It was quiet in the darkly lit room. Nobunaga was still having a deep conversation with Katsuie, and Hideyoshi.
"My lord... Oichi should not be made to suffer, where Nagamasa is the real problem." Hideyoshi tried to sound reasonable, but he figured this was a lost cause. It was Shibata who was truly heartbroken at the order to kill even Oichi, if she tried to put up a fight. Hideyoshi knew Nobunaga did not truly despise his sister for her actions, it was because he was hurt by what she had done, that he is acting cruel.
Now getting him to admit that, that was going to be the tricky part. Hideyoshi couldn't help but gulp at the intense stare the very displeased Nobunaga was giving him. This conversation had dragged on long into the night, and the young Ranmaru, whom Nobunaga kept present at all his councils, was asleep on his knee. Nobunaga had his mind made up, and Hideyoshi wouldn't press any further than that.
"Alright, Alright. Sorry Shiba-" "If Lady Oichi can be saved and spared, My lord you may take my very life for disobedience." Hideyoshi was staring at the man dumbfounded. Lady Oichi was a beautiful woman, but she wasn't worth dying over!
Nobunaga was still silent, then he began to laugh slowly. "Katsuie you may do whatever it is you please. I will not keep you from saving Oichi. Ranmaru..." Nobunaga had a different tone when he spoke the boys name. A gentle calling, rousing the boy from his unwilling slumber. He shot up at once when he realized what he had done and where he was at the moment. "My lord! I-I.. I'm so sorry!" He bowed low to the ground.
"Ranmaru... Were you tired...? I'm sorry to keep you up so long." Katsuie said apologetically.
"No! I'm sorry!... " Ranmaru was in a sudden panic. Nobunaga ran his fingertips across the boys forehead, moving strands of stray hair out of his face. "Hush Ranmaru... It's time to sleep." Nobunaga picked the boy up to his feet, and he lead him out of the room.
"Lord Nobunaga... What happened...?" Ranmaru asked softly. "Hmm... If you were awake... You would know that..." He had a light tease to his tone, and a glint in his eyes. "M-My lord! Forgive me!" He bowed suddenly, Nobunaga smiled. "Don't worry, Ranmaru... I was merely teasing you. " Ranmaru relaxed slightly, but he was still ashamed of his blunder.
"You looked very out of place... In that serious air of dramatic debate... A cute young page sleeping on the floor. As I stare into the soul of Katsuie's wishes. He wishes to save Oichi from her fate. If he can, then he can. I will do nothing to spare her, for his sake, he better find her before I."
Ranmaru was listening silently to his lord. It was a controversial matter, many people were divided on his lords conduct concerning Oichi. Ranmaru himself, he didn't care. He would do whatever Lord Nobunaga ordered him to do. No matter what that was.
"Ranmaru... Sleep well." Nobunaga cut him out of his daze, he found himself staring into the eyes of his lord. He nodded, and turned away to go to his own room, and reflect on his feelings, before going to bed. He didn't really want to hurt Oichi, she was Nobunaga's sister after all. Yet again something in him was dragging him down. To strike, her and Nagamasa both down, before it was to late. Ranmaru sighed, perhaps it was his lords violent atmosphere regarding them both, that he was feeding off of. He surely was around Lord Nobunaga enough for such a thing to take affect over him.
He dressed for bed and laid there on the floor thinking. They would engage the Asakura and Azai, at Mt. Usa, this was his lords plan. He could not stop this feeling, that made him shudder. He could not sleep like this, he sighed and sat up. Not many would be around at this time of night, he cautiously peered out of his room, and made his way across the castle.
"Ranmaru... What are you still doing up...?" He turned immediately. "Oh... Lord Mitsuhide... I was just going to go see my Father..." He admitted softly.
"I see... Would you like me to accompany you?" He asked, Ranmaru looked at him rather perplexed, the older man leaned forward. "Some of the men staying up late are rather drunk... And you are not in your usual attire..." Realization finally dawned on Ranmaru.
"Hmm.. Oh! Lord Mitsuhide!" He laughed softly. "That will not be a problem. Don't be troubled with the thought." Mitsuhide smiled and nodded. "Of course... Lord Nobunaga would be very angry... If anything were to ever happen to you." Ranmaru was left staring at the mans back as he turned and walked away. What did he mean by that, anyway? He could die at any moment for Nobunaga, but this was what it meant to live and die in the service of the Demon king.
He continued on his way to speak with his father. Sure enough, Mitsuhide was right about the hordes of drunken men, enjoying sake and lecherous conversation about women. He was doing his best to move past them unnoticed when a bit of conversation he couldn't help but overhear struck him.
"Lady Noh is the finest woman. Does Nobunaga know she's fooling around with Mitsuhide behind his back?" "They are childhood lovers, it shouldn't come as a surprise to him with that woman's looks either." He continued past them in a hurry and cold sweat. He could not have just heard that correctly.
Someone pulled him aside quickly, he was about to put up the most massive struggle this person had ever seen until he saw for himself who it was. "Mitsunari... You... startled me!" He let out a breath he was holding.
"Are you stupid going right through all those drunk perverted men? Did you NOT see all those hungry stares and the few men getting up to pursue you? You might as well have rape me written on your forehead." Mitsunari always had a sharp tongue, but Ranmaru knew the man rarely ever meant what he said. Mitsunari was nothing more than a humble servant of the castle, won over the last few battles with the Azai.
Mitsunari was about five years older than him, and regarded in the same light as he was as an 'attractive boy'. "I am sorry... Mitsunari... Thank you for saving me..." Ranmaru smiled sweetly, Mitsunari rolled his eyes. "What are you doing up this late anyway?" he asked, Ranmaru looked down. "I wanted to go speak to my father about a few things... " It was the truth, despite being so tired earlier, now he just could not get back to sleep without addressing how he felt.
"Still, don't you have the foresight to go around such a large group of men? I mean, I know you can handle yourself but, you don't have that huge sword of yours on you right now Ranmaru. You don't look like one for brute strength, and even if you were, the strongest men would be overcome by 50 men all at once." Mitsunari crossed his arms.
"I think that would depend on what was a stake... If Lord Nobunaga were in peril... Not even a hundred men would be able to restrain or kill me... " He smiled softly, Mitsunari shrugged. "Maybe one day that will happen. You can never be sure of your limits until they are tested, and I don't want to sit here and watch 50 guys 'test your limits' so just be careful, okay?" He huffed, but Ranmaru knew the man did it out of sympathizing with his situation.
"Thanks again, Mitsunari!" Ranmaru waved to him and continued on to his fathers room. Yoshinari Mori was his father, and he was a very well respected man. Respected for his loyalty, and his bravery. He reached his fathers room without any further delays, and he slid the door ajar.
"Father...?" He called out softly, Yoshinari must have been awake, because he could hear the familiar ruffling of papers, he was working on something, as usual.
"Ranmaru...? Come in." He heard his father's voice, and he opened the door further and walked inside. "So tell me how you are doing father...?" He smiled in casual satisfaction. In front of his father, he wore no masks, and had no fears. His father laughed softly, "I am glad you are here, Ranmaru. I was merely writing poetry. I was thinking of my children, and how I wished they would come see me before my long and important battle with the Azai." Ranmaru nodded.
"We are to be at war with them very soon... What of your thoughts on this, father?" Ranmaru waited for the reply, he noticed the long silence from his father.
"I think... It will result in a victory for the Oda." He nodded.
"Such a wise man's praise is sure to be a good omen!" Ranmaru flattered cheerfully. His father laughed quietly, distantly. Ranmaru walked over to him. "What have you been working on, by the way?" He asked with sudden curiosity.
"Just a few things I have to get done before I head into battle.. Nothing very interesting to a young one such as yourself. Numbers and strategy." He laughed. "I am so interested! It's very interesting! I'm sure anything you have to say is, father!" He pouted.
Yoshinari looked at his young son and shook his head. "Life is a fleeting dream. All and everything in a world of endless possibility, is a world of endless dreams."
He spoke softly. Ranmaru was transfixed by the words. "What was that, you just spoke just now?" He asked with interest. "It is a poem. One I wrote only moments ago. Ranmaru... Serve Nobunaga for as long as you shall live. Nothing more could make your father more proud." Ranmaru watched the silent and saddened look on his father face. He nodded and looked away. "Does something... trouble you, father?" He asked in quiet concern.
"I think it is late... I grow weary and need rest. What about you, son? Does anything trouble or cloud your mind?" He asked. Ranmaru nodded, suddenly remembering what has brought him to his father in the first place.
"My Lord Nobunaga... He is to battle the Azai, and at the same time, to slay his own little sister... His men are divided and question him. Where, I do not. I would do anything Nobunaga asks of me. Even be stained in the blood of Lady Oichi, as much as that would pain my soul." Yoshinari listened to his son's concerns, and then he nodded.
"This is a natural feeling... In the end you need to follow what you know to be the right path in your heart. If your heart tells you to follow Lord Nobunaga's instructions, do it. If your heart tells you not to, for the good of your Lord, don't do it. As long as you have your Lords best intentions in mind, and you have his respect and trust, no amount of pain or burden on ones soul, is enough to weigh it down."
Ranmaru smiled after a few moments. "Thank you father... I think I understand... I will do what I know to be right.. For my Lord Nobunaga... In turn it will be what is right for myself as well... Who wishes to serve him in only the utmost sincerity." Yoshinari laughed and nodded.
"Good. Good! You are the pride of our humble Mori clan. Ahh.. The night drags on, late. I should retire. Think of doing the same, Ranmaru." Ranmaru nodded. "Of course, father... Sleep well..." He left his father's room, as to give him the solitude the man desired for sleep. He walked back to his room quickly, most of the drunken men had given up for the night and went to bed as well, though some still lingered.
He was sure to take Mitsunari's advice and avoid them completely by taking a different path entirely to his room. Though it was much longer to get to it in the process, unfortunately.
He was able to get to his room before he just passed out. His mind at ease at worked miracles on his insomnia. He was able to get to sleep the minute he entered his small room, which he was thankful for, for the long morning of chores ahead of him.
He saw the sight of a bloody battle field. Blood and corpses around the stained grass, the events told of heavy battle, canons, and fire. The ground singed completely in some places. Hundreds of people dead, laying on the field.
It becomes darker, and he begins to feel cold. An anxious feeling in his stomach as he looks upon the faces of the many dead. He notices the crest of the Oda amongst all of them. He can smell the canon fire, and he feels the hot humidity of the air. He can see the mountain in the background and the familiar landscape. This is the place of the battle that is to come. Silently, an anxious fear swelling within him as he continues along the carnage.
He begins to run, noticing something, or someone. He kneels to his feet at the sight of his dead father, and is overcome with a raw, and painful grief that renders him completely vulnerable at that moment. He see's the men of the Azai army running towards him, has his father only just died in battle? He touches his hand softly, feeling the warmth leaving him. He has no will to move out of the way of the oncoming Soldiers...