Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 2-2

Episode II-ii

Assassins shoot arrows to slay the white horse

Evil vassal robs two counties and leans on the red gate

 

At this moment Yamashita Sakuza’emon, with a bow on his back and arrows under an arm, came running on his horse up to the cedar trees on the hill.

“You traitor who murdered our lord who is both our land’s ruler over generations and our folk’s parents! Don’t you recognize Yamashita Sadakane here? ‘Tis easier to kill you in one shot right now than to crush an egg with an iron hammer, but I only missed your vitals because I intended to capture you alive. Tie him up.”

As he ordered thus, scores of soldiers strutting about crowded around to capture him.

Bokuhei was astounded at hearing the man name himself Sadakane.

“In that case the one my own arrow shot musn’t have been the man-eater. Now that our plot crossed like a crossbill’s bills and we took the life of our lord, there’s no way of escaping conviction for treason. Cursed is Yamashita Sadakane. He shall be the target of my arrows.”

He retreated to the hill-top, lying in grass and diving in trees, appearing here and hiding there, and thus put up a fight against them for a while but his movements were unlike earlier with his arrow wound and even as he cut and slashed he was up against many. As around him were more and more layers of men and it made it impossible for him to approach Sadakane, he must have given up and was about to cut his own stomach when the three who came up in front held him down from left and right and bound him at long last. Sadakane immediately assigned groups of men to looking everywhere for the ‘ruffian’s’ collaborators in vain as there were no others than the two from the first place.

Presently some tens of samurai senior or junior in ranks came up followed by some men carrying a palanquin for their lord. Sadakane, upon informing them of the incident, had the men carry Mitsuhiro’s body into the palanquin, then tow Bokuhei with his arms and wrists bound, and carry Mukuzo’s head, and he himself followed his master closely behind and they all returned to Takita Castle to everyone’s incredulity. Even the elders had no words against Sadakane in fear of his influence and only congratulated him on capturing the ruffians; from hence Sadakane started acting even more arrogant and would tyrannize any one be it an officer or an attendant as if they had been menials.

The next day they took out Mitsuhiro’s coffin and sent to Temple Kyouge-in (香華院); Somaki no Bokuhei with severe wound was whipped without a moment’s rest and died in prison on that day, so Sadakane gave orders to behead his body, stick his head on a freshly cut bamboo shoot and hang it on a chinaberry tree branch along with Mukuzo’s. In the same move he regarded those who would speak ill of him as ‘Bokuhei’s associates’ and caught and killed them all.

Even though Bokuhei and Mukuzo were coastal folk their martial skills and capacity excelled the others and they possessed an unyielding resolve to take down Sadakane – something which even Jin’yo’s men couldn’t do, they were unable to thwart the premeditation by the worst of the villains and ended up helping their enemy with his wrongdoing and involving many men. Tragic is too short a word.

Thus Yamashita Sadakane, now that his designs were fully realised, one day assembled seniors and advisers to the castle. Not one failed to come. The state of the affairs was thus. Sadakane, in trailing hakama trousers and an eboshi court hat with its attached strings adjusted longer, was seated at the top with a laid sword, and he also had 12 of chosen sumo wrestlers, wearing breast armour underneath their formal attire, wait on on his right and left. He then faced the assembly and said,

“Our late lord left this world unexpectedly and he had no children. Even as I wonder whether to select our heir from amongst other families in neighbouring counties, the Anzais in Tateyama or the Maros in Hiratate has only girls and no boys. What then are we to do?”

Sadakane looked around but no man dared look up. Their concerted reply was,

“Master Yamashita is highly virtuous and served our late lord even better than Shikken Hojo, Shogun’s Chief Steward in Kamakura, did his. Rather than seek an heir where there is none, please rule the two counties yourself. We shall all esteem you as our lord and serve you loyally. What say you sir?”

Spoken to in such a flattering manner, Sadakane smiled delightedly and said,

“Even though one is not as virtuous as you say, if one doesn’t abide by the assembly’s decisions the public’s faith shall be betrayed and the castle shall not be guarded for long. I shall govern the two counties for now until I deliver them to a virtuous one. You shall not be ambitious.”

Then he had them sign a pledge in blood, held a drinking party, and handed out some remuneration, so everyone rejoiced saying ‘Banzei – Long live the lord!’

Before long, Sadakane renamed Takita Castle Tamashita (玉下)[1], made Tamatsusa (i.e., Tamazusa, 玉梓) his legal wife and seated her in the back office, and even had Mitsuhiro’s concubines invite him to their bedrooms one after another; now that he tasted pleasure and luxury in abundance, wishing to establish authority in the neighbouring counties he sent messengers to Tateyama and Hiratate and had them say,

“I Sadakane, undeserving as I am, have been unexpectedly appointed by favour to be the lord of Nagasa and Hekuri. I wish only to form an alliance with you both. Whether I shall make a visit or you shall travel over here should be up to your discretion.”

Such arrogance appalled Maro and Anzai; they were envious but as it was not a matter to be dealt with in a single morning’s conversations they sent back the messengers saying,

“We shall send a reply.”

Now Anzai Saburo Taihu Kagetsura, the lord of this Tateyama Castle, was stout in body and mind with a penchant for conspiracies, without decisiveness in crisis however, while Maro no Kogoro Nobutoki, the lord of Hiratate Castle, was an avaricious captain of brute courage who would act in his own interest and was disdainful of others, so in the hope of conspiring with Anzai to assault Sadakane, one day with only his advisers as company he visited Tateyama Castle in secret and met Kagetsura and confidentially discussed Sadakane’s state of affairs and even his own intentions.

 

AnzaiSaburoTaihuKagetsura

Anzai Kagetsura standing in trailing hakama trousers on the right and Maro no Kogoro Nobutoki in a suit of armour  –  in courtesy of Fumikura by Prof Takagi Gen

 

“If you and I together lead armies of Awa and Asahina and attack Takita Castle there is no doubt in our victory. Should Sadakane easily surrender his skull and we share two counties of his, wouldn’t it feel satisfying?”

At this brazen suggestion Kagetsura shook his head.

“Kinai and Bando[2] are greatly afflicted by war and conflicts, but Awa has been safe these years and our samurai are not accustomed to be on horses. That Yamashita is a talent. Judging from the way he obtained his master’s estate without getting his hands dirty, his acumen and capabilities are immeasurable. The way every one esteems him highly and serves him loyally should show you the charisma and morals he must possess. Heaven sent luck is no match for geographic advantage, and geographic advantage is no match for solidarity[3]. Sadakane already has in his hands heaven, earth and people. Bleak is a horn-to-horn match without measuring calibre of oneself and others. Will there be a chance to capture him if we submitted to him for a while, lured him out of his counties, made a surprise attack with ambush? However, the famous Fan Zeng’s plan did not work in the Feast at Hong Gate[4]. That is to say despite all the troubles you could fail, but adding to that, you could be surprised by a snake in beaten grass and regret what is over. Wait a while for the right time. Once there is a commotion in Takita and people end up abandoning and defying him, they will surely be crushed without us attacking them. Not to be rushed.”

Kagetsura’s restraining words sounded circuitous to Nobutoki and their discussion reached no agreement, when Anzai’s attendant came hastily along the passageway, slowly opened the paper-screened shoji doors and observed them for a moment, so his master Kagetsura cast an eye on him and asked,

“What is the matter?”

At this the attendant approached him on his knees and reported briskly,

“A samurai who calls himself Satomi Matataro Yoshisane, of about age eighteen or nineteen, is here to intrude with only a couple of men. When we asked him for the reasons of the visit, his candid answer was, ‘I am an Ochiudo deserter[5] from Yuki in Shimofusa. My father Suyemoto died in service, and my own self, accompanied by two senior knights called Sugikura and Horiuchi, has escaped in disgrace to Sagami Way, crossed the sea from Miura and landed on Shirahama in this county. As the rest should not be discussed through messengers I request the honour of meeting the lord.’ What shall be done?”

Unable to reply directly, Kagetsura, tilting his head and knitting his brow, kept on ruminating as if to say “That I cannot agree.”

 

 

*This month’s post should be called ‘Prologue 3’ but because it is the ending of  Episode 2 in the original text, I decided it would be better for later convenience to call it 2-2.

 

[1] ‘Tama (玉)’ means a gem stone. The same Kanji is used in Tamazusa (玉梓)’s name, which in turn hints at her beauty. ‘Shita’ means under, so the castle was named ‘Under the Gem’ – where Tamazusa resides – in my understanding. For your reference ‘azusa (梓)’ in Tamazusa’s name is a kind of tree used to make bows used for religious ceremonies.

[2] Kinai is approximately (part of) present-day Kansai region which covers Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara, and Bando present-day Kanto region, i.e., around Tokyo.

[3] He is quoting Mencius, a Confucian scholar.

[4] ‘Feast at Hong Gate’ is an episode in Qin dinasty in China which involves Liu Bang, later Han dinasty emperor, his opponent Xiang Yu and Xiang Yu’s advisor Fan Zeng.

[5] Ochiudo is not exactly a deserter but is a warrior who ran from a lost battle.

 

© Livingdaylightz and The Legend of Eight Samurai Hounds, 2015 – 2016 (except for images). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of all or any part of this material without express and written permission from me, Livingdaylightz, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Livingdaylilghtz and The Legend of Eight Samurai Hounds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content and upon express and written permission from me, the author/site owner. The images belong to their individual copyright holders as specified in the text.

 

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