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A Time Traveller's Guide To Feudal Japan Chapter 209 - Very Good.

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A terrific nightmare of disorganisation it was, when the sun finally came up to reveal what destruction had come to pa.s.s. The forest of tents had been flattened. Very few remained standing. Some had even caught flame, and now all that was left were a few sc.r.a.ps of charred canvas.

As for the oxen, their fires soon went out, and with them, the pain began to ease off. Their mad charge had been brought to a halt, and now, they wandered sporadically around the plains, helping themselves to meals of luscious gra.s.s. The villagers might wish to gather them at some point, but for now, the men felt they'd more than earned their rest.

There was indeed a great number of corpses. The Red Feather men had spared no effort in forecasting their viciousness. And yet, there were men kept alive as well. After the capture of Matsudaira, their reason to fight had died, and most laid down what weapons they had, surrendering for the sake of their leader.

"Awake, are we?" Gengyo asked with a light smile. They had taken control of one of the tents, and made themselves quite comfortable inside. With the chimney-like hole in the top of the canvas they had even been able to light a fire.

The men sat outside, sharing some salvaged booze, toasting merrily to their victory, doing their best to keep an eye on the prisoners as they waited for the commander to finish his affairs.

"Where..?" Matsudaira blinked, looking around, not recognizing any of his surroundings. The last thing he remembered was clutching his sword tightly, and charging toward a foe he knew he had no chance of defeating. After that, everything went blank.

He looked up, realizing just who had spoken to him with a start. "You..? I'm not dead then..." He stated such with a degree of bitterness. Living brought complications. Death in that moment would have been simpler.

"Sorry to disappoint, but you have no value to me dead."

"I hold no value to you alive either. Imagawa will not show weakness with me as your hostage."

"I'm well aware. Come, make room for the man by the fire. He's had quite the night." Gengyo motion for the others to clear away. The dissatisfaction on Morohira's face was obvious, but he moved nonetheless. "Go on. Sit down. We have some talking to do."

Matsudaira looked at him with a degree of suspicion, but did as he was bided to. It felt good to warm his hands by those flickering flames, though the uncomfortable stares of his enemy's comrades did something to offset the heat.

"A drink, as well. A drink after battle is always welcome - helps to still the nerves a bit, doesn't it?" Gengyo tossed him an entire bottle, having no gla.s.ses available. "No need to thank me - it's your saké after all." He prodded fun, prompting a light chuckle from the others.

The defeated general - when the gift was put as such - accepted it, and drew out the cork, taking a long swig to solve the dryness in his throat. In the past he would have been wary of growing drunk, but with his defeat, he no longer had a standard to uphold, and thus no longer cared.

"What is it you want from me, Miura Tadakata?" He asked pointedly, meeting the eyes of all around him. He noted three females, which he thought to be unusual, but given the circ.u.mstances, he could not seek explanation.

"Well, now that's rather direct, is it not?" He complained good naturedly, pausing to think, so that he might choose his words just right. "It was a riveting battle, would you not agree? More strategical than brutish. In that sense, it has been almost fun."

"I fight for the sake of the Daimyo, I hold no other emotion on the matter."

"Oh, right. He must be awfully good to you to inspire such loyalty."

"It matters not how he treats me. When one takes a vow of loyalty, it must be honoured, else his integrity perishes." 

"Come, Matsudaira, though we sit by the fire, let us not keep tossing each other hot coals. There is no love between you and the Imagawa. Your clan was subjugated, and forced into obedience, is that not the case?"

"I would not claim that it is not. However, that does not change my role as his servant." Matsudaira stated solemnly.

"No, I would not expect that it did, but you also owe your loyalty to your people. Your period of servitude to Imagawa has not exactly been a happy time for them, or so I've heard. Do you agree with Imagawa's methods as a leader?"

"I would not a.s.sume to question my master. While he yet draws breath, my loyalty will be his, no matter in whose company I reside."

"Quite the predicament, I must say. Your vows chain you. Should Imagawa fall to a little accident, then you would be free once again. If only the G.o.ds were so merciful."

"Incorrect. Even if Imagawa were to perish, I would continue to serve the Imagawa clan, such is the nature of my vow, and so I wish for nothing but good health for my Lord."

"Very good. Then you are in a position of luck, Matsudaira." 

The man looked at him with a frown. "How might that be the case?"

Gengyo returned his frown with a wide smile, as he gestured to his people. "We are planning a short trip. We intend to render the Imagawa clan extinct, for… well, personal reasons."

Matsudaira stared at him in disbelief. "Impossible. Not with your numbers. s.h.i.+geto castle is unbreachable. I say this out of respect - do not waste your lives on such a foolish pursuit. As much as many dislike it, the Imagawa will continue strong for a good few centuries, at least."

"Haha. We were told much the same thing when we had your forces marching against us. A short while ago, it was nothing more than us - we that sit round the fire. And now we have an army of five hundred men, and a possible thousand more still."

"That's different." Matsudaira refuted immediately. "You had the defending advantage and… You used that devilish tactic." One could see the displeasure with which he recalled the events of last night. He was so close to saying the word 'cheating' but held himself back from doing so, knowing it to be childish. "It seems that my defeat was secured however I reacted tonight," he lamented, "what with you having a thousand man strong reinforcement coming to your aid."

"Ah, no, those thousand would not have arrived had we not secured this victory. You are something of a main character in helping me to secure them."

The man raised an eyebrow at the unusual suggestion. "How do you mean?"

"Well, outside there stand a thousand of your men, captured, and disarmed as it were - worry not we have to treated them poorly."

"…What is it you mean to say, Miura Tadakata?"

"I want you to give them to me." He proposed, smiling wildly, shocking every individual in the room with his ridiculous notion. Even his own men opened their mouths to protest, but closed them once more, not wis.h.i.+ng to embarra.s.s their master in front of an outsider.

"Absurd! What man in his right mind would do that? That's akin to treachery. I would rather fall on my sword right here and now." Matsudaira responded angrily, moving to stand up, not wis.h.i.+ng to hear any more of this supreme ridiculousness.

"Ah, please wait my good man. They are my prisoners - you do not have much of a say in this. But, though I say that, they still listen to you. See, if a vow is a chain, then it needn't hinder your movement completely. It is still possible to work around it and move things in your favour without breaking it, and demolis.h.i.+ng your integrity."

"I vowed I would serve the Imagawa clan! To give away my men is a breach of that vow. I have lost this battle, Miura Tadakata - I thought you to be an honourable man. Let me die with my pride intact, or let me return to Imagawa, so that I can be judged accordingly."

"I do not mean to test you. I admire your skills on the field of battle, if I am to speak honestly. And in truth, I feel you and I have much the same cause - if it were not for your troublesome vow. I can make you a promise, Matsudaira Motoyasu: Imagawa will fall to the Red Feather, and it will be done soon."

Matsudaira made no move to respond, as his frown only deepened. There was nothing he could say in response without betraying that which he had given his life for. 

"You will remain as my prisoner until then, and, once this little Imagawa problem is dealt with, you have my word that the Matsudaira clan will be free once more. This here province will be free. Yet j.a.pan is still a sea of injustice, and to my mind, there will be no peace to be had unless we once again unify her. When that day comes, it would be my honour to have you fight by my side, as a general of my troops, but of course I will not force you."

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