Tears of Blood
“May the clouds of the Legion Storm blow away the scenes of our crimes, may the hero born of purity crush the animosity between us, and may the spirits of the just shine like stars…”
Toyotomi Kubodera wrote in his journal, written in his own blood. The battle was more intense than anything anyone could have ever imagined; Kubodera had a gash in his arm, inflicted by an enemy soldier’s katana. His blood was all he had to write with, blood and a piece of straw. Still, he continued to fight on after he wrote the passage, jumping onto his gigantic, elephant-sized Hercules Beetle and ordered the 12-ton insect to charge headlong into a crowd of enemies, goring and mangling their bodies with the insect’s horns and huge, trampling feet, sending the remaining enemies into a panic. Still, the Basilisk Warrior Code demanded that the soldiers fought until their dying breath. Some of the soldiers, armed with rifles, sat on the ledge overlooking the Forlorn Valley Gorge, with their rifles trained squarely on Kubodera’s head. “Both Eyes Open…” one of the snipers whispered, as he pulled the trigger, but missed as he let fly with his rifle. Kubodera jerked his head around, his distinctive antler-decorated kabuto helmet pointing in the terrified sniper’s direction. Drawing his bow and arrow, Kubodera launched three arrows and once, each one hitting their respective target’s head; they paid the ultimate price for their inaccuracy. Urging his huge beetle on, he drew his pole-arm, a pole-sword, lowered it and charged directly at an enemy horseback cavalry; as formidable as the mounted cavalry was, it was nothing compared to Usagi the giant beetle. Using his huge horns, Usagi smashed the cavalry; one unfortunate horseman was impaled on Usagi’s huge upper horn; Usagi threw the poor sod nearly 500 feet in the air. What Usagi didn’t kill, Kubodera cleaned up. The Owl Creek, running through the center of the gloomy Forlorn Valley, was red with blood and bodies. Bloody weapons, stained with the blood of their enemies and their users lay scattered all over the battlefield. Usagi and Kubodera ran back in front of his troops’ lines for the final charge against the dwindling enemy presence. Upon massing his troops, he drew his naginata, pointed it at the enemies and let out a massive war cry. Charging across the Owl Creek, Kubodera’s troops slammed into the remaining enemies, and within just 5 minutes of brutal slaughter, none remained alive. “GLORY TO THE SINGING MOUNTAIN CLAN!!!” Kubodera yelled, as all of his troops shouted in exaltation. That battle was critical to Kubodera’s cause, with that victory, he had broken the back of the rival Roaring Storm Clan, and put him one step closer to unifying the Kingdom of Hime as Shogun. In the glory of his victory, Kubodera began treating his wound, to prevent infection, as the army marched triumphantly onto Kio, Kubodera’s base of power. As they turned to march on, with Kuroda and Usagi carrying the standard, they began singing a song:
“There once was a wooden tavern in Hana-town, a place of known and great renown, where knights came to drink and sit down, our leader burns the whole place down, cleansing the earth of enemies now, we fight on with the dreadful sound, of blood being spilled and blades clashing, we give the foe a good slashing, the souls are reaped, to the underworld they go, o’er the dark river to Emma-O…Goodbye, goodbye, Sweet Land of Peace, we’ll be gone for a year at least, if we return to our home so sweet, the cicadas will sing and the birds shall tweet, and if we fall in battle, look for us at the top of a tree, blooming like a cherry blossom for all to see…Goodbye, goodbye, Sweet land of Peace, we will strike without a wail or peep, and when we die, oh damn my eyes…we look into Paradise.”
Rain began to fall gently as the gloomy clouds that gave Forlorn Valley its name opened up, just as Kubodera’s forces arrived at the gates of Hana, a peaceful, walled town that had no weapons and was relatively untouched by the Basilisk Wars, the arrival of Chief Kubodera’s army in full armor and standard, not to mention Usagi; as the army marched to the gate, the reaction was one of terror and awe. The town guards sounded an alarm, and the sound of panicking people emanated from the town itself. “We mean you no harm; we need to rest here for a few hours before moving onto Kio.” “We want no part of the war; take your army somewhere else, Chief!” “Do you want to be destroyed by other, more hostile armies? You should feel lucky that my Singing Mountain Army is asking you for passage, and not the Roaring Storm or Swift Lightning armies, they would pillage and plunder your town until nothing remained. You would do well to show us some respect.” The guards simply couldn’t refuse this offer. They operated the pulleys to open the massive, 25-ton wooden gate, allowing the Singing Mountain Army, led by Kubodera and Usagi, to enter. The townspeople were both frightened and astonished at the same time. Very few had even been beyond the city gates because of the war, and to see an army in full battle dress, as well as a live Elephant Hercules Beetle enter the town was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “Make way! Stand clear, let us pass!!” some of the soldiers yelled at overly-curious bystanders. The soldiers continued to bang their drums and play their fifes, which were audible long before the army became visible. Usagi grumbled slightly, frightening some of the children assembled to watch the procession. Kubodera, however, had some official business to conduct with a certain individual in Hana. As the soldiers marched up to the Green Wyvern Inn, several bar patrons staggered out the door to watch Kubodera dismount Usagi and enter the tavern, flanked by 4 of his soldiers, katanas and naginatas at the ready. Most of the bar patrons were too inebriated to really notice the 5 soldiers marching into the bar, but the bartender recognized them immediately. “SOLDIERS!!” he yelled, sending the bar into a drunken panic, with men and women stumbling over one another to get to the door, only to see the rest of Kubodera’s army outside. “What do you want?! Don’t harm me! I have a family at home!” “Quiet, you idiot! Don’t fear us. We only need to find Prince Keitaro Kawabata.” “Why?” “That’s none of your concern!” Kubodera drew his katana swiftly, pointing it at the bartender’s throat. “Don’t think I’ll be as charitable if you don’t help me. I will slit your throat without a second thought.” “He’s in Heiji, meeting with some of his allies, the Roaring Storm Army Chief Ishigeru Waka.” “Blast…” Kubodera grumbled. “Prince Keitaro must be helping Waka rebuild his forces from the punishment we imposed upon his army. Thank you, kind sir, that’s all we needed to know. Change of plans. We’re not headed back to Kio. Move out, troops; we’re headed for Heiji City.” Kubodera and his army re-mounted their horses and elephant-sized beetle, and marched towards the rear gate. Kubodera, however, sensed that extracting information from that bartender was way too easy. How would he know that the Prince was meeting with Chief Waka without someone telling him exactly where the Prince Keitaro and Waka were…? The only reason for that would be that the bartender was some sort of spy for the Roaring Storm Army; and that Kubodera’s army was marching directly into a trap…but it was a trap that you knew about that could be used to your advantage. Knowing this, Kubodera felt satisfied in the fact that he could simply plan to break around the trap. That would wait until they arrived in Heiji City, however. As the town’s rear gates opened, the army marched out of town just as quickly as it marched in. The sound of the departing banging drums, flutes and fifes slowly melded with the pattering of the warm, summer rain. As Kubodera’s army marched onward; he realized that in order to navigate and launch a sneak attack into Heiji City, his Army would have to pass through the Lexiia Forest, which was notorious for the ancient spirits, many quite hostile, that lived there. The spirits, known as Gaia-Kami, were not taken lightly by Kubodera’s soldiers; many of them were very superstitious, as the spirits didn’t like intruders, especially soldiers. The Gaia-Kami hated war, and viewed humans as a plague on the planet. Fortunately for the human race, Heiji City was doing something about them. The mayor of Heiji, Oda Samamaru, was waging his own war against nature, armed with rifles, cannons, swords, bows and arrows and fire, Oda and his militia conducted raiding parties into the woods, hunting the marauding Gaia-Kami and attempting to bring down Titanus, the King of the Gaia-Kami, who appeared as a huge, black and white furry snake with a golden halo around its body and a golden face mask, covering its 4 glowing eyes. The Gaia-Kami King routinely sent his subjects to raid human settlements near the Lexiia Forest.