Honnō-ji

Oda Nobunaga's conquest of Japan is swiftly underway. Yet, as the warlord rests at Honnō-ji temple, Akechi Mitsuhide isn't sure whether the so-called Demon King can truly bring peace to the land...

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1. Honnō-ji

Ever since the first niggling thought made its way into his mind, every scene, every part of reality he found himself connecting to his idea. Tonight, Akechi Mitsuhide found himself believing the summer night’s chilling breeze suited perfectly the act of betrayal.

The excuse of the procession at Kyoto had fulfilled his plan. No one suspected he would think of betraying his lord – the idea was inexcusable, unbelievable. But now was his chance – when Oda Nobunaga rested at the temple of Honnō-ji, with few soldiers to protect him against Mitsuhide’s prepared army. Who knew when the chance would come again? When the country was doomed to fall under the supposed Demon King’s rule?

Yet, despite everything, the thought of turning traitor and killing Nobunaga sickened him.

There was always an option. He could abandon the march towards Honnō-ji, head west to aid Hashiba Hideyoshi in defeating the Mōri and let Nobunaga’s conquest of Japan continue. Tell his ally Chōsokabe Motochika he couldn’t go through their plan to take out Nobunaga. Let the times proceed as Nobunaga ordained.

But what if Nobunaga brought more chaos to Japan? What if the Demon King destroyed Japan when he became the sole ruler? If Mitsuhide followed orders, let Nobunaga live and abandoned the idea of rebellion, no one would be able to stop the land’s conqueror. No one.

Either he followed orders and let Japan’s unification carry through to see what happened when Nobunaga came to power, or he defeated the conqueror, took the role himself and the brand of ‘traitor’.

The burden of possibly changing a country’s fate was almost as if someone had taken the stone Azuchi castle and strapped it on his shoulders. One choice that could change everything.

Why did he have to be the one to choose whether he thought Nobunaga should live or die? Why had this decision been forced onto him?

Under the rule of a tyrant, Japan would fall. That much was certain – after a century of civil war, more chaos could bring an end to the country. But was Nobunaga really a tyrant? Ruthless, yes, befitting of his title as the Demon King, but someone who would merely bring more problems to a war-burdened land?

Time was running out. Dawn was nigh. He could glimpse the distant Honnō-ji temple, the one where his lord awaited. Should he put Japan’s future – and his own – into the hands of someone he could not be certain of, or take the burden himself and act to his own will?

His thoughts fell on Nobunaga’s prior actions. The Demon King was, indeed, merciless – from the battle at Nagashino seven years before, to the betrayal of a peace treaty between himself and the Hatano clan, to the exile of two officers who had long been in service to him for various reasons. Willing to get what he wanted through whatever means.

Such methods were, indeed, efficient, but Mitsuhide always considered some of Nobuanga’s actions amoral – the actions of a ruthless and vicious, yet cunning, warlord.

Truly fitting of the Demon King.

And there, his mind clicked.

A Demon King could do nothing to save Japan – only bring it further to ruin. A Demon King was not a blessing, but a dangerous curse.

The time for Nobunaga had ended – now, it was Mitsuhide’s chance to seize grasp of the land from the hands of a tyrant.

And a truly fitting night for his betrayal it was, the cold air different and unforeseen in the June weather.

He unsheathed his katana and pointed the blade towards the temple of Honnō-ji in the distance. He was ready – the last of his doubts erased.

“The enemy is at Honnō-ji!”

And at his words, his army unleashed a war cry, ready to take back the land from one who would bring ruin.

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