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A Bowl of Tea

The man appeared to be a traveling monk, but walked with the gait of a fighting man. Right now he was climbing the Shufukuji road.

'Where are you going!" the Shibata guard challenged.

'It's me," the priest replied, pushing back his monk's hood.

The sentries signaled to the palisade behind them. At the wooden gate was huddled yet another party of men. The monk approached the officer and said a few words. There appeared to be some confusion for a few moments, but then the officer himself led out a horse and handed the priest the reins.

Mount Yukiichi was the encampment of Sakuma Genba and his younger brother, Yasumasa. The man dressed as a priest was Mizuno Shinroku, a retainer of Yasumasa. He had been entrusted with a secret message, and was now kneeling in front of his lord, inside his headquarters.

How did it go? Good or bad news?" Yasumasa asked impatiently.

Everything is arranged," Shinroku replied.

Were you able to meet him? Did everything go well?"

The enemy already has strict lookouts, but I was able to meet with Lord Shogen."

What are his intentions?"

I have them written down in a letter."

He looked inside his wickerwork hat and tore off the joint of the hat's cord. A letter that had been pasted underneath fell onto his lap. Shinroku straightened out the creases and put the letter into his lord's hand.

Yasumasa studied the envelope for some time.

Yes, this is definitely Shogen's handwriting, but it's addressed to my brother. Come with me. We'll go see my brother right now and notify the main camp at Mount Nakao."

Lord and retainer went out through the palisade and climbed to the peak of Mount Yukiichi. The arrangement of men and horses, the palisade gates and the barracks became progressively tighter and more controlled as they reached the top. Finally the main citadel, which looked like a castle, came into view, and they could see innumerable curtained enclosures spread over the peak.

"Tell my brother that I am here." As Yasumasa spoke to the guard, one of Genba's retainers came running up.

"I'm afraid Lord Genba is not in his quarters, my lord."

"Has he gone to Mount Nakao?"

"No, he's over there."

Looking in the direction in which the retainer was pointing, he saw his brother, Genba, sitting with five or six warriors and pages on the grass beyond the main citadel. It was difficult to see what they were doing.

When he came closer, he could see that Genba was having one of the pages hold a mirror while another held a basin. There, under a blue sky, he was shaving as though he had no other care in the world.

It was the twelfth day of the Fourth Month.

Summer had already come, and in the castle towns on the plains, the heat could be felt. But in the mountains, spring was now at its height.

Yasumasa walked over and knelt on the grass.

"Well, brother?" Genba looked at him out of the corner of his eye, but continued to thrust out his chin in front of the mirror until he was finally finished shaving. Only after the razor was put away and the shaved hair was washed from his face with the water in the basin did he turn completely to face his little brother. "What is it, Yasumasa?"

"Would you have all the pages withdraw, please?"

"Why don't we go back to my quarters?"

"No, no. This is really the best place for a secret discussion."

"You think so? All right." Turning to his pages, Genba ordered them to withdraw some distance.

The pages took the mirror and basin and left. The samurai also withdrew. The Sakuma brothers remained facing each other on the top of the mountain. One other man was thereMizuno Shinroku, who had come along with Yasumasa.

In accordance with his position, Shinroku was still at a distance, prostrating himself toward his two superiors.

At that point Genba noticed him. "Shinroku has returned, has he?"

"He has and he reports that everything went smoothly. His errand seems to have been successful."

"I'm sure it wasn't easy. Well, what about Shogen's reply?"

"Here is Shogen's letter."

Genba opened the letter as soon as he held it in his hand. An open pleasure filled his eyes and hung on the corners of his mouth. What kind of secret success could have made him so happy? His shoulders shook almost uncontrollably.

"Shinroku, come a little closer. You're too far away over there."

"Yes, my lord."

"According to Shogen's letter, it appears that the real details were entrusted to you. Tell me everything Shogen had to say."

"Lord Shogen said that both he and Lord Ogane had had differences of opinion with their lord, Katsutoyo, even before Nagahama changed sides. Hideyoshi knew that and though they have been put in charge of the fortresses at Mount Dangi and Mount Shinmei, they are under the watchful eye of Hideyoshi's trusted retainer, Kimura Hayato. They can hardly make a move."

But both Shogen and Ogane intend to escape and come here."

They plan to kill Kimura Hayato tomorrow morning, and then bring their men over to our side."

If this is going to happen tomorrow morning, there's no time to lose. Send out a force to them," Genba ordered Yasumasa. He then interrogated Shinroku once again Some reports say that Hideyoshi is in his main camp, while others claim that he is in ihama. Do you know where he is?"

Shinroku admitted that he did not.

For the Shibata side, the question of whether Hideyoshi was at the front or at Nagahama was an extremely important one.

Without knowing where he was, the Shibata were uncertain how to proceed. Katsuie's strategy was not for a single frontal attack. He had been waiting quite some time for the opportunity to have Nobutaka's Gifu army spring into action. Takigawa Kazumasu's forces could then initiate their attack, and together the two armies of Mino and Ise would Threaten Hideyoshi's rear. At that point Katsuie's main force of twenty thousand men could rush in and drive Hideyoshi into a corner at Nagahama.

Katsuie had already received a letter from Nobutaka to that effect. If Hideyoshi was at Nagahama, he would quickly catch wind of such operations and see to it that both Gifu and Yanagase were ready. If Hideyoshi was now on the front lines, Katsuie would have to be fully ready, for the time for Nobutaka's uprising was now.

But before any of those plans could be carried out, the Shibata had to pin down Hideyoshi to create the right circumstances for Nobutaka to move.

That one point remains unclear," Genba said again. There was no doubt that during the long period of waiting, which had lasted for more than a month, he was becoming more and more depressed. "Well, we succeeded in luring Shogen, and we should rejoice in that alone. Lord Katsuie must be informed immediately. We will wait for Shogen's signal tomorrow."

Yasumasa and Shinroku left first and returned to their own camp. Genba called over a page to bring him his favorite horse. Accompanied by ten warriors, he left immediately for the main camp on Mount Nakao. '

The newly built road between Mount Yukiichi and the main camp at Nakao was about four yards wide and meandered along for over two leagues, along the ridgeline of the mountains. The spring greenery of the mountains filled the warriors' eyes, and as as Genba whipped his horse along, even he was overcome by a poetic sentiment.

The main camp at Mount Nakao was surrounded by several palisades. Each time Genba approached a gate, he would simply give his name and ride through, looking down at the guards from his saddle.

But just as he was about to ride through the gate to the main citadel, the commander of the guards called out abruptly and challenged him. "Wait! Where are you going?"

Genba turned around and stared at the man.

"Ah, is that you, Menju? I've come to see my uncle. Is he in his quarters or at staff headquarters?"

Menju frowned, walked around in front of Genba, and said angrily, "Dismount first please."

"What?"

"This gate is very close to Lord Katsuie's headquarters. It doesn't make any difference who you are or how much of a hurry you're in, it is not permitted to ride in on horseback."

"You dare say that to me, Menju?" Genba said angrily, but according to military discipline he could not really refuse. Instead he dismounted as Menju had required him tc do and barked, "Where's my uncle?"

"He's in the middle of a military conference."

"Who's attending?"

"Lord Haigo, Lord Osa, Lord Hara, Lord Asami, and Lord Katsutoshi."

"If that's so, it'll be all right if I join them."

"No, I'll announce you."

"That won't be necessary."

Genba pushed his way through. Menju watched him as he walked off. A look of misery clouded his face. The challenge he had thrown out just now, at the risk of his own reputation, was not simply for the sake of military law. He had been secretly trying to get Genba to reflect on his attitude for some time.

The attitude shown in the proud manner Genba usually displayed was connected with his uncle's favoritism. When he observed how the lord of Kitanosho acted with biased blind love toward his nephew, Menju could not help feeling uneasy about the future. At the very least, he felt that it was not right for Genba to be calling the commander-in-chief "uncle."

But Genba paid no attention to such matters as Menju's unhappy thoughts. He now walked directly into his uncle's headquarters, ignoring the other retainers there, and whispered to his uncle, "When you're finished, I have a private matter to discuss with you."

Katsuie quickly ended the conference. After the generals had all withdrawn, he leaned from his camp stool and spoke excitedly with his nephew. After giving a self-satisfied laugh, Genba silently showed Shogen's answer as though he knew it would give Katsuie great pleasure.

Katsuie was immensely pleased. The plot that he had conceived and asked Genba to put into effect was working. On that account alone, the happiness of having seen everything go according to plan was greater for him than for anyone. He, in particular, had the reputation for loving intrigue, and as he read Shogen's reply he was so happy that he was almost drooling.

The aim of the plot was to weaken the enemy from within. From Katsuie's point of view, the presence of men like Shogen and Ogane in Hideyoshi's army provided opportunities for hatching plot after plot.

As for Shogen, he believed that the victory would go to the Shibata. That belief was surprisingly blind. It is true that at a later date he, too, would be anguished and undoubtedly questioned by his own conscience. But the letter of consent had already been sent, and it was no longer a matter for deliberation. For better or worse, Shogen's betrayal was definitely set for the following morning, and he waited to invite the Shibata army into his fortress.

* * *

The twelfth day of the month, midnight. The bonfires were smoldering, and the only sound to be heard in the mist-shrouded mountain camp was the soughing of the pine trees.

Open the gate!" someone called out in a hushed voice, knocking repeatedly on the wooden gate of the palisade.

The small fort on Motoyama had formerly been Shogen's headquarters, but Hideyoshi had replaced him with Kimura Hayato.

Who is it?" the sentry asked, peering through the palisade.

A solitary figure was standing outside in the dark. "Call Commander Osaki," the figure said.

First tell me who you are and where you've come from."

The man outside did not reply for a moment. A misty rain was falling, and the sky was the color of India ink. "That's something I can't tell you. I must speak with Osaki Uemon, here at the palisade. Just tell him that."

Friend or foe?"

Friend, of course! Do you think an enemy could have come up this far so easily? Are your guards that careless? If this were some enemy plot, would I be knocking at the gate?"

The man's explanation seemed reasonable. The guard nodded and went to fetch Osaki.

What is it?" Osaki asked.

Aree you Commander Osaki?"

Yes, I am. What do you want?"

My name is Nomura Shojiro, and I am a retainer of Lord Katsutoyo, presently in the service of Lord Shogen."

What business do you have here in the middle of the night?"

I have to speak to Lord Hayato at once. I know this must sound suspicious, but I have something of great importance that I must tell him immediately."

Can't you tell me and let me relay the message?"

No, I must speak with him in person. As a sign of my good faith, I'll entrust these to you, Nomura said, removing his swords and handing them through the palisade to Osaki.

Osaki realized Nomura was genuine and opened the gate, then led him to Hayato's quarters. It was a wartime camp, and there was really no difference in the security measures, night or day.

The place Nomura was led to was called the main citadel, but it was really just a hut, and Hayato's living quarters were little more than a board fence.

Hayato came in and quietly sat down. "What do you have to say?" he asked, looking directly at Nomura. Possibly because of the lamplight shining from the side, Hayato's face looked extremely pale.

"I believe you have been invited to attend a tea ceremony tomorrow morning at Lord Shogen's camp on Mount Shinmei."

A questioning look burned in Nomura's eyes, and the weird quiet of the night gave a faint shiver to the man's voice. Both Hayato and Osaki experienced an uncanny sensation.

"That's right," Hayato answered.

"Have you already agreed to attend, my lord?"

"Yes. Since he went to the trouble of sending me an invitation, I sent a messenger back with my acceptance."

"When did you send the messenger, my lord?"

"About noon today."

"Then that must be exactly the trick I thought it was!"

"Trick?"

"You must on no account go tomorrow morning. The tea ceremony is a ploy. Shogen is planning to murder you. He has already met with a secret messenger from the Shibata and sent a written pledge to them. Make no mistake, his plan is first to kill you and then to raise the banner of rebellion."

"How did you find this out?"

"The day before yesterday, Shogen summoned three Buddhist priests from the nearby Shufuku Temple to perform a memorial service for his ancestors. I had seen one of those men before, and he was without doubt a Shibata samurai. I was surprised, and sure enough, after the service, he complained of stomach pains and remained at the camp after the other two had left. He left the next morning, saying that he was returning to the Shufuku Temple, but just to make sure I had one of my retainers follow him. Just as I had thought, he did not return to the Shufuku Temple at all, but instead ran straight to Sakuma Genba's camp."

Hayato nodded as though he did not need to hear any more. "I appreciate your warning. Lord Hideyoshi did not trust Shogen nor Ogane, and said that we should be wary of them. Their treachery has become clear. What do you think we should do, Osaki?"

Osaki drew closer and offered his thoughts. Nomura's ideas were considered as well, and a plan was conceived on the spot. Osaki sent messengers to Nagahama.

In the meantime, Hayato wrote a letter and entrusted it to Osaki. It was a short note to Shogen, explaining that he could not attend the tea ceremony because of ill health.

As the day dawned, Osaki took the letter and went to call on Shogen at Mount Shinmei.

The custom of that time was to hold frequent tea ceremonies in camp. Everything, of course, was prepared with simplicitythe tea room was only a temporary shelter with rough plaster walls, reed mats, and a vase containing wild flowers. The purpose of the tea ceremony was to cultivate the inner strength needed to endure the fatigue of a long campaign.

Early that morning Shogen had swept the dewy ground and set the coals in the hearth. Soon Ogane and Kinoshita arrived. Both of them were retainers of Shibata Katsutoyo. Shogen had taken them into his confidence, and they had taken a solemn oath to act with him.

Hayato's late, isn't he?" Ogane commented.

Somewhere a rooster crowed, and the guests both looked nervous. Shogen, however, acted as a host should and stayed perfectly calm. "He'll be here soon enough," he said confidently.

Of course, the man they were waiting for never came; instead a page appeared with the letter Hayato had entrusted to Osaki.

The three men looked at one another.

What about the messenger?" Shogen asked.

The page replied that the man had left immediately upon delivering the letter.

The same anxious look darkened the faces of the three men. No matter how brave they were, they could not feel at ease, knowing that their treachery might have been exposed.

How could it have leaked out?" Ogane asked.

Even their mumbling sounded like complaints. Now that the plot had been exposed, the tea ceremony was forgotten, and their thoughts turned to making good their own escape. Both Ogane and Kinoshita appeared as though they could hardly bear to stay there a moment longer.

There's nothing we can do after this." As that lament escaped Shogen's lips, the other two men felt as though they had been struck in the chest. Shogen, however, glared at them as if he were telling them to keep their heads.

The two of you should take your men and go as quickly as possible to Ikenohara. Wait there near the big pine tree. I'm going to send a letter to Nagahama. Then I'll follow you right away,"

To Nagahama? What sort of letter?"

My mother, wife, and children are still in the castle. I can escape, but my mother and the others will certainly be held hostage if we wait too long."

I suspect you're too late. Do you really think there's still time?"

What am I going to do? Just abandon them there? Ogane, pass me that inkstone there.

Shogen began to run his brush rapidly over the sheet of paper. Just then, one of his retainers came in to report that Nomura Shojiro had disappeared.

Shogen threw down his brush in disgust. "It was him, then. I've been negligent about that fool for some time. He'll pay for this."

He glared as though he were giving someone the evil eye, and the hand that held the letter addressed to his wife began to shake.

Ippeita!" he shrieked.

The man quickly appeared.

Take a horse and hurry to Nagahama. Find my family and put them on a boat. Dont even think about saving their possessions; just scull across the lake to Lord Katsuie's camp. Im relying on you. Go immediately, and don't waste a single moment," he ordered.

Almost before he finished speaking, Shogen had fastened the bindings on his armor. Holding a long spear, he ran out of the building. Ogane and Kinoshita both quickly gathered their men and went down the mountain.

At about that time the dawn was turning white, and Hayato had sent out his forces. When the men led by Ogane and Kinoshita reached the foot of the mountain, they were ambushed by Osaki. Those who survived the attack tried to flee to the big pine tree in Ikenohara where they would wait for Shogen. But Hayato's men had gone around the northern end of Mount Dangi and cut off their escape by that road. Encircled this time, almost all of them were annihilated.

Shogen was only one step behind them. He, too, fled in that direction with a few men. He wore his helmet with deer antlers and his black leather armor and carried his long spear under his arm as he rode. He truly looked like a warrior ready to cut through the wind and the bravest of Katsutoyo's retainers, but he had already strayed from the Way of the Samurai, and the sounds of righteousness and lofty ideals were lacking in the galloping of his horse's hooves.

Suddenly he was surrounded by Hayato's troops.

"Don't let the traitor get away!"

They heaped abuse on Shogen, but he fought as though he was not afraid to die. Carving out a road of blood as he passed, he finally escaped from the iron cage. Whipping his horse at full speed for about two leagues, he soon joined up with Yasumasa's army, which had been waiting since the night before. Had the assassination of Hayato been a success, the two fortresses on Motoyama would have been attacked and taken at the appearance of Shogen's signal fires. But the plan had not gone as expected, and Shogen had barely escaped with his life.

As he listened to the way events had turned out from his brother Yasumasa, Genba looked disgusted. "What? You mean that Hayato got the first move on them because the plot was exposed this morning?" he said. "Well, Shogen's plan must have been poorly conceived. Tell all three men to come here."

Until then Genba had done everything to induce Shogen to betray his lord, but now that the scheme had fallen short of his expectations, he talked about him as though he were nothing but trouble.

Shogen and the two others were expecting to be well received, but they were to be greatly disappointed by Genba's attitude. Shogen asked to meet Katsuie and report some highly secret information to him in order to make up for his failure.

"That sounds hopeful, doesn't it?" Genba's mood showed a little improvement, but to Ogane and Kinoshita he was just as brusque as before. "The two of you stay here. Only Shogen will be going with me to the main camp."

With that, they left immediately for Mount Nakao.

The incident that morning, with all of its complications, had been reported in detail to Katsuie.

When, not long thereafter, Genba accompanied Shogen to Katsuie's camp, the latter sat waiting for them on his general's stool with a haughty look. Katsuie always looked dignified no matter what the situation. Shogen was quickly granted an audience.

"You failed this time, Shogen," Katsuie said.

The expression on his face as he spat out his real feelings was a complex one. It was commonly said that the Shibata uncle and nephew both had calculating, self-interested natures, and now both Katsuie and Genba waited with cold expressions for Shogen to speak.

The oversight was mine," Shogen said, aware that he could do nothing more than apologize. At that point he must have repented his decision bitterly, but now there was no way of going back. Bearing shame on top of shame and stifling his anger, he could only bow his head to the ground in front of that arrogant and selfish lord.

All he could do was beg for Katsuie's mercy. He did, however, have another plan with which he might curry favor with Katsuie, and it had to do with the question of Hideyoshis whereabouts. Both Katsuie and Genba had a deep interest in that question, and when Shogen mentioned the subject, they listened eagerly.

Where is Hideyoshi now?"

Hideyoshi's whereabouts are kept secret even from his own men," Shogen explained. Though he was seen during the construction of the fortresses, he hasn't been in camp here for some time. But he's probably in Nagahama, and he might make preparations for attacking from Gifu, while watching the situation here at the same time. He may be putting himself in a position to react to conditions in either place."

Katsuie nodded gravely, exchanging glances with Genba. "That's it. That must be it. He must be in Nagahama."

But what kind of proof do you have?"

I have no real proof," Shogen replied. "But if you'll give me a few days I'll verify the details of Hideyoshi's whereabouts. There were several men in Nagahama who took a kind interest in me, and I'm sure that when they know that I'm supporting you, my lord, theyll slip out of Nagahama and inquire about me here. Also, the reports from the spies I sent out should be coming in soon. Beyond that, I would like to offer a strategy that will defeat Hideyoshi," he concluded, with a look that hinted at the extent of his faith in his scheme

You should be very, very careful, don't you think? But let's hear what you have to say.

At dawn on the nineteenth day of the month, Shogen and Genba visited Katsuie's headquarters a second time. What Shogen carried with him that morning was certainly valuable. Genba had already heard Shogen's information, but as Katsuie now heard it for the first time, his eyes widened like saucers, and the hairs all over his body stood on end.

Shogen spoke with great excitement. "For the past few days Hideyoshi has been at Nagahama. Two days ago, on the seventeenth, he suddenly led a force of twenty thousand men out of the castle there and force-marched to Ogaki, where he set up camp. It goes without saying that by crushing Lord Nobutaka in Gifu with a single blow, he would cut off any anxiety about being attacked from the rear. We can surmise, then, that he is resolved to raise his entire force, turn in that direction, and make a move for a decisive, all-or-nothing battle. It is said that before leaving Nagahama," Shogen continued, "Hideyoshi had all the hostages from Lord Nobutaka's family killed, so you can understand the resolve with which the bastard moved on Gifu. And there's more. Yesterday his vanguard set fires in various places and is preparing for a siege of Gifu Castle."

The day we've been waiting for is coming, Katsuie thought, almost licking his lips.

Genba was of the same mind. He burned with the same thoughts, but even more so.Here was an opportunitya matchless opportunity. But how could they make full use of it?

Little opportunities here, little opportunities there during hostilities came in waves of tens of thousands, but a truly great opportunity on which hung a man's rise or fall in a single blow came only once. Now Katsuie was at the point of grasping or of failing to grasp that kind of opportunity. Katsuie nearly drooled as he thought the possibilities through, and Genba's face was flushed.

"Shogen," Katsuie finally began, "if you have some sort of strategy to offer, please speak frankly."

"My own humble opinion is that we should not miss this opportunity, but should attack the two enemy fortresses at Mount Iwasaki and Mount Oiwa. We could act in concert with Lord Nobutaka, even though Gifu is far away, and act just as quickly as Hideyoshi. Your allies could, at the same time, attack and destroy Hideyoshi's fortresses."

"Ah, that is exacdy what I'd like to do, but such things are more easily said than done, Shogen. The enemy is also not without men, and they're building fortresses too, aren't they?"

"When you look at Hideyoshi's battle formation from within, there is one very large opening," Shogen replied. "Consider this. The two enemy fortresses at Iwasaki and Oiwa are far from your camp, but you still consider them to be central strongholds. The fact is, however, that the construction of both of those fortresses is much flimsier and rougher than that of any of the others. Add to this that both the commanders and the soldiers protecting these places are under the impression that the enemy would never attack them. To all appearances, they have been extremely negligent in their preparations. If we mount a surprise attack, it must be there. Moreover, once we destroy the enemy's very core, how much more easily the other castles would fall!"

Katsuie and Genba both agreed heartily with Shogen's plan.

"Shogen has seen through the enemy's ruse," Katsuie said. "This is the best plan we could have made for confounding Hideyoshi."

It was the first time Shogen had been so highly praised by Katsuie. For some days he had been despondent and deflated, but now his expression suddenly changed.

"Take a look at this," he said, spreading out a map. The fortresses at Dangi, Shinmei, Mount Iwasaki, and Mount Oiwa stood on the eastern shore of Lake Yogo. There were also a number of fortresses from the southern area of Shizugatake to Mount Tagami, the chain of camps stretching along the road to the northern provinces, and several other military positions. All were clearly shown, and the topography of the areawith its lakes, mountains, fields, and valleyswas delineated in detail.

The impossible had become possible. Clearly it was a great disadvantage for Hideyoshi, Katsuie gloated, that a secret map like this had been spread out in his enemy's headquarters before the battle.

It could be said that Katsuie derived great joy from that fact alone. Examining the map closely, he praised Shogen once again.

"This is a wonderful gift, Shogen."

Standing at one side, Genba was also scrutinizing the map, but looking up, he suddenly said with conviction, "Uncle, this plan of Shogen'sto penetrate deep behind the enemy lines and take the two fortresses of Iwasaki and OiwaI'd like you to send me as the vanguard! I am confident that a surprise attack with the necessary resolution and speed could be handled by no one other than myself."

Well, now, wait a moment"

Katsuie shut his eyes in quiet deliberation, as though apprehensive of the younger mans ardor. Genba's self-confidence and zeal quickly resisted that hesitation.

What other plans are you entertaining for this opportunity? Surely there's no room in your thoughts for something else?"

What? I don't think so."

Heaven's opportunities don't wait, you know. While we stand here like this, our chance may be slipping away moment by moment."

Don't be so hasty, Genba."

No. The more you deliberate, the more time slips away. Are you unable to make a decision when a victory of such magnitude is right before your eyes? Ah, it makes me think demon Shibata is getting old."

You're talking foolishness. It's just that you're still young. You've got the courage for battle, but you're still inexperienced when it comes to strategy."

Why do you say that?" Genba's face began to flush, but Katsuie would not be agitated. He was a veteran of innumerable battles, and was not about to lose his composure.

Think for a moment, Genba. There is nothing more dangerous than going deep behind enemy lines. Is it worth the risk? Aren't we at a point where we must think this through over and over so there will be no regrets?"

Genba laughed out loud. But behind the hint that his uncle's anxiety was of no value, Genbas youthful iron will was also laughing at age's discrimination and vacillation.

Katsuie, however, did not reproach his nephew's open derisive laughter. He seemed to show affection for the young man's lack of inhibition. He actually seemed to love Genba's high spirits.

Genba had been accustomed to his uncle's favor for some time. He could quickly read through the man's emotions and come to terms with them easily. Now he insisted further. "It's true that I'm young, but I fully understand the danger of penetrating the enemy lines. In this situation I would be relying solely on strategy, and not be impatient for merit. I'll dare to do it just because there's danger involved."

Katsuie was still unable to give his approval freely. As before, he was lost in deliberation. Genba gave up badgering his uncle, and suddenly turned to Shogen.

Let me see the map."

Without moving from the camp stool Genba unrolled the map, stroked his cheek with one hand, and remained silent.

Nearly an hour passed.

Katsuie had been concerned at the time his nephew had spoken with such zeal, but when he observed Genba silently contemplating the map, he suddenly felt sure of the younger man's reliability.

All right." Finally putting an end to his own deliberations, he turned and spoke to his nephew. "Don't make any mistakes, Genba. I'm giving you the order to go deep behind the enemy lines tonight."

Genba looked up, and at the same time stood straight up from the camp stool. He was almost insanely happy and bowed with great civility. But while Katsuie admired this nephew who was so happy at being put in command of the vanguard, he knew it was a position that might easily mean a man's death if he made a mistake.

"I'm telling you againonce you've accomplished your goal of destroying Iwasaki and Oiwa, retreat with the speed of the wind."

"Yes, Uncle."

"This hardly needs to be said, but a safe retreat is extremely important in warespecially in a fight involving the penetration of enemy territory. If you fail to withdraw safely, it's like forgetting the last basketful of earth when digging a well a hundred fathoms deep. Go with the speed of the wind, and come back in the same way."

"I've understood your warning well."

His hope having now been realized, Genba was perfectly docile. Katsuie immediately assembled his generals. By evening the orders had gone out to each of the camps, and the preparations for every corps seemed to be complete.

It was the night of the nineteenth day of the Fourth Month. The eighteen-thousand-man army left the camp in secret exactly at the second half of the Hour of the Rat. The attacking force was divided into two corps of four thousand men each. They moved down the mountain toward Shiotsudani, crossed over Tarumi Pass, and pressed eastward along the western bank of Lake Yogo.

In a diversionary maneuver, the twelve thousand men of Katsuie's main army took a different route. Advancing along the road to the northern provinces, they gradually turned southeast. Their action was intended to assist the success of the surprise attack corps led by Sakuma Genba, and at the same time it would police any movements from the enemy fortresses.

Among the main forces of the diversionary army, Shibata Katsumasa's single corps of three thousand men went southeast of the slope at Iiura, hid their banners and armor, and stealthily observed the enemy movements in the direction of Shizugatake.

Maeda Inuchiyo had been charged with guarding a line that stretched from Shiotsu to Mount Dangi and Mount Shinmei.

Shibata Katsuie departed from the main camp at Mount Nakao with an army of seven thousand men, and he advanced as far as Kitsunezaka on the road to the northern provinces. It was in order to draw in and incapacitate Hidemasa's five thousand men stationed on Mount Higashino that Katsuie's army now proudly displayed its banners and marched on.

The night sky slowly began to brighten with the approach of dawn. It was the twentieth day of the Fourth Month of the lunar calendarvery close to the summer solstice and the nights were short.

It was just about at that time that the generals of the vanguard began to gather on the white shore of Lake Yogo. Following the vanguard of four thousand men, a second corps came quickly up behind them. That was the force that would penetrate deep behind the enemy lines, and Sakuma Genba was in its midst.

The mist was thick.

Suddenly a rainbow-colored light appeared in the middle of the lake. That in itself might have made the men think that it would shortly be dawn. But they could hardly see the tails on the horses in front of them, and the path through the grassy plain was still dark.

As the mist swirled by the banners, armor, and spears, the men all appeared as though they were walking through water.

They were oppressed by thoughts that tightened their chests. The cold mist gathered on their eyebrows and on the hairs of their nostrils.

A splashing noise and laughter and animated voices could be heard from the lake shore. Scouts from the attacking troops quickly got down on all fours and crept forward to investigate who might be out in the middle of the mist. It turned out to be two samurai and maybe ten grooms from the fortress at Mount Iwasaki; they had just walked into the shallows of the lake and were washing horses.

The scouts waited for troops from the vanguard to move up and signaled to them silently with waves of the hand. Then, when they were sure the enemy was trapped, they suddenly yelled, "Take them alive!"

Caught unawares, the warriors and grooms splashed through the water in surprise and ran along the shore.

"The enemy! It's the enemy!"

Five or six men escaped, but the rest were captured.

"Well, well, the season's first game."

The Shibata warriors grabbed the prisoners by their collars and took them to their commander, Fuwa Hikozo, who questioned them from horseback.

A message was sent to Sakuma Genba, asking what should be done with the prisoners.

The response spurred them to quick action: "Do not be delayed by these men. Kill them at once and continue immediately to Mount Oiwa."

Fuwa Hikozo dismounted, drew his sword, and personally decapitated one man. He then shouted out a command to all the members of the vanguard. "Here! have a festival of blood! Hack off the heads of the others and present them as an offering to the god of war. Then raise your war cries and move on to attack the fortress at Oiwa!"

The soldiers around Hikozo almost fought over the chance to cut off the heads of the grooms. Raising their bloody swords high in the morning sky, they offered the lifebood of their prisoners and yelled to the demons. The entire army raised war cries in response.

Billowing waves of armor shook and trembled through the morning mist as each man competed to be first. Sweating horse brushed past sweating horse in the struggle to take the lead, and one spear corps after another rushed forward in the confusion of glittering spearheads.

Gunfire could already be heard, spears and long swords flashed in the morning light, and a strange sound was coming from the area of Mount Oiwa's first palisade. How deep the lingering dreams of the short summer night! The slopes of Mount Oiwa, defended by Nakagawa Sebei, and Mount Iwasaki, held by Takayama Ukonthe center of Hideyoshi's fortificationswere bound by the mist and as quiet, as if no oneknew yet of the oncoming flood of men.

The construction of the fortress at Mount Oiwa had been quick and simple. Nakagawa Sebei slept in a rest hut along the ramparts halfway up the mountain.

Not yet fully conscious, he suddenly raised his head and muttered. "What's going on?

On the border between dream and reality, and without knowing why, he got up abruptly and put on the armor that had been placed near his bed.

As he was finishing, someone knocked at the door of the rest hut and then seemed to be pushing against it with his body as well.

The door fell inward, and three or four retainers tumbled in.

"The Shibata!" they cried.

"Calm down!" Sebei reprimanded them.

From the incoherent reports of the surviving grooms, Sebei was unable to find out where the enemy had broken through or who was leading them.

"It would be an extraordinary feat for even a daring enemy to break this far through the lines. These men will not be easy to deal with. I don't know who's leading them, but I suspect that of all the commanders of the Shibata forces it's most likely to be Sakuma Genba."

Sebei had quickly grasped the situation, and a shudder ran through his entire frame. It would be difficult to deny that the man is a powerful enemy, he thought. But opposed to that overwhelming feeling, a different kind of strength bubbled up from within, and he rebounded.

Grabbing his long spear, he yelled, "Let's go fight!"

Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the distance, from the foot of the mountain. Then suddenly it was heard unexpectedly close, from a wooded area on the southwest slope.

"They've taken the shortcuts too."

Because of the thickness of the mist, the enemy banners could not be seen clearly, and that had the effect of making the Nakagawa forces even more fretful.

Sebei called out once again. His voice echoed in the heart of the mountain.

The thousand-man Nakagawa corps defending the mountain was now awakened by the attack coming in right before its eyes. It had been taken completely by surprise. As far as the men knew, the main Shibata position was a great distance awaya belief that had put them off their guard. The enemy would surely not attack such a safe place! But before they even realized that their belief had been mistaken, the enemy had already descended like a gale.

Sebei stamped the earth and upbraided his men for their complacency and negligence. One by one his officers sought him out and, either sighting his commander's standard or recognizing his voice, they and their soldiers hurriedly gathered around him and formed a real army.

"Is Genba in command?"

"Yes, my lord," a retainer replied.

"How many men does he have?" Sebei continued.

"Fewer than ten thousand."

"One line of attack or two?"

There appear to be two armies. Genba is attacking from Niwatonohama, and Fuwa Hikozo has taken the path from Mount Onoji."

Even with all of its men assembled, the fortress was defended by no more than a thousand men. The attacking forces of the enemy were reported to be close to ten thouand.

Both shortcuts and the barrier gates at the foot of the mountain were inadequate. It was easy to see that it would only be a matter of time before they were annihilated. Confront the enemy at the shortcut!" Sebei sent his right-hand man off first with three hundred soldiers, and then encouraged his own men. "The rest of you come with me. The Nakagawa forces have never been bested since coming out of Ibaraki in Settsu. Dont step back a single pace from the enemy in front of us now!"

At the head of the commander's standard and the banners, Nakagawa Sebei took the lead and whipped his horse toward the foot of the mountain at full speed.


* * *


On the morning of the same day, six or seven warships moved north across Lake Biwa like a flock of water birds. On the curtain enfolding the bridge of one of the ships, a large iris crest fluttered in the wind.

Niwa Nagahide was standing on the bridge of the ship when he suddenly saw black smoke rising from a mountain on the north side of the lake and yelled out to the men around him. "Is that near Oiwa or Shizugatake?" he asked.

It looks like Shizugatake," one of the members of his staff replied.

In fact, as one looked out in that direction, the mountains appeared to be piled one on top of another, so that the flames from Mount Oiwa looked quite convincingly as though they were rising from Shizugatake.

It's hard to understand." Niwa knitted his brow and continued to gaze steadily out onto the distance.

It was surprising how overly accurate his premonition was. At dawn that daythe twentieth of the monthhe had received a message from his son, Nabemaru:

There have been suspicious movements in both Katsuie's and Genba's camps during the night.

At that time he had guessed that what he must be seeing was an enemy attack. Hideyoshi was busy attacking Gifu. And if their enemies were aware of it, they would know it was the moment to strike at Hideyoshi's unguarded position.

Niwa felt apprehensive as soon as he heard his son's report. Boarding his meager force of a thousand men aboard five or six ships, he had them cross the lake to the vicinity of Kuzuo.

Just as he had feared, there were flames from the direction of Shizugatake, and when they finally approached the shore at Kuzuo, he could hear gunfire.

The enemy seems to have overrun the fortress at Motoyama. Shizugatake is also in danger, and I doubt if Mount Iwasaki will be able to hold out."

Niwa asked two of the staff officers for their opinions.

"The situation certainly doesn't look good," one of the men answered. "The enemy has sent in a large force, and it would appear that our numbers are not going to be sufficient to help our allies in this emergency. The best plan would be to return to Sakamoto and entrench ourselves in the castle there."

"You're talking nonsense," Niwa said, dismissing the suggestion. "Disembark the entire army immediately. Then take the ships to Kaitsu and bring a third of Nagamaru's forces."

"Will there be time, my lord?"

"Everyday calculations have absolutely no value when it comes to war. Our mere presence will have an effect. It will take them some time to realize how few of us there are And that will delay them. Get the troops landed, and hurry back to Kaitsu."

The army landed at Ozaki, and the ships set sail immediately. Niwa brought his horse to a stop in a village to question the locals.

The villagers told him that the battle had begun at dawn and was completely unexpected. Just as they had seen the flames from Mount Oiwa, they had heard war cries like the sound of tidal waves. Then, warriors from the Sakuma forces, perhaps a reconnoitering party, had whipped their horses through the village from the direction of Yogo. Rumor had it that Nakagawa Sebei's forces defended the fortress but were cut down to the last man.

When asked if they knew anything about Kuwayama's men in the area of Shizugatake, the villagers answered that just moments ago, Lord Kuwayama Shigeharu had led all of his forces from the fortress at Shizugatake and was now hurrying along the mountain road in the direction of Kinomoto.

This information left Niwa in openmouthed surprise. He had come with reinforcements, ready to entrench himself here with his allies, but the Nakagawa forces had been annihilated and the Kuwayama forces had abandoned their posts and were fleeing as fast as they could. What disgraceful conduct! What had they been thinking? Niwa pitied Kuwayama's confusion.

"And this happened just now?" he asked the villagers.

"They couldn't be much farther than half a league away," the farmer replied.

"Inosuke!" he called out to a retainer. "Run after the Kuwayama corps and talk with Lord Shigeharu. Tell him that I've come and that we'll defend Shizugatake together. Tell him to turn back immediately!"

"Yes, my lord!"

The man whipped his horse and hurried off in the direction of Kinomoto.

Kuwayama had tried two or three times that morning to persuade Nakagawa to retreat, but had offered him no help at all and had completely lost his head at the onslaught of the Sakuma forces. As soon as he heard of the destruction of the Nakagawa corps, he wavered all the more. Then, in the face of the rout of the central camp of his allies, he abandoned Shizugatake without firing a single bullet or wielding a spear in resistance, fleeing with a pace that left every man for himself.

His intentions were to join up with their allies at Kinomoto and then wait for Hidenaga's orders. But now, en route, here was a man from the Niwa clan informing him of

Niwas reinforcements. Suddenly gaining courage, he reorganized his troops, made a turnaround, and went back to Shizugatake.

In the meantime Niwa had reassured the villagers. Ascending Shizugatake, he was finall united with Kuwayama Shigeharu.

He wrote a letter at once, sending it by dispatch to Hideyoshi's camp in Mino, informing him of the urgency of the situation.

The Sakuma forces at Mount Oiwa made a provisional camp there and, secure in their feeling of triumph, rested quietly for more than two hours from about the Hour of the Hrse. The warriors were weary after the intense battle and the long march that had started the night before. After eating their provisions, however, they took pride in their blood-soaked hands and feet; lighthearted talk arose here and there, and their fatigue was forgotten.

Orders were given, and the officers were told to relay them from corps to corps.

Sleep! Sleep! Close your eyes for a while. No one knows what's going to happen tonight!"

The clouds overhead looked like the clouds of summer, and the cries of the season's first cicadas could be heard in the trees. The wind wafted pleasantly over the mountains from lake to lake, and the soldierswho had now satisfied their empty stomachsfinally felt themselves becoming drowsy. Still holding their firearms and spears, they sat down.

In the shade of the trees, the horses closed their eyes as well, and even the group commanders leaned against the trunks and fell asleep.

Everything was quiet, but it was the kind of silence that comes after an intense fight. The camp of their enemieswho had been wrapped in dreams until just before dawnhad been turned to ashes, and all of its soldiers become corpses left to the clusters of grass. It was now fully day, but death was in the air. Except for the alertness of the sentries everything was subdued, even the atmosphere in the staff headquarters was hushed,

The loud snores of the commander-in-chief, Genba, leaked happily through the curtains. Suddenly, five or six horses came to a halt somewhere, and a group of men in helmets and armor ran in the direction of the field staff headquarters. The members of the staff, who had sat sleeping around Genba, quickly looked outside.

What's up?" they yelled.

It's Matsumura Tomojuro, Kobayashi Zusho, and the other scouts."

Come on in."

The man who invited them in was Genba. Awakened unexpectedly, his eyes were wide with surprise and still red from a lack of sleep. It appeared that just before taking a nap, he had gulped down a good deal of sake. A large red sake cup lay empty next to his seat

Matsumura knelt in a corner of the curtained enclosure and then reported what they had observed.

There's no longer even a single enemy soldier at Mount Iwasaki. We thought there was a chance that they had hidden their banners and were planning to lie in wait for us, so we looked around to make sure. But the commanding general, Takayama Ukon, and everyone under his command have gone to Mount Tagami."

Genba clapped his hands.

"They ran away?" He laughed out loud and looked around at his staff officers. "He says Ukon ran away! He's a fast one, isn't he!" He laughed again, sending his entire body into convulsions of glee.

It seemed he had not yet sobered up from the drunken state he had fallen into after the victory sake. Genba could not stop laughing.

Just then, the messenger who had been sent to Katsuie's main camp to report on the war situation returned with Katsuie's instructions.

"Are there no enemy movements in the area of Kitsunezaka?" Genba asked.

"Nothing in particular. Lord Katsuie seems to be in very fine spirits."

"I imagine he was quite pleased."

"Yes, he was." The messenger continued to answer Genba's repeated questions without even the chance to wipe the sweat from his brow. "When I described the details of this morning's battle to him, he said, 'Is that so? Well, that's just like that nephew of mine.

"Well, what about Sebei's head?"

"He examined it immediately and said that it was definitely Sebei's. Looking around at the men who were with him, he declared it to be a good omen, and his mood seemed to improve even more."

Genba was in a very good mood himself. Hearing of Katsuie's happiness, he exulted in his own triumph and burned with the desire to surprise his uncle with even greater joy.

"I suppose that the lord of Kitanosho still doesn't know that the fortress at Mount Iwasaki has also fallen into my hands," he laughed. "He gets satisfied just a little too quickly."

"No, the capture of Iwasaki was reported to him at about the time I was taking my leave."

"Well then, there's no need to send another dispatch, is there?"

"If that were the only thing."

"At any rate, by tomorrow morning Shizugatake is going to be mine."

"Well, as for that"

"What do you mean?"

"Lord Katsuie said you might get carried away with this victory and start viewing the enemy as being too easy to deal with, and this might begin to put you off guard."

"You're talking foolishness," Genba said, laughing. "I'm not going to get drunk on this one victory."

"But just before you left, Lord Katsuie gave you that one warning in particular, telling you to make a clean retreat when you've entered deep into the enemy's territory. It's dangerous to stay here very long. Today again, he told me to tell you to return right away."

"He said to withdraw immediately?"

"His words were that you should withdraw quickly and unite forces with our allies to the rear."

"How weak-willed!" Genba grunted, showing a thin derisive smile. "Well, all right.'

At that point, several scouts entered with their reports. Niwa's three thousand men had joined forces with the Kuwayama corps, and together they were reinforcing the defenses at Shizugatake.

That simply threw oil on the fire of Genba's eagerness to attack. Such news will make a truly brave general want to fight all the more.

This will be interesting."

Genba brushed aside the camp curtain and went outside. Looking out over the new greenery of the mountains, he could see Shizugatake at a distance of about two leagues to the south. Closer and below where he stood, a general was climbing up from the foot of the mountain, accompanied by a number of attendants. The defending commander of the wooden barrier gate was hurrying ahead to show him the way.

Genba clicked his tongue and muttered, "That must be Dosei."

As soon as he recognized a general always at his uncle's side, he guessed the man's errand. before meeting him.

Ah, here you are."

Dosei wiped the sweat from his brow. Genba simply stood there without inviting the man inside the curtained enclosure. "Lord Dosei, what are you doing here?" he asked flatly.

Dosei looked as though he did not wish to say anything there and then, but Genba spoke out first.

"We'll camp here tonight and withdraw tomorrow. This was reported to my uncle already." He looked like he did not want to hear anything else about it.

"I've been informed." Dosei politely introduced his remarks with a greeting. He then conratulated Genba at length on his great victory at Mount Oiwa, but Genba was not to bear his roundaboutness.

"Did my uncle send you here because he's still anticipating trouble?"

"As you've conjectured, he's extremely anxious about your plan to camp here. His wishes are for you to withdraw from enemy territory by tonight at the latest and return to his main camp."

"Don't worry, Dosei. When my picked troops advance, they have explosive power; when they stand to defend a place, they're like steel walls. We have not been shamed yet."

"Lord Katsuie has had faith in you from the very beginning, but when you look at from a military standpoint, to be delayed when you've penetrated deep inside enemy territory is not really the accomplishment of your strategy."

"Wait a moment, Dosei. Are you saying that I don't understand the art of war? And those your words or my uncle's?"

At that point even Dosei was getting nervous, and there was really nothing he could do but stay silent. He began to feel that his role as a messenger was putting him in danger.

"If you say so, my lord. I shall report the extent of your conviction to Lord Katsuie."

Dosei hurriedly took his leave, and when Genba returned to his seat he quickly sent out orders. Dispatching one corps of men to Mount Iwasaki, he also directed a number of small reconnaissance parties to Minegamine and the vicinity of Kannonzaka, between Shizugatake and Mount Oiwa.

Soon thereafter, another voice was heard making an announcement. 'Lord Joemon has just arrived on orders from the main camp at Kitsune."

The messenger this time had not come for simple conversation or to relay Katsuie's thoughts. Rather, he delivered formal military orders, the content of which was yet another request to retreat. Genba listened tamely, but his answer, as before, firmly upheld his own view and he showed no indication of submitting.

"He has already given me the responsibility of supervising an incursion deep into enemy territory. To comply with what he asks now would be to omit the finishing touch to a military operation that has been successful so far. I would like him to trust me with the baton of command for just one more step."

So Genba neither bowed to what the envoy had been sent to say nor submitted to his commander-in-chief's very explicit orders. He had used his ego as a shield. Standing before him now, even Joemonwho had been chosen to come here by Katsuie himself was unable to prevail upon the man's rigidity.

"There's nothing more I can do," Joemon said, washing his hands of the whole affair. His final words were accompanied by a slightly indignant look. "I cannot imagine what Lord Katsuie will think, but I will pass your answer on to him."

Joemon quickly returned without further conversation. He naturally whipped his horse to quicken his return, just as he had in coming.

Thus the third messenger returned, and by the time the fourth arrived, the sun was growing dim in the west. The old warrior, Ota Kuranosuke, a veteran retainer and personal attendant to Katsuie, talked at length. He spoke, however, more about the relationship between uncle and nephew than about the order itself, and did his best to soften the youthful Genba's rigid stance.

"Now, now. I understand your resolve, but of all the members of your family, Lord Katsuie holds you in the highest esteem, and that's why he's so worried now. Particularly, now that you've destroyed one section of the enemy, we will be able to consolidate our position, continue to make one victory after another, and break down the enemy's weak points step by step. That is our larger strategy, and it's the one that has been decided upon in order to take control of the country. Listen, Lord Genba, you should stop here."

"The road is going to be dangerous when the sun goes down, old man. Go back."

"You won't do it, will you?"

"What are you talking about?"

"What is your decision?"

"I wasn't thinking of making that decision from the very beginning."

Fatigued, the old retainer left.

The fifth messenger arrived.

Genba had become even more rigid. He had come so far, and he was not going to turn back. He refused to see the messenger, but the man was not some minor retainer. The messengers who had come that day had all been distinguished men, but the fifth one was a particularly powerful member of Katsuie's entourage.

"I know that our envoys to you may not have been satisfactory, but now Lord Katsuie has talked about coming here himself. We, his close attendants, have urged him to stay in camp and I, as unworthy as I am, have come in his place. I implore you to think about this clearly and then strike camp and leave Mount Oiwa as quickly as possible."

He made his plea while prostrating himself outside the curtained enclosure.

Genba, however, had judged the situation thus: Even if Hideyoshi had been informed of the incident and had hurried from Ogaki, it was still a distance of thirteen leagues from there to here, and it would have taken until nightfall for the warning to arrive. It would also not be an easy matter to get away quickly from Gifu. Therefore, the soonest imaginable time for the completion of that shift in field positions would be tomorrow night or the day after.

That nephew of mine is not going to listen, no matter who I send," Katsuie complained. "I'll have to go there myself and make him withdraw by nightfall."

The main camp at Kitsune had received word that day of the raiding army's happy success and was temporarily overjoyed. But the order for a swift retreat had not been carried out. In fact, Genba had dismissed all of the distinguished envoys with a refusal to obey and a derisive sneer.

Ah, that nephew of mine is going to be the end of me," Katsuie lamented, barely able to contain himself. When word leaked out about the internal discord within the field staffthat Genba's willfulness was being criticized by Katsuiethe martial spirit within the camp somehow lost its cheerfulness.

Another envoy has left camp."

What! Another?"

The repeated comings and goings between the main camp and Mount Oiwa pained the hearts of the warriors.

For half a day, Katsuie felt his life would be shortened. During the time he waited for the return of his fifth envoy, he could hardly stay seated on his camp stool. The camp was located at a temple in Kitsunezaka, and it was along the corridors of that building that Katsuie now wandered silently, looking in the direction of the temple gate.

Shichiza hasn't returned yet?" he asked his close attendants innumerable times. "It's already evening, isn't it?"

As dusk pressed in, he became irritated. The evening sun was now casting its light on the bell tower.

Lord Yadoya has returned!" That was the message relayed by the warrior at the temple gate.

What happened?" Katsuie asked anxiously.

The man delivered his report frankly. Genba had at first refused to meet him, but Yadoya had persisted. He had related his lord's view in detail, but in vain. Genba insisted that even if Hideyoshi rushed to Mount Oiwa from Ogaki, it would take him at least one or two days. Thus Genba would be able to destroy Hideyoshi's troops quite easily because they would be so fatigued from the long journey. For that reason, he had declared his resolution to remain on Mount Oiwa and in no way appeared ready to change his mind.

Katsuie's eyes glistened with anger. "That fool!" he yelled, almost as if he were spitting blood. Then, beneath a heavy groan that shook his entire frame, he muttered, "Genba's behavior is outrageous."

'Yaso! Yaso!" Looking all around him and into the warriors' waiting area in the next room, Katsuie yelled out in a high-pitched voice.

Are you looking for Yoshida Yaso?" Menju Shosuke asked in return.

Of course!" Katsuie shrieked, venting his anger on Shosuke. "Call him here right now. Tell him to come here right away!"

Running footsteps echoed through the temple. Yoshida Yaso received Katsuie's ordersand immediately whipped his horse toward Mount Oiwa.

The long day finally darkened and the flames of the bonfires began to flicker in the shadows of the young leaves. They reflected what was now deep within Katsuie's breast.

The return trip of two leagues could be completed in the twinkling of an eye by a fast horse, and Yaso returned in no time at all.

"I told him that this was the last you had to say and admonished him thoroughly, but Lord Genba would not consent to a retreat."

The sixth report was the same. Katsuie no longer had the energy to be angry and would have shed tears had he not been on the battlefield. Instead, he simply sank into grief and blamed himself, regretting the blind love he had held for Genba until now.

"I'm the one who was wrong," he lamented.

On the battlefieldwhere a man must act strictly according to military discipline Genba had taken advantage of his close ties to his uncle. He had made a decision that could affect the rise or fall of the entire clan, and had insisted on his own selfish way without the least bit of reflection.

But who was it who had allowed the young man to become accustomed to that kind of action? Wasn't this morass the result of his own heedless love for his nephew? Through it he had first lost his foster son, Katsutoyo, and Nagahama Castle. Now he was about to lose an enormous and irretrievable opportunity upon which rested the fate of the entire Shibata clan.

When these thoughts came to him, Katsuie sank deep into a remorse for which there was absolutely no one else to blame.

Yaso had more to report: the words that Genba had actually spoken. In response to Yaso's advice, Genba had laughed and even ridiculed his uncle:

"Long ago, when people mentioned the name of Lord Katsuie, they called him the Demon Shibata, and said he was a general of devilish contrivances and mysterious schemesat least from what I've heard. Today, however, his tactics come from an old head out of touch with the times. You can't wage war today with old-fashioned strategies. Look at our penetration into the enemy territory this time. At the beginning, my uncle wouldn't even give his permission for the plan. He should leave the whole thing to me and watch for the next day or two."

Katsuie's gloom and wretchedness were unbearable to watch. He, more than anyone, knew Hideyoshi's true value as a general. The comments he had made to Genba and his other retainers had never been anything more than strategic remarks aimed at taking away their fear of the enemy. In his very bowels, Katsuie knew that Hideyoshi was a formidable adversary, especially after his withdrawal from the western provinces and his performance at the Battle of Yamazaki and the conference at Kiyosu. Now this powerful enemy was before him, and at the very opening of these all-or-nothing hostilities, he saw that his own ally was a stumbling block.

"Genba's behavior is outrageous. Never once have I suffered a defeat or shown my back to the enemy. Ahh, this was inevitable."

The night darkened, and Katsuie's anguish turned to resignation.

Messengers were not sent out again.


The Snows of Echizen | Taiko | Genbas Stratagem