They say regret always comes after. I never believed that, since I felt I had no need to. Everything I had done leading up to this day resulted from my own endeavors and what I received equally amounted to the effort I exerted.
Regret was useless. It only wasted time.
That was my unspoken theory.
Now... I finally understood the true meaning behind those words.
It all seemed like a dream. Just a fleeting memory of events seemingly too impossible to happen. In fact, this was an exact rehash of the recent nightmares I endured these past nights.
Only this time the sensation decided to tag along.
It hurt like hell.
"Masamune-sama... we should return."
A slow and tentative voice broke through the eerily thick atmosphere. Not long after, a hand found its way on my shoulder.
Without bothering to turn around, I shook my head slowly, painfully.
He would understand. He practically knew me like the palm of his hand, after all.
True to my expectations, he prodded no further, and withdrew.
Footsteps faded into the distance, and that was when I realized was really, truly alone.
The body I held was as lifeless as a doll. A living, yet dead nightmare resurrected from my dreams.
He wasn't going to come back, was he? Of course not, he was fucking dead.
I lost track of my surroundings, and released every tiny ounce of awareness I still possessed over myself.
I didn't care about anything else back then. I didn't care about the alliance with Ieyasu, I didn't care if Mitsunari stood right behind me with his katana poised to stab me to oblivion right there and then, hell, I didn't even care if the world ended that very instant.
What really mattered to me was no longer existent.
Wait, no. Scratch that, what in the blazing fires of hell was wrong with me?
Why should I even care?
Since when did Date Masamune care about a mere boy whose life he had taken?
Of course it didn't make any sense.
I don't. I shouldn't care.
Why should I?
He's nothing to me.
Just another obstacle in my path to conquering Japan.
That's why I don't have to care. In the end he's going to get killed off anyway.
Haha, who did I expect to fool, anyway? It was plain even to the lowliest retard that Yukimura meant nothing short of important to me.
Because he wasn't just anybody.
He was the first one, the only one who excited me, who taught me that war wasn't only about bloody massacre and butchery.
It was probably my first time, too, meeting such an annoying hothead who claimed to wield his fiery spears with passion I thought was unlikely to be had by a single person.
He was surrounded by fire that couldn't simply be doused.
It would travel and lap at others, spreading its heat and ferocity, soon consuming their very beings.
Apparently I also fell victim to this absurdity.
Keeping my cool around someone like him was like attempting to stay cool in an overheating microwave. The fire he possessed were infectious, resembling so much as what he claimed to be the fiery flames burning constantly in his soul. Like it or not, without a means of extinguishing it, fire would devour you whole.
To think that invincible fire would finally be smothered into ashes.
Ashes. The left overs of its former brilliance.
That was one way I could describe what I had been subconsciously cradling in my arms.
A part of me had accepted the fact he was gone, but the other, more irrational part of me screamed pure denial.
He's not dead!
He can't be!
Why at that moment I decided to cling to my other foolish part, I still couldn't comprehend until this moment.
"Wake up, you fool. This isn't over yet."
I stood up, my sight only focused on the still figure of my only lifetime rival.
"I'm still not satisfied yet. You're not allowed to die before I've earned that satisfaction!"
Colorful stains of red drenched my entire being.
It was sick, being covered in blood that wasn't your own.
Especially when it was his.
I reached out to grasp at his collar.
"What did I just say, you bastard?"
I shook him, hard.
"I said wake up!"
I tugged him nearer, at almost an eye-level. His eyes were still shut, that peaceful look on his still innocent face.
I was finally going delirious.
"Get up, you imbecile! Or I swear I'll kill you a thousand times over until... until...!"
By then I was no longer aware of my halfhearted threats, and only remembered repeating the same action over and over again, his body complying helplessly to my merciless shaking.
"...-mune! Lord Masamune! Cease your misconducts, this is no proper way to treat the dead!" Before I knew it my hands were pulled away.
Fury shimmered inside me as I glared with my one good eye at the speaker who dared say such words. I wrenched my hands away and pulled on his collar instead. "Watch your tongue, Kojuro! I thought you, of all people, would understand! He's just fooling around with me! Serving me faithfully this entire time does not give you the right to insult others of your own free will!"
"I apologize for my insolence. Do what you will with me, my lord, but you are gravely mistaken to think I would leave you the way you are now."
His voice was ever so calm. It only served to infuriate me even more.
"Bullshit! I don't know what kind of sob story you've got that made you so apathetic but at least show some respect would you? Stop trying to act as if you can mend everything with just your placidity! It's over! This is all over! I've gone and done it, and you just had to rub it in..-!"
"Forgive me for this, Lord Masamune, but you need to snap out of this now."
A resounding slap filled the hollow emptiness of the surroundings.
I was already so numb. Either it was due to the degree of pain inflicted that day which extended far past the boundaries of pain and bordered into numbness or I was already acquainted with it so much that it no longer mattered.
I was almost ashamed it didn't sting. I deserved it more than ever.
I could almost hear Nobunaga laughing at me from the pits of hell.
Without moving my head, I let my hands fall limply to my sides, and returned my gaze to the body before me.
It was vague, I wasn't even sure who I was talking to. A final and futile plea for a person who would no longer remain in my life, or a pathetic apology towards a living companion born from a broken man's leftover dignity.
It was somewhat of a relief that he had already accustomed himself to my erratic behavior.
"Yes, my lord."
"Masamune Date! I hereby challenge you to a duel!"
Countless times he said, always with that signature smile plastered to his face.
Even in less desirable situations, he never ceased to try and provoke me.
"You aren't getting past me without a fight!"
And it was a fight he got. Like the war savage I was, I indulged in every single whim of his.
I enjoyed it. There was no greater pleasure than fighting those with passion and conviction in their blades, and it made them seem the more fun to beat the hell out of.
To my utter surprise, he wasn't all talk. He was able to deflect every carefully aimed jab, dodged at all the crucial times and countered efficiently. He had his bark as well as bite. He was a raging tiger.
None of whose likes I have ever seen before.
He gradually became so compellingly frustrating that I completely lost my composure and drew all six blades, to the astonishment of my soldiers.
It was a silent declaration. By drawing all six katanas, I had claimed myself a worthy and formidable opponent.
I was quite well known for not letting those who pique my interest escape so easily.
As luck would have it, he had no intentions of letting me go either.
Eventually our fights escalated to breathtakingly new heights and splendor. Intensity grew with each encounter. We held back less.
Every time we met, we would always be better than before. It became an unspoken rule for us to fight at each given opportunity.
I also noticed the more I fought him, the more he revealed about himself.
Though a picture may be worth a thousand words, an action is worth a million.
Even with a basic and simple swipe of his spear, he expressed himself in countless ways, not even worthy of words.
The way he lands on his feet, the way his body bends over when he sidesteps my blow.
I had memorized his every move by then, and so had he with mine.
And so we moved in perfect synchronicity, in a harmony absolutely none could compare to. For those rare moments, it felt as if the world belonged to us and only the two of us.
But nothing would have prepared us for that moment.
Death was indeed definite, but it was dreadfully unforeseeable.
Just when I felt that all the puzzles were finally in place, and things couldn't get any better, death only felt like a dream. Sadly, it had the uncanny ability to take away that person to whom you were closest to in one instant.
"Masamune... thank you."
My arms reached out for him subconsciously as he collapsed.
Surprisingly, my face hadn't betrayed my feelings. It stayed stoic and impassive.
Inside, however, existed a raging emotion that even I couldn't identify.
He pulled me down with him, his fingers weakly latching on to me.
"You don't know... how happy you've made me. This kind of feeling... it's irreplaceable. It's a different happiness that I only get when... I'm fighting you."
His other hand clutched his wound; a katana had planted itself firmly through him.
My mind absentmindedly registered that the one who caused that fatal wound was me.
A slip of the hand. There were no other excuses I could make up for this incident. Overrun with blinding rage that he would dare ally himself with Mitsunari, I lost all rationality.
Now all was quiet, none of the opposing factions were to be seen. The outcome of the battle was a mystery, yet I couldn't care less.
This was my punishment.
Blood seeped through and smothered my clothes. The irony smell of pungent blood filled my senses.
I couldn't speak. It was like I forgot how.
He was smiling.
Despite his lethal injuries, he kept that god-damned smile on his face. Acted like it was no big deal. That it was going to happen sooner or later.
"I have... one last request."
He coughed once, and tried vainly to cover up a series of hacking that followed shortly after. Blood trickled from his mouth.
"Whatever will happen to this body after I go... I want you to do it. Show my clan that... the One-Eyed Dragon... has bested the Tiger Cub... of Kai." By now the tears running down his face were blatantly obvious. I had the compelling urge to wipe them off, but held back.
I would not show my weakness to a mere cub, even when it was moribund.
His arm trembled feebly towards one of his spears lying forlornly on the ground, and encased it in my hand.
"Bury my spears for me... so people would not know how much... torment Sanada Yukimura has caused... to those he had not meant to cause harm to. These spears will no longer have... to take any more innocent lives. It will finally rest... in peace."
Shortly after I caught a glimpse of a name he uttered to himself, something like Oyamada-san, but I was in too much of a stupor to ponder on who he was referring to.
It was raining, wasn't it? What an ironically appropriate way to serve as the final factor of dousing the sparks and flickers of a previously glorious flame.
Drops of liquid dampened my hair and ran down my face. Some fell on his face.
A frail, blood-stained hand stroked my cheek too gently for my liking.
"... There are tears on your face..."
It's just the rain, you halfwit.
Just the rain, nothing more.
Strangely enough, he only smiled solemnly, and questioned me no further.
This led me to think that the battle of contradiction inside me revealed itself on my face.
"I can't express my gratitude to you enough. I only wish... we could have met sooner. Or maybe under different circumstances."
His hazel eyes went unfocused for a brief moment before his eyelids fluttered.
"I... only tried to do what I... believed was right. I wanted to see... what Lord Shingen saw in... Ieyasu. I thought... that by allying with his... true adversary, it would have made the process... quicker. But now, it doesn't really matter... anymore. If I had to die by anyone's hands, I'd... I'd want it to be you."
For the last time that day, that month, and all the following years, we locked gazes.
He opened his mouth to say something else, but decided against it as the words dissolved into violent coughing.
"... I guess this is it, then. I hope that sometime in the afterlife we can meet again, Masamune."
It sounded utterly and hopelessly ridiculous. It had to be the poorest effort I've ever seen a person exert to look as if he was perfectly fine.
But who was the bigger fool that yearned to believe such nonsense?
"... It's a promise, then."
I couldn't believe the words just spilled out of my mouth like that. Whatever reaction I displayed, it was already too late.
Pure joy radiated from his pale features as he let his eyelids close, for the last time.
That childish expression of genuine contentment stayed on his face even when he passed on, and only then was I able to admit that I had been shedding tears.
He was gone... for good.
I have no idea what I just wrote, and I have no idea where this is going. Please bear with me.
I plan for this to be a two-shot, or maybe a three-shot, depending on how many plot bunnies can approach me.