Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 5-1

Episode V

 

Good captain declines intrigues and enlistees learn benevolence

Carrier pigeons deliver a message and the traitors offer a head

 

The emissary Yamashita Sakuza’emon-no-Joe Sadakane had sent to Maro and Anzai was now back to Takita.

“Those fellows didn’t explicitly say they would capitulate but were terribly intimidated. There is no doubt that before long both of them will pay a visit by themselves to repent their sins and be your highness’s subjects. The poor state of their affairs was such and such, this way and that way.”

He gave a detailed account with liberal embellishment and fabrication to appease him, so Sadakane grew even more imperious and indulged himself all day and all night with no care as to how his officers and soldiers might resent it. One day he would let flowers amuse himself while sitting on a palanquin with Tamazusa in the backyard; on another he would toy with the moon accompanied by scores of beauties in a tower. Yester day was spent drinking like a bull at a pool of wine; today passes whilst gluttonizing in a forest of carcasses. Having such an example as this, senior retainers also drowned themselves in wine and all the devouring knew no end, nor spending no limits. There were more than a few of those mindful ones who squinted their eyes and kept their distance, believing,

“Just like the sun shed light on selfishness on the day Wang Mang[1] sat on the throne of his kingdom or when An Lushan jeopardized the Tang government, traitors would not serve for aye and Sadakane would surely be ruined before long.”

 

Tamazusa and Sadakane

Tamazusa and Sadakane

Original illustration in courtesy of National Diet Library

 

It was at such a time that there was an unusual commotion in and out of the castle and incessant voices were heard shouting.

“An enemy’s approaching!”

Sadakane, who was feasting in the drawing room, was not at all perturbed at hearing them.

“Whatever the matter could it be? Maro and Anzai aren’t the kind who would dare ‘pull a tiger’s whiskers’[2], therefore I’d say it’s those bandits that threaten folk and rob them of their possessions. Go and have a look at the sight of it.”

He sent out a scout, who came back shortly to report,

“It’s not Maro and Anzai who are attacking us, nor are they bandits, sir. A few over a thousand knights, seemingly unbeknown to us, are lined up in an orderly manner like rice or hemp in the fields, with their formations and ranks conforming to military tactics and hoisting a streak of white flags in the middle; they are no ordinary contender. Right now they appear to be briefly resting their legs and their horses’, at a point twenty or so Cho away from here, presumably before encroaching on us. They’re not to be underestimated.”

As Sadakane heard all this reported in one breath, he furrowed his brows.

“White is the Genji’s dress colour. I do not recollect that there’s anyone who’d use white flags in Awa Kadzusa. This I assume is one of the enemy’s tricks to deceive us. Whatever it is, surely they are tired from the long journey and are planning to attack us at the break of dawn. Would you not say we’d crash them if we beat fatigue with speed? Quickly chase them away.”

With this order his devoted senior retainers called Iwakuma Donpei and Sabitsuka Ikunai were provided with 500 soldiers each[3], and the two of them received the order with enthusiasm bustling with the enlistees, rode out of the front gate and were away in high spirits.

Now Iwakuma and Sabitsuka are sumo wrestlers unparalleled amongst a ten thousand rivals and better at martial arts than many others. However, they were depraved at hearts; not an act they carried out failed to please Sadakane and they were taken up as the most favoured officers and behaved in every arrogant way, but those around them swallowed their opinions and concealed their resentment to stand downwind without exceptions.

Thus Yamashita Sadakane, having always trusted in these two, sent them off to command his host today.

“I’m already assured they will soon kick away the attacking force. What should we make a fuss for?”

He then merely had his soldiers guard the four gates whilst he himself went back to the drawing room to call in women to be entertained by pleasurable music and dance. When the binge was in the thick of it, there was a din over at the front and a raised voice was heard saying,

“Not good sir. Not good!”

So Sadakane had the strings stop playing and plucked up his ears.

“I say that is an unusual tone of voice. Boys, go and have a look.”

Even before he stood up together with the two page boys who were waiting by his sides, fifty or sixty of the soldiers who had been sent off earlier to fight the invaders came in from, unexpectedly the garden gate, carrying their commander Iwakuma deeply wounded in several places and bound on a shield, directly approached the edge of the veranda[4] to seek audience and cried out in chorus.

“Tidings, sir! Tidings!”

They swiftly unloaded the wounded off their shoulders, divided in two ranks and meekly sat straight. Even the rank and files were wounded in two or three places without exceptions, and tama, alarmed, hid herself behind a Byobu screen with help of the maids. Indeed it was obvious from the whole scene that they had lost the battle. Sadakane could not be more appalled.

“What on earth is this?”

To this question, the senior officers in the front row scratched at their heads.

“I bear tidings with much embarrassment, my lord. Our general swung his Gunbai fan but our maneuvers were not coordinated. They were a big army of brave captains and mighty warriors surpassing their rumours; not a little were they affected however hard we might shoot and hit. The ferocious commander advancing in the vanguard was wearing a layer of O-arame armour[5] on top of chain mail and was powerfully swinging a lance over a Jo[6] long which he drew to hold along the horse’s neck; with his eyes wide open he bellowed,

“Traitors cannot escape punishment from the heaven. It is foolish to fight against a mighty tiger unaware of a drawn sword hanging above your head. Are you not aware that when Satomi Yoshizane Ason was touring in this county, its people installed him as their lord to bring down the traitors and retaliate their torment! For a start we’ve captured the Castle of Tojo and executed Shietage Kokuroku, and now to seize the Castle of Takita and punish the renegade lord Sadakane, I, Takayoshi, am here to escort him on his appointment to command the van.

Are the renegade generals of the approaching troops Sabitsuka and Iwakuma, or are my eyes deceived? You cannot have forgotten one Kanamari Hachiro here who served your former lord Jin’yo and accepted his rewards along with you until yester day. For my late lord, learning from the example of the loyal Zhang Zifang[7] who assisted Han to beat Qin and Chu, I aid Prince Yoshizane and urged him to raise an army of justice, and now we’ve seized a castle whilst choosing to avoid bloodshed and took over two counties and are already approaching the nest.

Repent your sins, take off your Kabuto helmet and join us, and you shall live. Guard and fight with no conviction, and not only you shall gain nothing for your labour but your wrongdoings shall come back to yourself just as when you spit against the heaven and beat the water in a deep pool. Now I challenge you!”

He spurred his mount, flashed his lance to hit and flutter as if it was moving of its own free will and had already broke the first line of defense to cross lances with the field marshal Sabitsuka in single combat. Then Takayoshi, with a thundering roar, spun Ikunai’s lance around to drop it and thrust at his chest with a clink; Ikunai was thrust off his horse with a thud to which spot foot soldiers ran up, held him down and cut his head off[8].

 

 

[1] Wang Mang was an official-turned emperor of Xin dynasty. An Lushan was a general who became emperor of Yan dynasty. Both gained power through betrayal to those they were serving at the time and the rule were short-lived in both cases.

[2] The reader has probably easily guessed that it means to anger someone intimidating and/or in the supreme position.

[3] I’m not totally sure if it’s actually 500 for the two of them.

[4] The original word for it is mago-bisashi(孫庇) and it is a roofed outer walkway characteristic to shinden-dzukuri architecture such as palaces.

[5] O-arame seems to be a style of odoshi which uses rougher stitches, when odoshi is the lacing in leather or silk to colour the armour.

[6] 1 Jo (丈) is approximately 3.03m.

[7] Commonly known as Zhang Liang, or Chola (張良) in Japanese, he is a strategist who served Liu Bang, the emperor of the Han dynasty in historical China.

[8] In battle fields commanders’ heads were significant trophies that proved victory. My personal observation is that in Japan bosses are supposed to get the worst deals in adversity because they are in a position which assume responsibility for the entire group, although this may be changing now as westernization progresses.

 

 

© 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.

 

On top of the fact that it’s a few days after the promised date, it’s really kind of right in the middle of a battle and an awkward spot to stop. I hope the reader will accept my apologies. Right after this appears Sadayuki who I think is super cool don’t you agree?

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