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Falling Leaves
By A.L. Mundell

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

The Warlord wept. It might have been from the the smoke drifting in his eyes that floated from the burning wreck of Okuchi Castle, it might have been from the myriad mountain of pressures that any man of vision always faced, it might have been from the demons of waste and self doubt that always was present in some form after any battle in which men spilled their blood for him,but these men were boys! just pages barely old enough to hold a sword, although he recalled he had faced his first battle around the same age. That a group of boys had been the first to breach the castle and were indeed the deciding factor in its fall was amazing and heroically emotional! If any had dared to take notice of this atypical display of emotion from the great man of war none in his retinue would have dared ask even if they had been close enough to notice his misty eyes.The wind blew the moisture away with the smoke of his slighly bulging eyes,a face that would be consider unremarakble at a casual glance except the hardenss in his eyes belied mediocrity. The warlord who would one day unite all of Japan with his vision of controled violence snapped open the iron warfan he carried and shooed away a crow who dipped its beak in the viscera of a dead defender.He clenched his jaw to keep away the doubts,but he remembered and wondered if he had come to be the cause of his own sorrow.

"Iwamurachan!" he said only to the smoky wind...his eyes glazed as he thought about last night.

"My Lord it is I, Iwamura Nagato" the melodious voice drifted through the the tent flap. There was a pause as the page waited for a response. Iwamura Nagaoto felt the trepidation that accompanied being summoned to the warlords' tent. He knew what lecherous intent to expect from his lord,it was common but Iwamurasan was not. He had dreams beyond mere retainership so he remained passive. Now he understood the wooden faces of so many wives and prostitutes but he was trained to fight! when would he be allowed to show his true worth? He did not want to embarass his clan but he sometimes wondered if he would rather cut himself than serve in this function. He was the oldest page still in "service" at 13 and felt like people were begining to laugh at him. He resolved to raise the issue in as delicate a manner as possible.Iwamura focused his ears on the inside of the tent and heard the hasty sound of maps and plans being rolled up

"You may enter" came the maganimously mirthful response.Iwamura did so as he lifted up the tent flap he pulled himself and the tray of sake he had brought inside the tent still in a kneeling position close the flap put the tray down and bowed low to the grown forehead upon hands.

"Iwamura Nagato at your service" If the page had dared to look up he would have seen the great lord trying to stuff too large rolls of rice paper into too small of a bamboo case. The Lord abandoned this idea at the sight of the freshly scrubbed and groomed page and let them fall upon the low portable table that sat next to the futon and sword wrack.

"Rise Iwamurachan"he said unctiously and Iwamura winced inside at the address one usually reserved for children.Iwamura did so and saw the obvious intent unmasked in the Warlords' bland face that had conquered so many. He had the face of a man who was in Iwamuras' opinion was not very commanding except that his eyes had the hardness of arrow tips. The page looked down from the dark eyes that gave him the same feeling as when he gazed at a poisonous mushroom or a dangerous insect. His face masked his distaste as he poured the sake for his lord. He held the cup out and bowed his head.

"Why so formal Iwamura? I have grown fond of you, please pour one for yourself" he laughed down at the delicious looking boy he would soon destroy.

"Thank you my Lord" The young man poured the cup quickly and after topping off his masters cup,  gulped down the fiery sweetness where it burned with the bile in his gut.He galnced around the tent in a futile attemp to evade the lustful hardness of his lords eyes but the man who had cause the downfall of entire domains could smell Iwamuras' and it was exciting him.

"Would you like to see the battle plans?" The sounds flowed from the warlords' lips like poison dripping off the tip of a blade.The Lord of the Oda Clan plucked the bottle of sake from Iwamura and poured them both one.

"Yes my Lord!" the page said too quickly and a little to loudly.Even though he had been through this before he could not get over how the man made him so nervous.He would rather face the best enemy archer than sucumb to this kind of irrational fear,there was no fighting it. He wished he were not so beautiful. He wished he would lose the eye of his master, he wished he were anywhere but here. The husky voice pulled him back from his wishing.

"Here is where we will feint two attacks" Oda pointed to the the maps left unsecured upon the table. Iwamura could see the surrounded country side represented in minute detail upon which stood the objective of Okuchi Castle,more of a wooden fort, but drawn in great detail. The fear in his heart burned the image of into his memory and Iwamura wondered if Oda had this power to project fear upon his enemies.

" When the second wave attacks right flank refused,they will be diverted and a small force will attack and breach here where they are vulnerable..." The last word hung in the air as the hot breath of the Great General breached his ear. The page checked his fear as a hard hand pawed his silk covered body.Iwamura tried to melt and give into him but his body refused to obey what his mind told him his life may depen upon.

"Why do you act so rudely?!" Oda said contemptously as his pumped Iwamuras' stiff backside while he pawed at the pages' obi.

"Oh No my Lord!" he said hastily and smiled encouragingly while his face turned red.

"Then why do you act like a scared woman?" Oda spat as the edge of anger began to temper his voice.

"I am very grateful that you honor me so" Iwamura knew the time had come to spit it out.He found the audacity to turn and look at Oda.

"However?" Oda said coldy and the smile was nowhere to be seen.

Iwamura swallowed his fear and backed up a step and bowed low

"Please let me fight!" his voice cracked. He remained bowed so the General would not see the red color that lit his face.

"Get UP!" the Warlord screamed and Iwamura felt the favor of Oda shatter as he did so, he also felt the back of Oda's hand as the general smashed his pretty face with and open hand. Iwamura went flying as his eyes sprung open in fear, humilation, shock and surprise.Oda advanced upon the sprawled page as with horror the boy realize the menacing intent from the warlords' kimono that fell away to reveal his excited rage.

"You dare? there are scores of boys that would jump at the chance to polish my saihai and you would dishonor my favor?"The coldy raging man man moved lighting quick as Iwamura stared up at him from where he lay. Oda grabbed a wakizashi from the sword rack and yanked down and away leaving the say behind he sprang at Iwamura Nagato and grabbed his topknot.Oda struck him with the butt of the swordhilt stunning him.The lords' hatred found its way down Iwamuras' throat.

"I am the Lord!" he screamed and punctuated each word with a thrust as Iwamura choked.

"I am the one who decides who is to be a page,and who will feel my rage!" he disengaged himself from the boy and spun him around flinging him down upon the map strewn table. Iwamuras' face crashed into the laquered wood as he once again saw the tiny detail of Okuchi. Iwamura grabbed deatil in his mind to focus on as he felt the kisaki of the sword thrust bewtween his Obi and kimono and cut it away Oda yanked his undergarments down as he pointed the tip of the wakizashi to the pages still bleeding temple. Iwamura Nagato felt his eyes widen as the same time his insides did.

"Now!" the Warlords labored breath rasped. "Fullfil your duty!" he yelled and laughed as he released himself. he breathing slowed and he whispered mockingly to into the pages ring ear

""Oh Iwamurachan,I don't know why you" "chafe"" at it so. hahahahaha! now get out of here! and be thankful I don't make you cut your belly!

Oda recalled with excitement and regret the way the events played out. He had enjoyed last night but somehow it had turned into the death of these Young boys! It would soon be known that Oda had boys fight his battles! He was at a loss for what to do. One of his line Captains'  approached with a boy in tow,he could not have been older than 8. Perhaps a survivor? he snapped the fan against his hand closed and looked to them

"What have you found"? he asked curtly, annoyed at being disturbed

 The captain and the boy bowed low

"My lord this by has an amazing story!"

"Hmm? Who are you and what do you know about Iwamura Nagato?" he asked the boy with out being able to hide his interest.

"My Lord! please forgive me!" said the boy in the prone position.

"Rise little one and tell me your name and what took place" he motioned with the warfan.

"My Lord I am Sawa Sanchiro of  Sawa Clan he said and bowed again quickly.

"Rise Sawachan and tell me what you know" he said a little too anxiously, then added"why do you ask forgiveness?

"That I did not die with my brothers!" he yelped and began to sniffle

''There Child, I know you are very brave to have come out alive and no one will question that,come over here and tell me...

"My Lord,Iwamurasan told me to stay behind!" he began to cry.

"Sawa Sanchiro! do you think a Samurai cries? he does not! now, I command you to tell me what you know!"

""Well My lord it was last night it began..."

"Hmm!" Oda grunted encouragingly and waved his fan in a gesture of dismissal to the captain and everyone around who had witnessed the little drama.They bowed and retreat.ed and Oda stretch out his war fan and held it down to the boy.

"Rise and let us walk" he said gently. the boy rose and grabbed the offered warfan and they began to walk the still smoking compound

"I over heard Iwamursan last night,but I did not mean to spy on them,but Iwamurasan was angry and he said he wanted to commit seppuku!" the boy said breathlessly.

"My brother told me to leave but I secretly hid so I could here what was said

"And what did you hear child,do not fear hold back nothing!" Oda said encouragingly

Sawa let go of the warfan and said simply"I fear" and stuck a finger in his mouth

"That is why I removed everyone,so no one but us could hear" he said jovially.

" Now, what was said? it was about me? wasn't it?" he smiled down at Sawa

The child looked up with solemn eyes wide and nodded vigourously and said in a whisper

"He said you shamed him!"

Oda laughed a tiny laugh and coaxed him on

"What else did he say?"

Sawa took a breath.

"He said that he had been shamed by you and so he had shamed himself and his clan!he was going to kill himself but then he talked with My brother Benoske and after a while he stopped crying then he said"" I will die in battle by attacking the Castle instead"" and Benoske said""I will go with you"" and Iwamurasan said that he would die and Benoske said he would die with him because he was tired of bleeding out his butt!"

 Sawa paused and took a breath and Oda Laughed under his warfan

"Then what happened child? "

Sawa looked up inside his head as if trying to see the memory of it all.

"Well, then some other boys came by and they also wanted to join and while they were all secretly dressing for battle they found my hiding place"

"Oh? and what happened nex?t" said Oda addicted to every word.

The boy paused and reached in his kimono and drew out a paper

"They were not mad,but Iwamura and Benoske asked me to give you this and remain behind so that others may know!"

He gave the paper to Oda.

"Do you know what it says"? as he unfolded the rice paper

"Yes Lord, he told me!" Sawa paused and closed his eyes to get it right then said:

"If anyone would weep or ask why remember that we were warriors, not woman!" Sawa bowed and Oda choked.

"Sawa" he breathed.

"Yes Lord?"

"Do not speak of this to anyone ever" He said in a whisper."You can go now"

Sawa bowed again and walked off with a smile hidden from Oda. The warfan snapped open, The warlord wept.