Arc 2 – Tenth Year of Eiroku Era, Owari Province Agricultural Reform

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Early January, 1567

Although it was a celebration for almost a hundred people, as a samurai society banquet, the beginning was very formal and strictly reglemented.

To start it off, Zoni1 was served as a matter of course.
But as Shizuko had expected, it was different from its modern version, containing only ingredients that stimulate the secretion of gastric juice.

And although Shizuko was conducting herself with peerless manners, on the inside she was completely perplexed.

Despite being decried by the Honganji Ikko Ikki 2as the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven for his audacious behavior, Nobunaga was surprisingly strict regarding formal proceedings.

It was to a level that couldn’t be learned overnight, but must have been drilled into him since his infancy, or he wouldn’t have been able to acquire this level of sophistication.

Shizuko had often heard that during the Edo period, the Tokugawa intentionally painted Oda Nobunaga in a bad light to make Tokugawa Ieyasu look like a better Shogun.

And now she understood that this was a fact.
Oda Nobunaga was by no means an arrogant tyrant only throwing his power around as he pleases, but was capable of the courtesy and manners that were expected of a ruler.

(This is a historical discovery, but… history is written by the victors, so rulers often demonize their predecessors…)

Absentmindedly thinking about this, Shizuko drank the sake from her cup.

As this is the Sengoku era, it was closer to unrefined sake rather than refined one, making it sweet enough that even a minor like Shizuko could easily drink it.

Normally, it should have the same alcoholic content as refined sake, but they had probably diluted it with water or something to increase the amount of sake.

Shizuko wasn’t really a big fan of sake and had a low tolerance for alcohol, so she was even grateful that it had been diluted with water.

Nibbling and sipping away at her food and drink, Shizuko was glad that nobody around her had tried talking to her.

But it was not just the fact that she was unknown to many, that caused nobody to call out to her.

To the men around her, her manners, although they looked slightly strange to them, looked as though they adhered to a formal set of rules unknown to them, making it hard for them to catch the opportunity to initiate a conversation with her.

On the other side, Shizuko herself only thought of it as needing to “eat with proper manners or I’ll get shouted at”.

“That is quite a lonely way of drinking you have there, Shizuko.”

Just as Shizuko had finished her third cup of sake, a person sat down in front of her and addressed her.

Lowering the cup to look at the person before her, Shizuko almost spewed out her drink.

Sitting before her was the boy she had come to know a short while ago, holding something that looked like a sake bottle.

“(Huh, is this okay…?) I cannot hold my liquor well, so…”

Shizuko was worried whether the boy had violated the protocol with his lax manners, but as the surrounding people didn’t seem to care, this much must have been fine.

As such, Shizuko herself didn’t think she should point it out to him.

“It is a celebration, so you shouldn’t make such a gloomy face, right?”

“Yes…”

“What a spiritless reply.
I know! That we have met here has to be some kind of fate.
Is there more of this Sun Tzu you told me about before? If possible, could you write it down for me?”

With the alcohol befuddling her mind, Shizuko agreed without thinking about it too deeply.

As though he had prepared for this from the beginning, a glance from the boy was enough for a servant-like person to immediately bring some ink and paper.

Receiving the thin brush from the servant, Shizuko started writing without putting too much thought into it.

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“Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your gentleness that of the forest.
In raiding and plundering be like fire, be immovable like a mountain.
Be as hard to know as the shadow, move as fast as lightning.
When you plunder a countryside, let the spoils be divided amongst your men.
When you capture new territory, cut it up into allotments for the benefit of the soldiery.
Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.”3

It’s a famous passage from the seventh chapter of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

And a writing said to have been written on the Sengoku era Daimyo Takeda Shingen’s battle flag.

As for why Shizuko had chosen these verses in particular, it was for the simple reason that they were famous (only inside Shizuko’s mind) and look cool when written in Kanji.

“Here, please.”

“Wait.
If you just give it to me like this, I can’t understand the meaning behind those words.
Explain them to me, explain them,”

“Fine, well then.
First of all—-”

When Shizuko opened her mouth to start her explanation, a voice calling her name reached her ears.

Facing towards the calling voice, Nobunaga looked her way with an amused smile on his lips.

She had a vaguely bad feeling about it, but she couldn’t just ignore being called.

Shizuko gave a small bow to the boy to excuse herself before moving towards Nobunaga.

“Is this party fun to you?”

Nobunaga asker her this the moment Shizuko had sat down.

Inwardly, she wanted to return home as soon as possible, but clamped down tightly on that thought so as to not let it leak out even a tiny bit, and bowed.

“Yes, I am honored beyond all measure to have been invited to such a splendid feast.”

“Pfft, if you say so.
First of all, drink.”

To be honest, Shizuko wanted to be spared any more sake, but refraining was not an option here, so she obediently received the filled cup.

And without stopping to think about it, she gulped down the whole cup at once.
Whether this was or wasn’t the right way to drink it, Shizuko the minor couldn’t judge, but this way she didn’t have to worry about the taste and smell.

And even though it was sake, it wasn’t refined, and the recipe was probably bad, giving it the flavor of rice bran.

“(I don’t really… get the taste of sake.) It was very delicious.”

“You drink well.
Now, there is a reason I have called you here.
The kurosubou(crossbow), did you bring it with you?”

“Ah, yes.
I did as ordered and brought it with me.”

Her reply made a nihilistic smile rise to Nobunaga’s face, and after lightly tapping his knee, he said the following.

“Great, then let us have an archery competition.”

If you are reading from a pirate or aggregator site, please read from the translator’s site: yado-inn (dot) com.
We have to put the link like this or else the bots will remove it, sorry.

It was a tempestuous turn of events.

Nobunaga didn’t seem to have cared for Shizuko’s opinion in the slightest as he quickly shot off commands at the servant next to him.

Shizuko just couldn’t keep up with it all.
The suddenness of this development had her swept along to the archery range before she could collect herself.

“Show me your best.”

“Y-yes….!”

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Shouldering her crossbow, Shizuko let out a surprised squeal.

It was then, that her mind finally caught up to the situation.
But catching up was all it had done, as there was already no longer any chance to get out of her current predicament.

Shizuko glanced around to survey her surroundings.
Centered around her and Nobunaga, the other warriors were seated on chairs.

“Shizuko-sama, here are the arrows for you.”

“Ah, no thank you, those arrows won’t work.
I have prepared the arrows I need myself, so you don’t need to waste your concern.”

She had been handed arrows for a Japanese bow, therefore the length was obviously farmuch too long, so she returned them.

Despite its looks, the crossbow is very picky about the length and weight of the arrows.
Using unfitting arrows might even lead to damage to the crossbow itself.

When using anything but arrows that have been finely tuned to match the crossbow, it might become dysfunctional immediately.

And since repairing it would take a long time, Shizuko wanted to avoid damaging it as much as possible for some party entertainment.

“The rules of the match will be simple.
We will each fire 10 shots, and the one with most hits wins.”

Nobunaga declared while holding his Japanese bow in one hand.
Shizuko on the other hand still had her crossbow shouldered.

Being unable to see her carrying anything resembling a bow, the surrounding retainers started exchanging questions and belittling comments.

“(Yeah… this has turned into a circus show) I understand.”

Shizuko didn’t want to stand out and had zero motivation to give it her best, so she only answered halfheartedly.

The only thing on her mind was the wish for this banquet to be over as soon as possible.
She felt that attending this kind of occasion was just way above her current status.

“I will go first.”

After saying this, Nobunaga shot his bow with a familiar flow of motions.
As was to be expected from a man who trains daily, he easily hit the target.

As if to say that it was her turn next, Nobunaga turned towards Shizuko and smirked slightly.

But rather than lighting the flame of rivalry in her, Shizuko’s motivation was just doused even further.

(Even though it is an order from the lord, I still don’t like standing out…)

Shizuko lowered the crossbow from her shoulder, drew it’s bow string back, and loaded the bolt.
Steadying the crossbow with both hands, Shizuko carefully took aim.

Seeing this, a surprised expression appeared on Nobunaga’s face, as well as on those of his retainers.
Ignoring this, Shizuko pulled the trigger.

With a sound different to that of a Japanese bow, the arrow shot off.
It hit the target, and, carried by its momentum, pierced straight through it.

The material of the targets were chosen with the Japanese bow in mind, so when the more powerful crossbow bolt hit it, the bolt completely penetrated it.

(Whoops, I shot right through it.)

With a careless thought like that on her mind, Shizuko drew her crossbow once again.
Watching her do this, with a serious look on his face, was Nobunaga.

(…what a weird bow.
Despite Shizuko being able to pull its string back with her thin arms, its power is considerable.
No, accurately speaking, it has high penetrating power.
In that regard, it resembles the musket.
But the most surprising part is how it can maintain its string in a drawn back position.
I thought it was unusable, but something with a less complicated structure might be useful for sieges.)

“Bring me a foot soldier’s armor!”

“Huh….?”

“Hurry up!”

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“Y-yes!”

Perplexed at his sudden fit of anger, the servants didn’t react immediately, but Nobunaga just ignored their state of confusion and just reaffirmed his order.

Even then, the servants’ faces were still filled with surprise, but Nobunaga’s angry voice made them shudder, spurring them into quickly fetching the armor for a foot soldier.

But it was not only them who were unable to comprehend Nobunaga’s train of thought.
Shizuko and the other retainers were just as confused.

They had no clue what kind of objective or goal had been behind Nobunaga’s command.

After a short while, two suits of armor had been prepared.
They were set up slightly closer than where the target had been positioned before.

When the armors had been arranged as if a person was wearing them, everyone understood that they would be the next target.

(Oh shucks, at least I think most foot soldier armors were made from cloth or bamboo…)

While musing about this, Shizuko tuned her crossbow.

Yet, this was a scenario where she wouldn’t know how it would end.
In the first place, she had made this crossbow with hunting in mind, so it was somewhat obvious that she didn’t know how it would fare against armor.

At least the fact that it wouldn’t cause any damage to her crossbow, with only the bolt suffering from it at worst, was comforting to know.

Afterwards, Nobunaga shot his bow without uttering a single word.

His silent pressure caused Shizuko’s stomach to be assaulted by a prickling pain.
Bearing this, Shizuko also shot her crossbow wordlessly.

This continued on until the last of the ten arrows had been shot.
As even his retainers could pick up on Nobunaga’s strange behavior; their expression filled with tension.

“…Shizuko, try drawing this bow.”

The moment their match had finished, Nobunaga thrust the bow he had just used towards Shizuko.

Not understanding what he wanted to achieve with this, Shizuko simply did as she was told and pulled the bowstring.

“Hmn, nghhhhh…..!”

The bow string was pulled extremely taut, and Shizuko was unable to draw it back in the slightest.

But this was the obvious result.
The Japanese bow is drawn using all muscles of the human body, making the proper procedure to drawing it absolutely necessary.

Furthermore, as the Japanese bows of the Sengoku period were tools of war, their bow strings had much more draw weight than their modern versions.

“Huf…..Ha–, Ha–, Ha– ….”

In the end, even with her full strength at work, Shizuko could only draw the bow the tiniest bit.

Yet the look on Nobunaga’s face wasn’t one of ridicule or mockery, as he observed Shizuko with slightly narrowed eyes.

(It is as though she can’t use a bow at all.)

Even though Shizuko was trying to draw the bow, she was just applying brute force without the slightest hint of any proper technique.

Yet Shizuko had interpreted his order to “draw the bow” as “pull back the string”.

(I see.
Even though she has a vast wealth of knowledge, she only uses as much as needed in any given situation.
In short, to draw information out of her, all I have to do is to put Shizuko into a “situation where she is forced to draw on her knowledge.”)

By now, Nobunaga valued Shizuko’s knowledge to be worth more than a single country.

On top of that, she didn’t like to stand out, so she wouldn’t let her ego grow over her head and say more than necessary.

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Nobunaga couldn’t think of a piece that was this easy to handle yet useful at the same time.

“We both hit 10 times.
I am interested in this kurosubou of yours.
I will borrow it for a few days.”

“Wha! Ah, yes…”

With her surprised voice threatening to spill out, Shizuko handed over the crossbow to Nobunaga.

Nobunaga received it with a mystified look on his face.

After the competition, the banquet ended without any further entertainment or problems.

Shizuko grouped up with Aya who had been waiting somewhere in the area, and both of them returned to Shizuko’s estate before sunset.

But there were a couple of people who didn’t immediately return from the banquet.

Nobunaga’s direct subordinates, Takigawa Kazumasu, Mori Yoshinari, Niwa Nagahide, as well as his heir, Kimyoumaru.

“The inventions of that girl are as weird as always.”

Mumbled Takigawa while fiddling around with the crossbow.

Despite his derisive words, he held considerable interest in Shizuko’s tools.

“Constructing things purely to be an exotic plaything is one thing… but when it is this intricate and refined, it gets a terrifying quality.”

“But, although this Namban bow looks easy to use, its structure is too strange and complex.
It might be usable without much training, but getting a larger number of them will be a challenge.”

As his retainers were debating over the pros and cons, Nobunaga held out his hand to silence them.

“We will use thirty of them in the next siege.”

That was Nobunaga’s decree.

In the first place, he hadn’t called them here to argue with him about the crossbow, but just to give each of them their respective tasks.

“Yoshinari, use Aya to tell Shizuko to produce the kurosubous.”

“Understood.”

“Takigawa, gather 30 soldiers who are inexperienced with the Japanese bow.”

“….as you wish.”

“Niwa.
Kimyoumaru.
Draw more of Ming’s stratagems out of Shizuko.
Have all which she tells you written down.”

“Understood.”

“Yes, Father.”

Their answers made Nobunaga smile contentedly.
Nodding once to himself, he looked over the four of them and said the following.

“No matter what, I will get her knowledge about military matters.”

 

A mochi soup served on new year.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikk%C5%8D-ikki Original kanji: 其疾如風、其徐如林、侵掠如火、不動如山、難知如陰、動如雷震、掠郷分衆、廓地分利、懸権而動

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