Chapter 5: Uji no Tatakai (Battle of Uji) - Chapter 5

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

Reads: 181
Comments: 1

The following morning, Iwao awoke to the sound of rain falling on the ground outside the open window.  He had had a bit to drink the previous evening in celebration of his hard work, and had been rolled up in a coverlet and left snoring softly by Katsuro.

His head pounded and began to resonate with the slow, monotonous ticking of drops falling on a metal pot somewhere in the kitchen.  Soon it became unbearable and he rose to stagger towards the offending sound.

Aiee!  It appears to be alive, Omi.”  Joshed Ijimi from his sleeping robes.

“Indeed, it does.”  Replied Omi, completely covered up.  “One wonders if it can speak also, although there was no end of it’s talking last night if I recall correctly.”

They both chuckled deeply at Iwao’s apparent difficulty in finding the back door as he bent almost double while trying his best to hold back the flood contained in his bladder until he was at least past the horse corral.  Finally, he got the latch open and hurried over the muddy ground.  After urinating for what seemed forever, Iwao returned to the warm inn and laid back on his mat, eyes closed.

Katsuro entered through the front door.  “Time to awaken!”  He said much more heartily than he felt.  He’d spent some time at the celebration the night before also, but was not about to admit he felt like hell too.  “Food!  That’s what we need.  Innkeeper!  We.  Want.  Food.”

A faint voice answered from the kitchen.  “Coming, sir!  Coming very soon!”

Planting himself in the middle of the tatami dining mat, Katsuro grumbled to himself while wiping the water off his swords.  The swords were the beating heart of a samurai and it just wouldn’t do to mistreat them.  The smell of food roused Omi from under his covers also.  Sniffing, he sat up and tossed an apple core at the still-sleeping Ijimi.

“Wake up, sleepyhead!  It is a new day.”

“Go away.  I wish to die in peace.”

Iie.  No one dies today, Ijimi.  Today we must travel to the encampment and receive new orders.  Get up!”  He tossed a complete apple this time, which bounced off Ijimi’s shoulder.

Aiee!  Who died and made you emperor?”  He grumbled, forcing himself to a sitting position and stretching into a huge yawn.”

“Come, come.  Our food is about to be served.”  Omi gestured at the innkeeper and his wife emerging from the kitchen area laden with trays of food which they set before Katsuro who unceremoniously began to eat.  “Ah, delicious!”

“Wait for us.  Don’t eat it all.”  Called Omi from the back yard where he had gone to answer the call of nature also.

“Then hurry!”

Iwao stared blurrily at the trays and thought he wanted none of it, but his stomach had made other plans and gurgled loudly.  Carefully, he maneuvered his oversized head across the room and sat gingerly next to Katsuro.  Reaching out for a bit of sliced yam, he placed it on his tongue with no enthusiasm whatsoever and forced himself to swallow.  Two heavily spiced plums were next.  That was enough for the moment and he lifted the chipped cup of steaming green tea to his face and inhaled the odor to clear his sinuses.

“I believe my sense of smell has decided to hide from me today.”  He swallowed hard to make room for a mouthful of tea, which he slurped loudly.

Iwao was joined on the mat by both Omi and Ijimi who began reaching listlessly for nourishment also.  Gradually, his body began to come alive once more as he fed it bits and pieces of fruits and vegetables from the tray.  He decided that adding a radish or two would be temping the fates and left them alone.

Gratefully, they all noticed that the rain had stopped falling by the time their meal was finished.  Katsuro stood in the doorway and surveyed the muddy expanse of the village square with a glum visage.

“Rain has always depressed me,” he said.  “I once had to move a whole squad of men up a muddy hillside at night.  It was a disaster.  If it hadn’t been for the horses, we would have never made it.  We achieved surprise, but an hour after we were supposed to attack.  As luck would have it, the main thrust was delayed also because the horses could not ford the stream easily.  Now, here we are again.  Building up for yet another battle.  Sometimes I wish I were a simple turnip farmer.”  He sighed.

“Come on, turnip farmer.  There is still more hot tea to warm your insides.  We should at least start out warm.”  Said Omi.

Katsuro turned and rejoined the group on the mat.  “I suppose so.  I wonder where we’ll get sent next.  Some shithole, no doubt.”

“Don’t be so dejected, Katsuro.  Maybe we can find a Taira patrol to clash with.”  Said Ijimi cheerfully.  “I could use a workout.”

“I could do very well without it, thank you very much,” said Iwao, setting down his empty mug.  “Not that I am grateful for the use of your swords, Omi, but I need to earn enough to commission my own armament.”

Omi spoke up.  “I wouldn’t be too hasty to do that my young friend.  Remember, your father’s swords may turn up at any time.”

“Yes, there is that, but I don’t feel right just the same.”

Yosh!  I know the feeling.”  Said Ijimi softly.  “I had to make do with another bow before I had this one made for me.  Nobody but I uses it.”

“And you do very well with it at that.”  Added Iwao.

“I should.  I was groomed under Hiroshito.  He was a demanding taskmaster who would accept nothing but perfection.”

Katsuro stood and, stretching mightily, popped his back.  We should be getting on our way.  Innkeeper!  What are our charges?  We are leaving.”

The innkeeper rushed into the room and sank to the mat on his knees.  “If you please, sir, we are a poor family with no children to help us and...”

“I am not interested in your family,” said Katsuro impatiently, holding up his hand to stop the torrent of words.  He reached into the pouch on his sash and pulled out a written script.  “Here.  Take this.  It will be repaid at the appropriate time.”

The innkeeper knew that he may never be repaid, but kept his eyes glued to the mat.  “Oh, thank you, sir.  Good health to you.”

“Yes.  Yes.  Now go.”  The innkeeper did a quick rotation and scuttled off into the kitchen area clutching his payment.

Katsuro’s two main samurai were all packed quickly as they didn’t have a great deal of belongings to begin with.  Iwao had even less than the other two.  Soon, they were slogging down the muddy path towards the woods that hid the hills ahead.

 


Submitted: October 22, 2014

© Copyright 2022 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

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Mr Watson

Poor innkeeper a mere peasant compared to the samurai, nice read Tom, keep it up.

Wed, October 22nd, 2014 7:16pm

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Innkeepers and the like were treated very poorly back then. They were addressed only by their professions and not by name. As in the book Shogun, Blackthorne's name was given as Anjin, which simply meant 'pilot'.

Wed, October 22nd, 2014 12:37pm

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