Running away isn’t nearly as easy as they say it is.
After all, the one doing the chasing had been the “Owari no Outsuke” himself, the young lord of the Oda clan. Everyone fears a fool because their movements are deemed completely unpredictable. Funny and questionable, but mysterious and surprising.
Not to mention that with the fresh blood blending on his black armour and red cape, as well as on the very sharp blade of his tachi, he appears like a Shinigami hunting in the darkness, enjoying his hunting under the heavy rain that had made a very pretty good cover for them against their enemies.
Kiyoshi notes that their enemies are so drunk and in the middle of a huge feast that instead of fighting them outright, they instead scatter and flee for their lives at the face of adversary. He can’t stop imagining why these samurais’ commanders would allow such manner.
Probably because these forces of Imagawa Yoshimoto had belittled their forces by celebrating their recent and consecutive victories at Dengaku-hazama. That’s probably the reason why they were all drinking and laughing and celebrating to the point that they’ve already lost all discipline and continue with their thinking that the head of the Oda clan, the daimyō of Owari province, Kiyoshi’s juvenile lordship, had left the assembly of forces at Zenshō-ji in order to defend their stronghold castle.
But Owari no Outsuke is not only known for that alone. There are whispers that Kiyoshi can’t bear to hear spoken against his Tono. Because of the rumours that spread, his Tono is also considered as the “Lord of Hell”; a title that the villagers had said he achieved because of his lust for blood, and for his deceitful and merciless tactics.
He had known his Tono since the latter was just a little boy. He could say that he had watched his Tono grew up until now, at his age of twenty-four years. He accepted the words that his Tono is a fool, but he is just someone completely out of time. That respective foolishness was highly noted to be his Tono’s remarkable genius intellect, the respect he had gained from his retainers, and the vision of the future.
But… if one would really look at his Tono, they would see a man full of wild dreams. And the complete malice on his face every time that his figure would be illuminated by the fire that was burning every tent there was.
Innocence was easily stolen from his Tono when the latter’s chichi-ue had died about seven years ago. The things that happened between then and now had completely changed him for people to truly define him a fool because of his rash actions and his big ambitions.
And Kiyoshi couldn’t be anymore thankful to be there all through it in order to be bear witness of the truth that many hadn’t seen.
A battle cry forces him back to reality than his scattered thoughts. Coming behind him, that angry shout, he instantly swivels around, uchigatana on his right hand. He parries against the very strength of one of Imagawa’s ashigaru.
The ashigaru is a young man, just few years younger than his Tono, but he was strong and trained and dauntless.
Could this be one of the ashigaru of the young general who’ve headed the siege of Terabe Castle that the Oda clan had managed to win when their reinforcements had arrived on time? One of the men of the young general who’ve tried another siege and successfully captured the Marune fortress? The young general who according to the other senior retainers of the Oda clan was Imagawa’s most trusted general? The young man named Matsudaira Motoyasu?
That would be impossible. After all, Matsudaira Motoyasu is an excellent archer. He would not be in the middle of the carnage such as this one.
Kiyoshi continues parrying and blocking, him almost stumbling as he staggers back to avoid being caught by the enemy’s blade. His foe is already tainted in blood from head to toe; an opposite to him who was dirtied alone by the rain and their camouflage at the trees.
With the fire all around and the continuous fighting, it is a surprise that he is still free from the sign of battle.
He falls back to the muddy ground as his own kabuto drops from his head.
When his opponent continues to slash at him, searching for a weak spot out of him, he wisely rolls to move away. Too bad that the other had been waiting for such move that the younger bushi had squarely hit the junction of his right shoulder passed through the gap of his sode and dō.
He screams at the pain despite his attacker’s deadly and menacing smirk. The blade twists brutally, earning another shout as it rips his bones and muscles.
While his enemy seems so focused with the killing pain, Kiyoshi’s mind starts to turn light. The memories of his fifty years of life appear to playback in fast forward.
Everything falls silent for a moment.
Then, all at once, he suddenly hear the drifting rain, the vibrant crackle of the fire, the echo of the limited tanegashima fire, the sizzle of countless arrows, the clash of blades, and the feeling of something sticky and hot on his entire face. Something heavy drops above him and the blade is swiftly taken away from where it is stuck just by his shoulder. A feeble moan escapes from his lips.
Weakly opening his eyes, he realizes that hovering just across from him is a figure in black and red armour with matching cape, a bloody sword in one hand and an equivalent as well on his very skin and armour. The man’s steely grey eyes draws toward the body he had just killed with such disgust, muttering, “Useless.”
Without any further ado, his saviour starts walking away, heading back to the very battlefield that needs his help. Suddenly, Kiyoshi feels that the man’s words had been turned against him for he is so frozen to his place that he realizes that the words though had been for the headless body on top of him.
It isn’t the thing that forces him to stand and move the body away.
What draws him back to the battle is all thanks to his attentiveness. His eyes fall onto another foe just a hundred metres away with a tanegashima aimed at his fleeing hero.
Kiyoshi immediately pushes the corpse from his body and due to the adrenaline, he didn’t allow the agony on his shoulder to stop him from rushing towards his Tono. He shouts for his name, causing the latter to instantly turn, ready to attack in defence.
But the bullet already rips the bamboo armour, and finally hits skin to puncture the organs.
Until death, he had been loyal. He knows of this fact, one that he could say he had been proud of.
Who would have thought that he’ll die protecting the very Lord of Hell? Even he didn’t thought that this is how his life would ends despite vowing his service to him. But this is different… especially about saving a man scarred enough by battle that blood is already his second skin.
This is just the start of it all. But he believes.
That’s right.Kiyoshi remains loyal to his Tono until death because he believes about the foolishness that the Lord of Hell had declared upon to them countless of times—that he will be the one to rise and unify the entirety of Japan.