Part 26: Life

Author’s Note: For optimal understanding of the contents, please check Japan map pinned in the page for reference if you’re not familiar with Japan and because the strategies used in the story involved a lot around geopolitical and geographic military. The authors will be very appreciated if readers can provide us some feedback about our plot lines, strategies, character development, etc. We’ve passed the 25 chapters mark, so if you are still following the story now, thank you for your loyal support. Finally, this part contain sensitive and adult materials, reader discretion is advised. 

Owari, Late Winter 1546 (January 1546)

“I love you, my lord…”

She whispered in his ear while laying on top of him panting heavily. He could feel her sweaty and warm skin slowly rubbing onto his fiercely, even though she had slowed down her pace while looking at his face under the moonlight. He didn’t reply to her, but pull her chin closer and kissed her deeply, with their tongues quickly entwined. He slip his hand into her thick black hair, held onto it firmly, and pressed her lips hard on his, while his other hand was holding on her hip, giving her some more strength to move along with him.

“Yes… faster, my lord…”

She gasped for air while pressing their lips against each other. Her eyes shut tightly, immersing herself in pleasure. After a short moment, she lifted her head apart from his, moved his hand down to play with her breast, and crouched over his body, leaving a small gap filled with warm sweat vapor between their stomachs. She quickened her pace, and moaned louder as she went. He could feel her sweat dripping onto his skin, injecting waves of sensation to his mind.

Slowly, he felt her contraction tighter, growing faster in quick short pace. Her hand held on to his stronger, squeezing her breast harder. Her hip thrusted and grinded rapidly, increasing her breathe along with every movement of her body.

Suddenly, she opened her eyes, smiled at him, and gave him a deep long kiss as her body collapsed onto his after they came together. He could feel his ejection go deep into her body, and her wet and warm liquid slowly covering his lower torso. Locking her lips onto his, she gasped for air in between the short jerks of her body after the orgasm.

“Can we stay this way tonight, my lord? I’d like to fall asleep on top of you… I love your quick heartbeat like this.”

“Of course, dear,” he smiled at her and kissed her ear, making her moan and quicken her breath for a moment.

“Don’t tease me like that. I’m exhausted.” She giggled as she bit his nose lightly. “You are so mean.”

“You seem to be out of shape,” he laughed. “I thought you have enough stamina to go over and over again all night long.”

“It’s your fault, my lord. You’ve been favoring your little bodyguard over your wife. Is she better in this than I am?”

“Well, I don’t know how good she is. Do you want to know? I can try and let you know.” He laughed as he saw her frowning. “Besides, it’s just two days since I last came to your chamber.”

“You are so mean to tease me like that,” he hit him lightly on the chest, then pressed her ear right where she just hit, listening to his heartbeat. “I want to do it every night, until we’re exhausted like this. I will please you as many times as you like.”

“I want that too, dear. I hate being away from you. I wish I just can bring you along.”

“I will miss you, my lord.”

“It will probably take only two to three days. I will be back to you before you know it.”

“But you will soon go away. You haven’t told me, but I know it. If only you can bring me with you…”

“It’s too dangerous and unpredictable…”

“It’s alright, my lord. I just wanted to rant a little bit. I know you can only fight if you know I’m safe. Besides, there must be someone with capability to take care of Nagoya while you’re away.”

“That’s my girl. And I will visit you often. You know, sneak out of the camp for a few days and ride back here with you.”

“You are so sweet, my lord. I want to be with you forever…”

She kissed him on the lips and lay her head on his chest.

“Me too dear. I will end this chaos soon and come back to you.”

He held her tight and heard her falling asleep peacefully.

“M’lord, have you slept yet?” About half an hour after Tsuchida fell asleep, James heard Midori’s whisper outside the room. He gently put his wife on the soft mat, pulled up the blanket to keep her warm and went out to open the door for his bodyguard.

“You don’t have to be in such a hurry. You didn’t even align your robe properly.” She fixed his messy robe and kissed him quickly on his lips, as if she was afraid of being caught. “I’m jealous with the lady so bad.”

“She said the same thing about you, you know.”

“I think I heard that, m’lord,” she giggled and looked over his shoulder at Tsuchida.

“How long have you been waiting for me?”

“I’m not sure, m’lord. Long enough that if we are not in such urgent time like this, I will make you to do the same thing to me you did to her.” She grinned cheekily and walked with him to the yard. There was no one there but them, since Midori dismissed the guards when she arrived.

“So how are the preparation?”

“The Ryukage squads are here already. That girl Miki had deserted the rank and she’s nowhere to be found. Ishimaru had trained a new recruit to fill her place, who was ready for this mission. I have met with Lord Hatake, Maeda, Aizu, Kizuki, and Tomishide to inform them about your order. They will arrive here within an hour or so. Kagesettsu and Ishimaru sent bird confirming Lord Saito’s participation in the plan. They are already on their way back and will be here within the hour. The rest of the Eight is working with the captains so they will depart accordingly.”

“Good job Midori. Now call the Ryukage in. We need to send them back on the field before the lords arrive.”

“At once, m’lord” Midori bowed and quickly left.  James sat down by a cherry tree, staring up at the dark sky. It was cloudy like every other winter night, making the atmosphere looked colder and sadder. Just as he realized what was going on in his mind, he laughed it off. It was winter eventually. He was used to that gloomy attitude, wasn’t he?

“Captain Black Dragon report in! Dragon team is here, m’lord,” A tall and bulky man stepped out of the shadow of the courtyard, bowed before James under the dim lit lantern. Right after him, a tall slim girl of Phoenix Squad and a short sturdy man or Turtle Squad showed up immediately after announced their presence. Despite being on different teams, they all wore the same black attire, fully covered their bodies, only leaving the eyes exposed.

“Good. This time mission will be the first high tier you three take, and the success of this mission is crucial to my plan in our campaign against the Takeda. Per chance is someone will lose his lives in this mission, and as our protocol, the Oda clan knows nothing or will take any responsible for your death. If anyone wants to back down, you will be exempted from this mission, and thus can leave the debrief now. You will resume your post in your assigned sanctuary.”

“We fight and die in the shadow!” They repeated their motto while standing still, looking straight at James’s eyes with all their might. He could feel the resolve burn strong in these men and women’s veins.

“Good. First, for Turtle Squad. You will move along Kiso River to mount Nagiso. From there, you’ll cross Mt. Nagiso and Kazakoshi to Iida castle. Your main mission will be scouting, mapping the whole region to prepare for our main army to move along the river. On your way, clear the region of hostile or foreign agents. We are expected to arrive at Iida mid spring, and then take over the castle in surprise. We should be able to consolidate our foothold in Iida at the end of the season. There will be further orders once I led our army into Shinano’s land. Do you have any question about Turtle squad’s mission?”

“Negative, m’lord!” the squad said in unity. James nodded at them, then moved onto debriefing other squads’ missions.

“Good. Dragon and Phoenix Squads will serve as my bodyguards for this quick trip to Totomi Province. Each squad will divide into four groups of two, and form a long-range detection formation. Phoenix Squad will cover the perimeter and maintain ten miles distance from the main party. Dragon Squad will serve as inner defense and maintain five miles distance from the main party. The formation will be one squad at the front, one squad each rear, and one squad to cover our behind. This formation will be applied for both squads. You all know our top threat. Once that threat is detected, relay the information immediately and do not engage, so that I can decide our course of action. For other threats, I trust your ability to resolve the issue at hand, either to report back and wait for responding plan, or to eliminate the threat on site. Remember before doing anything in hostile territory, your squads must maintain undetected for the whole mission. Any question?”

“We’re clear, m’lord. Permission to proceed?”

“Good. If you do not have any question, you are dismissed to prepare your accessories before our trip. Turtle Squad will move as soon as possible. Dragon and Phoenix squads will depart an hour before my departure to clear the street. Good luck to you all!” James bowed at his special operation squads.

“M’lord,” they all bowed at him, then disappeared quickly into the night, just as when they appeared.

“I like it when you always treat us with respect even though very few of us has samurai bloodline,” Midori sat down next to him as they were waiting for his court.

“It’s hard not to. You’re a talented and dedicated group, and I recruited all of you myself. Besides, family bloodline isn’t important to me.”

She didn’t say anything but leaned her head on his shoulder. He smiled and kissed her lips gently. “Now I have to wake your Lady up, then change before the lords arrive.”

“I will have my post here and wait for the guys. But be quick. I miss you,” she kissed him in respond, then stood guard by the door after James got back to the sleeping chamber.

He knelt by his wife and contemplated her beauty, who was sleeping so peacefully. There was a different aura emitting from her than from Midori. If his bodyguard was always calm and quiet, Tsuchida was somehow warm and passionate.

“Dear, wake up,” he whispered in her ears as he touched her bare shoulder gently. “The lords are coming. We need to be ready.”

“They are fast,” she turned around and looked at him with sleepy eyes. “Get me up. I’ll help you change.”

“You know I want to come with you right m’lord?” she talked to him as she was buckling up his armor straps.

“You know that I want you to come too.” James paused for a moment to look at his wife “I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Once Nobunaga got a little older and make the marriage between him and Saito No official, we can leave him in charge of Nagoya. Then you can accompany me to the front line.”

Tsuchida held him by the waist as she finished gearing her husband up.

“Talking about Saito, how is she doing in your court?” James turned around and held her in his arm, looking out of the window.

“She is doing well. I’ve been teaching her our tradition and art.”

“Good. As long as she’s happy, everything is fine. I want her to be as close to Nobunaga as you to me.”

“I see.”

“I have called Nobunaga back from Mino. He should be here some time tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Once he’s here, let him stay by your side on court. Teach him the manner to be a ruler. And more important, teach him empathy. He can learn a lot while staying by your side, and once he comes of age, we will not have to worry about him much since he already has experience.”

“I understand. But calling back general Takayama to send him with the Tokugawa, then summoning Nobunaga to Nagoya, meant that you leave Mino totally in Saito clan’s control right? You trust them that much?”

“They work under Oda banner now, so theoretically, I should trust them. Besides, Saito Dosan and all of their main force leaves with me for Shinano provinces, leaving Mino only his sons and his lesser court. If something happens, they are no match for you and Nobunaga and the lords I leave here. I will not worry about the Saito too much, so you can trust them, for now.”

“M’lord,” he heard Midori knocking at the door. “The lords are here and ready to meet you.”

“Send them in,” James sat down at the war table he and Tsuchida prepared after they done donning their robes and armor.

“M’lord,” the lords bowed at him when they came in, and quickly settled in their positions by the war table.

“How’s your preparation?”

“We finished our preparation and are ready at your disposal, m’lord,” Lord Hatake Tsubasa answered. The others slightly nodded in agreement.

“Good. Now here is our detailed plans. All the captains have assembled the soldiers and been ready to move out. We will not bring many attendants and cargoes this time. The soldiers will help with transporting the food we need for this short campaign. The less people we have in our army, the harder for them to know we’re coming. Lord Hatake and Lord Aizu, you two will be responsible for the main army until I take charge. You will leave Nagoya by the West Gate, follow the Kiso river to Mt. Nagiso. I will regroup with you then, before we cross the mountains to lay siege to Iida. Lord Maeda, Kizuki, and Tomishide will stay here and help Lady Tsuchida and my son take care of Nagoya. Lord Kizuki, gather all the supply you can, then will transport them to South Shinano at the end of spring. Lord Maeda, you will recruit seven thousand men for our future campaign this season, but besides training, let they do the farming and manufacturing too. We also need the economic resource to maintain our army. That’s originally one reason why we need South Shinano. And Lord Tomishide, keep an eye beyond our Western borders. We don’t know anything that is happening in Ise, Omi, or Kyoto. We must be careful at this point when our main armies are away from Nagoya. Anything you gather will be reported to Lady Tsuchida. Unless there’s an emergency, there’s no need informing me. We’re concealing our army, so communication will be limited. I will lead the scouting squads before regrouping at Mt. Nagiso. Anyone has any question?”

“Please be careful while you’re not with us, m’lord. You are the head of our clan.”

“Thank you for your concern. If there’s nothing else, we shall meet again in one month, Lord Hatake and Aizu. For the rest, we trust Nagoya in your capable hands.”

“We will not let you down, m’lord,” lady Tsuchida and his court bowed as James stood up and left the table.

“Good. Then let us be on our way then,” James gave his wife one last goodbye look before donning on his white fox fur coat. “Let’s go, Haruki.”

When the sun rose next morning, James and his seven bodyguards already reached Hikuma castle in Totomi province. Because of the urgent and secretive nature of the mission, he had left the remaining of his bodyguards at Nagoya castle. Once James was back from Totomi province, they would regroup before head for South Shinano. When they were five miles away from the destination, James had ordered the scouting parties to redeploy around the castle for surveillance. Once James was in Tokugawa’s castle, the squads’ mission was not to protect him, but to observe for intelligence and then escort him on his way back. If something happened to James in the castle, Ryukage’s mission would be gathered all the information they had and then reported back to Lady Tsuchida. James had ordered them not to engage under any circumstances except with James direct order. They were created as a secret special force, and this was too early for anyone but only a few know about their existence.

When James and his entourage reached the castle gate, there was only a small party waiting for them.

“Long time no see mate. You’re on time. But you look so different.” The young man leading the welcome party spurred his horse closer to the approaching men. “Way older.”

“I’m always on time, am I not?” James laughed. “Now they call you Takechiyo?”

“Yeah. Takechiyo Shinji. By the way, Hidenaga is waiting for us in the stable. We can talk while we’re on our way there. By the way, is there anything new from your side since we last talked?”

“Well so far, pretty much everything is going as plan. I sent my troops out in the cover of the night to follow Kiso river. By now, they should be hiding in the forest along the riverbank. It will take the whole season to get through that forest and another to cross the mountains to lay siege to Iida. That will be enough time for us and the Uesugi in the north to coordinate. I’ve brought Nobunaga back from Mino and leave Nagoya for him and Tsuchida. I made sure she’ll stay loyal while I’m away.”

“I see. You’re handy as usual,” they laughed together, and soon, they reached the castle stable where Hidenaga was waiting.

“Ishimaru, stay with these guys,” James signaled at the Tokugawa guard posted outside the stable and Rene’s small entourage. “I’ll be back soon.”

“We wait for your order, m’lord,” Ishimaru and the rest of his bodyguard bowed as he accompanied Rene inside the stable. The place was warm, with the smell of horses. But there was none inside.

“You’re on time, lord Oda.” Hidenaga was sitting on a stool in the middle of the building. “I have to admit you choose a weird place for secret meetings between daimyos. I never thought of royal stable as one.”

“It’s better than in the castle. Besides, I like the horses.” James sat down on a stool near Hidenaga, as did Rene. “Now to the main point. I want to discuss with you the plan about Takeda and Hojo. I want our alliance to strike simultaneously in the fall and winter of 1546.”

“Have you thought of forming a temporary alliance with them?”

“An alliance or any diplomatic measure is not a good option now, especially with them. In our position, if you want to unite Japan, there are only two directions to expand, northward or southward. If we go south, we mess with Kyoto and a bunch of clans around that region. It will take us a long time to stabilize the area. By that time, other powers of both the north and south have consolidated. If we’re lucky, but I don’t think that we are, Date or Uesugi will defeat the Takeda and Hojo, then unite the north. A more realistic scenario is that the Takeda – Hojo alliance will unite the north. Also by that time, Shikoku Island probably will be united by one faction; Kyushu also will be united by another faction; the southern region of Honshu will be held by either one or two major clans. Geographically looking, by that time, we’ll hold Kyoto, but we’ll be surrounded by at least 4 major factions, with power five times greater than ours. And by the way, they all want Kyoto. It will put us in continuous warfare and give us more trouble than we can handle. If we move to confront Takeda – Hojo now, by the time we’re done with them, we’ll also face around 4 or 5 major factions, but we will not going to have such a tough time. First, we will not hold Kyoto, which means we will not be seen as the enemy of the State by the remaining clans. Second, once we capture Shinano and Edo regions, combining with the original Oda and Tokugawa lands, we will be able to maintain around two hundred thousand troops, and that’s just Oda force alone. In a good scenario, if there’s only Uesugi or Date in the north, I think we should form an alliance with that clan. If there’s an alliance in the north, I can crush the remaining clans if need be with around sixty thousands to eighty thousands men. The remaining force can be used to defend the southern front and slowly expand southward. Thus, our best option now is taking Takeda and Hojo head on.”

“Why can’t we form an alliance with Takeda – Hojo or Uesugi – Date?” Hidenaga asked.

“An alliance with more than 3 factions is too complicated, especially one between already formed alliances like ours, Takeda – Hojo, and Uesugi – Date. It’s very unpredictable.”

“I see.” Hidenaga replied.

“So what’s your plan if you want to attack Takeda – Hojo?” said Rene.

“First we’ll link up with the Uesugi, have them on board with attacking Shimotsuke and Shimosa. Second, I’ll take South Shinano and readied my forces to take North Shinano. At the same time as I take North Shinano, your force will push to Sagami, then if possible take Musashi. General Takayama then will split up and take on Kai. As we march north, the Uesugi will march to Shimotsuke and Hitachi. In one big swoop, we’ll divide the Takeda – Hojo’s land, and diminish their power greatly. With this plan, we’ll finish them off within two to three years. If we can win swiftly, we have more time to stabilize our domestic issues and strengthen our economy and military before conducting a new campaign.”

“Why should the Uesugi work with us?”

“Considering our current situation, assuming the Uesugi already expanded beyond Echizen and they wanted to gain more resources, also forming a strong and safe backend for future campaign, I predict they will need to march southward. In their position, it is more beneficial that Date and Uesugi form an alliance, since they share the same backend, and if they are ally, they can push south together without the fear of being flanked, except from the sea. Thus, I come to a conclusion that they will march south, and Takeda – Hojo alliance will be the greatest roadblock at the moment. From the map, with Etchu under Takeda control, the Uesugi – Date alliance will have to fight their way through. Asking for non-aggression pact or such with Takeda is not realistic, since it will expose their rear to Takeda’s assault in the future. On that assumption, the Uesugi will have three paths to fight Takeda – Hojo. The first path is from Echizen to Etchu; the second is from Echizen to North Shinano; and the third is from Fukushima to Shimotsuke. I haven’t mentioned the jungle path from Fukushima to Hitachi. Assume they have enough men to march down the 3 major paths, considering the vast grassland of Edo, the Takeda cavalry will have superior advantage over heavy armored samurais. Moreover, even if they fight and win, the Uesugi – Date alliance will have to confront us, because we hold the major path to Kyoto. And while they are busy fighting the Takeda, who is to guarantee we will not take advantage of the war and sneak Takeda’s backend? By the time they’re done with the fighting and suffer high casualty, they’ll be exposed for our attacks, since we didn’t have casualty fighting the Takeda. Therefore, their safest choice is to form a temporary alliance with us and coordinate attack plan, to make sure we will divide the resource reasonably and also share the damage to our armies equally so that neither one of us will betray the alliance right after the victory over the common enemy. Well that’s the case I assume they want to take offensive position. If they are stupid enough to stay defensive, we’ll turn over to negotiate with the Takeda to destroy the Uesugi first. It’s a lot of assumption, but those are safe ones that we can make.”

“When did you come up with this plan?” Hidenaga asked. “It is very well thought.”

“Two nights ago. I wrote you the message to set up this meeting right after that.”

“That’s good thinking. I’m convinced of this operation.” Hidenaga smiled. “When do you want to pull it off?”

“As soon as possible. I will send out orders as soon as I got back to Nagoya. If you don’t have any question on the plan, there’s something else I need to discuss.” James paused for a while to slow down the pace a little bit. “Do you know a way to communicate when we’re away? In a grand campaign like this, I believe we will need real time coordination in some special circumstances. And I don’t trust the safety of messengers or birds.”

“I can communicate with you through earphone, but this bloke,” Hidenaga paused and smirked at Rene. “He basically can’t function without that earphone since he doesn’t know a word in Japanese. And we have only one earphone here.”

“I’m trying to learn here,” Rene tried to object. “But it’s true. That’s a big concern when it comes to coordination like this.”

“How about bringing him with you? Can he use a sword or something?”

“I don’t think I can be much use in a military camp, lord Oda,” James saw a slight frown on Rene’s face. “I’m better off in some castle and do the administration.”

“How about you accompany me on the campaign, but keep a safe distance. When I travel to the front line for example, you’ll stay in a nearby castle or town. If Lord Oda needs anything, you can contact me within hours. How does that sound?”

“That’s a pretty good call.” Rene let out a relief sigh.

“I can see your concern there, Takechiyo” Hidenaga laughed. “Lord Oda, do you think it’s sufficient?”

“Not the most optimal, but it can work well. I think we can consider that issue resolved. Do you have any concern left?”

“I don’t.” Rene replied. “I will work on the economy to prepare it for this campaign.”

“Neither do I. Do you want to have some tea or stay in the castle for a while before you leave?”

“Thank you for your hospitality, lord Tokugawa. I have to take my leave now. I have to return to my court as soon as possible. I need to mobilize my army right away, since we have a long way to North Shinano. If the Oda want to reach it by fall without detection from the Takeda, we have to move now.” James stood up and offered his hand. “And our meeting in theory doesn’t exist.”

“I hope we will execute our plan well,” Hidenaga smiled and shook James’s hand firmly. “Takechiyo and I will make sure our end work.”

“I have faith in our alliance,” James slightly bowed to his allies. “Now if I can take my leave.”

“I will show you the way out.” Rene followed James out of the door.

Rene accompanied James outside the castle until the castle walls are no taller than the tree lines.

“I guess you have to go back now mate.”

“Yeah I guess so.”

“There’s one thing before I go, I need to tell you.”

“What is it?”

“Try to enjoy this life mate. It doesn’t come too often. I don’t feel like I’m trapped. I’m actually more alive than I’ve ever been in my whole life.”

 

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