Sengoku: Koi Monogatari
Hashiba Minamoto looked out the window of the teahouse where he was staying. The smell of raw fish and vegetables came wafting through. The city of Kyoto was brimming with life as usual and he felt a sense of wonder at his situation. Only a few days ago, he had spent his time in precarious battlefield, where the prospect of a bed with clean sheets never occurred to him. Now, he was spending his leave in the legendary city of Kyoto; a slave living as a king. The hustle and bustle of everyday life was as magical as the first frost in his village and strangely, this was infinitely more complex. This was amazing. This was paradise!
On the other side of town, Otomo Yoshitsune was cleaning his sword and getting ready for battle. The Imagawa and Oda clans were squabbling over the Mikawa Province. Battle was imminent. He looked out the window and saw a young boy staring at a group of samurai in hopeful earnest and anticipation; waiting to do them any service. He recalled his young son; Imagawa Yoshitsune, only five years old, but still quite the young warrior. At two, the boy had been swinging his father's shinai. Of course, there had been no technique, no real form, but it was a promising start nonetheless. He would become a great samurai warrior. The constant war had Otomo worried, though. Although a skilled swordsman and gunner, he was not immortal, and all it would take to bring him down was a young boy's first lucky swing, and he would never see his son, never see his wife. His wife… They had grown up together in their Mino province village, and as long as he could remember, he was always fond of her. She always had a kind heart; she used to give fruits to the local boys from her father's trees. Otomo had never taken advantage of her kindness, however. He had always respected her, her kindness, her beauty, and her will. It was because of these qualities that he later married her. Admitted, being a samurai-born did influence the girl's father's decision somewhat. She would be in good hands, and his family will get much respect and reverence. It still hurt Otomo's heart whenever he remembered her name: Kaori. She was a good mother and wife. He would trust her more than the soldier beside him in a battle. He was lucky to have gotten her. He would have to see her soon. Right then a commotion from outside caught his attention. A crowd had gathered in the middle of the road.
He ate a quiet meal, yet he was quite aware of the fact that one small boy had seen his weapon and was looking at him quite intently. The sight occurred to him as comic; the look on the boy's face was like the one on a lovesick teenager gazing upon his first infatuation. He ignored the boy; he would use him to get some snacks later on. Let him follow like a little lap dog. He finished his meal and left, paying the cute waitress a little more than the bill asked for.
As soon as he got out, he was treated to the unwelcome sight of a band of young ruffians; no older than twenty years; harassing a small shopkeeper. These sights were common in that part of Kyoto, but in Hashiba's eyes, this was quite intolerable. These youngsters should respect their elders; much less treat them so disrespectfully. As if he was nothing but a stray dog to be kicked out of the way. It seems they wanted money in exchange for their not harming the little man. Being short in stature and surely courage, the man was cowed and went on trying to make excuses. This was the worst scene Hashiba had ever seen in his life. He had seen his comrades, weary with battle; charge on towards a battalion of cavalrymen, only to be cut down in a mist of blood. This, this was the worst. The open degradation of a fellow man, especially by these youngsters, hardly out of their mother's apron strings. This had to be stopped. Hashiba called out to the four ruffians, telling them to stop this harassment. He was hoping that they would respond negatively; he would send them back to their mothers with their legs in their arms, or, he would send them to their deathbeds. The ruffians did not notice his sword, as he had already hidden it back in the restaurant. Thus, being arrogant and in their prime, they rushed forward, brandishing small swords, daggers and a large bamboo stick. A crowd had already formed around them. This would be fun.
Minamoto looked on expectantly as the boy with the
These days of bliss, however, were short-lived. About a week later, word had reached him; the lord Oda Nobuhide was ordering troops to the Mikawa province in the Tokai Coast. The Imagawa Clan was extending its influence eastwards from Suruga into the Mikawa province and further eastwards towards Owari province-the Oda domain. The defence would be held in Mikawa Province, with a quick retaliation against the invaders. This would be the blow that would let Oda keep a greater hold on the region. Otomo packed up and duly left. He left out of concern and loyalty to his lord. He left without seeing his son; he left without kissing his wife. As suddenly as he came to them a week ago, he left.
The Anjô defense was also given orders that if by any chance fate decided to stand against them, and the strike should fail, they were to go to the Owari province. Otomo said a prayer for his family and went to his post.
Hashiba Minamoto had just spent two weeks training three boys whom he had met in the streets. Two of them were friends of the boy who had followed Hashiba the day he set the vagrant youths on their ways away from crime. The boys showed an eagerness and talent he rarely encountered. The boy who had followed him that fateful day was called Nabeshima Takanobu and his best friend was one of the students, Takagi Yoshiyatsu. The most talented of the three was a nimble fellow by the name of Shimazu Ujitsuna. It was time for him to leave and he was giving the three their final lesson. They all took his leaving quite badly except one. Shimazu seemed cold and Hashiba knew that he would be an excellent soldier but alas, time was short. After their lesson, Shimazu came to him and told him the news: He would accompany Hashiba, his lord and sensei. His parents were dead and all he had as close to a guardian was his sensei. Hashiba was touched, but all his instincts, all his common sense told him to decline the offer. The father in him, however, made him hold the boy close and accept. Shimazu would be more than his pupil, he would be the closest thing to a son he would ever have.
As soon as he arrived, he saw the most sickening sight of his life. He had seen men get their arms cut off and still fight as blood sprayed the grass red. He had seen men get pierced by ten arrows and still get cut down by enemy katanas. He had seen a battlefield with nothing remaining but a thousand corpses, previously living soldiers who had given their blood and lives to their lord and who would become nothing but a statistic, nothing but a faceless number. Even after all that, after being hardened by countless bloody battles, he was sickened, disgusted with this scene. He saw men he played with as children carting out their fathers, mothers, children, and each other. The victims' faces a visage of unspeakable pain and despair. And Otomo's wife and son were among them. His son…his son. It took all his might to stop himself from breaking down and crying. He set out to search for their bodies. He went to his house, and saw the despair few people have had the misfortune of encountering. He saw his wife, cholera had taken her beauty and life; he saw his son, still alive and clutching his mother's kimono, desperately trying to wake her up. It was this moment when Otomo Yoshitsune realised the love he bore for his dear wife, the love he bore for his son. He went to Young Imagawa and took him in his arms, his tears staining Otomo's clothes. Otomo decided that it was from this moment when he would never let go of his son, he would teach him everything he himself knew and he would be proud. Yes, he would be proud.
On that fateful day, Otomo buried his wife and after consulting the
doctor, found out that Imagawa mysteriously had not contracted the disease.
Otomo burned down his house and the cherry tree under which he had spent
so much of his time with Kaori and their son. He saw a peaceful life
burn down as well with the cherry tree and his home. Thus started the
training of Imagawa Yoshitsune under the tutelage of his father Otomo
Yoshitsune, in their home province of Mino.
| Issues | The Daily Star Home|
© 2003 The Daily Star