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I Will Protect That Dream

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Takatora curls his fingers into a fist. He takes a deep breath and opens the shoji. Yoshitsugu is already waiting for him, sitting in a seiza style, facing the entry. There are two cups and a bottle of sake in front of him.

“Yoshitsugu,” Takatora says, “thank you for meeting with me.”

“There wasn't any reason for me to refuse,” Yoshitsugu replies, looking up at Takatora. “Please, sit down.”

Takatora takes his place across from Yoshitsugu, who then offers him a cup and proceeds to pour sake for him. After Yoshitsugu's done, he holds his cup, and Takatora returns the favour. They look at each other. Yoshitsugu's face isn't covered, and Takatora is rewarded with a soft smile. It has been too long.

Takatora raises his cup, nodding at Yoshitsugu and drinks the content at once, then puts the cup on the floor.

“Tsuruga is a nice town,” Takatora comments.

“Aah,” Yoshitsugu agrees. “I like it here.”

“The castle looks great, too.” Takatora looks around the room, noticing Yoshitsugu's saihai and gauntlets on his left side, a light blue folding fan attached to the wall above them. “It's unusual for you to have decorations.” Takatora frowns. 

It's a simple fan with no excessive paintings, except for a small white butterfly on its right side, almost invisible against the shade of blue, and with a white hem. When Yoshitsugu answers that it's a gift, Takatora already knows. It's so much like him to choose something like that.

He exhales and turns back to Yoshitsugu, who's watching him calmly. The lock of Yoshitsugu's hair falling into his face is a little bit shorter than it had been the last time Takatora saw him.

“Yoshitsugu, can you really realise the dream we chased with Lord Nagamasa? Even now?”

“Yes.” Yoshitsugu's answer is immediate and his voice firm.

Takatora looks away, running his fingers through his hair. He wants to laugh at himself. There really isn't a chance either one of them gives up on their dream now. He knows that. He knew that even before he had decided to come, but he needed to try. One last time.

“Don't be sad, Takatora,” Yoshitsugu says softly. “Friends fight friends. Family fights family. That's the nature of these chaotic times we live in.”

Takatora laughs bitterly. He can't look at Yoshitsugu again. His chest feels heavy. It hurts. It really hurts. He doesn't want to stand on the battlefield knowing Yoshitsugu is on the enemy's side that doesn't stand a chance at victory. Takatora wants them to fight together side by side. He only needs to say it aloud. If he does, Yoshitsugu will definitely...

“He can't win.” Takatora's voice breaks a little. He hangs down his head.

“I know.”

Takatora bites his lower lip, tasting blood. A single tear runs down his cheek. He hears Yoshitsugu shift. A hand touches his shoulder, squeezing a bit. It's calming. It's painful. Without thinking Takatora pulls Yoshitsugu into an embrace, burying his face in his soft hair. It smells of incense. He feels Yoshitsugu stiffen for a moment before he relaxes and moves his hand on top of Takatora's head, patting him gently. Takatora pulls him closer to himself for a brief moment, gripping the fabric on Yoshitsugu's back tightly before he lets go.

He can't stay.

Takatora stands up. His back turned to Yoshitsugu.

“I'll definitely build you that tomb,” Takatora promises quietly, walking slowly out of the room.

“Thank you,” Yoshitsugu says when Takatora steps out into the hall. “For everything.”

Takatora closes his eyes and clenches his hands.

Don't thank me. Tell me you'll live.

He doesn't look back and keeps walking.