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The Tiger and the Wren

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Him

Weeks rolled by, and Shingen was too busy with war council meetings and reports to even see Ren more than in passing. The warmth of early summer kept his struggles with his illness to a minimum. His healer had sent him a new powdered mixture that seemed to be effective with keeping his lungs clear. The information Ren provided allowed him to start skirmishes along border areas, slowly claiming back land until they were poised to retake Kai. It was all he wanted, and it was happening with very little loss of life due to the intelligence he received from her time in Azuchi. 

Shingen paused in writing his missives, the lantern burning low at his desk. He remembered her say she discussed strategy with Nobunaga into the night. Is that how she was able to target key areas? He had never really discussed Kai with her at all, just casually. How had she known what maneuvers to suggest in her mission notes? Typically, Kunoichi were used in the shadows, not on the battlefield, subterfuge not being considered honorable combat. However, she was something more than that. His mind drifted to her swiftness when she guarded him. He set the brush down, resting his head in one hand. How could he think of putting her in danger to guard him in battle? How could he not? Shingen rubbed his brow, an ache from strain settling in his forehead. It was late into the evening, well after sunset when a knock came.

“Lord Shingen, it’s Ren. I saw your light on.”

“Come.”

Ren balanced a tray on her hip, sliding open the door. He set what he was working on aside to give her his full attention.

“I know it’s a bit late for visiting, but I thought you could use a break.” She smiled at him warmly, setting tea and his favorite sweets on his desk. “I picked these up in town for you today.”

She was wearing his gift. A pale women’s kimono emblazoned with the Takeda mon. Plum blossoms decorated the silk of the gossamer fabric. 

“My Angel is here to rescue me from a mountain of work, offering a sweet treat,” he winked at her. “And some pastries.”

“Oh, Shingen!” Her blush was exquisitely lovely. It was hard for him to reconcile that this was the same woman that killed over a dozen men in a field a few weeks before. A shadow passed over his eyes.

Ren studied him. “I know you are busy, I’ll be going.”

He noticed there were two cups placed with the tea service. “No, please. It’s been so long since we’ve had time to talk. Sit and share this with me.” She smiled, settling herself on the tatami mat. He moved from behind the desk sitting beside her. He breathed deep, the delicate scent of honey and wisteria perfume filled his senses, so different than the usual oiled steel and leather undertones she usually smelled of. Shingen could still detect that addictive spice scent that always clung to her skin.

She finished whisking the tea and handed him a cup.

“You look lovely tonight, like a goddess of spring.” His eyes gazed into hers. Snowy lashes fluttered over darkening violet eyes. A smile teased at her lips.

She eyed the mound of paperwork on his desk. “Is there anything I can help you with?” Shingen took a bite of the glazed pastry chewing thoughtfully.

“There is. But the request is an unusual one.”

She cocked an eyebrow at him, sipping her tea.

“We are riding into battle shortly to reclaim Kai, your information has proven invaluable.”

Ren nodded, she took the last bite of a gooey treat and licked off her fingers. Shingen paused, watching her, his thoughts scattered for the moment. She glanced at him and grinned.

“Apologies, please continue.” She didn’t sound very apologetic, inwardly he smirked.

“I want you to come with me.”

Ren looked surprised, “Kunoichi are not typically used on the battlefield? In what respect do you desire me there?”

“We both know your skills are far more than that. I desire you there as my personal guard, you see what others do not. I can trust you to swiftly eliminate any threats to my person, leaving me to only concern myself with the battle itself.” 

“As you wish, my Lord.” She gave him a small bow.

“Ren,” his hand covered hers, “you may decline me. I am asking a lot from you. You will be in the thick of battle, not in the shadows. I hate placing you in that danger, however-“

“It is the most practical use for your most lovely blade.” Her eyes held his.

“Think on it?” He sipped his tea.

“I accept.”

“You don’t have to answer now Ren-“

“Shingen,” she said softly “I don’t think you fully comprehend the lengths I would go through to keep you safe.”

He nodded, looking down into his tea, “I’ll have armor made for you.”

“Keep it light and noiseless, or you’ll just slow me down.”

“I don’t think anything could slow you down, little bird, you move like the wind. These eyes have never seen a more glorious sight. You are truly a goddess.”

“I’m still human Shingen, it’s not like I have supernatural powers, I’m simply well trained from a young age.” She smiled, bumping her shoulder against his, “More tea?”

“Yes, please.” He passed his cup to her. Shingen’s fingers traced the mon on her shoulder. “You look beautiful in my house symbol.”

“Well, this mysterious package arrived in my room with this stunning kimono in it, I couldn’t imagine the occasion.” She smirked, holding her sleeve back gracefully as the steaming liquid poured into his cup.

“It was a thank you for saving my life.” He murmured softly.

“You would have done fine on your own. After all, you’ve often told me you don’t need guarding.”

“I was wrong, I need my guardian Angel, sent from the heavens.” His fingers brushed against her cheek.

Violet eyes flicked to his as she handed the cup back to him. He could see she held back words she wanted to say, words that would likely change everything between them. It wasn’t something he had the luxury of coping with right now, so he just enjoyed her company.

Her

Ren held back the words that rushed to her lips, taking another bite of sweet bun. She had come here tonight to come clean on who she was. That she came from the future, that she would eventually return to that future. His gift had been startlingly personal and spoke of a desire far beyond a single night’s tryst. She didn’t want secrets or misunderstandings between them anymore.

His personal guard. Her sense of duty overrode any desires as a woman. This talk would have to wait for another time. It was more important to help him get Kai back, she mused how that might change history…perhaps for the better. Of the warlords in this era, his progressiveness had always stood out to her. If he had not died, she always wondered what more he could have accomplished. It felt right to do something for the greater good here. In her time, she was used as a tool to achieve government goals, the right and wrong were a very grey area that her training taught her not to question. It was rare she was treated as a person, and she had felt herself sinking more and more into the darker side of her persona.

Visiting with Sasuke after so long had helped pull her out of that downward spiral. Being treated well by the Takeda clan made her feel like a person again. Sure, he teasingly called her “His most lovely blade,” but it was evident that he respected her as a woman, not just a tool to be used.

It didn’t hurt to be a blade in hands she admired.

That was the most significant difference, she respected and admired Shingen. Before her assignments were just that, she worked like a well-oiled machine. Now she did it to reach a commonly held goal for a Lord she loved.

Loved

Did he realize that? With as observant as he was, how could he possibly not pick up on her feelings?

She studied him, he looked tired. Shingen’s auburn hair was mussed, he needed a shave. Dark shadows ringed his eyes. He had too many other concerns to worry about one woman. Ren reached out, ruffling her hand through his hair, his eyes slid closed at her touch.

“You should get some sleep, Shingen.” 

Soft grey eyes opened, gazing into hers. Shingen’s lips parted, a request behind them. She knew what it was and couldn’t bear to hear it at that moment. She couldn’t stay the night with him, that door couldn’t be shut once opened. Ren stood, tore her eyes from his, then cleaned up the tray to take with her.

“Goodnight, my Lord.”

“Goodnight, Ren.”