Gokenin Yukikiyo cast a dubious eye at the wooded foothills stretching before him, rising to clouded peaks in the distance. He glanced up at the angle of the sun for the hundredth time that morning: yes, they were still marching Southwards. Mere weeks ago this place had been a broad valley, a great river thundering through it. What times were these, he wondered, when the Kami of hill and stream might change places as readily as partners in a dance?
Still, such questions could not change his resolve. His lord had ordered him to bring news of his clan's estates, which stretched a full two weeks' ride to the South. Forest or mountain may attempt to bar his way, but his duty to his lord was inviolate.
Shortly after midday, a small collection of buildings came into view on the edge of the forest. The houses were strange and squat, and the people who emerged to stand warily opposite his own men, clutching various crude weapons defensively, were pale of skin and strange of feature. Still, the law dictated that the peasants living on this land were the property of his lord and master, so Yukikiyo began to address them.
"I come from the Kōkyo Palace, on the orders of the great Daimyo Yuki Daichi. Our lord wishes to know the fate of his lands in these troubling times, and so I instruct that you bring out the headman of this village so that-"
His speech was suddenly interrupted and the breath knocked from his body by a javelin, hurled from the hand of one of the strange peasants, which hit him square in the chest. Two of his samurai retainers rushed to his side as he struggled to his feet, while the peasant Ashigaru under his command stepped forward and lowered their Yari spears toward the foe, waiting his command to move. As he regained his composure he saw the strangers' faces turn to shock and fear, apparently amazed that he had survived the blow unharmed.
Later, he would have time to wonder at that fact: to puzzle over who these foreigners could be, so ignorant that they had seemingly never heard of the supernal thickness of skin with which some members of Clan Yuki were blessed as a reward for their ancestors' services to heaven.
Later. For now, there was time only for righteous rage at the sheer impertinence of this slight to his master and his clan; time only for honour to be satisfied. "Yuki!" he cried as his sword leapt from his belt to his hand. His men answered him as one voice, their spears flashing in the afternoon sun as they surged forward.