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The Sins of the Father

In just one short year, Hideyoshi had risen so rapidly to prominence that even he was surprised. He had struck down the Akechi and the Shibata; Takigawa and Sassa knelt before him; Niwa held him in special confidence; and Inuchiyo had demonstrated his loyalty to their old friendship.

Hideyoshi now controlled almost all the provinces that Nobunaga had conquered. Even his relationship with provinces outside Nobunagas sphere of influence had undergone a complete change. The Mori, who for years had obstinately resisted Nobunaga's plans for hegemony, had signed a treaty of alliance and sent hostages.

There was, however, one man who remained an open question: Tokugawa Ieyasu. There had been no communication between the two for some time. They were silent, like poor chess players waiting for the other side to make a good move.

The silence was finally broken by a diplomatic overture from Ieyasu, soon after Hideyoshi's return to Kyoto on the twenty-first day of the Fifth Month. Ieyasu's most senior general, Ishikawa Kazumasa, called on Hideyoshi at Takaradera Castle.

"I have come to convey Lord Ieyasu's congratulations. Your great victory has brought peace to the nation." With that solemn announcement, Kazumasa presented Hideyoshi with a valuable antique tea container called Hatsuhana.

Hideyoshi had become a devotee of the tea ceremony, and he was delighted to receive the precious gift. But it was also clear that he derived even greater satisfaction from having received the courtesy from Ieyasu first. Kazumasa had planned on returning to Hamamatsu that very day, but Hideyoshi detained him.

"You don't have to hurry," Hideyoshi said. "Stay for two or three days. I'll tell Lord Ieyasu that I insisted. Especially since we're having a little family celebration tomorrow.

What Hideyoshi called "a little family celebration" was the banquet to mark his Investiture with a new court title, which was the seal of imperial approval on his domestic policies and military successes. He was also to announce the construction of a major new castle in Osaka.

The banquet lasted three days. A seemingly endless line of guests made its way up to the castle, and the narrow streets of the town were clogged with the carriages of courtiers, servants and horses.

Kazumasa was forced to admit that Nobunaga's mantle had come to rest on Hideyoshis shoulders. Until that day he had firmly believed that it would be his lord, Ieyasu, who would succeed Nobunaga, but the time he spent with Hideyoshi changed his mind. When he compared Hideyoshi's and Ieyasu's provinces and reflected on the differences between their troops, he concluded sadly that the Tokugawa domain was still a small provincial outpost in eastern Japan.

A few days later, Kazumasa announced his intention to leave, and Hideyoshi accompanied him as far as Kyoto. As they were riding along, Hideyoshi turned in the saddle and looked back. He beckoned to Kazumasa, who was riding some way behind, to join him. As a retainer of another clan, Kazumasa had been received with the courtesy due to a guest, but he quite naturally rode behind Hideyoshi.

Hideyoshi said warmly, "We decided to travel together, and that doesn't mean that we should ride separately. The road to Kyoto is particularly boring, so let's talk as we ride."

Kazumasa hesitated for a moment but then rode up to Hideyoshi's side.

its inconvenient going back and forth to Kyoto," Hideyoshi went on. "So within the year Im going to move to Osaka, which is close to the capital." He then described his plans to build a castle.

Youve chosen a good location in Osaka," Kazumasa remarked. "It's said that Lord Nobunaga had his eye on Osaka for a number of years."

Yes, but the warrior-monks of the Honganji were entrenched in their temple-fortress there, so he was forced to settle for Azuchi."

Before long they entered the city of Kyoto, but just as Kazumasa was about to take his leave, Hideyoshi stopped him once again and said, "It wouldn't be advisable to take the land route in this heat. You'd better take a boat across the lake from Otsu. Let's have some lunch with Maeda Geni while the boat's being prepared."

He was referring to the man he had recently appointed to the governorship of Kyoto. Giving Kazumasa no chance to refuse, Hideyoshi led him to the governor's mansion. The courtyard had been swept clean, as though the visitor had been expected, and Geni's reception of-Kazumasa was extremely courteous.

Hideyoshi continuously urged Kazumasa to relax, and during lunch they talked of nothing else but the castle he was going to build.

Geni brought in a large sheet of paper and spread it out on the floor. A plan for a cas

Tle was beining shown to an envoy from another province, and both the man showing it and the man being shown it looked apprehensive of the reason for Hideyoshi's openness; ^parent explanation was that Hideyoshi had forgotten that Kazumasa was a retainer of the Tokugawa clan, as well as the status of his own relationship with that clan.

Ive heard that you're quite an expert on castles," Hideyoshi told Kazumasa, " so if you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate."Just as Hideyoshi had said, Kazumasa was quite well versed in castle construction. Normally such plans would be top secrethardly something to show to a retainer from a rival provincebut Kazumasa put away his doubts about Hideyoshi's intentions and studied the plans.

Kazumasa knew Hideyoshi was unlikely to do anything small, but he was overawed by the scale of the project. When Osaka had been the headquarters of the warrior-monks of the Honganji, their fortress had occupied an area of one thousand square yards. In Hideyoshi's plan, that became the foundation for the main citadel. The area's topography rivers, mountains, and seacoasthad been taken into consideration; their advantages and disadvantages had been considered, and the comparative difficulties of attack and defense and other logistical problems had all been thought out. The main citadel, and the second and third, were all surrounded by earthen walls. The circuit of the outer walls was more than six leagues. The tallest building within the walls was a five-story keep, which would be pierced with openings from which to shoot arrows. The tiles of the roof were to be gold-leafed.

In his amazement Kazumasa could only marvel in silent awe at what he saw before him. But what he had been staring at was still nothing more than a part of the project. The moat surrounding the castle took its water from the Yodo River. With the prosperous mercantile city of Sakai close by, Osaka was connected with numerous trade routes to China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. The nearby Yamato and Kawachi mountain chains formed a natural defensive wall. The Sanin and Sanyo roads connected Osaka with sea and land routes to Shikoku and Kyushu, and made it a gateway with access to all outlying areas. As the location of the country's most important castle and a place from which to rule the nation, Osaka was many times superior to Nobunaga's Azuchi. Kazumasa could discover nothing lacking here.

"What do you think?" Hideyoshi asked.

"Absolutely perfect. It's a plan on a grand scale," Kazumasa replied. There was nothing more he could honestly say.

"It will be sufficient, don't you think?"

"On the day it's completed, it will be the largest castle town in the whole country," Kazumasa said.

"That's what I intend."

"When do you anticipate its completion?"

"I'd like to move in before the year is through."

Kazumasa blinked disbelievingly. "What! By the end of the year?"

"Well, about then."

"It could take ten years for an engineering project of that size."

"In ten years the world will have changed, and I'll be an old man," Hideyoshi said, laughing. "I've ordered the overseers to complete the castle's interior, including its decorations, within three years."

"I can't imagine it's going to be easy to make the craftsmen and laborers work at such a pace. And the amounts of stone and lumber you will need are going to be immense.

"I'm bringing in lumber from twenty-eight provinces."

"How many laborers will you need?"

Im not sure about that. I suppose I'll need well over a hundred thousand. My officials say that it will require about sixty thousand men working every day for three months just to dig the inner and outer moats."

Kazumasa fell silent. He was depressed as he reflected on the great difference between this project and the castles of Okazaki and Hamamatsu in his own province. But would Hideyoshi really be able to bring the huge stones he needed to Osaka, an area totally lacking in quarries? And where, in these difficult times, did he think he could find the huge sums to pay for the project? He wondered whether Hideyoshi's great plans were really anything more than bragging.

Justt then something urgent seemed to have occurred to Hideyoshi, and he called for his secretary and began dictating a letter. Completely forgetting that Kazumasa was there, he looked over what had been written down, nodded, and started to dictate another letter. Even if Kazumasa had not wanted to listen to what was being said, Hideyoshi was right in front of him and he could not help but hear. Hideyoshi seemed to be dictating an extremely important letter to the Mori clan.

Once again Kazumasa was embarrassed and hardly knew what to do with himself. He said, Your official business seems to be rather urgent. Shall I withdraw?"

No, no, that won't be necessary. I'll be done in a moment."

Hideyoshi continued with his dictation. He had received a letter from a member of the Mori clan congratulating him on his victory against the Shibata. Now, under the pretext of giving an account of the battle of Yanagase, he was demanding that his correspondent define his own attitude concerning the future of his clan. It was a personal letter, and an extrememly important one.

Kazumasa sat next to him, silently looking at the stands of bamboo groves, while Hideyoshi dictated:

If I had given Katsuie a moment's rest, it would have taken much longer to defeat him. But the fate of Japan hung in the balance, so I had to resign myself to the loss of my men. I attacked Katsuie's main castle at the second half of the Hour of the Tiger, and by the hour of the Horse I took the citadel."

When he dictated the words, "the fate of Japan," his eyes were ablaze just as they had been when the castle fell. The letter then took a turn that would rivet the Mori clan's attention on his words.

It would be futile to mobilize our troops, but if necessary I will visit your province inperson to determine the matter of boundaries. Therefore, it is important that you use discretion and be resolved not to provoke me."

Kazumasa unconsciously stole a look at Hideyoshi and marveled at the man's boldness. Here was Hideyoshi lightheartedly dictating some very frank words, almost as if he were sitting cross-legged in front of his correspondent, having a friendly chat. Was he being arrogant or just naive?

Both the Hojo in the east and the Uesugi in the north have entrusted matters to my resolve. If you are also prepared to let me work freely, the government of Japan will be better than it has been since ancient times. Give this deep thought and your own personal care. If you have any objections, please let me know before the Seventh Month. It is essential that you relay all of this in detail to Lord Mori Terumoto."

Kazumasa's eyes watched the play of the wind in the bamboo, but his ears were absolutely fascinated with what Hideyoshi was saying. His heart quivered like the bamboo leaves in the wind. It appeared that, for this man, even the titanic task of building Osaka Castle was something he did in his spare time. And he asserted, even to the Mori clan, that if they objected they should let him know before the Seventh Monthbefore he went to war again.

Kazumasa was beyond admiration; he felt exhausted.

At that moment an attendant announced that Kazumasa's ship was ready to sail. Hideyoshi took one of the swords from his waist and presented it to Kazumasa. "It may be a little old, but people say it's a good blade. Please take it as a small token of my appreciation."

Kazumasa took it and reverently lifted it to his forehead.

When they went outside, Hideyoshi's personal guards were waiting to escort Kazumasa to the port of Otsu.

* * *

There was a mountain of problems awaiting Hideyoshi both inside Kyoto and out. After Yanagase, the fighting had come to an end; but even though Takigawa had submitted, there were still a few rebels who obstinately refused to surrender. Remnants of the Ise army had entrenched themselves in Nagashima and Kobe, and Oda Nobuo was in charge of mopping up the last pockets of resistance.

When he heard that Hideyoshi had returned from Echizen, Nobuo left the front for Kyoto and met Hideyoshi on that very day.

"When Ise submits, you may occupy Nagashima Castle," Hideyoshi told him.

That very mediocre prince left Kyoto for Ise in high spirits.

It was the time of day when the lamps were lit. The courtiers who had come calling had departed and all the other guests had gone. Hideyoshi took a bath and then, as he joined Hidekatsu and Maeda Geni for dinner, an attendant informed him that Hikoemon had just arrived.

The wind rustled the rattan blinds, and the loud laughter of young women drifted in on the air. Hikoemon did not go inside immediately, but first rinsed his mouth and smoothed his hair. He had returned on horseback from Uji and was covered with dust.

His mission had been to meet Sakuma Genba, who was a prisoner at Uji. It had appeared to be an easy mission but was in fact rather difficult, as Hideyoshi knew quite well. That was the reason he had chosen Hikoemon.

Genba had been captured but not executed. Instead, he had been imprisoned at Uji. Hideyoshi had ordered that he not be treated harshly or humiliated. He knew that Genba was a man of matchless courage, who, if released, would become a raging tiger. Thus, a strict guard was kept on him at all times.

Even though Genba was a captive enemy general, Hideyoshi felt sorry for him. He loved Genba's natural talents just as Katsuie had, and felt that it would be a shame to put him to death. So, soon after Hideyoshi returned to Kyoto, he sent a messenger to express his feelings and try to reason with Genba.

Katsuie is gone now," the messenger began, "and you should hereafter think of Hideyoshi as taking his place. If you do, you will be free to return to your home province and castle."

Genba laughed. "Katsuie was Katsuie. It is impossible for Hideyoshi to replace him. Katsuie has already committed suicide, and I have no thoughts of remaining in this world. I will never serve Hideyoshi, even if he gives me control of the entire nation."

Hikoemon had been the second messenger. He had left with the knowledge that it would be difficult. And sure enough, he had failed to change Genba's mind. >

How did it go?" Hideyoshi asked. He sat enveloped in the mosquito smudge rising from a silver censer.

He wasn't interested," Hikoemon replied. "He only implored me to cut his head off."

If that was his only response, it would not be sympathetic to push the matter any further. Hideyoshi seemed to be giving up the idea of persuading Genba, and the lines on his face suddenly disappeared.

I know what you were hoping for, my lord, but I'm afraid I wasn't a very competent messenger.

There's no need to apologize," Hideyoshi consoled him. "Even though Genba is a prisoner, he will not bow to me to save his life. His sense of honor is outstanding. I regret man with that kind of fortitude and determination. If he had been persuaded by you and had come to change his loyalty, that alone might have made me lose my respect for him." He added, "You're a samurai, and you knew that in the bottom of your heart, so it makes sense that you were unable to change his mind.

"Forgive me."

Im sorry to have troubled you with this. But didn't Genba say anything else?"

I asked why he had not chosen to die on the battlefield, but had run away into the mountains and been captured by farmers instead. I also asked why he spent his days as a captive, waiting to be beheaded, rather than killing himself." hat did he say?"

He asked me if I thought seppuku or being killed on the battlefield are the greatest courage for a samurai, then he said he was of a different opinion: he thought a must try his best to survive."

What else?"

When he escaped from the battle at Yanagase, he did not know whether Katsuie was alive or dead, so he was trying to get back to Kitanosho to help plan a counterattack. On the way, however, the pain from his wounds became unbearable, and he stopped at a farmhouse and asked for moxa ."

Sadvery sad."

He also very calmly said that he had borne the shame of being taken alive and sent to prison so that if the guards had presented him with an opening he might have escaped, stalked you, and taken your life. Thus he might have been able to appease Katsuie's anger en able to beg forgiveness for the mistake he had made when he penetrated the enemy lines at Shizugatake."

Ah, what a shame." Tears of sympathy welled up in Hideyoshi's eyes. "To have misused man like that and sent him to his deaththat was Katsuie's fault. Well, we'll let him have what he wants, and allow him to die with grace. See to it, Hikoemon."

"I understand, my lord. Tomorrow, then?"

"The sooner the better."

"And the place?"


"Should he be led around and exhibited?"

Hideyoshi thought for a moment. "I suppose that would be Genba's wish. Execute him in a field at Uji after you've led him through the capital."

The next day Hideyoshi gave two silk kimonos to Hikoemon just before he left for Uji.

"I expect Genba's clothes are dirty. Give him these for his death clothes."

That day Hikoemon rode to Uji once more to meet with Genba, who was now in solitary confinement.

"Lord Hideyoshi has commanded that you be led through Kyoto and then beheaded on a field in Uji, as you have wished," he said.

Genba did not look the least bit unhappy. "I'm grateful," he replied politely.

"Lord Hideyoshi has also provided these clothes."

Genba looked at the kimonos and said, "I am truly grateful for Lord Hideyoshi's kindness. But I don't think the crest and tailoring would suit me. Please return them."

"Not suit you?"

"These are clothes that a foot soldier would wear. For me, Lord Katsuie's nephew, to be seen wearing them by the people of the capital would only shame my late uncle. The clothes I am wearing may be rags, but even though they are still grimy from battle, I would rather be led around in them. But if Lord Hideyoshi will allow me to wear one new kimono, I would like something a little more suitable."

"I'll ask him. What is your wish?"

"A red wide-sleeved coat with a bold pattern. Beneath that, a red silk kimono with silver embroidery." Genba did not mince his words. "It is no secret that I was captured by farmers, tied up, and sent here. I bore the shame of being captured alive. My aim was still to take Lord Hideyoshi's head, but that, too, was unfulfilled. When I am taken to my place of execution, I imagine that it will cause some excitement in the capital. I regret wearing a miserable silk garment like this, but if I am to wear a better one, I want it to be like the gaudy clothes I wore on the battlefield, with a banner flying from my back. Beyond that, and as proof that I have no bad feelings about being tied up, I would like to be tied up in front of everyone when I get into the cart."

Genba's frankness was truly one of his most likable traits. When Hikoemon related Genba's wishes to Hideyoshi, he immediately ordered the clothes to be sent.

The day of Genba's execution arrived. The prisoner took a bath and tied up his hair. He then put on the red kimono and, over that, the broad-sleeved coat with the large patterns. He held out his hands to be bound and then got up into the cart. That year he was a robust thirty years old, such a handsome man that everyone lamented his death.

The cart was taken along the streets of Kyoto, and then back to Uji, where an animal skin was spread out on the ground.

"You may cut your own stomach," Genba's executioner offered.

A short sword was presented to him, but Genba only laughed. "You don't need to make allowances for me."

The ropes were not untied, and he was beheaded.

* * *

The end of the Sixth Month approached.

The construction of Osaka Castle should be moving right along," Hideyoshi said. Lets go take a look."

When he arrived, the men in charge of the project explained what had been achieved that point. The marsh at Naniwa was being filled, and canals had already been dug through its length and breadth. The makeshift shops of merchants were beginning to appear on the site of the castle town. Looking out toward the sea at the harbor of Sakai and the mouth of the Yasuji River, one could see hundreds of boats carrying stones, their full sails almost touching. Hideyoshi stood on the spot where the main citadel would be constructed and, looking landward, saw the tens of thousands of laborers and artisans of all trades.. These men were working day and night in shifts so that the construction would never stop.

Workers were levied from every clan; when a lord was negligent in sending his quota, he was severely punished, regardless of his status. There was a line of command of sub-contractors, foremen, and sub-foremen for every trade at each work station. Responsibilities were clearly defined for those in charge. If anyone was found lacking, he was immediately beheaded. The samurai from each clan who served as inspectors did not wait for punishment but committed seppuku on the spot.

But what concerned Hideyoshi most right now was Ieyasu. Throughout Hideyoshi's life, he had secretly thought that the most formidable man of the timesother than Lord Nobunagawas Ieyasu. Given his own conspicuous rise to power, he imagined that it would be almost impossible to avoid a confrontation with him.

During the Eighth Month, he ordered Tsuda Nobukatsu to take a famous sword by Fudo Kuniyuki and present it to Ieyasu.

Tell Lord Ieyasu that I was immensely pleased with the famous and matchless piece of pottery he presented to me when he sent Ishikawa Kazumasa."

Nobukatsu left for Hamamatsu toward the beginning of the month and returned on the tenth day.

The Tokugawa clan's hospitality was so gracious that I almost felt embarrassed. They were truly attentive," he reported.

Did Lord Ieyasu appear to be in good health?"

He seemed to be extremely well."

What about the discipline of his retainers?"

It had a quality you don't see in other clansan appearance of indomitability."

Ive heard that he employs a great number of newcomers as well."

It would seem that many are former retainers of the Takeda."

During his conversation with Nobukatsu, Hideyoshi was suddenly struck by the contrast between his own age and Ieyasu's. Certainly he was Ieyasu's elder. Ieyasu was forty-one and he was forty-sixa difference of five years. But far more than Shibata Katsuiewho was his senior by a number of yearshad done, the younger Ieyasu was giving him cause for a good deal of thought.

Nevertheless, all of that was hidden in his heart. Outwardly it was not in the least bit apparent that, soon after the hostilities with the Shibata, he anticipated yet another battle. Which is to say that the relationship between the two men seemed to be totally satisfactory. In the Tenth Month Hideyoshi petitioned the emperor on leyasu's behalf to give him a higher court rank.

* * *

In Azuchi, Lord Samboshi was just four years old. Several provincial lords came to greet the New Year and to pay their respects and pray for his continued health.

"Excuse me, Lord Shonyu?"

"Well, Lord Gamo, how fortuitous."

The two men had met by chance in front of the great hall of the main citadel. One of them was Ikeda Shonyu, who had been moved from Osaka to Ogaki Castle to make room for Hideyoshi. The other was Gamo Ujisato.

"You look healthier all the time," Gamo said. "That's the best you could ask for."

"No, my health goes along with the years, but we've been busy anyway. For a number of nights I haven't been able to sleep, even in Ogaki."

"You have the additional burden of being in charge of the construction of Osaka Castle, Lord Shonyu."

"That kind of work is appropriate for men like Matsuda and Ishida, but it's not fitting for us soldiers."

"I disagree. It's not like Lord Hideyoshi to put men in unsuitable places. You can be sure he has a need for you somewhere among the officials."

"I'm really annoyed that you can see that kind of resource in me," Shonyu replied, laughing. "By the way, what about your New Year's greetings to the young lord?"

"I just now took my leave."

"I was just leaving myself, so it's good timing, and there's a private matter I'd very much like to talk over with you."

"To tell the truth, as soon as I saw you, I realized there was also a matter I would like to ask you about."

"We must be having the same thoughts. Where shall we talk?"

Shonyu gestured toward a small room off the great hall.

The two men sat down in the empty room. There was no brazier, but the New Year's sun coming through the sliding paper doors was warm.

"Have you heard the rumors?" Shonyu began.

"I have. It's being said that Lord Nobuo has been killed. And it sounds like the truth."

Shonyu frowned and sighed. "We're already seeing the signs that there will be some kind of disturbance this year. How bad it will get depends on who the antagonists are, but the recent omens are troubling. You're younger than I am, Lord Gamo, but it appears to me that your judgment is better than mine. Don't you have the wit to come up with a good idea before something regrettable happens?"

He looked deeply anxious.

Gamo answered with another question. "Where can these rumors be coming from?"

I can't tell you that. But where there's smoke, there's fire."

Do you think there's something we don't know?"

No, not at all. The facts are just in the wrong order. To begin with, Lord Nobuo went to Takaradera Castle to call on Lord Hideyoshi in the Eleventh Month of last year. Its said that Lord Hideyoshi himself took charge of the reception held for thanking Lord Nobuo for subjugating Ise, and his hospitality was so great that Lord Nobuo stayed for four days.


Lord Nobuo's retainers had expected him to leave the castle on the following day, but on the second day there was no word from him, nor on the third day, nor even on the fourth. Well, it seems that they imagined the worst, and even his servants outside of the castle started blurting out a number of wild suppositions."

So that's it," Gamo laughed. "When you expose the roots of these stories, most of them are fabrications, aren't they?"

But Shonyu continued to look worried, and went on quickly, "After that, there was more public discussion of the matter, and various competing rumors ran back and forth between Ise, Nagashima, Osaka, and the capital. The first one claims that the origin of the false report of Nobuo's death came not from among Lord Nobuo's attendants but from the mouths of Hideyoshi's servants. The men at Takaradera Castle refute this. They claim that the rumor was born from the suspicions and dark spirits of Lord Nobuo's retainers. While each side is loudly denouncing the other, the rumor of Lord Nobuo's murder is ng like the wind."

Do people believe it?"

Its hard to fathom the mind of the common man, but after witnessing Lord Nobutaka's end directly after the fall of the Shibata, it's certain that a number of Lord Nobuo's relatives and retainers must be having bad dreams and asking themselves who's going to be next."

Then Gamo spoke openly about his own fears. He inched closer to where Shonyu knelt and said, "There should be a firm understanding between Hideyoshi and Nobuo regardless of the kind of rumors that are making the rounds. But there just may be considerable discord between them, too."

Gamo stared at Shonyu, who nodded vigorously.

Look at the situation since the death of Lord Nobunaga," Gamo said. "Most people think that after peace returned Lord Hideyoshi should have passed all authority to his former lord's heir. But no matter how you reason it through, it's clear that Lord Samboshi is young and that the successor should be Lord Nobuo. If Hideyoshi does not submit to Lord Nobuo, he could be accused of being disloyal and of forgetting the many favors the Oda clan bestowed upon him."

Its all a little unsavory, isn't it? Nobuo's intentions are transparent, and yet he seem to understand that what is about to happen is just the opposite of what he like."

"But do you think it's really possible that he's holding such optimistic thoughts?"

"He may be. What kind of calculations will be going on in the mind of a pampered fool, after all?"

"It's certain that they're hearing these rumors in Osaka and that misunderstandings are just going to increase."

"This is awkward, to be sure," Shonyu sighed.

As Hideyoshi's generals, both Shonyu and Gamo were bound to him by the absolute bond that existed between lord and retainer. But they were also bound to a set of conditions that now might not be so easily resolved.

First of all, at the time Gamo had been receiving Nobunaga's favors, he had married Nobunaga's youngest daughter. Moreover, Shonyu and Nobunaga had had the same wet nurse, and Shonyu's relationship with his former lord as a foster brother had been particularly close. Therefore, even at the conference in Kiyosu, the two men ranked as relatives. Quite naturally, they could not be indifferent to the problems facing the Oda clan, and except for the young Samboshi, the only person of Nobunaga's direct bloodline was Nobuo.

The two men would not have been so perplexed if they could have found anything of merit in Nobuo's character, but it was clear that he was nothing more than a mediocrity. Both before and after the conference at Kiyosu, it was clear to everyone that he was not the man to grasp the reins that had fallen from Nobunaga's hands.

But unfortunately no one would tell Nobuo the truth. The good-natured young aristocratwho had always leaned on the strength of his retainers, who had bowed and nodded approval at flatterers on every occasion, and who had been taken in by others who had manipulated him to their own advantagehad let a great moment in history pass by without even being aware of it.

Nobuo had secretly met with Ieyasu the year before and after the battle of Yanagase, had forced his brother to commit suicide on Hideyoshi's advice. More recently he had been rewarded with the provinces of Ise, Iga, and Owari for his victory in Ise and, perhaps thinking that his day was at hand, expected that Hideyoshi would next transfer the authority of the central government to him.

"But we can't just let the situation continue like this and look on like spectators. Don't you have some good ideas, Lord Shonyu?"

"No, I hoped to get some from you. You've got to think of something, Lord Gamo."

"I think the best thing would be to have Lord Nobuo meet with Lord Hideyoshi. Then he could speak frankly."

"That's an excellent idea. Well, he's been assuming an air of importance recently, so how will we go about this?"

"I'll invent some pretext."

For Nobuo, something that might have been interesting yesterday today was not. In his heart he was always discontented. Moreover, he was not the kind of man who would reflect on why that was so. The previous autumn he had moved to Nagashima Castle in his new province of Ise, and he had been granted a new court rank. When he went out the crowds bowed to him, and when he returned he was greeted by flutes and stringed instruments. There was nothing he wished for that he could not have, and that spring he Was still only twenty-six years old. The tragedy of Nobuo was that living in such enviable conditions, he was all the less satisfied.

Ise is too provincial," he would complain. "Why is Hideyoshi building that absurdly big caste in Osaka? Is he planning on living there himself, or is he going to invite the rightful heir to do so?"

When he spoke that way, it was Nobunaga speaking in his head. It was as though he had received his father's form but not his substance. "That Hideyoshi is immodest. He's forgotten that he was my father's retainer, and now he not only taxes my father's remaining retainers and hurries to build a gigantic castle, but he treats me as though I were an encumbrance. Lately he doesn't consult with me about anything."

The silence between the two men dated from the Eleventh Month of the previous year. Recent rumors that Hideyoshi was making plans and leaving him out of them were lough to raise his suspicions.

At the same time, Nobuo let out certain unguarded statements among his retainers, and these became public, so that his innermost thoughts became a further irritation to Hideyoshi. As a result, the New Year passed by without their exchanging greetings.

At New Year's, when Nobuo was playing kickball in the rear garden with his ladies-in-waiting and pages, a samurai announced a visitor. It was Gamo. He was two years older than Nobuo and was married to Nobuo's sister.

Gamo? He's here just at the right time," Nobuo said, gracefully kicking the ball. Hell be a good opponent. Bring him to the garden immediately."

The messenger left but quickly returned, saying, "Lord Gamo says he's in a hurry and is waitng for you in the guest room."

What about kickball?"

He said to tell you that he has no skill at the game."

What a peasant!" Nobuo laughed, showing a line of elegantly blackened teeth.

A number of days after Gamo's visit, a letter arrived from Gamo and Shonyu. Nobuo had been in a very good mood, and he quickly summoned four of his elder retainers and passed on the information.

We're going to Otsu tomorrow. They say that Hideyoshi is waiting for me at the Onjo Temple."

Will that be safe, my lord?" one of the four elders asked.

Nobuo smiled, clearly displaying his blackened teeth.

Hideyoshi must be troubled by the public rumors about our falling out. I'm sure thats it. He hasn't been dutiful to the person closest to my father."

But what sort of arrangements have been made for this meeting?"

In his answer Nobuo sounded quite self-assured. "It's like this. A while ago, Gamo came and said that there was gossip of something unseemly between Hideyoshi and me, but Gamo assured me Hideyoshi harbors no grudge at all. He asked me to go to the Onjo Temple in Otsu and have a New Year's meeting with him. I felt there was no reason to have any animosity toward Hideyoshi and agreed to go. Both Lord Shonyu and Lord Gamo assured me that I would be quite safe."

It could be said that Nobuo's tendency to accept at face value whatever was written or spoken was the result of his upbringing. So his elder retainers were all the more inclined to be prudent, and they could not hide their misgivings.

Crowding together, they looked over Gamo's letter.

"There's no mistake," one said, "it seems to be in his handwriting."

"Nothing else can be done," another replied. "If Lord Shonyu and Lord Gamo have gone to the trouble to handle the matter this far, we should not be remiss."

And so it was decided that the four senior retainers would accompany Nobuo to Otsu.

On the following day Nobuo set out for Otsu. When he arrived at the Onjo Temple, Gamo called on him immediately, and Ikeda appeared a little later.

"Lord Hideyoshi arrived yesterday," Shonyu said. "He's waiting for you."

The place for the meeting had been prepared at Hideyoshi's lodgings, the main temple, but upon being asked politely when it would be convenient for him to meet Hideyoshi, Nobuo replied with a little display of willfulness, "I'm tired from the trip, so I'd like to rest all day tomorrow."

"Well then, we'll make arrangements for the day after tomorrow." And the two men returned to inform Hideyoshi.

No one had the leisure to spend an entire day doing nothing, but since Nobuo had said he wanted to rest, everyone spent the day in useless tedium.

Upon his arrival, Nobuo had been annoyed to find that Hideyoshi and his retainers had occupied the main buildings, while the smaller ones had been allotted to his party. In arranging the day of the meeting Nobuo had tried to be a little self-assertive and had acted on whim, but the next day he himself seemed to be greatly troubled by his own boredom, and he started to complain.

"Even my senior retainers aren't here."

Nobuo spent the day being shown the temple's treasured books of poetry and being bored to tears by the endless talk of the old priests. When evening finally came, his four senior retainers appeared in his room. "Did you have a good rest, my lord?" one of the four asked.

The fools! Nobuo was angry. He wanted to scream that he was bored and had nothing to do, but instead he replied, "Yes, thank you. Did each of you make yourself comfortable in your own lodgings?"

"There was no time to make ourselves comfortable."

"Why is that?"

"The messengers from the other clans were unending."

"There were that many visitors? Why didn't you come and tell me?"

"You said that you wanted to rest for the day, and we did not want to disturb you, my lord."

Drawing circles with his fingers and tapping his kneecaps, Nobuo looked at them with haughty disinterest.

"Well, fine. But the four of you should eat your evening meal with me. We'll have a little sake too." The senior retainers looked at each other and seemed to be embarrassed. "Is there something else that will prevent you from doing that?" Nobuo asked.

One of the retainers said, as though he were apologizing, "The fact is that a while ago a messenger came with an invitation from Lord Hideyoshi, and we came here to ask your permission."

What! Hideyoshi invited you! What's this? Another tea ceremony?" A frown appeared on Nobuo's face.

No, I don't think it's anything like that. I doubt that he would invite retainers like us, especially for tea, and leave our lord out, when there are other lords here he could have invited instead. He said there was something he wanted to talk over with us."

How strange," Nobuo said, but then shrugged his shoulders. "Well, if he's invited you, I wonder if he's going to talk about finally having me fully take over the Oda clan. That might be it. It would be improper for Hideyoshi to lord it over the rightful heir. The people would never stand for it."

The main temple hall was deserted. Only the lamps waited for the night. The guests arrived. It was the middle of the First Month and bitterly cold. Then someone else approached, clearing his throat. Because the person was accompanied by an attendant, Nobuo's four retainers immediately realized that it must be Hideyoshi. He seemed to be giving orders in a loud voice as he walked along.

Sorry to keep you waiting," he said as he entered the room, and then coughed into his hand.

When they looked up, they could see that he was now alonenot even a page was behind him.

The four men were ill at ease. As each one greeted him, Hideyoshi blew his nose.

You appear to have a cold, my lord," one of Nobuo's retainers said affably.

I just can't seem to get over it," Hideyoshi replied in no less a friendly manner.

It was a rather plain setting for a discussion. Neither food nor drink were offered, nor did Hideyoshi begin with any small talk. "Aren't you troubled by Lord Nobuo's recent behavior?" he began.

The four men were filled with apprehension. They were shocked by what seemed to be a reprimand, and thought he was laying the blame on them as Nobuo's senior advisers.

Youre doing your best, I suppose," he said then, and the color returned to their faces. all of you are intelligent men, but I suspect you can't do much under Lord Nobuo. I understand. I've taxed my own ingenuity for his sake, but regrettably, it seems like I'm always meeting with reverses."

He said these last words emphatically, and the four men felt extremely cramped. Hideyoshi continued to expose his innermost feelings, making his dissatisfaction with Nobuo very plain. "I have made my decision," Hideyoshi said. "I feel sorry that you four have spent many years serving this man. To be brief, we can end the matter without fuss if you can persuade Lord Nobuo either to commit seppuku or to become a priest. As a reward-I will give you lands in Ise and Iga."

It was not just the cold that chilled the four men to the bone. The four walls felt like silent swords and spears. Hideyoshi's eyes shone fixedly, tiny pinpoints of light. Those eyes required the retainers to say either yes or no.

He would not give them time to consider his offer or allow them to leave withou hearing their answer. They were in a desperate situation. The four men hung their head in grief. Finally, however, they agreed and quickly wrote and signed pledges.

"My retainers are drinking sake in the Willow Room," Hideyoshi said. "Go and join them. I'd like to go with you, but I'm going to bed early because of this cold."

Picking up the pledges, he retired to his quarters in the temple.

Nobuo was unable to settle down that night. At dinner he had sat with his retainer and attendants, the priests, and even the virgin priestesses from the neighboring shrine He had been cheerful and talked in a loud voice, but when everyone had left and he was once again alone, he constantly asked his pages and the samurai on guard, "What time is it now? Haven't the senior retainers come back from the main temple yet?"

After a while only one of the men returned.

"Are you alone, Saburobei?" Nobuo asked at the retainer suspiciously.

The expression on the man's face was not normal, and even Nobuo felt apprehensive. Prostrating himself with both hands to the floor, the old man could not even look up. Nobuo could hear him sobbing.

"What is it, Saburobei? Did something happen while you were talking with Hideyoshi?"

"It was a painful meeting."

"What! Did he call you over to scold you?"

"If that had been it, it would not have been painful at all. What happened was totally unexpected. We were forced to sign pledges. You, too, must be resolved, my lord." He went on to reveal Hideyoshi's order in its entirety, then said, "We knew that if we said no he would kill us on the spot, so there was nothing we could do but sign. Later I saw my chance during a drinking party with his retainers and ran back here alone. There'll be an uproar when they discover I'm gone. You are not safe here, my lord. You must leave immediately."

Nobuo's lips had lost their color. The movements of his eyes seemed to show that he had heard only half of what the man had said. His heart beat as fearfully as a fire bell, and he could hardly sit still. "But then what about the others?"

"I came back here on my own. I don't know about the others."

"The others, they signed the pledge too?"

"They did."

"So they're still drinking with Hideyoshi's retainers? I misjudged them. They're lower than beasts!"

He stood up as he continued this abuse and snatched the long sword from the hand of the page behind him. As he walked hastily out of the room, the flustered Saburobei chased after him, pleading to know where his lord was going. Nobuo turned around and, lowering his voice, asked for a horse to be brought immediately.

"Wait for a moment, my lord." Understanding his lord's intentions, Saburobei dashed off to the stables.

The horse was a fine one, a bay called Sledgehammer. As soon as Nobuo was in the saddle, he galloped through the rear gate into the cover of night. No one knew he was gone until the following day. Naturally, the meeting with Hideyoshi was canceled on theExcuse that Nobuo had fallen ill, and Hideyoshi calmly returned to Osaka as though that was exactly what he had expected.

Nobuo returned to Nagashima, shut himself up inside his castle, and, still on the pretext of illness, would not show his face even to his own retainers. But his seclusion was not entirely on account of a feigned malady. He had really become quite ill. Only the doctor went in and out of the inner apartments, and although the plum blossoms behind the castle bloomed, the music ceased, and the garden was quiet and deserted.

In the castle town, on the other hand, and all over Ise and Iga, rumors spread and multiplied by the day. Nobuo's flight from the Onjo Temple had fueled everyone's suspicions.

Nobuo's senior retainers confined themselves to their castlesalmost as if by prearrangementand never came to Nagashima. That only encouraged the rumors and worsened the unease throughout the province.

The truth was always difficult to discover, but it was certain that the discord between Nobuo and Hideyoshi had once again ignited. Naturally, Nobuo's status was the center of the storm, and there did appear to be someone he could rely upon. Nobuo was conservative by nature, and believed in the efficacy of secret plots and stratagems. Although he always seemed to be in agreement with his allies, he was also quick to hint that he had other friends who would cover him from behind if the situation did not turn out the way he wanted. Unless he had a secret ally in reserve, he could never be at ease.

Nobuo now remembered the one great player who had stood in the shadows. That man, of course, was the sleeping dragon of Hamamatsu, Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu.

But the results of playing with strategy depend on the other players. The fact that Nobuo would consider using Ieyasu as his means to check Hideyoshi only demonstrated his lack of understanding of the other parties involved. The man with a devious mind never truly knows his opponent. He is like the hunter who chases after the deer and fails to see the mountains.

Beyond that, it was the natural conclusion to his kind of thinking that Nobuo would push Ieyasu to the fore and attempt to prevent Hideyoshi's rise to power. One night, after the beginning of the Second Month, Nobuo sent a messenger to Ieyasu. The two men bound themselves in a secret military alliance based on the mutual understanding that they were both waiting for the time when they could strike at Hideyoshi.

Then, on the sixth day of the Third Month, the three senior retainers who had not been in the castle since that night at the Onjo Temple suddenly appeared. They had been specially invited by Nobuo to a banquet. Ever since the incident at the Onjo Temple, Nobuo had been convinced that the men were traitors, plotting with Hideyoshi. Just seeing -them made him sick with rancor.

Nobuo nonchalantly entertained the three men, and after they had eaten, he said suddenly,"Ah, Nagato, I'd like you to see a new firearm that has just arrived from a blacksmith in Sakai."

They went to another room, and as Nagato looked at the musket, Nobuo's retainer suddenly yelled, "By my lord's command!" and grabbed him from behind.

"This is despicable!" Nagato gasped, tying to draw his sword from its sheath. But he was knocked to the ground by his more powerful assailant and could only struggle helplessly in his grip.

Nobuo stood up and ran around the room, yelling, "Let him go! Let him go!" But the violent scuffle continued. Holding his unsheathed sword over his head, Nobuo screamed once again, "If you don't let him go, I won't be able to cut the bastard down! Let him go!"

The assassin was holding Nagato by the throat, but seeing his chance, he thrust the man away. In the same instant, and without waiting for Nobuo to strike, he stabbed Nagato with his short sword.

A group of samurai, now kneeling outside of the room, announced that they had killed the other two retainers. Nobuo nodded his approval. But then he heaved a great sigh. Regardless of their crimes, to have executed three senior advisers who had been at his side for many years was a merciless act. Such brutality, of course, had also been in Nobunaga's blood. But in Nobunaga's case it was born of passion and imbued with great significance. Nobunaga's evil and violence were seen as drastic but necessary remedies for the ills of the times; Nobuo's actions, however, arose from nothing more than his own petty emotions.

The killings in Nagashima Castle could have churned up raging waves that might have led to disturbances on all sides beginning that very night. But the murder of the three senior retainers had been carried out in secret, and on the very next day, soldiers from Nagashima were dispatched to attack each of the retainers' castles.

It was not unreasonable for people to imagine that the next great battle was imminent. Something had been smoldering since the year before, but the flame that leaped out here might be the one that would finally scorch all the world. That was no longer just idle speculation, but seemed a certainty.

Characters and Places | Taiko | The Hooded Warrior