By Gingivere the Shadowreaver and Quicksilver the Archangel
Disclaimer: I do not own any character in Samurai Warriors. Masamune, Nobunaga, Ranmaru, Shingen, and all other characters are copyrighted to Koei, unless otherwise stated. This story should not be stolen or redistributed, otherwise I'd get upset and kick your butt.
Chapter One: Youthful Ambitions
"Demon Lord! Why won't you come out already?!" Date Masamune, the One-Eyed Dragon, allowed all of his self-confidence and youth to be betrayed in his cry. Some of his advisors and strategists would have scolded him for his loud cries and only half-serious demeanor, but what did he have to fear? The coming of Oda? That is what he desired more than anything else!
Soon, only too soon, he knew that he would prove himself to be worthy of world conquest, despite his young age. He knew that he was alone and against the entire world; this was how the young boy wanted it. No attachments, no commitments; he did not have to worry about anyone else but himself.
Still, as he slaughtered peon after peon, raising his passion and excitement, he was becoming swiftly impatient. When would he get to face his true foe?!
And perhaps the worse part was the castle itself. As he rushed through corridor after corridor, it was only so easy to get lost. It was as if they made this castle just to confuse someone as blunt as he. Still, he thought with a hint of a smile, even as he realized he just made a complete circle. Interesting…
This would not stop Date Masamune! Nothing would, even as the ground gave away from under his foot. "Agh!"
Though only thirteen and as brash and head-strong as they got, Masamune did have one thing going for him at the moment, and, still holding the wooden sword in his hand, he was able to rely on his quick reflexes to grasp the side. He took a gander downward with his lone-eye, not wanting to imagine himself impaled upon those spikes. That was certainly not his style.
Of course, the easiest thing to do, he realized, was to capture one of the enemy and force him to lead the rebellious teen to Oda Nobunaga. However, he knew the possible concerns with that plan. It might take him some time to find someone foolish enough to actually believe he would let them live if they obeyed.
Another obvious down side to his potential plan was that he could be led into even more traps, and possibly worse traps, then he was finding on his own. 'Besides,' Masamune thought with a grin, as he struck down yet another enemy with his wooden swords. 'Making my way through this castle is just more training for my mind. I have to learn how to deal with obstacles in my path… even if they are annoyingly long mazes!'
He knew that he had to be reaching the end soon; he had already made his way through five levels of traps, enemies, and twisting corridors. Surely not even the great Demon Lord himself could possibly have the patience to build a much larger facility.
"Intruder! There's an intruder in the castle!"
"Imbecile! Shut up!" Masamune wasted no time at all, spotting the soldier and leaping on him in a heartbeat. The soldier didn't have a chance at all, not against the One-Eyed Dragon. As the man gave his death cry, others swarmed out, surrounding the lone boy with their swords and spears. Not one of them advanced, and this only made the boy laugh. "I must be getting close…"
"Stop him!" The soldier closest to him shouted, and he was the first to obey his own orders, only to feel the stiff blow that Masamune's sword left. As he hit the ground, the others pounced as well, not liking the rather sadistic smile that was implanted on the boy's face. "Attack!"
At the top of the castle, Oda Nobunaga sat quietly, allowing the darkness to act as a natural cloak. Hashiba Hideyoshi knew that his lord preferred the shadows, and so he did not question him as he spoke from them, "What do you think of him, Hideyoshi?"
Unnaturally happy, per usual, Hideyoshi could only giggle with delight as he bowed before his lord, "Lord Oda, it is simply marvelous! He is perfect, my lord, perfect in every way, just as you said he would be. Everything I have witnessed in him so far bodes well for us."
"So, the plan should commence as expected, without any difficulty?"
"Of course! Unless, by some miracle, the boy manages to overcome our superior forces!" Hideyoshi was the type that had to keep his body busy, as if staying still would cause all of the energy within him to explode. Yes, he was definitely not the warrior type, but that was not what he joined Nobunaga for. Nobunaga had enough warriors; what he needed was a man just like Hideyoshi, despite his odd, eccentric nature. "Might I suggest, though, that we inform Lord Keiji and Mori Ranmaru of the plan. I think-"
Nobunaga knew Hideyoshi well, and he held a single feather within his black-gloved hand, caressing it with almost a gentle touch. He finished his sentence, "They might either kill the boy or waste their lives to defend me? As enjoyable as that would be, send word out to them. No need to lose more men then we need to for this test."
"Of course then! Hideyoshi will see to it immediately!"
"Good…" Nobunaga could not help but smile as he watched his minion eagerly leap to the task. Minion? No… if anything, Hideyoshi was the closest thing the Demon Lord would consider to be a friend. He had been able to see, early on, that although a bit strange by normal standards, the bubbly man had certain unique talents that made him most desired under a man's command.
When it came to research, planning, and sheer enthusiasm and hard work, no one could beat Hideyoshi. It was, indeed, this man who had approached him with their current scheme, treating Nobunaga with the patience and delight of a dedicated teacher. If this plan succeeded, Nobunaga made a note to give the man a reward.
Continuing to caress the feather, he kept his yellow eyes to the wall, even as he heard the sounds of someone trying to break through the door, "Finally, you arrive… do not disappoint me, One-Eyed Dragon."
"Ahhh! Why can't the door just open?!"
The word that best described Masamune was the word impatient, and had he actually brought someone else with him, opening this final door would have been a lot simpler. It proved that wooden swords, no matter how strong and sturdy they were, could not break through equally strong and sturdy doors.
So what was he doing now? Anything. From grabbing an enemy's spear to trying to kick the door with his own feet, Masamune was doing anything to open that damned door. Either this door was a fake and really a wall, or it was safe to say that the man he was searching for was Nobunaga.
Neither one would surprise him. "Nobunaga!!!!!"
Finally, he backed up a good ten feet from the door, to try and knock it down. His speed was incredible; surely he could build up enough momentum to tear down this door!
It seemed as good a plan as any, under the circumstances, and he gave a cry, as he began to run towards the door. Yet, as he neared, suddenly the door slid open, as if to beckon him in. With his current speed, he could not stop, and so he ran through the now open door, falling flat on his face as he tripped over his own feet.
He heard a dry chuckle, and a deep, mellow voice call to him, "To you, boy, I am still Oda…"
'How… humiliating…' Masamune would dare not say THAT aloud. As a youthful, energetic young boy, he recovered quickly, leaping to his feet and equally grasping his wooden swords as well. He searched for the voice, calling out as if his mistake never happened. "Oda Nobunaga, Demon Lord… you're as good as dead anyway, no matter what the name. What does it matter?"
The room was dark, extremely dark, but Masamune did not care, knowing it was the darkness that concealed his foe. It was all a matter of where he was, and by the designs that were emphasized in the center by the lone candle, Masamune had a good idea where he was.
"And what do they call you, little boy? If someone such as I is unworthy of being remembered in the afterlife, then what of you?" Nobunaga's voice was almost entrancing… Masamune started heading out towards the center of the room. "How odd of you, to think of becoming my assassin."
"Imbecile. I could care less about being your assassin; it is not some great honor to be bestowed upon the one most worthy," Masamune sneered, preparing his wooden swords to strike as he neared the candle. "Although, with the sheer number of enemies you have, I suppose some might fight for the chance. Perhaps they will simply believe that I am doing them all a favor."
He was so near to that flickering light, so near that he saw the shadowy shape of a man sitting before it, and he gave a cry, as he brought his swords crashing down, "As for my name… it is DATE MASAMUNE!"
Masamune had killed enough men to know what it felt like when his swords entered the body. He knew the sound by heart, the smack of the strike, the slight gasp of air that was released as the blade was more removed from the body. He knew the scent of blood; he knew the taste of death. But in this strike, he felt nothing, none of these things that had become so familiar, "Coward! You set up a decoy? Will you not face me?!"
Of all placed, Masamune was expecting him to be behind him, and he was prepared for it, spinning around to strike the man that was not there either. That was when he paused, to look around the room. Was he not there at all?
"Your look of surprise tells me everything I need to know about you, little boy."
"It's Date Masamune!"
Nobunaga's laugh rung in his ear, and again, he gave a blind strike, hitting air at least three times and alternating his direction to a complete circle, but still, there was no Nobunaga! "Date Masamune… yes, your name was known to me for a long time. Everything about you screams to me, and to me, you're but a boy, simply looking for attention. And that attention is, you claim to be, to conquer the land? Yes."
"Imbecile! I will conquer this land! There is not an opponent who can stand against me!" Now, the teenager was beginning to lose all of the little patience he had. "I do not see why so many fear you… you hid behind smoke and mirrors, too afraid to come forth. If I am naught but a child to you… why do you fear to face me?"
"Foolish child… I do not fear you…"
"Then… why… will… you… not… COME FORTH?!" Finally, he felt a small gust of wind brush his bangs upwards, and it was instincts alone that saved him. He swirled around, bringing his right hand up to block the sword's blow to his head, and with his other, he struck at Nobunaga's side, only to knock him back. "Bastard!"
Both the sword and the man backed away, giving Masamune a chance to breathe again as the Demon Lord merely smiled. This was not their first encounter, but to Masamune, it felt as if it was their first meeting all over again. He saw the smirk from before, and this one seemed only so much scarier than before.
Still, as much as his heart raced in fear, he replaced it with excitement, and he smiled, to counter Nobunaga's. "So… is this finally it? I've been waiting for this moment, and how DARE you make me wait?"
"I might ask you the same question, boy. I have been waiting for this moment since you first stepped into my castle. It may be more accurate to say that I have been waiting for this moment for many more days and nights than you can possibly imagine. It was no easy task to coax you into treating me as an enemy, teasing you little by little until you felt that my death would be the next biggest step to your goal. Oh little Masamune… if you had any idea how long… I have been waiting for this moment…"
The One-Eyed Dragon felt his heart rate increase, and also the warmth of a light blush spreading across his face. He hoped it to be hidden in the meager lighting, but he had no idea why it was even there! There was something about his opponent's speech… something in the timbre of his voice… the choice of his words… the use of his true name... He masked his emotions behind sarcasm, "Oh? Well, perhaps next time you wish an audience with me, you'll be so good as to seek me, and surely if you are still Oda to me, I am still Date to you. Do not seek to belittle me!"
Again that voice called out, and once again, his own reflexes saved himself from instant death, this time using both of his swords to hold back the blue and violet waves that surrounded the sword of Nobunaga's. Behind those waves, he saw his foe's yellow eyes, and for once, his fear shone through. "I do not mean to belittle you… Masamune."
"There can only be one to rule the land," Masamune hissed, trying to push the powered sword away. However, with as much strength as he had, he could see his swords beginning to fail him. "And it will… be me!"
He gave one final thrust, expecting to either break the lock, thereby stabbing his enemy, or to be pushed aside. However, the sword disappeared, and with a shout, he fell forwards.
The teenaged boy prepared himself for the strike, hoping to roll up quickly and catch his enemy off guard, but he was not given the opportunity, as a pair of strong arms captured him from behind. He made no attempt to hide his distress, fighting back, "Imbecile! Let me go!"
Nobunaga's eerie laughter rung in his ears, as he continued to struggle, "You are so like a young puppy… playful, wanting to prove yourself… and then, the moment the game changes, you whine…"
"This is not a true fight… what kind of game are you playing?!"
The Demon Lord held the boy firmly, and Masamune blushed one more time, as he felt his hand slip across his chest and the other around his waist. He was near panic, when Nobunaga half whispered, half laughed. "The game I play can only be done by my rules, little Masamune. You've entered my home, and now you must play by my rules."
"I… did not COME here for games!" Masamune shouted, grasping one of his wooden swords and trying to hard to aim for his opponent's gut or heart even. However, his blade only rose halfway up, before the ropes tightened around his wrist, forcing it to fall uselessly out of his hands. "What?! What the hell-"
He took the chance to look, and sure enough, though how it was possible he did not know, there were ropes around his wrist. Just as he noticed it, he felt a tug from the other hand, and the second sword joined his other pair, as he finally realized what had happened. But where? Where did the ropes come from?
"The rules, little Masamune, are simple…"
The boy gasped as his arms were drawn over his head, though Nobunaga's strange hold on him did not lessen. He could not control the frantic beating of his heart, or the way his breathing increased to near pants, as that voice cooed in his ear, "You are making it very difficult to explain the situation… your fear is delicious…"
Masamune hissed, trying to pull away, despite the ropes. All he earned for his efforts was the bite of the fibers into his flesh, but still he resisted, "I-Imbecile! You delude yourself into thinking I fear you!"
"No…" The ropes tugged harder, and Masamune gritted his teeth, looking down to realize his feet were off the ground now. He wanted to curse, but the gloved hand cupped his chin, forcing him to look into the demonic yellow eyes of the Demon Lord. "You're not fearing the grip of death, because you know it will not come. What you are fearing is the fact that I will NOT kill you, and now, you are in my hands."
Gripping the ropes with his own fingers, Masamune sneered, pulling on the ropes to bring himself up, to firmly kick the man in the chest. Even Nobunaga released a pained hiss, either backing away or Masamune had succeeded in swinging himself away. "I fear NOTHING!"
And as he swung back, the hand now gripped his throat, and once again, he stared into those eyes, and that voice… carried him to the darkness. "But you will."
"Ah! My lord became too easily angered at the child! How is Hideyoshi supposed to test him properly when he is unconscious?"
The honest distress in the man's voice made Nobunaga chuckle, as he released the hold upon his captive's throat, "Now, Hideyoshi… did I not tell you that this would be necessary? I told you he would fight us to his last breath. Never fear; you will have as much time as you need to complete the task."
"That I do not doubt for a moment, Lord Oda! Even if Hideyoshi were required to work diligently night and day, hour upon hour, he would certainly complete the task his lord had put before him!"
It was his enthusiasm that made Nobunaga smile softly. Yes, this was definitely what he was enlisted into his services indeed. He was thankful that not all men were as eager as Hideyoshi, otherwise…
He nodded, releasing the boy all together to let him dangle from the ropes that dangled him in midair. Getting the ropes on him altogether was a challenge, Nobunaga mused, and that was only a good thing. "The tests can wait until later, but I am sure that he is definitely the one we need, Hideyoshi. For that, I am sure."
The vivacious man bowed, "Yes my lord! Do you want Hideyoshi to take him to the chamber now or later?"
"You may take him now…" Staring at the boy caused Nobunaga to remember something, as he quickly raised his head, asking, "Hideyoshi… do you know where Ranmaru and Keiji are at this time? I would like to meet with them…"
"Ah! Yes, for Hideyoshi had just delivered your message to them not to interfere with the young boy… I asked them to stay in their position! Would you like Hideyoshi to send for them to meet you somewhere? It would be Hideyoshi's pleasure to do so!"
Nobunaga gave a truly rare smile, "Hideyoshi, I do believe that you would do anything and everything I desired, all quickly and efficiently and without the slightest complaint. Tend to our young guest first, and then send off the messenger. I will be waiting in my chamber."
"Yes, Lord Nobunaga!" Hideyoshi did not hesitate at all, grabbing the unconscious boy and undoing the ropes as swiftly as possible. Masamune lay limp in his hands, and he gave a grin, talking to him as if he were awake now. "You're quite a lucky one! No one else would get this kind of opportunity, and you make Hideyoshi jealous!"
Masamune said nothing in reply, but that did not stop Hideyoshi, as he draped him over his shoulders as some attendants came to pick up the wooden swords. "The tests may be hard, but… I think one as vivacious and strong willed as you should be fineeee!"
Again, Masamune did nothing. It did not take Hideyoshi long to situate the boy in his prepared place, and he laughed, pinching his cheeks, "Now, you be good and stay here quietly; you do not need to disturb our lord. He will be spending quite enough time with you as it is!"
Now, Hideyoshi knew exactly where to find Keiji and Ranmaru, and he knew that he DID have the option of sending a messenger to them, as Lord Nobunaga had requested. "But… who better to deliver such an important missive than Hideyoshi? Surely it is my duty to make sure it is delivered safely!"
It was almost impossible for the man to see things any other way, and with his enormous amount of energy and his honest desire to please, he proceeded to do just yet, bursting into the room with a cheery cry, "Ranmaru? Keiji? I have been sent by Lord Nobunaga to request your presence."
"What does our lord now require of us?" It was Mori Ranmaru that asked the question, standing at perfect attention. Hideyoshi gave him a glance, knowing how much the warrior was devoted to his lord, perhaps just as much as he was. "Is he safe?"
That only made the other man, the one that practically sprawled out upon the floor, laugh, and both looked to Maeda Keiji, as he finally got around to sitting up. "You really think that kid could lay a dent on Nobunaga? That's a good one!"
Hideyoshi shared the laugh, "The lord is fine, but the boy might be out for awhile."
"What? He's not dead?" Ranmaru's blue eyes glistened with curiosity. "Why hasn't out lord killed him?"
The eccentric man gave a broad grin, placing a finger across his lips, "That is not for Hideyoshi to say; it may be that this is what the Lord wishes to discuss with you. Then again… perhaps it is not. None of Hideyoshi's concern!"
Keiji snorted, giving a toss of his wild white hair, "Well, I for one would like an explanation. I mean… my place is on the battlefield; I really don't like it when someone tells me that I can't fight!"
Ranmaru's voice was softer, and Hideyoshi could hear some suppressed emotions in his tone, "I too, find this a very strange development. It is not like Lord Oda… to do something so rash."
"But why do you assume it is rash, Ranmaru?" The three of them paused, to see Nobunaga standing at the doors of the room, his ebony black feathers dancing around his form. One fluttered around his face, dancing gracefully as his smile spread deeper. "It seems so perfect."
Keiji said nothing, slinging his weapon over his shoulders as Ranmaru defended his statement from before. "My lord, perhaps it's not my place, but this is completely different from your strategy. I understand the importance of muskets and doing away with the way of the old, but don't you think this is reverting back?"
Raising an eyebrow, Nobunaga's gaze drifted upwards, and his smile never faded. "Even so, passing up a chance such as this would seem foolish of anyone. Besides, Ranmaru, are you not curious to see what the power of the orb can do?"
"I am!" Keiji spoke up, waving a hand to catch their attention. "I mean, forgive me for being rude, but… what the hell is it anyway?"
"If I were to allow Hideyoshi to be the ones to tell you, then perhaps it would sound quite confusing. If I myself were to try and explain, then my own enthusiasm would dampen any doubts you may have to express. So, perhaps it is for the best, if Ranmaru explains for you."
If this shocked Keiji at all, it did not show, but the widening of the younger officer's eyes spoke volumes as to his own surprise, "Well, kid, care to fill me in?"
"It is a legend… a fantasy! Supposedly, in days of old, a great power was sealed away into this orb, only to be released under specific circumstances, and the wielder… would have power beyond measure." Ranmaru sighed, averting his eyes to the ground before speaking again, "Yet, it is this tale that Lord Oda believes we should test."
"… you're kidding, right? We have some old sphere of stone, some ancient text, and a bit of mumbo jumbo, and we keep an enemy alive?"
And of course, Hideyoshi clapped his hands, "It's perfect!"
The warrior shrugged, giving a snort and shaking his head, "It's weird, but if it gives someone some jollies that's fine."
Nobunaga could not blame Keiji for his lack of interests, so he did not do anything as the man practically dismissed himself. He stopped himself, turning and raising one last question before leaving, "Just one thing, though. Why the kid? Past the cute little suit of armor and loud-mouthed rants, he's still a kid after all."
"We have reasons for selecting him, reasons that are truly based on the purest speculation. According to Hideyoshi's research, he should be the perfect choice."
The white-haired man jerked a thumb towards Ranmaru, "Why not just use him? I mean, no offense, but he's young too. Probably a lot more willing to do your bidding... if you know what I mean."
"Yes… but Ranmaru cannot help me in this instance."
"In more ways then one…" Keiji snickered at his own joke, even though the only one that shared the humor was Hideyoshi, though the man would laugh at anything. Killing his own joke, he shrugged, "Whatever then. The magic mumbo-jumbo and the strategy is your jobs. Just call me if you need me."
Nobunaga stopped him, catching his interest, "With their commander in our grasp, the Date army should be easily disarrayed and completely confused. It wouldn't take much to destroy them completely."
That caught Keiji's interest indeed, giving a slight hint of a smirk, "Ahhhhhhh… you didn't send someone out already, did you?"
"You should be able to handle it." Nobunaga gave the simple orders. "Track them down and kill them. There are only two things that I found to be worth while in that army: that would be the fact that their commander is no older than his early teens, and the second would be his horse."
"So, you want the horse too?" Keiji asked, for once deadly serious. "A shame to waste a perfectly good animal, you know. I'm sure I can bring him back in one piece, if you give me a good enough physical description; then you'll have both the things you seem to care about."
"If I know Date, he probably has had his horse trained to wait for him whenever he leaves it; this would mean that his horse would be somewhere outside the castle. If you wish to secure it before you depart for the battle, that is fine with me."
"Sounds like a plan to me! I'll return to you with a great deal more bloodier and happier as soon as I can!"
Hideyoshi could not help but smile as the white-haired man left the room, leaving the soft sound of jingling bells behind, "Keiji is so funny; he makes Hideyoshi laugh! Whenever the war is through, perhaps he should join some traveling show; children would adore him."
Nobunaga found his minion's observation equally humorous, and he barely heard Ranmaru's soft whisper, "And I, Lord Oda?"
Seeing the man's slightly grim look, he wondered for a second if it was his doubt of the new weapon or something else that made him like that. He did not bring it up, but merely sought out an order for him, "Rejoin Akechi's group and protect the border of our land. I will be preoccupied for a little while, and I would not want any sort of interruption."
"Yes, my lord," Somehow, that order made him smile, but Nobunaga did not need to know why. "We will do our best not to arouse any suspicion towards you and your tests."
"No, that will not be necessary."
Flashing a confused look, Ranmaru simply asked, "Why?"
"Must you question everything I do?"
Now the boy paled, immediately kneeling down to bow before his lord, "No, my lord! I am sorry… I do not mean to question your authority; I merely wish to know the best way in which I may protect you."
Nobunaga smiled, stepping closer to the prostrate boy and speaking softly, "Rise, Ranmaru… face me…"
Those brilliant blue eyes immediately met his own, "Yes, my lord?"
"You acted as if you committed a crime," Nobunaga stated, running a finger along the young man's cheek before he felt the boy tense from his touch. He chuckled softly, as if to mock him. "I understand your curiosity, and I don't blame you for it. This is different, but different is what the enemy will not expect. Do you think that they will see it coming?"
Ranmaru's gaze shifted slightly, his nervousness obvious. "Perhaps they wouldn't, but my lord, I'm only concerned for your well-being. I do not want this orb to… be your downfall."
Now, Nobunaga came so close to caressing that ivory cheek of his, and Ranmaru only wondered what had stopped him. "The only downfall that will come from this orb is the downfall of my enemies. I trust that Hideyoshi can control its power and learn of its secrets, and I know that you will die protecting me. Even should the orb turn against me, I know two things that will not."
Hideyoshi sniffled, brushing his damp eyes with his fingertips, "Lord Nobunaga honors Hideyoshi with his confidence; I shall leave right now to further my research. When Hideyoshi is asked for information, Hideyoshi will have it ready!"
The strangely stifling atmosphere from before seemed to lift, and Ranmaru smiled, as the eccentric man left as jovial as he had come, "Although Hideyoshi is always happy, I do believe you truly touched him… I have never seen Hideyoshi cry for joy…"
"And you, Ranmaru? Are you happy?"
This question came as a complete shock to the youth, as his eyes widened, "M-my lord? Why would I not be so?"
"You have been silent for the past few days, especially after Hideyoshi returned with the orb." Nobunaga pointed out, fiddling with Ranmaru's ponytail as the young man kept his mouth shut. "From your actions and your few words, I believe you are not pleased by the idea of using this orb. Am I correct, or am I simply jumping to conclusion?"
Ranmaru didn't know what to say. It was true that he did not like this orb, but it was not like him to disagree. He believed in Nobunaga's idea, but perhaps this was too different, too risky. What if it didn't work?
"Your silence speaks volumes to me."
"My lord," Even as he began to speak, nervousness overtook him, and Ranmaru ran his tongue over suddenly dry lips, as he tried once more. "I would never take it upon myself to question your authority or your orders. As I stated before, I am most concerned in which way I must protect you. That is what I have sworn to do… to my death. In truth, I do not like this orb. Yet, I have no true reason for stating so… none that you or any one else would ever except."
"Test me, Ranmaru. I would hope that you are not so timid that you would not confront your lord when you feel something is not right."
"Lord Oda, that is precisely why I am discontent. It is nothing but a feeling that prevents me from completely accepting that which you command… and that is not enough of a reason for me to be dissatisfied!"
It seemed that Nobunaga was tired of the conversation as it was, as he chuckled and turned around, to begin walking back towards his chambers. "Whatever the cause of your discomfort of the orb, I assume that you will not allow it to stand in the way of guarding the border. Don't allow any outside troops to arouse suspicion enough to send an army, but allow a spy or two to wander about."
Ranmaru sighed, "Is… that all, my lord?"
"That is all. You are dismissed."
Ranmaru kept his eyes on his lord's retreating form before rising. He placed a hand to the cheek Nobunaga had been stroking, flushing furiously at himself for doing so. "What am I doing? I must go find Lord Mitsuhide… instead of staying about making a nuisance of myself. I have already displeased Lord Oda… I will not do so again!"
As the young man left, Nobunaga could not help but smile to himself, though no one saw it in the darkness. His golden eyes sprung to life, as his chest vibrated with a low chuckle. Then, without saying another word, he allowed the darkness to engulf him. For he had plans to complete and preparations to work on…