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A Time Traveller's Guide To Feudal Japan Chapter 211 - Casual Steps

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With more men under his command, how could he not be contented? But nothing could erase the grief that had pa.s.sed between them. Matters had to be attended to subtly, and carefully, in an attempt to properly construct a bridge between them, devoid of any cracks.

"Welcome to our ranks. You will a.s.sume your positions the day hence. Today should be spent gathering yourselves. Retrieving your belongings, and burying your dead. Matsudaira, will you return with us to the city, or remain here?" Gengyo asked, presenting him with a choice.

"I am your prisoner." Came the man's simple response.

"Haha, I suppose you are. Then, come with us. I would talk with you some more, and have you share in our celebrations. This is a victory for all of us, despite your defeat."

The men began to struggle to their feet in response to the threat of movement. It was only then that they realized how much their muscles ached. Training was one thing, but battle went far beyond it. Certain limiters were removed, as adrenaline consumed the body, and without even knowing it, they pushed harder than they ever had in their lives.

The loss of life for their order had been minimal, and so, even in victory, they were allowed to be truly pleased with their success, knowing that they could share their celebrations with their friends and comrades.

"Off we go then." He announced to no one in particular, a smile on his lips, as he began forward. Matsudaira responded in kind, keeping by his side, and their men stumbled after them with tired drunkenness. They pa.s.sed through the crowd of ex-Matsudairan men who parted before them in silence.

The new recruit's interactions with the soldiers consisted entirely of stares. Even by the way they carried themselves, when walking by so close, the quality of their new allies was obvious, and most dared not to meet their gaze, consoling themselves with Gengyo's promise: that they too would reach such a standard shortly.

They brought plenty of sake with them, and made no efforts to rush across the plains, taking it a single leisurely step at a time. It was only then that they appreciated the distance between them and the enemy camp. When they had sprinted across it, they'd covered the distance so rapidly, and now they marvelled at their own feats, shaking their heads with proud disbelief.

"They will not desert." Matsudaira stated, breaking the silence between him and the man beside him.

"Hoh?" Gengyo raised an eyebrow in response, as if to question what he meant.

"You let them stay to give them the option, without fear of unseen punishment. To make them truly choose between leaving, and fighting beside you. And so, I say again: they will not desert."

"Heh… You truly are a man of talent. Yet how can you be sure?" He praised unreservedly. Matsudaira made such observations without a hint of emotion, as though they were the most natural thing in the world, but none of the others had realized his true intent.

"They are my men. Their loyalty is unquestionable. They have stayed with me through far worse circ.u.mstances than this."

"I would hear more of such circ.u.mstances - we have a good while ahead of us. If I am to fight beside you, it would please me to get to you know you better."

"I can make no comment in regards to that, not whilst Imagawa still lives." Matsudaira remained ever rigid, despite Gengyo's attempt at goodwill.

"Haha, I'm sure. Worry not, I won't put you in a difficult spot. You had only need remain on the side lines for a while, as we march against him. It will give you time to decide whether you truly wish to fight for my cause; I will not force you."

"…I will not object on that front, then." 

"Very good. It seems we've finally reached an agreement. Now, tell me, what of your advisors? Are they amongst the living?"

"Nay. They stood by me until the end - they were cut down by your hand."

"I see." He made no moves to apologise, nor did Matsudaira expect him to. If anything, an apology would have irritated him. In the ways of war, there was nothing reversible. Nothing you could take back. If one did not move forward with a resolved mind, then he would do better not to enter the field at all.

The gaping hole was still in the wall, just as they had left it, only now, there were a few curious villagers who arose to peak their heads out. With no flags being flown, it was left to the more eagle eyed to decide which force marched towards them.

Very few had resolved to sleep that night, with the fate of their city resting upon this battle, and so, when the forces had departed, so had they, as they watched from atop the walls. They bore witness to the devasting charge of cattle, and the deadly a.s.sault that followed. Still, it seemed unreasonable to expect that the five-hundred-man force held a chance, even with all that they had employed.

A prominent face stood amongst the spectators, alongside one of his more loyal men - one that had earned the ire of Jikouji quite early on. The head of the guards. Gengyo chuckled under his breath as he recognized them, affording him a curious glance from Matsudaira.

"Good morning, Governor! It's wonderful to see you in such good health." He called out, taking a sip of his saké and feigning drunkenness.

"Oh! I forgot there was a Governor… I thought it was you that owned this city, boss?" Rokkaku joined in, a.s.suming the role of the inquisitive idiot, struggling to hide his extreme amus.e.m.e.nt as he saw the dark look pa.s.s over the Governor's face.

"No, no! You musn't say such things. The Governor rules from the shadows, and it's only thanks to his blessed competence that this city is in such a fine state… Aside from this hole in the wall. That was my fault, I hope we will be forgiven for our insolence." Gengyo bowed leisurely, before walking past him with nary a glance.

Matsudaira looked him up and down as well, and immediately understood the reason for Gengyo's contempt. There was no substance to the individual. The smell of weakness tainted him, and he could not hold his gaze for long. Insignificant was the perfect word to sum him up.

"Ah." Gengyo paused a few steps away, before turning back, just in time for Morohira to pa.s.s, shooting the man a teasing look of his own. "We will get this wall fixed up immediately, but we will first celebrate our victory."

"You had best be careful with your words, mercenary! You've had your way merely because the Governor allowed it. Should you push too hard, then expect to meet resistance, and a set of unfortunate circ.u.mstances." The head of the guard's called out angrily. 

A set of more ill-chosen words, there was likely none. It was a compet.i.tion to see who could react the fastest. As it happens, one of the foot soldiers was the first to reach him, as he drew his wakizas.h.i.+ faster than the man could blink, holding the metal tightly against his throat. "DO NOT DARE TO SPEAK TO THE GENERAL IN THAT MANNER!" The man d.a.m.ned him furiously, and all the other men around him held a similar anger in their eyes. After the events of today, their belief in their commander was solidified, and he held to them an almost G.o.dlike status. For such a lowly man to insult him was blasphemy.

So frightened he was - with the sharp blade so close - that he could not even struggle. It had already cut shallowly. Anymore, and it might really take his life.

"Stand down, my good man. The good captain here was merely jesting, is that not the case?" Gengyo asked pointedly, raising his eyebrows.

With the blade slightly eased away from his throat, no matter the cost, the captain would have gladly given it. He held no true battle experience. "Yes! A joke! A simple joke!" He croaked. Hearing that response, the weapon was completely withdrawn, and he was kicked to his knees, and left to gasp for his breath, as the rest of the soldiers strolled past him contemptuously. 

After the battle, and such a victory, each of them felt elevated far beyond their status. They were inflicted with a devilish confidence that carved its way right into the source of their character itself. Like this, they felt they could confront any monster and win, as long it was that man who commanded them.

"A man that was born into his position…" Matsudaira mused.

"Which one do you speak of?" 

"Both of them. They are ill suited to the seat in which they sit. A merchant, at most, is the position they should occupy."

"I could not agree more. Such is the case for many a clan across this country of ours. Just because a man of greatness sired him, does not mean that his pup will too rise to the same standard."

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