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The Snows of Echizen

Day and night, the snow fell on wintry Echizen, leaving no opening through which a man could free his heart. But within the castle walls of Kitanosho, it was warmer than usual that year. That uncommon state of affairs was due to the presence of Lady Oichi and her three daughters. The lady herself was rarely seen, but her daughters could not bear to be confined to their apartments. The eldest, Chacha, was fifteen, the middle sister eleven, and the youngest only nine. To these girls, even falling leaves were a cause for wonder, and their laughter rang through the corridors of the citadel.

Katsuie was drawn by their voices to the women's quarters, where he hoped to forget his many cares amid their gay laughter, but whenever he appeared, the expressions on the faces of the girls darkened, and they neither laughed nor smiled. Even Lady Oichi was solemn and quiet, beautiful and cold.

"Please come in, my lord," she would say, inviting him to sit by the small silver fretwork brazier.

Even after their marriage, they spoke to each other with the formality of a retainer addressing a member of his lord's family.

"Your loneliness must be all the greater when you see the snow and feel the cold of this place for the first time, my lady," Katsuie said sympathetically.

"Not so much, my lord," Oichi replied, but it was clear that she longed for a warmer land. "When do the snows of Echizen begin to melt?" she asked.

"This is not Gifu or Kiyosu. When the rape flowers are blooming and the cherry blossoms are beginning to fall there, these mountains are still patched with melting snow."

"And until then?"

"It's like this every day."

You mean it never melts?"

Just snow a thousand feet deep!" Katsuie replied sharply. Upon being reminded of the length of time the snow would cover Echizen, his heart was filled with bitter resentment. Thus he was unable to spend even a moment's leisure with his family. Katsuie returned to the citadel as quickly as he had left. Accompanied by his pages, he walked off in great strides along the roofed corridor through which the snowy wind was blowing. As soon as he had gone, the three girls went out to the veranda to sing songs, not of Echizen but of their native Owari.

Katsuie did not look back. Before entering the main citadel, he ordered one of his pages, "Tell Gozaemon and Gohei to come to my room at once."

Both men were important retainers of the Shibata clan, and elders upon whom Katsuie relied.

'Did you send a messenger to Maeda Inuchiyo?" Katsuie asked Gozaemon.

Yes, my lord. He left a little while ago," the man replied. "Did you want to add something to it, my lord?"

Katsuie nodded silently; he seemed to be lost in thought. The previous evening a council of the entire clan had discussed a weighty matter: Hideyoshi. And their decision not been a passive one. They had the whole winter to carry out a plan: Takigawa Kazumasu was to rally Ise; Nobutaka was to persuade Gamo Ujisato to join them, and to request assistance from Niwa Nagahide; Katsuie himself would write to Tokugawa Ieyasu to sound out his intentions; and a messenger had already been sent to the scheming old shogun, Yoshiaki. Finally, it was hoped that when the moment came, the Mori would attack Hideyoshi from the rear.

That was the plan, but Ieyasu's attitude was totally unclear. And although it was easy to tempt Yoshiaki's inconstancy, there seemed to be little hope of persuading the Mori to unite with their cause. Not only that, but Gamo Ujisato, the man to be drawn in by Nobutaka, was already allied to Hideyoshi, while Niwa stood tactfully in the center, declaring that he could not take sides with any of his former lord's retainers, and that he would only stand in the defense of the rightful heir, Lord Samboshi.

During this time, Hideyoshi was holding in Kyoto the magnificent memorial service for Nobunaga that had attracted the attention of the entire nation. Hideyoshi's increasing fame was making the proud Katsuie think about whether he should act and how fast. But nountains of Echizen responded to Katsuie's scheming with snow. He planned great campaigns, but he could not move his army to fight them.

During the conference, a letter had arrived from Kazumasu, advising Katsuie that the best strategy was to wait until spring and complete their great undertaking in one campaign. Until then, Kazumasu said, Katsuie was to make peace with Hideyoshi. Katsuie had considered his advice and decided it was the correct way to handle the situation. "If there is something else you would like to say to Lord Inuchiyo, I will send another messenger," Gozaemon repeated, observing Katsuie's worried expression. Katsuie confided his doubts to these men. "At the conference I agreed to send two trusted retainers along with Inuchiyo to negotiate peace with Hideyoshi, but now I don't know."

What do you mean, my lord?" one of the retainers asked.

"I don't know about Inuchiyo."

"Are you worried about his abilities as an envoy?"

"I'm well acquainted with his abilities. But when Hideyoshi was still a foot soldier, they were close friends."

"I don't think you have anything to worry about."

"You don't?"

"Not in the least," Gozaemon declared. "Both Inuchiyo's province in Noto and his son's in Fuchu are surrounded by your own estates and the castles of your retainers. So not only is he geographically isolated from Hideyoshi, but he will have to leave his wife and children as hostages."

Gohei was of the same opinion. "There has never been any discord between the two of you, my lord, and Lord Inuchiyo has served you faithfully throughout the long northern campaign. Many years ago, when he was a young samurai in Kiyosu, Lord Inuchiyo had a reputation for being wild. But he has changed. These days his name is associated with integrity and honesty, and people are quick to acknowledge their faith in him. So, rather than worry, I wonder if he isn't the most suitable man we could send."

Katsuie began to believe that they were right. Now he could laugh, knowing that his own suspicions was nothing more than that. But if the plan did somehow go wrong, the entire situation could quickly turn against Katsuie. Moreover, he was uneasy because his army would be unable to move until the spring. Nobutaka's isolation in Gifu and Takigawa's in Ise troubled him even more. Therefore the envoy's mission was crucial to the success of the entire strategy.

A few days later Inuchiyo arrived at Kitanosho. He would be forty-four that yeara year younger than Hideyoshi. He had been tempered by his years on the battlefield, and even with the loss of one eye, he looked cool and self-possessed.

When he received Katsuie's warm reception, he smiled at its excess. Lady Oichi was also there to greet him, but Inuchiyo said gallantly, "It must be unpleasant for you to be in this cold room with a group of coarse samurai, my lady."

Urged to withdraw, Lady Oichi left for her own apartments. Katsuie mistook this for deference, but Inuchiyo had intended it as a gesture of sympathy for Oichi, in whom he saw Nobunaga, her dead brother.

"You're living up to your old reputation. I've heard you were an old hand at this," Katsuie said.

"You mean sake?

"I mean a lot of sake"

Inuchiyo laughed heartily, his one eye blinking in the light of the candles. He was still the handsome man Hideyoshi had known in his youth.

"Hideyoshi was never much of a drinker," Katsuie said.

"That's true. His face turned red right away."

"But I recall that when you were young, the two of you often spent the whole night drinking together."

"Yes, as far as debauchery went, that young Monkey never got tired. He was an expert. Whenever I drank too much, I would just fall down and sleep anywhere."

"I imagine you're still close friends."

Not really. No one is less reliable than a former drinking partner."

Is that so?"

Surely you must remember, Lord Katsuie, those days of eating, drinking, and singing until dawn. Friends will put their arms around each other's shoulders, revealing things they wouldn't even talk to their own brothers about. At the time, you think that person is the best friend you ever had, but later you both get involved in the real world and you have a lord or a wife and children. When you both look back at the feelings you had when you were living together in the barracks, you find that they've changed quite a bit. The way you see the world, the eyes with which you look at othersyou've grown up. Your friend is not the same, and neither are you. The really true, pure, and devoted friends are the men we meet in the midst of adversity."

Well then, I've been under the wrong impression."

What do you mean, my lord?"

I thought that you and Hideyoshi had a deeper relationship, and I was about to ask you do me a favor."

If you're going to fight with Hideyoshi," Inuchiyo said, "I will not raise my spear against him, but if you're going to hold peace talks, I'd like to take it upon myself to be in the vanguard. Or is it something different?"

Inuichiyo had hit the mark. Without saying anything further, he smiled and raised his cup.

How had the plan leaked out to him? Katsuie's eyes showed his confusion. After thinking it over for a moment, however, he realized it had been he himself who had been testing out Inuchiyo on the subject of Hideyoshi from the very beginning.

Even though he was living in the provinces, Inuchiyo was not the kind of man who lived in a corner. Certainly he would know what was going on in Kyoto, and he would have a clear understanding of the trouble between Hideyoshi and Katsuie. Furthermore, Inuchiyo had received Katsuie's urgent summons and come quickly, despite the snow.

As Katsuie reflected on the matter, he had to rethink his view of Inuchiyo, in order to know how to control him. Inuchiyo was a man whose power would grow with the years Like Sassa Narimasa, he was under Katsuie's command on Nobunaga's orders. During the five years of the northern campaign, Katsuie had treated Inuchiyo like one of his own retainers, and Inuchiyo had obeyed Katsuie. But now that Nobunaga was dead, Katsuie wondered if the relationship would continue unchanged. It came down to this: Katsuie's authority had depended on Nobunaga. With Nobunaga dead, Katsuie was only one general aong many.

I have no desire to fight with Hideyoshi, but I fear that rumor may have it otherwise, Katsuie said with a laugh.

As a man matures, he becomes practiced in a in way of laughing that draws a veil over his true feelings. "It seems strange," Katsuie continued, "to send an envoy to Hideyoshi when we are not at war, but I've received a number of letters from both Lord Nobutaka and Takigawa urging me to send someone. It's been less than six months since Lord Nobunaga died, and already there are rumors that his surviving retainers are fighting among themselves. This is a disgraceful state of affairs. Besides, I don't think we should give the Uesugi, the Hojo, and the Mori the chance they're looking for."

"I understand, my lord," Inuchiyo said.

Katsuie had never been very good at explanations, and Inuchiyo summarily accepted his assignment, as though it were unnecessary to listen to the tedious details. Inuchiyo left Kitanosho on the following day. He was accompanied by two men, Fuwa Hikozo and Kanamori Gorohachi. Both were trusted retainers of the Shibata clan, and while they went along as envoys, they were really there to keep an eye on Inuchiyo.

On the twenty-seventh of the Tenth Month, the three men arrived at Nagahama to collect Katsutoyo. Unfortunately, the young man was ill. The envoys counseled him to stay behind, but Katsutoyo insisted on coming, and the party traveled from Nagahama to Otsu by boat. Spending one night in the capital, they arrived at Takaradera Castle the following day.

This was the battlefield where Mitsuhide had been defeated that past summer. Where before there had been nothing more than a poor village with a decaying post station, now a prosperous castle town was springing up. After the envoys had crossed the Yodo River, they could see scaffolding covering the castle. The road was deeply rutted with the tracks of oxen and horses, and everything they saw spoke of Hideyoshi's energetic plans.

Even Inuchiyo was beginning to question Hideyoshi's intentions. Katsuie, Takigawa, and Nobutaka accused Hideyoshi of neglecting Lord Samboshi and of working for his own advantage. In Kyoto he was building up his power base, while outside of the capital he was expending huge amounts on castle construction. These projects had nothing to do with enemy clans in the west or north, so against whom was he preparing his army in the very heart of the nation?

What had Hideyoshi said in his defense? He, too, had several complaints: There was the unfulfilled promise made at the Kiyosu conference to move Samboshi to Azuchi, and there was the memorial service for Nobunaga that Nobutaka and Katsuie had failed to attend.

The meeting between Hideyoshi and the envoys took place in the partially reconstructed main citadel. A meal and tea were served before the negotiations began. It was the first time Hideyoshi and Inuchiyo had met since the death of Nobunaga.

"Inuchiyo, how old are you now?" Hideyoshi asked.

"I'll be forty-five soon."

"We're both becoming old men."

"What do you mean? I'm still a year younger than you, aren't I?"

"Ah, that's right. Like a little brothera year younger. But looking at the two of us now, you look the more mature."

"You're the one who looks old for your age."

Hideyoshi shrugged. "I've looked old since my youth. But frankly speaking, no matter how old I get, I still don't feel like much of an adult, and that worries me."

"Someone said that a man should be unwavering after the age of forty."

"It's a lie."

"You think so?"

"A gentleman is unwaveringthat's how the saying goes. It would be more true in our case that forty is the age of our first wavering. Isn't that pretty much true for you, Inuchiyo?"

"You're still playing the fool, Lord Monkey. Don't you agree, gentlemen?"

Inuchiyo smiled at his companions, who had not failed to notice that he was familiar enough with Hideyoshi to call him "Lord Monkey" to his face.

"Somehow I can't agree with either Lord Inuchiyo's opinion or yours, my lord," said Kanamori, who was the oldest of the group.

"How is that?" asked Hideyoshi, who was clearly enjoying the conversation. "As far as my ancient self goes, I would say that a man is unwavering from the age of fifteen.

"That's a little early, isn't it?"

"Well, look at young men on their first campaign."

"You have a point. Unwavering at the age of fifteen, even more so at nineteen or twenty, but at forty you slowly start to come undone. Well then, what happens at about the time of one's respected old age?" "When you get to fifty or sixty, you're really confused."

"And at seventy or eighty?"

"Then you start forgetting that you're confused." They all laughed.

It seemed as though the feasting would last until evening, but Katsutoyo's condition was deteriorating. The conversation changed, and Hideyoshi suggested that they move to another room. A physician was summoned. He immediately gave Katsutoyo some medicine, and everything was done to warm the room in which the talks would be held.

Once the four men were settled, Inuchiyo opened the proceedings. "I believe you have received a letter from Lord Nobutaka, who also counsels peace with Lord Katsuie," Inuchiyo began.

Hideyoshi nodded, apparently eager to listen. Inuchiyo reminded him of their common duty as retainers of Nobunaga, then frankly admitted that it was Hideyoshi who had truly discharged that duty completely. But after that, it appeared that he was out of harmony with the senior retainers, neglecting Lord Samboshi and working for his own advantage. Even if this were untrue, Inuchiyo felt that it was regrettable that Hideyoshi's actions were open to such an interpretation.

He suggested to Hideyoshi that he should look at the situation from the standpoints of Nobutaka and Katsuie. One of them had met with disappointment, while the other now felt ill at ease. Katsuie, who had been called "Jar-Bursting" and "the Demon," had been slow in moving and was a step behind Hideyoshi. Even at the conference in Kiyosu, had not Katsuie deferred to him?

So won't you end this quarrel?" Inuchiyo asked finally. "It's not really a problem for someone like me, but Lord Nobunaga's family is still embroiled in it. It's unbecoming that his surviving retainers should share the same bed and have different dreams."

The look in Hideyoshi's eyes seemed to change with Inuchiyo's words. Inuchiyo had laid the blame for the quarrel at Hideyoshi's door, and he steeled himself for a violent refutation. Unexpectedly, Hideyoshi nodded vigorously. "You're absolutely right," he said with a sigh. I'm really not to blame, and if I were to list my excuses, there would be a mountain of them. But when I look at the situation the way you've explained it, it would appear that

I've gone too far. And in that sense, I've been wrong. Inuchiyo, I leave it in your hands."

The negotiations were concluded on the spot. Hideyoshi had spoken so frankly that the envoys felt somewhat bemused, but Inuchiyo knew Hideyoshi well.

"I'm very grateful to you. Just hearing that has made it worth coming all the way here from the north," he said with great satisfaction.

Fuwa and Kanamori, however, did not show their joy unguardedly. Understanding the reason for their reticence, Inuchiyo went a step further.

"But Lord Hideyoshi, if you have some dissatisfaction you'd like to express about Lord Katsuie, I hope you'll express it frankly. I'm afraid these peace accords won't last long if you're concealing something. I will spare no effort to settle any problem, no matter what it might be."

"That's unnecessary," Hideyoshi said, laughing. "Am I the kind of person who keeps something bottled up inside and remains silent? I've said everything I want to say, to both Lord Nobutaka and Lord Katsuie. I've already sent a long letter that explains everything in detail."

"Yes, the letter was shown to us before we left Kitanosho. Lord Katsuie felt that everything you had written was reasonable and would not have to be brought up again during these peace talks."

"I understand that Lord Nobutaka suggested holding peace talks after reading my letter. Inuchiyo, I was being particularly careful not to upset Lord Katsuie before you came here."

"Well, you know, an elder statesman should be accorded respect in any situation. But I know I've rattled the horns of Demon Shibata from time to time."

"It's difficult to do anything without rattling those horns. Even when we were both young, those horns were strangely scaryespecially for me. In fact, the Demon's horns were even scarier than Nobunaga's moods."

"Did you hear that?" Inuchiyo laughed. "Did you hear that, gentlemen?" Both men were drawn into the laughter. To say such things in front of them was hardly speaking ill of their lord behind his back. Rather, they felt it was a shared sentiment they could not deny.

The human mind is a subtle thing. After that moment, Kanamori and Fuwa felt more at ease with Hideyoshi and relaxed their watchfulness of Inuchiyo.

"I think this is indeed a happy event," Kanamori said.

"We really couldn't be happier," Fuwa added. "More than that, I have to thank you for your generosity; we have completed our mission and saved our honor."

The next day, however, Kanamori still had misgivings and said to Fuwa, "If we go back to Echizen and report to our lord without Lord Hideyoshi's having put anything in writing, won't this agreement seem a bit unreliable?"

Before departing that day, the envoys once again went to the castle to meet with Hideyoshi, to pay their respects.

Several attendants and horses were waiting outside the main entrance, and the envoys thought that Hideyoshi must have been receiving guests. But in fact it was Hideyoshi himself who was going out. At that moment he stepped from the main citadel.

"I'm glad you came," he said. "Well, let's go inside." Turning around, Hideyoshi led

His guests to a room. "I had a really good laugh last night. Thanks to you, I slept late this morning."

And sure enough, he looked as though he had just gotten up and washed his face. That morning, however, each of the envoys looked somehow differentas though he had woken up inside a different shell.

You've been much too hospitable in the midst of all your work, but we are returning home today," Kanamori said.

Hideyoshi nodded. "Is that so? Well, please give my regards to Lord Katsuie on your return.

I'm sure Lord Katsuie will be delighted by the outcome of the peace talks."

My heart has been lifted just by your coming here as envoys. Now all those people would like to make us fight will be disappointed."

But won't you please take your brush and sign a solemn pledge, just to stop up the mouths of such people?" Kanamori entreated.

That was it. That was what had suddenly become essential for the envoys that morning. The peace talks had gone too smoothly, and they had become uneasy with words alone. Even if they reported to Katsuie what had transpired, without some sort of document it was nothing more than a verbal promise.

All right." The look on Hideyoshi's face showed full agreement. "I'll give one to you, and Ill expect one from Lord Katsuie. But this pledge isn't limited to Lord Katsuie and me. If the names of the other veteran generals are not attached as well, the document will be meaningless. I'll speak to Niwa and Ikeda immediately. That should be all right, shouldn't it?"

Hideyoshi's eyes met Inuchiyo's.

That should be fine," Inuchiyo answered clearly. His eyes read everything in Hideyoshi's hearthe had seen the future even before leaving Kitanosho. If Inuchiyo could be called a rogue, he was a likable one.

Hideyoshi stood up. "I was just about to leave myself. I'll go with you as far as the town."

They left the citadel together.

I haven't seen Lord Katsutoyo today. Has he already left?" Hideyoshi asked.

He is still unwell," Fuwa said. "We left him at his lodgings."

They mounted their horses and rode as far as the crossroads in the castle town.

Where are you off to today, Hideyoshi?" Inuchiyo asked.

I'm going to Kyoto, as usual."

Well, we'll separate here then. We still have to return to our lodgings and make our rations for the journey."

I'd like to look in on Lord Katsutoyo," Hideyoshi said, "to see if he's improved."

Inuchiyo, Kanamori, and Fuwa returned to Kitanosho on the tenth day of the same month, and immediately reported to Katsuie. Katsuie was overjoyed that his plan to establih a pretense of peace had been carried out more smoothly than he had anticipated.

Soon thereafter Katsuie held a secret meeting with his most trusted retainers and told

them, "We'll keep the peace through the winter. As soon as the snows melt, we'll butcher our old enemy with a single blow."

As soon as Katsuie had completed the first stage of his strategy by making peace with Hideyoshi, he dispatched another envoy, this time to Tokugawa Ieyasu. That was at the end of the Eleventh Month.

For the last half yearsince the Sixth MonthIeyasu had been absent from the center of activity. After the Honno Temple incident, the entire nation's attention had been focused on filling the void that had been created when the center had so suddenly collapsed. During that time, when no one had had a moment to look anywhere else, Ieyasu had taken his own independent road.

At the time of Nobunaga's murder, he had been on a sightseeing tour of Sakai and had barely been able to return to his own province with his life. Immediately ordering military preparations, he pushed as far as Narumi. But the motive behind that action was quite different from the one Katsuie had had for crossing over Yanagase from Echizen.

When Ieyasu heard that Hideyoshi had reached Yamazaki, he said, "Our province is entirely at peace." Then he withdrew his army to Hamamatsu.

Ieyasu had never considered himself to be in the same category as Nobunaga's surviving retainers. He was an ally of the Oda clan, while Katsuie and Hideyoshi were Nobunaga's generals. He wondered why he should take part in the struggle among the surviving retainers, why he should fight to pick over the ashes. And there was something far more substantial for him now. For some time he had watched eagerly for a chance at territorial expansion into Kai and Shinano, the two provinces that bordered his own. He had been unable to play his hand while Nobunaga was alive, and there would likely be no better opportunity than now.

The man who foolishly opened up a path toward that goal and who gave Ieyasu a splendid opportunity was Hojo Ujinao, the lord of Sagami, another of the men who took advantage of the Honno Temple incident. Thinking that the time was ripe, a huge Hojo army of fifty thousand men crossed into the former Takeda domain of Kai. It was a large-scale invasion, executed almost as though Ujinao had simply taken a brush and drawn a line across a map, taking possession of what he thought he could.

That action gave Ieyasu a splendid reason to dispatch troops. The force he raised, however, consisted of only eight thousand men. The three-thousand-man vanguard checked a Hojo force of well over ten thousand men before it joined Ieyasu's main force. The war lasted more than ten days. Finally, the Hojo army could do nothing more than make a last stand oras Ieyasu had hoped for and as it finally didsue for peace.

"Joshu will be handed to the Hojo, while the two provinces of Kai and Shinano will be awarded to the Tokugawa clan."

That was the agreement to which they came, and it was just as Ieyasu had intended.

* * *

Their packhorses and traveling attire covered with the snow of the northern provinces, Shibata Katsuie's envoys to Kai arrived on the eleventh day of the Twelfth Month. They were first asked to rest in the guest quarters in Kofu. Their party was a large one and was led by two senior Shibata retainers, Shukuya Shichizaemon and Asami Dosei.

For two days they were more or less entertained. Otherwise, however, it seemed that they were being put off.

Ishikawa Kazumasa apologized profusely, telling the party that Ieyasu was still busy with military affairs.

The envoys grumbled at the coolness of their reception. In response to the many gifts of friendship from the Shibata clan, the Tokugawa retainers had simply received a list of the gifts and had given no other recognition at all. On their third day, they were granted an audience with Ieyasu.

It was the middle of a severe winter. Nevertheless, Ieyasu was sitting in a large room without even a hint of a warming fire. He did not look to be a man who had been afflicted by hardships and reverses since his youth. The flesh of his cheeks was plump. His large earlobes gave a certain weight to his entire body, like the rings of an iron teakettle and caused the visitors to wonder if the man could really be a great general still only forty years old

If Kanamori had come as an envoy, he would have quickly seen that the phrase "unwavering at the age of forty" applied absolutely to this man.

'Thank you for coming all this way with so many gifts of friendship. Is Lord Katsuie in good health?"

He spoke in an extremely dignified manner, and his voice overwhelmed the others, even though it was soft. His retainers stared at the two envoys, both of whom felt like the representatives of a dependent clan bringing tribute. To relate the message from their lord now would be mortifying. But there was nothing else they could do.

'Lord Katsuie congratulates you on your conquest of the provinces of Kai and Shinano. As a token of his congratulations, he sends these gifts to you."

Lord Katsuie has sent you here to give me his congratulations at a time when we've been out of contact for so long? My goodness, how polite."

So the envoys set out on the road home with a truly bad aftertaste in their mouths. Ieyasu had not given them any message for Katsuie. It was going to be difficult reporting to Katsuie that Ieyasu had not said a kind word about him, quite apart from reporting the cold treatment they themselves had received.

Particularly galling was the fact that Ieyasu had written no reply to the warm letter Katsuie had sent. In short, it was not simply that their mission had ended in complete failure, but Katsuie seemed to have humbled himself in front of Ieyasu far more than was necessary for his own ends.

The two envoys discussed the situation with some anxiety. Naturally their enemy, Hideyoshi, featured in their somber thoughts, but so did their long-standing foes, the Uesugi. If, added to those dangers, there were the threat of discord between the Shibata and Tokugawa clans They could only pray that that would not come to pass.

But the speed of change always outruns the imaginary fears of such timid people. At about the time the envoys returned to Kitanosho, the promises made the month before were broken, and just before the year's end, Hideyoshi began to move against northern Omi. At the same time, for unknown reasons Ieyasu suddenly withdrew to Hamamatsu.

It had been about ten days since Inuchiyo had returned to Kitanosho. Katsuie's stepson, Katsutoyo, who had been forced to stay at Takaradera Castle because of illness, had finally recovered and went to take his leave of his host.

"I shall never forget your kindness," Katsutoyo said to Hideyoshi.

Hideyoshi accompanied Katsutoyo as far as Kyoto and took pains to ensure that his return journey to Nagahama Castle was comfortable.

Katsutoyo ranked with the highest in the Shibata clan, but he was shunned by Katsuie and looked down upon by the rest of the clan. Hideyoshi's kind treatment had worked a change in Katsutoyo's attitude to his stepfather's enemy.

For nearly half a month after Hideyoshi had seen off Inuchiyo and then Katsutoyo, he did not seem to be occupying himself with castle construction or events in Kyoto. Rather he turned his attention to some unseen arena.

At the beginning of the Twelfth Month, Hikoemonwho had been sent to Kiyosu returned to Hideyoshi's headquarters. With that one move, Hideyoshi departed from the passive and patient period of rest he had gone through since the Kiyosu conference, and for the first time slapped down the stone on the go board of national politics, signaling a return to the active mode.

Hikoemon had gone to Kiyosu to persuade Nobuo that his brother Nobutaka's secret maneuvers were more and more threatening and that Katsuie's military preparations were at present quite clear. Nobutaka had not moved Lord Samboshi to Azuchi, in breach of the treaty signed after the Kiyosu conference, but had interned him at his own castle in Gifu. That amounted to kidnapping the legitimate Oda heir.

Hideyoshi's petition went on to explain that in order to bring the affair to an end it would be necessary to strike at Katsuiethe ringleader of the plot and the cause of the instabilitywhile the Shibata were unable to move because of the snow.

Nobuo had been disaffected from the very beginning, and it was obvious that he disliked Katsuie. Certainly he did not believe he could rely on Hideyoshi for his future, but the latter was a far better choice than Katsuie. So there was no reason for him to deny Hideyoshi's petition.

"Lord Nobuo was really quite enthusiastic," Hikoemon reported. "He said that if you, my lord, would personally take part in a campaign against Gifu, he himself would join you. Rather than granting us the petition, he seemed to be actively encouraging us."

"He was enthusiastic? Really, I can almost see him."

Hideyoshi pictured the pitiful scene to himself. Here was the noble sire of an illustrious house but also a man whose character made him difficult to save.

Nevertheless, it was a piece of good luck. Before Nobunaga's death, Hideyoshi had never been the kind of man to proclaim his own aspirations or grand ideas, but after Nobunaga diedand especially after the battle at Yamazakihe had become aware of the real possibility that he was destined to rule the nation. He no longer concealed either his self-confidence or his pride.

And there was another remarkable change. A man who aims at becoming the ruler of the nation is usually accused of wanting to expand his own power, but recently people were beginning to treat Hideyoshi as Nobunaga's natural successor.

Suddenly, very suddenly, a small army seemed to come together at the front gate of

the Sokoku Temple. The soldiers arrived from the west, south, and north to gather under the standard of the golden gourds, until a fair-sized force had assembled in the center of Kyoto.

It was the seventh day of the Twelfth Month. The morning sun shone down through a dry, sweeping wind.

The people had no idea what was going on. The great funeral service held during the Tenth Month had been conducted with magnificence and pomp. It was easy for the people to be caught up in their own petty judgments. Their expressions showed that they had fooled themselves into believing that there would not be another war for the present.

Lord Hideyoshi himself is riding at the very front. The Tsutsui forces are here, and so is Lord Niwa's army."

But the voices at the side of the road were puzzled about the destination of this expedition. The meandering line of armor and helmets passed very quickly through Keage and joined the forces waiting at Yabase. The warships ferrying troops split the white waves in close formation, heading northeast, while the army taking the land route camped for three nights at Azuchi, arriving at Sawayama Castle on the tenth.

On the thirteenth Hosokawa Fujitaka and his son, Tadaoki, arrived from Tamba and immediately requested an audience with Hideyoshi.

Im glad you've come," Hideyoshi said warmly. "I imagine you were troubled a good bit by the snow."

Considering the situation they were in, Fujitaka and his son must have spent the last six months feeling as though they were walking on thin ice. Mitsuhide and Fujitaka had been steadfast friends long before either had served Nobunaga. Tadaoki's wife was Mitsuhides daughter. Beyond that, there were many other bonds between the retainers of the two clans. For those reasons alone, Mitsuhide had been sure that Fujitaka and his son would side with him in his rebellion.

But Fujitaka had not joined him. If he had allowed himself to be swayed by his own personal feelings, his clan would probably have been destroyed with the Akechi. Certainly he must have felt as though he had been balancing eggs one on top of another. To have with prudence outwardly and avoided danger within must have been painful beyond words. He had saved Tadaoki's wife, but his clemency had created internal strife within his clan.

By now Hideyoshi had absolved him and recognized the loyalty shown by the Hosokawa. Thus they were receiving Hideyoshi's hospitality. As Hideyoshi looked at Fujitaka, he saw that his sidelocks had turned the color of frost over the last half year. Ah, this man is a master, Hideyoshi thought, and at the same time recognized that for a man to take a stand in the general trend of things and make no mistakes, he would have to whittle away at his flesh and the blackness of his hair. In spite of himself, he felt sorry for Fujitaka every time he looked at him.

The drum is being beaten from over the lake and from the castle town as well, and you appear to be ready to attack. I hope you will honor us by placing my son in the vanguard," Fujitaka began.

Do you mean the siege of Nagahama?" replied Hideyoshi. He seemed to be speaking off the point, but then responded in a different vein. "We're attacking from both land and sea. But you know, the real focus of the attack is inside the castle, not outside. I'm sure Katsutoyo's retainers will come here this evening."

As Fujitaka considered Hideyoshi's words, he meditated once again on the old saying "He who rests his men well will be able to employ them to desperate efforts."

As Fujitaka's son looked at Hideyoshi, he also remembered something. When the Hosokawa clan's fate had stood at a great crossroads, and its retainers had all met to deliberate a course of action, Fujitaka had spoken and directly indicated the position to take: "In this generation, I have seen only two truly uncommon men: one of them is Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu, the other is unmistakably Lord Hideyoshi."

Recalling those words now, the young man could only wonder if they were true. Was this what his father called an uncommon man? Was Hideyoshi really one of the two truly great generals of his generation?

When they had withdrawn to their quarters, Tadaoki expressed his doubts.

"I guess you don't understand," Fujitaka mumbled in response. "You're still lacking in experience." Aware of Tadaoki's dissatisfied look, he guessed what was on his son's mind and said, "The closer you get to a large mountain, the less its great size can be perceived. When you start to climb, you will not understand its size at all. When you listen and then compare everyone's comments, you can understand that most men will speak without having seen the entire mountain and, having seen only one peak or valley, will imagine they have seen everything. But they'll really be doing nothing more than making judgments on the whole while having seen only one part."

Tadaoki's mind was left with its former doubts, despite the lesson he had received. He knew, however, that his father had experienced far more of the world than he had, and so he could do nothing more than accept what his father was saying.

Surprisingly enough, two days after their arrival, Nagahama Castle passed into Hideyoshi's hands without injury to a single soldier. It had been exactly as Hideyoshi had predicted to Fujitaka and his son: "The castle will be captured from within."

The envoys were three of Shibata Katsutoyo's senior retainers. They brought a written pledge in which Katsutoyo and all of his retainers swore to obey and serve Hideyoshi.

"They have acted with discrimination," Hideyoshi said with apparent satisfaction. According to the terms of the pledge, the castle's territory would remain the same as before, and Katsutoyo would be allowed to continue as its possessor.

When Hideyoshi gave up the castle, people commented on how quickly he had resigned himself to the loss of such a strategic location. Retaking the castle had been executed as easily as passing something from the left hand to the right.

But even if Katsutoyo had asked for reinforcements from Echizen, they could not have come because of the heavy snows. In addition, Katsuie would only have treated him harshly, just as he had done before. When Katsutoyo had fallen ill on his mission to Hideyoshi, Katsuie had made his anger plain to the whole clan.

"To take advantage of Hideyoshi's hospitality under the pretense of illness, and then to return after spending several days as his guestthat man is a fool beyond words."

Reports of Katsuie's harsh words eventually reached Katsutoyo.

Now, surrounded by Hideyoshi's army, Nagahama Castle was isolated, and Katsutoyo had nowhere to turn.

His senior retainers, who had already guessed his intentions, announced, "Those retainers who have family in Echizen should go back. Those who feel like staying here with Katsutoyo and aligning themselves with Lord Hideyoshi may stay. His Lordship understands, however, that many of you may feel it would be difficult to remain true to the Way of the Samurai by leaving the Shibata clan and turning your back on Lord Katsuie. Those who feel that way may withdraw without hesitation."

For a moment the atmosphere was filled with tension. The men simply hung their heads in bitterness, and there were few objections. That night sake cups were raised in an honorable separation of lord and retainers, but fewer than one out of ten returned to Echizen.

In this way Katsutoyo cut his ties with his stepfather and allied himself with Hideyoshi. From that time on he was officially under Hideyoshi's command, but it had only a matter of form. Long before these events, Katsutoyo's heart had already been like a bird being fed in Hideyoshi's cage.

At any rate, the seizure of Nagahama was now complete. To Hideyoshi, however, it had been nothing more than a passing event on the way to GifuNobutaka's main castle,.

The pass over Fuwa was famous as a place that was difficult to cross in winter, and conditions on the plain of Sekigahara were especially severe.

From the eighteenth to the twenty-eighth day of the Twelfth Month, Hideyoshi's army marched across Sekigahara. The army was divided into corps, and those corps were further broken down into divisions: packhorses, gunners, spearmen, mounted warriors, and foot soldiers. Defying the snow and mud, they pushed on. It took Hideyoshi's force of about thirty thousand soldiers two days to cross into Mino.

The main camp was set up at Ogaki. From there, Hideyoshi attacked and took all of the smaller castles in the area. This was immediately reported to Nobutaka, who spent several days in complete confusion. He hardly knew what strategy to take, much less how to fight a defensive battle.

Nobutaka had thought only of grandiose schemes but had had no idea how to accomplish them. Until then he had allied himself to men like Katsuie and Takigawa and submitted schemes for attacking Hideyoshi, but he had never expected to be attacked by him.

At his wits' end, Nobutaka left his fate to the discretion of his senior retainers. But after arriving at the current pass, they had nothing left that could be called "discretion."

There was nothing the senior retainers could do but kowtow at Hideyoshi's camp just Katsutoyo's retainers had done. Nobutaka's mother was sent as a hostage, and his senior retainers had to send their own mothers as well.

Niwa begged Hideyoshi to spare Nobutaka's life. Hideyoshi, as might be expected, pardoned him. Granting them peace for the time, he smiled at Nobutaka's senior retainers and asked, "Has Lord Nobutaka come to his senses? It will be a blessing if he has."

The hostages were immediately sent to Azuchi. Immediately thereafter Samboshi, who had been kept at Gifu, was turned over to Hideyoshi and moved to Azuchi as well.

After that, Nobuo was put in charge of the young lord. Having delivered that trust, Hideyoshi made a triumphal return to Takaradera Castle. New Year's Eve was celebrated two days after his return. Then came the first day of the eleventh year of Tensho. From morning on, sunshine glittered on the snow that had recently fallen on the trees just planted on the grounds of the renovated castle.

The fragrance of the New Year's rice cakes drifted through the grounds, and the sound of the drum reverberated through the corridors for more than half a day. But at noon an announcement rang out from the main citadel: "Lord Hideyoshi is going to Himeji!"

Hideyoshi arrived at Himeji around midnight on New Year's Day. Greeted by the flames of bonfires, he quickly entered the castle. The greatest joy, however, was not Hideyoshi's, but his people's, as they watched the flourish of the grand spectacle: all his retainers and their families were assembled at the main gate of the castle to welcome him.

Dismounting, he handed the reins to an attendant and, for a moment, looked up at the keep. In the Sixth Month of the previous summer, just before his forced march to Yamazaki and his great victory to avenge Nobunaga, he had stood at the same gate and wondered whether he would come back alive.

His last orders to his retainers had been clear: "If you hear that I have been defeated, kill my entire family and burn the castle to the ground."

Now he was back in Himeji Castle, having arrived exactly at midnight on New Year's Day. If he had faltered for a moment and wasted time by thinking about his wife and mother in Nagahama, he would have been unable to fight with the desperation of a man who expects to meet his death in battle. He would have been pressed by the power of the Mori in the west and watched the Akechi grow stronger in the east.

In the case of both the individual and the entire country, the border between rising and falling is always a wager based on life or deathlife in the midst of death, death in the midst of life.

Hideyoshi, however, had not returned to rest. As soon as he entered the main citadel, and even before changing from his traveling clothes, he met with the officials of the castle. He listened attentively to the report on subsequent events in the west and the situation in his various estates.

It was the second half of the Hour of the Ratmidnight. Although unconcerned about their own exhaustion, Hideyoshi's retainers were worried that perhaps the strain might begin to affect their lord's health.

"Your honored mother and Lady Nene have been waiting for you since this evening. Why don't you go inside and show them how well you are?" Hideyoshi's brother-in-law Miyoshi suggested. As he walked on inside, he found his mother, wife, nieces, and sisters-in-law waiting for him. Though they had not slept at all, they greeted him in a line, kneeling with their hands to the floor. Hideyoshi passed by each of their bowed heads with sparkling eyes and a smile. Finally he stood before his old mother and said, "I have a moment of leisure this New Year's and have returned to be with you for a little while."

While he was paying his respects to his mother, Hideyoshi looked the image of what she so often called him"that boy."

From within a large white silk hood, his mother's face beamed with a joy beyond words. "The road you have chosen was filled with extraordinary hardships," she said.

And the last year in particular was not an easy one. But you endured everything."

It's been colder this winter than any other year I can remember," Hideyoshi said, but you look very well, Mother."

"They say that age is something that slips up on you, and somehow I've already gone past my seventieth year. I've lived a long lifemuch longer than I expected. Never did I think I would live this long."

No, no. You have to live until you're a hundred. As you can see, I'm still a boy."

You're going to be forty-six this New Year's," the old lady said with a laugh. "How can you say you're still a boy?"

But, Mother, aren't you the one who's always calling me 'that boy' from morning to night?

"That's just a habit, you know."

Well, I hope you'll always call me that. To confess the truth, even though I keep getting older, the development of my mind just can't keep up with the years. More than that, Mother, if you weren't here I'd lose my greatest motivation and might stop growing altogether.

Miyoshi, who had appeared behind him, saw that Hideyoshi was still there, engrossed in conversation with his mother. Surprised, he said, "Haven't you taken off your traveling clothes yet, my lord?"

Ah, Miyoshi. Why don't you sit down?"

I'd like to, but why don't you take a bath first?"

Yes, you're right. Lead on, Nene."

Hideyoshi was surprised at the cock's crow. He had spent most of the night talking and had only slept for a short while. At dawn, Hideyoshi put on a ceremonial hat and kimono and went to pray at the castle shrine. He then ate rice cakes and soup in Nene's room. After that he went to the main citadel. Today, the second day of the new year, the line of people who had come up to the castle to wish him New Year's greetings seemed endless.

Hideyoshi greeted each one of them, offering each a cup of sake. The well-wishers then walked by any number of groups of preceding visitors, their faces bright and cheerful Passing through the main and west citadels, one could see that every room was filled with guestshere was a group chanting Noh verses, there was a group reciting poetry. Even after noon, more well-wishers came before Hideyoshi.

Hideyoshi took care of all business in Himeji until the fifth, and that evening he startled his retainers by announcing that he would be leaving for Kyoto on the following day. They rushed to get things ready in time. They had thought that he would be staying in Himeji until the middle of the month, and indeed until noon Hideyoshi had showed no inclination to leave at all.

It was only much later that people understood the motives behind his actions. Hideyoshi moved quickly and never lost an opportunity.

Seki Morinobu commanded Kameyama Castle in Ise. Although nominally one of Nobutaka's retainers, he was now on friendly terms with Hideyoshi. During the holidays,

Seki came to Himeji in secret to offer his congratulations for the New Year.

As he was congratulating Hideyoshi, a messenger arrived from Ise. Seki's castle had been seized by Nobutaka's leading supporter, Takigawa Kazumasu.

Hideyoshi left Himeji without a moment's delay. He reached Takaradera Castle that evening, entered Kyoto on the seventh, arrived at Azuchi on the following day, and had an audience with the three-year-old Samboshi on the ninth.

"I have just now asked Lord Samboshi for permission to subdue Takigawa Kazumasu," Hideyoshi said to Seki and the other lords as he walked into the hall, almost as if he had kicked a ball into their midst. "Katsuie is behind this. So what we have to do is conquer Ise before Katsuie's soldiers are able to move."

Hideyoshi issued a proclamation from Azuchi. It was circulated widely in his domains, as well as to the generals in those areas friendly to him, and called for all just warriors to gather at Azuchi. How pitiful for the creator of the blind strategy that inspired that proclamation. There in Kitanosho, married to the beautiful Lady Oichi and surrounded by deep snow, Shibata Katsuie waited vainly for nature to take its course.

If only the spring sun would come and melt the snow. But the snow walls that had seemed to him an impenetrable defense were crumbling even before the advent of spring.

Katsuie was shaken by blow after blow: the fall of Gifu Castle, the revolt in Nagahama, Nobutaka's surrender. And now Hideyoshi was going to attack Ise. Katsuie felt he could neither leave nor sit still. But the snow on his borders was as deep as on the mountain passes of Szechuan. Neither soldiers nor military supplies would be able to cross them.

He had no need to worry about an attack from Hideyoshi. He would march forward the day that the snow melted, but who could tell when that would be? The snow seemed to have become a protective wall for the enemy.

Kazumasu is a veteran, too, Katsuie thought, but taking the little castles at Kameyama and Mine was a careless movement of soldiers without much regard for timing. That was stupid. Katsuie was furious.

Although his own strategy was riddled with faults, he criticized the actions of Takigawa Kazumasu, who had attacked too early.

But even if Kazumasu had abided by Katsuie's plans and waited for the snows to melt, Hideyoshiwho had already seen through the enemy's intentionswould not have spared them the time. In a word, Hideyoshi had outwitted Katsuie. He had seen what was in Katsuie's heart from the time the man had sent envoys for peace talks.

Katsuie was not simply going to take all that sitting down. Twice he sent out messengers: first to the ex-shogun Yoshiaki, asking him to encourage the Mori to attack from the western provinces; then to Tokugawa Ieyasu.

But on the eighteenth day of the First Month, Ieyasu, for reasons unknown, met secretly with Nobunaga's eldest son, Nobuo. Ieyasu had been professing strict neutrality, so what was his plan now? And why was a man of such cunning meeting with one entirely lacking in that quality?

Ieyasu had invited Nobuo, who was timidly being swept along in the violent tide of the times, to his own private quarters. There he favored that frail man with entertainment

And secret conversations. Ieyasu treated Nobuo exactly as an adult would treat a child, and whatever conclusions the two reached remained secret. At any rate, Nobuo returned to Kiyosu delighted. His appearance was that of a commoner very pleased with himself, and there was also something of a guilty conscience about him. He seemed extremely hesitant to look Hideyoshi in the eye.

And where was Hideyoshi on the eighteenth day of the First Month? What was he doing? Accompanied by only a few trusted retainers, he had wound around the northern part of Lake Biwa, stealthily traversing the mountainous area on the border of Omi and Echizen.

As Hideyoshi toured the mountain villages and high ground, which were still under deep snow, he pointed out strategic places with his bamboo staff and gave out orders as he walked.

"Is that Mount Tenjin? Build some ramparts there, too. And construct some right away on that mountain over there as well."

On the seventh day of the Second Month, Hideyoshi sent a letter from Kyoto adressed to the Uesugi, proposing an alliance.

The reason was not complicated. The Shibata and the Uesugi had continually fought bloody battles over a number of years, now taking land from one another, now losing it. It was likely that Katsuie would now be thinking about mending those old grudges so that he could concentrate all of his strength on the confrontation with Hideyoshi. But his stubbornness and pride made it unlikely that he would succeed in carrying off so subtle a strategy.

Two days after sending the letter to the Uesugi in the north, Hideyoshi announced his army's departure for Ise. He divided his forces into three corps, which advanced along three different routes.

With war cries, under clouds of banners and drums, their march shook the mountains and ridges. All three armies crossed the central mountain range of Omi and Ise and regrouped in the areas of Kuwana and Nagashima. That was where Takigawa Kazumasu was to be found.

"First let's see what battle formation Hideyoshi chooses," Kazumasu said when he heard that the enemy was approaching. He was fully confident of his own ability.

It was a matter of timing, and he had misjudged the moment to begin hostilities. The treaty between Katsuie, Nobutaka, and Kazumasu had been kept secret even from their own advisers, but now the fuse had been blindly ignited because Kazumasu had been so eager for an opportunity. Dispatches were sent to Gifu and Echizen. Leaving two thousand soldiers in Nagashima Castle, Kazumasu himself went to Kuwana Castle.

The castle was protected on one side by the sea and on the other by the hills around the castle town, and it was easier to defend than Nagashima. Even so, Kazumasu's strategy was not simply to retreat to this narrow strip of land. Hideyoshi would have to divide his sixty-thousand-man army to attack Gifu, Nagashima, and Kuwana, as well as the various other castles in the area, so even if his main army attacked, it would not be with overwhelming strength.

On the one hand, he had heard that the enemy army was impressive in its numbers, but on the other, he knew that its soldiers would be taking the roads over the peaks of the

Owari-Kai mountain range. It was obvious that the supply train carrying the munitions and provisions would be very long.

With that in mind, Kazumasu believed that destroying Hideyoshi would be no difficult task at all. Draw him in, attack mercilessly, watch for the opportunity to get Nobutaka on his feet again, unite with the soldiers in Gifu, and destroy Nagahama.

Contrary to Kazumasu's expectations, Hideyoshi had not bothered to take the small castles, but had decided to attack the enemy's main stronghold. At that moment, urgent messages began to come to Hideyoshi from Nagahama, Sawayama, and Azuchi. The situation was not an easy one; the clouds and surging tides that covered the world changed with every passing day.

The first dispatch read: "The vanguard of Echizen has passed through Yanagase. A part of it will soon be invading northern Omi."

The next courier bore a similar message: "Katsuie's patience has finally broken. Instead of waiting for the thaw, he has engaged twenty or thirty thousand coolies to clear the snow from the road."

Yet a third messenger reported how critical the situation was: "It is probable that the Shibata forces left Kitanosho around the second day of the Third Month. By the fifth, the vanguard had advanced as far as Yanagase in Omi. By the seventh, one division was threatening our positions on Mount Tenjin, while other divisions set fire to the villages of Imaichi, Yogo, and Sakaguchi. The main army of twenty thousand men under the command of Shibata Katsuie and Maeda Inuchiyo is steadily advancing southward."

"Strike camp immediately," Hideyoshi ordered. And then, "On to northern Omi."

Leaving the Ise campaign to Nobuo and Ujisato, Hideyoshi turned his army toward Omi. On the sixteenth he reached Nagahama, and on the seventeenth his troops were snaking their way along the lakeside road that led to northern Omi. He himself rode on horseback. The spring breeze played on his face as he rode beneath the commander's standard of the golden gourds.

At the border of Omi in the mountainous area of Yanagase, the fresh snow lay in pleats and folds. The wind blowing over the area and swooping down on the lake from the north was still cold enough to redden the noses of the warriors. At dusk the army divided to take up positions. The soldiers could almost smell the enemy. And yet not a single column of smoke from an enemy campfire, or a single enemy soldier, could be seen.

But the officers pointed out the enemy positions to their men. "There are Shibata units along the base of Mount Tenjin and in the area of Tsubakizaka. There is also a large division of the enemy stationed in the areas of Kinomoto, Imaichi, and Sakaguchi, so stay on your guard, even when you sleep."

But the white mist trailed into camp, ushering in an evening so peaceful it could hardly be imagined that the world was at war.

Suddenly, sporadic gunfire was heard in the distanceall from Hideyoshi's side. No a single shot was returned throughout the night. Was the enemy asleep?

At dawn the gunners who had been sent to test out the enemy's front line pulled back. Hideyoshi ordered the commanders of the musket corps to report to his headquarters, where he listened carefully to their reports of the enemy positions.

"Have you seen any trace of Sassa Narimasa's troops?" Hideyoshi asked.

Hideyoshi wanted to be sure, but all three commanders answered in the same way.

The banners of Sassa Narimasa are nowhere to be seen."

Hideyoshi nodded, acknowledging that it might be true. Even if Katsuie had come, he would be unable to do so without anxiety because of the Uesugi at his rear. Hideyoshi could imagine that Sassa had been left behind for precisely that reason.

The order to eat breakfast was issued. The rations carried during a campaign were unpolished rice balls packed with bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves. Hideyoshi talked his pages while chewing his rice noisily. Before he had eaten half of it, the others had finished.

Don't you chew your food?" he asked.

Aren't you just a slow eater, my lord?" the pages answered. "It's our custom to eat quickly and shit quickly."

'That's a good way to be," Hideyoshi replied. "Shitting quickly is good, I guess, but you all should try to eat like Sakichi."

The pages looked at Sakichi. Like Hideyoshi, Sakichi had eaten only half of his rice and was chewing it as carefully as an old lady.

I'll tell you why," Hideyoshi continued. "It's all right to eat quickly on days when there's going to be a fight, but it's different when you're besieged in a castle and there are limited provisions that you have to stretch out for the day. At that time you'll be able to see the wisdom of eating slowly both in the well-being of the castle and in your own health. Also, when you're deep in the mountains and plan to hold out for a long time out provisions, you may have to chew on anythingroots or leavesjust to satisfy stomach. Chewing well is an everyday matter, and if you don't get into the habit you wont be able to do it voluntarily when the time comes." Suddenly getting up from his camp stool, he waved them along. "Come on. Let's go climb Mount Fumuro."

Mount Fumuro is one of a cluster of mountains at the northern edge of two lakesthe smaller Lake Yogo and the larger Lake Biwa. From the village of Fumuro at its foot to its summit is a height of almost eight hundred meters and a walking distance of over two leagues. If the traveler wanted to climb its steep slope, he would have to plan on taking at half a day.

He's leaving!"

Where's he going so suddenly?"

The warriors guarding Hideyoshi noticed the retreating figures of the pages and ran after them. They could see Hideyoshi happily walking on ahead, grasping a bamboo staff, looking for all the world as if he were off on a hawking expedition.

Are you going to climb the mountain, my lord?"

Hideyoshi pointed halfway up the slope with his staff. Right. Up to about there."

When they had climbed about a third of the way up the mountain, they came to an area of level ground. Hideyoshi stood looking around, as the wind cooled the sweat on his forehead. From his position he had a bird's-eye view of the area from Yanagase to lower Yogo. The road to the northern provinces, which wound its way through the mountains and connected several villages, looked like a single ribbon.

Which one is Mount Nakao?"

"That's it over there."

Hideyoshi looked in the direction in which the warrior was pointing. That was the enemy's main camp. A large number of banners followed the lines of the mountain and continued down to its base. There a single army corps could be recognized. But if one looked further, one could see that the banners belonging to the forces of the north filled the mountains in the distance and occupied the strategic areas on peaks closer at hand and all along the road. It was just as though some military expert had made that piece of heaven and earth his base and was trying his hand at a tremendous expansion of his formation. There were no cracks or spaces in the subtlety of the arrangement or in the strategy of the positioning of troops. The grandeur with which they showed themselves ready to swallow the enemy was beyond words.

Hideyoshi silently looked out over the scene. He then looked back toward Katsuie's main camp on Mount Nakao and gazed fixedly at it for a long time.

Looking closely, he could see a group of men working like ants on the southern face of the main camp area on Mount Nakao. And not in just one or two places. He could detect activity in all of the slightly elevated locations.

"Well, it looks like Katsuie intends to make this a long campaign."

Hideyoshi had the answer. The enemy was building fortifications at the southern end of the main camp. The entire battle array, which spread out like a fan from the central army, had been positioned with great care. It would make a steady, carefully controlled advance. There was no sign of preparations for a surprise attack.

Hideyoshi could read the enemy's plan. In a word, Katsuie intended to keep him pinned down here to give his allies in Ise and Mino the time to prepare for a combined offensive from the front and rear.

"Let's go back," Hideyoshi said, and started off. "Isn't there another way down?"

"Yes, my lord," a page answered proudly.

They came to an allied camp just between Mount Tenjin and Ikenohara. From the banners, they knew it was Hosokawa Tadaoki's post.

"I'm thirsty," Hideyoshi said after presenting himself at the gate.

Tadaoki and his retainers thought that Hideyoshi was conducting a surprise inspection.

"No," Hideyoshi explained, "I'm just on my way back from Mount Fumuro. But since I'm here" As Hideyoshi stood before Tadaoki, he drank some water and gave orders: "Strike camp immediately and go home. Then take all of the warships docked at Miyazu in Tango and attack the enemy coast."

Hideyoshi had conceived of the idea of a navy when he was climbing the mountain. The plan did not seem to have anything to do with what he was involved with at the time, but that kind of discrepancy was, perhaps, peculiar to his way of thinking. His thought processes were not limited by what he saw in front of him.

After half a day of military observations, Hideyoshi had almost completely determined his strategy. That night he summoned all of the generals to his headquarters and told them what he was going to do: because the enemy was preparing for extended hostilities, Hideyoshi's forces would also construct a number of ramparts and prepare for protracted hostilities.

The construction of a chain of fortresses was begun. The engineering was on a grand scalegeared to encourage morale. Hideyoshi's decision to begin building right in front the enemy, at a time when a decisive battle seemed imminent, could be called either reckless or courageous. It could easily have lost him the war. But he was willing to take that chance in order to connect himself to the people of the province.

The fighting style of Nobunaga had been characterized by an irresistible force; it was said that "where Nobunaga advances, the grasses and trees wither." But Hideyoshi's fighting style was different. Where he advanced, where he made his camp, he naturally drew people to him. Winning over the local people was an important matter to attend to before ever trying to defeat the enemy.

Strict military discipline is vital, but even on days when blood seemed to flow, there was something of a spring breeze wherever Hideyoshi set up his camp stool. Someone even wrote: "Where Hideyoshi lives, the spring wind blows."

The lines of fortresses were to run through two areas. The first ran from Kitayama in Nakanogo, along the route to the northern provinces through Mount Higashino, Mount Dangi, and Mount Shinmei; the second went along Mount Iwasaki, Mount Okami, Shizugatake, Mount Tagami, and Kinomoto. Such a huge undertaking would require tens of thousands of laborers.

Hideyoshi recruited the men from the province of Nagahama. He had signposts advertising the work raised in the areas especially devastated by war. The mountains were filled with refugees. Lumber was cut, roads were opened, fortifications were constructed everywhere, and it was easy to believe that a line of fortresses would spring up overnight. But the construction work was not so easy. A single fort required a watchtower and barracks, and also moats and ramparts. Three wooden palisades were set up, while huge rocks and trees were stockpiled directly above the road that the enemy would most likely take to attack.

Both a trench and a palisade connected the area between Mount Higashino and Mount Dangi, which was the zone most likely to be used as the battlefield. The excavation for this alone was daunting, but the necessary work was completed in only twenty days. Women and children participated in the effort.

The Shibata conducted night raids and played petty tricks and were able to impede progress, but seeming to realize that they were having no real success against men who were constantly prepared, they became as quiet as the mountain itself.

It was almost uncanny. Why didn't they just make their move? But Hideyoshi understood. His constant thoughtthat his adversary was a strong old veteran and not an easy markwas reflected in Katsuie's mind as well. But there were other important reasons.

Katsuie's military preparations were already complete, but he felt that the time was not yet ripe to mobilize the allies he held in reserve.

Those allies were, of course, the forces of Nobutaka in Gifu. Once Nobutaka was able to move, Takigawa Kazumasu would also be able to attack from Kuwana Castle. Then, for the first time, Katsuie's plans could be transformed into an effective strategy.

Katsuie knew that if it were not done in that way, victory would not easily be achieved. That was how he had secretly and quite anxiously calculated the situation from

the very beginning. The calculation itself was based on the comparative strengths of Hideyoshi's provinces and his own.

At that time, given Hideyoshi's sudden popularity and power after the Battle of Yamazaki, the allies he could count on were the provinces of Harima, Tajima, Settsu, Tango, Yamato, and a few others, for a total a military strength of sixty-seven thousand soldiers. If the soldiers of Owari, Ise, Iga, and Bizen were added to that, the total would be about one hundred thousand.

Katsuie could bring together the main strength of Echizen, Noto, Oyama, Ono, Matsuto, and Toyama. That would mean a force of perhaps no more than forty-five thousand men. If, however, he added Nobutaka's Mino and Ise and Kazumasu's provincial strength, he would have a military force of close to sixty-two thousand men, a number with which he could almost compete with the enemy.


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