Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 4-3 (End of Episode 4)

Episode IV-iii

In Ko-minato Yoshizane raises justice

In Kaki-no-uchi Takayoshi pursues his vengeance

 

“Master Yoshizane, may we suggest a humble idea of ours? The county of Nagasa is delegated to Sadakane’s trusted retainer Shietage Kokuroku[1], who resides in the Castle of Tojo. It is not far from here. If you attack Kokuroku for a start, you will not only be equipped with armaments and food provisions but instantly have the whole county in your hand. It will give you much mobility in attacking Takita.”

As the old men succinctly laid out these ideas, Yoshizane was thoroughly impressed and couldn’t help looking from left to right.

“Gentlemen, did you hear that? They say you’ll always find the wise amongst the humble, and these elders are fine examples. Speed is everything in surprising an enemy. We shall make a move this very evening and attack them unprepared. Here are my plans…”

When Yoshizane finished giving them instructions, Takayoshi, together with Ujimoto and Sadayuki who got a thorough grasp of his plan, counted the number of the gathered villagers and found there were a few over a hundred and fifty. They immediately divided them into three troops and passed on the instructions, which were received eagerly. The unarmed cut out a bamboo stick from the bush nearby, sharpened it at the edge and instantly equipped themselves with a bamboo spear to be held under arms. One unit of over forty was led by Horiuchi Sadayuki in the van, with Kanamari Takayoshi pretending to be bound, which was Yoshizane’s plan to disguise the march. At the rear were fifty led by Sugikura Ujimoto, and the major unit of sixty men led by Yoshizane himself hurried along the paths to meet by the main gate to the castle.

Meanwhile in Tojo, Sadakane’s commissioner Shietage Kokuroku Motoyori had sent soldiers to “Put out the fire in Kominato” in the evening. However, having learnt it was a wild fire away from the residential areas and it had already been destroyed, the soldiers had returned to bed and were deep in dreams until before dawn when a crowd of people knocked on the gate doors of the main gate and surprised the gate keeper, who asked,

“Who is it?”

He found out that it was some village elders from A’ekawa in Kominato reporting a thief. Prompted, they explained how they had captured a suspicious looking man whilst they were putting out the fire in the bamboo bush belonging to Tanjo Temple in the previous evening.

“The captured looked no ordinary man in strength, speed, and looks in his face.

“When we tried to force him to identify himself before long he would only curse, but someone who knew him told us that the man was Kanamari Hachiro Takayoshi, who used to serve the previous lord. It’s become obvious that he had been roaming Takita under a pseudonym and in disguise, with intentions of avenging his long-time master. This was a matter of serious crime, and trouble was certain to arise if we let him run by mistake, so we put together a big crowd of men to tow him in without waiting for the dawn. Would you please pass the message?”

When the old men said these in a raised voice, the gate keeper opened the window and had a good look on them and said,

“Well done, you. Wait till I tell them to let you in.”

As soon as he said these words he shut the flap and ran, presumably to give orders to someone, as the clattering noises of the bolt were heard shortly as the side door was pushed open.

“Come in quick you all.”

When the waiting men were invited in, Takayoshi, who was walking ahead pretending to be bound, dropped the pieces of rope, seized the grip of a sword of the man standing to his left, drew it and cut him in a flash. With the glint of the blade a head flung out and fell to the ground.

“Assault!”

The gate keepers panicked at the unexpected turn of events. Chasing after them was Sadayuki to the rescue of Takayoshi and his troop. He mowed down and cleared away as if proceeding in a deserted village and was already swooping on the gate to the second compound. The farming boys meanwhile pushed open the great gate and with a roaring war cry joined Ujimoto in approaching the moat embankment. The second Yoshizane heard this he gave his orders,

“Now is the time! Do not miss the mark! Chaaarge!”

There was not a man in sight who did not feel hot-blooded by this. Shortly the battle cries joined as one, and at the speed of quick currents they charged straight in and broke down the first gate and then the second, shouting,

“Come out quick, dog’s/crooked servant Shietage! Here is our Prince Yoshizane of the Satomis, who in his touring here has been chosen to be our lord by us all. Who dare challenge his army of justice on their way to destroy the traitor Sadakane and sweep the land of dirt? Wherever we come and go, the old and the weak all welcome us with bundles of food. Now for a start, this castle has been dedicated to our Prince. Those who regret their wrong doings, surrender and live. Those who choose desire shall be smashed together with their treasure. Come out, come out!”

With this announcement the men rolled out in all directions. This harassed the castle guards to the extent that they couldn’t protect nor fight any longer, so they took off the helmets, abandoned the bows and arrows and were prostrate to be spared.

Thus Satomi Yoshizane had occupied the Castle of Tojo with hardly any bloodshed. When he asked the whereabouts of the rogue captain Shietage Kokuroku he was told,

“He’s already deserted and is lost to us, sir.”

Yoshizane furrowed his brow and said,

“If that man feels shame and remorse, repents and submits to me as of today, how would I punish him for his past? It is not to be regretted that he, still stupefied with endless dreams of ignorance[2], should have run away. However, should he scurry back to Takita and report to Sadakane, who will then negotiate with Anzai and Maro and surge in no time, and. Although I have obtained the castle and two to three hundred soldiers, we will be no match then. If our plan did not work out and we were to face the enemies on three sides, what would we have to match them with? That should be a serious matter. Kokuroku cannot have gone far. Ujimoto, Sadayuki, quickly divide in two units and stop him.”

“As you say, my lord.”

Just as the two were starting to go, Kanamari Hachiro Takayoshi, having gone somewhere earlier, suddenly returned with ten or so soldiers. He said to General Yoshizane,

“While everyone fought as well as any other today, only because I had the advantage of knowing this castle inside out, I was able to go ahead and break through the third gate to hunt the rogue captain Shietage Kokuroku so as to capture him alive, but he was nowhere to be seen. It occurred to me that there was a secret passage through the north-west side of the castle. It leads to a cedar hill, with a thick growth of trees on the right and a precipice on the left, which hangs over a bottomless river valley. This is called ‘Kaki-no-uchi’ (In-the-hedges) because it is the last impregnable fortress of this castle to be kept secret. I figured he must have run through this passage, so I summoned up a few quick-witted ones, with whom I climbed the rock face and clung to vines to take a short cut.

 

Episode 4-3 TAkayoshi beats Kokuroku

courtesy of National Diet Library Digital Collection

Kanamari Daisuke defeats Kokuroku in Kaki-no-Uchi

 

As we came out on the passage and cast a quick sharp glance ahead, a master and his men, eight or nine of them, were running in the Dragon-Snake direction (South East) with women and children on a litter. A careful look spotted Kokuroku; the devil used to be one of Lord Jinyo’s retainers. In the far higher rank than myself, he used to receive more than average favour from his master, fatten himself, and feed his kindred and retainers on the payroll. Yet he could not die for loyalty, but in eager compliance with the traitor took up his residence in Tojo and knew no limits to his cruelty to his people. Heaven’s wrath was due. Run as he might, he was not to be missed, not today of all days. I called out to him,

‘Here comes Kanamari Hachiro. Come back, bring back!’

Being chased right behind, the carriage bearers were so frightened that they stumbled and fell, unexpectedly dropping the litter. With a scream the wife and children tumbled down into the bottomless valley, bumping and beating against the tree stubs and rocks on the way down, until they were gone leaving no traces. Shietage, seeing that he had no means to save his wife and children from violent deaths, stood still on the cliff top supported by a halberd in his hand. He turned around, looked straight at me, obviously realizing by then that he had no way out. Shietage and his men, altogether seven of them, prepared themselves in a formation of Fish Scales and waited for us to catch up. Our men formed Crane’s Wings and with a burst of battle cry we thrust right in to smash them with the force of a hawk shooting a sparrow or a whirlwind picking sand. The spot was a known perilous path. The sun was up but clouds were thick and darkness prevailed in the shadows of the trees at the foot of a rocky mountain. Advance or retreat, it was a one-to-one battle, and because we all knew each other well, our men, one after another slipped through under familiar comrade’s armour sleeves and hurried ahead. The comrades’ valour gave the opposing foot soldiers the flight so that they held on for a while before scuttling hither and thither and we chased, cornered, and captured them alive all but none. This is how we beat the crooked captain Shietage at long last.”

After he busily retold the scene he had those prisoners brought in along with Kokuroku’s head for examination. Yoshizane sighed despite himself.

“Armed forces are after all lethal weapon. When you decline in virtue you resort to force; when you’re short of gratitude you control with fear. ‘Tis only human nature. I attack a castle and fight over land only to save people. There is no joy in killing.

Now not everyone who follows Sadakane cannot be evil. Eight or nine out of ten must have bent their will, perhaps in fear of harm for the time being or being thrown in the current of the times. For these reasons those who regret their faults and submit themselves to us shall not only be spared but may be recruited. However, Shietage had his men captured alive, lost his own head and worst of all his wife and children broke into pieces along with reservoir water. How come all this? I cannot help surmising it was due to something evil which the heaven may not forgive and not because they went along with the wicked bending their will in the current of the times. Never do you wrong out of your own will if you had to submit to the wrong. Mark my words.”

After making a point of this he had them release the prisoners whom Kanamari had brought in.

“Basically new recruits shall be rewarded on a later date according to their merits.”

Hearing Yoshizane’s sincere words the men burst out in tears of joy.

“If we all must throw away our lives after all, how I wish I’d been serving this prince all along.”

As they felt remorse and shame much too late they didn’t know where to place themselves.

Yoshizane went on facing Takayoshi .and the others.

“I felt uneasy thinking Sadakane’s attack might be imminent should Kokuroku run back to Takita, but today Takayoshi worked as if he’d read my mind. Even though we didn’t let their soldiers escape through, the rumour surely will reach hither and thither within three or so days from tomorrow and then Maro and Anzai must collaborate with Sadakane out of spite. Take advance action and you shall be in control, be late and you shall be controlled. If we start in the dusk this day and run all night to enter Heguri it might just strike chill into our enemy’s hearts. Should our first battle be advantageous to us Maro and Anazai would be too scared to ever stick their heads out. In any event, I shall announce awards and commendations first.”

The first place went to Kanamari Takayoshi Hachiro who was awarded a lot of manors but he firmly refused to accept them saying he had a reason to himself. The second went to the three old men who said in Kominato,

“Take Tojo, sir.”

They were invited in to introduce themselves and their replies were ‘Sanpei (三平)’, ‘Shijiro (四治a郎)’, and ‘Nisoh (仁總)’[3]. Yoshizane smiled upon hearing this.

“Aren’t these such blessed names? Dare I say Sanpei is an omen to pacify the three rulers of Yamashita, Maro and Anzai? Shiji is the signs that we’ll govern the four counties. Nisoh (二総) predicts that Kazusa (上総) and Shimofusa (下総) are sure to be in my hand in future. I shall put together all your names, three times four is twelve villages and double that you get 36 places, which is what each of you shall be mayor of.”

Yoshizane thus presented them with a decree and every one excused themselves in high spirits chanting Banzei.

Third came Ujimoto and Sadayuki, followed by just about all other colleagues; there were so many of them but there was too little time to reward them. Some were provided with a stipend and others were gifted with a present, all of them graciously accepting.

“Our awards are heavy, yet punishment is light.

The dead live again and the living prosper.

Fish in a rut will return to the sea.

Ever greens in snow,

Long live our prince,

Till pebbles grow ‘nto a rock.

Let there be no end.

Long live our prince.”

Thus they sang along, made merry and felicitated the prince.

This way Yoshizane relaxed discipline and caressed his folk, straighten the military commands and inspired his officers and soldiers, so the number of those who rallied round unsummoned amounted to hundreds. Most of these he left to guard the castle with Sugikura Ujimoto and he himself lead only a couple of hundred knights with Takayoshi at the van and Sadayuki at the rear and departed for Heguri, so Ujimoto reprimanded him for it.

“As it is, honestly you have too few soldiers. Methinks it is this castle that would only need two to three hundred.”

So he whispered incessantly but Yoshizane shook his head.

“’Tis not so. This castle is my nest. Should it be broken into, where should I go home to? Winning in war is not always decided by the size of armies. If I had the advantage the two hundred knights shall grow into a thousand or two. Do not fear for me and guard the castle well. Here’s some more things I need to tell. Make peace with Maro and Anzai and be sure never to fight with them. Should Takita attack you, fight with all your might to guard and protect. Make sure never to go out and chase them. This is the best strategy for our safety. Do not ever fail me.”

Yoshizane gave these instructions in earnest, hastened the van and shortly had set off with his army.

True to his word, that night just when the Satomi’s forces were crossing the Sakai Bridge between Maehara-ura (ura -浦- Cove) and Hama-ogi (hama -浜- Beach), freelances, resident samurai and the kind, who wished to join him because they admired virtues of Yoshizane and favoured his style, caught up with them on this spot in groups of a hundred horsemen or two, so that the army became one of a thousand knights. This is why the bridge was called A Thousand Knights Bridge for a long time afterwards. Additionally about this area, in the old days when Sir Minamoto no Yoritomo (Yoritomo of Minamoto) crossed this area on his way to Kadzusa, he had the rear unit waiting right here by this river, and thus it is commonly called Matsuzaki (待崎, matsu to wait).

There was a shrine with a white flag by the roadside. Yoshizane unmounted there and dedicated two shafts of arrows and prayed for a while, and the next moment two white doves flattered their wings and flew off a branch of a pine trees at the shrine front towards Heguri in the middle of the night. There was no warriors amongst the observers of this incident who wouldn’t feel the surge of valour in the heart.

“There’s no doubt in our victory.”

 

The end of Volume Two

 

 

[1] Shietage probably comes from a word meaning to oppress and the character Koku (酷) in Kokuroku means cruel.

[2] Ignorance as Buddhism defines.

[3] The character 三 in Sanpei (三平) stands for three and平 for pacifying or smoothing things out. Shijiro (四治郎) has a character四 which means number four, 治 governing, and the last one 郎 is just a common character used for male names meaning a man. Ni (二) in Nisoh (二総) means two and Soh (総) is the same character as you see in 上総 (Kazusa) and 下総 (Shimofusa).

 

© Livingdaylightz and The Legend of Eight Samurai Hounds, 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.

 

Will Yoshizane succeed in attacking Takita? Will Ujimoto be able to protect Tojo all alone? Find out next month!

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4 thoughts on “Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 4-3 (End of Episode 4)

  1. Thank you! Will read it tomorrow and looking forward to it. I will go soon read again all the translated chapters and write something about it. Will let you know. Best from Berlin, Regi

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