Arc 2 – Tenth Year of Eiroku Era, Tenka Fubu

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Early April, 1567

Everyone tensed up, but that instant ended as quickly as it began.
The intruder flinged his Wazikashi far and away from himself, completely disarmed.

Seeing his will to surrender, the surrounding soldiers reflexively relaxed.
Upon second thought, however, they felt it their duty to keep a guard up as they then cautiously closed in on the intruder.

Said intruder didn’t show any sign of resistance, and he obediently let his hands be tied behind his back.
The spear and sword that leant against the fence were collected and brought before Niwa.

“Ah, would you mind if I took a look at that spear?”

Shizuko asked the soldier carrying the spear, irresistibly intrigued by it.

The soldier threw an asking glance towards Niwa who just nodded for him to do it.
The soldier gripped the middle part of the spear, flipped it around, and presented its shaft to Shizuko.

After receiving the spear, Shizuko carefully studied its blade.
That was when realization struck.
Her sense of deja vu with regards to having seen this spear was not just imagination.

“Inscribed on the blade are Sanskrit letters and the three-pronged vajra sword.
This was made by Fujiwara Masazane of the Mikawa Manjushri Sect.
If I recall correctly, it’s name is Tonbokiri…”

Right at that moment, the intruder, who had thus far been docile and quiet, whipped his head towards Shizuko.

“H-How do you know that name!?”

Seeing his captive’s eyes open wide with surprise, Niwa asked Shizuko a question while keeping his gaze fixed on the man.

“Shizuko-dono.
Do you perhaps know the identity of this person?”

“Yes.
The wielder of Tonbokiri… is most likely a citizen of Mikawa and retainer to the Tokugawa clan, Honda Heihachirou-dono.”

Shizuko answered Niwa, in spite of her slight lack of confidence in this regard..

 

Mikawa province, the province governed by the one who would later become the first Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Then, in the 5th year of the Eiroku Era, he and Nobunaga will have formed the Kiyosu alliance.
Once this alliance was in effect, even a thief couldn’t be sentenced as long as he was a retainer under the Tokugawa.

“Punish me as you wish.
But, please, I beg of you– please let me bear the full brunt of the blame so it doesn’t reach my lord.”

Tadakatsu(Heihachiro) knew that he had entered a secret place within Oda’s territory without any formal procedures, but the person himself didn’t look panicked, let alone flustered.
He merely didn’t want to escalate the matter into liability issues to his liege, the Tokugawas.
For that reason, he would gladly offer his head to avert that.

Upon hearing this, it comes to Shizuko, that he really was Honda Tadakatsu, the man who was always loyal to Tokugawa until death, no, even after death.

Even if he was from an allied force, what he did was too big to be pardoned.
On top of intruding on their territory, he also witnessed the Shiitake cultivation farm which was top secret information.

While Tadakatsu didn’t really know about it, he could guess that he had made an irreparable blunder from the atmosphere of the place.
He was so frightened that he tried to make his presence smaller.

“(What should we do…)”

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Shizuko whispered to Niwa who was walking next to her.
As she had no intention to make a big affair out of this situation in the first place, Shizuko wondered whether this could be solved peacefully.

“(What should we do indeed… we will have to ask the lord in any case.)”

Niwa too did not want this to escalate into an incident between their countries.

In the end, the fate of Honda Tadakatsu would depend on Nobunaga’s decision.
To that end, Niwa sent a messenger to Nobunaga.
Until an answer came back, Tadakatsu would be confined to a room in the garrison.

“I understand.”

Those were the only words Tadakatsu uttered upon hearing about their intention to keep him confined until further notice.
Niwa was unsure whether this was a sign of valor or some sort of defiance, but was glad that the man made things easy by not resisting.
And then, as they were about to put Tadakatsu into a cell, an unfathomable sound like the thunderous roar of a beast shook them.

The culprit whose stomach had growled only looked downward and shook slightly.
When looking closer at him, his face had turned beet red all the way to his ears.
Faced with this image, Shizuko and Niwa faced each other with a large smile on their faces.
After letting out such a large stomach rumble, the tension of the situation had completely vanished.

“…Ahh, right, Niwa-sama! I thought up a new Onigiri recipe.
Would you be willing to give me your opinion on them?”

“Oh, I see.
If that is the case, I will gladly try some.”

Having worked out a plan to spare Tadakatsu the embarrassment, Shizuko spoke as if she had come upon the idea just now.
Although his reply was somewhat awkward, Niwa played along with Shizuko’s ploy.
Both of them smiled stiffly at the other before they faced towards Tadakatsu.

“H-Honda-sama, would you like some as well?”

“Indeed.
Dinner is still quite far away, so having something small to bridge the time until then sounds good.

“Yes… I would be in your debt.
To speak honestly, as I was wandering the mountains, I had used up all my provisions and only water has passed this throat for the past day.
I am truly grateful for your hospitality.”

Tadakatsu agreed to their proposition after straightening his appearance.
Although it was quite high-handed, the trio’s intentions overlapped, and they held an Onigiri tasting right there.

(Hmm… it was quite forced, but it somehow worked out.)

With relief spreading through her mind, Shizuko pulled out some Onigiri from her shoulder bag.
Conveniently, she had exactly three.
She handed one of the big Onigiri wrapped in a bamboo leaf to both Niwa and Tadakatsu.

“Usually I would bring out chopsticks, but as it is a food meant to be eaten with your hand, please do so this time.”

“Something like military rations? Let me see…”

With the three of them sitting down around the Irori, Niwa untied the bamboo leaf.
Inside was a ball made from brown rice mixed with grains, sweet potatoes and smoked daikon pickles.

“Shizuko-dono, what is this?”

Niwa asked while pointing at the smoked daikon pickles, which looked alike but slightly different from normal pickled vegetables.

Expectedly, he hesitated to put something unknown into his mouth.
Tadakatsu however was different.

“… delicious.
I thought I had long since become tired of the taste of rice balls, but these yellow pieces give it just the right amount of sweetness to make every bite enjoyable.
This pickle-like thing is wonderful as well.
It carries along a nostalgic note reminding me of my home.
Its taste fills even my heart.”

He took the rice ball into his hand and alternately took a bit of it, followed by a piece of smoked daikon pickles.

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Even Niwa couldn’t hide his expression at the lack of suspicion with which he ate the food being offered to him.
Noticing the glance being thrown at him, Tadaktasu swallowed down the content of his mouth before speaking.

“Is there something stuck to my face?”

“No, I just wondered if you were not suspecting the food to be poisoned.”

“You do not seem like the underhanded kind of people to poison others, and if you had wanted to kill me, you already had many opportunities to do so.”

“I, I see…”

With a manly smile on his face, Tadakatsu continued eating his rice.

Faced with that kind of display, all ill will in Niwa had melted away, and he followed Tadakatsu in consuming his rice and smoked daikon pickles.

 

After that, rather than being thrown into jail, Tadakatsu was put inside a vacant room with a guard stationed outside, and was moved to another place the next day.

He was surrounded by 30-ish soldiers plus Niwa as escort-cum-guard.
However, there isn’t any distraught on his face, as he rode the horse while holding a warped parcel of smoked daikon pickles.

As to why Tadakatsu was holding such a parcel, after he was captivated by the taste of smoked daikon pickles, he asked for some portion to Shizuko before he departed.
Because it wasn’t a secret, and also because it was smoked so it won’t spoil easily, Shizuko agreed in a heartbeat, which brings us to the present.

When she gave him a heaping amount, bundled in cloth, he held both of her hands and expressed his gratitude.
In addition, holding both hands for Tadakatsu had the meaning of him trusting them “I trust you”. 1

However, on top of being difficult to understand, Tadakatsu’s energetic behavior usually made it impossible for the other party to understand this meaning.

“…Sakura, huh.”

Suddenly, petals of sakura drifted across his eyes.
As he saw the sakura tree which had scattered most of its petals, suddenly words were strung together in his heart.
He inadvertently opened his mouth.

 

“The spring wind

Might scatter

Sakura petals

But brilliantly blossoming

The flower of my heart.”

 

“Hah?”

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“Ah, no, it’s nothing.”

Noticing Niwa’s suspicious face beside him, Tadakatsu cleared his throat while blushing a little.
Why such words would escape his mouth, even he himself was not sure.

“We will arrive in about another hour.”

“Understood.”

Unperturbed, Niwa changes the topic.
Taking advantage of this, Tadakatsu straightened his face.
But soon, he sighed a little.

“We will wait there for a verdict from the lord.
Though I won’t be sure what kind of judgement you will get…

“(… if possible, I hope that the issue of me being in that place won’t be pursued any further) I understand.
If possible, I would ask for no blame to be placed at my lord’s feet..”

Nevertheless, he continued murmuring under his breath.

(Stumbling onto that place after my horse ran away fills me with nothing but shame.)

 

In early April, after entrusted the field’s management to Daichi and the others, Shizuko came to the field where soybeans were planted last year.

With an auger, she took out a piece of soil from where the soybeans and corn were planted.
Then she arranged it by the depth of each layer.

“…Oh dang.
I forgot about this problem.”

At a glance, there was not much difference in the soil in front of her.
However, after closer inspection, one particular part of the soil was extremely dry.
That soil was collected from a depth of about 1.5 meters below the surface.

Although the surface soil has a perfect amount of moisture, at a certain depth it was completely dried up.
From an outsider’s perspective this might look like a strange phenomenon, but Shizuko knew the cause of it.

“I planted corn along with the soybean as companion plants, but I forgot it absorbed a lot of water…”

The cause was the corn that was planted alongside the soybeans.
Since three-fourths of corn’s weight is water, compared to the majority of grain crops it needs more water.

For the same area, corn needs three times as much water compared to wheat.
Inevitably, the amount of soil moisture it absorbs will be much more than other crops.

While irrigation of the surface would allow to keep the soil moisture plentiful there, corn roots can grow to a length of up to 230 cm.
This was nearly twice as long as soybeans and wheat, and nearly three times longer than potatoes and rice.

There were also planting time issues.
The biggest growth period of corn coincides with the hot season when the water in the field evaporates rapidly.

Therefore, the majority of the annual rainfall, which mostly happens in the rainy season and during evening showers in summer, will be absorbed before it reaches the groundwater layer.

This results in a downward spiral where the groundwater will slowly diminish.

“Hmm…It’ll also be hard work to dig up the field.”

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The lack of soil moisture was the result of miscalculating the amount of irrigation water in combination with little rainfall.
But fortunately, the damage was minor due to the small size of the fields.
But, if the corn spreads as the soybean production expands, eventually river water won’t be enough and the use of groundwater will become necessary.

When this happens, the ground will start to sink because of the sudden drop of groundwater level.
Eventually, the groundwater will be depleted, the lack of soil moisture will worsen and the soil will dry out, and then go from drought to desertification.

Nowadays, The United States of America is famous for its corn, but that country has continued to use irrigation to water their farms for 200 years.
The source was, obviously, groundwater.

There are several underground reservoirs in North america, and some of them hold about 4 trillion tons of water (about 150 times that of lake Biwa).
And although that might be a colossal amount of water, it is obvious what happens if it is drained endlessly to water the farmland.

As a result, the reservoir now has dried up.
In the Midwestern of the United States, an underground reservoir about the size of Japan is about to disappear.
And some paper stated that at least 5000 years would be needed to restore it to its former state.

To avoid the lack of soil moisture and heavy use of groundwater supply by corn, a land rest was all that was needed, but the soybeans production will also grind to a halt.

If soybean production reached Shizuko’s prediction, Oda will definitely demand that the output is to be maintained.
However, if it continues, it will destroy the bountiful land of Owari.
In the worst case, Owari would become a barren land within a few decades.

“For pest control… there are ways, but this time seems like the rice field will be neglected.”

Since soybeans output wasn’t affected much by chemical fertilizer, their output solely depends on soil fertility and the action of rhizobia that coexist in their roots.
Therefore, the technical problem when cultivating soybean organically is the frequent occurrence of insect pests or the overgrowth of weeds.

Especially when they are infested by pests, the production will drop a lot.
The corn was planted to alleviate this problem, but then the corn caused the problem of groundwater depletion.

The main pests of soybeans are Pentatomoidea (stink bugs) and Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).
Both mainly live in the overgrown weeds, such as at the ridges between rice fields.
And from early summer to early autumn, it mainly damages the ripening soybean pods and grains.

In other words, in order to prevent pests, it was necessary to mow or burn all the weeds around the field before planting soybeans.
It is also possible to reduce the number of overwinter insects.
Therefore, they need to be mowed down to the roots.

“…Hmm, alright.
Let’s change the method for this year.”

The other problem, weeds, is comparatively easier.
For soybeans, inter tilling and ridging mainly is effective enough to control the weeds.
Just by taking thorough measures to control the germination of weeds as well as inter tilling and ridging the field before planting the soybeans, the results will already vastly improve.

She decided to not rely on soshopicated technology to countermeasure groundwater depletion due to corns, but to introduce more basic, yet reliable technology.

The details were really simple.
A gutter made of bamboo was installed in the corn field.
Of course, it was not an ordinary gutter; it has been pierced by small holes here and there.

When water is poured to it, the water will leak slowly from the small holes, keeping the soil lightly moistened.
By doing this, the amount of water used can be reduced by 70%, moreover the nutrition otherwise used to form long roots is used for growth instead.

However, the most important thing is still weed control.
There was a big difference in harvest between doing it or not.

“In other words… burn them to the ground!”

While saying such ambiguous words, Shizuko vigorously turned around…

“…”

…Not knowing that Aya was just a hair’s breadth behind her.

 

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