“Awake!” he said into the night.
There was no reply from the darkness.
The warrior sat down, cross-legged, in front of the fire. His eyes darted left and right. There was nothing to see but the dark woods. An animal called in the distance.
This was the right place. This was the right night. He came alone. Everything was done correctly. Still, nothing.
“Curses!” he hissed.
Then, there was the sound, possibly the wind, though there was little of it. It sounded like a slow breath through an empty pipe, a low series of blows. He looked around, but there was nothing.
“Who dare wakes me?” It was clearer this time.
“It is I,” he said standing up, looking around. “I wish my clan to rule all of the Rising Sun.”
“I wish to eat your liver. Shall we trade?”
“I am Prince of Izumi, not common rabble!”
“Nobler the blood, sweeter the meat.”
The origin of the voice seemed to float around in the darkness, as if an invisible ghost was circling the fire.
“Can you make me ruler?”
“You want to hear yes, but no.”
“Then why should I give you anything?”
“Because your son will be given a chance.”
“After your death. You shall not live to see it. Pity. It will be quite a battle.”
“Can he win?”
“If he makes the right choices. Not difficult if it were you. You are noble, but a traitor, a warrior, but an assassin, a conqueror, but a thief. You choose your path as craftily as a viper.”
“Is it? You are Saburo-emon-no-joh, Lord Ukita Naoie, Prince of Izumi. Your name is a string of stolen titles. You mutinied your way up to where you are. Vengeful ghosts surround you. Trust me when I say, I am not the only spirit who desires your innards.”
Cold sweat ran down the warrior’s neck. The voice was whispering directly in his ears.
“Time is short. You must do it now. Take your sword and cut open your stomach. Give me a piece of your liver. This is the only chance for your name to live on in glory.”
He sat down again, opened his robe, drew his sword, and hesitated.
“Do it now! Day light comes!”
He slit his belly. He could feel the slick surface of his liver. He sliced off a piece. Blood gushed out. He gritted his teeth. He picked up a burning stick and shoved the cinder end into his belly to stop the bleeding. He screamed in agony.
When he opened his eyes, the fire had gone out. He felt the piece of liver slip out of his hand.
“The deal is sealed,” said the voice. “You shall die from the wound you incurred tonight. You have ten days to prepare for your death.”
“What of my son?”
“He shall live a long life, win or lose. Longer than you by far.”
There was no answer.
Ukita Naoie (1529-1582)
Often depicted as an evil schemer and a monster, he assassinated his enemies and relatives alike. He died of a mysterious disease, cause unknown. His son Hideie would be the major force behind Ishida Mitsunari in the epic Battle of Sekigahara, which they almost won, against Tokugawa Ieyasu who would go on to found the Tokugawa Shogunate.