Mitsunari is depressed after his first major loss under Hideyoshi. But Nene knows the right words to say.
Mitsunari stared sulkily out at the pond he was seated by. One of his first major battles, and he'd made a major blunder. The Hojo flood attack had wiped out part of his force. They'd been forced to retreat. Oh, it wouldn't matter once Hideyoshi brought the majority of his force to bear on the clan, but...
It wasn't as if he thought he was infallible (No matter what some of the other retainers said about his attitude.), but he'd wanted to prove himself. To prove that he was useful for more than sitting in a room reading financial reports and calculating expenditures. Yes, he'd successfully defended their supply lines before. There'd been other battles he'd successfully participated in. But he'd been in charge this time. It was his responsibility. His loss.
Masanori and Kiyomasa hadn't left off since he got back. "Look at the fox come slinking back with it's tail between it's legs." Kiyomasa had teased.
"When are you going to learn to leave the fighting to the fighters?" Masanori had added in.
"Damn it!" Picking up a rock, Mitsunari tossed it far out into the pond. "I can fight! I'm just as strong as you! Just as important to the clan's future!" The words didn't echo back, they were just lost in the hazy woods. "You're so busy in the now, you don't see the future!"
But had he been too busy in the future to see the now? Why hadn't he figured out the Hojo's plans? He was smart, why couldn't he put the pieces together until it was too late?
Sinking down onto the ground by the lake, he wrapped his arms around his knees. He was moping, and he knew it. Could probably keep it up for several more hours, heck several more days, if given a chance.
"Mitsunari." Nene's voice pierced the morning. Bright and cheerful as ever.
Nene annoyed him in many ways, but she was Hideyoshi's first wife. And the most beloved wife of the clan. She treated the officers as if they were her children. Most liked the attention. As a rule, Mitsunari did not. He worked hard to be taken seriously. Being treated like a child was detrimental to that goal.
"There you are. I thought I'd find you here." Nene came over to perch on the rock near him. Somehow, Nene could always see through him, even when he worked hard to hide whatever he was feeling. Others bought every cool word, every seemingly calm, if not cold, rebuttal. Nene never did.
"So you found me. Congratulations. You can leave now." He wondered why he bothered keeping his facade up when they were alone. Habit, he supposed.
"Darling will be marching to take on the Hojo soon. Maybe even this week."
Mitsunari bit his lip, waiting. For good news. For the axe to fall. Whichever. Nene waited for his response. "And? Am I to stay here?"
"Don't be silly. Why would darling leave one of his best behind on such an important battle? You're going."
Relief filled him. He'd been worried that his lord would hold him to his fault, and leave him behind. He didn't act like he was, had even told Kiyomasa and Masanori that he was going to make up for the mistake the next time they faced the Hojo. But the concern had been there, eating away at him day after day. And, of course, the only one who saw it was Nene. As usual, he was transparent to the Ninja woman.
"Mitsunari, everyone makes mistakes. I've made them. Even darling's made them. You learn from them, and you get better."
"I know that." He told her peevishly, not turning to face her. For a time they were both silent. Even though she'd brought the news she'd come to bring, she made no move to leave. And even with that news, the loss still festered like a wound inside of him, making him feel no desire to return to the castle just yet.
"Back before, well...for awhile before things got so big." Nene began speaking again. "Darling and I used to play this game. Whenever the new recruits were brought in, we'd make a bet over who would be the best among them. He always chose first, and he always won. So I told him one day that he always chose first, which was why he won, so I demanded a chance to choose first. He laughed, but he let me choose."
Mitsunari frowned, wondering what the story had to do with anything, or if she was just talking to fill the empty silence between them.
"So, I looked out amongst the recruits like always, and as usual most were rowdy boys. Showing off, talking loudly. Trying to get some attention, make themselves stand out in the crowd. But in the back, was this quiet, sour looking boy. So thin and petite looking. And I asked Hideyoshi who he was. That's the boy I wrote you about, he said. The one who served me the cold tea."
Mitsunari's head shot up at those words. He didn't turn to look at her, but he was paying absolute attention.
"So I told him...that was my choice. That was the best. It was the last time we played the game. Because every time afterwards, I'd simply tell him, they weren't going to beat my first choice."
He didn't respond, just sat very still. Not asking any questions, not moving or objecting when Nene leaned down to kiss the back of his head with motherly affection.
"You're still my first choice. And you'll always be the best." She whispered gently, before rising to walk slowly back to the castle.
Mitsunari was certain something had gotten into his eye. Probably a piece of dust. That explained the stinging, and the way they were watering. Really, he wasn't crying. He definately never cried.
(No, I cannot resist the cuteness of Nene and Mitsunari's Mother/Son relationship that the latter would never admit too. Sue me.) And Mitsunari is threatening to take over Masamune Date's place as my favorite character. Why do I like all the stuck up pain in the necks?