Shingen stood on the overhang of the dojo sheltered from the light early summer rain. Ren’s class barely fit inside the small building, she had nearly three dozen pupils paired up this morning practicing unarmed combat. This class was wrapping up, and she already had five mitsumono waiting outside that he knew were part of her advanced class. He looked the women over. Ren was training them in hopes they would be skilled enough to be her replacement. The youngest appeared to be no more than ten years old. Shingen tilted his head in interest, she was likely one of the orphans. He found it fascinating that a child had caught Ren’s attention.
“Alright class great job today, thank you for braving the weather to come out.” She wiped her face off with a hand towel and caught his eye with a flirtatious wink. “I’ll see you all next week, remember to practice!”
Shingen moved forward through the exiting students, embracing his wife affectionately. Ren reached up, mussing his damp hair with an impish grin. “Hello, my Husband, what brings you to my domain?”
“Hello, my goddess, I thought I’d steal you for a moment between classes.” He kissed her nose, endearingly.
“Shingen, you shouldn’t be out in this weather.” She admonished, grabbing a dry towel and patting him down. “I don’t want you getting sick again.”
“I have the most beautiful, caring wife in the world.” He kissed her again, scooping her up in his arms and twirling her. Her advanced students tittered and giggled. They were all used to the lovebird behavior their Lord and Lady exhibited.
“MMmm, I’m glad you’re here,” Ren’s lips caressed his ear, her voice lowered. “See the youngest one? Her name is Shion, she’s an orphan from the north. A prodigy, I've been training her over a month now. I believe she will be my replacement. I want you to watch her in class today if you have time.”
“For you, I always have time. I need you later to go over the plans for the summit next week. We have people starting to arrive in four days.” Shingen set Ren back down, tracing his thumb across her back thoughtfully. “Who is she staying with now?” The other students all appeared to be over age twenty and already in their mitsumono.
“I set her up in one of your houses in town with other women in the red-light district. She’s already been paired with a tutor to learn how to read and write.”
Shingen nodded, taking a seat. Ren had yet to say any of her students were worth training to a higher level. That she picked one so young interested him, what did she see? It would be years before the child was ready for missions. She was on the short side for her age and didn’t appear to weigh more than a wet cat.
The air in the dojo was moist and warm, it smelled faintly of sweat from the last class and polished wood. Shingen coughed, clearing his throat. The students milled about stretching as Ren welcomed them with a warm smile. These were her current top five. It was rare Shingen had the time to sit in on her classes. He was interested to see what was being taught.
“We’ve been covering unarmed strikes on nerve points for disabling opponents and channeling energy through yourself in meditation. Today we are going to combine those two lessons to put a little extra push behind your strikes.”
He listened to her as she explained a concept that seemed not only advanced but a little mystical. Not for the first time, he wondered if she was some sort of spiritual being. Her students were paired, he noticed Ren paired with Shion. Kneeling before her, she whispered to her quietly, placing the child’s hand on her sternum. Ren was wearing the form-fitting short top she typically preferred. Shingen could see every line of muscle as she demonstrated how the strike should be placed with the idea of temporarily winding an opponent and knocking them back. She let the young girl hit her, then nodded with a smile.
“Alright, the second move to that can be a kill shot if done correctly. It’s a hard strike just to the left of the sternum, over the heart. Pouring your energy through the move to complete it will stop a heartbeat. However, it’s obviously not something we can practice to completion,” She grinned, her students chuckled. “And depending on how true your strike is, it may not always be reliable, but it is possible and a good defense in a tough situation. At worst, that strike will give you a few seconds to take them out with a solid hit to the throat or nose. At best, they will drop on the spot. Let’s start our drills from last week at half speed then pick it up to full speed.”
Shingen was lost in his thoughts for a moment, there were times he forgot that the woman he loved had an emotionless killer locked inside her.
“Shion, I want you at full speed with me.” The little girl bowed respectfully, set her stance then flew at Ren in a blur of movement.
Shingen grinned. It was like Ren had a miniature mirror image of herself. They were a yin yang symbol of shadow and light twisting in moves faster than his eye could follow. Ren wasn’t holding back on her speed for the little girl, and to the kid’s credit, she was using her small size for low attacks and unexpected fast maneuvering. She ended in a strike to Ren’s sternum that the taller woman didn’t block, tossing her several feet back.
“Lady Ren!” the little girl ran forward to her prone teacher, there was a gasp from the other students. Shingen started to rise concerned. Ren gasped a few times then laughed, sitting up with the little girl’s help.
“Good job, Shion. Alright, ladies, let’s take a break.” Ren grabbed a towel, wiping down her face as she approached Shingen.
“That was quite the hit. Are you alright? Why didn’t you block that?” Shingen rubbed her shoulder.
“I needed to see if she was just doing the physical strike or channeling her energy through it. She’s an amazing little fireball. I can’t wait to see how she progresses.” Ren grinned at him. He loved seeing that excitement light up her violet eyes.
Shingen smiled. “Why don’t we have her live here then? There is plenty of room, you can focus on training her, and it would keep her out of the seedier aspects of the red-light district until she is older.”
“Yes, really. I’ll have one of the vassals set up a room for her in the servant’s quarters for now with the kitchen girls to watch out for her.” Shingen placed a kiss on the crown of her head. “I love you, have fun with your class. I’ll have lunch set for us when you get back so we can review the summit documents.”
“Thank you, Shingen.”
“Of course, my goddess, you can let ‘mini you’ know of her new accommodations after class.” He gave her a sexy wink and ambled back off into the light rain.
A few days later Ren ran her hand lightly down Shingen’s back as they stood watching guests arrive. The summer sun was warm on her face. This was possibly one of the boldest moves to be made in the Sengoku period, and completely unheard of. Every warlord had been invited to the peace summit. Every faction had a representative present. The talks were scheduled to last four days. Shingen was very concerned bloodshed would happen. Ren assured him she would never let it get that far, she was prepared to nerve block and disable anyone getting out of hand.
No edged weapons were allowed in the central area where the talks were being held. They were careful to keep disagreeable representatives segregated to head off any infighting. Ren was tense and exhausted, but if this crazy idea worked, it would all be worth it.
Their allies had already arrived the day before. Sasuke was keeping Kenshin under close wraps, doing his best to distract the warlord from murderous thoughts. Everyone else so far had been relatively amicable. It seemed people were open to the concept of prospering without war.
Ren felt Shingen tense, and she looked up. Nobunaga had just arrived flanked by his usual crew of warlords. She slid her hand into his giving it a squeeze.
“He controls the other half of this island, you know we need his cooperation.”
Shingen opened his mouth to reply when a boisterous voice cut into his words.
“Kitten! You look amazing, I see marriage suits you.” Masamune strode forward, kissing Ren’s cheek. Her eyebrows hit her hairline in shock. “Takeda.” The one-eyed man nodded politely.
“Date.” Shingen returned the nod.
Shion took that moment to run up and hug Ren’s waist “Lady Ren, I’ve been waiting at the dojo for you. Aren’t we going to practice today?” The dark-haired little girl gazed up at Masamune with big eyes.
“I’m sorry little one, as soon as I greet our guests I’ll be there.” Ren ruffled her hair. At that moment, Masamune’s tiger cub came bounding forward. “Masa? Really?”
“Well, I couldn’t leave her home lass, who would feed her?”
“Is that a real tiger?” Shion’s eyes were huge with glee.
“It is indeed, and who might you be?” Masamune squatted down to look the girl in the eye.
“Masa, this is Shion, my best student. I’m hoping she’ll surpass me one day. Shion, this is Date Masamune. He lives in that big castle in Oshu, that is just south of where you are from.”
“Ohh hooo another northerner, well I tell you what. How about you show me where the dojo is, and you can play with Shogetsu until Ren is done babysitting warlords? And then we can all have fun sparring together!”
“Can I?!” Shion looked up to Ren who was holding in a laugh, she didn’t know who was the larger child. She glanced at Shingen, who was surprisingly also smiling.
“Go on, little one, you can show Masamune what a good student you’ve been.” Shingen ruffled the girl’s hair and shooed her off. He slid an arm around Ren’s waist, watching them go.
“Takeda, it’s bold of you to hold this summit. I am very interested in the outcome.” They turned, and Nobunaga was before them. Shingen’s jaw tightened, he nodded.
“Oda, thank you for coming. I appreciate you agreeing to lead the discussion on trade.”
Nobunaga’s eyes slid to Ren, warming fondly. “Lady Takeda, you look lovely as always. Word of your teaching has reached as far as Azuchi.
Ren was slightly taken aback by how friendly he was being but decided to take it as a blessing. “Well, that is an honor to hear my humble teachings are being talked about so far away. Thank you for making an appearance Lord Nobunaga. I hope you find your accommodations comfortable.”
He bowed to her and strolled away.
“How do you do it?” Shingen said softly, a bemused smile on his face. Ren leaned her head against his chest, his arm still around her waist.
“You literally betrayed both of those men to gain information, they should hate you, but they both just treated you like a treasured friend.”
“I’m magical.” Ren winked at him.
“My goddess, I have no doubts that you are.”
There was a tiger in her dojo…and it wasn’t Shingen.
“Lady Ren! Watch this!” Shion leaped through the air, then tucked and rolled. The tiger cub mimicked her.
“Excellent job! Masa, hopefully, you’ve tired both of them out.” Ren stepped forward, giving him a friendly kiss on the cheek.
“Uncle Masa said Shogetsu can sleep with me tonight.” The little girl tumbled in a whirlwind across the room. The cub followed.
“Uncle…Masa said that did he?” Ren raised an eyebrow at Masamune.
“She’s adorable Kitten, and she moves just like you.” Masa pecked her cheek then looked around the room. “Nice dojo Takeda set you up with.”
“He’s a good man.” Ren smiled. “What have you heard so far?”
“Mmmm, always gathering the information.” He rolled his blue eye playfully at her.
“I always am.”
“Well, Nobunaga’s changed a bit since this winter when you were in Azuchi, I don’t know what the hell you said to him, but he’s gotten a lot fairer and a lot less….what was the word you used?… Hardass.”
“He’s still tough, just more willing to listen to other points of view, slightly more forgiving. Of course, Hideyoshi follows whatever Nobunaga does so you have no threat there.”
“So, where is the threat, Masa?” Ren leaned against his shoulder comfortably, the man always had loose lips.
“You know I love him like a brother, but Ieyasu has a lot of hate for you. He thinks you’re some kind of witch that has a spell over us all. Pretty ridiculous, huh?”
“I wish I did that would certainly make it easier.” Ren chuckled.
“Oh, ignore him. He’s a sourpuss with a stick up his ass. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.”
Except she did.
Worry about it.
Tokugawa was the threat in history, it concerned her that he remained a threat now. As long as they had Oda support, it would be fine. That would sandwich Tokugawa lands between them, leaving him with potential enemies on every side. Ieyasu was too slick to do that.
“Are you up for a spar?” Masa gave her a feral grin.
“As long as it’s touch not hit. I don’t need to explain to my Tiger why I’m all bruised up later tonight.” Ren grabbed a pair of wood practice blades off the wall tossing him one.
“Fair enough.” And he came at her.
Ren came back to the room and sprawled on the tatami mats.
“Just kill me now. Everything hurts, and I’m dying.”
Shingen glanced at her from their desk, his brush barely pausing in its travel across the parchment.
“You sparred with Date?”
“And Shion…and then, “Uncle Masa,” thought two on one would be super fun.”
“Are you hurt?” Shingen raised an eyebrow, trying not to grin.
“Just my pride, Tiger.”
He finished the letter he was writing and sealed it with wax.
“How about if I pour us a bath and we call it an early night. Tomorrow is going to be long and hard.”
“That’s what she said.” Ren quipped, punch drunk with exhaustion.
“A bath sounds great. I’ll pry myself from the floor in a few minutes.”
In the end, he scooped her up, divested her of sweaty clothing, and lowered her into the bath before climbing into the large wooden tub behind her. Ren closed her eyes, reclining back against his chest.
“What are your thoughts on Ieyasu?”
“Well, he showed up today.” Shingen ran the soapy cloth over her skin.
“Yes, but did he show up because he’s part of the Oda entourage or because he’s interested in these talks?” Ren played with the bubbles on the surface of the water thoughtfully. “I spoke to Masa, and he said Ieyasu had some crazy hate going on for me. Apparently, I’ve cast a spell on you all.”
“That man has the loosest lips.” Shingen chuckled.
“I wasn’t kidding when I told you he was easy. I pointed out one of the more adventurous maids that will likely show him a good time tonight if he’s his usual charming self. So, I’m going to call it even. Oh, and Shion gets to sleep with a tiger… I’m certain now she will be asking us if we can get a “real” tiger in Kai.”
“Because what this place needs is another large predator.” Shingen purred teasingly against her neck.
“You are all the tiger I need.” She slid her hands along his muscled thighs.
“I don’t know, I’d like a few cubs from my tigress.” Shingen nipped along her shoulder.
“What would you do with a nation united in peace?”
“Grow old and fat with my beautiful wife.”
“Aren’t we doing that now?” Ren teased.
“She isn’t fat enough yet. I need to work on that part.” His hands glided suggestively down over her flesh.
“I thought we were turning in early?”
“My goddess…I didn’t say for sleep.”