Cold days of Spring
Seasons of change
Cold days of Spring
She had survived her first winter in the Sengoku. It was cold and snowy at times, but it felt like an actual accomplishment for her. She had loaded her room with blankets and had a few heaters, but she had been content to spend it for the most part bundled up and warm. It was now spring as she awaited the fresh flowers and possibilities the new season would hold.
However, as mother nature often does, it teased them all into thinking that the new season was indeed upon them as the day grew slightly warmer and then another unthought-of of deep freeze happened one clear night and with it brought the artic freezing frigid air. When the air turned cold and wet, they all knew except for her, that is that another storm was on the horizon. She was thinking of pristine flowers and the vibrant colors of spring when they were preparing for the last real snowfall of the season. It seemed like it was entirely against her to not see the reality, but she was blind to the idea.
She carried on as loads of goods were brought to the castle for storage on the off chance that it was a good one. Some of the older staff had told the warlords they felt it was a good one coming as they could feel it in their weary bones. It was unlike the Princess to have her head in the clouds as willful ignorance to the situation had taken over. At the mention of a said storm coming she would change the subject then carry on with whatever task she was doing at the time. To the warlords, her blindness was becoming concerning.
The day came after a week of blistering cold that shocked everyone. The day was overcast as it began but the sunrise was a vibrant red and orange. Everyone hurried to do the tasks that needed the attention outside for this would be the day the storm would arrive. The slight princess again ignored the warnings and went into town to get her supplies from the cloth merchant. She was there when even he noticed she did not want to talk about the incoming storm; she tried to completely ignore the fact as she went about her time in town passing this stall or stopping at that one. All the warlords minus Nobunaga who was at the castle ordering for the preparations for it were also in the marketplace. They all noticed her as she moved swiftly but generally through the stalls as if was another other day.
Masamune was ordering the product for the different households of the leading vassals. He was picking out and tasting the various things as he made sure each of his allies would not go hungry during the storm. He had been watching her but very into his task that he didn’t see her disappear from sight until he had placed the last order. He hoped that one of the others who were also in town would pick up where he had left off.
Hideyoshi and Mitsunari were both looking at some latest items that had been brought over from Europe. They were both keeping an eye out on her as they asked questions and listened to the different pieces. They were both intrigued but couldn’t keep their minds on the answers as they both took turns watching her out of the corner of the eyes. That was until she disappeared from their sight which neither could comprehend.
Ieyasu was also buying different supplies as the first trader who had many of the herbs he needed for different thing had arrived. He was stocking up on them as soon as he could which is what lead him to the marketplace on that very frigid day. He was also in the process of giving orders to have everything brought back to his manor when he noticed the princess had disappeared from sight. He figured she very much had her head in the clouds the past few days she was off to the castle to hideaway. He was far to busy to think too much on her at the moment and hoped one of the others would keep an eye on her.
Mitsuhide had just come from one of his meetings at the dark and somewhat secluded teahouse further back in the town. He spotted the princess as she looked back and forth to his allies as to see which one was watching her at that moment. She had learned since his birthday he thought to himself as to track and be tracked and how to disappear. He noticed with very much amusement that he was the only one who was in the position to actually see her abilities as she would withdraw from the sight of one into the view of another. He hung in the shadows as no to alert her of his presence and have his theory tested to see if she could elude him as well.
When she had made her way through the stalls and had seen most of her friends she decided they could see her and then she would move into the view of another and repeat the process. She had the supplies she needed and would make her way to the cottage to see if it was still there. She didn’t need the idea of another storm to happen even though she knew it was a possibility. It would damper her latest project. She hadn’t seen Mitsuhide and hoped he hadn’t seen her as she was sure he would be the one she couldn’t throw off so quickly. She needed to go before the snow hit.
As she made her way out of the walls of the castle, he wondered where exactly she was going. She wasn’t supposed to go this far without a guard. He wondered at the thought she was meeting someone in the forest beyond the walls and as he quickened his pace, he grew stern. She couldn’t have met someone while they were all busy, could she? His heart gave a little extra push, and he had a feeling of regret that he didn’t understand at the thoughts his mind was leading him too.
She reached a cottage that was rundown, and as she looked around, he felt that pull yet again. It did seem like she would be meeting someone here. He didn’t know how he wanted to deal with these as different emotions he had long ignored like hatred and sorrow were at the forefront of his mind. He moved closer and heard her voice talking within the cabin. He was right in his anger she wasn’t alone. He tried to steady himself before reaching the door but he uncharacteristically couldn’t he was upset something he was never.
The door opened slowly as he pushed it open. He wasn’t sure of what exactly he would find as he heard her voice soft and sweet in the corner. As he took two steps in she turned and told him to shut the door with a humph. What he saw clouded his mind, she was on the floor sitting facing the corner. The only two humans were in the cottage her and him. She was meeting some unknown thing as he couldn’t see what she was blocking from his view, but she had been talking to something, correct? He thought to himself.
She should have known he was watching her. She hadn’t felt his presence like she had the others and was able to move through the crowd to avoid them. It wasn’t a surprise that he evaded her notice, it was his job after all, and she was still new to the fact of hiding something from her friends. She didn’t like the idea of hiding anything from them, but she knew they would begin to ask questions of the how and why of it. She didn’t want to answer those.
“Princess, it seems you have a secret.“, he said softly.
“One I was really trying to keep, Mitsuhide. Why did you follow me?“, she asked.
“Because Good girls don’t have secrets, my dear.“, he replied.
“Well then, I guess I am not one of those then.“, she countered.
“I highly doubt whatever you are doing here is really all that bad, Princess.“, He said softly. He knew it wasn’t in her nature to be bad. He just really like to tease her at times. Since he was still recovering from his wave of emotion, it was the only defense he had at the moment.
“I found them on a walk.“, She said as he slowly crept up to her. As he stood behind her, he could see the two wrapped bundles that she had placed some food in front of.
“And you thought to keep them?“, he asked.
“Their mother was killed by something. I wanted to try. However, I can’t have them at the castle, and with the storm, they will surely die.“, She said with a sigh. Her face fell with a look of slight anger, but a more profound sadness was also there. He couldn’t stand to see that sight.
“Why can’t you have them at the castle?“, he asked, knowing Nobunaga would probably grant her anything she wished.
“Hideyoshi.“, she said the one-word answer as if it was a curse. “He would take over, and they are mine.”
They way she said mine rocked him to the core. She really wanted them; he could see that. “They are not normal pets, Princess.”
“I know, but I still wanted them. I have taken care of them now for three weeks. I am sort of attached.“, she said over her shoulder.
“I see.“, he thought on this for a few moments. “What if I knew of a place you could keep them close to the castle and they could also receive care if you could not be there, such as with this storm?”
“You know a place I could keep them?“, she asked with hope in her eyes.
“Yes, I do.“, He said as he bent over her and picked one of the small foxes up and even pet it as he pulled her to a standing position. She also picked up the other fox who made a sound of fox contentment being close to her. She then gathered the supplies including their blankets and everything else she had gathered for their care.
“Where?“, she asked.
“You will see.“, he replied now back to himself.
“Well, at least it will be closer.“, she said to herself.
As the two walked she noticed his way of carrying the little fox. The fox was wiggling and squirming, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was holding on in his long fingers, and he stroked the creature gently. She didn’t know if she had ever seen him like that. They came out on a path that would not take them through the center of the castle town but around it to the houses of all the warlords. She wondered to which one they were headed to. As the got closer, she knew they had already passed two and only had two left. Ieyasu’s and his own. She wondered if Ieyasu would take on the foxes, but soon they passed that palace as well. She was now confused but stayed silent as he rounded the walkway for his own palace.
He liked the look of confusion on her face. It was a look he knew well as she was now trying to read him and his plan. He had no idea why he was willing to take on the two fox kits, but he was, for her, he was. The thought passed his mind, and he wondered why he would do that for her, and only her. He would think about that later when he was alone and didn’t have to wonder or worry about letting his thoughts show. As he showed her to a room that was currently unused, he placed the kit he had been holding down. “This should be enough for them currently.“, he said.
“Your manor?“, She asked not even trying to hide her surprised. His smile grew at the fact she was so open like that.
“And why not? The others all have their hands full with their own pets and in Hideyoshi’s case Mitsunari too.“, he chuckled at the statement.
“Why are you doing this Mitsuhide?“, she asked doubting him.
“You needed a place closer that would have someone to watch over your foxes, correct?“, As he said that she nodded, “I have this huge manor and just me here. The staff can assist me in their care, and I get to try out if a pet is a good thing. You also are now within a short walking distance from them instead of breaking your rules about staying within towns walls. I know my manor is not ideal for you however it was the only other alternative.”
“Thank you, Mitsuhide.“, She said as she sat and started to unpack the toys and gear for the two. One of the kits had made his way to his foot and plopped down next to it. “I think that one likes you better.”
“Wonderful.“, He muttered nearly under his breath. He looked out the window and saw the snow falling hard, as the two had been inside for nearly an hour now he could see the way back to the castle was impassible for her tiny legs. “Princess we have another issue to deal with first.“, He said as he looked down at her. As she looked up at him with huge eyes and a questioning gaze he forgot what the issue was exactly. “Never mind.“, He said once again as he also joined her on the floor.
It wasn’t until a few hours later when the two had full been snowed in that she even noticed the snow outside. It must be up to her waist at the moment, and she had no idea of how to get back to the castle. He smiled as he said, “Oh yes it started snowing.”
“Really?“, she asked. “I couldn’t see that. How am I supposed to get back to the castle now?”
“You’re not. I will apparently be your host for a few days.“, he said.
“The castle staff will worry.“, she said.
“No, they won’t they will assume you are here. I had sent a page to the castle after our arrival, on other business. He will mention that he saw you here and everyone will assume you are here.“, he said as he shrugged his shoulder slightly.
“probably wondering doing what.“, she said softly.
“As to that Princess, that is on them.“, he said.
She sank back down to the floor to pet the sleeping kit, wondering what kind of torture this would turn out to be for her. He had a real smile of joy on his face as she looked up at him as he stood before her. She wondered at why he was smiling like that; he also dropped to the floor forgetting all his work he had piled up to stay with her and the two foxes between them.
He woke to a horrid noise a few doors down as one of the kits was making a fuss. He could hear the princess trying to get the animal to stop with no luck. She was surprised as he entered the room still tying his robe together as he looked down at her who was wearing one of his cast-off robes and he chuckled to himself at the sight. She looked adorable and frustrated. He picked up the offending animal and noticed it was cold and figured that was the problem. He motioned for the princess to follow him with the other kit otherwise it soon would start crying out as well. As they went into his room which was warmer then the other both kits began to settle down. He placed it on the floor and it by itself made its way to his futon, along with its sibling. They both curled up at the bottom of the futon. She was looking at him with amazement. “How did you know?“, she asked.
“It was cold. Much like you are as well.“, He said as she shivered a bit. He walked over and gently put his arms around her. She snuggled closer because he was warm, not because of the kindness he was showing her she thought to herself.
Her eyelids were growing heavy as she stood there and without thought, he picked her up and placed her on the futon as well. She was so tired and cold that she didn’t fight him as his warmth and the two foxes at her feet lulled her into a deep sleep. He looked at her as her eyes shut and wondered how this day could ever happen, he must have done something very right to be rewarded like this.
The next morning was also grey, and the snow was still falling slowly now. She opened her eyes to find him asleep next to her. His fox-like features in contrast to the actual fox laying near his head were at ease. The two kits had made there way up the futon, and one was next to her head, and the other was next to him. He blinked his eyes open to find her looking at him and the fox with a soft smile. As soon as he made a noise, the little kit pounced on his head, and she giggled. Her fox in contrast just curled up closer to her. “I think I prefer your fox.“, he said.
“I think yours suits you better.“, she giggled.
“I thought they both were yours, my dear.“, he said, voice still low and raspy from sleep.
“I think I will share.“, She said with a smile as he pulled her closer, so she could get pounced on too. They both laughed and didn’t move for some time as they had no need to that day.