Chapter 18: Uji no Tatakai (Battle of Uji) - Chapter 18

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

Reads: 257
Comments: 2

Quite tired from the long journey, both Iwao and Goro had a quiet meal, a good soak in very hot water, several flasks of sake, and retired for the night a bit earlier than normal.  They had been informed by Juro that they were to meet with him early in the morning and make plans for their intelligence campaign against the Taiga.  As he drifted off into a sound sleep, Iwao couldn’t help but wonder what was in store for him in the very near future.

Well rested, Iwao did his morning ablutions and dressed carefully for his meeting with Juro.  Over his simple breakfast, he and Goro continued their conversation of the previous evening.

“Have you heard anything, Iwao?  Katsuro told me he’d heard nothing about our future assignments other than we were to be sent out as spies.”

“No, nothing.  I expect we will be given our orders at the meeting this morning with Juro in the command tent.”

Goro picked up a persimmon with his chopsticks and tossed it into his mouth, making a face at the tartness of the fruit.  “The time approaches.  Soon we will have to leave.”

They finished eating and gathered up their utensils, rolling into the pouch for placement in their packs.  Standing, they picked up their weapons and exited the dining area, striding resolutely across the compound to Juro’s tent.

As they approached, Goro placed his hand on Iwao’s arm, staying him.  Nodding towards the side, he said “Not what you would expect to see in an encampment under war footing, nei?”

Iwao looked and saw the two women who were sitting serenely on a comforter spread to the side of the entrance to the tent.  Both were studiously looking down at a parchment spread between them, pointing to items written on it.  They did not appear to have seen the two men, even as they approached with speaking distance.

Halting before the closed flap, Iwao hailed his commander.  Juro-sama!  It is I, Iwao.  Goro and I have arrived,” he called.

“Come in, come in,” Juro answered immediately.  “W do not have much time before we must leave to attend the Prince.”

Looking at each other with puzzlement, Iwao and Goro tugged the flap open and passed through.  Juro was seated on a low bench while his armorer fitted sode (broad leather shields) over his shoulders and connected the ties.  Juro shrugged, making the leather creak until it settled surely around him.

“We will shortly be meeting with Prince Mochihito in the royal tent.  He has orders he wishes to impart to the three of us.  You two will become agents on his behalf and I am to receive your reports from the field.  At the moment, that is all I know.”

Juro stood now so the armorer could place a haidate (inner skirt) and kusazuri (outer skirt), also made of heavy leather around his waist.  When that was secured, the man knelt and securely fastened suneate (shin guards) around Juro’s lower legs.  When the man was finished, Juro rocked to and fro on his toes and shook himself to let everything settle around him.

“Good.  Good,” Juro said.  “Kabuto,” he demanded, holding out his hand for the horned helmet.

Tucking the helmet under his arm Juro waved the two samurai ahead of him to the entrance and out into the bring sunlight.  Iwao noticed immediately that the two women were gone now and concentrated on stepping out at the same pace as Juro on their march to the royal tent.

Upon arrival, they were announced and immediately shown into an inner chamber resplendent with hanging banners.  There was the smell of incense in the air as well as something else which Iwao couldn’t identify readily.  They stepped forward as one and saluted by kneeling to the floor and bowing.

Juro spoke.  “We have arrived at the appointed moment, my Lord, ready to receive our instructions.”

The Prince shifted in his seat, leaning forward as if to speak more intimately.  He spoke with a low-pitched voice, but was clearly understood by the three men.

“I am told by my advisors that you, Juro, have selected two men for the task ahead.  Are these they?”

“Yes, Sire.”

Prince Mochihito looked directly at Iwao.  “We observed you at the field trials Yoshida Iwao and were suitably impressed by your skills.  We are also told you are capable to assuming various identities.  Is this true?”

“Yes, Sire,” gulped Iwao.  “It is so.”

“We have need of your services at this time.  It is our desire that you and young Moronaka Goro outfit yourselves as you see fit and explore the western areas denied, at the moment, to our forces.  We are in desperate need of intelligence as to the enemy strengths and weaknesses especially in the area of Uji.  How you perform this task is left to you and Juro, who is the man you will report to.  Here are your warrants we have prepared.  They are not to be revealed to anyone outside your immediate group.  Is that understood?”

Hai.”  Both young men said in unison, receiving small squares of folded rice paper and slipping them into their tunics.

“You are dismissed for now,” the Prince ordered.  “But it is our wish that you report to Juro’s command tent shortly for a more detailed briefing.”

“Hai!”  They repeated, backing away until they reached the doorway and passed through it.

Once they were gone, Prince Mochihito smiled down at Juro.  “Oh, to be young again, my good friend.  I would be fairly frothing at the mouth to be beginning such an adventure.”

Juro gave a quick bow and a short smile.  “I also, my Lord.”

“Especially with such equipment as you will present them with in a few moments, nei?” the Prince chuckled dryly.

“Indeed, my Lord.  Also especially as deadly at it may be.”

The Prince waved Juro towards the entrance, stood, and went behind a screen, taking his leave.

Exiting the royal tent, Juro found the two young men waiting expectantly at the side of the pathway.  Not breaking stride, he motioned for them to follow him.  Reaching Juro’s command tent, they were ushered inside immediately.  Juro called for his aide who arrived instantly and began removing the armor at Juro’s insistence.

“You two are lucky,” growled Juro.  “The Prince has always been a stickler for proper protocol and this armor is distinctly uncomfortable.  Be thankful you don’t have to wear it.”

Hai!”  Iwao and Goro both acknowledged with a smile.

“For our current task, Juro-sama, it might be dangerous to our health also, nei?” ventured Iwao.

Juro snorted.  “Yes, I think it might be at that.”  He paused.  “But that is neither here nor there at the moment.  Come over here to the planning area and be seated.  I need to fill both of you in on your upcoming duties.”

Swinging his arms, Juro appeared happy to be out of the restrictive armor.  He indicated two pillows.  “Sit.  Sit.”  They sat.  “Now, both of you know your general duties, and most of the details are up to you as to how you carry out your missions, but you are to be aided.”

“Aided, Sir?”

“Yes.  Aided.”  Juro raised his voice.  “Guard!  Send them in.”

Within seconds, the tent flap opened to allow the two girls Iwao had spotted earlier to enter.  The stepped demurely, hampered slightly by the long kimonos they wore, and kept their eyes downcast.  When the reached the edge of the tatami mat, they knelt and bowed.

The one in the blue kimono with gold piping spoke.  “We are at your orders, honored Sir”

Turning to Iwao and Goro, Juro barked “Samurai!”  This diverted their attentions from the young ladies back to Juro.  “You are to be paired with these young ladies as further cover for your mission.  Tanaka Kameko and Shimizu Asami have both been trained in the usual duties of a female accompanying a fairly successful merchant.  How you intend to pursue your quest for information is, of course, up to the both of you men.  Any of the smaller details can be worked out between you and the one you are paired with.  You will be given any tools or equipment you need.  Are your orders understood?”

Iwao bowed.  “Hai!”

Goro bowed.  “Hai!”

“Good.  Good.”  Juro stroked his chin as he was his wont when thinking.  Then he gestured to the girl in the blue kimono.  “Iwao.  I am thinking that Asami is perhaps a better match for you skills and disposition.”

Now, brought into the conversation, both girls looked up.  The girl in the pale yellow kimono, Tanaka Kameko, gave Goro a shy smile and immediately dropped her gaze again.  The other, Shimizu Asami, did the same to Iwao, but held Iwao’s gaze steadily, smiling faintly at him.  Then she slowly dropped her gaze also.

Juro rubbed his hands together briskly.  “Now.  I expect you two should probably begin gathering your gear as the Prince wants his intelligence gathering to begin immediately.”

“Hai!” they both responded, bowing quickly and rising.

The girls rose also, keeping their eyes downcast as they waited for the men to lead.  Then, following two paces behind their samurai, they left Juro’s command tent.  Outside, Goro gave Iwao a surreptitious grin.  Iwao grinned back, but with an element of uncertainty as to what he was getting himself into.

 


Submitted: February 09, 2015

© Copyright 2022 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

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Mr Watson

Bound to be trouble now there's women involved, but if I remember correctly, highly skilled assassins like their partners in crime.
Been a long time coming Tom, I hope all is well ?

Mon, February 9th, 2015 8:22pm

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Reply

Things could be better, but I'm coping. Dodged a real bullet, but not out of the woods yet (to mix a couple of metaphors). But, what's a meta for anyway?

I have some scenarios plotted out here that will take advantage of their skillsets. Primarily following Iwao and Shimisu, but may switch over to Goro and Kameko occasionally.

Mon, February 9th, 2015 12:37pm

Whiskey Charlie

I have to be honest, Tom. My short attention span precludes me from reading Uji in its entirety. I get so fatigued when I try. Anyway, this comment is really about something slightly different. I naturally presume you have read The Tale of Genji. Like Uji, Genji is too long for my condition, however, the parts I have read (in English translation) are extremely fascinating because that story was written long before the Japanese first met Europeans and is thus not tainted by Western ideas.

Sat, February 28th, 2015 6:57pm

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Reply

I started reading The Tale of Genji when I was in Japan, but the book I was reading belonged to a friend and I wasn't finished before I got transferred. I might see if I can find another copy of it and read it again. Until you mentioned it, I'd forgotten about it. Thanks. ~Tom

Sat, February 28th, 2015 2:26pm

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