It did not take long for that gate to be unblocked, and slowly swing open. A timid set of heads looked out, wondering whether they should run and immediately flee, not quite trusting Gengyo on his promise.
"Go if you want. Stay if you're afraid. The choice is yours – my men will not touch you." He assured then from the bottom of the slope down below. Before they could even attempt to formulate a response, he had already passed them, and was making his way towards the innermost part of Shigeto castle.
The men stormed after their leader, sparing the terrified soldiers a mocking grin, before running straight past them. Some were unable to bear the fear, and collapsed, seemingly in disbelief that they were, in fact, alive.
The grandeur past this wall was not to be underestimated. Artificial streams and beautiful gardens. Perfectly trimmed plants, laid out in all sorts of symmetrical formations, adhering to the circular nature of the inner section.
And of course, dominating it all, was the main castle. Several floors of genius. For hundreds of years, the building had stood, having been built by a team of the most creative minds in the province. And over the centuries, its glory was only added to, as new generations of artists were put to work on improving it. Sloping tiled rooves coming out in extravagant points. Several grand entrances placed boastingly. It was a treasure in itself.
And its glory was soon tarnished, as over a thousand feet set upon it carelessly, trampling over the delicate grass and flowers. Servants fled inside one the many minor buildings that were dotted here and there, slamming the doors behind them in fear, for all the good that would do.
Theirs was not an army focused yet on pillaging. They were united in single minded determination of seeing the end of one of the greatest clans that had graced these isles of Japan.
A man choked, collapsing, blood spurting from his neck. "There are still some that remain loyal to their master." Gengyo stated, casting the blood from his blade with a flick of his wrist, as he slowly padded inside the ancient building. His footsteps were light, yet indiscrete, leaving a pair of bloody footprints in their wake.
"Ah!" A serving woman yelped in fear, having run down the corridor in search of escape, only to be confronted by the advancing army.
Akiko's sword lay pointed towards her throat a moment later, and she dropped all that she was holding, scrunching her eyes tight in fear. "Where is Imagawa?" She demanded, her voice tainted with an uncharacteristic l.u.s.t for blood.
Tears began down the woman's face, as she pointed with a quivering finger further along the corridor, towards a room that seemed to take up almost half of the space on the ground floor. The young woman nodded, withdrawing her blade, and moving forward, Gengyo by her side.
They veered left, passing a set of stairs. It appears there might have been some truth in the servant's words – there seemed to be little chance that the Lord Imagawa would trouble himself with such inconveniences.
The door to that room hung open, and as they approached, they could hear the whisperings of conversation.
"We must go, my Lord! They've already breached the inner wall – they will be here any second!"
"Nonsense! Let go of me! You've misheard – that simply isn't possible. I'll have you whipped if you don't leave me this instance! The sun hasn't even arisen yet, and you're bothering me with this?"
"No, my Lord! It's the truth." The servant protested.
"I'm on this man's side. It seems like they've gotten in." A second voice joined the fray, startling both of them, as a hand slithered onto the servant's shoulder, seeming to appear out of nowhere in the darkness.
"Who… Who are you?" Imagawa stammered, shocked by the arrival of this unknown man, with his clothes so coated in blood, and a vicious casualness in his expression.
"Me? Oh, I'm nobody in particular. You're the star of this show, my Lord, if it please you." With a quick motion, his hand around the servant's shoulder grasped his jaw, and broke his neck, and he allowed the body to fall to the floor with a disquieting thud.
The several women present in Imagawa's bed let out a scream, and attempted to flee in their n.a.k.e.dness. He stepped aside, allowing them to pass with a cruel smile, before turning his attention to Imagawa once again.
"Now then, since we've run out of interruptions, shall we move on to the main event?" He purred, waving his sword suggestively, as yet more faces began to appear behind him.
The chubby Lord was beginning to sweat rather heavily by now, and the fearful tremors that assailed his body were only made worse, as they ripped like waves throughout his rolls of fat. "S-stay back!" He stammered. "I-I can give you anything you wish for! Gold!? Ten thousand gold coins!" He continued to make all kind of offers in a futile attempt at persuading him, his voice becoming more and more shrill with each passing breath.
"Tempting… That is tempting. But you see, I'm after something of a more… fleshy persuasion." He insisted, before lunging forward, and leaving the lightest of cuts on Imagawa's cheek, persuading a small droplet of blood to drip down onto his hand.
"AH!" The Lord yelped, both from the pain, and from the terror of seeing his own blood. He was assailed by a terrible light headedness, and overcome by the intense desire to flee. He shot up from his bed, working his legs as fast as he was able, focusing entirely on making his way past Gengyo. And make it past he did – he had always known he was of superior athletic ability to most, if not all men in this province. He was putting distance between the two of them. He knew the escape routes, all he had to do was maintain this pace.
But what he left behind was a smile of grim amus.e.m.e.nt, as they purposefully allowed him to pass, watching his cowardly efforts in derision. And then, at a casual walk, they followed after him.
He had run all but a hundred metres at a pace that was dismally slow, and they found him, collapsed in his own throne room, a river of sweat flowing from every patch of skin on his body.
He saw them wander in after him so casually, and once more begun to panic. "No!" He shouted breathlessly. "No! Why are you doing this!? I'm Imagawa Yoshimoto! Your Lord! Cease this stupidity at once! I'll have you all killed!" He shouted threat after threat as he crawled away on his back with a striking resemblance to a walrus.
"Mm… Something tells me that's not going to happen." Gengyo mused, watching as Sasaki stepped boldly forth, and grabbed the Lord by his collar, dragging him up the steps, before throwing him down upon his throne.
He was made there to sit, and behold the full might of the army that had come to deliver justice upon him, and the hatred in their gazes. It was no mean feat to have won the distaste of so many men, and was likely something that most would find difficult, even if they had tried to achieve it.
"Well, well. Would you look at that? The great Lord Imagawa, saviour of Japan."
"You will pay for this! Whatever you do to me will be redone to you a hundred times worse." The throne seemed to lend him some confidence, as he once more returned to his usual threats.
"Oh? And who will be delivering on that promise once we kill you?"
"M-my," the mention of his death caused the hog to pause, but he still continued nonetheless. "My army!"
"Dead." Gengyo stated with a yawn.
"They're dead." Gengyo repeated once more, more firmly this time.
Imagawa's mouth twitched in disbelief, but he continued nonetheless. "Then the Takeda! Our allies! They'll have you all killed in the most miserable way possible, and your families with you!"
"Oh? The same Takeda that refused to go on campaign with you? Face it, Yoshimoto, its over. This is the end for you. You were never great. Your foolishness has caused the destruction of the Imagawa clan all but overnight. I hope you have a good excuse when your ancestors confront you."
"That's not so-"
"Okehazama. It was you that ordered that we camp in that gorge, did you not? Negligence. Your campaign would have ended right there. Even with so many men, you could not bring victory. Do you doubt that any one of your ancestors would have succeeded in your place? Do you believe that you could have done as Oda did? You're no great general. You're just a fat little puppet