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A Time Traveller's Guide To Feudal Japan Chapter 218 - Insanity?

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And so, the Red Feather forces finally arrived at the city of s.h.i.+geto by the following afternoon. It was a grand fortress, indeed. Fitting of belonging to the Daimyo. The river had been manipulated so that as well as flowing through the castle - as means of a trade route - it also surrounded it.

There were four bridges, so that this moat could be traversed, and by the looks of it they were permanent features. They did nothing to detract from the moat's usefulness as a defensive feature, however. The bridges were only just wide enough for ten men to cross at a time. It prevented the attacking forces from forming up into flat ranks, and attacking the walls in a solid line.

And so, as the enemy wasted time forming up in the heat of battle, the defensive forces were able to a.s.sail them with a barrage of arrows. A good number of arrows indeed. There were multiple wooden structures on the inside that towered above the walls, and the archery cages below, allowing room for yet more men to launch their missiles.

Inside that first wall the townspeople resided, and people did their trades, and after that, one would need to confront another wall, and another solid line of defence before getting close to the Daimyo and his home.

Even from this distance, the men patrolling inside were obvious. Thousands of them. And a fair number of flags represented them, each flying the Imagawa mon.

The gates had been closed, and trade paused. Their threat was at least being taken somewhat seriously, it seemed. And yet, that river-side gate - that Matsudaira had mentioned the previous night - still stood open tauntingly, daring them to come inside. 

No merchants drifted along the river. The scene had been perfectly set. They wanted them to take the river route. That was what they expected them to do. To attack the walls would be bothersome, and folly for any attacking force. This would ensure a much quicker end to the siege, by a single battle even, with the defenders holding the utmost advantage.

To do exactly as the enemy expected them to do, in military affairs, would be a rookie mistake. Battle was like a chess match. One must move outside of the enemy's predictions, and strike where he least expect it.

"We will attack by the river route, for certain." Gengyo announced as they pitched their tents that night.

"Hoh, lucky us, to what do we owe this unexpected information?" Jikouji asked. "To be honest, you have me somewhat worried. When you don't reveal your plans, we end up doing quite well. Why change the trend now, when there is so much at stake?"

"Because soon he will have to answer to more people than us, and when that time comes, he cannot operate so secretly, otherwise he'll displease his servants." Akiko answered for him, placing her hand rea.s.suringly on his shoulder.

"What she said." Gengyo stated, placing his hands on his h.i.p.s, and doing a few circles to warm them. For what, they weren't quite sure, but he had a playful smile sat on his lips, as he always did when he had come up with a devilish way of ruining the enemy.

"Guh… This isn't good." Rin whispered, a bad feeling in her gut.

"This is, in fact, terrible." Isabella agreed without hesitation.

The men glanced from them, back to Gengyo, not quite with the same level of perception. What could be so terrible about their commander being in a good mood? It was only the newer man that dared to ask.

"What's not good?" Matsudaira spoke as loudly as he normally might, not understanding the need to keep from being heard.

Rin and Isabella shared a glance, before the younger girl began to explain. "Before he came up with the idea for the cattle charge, in our battle against you, that was the look he had on his face… It worked, of course, it always seems to. But can you imagine what we felt, hearing such a ridiculous idea?"

"That man is the source of all my stress. It would not surprise me if my hair begun turning grey as a result of his antics."

Matsudaira had never considered what that battle had been like from their side, he had only seen - or more felt - the result, and been crushed because of it. He had come to terms with his defeat by now, and was able to discuss it without pain. And as he empathised with their position, imagining one of his men suggesting using cattle as a cavalry… He might have killed the man on the spot, much to his eternal shame.

"I… I see." Was all he could manage in response.

As old as he was, only Jikouji could aptly serve as an intermediary, and offer something that might serve as an explanation. "Talent hits the target that no one else can hit, and genius. .h.i.ts the target that no one else can see. His methods are outlandish, but in there stems his greatness. Trust in him, and you will not fret as much."

"Easy for you to say - any day now and you'll be feet up in the grave." Rin commented, immediately brus.h.i.+ng aside his wisdom.

"What does that mean, anyway? Does that mean I'm a genius? I'm the best shot in this whole d.a.m.ned army!" Rokkaku stated, not getting it in the least.

Jikouji shrugged, knowing better than to get into the more philosophical topics of discussion with him. "It's up to your interpretation - it's merely something I read in a scroll a while ago."

"So then, what's this actual plan of yours?" Morohira pressed, speaking to Gengyo, who had wandered off into a world of his own, ignoring the conversation around him.

"Ah? Oh, nothing really. Morojo is doing the work of the G.o.ds, hauling those logs and making sh.i.p.s for us, we had only need wait for him." He paused a moment, admiring the setting sun. "Say, what do you think of having a big fire tonight, in honour of G.o.d. Or G.o.ds. Yes, let's get the whole army to pray together… I think that is fitting. Maybe they'll even respond."

"I was unaware you were religious, Miura…" Togas.h.i.+ said hesitantly, after gauging the response of the rest of them.

"Oh no, I'm not. I'm trying to convince Imagawa that we're all completely insane. So, let's have fun tonight. Let's pray to a G.o.d of our own making. A G.o.d of fire. Zenok. A good name, don't you think? We will dance, and pray, and drink, and when the time is right, we will see if the G.o.d responds. Yes. That's an excellent idea - inform the men of the role they are to play in this. I would see that the acting is immaculate."

They needed no convincing that he was insane, neither would Imagawa, judging from the looks they gave him. They could not figure out the purpose for which he commanded them to do such odd things, but he merely shrugged and gave a quiet declaration. "If an enemy thinks we are insane, are they not inclined to be a bit more fearful of us? Do you recall the battle before we engaged with Oda at Okehazama?"

"I am afraid to state that I was not present to bear witness." Matsudaira admitted regretfully. He'd had other affairs that he'd been forced to attend to.

"A few of us were missing, that's true. Well, simply put, the enemy sent forward a sizeable amount of their men, and had them slit their own throats in front of us. Ah, the havoc that caused. What kind of psychopaths slit their own throats? We only managed to win that by a hair's breadth. It took a great effort to return the tide to our favour."

"I see… That certainly would go a long way in demolis.h.i.+ng the morale of the troops, and so you seek to inspire the same, only without incurring the causalities needed?"

"That's the top and bottom of it. I have had Takes.h.i.+ make up an implement to give it an extra dimension, so that should be fun to execute on. But yes, let us enjoy this night - which happens to be the night of the full moon, in case you haven't been paying attention - and give our good grace to Zenok, the G.o.d of fire. Excellent. Everyone has their role." He declared, pleased with himself once more, before wandering off.

His mannerisms were baffling. The quiet Kitajo did not return quite as odd as he, despite his terrifying increase in skill.

"That idea seems quite sensible to me." Matsudaira mused, pleased that he hadn't felt any of the stress Rin and Isabella described.

They stared at him pitifully, shaking their heads. "That is not the plan." Rin said simply.

"How do you know?" He asked, seemingly unconvinced.

"He's my Nii-san. I know." 

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