With the meeting adjourned, the twelve Iga departed Heirakuji. In the grove beneath the plateau, Tanba Momochi stopped Ryo Tsukimori by resuming his banter from before.

"There is no force. However, this is about your family," Momochi said.

It was strange to stand abreast Momochi. He was a Grand Iga, and he allowed Ryo to walk next to him like they were friends or just jovial strangers. If they were enemy, they could stab each other in the jugular. The way they saw it, they were still Iga in every way – and that was despite their differences. Civic differences. Everytime the twelve gathered at Heirakuji, differences were put aside for the sake of a mission.

"I have no reason to," Ryo replied.

"What if proposed by another for the life of your family?"

Ryo did not know how to answer Momochi's question. He thought it was a question urged by young Takechiyo's situation. Everyone's minds , including the future father's, were swallowed by the child.

In most cases, being with other women was an aristocratic ideal. It was for political and diplomatic management. Such things were as shaky as a leaf in Autumn, ready to break away at any moment. Ryo did not need to think of such things since the child within his wife was his very first. It surprised many Iga that Ryo was such a deeply thoughtful man. Sleeping with other wives was not a crime.

"Then, you are like me," Momochi made his allegation without eye contact.

Ryo side-glanced the Iga Grand Lord and replied wearily. "It's true that I could have a powerful family just like Lord Matsudaira, My Lord Fujiibayashi and yourself Lord Momochi. However, I do not meet my happiness through numbers."

"Happiness?" Tanba let out a light laugh. The kind of laugh like he was sitting down and listening to a casual story from the mouth of his mentors. "You are commendable," he said. "It is strange to see from someone whose name means a 'gentleman'."

Ryo shook his head. He chose his name to mean a "dragon" (竜), but there were other interpretations: "good", "hunting", "understanding", "truth", "cleverness", "rhombus". All-in-all, it was a good name.

Tanba, who seemed to beg for children, did not produce from his own loins at all. His own "children" were his students, his adopted sons. That was the common told truth anyway; Momochi was an enigmatic figure.

"This world is run by selfishness. The weak will be trampled." In almost every council, Tanba Momochi preached on the current days where the descendants of the emperors sought for reform under their name. Perhaps it was in Japanese blood to strive as sovereigns, or to vest nontheism as a policy for what is "just". It was like reading about the Asuka state from many centuries ago. Somebody wanted to stand as the head to teach. The one who carried the title "no-kimi" was preferable for being that head.

"Family." The word breathed from Tanba as if with sorrow. "Do you know why we don't lay at all?"

It surprised Ryo to see a soft side. He mostly saw Tanba as a very strict man who would rebuke any hint of defilement from anyone. He had a strange conservative ego, and decreed that everything taught in Iga was never for personal gain. He would especially rebuke a woman as an item; there have been rumors - how Lord Tanba of the Momochi, despite his prestige and shaven pale head, had the lowest approval among women; how he turned away every flirt and seduction; how he, during his youth, tried to burn down brothels.

"I do not know," Ryo said, sounding lost. Did he do something wrong with sleeping with his wife when he could? Or looking at other women when away from Iga?

Tanba smiled, his hand gesturing. "To not be consumed by desire."

Of course, Ryo thought, and remembered another rumor – how the Momochi lineage was deeply linked to monastery service.

"Spirituality exists along with what is real. One thing to another happens with reason and it is our purpose here to decide on how to face and console with it."

"What does that have to do with your question?" Ryo had the nerve to ask. Actually, he felt comfortable. Perhaps there was a lesson behind all of this.

"You and I are probably wracked with falsities that we're useless," Momochi said.

"You and I are embarrassed?" Now Ryo came to a certainty. The other Iga families worried over him. His generation was small and young, while in the midst of the Oda-Imagawa-Matsudaira fighting. After him were two childless younger brothers. It felt unreliable that he wouldn't allow other wives; furthermore, this made him more vulnerable.

"He's being unlike a man" Someone said, adding to the humiliating rumors. Another one was "He's following Momochi's example."

This was a world of copulation and adultery. On the other hand, it was considered that Ryo took precaution and sought legitimate priority in his family.

"Embarrassed?" Tanba said. "You mean your father's case?"

"Lord Momochi!" Ryo snapped.

Momochi quickly shrugged. "Peace of mind is what matters. What is good that you are content with your wife. You don't suffer."

"The more I think on it, the more I see how tragic this era is."

"Indeed, this era."

The Grand Iga parted from the casual talk and headed for the Ueno domiciles. He nodded to himself, and inside his mind he wished good fortune on Ryo. Maybe the Dragon was too peaceful; a shame that he was on Fujibayashi's side. The Twelve Iga decided to make sure that Takechiyo's life was preserved during the fighting. To Momochi, he wanted to make sure that all Iga were for aiding one's nation and Lord above all.