detail of the events that had happened since Nobunaga's death, and of the great deeds he wished to accomplish. He spoke about these things plainly so that his old mother would understand them well.

His mother now shed tears for the first time, and then praised her son. "You did well by destroying the Akechi in only a few days. Lord Nobunaga's soul must feel satisfied, and he should have no regrets about having given you his affection. To tell the truth, I was determined not to let you spend a single night here if you had come before seeing Mitsuhide's head."

"No, and I wouldn't have been able to see you before finishing that matter, so there was nothing I could do but fight on doggedly until two or three days ago."

"Being able to meet you here safely like this must mean that the road you've taken is in harmony with the intentions of the gods and Buddhas. Well Nene, come over here, too. We should give thanks together."

With that, the old lady turned once again to the statue of Kannon. Until that time, Nene had sat modestly apart from Hideyoshi and his mother. When her mother-in-law requested her presence, however, she quickly got up to walk into the main sanctuary.

After lighting the lantern in the Buddhist shrine, she returned and, for the first time, sat next to her husband. The three of them bowed together in the direction of the faint light. After Hideyoshi raised his head and gazed at the image, the three bowed again. A mortuary tablet bearing Lord Nobunaga's name had been placed in the shrine.

When they had finished, Hideyoshi's mother looked as though a heavy weight had been lifted from their hearts.

"Nene," the old lady called softly. "That boy is fond of a bath. Has it been prepared?"

"Yes. I thought it would be more relaxing for him than anything else, so I'm having one prepared right now."

"It would be good if he could at least wash off the sweat and dirt. In the meantime, I'll go to the kitchen and have them prepare something he likes to eat."

The old lady left the two of them alone.

"Nene."

"Yes?"

"I suspect you went through a lot of hardships this time, too. But even with managing everything else, you kept my mother safe. That was really my only concern as well."

"The wife of a warrior is always ready for difficulties like these, so it didn't seem so bad."

Really? Then you've understood that there is nothing more satisfying than to look around and see your difficulties behind you."

When I see that my husband has come home safely, I know just what you mean."

They returned to Nagahama the following day. The morning sun reflected on the white mist. Following the Azusa River, the road grew progressively narrower, and the warriors dismounted and led their horses.

Halfway through the journey, they encountered one of the staff officers from Nagahama who had come to report on the war situation.

Your letter concerning the punishment of the Akechi was sent to the other clans, and, perhaps due to the speed with which it was notified, the army of Lord Ieyasu has returned to Hamamatsu from Narumi. On the other hand, Lord Katsuie's army, which had come as far as the Omi border, seems now to have halted its advance."

Hideyoshi smiled silently and then almost muttered to himself. "It seems that Lord Ieyasu also felt a little confused this time. Of course it was only an indirect result, but it seems that checking Ieyasu dispersed Mitsuhide's military strength. How chagrined the Tokugawa warriors must be to have gone back without a fight."

Thus, on the twenty-fifth of the month, the day after he safely returned his mother to Nagahama, he departed for Mino.

There had been agitation in Mino, but as soon as his army advanced, the area was subdued. First presenting Nobutaka with the castle at Inabayama, he demonstrated his toward the clan of his former lord. Then he waited calmly for the conference at Kiyosu, which was to begin on the twenty-seventh of that month.


Requiem of Blood | Taiko | War of Words