Over the following month, Mura and his men became close confidants of the man they met in Kyoto. His name was Mitsaki, and he was a minor general in Nobuoda’s forces. They met in their agreed place at the South Gate regularly, but tried to keep them irregularly timed so as to not attract attention.
Mitsaki was into his third serve of rice alcohol, and his tongue was loose. He told the men from Himeji of how he had personally negotiated a peace deal with a regional landowner that Nobuoda wished to conquer. Not long after the deal was finalised, Nobuoda met with the lord and killed his immediate family before the lord himself. If that did not disgrace Mitsaki enough, his leader then imprisoned and killed Mitsaki’s mother to show him who had the true power.
“Ever since I found out of my mother’s death, I have sworn that I would find a way to return the favour to Nobuoda.” He took another long drink of sake. “I have found people who are equally as disdainful of Nobuoda, and wish him displaced. The group has to be small, as the Daimyo has eyes and ears everywhere.”
Mura nodded at Mitsaki’s words. “We agree that Nobuoda needs to be removed, by any means necessary.”
“You do? Any warrior I can have assist me is beneficial. Most warriors are in alliance with him, so reaching him is a losing bet.”
Mura looked to his men. “We are all strong fighters, and can take on any force threatening to stand in our way.” They all nodded in agreement.
Mitsaki looked at them. “I must apologise for the haste, but if Nobuoda is to be reached, it must be tonight. His forces are reaching the city tomorrow, and once they are here, there is no chance we can reach him.”
Mura grimaced, then looked around the table. “But we need a plan to avoid anyone seeing us, and to do so in an afternoon is almost impossible.”
The man gave a small smile. “I am one of his generals, though a minor one. I can get us into the inner sanctum of the Honno-ji easily, but fighting his personal forces will be the hard part.”
Mura looked to his team. “Do you think we can do this, men?” They all nodded, though he could see some worry in their eyes at the hasty assault. He looked back to Mitsaki. “We will help you.”
“I cannot thank you enough. I have drunk too much for now, so I need time to clear my head. We meet in the residential area just outside the Honno-ji two hours past sundown, and we will take our chance.”
The men left their meeting point, and spent a quiet and reserved afternoon clearing their heads for the planned events of the evening.
As agreed, Mura and his men met Mitsaki in a small courtyard amongst the houses across from the temple. Mitsaki gave them a quick rundown of the plan; he was bringing a renowned group of warriors from Chengoku Region in the west, sent from one of Nobuoda’s allies. This should get them to the inner sanctum easily, as the priests knew next to nothing of the Daimyo’s affairs, except for how he was going to help the temple become a greater power in the city.
Mitsaki led the men through the entrance of Honno-ji. The priests paid little notice, while every so often a warrior would pass and give them a sideways glance. Some warriors asked of them and their purpose, and Mitsaki’s story seemed to placate their queries. Once they entered the temple, and began to head towards the Daimyo’s quarters, the amount of people thinned out significantly.
The leader of the assault looked to Mura and his men. “There should not be more than ten warriors guarding Nobuoda, so the five of us should be able to maintain an advantage if we keep the element of surprise in our favour.”
The narrowing halls worked to their disadvantage, as the ten guards of the Daimyo patrolled in pairs. The five intruders could not make use of their numbers advantage, and the guards were strong fighters. They managed to stop the Daimyo’s protectors calling out for assistance, at the cost of the lives of Mura’s men.
By the time they reached the Daimyo, only Mitsaki and Mura remained standing. They entered the leader’s quarters, where the elderly man lay at rest on his bed. He opened his eyes at the sound of the pair entering, and stood up in alarm. Before he could reach his sword, Mitsaki and Mura held theirs at his throat.
Mitsaki looked at Nobuoda in disdain. “This is to avenge my mother, and the dishonour you caused me. But I shall give you a choice; die by my hand, or your own.” He pulled a short blade from his robe, and held it out to the Daimyo.
The old man looked at him, giving a grim smile. “The conquest will not stop with me. Hidetoyo and Yasugawa will continue my work, after they hunt you down and avenge me.” With those words, the old man plunged the sword into his stomach, twisting it as he slowly fell to the ground.
Mura looked to Mitsaki. “And that is that. We had better leave before anyone notices the bodies.”
Mitsaki turned to him, and quickly raised his sword to Mura’s throat. “I should, indeed. But you need to stay. I wouldn’t want anyone to follow me, thinking I had a hand in this. If Nobuoda’s allies think I killed him, they would never accept me as the new Daimyo.”
Mura’s eyes widened in shock. “But we helped you… So we were only puppets?’
“Yes, you and your men were.” Mitsaki landed a left handed punch to Mura’s jaw, making him stumble back. Dazed, Mura raised his sword to prepare an offence, but a flash from Mitsaki’s sword removed Mura’s sword hand from his arm. While he stared in shock at his hand on the floor, Mitsaki hit him in the temple with his sword hilt, knocking him unconscious.
Mitsaki casually knocked a lantern to the floor, then exited as the fire began to take hold.
– X –