Volume IV, Episode VII-i
Kagetsura with Cunning Plans Sells Nobutoki
Takayoshi for Fidelity Retires from Yoshizane
The beautiful mastermind Tamazusa was finally executed, but not before putting curses upon the entire Satomi clan. There came a messenger from Ujimoto, who was guarding the Fort of Tojo alone while Yoshizane and his men were away to attack Takita Castle.
When Amazaki Juro Terutake, a messenger sent by Sugikura Kiso-no-suke Ujimoto, hastily travelled from Tojo to bring the head of Maro no Nobutoki, Yoshizane went out to the edge of Daishoji and beckoned the messenger to request the report of the battle. Amazaki Juro replied,
“Ujimoto had been aware that you were short of food supplies and he was preparing to urge farmers to transport some. Meanwhile Anzai Kagetsura and Maro no Nobutoki had already been talked by Sadakane into blocking land and sea passages and were waiting to rob us of our provisions. The goings got tough and further agonized Ujimoto who had to wait idly.
“Then one eveing, Kagetsura secretly sent an unnamed manservant to give him a message.
‘Yamashita Sadakane is a traitor. Had he sent Su Qin and Zhang Yi  to persuade me a hundred, a thousand times, I wasn’t going to accept his offer. However, incited by Nobutoki I am blocking passage for his sake to torment a good captain and his brave men. It makes me feel ashamed and guilt-stricken, while Nobutoki’s only concern is to sharpen his arrowheads; he wouldn’t listen to me even if I reason with him. It’s been like having an itch unable to scratch.
‘Come to think of it Nobutoki is an avaricious captain of brute courage. He’ll forget justice for his own gains; his voracious appetite is insatiable. I, Kagetsura, have acquiesced for now on behalf of our long-standing friendship. However, if I don’t reform myself, we are a madman chasing another, running together.
‘After all, my only thoughts are to go back on my word of acquiescence, defeat Nobutoki for a start, open the passage for food supplies, and crush Sadakane together with Lord Satomi to declare the just cause. I couldn’t show my manners as a host by keeping Master Yoshizane when he passed by earlier, but it was only because that Nobutoki refused to do so.
‘Hereby one wishes you went out of the castle and delivered rapid attacks. Nobutoki is a boar-like warrior. He would rush out on the enemy without a thought as soon as he spots one. If I approached him from behind and attacked, capturing him would be like as easy as flipping a hand. I beg you not to throw away a great chance for distrust. We’ll be all ears to hear from you.’ So they said.
However, Ujimoto didn’t make a rash move because it might be a trick. After a period of correspondence, their intent seemed genuine enough to make a raid on Nobutoki. It was a pitch black night wet with May rain, in the month of May whenever it may rain. Having communicated with Anzai in secrecy, we lead 200 and a few knights, on horses with a bit in and their wood piece set, until we quietly approached Hamaogi stockades, where Nobutoki camped, from the front and behind and shouted out a battle cry to audaciously jumped in.
Not expecting enemy attacks, Maro’s camp were thrown into panic. They lashed a tethered horse and positioned an arrow to an unstrung bow. In the way they would fight an unprepared battle, they would seek for an escape route and would not defend themselves without exception.
That was when Nobutoki roared.
“What a pathetic lot! It’s only a small number of men. Why not wrap them up and beat them? Do not be laughed at by Anzai in Maehara. Strike them, move your feet.”
Commanding confidently, he rode out at the top of the troops, powerfully swinging his staff. He struck down a group of his attackers, as if a wild tiger amongst a herd of sheep would. Encouraged by this, and perhaps expecting that Anzai behind them would come to their rescue, both officers and soldiers turned around and fought with a loud cry.
“This unexpectedly chased our vanguard out, where they got stuck in the mud on the road, slipping and tripping, and unable to retreat. Then Sugikura Ujimoto, with angry eyes, raised his voice.
“What nonsense is it to break into the first couple of stockades and to be chased out of them? Those who care for their honour and know shame, follow me!”
Even before he finished he stashed his zai button in the waist, clicked his stirrups, and moved his charge forward with his naginata flickering in the raven-black night. Swinging like a watermill in order to strike Nobutoki, who sharply spotted him in the torch light.
“You must be Ujimoto, a worthy opponent. Don’t move there.”
Nobutoki then twisted his staff and fenced suddenly, which was received squarely and hit back; he pulled to be pushed in, advanced to be fended off, now high, now low, with every skill they had on show.
As the captains were like that, no soldiers were idle on either side, busily engaged in supporting each other, so there was no one to interfere the two warriors.
Meanwhile, Nobutoki, in a moment of frustration, stuck out the staff, the point of which Ujimoto swept away to his left. The moment Nobutoki gave out a cry and looked up, Ujimoto held out the naginata and stuck in into his kabuto helmet and pushed forward.
Ujimoto v. Nobutoki in the pitch-black night, courtesy of National Diet Library Digital Collections
Even Nobutoki couldn’t take such a fatal blow and he fell off the horse with a loud thud, still holding the staff in his hands. At this noise we retainers looked back and flew to him to take his head,”
Reported Amazaki Juro hastily as Yoshizane listened in carefully.
“Ujimoto’s achievement that night was praiseworthy. However, it lacked planning. That Kagetsura, suddenly betrayed and let Nobutoki be brought down – there had to be a reason.
Two heroes will compete. Even if Nobutoki and Kagetsura unite to attack me, there surely will be a disturbance as it goes on. Yet, Ujimoto, on a spur of the moment, decided to strike down Nobutoki on Anzai’s insinuations. It’s no good for us but for Kagetsura. What’s he on now?”
“That’s it, my lord. Towards that night without shooting even an arrow for us he retreated from the stockades,”
Replied Amazaki Juro. Yoshizane hit his lap with a fan.
“In that case Kagetsura’s scheme has been revealed. When I attacked Takita, hard it might have been to predict the outcome, Kagetsura must have known that, because Sadakane was a rogue hated even by gods above and gods on earth and unforgivable to folk’s eyes, his end wouldn’t be a nice one however advantageous he might have appeared for the time being. When the time came that Sadakane perished and I got to rule his land, Nobutoki wouldn’t be of any help for Anzai – he’d only display his brute courage.
Kagetsura feared that, to fight ill-advised war alongside him would only lead to an instant defeat, so he allied with me on the surface to make Ujimoto attack Nobutoki whilst he himself seized Maro’s Hiratate Castle so he would rule the entire Asahina County and equal me in power. A fan may miss the lap but this guess of mine won’t miss the mark.”
As Yoshizane was illustrating as if he had been pointing out his opponent’s insides, Ujimoto’s second messenger arrive.
“Now that Nobutoki was defeated, his remaining soldiers were running away in a state of tumult to be driven away and left alone. When I put together my men and returned to Tojo shortly, to my surprise Kagetsura had already retreated from Maehara and seized Hiratate, as a result of which he owned the entire Asahina County including Maro’s territory. Just like a dog who had his trophy snatched away by a hawk, I gained nothing for my work. If my lord would send out troops I would take the van to avenge the indignation by wiping out the whole county of Asahina, let alone Kagetsura’s own castle. Please relay this matter,”
Said the letter to Takayoshi and Sadayuki. Both men, in admiration for their lord’s wisdom, urged him to,
“Directly raid Kagetsura, sir,”
But Yoshizane shook his head sideways.
“No, we shall not raid Kagetsura. I took down Sadakane not only for my own sake but to save people from their woes. Thus they made me lord of Nagasa and Heguri. Isn’t it such a blessing?
“Kagetsura may be a brute of a ruler but not of Sadakane’s kind. Whatever intentions he has, he expressed his fellowship to me. Just because he went ahead and captured Hiratate Castle at the time when Kiso-no-suke Ujimoto struck down Nobutoki, shall I start war out of jealousy over territories in dwarf’s land, take lives and injure men? Ney. That I shall not do.”
“If Kagetsura’s not satisfied with capturing Hiratate with his cunning plan and heads this way to raid us, show him right there and then what we’re made of. If not, guard the border and never make any more moves. Understood?”
Yoshizane’s earnest speech touched the hearts of men, from the attendants on his right and left to Amazaki, not to mention Takayoshi and Sadayuki, who would comment on how their lord was their pride and joy.
Thus Yoshizane himself penned a letter to Ujimoto to commend and instruct him, forbidding him from attacking Anzai.
“Do not forget what’s in your hands whilst trying to take what’s in others. As a saying goes, a hawk that knows no limits splits its talons. Just guard the castle. Do nothing else.”
And he sent it back with Amazaki Juro and his company.
Meanwhile, long cold early-summer-rain that spoils Deutzia flowers had cleared up and it was in the middle of Doyo-period in June when breezes were eagerly awaited. Anzai Kagetsura sent over to Takita Castle his senior retainer called Kabuto Toppei with three kinds of presents on each side, to congratulate Yoshizane on vanquishing Sadakane and henceforth establishing his foundation and strengthen their ties.
“Ever since I had the pleasure of acquainting you earlier, I’ve never ceased to regard you with favour. Regrettably, I let Nobutoki intrude our meeting and behaved in a crude manner, although not out of my intention. It must have felt as bitter as when Duke Wen of Jin was crossing Cao. However, without that incident, who would have impelled you to commencing this great enterprise? If you may guess at the truth, it was my small favour from the beginning to pretend to be cold as I thought not lightly of his lordship.
From these circumstances I communicated my foolish intentions and removed Nobutoki for the sake of his lordship, which brought reward. Miraculously, all thanks to learning from your examples, I gained Hiratate Castle. Shouldn’t it be fun if we shared a country of four counties in two, supported each other without intruding, and passed it on to our offspring? Such a small gift is hardly enough for this purpose, but I hereby offer to you three steeds and a hundred rolls of white cloth. I only wish our fellowship to last for ever. It would be my pleasure if you would accept them.”
Announced the messenger. Sadayuki relayed this to Yoshizane, but without showing any signs to doubt the message, he instructed Sadayuki and Takayoshi to hold a banquet for Kabuto Toppei and said,
“I’m going to meet the messenger. Show him our warm hospitality,”
But this did not please Sadayuki and Takayoshi.
“Why should our wise lord be deceived by that sly old Tanuki? If Kagetsura were honestly one to support the good and strive to be virtuous, why would he have tried to kill you by making you search for koi fish that cannot be found in this country.
“After all that, he’s offering empty words of congratulations and trying to strike up friendship with a token of gifts only to defend himself. You never know what else he has in mind. There is no need to welcome his messenger nor meet him yourself.”
As they tried to change his mind, Yoshizane smiled.
“Had Kagetsura not been honestly seeking friendship, there’s no reason to hate him for what we see and hear. If I stubbornly refused to associate with him for what’s in the past, I’d only be going against him. Picking a fight like that will make me immoral. You may be able to win a dishonest war, but Yoshizane doesn’t wish for it. You shall have no doubts.”
He then met the messenger himself and sent out Kanamari Hachiro to accompany Toppei on his way home to Awa County, so that he could return the courtesy with fitting gifts and pledge not to break the bonds. Extremely pleased with this, Kagetsura treated Takayoshi hospitably, wrote a pledge by himself for Yoshizane to have.
From this time on, Anzai occupied the two counties of Awa and Asahina whilst Yoshizane ruled Nagasa and Heguri, previously belonging to Jin’yo, without intruding or warring each other, bringing peace to the land. Sugikura Kiso-no-suke Ujimoto was sent back from Tojo, finally to his relief. Thus captain and his men, high and low alike, they were all smiles and joy and no one failed to join the merriment.
How long will this peace last for Yoshizane and his men? Will they be safe from Tamazusa’s curse for good? Who are the old peasant and the little child he brought to Takita? Find out in the next upload!
 It’s basically a bench for an emperor to sit on. You can see the best illustration of ‘Dai-shoji’ seen from the top here – it’s the whitish rectangle above with a coiled mat on top.
 Su Qin（蘇秦 or Soshin in Japanese）and Zhang Yi（張儀 or Chogi in Japanese）were, in my understanding, masters of military strategiests belonging to the School of Diplomacy link to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_of_Diplomacy in the Warring State period of China.
 The same as ‘the blind leading the blind’.
 They used a wood piece, a little like a chopstick, to be bit by a horse to prevent from making noises in a raid.
 Yoshizane is using a metaphor to imply it is only a small area of land in an objective view.
 June according to the lunar calendar. Mid-summer.
 Yoshizane refered to Duke Wen of Jin when he received a fistful of mud from a fisherman’s child on the beach trying to cross to Awa in Episode 1.
 Tanuki is also called a racoon dog. Indigenous to Japan, they are regarded as foxy as foxes.
 Here he calls himself Yoshizane instead of the first person pronoun (I), like some young children would. This seems a customory practice in Bakin’s age. Occasionally I would translate this literally not only because it brings something out of the original text but it’s simply interesting.
 Kanamari Hachiro Takayoshi.
© Livingdaylightz and The Legend of Eight Samurai Hounds, 2017 onwards (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.