Chapter 13: Uji no Tatakai (Battle of Uji) - Chapter 13

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 234
Comments: 1

The six remaining samurai, feeling small aftershocks through their geta’s, continued nervously aware of their surroundings along the canyon.  At times, it would widen out to allow yet another stream to cascade down the hillside and merge with the river.  It was here they were the most wary.  As Katsuro explained, any bandits about would have been flushed out of the mountains and could be waiting for travelers such as themselves.

The day seemed to never end, but finally the sun disappeared behind the high mountain to the west, casing a deep shadow over their course.  They found a small island between two forks of the same unnamed stream and made camp.  Once they had eaten, they unpacked every duffel and distributed items equally.  Iwao hefted his and found, to his delight, it was a little lighted than it had begun that morning.

“I will take the first watch, Katsuro.”  Volunteered Iwao.

Omi grunted, and said he would follow Iwao.

“We should have some warning of trouble as it can only come through the water surrounding us.”  Observed Katsuro.  “Still, be on your guard.  Everyone be prepared to move at a moment’s notice.  I do not fancy being trapped on this island if we have another earthquake, nei?”

There were nods of agreement all around.

The night was uneventful and, following morning ablutions and a small bit to eat, they set off again through thickening stands of pine and bamboo.  Katsuro had them spread out, single-file, to minimize any result of bandit action.  Carefully placing their feet, they padded along the beaten dirt path always on the alert.

Goro gave a shout and fell to the ground.  The next in line, Omi, rushed to his aid and found an arrow embedded in the fleshy part of his left shoulder – the head sticking through the other side.  Blood was already staining his tunic.

Quickly, the others took defensive positions, arms at the ready, for action in any direction.  Tense moments passed and, with nothing forthcoming, they relaxed minutely, leaving Iwao and Ijimi on full watch while Omi worked on Goro.

Whipping a knife from beneath his clothing, Omi carefully cut the head from the arrow.  Then, gathering tree moss and sprinkling it on the portion of the arrow at Goro’s back, told him to hold still.

“On the count of three, I will pull the arrow back.  Ready?”  He placed his foot gently on Goro’s chest.

Goro nodded.

Ichi, ni ...” Before he got to san, three, he pulled hard straight out.  The arrow came free, allowing a spurt of blood to follow.

Quickly, Shinji pressed improvised pads on either side of the would, holding them until the initial bleeding stopped.  Then, using clean pads, he bound up the would tightly, immobilizing his shoulder.

“Thank you, my friend,” said Goro, flexing his fingers and moving his elbow gently.

Grimacing a bit, Goro lay back against his pack and accepted a cup of cool water.  While he sipped, his gaze fell on the far tree line and saw movement.  Hissing an alert, he got Katsuro’s attention and nodded at the trees.

Katsuro quickly took action.  “Iwao!  Ijimi!  The trees.  Be on alert.  Omi!  You and Ijimi take either flank.  Shinji and I will look to our rear.  Move!”

They all took defensive stances, ready for any action to come, but nothing appeared for long moments.  Not relaxing one whit, they slowly advanced outwards from their copse of woods into the open.  Still the only movement was in the border of the trees where Goro had first seen the men.

Three men stepped into the field from the cover of the trees.  Taking their time to be obvious, they sheathed their swords and unstrung their bows, indicating they meant to harm.

Katsuro was mystified, but still wary.  “Hey!”  He called.  “Why have you attacked us?”

“Allow us to come closer and we will explain!”  The apparent leader called back.

“Proceed!”

Now, fairly sure that these three men were the only threat, the others gathered together to wait for the three to arrive.  Taking care to hold their hands far from their scabbards, the approached and halted facing Katsuro’s samurai.

“Greetings.”  Said the leader.  “We apologize for the injury.  We thought you were one of the group trying to kill us.”  All three bowed deeply and held it.

“Huh.”  Grunted Katsuro.  “Who are you and why were you being hunted?”

The three stood erect again as the leader spoke.  “I am Yamato Hideki and this is my brother Yamato Hideo.”  A slightly younger version of Hideki nodded.  Hideki indicated the other man.  “This is Takashi Satochi, a relative.”  Satochi also nodded.

Hideki continued.  “As for why we were being hunted, that is a bit complicated.”

“Uncomplicate it.”  Demanded Katsuro.

“Sorry.  We were part of a larger group encamped in the hills to the north.  We were attacked by ronin and separated from the rest.  Twice we tried our best to fight our way though their lines, but were driven back.  The ronin slaughtered every one of our group and then came after us.  We were fleeing for our very lives.  We though you were an advance party searching us out.  Once again, we apologize for our actions.”

“A moment.”  Growled Katsuro, making a motion with his arm to his group.

They moved a distance away.  “What say you?  Do we believe them, or not?  Goro, you state your opinion first.”

“They seem to be as they say.  Their manner of dress would indicate they were once part of a well-trained and equipped troop.”  He moved his arm and grunted.  “Except for this, I hold no grudge against them.”

Following a good commander’s training, Katsuro asked each of his group their opinion starting the with newest, Iwao, who agreed with Goro.  One by one, they all agreed to let them join their band – albeit with a wariness at first.

“Very well.  I want one of us to be at their back at all times just in case they decide to change sides yet again.”

Strolling back to the three, Katsuro told them of his decision.  Relief immediately showed on their faces.  Forming up into a loose column, the expanded group set off up the trail towards Lake Biwa.

Late afternoon found them traversing a large area of rice paddies using narrow walkways built between each body of water.  Their progress was not direct; instead, they were routed at right angles to their line of travel almost as often as heading directly towards the lake.  Occasionally, they passed farmers who were working diligently at foot-powered pumps moving water from a ditch into their paddies.  With deep bows, which they held until the group had passed, each farmer paid their respects to the samurai.

Eventually, they came to a larger complex of buildings and, finding a corral with four horses in it, Katsuro demanded, and received, two of the horses which were quickly pressed into service as pack animals for the group.  Relieved of their heavy burdens, they made much better time and were on the outskirts of Otsu by nightfall.

 


Submitted: November 23, 2014

© Copyright 2022 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

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Mr Watson

At least they have more horses and replacements for the two that were killed, I'm enjoying this Tom.

Sun, November 23rd, 2014 6:01pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, man. I'm introducing a little female companionship soon.

Sun, November 23rd, 2014 11:40am

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