Although Hida Castle in Oushuu was widely renowned across Japan, there were few who called the enormous castle by its proper name, even in the local area. The vast majority, including the castle’s lord, Hida Takahito, called it Meikyuu Castle. As the name implied, the castle was filled with passages and stairways winding about in such a labyrinthine manner that was impossible for anyone unfamiliar with the castle to find the exit. Even those who were familiar with the castle could not help but lose their way when attempting to reach any specific room. In that becoming lost inside it was the norm, it was closer to an optical illusion than a castle.
Hida Castle’s labyrinthine nature was the reason it was counted along with the nonexistent Gekoku Castle and the invisible Ankoku Castle as the third of the Japan’s Three Great Castles, famous for their stalwart defenses. In short, it was because the castle was impossible to enter. However, the defenses of Hida Castle were not strong in the sense of being easily defensible. The soldiers guarding the castle had little understanding of what exactly they were defending in the complex castle. They had not the faintest idea.
The only person who could live in Hida Castle without losing his way was Hida Takahito, who possessed the greatest wits in the world. But if you were to take his statement of, “Nah, it’s not like I don’t get lost. It’s just that I always have a few broad objectives. Whatever path I take and whatever room I get to, there’s an objective I can work on. This castle’s unpredictability makes it a good fit for my sloppy personality,” at face value, then you would be forced to say that no one on earth could comprehend the layout of Hida Castle, of Meikyuu Castle.
As a side note, the present day Miyagi prefecture derived its name from the same Meikyuu Castle1. However, that is a story of the ever uncertain future, and at the time of the rebellion, Meikyuu Castle was nothing more than Hida Takahito’s place of residence and the Shogunate’s target of attack. At present, Yasuri Migiri of the Tetsubi family, who had been kidnapped from Owari, was being held in an underground cell in the very same Hida Castle.
“Y’know, in my opinion, by which I mean the absolute and unconditional truth, people fail quite a bit. They give it their all, exhaust their efforts, but try as they might they don’t get what they want, or anything close. It’s just like this Meikyuu Castle: you can never get to where you want to go,” said a woman.
It was Yasuri Migiri. She did not seem bothered in the least about being confined in a dusty and shabby underground cell, and instead sat against the wall quite comfortably, admiring her fetters as she spoke dispassionately.
“They lay down their plans and schemes, but plan as they plan and think as they think, it all comes to vain—it’s like the world is fundamentally built for failure. Or maybe it’s that people are fundamentally made to fail. Now that I think about it, has anyone since the beginning of time succeeded? Is there even one single person who could hold their head up high and proudly shout out ‘I’m successful!’? Nope, nobody can. There’s no way. Oh sure, there’s probably people who could say those words. But even those people have seriously failed a countless number of times. In the first place, you could say that they’ve already failed just by shouting out ‘I’m successful!’ without an ounce of shame. In other words, people fail over and over in every possible way, until they finally succeed in dying. Y’know?”
“Don’t you think so?” Migiri asked the girl in front of her, outside the cell. The girl had been standing outside the cell. She had black hair and wore an austere kimono.
“I said, ‘don’t you think so?’ Answer me, will you!”
“I don’t think so,” The girl replied in a whisper. Her voice was just barely audible. “My father is successful. Everybody knows that.”
“Oh, is that so?”
Migiri smirked at the girl. Judging by the tone of her voice, she had no regard for the fact that she was speaking to a girl of tender years. Or rather, it was precisely because she was speaking to such a young girl that Migiri’s tone held such unrestrained ruthlessness. Her voice dripped with venom. It was hatred directed not at the girl, but at the world.
“From what I can tell, your father, that genius Hida Takahito, is definitely failing. Actually, you could say that he’s planning for failure.”
“That’s right. He knows it better than anyone else. That genius understands it better than anyone else. He knows deep down that things never go your way, that nothing will ever happen how you want it to. I guess that’s what happens when you’re too smart. He can’t just blindly believe in things, which is why it’s easier for him to imagine a future where he fails than a future where he succeeds. That’s why he makes schemes that rest on failure. He schemes and schemes. He tries to get closer to success through repeated failure. It might seem like he’s given up on trying, but what he’s doing is the second best way to succeed. In other words, Hida Takahito is trying to succeed by abandoning the idea of becoming successful. He thinks of success as something separate from himself. Well, that’s pretty hard for amateurs. Ordinary people care more about being successful than succeeding. They don’t like being called failures, even when they keep failing all the time. That’s how people are in general. But Hida Takahito is different. He doesn’t care about being seen as a hero or put on a pedestal. He just goes after his objective.”
“I…don’t get it,” said the girl, confused by Migiri’s rant.
Migiri only retorted, “That’s your problem, now isn’t it? Don’t go shoving it off on me!”
She had absolutely no intention of playing nice.
“This is your own father we’re talking about, so you should be thinking about these things as a matter of course. You’re the daughter of a genius; it can’t be that hard.”
“About my father?”
“You could see this as a fairy tale about your father’s unusual attitude, but at the same time it’s a sad little story of how not even your father can be successful if he wants to achieve his goals. Is that supposed to be consolation for the amateurs?” said Migiri. She spoke cruelly and viciously, with a malevolent smile.
“In this world, there’s an incredible genius who’s inhumanly amazing and unbelievably smart, but not one even person who’s successful. Not a single person. What am I supposed to say to that? I’d laugh, but I’m probably the only one who could do that. It’s like the world itself rejects success.”
“What about you?” asked the girl. It was the first time she went on the offensive against Migiri, so to speak, but her voice was still so faint that it was less than a whisper.
“What was that? I can’t hear you. Speak up!”
“I said, ‘What about you?’ You’re not successful?”
“‘Course I’m not successful. I went and got kidnapped, and now here I am locked up and chained. You can’t spin that into anything but failure. Now that I think about it, I’ve been failing my entire life. I’ve never succeeded at a single thing. I married the wrong man, and I failed just by getting born in the first place.”
‘How’. Perhaps the girl wanted to ask ‘How can you smile so happily?’ She may have even voiced her question, but if so she spoke too softly for Migiri, or even herself, to hear.
“You see, the reason I’m smiling is,” said Migiri without being prompted, “because failing is so fun. Losing and getting defeated is just too fun. Failure is what makes me happy. I’m so happy I got locked up.”
“Failure makes you happy?”
The girl was plainly baffled about Migiri’s perplexing worldview. In response, Migiri’s smile grew deeper and deeper.
“In that sense, you could say I’m successful. I’m failing in the right way. But in the end that’s still failure, and I only have some flimsy sophistry to back up an opinion that no one else would agree with. It’s only some self-depreciation, but that’s about the third best way to succeed.”
“In other words, it’s the worst.”
After pondering over those words for a moment, the girl asked, “Then…then what’s the best?”
“What’s the best way to succeed?”
Apparently, Migiri had not anticipated the girl’s completely natural question, and was somewhat surprised. She hemmed and hawed with her arms crossed and head tilted, as if she had never considered the question before.
“It’s hard to put it into words—I mean, a little kid like you probably wouldn’t get it in the first place. But you are that genius’s daughter after all, so you’ll get at least some of it. So, you want to know the best, the absolute best way to succeed, do you? Heh, to be honest that genius’s second best way and my third best way are only variations of the best way. There aren’t really any second best or third best ways to succeed, there’s just one single way.”
“Don’t drag it out, just tell me.”
“I’m not dragging it out! No wait, maybe I am dragging it out. I do think it’s a drag for me to just tell you the answer. People have been searching for a way to succeed for ages, you know. Alright, alright, stop giving me that look already, I’ll tell you. See, I’m kind. Everyone back home says I’m a kind mother, you know? My kids adore me.
“What, you don’t believe me? I’m not telling you anymore,” snapped Migiri, but in the next moment she regained her malevolent smile.
“The only way to succeed is to think of success and happiness as separate,” she said. She proclaimed it as if it were a natural truth.
“Separate success and happiness?
“That’s right. You cut them apart. The only way to succeed is to cleave them all the way apart, like you’re taking a sword to it,” she asserted decisively.
Her malevolent smile grew ever more malevolent.
“Though that’s also the best way to never be happy. Which is why people have to give up on succeeding if they want to be happy. That’s the only way to become happy. It’s the same thing as succeeding through repeated failure or defining unhappiness as success,” said Migiri.
“Just think about it. Do you know how many people spend their lives worrying over how to be happy? Just how much suffering the desire to be happy has brought humanity? Think about it. They should all realize the fact that anyone can save themselves by giving up on happiness. Who decided that pleasure is better than suffering? Who went and decided that joy is better than rage, that mirth is better than grief? Sure, maybe they are better. But just because something’s better, it doesn’t mean you absolutely have to pursue it, does it? They should all think long and hard about how unhappy it is to have an obligation to be happy. Anyone can succeed just by giving up on happiness.”
“Are you saying,” the girl asked after knitting her brows in thought, “that succeeding and being happy are different things?”
“They’re completely different. They have nothing in common,” she again asserted, forcefully and decisively.
“Everybody lumps them together, which is why they can’t succeed or be happy.”
“They can’t succeed or be happy…”
“You have to pick one or the other. You can succeed or be happy, but not both. You know what they say: you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you want to be happy, then give up on succeeding. If you want to succeed, then forget about being happy,” she said.
“Biyori-gou, that clockwork doll in Lake Fuyou in Edo, isn’t trying to be happy, now is it? It’s only trying to guard Lake Fuyou, and it’s succeeding at that.”
“I don’t know what Biyori-gou is.”
“That so? Well, now you do. In the end, success isn’t something you can achieve on purpose. So little lady, if at some point in the future, in the distant future, you have an objective to accomplish, you’d better abandon happiness if you want to succeed. Don’t even think about finding happiness with others. Happiness is something you can find with other people, but success is something you can only find on your own.”
“Could you not brainwash my daughter?”
A figure appeared, interrupting the conversation between the two. It was the lord of Hida Castle and Oushuu, the mastermind of the rebellion, Hida Takahito.
“Hey, go play somewhere else. What are you doing here, anyways? That woman is infamous for having the worst personality in the world. Just talking to her is bad for you. Even I’d rather not have taken her as a hostage.”
After hearing what he said, after hearing what her father told her, the girl said, “Okay!” and pattered away.
Although she was in Meikyuu Castle, and might lose her way after a single misstep and perhaps even starve to death, she had spent her entire life there and would not become completely lost. Perhaps that was why Takahito was not concerned. Instead of watching her depart, he turned to Migiri.
“Lovely daughter you’ve got. It’s the first time I’ve met her. I wish my daughter Nanami could learn from her. No wait, Nanami’s already got this incredibly nasty personality. Wonder where she gets it.”
“Who else could it be but you?”
“It’s got to be her father.”
Takahito paused in the middle of speaking. It was exceptionally rare of him to do so. It was a sign of how uneasy he was around Migiri. When he said that he would rather not have taken her as a hostage, he was simply speaking the truth.
“What’s up with you? Nobody likes me. Not that I mind. Actually, if anything I’d rather be disliked than liked.”
“I have trouble understanding your tastes.”
“Even when you say you have trouble with something, you’ve still got it figured out, you genius. We’re the same kind of people.”
“I hope not.”
“Don’t worry about her. For kids her age, everything goes in one ear and out the other. I mean, I didn’t even tell her my name. She probably won’t care about some random prisoner’s gibberish.”
“She’s my daughter, so even if she doesn’t remember, it might stay in the corner of her mind and come back to haunt her on her deathbed. My genius is mine alone, but she can’t escape my influence.”
“Then it’s a question of whether your influence or my influence will win out. And?” asked Migiri, who despite being confined in a cell, showed no sign of hesitation towards the man who had imprisoned her. “How’s that idiot Mutsue doing? Is he here to rescue me yet?”
“Personally, I hope he gets here soon. I wish he’d take you back as quickly as possible, but unfortunately he has a big obstacle up ahead. Though according to the latest reports, he’s gotten past Sabi Kokken,” said Takahito, now smiling malevolently himself. “I wonder if he can overcome Shin’ou Issouryuu in Tendou, Dewa.”
“Shin’ou Issouryuu?” Migiri was surprised. “That’s weird. That school isn’t on your side, is it? In the first place, I don’t think they would take part in a war when they’re a life-saving sword style.”
“Sure, Nokogiri isn’t on my side. But that doesn’t mean they’re on the shogunate’s side. It’s no big deal, there’s plenty of ways to get a pacifist to fight.”
A battle between a life-saving sword and a death-dealing sword, between Shin’ou Issouryuu and Kyotouryuu, between Outou Nokogiri and Kyotou Yasuri, one that was brought about by Hida Takahito and one preceding the battle between the twelfth Kiguchi Zanki and Yasuri Shichika by twenty years, was soon to begin.
1Miyagi prefecture (宮城県) and Meikyuu Castle (迷宮城) share two characters.
Meikyuu Castle(迷宮城)- Maze Castle
Biyori-gou(日和)- Biyori means good weather and gou means model/make
Fuyou Lake(不要湖)- unneeded lake