There was no doubt that the warlord would leave behind his unpunctual soldiers.
Suzu was panicking, struggling to pull over the heavy metal plates of the uniform over her injured shoulder as she rushed to join the rest of the men leaving.
Five minutes, five minutes.
She struggled to shut out the little voice at the back of her head that kept repeating the amount of time she had left until she was certain the general would leave her behind. He was not a man of tolerance, not a man of patience, and she was convinced that her spontaneous food-making would cost her her life far earlier than she expected.
Five minutes, what, five minutes are up.
She was refraining from saying to herself that she'd be dead in the next few seconds. It was a gorgeous day outside. The sun had struck the field harshly, bringing life to the tiny yellow flowers in the grass that flourished despite the drumming of the horse's hooves as they galloped past.
'My apologies, Mitsu—' 'How dare you test my patience, woman…!'
Suzu jumped at the hostility in his shout that so early in the morning already spoilt the rest of her day. Even though the bitter general was not a man of many words, when it came down to making him lose his cool, he would offer you a mouthful of complaints and insults… however, five minutes were definitely not worth this sort of excessive verbal punishment.
After enduring the brutal lecturing of her general, Suzu was finally given permission to mount her steed and join them.
The complaints from his men behind him had started off as a hum at the back of his mind. Ishida Mitsunari tuned them out completely though and kept his focus directly in front of him, moving forward. He could not have been bothered with their petty grievances, which had revolved around nothing but back aches, head pains and some other personal, trivial affairs. It was an insignificant thing to note, but Mitsunari hadn't once heard the woman's voice. He was confident of his keen ears, and even listening intently into the men's pointless groaning, he could not perceive sound of her feminine voice that ought to have stood out amongst the masculine ones.
He glanced over his shoulder out of "curiosity". He strained his ears to hear her voice, but still, there was nothing. Instead he decided to rely on his eyes, searching for the ocular proof of her presence or even some sort of proof of her showing a weakness… in place of his significant searching however, he found himself staring at the female addition to his army instead.
It was a surprising site – he only noticed now – to find a woman travelling amidst men, dressed in a purple and gray uniform which signified her loyalty to the Ishida army. He hadn't taken note of the true colour of her hair though, which at this point was exposed to the sunset as she strode forward on her horse. Like strands of feathery peach silk, her hair was bunched together in an untidy bun at the back of her head, having threads loosely dangling over her shoulders. She held her helmet in the crook of her arm as the horse moved, cradling it almost as she held conversation with the soldier beside her, and she smiled occasionally too…
His "curiosity" was a rather uncomfortable thing.
Mitsunari turned around again and continued to stare ahead at the path before him that with dusk began to darken with the intrusive shade of the surrounding trees. Nightfall had neared, creeping balefully with the setting of the sun, and regardless of the ominous shiver that shot down Suzu's spine as she rode with her fellow soldiers, she knew their leader would not be camping for tonight.
Yet disregarding the minor reaction the cloak of evening darkness prickled on her skin, Suzu turned to ease her restlessness. 'Say, everyone, when we camp again I'm going to make…'
There was no one behind her.
Suzu stopped her horse, halting in panic at the sudden disappearance of the men that were just seconds ago right behind her.
Tell me this is a bad joke.
She couldn't brush off the overwhelming sense that something terrible was about to happen. She could feel the unease nest in her gut with every second she stared back into the void of forest. Her breathing staggered and she was beginning to convince herself that this was no prank.
'Nee-chan, watch out!' someone from behind her shouted, and just as quickly she was pushed off of her horse and onto the ground.
Suzu winced, rolling onto her back painfully, recovering from the impact of the fall that luckily her good shoulder took the brunt of. Quickly recouping her composure, she reached for her wakizashi and managed to get off the ground on her knees. She drew the weapon and steadied her uneven breaths, concentrating on the dark for the faintest of whispers, the softest of footsteps, anything she could use to her advantage then.
Relieved by their attacker's inactivity, Suzu was able to attend to the wounded soldier beside her that had taken an arrow to his right lung. She stared at the wound, frowning gravely at the site of the man in intense pain who at this point began to cough up blood. She was unsure of how to treat the severe injury, but the first thing that had occurred to her as she stared at the man in agony was to somehow remove the weapon from his chest… and yet the little voice at the back of her head was again telling her that such a reckless action would instead make him bleed to death.
She knew her options were limited, and her time was too. She was pressing her palms around the wound, applying pressure to the gushing lesion to suppress blood flow to the area when someone had yanked at her hair. Suzu screamed, having her mouth suddenly compressed against the underside of a person's hand and then her bloodied hands were seized behind her back in an instant.
Where's that damn general?
It was the first thought that crossed her panicked mind. The second was to bite her assailant's hand to get him to stagger and then she could find a means of escape.
She ignored both thoughts however and stuck both her legs behind the enemy's at her back. She pulled them forward again, sending both her and the foe into the mud where she managed to free her hands and regain her balance. She had dropped the wakizashi, unsure of its whereabouts and in a far too risky position to go searching for it right now. Instead she was cursing her leader, wondering where he could possibly be at this hour when his men honestly needed him.
Ishida Mitsunari sauntered gracefully beneath the rustle of the willows. Shoulders slumped, eyes dead-ahead at his prey in the dark, armored fingers clutching the scabbard of his odachi, the warlord scowled in utmost discontentment. Descending into the pit of darkness lit by a mere fallen torch, the general in his already-foul-mood was witness to the site of his feminine addition to his men in struggle with another masked individual.
She was unarmed, engaged in some sort of judo with her assailant. They were grappling one another in the mud until her enemy had gained the upper hand by getting to his feet. He stared down at her pathetic state as she huffed, evidently fatigued by their constant struggle on the ground, and just as quickly, the man's fist collided with the side of her face.
Her salmon pink hair whipped across her face on impact of the powerful blow. She staggered if not for a moment, seeming to at any moment now topple over, but she had managed to fist her hands into the ground to root herself. Quickly building momentum she threw her body forward, launching the top of her head into the man's gut but her efforts were seemingly useless in her weak state. Her assailant had used this opportunity to break through her defense by crushing his foot into her injured left shoulder, driving her into the ground with the immense pain that even caused her to yelp.
There was something strange about the familiarity that radiated from the enemy. Mitsunari however, indifferent to the detailed contents of his army, was far too displeased for words.
Drawing his odachi; making sure his opponent could hear the screech of his metal blade as he unsheathed the sword; the menacing air that loomed over his dipped gaze asphyxiated even the cool, once-serene evening air. Like acid his malevolence dripped from the tip of his blood-thirsty blade.
'As expected from the God of Misfortune,' Hotaru pulled down his mask, smirking triumphantly at the site of his aggravated leader.
He didn't plan on getting too involved with the wicked Ishida. After confirming that the woman in his hands right now was the real first daughter of the Emperor Go-Kashiwabara, all his mind was then set on was the power her kidnapping would place in his hands. He would demand ransom for her, all sorts of payments in pleasure and not have a care in the world.
But first, he would have to somehow get rid of the Dark King. 'Would you rather a double agent or a liar? Take a good look at her disloyalty – spitting in the face of your kindness…' Hotaru turned to glare at Suzu who at this point was completely immobile due to the re-kindled pain in her shoulder.
The revulsion of treachery.
He was far too possessed with scorn to register his actions.
He was far too familiar with the dismay, the bitterness of betrayal, such infidelity.
Mitsunari with lightning speed flicked his wrist, launching his arm forward as the extension came into contact with flesh. Striking through the sharpened weapon of his enemy's, breaking steel with steel; he had cut clean through the traitor's right arm. Splitting the flesh and bone fluidly with the single stroke of his blade, the warlord – tuning out the intense cries of his injured opponent – toppled over his foe without much effort, glowering maddeningly at his pathetic state on the floor. Blood had pooled around his crumpled form, staining the once-gray uniform that symbolized Hideyoshi's reign carried down in the hands of his young successor.
How dare he touch what's mine.
And over the two weeks of observing the woman in repayment of her debt by offering her undying loyalty to him, his "curiosity" ultimately transformed into a sense of domination, ownership of her. Surely the scar he'd given her was the ocular proof of her obligation to him. As long as the remnants of that lesion lay on her body, she belonged to him.
And that very woman - the strangled voice of hers - had pulled him out of his fit of rage.
He hadn't strained to hear what she was saying. In actuality, he was suddenly rather bothered and would have preferred to be alone.
Mitsunari advanced to whipping off the blood from his blade with a simple flick of the sword. Quickly sheathing the odachi shortly after, he stood at full height again and turned away from the site of carnage his rage gave birth to. He proceeded to the woman on the floor that was paralyzed by the intense pain in her shoulder. She was trying to say something – it seemed – in her horrible state, almost languishing like some sort of animal in her agony when the general beckoned for her to stand.
On noting her idleness however, the warlord simply stared at her bloodied wrist; somewhat boring holes into it as he did due to the brainpower it took in his decision of what to do. He could tell that she was thoroughly fatigued and in no condition to move by herself due to the re-opening of her shoulder wound…
And all that brainpower had cost him the grief of touching the pauper.
Even though it took him an instant to do; almost less than a second since he was far too disgusted at the mere thought of holding her wrist; what it really looked like was him pinching her arm with his armored fingers, letting go again the moment she was in a sitting position.
Mitsunari watched her out of this "curiosity", noting the way she huffed hysterically that her back threatened to give up. Directing his attention to their surroundings shortly after though, the general scanned the dark area, taking in the view of nothing but a complete blanket of shadows. He had passed by an assortment of bodies on reaching the woman earlier but he hadn't taken notice of them up until now to determine whether or not they were alive… and of course, the result was in favour of the latter.
Hotaru's deceit had cost him the few men he had… and there was nothing he could do with a mere woman making up the contents of his army.
Suzu had managed to gain mobility once again in her right arm. Even though it cost her great amounts of exertion from all the operational muscles in her body, she had managed to somehow rise to her knees. She was advancing to her feet, springing forward when her legs buckled and threw her hand ahead to grab onto the closest thing possible for support, but her hand only came into contact with a wall.