Lion and the Unicorn
cannot be two suns in heaven, nor can there be two Emperor’s upon the
throne…why then, would you believe that there can exist two clans to serve at
Toturi’s right hand?”
- The Oracle of Thunder
sun beat down upon the walls of Matsu Castle, the heat causing the land beyond
to ripple and wave. On the
battlements stood the proud samurai sentinels, the strength of the new sun not
enough to turn them away from their duties for an instant.
After all, they were the warriors of the Lion, proud and strong…and
defiant, even towards the heavens above.
the ancient texts of the Empire, and the forces that served them.
the castle and around it, the remaining armies stood ready.
Spears shown in the bright daylight, and the sound of swords being
sharpened and drawn filled the heavy air. The
small group of cavalry stirred nervously, as if the horses could sense what was
coming, as if both sides had prepared for this battle for almost two hundred
they were right.
at the front of the armies in her black armor, Ketsui’s face glistened with a
sheen of sweat. She was not an
overly attractive woman; her face was too harsh, too embittered to be called
lovely by any but the foolish. Yet
to the men and women awaiting her command, she was beautiful and deadly, as the
wind filled her short red hair and touched her ready hands.
old samurai had returned hours ago, telling them that the Unicorn would not
leave the lands of the Lion unmolested. These
gaijin, claiming honorable lineage
yet still living as barbarians, spoke of old laws in old books, and their
they would be shown what the strength of purity truly was.
purple standards of the Shinjo and Otaku could be seen clearly now; across the
plains they waited, thinking themselves ready for what was to come.
Their fine cavalry would ride the Lion into the earth, they thought.
Ketsui had to smile, both at the thought of the coming battle and the
idea that the Unicorn could still think that their fabled horses could win the
one advantage lasts forever.
scouts came running, but even before she saw them, Ketsui saw the forces of the
Unicorn begin to move. From her
saya flashed her sword, raised up in challenge to the heavens.
She roared defiance, and a thousand worthy warriors echoed the shout.
came the flash of war fans, the cries of men and steeds alike, and the fields of
rice and grass were turned to blood and flesh…
Ketsui shouted as the Unicorn rode past, loosing an arrow into the tight ranks
of spearmen and killing another noble Lion.
They refused to fight honorably, choosing instead to rush in and fall
away, afraid to meet the Lion’s fury. Even
so, the Matsu and Ikoma had learned of such barbarian trickery, and tore the
cavalry apart when they came once more.
arrow struck her armor, but Ketsui ignored the near miss.
The daimyo of the Matsu raised her katana with a cry, then charged into
the oncoming mass of spears and hooves. A
hundred followed her into a dangerous attack…the last thing that the Unicorn
could not be lowered in time, and the horses turned and fell even as they
crushed the Matsu beneath their hooves. Ketsui
sliced high, cutting open the first rider, then the second, sending their empty
horses running off into the fields. The
woman roared in anger again, charging her wounded forces forward, cutting and
killing as the Shinjo tried desperately to escape from their own attack.
they did retreat, however, the Otaku came forth, the faces of the battle
maidens’ calm and composed. Ketsui
and her soldiers turned with raised spears, knowing better than to try to flee
back to the safety of Gunjin’s lines. The
yari sliced through flesh and bone, but the cost was great, as Ketsui’s sword
bit into the body of the leader’s horse, throwing her to the ground with a
the woman with broken neck lying upon the field, Ketsui’s forces withdrew,
their numbers reduced by more than half. The
Lion moved north, along the plains, using their knowledge of the land and
tactics to keep the speed of the mighty war-horses low.
They fought amongst rice patties and empty farms, cutting and killing as
the sun continued through the sky.
evening fell, the armies gripped one another in a death hold.
The Unicorn forces, led by the magistrate Hanari, sliced deep through the
lines of the attacking Matsu, only to be repelled as Ketsui and Gunjin countered
attack with attack. At length, the
rider turned his horse, looking over at the lines of dirty, panting Lion samurai
with a sneer.
have come to serve the Emperor’s Justice, Lion!
Our cause is just and right! Surrender,
and receive our mercy!” His voice was strong and harsh, despite the hours of
commanding and shouting. In his
eyes burned a passionate fire, and it was Matsu blood that now stained his
the forces of the Lion came a laugh, scornful and proud.
Ketsui, her armor broken and hanging, stood well in front of the spearmen,
a snarl of rage on her wet face. “If your cause was truly just, Unicorn, how
would you know? For two hundred
years you have learned nothing…choosing to trust in gaijin
tricks to save your hides! We are
the true servants of the Emperor…damn old laws to Jigoku!”
face was hard from the insult, and for a moment he seemed ready to ride the
red-haired woman down himself. Ketsui
did not move from her position as the Unicorn raised his katana; she had nothing
to fear from such a man.
blade came down, and the flanks of the Lion were torn to shreds.
the Otaku and the Matsu met, and Ketsui threw them back with flashing blade.
She stood with them surrounding her as the spearmen fought to help the
samurai-ko, cutting and dodging away from their vicious spears.
At last, Hanari ordered a retreat, his face covered with a respectful
look when he saw that the Lion’s lines had held, and Ketsui still stood upon
open ground, crying for more.
more charge, Hanari! Can you fight
on, or will you accept the mercy of the Lion?” The shout was a challenge, as
surely as if she had called out his blade.
Behind her stood the tattered lines, broken spears and banners still held
by bleeding, tired samurai like a proud unit.
Unicorn laughed. “One more shall break even you, Matsu!
I will be sure of it!”
only smiled, revealing her gleaming white teeth in joyous rage. “Come then,
Hanari, and I will teach you a lesson in war.”
time, the Unicorn would not fight as the Lion wished.
The maidens and the Shinjo sliced at an angle, harrying the lines with
yari and bows despite the suddenly thick fog.
Ketsui turned left, then right, bringing down two riders each pass.
The samurai-ko seemed invincible, standing surrounded by the bodies of
Unicorns and broken steeds.
himself burst from the mists before her, his dai-kyu
raised and the horses of the Shinjo behind him.
Ketsui turned, her weary sword raised high, but the arrow flew true,
striking the Matsu in the chest and causing her to stumble and fall.
he passed, Hanari saw the impossible. The
Matsu daimyo leapt up again, gripping the arrow tightly in her right breast.
The katana rose, slicing open the next rider’s neck and face, sending
him crashing to the ground with an almost unnatural grace.
Hanari shouted out in pain, watching as his son’s body crashed to the
ground and was crushed beneath friendly hooves.
came Gunjin’s men, cutting and butchering against the Shinjo even as they fell
away. Rank and order decayed as
Hanari’s horse turned back to face Ketsui, leaving the Lion and the Unicorn to
rip each other open, turning a dedicated line of samurai into a huge melee of
screams and pain.
Screamed Hanari as he shot Ketsui again. The
Matsu fell again, shot this time through the shoulder, but she rose slowly,
standing before the great horse as the Shinjo leapt down with drawn blade.
He charged with a shriek, slicing the air with a vengeance and forcing
the Matsu backwards.
am a samurai, as was every man that died by my hand today,” Ketsui sneered as
she raised her katana. “I kill only when my honor commands it.”
filling him, Hanari struck again, and this time the Matsu was not fast enough to
avoid the blow. He sliced open her
shoulder, knocking Ketsui to the ground. The
daimyo grunted as she fell, raising her own blade again as the Unicorn came
forward to end their duel.
locked when he attacked, and the Matsu heaved herself back to her feet, her arms
bristling as she pushed back the bigger Unicorn warrior.
Hanari stumbled in confusion and surprise, unable to believe that such a
person, wounded so badly, could drive him backwards.
Stumbling back with a shout, the Unicorn readied his sword in an instant,
but the attack never came.
had fallen to her left knee, and breath came slow and labored.
She wounds had been too much for the daimyo of the Matsu, and now she
knelt with sword still gripped in hand. Though
her face was matted with red hair and splattered blood, there was still strength
and hatred enough in her eyes for a hundred men.
lowered his katana, casting a look about the field of war.
The forces of the Unicorn lay murdered and broken, their enemies likewise
torn to pieces on spears. The
remnants of either force had fallen back, lest everyone die on either side,
leaving the two samurai alone in a field of blood.
Only Hanari’s horse remained, waiting unflinchingly through the screams
of the dying.
your nerve now, Unicorn?”
shook his head, sheathing his bloody sword with a tired gesture. “There is no
honor in this battle now, Ketsui-san…I have a son to mourn, and plans to
prepare.” With that, the Shinjo mounted his horse, took one final look towards
the corpse of his son, lying beside the wounded killer, and then rode back to
the west, where the remaining Unicorn awaited his commands.
smiled, rising slowly as blood dripped down her shoulder and arm.
Raising her katana in a salute, she slowly moved back towards the
defenses of Matsu Palace, knowing that she would meet the forces of Shinjo
Hanari again…and soon.
they watched the carnage in the plains to the south, one of the samurai turned
to look at his companion. Both wore
the green-and-gold of the Imperial Legions, and one wore also the mon of the
Seppun. A hundred samurai waited on
the other side of the hill, concealed from both armies by the cleverness of
their commanders and the fickle fog of evening.
side should we give succor, Eiji-sama? The
Unicorn have the law, yet the Lion have their right.”
Emerald Magistrate shook his head, his pale face turned to the other man. “We
will not interfere. There is no
difference to the Emperor in who wins this battle, and we have no Miya to
negotiate a truce.” He looked out at the ruined fields, the dead and the
dying, and the samurai shook his head.
does not matter, Heishu-san…they are the same.
Pride against pride. Let
them tear the earth apart, in the Emperor’s name.
We will survive to serve the Emperor’s true wishes, and rebuild what
they have destroyed.” With that,
the two samurai rode down the hill, and the Seventh Legion of the Emperor was
gone, returned to Otosan Uchi without a blade being drawn.
the plains below, the roars of the Lion raised up again, and the horses of the
Unicorn thundered to meet them…
is the Lion,
with courage and honor,
- Shinjo Hanari