So I wasn't planning on writing more Warriors Orochi fiction, but then November 6th came along, and I felt absolutely terrible for not doing anything for Mitsunari. I started writing this on November 5th, but real life factors have conspired to delay the completion of this, and so late tribute is late. Still, in loving memory of Ishida Mitsunari (1559 - 6th November 1600)!
The relationship between Cao Pi and Mitsunari was established in Head Over Feet, and some references will be made to that, but reading that first isn't strictly necessary to enjoy this. If anything, this scene might shed some light on some details of their relationship that weren't covered in Head Over Feet and These Dreams I Dreamed.
As usual, the background and setting of this story blends historical fact, Musou fiction and headcanon. If you've never heard of it, chances are I made it up.
All game references in the story are to Warriors Orochi 2 (English).
Thank you, oudeteron, for the beta. All mistakes are mine. Tell me if you find anything we missed. I regret nothing. Please be warned that the two men are going to have sex in this story. If that is not your cup of tea, you may hit the back button now. That said, I hope you enjoy!
Sun Jian has agreed to join the coalition against the demon forces, and we can now return to prepare for the coming war. The journey and battle together have taken a month. A month wasted, I think, on convincing an old fool to let the tiger out of hiding. It is not as if the people of Wu will be spared from the demons' rampage by lying low. It is all I can do not to spur my horse into a gallop when we come within sight of the castle gates. I am exhausted from the travelling, but we must maintain a steady pace for the infantry behind.
Beside me, Zhen stretches. "Home at last, my lord," she remarks with a smile. "Things are flowing nicely for us now that Sun Jian has ceased his obstinacy. You bring me hope."
I reach over to squeeze her hand briefly. "With the loveliest flower on the battlefield beside me, how could I achieve anything but success?"
Someone has run ahead to announce our arrival, and when we ride through the gates, the people have gathered to welcome us. Among them, a head of copper hair is distinctly missing. I scoff. As expected, he wouldn't let me think he was so eager to see me. I dismount at the bottom of the steps and help Zhen off her steed as well, letting the stablemaster lead the horses away. Hand-in-hand, we ascend the steps and enter the main audience hall. As we step onto the dais, I spy Mitsunari standing in one of the hall's many doors and hide a smirk as I turn to face my people.
"Our excursion was a great success," I announce, letting my voice carry over both the soldiers and civilians gathered to welcome our return. "Sun Jian and his followers have agreed to join the battle against Taira no Kiyomori and his demon forces. They may be demons, but they have fallen before the might of Wei once, and they will fall again! Together, we will put an end to this demon threat once and for all!"
The men cheer tiredly. I hold up my hand to silence them for my next proclamation.
"Tonight, we rest. Tomorrow, we celebrate with a banquet."
More cheering from the crowd, this time with somewhat more enthusiasm. With that, I exit, deliberately choosing a different door from the one he's watching from. Zhen returns to my side in the corridor, and when we reach the end of it, excuses herself to return to her wing of the castle to prepare for tomorrow's banquet and bids me good night. I kiss her on the cheek and tell her I look forward to seeing her tomorrow after a proper bath and a good night's sleep. I head directly to my room. He's already waiting inside when I arrive, dressed in a simple magenta kimono with a black sash.
"An excellent showing, Mitsunari," I greet, hugging him tightly. "One would think you didn't care."
He returns the embrace with a chuckle. "The last thing you need is a boost to your already overinflated ego, brother."
I am suddenly glad for the steel armour I am wearing because he can't feel me stiffen. Mitsunari never calls me 'brother' in private, not even teasingly.
"I've missed you," he adds quietly, pulling away.
I hide my disquiet behind a warm smile. The earlier quip sounded enough like him, but Mitsunari has always been too proud to admit he misses me when I'm away, and I sincerely doubt a mere month's absence would suffice to change that. Something's not right.
"And I you," I reply, holding on to his hands. "I have a gift," I tell him, turning to the basket of peaches they'd carried up with my things. "We passed the peach garden earlier." Amidst the peaches is a branch of the peach tree under which we swore the oath of brotherhood, three flowers on it with a few leaves. "I broke this branch off especially for you," I explain, taking it and tucking it snugly into the sash of his kimono so it won't fall.
He seems surprised, even a little moved, by the gesture. "Is it... from that tree? I did not foresee this." His smile is unguarded and sweet. "I... I feel I should thank you."
Just then, the door opens, and I turn.
Brown eyes widen at the sight of us, and the second Mitsunari stops short. Then he's attacking, tossing his fan at me. I leap aside to evade, escaping by a hair's breadth, and he ignores me, going straight for his doppelganger as he catches his fan. The other parries his blow and leaps backwards to take a better stance. He presses the attack, placing himself between his other self and the exits to block any attempt at escape, and they trade blows in quick succession. One launches the other into the air and leaps up gracefully to continue the assault. The other throws his iron fan in an arc towards his assailant. I pull my swords from their sheaths and knock the fan out of the air as one Mitsunari twists midair to avoid it, but it grazes his chest despite our best efforts. He lands, tossing his own fan at the other, and I knock that out of the air as well, weaving between them to hold them both at sword point.
"Just what do you think you're doing?!"
"You fool! Can't you even tell me from an impostor?!"
They are both gasping for breath, pinned against a wall with my sword to their throats.
"Enough," I tell them, looking from one to the other. "Your target was me, so you shall die by my hand. You should be honoured that I gave you such a chance."
The one on my right glares at the other. "Ugh, my own incompetence disgusts me. Out of my way, Cao Pi! I know I am more skilled than this insolent copy!"
"Heh, insolent copy?" The one on my left glares right back. "You have shown me just how terrible a person I can be... And for that, I will never forgive you!" He flips one of the fallen fans into the air with his foot and catches it.
Before he can attack, I stab the one on my right through the heart. He gasps in pain as he falls to his knees, looking me in the eye. "You... Why..?"
For a moment, I fear I may have been mistaken, but then he gurgles, and the blood that spills from his mouth and blooms in his kimono around my blade is jet black.
"An excellent showing," I say again. "Right to the end. Impressive."
Lightly tanned skin fades into blue, and brown eyes lighten into slitted yellow. A demon.
I indicate the peach branch in his sash; it is smoking where black ichor has stained it. "I gave you this to mark you," I tell him, mostly for the real Mitsunari's benefit, as his hair blackens and his form shifts into the demonic countenance I've seen so often on the field of battle. "Among other things, Mitsunari would never call me 'brother' when we are alone. You might have fooled another, but I'm afraid we know each other far too well."
The demon laughs, smoke rising from the rest of his body as well. "Too good for me... this time. But... I do thank you... human prince. You have... freed me... from Lord Kiyomori..."
So saying, he crumbles to dust. I lower my swords. "Scattered to the winds." I turn to face Mitsunari who has his hand pressed to the blood stain on his kimono. "Are you all right?"
He scowls. "I'm fine. It's just a scratch."
I laugh. "So you actually can fight."
"When did I say you could start helping me?" he snaps, folding his fan and setting it down on my desk.
I sheathe my swords, smiling fondly at him. "Good to see you too, Mitsunari. Not like I needed your aid, but as always, you are too kind." I pick up the burnt peach branch and set it down beside his fan. Pity.
"You fool... He got this far because I have unrestricted access to your quarters."
"I know your heart, Mitsunari. No impostor could fool me." I move closer and untie his kimono sash, parting it open down the middle slowly with a single finger. "That's more than just a scratch." I murmur, inspecting the cut closely. I sniff it and lick it to check for the unthinkable. Just in case. "It doesn't appear to be poisoned," I conclude.
"Don't make too much of it. I was off my game. And the only poison here is you," he retorts quietly, gripping the edge of the wooden table.
I walk away to signal the servants to heat the bath water, removing pieces of my armour as I go. "Well, too much of the best medicine becomes a poison, so I suppose you'd be correct." 
"Ugh, stop flattering yourself." He pushes off the desk and heads towards the door, refastening his kimono. "You don't even know I'm not another doppelganger."
Quick as lighting, I snake an arm around his waist and pull him flush against me. "But I do," I murmur, tracing his jugular with my lips. I inhale deeply of his familiar scent. "With certainty."
I feel his heartbeat quicken where my lips are pressed to the pulse point behind his ear. He swallows audibly and licks his lips to moisten them, leaning heavily on me. "I never thought a son of Cao Cao could be so trusting."
"Hardly, Mitsunari," I answer, chuckling into the nape of his neck, rocking my hips suggestively into his. "As I said, I know your heart."
"Arrogant princeling," he bites out through gritted teeth. "You are hopeless to think that will save you."
Over his shoulder, I see he is already fully erect, and arousal spreads through me like a wildfire spreads through dry brush in the wind. "It seems someone is getting overexcited," I whisper, letting my hand on his waist drop to caress the turn of his hip. "I need a bath. Join me."
He whimpers, his head falling back to rest on my shoulder. Gods. He's close. I can tell just from his breathing.
"Don't," I gasp, stepping back. Not yet.
The rush of the earlier battle fuels my desire, and I imagine he feels it more strongly than I do. I catch his wrist to tug him along as I resume undressing, pulling off pieces of armour. He whirls on me, backing me into the wall as his hands fumble to help me. I recognize that look in his eyes, the one that looks at me like I've burned him into his heart, into his soul. Once he has me trapped, he kisses me with a familiar ardour, closing the distance between us swiftly, his eyes squeezed tightly shut. Like a moth, knowingly. When the last piece of clothing slips off us, I lift him, pressing our bodies together, and he wraps his legs around my waist as we spin haphazardly into the bathing chamber and crash gracelessly to the floor. My groin slams into his, and he comes with a shout, arching up against me.
"Oh, Mitsunari," I breathe, burying my face in his hair and clinging to him tightly. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed this, missed him. He wraps his arms around me, and I can only cant my hips into his desperately. It's not long before I'm coming as well, muffling a moan as I spill on his thighs to a hiss of pleasure. "Heavens, I've missed you."
He holds me to him, sighing, "You wouldn't have if you'd brought me along to battle."
I shake my head, pressing a kiss to his temple. "Someone has to take care of things here, Prime Minister Ishida." Empire or no, he is an invaluable deputy. "How are we doing?" Best to get important affairs out of the way quickly.
"The finances are a mess, but we have enough left from our days under Orochi to fight this war."
I nod. "And the logistics?"
"Leave it to me. When it comes to that, none shall ever surpass my greatness."
"I never expected any less from you." I peck him lightly on the lips. "And when the dust settles, you can sort the finances out to your satisfaction."
"Argh," he groans. "I hate having to do what I've already done. It's so inefficient."
"But you're a hard worker, so you'll do it anyway."
I roll off him, lacing our fingers, and lie beside him. Now that the frantic need has passed, my exhaustion has returned full force. I must have dozed off because, suddenly, he's leaning over me, his fingertips ghosting lightly over my brow. I capture his hand in my own and press his knuckles to my lips.
"Hmph, is that all you've got?"
I smirk, sitting up tiredly. "Why don't you come give me a try?"
"Maybe when you've cleaned up properly," he retorts, taking the nearby dipper to scoop some steaming water from the bath and pour it over me. Reaching for the soap, basin and razor on a nearby shelf, I hand it to him. He stares at the items.
"You're asking me for help? Is the world ending?"
I roll my eyes. "Not like I need it, but it would be far more convenient."
"Must I?" he asks, put upon, even as he pulls my head into his lap. His slender fingers work the soap into my hair, and I sigh in contentment as they rub circles into my scalp, feeling the tension in my muscles melt away. "Spoiled," he mutters, soapy hands gliding over my face and neck. "Close your eyes." I don't hesitate, and his thumbs trail soap over my eyelids as I relax completely into him. "You know," he says conversationally, shaving the right side of my jaw with practiced ease as I grope blindly for the soap. "You make assassination so terribly easy, I can't take pride in such a meagre endeavour."
"Still about this? Will you laugh at my naivety?" I find it and dip my hands in the water before coating my hands with the suds. I lather it on his wet legs to either side of me. His calves are slim and muscular, and the breath hitches in his throat when my hands slide under his knees.
"Oh, I'm serious all right. You know how I am." The razor scrapes my chin. "You let me blind you with a blade in my hand. I guess I'll just consider myself honoured to be so trusted."
I chuckle as he cleans the razor after shaving the other side, my hand closing around his ankle. "I left my kingdom in your hands, Prime Minister. I would think we were past this."
He tenses. "You're only asking to die, Cao Pi."
"You're upset because he used your face to try to kill me," I surmise quietly.
His hand stills near my throat. "As if I would care about something so petty. You're just a lot more useful to me alive."
I turn my head to press a kiss to his thigh, shifting against the member buried in my hair. "Leave the thinking to me, Mitsunari. There may be another assassin in disguise in our midst, but I know it isn't you."
"Hold still and shut up," he gripes. "I can't do this while you're talking." I don't move a muscle as he carefully shaves up my neck. "My hand almost slipped just now, and wouldn't that be convenient?"
"What a laugh!" I exclaim as he scrapes the blade clean again. "I will only believe you wish me dead the instant you deal the killing blow with your own two hands, Mitsunari. Had you desired anything else of mine, you could easily have taken it already. Enough, say no more of this. You are a most difficult man to imitate. A shapeshifting assassin would have better fortune posing as Zhen. He wouldn't have to replicate your convoluted thinking."
He falls silent and finishes his work, rinsing the soap off when he's done. I push myself up into a sitting position to capture his lips as he runs his soapy hands over my body. He returns the kiss fiercely, flicking his fingers at my nipples, and I slide my hands up his thighs. Ripples of pleasure pool in my belly, and I feel desire rise in him anew. I turn and press him to the floor, enjoying the slide of his skin on mine. He smiles for the first time today, letting me work some soap into his copper hair.
"Hm, it would appear that you are of some worth to me," he murmurs contentedly.
"Some? You're such a poor loser, Mitsunari." I cup his face with my hands. "Close your eyes?" He does, and I smooth soap over his eyelids before tracing the graceful curve of his nose with my thumb. "And what of you?" I whisper, amused. "I just killed someone that could have been you without hesitation."
He shifts beneath me, creating a delicious friction. "I find it overwhelmingly obvious that it is not steel you wish to impale me with, Cao Pi."
I laugh, rolling us both over so he lies atop me, and run my hands down his back. "Well, I wouldn't want you coming back and haunting me." He arches into my touch and groans in frustration when I massage his arse, my fingers circling ever closer to his entrance.
"Tease," he gasps into my hair, his nails digging into my shoulder.
"Mm," I agree, swiping a soap-slick digit down the crease.
"Please," he whimpers, suddenly uncaring of his pride.
I can never deny him like this.
Rolling once more has us falling haphazardly into the bath. He comes up, spluttering on water and annoyed, but before he can chastise me, I press him bodily up against the edge of the bath. He makes a sound of protest, but I ignore it, trailing kisses down his spine. When my lips reach that puckered cleft and suck at it, he just barely manages not to shout my name. Holding his hips still with my arms, I lave at it, and every flick of my tongue makes him sob with pleasure not unlike the way Zhen does when I lick that nub hidden in her folds. I dip inside, and he cries out sharply, tensing.
I pull back, smacking his arse lightly. "Has anyone ev—"
"No!" he snarls, desperate. "By the Gods, Cao Pi, don't you dare stop now!"
Good. Let me be the only one to see you like this, to make you like this. Certainly, I had read of cut sleeves in the Imperial palace and half-eaten peaches in literature, but it had never occurred to me to seek pleasure with another man until the day he first kissed me after that demonstration of his homeland's tea ceremony. Now he is mine completely, and there can be only one. 
I press into him again, opening him with my tongue and one finger, and it's almost enough; I feel it in the muscles beneath my mouth and hands. His breathing is ragged, and I know he'll come just from this — just a little more. I dart my tongue in and out of him rapidly, pressing my finger into that place inside him. He jerks, screaming my name, and slumps, trembling as I finish with a final kiss. He doesn't even react when I pull him into my lap, resting on me like a dead weight, but I feel a slight tremor run through his frame. I envelop him in my arms, twining my fingers with his. He once told me that, to his annoyance, Kiyomasa had always treated him like a maiden that needed protecting. I can see why. Even knowing his fighting prowess, there's something about him that seems so fragile. His fine-boned and slender body seems all too easy to break, but I've heard that mortality makes life beautiful, so perhaps that fragility is what draws us all in.
"Do you know," he says, his voice so languid it is almost a drawl. "Where I come from, being allowed to bathe with someone is an honour?"
I smile, nuzzling the crook of his neck. "Then it is exactly as I intended."
"...oh, you self-satisfied prince. I meant that you should feel honoured."
"I would be if you put that smart mouth of yours to better use."
He shakes his head. "Your father's right. You have no self-control."
I frown. "And if you mention him one more time, I will prove that point."
The steaming water is fragrant with herbs around us, and were I not still so aroused, I would fall asleep just like this. I trace the cut on his ribs gently with a fingertip. He winces. I place a kiss behind his ear. For me. He will bear this scar for me. I want to engrave it on my memory. He turns and pushes me with surprising strength out of the water to sit on the edge of the bath before wading forward to settle between my legs with his arms loosely around my waist.
"What are you doing?"
He sucks at a nipple, and I keen softly with long-neglected need. "Putting my smart mouth to better use," he murmurs against my skin, trailing kisses down my torso to dip his tongue into my navel. I freeze, and he looks up as he's about to take me into his mouth. "What?"
I shake my head, turning away. "Nothing. I suppose I didn't think you'd take that seriously."
He narrows his eyes. "Cao Pi?"
I smile thinly. "You know me too well."
"What is it?"
"I didn't think you'd ever."
I let my gaze rest on the razor and basin we left on the other side of the bath. "The same reason we keep this a secret."
Anyone who knew would assume, rightly, that I am the dominant partner and, wrongly, that I trust and favour him because of the nature of our relationship. There is no sincerity in asking of him something that diminishes him in the eyes of others, so we keep this a secret that we may always be seen as equal. Zhen knows, or at least suspects, but wisely remains discreet.
"Is that what you think?"
I scowl. "Must you ask w—"
"No. Your very need to ask is an offense to me."
His only response is to swallow me to the hilt and hum. I gasp, fighting to remain still, and try not to resent that he's done this before. To another man.
I dig my fingers into my thigh deeply enough to hurt as he sucks hard and moan when he takes my hands to place them on his head as if to say "guide me." My fingers curl in his hair, massaging his scalp, and I struggle to keep from hurting him as his tongue masterfully wrings all control out of me. This might be difficult, the most difficult endeavour of the month yet.
"Mitsunari," I breathe, pushing at his shoulders. "I—"
He only moans around me in response, and I can't hold back the rush of white heat, gasping as I see stars. Distantly, I notice him choke a little, but recover and swallow. My insides clench with desire, spilling more into his mouth, and I can only cry out helplessly as he keeps going, his attentions just this side of painful on my oversensitized flesh. I can't even hold myself upright anymore and flop back onto the floor gracelessly. His arms slip around my thighs, lifting them onto his shoulders, and he finds my perineum with his thumb, rubbing it as he teases the underside of my cock with his tongue, varying the pressure and overwhelming me with mixed pleasure and pain. The back of my head digs into the hard floor, my spine arched taut, incoherent sounds of pleasure falling from my lips with his name as he eventually brings me back to the brink of orgasm with amazing skill.
"Zihuan," he gasps, stopping, and if he'd simply buried himself in me at this moment, I'd have let him. But he's only the receiving partner because he enjoys it far more intensely than I do, and indeed, with his eyes dark with lust and his skin flushed with desire, he asks me to take him. "Please."
I move to get oil, but he pulls me back, shaking his head. "I'm ready, I'm ready. Please just—"
I cut him off with a fierce kiss, pulling him to me and pressing into him in the water. His moans are desperate and needy as he takes me into him easily, and when I begin moving, he's sobbing with pleasure again. I go slowly, knowing the pleasure will be intense but just shy of enough, keeping him on the edge. His nails rake across my back as he clings to me, his arms and legs wound tightly enough to hurt around me, and I mouth at his neck, his jaw, his shoulder. I want him like this. Always, always.
He tightens around me again and again as he very nearly comes with every thrust. "Cao Pi," he groans through gritted teeth. "Damn you, don't make me do this mysel—aaAHH!" he screams as I slam my hips forward, thumbing the slit at the tip of his cock as I do, spilling on my hands and clenching around me so hard my vision whites out.
We collapse into the bath together, and for the longest time, I forget every word I know besides his name and murmur that into his ear like a litany. He presses his temple and cheek to mine, still holding onto me as if for dear life. I can barely move from sheer exhaustion.
"Don't you dare die here without me."
I laugh tiredly, still holding him close. "I give you my word, Mitsunari. You will not be rid of me so easily."
Some time later, he has to half-carry me to the bed, but when he falls into it with me, I decide I can bear the indignity of it.
 In traditional Chinese herbal medicine, dosage is very important. Even the herb that best treats your condition, if consumed in the wrong dosage or not used in concert with the correct combination of other herbs, will instead be toxic. Cao Pi is saying that if he is a poison, then it's because he's too much of a good thing.
 Ancient Chinese metaphors for homosexual relations alluding to two famous relationships: Emperor Ai cutting off his sleeve so as not to wake his lover, Dong Xian, and Mizi Xia presenting an especially delicious peach he had tasted to his lover, Duke Ling.
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