after the flood
Summary: Mitsuhide is dangerous in many ways. OneShot, Kiki narrates.
Set: Story-unrelated, though the general theme refers to the latest chapter (31)
Disclaimer: Standards apply.
Mitsuhide is dangerous.
He is so in many different ways, some of them only to be expected, some not. He is like the flood, Kiki thinks, like something not to be thought of, not to be feared, as long as it isn't in sight. But it is still there, always, watching and waiting, and the moment it reaches you it has the power to strip you bare, lay waste and leave you powerless in the face of its might. Like the flood Mitsuhide can be calm and detached until he snaps, suddenly growing threatening and dangerous, and unless you are either prepared or know how to deal with it the damage is immense.
Mitsuhide is dangerous as a knight.
The Knights of Oleg live by an age-old codex. The Knights have been there as long as the Kingdom of Clarines exists and from their ranks the Knights to the Kings, Queens and Princes and Princesses are chosen. If there ever was someone who embodied the codex of the Order of Oleg, Kiki thinks, it is Mitsuhide. She knows that much, even if she knows only a bit more than nothing about him. She doesn't know where he was born, doesn't know where he grew up, how he came to be a member of the order. She knows he and Zen only got along reluctantly at first – a few soldiers and maids dropped hints – but she does not know what he could have been, would have become if he hadn't been chosen by Zen in the end. And anyway all of it loses substance in the face of what she knows: Mitsuhide is a brilliant fighter, an utterly loyal servant and the best knight she could possibly imagine. Another word to describe him would be incorruptible: Mitsuhide would never turn on Zen. Come what might – torture and hunger, pain, hell and high water – he would endure it, and he would probably do it gladly for the simple fact that he was protecting his Liege Lord. There is no way to harm Zen without going through Mitsuhide first. And he finds the strength to live like that in the codex that has been engraved both in his and in Kiki's soul: the codex of the order. Mitsuhide believes in it, draws his strength from it. It is nothing religious, nothing otherworldly. It is the foundation of his character, in some ways, and the base of what he believes in and how he chooses to act and react. The codex only has few sentences. One of them tells its knights to serve. It is what Mitsuhide does, with his body, heart and soul, and it is what makes him dangerous.
Mitsuhide is dangerous as an opponent on the practice field.
His movements are nothing close to beautiful or artistic. When Mitsuhide fights, Kiki can see the restraint in his steps, the close-to-invisible shifts in his stance and movement that allow him to fight with almost no waste of energy at all. Young knights and knights-to-be sometimes practice on the field and she has seen many of them move. They move with elegance, grace even, with the barely-suppressed energy of young men and women who yearn to prove themselves. Great arcs, salto and spins are part of their performance and it is, really, nothing more than that – a performance. As beautiful as they seem when they move – Kiki would chose Mitsuhide's fighting style over anything. Because he knows exactly how much strength he needs to exert when and where in order to achieve the maximum result. He can disarm a fighter in less than fifteen seconds, given the right circumstances. He never takes one step too much, never makes the one gesture that turns a fight into a show. Some people might think it boring, ineffective even, but to Kiki, it is – in a strange sense – a kind of perfection. Sometimes, he just stands there and waits for his opponent to attack. He waits and waits and waits until the last second and then – only then – he takes one step back and the wooden practice sword swings by his face by mere millimeters and useless nonetheless. Then he takes one small step and makes one short movement and the opponent finds himself disarmed and defeated and cannot even tell what has happened. Kiki knows from her own experience that such an ability demands extreme restraint, trained instinct and an unfailing sense for timing. It is something she, too, possesses, but Mitsuhide has brought it to mastery. Every time a real sword comes at him while she is watching she comes close to freezing because there is no way he won't be struck by it, the way he is standing. But he just steps away calmly, his feet moving only inches from where he stood before. His opponent is close enough to touch him, to even injure him badly, but he very rarely manages to. It is amazing, from the view of a bystander as much as from the view of his partner – which she is – and intimidating, too. And all the while, he never stops training, as if there was some invisible line he would never reach and yet tries to. When they fight their spars end in draws, mostly, but it is still the most exhilarating thing Kiki can imagine. Mitsuhide fights as if fighting was as simple as breathing, and it is that what makes him dangerous.
Mitsuhide is dangerous as Zen's aide.
Zen, as a Prince of Clarines, only answers to three people: his father, the King, his mother, the Queen, and Izana, his elder brother. Mitsuhide is – perhaps after Izana – one of the few people whose opinion can influence Zen's decisions. It is what makes him a threat, too: the fact that Zen trusts his Knight more than anything. He is his best friend and like an elder brother to him. Zen, who grew up with the knowledge that he would always be second to the Kingdom – second son, second prince, second heir to the throne – probably was determined to never let anyone get close enough to him. From what Kiki heard when she first came to the palace to be Zen's second aide, he didn't trust Mitsuhide at first. If she had to guess why that was so she would have said Zen didn't want to trust Mitsuhide because Mitsuhide openly and frankly had put him first, before Izana, before anyone else. She now knows Zen's mistrust had been justified, in the beginning, because Mitsuhide had put him second to Izana, as well. But in the way Mitsuhide looks at him today everyone can see that to him, there is first and overall Zen, even if he had wanted to serve Prince Izana in the beginning. Of course, as the person who is the closest thing Zen has to a friend, Mitsuhide has a certain amount of power. Kiki wasn't joking when she told Obi Mitsuhide probably was the only person Zen listened to when he had set his mind on something. Mitsuhide can stop Zen from charging off recklessly, is the only one who can remind him of his duties without receiving a scathing reply and being ignored. Mitsuhide's advice – although only given when demanded – is one of the few Zen actually listens to. It is for that reason that Mitsuhide never tells Zen what to do if there isn't a very good reason why he should be doing it. Sneaking out of the castle? Falling in love with a common girl? All those things Mitsuhide would never comment on unasked, never question. Differently to when Zen's duties call for a certain action, a certain behavior. Leaving the sick soldiers in the castle in the outer provinces was the right choice back at that time. And Zen trusts Mitsuhide – trusts him more than anything. He was his first choice when it came to sending someone with Shirayuki to Tanburn. It is Mitsuhide Zen looks for when he needs advice, help, or simply a quiet, wordless minute. Because people realize this, there is the possibility of people trying to influence Zen by turning to Mitsuhide. Politicians or Lords who try to achieve their goal by manipulating the person they know the Prince trusts completely. It is what makes Mitsuhide dangerous, not to others, but to Zen. When Kiki is having those kinds of thoughts, she remembers the look Mitsuhide gives Zen. And her heart calms again. There is absolutely no way Mitsuhide would ever betray Zen.
Mitsuhide is dangerous as an enemy.
Although it'd be hard to find someone who has experienced the fact firsthand. Most people who ever tried to get past Mitsuhide, to attack Zen or anyone Mitsuhide was in charge off, didn't live to tell the story. There is no compromise when Mitsuhide guards someone and he does not back down. This, perhaps, is the reason why he sometimes is referred to as blood-thirsty and stubborn but Kiki knows him better. She knows Mitsuhide doesn't care about his reputation as long as it doesn't interfere with what he sees as his duty but what really is that kind of devotion that is so hardly found nowadays. Therefore, there is no leniency for people who try to harm Zen. Once, shortly after Kiki had joined Mitsuhide as Zen's second aide, there had been an attack on the royal family during the Mid-summer Festival. As every year it took place on the coast, in a little fishermen's village down South. Zen had spent the little leisure time he had on the beach and it was there some thugs cornered him. Kiki didn't even need to do anything. "Guard him!" Mitsuhide had shouted, and then he had single-handedly killed four of the five men that had tried to harm Zen. He hadn't even breathed hard when he was finished. Seeing him covered in blood, a terrible light in his eyes, Kiki, for the first time, had thought that he was a terrible sight. A man to be feared. Gone was the easy-goingness, gone the light-heartedness. Her first impression had been the one of a kind, friendly, sometimes inexplicably shy man who loved to laugh. Here, suddenly, while Zen behind her held his sword drawn and her own weapon was warm and alive in her hand, she realized this was another side of Mitsuhide: a dangerous side, a dark side covered up by his kind smiles and childish-naïve behavior. The last thug had begged for mercy. For a short second Kiki had thought Mitsuhide would kill him, too. Of course he didn't. But his eyes were so cold she shuddered involuntarily when she thought back at that moment, even years later. Mitsuhide doesn't distinguish: someone who wants to hurt Zen is an enemy, no matter what he has been before or what objective he has. It is what makes him so good at being what he is: a knight, and a soldier, a protector. It is what makes him so dangerous.
Mitsuhide is dangerous in many ways.
He is dangerous as Zen's aide, as a knight, as a sparring partner and as an enemy. But he is dangerous in other ways, too. It is in his character, simple and clear, and it is what Kiki fears most in him.
Because he sees things as they are and says the words that come to his mind, simple and fast and effective. He is like the flood: gone now and back suddenly, without a warning but regular and expected. Kiki listens to his words and sees his smile and remembers the answer – so simple, so clear – which fell from his lips like those words were the most normal thing in the world. Fell down like feathers, so soft and light they would never touch the ground, never become part of reality. Mitsuhide is dangerous because he has a hold on her. Because his words touch her, reach her like a little stream turns into a wide river. Turns into a flood that strips away her defenses and barriers and lays open her soul. He makes her want to look at him and she isn't sure whether this is a good thing or not.
Mitsuhide is like the flood: fast, quick, lethal, if necessary. Suddenly there and suddenly gone. The only thing that remain are ripples in the sand, the words in her heart that make her want to cry. Smile. Make her want to reach out to him, to touch him and to feel his eyes on her.
Mitsuhide is dangerous because he can change her.