Middle of September, 1567

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Maeda Keiji Toshimasu and Kani Saizou Yoshinaga, the two samurai have become Shizuko’s Umamawari.
However, the matter of the Umamawari was not decided smoothly, if anything it was a big dispute.
Pulling out a good samurai meant a collapse of the power balance within their army.
Everyone hesitated to offer a competent vassal because of the impact it would have on their military and political influence as one of the Oda vassals.
In the end, two were selected among the “black sheep” warlords, who were said to be “competent, but too problematic”.

First of all, Keiji’s adoptive father, Toshihisa Maeda, was forcibly given retirement by Nobunaga, and in his place, Toshiie Maeda took over the land of Owari-Arako with an area of 2000 kan (about 4000 koku).
At that time, in accordance with his adoptive father, Keiji left Arako Castle.
Having no one to rely on, he decided to go wandering on a journey to see the world.
It was none other than Nobunaga who stopped him before he could leave.
He approached Keiji, saying, “Are you willing to serve an unusual fellow?” Keiji was reluctant at first, but he was very interested in Nobunaga’s only female vassal, and the fact that the Oda vassals, albeit only a little, respected this female vassal.
Eventually, he agreed to become Shizuko’s Umamawari, with the condition that “if I decide she wasn’t worthy of my service, I will have the freedom to leave.”

On the other hand, Saizo’s circumstances were not as complicated as Keiji’s.
He came to serve as the Oda clan’s vassals after lord Saito (Tatsuoki Saito) was defeated by Nobunaga.
At first, Nobunaga was thinking of promoting Saizo to a general, but as far as his military feats and day-to-day conduct were concerned, it was decided that he couldn’t be a general who leads others.
Therefore, Saizo was subordinated to Hideyoshi, but he did not get along with him and was immediately transferred to Shibata.
However, just before the transfer, Nobunaga reconsidered him as Shizuko’s Umamawari and sent him there.

Nobunaga realized that no one else would join, so he tried to just send them to Shizuko.
But, just before that, Nobunaga added an unexpected person.
The trainee Katsuzou, who will be known later as Mori Nagayoshi.
Nagayoshi managed to form the Nagayoshi Gang by gathering hoodlums and drifters from Mino and Omi.
In response to that, complaints from local residents were delivered to Nobunaga’s vassals.
First, Nagayoshi and his entire gang were captured.
Charged with disturbing public order, all but Nagayoshi were executed.
Naturally, the Nagayoshi Gang was forcibly dissolved.
And Nagayoshi was sentenced to detention at a temple.

However, Nagayoshi, who grew up as an arrogant young man, showed no change in his violent tendencies even after being detained in the temple.
He eventually got sent back from the temple.
Judging that correcting his behavior was impossible by the usual means, Nobunaga pushed him to Shizuko by assigning him as her subordinate.
Naturally, Shizuko’s village and other villages are under the direct control of Nobunaga, so if he did something strange, it was declared that he would be killed without a trial.
But naturally, the selfish Nagayoshi still didn’t change his attitude.
Therefore, as Shizuko’s village is different from the usual village, he got his baptism soon.

First, on the third day of his arrival in the village, he tried to steal and eat a chicken.
But Wittmann and his family noticed the smell of blood and rushed to the scene.
And unfortunately for him, they found him eating the meat.
What happened afterward was simple.
Nagayoshi, who was lower than them in the pack, was eating the leader of the pack, Shizuko’s, chicken.
In wolf society, where the hierarchy is stricter than the military, such an act naturally called for punishment.
Because he was not allowed to carry weapons and the pack of wolves would attack him if he stopped moving, Nagayoshi could do nothing but run away as if his life depended on it1.
Even if he had had a weapon, his father Mori Yoshinari had drilled into his head more than enough that “the lord is fond of Shizuko-dono’s wolves” so he was helpless.
He understood that it would be nothing but an embarrassment to have to commit seppuku because you hurt a wolf.

Even though Nagayoshi tried to find a place to hide many times, he was found and chased each time so he changed his plan.
The wolves follow Shizuko’s orders.
So he thought about acting against Shizuko in some way instead.
But, his first attempt was stopped by Keiji who noticed his plan.
At the second attempt, he successfully broke into Shizuko’s house and arrived at her chamber, but his luck ended there.
Shizuko just happened to have a bad sleeping posture that day, so when Nagayoshi crept up on her, she caught him in a pro-wrestling lock.
Although Shizuko was completely asleep, she had mastered many grappling techniques such as the Reverse Cross Arm Lock2.
Nagayoshi screamed as he felt a kind of pain he had never experienced before.
Noticing his scream, Aya rushed to the room, but when she saw what had happened, she let out a little sigh and then quietly closed the door, abandoning Nagayoshi.
In the end, Shizuko continued to sleep soundly despite his screams and kept locking his joint until morning.
By then, after hours of torture mixed with Shizuko trashing in her sleep, Nagayoshi’s spirit was already exhausted and now he understood that he was powerless in this place.
Since that, he stopped thinking about doing something to Shizuko.
But it was too late for regrets.

Even though Aya had been relieved from her monitoring duty, she regularly reported on Shizuko’s everyday movement.
While Nobunaga and Mori Yoshinari were only concerned about Shizuko and not Nagayoshi, she added Nagayoshi’s wrongdoings up until now to the report, just in case.
Mori Yoshinari immediately summoned Nagayoshi and took him to a certain place without explanation.
It was a waterfall that was tall enough to make him step back.
Nagayoshi wanted to ask why they were here, but before he could Mori Yoshinari put a hand on his shoulder and asked.

“If you can crawl back up, we will ignore what you have done.”

At the same time as when he said that, Mori Yoshinari kicked Nagayoshi down the waterfall.
Mori Yoshinari was trying out the anecdote which was nothing but a joke about lions who push their own child down to a bottomless ravine.
In other words, if he can’t crawl up from the waterfall, he will be kicked out of the Mori clan.
At first, Nagayoshi thought it was only a joke, but soon he realized that his dad wasn’t joking when he was kicked down and desperately climbed up the cliff.
Nagayoshi managed to climb up, but another misfortune fell upon him in the very end.
Tadakatsu, who was in love with Shizuko, was informed about the attempted attack on Shizuko although the details were not made clear to him.
It would be a while before Nagayoshi suddenly suffers from another disaster.

Shizuko, who did not know that such a punishment had been given to Nagayoshi, tilted her head as to why he suddenly became obedient, but soon that question was driven out of her mind.
She was asked to train him.
That being said, she doesn’t know much about military training.
Her head quickly filled with nothing but how to do that.

Shizuko checked what weapon he could use because the training method would differ depending on what weapon.
The answer was a spear, just like his father, Mori Yoshinari.
The basic tactic of a spear is a “strike”.
The reason was when against cavalry opponents, they will almost always fall from their mount if the strike hit, and against infantry opponents, they will be knocked down when you strike their head.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t like “Stab” and “ Sweep” is useless either.
The wide “sweep” that utilizes the spear length won’t let the opponent easily dodge it.
With a spear, if you can “stab” their neck or joints, you can incapacitate them in an instant.
However, “strike” is the most efficient of the three.
Because it also “cut” at the same time.
With that in mind, Shizuko thought about the training menu.

“Ngggghhhhh……!!”

“Right, right, keep at it!”

Although it was said in kendo, the most important factor is the leg strength to be able to keep one’s posture regardless of the stance.
By training his endurance and sense of balance, he will build a strong core that can withstand long-term abuse.
Furthermore, by focusing on the thighs, the muscles that are pivotal to posture control will be strengthened.

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Shizuko decided to have Nagayoshi “run over hills and fields” as a way to train him optimally and efficiently.
And not along trails that people have trodden upon, but right through the wilderness.
It would be quite a tough training activity for Nagayoshi because he was made to do it while also wearing armor.
However, even after coming back from running, the only thing that awaited him was “1 minute of squats”, so he was faced with harsh training either way.

“Damnit! How can you move so easily…!”

“Ah, there’s a hole there…… too late.”

“Daaamnnn!! Daammnniit! Like hell I’ll lose here!”

Getting out of the hole with new vigor, Ngayoshi ran up the mountain at full speed.
But, soon he fell again into a hole hidden by a layer of humus.

“…look here, what are you expecting, charging in a straight line? Courage and recklessness are different things.
If you want to increase your military feats, develop an eye that can calmly judge the situation.”

Shizuko said that with a sigh.
As he didn’t have any rebuttal to her words, Nagayoshi just nodded and got out of the hole.
He was silent after that and didn’t say a word until they reached the summit.

Of course, she didn’t only train his body.

“That kanji is wrong.
You use this kanji for this sentence.”

Nagayoshi was also being taught in academics.
But for him, who was not good at using his head, he couldn’t even solve problems that modern kindergarten children could.

“Grrrrrrrr…what use is studying this even!?”

“If you don’t understand the content hidden behind the words, you won’t be able to understand the lord’s vague instructions.
If you can’t calculate the exact numbers, you can’t compare the size of the enemies’ army with yours.
Above all, if you don’t develop your imagination, you won’t be able to keep up with the lord in the future.”

He complained, but Shizuko struck him down mercilessly with the truth.
Being lost for words, Nagayoshi tried to solve the problems Shizuko had made while grinding his teeth.

“Listen, Katsuzou-kun.
People who are strong in war are very serious.”

“More than an unrivaled hero?”

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Shizuko was sure he wouldn’t react to her words and would solve the problem silently.
So she was a little surprised, but she soon continued her words with a small smile on her face.

“That’s right.
A fearless hero will certainly be strong.
But, do you know? From their lord’s point of view, they don’t know how far the hero could go.
They can disregard their well-being in glorious situations, but they might prioritize their own well-being in situations where they can’t shine or when they have to take a stand.
They might even run away in some situations.”

“…”

“Katsuzou-kun.
I don’t want you to be a child who only wants to be in the center of the stage.
Whether it’s a glorious one, an uncouth one, or something that your pride doesn’t allow, you need a sense of responsibility for your lord’s orders at any given time.
A person who will charge when told to charge even if there are a myriad of enemies, and will not retreat when told not to, even if only your bones are left at the end.
I want you to be a child with such a strong sense of responsibility.”

“…”

“Ah, of course, that was only my hope; I imagine you have your own plan for your future.
So just treat my word before as advice.”

“Hmph.”

After a curt response, Nagayoshi concentrated on solving the problem.
Shizuko just shrugged at Nagayoshi’s attitude and watched him solve the problems.
Almost half of it was wrong, but she won’t say it right away.
She decided to point it out after he finished solving all the problems.

A few months after Keiji and Saizo were appointed as her umamawari, each village entered the rice harvest season.
Asamachi, Misomachi, Mitsumachi, Kinokomachi, and the village where Shizuko is, Motomachi, had rice fields of 40ha, 40ha, 40ha, 40ha, and 100ha, respectively.
The rice is still being harvested but has Shizuko calculated their approximated yield.
According to her, Asamachi had 873 bales, Misomachi had 909 bales, Mitsumachi had 810 bales, Kinokomachi had 856 bales, and Motomachi had 2611 bales3, for a total of 6059 bales.
Mitsumachi had the smallest amount because their crops were hit by blight.
And to prevent the blight from spreading, Shizuko cut off the entire blighted area.
Originally they were projected to have 900 bales, so the blight outbreak was a regretful incident.

The harvest of pumpkin and sweet potato was excellent.
Even if they eat them every day in each village, there will be enough surplus to last until the next year, but they still need to be careful.
Since the leaves of sweet potatoes cannot be preserved, they were eaten as summer vegetables, but the stems were dried and made into preserved foods.
The leaves and stems were more nutritious than other vegetables.
Moreover, since it can be harvested many times from summer to autumn, there was no reason not to use it.

Soybean and sugarcane won’t be harvested until a little later in the future, but Shizuko wasn’t worried.
In particular, the soybeans were so fruitful that they could be called abundant, and there was a great harvest atmosphere drifting around.
It seemed as if Heaven was congratulating Nobunaga’s proceeding to the capital.

The hemp thread was mass-produced using a Schlichten decorticator machine.
At first, there was only one machine, then a second one was built after the increase of profit, then the third, and now a simple factory was built for batch processing.

As for silk, six automatic reeling machines were in operation, and mass production of silk was steadily carried out.
However, even if she was able to produce silk thread, Shizuko had no sales route.
So she decided to sign an exclusive contract with Nobunaga.
They agreed that the silk thread to be produced should not be sold to anyone other than Nobunaga, that twelve pieces should be made into a set, and that the price would be lower than the price that Nobunaga puts on the market.

Not to mention Kinokomachi, Misomachi, and Mitsumachi, their cycle from production to consumption was put on track one after another.
Nobunaga signed an exclusive contract with all of them, just like for the silk thread.
He bought all the products produced by the people living in each town and then his subordinates would sell them to the merchants of Mino and Owari.
It was a mutually beneficial relationship in which peasants earn income from their side businesses and Nobunaga profits from the difference when selling to the merchants.

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There were many things for sale from all villages.
There was beeswax made by heating and compressing beehives.
It can be used in waxes and adhesives, or as a raw material for candles.
With corn, the silk which was called “Namban hair” can be used as herbal medicine, the cobs as firelighters, and the husk has strong fibers that can be used as a material for strings and straw shoes.
The stems of sweet potatoes can be stored on a yearly basis by drying them.
And it was a hidden nutritious food that contains many nutrients such as vitamin C, E, K, calcium, polyphenols, etc.
The mulberry leaves can be dried and added to tea blends, its fruit can be added with brown sugar and turned into jam, and those trees which can’t be harvested anymore will be felled to make timber.
Mass production of hemp thread became possible with the Schlichten machine, but the pulp that came as the byproduct can also be manufactured into hemp paper.
Hemp paper, which has a finer and more elegant paper grain, has gained some popularity.
But the best-selling product was royal jelly4.
Since the amount that can be collected was small, it was pricier than other products, but the effect was unrivaled.

Various products flow to the markets of Owari and Mino via Nobunaga.
And when there are goods, people gather.
When people gather, money flows.
And when money flows, the city flourishes.
And the merchants will create a trading post to make a profit.
Finally, a route where goods and money flow was completed.
Merchants from Mikawa and Kai provinces in the east and Kyo and Sakai in the west come to Owari and Mino in search of goods.

Just by imitating modern resellers, Nobunaga filled his war chest to the brim5 and he couldn’t stop smiling because of it.
And it is not only he who profited by it.
Various areas around him also benefited from the splash.
When that happens, as humans were calculating creatures, those who had been dissatisfied with Shizuko and her special treatment from Nobunaga, easily changed their opinion as soon as their pockets were flush with money.

Two weeks after the rice was harvested, each village loaded the rice bales, silk thread, honey, etc., that will be paid to Nobunaga as taxes onto the carts one after another.
When several carts that had been loaded were ready, they departed with an escort.
But because the number of carts was so large, they formed a long line.

“Phew~ those are all going to lord Oda.”

The talkative Keiji on horseback gave his comment as he looked at the rice bales and products piled up in the cargo.

“I’ve never seen this many goods be carried as taxes.”

Saizou, who had mounted a horse as well, gave his impression.

“I was wondering why lord Oda cordially protects Shizucchi, but…to think it would be something like this?”

“Keiji-dono, even if you meant it as a joke, Shizuko-sama is someone we meant to serve, the daughter of the Ayanokouji clan.
I think it’s best to refrain from calling her any strange names.
Also, you should refrain from wearing that gaudy appearance.”

“Pah, ain’t it fine? She herself said she didn’t mind.”

Saizou and Keiji were two people who mysteriously get along well even though their personalities were complete opposites.

“Saizou, what do you think of Shizucchi?”

“Even if you ask me.
I can only say that she is a very unusual lady.
I never heard of someone who despite being of noble blood would till the earth.”

“Hmhm…Well, of course, I think that’s because she is loved by the earth.”

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“Loved by the earth?”

Saizou frowned at his partner’s strange evaluation.
Keiji then continued with a slight smile on him.

“Look at the peasants’ faces.
Everyone looks like they don’t feel these turbulent times they are living in.
And this big harvest, what can you call this but her being loved by the earth.”

“I see, you do have a point.
Is that the reason why you haven’t left Shizuko-sama’s side until now?”

“Yup.
I want to see how far lord Oda, who holds the woman loved by the earth, can go.
So I’ll do my best as her umamawari for a while.”

“I never thought the day would come for the word “Umamawari” to come from the mouth of Keiji-dono, who does nothing but eats, plays, and drinks in the bath every day.”

As pointed out by Saizo, Keiji didn’t do his duty as umamawari seriously.
He woke up whenever he wanted, ate whenever he wanted, and slept whenever he wanted.
Occasionally he went to a place that looked like a red-light district, and there were times when he didn’t come back for a few days.
And yet, he still receives his wages, so he couldn’t help being accused of wage thief.
However, Shizuko didn’t really mind Keiji’s speech and conduct, and instead said, “Aren’t Kabukimono all like that?”.
It made Saizou wonder whether being too understanding wasn’t a problem in itself.

“Well, it hurts my ear when you say it like that.”

“Good grief…Well, the preparations are about to end.
Before Shizuko-sama calls us, let’s go to her first.”

As soon as he said so, Saizou turned his horse around and headed for Shizuko.

“He’s really too serious.
Hup.”

Dismayed by Saizou’s straight-laced ness, Keiji sighed then turned his horse around and followed behind him.

 

Arocks: Ngl, this is literally the situation: He has no choice but to run because his life depends on it.
LUL TN:it is either one of this, and a combination of both

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