Chapter 3: Uji no Tatakai (Battle of Uji) - Chapter 3

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

Reads: 235
Comments: 1

Feeling much more refreshed, Iwao followed Omi back into the inn.  They rejoined Katsuro and Ijimi on the mat as they sipped hot tea.  Katsuro offered a cup to Iwao, who took it with nervous hands.

“Not to worry, warbler.  I foresee that you and I may have our lives intertwined in the future – after a bit of training.  Now, how long have you been away from your lands?”

“Almost two years, sir.  I left home because of an ... incident ... and traveled to my uncle’s home in Arida.  I lived there at his pleasure until the local priest showed an interest in me.”

“Interest, how?”

“I was good with children, sir.  Plus, I played the flute.  Not well at first, but I hope I have improved.”

“Hmmm?  You have.  Continue; but first, what was the incident at home?”

Embarrassed, Iwao recounted the tale of being found in the barn with the village elder’s daughter.  Surprisingly, Katsuro only grunted, as if he’d been in that very same situation.  “Very well, on with the tale.”

“The priest was somewhat militant and, against conventions, taught me the rudiments of swordplay, archery, and self defense.”

“Did he now!  I am not surprised.  Some priests can be very persuasive.  How long did you study under him?”

“Eight months, sir.”

“Are you any good?”

“According to him, I ‘showed promise’, which is very nearly a compliment from him, sir.”

“Huh.”  Grunted Katsuro.

“I could test him, Katsuro,” said Omi.  “See how much he has learned.”

Katsuro turned to Omi.  “A very good idea, Omi.  We can do that later.  For now, let us hear the rest of his story.”  He turned back to Iwao.  “And of the swords?  How did you fare?”

“Not quite as good, I fear, sir.  We did not have real swords because, as you know, only samurai are allowed real steel.  We wrapped thin sheets of metal around bamboo to simulate the weight of a sword, but they sadly lacked the balance of a good sword.”

“Eh?  How would you know about that?”  Katsuro challenged with a squint.

Iwao swallowed.  He’d said more than he should have.  Now, he had to finish or this samurai would take his life.  “I-I was told by my mother that I was the son of a samurai, sir.  I did not know my father; he was killed during a battle for Kyoto just after I was born.  I am told he fought well, but his swords were never recovered.  Without them to prove my lineage, I trained without them.”

Katsuro mulled this over.  “Your father.  What was his name?”

“Yoshida Daiki, sir.”

Katsuro rose to his knees, hand to the hilt of his sword.  “Oooish!  If you lie, you are dead!”

Fearful of his life, Iwao bowed to the mat and froze, waiting for the end of his life.  “Please, sir!  It is the truth.  My mother would not lie!”

“What did she tell you of his death?”

“Only that he died with valor, saving his leader’s life by giving his own.  It is said he died with twelve arrows in his body.”

Oooish!”  Now Ijimi hissed through his teeth.  “Could it be true, Katsuro?  Could this man be the son of such a warrior?”

“It is possible, Katsuro,” said Omi.  “He is of the correct age.”

Katsuro exhaled and relaxed – as did Iwao, slightly, very slightly – releasing the hilt of his sword and lifting his tea cup.  “Describe your clan’s crest.”

Iwao swallowed.  Now was not the time to make a mistake.  He reached back into his satchel and pulled out a cloth wrapped packet which revealed a black lacquered box with the following embossed in gold paint on the cover: “???”.  Ijimi let out a gasp, but Katsuro held out a quieting hand and motioned for Iwao to open the box.

When he did, it was Katsuro who exclaimed.  “Aiee!  Fujiwara!”

Inside lay a woodblock print on thick rice paper.  It was the classic ‘hanging wisteria’ of the Fujiwara clan.

“Please understand, sir, that my father only fought under this banner – he was aligned through association of our Yoshida clan.”  Said Iwao deferentially.

“It is true then.  Your father was the man who saved Heijikawa’s life.  I was there at his left flank as we stormed the Sanj? Palace to depose G?-Shirakawa.  How strange it is in life to have you appear here and now, warbler.  Your father had my respect.”  He made a short bow towards Iwao.  “If you accept the mantle of deep training, my lord and our cause could use your help greatly.”

“I wish to serve, sir.”  Said Iwao, bowing to the mat, and inevitability.

“Enough bowing!  You have my permission to use my name, Yoshida.”  He formally introduced Ijimi and Omi, who exchanged bows with Iwao.  “I think, for the time being, that we will still refer to you as ‘Warbler’.  We have need of a man who could serve as infiltrator if need be.  We,” indicating the three samurai, “are too well known.”

“I obey, sir ... Katsuro!”

“We may need to distance him from us, Katsuro,” said Omi.  “As you say, we are well known and he appears as a drifter.  Could we not send him into towns first as reconnaissance?”

Iwao’s heart froze at this turn of events.  He recalled the fate of spies nowadays; the best he could expect was to be immediately beheaded – the worst was far to grim to recall.  Yet, the call to adventure appealed to him and he smiled.

“You may smile now, Warbler, but after the next few months of training, it might be tempered with pain and sorrow.”  Said Katsuro with a chuckle.  “You training begins at this very moment.  Go with Omi and let him see how adept you are with a bow.  If you meet his exacting standards, perhaps we can scare up a sword or two for you.”  He chuckled again, but grimly.  “How about some more tea?”

* * *

Iwao’s training was indeed intense.  He was drilled time and time again on proper swordplay – this time with a borrowed sword, a spare belonging to Omi, who preferred to carry his bow.  With the proper application of good footwork, balance, breath control, and dedication, even Katsuro was impressed with his progress.

Omi’s archery training was of a different sort.  He began with targets large enough to hit easily from fifty paces and, once Iwao was placing his shots as called, Omi moved them further back and reduced their size.  In a matter of two weeks intensive training, Iwao was now able to pierce a small gourd as it swayed back and forth in the breeze from forty paces.

One evening, as Ijimi, Iwao, and Omi were sitting around a small, smoky fire, Katsuro suddenly joined then and shouted “Archers!  Left of the old mill, the three tree grouping.  Hit the middle tree!  Ima!”  (NOW!)

Omi and Iwao sprang to their feet and as one they loosed two arrows apiece.  Close examination of the test showed that both of Iwao’s arrows hit only a hairsbreadth away from Omi’s.

“Well done, Warbler.  Tomorrow, I think we will follow you through the field and see how you do on targets that appear.”

“I obey, Katsuro.  I will not fail.”

“Eh?  I do not think you will either.  Now, get some sleep.”

 


Submitted: October 12, 2014

© Copyright 2022 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

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Mr Watson

There's more to the warbler than meets the eye, fascinating.

Mon, October 13th, 2014 7:49pm

Author
Reply

Field trials are always a bear. Thanks for the read.

Mon, October 13th, 2014 12:54pm

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