"Tch… You didn't have to go through so much trouble…" Mitsunari scoffed, glad that Ieyasu couldn't see his face. Though the fact that he was being carried was bad enough…

"It's no trouble at all," Ieyasu laughed, pausing for a moment at a break in the path. Even though he said that, it was quite a ways back to the castle. They'd been all the way down in town for the festival, after all.

"You don't have to carry me…" It was even worse, because Ieyasu was shorter than he was, and he felt incredibly out of place, arms wrapped around Ieyasu's neck, the other's arms hooked around his legs… All this fuss over a broken strap on his sandal.

"You twisted your ankle. It could get worse if you walked on it. Like I said… It's no trouble, Mitsunari."

Mitsunari felt his teeth gritting. So familiar with him even after he'd asked him to speak to him properly… It couldn't be helped, though. Ieyasu was as stubborn as if he were made of metal like that retainer of his, Honda Tadakatsu. "It's embarrassing…" he muttered, but luckily it seemed that Ieyasu hadn't heard. What was worse was how it had happened in the first place.

He hadn't even been doing anything strenuous, he'd just tripped over a rock when he stopped paying attention to where he was walking… All because that Ieyasu had distracted him with the snacks they'd gotten at one of the festival stalls…

If Mitsunari could have seen his face, he probably would have struggled to free himself, twisted ankle or not, his cheeks flushing red. It was all the more noticeable for his pale skin.

"If you weren't built like a thin bamboo, maybe you wouldn't have hurt yourself tripping," Ieyasu joked, laughing again.

"Shut up…" Mitsunari growled. He didn't want to admit it, but some part of him definitely agreed with the shorter man. While Ieyasu had been built a little shorter, he was stocky and made for endurance… Meanwhile Mitsunari had always been long and lanky and a little awkward in his skin. He'd adjusted, though he still resented being compared to a fox. Especially when he would get angry about it, and Ieyasu would tease him later about how much more he looked like a cornered fox when he got angry.

And yet he'd come to expect Ieyasu's company at things like matsuri, and in day to day life. He wasn't sure when it had happened, but Ieyasu had somehow found his way into Mitsunari's heart. He scoffed again at the thought, and Ieyasu paused, twisting around to look at the man he was carrying on his back. Mitsunari scowled right back.


"Should we rest here for a moment? You can sit on that rock, so you don't put any unnecessary stress on that ankle," he said, lowering Mitsunari off his back. Mitsunari winced as he tried to put weight on his left foot, shifting immediately to put all his weight on his right, and hobbled over to the rock.

"If it's too much trouble, I will be perfectly fine walking," Mitsunari said, glancing at the geta in his hands. One of the straps had come out when he'd tripped, his ankle twisting in a strange angle. He had a sinking suspicion that it was sprained, and he would be restricted from training… How was he supposed to keep up to Ieyasu if he wasn't allowed to practice?

"It's no trouble, Mitsunari! I don't mind," he said, sitting on the rock next to Mitsunari. The silver-haired samurai scowled at him, and turned away.

"One day your kindness will get you into trouble, Tokugawa Ieyasu."

"I look forward to the day I can say you were wrong all the times you said that, Mitsunari," he said, grinning right back at Mitsunari. That smile had done its own part to worming its way into his spirit, so that he'd come to expect it for every negative statement he had. His pessimism could only stand so long in the face of Ieyasu's cheer, but he still did his best…

Even he had to smile. It sounded a little ridiculous when he put it into complete thoughts, didn't it? Refusing to allow someone's good cheer to sway his moods?

"Ha, see? Even you're smiling about it," Ieyasu said, a teasing tone in his voice as he nudged Mitsunari with his elbow. "Don't worry, Mitsunari. I'll be there anytime you try to say that the worst thing will happen to prove you wrong… Just so I can say I told you so."

"Then I'll be holding you to that, Tokugawa."

"Good. Let's keep going. You ought to get something on your ankle soon so it doesn't swell."

As he made a show of being displeased by getting a piggyback ride from Ieyasu, he smiled the moment he knew Ieyasu wouldn't turn and see it. He was really too kind… But that was one of the things Mitsunari liked so about him. The path to the castle seemed so much longer when he wasn't walking it himself, but with Ieyasu's company it wasn't so terrible after all.