Chapter 14: Uji no Tatakai (Battle of Uji) - Chapter 14

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

Reads: 206
Comments: 1

At the main force encampment, Prince Mochihito and his advisors were meeting in a large, hastily erected tent.  The Prince sat higher than the rest in an ornately carved lounger and his advisors, ten in number, were arranged on mats in front of the dais.  Guards had been posted all around the tent to ensure that secrecy was maintained.

An argument was raging between four of his military leaders concerning picket lines for the encampment.  The Prince had been listening to them yammer for perhaps a half hour and had grown tired of hearing the same arguments stated again and again.

He held up his hand.  “Enough!”  He called.  The tent fell silent.  “I have decided.  You,” aiming his staff of office at a portly man, “will provide the manning for the west defenses and you,” aiming at a thinner and taller man, “will fortify the eastern side near the river.  Ensure that riders are stationed far enough up the canyon to detect any intruders before they become troublesome.”

Both men bowed to the mat.  “It will be done, Sire!”  They said, almost in unison.

“Now,” said the Prince.  “To another matter.  As you know, I have sent men to ask for reinforcements from Lord Otani.  They will be reporting back in several days and I want to be ready for their billeting.  Every one of you commanders will receive a squad of men to do with as you please.  I have no idea in what state of training they will be, so you need to see to that also.”  He paused, taking a glance at his scribe who was furiously daubing ink to paper.

When the man stopped and looked up expectantly, the Prince continued.  “When these men arrive, I wish Juro’s samurai to undertake a new mission to the west.  I hear persistent rumors of Taira infiltrators.  The last report had them only a day’s ride from this very camp.  We must find out what their intentions are.”

“My lord?”  Spoke Yorimasa respectfully.

“Yes?”

“There have been several minor clashes between my troops and those of the infiltrators as are both actively recruiting men for their army.  Perhaps it would be to our best interests if only a few men were to travel west.  I defer to your judgment, Sire, but it might be prudent to send forth these probes by men accompanied by wives and possibly family.”

The Prince considered this at length, frowning and drumming his fingertips on the armrest of his lounger; then he spoke.  “A good suggestion, Yorimasa.  But select men young enough so that they would be unencumbered by any children.  There is no need to endanger young ones.  Perhaps newlyweds...?”

Yorimasa bowed.  “Excellent idea, Sire.  It shall be done.”  He caught the eye of Juro and nodded.  Juro nodded back, accepting the silent order.

The conference droned on, halting briefly for a small meal, and then continued into late afternoon.  Just before the dinner hour, it broke up and the attendees headed back to their respective bivouac areas.

Yorimasa and Juro walked slowly back to Juro’s command tent.

“So, Juro.  Have you any ideas as to who we may send out on this mission?”

“I can think of one immediately.”

“Who is that?”

“The very one who the Prince just bestowed samurai status on – Yoshida Iwao.  I feel sure we can manage to come up with suitable girl to accompany him.  In fact, I have one in mind at the moment.”

“Who might that be?”  Asked Yorimasa.

“She is of the Shimizu clan who have been warriors for many years.  Their youngest, Asami, has been working with my instructors for over two years.  I have seen her in action and she is very good.  Not flashy; in fact she is quite the opposite.  She prefers to take the part of a subservient person – one who is never noticed.”

Yorimasa chuckled.  “A good trait, for sure.  I’ve known a few women who could use a dose of that.”

Juro laughed.  “As have I, my friend.  Come; let us get something to eat.”

“Later.  I have been ordered to dine with the Prince this evening.  Tomorrow, perhaps.”

“As you wish.  Until then.”

“Until then.”

Finishing his dinner, Juro paused a moment to reflect on his orders.  Yes, young Iwao and this Asami girl would make a formidable pair of spies.  At that moment, an attendant entered and bowed.

“Sir!  A young woman wishes to speak with you.”  He said.

“Allow her.”

“Sir!”  Spoke the attendant, bowing again and holding the tent flap open to allow another to enter.

The woman wore a hooded shawl over her head which hid most of features.  In the shadows cast by the firelight, her dark eyes glittered and flashed.  “I am Shimizu Asami, Lord Juro, here at the orders of Minamoto no Yorimasa.”

“Yes, yes.  So I have been told.  I understand you have had extensive training in various arts of killing.  Is this not so?”

“It is true, Sire.”

With no warning at all, Juro quickly grabbed an apple from the dish in front of him and hurled it directly at the woman.  Using only her hands, which appeared instantly from under he cloak, she speared the fruit on the tip of a long dagger.  Then she jerked the blade upwards, splitting the apple, and letting the two halves drop to the floor.

Juro laughed.  “You are quick, I will grant you that.  Have you used that blade to good purpose?”

“I have, Sire.  On two such occasions.  One was a traitor and the other was a horse thief who attempted to take advantage of me.”

“Hmmm.  Remind me not to take advantage of you.”

“Certainly, Sire.”  The woman said with a smile of her own.  “Why have I been sent to see you, Sire?”

“Ah.  Directly to the point.  The Prince has wisely decided to send a few teams out to the west to ascertain future plans of the Taira armies.  He has ordered that these teams consist of two persons – a samurai in disguise and someone pretending to be his wife.  I am told you are able to blend in well as such a person.  Am I correct?”

She considered this a moment.  “Yes, I believe so, Sire.  Will I be armed?”

Now Juro considered her question.  “Perhaps.  It might be best if you appeared docile and unarmed.  I am sure you have been schooled in the silent arts--“ he paused dramatically “--by the way you disposed of my apple.”  He smiled.

She did not smile, but responded “I can play the part.  Who am I to be paired with, or is that known as yet?”

“A young, newly-minted samurai by the name of Yoshida Iwao.  Do you know him?”

“I know of him, Sire.  I have not laid eyes on him as of yet.”

“He will be returning to camp soon and then you will both be given your instructions.  You have a place to sleep?”

“Yes, Sire.”

“Good.  Good.  Go now and prepare for your journey.  I expect it will last perhaps ten to fifteen days, but you need not take that much in supplies as that would not be consistent with the way you represent yourselves.”

“Perhaps, Sire, might I portray myself as a seamstress who is being protected by a ronin?”

Yosh!”  Juro mused, hand on his chin.  “Perhaps.  I will think on that for a few days.  I do know, however, that it might be best if you kept your, ah, martial powers hidden until actually needed at the moment.  But, if you feel that young Iwao should know what you are capable of, by all means tell him.  Now, young Asami, off with you!”

Asami bowed.  “At your command, Sire.”  Then she left the tent.

 


Submitted: November 27, 2014

© Copyright 2021 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

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Mr Watson

A lady not to be messed with, no doubt, a perfect partner for Iwao.

Fri, November 28th, 2014 9:49pm

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Oh yeah. I have some neat adventures planned for both of them.

Fri, November 28th, 2014 1:57pm

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