If Oichi is the most beautiful girl of the Sengoku Era, then Taishakutsukige is the most beautiful horse of the Sengoku Era. The supple and strong feet powerfully kick the mountain road, the hoofs didn’t show any signs of wear, so she didn’t need horseshoes.
Taishakutsukige ran down to the base of the Odani mountain without slowing down at all. She is able to reach quite a high speed, so truth be told, I’m a little nervous. Oichi raised her voice as if she was a female high-school student riding a roller coaster while clinging to my chest. I don’t blame her though; I’m also a little frightened.
However, Taishakutsukige didn’t lower her speed at all. Even trying to control her with the rains ended up being useless, so I decided to leave everything to Taishakutsukige’s judgment.
In modern times, thoroughbred horses that participate in horse races generally run at around 60 kilometers an hour. In comparison, Japanese horses generally run at 30 to 50 kilometers an hour. But Taishakutsukige that I’m mounted on right now is running at a speed close to 140 kilometers an hour.
She is quite the dreadful animal, but I feel that she’s going easy on me even now. What’s even stranger is that even though she’s running with an overwhelming speed, a sense of crisis of being shaken off Taishakutsukige’s back hasn’t come to mind at all. Her back is actually stable enough to stay seated without holding the reins. In the end, these aren’t “horses” after all… Hikobe called them “monsters,” they aren’t the “horses” I’m familiar with.
By the way, the word “monster” is quite old; it is derived from Buddhism. It is a word that invited the training monks to repel those on the path of treason, that disturbed the good deeds of humans and in some cases even injured human lives. In short, “monster” means the kind of evil spirits of rivers and mountains that are guilty of such things. As I was pondering about being able to domesticate a “horse” that was like one of such “monsters,” I guess it could be said that the Japanese are crazy no matter what world or time you are in… Of course, I mean crazy in a good sense. I have no doubt that they would instantly think of completely exterminating these “monsters” if they appeared in the west.
If you run down the mountain road and pass through the last castle district, a town that lays at the bottom of Odani mountain appears. Taishakutsukige starts to slow down her speed. She is clever after all. She completely understands that if she runs through the castle town at full throttle, she will end up knocking down the townspeople.
“Ah! It’s Bizen-no-kami!” ((Matsumoto ‘Bizen-no-kami’ Masanobu was a semi-legendary Japanese warrior and founder of the Kashima Shin-ryū school of swordsmanship and a member of the noble lineage of the ancient Ki clan. This is apparently a nickname of Nagamasa.))
The moment I entered the district, the kids that were playing on the side of the road started a commotion that spread across the town, making a lot of faces stick out from the shops and houses. Currently, the town of the Odani could neither be called big or small, it was averagely sized. Naturally, many of these citizens have been living in these lands for generation after generation, so they have a deep interest in the Azai Clan.
“The wife also came!”
“Haa… She’s so beautiful. Compared to her my wife is…”
“What was that!? What are you saying while glancing at me!?”
The townspeople of this era used to build things inside their houses or on the road. It was such a form of labor. They kept rushing out from their houses towards the road one after another just to see what was going on. In this era where there is little entertainment, even if it is the smallest of occurrences, they will come to take a look even if that means abandoning their work.
“Do you know where the wholesale rice dealer is?”
I ask Taishakutsukige and then she responded with a neigh while shaking her head. It looks like she understands. It’s amazing how clever she is.
Taishakutsukige carries Oichi and me and strides through the castle town, in the back, the townspeople follow us in groups. It is somewhat enjoyable since it reminds me of the Daimyo’s processions that I’ve read about in textbooks before. Taishakutsukige stopped her feet as I decided to enter into a splendid building with Oichi while pondering about it.
The moment we entered the building the inside became rowdy, the young man that was tending the store withdrew in a hurry, and a healthy middle-aged man came out instead while lowering his head in a servile manner. It appears that the young man earlier is the heir and this old man is the current head of the family.
“Bizen-no-kami-sama! Ah, and his wife as well…! My name is Muneaki Yamashita from Omiya. I am terribly sorry for not being able to make a proper reception; please accept my humble apology…”
“Do not worry about it.”
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After saying that to the old man, I decided to get straight to the point.
“Muneaki, this is a wholesale rice dealer, right?”
“Yes, that is correct. Could it be that…”
Suddenly a shadow is cast on the face of Muneaki.
“A battle against the Rokkaku Clan…”
“No, that’s not it. Besides, I didn’t come today to buy rice.”
Muneaki tilted his head. ‘This is a wholesale rice dealer. If Bizen-no-kami-sama didn’t come to buy rice, then why on earth did he come by…?’ I feel he was thinking something along those lines.
“I want rice bran. Around 600 grams if possible.”
“Rice bran… Certainly, we have some but…”
Muneaki ended up tilting his head once more. ‘Why would he want something that looks like dredge?’ I was easily able to read what he was thinking again. Even though no one pays special attention to it, if you are Japanese you would know that rice bran is the powder that comes out from the process of turning unpolished rice into polished rice.
In modern times it is used for nukazuke((Type of Japanese pickle, made by fermenting vegetables in rice bran.)), and it has a big role as an ingredient in rice-bran oil, but it wasn’t particularly noticed in the Sengoku Era of Japan because many people were eating unpolished rice.
By the way, it is said that the history of Nukazuke started in Kitakyushu at the start of the 17th century. However, it appears that the rice bran was currently being used in Nukamiso((Roasted rice bran, which is then mixed in a crock with salt, kombu seaweed and water.)), or to be more precise it was used in Misozuke((Vegetables pickled in miso.)), but let’s put that aside for now…
With an expression as if he was thinking ‘Wanting such a thing, Bizen-no-kami-sama sure says weird things…’ Muneaki signals the people of the store to bring the rice bran.
Then after a short while, the young man from before brings out a jute bag filled to the brim with rice bran from the back of the store. I thank the man and receive the bag; I ask the cost of the rice bran from Muneaki.
“Don’t mention it!”
Said Muneaki while shaking his head and waving his hands.
“Rice bran is only good for fertilizing the fields! And more than anything, I could never ask for payment of Bizen-no-kami-sama who took the trouble to come here in person…”
“Such reasoning won’t do.”
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I remember having read in a history magazine that one sentence equaled about 120 yen in modern times. I take out 10 sentences from my pocket and hand them over to the young man. It should be approximately 1200 yen. A loaf is 600 grams, so it could be said that it’s a reasonable price.
“I cannot accept it…”
The young man shook his head and refused to get paid. I’m not entirely sure if it’s out of stubbornness or a strong sense of duty. I was under the impression that merchants were an unscrupulous existence and that I have to be on my guard against them but I realized that there were honest people among them.
“You, what is your name?”
“My name is Shinpachirou .”
“Shinpachirou , do you have a wife and children?”
“I do. I exchanged vows with a girl from a dry-goods store located in the capital… My child is still a baby and is fed from his mother’s breast…”
“Is your child cute?”
“Well, of course…”
“I see, then, you should buy something nutritious for your wife and child with this.”
I said while pushing the 10 sentences on Shinpachirou .
“If you say that this store can’t accept the money, I will give you this money for the sake of your wife and child. In order for a child to drink plenty from the mother’s breast, the mother also needs to eat a lot… A child is a treasure. Raise your child with great care together with your wife and succeed a firm household… Do you understand?”
After patting the shoulder of Shinpachirou who is shedding tears of gratitude, I invite Oichi who is thinking about something to follow me as we went outside. Outside there was a crowd fascinated by Taishakutsukige’s beauty. I tied the jute bag that holds the rice bran to the harness and mounted Taishakutsukige. Following that, I pulled up Oichi and embraced her as I did before.
“Ooh……!” the townspeople raised a cheer. I wave one hand at them as the upper body of Taishakutsukige rises upward. We strode towards the mountain road while being mounted on this huge white body with a horn on top that looked like it was glowing with the sunlight falling on it. We left the castle town in the blink of an eye and arrived at the base of the Odani mountain.
“Are we going back?”
Oichi who was still clamped to my chest asked me. She seems to be under the impression that we only went to the castle town to buy rice bran.
“We won’t go back yet…”
Taishakutsukige strays off the road towards Odani Castle as if she was able to read my thoughts. By running through a different road that had many trees growing on it, we ended up finding the place I was searching for.
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Oichi raised a voice of surprise at my chest. Beyond where Taishakutsukige stopped her step we were able to see it… A hot spring surrounded by an indistinct smell of iron. Here at the base of the Odani mountain, there is a hot spring, and it is even a historical fact that Nagamasa Azai used to bring his wife, Oichi and his daughters here to take baths.
“This hot spring is unusual because it contains iron. When it gushes forth, it is colorless and transparent, but it gradually turns red as time passes.”
Nonetheless, this hot spring is undeveloped; it is similar to a warm pond right now. Various small and large stones lay at the bottom and mud is also mixed in the hot water. However, this is a trivial problem when I think about the fact that I haven’t been able to take a decent bath after arriving in the Sengoku Era.
I step off Taishakutsukige and gaze at the steaming vapor that rises upward. Then the sleeves of my kimono were pulled by Oichi. When I turned around, she was looking at me with moist eyes.
“Nagamasa-sama… Don’t tell me the reason you brought me…”
I don’t have to hide it anymore. I wanted her to soak in a hot spring after finally leaving her parents and coming to Omi. I wanted her to relax and forget about all the pressure she is under.
I remained silent and nodded, and then Oichi who was overcome with emotions threw herself into my chest and started crying. Taishakutsukige gave us a backward glance and started walking towards the hot water. Then with only her neck laid outside the hot water, she raised a neigh of satisfaction.
“Shall we enter as well, Oichi?”
After seeing the loose appearance of Taishakutsukige, I let out a small laughter while sweeping away the tear hanging at the corner of Oichi’s eye. It is also an expression of gratitude for cleaning my ears earlier this morning. I hope it slowly heals her fatigue…
“Yes, Nagamasa-sama… but…”
Oichi touches my chest while bending her head expressing that she was embarrassed.
“If it’s about the kimono, you could change to the appropriate clothes that we brought from your room earlier. You should also be able to use those to wipe your body…”
“That’s not it…”
My lovely and shy wife. She is so adorable. But I somehow understand what she’s trying to say.
“You’re embarrassed to be seen?”
“Well… the sun is still up, um…”
Aaah, so innocent! Why are you this innocent Oichi? But on second thought, it has only been three days since we’ve gotten married. We have been having vigorous sex these last couples of days, so it keeps slipping my mind. Nonetheless, I can’t keep staring at her. I stepped closer to her and whispered next to Oichi, who won’t take off her clothes because of her shyness’s ear.
“Let’s bathe in the hot water together.”
Oichi made a gentle and deep nod after hearing what I said. I laid a cloth on the ground; she ended up saying “please don’t look…” and immediately after let her robe fall. It’s a strip show from my lovely wife. I feel bad for Oichi, but I will enjoy the view.
She unties her sash which raises a sound, Oichi who was taking off her between-season wear embraced her shoulders and her cheeks were dyed red from the embarrassment as I fixedly stared at her figure. Then, finally, the between-season wear falls to the ground leaving no clothes behind, her naked body was revealed.
As if trying to escape my persistent gaze, while covering her pure white naked body she quickly immersed herself into the red hot spring. By the way, my “big son” was already pretty ecstatic. After all, it’s the first time I get to see her like this other than at night. I also quickly threw down my clothes and followed Oichi into the hot spring.