The conference had finally agreed that the province for Nobunaga's heir, Samboshi, would be three hundred thousand bushels in Omi. The protectors of the young lord were to be Hasegawa Tamba and Maeda Geni, but they were to be assisted by Hideyoshi. Azuchi had been lost to the flames, and until a new castle could be built, Samboshi's residence would be Gifu Castle.
Samboshi's two uncles, Nobuo and Nobutaka, were to act as his guardians. In addition to these articles, there was the matter of the structure of the administration. It would responsibility of Katsuie, Hideyoshi, Niwa, and Shonyu to send generals to Kyoto as representatives of the Oda.
The proposals were quickly decided upon. At a closing ceremony, pledges of loyalty to the new lord were signed and sworn to in front of the altar to Nobunaga.
It was the third day of the Seventh Month. The ceremony marking the first anniversary of Nobunaga's death should have been held the day before. If the conference had gone smoothly, the ceremony might have been conducted on the day itself, but because of Katsuie's reservations, the night had passed by and the memorial service had been postponed until the following day.
Wiping the sweat from their bodies and changing into mourning dress, the generals waited for the appointed hour for the memorial service in the castle's chapel.
The hum of mosquitoes was thick around the eaves, and a thin new moon hung in the sky. Quietly the generals crossed over to the secondary citadel. Red and white lotuses depicted on the sliding doors of the chapel. One by one the men came in and sat down.
Only Hideyoshi did not appear. Eyes were strained in doubt. But as the generals looked in the direction of the faraway altar, among the austere articles such as the shrine, the mortuary tablet, the golden screen, the offertory flowers, and the incense burner, they could see Hideyoshi sitting coolly and smugly beneath the altar, holding the young Samboshi on his lap.
Each one of them wondered what he was doing. When they thought it over, however, they remembered that it had been the judgment of the majority at the conference that afternoon that Hideyoshi would be recognized as an aide to the young lord, along with his two guardians. On those grounds he could not be accused of being presumptuous.
And, simply because he could not find any reason to censure Hideyoshi, Katsuie looked extremely displeased.
"Please go up to the altar in the proper order," Katsuie growled at Nobuo and Nobutaka, twisting his chin. His voice was low, but it was boiling over with vexation.
"Pardon me, please," Nobuo said to Nobutaka, and stood up first.
Now it was Nobutaka's turn to look displeased. He seemed to feel that being placed behind Nobuo in front of the assembled generals would place him in a subordinate position in the future.
Nobuo faced his father's mortuary tablet, closed his eyes, and put his hands together in prayer. Offering incense, he prayed once again in front of the shrine and then withdrew.
Seeing that the man was about to return directly to his own seat, Hideyoshi cleared his throat once as if to bring attention to the child, Samboshi, who was sitting on his lap. Without actually saying "Your new lord is over here!" he attracted Nobuo's attention.
Nobuo seemed almost startled at Hideyoshi's deliberate gesture, and hurriedly turned in their direction on his knees. He was by nature a weak man, and his alarm seemed almost pitiful.
Looking up at Samboshi, Nobuo bowed reverently. In fact, he was too polite.
It was not the young lord who nodded his approval; it was Hideyoshi. Samboshi was a fretful, spoiled child, but for some reason, seated on Hideyoshi's lap, he was as quiescent as a little doll.
When Nobutaka stood up, he likewise prayed in front of the soul of his father. But having witnessed Nobuo's precedent and apparently not wanting to be laughed at by the other generals, he bowed reverently toward Samboshi with a truly correct demeanor. He then went back to his seat.
The next was Shibata Katsuie. When his large frame knelt before the shrine, almost hiding it from view, both the red and white lotuses on the partitions and the flickering lamps tinted his figure in what seemed like red flames of wrath. Perhaps he was giving Nobunaga's soul a lengthy report on the conference and pledging his support for his new lord. But with the offering of incense, Katsuie remained a long time in silent prayer with his palms pressed solemnly together. Then, withdrawing about seven paces, he straightened his back and turned in the direction of Samboshi.
Since Nobuo and Nobutaka had already bowed reverently to Samboshi, Katsuie could not very well be negligent in that regard. Very likely feeling that it was unavoidable, he swallowed his pride and bowed.
Hideyoshi looked as though he were nodding in approval of Katsuie as well. Katsuie jerked his short, thick neck to the side and returned with a rustle back to his own seat.
After that, he looked angry enough to spit.
Niwa, Takigawa, Shonyu, Hachiya, Hosokawa, Gamo, Tsutsui, and the other generals paid their respects. Then they moved to the banquet room used for such affairs and, at the invitation of Nobutada's widow, settled down to a meal. The tables were set for more than forty guests. The cups were passed around, and the lamps flickered in the cool night breeze. As the men made themselves comfortable with pleasant words for the first time in two days, each was feeling a little drunk.
The banquet that evening was a bit unusual in that it was given after a memorial service, and so no one got very drunk. Nevertheless, as the sake began to be felt, the generals left their seats to talk to others, and laughter and animated conversations could be heard here and there.
A particularly large number of cups and men gathered in front of Hideyoshi. And then one more man stepped into the crowd. "How about a cup?" asked Sakuma Genba.
Genba's matchless valor in the battles in the north had been highly praised, and it was said that no enemy ever encountered him twice. Katsuie's love for the man was extraordinary. He was fond of describing him as "my Genba," or "my nephew." In his pride he spoke publicly and freely about Genba's martial virtues.
Katsuie had a great number of nephews, but when he said "my nephew," he meant Genba alone.
Even though Genba was only twenty-eight years old, he held Oyama Castle as a general of the Shibata clan and had received a province and rank hardly inferior to the great generals gathered in the banquet room.
"Say, Hideyoshi," Katsuie said. "Give a cup to that nephew of mine, too." Hideyoshi looked around as though he had just noticed Genba. "Nephew?" Hideyoshi said, studying the younger man. "Ah, you." Certainly, he did appear to be the hero everyone talked about, and his sturdy frame overshadowed the short-statured, frail-looking Hideyoshi.
Genba did not, however, have his uncle's pockmarked face. He was fair-skinned but ribust, and at a glance seemed to have the brows of a tiger and the body of a leopard. Hideyoshi presented the man with a cup. "It's understandable that Lord Katsuie has such fine young men in his clan. Here, have a cup."
But Genba shook his head. "If I'm going to receive a cup, I'd like that big one." The cup in question still contained some sake.
Hideyoshi artlessly emptied it out and called, "Somebody come serve him." The mouth of the gold-lacquered flask touched the edge of the vermilion cup, and even though the bottle was quickly emptied, the cup itself was not yet full. Someone brought in another flask, and the cup was finally filled to the brim. The handsome young hero narrowed his eyes, raised the cup to his lips, and drank it in one gulp.
"Well then. What about you?"
"I haven't got that kind of talent," Hideyoshi said, smiling. At Hideyoshi's refusal to drink, Genba pressed harder. "Why won't you drink?"
"I'm not a strong drinker."
"What! Just this little bit."
"I drink, but not a lot."
Genba roared with laughter. Then he said, loudly enough so that everyone would hear, "The rumors that you hear are certainly true. Lord Hideyoshi is good at making excuses, and he's certainly modest. A long time ago—over twenty years—he was an underling sweeping up horse droppings and carrying Lord Nobunaga's sandals. It's admirable of him not to have forgotten those days."
He laughed at his own effrontery. The others must have been startled. The chattering stopped suddenly, and everyone looked back and forth from Hideyoshi, who was still sitting across from Genba, to Katsuie.
In an instant, everyone forgot about his cup and suddenly sobered up. Hideyoshi only smiled as he looked at Genba. His forty-five-year-old eyes simply gazed at the youth of twenty-eight. Their dissimilarity was not just a matter of a difference of age. The life Hideyoshi had lived the first twenty-eight years after his birth and the path Genba had followed for his twenty-eight years were extremely different in terms of both environment and experience. Genba might have been considered as just a little boy who knew nothing of hardships in the real world. For this reason he had a reputation for arrogance as well as for bravery. And apparently he was a man who did not employ caution in a place that was more dangerous than any battlefield—a room in which the leading men of the day were gathered.
"But, Hideyoshi, there is just one thing I can't stand. No, listen, Hideyoshi. Do you have ears to hear?" At that point he was yelling at Hideyoshi disrespectfully. It appeared to be less a matter of being drunk than of something eating at him from inside. Hideyoshi, however, looked at his drunken state and spoke to him almost with affection.
"You're drunk," he said.
"What!" Genba shook his head violently and straightened his posture. "This is no small problem to be written off to drunkenness. Listen. Just a little while ago in the chapel, when Lord Nobuo and Lord Nobutaka and all the other generals came to do reverence to the soul of Lord Nobunaga, didn't you sit in the seat of honor with Lord Samboshi on your lap and make them bow in your direction, one after another?"
"Well, well," Hideyoshi said, laughing.
"What are you laughing about? Is something funny, Hideyoshi? I don't doubt that your shrewd design was to hold up Lord Samboshi as an ornament for your own insignificant self so that you could receive the bows of the Oda family and its generals. Yes, that's it. And if I had been present, I would have had the pleasure of pulling your head right off. Lord Katsuie and the distinguished men sitting here are so good-natured that I get impatient, and—"
At that moment Katsuie, who was sitting about two seats away from Hideyoshi, drained his cup and looked around at the other men. "Genba, what do you mean by talking in such a way about another man? No, Lord Hideyoshi, my nephew is not speaking out of malice. So just ignore him," he said, laughing.
Hideyoshi was unable to show his anger and unable to laugh. He had been placed in a predicament in which he could only force a subtle smile, but his own particular
appearance was well fitted for such situations.
"Lord Katsuie, don't let this upset you. It's all right," Hideyoshi said ambiguously. He was clearly pretending to be drunk.
"Don't pretend, Monkey. Hey, Monkey!" Tonight Genba was acting even more arrogantly than usual. "'Monkey!' Now that was a slip, but it's not so easy to change a name that was commonly used for twenty years. That's right, it's that 'Monkey' that comes to mind. A long time ago, he was the monkeylike underling being chased around and around from job to job in Kiyosu Castle. At that time, my uncle occasionally served on night duty. I heard that one night when he was bored, he invited Monkey over and gave him sake, and when my uncle got tired from drink he lay down. Then, when he asked Monkey to come over and massage his legs, the tactful Monkey happily did so."
All the men present had lost their pleasant feelings of intoxication. Each man's face turned pale while his mouth went sour. This was not a simple situation. It was very likely that beyond the walls not so far removed from the banquet, in the shadows of the trees and under the floors, were swords, spears, and bows hidden by the Shibata. Were they not persistently trying to provoke Hideyoshi? A weird sensation, shared by everyone, began to grow out of the feelings of distrust, and that sensation rode the inklike evening breeze and the shadows of the lamps that flickered throughout the hall. It was the middle of the summer, but every man felt a chill along his spine.
Hideyoshi waited until Genba had finished and then laughed out loud.
"No, Lord Nephew, I wonder from whom you heard that. You've reminded me of a pleasant memory. Twenty years ago, this old monkey had the reputation of being good at massage, and the entire Oda clan had me rub them down. Lord Katsuie's legs were not the only ones to get massaged. And then, when I was given some sweets in reward, how good they tasted! That makes me nostalgic now, nostalgic for the taste of those sweets." Hideyoshi laughed again.
"Did you hear that, Uncle?" Genba asked grandiosely. "Give something nice to Hideyshi. If you ask him to massage your legs now, he might even do it."
"Don't go too far in this game, Nephew. Listen, Lord Hideyoshi, he's just being playful."
"That's all right. Why, even now I still occasionally massage a certain person's legs."
"And who would that be?" Genba asked with a sneer.
"My mother. She's seventy years old this year, and massaging her legs is a unique pleasure for me. Since I've been on the battlefield for so many years, however, I haven't had that pleasure at all recently. Well, I'll take my leave now, but the rest of you stay as long as you like."
Hideyoshi was the first to leave the banquet. As he left and walked down the main corridor, no one got up to stop him. On the contrary, the other lords thought it wise of him to have left, and were all relieved of the sensation of intense danger they had felt.
Two pages suddenly came out of the room near the entrance where they had been stationed, and followed after him. They had been able to perceive the atmosphere that had pervaded the castle for two days, even from their room. But Hideyoshi had not permitted a large number of his retainers to enter the castle, so when the two pages saw that their lord was safe, their minds were set at ease.
They had already stepped outside and were summoning the attendants and horses when a voice called out from behind.
"Lord Hideyoshi! Lord Hideyoshi!"
Someone was looking for him in the dark, open field. A crescent moon floated in the sky.
"I'm over here."
Hideyoshi was already mounted. Recognizing the sound of a slap against the seat of a saddle, Takigawa Kazumasu ran over to him.
"What is it?" Hideyoshi asked with a glance of the same sort that a lord might give to his retainer.
Takigawa said, "You must have gotten very angry this evening. But it was only because of the sake. And Lord Katsuie's nephew is still young, as you can see. I hope you'll forgive him." Then he added, "This is something that was arranged beforehand, and you may have forgotten about it, but on the fourth—tomorrow—the celebration announcing Lord Samboshi's succession will be held, and you should be sure not to miss it. Lord Katsuie was very concerned about this after you left just now."
"Is that so? Well…"
"Be sure to be there."
"And again, about tonight. Please forget about it. I told Lord Katsuie that you were a big-hearted person and not likely to be offended by the jests of a drunken young man on one occasion."
Hideyoshi's horse had started to move. "Let's go!" he shouted to the pages, almost knocking Takigawa to the ground.
Hideyoshi's lodgings were in the western section of town. They consisted of a small Zen temple and a wealthy family's house that he was renting. Quartering his men and horses at the temple, he himself occupied a floor of the house.
It had been easy for the family to accommodate him, but he had been accompanied by seven or eight hundred retainers. That was actually not very many men, however, as the Shibata clan, it was rumored, had quartered approximately ten thousand of its soldiers in Kiyosu.
As soon as Hideyoshi returned to his lodgings, he complained that it was smoky inside. Ordering the windows to be opened, he almost kicked off his ceremonial robes with the paulownia crest. Then he quickly stripped naked and requested a bath.
Thinking that his lord was in a bad mood, the page warily poured a pail of hot water over Hideyoshi's back. Hideyoshi, however, yawned as he sank into the tub. Then, as if he were stretching his arms and legs, he let out a grunt. "I'm loosening up a little," he observed, then grumbled about the stiffness of the last two days. "Has the mosquito netting been put up?"
"We've already put it up, my lord," responded the pages who were holding his sleeping kimono.
"Fine, fine. All of you should turn in early too. And tell that to the men on guard as well," Hideyoshi said from inside the mosquito netting.
The door was closed, but the windows were open to let in the breeze, and the light
from the moon seemed almost to be quivering. Hideyoshi began to feel drowsy.
“My lord?" called a voice from outside.
“What is it? Is that Mosuke?"
“Yes, my lord. The Abbot Arima is here. He says he'd like to see you in private."
“I told him that you had gone to sleep early, but he insisted."
For a moment no answer came from inside the mosquito netting. Finally Hideyoshi said, “Show him in. But give him my apologies for not getting up, and tell him that I was indisposed at the castle and took some medicine."
Mosuke's footsteps quietly descended the steps from the mezzanine. Then someone could be heard climbing the steps, and very soon a man was kneeling in front of Hideyoshi on the wooden floor.
“Your attendants told me you were asleep, but…"
“I have something of great urgency to tell you, so I ventured to come over in the middle of the night."
“With two days of conferences, I've become both mentally and physically exhausted. But what brings you here in the middle of the night?"
The abbot spoke softly. "Are you planning to attend the banquet for Lord Samboshi at the castle tomorrow?"
“Well, I might be able to if I take some medicine. My malady could just be heatstroke, and people will be annoyed if I'm not there."
“Perhaps your being indisposed is a premonition."
“Well now, why do you say that?"
“Some hours ago, you withdrew about halfway through the banquet. Soon after that, only the Shibata and their allies remained, and they were very intently discussing something in secret. I didn't understand what was going on, but Maeda Geni was anxious about the situation too, and we secretly listened in on them."
Suddenly becoming silent, the abbot peeped inside the mosquito netting as if to make sure that Hideyoshi was listening.
A pale blue bug was chirping at the corner of the netting, and Hideyoshi was lying down as before, looking up at the ceiling.
“We don't know in detail what they plan to do, but what we're sure of is that they are not going to let you live. Tomorrow when you go up to the castle, they want to take you into a room, confront you with a list of your crimes, and force you to commit seppuku. If you refuse, they plan to kill you in cold blood. Furthermore, they are planning to station soldiers in the castle and even take control of the castle town."
“Well now, that's rather intimidating."
“In fact, Geni was anxious to come here and inform you himself, but we were afraid that his leaving the castle would be noticed, so I came here instead. If you are sick just at this moment, it must be heaven's protection. Perhaps you should reconsider attending tomorrow’s ceremony."
“I wonder what I should do."
"I hope you won't be attending. By any means!"
"It's a celebration for the accession of the young lord, and all are supposed to attend. I'm grateful for your good intentions, Your Reverence. Thank you very much."
Inside the mosquito netting, Hideyoshi pressed his palms together in prayer toward the retreating footsteps of the abbot.
Hideyoshi was very good at sleeping. To fall asleep immediately, wherever the thought occurs to one, may seem like an easy ability to acquire, but it is, in fact, quite difficult.
He had acquired this mysterious skill—so close to enlightenment—out of of necessity, and he had formulated it into as a sort of motto to follow, both to alleviate the pressure of the battlefield and to preserve his own health.
Detachment. For Hideyoshi, that simple word was a talisman.
Detachment might not seem to be a very impressive quality, but it was at the heart of his skill at sleeping. Impatience, delusion, attachment, doubt, urgency—every kind of bond was cut through in an instant with his two eyelids, and he slept with a mind as blank as a virgin sheet of paper. And conversely, he would wake up in a moment, completely alert.
But detachment was not only for when he fought cleverly and his plans went as he intended. Over the years he had made many blunders, but during those times he never brooded over his failures and lost battles. On such occasions he recalled that one word: detachment.
The kind of earnestness people often spoke of—sustained determination and perseverance, or singleminded concentration—was not a special quality for him, but rather a natural part of daily life. Thus for him, it was far more essential to aim toward that detachment that would allow him to remove himself from those qualities—even if just for a moment—and allow his soul to breathe. In turn, he naturally left the problems of life and death up to that one concept: detachment.
He had been lying down just a short time. Had he slept an hour?
Hideyoshi got up and went down the stairs to the toilet. Immediately, a man on duty was kneeling on the floored veranda, holding up a paper lantern. Very soon thereafter, when he stepped from the toilet, another man was holding a small dipper filled with water, and, drawing near, he poured the water over Hideyoshi's hands.
As Hideyoshi wiped his hands, he gazed at the position of the moon over the eaves, then turned to his two pages and asked, "Is Gonbei there?"
When the man he had asked for appeared, Hideyoshi started back toward the stairs to the second floor, looking back at Gonbei as he walked.
"Go to the temple and tell the men we're leaving. The division of soldiers and the streets by which to advance were all written down this evening when we left the castle and given to Asano Yahei, so get instructions from him."
"Yes, my lord."
"Wait a moment. I forgot about something. Tell Kumohachi to come see me."
Gonbei's footsteps went from the stand of trees behind the house off in the direction of the temple. After he had left, Hideyoshi quickly dressed in his armor and went out.
Hideyoshi's lodgings stood near the crossroads of the Ise and Mino roads. He passed by the corner of the store house and walked off in the direction of that crossroads.
At that moment Kumohachi, who had just received Hideyoshi's summons, ran tottering up from behind. "I'm here and at your service!" He came around and knelt in front of Hideyoshi.
Kumohachi was an old warrior of seventy-five years, but he was not easily bested even by younger men, and Hideyoshi saw that he had come with his armor already on.
"Well now, this is not a matter that necessitates armor. I'd like you to do something in the morning. I want you to stay behind."
'In the morning? You mean at the castle?"
'That's right. You've understood well, typical of your years of service. I want you to go with a message to the castle that I fell ill during the night and suddenly had to return to Nagahama. Also say that I deeply regret not being able to attend the ceremony, but that I hope everything will be well. I imagine that Katsuie and Takigawa will dwell on that for a while, so I want you to wait there, appearing to be senile and hard of hearing. Don't react to anything you hear, and then leave as though nothing had happened."
“I understand, my lord."
The old warrior was bent at the waist like a shrimp, but his spear never left his hand. Bowing once before standing up, he turned his body as though his armor weighed heavily upon him, and shuffled off.
Almost all of the men at the temple had already lined up on the road in front of the gate. Each corps, which was identified by its banner, was in turn divided into companies. The commanders readied their horses at the head of each unit.
The fires on the fuse cords flickered back and forth, but not a single torch was lit.
The moon in the sky was only a slender crescent. Along the row of trees, the seven hundred troops swayed silently in the dark, like waves on a shore.
'Hey! Yahei!" Hideyoshi called out as he walked along next to the line of officers and men. The men were not easily distinguishable in the shadows of the trees, and here was a short man beating a bamboo staff on the ground as he walked along with six or seven men following behind. Most of the soldiers probably thought he was the head of a group packers, but when they realized it was Hideyoshi, they became even more hushed, tig their horses back so they would not get in the way.
“Here I am! Over here!"
Asano Yahei had been at the base of the stone steps giving instructions to a group of men. When he heard Hideyoshi's voice, he finished up quickly and ran over to him.
“Are you ready?" Hideyoshi spoke to him impatiently, hardly giving him time to kneel. "If you're all set, move out."
“Yes, my lord, we're ready."
"aking charge of the commander's standard with the golden gourds that had been propped up in a corner of the gate, he carried it out into the middle of the ranks and quickly mounted his own horse to join the troops.
Hideyoshi rode out, accompanied by his pages and about thirty mounted men. The conch shell might have been blown at that moment, but circumstances prohibited the use of the conch or of torches. Yahei had received the golden fan of command from Hideyoshi and, in his stead, waved it once, twice, and then a third time. With that signal, the seven-hundred-man army began gradually to advance.
The head of the procession then changed direction and, turning on the road, passed by Hideyoshi. The position of corps commander was filled exclusively by trusted retainers. That one saw almost none of the faces of the old and experienced veterans was most likely because many of them had been left at Hideyoshi's castles in Nagahama and Himeji, and at his other estates.
At midnight, Hideyoshi's soldiers left the castle at Kiyosu, looking as though they were the main force accompanying their lord. Taking the Mino road, they started out for Nagahama.
Hideyoshi himself departed immediately afterward with no more than thirty or forty men. He took a completely different route and hurried along the back roads where no one would notice him. He finally arrived in Nagahama the following day at dawn.
* * *
"We slipped up, Genba," Katsuie said.
"No, it was a plan that really had no room for mistakes."
"Do you really think there is such a plan? Somewhere there was an oversight, and that's why the fish slipped out of the net so easily."
"Well, it's not that I didn't say anything about it. If you're going to strike, strike! If we had attacked that scum's quarters, we'd have been able to look at Hideyoshi's head by now. But all you could talk about was doing it in secret. Now all our efforts have come to nothing because you wouldn't listen to me."
"Ah, you're still young. You were asking me to use a flawed plan, and the plan I had devised was superior. The best strategy was to wait until Hideyoshi came up to the castle and force him to disembowel himself. Nothing could have been better than that. But according to the reports last night, Hideyoshi was suddenly striking camp. Now, at first, I thought that was unfortunate, but then I reconsidered. If that bastard was leaving Kiyosu at night, it was a gift from heaven—because he was leaving unannounced, I could have denounced his crimes. I instructed you to lie in ambush and strike him down on the way so that justice might be served."
"That was a careless mistake on your part, Uncle, from the very beginning."
"My mistake? Why?"
"Your first mistake was in thinking Monkey would play into our hands by coming to today's celebration. Then, although you instructed me to go with some soldiers to ambush him, your second mistake was in forgetting to take the precaution of ordering men to guard the backroads."
"Fool! I gave you the orders and had the other generals follow your instructions solely because I had faith that you would not overlook things like that. And you have the impudence to say that hiding soldiers only on the main road and letting Hideyoshi slip through is my fault! You should reflect a little on your own inexperience!"
"Well, I apologize for my error this time, but hereafter, Uncle, please refrain from rattling on with too much artifice. A person who gets carried away with his own clever schemes is going to drown in them someday."
"What are you saying? You think I use too much cunning?"
"It's your constant habit."
"It's not just me, Uncle. Everybody says so. 'Lord Katsuie makes people cautious, because no one can never tell what he is plotting.'" Katsuie was silent, knitting his thick black eyebrows.
For a long time, the relationship of uncle and nephew had been far warmer than that between lord and retainer. But too much familiarity had eroded authority and respect in the relationship, and those qualities were now missing. That morning Katsuie could hardly restrain the sullen look on his face.
It was a complicated sense of displeasure. He had not slept at all the night before. Having ordered Genba to strike down the fleeing Hideyoshi, Katsuie had waited until dawn for the report that would clear the gloom that filled his heart.
When Genba returned, however, he did not make the report Katsuie had been waiting for so tensely.
"The only people who passed by were Hideyoshi's retainers. Hideyoshi himself was nowhere to be seen. I thought it would be disadvantageous to attack them, so I came back with nothing to show for my efforts."
That report, added to Katsuie's fatigue from the night before, put him in a state of despondency.
Then, when even Genba found fault with him, there was little wonder that he was feeling depressed that morning.
He could not remain in such a mood, however. Today was the celebration of the announcement of Samboshi's succession. After his breakfast Katsuie took a nap and had a bath, then he once again arrayed himself in his sweltering ceremonial robes and headgear.
Katsuie was not the kind of man who, once depressed, remained visibly so. Today the sky was filled with clouds and it was even more humid than the day before, but his demeanor on the road to Kiyosu Castle was far more majestic than that of anyone else in castle town, and his face sparkled with sweat.
The fierce men who only the night before had fastened the cords of their helmets, crawled through the grass and bushes with their spears and firearms, and looked to take Hideyoshi's life on the road were now arrayed in court hats and ceremonial kimonos. Their bows were in their cases and their spears and halberds sheathed, and they now meandered in innocent-looking attire up to the castle.
The men who climbed to the castle were not from the Shibata clan alone, of course, but were also from the Niwa, the Takigawa, and other clans. The only men who had been there the day before but who were no longer present were those under the command of Hideyoshi.
Takigawa Kazumasu informed Katsuie that Kumohachi had been waiting in the castle since early morning, as a representative of Hideyoshi.
“He said Hideyoshi would not be able to attend today because of illness and was sening his apologies to Lord Samboshi. He also mentioned that he had hoped for an audience with you, my lord. He's been waiting for a little while."
Katsuie nodded bitterly. While it angered him that Hideyoshi was scrupulously feigning ignorance of the whole affair, he too had to pretend to know nothing, and now
granted an audience to Kumohachi. Katsuie then cantankerously asked one question after another. What kind of illness did Hideyoshi have? If he had decided to return home so suddenly the night before, why hadn't he informed Katsuie? If he had, Katsuie himself would have come to visit and taken care of all the arrangements. But it seemed that old Kumohachi had grown extremely deaf and was only able to hear about half of what Katsuie was saying.
And no matter what was being said, the old man appeared not understand, but repeated the same answer over and over. Feeling that the interview was as useless as beating the air, Katsuie could not help but be vexed at Hideyoshi's ulterior motives in sending such a senile old warrior as a formal envoy. No matter how much he rebuked the old man, nothing came of it. With pent-up anger from his irritation, he asked Kumohachi one more question to finish the conversation.
"Envoy, how old are you, anyway?"
"Exactly… yes, indeed."
"I'm asking you about your age…How old are you?"
"Yes, it's just as you say."
Katsuie felt as though he were being made a fool of. Thrusting his angry face next to Kumohachi's ear, he yelled out in a voice loud enough to crack a mirror.
"How old are you this year?"
Thereupon Kumohachi nodded vigorously and answered with exceeding calm.
"Ah, I see. You're asking me my age. I'm ashamed to say that I've done nothing o merit that the world might have heard of, but this year I'll be seventy-five."
Katsuie was dumbfounded.
How ridiculous it was for him to be losing his temper with this old man, with today's pressure of work in front of him and the probability that he would be unable to relax all day. Along with an awareness of self-scorn, Katsuie felt his hostility toward Hideyoshi moving him to make a pledge that the two of them would shortly not exist under the same sky.
"Go on home. That's enough."
Gesturing with his chin, he ordered the old man to leave, but Kumohachi's buttocks seemed to be stuck to the floor with rice paste.
"What? What if there's a reply?" he asked, gazing sedately at Katsuie.
"There is none! No reply at all! Just tell Hideyoshi that we'll meet wherever we chance to meet."
With this parting remark, Katsuie turned and walked away down the narrow corridor toward the inner citadel. Kumohachi also ambled down the corridor. With one hand on his hip, he turned toward Katsuie's retreating image. Chuckling to himself, he finally walked on toward the castle gate.
The celebration for Samboshi's accession was completed that day, and a feast was given that surpassed the one of the evening before. Three halls were opened up inside the castle for the announcement of the new lord's installation, and people attended in far greater numbers than the day before. The main topic of conversation among the guests was Hideyoshi's insulting behavior. To feign illness and be absent on the day of
This important event was outrageous, and there were some who said that Hideyoshi's disloyalty and insincerity could clearly be seen.
Katsuie knew quite well that the criticism of Hideyoshi was being artificially generated by the followers of Takigawa Kazumasu and Sakuma Genba, but he indulged in the comfort of gloating secretly over the knowledge that the advantage was going to him.
After the conference, the observance of the anniversary of Nobunaga’s death, and the day of celebration, Kiyosu was inundated by heavy rains every day.
Some of the lords left for their provinces the day after the celebration. A number of others, however, were held back by the rising waters of the Kiso River. Those who remained behind waited for the weather to clear, thinking it might happen the next day or day after that, but they could really do nothing more than pass the days in inactivity in their lodgings.
To Katsuie, however, the time was not necessarily wasted.
The comings and goings of Katsuie and Nobutaka between their respective lodgings were quite noticeable. It must be remembered that Oichi, Katsuie's wife, was Nobunaga's younger sister and therefore Nobutaka's aunt. Moreover, it was Nobutaka who had persuaded Oichi to remarry and become Katsuie's wife. It was really from the time of the marriage that the relationship between Nobutaka and Katsuie had become intimate. Certainly they were more than simple in-laws.
Takigawa Kazumasu was at those meetings as well, and his presence seemed to have some significance.
On the tenth day of the month Takigawa sent out an invitation for a morning tea cer-ny to all the remaining lords.
The gist of the invitation was as follows:
The recent rains are clearing, and each of you is thinking of returning to his home province. It is a maxim among warriors, however, that uncertainty governs the time of their next meeting. As we remember our former lord, I would like to offer you a bowl of plain tea in the morning dew. I know you must be in a hurry to leave for home after this long stay, but I do anticipate your presence.
That was all it said, and it was nothing more than what might be expected. But the people of Kiyosu gaped at the men going in and out that morning. What was it? A secret council of war? Men like Hachiya, Tsutsui, Kanamori, and Kawajiri attended the tea ceremony that morning, while Nobutaka and Katsuie were probably the guests of honor. But whether the meeting was the tea ceremony it purported , or some secret affair, could not have been known by anyone other than the host and his guests that day.
Later that afternoon the generals finally returned to their home provinces. On the night of the fourteenth Katsuie announced that he would leave for Echizen, and on the fifteenth he left Kiyosu.
As soon as he had crossed the Kiso River and entered Mino, however, Katsuie was troubled by rumors that Hideyoshi's army had closed all the passes in the mountains between Tarui and Fuwa and was barring his way home.
Katsuie had only just decided that he would attack Hideyoshi, but now the situatior had been reversed, and he found the path home as dangerous as thin ice. To get to Echizen Katsuie had to pass Nagahama, and his antagonist had already returned there. Would Hideyoshi let him pass through without challenging him?
When Katsuie had left Kiyosu, his generals had advised him to take a more round-about route, through Takigawa Kazumasu's province in Ise. But if he had done so, the world would certainly have believed he was afraid of Hideyoshi—a loss of face that Katsuie would have been unable to bear. As they entered Mino, however, the central question persisted with every step.
Reports of troop movements in the mountains ahead forced Katsuie to halt his army's advance and arrange its units into battle formation until the reports could be verified.
A rumor was then reported that units under Hideyoshi's command had been sighted in the area of Fuwa, and as Katsuie and his field staff sat on their horses, their hair stood on end. Trying to imagine the numbers and strategy of the enemy waiting in their path they were overcome by feelings as black as ink.
The troops were brought to a sudden halt in front of the Ibi River, while Katsuie and his staff quickly discussed the matter in the wood of the local village shrine. Should they strike on ahead, or retreat? One possible strategy would be to retreat for the present and take possession of Kiyosu and Samboshi. They could then denounce Hideyoshi's crimes, unite the other lords, and set out in a more imposing manner. On the other hand, they had a large force, and it would give them joy as a samurai to fight their way through, routing the enemy with a quick victory.
As they thought over the possible results of each alternative, they realized that the former plan would mean a protracted war, while the latter would bring a prompt decision As for that, however, instead of crushing Hideyoshi with one quick blow, their own defeat was not entirely out of the question.
Certainly the mountainous terrain north of Sekigahara was very advantageous for men lying in ambush. In addition, the troops that Hideyoshi had withdrawn to Nagahama would no longer be the small force of the recent past. From southern Omi to the areas of Fuwa and Yoro, a large number of men from small castles, powerful provincial families, and scattered samurai residences had connections with Hideyoshi. Those with connections to the Shibata were few.
"No matter how I think this through, there just doesn't seem to be a good strategy for confronting Hideyoshi here. His quick return home must have been planned exactly to take this kind of advantage. I think we should not risk the battle he wants under these conditions," Katsuie said, echoing the advice of his generals.
Genba, however, laughed scornfully. "That's probably the right course of action if you're resolved to become a laughingstock for being so afraid of Hideyoshi." In any war council, the suggestion to retreat is the weak one, while the counsel to advance is considered more forceful. Genba's opinion in particular exerted a strong influence on the members of the field staff. His matchless courage, his rank within the clan, and the affection with which he was regarded by Katsuie were all factors to be taken into consideration.
"To flee at the sight of the enemy, without exchanging a single arrow, would ruin the reputation of the Shibata clan," one general said.
"It would be a different matter if we had made such a decision before leaving Kiyosu."
"It's just as Lord Genba says. If people hear that we came this far and then retreated, we’ll become a laughingstock for generations to come."
"How about retreating after fighting an engagement?"
"They're only Monkey's soldiers, anyway."
The younger warriors all shouted out their support of Genba.
The only man who remained silent was Menju Shosuke.
"What do you think, Shosuke?"
Katsuie rarely asked Shosuke for his opinion. Recently, Shosuke had been out of favor with Katsuie, and he usually refrained from speaking. He answered docilely, "I think Genba's opinion is absolutely correct."
Among the others, who were all hot-blooded and ready to fight, Shosuke had appeared to be as cold as water and lacking in courage in spite of his youth. But he had responded as if there were no alternative.
"If even Shosuke can speak like this, we'll follow Genba's advice and push straight on through, just as we are. But we should send out scouts as soon as we've crossed the river, and not hurry down the road carelessly. Move out plenty of foot soldiers first, and have a spear corps follow them immediately. Place the gunners ahead of the rear guard. When soldiers are lying in ambush, firearms are not apt to be of much use up front. If the enemy is there and the scouts give us the signal, sound the drum immediately, but don't show them a hair's-breadth of confusion. The unit commanders should all wait for my orders.
Its direction settled, the army crossed the Ibi River. Nothing happened. As it began to advance toward Akasaka, there was no sign of the enemy.
The reconnaissance units were far ahead and approaching the neighborhood of the village of Tarui. Nothing unusual could be discerned there, either. A lone traveler approached. He looked suspicious, and one of the soldiers from the reconnaissance unit ran up ahead and took him into custody. Threatened and questioned by the scouts, the man was quick to talk, but it was those who did the threatening who were dismayed.
"If you're asking me if I saw Lord Hideyoshi's men on the road, well, yes, I most certainly did. Early this morning, in the area of Fuwa, and just now passing through Tarui."
"About how many men were there?"
"I'm not sure, but certainly it was a force of several hundred."
The scouts looked back and forth at each other. Dismissing the man, they immediately reported back to Katsuie.
The news was rather unexpected. The enemy was such a small force that Katsuie and generals now had even more misgivings. However, the order to push ahead was given, the army marched on. Just at that moment it was reported that an envoy from Hideyoshi was riding in their direction. When the man finally came in sight, they could see he was not an armored warrior but was, instead, a striking youth wearing a printed gossamer silk coat and a wisteria-colored kimono. Even the reins of his horse were ornately decorated.
"My name is Iki Hanshichiro," the youth announced, "Lord Hidekatsu's page. I am here to offer my services as a guide to Lord Katsuie."
Hanshichiro trotted right past the scouts, who were completely taken aback. Yelling in a confused voice, their commander chased after him, nearly falling off his horse in pursuit.
Katsuie and his field staff looked with suspicion at the young man. They had anticipated a battle, and their excitement and anticipation of a fight had soared. Then, in the midst of their spears and burning fuse cords, this elegant young man gracefully dismounted and bowed politely.
"Lord Hidekatsu's page? I have no idea what that means, but bring him here. Let talk with him," Katsuie ordered.
Katsuie had stamped down the grass by the roadside and was standing in the shade of some trees. Having his camp stool set down, he managed to conceal the rigid tension of his subordinates, as well as his own. He invited the envoy to sit down.
"You have a message?"
"You must be exhausted from the long trip home in this heat," Hanshichiro said formally.
Oddly, his words sounded exactly like those of a peacetime greeting. Taking a letter box that was hanging from his shoulder by a red cord, he continued, "Lord Hideyoshi sends his greetings." Then he handed the missive to Katsuie.
Katsuie received the letter suspiciously and did not open it right away. Blinking, he looked at Hanshichiro.
"You say you're Lord Hidekatsu's page?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Is Lord Hidekatsu in good health?"
"Yes, my lord."
"I imagine he's grown up."
"He'll be seventeen years old this year, my lord."
"Well, he's that old already? Time passes quickly, doesn't it. It's been a long time since I've seen him."
"Today he was ordered by his father to come as far as Tarui to extend a welcome."
"What?" Katsuie stammered. A pebble beneath one leg of his camp stool was crushed by the weight of his heavy body, which equaled the surprise in his heart. Hidekatsu, who was Nobunaga's son, had been adopted by Hideyoshi.
"Welcome? Welcome who?" Katsuie asked this time.
"Why, Your Lordship, of course."
Hanshichiro covered his face with his fan and laughed. His adversary's eyelids and mouth were twitching uncontrollably, so he could hardly suppress a smile.
"Me? He's come to welcome me?" Katsuie continued to mumble to himself.
"First take a look at the letter, my lord," Hanshichiro requested.
Katsuie had been in such a daze that he had completely forgotten about the letter in his hand. Katsuie nodded repeatedly for no particular reason. As his eyes followed the written words, a range of emotions swept across his face. The letter was not from Hidekatsu at all, but was unmistakably from Hideyoshi's brush. It was quite openhearted.
The road between northern Omi and Echizen is one you've traveled many times before, so I assume you know the way. Nevertheless, I am sending my foster son, Hidekatsu, to guide you. There is a baseless rumor abroad, unworthy of our notice, that Nagahama would be an advantageous place from which to hinder your return home. In order to contradict such mean-spirited reports, I have sent my foster son to greet you, and you may take him as a hostage until you have passed through with peace of mind. I would have liked to entertain you at Nagahama, but I have been sick since leaving Kiyosu…
Reassured by the words of the envoy and the letter, Katsuie could not help reflecting his own timidity. He had been cowering before what might have been in Hideyoshi's heart, and now he was relieved. For some time he had been regarded as a clever strategist, and was acknowledged to be so full of intrigue that whenever he did anything, people were quick to say that Katsuie was up to his old tricks again. At moments like these, however, he was not even going to bother to cover up his emotions with a feigned nonchalance. It was that part of his character that the late Nobunaga had understood well. He considered Katsuie's courage, conspiratorial mind, and honesty to be distinctive features that could be put to good use. Thus he had given Katsuie the heavy responsibility of being commander-in-chief of the northern campaign, had put numerous warriors and a large province into his charge, and had relied upon him fully. Now, when Katsuie thought about the lord who had known him better than anyone else and contemplated the fact he was no longer in the world, he felt that there was no one in whom he could put his trust.
But now he was suddenly touched by Hideyoshi's letter, and the emotions he had harbored toward his rival were completely reversed in an instant. He now frankly reflected on the fact that their enmity had been based entirely on his own suspicions and timidity.
So Katsuie rethought the situation.
“Now that our lord is gone, Hideyoshi will be the man in whom to put our trust." That night he talked warmly with Hidekatsu. The following day he crossed Fuwa with the young man and entered Nagahama, still holding on to his new warm impressions. But in Nagahama, after he and his senior retainers had accompanied Hidekatsu as far as the castle gate, he was shaken once again, when he found out that Hideyoshi had not been in Nagahama for some time. He had gone on to Kyoto, where he had been involved in important state affairs.
“I've been taken in by Hideyoshi again!" Katsuie said, his irritation quickly returning, and he hurried to start out again on the road home.
* * *
It was the end of the Seventh Month. Fulfilling the promise he had made, Hideyoshi surrendered the castle and lands of Nagahama to Katsuie, who gave it to his foster son, Katsutoyo.
Katsuie still did not know why Hideyoshi had insisted at the conference of Kiyosu that the castle be given to Katsutoyo. And neither the men at the conference nor the public at large were suspicious about the condition or even stopped to consider what Hideyoshi had in mind.
Katsuie had another foster son, Katsutoshi, a boy who would be fifteen years old that year. Those members of the Shibata clan who had any feelings about it at all lamented that if the relationship between Katsuie and Katsutoyo was that cold, they could only fear for the future of the clan.
"Katsutoyo is so irresolute," Katsuie complained. "He never does anything with real clarity and decision. He doesn't even have the proper disposition to be my son. Katsutoshi, on the other hand, has no trace of malice in him at all. He's really taken to me as his father."
But if Katsuie preferred Katsutoshi to Katsutoyo, he favored his nephew, Genba, even more. His love for Genba went beyond that felt naturally for a nephew or son, and he had an inclination to indulge the emotion. Thus Katsuie kept a watchful eye on Genba's younger brothers, Yasumasa and Katsumasa, installing each of them in strategic castles while they were still only in their twenties.
In the midst of all that deep affection between family members and retainers, only Katsutoyo felt dissatisfied with his foster father and the Sakuma brothers.
Once, during the New Year's celebrations, for example, when Katsuie's family and retainers had come to congratulate him on the New Year, the first toast was offered by Katsuie. Katsutoyo had naturally assumed that it would be offered to him, and had advanced respectfully on his knees.
"It's not for you, Katsutoyo, it's for Genba," Katsuie said, holding the cup back.
It became known in other quarters that this slight was a matter of discontent for Katsutoyo, and the story was doubtless heard by spies from other provinces. Certainly such information reached Hideyoshi's ears.
Before surrendering Nagahama to Katsutoyo, it was necessary for Hideyoshi to move his own family to a new home.
"We'll be moving to Himeji in just a little while. It's mild in winter, and there's fish from the Inland Sea."
With these orders, Hideyoshi's mother, wife, and the entire household moved to his castle in Harima. But Hideyoshi himself did not go.
There was no time to waste. He had the castle at Takaradera near Kyoto completely renovated. It had been Mitsuhide's stronghold at the time of the battle of Yamazaki, and there was a reason Hideyoshi did not send his mother and wife to live there. He went from Takaradera Castle to the capital on alternate days. When he returned, he supervised construction; when he was absent, he was seeing to the government of the nation.
He was now taking the responsibility upon himself for safeguarding the Imperial Palace, for the administration of the city, and for overseeing the various provinces. According to the original decision of the Kiyosu conference, all phases of the government of Kyoto were to be managed equally by the four regents—Katsuie, Niwa, Shonyu, and Hideyoshi—and were never supposed to be Hideyoshi's responsibility alone. But Katsuie was far away in Echizen, carrying on some secret maneuvers with Nobutaka and others in Gifu and Ise; Niwa, though close by in Sakamoto, seemed already to have given over his responsisibility entirely to Hideyoshi; and Shonyu had quite gallantly declared that, although he had been given a tide, the problems of dealing with the administration and the nobility were beyond his abilities, and he would have nothing more to do with either.
It was in just these areas that Hideyoshi had true ability. His talents were far more administrative than anything else. Hideyoshi knew that battle was not his main talent. But he understood clearly that if a man held high ideals but was defeated on the battlefield, great administrative works would not go forward. Thus he risked everything on a battle, and once he had started a campaign, he fought to the bitter end.
In rewarding his martial accomplishments, the Imperial Court informed Hideyoshi would be given the rank of Lieutenant-General of the Imperial Guard. Hideyoshi declined, protesting that his merits did not deserve such an honor, but the Court graciously insisted, and he finally accepted a lesser title.
How many there are who are quick to find fault when they witness those who do good in the world! How many of the mean-spirited ones talk against those who work with upright hearts!
This is always true, and whenever great changes occur, the flood of gossip is liable to be especially violent.
“Hideyoshi is exposing his arrogance quickly. Even his subordinates are grasping authority.
“They're ignoring Lord Katsuie. It's as though there were no one else to serve."
“When you look at the influence he's gained recently, it's as though they're proclaiming that Lord Hideyoshi is Lord Nobunaga's successor."
The criticism aimed at him was noisy indeed. But, as always in such cases, the identies of the accusers remained unknown.
Whether or not he heard the rumors, Hideyoshi was unconcerned. He had no leisure to listen to gossip. In the Sixth Month, Nobunaga had died; in the middle of that month, the battle had been fought at Yamazaki; in the Seventh Month, the conference at Kiyosu had been held; at the end of that month, Hideyoshi had withdrawn from Nagahama, moving his family to Himeji; and in the Eighth Month, he had begun construction on Takadera Castle. Now he continued to go back and forth between Kyoto and Yamazaki. If he was in Kyoto, in the morning he would be bowing at the Imperial Palace; in the afternoon he would be inspecting the city, in the evening he would look over governmental matters, send out replies to letters, and greet guests; at midnight he would review letters from distant provinces; and at dawn he would make decisions concerning the petitions of his subordinates. Every day he would whip his horse off somewhere while still chewing the food from his last meal.
He frequendy had a number of destinations—the mansion of a court noble, meetings, unspections—and recendy he had been heading off repeatedly toward the northern part of Kyoto. It was there that he had ordered an enormous construction project to be started. Within the grounds of the Daitoku Temple, he had begun to build yet another temple, the Sokenin.
“It must be completed by the seventh day of the Tenth Month. Finish clearing the area by the eighth day, and complete preparations for all the ceremonies by the ninth day. There should be nothing left to be done by the tenth day."
This he said very firmly to Hikoemon and to his brother-in-law, Hidenaga. No matter what construction project Hideyoshi undertook, he would not change the time limit.
The memorial service was held within a lamplit shrine that was one hundred eighty-four yards wide. The brightly colored canopy sparkled, the thousands of lanterns looked like stars, and the smoke from the incense drifted among the fluttering banners, creating purple clouds above the heads of the crowds of mourners.
Among the priests alone, venerable scholars from the five major Zen temples and priests from the eight Buddhist sects attended. People of the time who observed the service described it as though the five hundred arhats and the three thousand disciples of the Buddha were all before their very eyes.
After the ceremonies of reading from the sutras and scattering flowers before the Buddha had taken place, the Zen abbots paid their respects. Finally, Abbot Soken recited the parting gatha and, with all of his strength, yelled "Kwatz!" For an instant all was hushed. Then, as the solemn music was played once again, the lotus flowers fell, and one by one the participants offered incense at the altar.
Among the mourners, however, about half of the Oda relatives who undoubtedly should have attended were absent. Samboshi had not appeared, neither had Nobutaka, Katsuie, or Takigawa.
But perhaps most unfathomable of all were the intentions of Tokugawa Ieyasu. After the Honno Temple incident, he was in a unique position. What his thoughts were, or how his cold eyes regarded present events, no one was able to judge.