Arc 2 – Tenth Year of Eiroku Era, Tenka Fubu

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Mid March, 1567

Nobunaga’s way of war had changed.
Everyone who had been a part of the Mino campaign up until now thought so.

Most battles until this point had been frontal assaults using their momentum.
That in itself was a universal tactic which was the trend for this era.

Winning a war based on schemes alone was rare, with full frontal battles being the inevitable conclusion.

The art laid in discerning the right time for that confrontation.
Picking the wrong time and place would only leave you with casualties and nothing to show for it.

“Pull the troops back to that place.”

“U-Understood!”

Nobunaga by no means had given out many orders.

If the castle’s lord is hot blooded, he would have his soldiers mount an assault before pulling them back as though they were repelled.

This would leave his opponent with two options.
The first was to simply rejoice in their victory and let it end at that.

The other one would be to venture out in an attempt to deal further damage to the retreating enemy.

That latter choice would yield Nobunaga a large benefit.
After all, the enemy soldiers would leave their sturdy castle, stripping their best defense away by themselves.

“Shoot!”

“Yes!!”

The warriors who had let themselves be baited were led to the perfect terrain to surround them.

Nobunaga’s archers could now rain down arrows safely from an elevated vantage point while the enemies were forced into a dead end with only one avenue of retreat.

Naturally, this caused panic among both the foot soldiers and the commanders.
However, Nobunaga had hidden soldiers behind them, cutting off their escape.
Unable to retreat and blocked by their fellow comrades trying to retreat, they were rooted in place.

With that, the battle became one-sided.
It didn’t even need to be arrows.
Enemy soldiers would fall easily just by throwing down rocks or logs.

“M-My lord!! The flood of foot soldiers behind us are cutting off our retreat! And in the front, the Oda army is waiting for us! W-we are completely surrounded!

“Grr! So that is why his soldiers retreated! … Gather those able to move, we will attempt to break through the Oda lines!”

However, this plan would never be put into action.

As if they had waited for him to finish speaking those words, a myriad of arrows pierced the enemy commander.

Dozens of arrows penetrated his neck, chest, arms and legs.
He died, unable to utter even a last cry of anguish.

———————————-

Of course, things didn’t always go this well.

At first, the battles didn’t end in his favor and casualties piled up.
And while many thought the lack of swift results would cause Nobunaga to fly into a rage, he only sported a daring smile and said.

“Well done.”

His brazen attitude was a reflection of his calmness of mind.

And although it was thought to be just a bluff, he didn’t put too much value on the outcome of small skirmishes, boldly moved his troops, and eventually ended up victorious.

It wasn’t however that he was free of anger or impatience.
Quite the opposite actually, as the flames of rage were ablaze inside of him.
Nobunaga, who had a fierce temper by nature simply did everything he could to stay composed.

Laugh more daringly the worse your situation is.

Those were the words of Nobunaga.
And at face value, it might only sound like a bluff.

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However, by standing firm in the face of adversity, he tried to control the “anxiety” of his enemies and allies.

“Anxiety” is a troublesome emotion.
No matter how much evidence there is against it, it never vanishes completely, and the smallest seed of anxiety can bloom into a brilliant flower.

Therefore, Nobunaga tried to remove “anxiety” from his own army as best as he could while sowing the seeds of anxiety among his enemies.

Regardless of the enemy they were faced with, an army’s morale would fall if their commander was shaken by anxiety.

Similarly, if Nobunaga were to vent his irritation on his subordinates, it would only burden them with unnecessary “anxiety”.

Therefore, Nobunaga aimed to be a “thick-skinned warrior unfazed by his surroundings”, striving to always keep a self-confident attitude as though everything was well within his plans, regardless of the gravity of good or bad news.

And it bore more fruit than expected, greatly raising the morale of both his warriors and his soldiers alike.

Towards his enemies however, he put schemes in motion to heap more and more “anxiety” onto their shoulders.
He had the armor stripped of defeated castle defenders, dressing his spies in them to make them appear as though they had barely escaped.

At first, he only wanted to have them give “anxiety” inducing reports, but then reconsidered it as being too little.
So he thought deeply about it, trying to find a move to corner his enemies even more.

What he came up with was to “don’t report falsehoods, but neither report the truth”.
In short, to produce misunderstandings by intentionally skipping some details in the story.

Humans tend to interpret words and happenings in a way which is favorable to them.
Even if a report is filled with lies, if it is more palatable to the receiver, he will take it to be the truth.

This way, the spies can manipulate the enemy’s thought process without a single lie.
And since they only missed to report some details and didn’t lie, there would be no case made against them as spies.

Let’s imagine such a report would be “Nobunaga is marching towards the next castle”.

At a first glance, it looks like a perfectly normal report.
However, a certain important detail was left out on purpose.

Nobunaga is marching, this is a fact.
Yet nothing is said of the generals or size of the army accompanying him.

Naturally, no warrior would unconditionally trust in the report of a single foot soldier.
The spy might get asked about the composition and size of the army, but can simply deny knowledge of the details.
To confirm the report and gather more information, the enemy will send out a scouting unit.
This however will limit how quickly he is able to make a decision.
Furthermore, he might send out warriors to find supporting evidence that “Nobunaga is already upon us” who then happen to see that “Nobunaga’s army is indeed moving”, through which his decisions can be manipulated.

They will think that the perfect chance to strike has come, and deploy their forces to ambush Nobunaga’s from behind.

However, the moving army was a decoy consisting only of speedy cavalry, allowing Nobunaga’s main forces to attack the lured defenders from behind.
And once the enemy forces engaged his troops, the cavalry led by Nobunaga would turn around for a pincer attack.

If, after realizing the fatal mistake that had been made, the enemy wants to rebuke the messenger for this error, that messenger will have long vanished, leaving them to curse their fate.

The issue with this strategy was that it required the spy to have both courage and acting abilities, as well as quick wits in case it didn’t work out.
The requirements of such polished skills made him put searching for suitable personnel as a point for the near future.

—————————————–

Although it was still in a trial phase, Nobunaga had started incorporating a new formation.
A dense formation, known as “Phalanx”.

Yet it was far from the likes performed by the elites of the Mediterranean or Macedonia.

They number only around thirty to forty.

He made five men stand in the front, carrying large, misshapen shields made of wood which covered the whole body.
The was followed by twenty soldiers using a long spear developed by Nobunaga.
At the very end, a few soldiers carrying crossbows would be stationed.

When trying out this formation for the first time, the soldiers hesitated and only awkwardly formed it.

Yet in the face of death on the battlefield, their shared fate made them develop a sense of unity that allowed them to attack as one.

The front row would deal with incoming arrows, while the spearmen would deal with oncoming enemies and the crossbowmen with the archers.

Aside from medium sized or large mountain castles, as long as the defences were things like fences, moats, or earthen walls that used the terrain, the strategy of having the soldiers of a Phalanx advancing as one to open a path had a measure of success.

“Looks like we will need to increase the coordination of the dense formation in the future, Yoshinari.”

“Yes.
I received a report stating that they have penetrated the final defense line and are now besieging the castle.”

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“Well done.
Have the soldiers of the dense formation retreat.
The soldiers as well.
The foot soldiers should be enough for the rest.”

And as he had said, the castle was just one step away from falling.

Already, black smoke was rising in several plumes.
Nobunaga did not know whether those fires were ignited by his foot soldiers or by the desperate defenders.

Having no interest in it, Nobunaga turned away from Yoshinari after glancing at the smoke, and started walking.

“Let’s take down the other castles as well.”

“Yes, my Lord!”

Mori Yoshinari respectfully bowed his head as he replied.

He was afraid.
Of Nobunaga taking in the knowledge from Namban and Ming, and winning battles when putting it to use.

(…The lord has mastered it and implements it in battle.
I was surprised by Shizuko-dono’s knowledge, but it looks like the lord’s natural talent is greater still.)

The strategy books, the reports from Aya and Kimyoumaru, and all the other tidbits from Shizuko.

Mori Yoshinari unconsciously feared Nobunaga for selecting the important facts from this swathe of information, and rationally realizing the underlying concepts.

(I do not mind being disparaged as a novice.
But I am frightened by the lord.
Just how much bigger will he be able to become?)

Mori Yoshinari stared at Nobunaga’s back.

While it should only look like a normal, human back, to Mori Yoshinari it appeared frighteningly large.

————————————

While Shizuko was far away from the battlefield in a quiet farming area, she thought that it was about time to use her first secret weapon.

The “garden fork with a handle” for plowing rice fields.

The traditional way to plow rice fields to use a hoe or garden fork.
Due to bending over a lot in the process, this work is likely to cause back injuries.

To increase productivity and ease the burden on the farmers’ backs, Shizuko thought of introducing the garden fork with a handle which allowed one to work in an upright position.

And since it used the lever principle to plow the earth, it didn’t need much effort either.

It was developed in the Taisho Era, and from the early Showa Era up until the 40s of the Showa Era (1965-1975), to plow a rice field was to use a garden fork with a handle.

While Shizuko expectedly couldn’t provide every farmer with one, she had managed to produce enough to distribute 30 to each village.

“It’s nice that I can leave the farm work to other people… but the issue is the family registers.
It’s really a huge amount of work to make all of them from scratch.”

The family registers were still in the process of being organized.
After all, to finish them, addresses would need to be created first.

But addresses weren’t the only problem.
Another issue was that husband and wife often didn’t have a clear grasp of their family structure.

In the Sengoku Era it was a common occurrence that the number of your children had increased after coming back from war.

But the men usually didn’t think too much about it, with most even being happy over being able to call another child their own.

Of course this wasn’t always the case, and at times suspicions about the wife’s faithfulness were raised.

But most people didn’t mind the growth of their families.

Such a vague concept of family was an inconvenience for an important military base.
It would leave cracks for foreign spies to slip in.

It would be a great problem if a wife cheated with a spy and gave away secrets while the husband was away on the frontlines.

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And even Shizuko couldn’t allow that to happen.
Just creating the family registers would hold no meaning as a defense against spies.
They needed to be properly maintained as well.

Until Shizuko’s agricultural techniques had “become second nature” to Nobunaga’s retainers, they needed to be kept from leaking to the outside as much as possible.

At some point, knowledge of Shizuko’s techniques will spread to other countries, and they will want to incorporate them to increase their own production.

If, at that time, Shizuko is the only one holding the key to this knowledge, things could get troublesome.

If Shizuko became known to the other countries as the core of the Oda clan’s agricultural success, they would certainly try to assassinate her.

Obviously, she wanted to avoid being targeted and killed off one-sidedly by some random faction.

To avoid that, she needed to change the situation from “only Shizuko knows” to “an unspecified amount of farmers know”.

At that point, assassinating Shizuko herself wouldn’t have much of an impact.
As such, to protect herself, she had to transfer her skills to other people as soon as possibly.

However, while she did that to improve her chance to live, what she did in truth was closer to the nation-enrichment policy of “raising the standard.”

Agricultural technology will spread like a fan from Shizuko’s village, and eventually become known to all farmers on the territory of Oda.

When that happens, the territory of Oda will become a country boasting a high yield that was unimaginable in the Sengoku era.

And the most fearsome thing from this was, even if they were able to crush the source, it would be too late.

In the situation where the knowledge is already widespread, attacking Shizuko’s village won’t halt the whole territory’s production.

To remove knowledge that has taken root in the people’s minds, you would need to massacre them all and burn any and all records.

But to do that, they would first need to destroy the Oda Clan, leading to a paradox where the downfall of the Oda Clan would become necessary to weaken their forces.

“Well, no use lamenting over it.
Rather than that, what else could we use for communication than messengers on horseback?”

After all, having them run back and forth several times a day is just too costly.

Shizuko wondered if there was an easier way to exchange messages and communicate.

“Heeey, Shizuko, I came to play—….uahh! That surprised me…”

As she was sitting there with her arms folded in thought, Kimyoumaru’s voice rang out from the front door.

Because his voice changed to a scream halfway through, Shizuko hurried to the front door.

“What’s up-?”

Peeking into the entry hall while calling out to him, she saw Kaiser and König circling around Kimyoumaru.

However, when the wolves noticed her, they left the stunned Kimyomaru behind in favor of storming to Shizuko with wagging tails.

The two of them went straight up to Shizuko before sitting down, while still wagging their tails as though they were sweeping the floor.

It was the greatest expression of respect and love for the leader of their pack.
If one were to put it into words, they would have said: “Please order us however you like.”

Seeing this, Shizuko mused that since she had been quite busy these days, she hadn’t really been able to take care of Wittmann and his family as much.

Their thoughts were probably along the lines of  “We’re lonely, play with us, play with us!”.
This would stress them out in the long run, which would be bad for their physical and mental health.

“Oookay, I can do this tomorrow just as well, I’m done with work today.
Kaiser, go fetch me that.”

Shizuko made a certain gesture before Kaiser.
Having understood it, Kaiser stood up to fetch what his master wanted.

After seeing him off, Shizuko blew into her well used dog whistle.
The meaning was: “Everyone, assemble.”.
As though they had waited for it, Wittmann’s entire family immediately came running.

All of them had their tongues lolling out and were appealing to Shizuko to get petted.
Her work had kept her busy these past few days and she couldn’t play with them, so as if to compensate for that, she exaggeratedly patted their bodies.

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When all of them were present, Kaiser returned with the item she had requested in his mouth.

It was a round plate, in short, a frisbee.

Shizuko took it from him, before turning to Kimyoumaru.

“I’ll go play with Kaiser and the others, do you want to join me, Kimyoumaru?”

And although it scared him, his curiosity won out and he gave a small nod.

———————————————————-

Nobunaga was taking a short break at his main encampment.

The castle he was currently besieging was already about to fall.
And a messenger from the next castle he was planning to conquer had come, informing Nobunaga of the castle lord’s intent to switch sides to him.

Nobunaga’s forces had barely taken any casualties, so it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that things were going well.

However, until he takes Saitou Dousan’s stronghold, Inabayama castle, Nobunaga refused to relax.

To keep him from doing that, he was fiddling around with his secret weapon #1, the crossbow.

“Yoshinari, what do you think of the Kurosubou?

Nobunaga asked Mori Yoshinari who was standing to his side.
After thinking about it for a moment, Yoshinari answered.

“It is very powerful.
But the fact that you need a tool to and are defenseless while reloading is an issue.”

“Hmm, the time it takes to draw the string is a problem after all.”

From the beginning, Shizuko had warned him that “it takes a long time to draw back the string.”.

To find out how much this really was and mattered, Nobunaga had experimented by deploying them on the battlefield.

And the results were just as Shizuko had said.
Nobunaga compared the musket, bow and crossbow in the confines of his mind.

The japanese longbow had the longest range, followed by the crossbow, and then the musket with the shortest range.

In terms of rate of fire the same order of longbow, crossbow, and musket held true.

When looking at production costs, the crossbow won hands down, followed by the longbow and the musket.

Penetration power was led by the musket, then the longbow, and finally the crossbow.

The musket had the highest maintenance costs by far due to needing black powder.
The longbow came next with the crossbow being the cheapest to maintain.

“…Yoshinari, I just thought of something.
Do you think… it would be possible to shoot something besides arrows with this kurosubou?”

The crossbow had a wooden body on which an arrow would be placed before firing it.

Due to the way the bowstring receiver was placed, it necessarily had a flat section.
Nobunaga was thinking about putting something different from an arrow on top of there.

“Yes, it does look like one could place something else there… but the kinds of ammunition for which this works seem to be fairly limited.”

“I don’t mind.
As long as it’s something to rattle him (Saito Tatsuoki) it’s fine.
And this tool to draw back the string, do you think we could replace it with something else?”

While saying this, Nobunaga used the tool to draw back the crossbow.
You only needed to put in strength when drawing it back once, but the time it took was a harsh price to pay.

If the battle turned messy, this could cost people their lives.
However, making the string easier to pull would also take away from its power.
Therefore Nobunaga was thinking about a way to reduce the time needed to draw back the string while not sacrificing penetration power for it.

(There has to be some way.
Rather than assembling 10 masterful archers it would be much easier to gather 100 people who have overcome the shortcomings of the kurosubou.)

Nobunaga thought while looking at the crossbow, but as expected, no easy answer came to him

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