I am a cat
How could one live in a time of war? The poverty of the free battle era caused others to reach down to the dirt, for someone's helping hands, for gods. Seeing the imperial capital break apart and burn many times over was a sign of too much disorder, and sparked either despair or a chance to grasp opportunity. Japan's voices rose over the land, wanting to put a stop to the disheveled Court.
On foot, a band of light armored troopers-ashigaru-strode through a Shigaraki pass entering Omi Province. They were a small group, no more than eight, armed with spears. They wore matted tatami as armor. The only thing impressive about them was their lacquered cone-shaped hats. The band suited a regular survey around a town's proximity. The war banners fitted to their backs bore one of the Hikiryo insignia: it was recognized for its bold white lines within a black circle. They were dogs of Yoshihisa Ashikaga, the current shogun.
It was the 14th year of Bunmei era (1482).
"Uwah!" One soldier bounced up on one foot, nearly stumbling sidewards. The soldier at front spun and saw the others in a hopping rollick. He snapped at them to stay quiet and keep focus.
"Why fear little mice?!" He said. The ashigaru wore open-toed straw sandals, and could feel the pinching of tiny hasty claws scampering over their flesh. One of the soldiers looked down and he held his breath. The grip on his spear nearly dwindled - he saw a line of gray critters jot pass his toes. It was a given that mice move with only a few and they shy away from humans. The ashigaru group, within their tension, felt that they were approaching a nest.
A nest of fortune, or that would've been the first thought with mice being at the heart of a harvest. Instead, any notion of fortune was thwarted.
Sent by a high-rank servant of the Shogun, the ashigaru traveled after hearing a rumor. A ghastly rumor. As if it were karma from the previous Onin War, the vice of the samurai was being brought upon their agrarian servants. An epidemic of sickness. And when there was disease, there were rodents. The location, however, didn't make it seem plausible. The ashigaru distanced from the fields, entering heavy narrow forest. Nearing Koga, the terrain was more mountainous.
"It must be here." Shigaraki pass ascended towards a mountain side. The troops' ears were whistling; over the summer wind, they heard the loud buzz of a swarm of flies, and it rattled their nerves. Their hearts pounded. They felt an anxiousness from the unknown. Their faces twisted; a burning, foul stench entered their noses. Closing in was a cave; at that moment, they wondered if they were nearing a tomb of the Kofun era.
"Saburo!" Through Kannonji Castle's halls, the home of the Rokkaku clan, Takayori Rokkaku (六角 高頼) hastily rushed to find his friend. Even advancing towards middle age, he moved like a youth that rushed boldly into his first battlefield. He moved with an urgent gait; it was strange to see from him, since it was common behavior among the retainers or foot troops when they were relaying reports. He rounded a corner, skidded to a stop next to a shoji door and slid it open.
"Curse it all! Hear Saburo!" Takayori barked. "It has come. The farm mice scourge!" Takayori yelled as if his castle was facing brutal attack and an inevitable fall to the enemy. He looked into the room to see a tired-looking middle-aged man kneeling on a cushion.
"Mice?" In contrast, Saburo, widely known as Izumo Mochizuki, spoke very calmly. "Oh." He gave the Omi Lord a short glimpse before looking back down at his low standing yew table. Lain on the table was an open scroll, an ink brush, two flat cups, a candle, and a well-known kiseru pipe. He had a casual presence, aloof of danger.
"Come Saburo, go out there and stop this. I know you can." Takayori said.
"Mice eh?" Mochizuki looked towards a wall for a moment. Shortly after, the candle was blown out. Mochizuki grabbed his knees and hefted from his cushion.
"Very well, Turtle. I will get young Akutagawa." He heeded without question or further detail. It was a bravery that faced even asinine requests. He too was aware of the rumor that came to Omi: Mass of mice were amok the fields, entering domiciles and even castles. Residents reckon that a fox or raccoon were playing tricks on them, or angered the rodents to raid the people. The scourge was a reminder of the decay of the Court, and was a harbinger of the decay of Japan.
Both Rokkaku and Mochizuki were quite close, close enough to refer to each other by childish names. Takeyori was once called Kamejuumaru (亀寿丸), and he was expected to live long like a true tortoise. But with rabid mice, who knows? He entrusted his friend to keep his turtle longevity true.
"I want to spread it over my reign," the Rokkaku once said. He couldn't fail now, not with his clan extending various regions.
Mochizuki took a quick stop in the courtyard to see a young man. "Yoshikane, come."
"We are cats." And cats were symbols of good luck and in bringing fortune. It was usually when it came to profit; in Mochizuki's mind, he did think that profit would return to all if the scourge was to be defeated. In such days, profit was akin to food - the rice in the ground.
As the two men from Koga departed from Kannonji, talk would spread. Particularly from the women: "Lord Mochizuki and young Lord Akutagawa will return with disease!"
"Eek! I can't let them touch me!"
"No, never again will they be able to touch."
"They should be burnt before they even come close."
Hearing the reproving voices of the ladies, even their little laughs, did not set well with young Yoshikane Akutagawa. "No! No! I will not!"
"Do not fear." Mochizuki said. He grabbed Yoshi's collar, dragging the junior by his heels.
"I don't want to be bitten!" The youth complained all the way to the main gate.