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Genba's Stratagem

That very same daythe twentieth of the month, at the Hour of the HorseHidenaga sent his first report to Hideyoshi's camp at Ogaki.

This morning a Sakuma force of eight thousand men took to the mountain trails and entered deep into our territory.

It was thirteen leagues from Kinomoto to Ogaki, and even for a mounted messenger, the courier had been amazingly fast.

Hideyoshi had just come back from the bank of the Roku River, where he had gone to observe the level of the rising water. There had been violent rains in Mino for the past few days, and the Goto and Roku rivers, both of which flowed between Ogaki and Gifu, were flooding.

The original plan had called for a general attack on Gifu Castle on the nineteenth, but the heavy rains and the floodwaters of the Roku River had obstructed Hideyoshi, and there were no prospects of crossing the river again that day. He had been waiting two days now for a chance to move on.

Hideyoshi received the urgent letter from the messenger outside camp and read the note while still in the saddle. After thanking the messenger, he went back to his quarters without any visible show of emotion.

"How about making me a bowl of tea, Yuko?" he asked. At about the time he was finishing his bowl of tea, a second messenger arrived:

The twelve thousand-man main army under Lord Katsuie has taken up its positions. It is moving out of Kitsunezaka in the direction of Mount Higashino.

Hideyoshi had moved to his camp stool in the curtained headquarters, and now he called in various members of his staff and told them, "An urgent message has just come from Hidenaga."

Coolly, he read the letter aloud. The generals looked alarmed as they listened. The third dispatch was from Hori Kyutaro, who clearly detailed the brave fight and death of Nakagawa and the loss of Mount Iwasaki because of Takayama's retreat. Hideyoshi closed his eyes for a moment when he learned of Nakagawa's death in battle. For a moment, a desolate look came over the faces of the generals, and they blurted out pathetic questions. Every one of them stared at Hideyoshi, as if trying to read from his face how they would handle this dangerous situation.

"Sebei's death is a great loss," Hideyoshi said, "but he did not die in vain." He spoke a little louder. "Be of good spirits, and thereby, you'll pay tribute to Sebei's spirit. More and more, heaven is prophesying that a great victory will be ours. Katsuie was entrenched in his mountain castle, withdrawn from the world and unable to find his way. Now he has left the fortress that was a prison for him and arrogantly drawn his formation out far and wide. That shows that his luck has run out. We should be able to destroy the bastard completely before he even quarters his troops. The time has come for us to realize our great desire and fight this decisive battle for the nation! The time has come, and not one of you should fall behind!"

The dire news was suddenly transformed by Hideyoshi's few words into a reason for cheer.

"The victory is ours!" Hideyoshi declared. Then, without losing any time, he began give out orders. The generals receiving his commands took their leave at once and each man almost flew back to his camp.

These men, who had been pressed by the alarming feeling that they were in critical danger, now felt impatient and strained, waiting for their own names to be called as Hideyoshi gave out his commands.

Except for Hideyoshi's pages and attendants, practically all the generals had withdrawn to make their preparations. But two local men, Ujiie Hiroyuki and Inaba Ittetsu, as well as Horio Mosuke, who was under Hideyoshi's direct command, had not received orders.

Looking as though he could hardly contain himself, Ujiie came forward on his own and said, "My lord, I have a favor to ask: I would also like to prepare my own forces to go with you."

"No, I want you to stay at Ogaki. I'll need you to keep Gifu under control." He then turned to Mosuke. "I want you to stay here too."

With those last orders, Hideyoshi left the enclosure. He called for his page and asked him, "What about the couriers I ordered before? Are they ready?"

"Yes, my lord! They're waiting for your instructions."

The page ran off quickly and returned with fifty runners.

Hideyoshi turned to the runners and addressed them directly. "Today is a day like no other in our lives. It is a great blessing for you to have been chosen to be the heralds of this day."

He continued with individual orders. "Twenty of you will announce to the villagesOn the road between Tarui and Nagahama that torches should be set along the roads at nightfall. Also, no obstructions like handcarts, stock, or lumber should be left in the way. Children should be kept indoors and bridges should be strengthened."

The twenty men on his right nodded simultaneously. To the remaining thirty men he gave the following instructions: "The rest of you go to Nagahama at top speed. Have the garrison prepare itself, and tell the elders of the towns and villages that military provisions should be placed along the roads that we'll be traveling." The fifty men ran off right away.

Hideyoshi immediately issued a command to the retainers around him and then mounted his black horse.

Just then Ujiie ran up unexpectedly. "My lord! Wait a moment!" Clinging to Hideyoshi's saddle, the warrior was weeping silently.

Leaving Ujiie alone in Gifu, with the possibility that he might communicate with Nobutaka and rebel, had been a source of anxiety for Hideyoshi. To forestall betrayal, he ordered Horio Mosuke to stay with Ujiie.

Ujiie was mortified not only by the thought that he had been doubted but also by the realization that Mosuke would be left out of the most important battle of his life just because of him.

It was in response to those deep emotions that Ujiie now clung to the bridle of Hideyoshi's horse. "Even if it's not right for me to accompany you, I beg you to allow General Mosuke at least to be at your side. I'll be happy to disembowel myself right here to remove your anxiety!"

And he put his hand on his dagger.

"Keep your head, Ujiie!" Hideyoshi shouted, striking the man's hand with his whip. Mosuke can follow me if he wants to come with me that much. But he should come after the army has left. And for that matter, we can't just leave you. You should come along too."

Almost insane with joy, Ujiie turned toward the staff headquarters and called out in a loud voice, "Lord Mosuke! Lord Mosuke! We've received permission to go! Come out and show your gratitude."

The two men prostrated themselves on the ground, but all that remained was the sound of a whip in the wind. Hideyoshi's horse was already galloping off in the distance. Even his attendants were caught off guard and had to scramble to catch up.

The men on foot, as well as those who quickly mounted their horses, chased after their master all at once without any formation or order.

It was the Hour of the Ram. Not even two hours had passed between the arrival of the first courier and Hideyoshi's departure. During that time, Hideyoshi had turned a defeat in northern Omi into an opportunity for victory. He had created a new strategy for his entire army on the spot. He had instructed couriers and sent them out with orders along the thirteen-league road to Kinomotothe road that would be his path to all or nothing.

He had been resolved in both body and mind.

With the impetus of that resolve, he himself and a force of fifteen thousand men sped straight ahead, while five thousand men remained behind.

Hideyoshi and his advance guard entered Nagahama that afternoon at the Hour of the Monkey. One corps followed another, and the last men and horses to leave Ogaki must have been departing just about the same time the advance guard was entering Nagahama.

Hideyoshi was not negligent when he arrived at Nagahama, but immediately made preparations for taking the initiative against the enemy. In fact, he never even dismounted. After eating rice balls and slaking his thirst with a ladle of water, he quickly departed from Nagahama and hurried on through Sone and Hayami. He arrived at Kinomoto at the Hour of the Dog.

It had taken them only five hours to travel from Ogaki, because they had come the entire way without stopping.

Hidenaga's fifteen thousand men were at Mount Tagami. Kinomoto was actually a post station on the road that skirted the eastern slope of the mountain. A division of the army on the peak was stationed there. Just outside the village of Jizo, the men had constructed an observation tower.

"Where are we? What's the name of this place?" Hideyoshi asked, pulling his galloping horse to an abrupt halt and holding on tightly.

"This is Jizo."

"We're close to the camp at Kinomoto."

The answers came from some of the retainers around him. Hideyoshi remained in the saddle.

"Give me some water," he ordered. Taking the ladle offered him, he swallowed down the water in one gulp and stretched for the first time since he had left Ogaki, then dismounted and quickly walked to the base of the watchtower and looked up to the sky. The tower was unroofed and had no stairway. The soldiers simply climbed up by stepping on roughly spaced wooden footholds.

Suddenly Hideyoshi seemed to recall his days as a young foot soldier. Tying the cord of his commander's fan to the sword he was wearing, he began to climb to the top of the tower. His pages pushed him up by his hindquarters, and a sort of human ladder was formed.

"This is dangerous, my lord."

"Don't you need a ladder?"

The men below called to him, but Hideyoshi was already well over twenty feet from the ground.

The violent storm that had passed over the plains of Mino and Owari had abated. The sky was clear and full of stars, and Lake Biwa and Lake Yogo were like two mirrors thrown onto the plain.

When Hideyoshi, who had seemed weary from the journey, stood on the towerhis resolute figure outlined against the night skyhe was far more happy than tired. The more dangerous the situation and the deeper his hardships, the happier he became. It was the happiness that arose from surmounting adversities and being able to turn and see them behind him, and he had experienced it to greater and lesser degrees since the time of his youth. He himself claimed that the greatest happiness of life was to stand at the difficult border between success and failure.

But now, as he gazed out over nearby Shizugatake and Mount Oiwa, he looked like a man who was confident of victory.

Hideyoshi, however, was far more cautious than most men. Now, as was his habit, he fully closed his eyes and placed himself in a position where the world was neither enemy nor ally. Extricating himself from earthly inconsistencies, he himself became the heart of the universe and listened for the declaration of heaven's will.

It's just about finished up already," he muttered, finally displaying a smile. "That Sakuma Genba came out looking so fresh and green. What could he have been dreaming of?

Descending the tower, he immediately climbed halfway up Mount Tagami, where, he was greeted by Hidenaga. As soon as he finished giving Hidenaga his orders, Hideyoshi once again descended the mountain, passed through Kuroda, crossed over Kannonzaka, went along the east of Yogo, and arrived at Mount Chausu, where he rested for the first since departing Ogaki.

He was accompanied by two thousand soldiers. His persimmon-colored silk armor coat was covered with the sweat and dust of the day. But it was in that dirty coat, and the steady movements of his military fan, that he gave out the instructions for the battle.

It was already late at night, somewhere between the second half of the Hour of the Boar and the first half of the Hour of the Rat.

Hachigamine lay to the east of Shizugatake. Genba had brought up a single corps there during the evening. His plan for the attack on Shizugatake the following morning was to act in concert with the vanguard at Iiurazaka and Shimizudani to the northwest and to isolate the enemy fortress.

Stars filled the entire sky. The mountains, however, covered with trees and shrubs, were as black as ink, and the path that wound through them was nothing more than a narrow woodcutters' trail.

One of the sentries grunted.

What's going on?" another man asked.

Come here and take a look," yet another man called from a little farther off. The sound of men rustling through the undergrowth could be heard, and then the figures of sentries appeared on the ridge.

There seems to be a sort of glow in the sky," one of them said, pointing toward the southeast.

Where?"

From the right of that big cypress all the way to the south."

What do you think it is?"

They all laughed.

It must be the farmers near Otsu or Kuroda burning something."

"There shouldn't be any farmers left in the villages. They've all run away to the mountains."

Well then, maybe it's the bonfires of the enemy stationed at Kinomoto."

"I don't think so. On a night when the clouds are low it would be different, but it's strange to see the sky colored like this on a clear night. There are too many trees blocking our view here, but we should be able to see if we climb up to the edge of that cliff."

"Hold up! That's dangerous!"

"If you slip, you'll fall all the way into the valley!"

They tried to stop him, but he climbed out onto the rock face, clinging to the vines. His silhouette looked like that of a monkey on top of the rocky mountain.

"Oh no! This is horrible!" he suddenly called out.

His exclamation startled everyone below.

"What is it? What do you see?"

The man on the ridge stood silently, almost as though he were in a daze. One after another, the men below climbed up to where he was. When they reached the top, they all trembled. Standing on the rocky clifftop, they could see not only Lake Yogo and Lake Biwa but also the road to the northern provinces that wound its way south along the lake. Even the base of Mount Ibuki was visible.

Night had fallen, so it was difficult to see clearly, but there appeared to be a single line of flames flowing like a river all the way from Nagahama to Kinomoto near the foot of the mountain they were on. The flames stretched from point to point as far as the eye could seea steady stream of fire with circles of light.

"What's that?"

Dazzled for a moment, they suddenly came to their senses.

"Let's go! Quick!"

The sentries scrambled down the cliff face almost as if they'd lost their grip, and ran off to inform the main camp.

With glorious expectations for the next day, Genba had gone to sleep early. His soldiers too were already asleep.

It was close to the Hour of the Boar when Genba sat up, aroused from his light sleep.

"Tsushima!" he called out.

Osaki Tsushima was sleeping nearby, and by the time he got up, Genba was already standing before him, grasping a spear he had taken from the hand of a page.

"I just heard a horse whinny. Go out and check."

"Right!"

As Tsushima lifted the curtain he ran headlong into a man yelling for his life.

"This is an emergency!" the man said, panicked.

Genba raised his voice and asked, "What do you have to report?"

In his agitated state the man was unable to report on the urgent situation with conciseness.

"There are a great number of torches and bonfires along the road between Mino and Kinomoto, and they're moving along in an alarming red line. Lord Katsumasa thinks it's got to be an enemy movement."

"What! A line of fire on the Mino road?"

Genba looked as though he still did not understand. But one step behind that urgent report from Shimizudani came a similar dispatch from Hara Fusachika, who was camped at Hachigamine.

The soldiers in camp began to wake up in the dark commotion. Ripples spread out immediately.

Curiously, Hideyoshi was coming back from Mino. But Genba could not quite believe it; he still wore the unwavering look of someone who persists in his own convictions.

Tsushima! Go verify this!"

With that order he demanded his camp stool and consciously put on an air of composure. Certainly he understood the subtle feelings of his retainers as they looked to see what was written on his face.

Osaki returned quickly. He had ridden to Shimizudani, then to Hachigamine, and then continued from Mount Chausu to Kannonzaka in order to ascertain the facts. And the facts were these:

Not only can you see the torches and bonfires, but if you listen carefully you can hear the whinnying of the horses and the clattering of their hooves. It's nothing to joke about. You'll need to plan a counter strategy as quickly as possible."

Well, what about Hideyoshi?"

Its thought that Hideyoshi is in the van."

Genba was now so taken aback that he could hardly find the words to speak. Biting his lip, he looked up silently, his face pale.

After a while he said, "We'll retreat. There's nothing else we can do, is there? A large army is on its way, and our troops are isolated here."

Genba had stubbornly refused to obey Katsuie's orders the night before. Now he himself ordered his panicked troops to make preparations to strike camp, and hastened his retainers and pages.

Is the messenger from Hachigamine still here?" Genba asked the retainers around him as he mounted his horse. Told that the messenger was still in camp, he summoned him.

Go back immediately and tell Hikojiro that our main corps is now beginning a retreat, pulling back through Shimizudani, Iiurazaka, Kawanami, and Moyama. Hikojiro's forces should follow us as a rear guard."

As soon as he had finished giving the order, Genba joined his retainers and started down the pitch-dark mountain path.

Sthus, Sakuma's main army began its general retreat during the second half of the Hour of the Boar. The moon was not out when they set off. For about half an hour they burned no torches, to prevent the enemy from discovering their whereabouts. Instead, they stumbled down the narrow paths by the light of their fuse cords and the stars.

Comparing their movements in terms of time, Genba must have started to strike

camp just as Hideyoshi had climbed up Mount Chausu from Kuroda village and was taking a rest.

It was there that Hideyoshi talked with Niwa Nagahide, who had come in haste from Shizugatake to have an audience with him. Nagahide was an honored guest, and Hideyoshis treatment of him was polite indeed.

I hardly know what to say at present," he said. "You've gone to great trouble since this morning."

With those few words, he shared the commander's seat with Nagahide, later askingabout matters like the enemy's situation and the lay of the land. From time to time the laughing voices of the two men could be heard on the night wind blowing across the mountaintop.

During that time, the soldiers following Hideyoshi continued coming into camp in groups of two and three hundred.

"Genba's forces have already started to retreat toward Shimizudani and have left a rear guard in the area of Hachigamine," a scout reported.

Hideyoshi then issued an order to Nagahide to relay the following information and commands to all the fortresses of their allies:

At the Hour of the Ox, I will begin a surprise attack on Genba. Gather the local people and have them yell battle cries from the mountaintops at dawn. Just as dawn breaks, you will hear gunfire, which will signal that the opportunity has come for getting the enemy in our grasp. You should know without being told that the firing before dawn will be coming from the muskets of the enemy. The conch shell will be the signal for the general attack. The chance should not be missed.

As soon as Nagahide departed, Hideyoshi had the camp stool taken away. "They say Genba's running away. Follow his path of retreat and pursue him furiously," he said, telling the warriors around him to relay that order to the entire army. "And be sure not to fire your muskets until the sky begins to turn light."

It was not a level road they were on, but really just a mountain path with a good many dangerous spots. The attack began with one corps after another starting out, but they could not advance as fast as they would have liked.

Along the way, men dismounted and led their horses through swamps or along cliff faces where there was no road at all.

After midnight the moon rose to the middle of the sky and helped the Sakuma forces along their path of retreat. Its light, however, was also a blessing for Hideyoshi's pursuit of them.

The two armies were no more than three hours apart. Hideyoshi had sent an overwhelmingly large army into this one battle, and his warriors' morale was high. The probable outcome was clear before the fighting began.

The sun was high. It was almost the Hour of the Dragon. There had been fighting on the shore of Lake Yogo, but the Shibata had fled once again, collecting themselves in the area of Moyama and the Sokkai Pass.

Here, Maeda Inuchiyo and his son were camped, their banners flying peacefully. Very peacefully. Seated on his camp stool, Inuchiyo no doubt had coolly observed the gunfire and sparks that had been spreading over Shizugatake, Oiwa, and Shimizudani since dawn.

He commanded a wing of Katsuie's army, which put him in a truly delicate position, for his personal feelings and his duty to Katsuie were in conflict. One mistake and his province and entire family would perish. The situation was very clear. If he opposed Katsuie, he would be destroyed. If he abandoned his long friendship with Hideyoshi, however, he would be betraying his emotions.

Katsuie Hideyoshi

Comparing the two men, Inuchiyo very likely would not make a mistake in choosing between them. When he had left his castle at Fuchu for the battlefield, his wife had been worried about her husband's intentions and had questioned him closely.

If you don't fight Lord Hideyoshi, you won't be fulfilling your duty as a warrior," she said.

Do you think so?"

But I don't think that you need to honor your word to Lord Katsuie."

Don't be foolish. Do you think I'm capable of betraying my word as a warrior once Ive given it?"

Well then, which one are you going to support?"

I'm leaving it up to heaven. I don't know what else I can do. Man's wisdom is too limited for something like this."

The bloody, screaming Sakuma forces were fleeing toward the Maeda positions. Don't panic! Don't act disgracefully!" Genba, who was also fleeing in that direction accompanied by a group of mounted men, leapt from his crimson saddle and rebuked his troops with hoarse shrieks. "What's the matter with you? Are you going to run, after so little fighting?"

Reproaching his warriors, Genba was trying to encourage himself at the same time. As he sat down heavily on one of the rocks, his shoulders heaved and he seemed almost to be breathing fire. A bitter taste filled his mouth. The effort he had made not to lose his dignity as a general in the middle of this confusion and disaster was extraordinary, considering his youth.

It was only now that he was told that his younger brother had been killed. With open disbelief he listened to the reports informing him that many of his commanders had died.

What about my other brothers?"

In response to that abrupt question, a retainer pointed them out behind him. "Two of your brothers are over there, my lord."

Genba, with bloodshot eyes, spotted the two men. Yasumasa had stretched out on the ground and was staring absentmindedly up to the sky. The youngest brother slept with head dangling off to the side, while blood from a wound filled his lap.

Genba felt affection for his brothers and was relived that they were still alive, but the sight of those same brothershis own flesh and bloodalso seemed to enrage him.

Stand up, Yasumasa!" he yelled. "And pull yourself together, Shichiroemon! It's too early for you to be lying on the ground. What are you doing!"

Mustering his courage, Genba stood up with some difficulty. He, too, seemed to have sustained a wound.

Wheres Lord Inuchiyo's camp? On the top of that hill?" He started to walk away, dragging one of his feet, but turned back and looked at his younger brothers, who seemed coming behind him. "You don't have to come. You two should collect some men and prepare for the enemy. Hideyoshi is not going to waste time."

Genba sat on the commander's stool within the enclosure and waited. Inuchiyo soon appeared.

"I was sorry to hear what happened," he sympathized.

"Don't be." Genba managed to force a bitter smile. "With such mediocre thinking, I was bound to lose."

It was such an unexpectedly tame answer that Inuchiyo looked again at Genba. It seemed that Genba was taking the blame for his defeat entirely upon himself. Genba did not complain about Inuchiyo not sending his troops into battle.

"For the present, would you give us your assistance by holding off the attacking Hideyoshi forces with your fresh troops?"

"Of course. But do you want the spear corps or the firearm corps?"

"I would like the gunners' corps to lie in wait a good bit out in front. They could shoot into the confusion of the advancing enemy, and we could then act as a second force, brandishing our own bloody spears and fighting like we're ready to die. Go quickly! I beg of you!"

On any other day, Genba would not have begged Inuchiyo for anything. Even Inuchiyo could not help feeling pity for the man. He understood that Genba's humility was most likely due to the weakness he felt because of his defeat. But it also might have been because Genba already understood Inuchiyo's real intentions.

"The enemy seems to be approaching," Genba said, not relaxing even for a moment. As he muttered these words, he stood up. "Well then," he said, "I'll see you later." He lifted the curtain and went out, but then turned to Inuchiyo, who was coming out from behind to see him off. "We may not meet again on this earth, but I do not plan on dying ignominiously."

Inuchiyo escorted him as far as the place where he had been lingering a little while before. Genba bade him good-bye and descended the slope with quick steps. The scene below that filled his field of vision had changed completely from what it had been only minutes before.

The Sakuma forces had numbered eight thousand men, but it appeared that only about one-third of them remained. The others were either dead or wounded or had deserted. Those who did remain were either routed soldiers or distracted commanders, and their yells of confusion made the situation seem even worse than it was.

It was clear that Genba's younger brothers were incapable of organizing the chaos. Most of the senior officers were dead. The various corps had no leaders, and the soldiers were unsure of who would be next in command, while Hideyoshi's army was already visible in the distance. Even if the Sakuma brothers had been able to stop the rout at that point, little could have been done about the army's wavering.

But the gunners of the Maeda army ran as quietly as water through all the screaming and, quickly spreading out at some distance outside the camp, lay down. Observing that action, Genba yelled out a command in a penetrating voice, and finally the confusion abated a little.

The knowledge that fresh troops from the Maeda had entered the field became an extraordinary source of strength for Genba's soldiers, as well as for Genba and his remaining officers.

Don't retreat a step until we see that damned monkey's head at the end of one of our spears! Don't let the Maeda laugh at us! Don't shame yourselves!"

Spurring them on, Genba moved around through his officers and men. As might be expected, the soldiers who had followed him that far were alive to the feeling of honor.

Blood and gore, dried by a sun that had been shining brightly since the early hours of the day, stained the armor and spears of many. Dirt and bits of grass were mixed in with the filth.

Every man's face showed that he craved a drink of water, even if just a mouthful. But was no time for that. Great clouds of yellow dust and the sounds of the enemy's horses were already approaching from the distance.

But Hideyoshi, who had advanced thus far from Shizugatake with a force that had swept over everything, pulled back just before Moyama.

This camp is under the command of Maeda Inuchiyo and his son, Toshinaga," Hideyoshi announced.

With that observation, he suddenly brought the rushing advance of his vanguard to a halt. He then reorganized his his battle array and brought his men into formation.

At that point the two armies were out of firing range. Genba continued to command the Maeda gunners to take up a position in the path of the enemy's advance, but the dust covered Hideyoshi's army, which refused to advance into firing range.

After he had parted from Genba, Inuchiyo lingered at the edge of the mountain and watched the situation from afar. His intentions were a puzzle even to the generals around him. Two of his samurai, however, led out his horse.

Well, now he's determined to go out and fight. In their hearts, that is what his soldiers seemed to hope. But as Inuchiyo was stepping into the stirrups, he was whispering with a messengenger who had just returned with an answer from Toshinaga's encampment. Inumounted his horse but did not seem ready to move.

There was a noisy outburst in the direction of the foot of the mountain. When Inuchiyo and everyone else looked down that way, they could see that a frightened horse the rear of their formation had broken its tether and was running wild through the camp.

That would not have been a difficult situation in normal times, but at that juncture, confusion created more confusion and resulted in an uproar.

Inuchiyo looked back at the two samurai and signaled to them with his eyes.

Carry on, everyone," he said to the retainers around him, and hastened his horse forward.

At the same moment, rattling musket fire echoed across the plain. That would have come from their own gunners' corps, and Hideyoshi's forces must have opened their assault simultaneously. With those thoughts, Inuchiyo charged down the slope, looking at clouds of dust and gunpowder smoke off to the side.

Now! Now!" he muttered, and struck his saddle incessantly.

Gongs and large war drums were being beaten in one section of the encampment at Moyama, adding to the confusion. It seemed that Hideyoshi's irresistible forces had stepped over their own casualties on the gunners' line of defense and were already breaking deeply into the heart of the Sakuma and Maeda corps. And, as easily as they hadthrown the central army into confusion, they were now coming with such fury that nothing could stop them.

Observing the violent fighting, Inuchiyo avoided the road, joined forces with his son, Toshinaga, and quickly started to withdraw.

Some of his officers were both angry and suspicious, but for Inuchiyo it was nothing more than the action he had decided upon earlier. In his heart of hearts, Inuchiyo had always been independent, and his wish had been for neutrality. Because of the position of his province, he had been sought after by Katsuie and had been compelled to join that man's side. But now, because of his friendship with Hideyoshi, he quietly retreated.

But Hideyoshi's advancing troops tore relentlessly into the Maeda army, and some of the rear guard were cut down.

In the meantime, Inuchiyo and his son led their almost completely uninjured troops out of camp; from Shiotsu they took a roundabout route through Hikida and Imajo and finally withdrew into Fuchu Castle. During the violent battle, which lasted two days, the Maeda encampment was like a solitary forest standing peacefully in the midst of the clouds of chaos.

* * *

What had conditions been in Katsuie's camp since the night before?

Katsuie had sent six different messengers to Genba, and each messenger had returned in complete failure. Katsuie then lamented that nothing more could be done and went to sleep with bitter resignation. In fact, he should not have been able to sleep at all: he was reaping what he himself had sownhis favoritism toward Genba had yielded the poison of blind love. He had made a grave mistake in being led by his emotions into confounding the flesh-and-blood bond of an uncle and his nephew with the solemn ties between a commander and his subordinate.

Now Katsuie fully understood. Genba had also been the cause of the rebellion of Katsuie's foster son, Katsutoyo, at Nagahama. And he had heard of Genba's unpleasant haughty behavior toward Maeda Inuchiyo, of all people, on the battlefield in Noto.

Even recognizing such flaws in the man, Katsuie was still sure that Genba's fiber was far above the average.

"Ah, but now those very qualities may prove to have been fatal," he mumbled, turning over in his sleep.

At the moment when the lamps were beginning to flicker, a number of warriors came running down the corridor. In the next room and the room next to that, Menju Shosuke and others started up from their sleep.

Hearing voices in response to those footsteps, the men who had been guarding Katsuie's quarters quickly ran out into the corridor.

"What's happened?"

The bearing of the warrior who had rushed in as a spokesman was not normal. He spoke so quickly that his words jumbled together.

"The sky over Kinomoto has been red for some time. Our scouts have just returned from Mount Higashino"

Don't be so long-winded! Just give us the essentials!" Menju abruptly admonished the man.

Hideyoshi has arrived from Ogaki. His army is making a great uproar in the vicinity of Kinomoto," the warrior said in one breath.

What? Hideyoshi?"

The agitated men had come as quickly as they could to report the situation at Katsuis sleeping quarters, but Katsuie had already heard what had been said and came out to the corridor himself.

Did you hear what they were saying just now, my lord?"

I heard," Katsuie replied. His face looked even more ashen than it had earlier in the venening. "As for that, Hideyoshi did the same thing during the campaign in the western provinces."

As might be expected, Katsuie remained calm and tried to quiet those around him, but he could not conceal his own residual emotions. He had warned Genba, and from way he was speaking now, it seemed almost as though he were proud that that warning had hit the mark. But this was also the voice of that brave general who had once been called Jar-Bursting Shibata or Demon Shibata. Those who heard it now could only feel pity.

I can no longer rely on Genba. From here on I'll have to take my own stand, so we can fight to our hearts' content. Don't waver and don't be alarmed. We should be happy that Hideyoshi has finally come."

Gathering his generals, Katsuie sat down on his camp stool and issued the orders for troop dispositions. He behaved with the vigor of a young man. He had anticipated Hideyoshis coming as only a slight possibility; as soon as the possibility became a real threat, np was thrown into confusion. Not a few men left their posts of duty with the excuse of illness, others disobeyed orders, and many soldiers deserted in confusion and panic. It was a sad state of affairs: of seven thousand soldiers, not even three thousand now remained.

This was the army that had departed from Echizen with a will firmly set to fight Hideyoshi. Those men should not have been ready to run away at the first actual threat from him.

What had led them to that pointan army of over seven thousand men? It had been one thing only: the lack of an authoritative command. Also, Hideyoshi's actions had been unexpectedly swift, and that only dumbfounded them all the more. Rumors and false reports ran rampant, and thus cowardice was encouraged.

When Katsuie observed his troops' ugly confusion, he was not merely disheartened, but enraged. Gnashing his teeth, he seemed unable to keep from spitting out his indignation to the officers around him. First sitting, then standing, then walking around, the warriors around Katsuie had been unable to calm themselves down at all. His orders had been relayed two or three times, but the answers had been unclear.

Why are you all so flustered?" he asked, rebuking those around him. "Calm down! Leaving posts of duty and spreading rumors and gossip only causes our men to become more confused. Anyone committing such acts will be severely punished," he said, adding one rebuke to another.

A number of his subordinates dashed out a second time, announcing his strict orders. But even after that, Katsuie could be heard shouting in a high-pitched voice, "Don't get excited! Don't get confused!" But his intentions to suppress the turmoil only resulted in adding one more voice to the wild commotion.

Dawn had almost come.

The war cries and musket fire that had moved from the area of Shizugatake to the western bank of Lake Yogo echoed across the water.

"The way things are going, Hideyoshi should be getting here soon!"

"At least by noon."

"What! You think they're going to wait until then?"

Cowardice engendered more cowardice, and finally fear enveloped the entire camp.

"There must be ten thousand of the enemy!"

"No, I think there must be twenty thousand!"

"What? With that kind of power, there must be thirty thousand of them!"

The soldiers were caught up in their own fears, and no one felt comfortable without the agreement of his companions. Then a rumor that sounded like the truth started to circulate.

"Maeda Inuchiyo has gone over to Hideyoshi!"

At that point, the Shibata officers were no longer able to control their troops. Katsuie finally mounted his horse. Riding around the area of Kitsunezaka, he personally berated the soldiers in the separate encampments. Apparently he had come to the conclusion that it would be ineffective to let his own generals pass on the strict orders coming from headquarters.

"Anyone leaving camp for no reason will be cut down immediately," he screamed. Chase down and shoot any cowardly deserters! Anyone spreading rumors or dampening the martial spirit of the men is to be killed on the spot!"

But the situation had advanced too far, and the revival of Katsuie's severe martial spirit was in vain. Over half of his seven thousand troops had already deserted, and the remaining men hardly had their feet on the ground. In addition, they had already lost confidence in their own commander-in-chief. Reduced as he was to a position lacking in respect, even Demon Shibata's orders sounded hollow.

He rode back into his main camp, which was already under attack.

Ah, he thought, the end has come for me, too. Seeing his dispirited army, Katsuie realized the futility of the situation. His fierce spirit, however, pushed him on relentlessly toward his own desperate death. As dawn began to break, horses and men were scattered thinly over his sparse camp.

"My lord, this way. Over here for just a moment." Two warriors held on to either side of Katsuie's armor as though they were supporting his large body. "It's not like you to be this quick-tempered." Leading him forcibly through the maelstrom of horses and men and out of the temple gate, they shouted desperately at the others, "Hurry up and bring his horse! Where is our lord's horse!"

In the meantime Katsuie himself was shouting. "I will not retreat! Who do you think I am! I'm not running away from this place!" His fierce words came with increasing vehemence. Once again he glared and yelled at the staff officers who would not leave hisSide. Why are you doing this? Why are you keeping me from going out to attack? While you hold me down, why aren't you attacking the enemy?"

A mount was brought up. A soldier carrying the beautiful commander's standard emblazoned with the golden emblem came and stood next to it.

We can't stem the tide here, my lord. If you die in this place, it will be in vain. Why dont you fall back to Kitanosho and put your thoughts into a plan for another attempt?"

Katsuie shook his head and yelled, but the men around him hastily forced his body into the saddle. The situation was urgent. Suddenly the captain of the pages, Menju Shosuke, a man who had never distinguished himself in battle, ran forward and prostrated himself in front of Katsuie's horse.

Please, my lord! Allow me to take your commander's standard."

To ask one's lord for permission to carry the commander's standard meant that one was volunteering to make a stand in his place.

Shosuke said nothing more but remained kneeling in front of Katsuie. He displayed no particular preparedness for death, desperation, or ferocity; he looked as he usually did when he appeared before Katsuie as the captain of the pages.

What? You want me to give you the commander's standard?"

Mounted on his horse, Katsuie stared down at Shosuke's back in amazement. The

generals around him, struck with surprise, also fixed their eyes on Shosuke. Among Katsuie's many personal attendants, few had been treated more coldly than Shosuke had been.

Katsuie, who held that kind of prejudice against Shosuke, must have known what effect it had been having better than anyone else. And yet, wasn't that very Shosuke now before Katsuie, offering to put himself in Katsuie's place?

The wind of defeat blew desolately across the camp, and it had been unbearable for Katsuie to watch his men wavering since dawn. The cowards who had quickly thrown down their weapons and deserted had not been few in number; Katsuie had looked warmly upon many of those men and had given them his favors for many years. As those thoughts came to him, Katsuie was unable to hold back his tears.

Butt whatever Katsuie was thinking, he now kicked his horse's flanks with the heels of his stirrups, and chased away the pained look in his face with a thundering roar.

What are you talking about, Shosuke? Once you die, that's the time for me to die! Now move away!"

Shosuke scurried away from the rearing horse but grabbed its reins,

"Then let me accompany you."

Against Katsuie's will, Menju put the battlefield behind him and hurried off in the direction of Yanagase. Both the man who guarded the commander's standard and Katsuie's retainers surrounded his horse and hurried him off in the middle of their group.

But Hideyoshi's vanguard had already broken through Kitsunezaka and, ignoring the Shibata warriors standing in its defense, put their sights on the golden standard fleeing into the distance.

"That's Katsuie! Don't let him get away!" A crowd of swift-running spearmen gath-Jgether and ran in Katsuie's direction.

We'll take our leave here, my lord!" Tossing off those words of farewell, the generals fleeing with Katsuie suddenly left his side, wheeled around, and dashed into the midst of the fierce spears of the pursuing troops. Their corpses soon fell to the ground.

Menju Shosuke had also turned and faced the enemy's onslaught, but now he once again chased after his lord's horse and yelled at Katsuie from behind.

"The commander's standard please let me carry it!"

They were just outside of Yanagase.

Katsuie brought his horse to a halt and took the gold commander's standard from the man next to him. It held so many memorieshe had raised it in his camps together with his reputation as the "Demon Shibata."

"Here, Shosuke. Take it among my warriors!"

With those words, he suddenly tossed the standard to Shosuke.

Shosuke bent forward and agilely caught it by the shaft.

He was overjoyed. Waving the standard for a moment or two, he sent his final words in the direction of Katsuie's back.

"Good-bye, my lord!"

Katsuie turned, but his horse continued galloping toward the mountainous area of Yanagase. Only ten mounted men were accompanying him.

The commander's standard had been tossed into Shosuke's hands just as he had begged, but at that moment Katsuie had also left him with the words, "Take it among my warriors!

That had been his request and it no doubt had been made in consideration of the men who were being left to their deaths along with Shosuke.

Some thirty men instantly gathered beneath the standard. Those were the only men who truly respected their own honor and who were willing to die for their lord.

Ah, there are some honorable Shibata men left, Shosuke thought, looking happily at the faces around him. "Come on! Let's show them how to die happily!"

Putting the standard into the hands of one of the warriors, he dashed out in front, hurrying west from Yanagase village toward the northern ridge of Mount Tochinoki. When the small force of not even forty men made the resolve to go forward, they manifested a spirit far more intense than that of the thousands of men on Kitsunezaka that morning.

"Katsuie has fallen back to the mountains!"

"It appears that he's made his final resolve and is prepared to die."

As might be expected, the pursuing Hideyoshi troops exhorted each other to go on.

"We'll have Katsuie's head!"

Each one fought to take the lead as they started to climb Mount Tochinoki. Flashing the golden standard on the mountaintop, the Shibata warriors watched breathlessly as the numbers of enemy warriorswho were scrambling up even in places where there was no pathincreased moment by moment.

"There's still time to pass around a farewell cup of water," Shosuke said.

In those few moments, Shosuke and his comrades scooped up and shared the water that trickled from between the crags on the mountaintop and calmly prepared themselves for death. Shosuke suddenly turned to his brothers Mozaemon and Shobei.

"Brothers, you should escape and return to our village. If all three of us achieve death In battle at once, no one will be able to carry on the family name or take care of our mother. Mozaemon, the elder brother is supposed to carry on the family name, so why go now?"

If the younger brothers are cut down by the enemy," Mozaemon replied, "can the elder brother face his mother with the words 'I'm home now?' No, I'll stay here. Shobei, you should go."

That would be horrible!" ?"

Why?

For me to be sent home alive at a time like this would hardly be a pleasure for our mother. And our dead father must be looking at his sons from the other world today as well. It will not be my feet that walk back to Echizen today."

Well then, we'll die together!"

Their souls united in a pledge of death, the three brothers stood unwavering beneath the commander's standard.

Shosuke made no further mention to his brothers about wanting them to return home.

The three brothers took their farewell drink from a scoop of clear spring water and, as a refreshing spirit passed through their breasts, all turned in the direction of their home.

One can imagine the prayers that were in their hearts. The enemy was approaching from all sides, close enough now that the individual voices of enemy soldiers could be heard.

Guard the commander's standard, Shobei," Shosuke said to his younger brother as he put on his face guard. He was pretending to be Katsuie, and did not want the enemy to recognize him.

Five or six musket balls snapped past his head. Taking that as their cue, the thirty men invoked Hachiman, the god of war, and struck out for the enemy.

They divided into three units and attacked the advancing enemy. The men coming up from below were breathing hard and could not stand up to the desperate figures running down at them. Long swords poured down on the helmets of Hideyoshi's men, spears pierced their breasts, and their wretched corpses fell everywhere.

Let no one be too eager to die!" Shosuke shouted suddenly as he withdrew inside a palisade.

As the commander's standard followed him, so too did his remaining men.

Its said that the slap of five fingers is not as strong as the blow of a single fist. If our little force scatters, its effects will be weakened. Stay beneath the standard whether we advance or-retreat."

Given that caution, they leaped out once again. Whirling one way, they cut furiously into the enemy; whirling another, they pierced him with spears. Then, like the wind, they withdrew to their ramparts.

Thus, they sallied forward six or seven times to fight.

The attackers had already lost more than two hundred men. It was close to noon, and an intense sun shone high overhead. The fresh blood on the armor and helmets dried quickly, giving off a black luster like that of lacquer.

There were fewer than ten men remaining beneath the commander's standard, and their fiery eyes hardly seemed to see each other. Not one man was uninjured.

An arrow pierced Shosuke's shoulder. As he looked at the fresh blood flowing over his sleeve, he pulled the arrow from his body with his own hand. Then he turned in the direction from which the arrow had come. The tops of a great number of helmets could be seen approaching, rustling through the bamboo grass like wild pigs.

Shosuke used the time he had left to speak quietly to his comrades. "We have fought every way we could, and we have nothing to regret. Everyone choose a respectable enemy and make a splendid name for yourself. Let me be the first, dying in our lord's stead. Do not let the commander's standard fall. Carry it high, one man after another!"

Those blood-smeared warriors so prepared to die raised the standard toward the enemy coming through the bamboo grass. The warriors moving in their direction must have been uncommonly fierce men. They came on unflinchingly, demonstrating the oaths they had made with their spears. Shosuke faced them and yelled out to dampen their spirits.

"How discourteous of you! Low-class nobodies! Are you thinking of putting your spears into the body of Shibata Katsuie?"

Shosuke looked like a demon, and in fact no one was able to stand in front of him. A number of men were speared down almost at his feet.

Observing the man's ferocity and fighting desperately with men who were willing to defend their commander's standard to the death, even the most violent braggarts of the attacking troops broke their encirclement and opened up a path to the foot of the mountain.

"Here I am! Katsuie himself is coming! If Hideyoshi is here, have him meet me mounted and alone! Come on out, monkey-face!" Shosuke yelled out as he went down the slope road.

Right there he pierced an armored warrior with a mortal wound. His elder brother, Mozaemon, had already been struck down; his little brother, Shobei, had crossed long swords with an enemy warrior, and each had struck the other dead. Shobei had fallen to the base of a nearby crag.

Beside him, the gold commander's standard lay abandoned, now completely red.

From both the top and the bottom of the slope, innumerable spears now pressed in on Shosuke's body, every warrior wanting to take the commander's standard and the head they believed to be Katsuie's.

Each man vied with the others for the prize. Beneath the confusion of spears, Menju Shosuke achieved death in battle.

A handsome young warrior of only twenty-five years, he had been held in low esteem by men like Katsuie and Genba because of his reticence, gentility, grace, and love of learningShosuke's innocent features were still concealed by his face guard.

"I killed Shibata Katsuie!" a samurai yelled.

"His commander's standard was taken by these hands!" shouted another.

Then every voice was raised, one man claiming this, another claiming that, until the entire mountain shook.

And still Hideyoshi's men had no idea that the head belonged not to Shibata Katsuie, But to Menju Shosuke, the captain of his pages.

We've killed Katsuie!"

Ive held the head of the lord of Kitanosho!"

Pushing and shoving, their cries reverberated through the air. "The standard! The standard! And his head! We took his head!"


A Bowl of Tea | Taiko | A True Friend