A big ego and a stout character collide in feudal Japan, where you get what you ask for.
As always, Oda the Gardner raked the sand by the front gate to the Daimyo's private residence. As he raked, scribing in the sand a very nice, as he understood it, very nice pattern, he entertained thoughts of what the new Daimyo would be like. The old one had sent his son to Edo years ago as a retainer to the Emperor and since his previous master had passed his son would be returning home.
Oda knew his now deceased master, Yoritomo to be a fair man, honest and forthright and not given to excess in any manner. He, Oda, hoped this son would be the same kind of man, but then again, many a young boy went off to Edo and came back different. As he collected his tools and prepared to move on, the palanquin carrying the new Daimyo arrived, along with an ostentatious retinue of retainers.
"Yoritomo would never be that high," Oda thought and respectfully went about his business. That evening as he sat in his humble home, smoking his pipe and making notes of tomorrow's itinerary on his paper fan as his son arrived. He knew it to be Yoshiro because of the way his three daughters fussed at the front door. From his son he learned several interesting things, most notably about the new Daimyo's sleek horse. The other more important things, he thought, involved a small treatise on fertilizer, a text on inventions brought to Nippon by the barbarians and a letter from his brother whose misfortune brought him into the service of the Emperor as a Moat Guard.
As Oda suspected the son of the former Daimyo wasn't the man his father had been. During his required tenure away from Edo he exerted his authority in a harsh manner. At first his edicts were petty and trivial. No wearing of red sashes among peasants. Then a curfew, no one allowed out after dark without special permission. Unlike before, now his samurai patrolled the streets. These servants of the Daimyo were permitted to take extreme liberties in their duties. Because of this, Oda forbid his daughters to walk alone. The new Daimyo even went as far as to require the local theater guild to submit all works to him for his personal approval.
As time progressed his will progressed to having his thugs search residences of suspected traitors. From his porch, as his house sat on a hill overlooking the village he watched twelve of the samurai torch a neighbor's house, and then take liberties with the former owner's wife. At this point Oda became fearful for his children's safety, and worse, he no longer held the Daimyo in respect. Something needed to be done, however, Oda at this point didn't believe he could do anything about it.
As always, he raked the garden at the residence of his Daimyo, and as usual finished at the front gate. On this day, he concentrated on assuring perfection in the decorative sand at the gate and failed to see the drunken samurai stagger into the gate. Not bowing, Oda found himself on the end of a foul invective and a half-drawn katana. Before he could lose his head, the new Daimyo on his sleek horse arrived. He ordered the samurai to stand back and addressed Oda.
"Gardener, you have served me and my father well. What causes you to this transgression?" the Daimyo asked in a self-aggrandizing way. The sleek horse stammered as Oda considered his response.
"Sir, to bow to this sot would bring dishonor on me, my house and my ancestors. You may take my head but you will not take my honor."
Oda couldn't believe he said it. He never considered himself a particularly brave man, preferring to take the path of least resistance and seeking quiet.
"Oda," the Daimyo snorted. One could see the restrained rage on his face, "To honor my father, who spoke highly of you, I will give you a second chance. Bow to my horse, and all will be forgiven."
"My life is yours to do with as you please but my honor is mine as I please. I bow not to your horse or your samurai."
"I will make you then," the Daimyo snorted. He then ordered his samurai to take his son and kill him. After this was done he told Oda that tomorrow he would have the chance to reconsider.
That evening Oda read the pamphlet on barbarian inventions and sent his youngest daughter, in the night, to talk to the blacksmith. The next day Oda stood in front of the Daimyo and refused again. And again, the Daimyo leveled the conditions. This time, he took his oldest daughter and forced her into bondage at the local brothel. That evening, as before, he sent his youngest daughter out in the night to the blacksmiths, and then to the druggist. As she did this, he studied the pamphlet and modified his smaller gardener's tools.
On the third day, he appeared as required before the Daimyo and refused. As before, albeit with a sadistic gamesmanship, the Daimyo gave his second daughter to his samurai to do with as they pleased and told him to come back the next day with his reconsideration. That, night, Oda spent his hours working on the idea he derived from the pamphlet.
He had never met one of the barbarians. He was told they were tall, bathed infrequently, and some had red hair. He didn't know if that was true or not, but if the idea in the pamphlet was correct, these outsiders gave him the key to changing his situation. If the ideas were valid, and he didn't know if he could pull it off, the Daimyo and the days of the Kuge were indeed numbered.
"Oda," the Daimyo huffed on the fourth day. "I have tried to convince you to bow as it is proper. I have just ordered your house burned to the ground and given your children over to the heavens. You have nothing left. Is your honor going to feed you? Who will take care of you in your old age? I can give all that back and more if you would just bow."
The Daimyo knew that he needed to end this now, and here, for the villagers in his prefecture were beginning to rebel. He couldn't allow this puny insignificant gardener to sow anymore seeds of discontent.
"Most honorable master, if you desire my life it is yours to take as is all that I have. Nevertheless, to bow before you? You, must be plain crazy."
"Enough!" screamed the Daimyo as leaped to his feet. His face red with rage and indignation, "Enough!"
As heaven would have it, before Oda could lose his head or apply his gambit, a rider stormed into the residence and delivered the pronouncement that the regional governor would be arriving and to make ready. Never missing an opportunity to enlarge his image the Daimyo decided to execute Oda in front of the governor as an example of his sense of justice.
"Him?" the governor of the region choked as he looked at Oda. "He did that?"
The governor wondered just what kind of man would have that courage, particularly a man of his small stature. He knew the young Daimyo to be a bully and a coward and suggested that he personally handle it. The governor being wiser than the Daimyo suggested a duel.
This took the Daimyo back but he couldn't see the harm in it. What even gave him greater confidence and swelled his head, is when Oda refuse a katana from one of the samurai.
"As you desire!" laughed the Daimyo and took hold of his sword's handle. At this point Oda produced the barbarian invention, however modified, from his sash.
"What the hell's that?" the Daimyo laughed as he saw it. "You plan on defeating me with a child's toy?!"
Oda smiled slowly and began to laugh. The arrogant Daimyo laughed. Then the governor and the samurai laughed.
Then Oda, taking advantage of his diversion, shot the Daimyo.
Twenty years later Oda road in a palanquin through the streets of Edo very fat and very happy, for this evening he dined with the Shogun and his court. Over the last two decades, heaven blessed him with much success and honor. He lived a comfortable life in his prefecture, as an advisor to the Sesso and had much responsibility and many more children to a profanely young wife and younger concubine. As he, in a state of contemplation about how well things were going, and how nice the evening would be, he absently opened the pane of the palanquin and spied a legless beggar on the corner. He recognized his former Daimyo and laughed gaily, as he threw the shadowy nobody a small copper coin.