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A Time Traveller's Guide To Feudal Japan Chapter 70 - The Days Before Battle

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The march back home was gruesome. He did not push them quite as hard as he had on the way there, but the acc.u.mulated exhaustions of the day meant that all the men found it to be rather difficult.

When they finally arrived in Toyone, it was only a few hours before dawn, so most of them had trouble keeping their eyes open. Gengyo jogged on ahead, and could not find evidence of any housing facilities for them to stay. But the men were so tired as to not be fussy, and the night had remained dry, so many of them were happy to sleep where they lay.

And so, with their last of their energy, they helped to construct a large bonfire, and with that roaring mightily, they gathered around and took some well deserved hours sleep. Of their own accord, the Special Forces veterans stayed and slept outside as well, which helped to keep things in order.

Their leader caught a couple of hours sleep himself, but with the breaking of dawn, he went in search of Jikouji.

The elderly man was where he always could be found at the beginning of the day - inside the dojo practising his swordsmanship. He entered quietly, and waited until he had the old man's attention.

"Grab a sword lad."

He did as he was instructed, though as he picked it up, he was a degree more cautious than he had been the last time, and so he was able to casually sidestep the downward stroke that had been aimed at the back of his head.

"Not bad - you're learning."

He said with a degree of approval as he lunged forward, his stance widening, and his sword closing the distance at a terrifying speed. Gengyo hooked under the blade with his own, redirecting it off to the side, as he attempted to imitate Togashi by stepping around the blade and dealing with the other swordsman's feet.

His plan worked, as with his widened stance, Jikouji was not as well balanced. His lead leg kicked out from under him, forcing it forward, so that he landed in the splits. With that Gengyo judged the fight to be his victory, and aimed to lightly jab the old man in his torso, so that he could claim it more officially.

SMACK

But with a powerful swing of his sword, Jikouji sent his blade clattering across the room. In compromising his opponent's stance, he had let his own guard down, seeing victory too early. As it happens, the old man was far more comfortable in the splits than he had supposed, and was easily able to counter his strike.

He smiled self deprecatingly, understanding his error.

Jikouji rose out from the splits.

"You've improved. But it's still not enough. A fight is not over until one person is dead, or in this case, until one of us has landed the blow. Do not get ahead of yourself."

"Aye."

Wiping the sweat from his bare chest on a towel, he asked the more important question.

"So, what is it that I can help you with?"

Gengyo smiled. It was obvious he had come here with a different purpose in mind than swordsmanship.

"There are currently over a hundred men asleep on the ground outside. They're fine now, but I imagine things will grow a little more complicated if they begin to get hungry."

"Hoh… so that's it."

He nodded as though he was remembering something.

"You're quite speedy, I must say. We had not expected you back for another day at least."

"Mmm… But it was wise of you to let me know. I had not included them when drawing up the meals list for today. Any later than now, and they would have gone hungry. In regards to housing and the like… there's some s.p.a.ce left in the guards' barracks for about 40 men. For the rest we were planning on tents, and then we'll look into more permanent buildings after our war with the Oda."

"Alright, I'll leave it to you then."

He bowed slightly and made his way to the door, closing it quietly behind him.

And so the new men began to settle in. Large tents were pitched for them, and their meals were scheduled. The only duty they had to attend to during the day was training - it was an ideal life.

The funeral ceremony played out with Tobishima as planned, and relations with the village people were improved as Nakatane lead the service. The work to be done in the fields was all planned out, and very soon farming had begun once more in both Toyone and their new village ally.

The women that had been left inside Toda's castle came out a few days later of their own accord, after the drugs had worn off. Two had been captured from Tobishima a few years back, and their own family had believed them dead. The reunions were heartwarming. The others had not come from Tobishima. Their own homes were far away, as they had been slaves for many years. It was an easy choice for them to make - they would rather work in the fields and live amongst true love and companionship than attempt to do otherwise and return to the life of slavery.

But there was one woman that people did not catch sight of, no matter whom you asked. Not even the 5 young slave girls knew where she had gone. That woman was, of course, Isabella.

But such small curiosities were far from people's minds - especially Nakatane's. He had been more than happy with the amount of coin the young man brought back, and the number of troops as well. It was lucky he had acted so quickly, as two days after the funeral of Tobishima, an emissary arrived, mounted on a white horse.

"Summons from his lord Imagawsama, Daimyo of Mikawa."

Was all he had said, speaking to Nakatane casually as he handed him a tightly bound and sealed scroll. He did not take offence at his tone that was almost condescending - he had much bigger things on his mind, and as the mounted man rode away, he had already begun reading the letter of summons.

It had stated that three days hence, they were to gather at Washizu in preparation for their invasion of the Oda occupied land of Owari. It was nothing that they did not know, aside from the length of time that they had, which inspired a degree of urgency within him.

Jikouji had been taking care of the training of his troops for the past couple of days, and he had no doubt that their progress would be substantial. A yumi ashigaru unit had been drafted, using the testing procedure that Gengyo had defined before. But the young man was not there to lead it this time, instead, he was off elsewhere.

In fact, Nakatane did not even know where he was. He did not know what his training entailed. Nor did he ask it of the young man, nor did the young man speak about it. He could only hope - though he felt a degree of anxiety - that they were fit enough to do battle.

With the coin that he received for the successful completion of their tempering of Tobishima, Gengyo had bought a substantial amount of equipment. He'd managed to source it rather cheaply, but the quality of it was remarkable. Nakatane caught sight of a shipment of bows - each of which he was barely able to pull back, for their draw weight was so heavy.

There had been armour too - great crates full of it. He had not inspected those too thoroughly, but he a.s.sumed that it must have been something a degree better than the norm, for he had been willing to supply Gengyo's men the standard guard grade armour himself.

Steel tipped long yari and crates full of finely crafted katana were brought in too, all on the back of ox-drawn wagons, laden with the goods.

He and Jikouji had watched them unloading with wonder.

"You would think he's drafting an entire army…"

Jikouji had muttered. Nakatane was of the same opinion. Such a variety of weapons was unusual, especially in those quant.i.ties, and certainly more so because they were ordered by the leader of a mere 50 men.

"It will be our final training session tomorrow, Togashi-kun."

Gengyo remarked, as they shared their evening meal on the small table in the reception room.

"Do you think we are ready?"

The man asked. He had been filling out a good deal over the last few days, as his body remembered the size it was accustomed to. With his long hair and beard, he was gradually growing into a rather fearsome sight.

"I wonder. We're certainly not where I would like us to be… But I will do some final tests tomorrow, and we'll see what happens."

He said, spooning some rice into his mouth as he chewed in thought.

"Will we be sparring again tonight, Miursan?"

For the last few nights, Gengyo had dedicated a few hours to training in his weaponry. He spent around an hour sparring with Togashi with both the sword and spear, whilst he spent the rest of the time contemplating and evaluating his own styles in both martial artforms.

"Yes, I would like to."

"Very good. You've been improving quickly."

There was, of course, one reason why he had chosen Togashi as a sparring partner - the man's skill with the sword was terrifying. Even with the spear it would be difficult to find his match. And above all - unlike Jikouji - he had been more than willing to help him train, as it also benefitted himself. With all the time spent in Toda's dungeon, he felt his skills had gone rusty.

With each bit of his old skill that he gained back, Gengyo improved to match it. That is why those words he had just spoken were not empty in the least. He truly thought that the young man's rate of improvement was impressive.

More than that though, he admired his dedication. As he went about his own business in the evenings, he caught sight of his new boss drenched in sweat, repeating the same strike for the thousandth time. Othertimes he caught him leaning on his spear, his eyes glazed over, deep in thought. At times he did not see him move even for 30 minutes.

He did not rest even late into the night, reading his strategical strolls by the candlelight, after he had finished conversing with the young lady who often came to visit.

He felt rather baffled at such discipline, especially in one so young. It caused him to reflect on what had been said to those days before.

"I'm a peasant too."

'Could he really be?'

He thought to himself. In the face of such dedication and apt.i.tude for improvement, even a samurai would have to bow low. Togashi himself almost wished to bow low. The mental fort.i.tude was uncanny, and it rubbed off on himself, so that even when he wished to be resting, he found that he could not. Instead, he would take a step outside, and hone his swordsmanship even further.

He knew he was not the only one who admired their young leader. The other men - the veteran's of the unit - looked toward him with a great amount of respect, and comradery. It was of such a degree that he himself could not understand it. He could only a.s.sume that it was due to fighting alongside him in battle - for he had heard of the young man's feats. The newer men saw it too, and were rather nervous about it. They were unable to put a foot wrong, for they knew the older members would not forgive them.

That being said, when it came to training, he was a different man altogether. A ruthless demon that sought only progress. And progress was what he got. No matter how hard he had to push them, he would always force them to progress.

And so the last training session commenced.

//Author's Note

We're nearing the battle with the Oda rather quickly c:

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A Time Traveller's Guide To Feudal Japan Chapter 70 - The Days Before Battle summary

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