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In the Footsteps

by N. Wilson

“Hidemitsu! Are you dozing off again?” Hideyoshi asked. Hidemitsu jumped up from his spot and bowed before his older brother. “Um… sorry brother… I mean my lord” his face was low to the ground. “Uh… Hidemitsu you are an intelligent boy, but you must wake up, you have to stop slacking off. Our great lord Nobunaga has ordered for an audience with you” Hideyoshi spoke in a loud voice.

Hidemitsu walked out of the tent and toward Nobunaga’s camp. “Ha! It’s the little Samurai who serves as his brother’s page! Hey monkey why you don’t come over here and do a dance!” said Katsuie Shibata. “Oh so the Demon Shibata wants to talk? Oh yeah you were the one who was defeated in battle today weren’t you?” Hidemitsu said as the men started to laugh. “At least I saw battle you little runt!” he yelled back. Hidemitsu walked toward the tent’s entrance and let out a shout. One of Nobunaga’s pages came out and greeted him. “Lord Nobunaga is waiting for you” the page said. What does Lord Nobunaga want with me? He thought to himself. “Ah, Hidemitsu you’ve had me waiting. I have decided to make you into a general, but first you must prove to me that you are worth it” Nobunaga said. “Prove that I’m worth it?” Hidemitsu asked. Toshiie Maeda walked out holding two spears.

          “I gotta beat you?” Hidemitsu asked. “Yup! Kid… you better gimme all you got” Toshiie replied. Toshiie threw him one of the spears and got into a stance. Hidemitsu also got into a stance. “I’m ready! I’m gonna take you down Toshiie!” he said loudly. Toshiie struck first, but Hidemitsu was incredibly fast. “They call my brother Monkey because of his looks, but they call me Monkey because of my agility!” Hidemitsu yelled. Hidemitsu was short and skinny and was agile and flexible, he used to deliver messages for his brother when he was 11, but he hated running for long distances and wanted to become a general; his brother didn’t think he was ready and made him a page. Hidemitsu swung his spear at Toshiie, but was blocked. Toshiie counterattacked, but Hidemitsu moved with a quick strafe to the left.

The fight lasted a while and both men were tired. “Stop!” screamed Nobunaga, but the two were to into it. “Toshiie! Quit it this instant!” he yelled a second to, but to no avail. A guard quickly ran from his post and separated the two. “Toshiie, Hidemitsu, you seemed like you wanted to kill each other!” he rebuked both. Hidemitsu had a look in his eyes that couldn’t be overlooked. “Hidemitsu you have the eyes of a warrior. You have proven yourself worthy. I give you command of 30 spear men” Hidemitsu was proud of himself, and quickly went back to his brother with his men to join him as a subordinate. “Lord Nobunaga gave you men? Wow! You have really progressed in these eight years. Well tomorrow we are going to battle, with some of the Honganji monks on Mt. Hiei” Hideyoshi spoke loud just like his brother.

          The next morning Hidemitsu woke up extremely early. He gathered his men and went to an open field. “Sir, why are we here so early in the morning?” one of the men said yawning. Hidemitsu grinned, “I want to see what you guys can do! Each of you pair up and two’s and spar with one another” he said. The men paired up and started to fight. They were poor fighters and the grin on Hidemitsu’s face disappeared. “No! You men cannot fight at all! I want three lines of ten made each line four feet from each other! I will teach you the true moves of a samurai” he exclaimed. The men did as they were told and the training was on. After a couple hours of training Hikoemon Hachisuka came with a message. “Young Lord why you are not getting ready for the council?” he asked. “I am not going to the council. My men aren’t ready for battle” he replied. Hikoemon looked over Hidemitsu’s shoulder at the men practicing maneuvers with bamboo sticks. He left to deliver the message to the other men at the council.

          For two weeks Hidemitsu and his men were not seen by anyone. Then one day Nobunaga held an important war council. “The warrior-monks are moving a large force down Mt. Hiei. We need to stop them, their momentum has the force to push right into the main camp” Nobunaga said. “I will go with my force” replied Katsuie. “I will go to” said Nagahide Niwa. “My lord if its ok I would like to bring my men along too” a voice said. Everyone looked to the back of the tent where Hidemitsu stood. “Hidemitsu your men are new to fighting they wouldn’t stand a chance on the battle field” Hideyoshi said sternly. “I have trained my troops, I call them ‘The Dragon Spear Corps’” Everyone broke out in laughter, here was a young samurai who had the lowest rank of all the retainers wanting to be in the vanguard for the next battle. Nobunaga had a certain look in his eyes. “Hidemitsu… if you think you can do this then go on ahead. But if you fail you will be forced to commit seppuku” his tone was harsh and all the commanders shuddered at what he said, but Hidemitsu stood, like a rock not moving. He was willing to give his life for his lord.

          Everyone walked outside of the tent to where the “Dragon Corps” stood. They were thirty of them standing tall, backs straightened, shoulders out. They stood in three lines; all were now masters of the spears. The retainers of Nobunaga all looked in awe at the sight. “They look so strong… could it really by Hidemitsu who made them like this?” Hideyoshi said to himself; he looked over at Hidemitsu who was at the head of his forces moving out toward the front. “Your brother will be alright, do not worry about him” Nobunaga said. Hideyoshi was surprised, his lord had come out of nowhere and whispered into his ear. Hideyoshi quickly got down and prostrated himself in front his lord. “I am ok with him for following his dream, but mother would kill me if something would happen to him.”

          Hidemitsu walked with his men to the front. The warrior-monks looked down on them from atop Mt. Hiei. The monks charged down upon them with great momentum. “Charge destroy the enemy!” Hidemitsu yelled as his men flew past him. The forces of Hidemitsu Kinoshita charged up the mountain taking an endless amount of lives. Hidemitsu also went along to fight and also brought much glory to the Kinoshita name. The battle raged on for what seemed like hours. The forces of Nagahide and Katsuie were fighting without energy and had to retreat. “I will serve as the rear guard you retreat” Hidemitsu said. “No way I ain’t gonna let some monkey take away my glory!” Katsuie growled. “You think this is about glory? This is about saving thousands of men’s lives!” Hidemitsu said; Katsuie’s men looked at him with disgust. Is he really going to sacrifice our lives for his glory? They thought to themselves. Katsuie retreated, but held a secret hate in his heart for Hidemitsu.

          After that battle Nobunaga orders the whole mountain to be burned. Most of the warrior monks perish in the flames. Those who survive surrender to him. For his distinguished service in the ranks of the men; Hidemitsu is praised and favored by Nobunaga. For that Katsuie bares an even large grudge on him.

CH. 2

A few months later Nobunaga turns his head to the north where the Asai live. He had past battles with them, but this was to be his final one with their clan. Only one thing stood in his way… his sister Oichi. Oichi was married to Nagamsa Asai the son and also co-ruler of the province. Nobunaga didn’t want any harm to come to his sister or his nieces and nephew.

          Nobunaga set off with his army from Azuchi castle. His first stop was at Nagahama where Kinoshita brothers lived (Hideyoshi, Hidemitsu, and Hidenaga who was the middle brother). Their army numbered about three thousand. Hidemitsu was now a great general with an army of one thousand men. The army crossed the Ane River and marched to Odani where the long siege started. Hideyoshi approached Nobunaga and told him of his plan to get Oichi and her children. “Wait, I want to show Nagamasa my power” Nobunaga replied blankly. “Send in Hidemitsu… I want to see how well he has trained his new army…” Nobunaga told Hideyoshi.

          Hideyoshi raced back to his camp where he found Hidemitsu drawing in the dirt. “Hidemitsu what are you doing?” Hidemitsu looked up, staring blankly at Hideyoshi. “I… I… I’m making a strategy… this castle has three citadels… If we take out the center we can take the sides… they won’t be able to reinforce each other” Hideyoshi looked at him with a wide smile. “Wow! That’s an excellent idea… how did you think of that?” “Just by looking at the castle…” Hidemitsu replied. “Oh yes… Lord Nobunaga wants you to attack the castle. You should put that plan into effect. Also I’m sending Hikoemon with you…” Hidemitsu bowed and went to get his men. His Dragon Corps now numbered one thousand men and a few of his first members were now his loyal retainers; one of them, Hitijo Hosokawa came up to him and asked if he could go along as well “of course” said Hidemitsu as he told his army to come.

          Hidemitsu and his men marched toward the castle. Approaching the wall of the middle citadel, Hidemitsu looked up. “Wow… I didn’t think it was this tall” The castle walls were taller than most. He stared at it for a while until Hikoemon came with reinforcements. “Ok… Men, we will now take this castle starting with the inner citadel and make sure the other two citadels won’t be able to contact each other” His eyes were bright and were burning with passion. He waved his commanders fan forward, and the men charged toward the base of the castle. The men filled the moat with trees they had cut down the day before and scaled up the walls. Everyone raced to be the first man to get a kill, but were all after Hidemitsu who had swiftly cut through many of the enemy and was making his way to the retainers of the Asai. Hitijo was racing up behind him and was calling his name. Hidemitsu couldn’t hear him; his mind was set on the battle.

               As soon as the enemy was routed Hidemitsu set up camp, right between the two armies of the Asai father and son. Hikoemon came up to him and asked why he would set camp right there. “They won’t attack… they can’t contact the other side. So the wont be coordinated” he smiled grimly. Hikoemon was sent back to the main camp to give a report of the accomplishments of that day. “Ha ha… my brother has made some excellent moves, but now its time to make moves of my own. You still worry about Lady Oichi don’t you my lord?” Hideyoshi had spoken up and now Nobunaga was looking at him. “Ah… I see you do… well I can get her back just let me go to Lord Nagamasa and talk to him” Nobunaga was relieved. He told Hideyoshi to go on his mission in two days and he sent Hikoemon with orders to attack Nagamasa’s father the next day.

          The next morning Hidemitsu called for an attack and slaughtered the troops of the Asai. Nagamasa’s father was killed in battle and the news was given to Nagamasa by one of his retainers. Nagamasa was heartbroken and so were his retainers. That night he held his famous “funeral for the living” knowing that his time would too come.

          The day had come and Hideyoshi set off for his mission. He went alone to Nagamasa’s castle and was let in. Hidemitsu withdrew back to the main camp to go to a war council. “Hideyoshi has gone into the castle in order to get my sister and her children out” Nobunaga said happily. Hidemitsu was kidding around like his usual self and was bringing attention to himself. Suddenly he looked around at the many men staring grimly at him. “Oh… sorry, it’s just that I’m really hungry” he said rubbing his stomach. “Here… read this! You must not know the military rules of a war council!” Katsuie said passing him a sheet of paper. Hidemitsu looked at the paper with a puzzled look. “Sorry, but I cant read so you can keep it” he passed it back with a smile on his face. “You cant read?” asked Nobunaga. He never thought that the boy wasn’t able to read. “That’s why you never obey the rules in the town. I thought you were just ignorant. Doesn’t your brother know this?” “No… when he wants someone to read something to him or dictate, I let everyone else do it” he was still smiling he didn’t know it was a bad thing that he didn’t know how to read. Just then a guard came in an said that Hideyoshi still hadn’t returned from his mission and hadn’t even given the signal. Everyone mounted and rode to the edge of the camp looking down on the castle.

          It was noon and still the signal wasn’t seen. “We should attack and take them down… save brother and your sister and then kill Nagamasa!” Hidemitsu exclaimed; he put his hand on Nobunaga’s shoulder. The butt of a spear hit him in the back of the head knocking him from his horse. “You are not supposed to touch our Lord! You would know that if you learned to read and looked at the rules!” Katsuie yelled. “Hey! Katsuie stand down… the boy doesn’t know this… as soon as we return to Azuchi I will hire him a teacher” Nobunaga said. Katsuie put his head down. They decided to return to camp and get something to eat, only because Hidemitsu was complaining about his hunger.

          Later the signal was raised and that night Hideyoshi and the rest of the Oda that were in the castle came out. Nobunaga went on the attack and it was reported that Nagamasa died.

                  

CH. 3

          Months later, Hidemitsu was given a new castle in Ise. As soon as he was there he had the castle and its town torn down. The other retainers of the Oda were puzzled, but from the ruins of the first castle came a new one. It was bigger and the walls were shaped in a triangle. The walls were higher than usual castle walls and at each point of the corners stood very tall towers. Hidemitsu had 300 guards that patrolled alternately. Then one day he and 150 men went to Sakai. One the way he met Hikoemon “Ah… I see its young Hidemitsu! What are doing over here in Sakai?” he asked. “Just gonna buy some supplies!” he said with a shout. One the way back many people could see the cart being pulled by horses, Hidemitsu held a strange object in his hand. He had bought 151 telescopes!

          On reaching his castle which he named Nakamura (after his hometown in Owari); he gave 150 of the telescopes to his guard. “Use these to patrol the area… make sure that if u see anyone coming you report it to Hitijo” he said. Hitijo was in control of castle defenses and was always walking the walls of castle; he took his job very seriously.

          One day the rebellious warrior-monks of Ise decided to attack Hidemitsu, but were seen from far way by one of the guards. They were far enough way to let Hidemitsu prepare an ambush and to send to Owari for reinforcements.

          Meanwhile… The warrior-monks led by Kojiro Asakawa were marching up towards Nakamura. “They will never know we are coming… we will strike tonight, by tomorrow the castle will by ours!” he said. He never noticed the enemy stealthily moving through the tall grass. That night while the monks took off their armor and sat down to eat the men of Hidemitsu attacked slaughtering all who were there, even Kojiro was killed in the battle. By morning no one was left. He had successfully defeated the rebels, but more were on they’re way, an even larger enemy. The brother of Kojiro, Kirasaka, was leading his larger army to the castle. “That’s a lot of rebels” said Hidemitsu jokingly. Hitijo looked at him, “My lord this isn’t the time to joke around! We have to do something about these men!” Hidemitsu just looked at the horizon. “Don’t worry… everything has been taken care of” he pointed to a black dot on the horizon. “That’s our secret weapon!” he yelled. “What are you talking about?” asked Hitijo. “You will find out tomorrow” the grin on Hidemitsu’s face had not left, but he was nowhere to be seen.

          Archers. Thousands of them. They left the castle and lined up on the wall. Three rows, all of them were ready, gritting their teeth for combat. Some were on top of the wall, crossbows aimed at the approaching army. “Let the arrows fly!” Hidemitsu yelled at the top of his voice. Thousands of them. Arrows raining from the heavens. Kirasaka was at the head of his army and was struck in the shoulder. He strained his eyes and looked at the castle. Arrows whizzed past him, his eyes turned from cold to the eyes of a frightened child. He turned back and guided his horse through his men. “Why is lord Kirasaka retreating?” asked one man just as he was struck in the forehead.

         

          The few that survived tried to get away but were stopped by an army that was behind them. “Where do you think you are going?” asked a man. It was Nagahide Niwa. His army destroyed the last of the rebels and went to Nakamura. “See… I had this planned all along!” yelled Hidemitsu. Hitijo bowed before him.

CH. 4

          “Nobunaga!” Hidemitsu screamed as he had awoken one morning. His servants busted into the room and ran to his bed. Hidemitsu was tearing at his sheets. The servants calmed him down and asked him what the matter was. “Nobunaga… he is… is… dead…” his eyes seemed vacant. “What? My lord you are delusional! Nobunaga is alive!” said one of the servants. Hitijo came running into the room and prostrated himself at the foot of the bed. “My lord… I have urgent news! Lord Nobunaga has died… He was killed by Mitsuhide yesterday” Hitijo’s eyes were watering. Hidemitsu gasped “No… we must get the news out to my brother!” he jumped from his bed and before he even changed his clothes or took a bath he had a dictator write a letter to Hideyoshi.

          Hideyoshi was in the west battle against the Mori clan. After receiving the news about Nobunaga’s death he quickly made a plan. He made a peace treaty and returned to the east.

          “Where is my brother?!?” asked Hidemitsu. He was anxious and full of anxiety. His brother finally arrived at his castle and together then went to confront Mitsuhide. “Yamazaki…” was on Hidemitsu’s lips when they fought Mitsuhide. The battle was a grand one and man valuable men died there. The Dragon Spear Corps of Hidemitsu Hashiba was engulfed in the enemy and destroyed. Hidemitsu was gravely injured and retired from battle. He lived the rest of his day in seclusion practicing spear techniques.

          Some say Hidemitsu developed a new technique and died from his excitement. Others say he grew out his life learning to read and reciting poetry. What really happened, no one will ever know.