Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chapter 8. The Fate of Ueasungi Kenshin

Like his father Hojo Soeun, Chinosuke was determined to win at all cost. When Uesungi Kenshin spoiled his blockade against the Takedas, he decided that the Uesungi were no longer his allies, so he summoned the aging general Kajima Yanitaka and discussed plans to invade Echido without declaring war on them.

Kenshin’s Kasugayama Castle at Echido. It is believed that Yanitaka died here.

And so although the Hojos were still allies of Uesungi at that time, Yanitaka led a great host of 15,000 warriors and attacked Echido, the main castle of the Uesungi clan. Kenshin could only muster a force of 10,000 men, but he went out bravely to face the enemies.

A young soldier in his army was visibly shivering when he saw the Hojo army, but Kenshin put a comforting hand on his shoulder and said, “Fear not, young man. Though the Hojo army is large, their general is old now, and they are no longer invincible like they were in the days of Hojo Soeun. Besides, does Takeda Shingen not call me the god of war?” and then he smiled the charming smile that hath always warmed the hearts of his men.

And so in this manner, Kenshin bravely went forth to face the Hojo army. The Hojo army fired into the Uesungi line, and suddenly, the Uesungi line broke into many pieces and retreated. Seeing victory in grasp and a chance to redeem himself from his younger day defeat at the hands of Takotara, he pursued Kenshin’s main force, but was lured into an ambush. Suddenly, the Uesungi army reformed and attacked the Hojos from eight sides.

With the mighty Hojo army in broken formation, Kenshin charged in to fight with Yanitaka. Now, Yanitaka was a great warrior, but in his old age, he was now much weaker than Kenshin. After seventy mighty strokes, Yanitaka’s strength failed him, and in one strong blow, he seemed mortally injured by Kenshin. It seemed the Uesungi victory over Hojo was complete. Just then, a small token with the sign ‘Kajima’ in golden ink fell off from Kenshin’s armor.

Yanitaka, almost gasping for life, asked Kenshin, “Who gave you that?”

To which Kenshin angrily replied, “Don’t touch that. It was from the mother I never knew.”

Yanitaka laughed as blood spewed off his mouth, “The fates!!...I canst not believe this! I gave that to your mother many years ago when I was here.” Yanitaka took out an identical token, and suddenly, Kenshin realized that he was standing before his father and had mortally injured him. A ceasefire was immediately called upon, and Kenshin took Yanitaka to the Kasugayama Castle in Echido.

“Father, you must not leave me now,” Kenshin said. “We have only met. I will get the best doctors. You canst not die here at my hands.” For the first time in his hard and turbulent life, Kenshin wept.

“Do not weep for me,” Yanitaka said from his deathbed as he patted Kenshin’s head. “What man can ask for more from his life than me? I have served Chinkaro (Hojo Soeun) who is the greatest hero of my time. I’ve lived with the woman I loved even for a short term, and my son is the daimyo of Uesungi clan. In a way, through you, my conquest of Uesungi is complete.” As he said this, more blood sputtered from his mouth. It seemed the doctor’s efforts to heal him was failing.

Kenshin didst not know what to say, until finally his father said, “My son, take me to the window. Let me see the vastness of this territory before I die.”

And so, Kenshin obediently lifted Yanitaka to the windows. As Yanitaka leaned on it and watched outside, Kenshin realized how much like his father he really was. They were both tall and broad-shouldered, handsome as princes. Then, Yanitaka shouted to the dead spirit of his wife, “Yumiko, look! Our son rules the Uesungi clan. The people call him the Dragon of Echido, and Takeda Shingen calls him the god of war. Be proud that you have bought him into this world.”

With those words, Yanitaki smiled, but he was much too tired. Kenshin bought him back to the bed, where he finally passed away. Kenshin later found the burial of his mother. He now realized that she had sneaked into the Kasugayama Castle many years ago and left him at the doorsteps of the daimyo Uesungi Takotara and set him on a fate so unimaginable, but it was the greatness of Kenshin that prevented Uesungi from being conquered by greater aggressors like the Hojos or the Takedas, and though there were many titles to him, Kenshin now knew he was truly the Orphan of Heaven.

Hojo Chinosuke may not have vanquished Kenshin and punished him for stopping the blockade of Takeda, but if he only wanted to punish him for that, the hurt was more than done. And despite the pains and sorrows that he was forced to bear, Kenshin went back to head the Uesungi army into battle, for the asurangi forces of Takeda Shingen were again at his borders.

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