As the blue and white tide washed down on the hundred Inuyama samurai from all sides, Masato heard Tetsuya scream out- “Protect the lord! Protect your lord!”
Then, with his sword drawn the handsome young Samurai yelled at his lord brother- “Elder brother, flee! I will lead the charge to freedom.” He then pointed at the Samurai around Masato and yelled. “All of you, protect our lord and get him and these boys to safety! Escape back to Inuyama land!”
“Brother!” Cried Lord Inuyama, but it was too late, for the intense young man had already wheeled his horse around and was leading the charge back up towards the single road that led to freedom. The Lord Inuyama rallied his men and also took off in that direction, as Masato started to- until he realized Taro wasn’t following them!
This was enough to spur Masato into action, and spinning around, the young samurai apprentice turned and grabbed Taro by the shoulder. The younger boy, who was too paralyzed with fear to move, looked at him in surprise, and Masato looked him right in the eye.
“Let’s go, young master!” Masato challenged him. “Last one out of the valley has to kiss the other’s feet!”
At first, Taro just stared at him, and then the young lord started to grin.
“You’re on!” He said, kicking his horse and taking off after his father.
Masato watched him go, and then with a glance back at the onrushing soldiers, he too began to ride for his life.
* * *
Masato quickly came to see the situation as hopeless.
With Tetsuya and the other Inuyama generals at the vanguard, the green and gold samurai horsemen raced up the field toward the entrance to the mountain pass and freedom. From both sides, the Sugura soldiers rushed down, and as they encountered groups of soldiers a few horsemen would break off to hold them while the rest of the riders went around and continued on. This happened again and again, and slowly the number of riders around Lord Inuyama, Taro and Masato began to drop until there were less than a dozen in total.
There was still, however, quite a distance to go.
And, as Masato watched, more troops came rushing out to form two lines of spears across the end of the field and the road to freedom.
The Sugura had clearly planned this in detail, and had no intention of letting them escape. The moment the Inuyama party had entered the lowland field for the meeting they had already entered the tiger’s den, and their own destruction. He and Taro had truly been too late, and had only gotten themselves caught in the trap as well.
Lord Inuyama shouted for the people with him to halt, and the riders reined in their mounts.
“We cannot escape that way,” growled the lord, then he looked right at Masato. “You! You’re Jiro’s boy, are you not?”
Masato hesitated, and then indicated he was.
“These traitors are after me, not my son.” His lord continued. “You have proven his brave companion, now honor your loyalty to me and escape with him into the forest.” He gestured to a nearby patch of tree line with no soldiers near it. “I will lead the fight away from you.”
“Father! No!” Shouted Taro.
“Get him home,” the lord told Masato, giving his son a long parting look. “Son, I…”
“My lord, look!” Cried one of the other riders.
Masato, like everyone else, stopped to look at the entrance to the pass above them. There, beyond the enemy lines, a wheeled horse cart had appeared- minus the horse. The cart was rolling down the field toward the enemy from behind, and Masato could see what looked like a sparkles coming from inside the cart as it rushed downhill.
Suddenly there was a loud pop from the cart, and then another, and huge plumes of blue and red and gold fire began to erupt from the cart and shoot in all directions. Then more explosions, each one faster than the last, and more fireworks exploding out from the cloud of smoke that surrounded the cart.
The lines of Sugura spearmen, who turned to find themselves facing this monstrous sight coming right at them, began to break and run in all directions.
“Quickly!” Shouted Lord Inuyama as he urged his horsemen to move. “Ride for the pass!”
As they rode through the confused and scattered troops, Masato turned his head to watch the cart continue its path down into the battlefield, having a similar effect on the other troops below. The huge showers of orange and yellow sparks were causing chaos, and the cart itself was heading right for the enemy encampment.
Masato found himself wishing that the cart would blow up right in Lord Sugura’s face, but was disappointed to see the cart hit a rock before it reached the camp and tumble over on its side into a cloud of smoke and colored fire. Oh well, one could only hope for so much!
Lord Inuyama’s small party rode up through the pass and onto the mountain road, and there, waiting for them were two more riders on horseback.
Masato immediately recognized Shiori, now dressed in a travel jacket and pants, with her hair tied up with white cloth to make her look like a man to those who didn’t know her. But, it was the other rider who made Masato’s eyes nearly fly from his head.
Sensei! It was his teacher, Jiro! Alive!
“Jiro!” Lord Inuyama shouted. “I should have known if the boy was about you would be too!”
“Always where you need me, my lord.” Replied Jiro, cheerfully. “Now, my lord, we need to hurry. These woods aren’t safe.”
“Lead the way!” Ordered the Lord of the Inuyama, and they followed Jiro to freedom.
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