Chapter 324 - Shaken Hive

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With the lighting of the fuse and the rumbling of the earth, the cannon ball was launched high into the air, disappearing amongst the thick clouds of the darkening sky.

The Hojo camp was relatively quiet. Most men had disappeared into their blue canvas tents for the evening. Very few people were still up and wandering around, and those that were had duties they needed to attend to. They might have been in charge of keeping the fires fuelled or they might have been responding to the commands of their own bladders.

No doubt they flinched when they heard the rumble of cannon fire. But their reaction was only to widen their eyes for a few terrified moments before they comforted themselves with the knowledge that the cannon ball could never reach them. Just as it had earlier, the ball would fall in the middle of the plains, out in no man's land. It would make a terrible noise, but that was all. If they could block out the sound then the enemy's antics would have no effect.

Gengyo had long since lost sight of the ball. It was in the air for a good few seconds, invisible amongst the clouds.

"It's going to make it," Togas.h.i.+ said without a hint of emotion in his voice. He was one of the more eagle-eyed amongst them. They were all clenching their fists in antic.i.p.ation, wondering where it would land, even those that had been against the idea from the start.

And then gravity really took hold. As though spat from the sky by the G.o.ds themselves, the cannonball thundered back to the earth. Still, Gengyo could not see it. He could only bear witness to the damage that it caused.

Of all the thousands of tents in the Hojo-Imagawa encampment, it was one particular tent that had drawn the worst luck. Without a shred of mercy or a single moment of warning, the cannonball fell hard on the roof of the canvas tent.

The wooden support beams had no chance of handling such an impact. They splintered shockingly and flew outwards, catching men in their bare skin. One man was particularly unlucky and a sharp stake of splintered wood pierced him straight through the throat.

His comrades were no better. They howled in fear as they understood their fate just a moment before it occurred. A cloud of harsh shrapnel sprung into the air with a deadly force, knocking them unconscious, breaking many bones.

They were left in a flattened pancake of a tent, unable to see even as they struggled. They wreathed like fish caught in a net.

"Bullseye," Gengyo said gleefully, seeing the tent collapse from a distance.

"G.o.ds that was good," Morohira grinned with excitement. He was reaching for the next ball about to prepare another shot, excited to unleash h.e.l.l on their enemy.

Gengyo stopped him. "We don't have enough to keep firing continually. We'll be better served firing at them randomly, so that we can keep waking them from their sleep."

Morohira paused a few moments to look at his son, quite clearly dissatisfied. The alcohol that clouded his head did not help. But he soon saw sense, and an evil grin took hold of his lips. He seemed to quite like that longer plan. It had its own sort of s.a.d.i.s.tic appeal to it. "Fine, we'll do it your way."

"If we can have our men well slept whilst we keep theirs on edge… We'll be doing rather well indeed," Jikouji said. "We had better make sure to rea.s.sure our boys before they all go and start donning their armour."

"That we better," Gengyo agreed.

There was a guardsman standing a distance away, a torch in his hand. He kept stealing curious glances towards them, thoroughly intrigued by his general's antics. Jikouji called out to him. "Boy!" He shouted. "Come here a moment."

The man looked this way and that, making sure that it was really him that the legendary Jikouji was calling out to. He soon realized that it was, and he came over, undecided whether he should walk or he should run, so he ended up doing both. He bowed deeply when he came close. "…My Lords, you called?"

"Yes. We're going to keep firing on the Hojo every once in a while. Will you see to it that the men are not alarmed? Tell them we'll ring the bell if there's an issue," Jikouji said commandingly.

The guardsman listened intently, nodding a few times, doing his very best to remember the instructions. "I'll see that it's done," he said, sounding rather excited.

They watch him rush towards the ladder and slide down it, before running across the courtyard to the barracks where the soldiers were sharing drink and tales.

"There's that sorted," Jikouji announced, "back to the fun then."

"Good," Gengyo said simply. He found the drink in his veins was making him more tired than he normally might be, but that did not stop him from looking towards the Hojo camp with the rest of them.

After the landing of the cannonball that saw the end of an unfortunate few, the hive was shaken. Men started to emerge from their tents, knowing their was something different about this cannonshot. There were the screams as well. None of them could ignore the screams.

When they came out, they did so fully dressed and armoured, entirely ready for battle, preparing to face what they thought was an enemy night attack. But what they found was nothing at all. There was no enemy lying in wait for them, only a few terribly wounded men screeching in their distress.

Thousands were soon gathered around that one tent. They cut open the canvas and freed the living and the dead from its suffocating embrace. The Hojo Generals arrived soon after, surveying the damage with dissatisfied faces.

They turned to look towards the walls of the Miura castle, and there upon the wall they saw the Miura Generals stood there waving at them, big smiles on their faces.

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