Edited by CrimsonWolf
When my 8th grader syndrome was at its worst, I became convinced that the Japanese islands were a somewhat inconvenient place for a great number of people to inhabit after looking at the maps of Japan.
To begin with, there were too many mountainous regions. Of course, mountains were filled with many important things for humans, such as fruits and water springs. However, it was not ideal for a large number of people to inhabit. If you wished for a large number of people to live somewhere, you needed to have flat ground. In Japan’s case, there wasn’t enough of it.
For the Sengoku Era, strengthening the national power was considered the most important point, and making as much ground as you could into part of your domain was the trend. As for Omi, even though Lake Biwa took a large amount of living space away, it was still a great region for people to live in.
That being said, the Azai domains in Omi were in fact divided into two parts, the east, and the west. One area centered around Odani Castle and the other, on the west side of Lake Biwa, centered around Shimizuyama Castle.
The western side of the Azai domains possessed spacious plains formed by both the Ado and Kamo rivers. On top of that, the Ado river, which was connected to Lake Biwa, was not only used as a means for transportation but also as a relay point from Kyoto to Odani Castle.
In short, both the east and the west of the Azai domains had their own core regions, and I had to try to balance the development for both. In order to achieve that, I had to gather a great number of bureaucrats under me.
However, that alone was a giant hurdle to overcome, since there were only a few capable administrative officers in the domain of the Azai. Fortunately, we had Ujitane Anyouji on the western side of the domain, who had succeeded in setting up a marriage alliance between the Azai and the Oda, but I couldn’t rely on him alone. Azai’s development would forever remain a pipe dream if we couldn’t find and nurture more talented men.
Standing before me was the most talented bureaucrat of the eastern Azai domains, Masamoto Azai, who had his arms folded, groaning as he faced me.
“Elder brother truly has… mentioned something I have never thought of.”
After he spoke, Masamoto groaned again. Hisa was completely cowering with fear beside me, so it was easily imaginable how tough Masamoto’s expression was.
Furrowing his brows and leaning his chin heavily on a clenched fist, he groaned in earnest.
“So in short…”
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Counting with his fingers, Masamoto scowled intently at Hisa and me as he questioned.
“Elder brother wishes to teach this girl arithmetics and make her an Azai retainer…”
“That is correct.”
As expected, this went beyond his understanding.
In this era, it was quite common to raise a girl to a certain age, then marry her off.
Even if they were put to work in the castle, they would at most do small chores such as sewing or laundry and didn’t have any chance of ever being involved in anything else. That’s the type of society and era we lived in.
However, what I wished for was for Hisa to become “a woman who can use arithmetic.” In other words, I wanted to impart the skills that had been monopolized by men for so long to this girl. But in the Sengoku Era, no one could comprehend this crazy request of mine.
Even Nobunaga Oda lamented that “If Oichi had been born as a male, she would have become a great general…”. Even he, who had an innovative and flexible mind, wasn’t able to embrace the idea of teaching women special skills and putting them to “practical use.” Since I was the older brother, Masamoto respected my words, but even so, he had a hard time agreeing to my request.
“Elder brother, what do you hope to accomplish by teaching this girl arithmetic?”
As expected, even Masamoto had a look of “If you don’t tell me your true intentions, it will be hard to comply…” on his face. It couldn’t be helped. As I spoke to him, I made sure not to tell any lies but avoided the truth too.
“Masamoto… this girl was able to touch Taishakutsukige.”
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“What the… is that true?”
Masamoto was surprised once more after hearing that. It was truly a statement that only the people of Azai would understand.
“As you know, Taishakutsukige allowed only Hikobe and me to touch her. But now there is this girl… it might be too early to tell, but it seems like Taishakutsukige has taken a liking to her. She also has no next of kin, so I took her without thinking it through.”
“That is… I see… I understand…”
Masamoto fixated his gaze on Hisa as if trying to find a clue. That Taishakutsukige had become the leader of all the other horses and a queen with a reverse harem… had long been spread among all the retainers of the Azai Clan.
At the same time, finding someone to take care of the horses had started being an issue as well.
Since all the other horses were sticking close to Taishakutsukige, the caretakers were forced to get close to Taishakutsukige as well when trying to groom the horses. And obviously, she disliked them getting close to her. This, in turn, riled up the horses surrounding her, showing their caretakers a killing intent like a bunch of street thugs saying “Hey you, are you molesting my girl, huh?!”
This was, of course, the most frightening situation for the caretakers. Therefore, we were forced to let the horses roam free on the pastures outside the Odani Castle walls. In order for the horse caretakers to move safely, they had to bait the horses with food.
In other words, since Hisamasa had delivered capital punishment to Hikobe, the management of the Azai horses had been approaching a perilous situation.
Furthermore, after the end of the battle with the Rokkaku, the Azai Clan’s number of horses had increased by a lot, mostly through the efforts of Taishakutsukige. We feared that if another battle broke out and the number of horses increased again, it would drastically affect the Azai’s supplies…
With everyone in the Azai Clan racking their brains over how to solve this problem, my words of “Hisa was able to touch Taishakutsukige.” resounded deeply with Masamoto.
“Elder brother, you are absolutely sure she is able to touch Taishakutsukige, right?”
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“That is correct. That is why I brought her with me.”
“I see, I now completely understand elder brother’s plans.”
Quick-witted Masamoto clapped his knees while nodding his agreement.
“Your plan is to not only have this girl take care of Taishakutsukige and the rest of the horses but eventually, you wish to leave the supervision of the feeding and the maintenance of the facilities to her as well… correct? Up til now the management of the horses and their facilities has been a complete mess, and this has caused unnecessary expenses. However, if someone would be able to take on the role of supervisor our costs will decrease by a lot.”
Y-yeah… If I was being honest, I didn’t understand a single thing he said. It seemed Masamoto was overthinking the entire thing and started thinking of possibilities I hadn’t even thought of… oh well, this solved many of our future problems.
I threw a fleeting look in Hisa’s direction, and it looked like she was confused. Her future was being planned out without her having any say in it. However, it was to ensure her safety as well, so I sought her forgiveness in my mind.
Not even Hisamasa would have been able to guess that under the current circumstances, Hikobe’s relative was being kept here at Odani Castle. When trying to hide something, the best place is right under their nose. When something is close to oneself, humans tend not to notice it.
“However, elder brother, there is one issue.”
“What is it?”
“This person’s… Hisa’s birthplace.”
Right, society was about hierarchy in the Sengoku Era. As widespread as the many uprisings could be called, this idea that Japanese society had invented for itself, ultimately still held much sway over people’s thoughts.
The best example would be the ranks handed to officials of the imperial court. The ones who had overthrown their superiors had all done so by earning these ranks. That was certainly to declare their rebellions as legitimate to both those in and out of the court, but what it signified at the end of the day, was that these calculated ploys could not be made outside of the existing bounds of society.
Regardless of the era, for people living in Japan, heritage was crucial to how the worth of a person was measured. Had Hisa been a farmer’s daughter, she would be regarded as “the likes of a farmer” upon climbing upwards, but had she been the daughter of the Emperor’s chief advisor, she would be held as embodying the very idea of refinement.
“Elder brother has picked her up, but… as one would expect, in her current state I find it hard to employ her. Let us find an appropriate family to accept her as an adoptive daughter.”
After saying that; Masamoto flashed a smile towards me for the first time.