Yasuke, the Black Samurai (2)

The sun set warm over the stench of glory. Crows cried. Blood-caked hands sheathed in lacquer black armor grabbed a fallen warrior by the chest plate, a pin cushion of broken arrows, and lifted him up above the razor grass. Broken joints dangled in odd directions and his eyes, lost to crows, were sockets of darkness in the orange light.
“Mitshuhide wa dokoda?” A heavily accented voice barked into the blinded man’s face.
“I know you. You are the black man,” said the eye-less samurai. Then he vomited as he gargled curses through burbles of blood and choked on his own dying breath.
The black man threw the samurai on the ground. A fist-sized fresh-water crab was crawling on the blood smeared mud. Yasuke looked over the battle field strewn with corpses and dismembered limbs, the enemy leader nowhere in sight.  The battle, for him, was not over until Mitsuhide’s head was in hand.
Black smoke rose from the camps as the men of the
honjin threw bodies of the dead on a fire. The dusk filled with the foulness of burning flesh, and mouths and nostrils became dusty with bitter soot. Columns of smoke slowly multiplied in the darkening sky, announcing to the world beyond that a fight had been won. And yet the traitor was still at large, a taste in the mouth worse than the soot. 
Silhouettes of soldiers stood by the fires, their lances and spetums held erect against the purple sky. Scavengers scurried about, bolder now that darkness was near, looking for purses with gold and weapons to be sold. Foot soldiers and pages parried with them as they tried to retrieve the heirlooms and jeweled armaments, but they also had to carry the bodies for the fires. Noblemen in the camps sorted through the corpses for heads to be severed and taken home as trophies. 
Yasuke, the black warrior, paid them no heed, for he had been fed the cold dish of treason and it sat ill in his stomach.
He made his way through the tall grass, when he heard a rustle. He found a young warrior, hiding.
“Spare me!”
He was clearly noble. His armor had a
Namban chestplate of European make, and the rest was gold plated scales tied together with silk.
“Your leg is injured. If you stay here the scavengers will kill you for your belongings. I must take you back to camp.”
“No! Leave me!”
“You will die here.”
“I am Atsuji Magoro Sadahiro. Son of Sadayuki. If I am captured they will take my head for Hideyoshi.”
“You will have an honorable death at least.”
“Spare me Black Man! I do not want to die!”
“I can promise you a clean, swift slice. The scavengers will take you apart with blunt weapons. You will not survive the night.”
The young warrior looked away. He was barely teenage. He had a string of beads and a cross hanging from his neck, a Christian, like so many of Mitsuhide’s subjects.
“If you tell me where Mitsuhide is, I shall bargain for your life. But I make no promises.”
The boy looked up, rebellious, and took measure of the man in black armor.
“Why do you fight for that peasant Hideyoshi?”
“I do not fight for Hideyoshi, but I owe allegiance to Lord Nobunaga our master.”
“But Nobunaga is dead.”
Yasuke gritted his teeth. He had failed to protect the man who had freed him from slavery. He drew his sword.
“I can take your head now, if you so wish.”
The boy shrank.
“Mitsuhide ran for Settsu.”
“That would be a hard escape. The road is ambushed.” He sheathed his sword. “Come.”
Before the boy could object, he was lifted on the huge man’s shoulder. He waded through the razor grass and carried him to the camp. Soldiers gathered curious to what prisoner he had brought, but kept distance, wary of the black warrior two heads taller than the best of them. He set the boy down near the center of the camp. Ishida Mitsunari came out of the pack, shoving noble soldiers aside, clawing through them.
“What is this?”
“This is the son of Atsuji Sadayoshi. He has given us the location of Mitsuhide in exchange for his life. Mitsuhide is headed for Settsu.”
“If you plead for his life, you shall not have his head as trophy.”
“I do not care for trophies. I want to avenge my master.”
“Very well.”
Ishida Mitsunari, known as Hideyoshi’s lap dog, was despised by many but his position as Hideyoshi’s closest aid was solid, and he was never shy to show it. He bent down and snarled at the boy warrior sitting on the ground.
“So you, the Atsuji heir, is selling out your master to save your own hide? I would not find that surprising, knowing that your master is a traitor.”
He straitened up and addressed his men.
“Behold! Treason trickles down the ranks!”
The men laughed. The boy, humiliated looked down at the ground fighting back the tears.
“Send a messenger!” he cried. “Our enemy is headed for Settsu! He must be killed before he reaches the fortress!”
Some men ran about, rushing left and right, fetching the horse for the messenger, but just as a samurai mounted the horse, another horse came riding into the camp nearly colliding with the out going horse.
“Hear ye! Hear ye! Mitsuhide is dead!” cried the horseman. “Our enemy is dead! He was killed in an ambush on the road to Settsu! We have victory! Hear all! Mitsuhide is dead!”
The soldiers erupted in cheers.
“Ey-Ey-Oh! Ey-Ey-Oh!”
“We won! We won!” the soldiers cried. “Our master is avenged!”
Ishida Mitsunari stood before the boy and sneered at him.
“It looks like I shall have your head after all. You betrayed your master too late.”
The boy spoke out at the top of his lungs.
“Hideyoshi is the true traitor! He knew of the revolt in advance! He tricked Mitsuhide into it! He never warned Nobunaga because he wanted to see him dead and take his place!”
“Silence!” cried Mitsunari, but he was clearly taken aback.
“Listen to me, all of you!” cried the boy. “Hideyoshi knew what was happening! He set a trap and made Mitsuhide kill Nobunaga, then he killed Mitsuhide so he could claim credit for avenging his master! It was all planned!”
“Rubbish!” said Mitsunari. He drew his sword. “Silence or you shall not live.”
The boy said in a defiant growl.
“You will kill me anyway.”
Mitsunari, crying out in rage, flung his sword down at the base of the boy’s neck. The blade got caught in the mail of the armor, but bit deep enough to cut into the artery. A shower of blood erupted from the wound and the boy fell sideways.
Yasuke knelt beside the boy, but the wound was fatal. As he faded away, the boy slipped a piece of paper into the black man’s hand. Yasuke took the paper, pretending not to notice. He turned to Mitsunari.
“The boy is dead.”
Mitsunari turned away in a huff and ordered to his men.
“Slice off his head and put it in a box.”
Yasuke stood and watched as the corpse was taken away. He could not help having the uneasy feeling that he had yet to fight another battle with a much greater enemy before justice was had for his master.

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