It was a time of carnage and darkness: the Age of Wars, when the land was torn by bloodshed and the only law was the law of the sword. A peasant wandered the countryside alone, seeking his fortune, without a coin in his pocket. He longed to become the epitome of refined manhood — a samurai — but nothing in the demeanor of this five-foot-tall, one-hundred-ten-pound boy could possibly have foretold the astounding destiny awaiting him. His name was Hideyoshi, and on that fateful spring evening in the year 1553, the brash young warlord Nobunaga hired him as a sandal-bearer. Driven by a relentless desire to transcend his peasant roots, Hideyoshi went on to become Nobunaga’s loyal protégé and right-hand man. Ultimately he became the supreme ruler of all Japan — the first peasant ever to rise to the absolute height of power — and unified a nation torn apart by more than a hundred years of civil strife.
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