Snow lay thick on the ground. Shingen watched Ren through their bedroom window. His warm breath fogged in the frosty air, steam rising from his medicinal tea.
She was dressed in a light-colored version of her snug black kunoichi garb. The white and grey fur-lined garments blending seamlessly with the frosted world around her. Shingen knew she had been out scouting the area this morning, she patrolled almost every morning the weather notwithstanding. He had told her it was unnecessary, that they had people to do that. But still, she went.
She removed her hood, ruffling a white-gloved hand through her hair. It lay in waves almost to her sharp jawline now. Shingen sighed in contentment, she was relaxing into his life. He used her hair as a measure of how comfortable she was. He had noted in some ways she was like an untamed creature. Ren would only rest when she was secure and safe, she would stay awake for days if she felt threatened seemingly needing very little sleep. He tried his best to make her feel secure, they’d been home for three months now. Despite his best efforts, her stomach remained flat. Perhaps she was waiting on official marriage? She had finally agreed to spring ceremony when the cherry blossoms were in bloom. He ached to see her softly rounded with their first child, someone he could leave behind to love her if he didn’t make it.
The cold air finally caught up to him, constricting his chest, he slid the window closed, turning back to the warmth of the room. Shingen eyed the sweeping curve of their desk. Ren had passed him re-written corrections of the treaty they planned to propose to the Oda shortly, he still couldn’t believe she had talked him into this. He’d already signed binding agreements with Kenshin and all surrounding clans that were not already pledged to the Oda. Usually, these agreements were fleeting, but the way Ren had managed to word the documents, all parties involved seemed extremely satisfied. Better, his people were happy as were the ones surrounding their lands. No strife meant no war, a better economy, and full bellies.
He sat down, tapping his brush pensively. The issue he had was Ren wanted to be the one to present it to the Devil King, she had concerns that he wouldn’t listen to any of their other diplomats. It was the one thing he wouldn’t give her. Shingen never wanted Oda to know that the maid he took for a lover was his mitsumono, let alone that Ren was to be his wife. It was a complication he didn’t need. He had selected an envoy to be sent when the roads cleared next month, it would have to be enough. This was something he refused to budge on.
He coughed, then moved to refill his tea. Ren entered their room, eyes lighting with concern.
“It’s nothing, my goddess.” He smiled
They both knew he lied, his chest had been steadily getting worse.
He sipped the too-hot tea, “How was your morning patrol?”
“Beautiful in its icy splendor. The storm last night left a coating of ice on the tree branches making everything glitter like diamonds.” She leaned to him, brushing a cool kiss on his cheek. “I wish you could have been with me.”
“In my heart, I always am, my angel.” He pulled her down into his lap, sharing his warmth. Her cheeks were the color of rose petals against the alabaster of her skin. “What are your plans for today?”
“I’m teaching a class in an hour, although with the weather, I’m not certain how well attended it will be. Another storm will be rolling in soon.”
“How can you tell?” He nuzzled her affectionately, his lips tracing the curve of her ear.
She chuckled. “My old bullet wounds ache…and now my shoulder.”
Shingen frowned. “I could distract you with a different sort of ache.” His hands slid from her waist to her hips suggestively.
“Ohhh, no, I have a class to teach and you…” she tapped the revised paperwork on his side of the desk, “have the final draft of the treaty to write.” Ren kissed his nose. “Besides, an hour is not enough time for us…but…keep our room warm, and I will take you up on that this evening, my Tiger.”
“Mmmm, a sweet reward for a hard day’s work then.” He kissed her lips, letting his linger. Shingen’s chest tightened painfully; he held the cough in until she left the room.
She slid the shoji door closed and heard the spasming coughs. Ren closed her eyes, leaning against the wall. It was a full year until they could try to go back to her time, he had to make it until then. If the timeline held, he had about three more years until the recorded date of his death. Unless things had changed. In the original timeline, he never had Kai back, he didn’t have her. It had been constant fighting with the Tokugawa until he died. Perhaps the lack of fighting would prolong his life? Ren knew he was trying to hide his sickness from her even though he knew she was aware of it. She sighed, heading to the dojo early. Nothing could be done until the time rift opened back to her present.
She walked down the hall then passed through the snowy gardens to the dojo. Ren lit a few braziers to get the room warmed for her class then started running through her stretches. It had been a bit over six months since her injury. She had full range of motion and her strength back, but the wound ached in the cold, took longer to loosen up, and likely would be a vulnerable spot if she was struck there in combat. She was no longer sent on missions, it was more of an unspoken agreement than anything else. She trained mitsumono that showed promise to be kunoichi like her. She also worked with Chiyome to assign missions and gather data to report to Shingen. His network was indeed impressive if someone coughed in northern Japan, he knew about it.
Ren started moving through a kata to warm up, her mind pleasantly drifting and empty, white light flowing through her body.
The scent of chemicals tickled her nose. She opened one eye in surprise.
Sasuke lowered his mask, the corner of his lip tipped up in a small smile.
“SASUKE!!!!!” She ran forward, tackling him to the ground in an exuberant hug. “What are you doing here? I never expected to see you in winter.” She hugged him tight, crushing the prone ninja.
“Things were pretty quiet in Kenshinland, so I thought I’d come to visit my favorite time traveler.” He kissed her cheek, returning the hug.
“Looks like you got here just in time.” Ren glanced at the snow, starting in the garden courtyard.
“Eh, I can think of worse things than being snowed in here.” He sat up putting his arm around her shoulders. “I missed you lots. I admit I liked it better when we lived in the same castle.”
“Awww Sasuke, you could always move here. It’s uphill both ways wherever you go, but the scenery is pretty.”
“And have to listen to my sister’s loud love song with her warlord every night, hard pass.” She gave him a smack.
“We aren’t that bad…mostly…” Ren rolled her eyes. “Anyway, why haven’t you found someone to make your own song with?” She gave him a nudge in the ribs.
“Who says I haven’t.” he blinked at her. It was likely supposed to be a wink, but he’d never really mastered that.
His cheeks took on a bit of a blush. Footsteps and chattering female voices filled the room.
“Mmm, my class is starting. You are welcome to join in Sasuke.” Ren dusted herself off, straightening her clothing.
“Good morning, ladies! Thank you for coming out in this weather, today’s class is focusing on unarmed blocking, get yourselves warmed up, and we’ll get started.” A choir of good morning Lady Rens echoed through the cozy dojo, the door slid shut, blocking the view of the snow.
“I will join the class, thank you. How’s the shoulder?” Sasuke stood and stretched.
“As good as new for the most part. Although not an injury I’d ever want to repeat.”
“I wanted to compliment you on the treaty documents you’ve been spreading out to the neighboring Daimyos; you may be on to something.”
“Hells, I hope so, Sasuke, this body isn’t getting any younger, and my soul is weary of war.” He gave her a pat and then partnered up with her for the class demo.