"You are looking at the man who will unify Japan once and for all." The smirk on his face told me that he was not lying.
"And I'm telling you, my Lord," I said, trying not to be condescending, even if I really, truly wanted to be at that moment. "I have to be dreaming." Everyone there looked as though I had grown another head that was speaking Italian or something.
"Why do you say that even when Milord pinched your cheek," the baby faced samurai claiming to be Hideyoshi asked. I huffed a single chuckle. I didn't know what to tell them. Would they even believe my story? I bit my lip as I thought about it for a moment.
I huffed another chuckle. "I don't know if you would even believe anything I would say." Hideyoshi sighed through his nose and turned towards Akechi and Oda. He appeared to be communicating with them silently. He nodded before turning back to me. His brown eyes were filled with warmth and understanding.
"Start from the beginning, tell us everything you can. How did you end up in Honnoji? You don't seem to be dressed like a Buddhist nun," he said, pinching my blouse between his fingers. I looked away and pushed his hand away from me.
I took a deep breath and decided to rip this off like a bandaid. "I am not from this time. I am from the year 2020. I was meeting with another person to go over some work for school. College. University," I told them. Oda and the others sat on the grass while they listened to me intently. "I was meeting at a monument. The one that immortalized, oddly enough, this very incident."
"What do you mean?" Akechi finally spoke up.
"I mean that this very night is when you were supposed to... and this is very difficult to say since I saw a very different situation. But you were supposed to betray Oda and he was supposed to commit Seppuku while still in or around the burning Honnoji." This caught their attention. Mostly Akechi's as he haughtily stood, clearly outraged.
"I would never! How could you even say something of such nature!?" He demanded. Hideyoshi jumped up and pulled Akechi away from me. "You're a lying w***e! I would never betray my Lord!" He looked like an animal. I was glad that he hadn't reached for his blade.
"Enough, Mitsuhide," Oda said, surprisingly calm. "Katsumi already said that she had seen a very contradicting narrative than what her supposed history has told her."
Akechi turned to face his lord in disbelief. "But Sire! She-"
"I told you enough," Oda said. "Katsumi, please continue this ever-fascinating tale." He motioned to me as Hideyoshi and Akechi sat back down to listen to me. I wrung my hands as the fires of Honnoji started to burn out.
"Right then," I said. "The monument started to glow this brilliant bluish-white light. It just kept growing and before I knew it, I was overtaken. I know at least one other person saw it, but it seemed as though no one else, even those who were practically next to me, noticed what was going on. Next thing I knew I was in Honnoji in a room with some monk who told me to leave. The same one who I then found standing over Oda-sama with a sword in his hand."
Oda leaned forward a bit. "Can you describe this monk you saw? When I woke up, I didn't even see anyone but you with you screaming like a Uwan Yokai," Oda said with a chuckle. I was slightly confused. I didn't know many of the different hundreds of types of Japanese monsters that these people believed in. So I didn't understand the reference.
"Uh, sure. He was kind of tall, wearing a bunch of multicolored robes, walked with a limp, a large scar across his cheeks and chin, he had a cane. But I have no idea where the sword came from." Oda sighed and looked towards his subordinates. It was like they knew something that I was not getting. Oda licked his lips before his eyes snapped back to mine, causing me to flinch. There was a fire in his dark hazelnut eyes.
"Good job, Katsumi. You just saw the leader of the resurgent Ikko-Ikki, Kennyo. He was inactive for many years after he and I had a harsh battle. That's where he received both the scar on his face and that limp you noticed. That cane hides a sword. He must have made use of it more after that injury to his leg." I nodded. I was no stranger to discussions of war. My father was once a marine that had actually seen battle in Kuwait right before I was born.
"I see. So, this Kennyo character, was he there when you burned that entire monastery and surrounding city on the mountain to the ground?" He seemed surprised that I knew about that instance. Yeah, I was much more knowledgeable than you think, Oda. I smirked at his surprise.
"Actually he was. That is where he and I had our battle," he said. "How did you know about that?" I turned away as I quickly explained that I study history for a living. Or at least want to when I am older. I don't know how they didn't catch that when I said I was going to school.
Akechi and Hideyoshi seemed surprised at this tidbit of information. "Women can study in the future?" Hideyoshi asked. I smiled.
"Of course. I know how to read, write, math, science, history, music." I listed off several subjects that I was particularly proud of. I practically preened at the fact that I was probably much more educated than the men around me. "And you don't have to be from a high profile family like a daimyo or nobility. Even peasants can go to school. In the future, they have plenty of public schools that anyone can attend. All we have to do is pay a little in taxes and maybe participate in fundraising events from the school and we can get basic education for about 12 or so years. Anything after that, like a college, university, or academy you have to pay for yourself or get loans or government funding based on your income status."
That's when I realized that I was revealing too much about the future. I slapped my hands over my mouth and sucked in a gasp. "Oops, didn't mean to word vomit at you." Oda didn't seem to mind though. He was cackling like a mad man as he stood up. He reached out his good hand to me and helped me up.
"This system seems to work out nicely. Anyone can get an education, even women? Do tell me more. But for now, we must be going. I am quite interested in you now, Katsumi." He winked at me and led me away with his hand still wrapped around mine. I blushed profusely. I looked back at Akechi and Hideyoshi. Akechi looked bored, but Hideyoshi seemed quite amused at this.
"Do you need me to carry that bag for you, Katsumi?" Hideyoshi asked. Oh? I was still wearing my backpack filled with my school books. I allowed Hideyoshi to take the extra weight off my shoulders. But he huffed out a breath when he realized how heavy it was.
"How in the heavens have you been carrying this? Even as you ran through a burning building?" He asked. I laughed as we all made our way to several horses that weren't far from where we were sitting moments ago. They didn't seem to mind us walking up as they munched at the grass at their hooves. I turned back to Hideyoshi.
"I have gotten used to it. I need them to study and for the classes that I am taking. Many of them are for history. It is my major after all."
"Major?" Oda asked when he heard that we were back on the subject of school. I sighed. I really shouldn't be telling them everything about the future, but I figured that school was a safe enough topic. I mean, the samurai class and those in government positions got schooling and education, some of them away from home and in an actual school-like academy. So this shouldn't be too different from their present-day or a big enough impact on what happens to the future.
"It's the focus of my education. While I have to learn other topics to keep my education well rounded, this is the focus and what I want to get a job doing in the future. I want to work in a museum. I have always felt more comfortable with history than with the topics of my present day. It's usually always the same, no variation unless it's written from a different perspective. But with the future, my present, it changes constantly. ‘Oh, this politician is running’ and ‘this guy is being charged with this or that’. Another crisis is being dealt with. It's just... I know one day it will all be history that some future historian will have to study, but it's too fast-paced for me. I just want to study an ancient or old crisis that has already been dealt with so that I can see how it ends. I don't know how my current crises or the world will end up as. And it's scary. Especially when everyone is yelling and placing blame on someone else's shoulders."
Oda nodded. "Then this must be pretty scary for you, too, since, to you, a subject that you have extensively researched and studied has been changed." He seemed to understand what this all meant for me. He didn't seem like the scary warlord history makes him seem. He was still human, not some Devil King as he is known as in history books. I smiled.
"Yeah. I am pretty scared. And not just because history, the one constant in my life, is changing. But I don't know what brought me here or why. And Kennyo's words are haunting me. He said 'I would recommend leaving before a true demon were to show his face, understand? I wouldn't want you to see his heart being destroyed.'"
Everyone looked at me strangely. "Huh, his words are very familiar... He once said that he would live to see the day that he could destroy everything of mine, including my heart. I had just simply teased him since that seemed like..."
"A very homosexual thing to say?" I asked. Not that I had anything against being gay. I was bisexual myself, but what kind of a man says that to another man when he thinks he is going to be killed at any moment. It's kind of a silly thing to say. Oda howled with laughter, wiping away fake tears as he did so.
"Yes, in fact. Not that I mind it so much. I find it quite flattering when I am found attractive by the less fair gender, but they are simply not what I fancy," he said. "And while it is frowned upon by most, if not all major religions, I simply try to avoid such folk lest there be rumors spread about."
"I get it. You don't want a political scandal that could possibly lose you some allies, potential or otherwise." I knew that at this time that homosexuality was most likely treated with hostility, but I did not know that Oda found it at least amusing and at most flattering if someone's "fancy" is directed at him. Even if he wasn't interested in such relations himself.
We mounted the horses once Hideyoshi secured my bag to his own horse. A gorgeous tan stallion that looked to be too big for him. Yet he mounted the steed quite easily. Years of practice must have helped. Oda was the next to mount, his own horse being a black mare with a few patches of white. She was absolutely beautiful. A "black beauty" if you would. I had to hold back a giggle at my own horse joke in my head. Thank god my dad was a country hick or else I never would have had experiences with a horse before now.
"Do you need help mounting?" Akechi begrudgingly asked, already mounted on his own grey mare. I snorted as if he was insulting me. I grabbed ahold of Oda's mare and, as gracefully as I could manage, pulled myself on top. I almost felt like Disney's Mulan. I smirked at Akechi's astounded face. As if he thought that I couldn't even do that.
"Oh, did I forget to mention? I can ride just as well as any man," I said in a light, teasing voice, trying not to sound like a good ol' southern girl even though I’m from the midwest. Oda chuckled yet again as he mounted the horse, sitting directly behind me to where I could feel the warmth of his body against my back before leading the three of us to a little camp probably a few miles from the nearly gone temple. At least maybe the future will still have its monument. I couldn't even imagine how much has already changed simply by me being here.
Soldiers were running around as if they were preparing for an assault at any moment. And I suppose that they should be. They didn't know that this was only an attack conducted by one man. Though I have no idea why there was no one guarding Oda when he is one of Japan's most important figures, and not just to its history, though I suppose it's their current present. But once everyone saw that Oda had returned, the crowd of peasant foot soldiers, samurai, and probably more vassals paused to look upon their Lord, who was now with a woman that they had never seen. I tried to hide from all the attention, trying to lean back, only to hit the chest of the Warlord behind me. Not only was I still covered in soot, but I was wearing future clothes.
"Oda-sama, could you... uh, get them to stop," I whispered. I felt the silent laugh from where I sat, still grappling onto him to stay onto the horse whose saddle was only built for one. It was uncomfortable, and not just the staring or the sitting. Oda was still technically a stranger to me, and yet I held onto him for dear life as even more strangers, who could most definitely kill me, staring at me like I was some sort of alien.
"Of course," he whispered back before hollering at his men to get back to work. I smiled gratefully, but with his front against my back, he couldn't see the relief on my face when the men turned back to their original tasks at hand. Oda dismounted his horse and tied the reins to a nearby tent pole. He held out his hand and helped me slide my way down. I said yet another thank you to Oda before he turned to Akechi and Hideyoshi who had also dismounted their horses.
"Toyotomi, find Mori and tell him to prepare whatever kimono we have that can fit a woman. Akechi, find Ishida and tell him to bring an inkwell, brush, and paper." They both nodded and ran to find their respective vassals. It didn't take long for them to return with two others. Though only one of them wore the traditional samurai armor of this time. But again, no topknot. This was starting to frustrate me as a historian. I wanted to pout but the young man without armor approached me carrying what looked like fine silk. I could never possibly wear something so nice!
It was a dark indigo color with plum blossoms covering it. I was not going to ask why they had a female yukata, but I wasn't complaining either. Ranmaru smiled sheepishly. "It's from one of our field nurses, I’m hoping she won't miss it too deeply."
"Enough Mori-san," The other man said. "She must change." He turned to me with a gentle smile. He was not what I expected for a vassal of Oda. I am going to assume that this one was Ishida. "I am terribly sorry, I didn't introduce myself properly! I am Ishida Mitsunari, a scribe, and samurai of the Oda clan," he said with a bow. I didn't notice before, but he did in fact have a sword on him. I suppose that during this time of Japanese history, it wasn't so weird as to have a scribe that was also a warrior.
"It's nice to meet you, Ishida-san, I am Katsumi," I replied with a bow of my own. I took the yukata and went to find a tent or something where I could change. The last time I wore one of these, I was four or five and my mother made me wear it when we visited my grandmother in Japan right before I was going to start school. I don't even remember how to tie the obi. I groaned. I didn't want to look like a fool for not knowing how to wear traditional clothing.
Why did I not ask my mother before going to Japan?
I sighed and took off my soot-covered clothing and put on the juban over my b*a and panties. Next went the yukata and the obi. I tried to remember how they were supposed to look on the body so that I could try and figure it out.
"Hello, Katsumi-san?" a feminine voice called out. Must be a field nurse. "Do you need help with the obi?" she asked.
I nearly sighed in relief. "Y-yes, please," I stuttered. "My mother usually helps me but I can't get it on my own." Not a lie, but not the whole truth either. I don't need any more people finding out that I am from the future. That would be terrible for everyone involved.
The woman stepped in after she slid off her outdoor sandals. She smiled at me sweetly before helping me with my obi. She made quick work of the knot.
"Thank you very much," I said with a bow. She bowed back and simply left without another word. I finished getting ready and went to find Oda again. He was one of the only few that I actually knew in this camp, so it would be best to stay with him for the time being. Especially since the others might try and kill me if they think I am a threat to their Lord.
I sighed heavily as the events of the day started to finally tire me out. The adrenaline that had kept me going was finally completely gone from my system and it made my movements slow and sluggish. However, I knew I needed to move quickly. Good thing most people kept their distance from me. It both irked and relaxed me. I won't be f****d into small talk at least.
Oda, Hideyoshi, Akechi, and Ishida were at a small table with a map on it. Ishida appeared to be writing down the impromptu meeting as Oda and the others discussed, presumably, tonight's events. It didn't look like they had noticed my presence just yet. It also showed in the way they spoke, as if they weren't worried that someone was listening.
"So what do you take Katsumi-san as?" Hideyoshi asked. "I mean, why would she tell such tall tales?"
Oda didn't respond as he continued to search the map as if it would give him some sort of answer. He no longer looked like the playful samurai that sat in that field with me only moments ago. He looked older, more serious. Just like the man that everyone claimed him to be. A Devil on the battlefield.
"Katsumi's speech is very different from what I am used to. Her clothing was strange and alien to us as well. She spoke of things with such conviction that it makes it very hard to not believe her words. I mean, she did say that she studied math and history and different subjects that not even the footsoldiers study. Some scholars don't even have that well balanced of an education. Myself included," Ishida said, not even pausing his writing.
"Tch," Akechi pouted, his arms folded across his chest. One of his crisscrossed legs bounced with annoyance. He was acting like a child that had been scolded. He must still be upset that I told them about his would-be betrayal forever marring Japanese history.
"She is clearly lying. Kennyo probably set her up as a spy or something. There is no way that a woman could have such knowledge of academics." I wanted to roll my eyes.
"All of you... enough. Do you not seem to get it that I am indebted to Katsumi? She saved my life tonight. Even if none of you have faith in Katsumi, I do. She is to be treated with as much respect as you show your Lord, understand?" Oda asked, an icy gaze looking up at his men. It caused all of them to straighten their spines and a shiver to run down mine. The look was cold and unforgiving. At least they were until they slid over and locked with mine.
His face and shoulders visibly softened and a small smile graced his lips. "Katsumi, how kind of you to join us. Please have a seat. We have much to discuss." Oh god? What am I going to do!? I hope he doesn't realize I was eavesdropping on him!
I looked around for a moment before taking a few steps forward, into the candlelight that had their little meeting lit up. The warm glow flickered in Oda's almond eyes.
"Don't be so shy now. Not when you had been so bold as to listen in for quite a while? So, how much did you hear, Katsumi-kun~"