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Ukyo Nagamasa sat down for his supper with all the other soldiers. It had been days since they started the siege of Akechi Castle. He himself lived in Kyoto with his parents. Never having to worry about his food, his meals used to be summoned by his father. It seemed a far cry to what he was doing at that very moment. Now he lived only for his next meal, sitting in a crowded field near his tent, struggling for every bite. Why he had joined Lord Takeda in his war, he had long forgotten. Now he was worried about his survival. And the fall of this seemingly godlike monument to the wonders of architecture, and a testament to his master's enemy's power. One of the windows of the castle caught fire; there were a few moments of joy. A strange joy, a meaningless joy, the joy of having his enemy hurt. Even amidst all that joy, he knew that this minute victory was nothing. The fire would be put out, and normal routine would continue…

Until the commander orders them to send out another wave.

Imagawa Yoshitsune looked outside the castle windows at the rows of lights in the large field below. He took his tray of sashimi and ate slowly, savouring each mouthful, knowing it to be his last. He had been born and raised in Mino province, and it was only a matter of inevitability for him to serve under his lord Oda Nobunaga. Even more so since he had been born a samurai and he was not going to dishonour himself or his father. A samurai's loyalty is to his master, true and bold. He would protect this castle to his final breath, until and unless the commander surrenders, at which point there is only one option. Seppuku. Just then an arrow hit his window and it burst into flames. Panic-stricken, he dropped half his food and proceeded to curse his luck, and his enemy. His final meal ruined and his nerves rattled, he proceeded to try to put the fire out.

Ukyo Nagamasa had lived in the bustling metropolis of Kyoto. His father, a merchant, and his mother, a homemaker, lived with him. His parents were quite content with their small lives in the city. Ukyo, however, being a young man of nineteen, dreamed of the battles and glory of the army. He practiced with his shinai (bamboo sword) everyday, ever since he learned the basics of kendo from a samurai by the name of Hashiba Minamoto. His family was quite shocked when he triumphantly announced that he was going to join the army, since his best friend Jubei joined the army, it seemed natural for his young mind for him to join as well. Jubei…his best friend, ever since they had shared their money to buy a tray from the nearest restaurant. Jubei…his best friend, who was ripped asunder by an ashigaru(Ancient Japanese Shock Trooper) as they charged the first defense of the castle. He now realized why his parents, regardless of the possible pride, told him off for dreaming of pursuing such a dangerous career. Ukyo had spurned his mother's requests and had joined the Takeda clan to fight alongside Jubei. He had never felt so alone and at the same time so ashamed before in his life. He had killed five soldiers already, one of them a boy no older than himself. He felt dirty, and his mind kept going back to Kyoto, but he gathered himself… thoughts like that could get a person killed out here. He noticed that the fire in the castle window had been put out. It was a small fire.

Imagawa Yoshitsune also thought of his own family. His father was a samurai who had fought and died in the service of his lord Oda Nobunaga. His mother, a short woman by the name of Kaori, had died of cholera when he was a boy of 5. He had experienced nothing since then but hardship, and sacrifice. His law had been Bushido- the way of the samurai. His father had taught him the uses of swords, guns and other weapons, along with art and writing. He was a very promising samurai. It would seem that tonight, though, would be the last moon he would see. He had no friends and the death of his father meant that no one would mourn for his death. No one but himself.

The order had arrived. The attacking force would attempt one last push into the castle. Word got out that there were less than fifty soldiers left in the castle and taking over it would be no problem. Some doubted the validity of this claim. Ukyo Nagamasa himself doubted this claim and he wondered when the cold touch of Death would find him. He prepared his gun and sword and marched to the line of soldiers. By the time the soldiers were all ready to attack, he found himself on the front line. He would be the first to die if die he must. He prepared his mind not knowing his mind had already prepared itself.

With the order of the commander, the soldiers ran. A hail of flaming arrows dug deep into the side of the castle bursting walls asunder with fire. In that very moment, Ukyo noticed something in the distance, and without any thought, he ducked and saw, as if in slow motion, an arrow fly above him-where his head had previously been- and pierce the soldier behind him sending a spray of blood into the air. Ukyo kept running and then thirty bullets fired and he saw the smoke of the bullets on impact against the castle gates. The gate swung open and belched out a company of soldiers; samurai no doubt. The speed and force of the oncoming samurai were intense enough to make Ukyo and the soldiers retreat. Ukyo heard the rushing sound of an arrow and as it pierced his right leg, heard his heart give a leap. He turned and fired a single shot at the pursuers. It hit and he saw the body of a felled warrior slump against the ground.

The samurai were close now. Ukyo unsheathed his sword; he would die for his master, for the safety of his family and his comrades. He saw the blur of a samurai running towards him and as he swung his blade with all his might and skill, he felt the sting of something cold against his chest. He looked down and saw the cold blade of a sword gleaming like a force of nature in the moonlight. Before breath left him, he could make out the design of the samurai's armour. It was a single tree beside a house. Ukyo felt a sense of peace unlike any he had ever felt before. His family would have been proud .He left.

Imagawa Yoshitsune received word from the commander of the castle. The Takeda invaders were preparing for another push. They underestimated the number of soldiers in the castle and were arrogant. He received orders that the samurai would be sent to repel this invasion. "What fools!" he thought; sending the pride of the army to repel such a weak attack. It would serve a purpose, though; the enemy would be convinced that the numbers within the castle were few and would keep sending small portions of the army, only to be cut down by the samurai elite. He took out his katana and cleaned it admiringly. He had spent years perfecting his father's style. He took out his father's own armour and stared at the markings on it; a single tree and a house; his childhood home, all but destroyed now. He would make his father proud now; he would be his father incarnate. He would strike back with the force of a hurricane and his enemies would despair.

He joined the other samurai behind the gate. He saw a hail of arrows pierce the side of the castle. It would not matter. He saw the charging ashigaru. He waited, clutching his katana. The front line of soldiers fired their guns; a single samurai fell. He checked his own gun. Then with the order of the commander, the gate was opened. There was a moment of silence; lasting no more than a fraction of a second, when the samurai prepped themselves. Then with the rest of his samurai comrades, he rushed towards the ashigaru. They must have been more fearsome than he thought, for the ashigaru were retreating. He saw the leg of a soldier get pierced by an arrow. The soldier; while falling; fired a single shot. The samurai beside Imagawa fell. He ran for that one soldier. The soldier now had unsheathed his own sword and seemed to make a stand. Imagawa rushed with all the speed he could spare and with one fluid move, he had unsheathed his sword and had stabbed the soldier in the chest. He himself noticed that the soldier's sword was close to his own neck. Within a second, the glow of life left the soldier's eyes. He now made for the remaining soldiers and with all the quickness and force of a hurricane, he cut four of the soldiers and made his way for the group of samurai who were going towards the castle. He turned and saw that only two or three of the ashigaru remained and were making for the camp, where they would be forced to perform seppuku no doubt. He made his way inside the castle and there he remained. Until his death.

It seemed the enemy commander was no fool and thus he attacked the castle with the force and fury of hell itself. In no less than a few hours, more than half the soldiers in the castle lay dead, and a great number of the samurai themselves were wounded. The great tapestries of the rooms were now covered in a layer of blood, and it was a few more hours of tireless siege which made the commander do the unthinkable; surrender.

In a remote corner of the castle, a solitary samurai, kneeling before the walls, raised a dagger. And with the courage, skill and surrender of a true samurai, Imagawa Yoshitsune plunged the dagger deep into his abdomen and proceeded to slice it horizontally. In a few moments of excruciating agony, his soul left him.

Thus, on this day, on March 1574, ended the great siege of Akechi Castle in Mino province.

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By Shampad Mutakabbir Rahmatullah

Escaping from the Tight Corner

I was lying on the bed in suite # 426 of Blue Shine Hotel. Lira was in suite # 425. The clock struck midnight and all of a sudden a queer feeling passed through me. "Knock, knock" came a sound from the door. It seemed as if some nocturnal creature was awaiting all ready to knock over me. "How do we get out?" the question popped into my mind and I began to remember how it all started…

Lira, my best friend and I decided to spend the weekend in greenery and came all over from Dhaka to the beautiful hill tracts. As the area was hilly we decided to take a jeep ride. The place had a fantastic contrast of green and golden bathed by the rays of the sun. Suddenly we came to a halt before a breathtaking sight. It was a huge, lush green forest. It attracted me so much that I decided to venture inside and take some snaps. Lira told me that there were some strange stories about this forest; she strongly protested my proposition. Well, Lira was a very superstitious girl and her stupid remarks made me more curious and I put my foot down, eager to explore the surroundings.

We parked the car by the side of the road and proceeded towards the forest. It was dark inside and the place was really unsettling. There was a bizarre odour and we could see halved lemons scattered all over. I quickly took out my camera to click but unfortunately it was not working. Lira told me that these lemons were used as voodoo to spot out humans.

All of a sudden I felt an eeríe sensation and I noticed there wasn't a single living creature over there except us. I began to ponder at this thought when suddenly I caught sight of a tall tree standing as large of life in front of me. To my utter horror I found out that there hung a black doll identical to me with needles stuck in it and blood was oozing out of it. This sight frightened me and I held on to Lira for dear life.

We sprinted back to get out of the forest and soon disclosed that we were lost. By this time I was completely petrified and began to sob when all of a sudden we heard some strange noises coming from somewhere near. It occurred to me as my death knell. It seemed to pull us towards it and I eventually started to follow it.

It led us to a pitch-dark cave. I felt as if someone had taken over my body and was in total control of it. Soon we entered and found ourselves greeted by some beings clad in black cloaks; giving us no chance to have a look at their faces.

They forced us into a chamber and soon we discovered that there were some other guests too, the skeletons. Just at the instance we regained our consciousness and became aware of the happenings. I couldn't grope out anything but had an instinct that something evil was in store.

I tried hard to rise and bolt but all my attempts were in vain. There was a sudden cracking sound a massive figure wearing a black cloak entered with a human skull in his hand. I asked him what was happening. He replied that they were the worshippers of devil and for centuries they had been trying to get control over the world. They said that their intentions were soon going to be converted into reality by sending us into the human world as their weapons and we will spread destruction all over this beautiful world and make it into a hell.

For a moment I stood aghast thinking of the consequences but soon my attention was diverted on a green light that came piercing the wall of the chamber. All of a sudden I got immense strength and freed myself from captivity. I knocked over everybody and to my greatest astonishment found myself lying on the bed in Hotel Blue Shine.

"Knock, knock," again came the sound. This time I stood up from the bed and opened the door. I saw Lira standing in front of me sweating like anything. We exchanged some confusing looks at each other and then she entered the room. We discussed the whole incident over again and at last sorted out that it is indeed a mystery a mystery that holds the secret of an unknown world, which is beyond our thinking power.

By Afrida Mahbub







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