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A Time Traveller's Guide To Feudal Japan Chapter 216 - A Cunning Plan

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With the pa.s.sing days the invisible barriers between the men started to dissolve, as it did for their two leaders. The distance between them and s.h.i.+geto castle was closing at a frightening pace, and with each day they were only growing stronger.

They threw themselves into their training, both physically, and mentally. They lunged forward as one, practising one of the more offensive techniques, crus.h.i.+ng into their partner's guards with force, only to be just barely repelled.

It was not only their individual skill that grew - their functionality as a force did as well. As was to be expected, there was a difference in the drilling procedures of the two armies, and it took a while to get rid of such differences.

All that was bearable, in their eyes. It was difficult, but doable. Their progress was constant, and they could feel themselves getting stronger. And yet, at certain points during the week, they would be forced into a freezing pond filled with misery.

"How… how much further?" They had croaked, on the very first day running the endurance course.

"Heh, we haven't even reached the starting line yet." Came the ominous response. The senior members of the force were allowed to look on in amus.e.m.e.nt. To maintain the standards and run the course had become relatively easy for them, and they certainly did not envy the new recruits that simply did not have enough stamina.

And the worst part of it all? They were not allowed to stop. To stop was to invite more running onto them, as Jikouji watched on ruthlessly, looking for any sign of disobedience, so he could dish out additional volume as punishment.

When they ran it for the first time, they proclaimed it to be the hardest thing they I had ever endured. And then, a day hence - when their muscles were still terribly aching and sore in remembrance of such an occasion - they had been forced to run it again, only to find that it was a good deal harder than before.

And alongside the struggling men, was their leader, Matsudaira. He too was made to sweat rivers, and forced to run until the muscles in his legs only knew how to cramp, with movement being made impossible.

In the evenings as they trained, Takes.h.i.+ worked on supplying them all with rifles, and slowly, as the weeks pa.s.sed on their march, they all held a new rifle of their own, and were allowed to marvel at its superiority.

They were getting to be quite the army indeed, and as they stopped to rest for the night, just a day's march from s.h.i.+geto, Gengyo called Matsudaira to his tent - along with his other trusted subordinates - to discuss battle plans.

"There he is. Do take a seat, Matsudaira. I'm surprised to see that you're the last to arrive, but no matter, we'll get started immediately."

"It's probably all the bruises I've been giving him." Rin chipped in playfully.

"I've begun to deliver a few of my own, have I not?" 

"Nope! Not even close." 

With their continued partners.h.i.+p in the field of training, the two of them had begun to become more familiar with one another, and could make such jokes without fear of offence.

"A map of s.h.i.+geto?" Matsudaira observed as he took a seat by the table with the rest of them.

"Indeed. With the castle so near, I think it is high time we started coming up with strategies for our victory. Especially since - as you say - Imagawa will have ama.s.sed near 12,000 men by now, and if we're especially unlucky, the Takeda may have arrived as well."

"That is correct, yet that is as much as I can offer. I have already come extremely close to breaking my vow. To go any further, and to actively plot Imagawa's downfall - that would be far too much." He professed, shaking his head apologetically, firm in his stance, quite ready to leave the tent if he were to be pushed any further.

"Hoh… Of course, we will be discussing such things later, with the parting of your company, but now, sitting here, we do not formulate plans to fight Imagawa. Instead - to warm our minds a little - we're engaging in an imaginary conflict, against a foe that doesn't exist. It just happened to be s.h.i.+geto castle that the imaginary enemy is holed up in. Surely it would not be against your vow to play strategy, and beat an enemy that does not exist?" Gengyo smiled, drumming his fingers on the table, presenting a quite obviously false scenario as a guise to maintain Matsudaira's honour.

"Well… I suppose in that regard, it will be of no consequence. I am a prisoner after all, to disobey my captors too often would mean to forsake my life, and limit the extent to which I will be able to aid my master." By now, he too was smiling, enjoying the cunning, as were the rest of them.

"Excellent. Let us begin then. If it were you, Matsudaira, how would you attack this imaginary enemy if he fled inside s.h.i.+geto castle?"

It only took but a moment of silence, before Matsudaira arrived at his answer, and tapped the map with his finger to ill.u.s.trate the point. "s.h.i.+geto river is a large reason why the city became so prosperous. It is deep and it is wide, allowing sh.i.p.s to travel along it all the way from the sea. The settlers of the past - when they first came here - noticed such a feature, and modelled the castle around it, in order to take advantage of it."

"And in there lies a certain weakness?" Gengyo prodded.

"It is not an obvious what, but I feel it is possible to take advantage of it. The river flows in through the city, and is contained with in its walls, so that the sh.i.p.s can dock freely without the danger of bandits."

"Hoh… Surely that kind of opening will not be unguarded?"

"It's as you say. The path upriver is barred by an iron gate. Though I do not think it will be used - it hasn't been lowered in decades. In fact, that route is what they wish attackers to take. It acts as a funnel, so they can focus all their fire power on them, and bombard the enemy with arrows."

"With twelve thousand men, it would certainly be him who held the advantage, should we decide to pursue that route."

"It seems to me that my services as a s.h.i.+pwright will be once more required." Morojo mused, stroking his beard, rather pleased that he would be able to return to that which he was used to.

"And perhaps our role as pirates." Togas.h.i.+ added.

"That would depend, a plan is far from being finalized, but it would not hurt to have those options available to us."

"I am interested to see how you might deal with this problem." Matsudaira announced.

"You had better be a patient man then, because most people don't get to find out what Nii-san's thinking until the day before the battle, or perhaps even the morning! He's terrible, really. I bet you don't leave your men in the dark like that, do you Matsudairsan?" 

The look of guilt that pa.s.sed over Matsudaira's face said it all, and the room fell into an uncomfortable silence, leaving only Gengyo grinning in his momentary feeling of accomplishment. "The creative mind needs no hindering."

"…A fitting excuse." Matsudaira nodded with approval, looking as though he was taking mental notes, so that he might be able to use it at a later date.

"Not this time… Surely, Nii-san? The battle is so important, if you-"

"Calm yourself, little sister. I'm the most serious man in this entire camp, would I leave you all in silence - if there was a plan in the works - merely for humours sake?" The grin that barely contained his laughter did nothing to support his case, but he managed to contain himself, and give out a couple of orders to satisfy them. "We will pa.s.s a strip of forestry, at this point tomorrow." He pointed to the map to ill.u.s.trate his words. "Morojo, take whatever men and horses you require, and begin lumbering. We will aim to have enough boats to support all our men. They had need no be complicated, simple oar powered vessels will do."

"As you will. These old hands have gone too long without doing what they were made for. I'm sure my lads will be pleased."

"Everyone else, do as you normally might, and we'll come up with more of a plan when we see this fortress in person."

"Got it." 

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