For a moment the sun shielded Uono from the spattered limbs of his companions. His skin creaked with relief.
Gnats swarmed over the Kawago paddies, a thousand kilometers away, waiting to be snagged in broken bowls. Upon the dirt streets beyond the marsh Uono trembled before elders, chased his sons with a cattail, trained glares on the village punks. His wife murmured a haiku from their youth as they curled in bed, relishing the sweetness of rain-damp moss through the window.
The light passed. A man hobbled toward him with a gory katana. A crow shit between them into the valley where screams rolled through the fog. The two men quick-stepped, whirling, hissing through noses.
Yatsumara stabbed between the armored slats under Uono’s lung. The younger man dropped to one knee and growled at his clumsiness. The older man drove the sword in deeper.
“You are a crippled horse’s cunt.”
“And I shall personally ensure that your wife is raped by drunk macaques from Tadame. When I reach your village I will tie your children to stakes and take them apart with dull hatchets from a distance of ten meters. Then I will force your inevitably hunchbacked mother to—”
Hm. Nausea puddled in his stomach. His hand, without bothering to consult him, released its katana.
“What is this?”
Uono’s laughter uncorked the fear in Yatsumara’s heart. Pine trees and standard-bearers shook in the distance.
“Our archers are the most skilled in Edo, you monkey’s sponge. Every day they stick fat bastards like you through the center of your eye, and after nothing but plum wine and roots.”