Tanumo awoke feeling refreshed and was looking forward to the events of the day. After dressing and enjoying his breakfast, he sipped his tea and looked out the window. It was going to be a beautiful summer day.

"Tamuno-sama?"

"Hai?"

"A messenger left something for you. He said that you would be most pleased to receive it," the servant informed him.

"You may enter and leave it on the floor," he said haughtily.

"Hai." Sliding the door open, the servant placed a package wrapped in a cloth with both hands on the floor and bowing his leave, walked backwards out of the room.

Untying the knot at the top of the bundle, Tamuno pulled the layers of cloth away to reveal a small wooden box painted in a black lacquer finish. Lifting the lid, a smile of great satisfaction spread over his face and he shut the box with a small laugh.

"Tamuno-sama?"

"What is it?" he asked, stroking the shiny surface of the box.

"Everything is assembled and they are ready to begin," the voice behind the door answered.

"Yosh," he smiled, picking up the box. "I will be outside shortly."

Gathered in the courtyard were approximately twenty soldiers who stood in a line before general Gaoh. Dressed entirely in simple white robes, he sat in front of a small table with a small knife placed upon it, his hands resting on his knees. As the soldiers bowed to Tamuno, he looked up.

"Gaoh-sama," Tamuno said with mock cordiality, "I trust this day finds you well?" Gaoh remained silent, his gaze unbroken with quiet defiance. Pacing casually around the seated man, he said casually, "So ends your treasonous attempt at gaining power." He clucked his tongue. "Such a waste of many fine warriors."

"At least they died with honor," Gaoh said simply.

Tamuno walked a few steps away from him and unexpectedly turned quickly, slapping his face harshly. "Do not speak of honor with me, general. After murdering my son before my eyes, you have no right to even think the word."

Gaoh's demeanor remained unruffled. "I did what I felt was necessary to help the people of this country. When the shogun decides that building palaces and holding festivals takes precedence over the lamentations of his subjects, when parents are forced to choose between abandoning their children or watching them slowly starve to death, something had to be done. I have no regret about my conduct and would gladly do it again if given the chance."

Enraged by his serene attitude, Tamuno took the box from behind his back and showed it to the general. "Then there is one more thing I would like you to see before you are allowed to take your life." Opening the lid, he showed its contents to Gaoh. Several noses too small to belong to adults sat neatly arranged in a bed of salt. "Do you recognize them? You should, as they belonged to your daughters." A triumphant laugh escaped him as he watched Gaoh struggle to maintain his composure. "Initially I thought of asking for the ears, but since they have two of those, I wanted to make sure there were no mistakes in the arithmetic," he said cruelly.

"Bakkemon!" Gaoh cursed at him. Tears spilled over his eyes.

He laughed again. "Do not worry, general. You will be reunited with them soon enough, though you may have some difficulty initially in recognizing them." Nodding to the soldier next to Gaoh, he took a seat in front of him. Standing behind the general, the soldier drew his katana and held it ready.

Doing his best to keep his hand from shaking, Gaoh reached for the knife and pulled it out of its sheath. Pulling his robes away from his stomach, he held the knife to his abdomen and whispered, "Forgive my failure." Plunging the knife into his gut, he resolutely dragged it across his belly, his blood spurting everywhere.

"KYEEEEHHHHHHHH!" With a shrill cry, the soldier behind him struck Gaoh's head and was immediately drenched by the fountain of blood that sprayed from his skull. The general slumped over the table, his eyes staring upwards.

Tamuno fanned himself and told the soldier wielding the sword, "Cut his head off and have it placed on a spike as a reminder to all who would attempt to subvert the will of the shogun." Standing up he stretched and remarked, "It is an exceptionally beautiful day today."

"Sensei, how is he?" Haohmaru walked into the little room to see Yaiba still sleeping in his master's bed.

"He has been asleep for a long while," the old man said, stroking his thin beard with his bony fingers.

"I think he is an orphan," Haohmaru guessed.

"When he wakes up, you can take him back into town and make some inquiries – see if you can find his family."

"Hai." The boy stirred in the bed and then sat up. "Ohaiyo, Shizumaru-kun. Hungry?" Haohmaru greeted him. The boy nodded. "Come have some breakfast and we will go see if we can find the person you lost yesterday." His eyes brightened and he followed Haohmaru out of the room.

After finishing their meal, the pair walked to the capital city together. After a few miles, Yaiba began to lag behind. "Doshta, Shizumaru-kun?" Haohmaru asked.

"I'm tired," the boy said wearily. "Can we stop for a moment?"

Haohmaru sat down on a log and Yaiba followed his example. Uncorking his sake bottle, Haohmaru took a big swig and offered it to Yaiba who took one sniff and made a face. "Yadda. Kse!"

Haohmaru looked at him dubiously. "This is high quality stuff, you know," he pointed out before taking another sip.

"No, thank you," Yaiba repeated.

Corking his jug, Haohmaru slid his sword back into his obi and stood up. "Ready?" The boy nodded and they continued on their way. Upon reaching the city gates, Haohmaru noticed that there was a series of severed heads on display with a sign indicating that this was their punishment for conspiring against the shogun. He was about to walk on when he heard a thud from behind him and turned to find Shizumaru collapsed on the ground, unconscious.

yadda: gross

kse: it stinks