Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chapter 3. Rise of the Hojos

Although the cowardly Moris would no longer ally with the Hosokawas after the betrayal at Odawara, the Ashikagas who were sworn enemies of Chinkaro had no option but to do so. Together, the renewed alliance of Hosokawa and Ashikaga was a formidable force. As they marched to Odawara for the second time, Chinkaro was gravely worried. Obviously, he could not use the same trick twice against even a fool as Kanematsu.

Hojo Tokimasa, founder of the Hojo Shogunal regency which

Preceded the Ashikagas.

As he looked from his balcony, his wife Nanako could see his worry. Though unbidden, she offered him her advice, “Take up the mantle of my father. Be the Lord of Hojo.”

“Are you insane?”, Chinkaro asked, “Did you not remember that I slew Katezumi with my own hands?!”

“What choice do you have? Did my father not offer to adopt you before the Battle of Otaku? Without the support of the Hojo clan, you will surely be defeated.”

Chinkaro thought over this for a long time. Finally, he decided that he really had no choice. He hath slain Hojo Katezumi, but that was because he was serving the Ashikaga shoguns, who were now his bitter enemies. Furthermore, he was married to Nanako, now the heiress of the Hojo clan, and she was right that Katezumi hath offered to adopt him before the great battle of Otaku.

Once Chinkaro picked up the mantle and proclaimed himself Lord of the Hojos, he took another name Hojo Soeun, and the warriors of the Hojo clan who went into hiding came out to serve him. Amongst their leader was the brave warrior Hojo Kirimatsu, whom he appointed general of equal rank with Yanitaka himself.

Now, the Hojo clan was much revived, and they strengthened his army in the upcoming battle against the Hosokawas and Ashikagas. However, the allies had a large force, and the brave One-Eyed led the front army, so they were much too haughty.

Yoshitori pointed an accusing finger at Soeun and said, “Ha, now, you have proved that you are nothing more than a rebel. My brother’s trust was grossly misplaced.”, but Soeun merely ignored him.

Just then, the One-Eyed taunted the Hojo soldiers, “Are there but dogs and cowards amongst the Hojo traitors that none would come out to challenge me in combat?!”

Now, Kirimatsu was a true-born Hojo warrior, and he would not give in to such insults. He heard that the One-Eyed once held mighty Yanitaka in battle, so he requested that he be given the challenge, to which Soeun replied, “Good, General Kirimatsu. Go silience the Hosokawa dog for me.”

So Kirimatsu rode out to meet the One-Eyed in combat, and they battled like the gods on Mount Fuji. Fifty swords did they fight, but finally Kirimatsu’s arm failed him. He was tired, and in one fell swoop, the restless One-Eyed slew him. Casting aside Kirimatsu’s proud head, the One-Eyed shouted, “Who next will it be?”

Yanitaka was about to volunteer, when Soeun forbade him. “Let there be no more sacrifice on my behalf. I shall fight him myself.”

Yanitaka was distraught, for though he was unsure of defeating the One-Eyed, he certainly did not want his Lord to fight the battle himself. “Surely, this is most unbecoming, Lord Soeun. You are a daimyo now. The army will be leaderless without you.”

But Soeun would not listen, “I was the greatest general in Japan before I was daimyo. Is this not the reason you follow me, Yanitaka? If I shall die, then you shall be Lord of Hojo in my stead. Besides, do you think that overgrown gorilla can really beat me?”

“But…”, Yanitaka protested.

“Silence, Yanitaka! Stand down now. This is an order, and it is every samurai’s duty to follow them.” Soeun said curtly.

And so, Yanitaka stood down, and Soeun rode his white stallion forth to combat. Perhaps, it was the lightning swift blow of the Katezumi Sword, or the One-Eyed’s own tiredness, but in one swell swoop, the greatest warrior of the Hosokawa fell to the ground lifeless.

The Hojo troops cheered until their lungs were sore, as Soeun basked in their admiration. Finally, Yanitaka ordered the charge. Once again, the Hosokawas and Ashikagas were defeated. The cowardly Shogun Yoshitoro managed to escape from the field back to Muromachi, but Kanematsu was captured. In return for his release, the Hosokawas ceded the southernmost province of Mino to the Hojos.

For many decades, the Hojos who had once ruled Japan were cowered, but now under the leadership of Soeun, their power would rise, and soon, they were threatening once mighty houses such as the Hosokawas and the Ashikaga Shoguns themselves.

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