Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Value Of Raindrops In Time Of War

It was the honor of I, Mitsubishi Jiro, to stand as personal guard this evening as my liege lord Oda Nobunaga spoke with his most trusted general Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Meeting Lord Oda changed my life (you can read my story here) and I knew my fate was tied to his be it for better or worse. In this I am most happy.

My lord had changed recently, a man not so stretched in his aims as when he was fighting on many fronts. With eastern Japan under control we fought to finish the job in the west and finally unite us a country. Over the years this I knew for sure: no one but my lord could have pulled off this amazing feat. The rest were pretenders to the throne.

But while this was clear to me, it was not to the pretenders. Many saw only the power of the shogun's position and its privileges. The vacancy cries out to be filled as the country aches for a universal leader. But to me, I always believed one must be fit for the job at hand, whatever that fit might be. Each of us has our place and in finding that is true success.

But to the men who sought power, it seemed they never asked themselves this, they never asked if they belonged in the position of shogun. But one cannot overrule nature. My power is in realizing the harmony I can achieve and though it was a hard path to get here I thank the gods for the wisdom and perseverance to become who I am today. These men who fight nature fight themselves as well as their enemy. Of course they lose!

Listening to my lord speak was as listening to whispers of the gods in their heavens. I trembled hearing the direction of my country into a new and noble state. My lord is a man of high purpose. I too have attained purpose - but it is not in the mere following of him I have this. It was in him giving me myself I was able to find my own true direction. What excited me and thrilled me was the parallel between my life and the nation's. We were both growing into a new era.

It was of Tadaoki Lord Oda and General Toyotomi spoke.

"I know you value Tadaoki, monkey. He is fierce and fanatical and I'm glad he's on our side," mused my lord, calling his general by his pet name of 'monkey'.

"Then why not allow his promotion? He is the type to simmer in resentment."

"We must think of the future now. What it takes to conquer and what it takes to rule are two different things. Remember that! Tadaoki is a man without purpose. Today he takes great pleasure in immersing himself in our cause. We have the winds of destiny at our back and the men can feel it. We must submit to the times, to become one with the gods if we are to prevail."

"But what is wrong with a man who immerses himself with our cause so blindly?"

My lord paused to give his general a look, and then let out one of his what many saw as ill-timed laughs. He was very human when he laughed like that, almost as a poet would laugh I always imagined. Most times my lord does not explain himself but he took great joy in Toyotomi's company.

"You play the fox with me, monkey!" Toyotomi smiled. "You only ask the question when you already suspect the answer. Yes, I agree with you. Soon our cause of conquest will end and where will men like Tadaoki stand then? His contentment lies in not having to face himself and he will lose that when war ends. What should we do with such men?"

"Kill them!" mocked the general of my lord's sometimes infamously ruthless ways. Toyotomi was a master of manipulating men, even greater than my lord in some ways. It was his way of reminding Oda not to be too harsh in his assessment.

"Yes, quite," replied Oda before receding into himself, sipping that nasty foreign wine of his. (I think he only liked it because he knew everyone else hated it!) "Do not promote too highly men with whom we cannot share the nation's rule. Do not give them too much to lose. My true dreams are after the days of fighting."

This my lord had never before revealed. It was evident he just now felt comfortable with this revelation sitting on the doorstep of final victory. Toyotomi perked up same as I did. In his cruelty, we'd had sometimes wondered of our master; what of his true motives. This was our first hint.

"We all have dreams for our nation, the land of the gods," goaded his confidante.

"Is it a dream you would mock, monkey? How deep are your eyes?" Toyotomi was wise enough not to answer as Oda looked far into the twinkling night sky. "The sword conquers but the sword cuts both ways!" Fire flashed in his eyes. The burdens of conquest, of constantly judging the correct line between construction and destruction had weighed heavily on him. Selfishly, we had assumed our lord had a supernatural power that had exempted him of such torment.

Oda stood up, rising to his words. "I've always held tight the reins of power but comes a time when they burn the hand that holds them. We must loosen the reins, monkey, after we are united. Breathe fresh air into the country. Else we will teeter and fall into a stale withering state like a tree entering winter whose branches become bare."

Loosen the reins? Who could imagine such madness? Placing myself in my lord's shoes I can see the need to control in the face of chaos. But to give chaos its head, what good could come of that?

"The people need control. We are too warlike, itching for intrigue. Give them an inch and they'll bring us down castle by castle!"

"I didn't say now," scowled Oda very crossly. "Is everyone blind but me?"

The night sounds of insects were all that could be heard. But Toyotomi truly wished to understand.

"Forgive me my stupidity. I am baka."

My lord was in pain, alone in the world. Of what he knew he could not say. I had never seen him so vulnerable. I'd seen him rude beyond comprehension, recklessly intolerant and sometimes plain sadistic in frustration. Now I understood a bit more. What he played out on others was being played out on him from within. For a moment burned forever into my memory, his eyes seared into mine. What he saw there I do not know.

"This one time I will speak. Then never again until you see yourself. Is that understood!" Toyotomi bowed deeply in reply. I could tell Oda still did not want to speak, turning his back to us. We listened to the night once more. I thought I was going to live eternally in that moment.

"You starve a man into submission not because you enjoy it but because he must lose his appetite for the fight." My lord was speaking to the heavens above. "But to win, you must feed him in the end. Imagine his first taste of food! He'll never go back but want only more. Even you can understand that, monkey! First we choke the chain then loosen it. Freedom's taste will do the work of ruling for us. Once we turn the power over to the people we'll be as a rock no one can crush. We'll be the envy of the world!"

"I understand in part. We must win loyalty - "

"That has always been your forte!"

" - but to just give up in the end..."

Oda swung around, anxious to share his vision. "Don't you understand? Surrender is victory. All that I've achieved I've done through surrender. When I grew stubborn is when I made mistakes, demanding my own ways take precedence. I understand you do not understand and this must seem madness to you. But I do ask you trust me. To show you men will follow life before war once they have the chance to taste it. It will be as raindrops on a parched man's tongue. We will achieve what no nation in the world ever has. That is my dream, monkey. I wish this for my legacy."

Swept up in the emotion, the general replied, "I trust you. I trust you without doubt. What you say shall be."

My lord turned back to us with a wry smile. Then a very sad look covered his face with thoughts I cannot imagine. I suspect he knew he was a man before his time. The very fact he had to explain himself proved that. In less than 90 days hence he would be dead, killed by a man who asked not if he truly belonged as shogun; a legacy unfulfilled.

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