Rise of the Nakamura

Part 9 - Mishima

May - June 1563

The day after the battle, Nakamura Eiji 中村英治 gave his companion of last night, introduced as Ayame, her promised report. Having been filled in on the details of the previous night’s battle, she asked Eiji’s permission and left for Mishima to deliver the information.

Walking outside, he encountered a large group of soldiers watching some activity in the middle of the camp, jeering and making catcalls. The source of their attention turned out to be Nakamura Eiichi, naked in a puddle of mud and making love to an unknown woman, revealed to be the succubus summoned the previous day. Disgusted, Eiji dispersed the troops with a barked order, shouting for them to form up and prepare to march. In the puddle, Eiichi finished his activity and stood up, playfully tapping his brother in as he walked away, completely unabashed.

The rest of the army awoke and mobilized at their Daimyo’s command, marching further south and making camp just outside the city. Mishima was a bustling port town, surrounded by lush forests and rife with merchants and products from across Japan. Upon their arrival, Nakamura Eiji prepared an entourage to speak with the leaders of the city, Yamada Junko and Ken Suna left to investigate the area, and Nakamura Eiichi departed on his own.

The first to reach and see the city was Yamada Junko. Stealthily climbing from rooftop to rooftop, she carefully scanned the streets and markets for anything unusual. Not long after she began scouting, she spotted, among the bustling shoppers, a short, tottering old woman with white hair. Gouta’s mother, Usami Kageie was inexplicably and quite happily shuffling from stall to stall, purchasing travelling supplies. Escorting her was a huge, muscular man, almost twice as tall as Junko, with a mane of unkempt red hair. His bare chest was tattooed with swooping red tribal designs, and his eyes, carefully watching the crowd around him, literally smoldered like embers.

Reaching a decision, Junko appeared in front of Kageie, who seemed not at all surprised to see her. The old woman was delighted to learn that Eiji was in town, and promised to visit him during his stay. Pleasantries exchanged, Junko returned to shadowing the two, who shopped for a few more supplies before retiring to a nondescript inn.

Nakamura Eiji, accompanied by Otochitomono-kane, tasked Hojo Ujiyasu with gathering the influential people of Mishima for a political meeting in a high-end sake den near the market district. The merchant lords, nobles, and politicians who arrived were surprised to be summoned by the aging Daimyo, who they had presumed dead. Sitting next to Ujiyasu, Eiji quietly lit a pipe and explained to them that Izu Province was now under his leadership. In answer to their questions, he explained that not much would change, but that new trade was open to them, and they would now pay taxes and swear allegiance to the Nakamura Clan. The leaders were happy to submit, having expected a much more violent conquest by the Oda Clan.

As they finished their meeting, Otochitomono-kane entered, resplendent in a beautiful oriental gown and attended by a ceremonial guard bearing Honda Tadakatsu‘s armor and trademark antlered helmet. She regaled the Nakamura Clan and Eiji’s exploits, heralding them as the future leaders of all Japan. The listening nobles and tradesmen were tasked with spreading the news of his conquest across the country, to which they respectfully agreed.

Meanwhile, in the Market, Ken Suna was mixing with the bustling crowds and exploring the city. Her keen eyes spotted, across the road, a youth dressed in Nakamura clan colors, hurriedly looking around him as though searching for someone. Amused, Suna began to follow him.

Otochitomono-kane left the council and Eiji to carouse in the sake den, and was apprehended by the harried youth outside of its doors. He respectfully bowed and explained that he was a messenger, bearing a letter for a “Princess Suna”. The ryukyuan princess took the letter herself, briefly opening it and reading its contents before Suna stepped out of the crowd and snatched it from her hand. Otochitomono-kane relented, and departed with her guard to the town’s Shinto shrine, bearing the bodies of Honda Tadakatsu and Tokugawa Ieyasu for proper burial.

Nakamura Eiichi searched the port town for the seediest sake den he could find, picking up an entourage of beautiful women on the way and entering a rickety structure near the docks. Inside, the crowd was dominated by a tall, unkempt man on a makeshift stage, wearing a battered but quality kimono and a large sword sheathed on his back. He boasted of his exploits, calling himself the best swordsman in the land and demanding that anyone confident of their skills challenge him to a duel. Not to be shown up, Eiichi began boasting of his own, and soon the room was filled with a boisterous shouting match between the two ronin.

This continued for a short time, with the jeering audience siding slightly in the unknown man’s favor before, without warning, a drunken Nakamura Eiji burst through the den’s doors, accompanied by a pair of embarrassed-looking guards. Not noticing his brother, he ordered a drink and centered on the boasting man, shouting slurred insults at him. Eiichi quickly attempted to placate his brother, standing up and trying to convince Eiji to calm down and sit at a table.

The server who had taken Eiji’s order for a drink was intercepted by Yamada Junko, who appeared silently from the shadows, and ordered him not to serve the Daimyo any alcohol. The man, shaken by suddenly being accosted from the darkness by a menacing presence, hurriedly agreed.

Eiji, drinking what he believed to be fruit-flavored sake, continued his insulting of the man on stage. He had noticed Eiichi by this point, but made no move to sit with his brother, and ignored all attempts to placate him, instead advancing on his presumed opponent. Junko, wary of her master’s drunken state, silently removed Eiji’s katana from his side before disappearing once again.

The other man, meanwhile, had drawn his blade, a beautifully-crafted nodachi several inches longer than an average specimen of its type, claiming that he only intended to use it for self-defense. Eiji responded by trying to draw his own katana, which was not there, sending him twirling awkwardly. Eiichi took the opportunity to restrain his brother from behind.

Not to be discouraged, Eiji drunkenly rose to the other man’s claim of being the best swordsman in Japan. He introduced his brother as Nakamura Eiji, Daimyo of the great Nakamura clan and best swordsman in the land, much to Eiichi’s own surprise. Muttering incoherently, he then stumbled out of the bar, accompanied by his two guards. The ronin, impressed by Eiji’s claims about his brother, introduced himself as Sasaki Kojiro and challenged Eiichi to a duel. It was decided that they would meet outside of this sake den at sundown in two days, and fight to first blood.

After arranging the duel, Eiichi rushed outside, grabbed his departing brother, spun him around, and loosed a punch at the other’s face. Eiji made no attempt to dodge, but Junko appeared at the last moment and deflected the attack, sending it harmlessly past its intended target’s head. Still fuming, Eiichi launched a strike at the interfering ninja, which landed without any effect, Junko not so much as flinching. Tired and annoyed, Eiji decided to try a gamble. He raised his voice and called out Ayame’s name into the darkness.

Junko attempted to restrain Eiichi, who deftly stepped out of the way, only to be tripped by an unknown presence with a swift sound of tearing cloth. A slight shine betrayed several almost invisible wires extending into the darkness, tying Eiichi’s hands and legs together and leaving him helpless on the ground. One of Eiji’s guards returned with a palanquin and, satisfied, he returned to the camp with Junko, leaving Eiichi tied up on the ground. Once he was out of sight, both the strings and the other presence disappeared, leaving him alone in the dark streets.

The next day, Eiichi went searching for Suna around camp. He had been feeling weak and tired since his encounter with Otochitomono-kane’s summoned demon, and wished to ask the shaman if she had any cure. He found her outside the camp, picking flowers in a field, and explained his situation. Seeming to understand, Suna reached into the recesses of her clothing and produced a live frog, which she proceeded to bite the head off of. To Eiichi’s horror, she shook the remainder of the corpse over him, spattering him with bodily fluids and frog entrails. With the use of his mystical eye, however, he could confirm that the ritual was producing some kind of magical effect. Suna claimed that the ailment should disappear by the next day, and to return to her at the same time tomorrow.

Having taken care of her political business, Otochitomono-kane spent this day traversing the camp, speaking to the soldiers and trying to raise morale. This proved a difficult task as Eiji’s continuous victories, low casualties, and charismatic leadership had inspired his troops to unprecedented highs of confidence and satisfaction. Satisfied that the army was in good order, the princess took her retainer Kaihime and set out to town to shop the diverse markets.

Realizing that, despite her station, she had no actual money, Otochitomono-kane first set out to look for a moneylender in town. A perfunctory search came up with a small, greasy man, who claimed he was willing to lend her money in return for “special favors”. The princess agreed to his terms, and received the currency, leaving Sashisaka, her summoned succubus, to entertain the man as she departed. The demon returned a few hours later, but the unfortunate moneylender was not heard from again.

Eiji returned to town the next day, meeting Usami Kageie and her escort on the road there. The old woman was happy to see him, and explained the circumstances of her situation. She said that she was indeed assaulted by a ninja sent by the Hojo Clan to kidnap her, but that he was very kind once she spoke to him a bit. Kageie decided to fake her own kidnapping, taking the opportunity to leave town for a vacation. Hojo had simply taken advantage of her absence to fake a kidnapping of their own, leaving the ransom note for Gouta. The old woman said that she had been travelling across various provinces, and had met the smoldering man behind her on the way, who she introduced as Douji.

Upon hearing her story, Eiji explained what had happened to Gouta in her absence. Kageie was obviously dissatisfied, and voiced her intent to return to Shimosa and work at breaking her son’s seal. The Daimyo wished her luck, and invited the older woman to join in the feast he was planning upon his return, to which she laughingly agreed.

Another day passed, and Nakamura Eiichi returned to Suna to report that he was feeling cured and revitalized. He proceeded to entreaty the shaman to grant him a magical shield for the night’s duel. Suna grudgingly relented, obviously exhausting herself with the casting of so many spells, then slunk off to rest after the exertion.

Nakamura Eiji, meanwhile, sent a messenger to Sasaki Kojiro, inviting him into the Nakamura camp. Upon his arrival, Eiji explained the misunderstandings of the other night, and apologized for his drunk behavior. Kojiro accepted it graciously, and mentioned his scheduled duel with Eiichi the same night. Upon Eiji’s request, the other samurai happily agreed to allow him to watch the battle in a few hours.

The two leisurely walked to the inn of a few nights past, and took up position by the doors, Kojiro polishing his massive nodachi and Eiji idly chatting with him from his seat on a stack of boxes. A few hours later, Eiichi arrived on the scene as well and, sparing a bitter look for his eagerly watching brother, faced off in a duel with the other swordsman.

Kojiro landed the first strike with his nodachi, swinging the huge blade with more speed and grace than should be possible. Eiichi’s attempted block failed to stop the other’s attack, and he was struck solidly on the shoulder. With a flash of light and a sizzle, the magical shield given him by Suna absorbed the blow and instantly dissipated. Taking the opportunity, Eiichi countered with a swift blade draw, drawing a shallow cut across his opponent’s chest.

Though the terms of the duel should have made this Eiichi’s victory, Kojiro snarled in anger and attacked again, dealing a much deeper wound to the other before sheathing his sword. Not sparing another word, the swordsman stalked away, furious at his defeat. Unknown to him, Eiichi was doing much the same, upset that his victory was the result of Suna’s magic rather than his own skill. Ignoring his fuming brother, Eiji trotted to catch up with Kojiro, eager to learn more about the masterfully wrought blade he wielded. From gritted teeth, the defeated swordsman gave up that it was inherited, before disappearing into a nearby den and drowning his frustration in sake.

The same night, Eiichi, still angered by the events previous, visited the markets in search of a gift to bring to Kanahime upon his return. Settling on a pair of beautiful golden earrings, each set with a sapphire, he bought them and began immediately to walk back to Shimosa province, not waiting for the rest of the army.

Neither surprised nor worried by his brother’s sudden absence, Nakamura Eiji kept his forces outside Mishima for the remainder of the week, giving the men some time off to enjoy the port town. At the end of this period, he mobilized his troops and began a march to Shimosa, sending word ahead to prepare a grand feast for his victorious return.

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