It was the same as most nights before it; in the absence of his wife, I laid beneath my lord, moaning for his touch - though I myself did not know whether I expressed my passion so vocally because I did actually want him, or if it was only because he wanted me to voice praises for his sexual prowess loud enough for every nearby officer to hear.
It was not my place to question it. If he told me I liked it, then I did. It was as simple as that. If he told me to degrade myself by crying like a whore for him to go deeper, then I did. If it hurt, I still begged him for more until he told me to stop. My pain was unimportant... his pleasure was all that mattered.
It hadn't been that way in the beginning, but I learned fast that if I wanted to be anything more than an expendable soldier in an army numbering in the hundreds of thousands, I'd have to use whatever advantage I had over anyone else.
My previous lord was not inclined to taking young boys to his bed. He often warned me to be careful of such men... I didn't understand what he meant at the time.
I had been subjected to all manner of taunts over my effeminate looks ever since I had been drafted on my fifteenth birthday. Four years on, my appearance was no more masculine than it had been back then. And although I was occasionally insulted by hurtful remarks, my pretty face had gotten me more rank and prestige than most veteran officers spent their entire lives working for.
Whilst they slew, I was alongside them, fighting as their equal. Whilst they slept, I gave my lord the relaxation he so desperately desired - and this was what he prized the most.
I had wanted to refuse him the first night he asked me to accompany him. My previous lord's words came back to haunt me in a dizzying rush as he held his hand out to me. But how could I refuse... Really?
Having no experience, I did not know what it would feel like, whether it would hurt, or whether he would find my lack of skills less than satisfactory. But it was an honour to be spoken to by such a powerful man; to have him ask me to take part in something so intimate with him transcended even that!
He singled me out of his vast army, when he could have his choice of thousands. I would have been a fool to deny him.
He ordered me to remove my clothes and wait for further instructions, and I had been too scared of him to disagree. He circled me like a predator, looking me up and down. And then, he moved so fast - fast even to my trained eye - I gasped in shock as he grabbed the back of my neck and yanked me roughly toward him for a possessive kiss.
I was a fighter, not a lover. I didn't know how to kiss him in return. He would teach me how to respond to him - and him alone. I knew no other's touch, and I never would... unless he commanded it.
He did not penetrate me that night, nor the one after that... he seemed to revel in my innocence. The sheer thought of being my first aroused him. He could keep my precious virginity for as long as he wanted if he had my mouth instead. But those nights have long since passed - I am as experienced as I am skilled in all ways of pleasuring him.
But I am not with him every single night. As I mentioned, he has a wife, who indulges his appetite occasionally. But on those other nights, she sometimes comes to watch her husband fuck me. At first it disturbed me, but I came to accept it as one of those elements of their bizarre relationship that I would never understand.
When she slid open the door for the first time, I was horrified. I was on my elbows and knees, whimpering for her husband as he slammed himself into me from behind.
You little slut! I imagined her screaming at me, Filthy whore! Get away from him! But it never happened. My lord greeted her casually, before ordering me to spread my legs wider.
I couldn't stop looking at her, and she seemed to enjoy my discomfort. But my lord paid her no further attention. The slap of our flesh was deafening. Biting my lip, I didn't want to moan any more, and he noticed my sudden silence - pulling my ponytail sharply to make me cry out.
I was so ashamed. Never had I felt so dirty. I'd done so many things to this man, and he had done twice as many to me, and I'd never felt so guilty as I did before the eyes of his wife. He became rougher with me - forcing sounds out of my throat with pain, rather than pleasure.
It was then, I think, I learned to moan for him like I wanted more, no matter what I truly felt.
His Lady regards me with half amusement, for I am nothing but a lowly performer to her - I entertain her with my shame. She does not see me as a competitor for her husband's love, for she knows as well as I, that he feels nothing for me.
But who am I to complain? I have clothes on my back, food in my belly, and a prestigious post in my lord's army. I could not - should not - ask for more. But I do... and I don't know why.
It has become routine. And tonight I find myself bored to distraction. Of course, I cry for him - I have to. Tonight, she is absent, and my lord is using me purely for his own pleasure. It is the third time he has been inside me this evening, and having been stretched by his enthusiastic pounding, I am terribly sore and I crave sleep desperately.
I could have been dead for all it mattered to him. He hadn't looked at me since he entered my body this last time, and I'm sure that was only to get his bearings. Our skin rubs together with a familiarity that disgusts me, but he is in another world - growling in time with his thrusts.
This is what I am to be - his plaything, until my excessively late puberty turns me into a man. And there is not a day that passes that I do not wish for it to happen soon.
His orgasm shakes him like a madman, and he reaches down to grab my unsatisfied erection, hastily tugging it in a shallow show of affection. I am thankful the stimulation was enough to send me over the edge - he has beaten me for not climaxing before. I am his subordinate; I am to do as I am told. If he wants me to come in his hand, I must, whether I'm aroused or not.
I am so full of his essence already, I feel most of it dribble down my backside and pool where my arched back meets the floor. No matter how many times I have felt this sensation, the degradation is always the same.
At last, he withdraws and orders me to get out. I just want to sleep... to give my aching insides a chance to recover before I am subjected to my lord's affections again, so I gather up my clothes and am out of his sight as fast as my body will allow.
The river is cold as it welcomes me. Before I can sleep peacefully, I have to rid myself of his touch, of his smell, and of his semen - he is all over me... and inside me. He will come to me in my dreams if I allow my senses just a tiny taste of him, so I scrub my skin hard. I take a mouthful of water and spit it back out, revolted by its milky colour, but expecting it nonetheless.
I hate myself so much... I hate my childish body even more.
I don't want it to be him, but I know that sweet, velvet voice. I turn around to face him, standing naked on the bank in the moonlight. "Lord Mitsuhide!"
"What brings you out so late?"
I can never lie to him. He has been the one constant in my life since joining the army. I loved him like a big brother at first, but as we grew, so did my affections. But I am forbidden to love anyone but my master... I am even afraid to admit my deepest feelings to myself.
I swallow hard as I look his perfect form up and down, trying not to let my eyes linger on his equally perfect masculinity. He is not as big as my master, and although some might say that is unfortunate, it sends a shiver through me to think he wouldn't hurt me as much.
"I have been with Lord Nobunaga."
He is in the water with me the moment I answer, lifting his hand to stroke my face. I cannot allow him to touch me, and so I step away, almost cowering from him.
"Did he hurt you?"
"It always hurts, Lord Mitsuhide. But surely you understand that I have to do this."
I know he loves me the same way I love him, and that is what causes me the most pain of all. He makes his intentions clear every time we are alone together, and I ache to respond to him... but I can't.
"Ranmaru... you deserve to be loved." He closes the gap between us, daring to take me in his arms. "Please, let me show you what it is meant to feel like."
Our bare penises brush together in the water, and I can't help but gasp.
"I can't." I can't, not just because I am forbidden to let anyone else touch me, but in my current state, even if Mitsuhide made love to me like I was made of glass, it would tear me up inside even more. I sometimes think that this is my Lord's cruel plan.
My hands are on his chest, trying to push him away, yet savour the feel of him at the same time. Every fibre of my being demands that I run away, but as he draws me in for a kiss, I am helpless.
"Please don't make me scream for you to stop, Lord Mitsuhide... I will, if I have to." My threat is as pathetic as my attempt to speak against his soft lips, but he understands.
"What have I done to make you fear me?" He asks, pulling away.
I do not fear him, I fear myself. I fear that if he touched me like that again, I wouldn't fight him off. I couldn't... I'm not that strong.
"...Not tonight." I finally give him an answer, though not the one he wanted. "Please, Lord Mitsuhide, I am so tired... don't do this to me tonight."
"I shouldn't have pushed you. I'm sorry." He raises his hand to touch my cheek, running his fingertips across my jaw as he makes to leave. "Sleep well, Ranmaru."
The morning finds me awake at sunrise, but I remain where I have slept every night for the past four years - sitting by my lord's doorway with my hands curled around my sword, waiting for the inevitable.
I have been roused by many, attempting to slay Lord Nobunaga while he sleeps. I am the macabre doorman, testing their worth to see my master by gambling my own life in quick, decisive battle with them. Their greeting is the scream of steel against lacquered leather, and their goodbye is the dull thud of dead flesh as it hits the ground.
My lullaby is the vile tang of stale blood. It has been weeks since I slew the last assassin, and I miss their company. For that one moment when I engage them in battle, I feel like I am worth something.
Sometimes, they dare to say my name. These are the ones I truly enjoy dispatching. I do not know them, but they believe they know me. They know me as Nobunaga's bitch... and that is all I will ever be to them. I don't know why it makes me so angry...
It is, after all, the truth.
"Ranmaru... How are you feeling this morning?"
I've leapt to my feet and drawn my sword, too caught up in my thoughts of the past to understand the present. Mitsuhide is quick to draw his own in defence, knocking my blade to the side and twirling his around it in a sensual dance until the tip points to the ground.
"I am sorry, Lord Mitsuhide." I re-sheath my blade and drop to my knees in a deep bow of apology. "My mind was elsewhere... it won't happen again."
He smiles, flicking his long hair back over his shoulder. "Your swordplay never fails to impress me."
It never fails to scare me. I would have killed him if he were a lesser opponent!
"My lord thinks too highly of me." I bow my head and stare at my trembling hands clasped in my lap.
I hear the clatter of his armour as he kneels before me, but I dare not look at him.
"You're shaking!" Before I can protest, he has taken my hands in his. "Is everything all right?"
No, it's not all right! "I could have killed you with my carelessness!"
"You do not think of me highly enough." I could hear the smile in his voice. "I'm not as weak as you would believe. I can defend myself, Ranmaru..."
"I would never accuse you of being weak, Lord Mitsuhide." I don't understand the game he is playing, and I do not like it.
He squeezes my hands, making me look at him.
"I can defend us."
When I look in his determined eyes, I know he truly believes he could stand up to Nobunaga. Perhaps I don't think highly enough of him, but I don't want him to defend us - he shouldn't have to! I don't want to be put in that situation. To choose him over my lord? As much as I would want to - how could I?
I finally answer him. "No."
"This is no way for you to live."
"I know my place!" I snap back at him.
"-And it's time you learned yours, Mitsuhide." My lord adds before I could apologise for my insubordination.
It horrifies me that I have been trained to sense the slightest movement around me, yet he can avoid my intuition completely. They say he is a demon, and I have no doubt this is but one of his dark powers. How long he has been standing behind me, and how much he had heard was a mystery he did not plan on revealing to either of us.
Mitsuhide is quick to rise to his feet. I am constantly in awe of his grace and pride. Some call him arrogant... and I call him rightly so. He stoops in a deep bow of respect before rising to his full height and flicking his hair back. It is one natural movement, having had long hair for so many years, the flick of his hand over his shoulder has become part of his bow. He is so beautiful... I could lose myself so easily just by staring at him.
"Forgive me, my Lord. I was not aware you were here."
"Obviously." He snorts, dismissing him with a wave of his hand. "Report back to me once you have finished your errands."
"Of course, my Lord." Mitsuhide bows again, and leaves.
I want to watch him go... watch his long black hair trail down his back, shining blue as it catches the light; but my Lord expects me to follow him back into his chambers.
"Ranmaru, come sit by me." I know what it means, I learned that very quickly. My Lord is already in his chair, beckoning me over.
I kneel between his spread thighs and begin to undo his belt buckle. He is already aroused, and his erection strains against his tight leather pants. His head is bowed, but he is not looking at me. He stares beyond me... perhaps in his mind, this is already the past? I have already sucked him to his orgasm, and he is looking at something I am too slow to see?
"Ranmaru." He prompts me, harshly spitting my name, needing to say nothing else to stir me into action. He will beat me for daydreaming instead of tending to his needs, but not yet... not until after I have pleasured him.
My fingers work quickly to unfasten his pants, allowing the throbbing heat of his hard masculinity to jut out before me. I grip him around the base, and lower my lips to the tip.
"You're a good boy, Ranmaru, and I want to keep you that way. What has Mitsuhide been saying to you?"
I raise my mouth to answer him, but my lord grips the back of my head tightly and forces me back down.
"I dare say he has fallen in love with you. How terribly unfortunate for him... It must tear him up to know that your body and soul belong to me."
I feel his hands in my hair, pulling the ribbon free from my ponytail. Before my hair can fall, he has recaptured it, twisting it into a bun, and sticking what I can only imagine is a hairpin through it. Another gift for his favourite whore. I'll look at it later and think of this moment... and add it to my collection.
He does not want me to express any gratitude with words, he is after all, a man of action. I take the head of his penis into my mouth and work my way down until he touches my throat. And then move back up to do it all over again. I squeeze the base of his cock between my thumb and forefinger, while my other hand rolls his testicles around under the rippled flesh of his scrotum.
"I think he would appreciate your talents..." He grunts at the end of his sentence, shifting in his seat to a more casual slump. It means he plans to enjoy my performance, rather than just have me do it to reinstate that I am - and will always continue to be - his.
"How do you feel about him, Ranmaru? He is a very handsome man... you would be lying if you told me you weren't at least curious to know what it would feel like to have him..." He pauses, and then draws his next word out so painfully slow, daring me to give my feelings away. "...fuck you."
He knows how to play me, and a tingle went through my body as he said it. I did want to know. And Mitsuhide had made no secret of wanting to grant me that opportunity.
I let him slip out of my mouth, choosing to lick him instead of choking on him if he continues to talk about Mitsuhide like that. I ran my tongue up the underside of his shaft, tracing the line of the thick vein that pulsed within.
"Yes..." He hisses, sinking back even further to revel in the talents he taught me. "Suck it, Ranmaru... suck it hard, my good boy."
As my tongue reaches his tip, I close my mouth in over it, doing as he commands and sucking him until my cheeks cave in around him.
There is a knock at the door, and whilst my curiosity wants to look around, I know my lord would not permit me leaving my duties unfinished. My sword lays beside me, should he need me to leap up and defend him; I can do nothing more than continue sucking him whilst he tells his visitor to go away.
But he does not, and I am shaking as he invites them in. I calm my nerves by telling myself it is his wife... but I know it isn't.
It is Mitsuhide.
My lord's hand never leaves my head; he even dares to stroke my hair, almost affectionately, and I am powerless as I listen to Mitsuhide struggle to talk through his embarrassment. I can feel him watching me, and tears rise in my throat as I suck my lord's cock down to meet them.
"You wished to see me after completion of my errands, my Lord?" He stutters. "I can come back later, if you are busy."
"Not at all. Sit down. We have much to discuss."
When my degradation is over, and my lord has made his point painfully clear, I am told to clean myself up and return quickly. Slapping a hand over my dribbling chin, I walk from the room with as much dignity as I can muster, running as soon as I am outside.
I never wanted Mitsuhide to see me like this.
Again, I find myself by the river's edge. I have washed myself so often here, what flows past is more semen than water, I am sure. I didn't think Nobunaga could shame me more than he already had in the presence of his wife, but I was wrong.
The triumphant growl that accompanied his climax still echoes in my ears. Mitsuhide had been mid-sentence when it happened, and I don't know whether it was his sudden silence or my Lord's dramatic noise that distressed me the most.
I take the pin from my hair and study it. It is as lovely as the event it now represents was horrible. Have I been so cheapened that my lord can buy my happy submission with trinkets? No, I already belong to him... he doesn't need to give me gifts to retain my loyalty.
Sometimes I wish Mitsuhide didn't care about me... It would make everything so much easier. I don't want to talk to him. I know what he's going to say.
"Ranmaru, if I had known you were there, I would never have come to talk to Lord Nobunaga."
"The only reason you were there to talk to him was because he wanted you to see me." I don't know why I spat the words at him. I wasn't angry with him, I was angry with myself. "And now that you've seen what I am, do you understand why we cannot be together?"
"It has only made me realise how much we do need to be together."
I begin to pull my hair back, trying to act like I hadn't been listening to him. Twisting it into a somewhat less neat bun than what my lord had, I stuck my new hairpin through it, only to have Mitsuhide rush forward and take it back out.
"Please... leave it for a moment." He insists, running his fingers through the strands which hang beside my face, letting his fingers caress my cheek underneath. "You're so beautiful with it down..."
"Lord Mitsuhide, please don't say things like that." I warn, moving away from his touch.
"Ranmaru, you are beautiful." He closes the gap between us, reaching out to put his hands on my shoulders. "I can never say it enough."
"I have to get back to Lord Nobunaga." I offer lamely, trying to get away before my body starts responding to him. "He will be wondering where I am."
He nods sadly. "Of course. I understand."
I don't know why I am so disappointed that he respects me enough not to pursue his original intention.
"...Lord Mitsuhide?" I begin awkwardly, and his attention is instantly recaptured. "I wish it didn't have to be this way."
"As do I, Ranmaru. But as much as I despise it, I fear we shan't have this problem for much longer."
I raise a curious eyebrow to his trivial remark, and he smiles at me as he takes his leave.
My Lord is waiting for me when I return. Bowing, I resume my guard by his side, and not a word is spoken between us. I want to ask him why - why did he want to humiliate Mitsuhide and I like that? Was it a test? If I'd refused to continue pleasuring him, what would he have done to me... to us?
He makes a sudden grab for my wrist, twisting my arm and dropping me to the floor before I even realise what's happening. A vicious slap stings my cheek as he straddles my waist.
"M-my Lord?" I managed to stutter. My hands instinctively rise to shield my face from any further attack, but he pulls them away, pinning them to the floor above my head with his crushing grip.
"When you are told to do something, you are to do it immediately." He says, leaning over me like an animal savouring its fragile prey.
"Of course, Lord Nobunaga, I would never-"
He lifts my hands up and then slams them back down against the floor, making me cry out as bolts of pain shoot down my arms.
"Do you understand?"
"Yes." I nod feverishly. All I can do is agree with everything he says in the hope of delaying the inevitable.
I dare not ask what has sparked his fury - was it because I had been daydreaming earlier, or because I took too long returning to him? Perhaps it is both that has made him so savage.
I try so hard to serve him well, but I am still too inattentive to his needs, and as much as I dread it, I deserve my punishment. I will some day, through his painful teachings, become his perfect subordinate. I do not begrudge him for it. He is a violent man - I knew this when I swore my life in loyal service to him.
"Has he touched you?" He demands. I know he means Mitsuhide, but right now I am too frightened to assume anything, lest it is another test.
"No one has touched me." I promise him, adding, "No one, but you, my Lord."
He seems satisfied with my answer, rising to his feet and walking away. I warily stand, watching him as he paces the length of the room.
"Tonight, you will let him touch you."
My heart skipped a beat, and he continued, moving to be close to me... so close I dare not show any reaction to his orders.
"He's not to be trusted." He says, running his fingers down my cheek. "Men let down their guard when they're fucking a beautiful, young thing."
I cower from him, both his touch and his words making me shrink back, and he grabs my chin roughly - forcing me to look at him.
"You will find out what is in his heart, and you will report back to me tomorrow morning."
The number of emotions running through my body is blinding. I get to experience Mitsuhide's physical love... at the cost of betraying him. Could I be so selfish as to enjoy myself whilst damning him? I love him too much to hurt him like that, but... dare I oppose my lord's orders?
"My Lord, surely you're not asking me to seduce Lord Mitsuhide for information?" I have to ask. I have to give him a chance to change his mind - to tell me I'm a fool for interpreting his words in such a way; to tell me that I don't have to abuse my feelings like that...
"That is exactly what I am ordering you to do."
How can I make him rethink his strategy? It is a long shot, but his ego is fair game if it means saving Mitsuhide from such a despicable ploy!
"I've never been with anyone else but you-"
I am answered with a possessive kiss, cutting my sentence off. "I was your first - you will always be mine."
How could I forget? I'd bled so much, I thought I was going to die.
"After the evening meal, you will go to him, and you will use everything I have taught you to make him talk." He nods, signalling the end of our discussion. "Go and get ready."
I bow, and hurry back to my quarters. Get ready? He makes it sound so simple... but all I can do is cry.
I can't do it. I won't do it.
I didn't attend dinner... I didn't want to see either my Lord or Mitsuhide, and I didn't want them to see me.
I feel so dirty for ever having thought about being intimate with my dear friend. With a single sentence, Lord Nobunaga has perverted something I thought would be beautiful.
There is a knock at the door, and it startles me from my thoughts. Wiping away my tears as best I could, the moonlit silhouette waits patiently outside. I know that elegant figure so well... He would comfort me like no other, and yet, how can I tell him what has upset me so?
"Lord Mitsuhide, you shouldn't be here." I greet him, sliding the door open just enough to see his lovely face.
"I was worried when you didn't eat with us tonight."
I curse myself inwardly for allowing his suspicions to be roused. I should have known he would want to know if I was all right!
"You've been crying?" His hand grabs the doorframe, pushing it from my grip as he forces it open further.
I barely have time to register what has happened, but he is inside, with the door closed behind him, and I am in his arms.
"Ranmaru, what happened? Did he hurt you?"
His warm chest is exactly what I need right now, and despite my better judgement, I lean into him, listening to his rapid heartbeat. His sympathy only makes things worse, and I am in tears again.
"It's all right. I understand." He soothes, and if I hadn't been so distraught, I probably would have laughed.
It's not all right, and he doesn't understand! He probably believes I am too ashamed to say what terrible things Lord Nobunaga has done to upset me; when the sad truth of it is, if I admitted why I was crying so much, he would never want to touch me again.
His fingers run through my hair, and I feel him kiss the top of my head.
"I'll kill him before I ever let him touch you again."
"My Lord, those are treacherous words." I caution him, not wanting to know anything which I would be forced to divulge to my master tomorrow. A death threat, no matter how idle, would still be cause enough to have my beautiful Mitsuhide executed.
He draws back, his arms slipping down to encircle my waist, and he smiles that mysterious smile again. "You're right. I'm sorry... but you don't know how much it hurts me to see you in tears."
"My lord worries far too much about me."
Stooping to kiss me, my lips await his with sensual anxiety, but I plan to pull back the moment they meet. Instead I feel his heated breath racing across my cheek, denying me my expected kiss, and making me ache for it.
"I want you to be happy, Ranmaru." He whispers, his breath spiking my skin into goosebumps.
"Lord Mitsuhide..." I want to tell him to stop, but I can only manage to gasp his name.
"Do you have guard duty tonight?"
"I... no." I can barely understand the question as his lips feather against my ear as he asks it. "Lord Nobunaga wishes to spend the evening alone with the Lady Noh."
It is not unusual, and my excuse should not arouse his suspicions. He is quite content to do his own arousing instead.
"Then... this means I have you all to myself?" He asks, his lips moving down my jaw to my neck.
"Yes." My trembling voice answers him.
I can't do this! I raise my hands to push him away, but as they touch his chest, I can't help but think about my lord's order and - the more my palms mould to the shape of Mitsuhide's body - just how much I want to obey it.
Cold air rushes past my neck as he draws a sudden breath, and without any other warning, I feel his soft, moist lips close in and plant a kiss on my shivering skin. Should damnation feel this good? My body wants to surrender to him... with each kiss, it melts a little more. My mind, however, refuses.
Peeling back my collars, his kisses become hotter, slower...his mouth opens to suckle at my skin. Of course I want him, but I don't want him this way. Being ordered to seduce him, when there is nothing in this world that I want more than to have him inside me? How could my Lord be so cruel?!
"Lord Mitsuhide, please stop..." I beg, rolling my neck back to allow him more access, despite my protests. My mouth says no, but my body says yes... he is a man with needs - which part of me is he going to listen to?
But he is no rapist. He pulls away to consider my denial, confusion and hurt reflected in his eyes... they mirror my own. And I must choose between hurting him now or later.
"Lord Mitsuhide, I-"
"I know, and I'm sorry." He cuts me off, guessing what I am going to say. "I just can't help the way I feel about you."
I grab his arm as he begins to let go of me. "I..."
I don't know what to say to him.
"Please, don't go." I beg. "I love you, Lord Mitsuhide."
It was my confession... and my apology. I would never idly throw such important words around and I do not use it as an excuse, I just want him to know... to understand my feelings, and perhaps in time, understand why I have to do this.
"Then, tell me you don't want this, Ranmaru..." His words are but a soft whisper, but I can hear the lust in them and I can't do as he asks. "Tell me you don't want me to make love to you tonight."
He kisses my neck again, and by its passion, I wished so much for it to be on my lips instead. It has been decided - I will hurt him later.
"I want it..." My moan betrays me. "I want you, Lord Mitsuhide..."
This time, he kisses my lips, cupping my jaw in his hands as his fingertips caress my neck. His mouth opens and he sucks my top lip inside, running his tongue across it. I've never known such passion!
I whimper against his lips, aching to taste more of him. And before I can even protest, he breaks away.
Moving to be behind me, his kisses never stop. He wraps his arm around my waist, whilst his other hand begins on my hip, running down the side of my thigh... then back up the inside, stopping at the hem of my shorts, barely centimetres away from my erection.
My groin is so hot, his hands feel cold in comparison. He parts the front of my robe, exposing the bulge straining against the front of my shorts, and his fingertips move slowly, taking in every bump as he runs them across my need. I squirm under his touch, my body instinctively cowering from the overwhelming sensations coursing through me.
"Lord Mitsuhide..." I gasp, pushing my back against his stomach, and he corrects me.
"It's just Mitsuhide tonight."
When his hand slips inside my waistband to fondle my bare skin, I throw my head back against his shoulder, whimpering for him to stop - even though stopping is the last thing I want him to do. His other hand works fast to undo my shorts, letting them fall around my ankles as his callused fingers curl around my freed masculinity.
He strokes me like I am an extension of himself, pressing his own arousal against the cleft of my backside. I moan, grabbing his arm - anything to keep my knees from buckling under me.
I've never felt this sort of pleasure! It is not for his own gratification, I can only imagine he is enjoying it purely because I am enjoying it. Could I happily go back to Lord Nobunaga knowing that my body is capable of these feelings?
I climax under the unrelenting delight of Mitsuhide's hand, crying out how much I love him, want him... but all my throat is capable of is a stream of nonsensical whimpers and moans.
I throw my head back against his shoulder, gasping for air as my hips thrust against his fist and shimmering stars dance across the inside my eyelids. I feel the warmth of my release shoot out of me and I slump against him, my breaths fast and ragged, my body exhausted.
It is several minutes before I can open my eyes, and in that time my beloved Mitsuhide just held me. As my own body begins to relax and soften, I am aware of his growing ever harder against me. I want to say something, but what? Thank you, that was wonderful? I'd never experienced pleasure just for myself... it was always for my master.
Of course, I would be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy some of my time spent with Lord Nobunaga. How could I not when he would fuck me so hard he'd hammer against my prostate over and over, sending spasms of ecstasy through me? But it's only coincidence that his lust for domination is occasionally advantageous to my body's satisfaction - I am sure he does not do it intentionally.
"Are you all right?" Mitsuhide whispers against my ear, and I answer him by turning around and pulling him into a kiss.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I am aware of how foolish I look standing there with my pants around my ankles. So with a quick skip, I am out of them completely, able to kick them aside - all while I remain blissfully attached to Mitsuhide's mouth.
His hands are on my bare hips, moving around to grab at my backside under my skirt and guide me closer to him.
"...I never thought you'd ever let me touch you." He gasps as our lips part for breath.
"I wanted to..." I murmur back. "I've wanted to for so long."
I'm so wracked with conflicting guilt and desire, I tremble against him.
"I'll be gentle." He assures me, misreading my actions. "Ranmaru, I would never intentionally hurt you."
I nod. "I know... Mitsuhide."
I've never addressed him so casually before. It sounds so forbidden on my tongue, and I have to stop myself from apologising for my insolence. He smiles at me, and I'm not sure whether it is because I agreed with him, or because I called him by his name alone.
He is untying the knot at the front of my obi, and as he pulls the string away, the rest of it falls to the floor. He is still completely clothed, and I am thankful that he is dressed in casual attire, rather than his formal armour. I want him naked against me - as quickly as my fingers will allow it.
He pulls me into another kiss, as if celebrating the liberation of another piece of my outfit, whilst I work madly to untie his hakama. Blindly, it is difficult, but not impossible - my lord had seen to that part of my education. And I realise as Mitsuhide struggles to get me out of the simplest of garments, I know far too much about undressing a man.
The last piece of fabric falls to the floor, and our bodies move together in mutual need to feel the other against it. I have yearned for this moment for so long that I hold him tightly against me, never wanting to let go - to just feel his soft skin against mine; the movement of his chest as he breathes the warm air that dances across my shoulder; to drink in the light tang of his sweat...
I run my hand up his chest, letting my fingertips brush over his nipple. He gasps at the touch, and squeezes my shoulders. Before I know it, I am in the midst of another of his hot kisses. His hand feathers over my shoulder to curl around the back of my neck.
He takes a step back, familiar with the layout of my quarters, and it thrills and scares me all at once that we are heading to my bed... the same bed where Lord Nobunaga came to me in a drunken stupor, forced me onto my stomach and took the innocence he had treasured in his sobriety. All he needed was that first time... and I have been his ever since.
But tonight I am free... as free as I can be, at least. I am still following his orders, but for a moment, I can forget. For a moment, I am with the man I love.
Mitsuhide guides me down slowly. I am painfully familiar with the routine, but it has never been this slow, or passionate. I break from the kiss as my back meets my futon. Mitsuhide is on all-fours above me, and his long hair is draped all around our faces, like a silky curtain to fence us off from the rest of the world. I like this world of ours... but in the back of my mind, always in the back of my mind, is the terrible reason I am here.
He presses two of his fingers to my lips, increasing the pressure until I understand his intention and allow them into my mouth. I look up at him as I suck on the offering, taking his hand in mine and using the opportunity to show him what my mouth is capable of. My eyes never leave his, and I can tell by his expression alone that he is imagining his cock in place of his fingers... I want him to imagine it - and I will make his fantasy a reality.
With one graceful flick of his head, his hair from one side flies up and falls across the opposite shoulder, and I am able to see the world outside ours once more. A shadowy movement across my window tells me I do not have the luxury of time to tease him. I already know he wants me.
I am deceptively strong... I think Mitsuhide sometimes forgets that. His cry of shock as I flip him onto his back and straddle his thighs tells me that he has indeed forgotten. I know it's because he likes to think I am some helpless little thing that needs his protection. If only I was... then I would have an excuse as to why I am so spineless.
Taking his erection in my hand, I am so familiar with Lord Nobunaga's that I have to stop for a moment to appreciate the new width, the new curve, the new veins that throb to the surface. As my eyes lock with his, I begin to stroke him.
He breaks from my stare to close his eyes as he shudders with pleasure. I want to keep him like that... I want him to enjoy me. I bow my head to his twitching organ and plant a soft kiss on the tip.
"Oh god, Ranmaru..." He gasps, his stunned eyes meeting mine again as he scurries to sit up.
Never looking away, I lick the tiny slit at the end, getting a hint of his taste as his salty pre-ejaculate weeps from it. And I want more of him.
"I couldn't ask you to..." Always the gentleman, he protests in a strained whisper.
"I want to." I assure him, before closing my lips around the head and then diving down to engulf him.
He scoops my hair up and holds it in a loose ponytail at the base of my neck. There were so many times when I wished my lord would do the same when my hair stuck to him and I was forced to take it into my mouth as well
I put my forearms rest against his thighs, one hand holding him to my mouth, the other I use to caress his balls.
"Ranmaru..." He whimpers, his self-restraint crumbling as I feel his muscles tighten to stop his body's need to thrust.
I spare him none of my skills - I know how to make a man scream with pleasure. My beautiful Mitsuhide... it's strange and wonderful all at once to think of him as more than just my dear friend, a strong samurai who I've known for as long as I've been part of the army, a man I've fantasised about. Kneeling before him with his penis in my mouth, he's something else to me now - he's a man with real desires... not just a man who comes to me in my dreams.
Whilst one hand holds my hair, I feel his other hand run down my back. It sends a shiver through me, and I increase my suction on him in response. His hand pauses for a moment as he stifles a moan. He may be able to keep himself quiet, but I have been disciplined to be the opposite.
I break from my duty to cry out as his hand traces lower on my back... lower, and lower still, until he is running his slicked finger slowly around my entrance. I push back against him, wanting the digit inside me - anything of his inside me! I moan his name, and he pushes the tip of his finger into me. He is being so gentle, touching me as if he fears he will break me.
My hand tightens around his length, stroking him to keep him hard whilst my mouth is otherwise busy moaning my appreciation for what he is doing to me. My own heated breath causes me to sweat as I feel it panting around Mitsuhide's groin. I flick my tongue out to swirl around the tip of his cock, and I am drawn back in - kissing and licking him as I seek lower.
I suck his scrotum into my mouth and tongue at his balls. I feel him tighten in response, and I know his release is not far off. I may never get the chance to appreciate his body like this again... I want to do everything to - and with - him.
I return my attention to his shaft. I want to taste his love for me... and by doing so, show him my love. He continues to finger me in time with each dip of my head, and I am only vaguely aware that he has brought a second finger in to play. We work so well together - on the battlefield, and now this.
"Ran-!" He splutters, pulling his fingers free from me.
His other hand balls into a fist in my hair, signalling the beginning of his glorious release. I give one last, desperate swallow, sucking him down my throat so deep that my lips meet the small patch of hair at the base; he screams in pleasure, setting his orgasm free.
He thrusts, and I drink from him. I do not know what I expected, but his taste is not so different from that which I am so familiar.
When he has calmed, the hand that pulled my hair so violently, lovingly strokes it now, as I continue to lick his spent penis clean.
"I'm sorry... I hope I didn't hurt you." He apologises breathlessly.
I look up and smile. I am used to rough treatment. In truth, I did not even notice he had hurt me. "I'm fine, Mitsuhide."
There is a different look about him now. I find it difficult to read if he is pleased or horrified at what I have just done to him. There has always been a certain sadness in his eyes, almost like he pities everyone around him...
"Mitsuhide?" I prompt, hoping he will say something that will make me understand what he is feeling.
"...He has destroyed you."
I rise up to kneel beside him, running my hand over his cheek. He is jealous that it was Lord Nobunaga who taught me how to pleasure a man thusly.
I turn his head and kiss him softly on the lips. "Tonight, I am completely yours."
He wants me, but I can feel his hesitation now. Does he worry I will compare his performance to my lord's? The silence is deafening as I wait for his reply, but it never comes... almost like he is lost for words.
"Do I disgust you?"
I never thought it would be like this! He knows what I have to do to serve my master... and now it upsets him so much he cannot bring himself to touch me?
"...No." He shakes his head sadly. "I had always hoped that, when you were old enough, I would be your first. I am disgusted with him for taking you away from me... and with myself for being so selfish."
I am shocked. "Mitsuhide... I didn't know."
"I keep playing the moment in my head... would he have touched you if you had already been mine?"
"My lord takes whatever he wants."
"Yes... yes, I suppose he does..."
My lord is right. There is something more about him... something deep, something that has been brewing for longer than he has let it show. Is he so comfortable with his hatred and regrets that he can be caught off-guard this easily? Nobunaga is a clever man. I only wish that I was not the method to extract these thoughts...
I draw him into another kiss. He has already told me more than I want to know.
"I do not wish to talk any more." I have what Nobunaga wants. Now, it is time for what I want from this night.
Feeling Mitsuhide's weight as he lay on top of me, my heart speeds up even more. He braces himself with his elbow beside my head, and he bows to kiss me.
"I've dreamed of this for so many nights..." He murmurs against my lips. "I love you, Ranmaru Mori."
I melt at the words. He makes me feel virgin again. I am scared, but it is a different fear to the first time my lord took me... I am excited. I want this. Mitsuhide's foreplay has taken away every single bad memory I've had, replacing them with sweet memories of this night alone. It may well be the first night of my life. He is all I can think about. He is all that I need.
"I love you, too... my Mitsuhide." I whimper back, surrendering to his kiss.
As much as I have wanted to all night, I've been wary to bring my tongue into play; Mitsuhide's kisses have always been innocent, with a restrained passion behind them. He surprises me as his tongue pushes past my lips, and I moan as it meets mine.
I wrap my arms around his shoulders, and raise my knees into the air. Whilst my mind is innocent once more, my body is not - it knows what to do to please him.
He is still kissing me as he positions himself. I shiver as I feel the blunt head of his shaft rub against my opening. I want him.
I want him...
Oh god, I want him!
He pulls away from the kiss, leaving us connected for a moment by a fragile string of saliva.
"Are you ready, my love?" He seeks my permission softly. I know he does not do it to tease me and make me wait... it because he is a man of honour.
All I can do is nod to stop myself from screaming for him to take me.
I cry out as he pushes past the initial resistance, as my body foolishly protests the intrusion, and he stops. I know it must be physically difficult for him to hold back, so I assure him that I am all right.
It seems I've spent a lifetime wanting him inside me... and now it's finally happening. He slides into me so slowly and carefully... so perfectly, as if we were made for each other. Although I have never been stretched or prepared before, it is more than just that which makes our coupling so easy.
"Mi...tsu...hi...de!" I gasp, gripping his shoulders tightly.
"Ranmaru..." He purrs under his breath, working his knees up to either side of my waist so my ass is in his lap.
I want to know... how does he know how to make love so well? Who taught him to touch me like this?
It is an art...
And if this is not his masterpiece...
How many has he laid with before me?
Did he love them as much as he loves me? I... I am jealous. I realise that for all the love I feel for Mitsuhide, I barely know him at all.
"Ranmaru, look at me."
Nobunaga has never asked, nor do I think he cares, what I see when he is screwing me. It has become a natural reaction to close my eyes. I grant Mitsuhide's request, warily blinking my eyes open to meet his - and any doubts I had about him or his feelings for me disappear when I see the way he is looking at me as he thrusts inside.
I hate myself so much. What he is doing is honest. And what I am doing is...
What I am doing is...
I blink back my treacherous tears, and I feel his thumb running over my cheek.
"I'm not hurting you, am I?" He asks, slowing his rhythm down so that he is almost completely still inside me.
His cock throbs in protest to the stop, and I gasp whilst trying to shake my head.
He lowers himself down so that our chests finally touch. I arch up against him, wanting us to be closer still, and he closes the gap as he pushes me back down. We cannot be any closer than we are right now...
"Mitsuhide..." His name is the only word I know. It is the only word I ever want to say.
He moves back and forth inside me so slowly, so passionately. I want the feeling of his body rubbing against mine to last forever... the feeling of his long hair sticking to my sweaty shoulders... his hot breath against my face.
Wrapping his arms around my waist, he pulls me into his lap as he sits up. The new position opens me wider, and his next thrust pushes deeper than before. I cry out, throwing my arms around his shoulders and holding onto him for dear life.
I am gasping for air, as if he had just saved me from drowning, clinging to him with the intention of never letting go.
He answers with a kiss, drawing me into duel of tongues that silences my cries. His hands move down to my hips, guiding me down as he pushes up, increasing his pace.
I feel him serge inside me, and my muscles instinctively clamp down on his shaft. He groans in response, biting his lip as he wraps one arm around my waist and thrusts between my thighs. I ride him hard, not caring who hears my screams of pleasure as I bounce in his lap.
I am vaguely aware of his other hand curling around my erection as it rubs between us, and my own hand drops to help him speed me to climax.
We cry out in unison as Mitsuhide's warm release shoots inside me. I only have to feel the first jolt before I am joining him in orgasm. I'm clinging to him so tightly, I am sure that I am hurting him, but it feels so good, my mind can only focus on the pleasure.
For a moment, I feel nothing... almost like my mind does not understand what my body is experiencing. When my consciousness returns, I am slumped against Mitsuhide's shoulder, gasping in time with the rise and fall of my beloved's own frenzied breath.
He is still inside me, and I mourn the loss as he gently lays me down and withdraws. There is that familiar feeling of his semen dribbling out of me, but tonight, I hate it only because it is less of him I get to keep for myself.
"Mitsu-?" I murmur as he lays beside me, and pulling me into an embrace.
He raises a finger to my lips. "Shh..."
I understand that he wishes to appreciate the afterglow in silence. I want to speak - my nerves make me want to speak. If I cannot speak, will he ever know that despite my deception, what we shared was wonderful? And as I look up at his content face, I realise - yes, he felt it too.
I close my eyes to stop myself from crying. What I have just done is lower than I have ever sunk before...
* * * * *
"Well done, Ranmaru." My lord's cruel smile sends shivers through me as he signs Mitsuhide's execution order. "I could not have done this without you."
It takes only moments between him handing the deadly parchment to a guard to Mitsuhide being dragged from his duties and forced to kneel outside. I follow Nobunaga out, but I only take one quick glance at my beloved before looking away.
This is all my fault, I have no right to cry... but tears still pour down my face.
"Ranmaru!" Mitsuhide calls out, struggling against his captors in an attempt to turn my way. A guard slaps him, but it does not stop him. He breaks free and draws his sword, threatening those around him. "Ranmaru!"
"Let him speak." My lord orders, his hand perched on the handle of his own sword. He does not trust Mitsuhide... and he does not trust me to defend him from him.
My beloved steps closer, and I move forward - standing between him and my lord. The rightful place of a loyal bodyguard.
Mitsuhide kneels, and looks up at me. "Ranmaru, I was never any good at protecting you in life... perhaps I will do better in death."
I draw a breath to reply... to tell him that I love him... that I want to be with him... that I'm so very sorry for what I have done...
But it is too late.
He is dead before I even realise; his throat slashed by his own sword in one quick movement.
There is no blood... I don't understand. How can he be dead? It is not until his body comes to terms with its sudden end and falls to the ground that I want to scream. But I can't. I can never express what I truly feel... not in front of Nobunaga.
I warily follow my lord back into his chambers, and though I try to listen to what he is saying, my ears are trained on the noises outside. I can hear Mitsuhide's armour being moved...
I want to be out there, but I don't deserve to even look at my beloved, let alone assist in his burial. It is all my fault.
It is all my fault...
My master is inside me, hurting me so that I'll cry for him. I want to fight him off, but he has bound my hands. Mitsuhide? I want Mitsuhide!
* * * * *
I awake with a start to find Mitsuhide's arms wrapped around me tightly.
"It's all right..." He soothes. "I'll never let anything hurt you ever again."
"Lord Mitsuhide?" I ask, confused by how he knows my mind's innermost thoughts. "I'm all right... I just had a nightmare, that's all."
"You cried out for me to protect you."
"I'm sorry I woke you, my lord." I apologise, hoping it will be enough... but he cares too much about me to let it go just like that.
He strokes my hair as he guides me to lay upon his chest. "...It is something I will regret for the rest of my life."
"What is?" I asked, confused.
"I knew what he was doing to you, and yet, I did nothing to stop it."
"My lord, there was nothing you could do." I assured him. It is not his fault... I have no one to blame but myself for the position I am in.
He does not hear me. He continues as if I had said nothing. "But I will right my wrongs. Ranmaru, I will save you from him."
I don't like this. I don't want him to say any more! I leap up, planting a kiss on his lips to silence him. He can't save me. I am already damned.
Or, I soon will be...
"No one is willing to live under his rule."
"A ruler should serve his people, not the other way around. I would make it so."
The first rays of sunrise stream through my window and wake me. The smell of sex still hangs in the air, but I am not repulsed by it. I am in Mitsuhide's arms, my head moving with the shallow rise and fall of his chest. I am covered in his sweat and filled with his essence - and whilst I cannot wait to rid myself of Nobunaga's, I feel a strange regret that I must bathe this morning before tending to my duties.
I slip from Mitsuhide's arms, careful not to wake him. He stirs a little, giving a soft moan before rolling onto his side and finding comfort alone. I kneel beside my bed, watching him sleep so peacefully.
No warrior sleeps without a sword by his side, and yet, here he is so completely defenceless. He truly let his guard down last night - both physically and mentally, just as my lord predicted he would. The sun beckons me to leave, so I take a sword from my collection and place it near him; then, kissing his forehead, I make my way to the stream.
As I bathe, I plan what I am going to say to my lord over and over, and none of the scripts are any less damning to Mitsuhide. He said too much...
When I am allowed entry to Nobunaga's chamber, I am greeted by his wife. The smug smile on her face tells me exactly what she thinks of me - no longer just her husband's sex toy, I have become his bargaining tool.
"You spent the night with Mitsuhide?" She asks me, continuing before I can draw a breath to answer. "I've heard rumours about his talents. You will have to tell me if they are true."
"I don't know what rumours you mean, my Lady." Honestly, I don't. My duties to her husband keep me out of gossiping circles, and I begin to wonder what people have been saying about my perfect Mitsuhide.
"They say he's a stallion between the sheets." She says with her sultry voice, alluding to things I dare not assume. "I'd try him for myself, but my lord never gives me such tasks."
Her words are not spoken in jealousy, there is something far more malicious in them. She knows what I am - the entire camp knows it, and now I am even worse...
"How was he, Ranmaru?" My lord asks in a raised voice, calling my attention to him immediately.
Was he better than me? I expected the question, of course, but all my planned answers suddenly seem wrong. He was as wonderful as I had dreamed he would be... I never knew intercourse could feel that good.
"Lord Nobunaga?" I feint innocence, not wishing to brag, nor get Mitsuhide into any trouble.
"How did he treat you?"
"He was... gentle, my lord."
He nods, seemingly satisfied. "Good. You won't bleed all over my sheets tonight."
So I am to spend tonight underneath my master, and hope that he doesn't make me bleed for Mitsuhide's kindness?
I wait for my interrogation to begin, but it never comes. I am made to feel quite superfluous as I stand before his table, he and his wife suddenly ignoring me.
"That is all." He finally dismisses me with a flick of his hand.
I am spared my treacherous confession for now, and Mitsuhide gets to live a moment longer without my foul betrayal threatening him. I leave my lord's quarters, but stay nearby. Of all the assassins that have sought his life, his own wife is the most deadly.
It is not long before I see Mitsuhide. From what Lord Nobunaga told me, he has been given the task of organising the troops for our next attack. If nothing else, he is useful for that, my lord has often sneered.
His armour shines in the sun, almost rivalling his beautiful hair. I look his body up and down appreciatively. I have had that body... I have been one with that body. My arousal almost cripples me the more I think about how he made me feel last night.
He must sense my stare; turning around, and upon seeing me, smiles. He takes a few steps in my direction, but is met by a soldier who wants him to attend something elsewhere. Casting a look back at me as he follows the man, he mouths three syllables to me.
I love you.
My heart swells up so much, I fear it will burst out of my chest. But my feeling of dread quickly overwhelms any feelings of adoration. I cannot allow myself to love him... but I know I do. I love him more than anything in this world...
And so, I have a weakness - one that Lord Nobunaga will not hesitate to exploit, should he ever find out. It is because I love Mitsuhide so much, that I cannot love him... it is a cruel paradox that tears my heart in twain.
"What did Mitsuhide have to say?" My lord has once again evaded my senses, standing in the doorway behind me, talking as though I was aware of his sudden presence.
He has been waiting for me to relax. I stutter as I answer him. "He said, no one is willing to live under your rule."
"How cute." He sighs sarcastically. "Ranmaru, you alone shall protect me."
He strokes my face, and calls an attendant from the next room. The soldier enters, carrying the most beautiful sword I have ever seen across his outspread hands. He bows before me, presenting the sword. I hesitantly look at my lord, who simply nods.
"For you." He says, turning away, not interested in my reaction. I know without even asking that this is my reward for betraying Mitsuhide.
* * * * *
My lord does not want me tonight. He is with his wife again. I can hear the pair of them talking behind the closed door, but despite my curiosity, I dare not look inside. He excused me from guard duty... two nights in a row now. Perhaps he has grown tired of me? But I find myself by his door anyway. It is habit. I do not know where Mitsuhide is, and there is very little else for me to do but to sit in silent contemplation.
Have I become that disgusting to my master, now that I have lain with another? Did my usefulness end the moment he traded my body for information? What will he do with me now? Am I to become what I have always feared - a faceless soldier?
My new sword lays sheathed across my lap. Nobunaga would not present me with such things if he did not prize me... would he? I feel scared. Is this sword more than just a reward? Is it a farewell gift as well? He has given me many gifts before, but none so beautiful as this. I touch the gold filigree on the purple lacquer. I am a sword collector. My favourite colour is purple. This sword is far too personal to be anything but a show of appreciation.
I find myself wondering why I even care. Isn't this always what I wanted - to leave the service of my master, and take my place by Mitsuhide's side?
It has only been a few hours, but it seems like forever ago. It is almost as if my memories of what I said to Nobunaga are not mine. The words I said belonged to someone else...
Someone unworthy of Mitsuhide's attention, let alone affection.
I love him so very much, and yet, I was able to paint him as a traitor to my lord. I have a beautiful sword... and all it cost me was my beloved's life. And my soul.
I've chosen my allegiance. There is no turning back now. But can I live with this regret?
I need to take a walk and clear my head. Nothing will take away what I have done, but perhaps I can numb myself just a little to make the pain bearable. It is habit, and I find myself by the stream. For once, I am not dripping with semen and desperate to rid myself of it.
I notice Mitsuhide approaching, and the coward inside me demands I hide from him. What could I possibly say to him now?
He does not notice me, and I watch him strip down from my hiding place, baring his perfect flesh to the moonlight. His hair shimmers blue, as beautiful as the glittering ripples in the stream.
It is dangerous for me to be here, but it is worth the risk just to see him. Free of his heavy armour, he stretches his sleek body, giving me a sight I shall not soon forget. I have known this body intimately, and it still fascinates me like nothing else. I want him again, but such longing is far too risky.
He sinks slowly into the water, moaning like he moaned for me last night, and I had to bite my lip. Suddenly, he dives under, and rises back up like a sea god, throwing his head back and sending an arc of hair and water up and around to crash upon his back.
It is too much. He is too beautiful.
What have I done? It is my fault the world will soon be without this beauty...
I try to sneak away in shame, but Mitsuhide is too well-trained to remain ignorant of my presence. My heart is racing as he takes me in his arms. A tryst in the moonlight... it is just like some ancient tale of forbidden romance. But should we get caught, there will be no happy ending - for either of us.
"Ranmaru, you know that if it were under any other circumstance, I would make love to you slowly, all night long..." He whispers apologetically, giving me goose bumps at the sheer thought of it. "But I fear if we spend too long away from the camp, the men will grow suspicious."
"Then take me hard and fast."
My want clouds my sense of reason, and the words are out of my mouth before I can even think to stop them! He chuckles, giving me one of his rare, beautiful smiles, before becoming very serious.
"No." He shakes his head.
"I'm used to it, Lord Mitsuhide." I assure him.
"And that is exactly why I won't touch you like that." He reaches to touch my face, and I have spent so long denying him, I have to stop myself from cringing. He stoops to kiss my neck, adding in a whisper, "You should be adored..."
I close my eyes, his touch rendering me completely helpless to my desires. I want him... I want him so badly.
"You should be savoured..." I feel his breath feather across my lips.
I instinctively pout in a feeble attempt to initiate a kiss, but he had already drawn away. And there is silence. He is gone.
When I return to my quarters alone, even though he only embraced me back there, I felt so loved, it was like he had indeed made love to me slowly, all night long.
Mitsuhide stops me on my way back to my lord's quarters. He has become too bold... and I have become too wary. It was not unusual for us to be seen talking before, I don't know why it makes me so uncomfortable now.
I love him, and he loves me. We have always felt this way about each other, but now that we have expressed it physically, I find him a temptation hard to refuse. How can I possibly go back to the way it was between us before? I can't. And still I must play the part of loyal subordinate and pretend it didn't mean a thing... pretend that every time I see him, I don't want him.
"Lord Mitsuhide, I have chores to attend." I shake free from his hold on my shoulder. "There is so much to do before the next battle."
"I have been given the task to lead the reinforcements against the Mouri." He says simply.
It hits me like a punch in the gut; Nobunaga's plan becoming painfully clear to me. Send Mitsuhide away... and split us apart so that if I did feel anything for him, it would be tested over his absence.
He anticipates my silly question, before it can even leave my mouth. "It might take months."
I don't know what to say. I don't know if I'm sad or angry.
"Ranmaru...?" Mitsuhide prompts, "There won't be a day when I don't think of you."
I answer him with a sad smile. "And I you."
He reaches up to fix a rogue strand of my hair, and I notice his eyes shifting from me to over my shoulder. "A new sword?"
"Yes." I pull my sword and sheath from over my shoulder, bowing to free myself from the strap which holds it to me.
It represents his demise, and I am wary to hand it to him because of that. But it is also very beautiful, and I know he appreciates fine art and craftsmanship. His life and his death are both part of this sword... I have to resist the urge to snatch it back off him as he takes it from my outstretched hand.
He exposes several centimetres of the blade, before angrily snapping it back into its sheath. "It's the most beautiful sword I have ever seen."
It should have been a compliment, but nice words were never spat like that. He shoves the sword toward me, and I quickly take it back.
"He gave it to you, didn't he?"
"Of course he did. I could never afford such things on my own."
I don't know where his jealousy has sprung from. To my horror, he tears the sword from my hands and throws it aside.
"I don't want you parading his gifts like his favourite whore!"
I've thought it about myself for so long, I am shocked that his words hurt me as much as they did. How dare he say such things! True or not, it is not his place to label me, and I slap my open palm across his beautiful face in response.
"I am his favourite whore." My voice trembles as I hold back my angry tears. "And I am not yours to judge."
"Last night was a mistake I do not intend to make again. I should never have allowed myself to give in to temptation."
Is this what you want, Lord Nobunaga - to hurt Mitsuhide this much? I watch as his jealous frown softens and then creases into a new frown of confusion and disappointment.
"Ranmaru, I'm sorry..." He reaches to touch me, but I back away, taking up my sword as I run from him.
I sit in my room in a pathetic attempt to hide, preparing for what is to happen. I will be beaten for every scratch on my new sword's finish. Mitsuhide had thrown it in such a way that one side of the sheath was terribly grazed. He doesn't know what it is like... Lord Nobunaga's gifts come at a price.
I don't want to see him... I know I will forgive him the moment I look at him. How could I possibly stay angry at that face? When I am on the ground, bleeding, pleading for my lord to stop... how could I blame Mitsuhide for putting me there? I couldn't. I love him too much.
He lets himself in, and I know how sincere his apology is by the tone of his voice.
"I don't know what came over me..." He says, falling to his knees before me and reaching out to touch my sword as it sits across my lap. "I'm sorry. I will have it repaired for you."
I nod, but the temptation becomes too much, and my eyes meet his... and he is forgiven.
"How can I compete with him when he gives you something like this?"
"I am not some prize in a competition, Lord Mitsuhide." I want to tell him that if I were, he has already won. "Lord Nobunaga may have my body and my soul... but he will never have my heart."
My chest seems to melt against his as he pulls me into his embrace. Our lips meet, and I don't have to say another word - he knows my heart is his.
It has become dangerous. If we were to be caught...
It takes all of my willpower not to moan out loud for him as our bodies become one again.
He wants to lay with me afterward, but I send him on his way. He takes my sword with him, again apologising for his rash behaviour.
"There is something about him that infuriates me beyond common sense..." He sighs, leaning against my doorframe, almost as if he is stalling to leave. "I feel it getting more and more difficult to control... it is almost as if I am not myself."
"Lord Mitsuhide?" I am worried about him when he talks like this. I gesture for him to come back inside, where his words will not be so severely judged. I have already betrayed him... I do not wish for other witnesses to damn him as well.
He shakes his head, refusing my offer and remaining where he is. "Ranmaru, if I ever lose myself to this hatred... I'm scared of what I might do... to him, and to us..."
I fumble with the last tie on my outfit as I listen. In all the time I've known him, I've only ever seen glimpses of the temper he speaks of. Both he and my lord have strong personalities, and sometimes, their opinions differ to the point of heated arguments. But Mitsuhide had always backed down before any blood was shed.
Always the peacekeeper...
How long has he been fighting with this demon inside himself? And what has happened to make him so worried about it now?
Just as I have fallen deeper in love with him, he has done the same for me. Before, he threatened... and now that we have consummated our love, he promises. He used to say he wished he could protect me; now he says he will protect me.
"I..." I stutter, feeling more trapped and frightened than I ever have with Nobunaga, "I have to finish my errands."
I find my lord in a particularly bad mood when I return to his company after my chores are completed. It is late, and I know what I must do. I kneel before him and wait for his orders, expecting him to tell me to undress.
But it never comes.
I can feel him staring at me, but I dare not look up to meet his eyes. I am scared of what I will see in them... what he has planned for me if it is not intercourse. Does he know that I allowed Mitsuhide to make love to me a second time?
"I'll kill him before I ever let him touch you again." He finally says, repeating Mitsuhide's words as though they had been playing on his mind all day. "That is what he said to you, isn't it?"
I keep my head bowed to hide my guilt. "Yes, my lord."
I hear the creak of leather as he rises to his feet and stands before me. He grabs my chin roughly, and forces me to look up.
"He loves you, doesn't he?" He asks, running his thumb across my lips.
"I... I think so." It's as obvious as the daylight, so I dare not argue with him.
This answer amuses him. He smiles as he thinks it over. "...He is a fool to choose me as his rival."
I remain silent, wanting to look away from those piercing eyes, but forcing myself to hold his stare.
"I am sending him away." He continues, finally letting me go, and allowing me to sink to my knees in a submissive bow. "He has told me, my lord."
"I think the Mouri will be good for him... however, I do not expect him to return with his newfound knowledge."
I nod, not in agreement, but in acknowledgement that I have heard him. He is sending Mitsuhide off to be killed. My beloved samurai becomes just another nameless casualty of war... one of Nobunaga's generals who failed in his mission against the powerful Mouri.
"Will you cry for his loss, Ranmaru?" My lord prompts, as if to taunt my very thoughts.
"...He is my friend, and I will mourn for him as such."
"You are too kind to him." He walks away from me, and I feel a strange loss.
Lord Nobunaga has not touched me intimately since the night he ordered me to spend with Mitsuhide. I have started to wonder if having lain with another made me repulsive to him.
"I'll kill him before I ever let him touch you again." He repeats it over and over, making me wish that I had never heard it, nor relayed it.
I know what is going to happen. Mitsuhide has a weakness.
And it is me.
"I'll kill him before I ever let him touch you again." My lord walks back toward me, and I have to try my hardest not to shrink back from him. "Shall we call his bluff then?"
"Ranmaru." He traces an affectionate hand over my chin. "It hurts me to be forced to do this, but I take comfort that your beautiful face will heal in time."
* * * * *
It is his fault. It is all I remember from last night. My lord said it before he struck me. After that, there is nothing, and I am thankful.
I am dragged out of my bed at sunrise at Lord Nobunaga's orders and delivered to my station outside his quarters. Everything hurts. I have been cut, stabbed and shot before, but I have never been in as much pain as I am now. My face is so swollen, it is difficult to see.
I deserve this... for being a terrible friend, and an even worse subordinate. I know my lord would never raise his hand to me unless he was forced to - and my divided loyalty has done just that.
Some hours later, Mitsuhide calls out to me as he begins his rounds for the day. I struggle to raise my arm to wave, but keep my head bowed and dare not look up to meet his eyes.
"Ranmaru, I'm sorry about yesterday. I didn't mean to scare you." He is too busy making his apology to notice that despite my wanting to, I have not looked at him. "Your sword will be ready by this afternoon; perhaps we could go to the markets together? There is a lot I want to tell you before I leave for battle... and there is something I need to ask you."
"I would like that, Lord Mitsuhide, but I cannot go with you today." I keep my head bowed as I refuse his offer, hoping that he will not question me... even though I know he will, and it fills me with dread as I wait for it.
He kneels to be level with me, and I physically cringe as he reaches his hand through my hair to cup my chin. "Ranmaru? What's wrong?"
I fight against him as he tries to guide my face upwards, but it only makes him more determined. My eyes meet his, and I am frightened of what I see staring back at me. I have never seen him look so angry. I can see the demon everyone is so willing to label Lord Nobunaga. Mitsuhide scares me sometimes...
"I'll kill him!" He bellows, not worried who hears him, drawing his sword and charging toward my lord's quarters.
I run to block his way, putting my hands on his chest in a futile attempt to hold him back. "You mustn't! This is exactly what he wants you to do."
"He's gone too far this time!"
Shoving me aside and ripping the door open, Mitsuhide storms into my lord's sanctuary - a place I am supposed to guard from intruders. I hurry in after him, my hand poised on my sword. I cannot let him do this. I will fight him if I have to.
"And to what do I owe the pleasure, Mitsuhide?" Lord Nobunaga asks, a cruel smirk hanging under his moustache. "Ranmaru, leave us"
My lord does not even look at me, he is too busy appraising his guest. I am trained to notice the slightest hesitation, and I as cast Mitsuhide one last glance, I notice his fists tighten by his sides, giving away his fear to me.
I have not even taken my place outside before I hear the sharp slap of skin against skin. Mitsuhide stifles a cry and awkward footsteps follow, as though he is trying to regain his balance.
"I should have you killed for what you have done."
"I have not done anything to deserve your wrath, my lord." My beloved insists.
"Oh, Mitsuhide... are you so caught up in your ideals that you no longer understand the severity of your actions? You are a loose cannon. The only reason I have not had your head severed from your neck is because you are still of some use to me."
Lord Nobunaga cuts his plea off, "You think that because you spent one night with Ranmaru, you can turn him against me? How many more of my men have you tried to persuade?"
"What Ranmaru and I have is very special."
"What you and Ranmaru have... is a lie." My lord clarifies coldly.
I sit by the door with my sword across my lap, and listen. The thin paper does not serve to muffle any of the sounds within; the grip on my sword turns my knuckles white the more I hear of my lord and my lover arguing over me. I will not cry - I cannot cry. It is what he wants me to do...
I cannot bear it! I turn around, sliding the door open to a crack and peering in. By dim candlelight, my beautiful Mitsuhide has turned to face the door, as if wanting to escape the cruel truths Lord Nobunaga has forced him to discover. His head is bowed, but he chances to raise his eyes for just a moment, and capture mine.
I... My mouth is open, but I cannot even form the shapes of the words I want to say. I'm sorry? Sorry isn't enough for what I have done!
I blink back my tears as best I can.
It is my fault...
If it wasn't for me... his feelings for me...
It has been an hour since I watched my beloved Mitsuhide wander back to his quarters. My lord stood at the door, watching with me, so I steeled myself and looked on with the same coldness.
He held his head high, despite the shame I could see in his eyes, determined to look brave... forever proud, no matter what he was feeling inside. For me...
The shadows enveloped him not far away, but I could still hear his awkward steps in the distance.
"That went rather well." Lord Nobunaga gave a single, satisfied chuckle before returning inside, and leaving me alone again.
I heard the sound of retching, and the urge to go comfort Mitsuhide in his time of need was so great, I had risen to my feet before realising it. But I couldn't go... I couldn't. For his own safety, I couldn't allow myself to care.
I have been standing here for an hour in silence, wondering what my handsome lover has been doing... and selfishly imagining what he thinks of me now. It is over between us. Years of longing for him - ended tonight without so much as a goodbye... or an I'm sorry. My face is still so numb, I do not feel the tears running down my cheeks until they wind their way into my open wounds, and the salt stings me. I keep telling myself to stop, but my body is no longer listening - almost as if it is ashamed to be part of me.
I did not sleep; I spent the night crying to myself, choking back sobs lest my lord heard me from behind his closed door. The morning finds me tired and upset, neither of which I let show.
My tears have done nothing for the swelling on my face, but I cannot resist looking up at Mitsuhide as he approaches. I smile at him, and my heart races as he smiles back. It seems I spent the night worrying over nothing, but my embarrassment is easily overwhelmed by the sheer joy that my beloved samurai still cares enough to greet me on this morning... just like every other morning, like his heart had not been ripped from his chest last night.
"I don't care if it's true." He says coldly, like he has been rehearsing the speech over and over. "Nothing would ever make me stop loving you, Ranmaru. If it was just for Lord Nobunaga's fun, I am still glad I had the chance to touch you."
This is not a greeting... this is a goodbye!
"Lord Mitsuhide, no!" I plead, desperate to explain myself, but he waves me off.
He kneels down to take my jaw carefully in his hand. "It is my fault that you are hurt. Those wounds should have been mine... another regret to add to the insurmountable pile that seems to plague me when it comes to you."
The more he sacrifices for me, the more I start to think he wants to hurt himself. He wants to hate Nobunaga, and he continually finds new reasons to. This isn't about me... this is about him, and his need to justify whatever he has planned.
"Stop it! I don't need your protection!" I yell at him. He wants to play the hero and the victim all at once, and I don't want him to be either. I just want him to be my friend. My Mitsuhide.
"Then, come with me - away from here, so that you don't need protecting." Accompany him on the Mouri campaign? The very battle he is being sent to purely to keep us apart?
"I can't!" I insist.
"Ranmaru, you know as well as I that I'm not coming back." He rephrases his invitation, adding softly, "I don't want to leave you here... not with him."
"This is where I belong... this is where we belong!"
"No." He shakes his head. "I was not born to serve a man like Lord Nobunaga. I thought he was something that he continually proves to me that he is not. He is a great leader, but he is not a great man. I cannot follow him, when I no longer respect him."
My eyes widen. He is not just leaving our camp, he is leaving our side! "Lord Mitsuhide, what are you saying?!"
"I have already said too much." He holds his hand out, as if trying to pull me to safety. "Please, just come with me."
I frown at him. He asks too much of me, and expects me to give it because he knows how much I care for him. Part of me wants to... but... I will not be forced to choose between my honour and my heart!
"And live the disgraced life of a traitor? Lord Mitsuhide, I will not shame my family name."
"Then, you would die doing what is wrong... for honour?"
He makes me so angry! Why can't he see what I do? His family is not as illustrious as mine, and he has worked so hard to make something of himself, but surely, he is not completely without honour?
"I will die doing what is right by serving the man I swore my life to!" I answer back sharply, tears prickling my eyes and making me squint. "Wrong or not, I will not go back on my word as a samurai!"
Mitsuhide swallows hard. "I would have done anything for you, and you cannot even trust me?"
I shake my head. He doesn't understand... and I don't think he ever will.
He turns away, sending his hair fanning out around him as he storms off. "My heart cannot stand to be your plaything any longer. Goodbye, Ranmaru."
He raises his hand to his face, presumably to wipe away tears. And I have done the same.
He is all I've ever known, and all I've ever loved.
"Then, stay with me!" I shout out lamely, falling to my knees and burying my face in my hands. "Stay with me..."
"It means a lot to me that you have stayed by my side." My lord is being uncharacteristically gentle. He reaches a hand up to stroke my cheek. "I appreciate your loyalty."
I told him. I had to tell him what Mitsuhide asked of me, and in that one touch, I understand him. My lord is a complex man... but I understand him. I've always understood him. He is brutal, but honest. He has never lied to me, nor done anything to make me doubt the man I believe he is - the man I know he is. I don't regret my decision. I am glad I stayed.
Our lips meet in his usual dominant style, but I do not wish for him to stop. He taught me everything I know about physical love... I once hated him for it. But now, it's different. I spent so long wanting Mitsuhide, I'd never appreciated what I already had.
"You understand now, don't you?" He asks as he draws away. "It has taken me a long time, but you have been worth it."
He smirks at my confusion, and suddenly I realise - he has taught me to love him. I feel that same excited tingle run through my body as it did just a few days ago when I lay in Mitsuhide's arms for the first time... and I hate myself for it.
Am I that easily swayed from man to man? The soldiers, the enemy, even Mitsuhide himself have called me a whore. And now I know I am.
I moan for him willingly, because tonight, I feel him for the first time. I feel his body, I feel his soul...
I feel his heart.
And I am his and his alone.
* * * * *
I never thought it would come to this. I have stood between my lord and countless assassins, but I never imagined I would be forced to raise my blade to Mitsuhide.
My lord's temple is in flames, and I am the only thing that stands between him and his killer. It is not pressure that makes my heart thump in my chest like a wild drum, for I have had this responsibility for years... it is knowing that I will lose one of the men I love tonight.
"Ranmaru! I do not wish to slay you!" He calls from the front of his army. He sounds so powerful... so determined.
"Nor I you, Lord Mitsuhide." I reply, holding my defensive stance. He will not pass this gate, so long as I stand protecting it.
He moves toward me, unsheathing his sword. Time seems to pass so slowly, seconds becoming minutes as he makes the walk up the few small steps to the platform in front of the gate. The fire is almost deafening as it crackles around us, eating away at everything my lord stands for.
"Why are you doing this?!" I ask him as he stands before me.
"I have no choice." He shakes his head sadly. "Lower your blade, Ranmaru... or so help me, I will cut you down."
He comes at me suddenly, and I fend off his attack with ease. It was not meant to hurt me, it was meant to warn me. I scowl at him as he returns to his position, flicking his hair back.
"Lord Mitsuhide... I don't want to fight you." I insist.
If our blades are to cross in true battle, then one of us will die. I wonder... could I possibly live with myself if I were to kill him? And would he mourn me the same way? I don't deserve his mercy; I barely deserve his attention after all that I have done to him.
I cannot lose. I have only just discovered the truly special relationship I have with Lord Nobunaga, and I cannot let Mitsuhide cut it short.
"Does he make you happy? Happier than I would have?" He asks suddenly, as if he is able to read my thoughts.
"Yes." I answer him honestly. It is the least I can do after all the lies I have told him. Yes, Lord Nobunaga makes me happy. He may raise his hand to me, but it is always justified. He has never raised his sword to me.
Mitsuhide raises an eyebrow, as he squares his shoulders. Two reactions - one of surprise and one of anger. I can read him... I can defeat him. "Then, you have chosen to die with him tonight?"
"I will not allow that to happen."
He launches another attack, and as I counter his slash, I feel his army looking on - all wanting me dead, and in turn, wanting Lord Nobunaga dead. My trained eye can see the movement of impatient hands gripping swords in the darkness, and I am more determined than ever to get back to my lord's side and help him escape.
I must wound Mitsuhide...
It is my turn! I return his assault, groaning as I swing my sword at him. He is fast, but my sword is longer than he anticipated, and I manage to clip his side.
My eyes are wide as he claps his hand to the wound, blood seeping between his fingers.
"Lord Mitsuhide, I..." I've spent a lifetime wanting to apologise for everything I've done to him, and now, whilst he stands bleeding before me, the words refuse to come.
I lower my sword, and that is my mistake. He leaps up, crying out as his wound protests the sudden move, and he lunges at me. I am too slow to defend myself, and for a moment, I meet with his shocked eyes, and I do not understand what has happened.
He is so close I can feel his panicked breath on my face. It is warm, and I am so cold. I almost want to move that tiny bit closer, and kiss him... a single kiss to take away every bad thing I've ever done, if I deserved it?
There is no pain until he breaks from my stare. I feel the blood sticking my clothes to my stomach, and I give a choked cry as he pulls his blade from me.
"So be it. My life is expendable."
I feel cold...
I feel free...
It does not hurt. Nothing hurts anymore.
I do not have the strength to stand. I feel myself falling, and I am powerless to stop it. The impact never comes, and I am wrapped in Mitsuhide's arms as he kneels and slowly lowers me to lay my head in his lap.
"Ranmaru, I-" He begins, terrible regret written all over his face.
"Don't." It is difficult to talk with a throat full of blood, but I manage the word as I shakily raise my hand to his lips.
I do not want him to mourn me. I betrayed his trust, I broke his heart... this is a fitting end for someone who could hurt the man they love so many times. I chose my lord's life over his... and now, it seems, I will lose them both.
There are tears in his eyes, and he tries to blink them back as he looks down at me.
"Lord... Mitsuhide... don't... cry." I don't even know if I said it. I wanted to, but all I can hear is my heartbeat pounding in my ears. "I... deserve... this..."
The beats come slower...
I deserve this...