On the upper and lower parts of Odani Castle, you could hear various panicked voices and footsteps. The gates of the castle were opened, and several mounted warriors rushed out of Odani Castle for the sake of scouting. That view could be well seen from Odani Castle since it sat on top of the mountain. I was currently in my personal quarters with Oichi and one of my assistants, covering my body in armor and placing a helmet on my head for the first time in my life.
As I watched Oichi’s hair while she was bravely binding the strings of my armor and helmet, I was being pestered by an uncomfortable feeling.
‘I have never seen any research indicating a large scale offensive coming from the Rokkaku Clan in the Azai domains…’
However, thinking that far ahead I had to rack my brains some more. History is after all something wrote by future historians based on historical records. If there were no historical records of it ever happening, there is nothing to write about.
The knowledge of history is not all-mighty after all. I was now able to realize this simple fact.
Kiyotsuna Akao already completely armed was taking care of the grounds in and around Odani Castle, preparing the castle defenses on my behalf a couple of stairs below me. This should be done by a specialist.
Due to the state of emergency, there was no time for a proper initial response.
Being the head of the Azai Clan and the main commander in charge, it’s okay if I entrust the command of constructing defensive preparations to a military commander specialized in military affairs. In fact, it’s obviously better if an amateur like me did not intervene at all. Since nothing useful would come of it.
“The thirty-two thousand Rokkaku troops gathered at Kannonji Castle are marching towards Sawayama Castle without any indication of stopping! The general in command Kazumasa-dono has prepared his defenses and is holding down the castle!”
I recalled the meeting from a couple of days ago where Naotsune Endo and Kazumasa were weeping after our talk. Even if he is called the bravest general of the Azai Clan, confronting a great force surpassing thirty thousand men with just twelve hundred men, even he would be at a disadvantage. If the Rokkaku did plan on launching a full-blown attack, there is a possibility that Sawayama Castle could fall in the blink of an eye. If that were to happen, Kazumasa would probably end up cutting his stomach, committing suicide.
The preparations of my armor and helmet have ended. While feeling the weight pressing down on me, I stood up from the folding stool. As I was about to leave the room together with Kiyotsuna, I felt Oichi’s strong gaze on my back. Turning around without thinking, the disarranged figure of my wife from last night was nowhere to be found. It was adequate to call her a Samurai Princess, her cold atmosphere was hanging in the air.
No, this is indeed the true Oichi. The form of a woman of the Sengoku Era, who shared the same blood as Nobunaga Oda. I firmly grasped her fist.
“Oichi… I’ll be going.”
“Yes… Please do take care. I will be praying for your fortune in war… Nagamasa-sama.”
After receiving Oichi’s farewell, I headed towards the inner citadel of Odani Castle along with Kiyotsuna. There Tsunachika Kaiho, Kiyosada Amenomori , Naotsune Endo and many other generals were giving directions to the soldiers, preparing them for battle in a hurry.
With my entrance, the entire inside of the castle became livelier. They all came to see the brave general who once defeated the Rokkaku forces that were twice his own army’s size, Nagamasa Azai. And also to see me riding on the “hero’s,” memento Taishakutsukige. The soldiers at Odani Castle were expecting me to overcome the present dangerous situation.
‘Never in my life have I known war, much less experienced it…’
Immediately after my arrival, the war council formed around me.
The Rokkaku were seemingly advancing towards Sawayama Castle while gathering powerful families and citizens of southern Omi along the way. There was also the possibility that Sawayama Castle was already being sieged. To make matters worse, there was also the possibility that the messenger didn’t “dare” to get a close look and wasn’t able to get a correct reading on the number of forces on the Rokkaku side. We can’t let our troops know that they will be facing such a gigantic military force as it would affect the morale of our troops.
“Those corrupt priests are quite desperate.”
Naotsune said as if spitting it out.
“If we manage to stop them from overtaking the castle from falling, their family heads will be unable to preserve their dignity… However, taking into account the current internal conflicts of the Rokkaku Clan, their vassals might regain trust in them if they win.”
“So he mobilized his troops for that… That man has some fishy spots for such a corrupt priest.”
Kiyosada muttered while being annoyed. By the way, I’m guessing the one he is calling a “corrupt priest” is Yoshikata Rokkaku. Yoshikata became a priest in 1559, taking the alias of Shotei ever since.
Incidentally, all members of the Rokkaku Clan went through a great upheaval in 1563 and the lords and their vassals had driven Yoshikata and his son Yoshiharu out of the castle. It was only after Gamō Sadahide and Gamō Katahide had intervened that the Rokkaku Clan showed signs of stabilizing.
“How many guns have you gathered?”
“350 at most.”
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Tsunachika responded with a heavy voice.
“Nagamasa-sama, our sources tell us that the enemy’s horses count reaches around a hundred and fifty. I do not understand where the Rokkaku forces managed to gather this amount of horses, however, to take down the generals riding on those horses with just three hundred and fifty guns will be quite difficult.”
I see, so that’s what it’s all about. I was able to understand a little about the battles in this period.
On the battlefield, the biggest threat here are the “monsters” that can’t be killed by human hands, in other words, the horses. However, the military generals riding on those horses are human, and so if we can at least take those down, the threat will instantly decrease. That is why guns are being treated as priceless treasures.
That being said, the warriors riding on those horses will be charging right towards us while hiding their bodies behind that impenetrable body, so in order to intercept them, we will have to shoot at them from various angles. If not that, the only other option is to send men with spears towards the incoming horses and let them try to stab the riders, risking their own lives in the process.
The guns have their own problems though. How many soldiers are actually able to “take down” the warriors riding on the horses that are rushing towards them with terrible vigor… The “will be quite difficult” that Tsunachika was referring to was probably about this.
“How many soldiers have we gathered?”
“Right now forty-five hundred at most. However, we will be gathering close to nine thousand later on.”
I groaned while folding my arms. There is no way we can mobilize all forty-five hundred troops. That’s because we need about half of them to stay behind to protect against other possible enemy forces. Besides, throwing all of our military power into the battlefield is something that only happens in games.
“What number of horses do we have available?”
“We can mobilize eighty of them. Including Nagamasa-sama’s Taishakutsukige it would be eighty-one.”
“I see, that’s not bad at all.”
I stood up and climbed the castle’s watchtower. From there, I could see even the farthest places of Omi without any obstructions. Unlike the world where I came from, there are no tall buildings blocking my view. The air is clear, and nature is abundant.
However, due to the wars, many people here are suffering and in pain. It’s an age where one cannot survive unless they fight, even if one carries a heart that doesn’t wish to fight. Men are conscripted for battles, women and children are robbed, the elderly are shot to death… And while Japan is engulfed in this spreading darkness, the Daimyo’s live like royalty.
Hoping that I could reform this current Japan into something more peaceful, I have been polishing my plan. However, this world is filled with people that do not wish for peace and would like to crush my dream while laughing at it… At this thought, I clenched my fist and gritted my teeth.
I addressed the proud general of the Azai Clan who climbed the tower behind me.
“This is a beautiful view. The green is vast, and in the far distance the ultramarine color of Lake Biwa is reflected…”
While letting out a long breath, Naotsune started looking in the same direction as me. There on the cusp of Lake Biwa on Mino’s side stood Sawayama Castle.
“Everyday I have wished to somehow make this beautiful country prosper.”
“Yes. The heart of the nobles is something that I, Naotsune, have come to acknowledge and believe in.”
“And that’s the same for Kazumasa-dono.” Naotatsu muttered while looking towards Sawayama Castle.
Battlecries are resounding all around us, but the sky is bright, blue and cold, the air is quite clear, and the wind is blowing gently, making the trees around Odani Castle sway with the wind. A lot of people are about to die, but the current gentle climate hardly reflects this.
“Kazumasa you say?”
“Naotsune, I’m just like you, I’m also a man who earnestly thinks about the future of this country, of Omi and the Azai Clan.”
Placing my hands on the edge of the tower, I continued while leaning on my body.
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“You know Naotsune; I don’t want to lose anyone. Our people, vassals, anyone…”
“For that future’s sake, everyone told me they would collaborate with me… This includes you, hoping for a world without war, in order to realize this everyone said they would exert themselves for me…”
“In the future I desire, if he is… If Kazumasa is not there, it would be troubling for me. If Kazumasa isn’t there to see the world we’ll build and be happy to the point of tears; it would be troubling for me… Naotsune!”
Naotsune immediately bends his knees behind me, after giving his response.
“I’m going in. I won’t lose Kazumasa. He is not a man that should die here today!”
“Inform Kiyotsuna! That I’m going in, that there is no meaning if I don’t go.”
That’s right; this had nothing to do with me not having participated in battles before. It’s a problem of faith. There is a first time for everything. For brave generals like Naotsune and Kazumasa, there has been a first campaign as well, and they are still living and breathing. That means there is nothing to be shy about. This is my first battle. In order for the country of Omi to prosper, this shall be my first battle to let the whole world know of my conviction.
Together with Naotsune, I ran down the watchtower and after giving instructions to Kiyotsuna and Tsunachika, we headed to the stables. I reunited with Taishakutsukige while Hikobe equipped her with a harness. She looked at me with a calm expression as if she could comprehend the entire current situation and let out a cry that was as calm as the clear sky. Jumping on Taishakutsukige, Hikobe handed a blade to me.
“It’s Ishiwari Kanemitsu.”
“It was used by Sukemasa-sama and later on became the possession of Hisamasa-sama, it’s a legendary blade made of fluorite stones. Please make use of it in this battle.”
“Why are you…?”
After saying that, I gulped down any further words. The reason was that on Hikobe’s face that was tanned by the sun, there was an expression etched with the color of determination.
“… I see, I’ll accept it.”
After saying that to Hikobe, I tied the legendary blade that was handed down through the Azai family history to my waist. A warrior beside me prepared a horse riding spear for me. It was about a meter and 50 cm long. After placing it under my arm, I pulled the reins on Taishakutsukige. Taishakutsukige let out a cry and raised the upper half of her body.
“Open the castle gates! Our Lord is going in!”
The trumpet shells were blown and the castle gates opened. At the same time, Taishakutsukige and I were in the lead of a 40 horse battalion, kicking up dust as we descended the mountain path leading from Odani castle towards the main highway. With the exception of Taishakutsukige, all other horses were black males. It seems like only male horses are deployed for battle.
Naotsune Endo is perfectly following behind me. His riding figure made him look extremely imposing; this is why he is known as the most powerful general of the Azai Clan. While holding a spear under his arm, Naotsune handled the horse easily.
“My Lord please don’t overexert yourself.”
Peeking from under the helmet shaped like a full moon, Naotsune said so while his keen eyes shined.
“Just like you, my Lord, who said that there is no one to replace Kazumasa… For us, there is no replacement for you either, my Lord.”
As I grasped the spear’s handle and let its weight soak into my body, we descended south of Odani Castle and headed towards Sawayama Castle. The distance is about 29 kilometer. For a platoon composed of only cavalry, not having any infantry, it’s not a great distance.
Continuing past Lake Biwa, Sawayama Castle came into view in the blink of an eye, including the Rokkaku forces that were marching towards it. We could easily see how the enemy’s expression became panicked. They probably didn’t assume the general of the Azai Clan would come rushing towards them directly with such a small unit.
Taishakutsukige let her golden horn wave, as she let out a cry and hastened her legs.
“Naotsune, don’t you dare die on me.”
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“Good, you lot, we are going in!”
With one hand I pulled on Taishakutsukige reins, and while firmly holding onto my spear, I shout out along with the other 40 cavalrymen as I rushed towards the enemy frontline. I could feel my body trembling. As I felt the bottom of my stomach tightening up and the ground trembling, I gritted my teeth. Realizing it was me trembling with excitement is something I would find out much later.
Just by running, Taishakutsukige mowed down the enemy soldiers and literally opened up a path with her golden horn. However, saying it like that makes it sound easy, but in reality, the current situation is quite severe. The infantry troops are sticking out their long pikes towards my body, making me unsure if I will survive the situation.
Taishakutsukige is fast without a doubt, and she is quite effective at overwhelming the enemy forces, but at that speed, if I were to touch one of the enemy’s spears it will instantly sink deep into my body, taking my life right then and there.
My head went blank as I was waving around my spear in a daze, thrusting at random and swinging it downwards. While I was like that, a party of the Rokkaku forces brought out the gunmen, and while facing the other warriors and me of the Azai Clan, they began shooting at us. Together with a terrible thunderous roar, the bullets came shooting towards us, and from the corner of my field of vision, I saw one of the cavalrymen fall from his horse. The sound of the horse’s hoofs, shooting, the angry voices and blades of the soldiers caused my head to sway.
Naotsune waved his bloody lance, screaming while pushing off the enemy. Unnoticed the enemy cavalry formed a unit and started rushing towards our location… Now is the right time.
“Good, pull back!”
Overstaying more than this is unnecessary. Just throwing the enemy lines into confusion was more than enough. Together with me, 34 cavalrymen including Naotsune began their retreat. The place we were falling back to was Sawayama Castle. My Taishakutsukige could have easily shaken off the enemy cavalry that followed us and could even reach Odani Castle in no time, but the other horses won’t be able to do so. A place where we can take refuge and avoid the enemy’s cavalry attack is what is needed right now.
All of a sudden Taishakutsukige let out a cry. Just as I thought that it was from the excitement of the battle, I could hear multiple hoofs sounds behind us.
‘The enemy’s cavalry is already drawing near, huh…!’
Thinking that, I turned my head backward, however incredibly there was not a single person on the horses, they were all horses without a master. Their number was around 10, and they were all black. In short, they were all male horses.
“No, there is no way something like this…”
Shock could be seen in Naotsune’s eyes.
“I can’t believe that the horses would willingly follow humans…”
“What would happen normally?”
“They wouldn’t come back. Once they separate from human hands, they run away towards the countryside, to form groups and live together.”
The drums rang as the gates of Sawayama Castle opened. Our surviving cavalry and the horses that had lost their masters came rushing in all at once. After everyone was inside, the gate closed immediately, and we headed towards the stables. There Kazumasa stood together with the other protecting generals of Sawayama Castle, waiting for us.
“Nagamasa-sama, something like this, it can’t be…!”
Stepping off Taishakutsukige, Kazumasa approached me with a choked voice.
“Just for the sake of this Sawayama Castle, with such a small force and together with the great general of the Azai…! What are you planning on doing, Nagamasa-sama…!”
“This is a fight that concerns all of the Azai. There is no way I’m letting any of our vassals die without trying to help. Don’t you dare complain.”
Kazumasa bent through his knees and sobbed while choked with tears. As if it was contagious, every other soldier in Sawayama Castle began to sniff as well.
“We have disturbed the Rokkaku’s formation. It will take them some time to rearrange their stance before they start laying siege to the castle. We were only able to accomplish that. However, soon enough Kiyotsuna and the other will bring in reinforcements from Odani Castle. At that moment the battle will be decided.”
Patting the weeping Kazumasa’s shoulders, I said.
“Don’t cry Kazumasa. The battle has just begun. We are still at a disadvantage. Leave the sobbing for when we win… Live on. Afterwards, you can cry as much as you want. Now is not the right time.”
“I have no desire to die. We have to win and make this country of Omi prosper. This includes Sawayama Castle. You too must live on and see that it happens… After that, you are allowed to die! In your own bed! Do you understand?!”
After saying these words not only Kazumasa and the protecting generals, but Naotsune and the other surviving cavalrymen from Odani Castle began to cry as well.
… I swear the men from this period are really simple. Even if my words are a little rough, they start crying immediately… However, that is something that has been lost in the period that I hail from. That’s why it’s dazzling. Dazzling to the point where I don’t know how to respond to it.
Patting the backs of the soldiers surrounding me and encouraging them, I kept in mind to ask what the situation at Sawayama Castle is later.