Chapter Seventeen

The sun rose, and with it the residents of the village began their preparations for battle. Samurai readied armour, weaponry, and horses as they had always done, but this time with a sombreness hardly seen even amongst the Japanese. They all knew what they would face today, and it seemed as insurmountable as death itself. But they would try, as countless generations before them had. They would not allow the dishonour of running away.

Amidst these preparations, Mr. Graham and Miyuki gathered what possessions they had, ready to make their own trip back to Tokyo. They saw little of both each other and Algren as he prepared for the inevitable alongside the samurai.

When finally all was repaired, they left at a gallop for the site where they knew they would meet the Japanese army. Once here, the samurai set up the various implements needed for their very unusual strategy. Soon after, the modern Japanese army arrived. From this collective of nervous men, three riders came out to the middle of the field. She could see by both his uniform and his posture that this must be Bagley, even if she could not actually see his face to know for certain. The other two, she assumed, were there only for protection, as they both had the bearing of one who is inexperienced and nervous. She would willingly bet money that any like this would be slaughtered by the samurai should they come into close-range combat.

Algren and Katsumoto rode out to meet this emissary, only to return a minute later with the same resolve as when they had left. They were allowed through the rickety fortifications before dismounting. As they did this, Mr. Graham, who stood in front of her, stepped forward and said, "Captain Algren."

"Mr. Graham," he greeted in return, looking over at the more elderly man. He took a bundle of books from his saddle bag and handed it to him. "Perhaps you can use these for your book," he said. He was about to continue walking when Miyuki stepped forward.

"Algren," she said to capture his attention, though her feminine voice took another's attention as well.

"Miyuki," he acknowledged with a nod.

"I am glad to have known you," she said softly.

He only nodded before striding away. But in his eyes was a look as if to say that he felt the same.

In the wake of Algren, Miyuki heard footsteps approaching her. She knew who it was in an instant, but she could hardly bear to meet his gaze. When she finally did, his eyes spoke volumes more of what he felt and thought than his face ever could. "Good-bye," he said quietly, knowing that only she could hear him.

"Farewell," she responded on the brink of tears. They would not fall. She would not allow it. With one last look, she departed alongside Mr. Graham. Both lagged in their pace, for they both knew what was taking place not far behind them: the battle, such a battle that would shape the future of Japan. They could only hope that this future held the samurai as well as the modernity of the Japanese army.

oooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Slowly, both samurai and soldiers were killed, until at last only two were left. Algren was propping Katsumoto up so that the samurai could end his life honourably, which to the Japanese meant suicide. He knew he had to do it right then, or he would not have the strength any longer. He plunged his katana into his stomach. It would not be long now.

With the last of his strength, Katsumoto looked up and saw a grove of cherry trees of to the side of the battlefield. He could see Miyuki in the grove, spinning around with the drifting blossoms just as she had at the temple. "Watashi no kanpekina hana," he whispered. (My perfect blossom)

But the vision faded. It was replaced by the nothingness of death.