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Tales of the Matsu Clan

By N. Wilson

PROLOGUE

Two brothers as different as night and day are left in charge of a province in Northern Japan. Their achievements make them envied by the whole empire and they are attacked left and right, can they defend themselves from attack, and what about the trouble brewing in between them? The narrator Matsu Nie is the elder of the two and relies mostly on strategies for his battles, but Matsu Daemon the younger of the two acts spontaneously and never follows orders, he is said to be the cause of the downfall of the Matsu brothers.

STORY

I was born in Matsumae, an isolated province in north-eastern Japan. My mother was the daughter of the ruler pf the province and when he died my mother had to marry a man. His name was Kato Noe, he was my father. When I was 3 he died in battle and my mother, married again to a samurai named Azai Daemon. Then my younger brother was born Matsu Daemon. For 17 years Azai Daemon was the holder of our province. But when the barbarians of the north attacked he died gloriously in battle and I took his place.

As soon as I was the holder of the province I hired men of great ability, my two best friends Sama Hary and Shima Marc. Shima Marc had a different name from the rest of us because his family came from the far west; I believe their land was Europe. Since our childhood we three were inseparable, we had gone to the same martial arts classes and they even stayed over sometimes in the castle.

The first thing on our list was to get those barbarians who had been on our tail for years. I gathered a force of 5 thousand men and headed north. We found a couple of camps perfectly set and a way that would be hard to defeat. I decided to call a war council; many of the senior generals that served Azai Daemon and my father had retired thinking that I was not good enough to handle this responsibility so only Daemon, Hary and Marc were with me. "We should just charge in and destroy each camp one at a time!" Daemon said. No one agreed with him. I decided to speak my mind. "We should use a fire attack that whole area down there is plains and this is summer, the grass is dry and this is an easy way to win." We all agreed that this was the best course of action. "Why doesn't anyone think my plan isn't good?" Daemon asked. "Your plan would destroy us all!" Hary said sternly. We prepared to leave at dawn; we gathered flammable items and told the soldiers to get ready for battle.

As dawn came we marched toward the barbarians. They jumped at the sight of our army and fled when we set the fires. I told Dameion to take his troops and circle around to surround them and get them to surrender; no head was to be taken. He said that he planned to kill them all and we argued that killing them would make us as bad as them. He gave up the argue and went to do as he was told, soon after we got word that the barbarians surrendered and they were on their way to camp.

When they arrived I could see the look on their faces, scared, hungry, not knowing if they were going to live to the next sunrise. I assured them that they would be fine. The leader a huge man by the name of Watanabe Nobumori came and prostrated himself in front of me. "Thank you for sparing us" he said. "Of course, but all I want is for you and your men to join us in peace" I replied. He agreed and we were unified.

For 1 year the land was peaceful when Nobunaga and the other warlords found out what Matsu Nie had accomplished they were enraged and started to attack, the first that arrived was the army of Echigo, under Kenshin Uesugi.

An army of ten thousand was passing through Mutsu and crossing the water to attack us; our province was famous throughout the country for our fierce samurai and our rich natural resources. We were envied by many. I called upon my army, and readied my naval force to fight the Uesugi. My newly formed army was used to the seas except for the new men that had joined us the previous year. I assigned to them the frontline in Mutsu to guard our waters from the Uesugi. Sama Hary was going to lead the defense of Mutsu, I was going to lead the naval defense and guard the second line just in case Kenshin broke through.

Hary and the others shipped out with the warrior task force (the name I gave for the barbarian unit). My naval unit under Marc left the following day. Daemon and I visited our mother in her castle. She told us how proud she was of what we had done and that she new we would become great. When Daemon had left she pulled me closer and told me to watch him because he may cause trouble in the future. It didn't seem to me that he would be trouble, but as a filial son I listened to my mothers words.

It had been a week since I had sent out my army and an envoy had come to visit me. He delivered a message:

I am sorry to say that the front line has retreated to the sea; the enemy is using some strange weapon that we have never seen it is much better than bows and arrows they use some type of crossbows with little metal balls. They fired at us and many of our men panicked. Marc and I are preparing a new defensive line. We beg for reinforcements.

Sama Hary

I was surprised and readied an army quickly. "My lord! Wait I have some news." Said a familiar voice. It was Ganji a retainer of my father he had taken care of me since my birth and was old and grey. "Yes Ganji what is it?" I asked. "I have been working on a new type of ship it is very fast and has weapons that the westerners use, they are called cannons" he replied. "Show me I want to see these new ships."

Ganji had gone to west to visit our allies the Mori clan. They had given us cannons and guns as gifts; he also stayed to develop new types of ships for battle. He had just came back to tell us of his news, but we needed ships for battle. Next to our regular ships were some very peculiar new types of ships they were smaller, but sleek in design and were great for battling on water. I ordered the troops to board the new ships and to get ready for battle. We sailed off at full speed just in time to see our second line being demolished. We sped in and charged into one of the enemy ships. That is when I saw him, Kenshin Uesugi, the leader of the Echigo troops. I jumped from my horse and jumped into his ship fighting many samurai along the way. My men tried to follow, but were to slow to keep up. When Kenshin saw me he jumped off his horse to battle. We wasted no time and were completely engulfed in battle. No words were exchanged… just blows. My ships fired cannons and it hit Kenshin's ship. Kenshin threw of his armor and jumped into the water, he was followed by his defeated troops and I ran back to my boat. The Uesugi army retreated back to Echigo, and our people rejoiced. Peace was brought back to our land.

After the defeat of the Uesugi the Takeda and Hojo went to fight. Their provinces were inland and not used to naval warfare and were defeated easily. The Matsu decided to ally themselves with the Date clan and gained a friendship and some land in Mutsu. Also they allied themselves with the Oda. Nie sent Sama Hary to govern Himura castle in Mutsu. Then the Tokugawa of Mikawa turned their eyes to the east and started their way to Matsumae. Nie called upon his generals and sails to Himura castle and joins Hary in the defense of their home.

Himura castle was located in the foothills under the mountains of Mutsu. Masamune Date came to the castle as reinforcements. We looked up toward the mountains and watched as the black plague of the Mikawa army came toward us. "We should go on the attack now before they have a chance to rest" said Marc. We mobilized and started at them at full speed. We charged through the Tokugawa ranks, and Hary engaged in battle with Honda Tadakatsu. Hary with his Great Axe was a force to be reckoned with. The ferocity of our charge was too great for them and Ieyasu Tokugawa called for a retreat. As they were retreating I told my men to pursue them and let them know the ferocity of the Matsu clan.

We chased them into the province of Dewa. Then we stopped and let them leave; we all went back to Himura for a banquet. I praised the efforts of the commanders and we all were drunk by the end of the night. The next morning I bid Masamune goodbye and also crossed the waters to Matsumae. Upon reaching Matsumae I was given a message from the Shogun:

Hello young lord, I ask that you come to the capital for a meeting. I need you to attack from the East and help me destroy the Oda. Please come for this meeting, if you help me you will be richly rewarded.

Shogun Yoshiaki

Attack the Oda? I thought to myself. But why we are in good terms we have been helping each other for a while I could never do that.

Daemon thought differently "Attack the Oda! Can you not read we will be richly rewarded! Brother? Are you stupid do you not understand this we will become all powerful!" he said sternly. "Daemon how dare you speak to me like this I am your elder brother and you have no right to act rashly. Remember you are to honor me because of my eldership, are you not trying to be a filial son by disobeying me? How would our mother act if she found out about this you would be exiled from our home!" I said. "NO! You don't understand this is the right thing to do to become the most powerful clan in Japan!" he was reasonable. "I don't want to be the most powerful clan I want to keep our family safe"

We argued for what seemed like hours. Finally he decided not to argue any longer and went home to his castle in the north. The night went by quickly and when I awoke I could not believe my eyes. An army was in front of my castle and at its head was Daemon. "Elder brother! You speak of no sense! You are not fit to rule this province! Why did my father leave you in charge?" he asked from his horse. Since my castle was only a residence for samurai I called for a retreat. "Leave the castle? Young Lord what is on your mind?" Asked Ganji, "We must go to Himura castle this is not the right place for battle our castle is on a peninsula surrounded by water, we must leave" I replied. "Nie, I will stay as the rear guard" said Marc. "No way you are my best friend and I cannot leave you here to die. We all go together" Just then Watanabe Nobumori stormed in. "My lord… I have come… to kill you" he said grimly. I felt by life jump from my skin. Marc and Ganji stormed toward him with their weapons held high. Ganji was in his old age and couldn't fight he was cut down immediately. Ganji was the only one of the senior retainers who had come back to serve me. I loved him like my own father who had died when I was 3.

Anger flowed through my body giving me strength like no other. I ran toward Nobumori with my spear and beat him across the face. I couldn't handle it anymore Ganji was like my father, my real father, not my stepfather, he was the only one who knew what I was going to do before I did it and to lose him meant to lose everything, Nobumori, nor my brother understood how it felt to lose him and know I was stuck like this, this evil being living in my body that gave me the desire to kill the man who killed Ganji.

Marc pulled me back and helped me toward the ship, as we sailed away I could see Daemon holding onto my mother, mom, my poor mom, I forgot you how could I do that? I thought to myself.

We raced to Himura were we met Hary who came down suddenly. "Nie what are you doing here?" He asked. "Daemon has revolted and we fled the castle. Not all of our troops made it" I said sadly. Hary was shocked and we decided to come up with a plan. We planted an ambush in the mountains and waited for the arrival of Daemon's army. The next morning we could hear the sounds of marching and horses so we sprung our ambush. In the midst of battle is could see Daemon on his horse. "Brother, you know nothing of strategy how do you hope to defeat me?" I asked from a hilltop. "Like this!" he yelled and told his army to charge. I called a retreat and led them to the castle. As Daemon's army walked through the dry plains, I came out holding out my spear "Daemon let us fight! Now you will see my true power!" I said. The only thing on my mind was Ganji and how he was killed by one of Daemon's men.

We fought for hours, until we had no energy left. We stopped and I went back to Himura castle and Daemon bivouacked in the plains. That night I held a war council "It's the exact setting as 3 years ago when we first fought Watanabe Nobumori. Your brother doesn't understand strategy and is bound to be defeated. Let us use another fire attack" said Hary. "Sure thing we will win Nie! We will show your brother what's what!" said Marc.

We set out the next morning and set fire to Daemon's camps. His army was defeated and he was brought before me. "Now do you understand why I dote so much on strategy?" I asked him. "Yes, I lost and now I must commit seppuku" his voice was breaking down; he was ashamed of his loss. "No brother you must live so we can build a better future for our family." He agreed with me. We returned to Matsumae.

EPILOGUE

Daemon and Nie joined back up and rebuilt their army. Many years later Kinoshita Hideyoshi became shogun of Japan and made the Toyotomi family. The Matsu family swore loyalty to the Toyotomi. When Hideyoshi died the Toyotomi was attacked by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Being a loyal man Nie led his army on rear attacks on the Tokugawa. When the Toyotomi fell the Matsu clan fled to China. There they lived out their life in peace.