Middle of July, 1567
Although Shizuko had been appointed as an advisor to the Oda clan, there was no news from Nobunaga even after nearly two months passed.
There was no news about soldiers or Umamawari, nor did anybody arrive to bring them.
Nobunaga was not contacting her in consideration of the farming season, but Shizuko felt a little uneasy when he didn’t say anything.
Shizuko got a hunch that her next task would be; ‘produce salt and blackboards, and write down the manufacturing method.’ The materials she needed for them were relatively simple.
For salt, she needed bamboo blinds and timber to hang them.
The blackboard was made with an inked wooden plank and lacquered with kakishibu1, while the chalk only needed glue and quicklime.
Shizuko thought about making a brick oven, but soon she discovered a problem: Bricks were unknown in Japan at this time.
Furthermore, while you could knead the materials and dry them in the sun for normal bricks, the brick oven needed to be made of firebricks.
To make firebricks, first of all, it was necessary to start by constructing a Noborigama kiln2.
The Noborigama Kiln, whose fire temperature was maintained at a maximum of around 1300° C, was the best kiln for mass-producing firebricks.
Shizuko triumphantly opened her black history notebook and investigated the structure of Noborigama kiln, to be shocked when she saw what was written there.
Firebricks were written on the list of materials required for the Noborigama kiln.
Shizuko has fallen into the mysterious dilemma of needing firebricks to make firebricks.
Only after some agonizing, did she finally notice the answer.
She first needed to build a kiln that specializes in manufacturing firebricks.
Fortunately, she had plenty of time to spare.
Therefore, Shizuko was able to spend time making the kiln.
However, because she only knew the end result from the kernel of knowledge of her predecessors, the brick didn’t bake right on the first try.
She stumbled in each process of the work, and it took time to investigate the cause.
First, to make the clay she would need an extruder machine, but when designing this machine, Shizuko didn’t notice a fatal mistake and went on to assemble it.
Hence, an imbalanced load on the extruder warped its structure, making it unusable almost immediately after starting its operation.
Shizuko decided to find out the defect from the damaged extruder.
After spending two weeks glaring at the blueprint and the degree of damage on the machine, she was able to locate the flaw, summarize it, and fix it, and thus Mark 2 was born.
This time, while there wasn’t any fatal failure, it still needed some repeated fine adjustments while using it.
But it was possible to start making clay.
It didn’t mean that she was ready to make firebricks; she still had to face other various problems.
The bricks had to be cooled over time after they had been baked, but she forgot about it and cooled them abruptly.
Naturally, the bricks were vulnerable to such sudden temperature changes and couldn’t withstand it; they contracted and broke.
Problems also occurred in kilns for manufacturing heat-resistant bricks.
There was a temperature difference between the front side and the inner side, and the heat was not transferred evenly.
As a countermeasure, the smoke outlet “flue”3, or as most said, the chimney, was replaced with another one.
It was changed into a more than 3 meters tall chimney.
As the smoke was pulled out by the difference in atmospheric pressure, it would cause a draft that pulled the fire inside and spread it at the same time.
Unlike the wisdom that she learned repeatedly in practice like agriculture, which is her specialty, the firebrick-making project was a series of failures.
But instead of being depressed, she enjoyed those failures.
Even though it was a monotonous process of investigating, fixing, and verifying that fix whenever a new problem appeared.
Around a month and a half after such a muddy life, she was finally able to produce a decent firebrick.
Although she only baked a few amounts of bricks, no more than 300 bricks, as if to prove that the hardships so far have come to fruition, the firebricks gave a high, clear metallic sound when hit with a gavel.
She would need thousands –or tens of thousands if she was unlucky– of firebricks in the future, but she thought can start to make it slowly from now on.
But she forgot an important tidbit about firebricks.
The bricks she has prepared for brick ovens are also a strategic resource that can also be used for blast furnaces that can smelt steel.
“Haah~, it sure is peaceful…”
Aside from the occasional letter from Tadakatsu delivered by fast horse, Shizuko’s village was the very definition of peaceful.
Technology transfer has continued smoothly since then.
Even more delightfully, a human-powered rice transplanter for two-row planting for adult seedlings was completed.
While doing maintenance on it was somewhat of a hassle, it worked well enough to drastically reduce the time needed to plant seedlings.
“The cotton is growing nicely as well… I was really surprised when Honda-sama himself came to deliver the seeds…”
Officially, it had been Nobunaga who had approached Ieyasu about the joint cultivation of cotton, whereas in truth it had been Tadakatsu.
Believing that Tadakatsu had some plan behind it, Ieyasu agreed to it.
However, as it involved the designation of land for the project, he couldn’t immediately prepare it and the project had been put on hold until the next year.
After hearing of this, Shizuko thought that she wanted to experience cotton harvest at least once before the next year, so she wrote a harmless letter to Tadakatsu wishing to ‘see cotton seeds’.
It would have been great if she got some seeds out of it, but not dramatic if she didn’t.
Tadakatsu’s actions however went way above her expectations.
‘Shizuko-dono! I have come to bring you the seeds!’
Tadakatsu himself had come to deliver the seeds.
Even Niwa, who served as the go-between for their letters, hadn’t seen this coming.
And even after Niwa said that he would give them to Shizuko, Tadakatsu stubbornly insisted that ‘I am going to give them to Shizuko-dono in person!’, so in the end, Shizuko was summoned.
“Shizuko-sama, Mori-sama has arrived.”
“Urgh, that’s sudden.
But, okay, I’ll come right away.”
After pumping herself up for it, Shizuko moved to the room where Mori Yoshinari was waiting.
“I have kept you wai…ting?”
When she entered the room and greeted him, there were two men and a child behind Mori Yoshinari.
One of the men had a large stature which seemed out of place for the Sengoku period.
The other looked like a very straight-up person, yet also somewhat wild, giving him a mysterious feeling.
Tilting her head in confusion at the unfamiliar faces, Shizuko sat down in her usual place.
As soon as she had done so, Mori Yoshinari started speaking.
“Today, I have come to discuss matters regarding your Umamawari.
Please excuse the lack of a messenger heralding our arrival and thus making things hectic for you.
“Ah, no, that’s no problem.”
“As I don’t want to take up too much of your time, I will keep it short.
Let me first introduce your Umamawari.
The one on the right is Maeda Keiji-dono, and the one on the left Kani Saizou-dono.”
One of the introduced persons, Keiji, looked amusedly at Shizuko and spoke up.
“Just call me Keiji.
It was you, wasn’t it? The one who created an amazing legend back at lord Oda’s recent banquet.”
(Amazing legend!? What’s that supposed to mean!?)
Shizuko participated in the banquet a few months ago, but she has no memory of what happened at that time.
She was already in her chamber when she woke up.
And then, everyone’s attitude towards her has changed drastically.
On top of the awkward attitude, no one was willing to answer when she asked the reason.
Once, she tried to press Niwa for answers, but he escaped with all his might.
While Nobunaga still acted as he always had, Nouhime was quite interested in whether that “something” had left an impact.
Shizuko turned her gaze to Mori Yoshinari.
Sure enough, he hurriedly averted his eyes.
“I have always been called Saizou, so it would be great if you could do so as well.
I was actually supposed to serve Shibata-sama, but since it seems that there has been an issue in gathering people for this post, I was assigned to it.”
“It will be a pleasure to work with you.”
It was then that Shizuko noticed it.
The fact that the boy in the back hadn’t been introduced at all.
“Umm… while we are at it, who is that boy in the back?”
“Hmm? Ahh, that boy is my son.”
Slightly afraid of the boy who was glaring at her, Shizuko had asked Mori Yoshinari.
Feeling as though he might snap at her any moment, Shizuko wondered whether this was the oldest son, Mori Musashinokami Nagayoshi.
“His name is Katsuzou.”
Shizuko’s inner heart went into turmoil as her bad premonition turned out to be true, but she managed to not let it show on her face.
N-Nice to meet you?”
She reached out to him, but Nagayoshi ignored it.
At that instant, Mori Yoshinari’s fist slammed down onto his head.
A satisfying bonk resounded in the room.
It must have hurt quite a lot, as Nagayoshi held down his head with tears in his eyes.
“Unmannered boy! Shizuko-dono is an esteemed daughter of the Ayanokouji clan and an important dignitary to the lord.”
No matter how important she is to the lord, isn’t she just a girl?! What are you saying I could possibly learn from her!”
(Huh, isn’t this conversation progressing in a strange direction?)
Getting the feeling that things were progressing outside her view without any input from her, Shizuko tried to put her questioning thoughts into words.
However, before that could happen, Nagayoshi, face flushed red with anger, pointed at her while shouting.
“Even though it is the lord’s order, serving a girl is out of the question for me!”
“Umm, I have been hearing some concerning words flying around… could you please tell me what is going on?”
Shizuko asked Mori Yoshinari after slightly raising her hand.
In response, he answered:
“The Lord has decreed that “a fresh wind should blow through the army as well.””
“Therefore, he has ordered Katsuzou to be trained under you, Shizuko-dono.”
‘What the hell is this guy saying’ almost slipped out of her mouth, but she managed to slap her mouth shut in time.
“The first and second half of that statement seems totally unrelated… more than that though, train him in what exactly?”
“He said that was up to you.”
“(So he just dumped it completely on me…) Umm, declining… is not an option, is it?”
Mori Yoshinari only let his lips form a wry smile.
That by itself was enough of an answer.
Letting out a slight sigh, Shizuko decided to think positively and start to convince Nagayoshi, who was still glaring at her.
Keji and Saizou didn’t seem to have any problems with her as neither had tried to find fault with her yet.
Keiji in particular had a bright smile on his face as though he was excited to see what Shizuko was going to do.
“(It’s a bit reckless and dangerous… but I’ll try this method) So, Katsuzou-kun… I can call you that, right? You don’t want to serve me or train under me, right?”
Not bothering to answer Shizuko’s question, Nagayoshi turned his face away.
“I can’t know if you don’t tell me.
I’m not a mind reader… but as it stands, we won’t see eye to eye, so I say, how about we solve this with a match?”
He looked at her suspiciously, but Nagayoshi’s expression soon changed to a mocking smile.
It seems that inside his mind a match was automatically a martial arts confrontation.
Shizuko only faintly smiled at this.
“If I win, you’ll obediently listen to me.
If I lose, I’ll appeal to the lord to rescind this order.
How about that?”
“Hmph, as if you could persuade our lord.”
“If you don’t like it, feel free to decline.
But in that case, a reputation of “He ran away when a girl challenged him” might stick to you, you know?”
Apparently, Shizuko had touched a nerve as Nagayoshi opened his eyes and glared at her.
Despite being inwardly frightened by this, Shizuko added to her previous words.
“But if you don’t want to, there’s nothing we can do.”
“Wait, who said I refuse.
I will take you up on that match.”
About the content of the match… since I brought it up in the first place, do you mind if I decide that as well?”
“I don’t mind.
I won’t lose to a girl, no matter what!”
Having understood that Nagayoshi had firmly walked into her trap, Shizuko laughed internally while continuing her words.
“Mori-sama, would you be willing to serve as the witness to this match?”
After watching Mori Yoshinari nod in acceptance, Shizuko turned back to Nagayoshi again.
“So, let me explain the rules of the match again.
First, I will be the one to decide on the content of the match.
Second, if I win, you will have to obey the lord’s order.
If I lose, I will persuade the lord to make it as if this order never happened.
Is that okay with you?”
So, just what will we be competing in? Riding? Archery? Or —”
Exactly what I expected you to say.
But that’s not it, my match will be a lot easier.”
After saying that, Shizuko took a brush and started writing out characters.
Ignoring the suspicious looks of Nagayoshi, Shizuko finished her writing and then held up the paper while saying:
“Translate this into the language of Hinomoto.
If you can properly translate it, it’s your win.
If not, it’s your loss.
Everyone looked at the paper.
The following words were written on it:
『SHIZUKO「Why don’t you listen to me?」
For twenty seconds, silence reigned supreme.
It was broken by a scream from Nagayoshi.
“Wha, What is this————–!?”
“Nothing much, just one of the Namban languages.
So, translate it for me.”
Ignoring Nagayoshi’s agitation and irritation, Shizuko pushed the paper towards him in a very calm manner.
“D-Don’t screw with me! What part of this is a match! Why should I know something like the Namban languages!?”
“I’m not screwing with you.
I’m quite serious in fact.
That’s why I asked multiple times if you would be fine with me picking the content of the match.
To which you said that you would be fine with it.
As such I decided to fight you in my area of expertise.”
Still wanting to argue with her, but failing to form the words, Katsuzou opened and closed his mouth like a goldfish.
When talking about Namban during the Sengoku period, it meant either the Portuguese or the Spanish.
The famous Luis Frois for example was a Catholic priest from Portugal.
Therefore, people using English were practically nonexistent.
Of course, there is the possibility that Namban came to Japan which could speak English but simply didn’t get recorded in the history books.
But as there were no records of them, Shizuko thought that “no people existed in the Sengoku period who could speak English”.
It was for this reason that she picked English in particular.
“Also, I never said that we would compete in martial arts.
If you think we would do so, then it is just you.
You need to listen to people speaking or it will harm you, you know?”
“You, you cowa—”
Nagayoshi started to shout while trembling in fury, but it was drowned out by a word from Mori Yoshinari.
It felt like the room’s temperature had suddenly dropped.
And Shizuko wasn’t the only one who felt like that.
Saizo and Keiji also straightened their backs as cold sweat dripped down their cheeks.
“That attitude of yours is too unsightly to see, cowardly shouting when something didn’t go your way.”
Mori Yoshinari said those words in his usual tone.
But there was no smile on his mouth, and there was a deep wrinkle on his brow.
“Didn’t you answer Shizuko-dono’s question with “I won’t, no matter what!”? I won’t let you claim you didn’t.”
Your opponent won’t always move as you like them to.
If this had been a battle, it would have cost you your neck.
Understand this well and be ashamed of yourself.”
“This match is Shizuko-dono’s victory..”
After pausing for a small breath, Mori Yoshinari declared Shizuko’s victory.
TL: A tannin dye made from persimmons TN: A chambered climbing kiln. TN: Flue is all kinds of smoke outlets, while chimney is a type of one
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