最上義光歴史館/<Part1-8> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -

<Part1-8> Saijoki - The Mogami Chronicles -
The Death of Mitsukane

  After the battle of Mount Kashiwagi, Lord Yoshiaki summoned Ujiie Owari no Kami and Irago Sōgyū.
  “We are fortunate indeed that the battle has ended and Terumune has withdrawn,” his lordship said, “but is this not the ideal opportunity for us to press on towards Kaminoyama and put an end to Mitsukane? The Kaminoyama force was badly routed at the battle of Mount Kashiwagi, and the loss of Terumune has them disheartened. They have lost their nerve, and it should be easy enough to take them on now.”
  Ujiie moved forward and spoke. “Your lordship has spoken truly. However, among Mitsukane’s long-serving vassals are Satomi Kuranosuke, Satomi Minbu, and Satomi Echigo – three warriors well-known for their exceptional valor – and among even the ordinary soldiers there are many who have distinguished themselves with manifold feats of heroism, so we cannot expect to overcome the Kaminoyama garrison easily. If enough time passes, Lord Terumune will undoubtedly come to Mitsukane’s aid once again, and this would complicate things for us. I believe that our best option in this case is to employ a scheme that will allow us to take Mitsukane down without the use of military force. There is a man who can help us carry out such a plan – a priest who is the younger brother of one of my most trusted vassals. He maintains a temple in Kaminoyama and is in the habit of frequenting Kuranosuke and Minbu, and when I have asked him in confidence to tell me about the character of these two men, he says that while the elder brother Kuranosuke is a model of unswerving rectitude, the younger brother Minbu – although certainly possessed of skills in battle the likes of which are seldom seem – is a man more interested in furthering his position in the world. If we approach him with a letter that promises him a generous fiefdom, he should not hesitate to join us, and with Minbu on our side, it will be easy enough to deal with Mitsukane.”
  “It is a wise plan,” said Lord Yoshiaki upon hearing Ujiie’s proposal. “Let us first use this priest to gauge the interest of the Satomi brothers, and we can dispatch a letter subsequently.”
  “Owari no Kami has proposed a most excellent strategy,” Sōgyū concurred, “one that should bring us success without overmuch difficulty.” With Sōgyū’s approval, Lord Yoshiaki was all the more convinced of the merits of this plan.
  With the matter thus settled, Owari no Kami summoned the aforementioned priest. With Sōgyū, he carefully instructed the priest in what he was to do, and then instructed him to proceed to Kaminoyama.
  As the priest was in the habit of associating with the Satomi brothers on a regular basis, he had come to be on friendly terms with them, and the two brothers would often engage him in conversation. One day, the priest spoke to Kuranosuke as follows:
  “As you know, my elder brother is in the service of Ujiie Owari no Kami, and yesterday, a messenger arrived with news from him that Lord Yoshiaki intends to make an assault upon Kaminoyama. As this will throw the region into turmoil, he warned that ordinary folk like myself should prepare ourselves for this eventuality. Until now, Mitsukane had always turned to Lord Terumune of Sendai in his hour of need, but with the accord that was struck between Lord Yoshiaki and Lord Terumune after the recent battle of Mount Kashiwagi, there are no longer any allies to help defend Kaminoyama if it comes under attack, and the castle is sure to fall. If this were to happen, it would no doubt mean the end of the Satomi clan as well, which would be a most grievous turn of events. Would it not be wise to make arrangements to avoid such a possibility before the enemy arrives?”
  Kuranosuke listened closely to the priest’s words. “As you have said, it is true that Lord Yoshiaki has been reconciled with Lord Terumune of Sendai, and we now have no allies to come to our aid. In addition, our castle does not have the capacity to withstand the assault of a large force, and it would no doubt fall in a matter of days. However, it would be most ignoble of a warrior to desert the master his family has served for long generations in an attempt to save his own skin. For me, there is no road left but to prepare to die in defense of my duty.”
  Realizing that there was little chance of convincing a man such as Kuranosuke to change sides, the priest decided to push the matter no further, instead electing to pay a visit to Minbu at the next possible opportunity. He repeated to Minbu that which he had said to Kuranosuke, but unlike Kuranosuke, Minbu did not hesitate to air his grievances over the situation.
  “Pitted against the great army of Lord Yoshiaki,” he said, “the small force defending Kaminoyama would fall before the end of a single day. Even if Lord Terumune were still willing to come to our aid, we are a considerable distance from his domain, and there would be little he could do for us in the event of a sudden attack. And now that he has allied himself with Lord Yoshiaki, the downfall of the Kaminoyama clan is surely but a matter of time. What is more, Lord Yoshiaki is renowned as a leader who embodies the three virtues of wisdom, benevolence, and courage, and none of the lords of this region would dare challenge him. Knowing this, I have repeatedly urged Mitsukane to submit to Yoshiaki’s rule, but he has consistently refused to listen. To die in vain for such a master would be a humiliating end, but if I were instead to establish myself as an ally of Lord Yoshiaki – which would allow me to raise the reputation of my family and do honor to my ancestors – there would still be none who called me faithful, but instead a dishonorable man who gave himself to the enemy. This too would be unbearable, and there seems no resolution to the predicament in which I find myself.”
  Minbu unburdened himself in great detail to the priest, who was pleased at what he heard. “Even if Lord Mitsukane is fated to meet his ruin because he fails to heed your counsel,” the priest said, “the perpetuation of the noble Satomi clan would be a source of comfort to all, including ordinary folk like myself. I hope that you will give your options much careful consideration.” With this, the priest took his leave of Minbu.
  The priest then made his way to Yamagata, where he met with Ujiie Owari no Kami and recounted all that had passed. Owari no Kami received this news with great pleasure, and, leaving the priest at his home, he went forth with Sōgyū to present himself before Lord Yoshiaki. Given a detailed account of the sentiments of the Satomi brothers, his lordship was in no small measure gratified, and he immediately summoned the priest and presented him with ten silver coins as a preliminary reward.
  His lordship then penned Minbu a courteous letter in his own hand and entrusted it to the priest, who proceeded with all haste to Minbu’s residence. There he spoke to Minbu, saying, “When I informed Owari no Kami in confidence of the matter of which we spoke recently, Lord Yoshiaki, who has heard tell of your valor in battle, was most pleased, and he bade me immediately bring you a letter written in his own hand.” The priest drew out the scroll containing Lord Yoshiaki’s message and handed it to Minbu, who reverently raised the epistle thrice to his head. He then unrolled the scroll to read the message, which ran as follows:
  “In response to Mitsukane’s attempted act of treason against myself, I have raised an army to exact vengeance upon him. I do not welcome the thought, however, of the ordinary folk of the region being forced to flee their habitations to avoid a battle, and it was as I was considering my path forward that I came to hear of your true feelings towards Mitsukane, news that I welcome with great pleasure. If you will prove yourself a faithful servant to me by slaying Mitsukane forthwith, I will confer upon you the territory ruled by Mitsukane in its entirety.”
  Minbu rolled up the letter after he had finished his perusal, and he turned to the priest. “It is you alone I have to thank for acquainting Lord Yoshiaki with that which lies within my heart, and for conveying to me this letter in his lordship’s own hand,” he said, presenting the priest with ten rolls of white cloth as a measure of his gratitude. “I will inform my brother Kuranosuke of what I intend to do,” he continued, “and if he refuses to fall in with me, I will slay him with my sword, and then I will kill Mitsukane. To offer me counsel in this endeavor, I hope that Lord Yoshiaki will see fit to dispatch to my side one of his trusted retainers.”
  The priest returned to Yamagata with Minbu’s request, to which Lord Yoshiaki readily acquiesced. His lordship summoned Yagashiwa Sagami no Kami, who was the son-in-law of Owari no Kami, and explained to him his commission.
  “Go forth to Kaminoyama and give Minbu the counsel he requires,” his lordship said. “If Mitsukane should happen to hear of Minbu’s defection and attempt to flee, maintain contact with Minbu, and wherever Mitsukane may go, make sure that you find and kill him. We must not allow your true purpose to come to light before this matter is brought to a successful resolution, so let it be known to your associates that you travel to Kaminoyama to treat your ills in the healing waters of the hot springs there.”
  Sagami no Kami accepted the assignment given him, and, speaking of the matter only with Owari no Kami, he informed his other family members and associates that he had been granted some time to seek a hot-spring cure for an ailment, so none in Yamagata were aware of the plotting of Minbu.
  Upon his arrival, Sagami no Kami met with Minbu, and the two men took counsel together. They subsequently summoned Kuranosuke to inform him of what Lord Yoshiaki wished them to do, but upon hearing what they had to say, Kuranosuke grew pale with anger.
  “You may ask me to accept such a commission, but I, Kuranosuke, have no capacity for such treachery,” he retorted as he rose to his feet. In accordance with the arrangements that had been made to deal with this eventuality, a number of powerful young men quickly emerged from the adjacent chamber, confronting Kuranosuke and slaying him with their swords.
  “If we are slow to act, Mitsukane may hear of what has happened and attempt to escape. Let us steal into his quarters and kill him tonight.”
  With the two men in agreement, Minbu summoned a samurai by the name of Satake Heinai, a member of Mitsukane’s personal retinue who had regular access to his master’s home. When privately asked for his assistance, Heinai consented without demur, signing an oath that he would not betray his word. After arranging that he would leave the courtyard garden door unlatched that evening, which would allow Minbu and Sagami no Kami to gain entrance into Mitsukane’s quarters and easily slay their target, Heinai was allowed to return to his post.
  In the dead of night, the two men slipped into Mitsukane’s residence with their men, and they easily slew the man they had come to kill. When day broke and the news of Mitsukane’s death spread, his personal attendants and other vassals were thrown into confusion. It was then that an envoy arrived with a message from Minbu.
  “Mitsukane dared to rise in revolt against the Mogami clan, and for this it was decreed by Lord Yoshiaki that he would suffer the punishment of death. Kuranosuke was a party to this treachery, and yesterday, he paid for this with his life. It is fortunate, however, that Yagashiwa Sagami no Kami, an emissary of Lord Yoshiaki, has occasion to be at my residence, and I command that all of you surrender to him without delay. Any who resist will be swiftly put to death.”
  “What choice do we have?” Mitsukane’s men asked each other, and there was much dissent about what should be done. Yet there was no denying that Mitsukane was dead. Kuranosuke – on whom they had depended for everything – was also slain, and Minbu had turned to the other side. With no one to lead them in battle against the Mogami force or help them defend their castle, the soldiers found themselves left with no choice but to hasten to Minbu’s residence to offer themselves in surrender.
  The matter thus successfully concluded, Sagami no Kami returned to Yamagata Castle to give Lord Yoshiaki a detailed account of all that had passed. Greatly pleased, his lordship summoned Owari no Kami. “In this most recent affair, you have truly outdone yourself,” his lordship said, rewarding Owari no Kami with an increase in his landholdings.
  Soon afterwards, Minbu also arrived in Yamagata to express his gratitude to Lord Yoshiaki for the opportunity that had been given him, and he was granted his promised reward of Mitsukane’s estate of 18,000 koku. His lordship then commanded him to, “Return to Kaminoyama without delay, and find Kuranosuke’s children and kill them.”
  Left with no other recourse, Kuranosuke’s wife went into hiding, with a foster sister to attend to her needs, in a small hamlet of the region, where she placed Kuranosuke’s two-year-old son on her knee and mourned day and night for the fallen father of her child. However, when Minbu returned to Kaminoyama, proclaiming the concealment of Kuranosuke’s son a punishable offense and offering a rich reward to anyone with information as to his whereabouts, Kuranosuke’s wife was forced to flee the region entirely, and she sought refuge at the Anyōji Temple in Narisawa. The head priest there was a warm-hearted man who gallantly agreed to help her in her trouble, and he quietly took the child over the mountains and into Sendai, placing the child in the keeping of some kinsfolk there.
  The years passed, and the child grew into a man determined to seek vengeance for his father’s death. He stealthily entered Yamagata in an attempt to take Minbu’s life, but when he was foiled by Minbu’s vigilance, he sought to appease his disappointment by slaying a large number of those who had colluded with Minbu in the campaign against his father Kuranosuke. He acquitted himself most exceptionally in this exploit, and was subsequently summoned to the service of Lord Date Masamune, taking part in the Siege of Osaka where he performed several valorous feats befitting an officer of rank. However, he later became embroiled in a legal dispute with some farmers, and dismissing the arbitration of the provincial court as unjust, he left the region of Sendai. He went forth to the Kishū domain, where he took the name Satomi Kanshirō and assumed the position of his new master’s flag commissioner. At the time of this writing, he should be in his seventy-fifth or seventy-sixth year.


2012/12/21 16:55 (C) 最上義光歴史館