Thank you for this request and my apologies for how long it has taken to fill! I’m a slow writer at the best of times and this month has not been the best of times
Mitsuhide had been leaving his favorite teahouse when he saw them from where he stood in the mouth of the small alleyway. She was clearly trying to be kind and keep her distance, and the retainer whose face he recognized but whose name he could not place had a smug, determined look on his face.
“Well, if you’ll excuse me, I really have to be getting back to work,” she said with a laugh that was far more placating than sincere.
“Yes, but I’ll see you–” the retainer called after her as she trotted away, lost in the crowd.
Mitsuhide snorted to himself in amusement, but made a note to investigate the retainer. He was trying to keep away from her, true, but that didn’t mean he was content to see her pursued by some pushy bastard who couldn’t read the irritation that was so plainly written on her face.
The next time he saw them, he was on his way to the armory and saw the retainer hovering around the door to the seamstresses workshop, an expectant look on his face.
“Princess! You really shouldn’t be working here, it’s not fitting for someone of your station,” the retainer said, reaching for her hand, which she slid out of his grip.
“I’m the chatelaine, not really a princess, you know,” she said, kindly but firmly, “and I love sewing, I’d be bored out of my mind if I had to sit around being ornamental all day.”
“But it’s really unsuitable for a noblewoman, who I’d like to make my wife, to be working with such coarse people!” The retainer replied with wholly unwarranted boldness and authority.
Her face twisted into a pained smile. “I’m afraid you have the wrong impression. I’m flattered, but I’m not available for marriage, and the people you think of as coarse do the hard work that keeps your life comfortable, which you should appreciate.”
“I’m sure I can change your mind,” the retainer said, stepping toward her as she stepped nimbly back. “I’m madly in love with you, you can’t treat me so cruelly!”
“I do apologize if my friendliness gave you the wrong impression, but I think of you only as a friend,” she replied neutrally, and turned to go back to her work. “I have to get back to work, and so should you.”
Mitsuhide frowned from the shadows, narrowing his eyes in displeasure. He knew he had no right to guard her or even feel jealous, but he felt the slow spread of fire in his chest in spite of himself. He turned on his heel and carried on, unusually irritated that his investigation into the man had turned up nothing other than that he was young, a decent but not outstanding soldier and clearly not particularly sensitive or bright.
He sincerely hoped that her polite but unmistakable rebuke was enough to get it through the boy’s thick head that she was annoyed by his attention, but he had never relied on hope where observation and action were available. He kept an eye on her as unobtrusively as possible, and often just so happened to be walking the same direction as her more often, teasing her in passing and trying to ignore the warmth in her sunny smile and sweet laughter.
As soon as he was certain that her erstwhile suitor would stay away, he’d go back to his usual routine and put the whole silly affair behind him. He was heading for the castle when he saw them by the gate. She had her hands full of deliveries to make, and looked positively, and radiantly, angry now.
The dullard was trying to take the parcels from her and practically had her pushed to the wall. Mitsuhide laid his hand on the butt of his matchlock and started toward them, but paused when he heard her voice at a volume and pitch that he had never heard before.
“I said no, and no is what I meant. I’ve been polite, I’ve tried to be considerate but since you won’t do the same for me, despite your supposed affection, I’m not going to bother any more,” she snapped scornfully, squaring her shoulders and lifting her chin with a blaze of anger in her eyes.
“But, my lady, I just want–” the retainer stammered, clearly taken aback.
“Was I unclear? Do I need to put it into writing? Send up a signal? I don’t care what you want and I never will,” she shot back with a glare so withering that the retainer practically wilted like a salted slug under it.
“I didn’t mean to–” he sputtered, reaching for her again.
“Touch me again and I’ll shove a needle through your damn eye. Stay out of my way or I’ll make your life as much of a misery as you’ve been making mine, and believe me when I say that you don’t know how far from a sweet little princess I am.” She hissed, sidestepping him contemptuously.
Mitsuhide found himself grinning in genuine pleasure at her display of the same defiance that he had seen in her from the very first night they had met. She wasn’t afraid to stand up to Nobunaga, he reminded himself, there was no way some minor vassal was going to walk all over her for long.
“Why, dear boy have you eaten something bad?” He asked as he sauntered up to them.
“No.” The retainer said quietly, with a hangdog look.
“Oh, Mitsuhide! I was just coming to give you a letter.” She said, and beamed a smile so sunny at him that he wasn’t sure it wouldn’t give him a burn.
“What a pleasant coincidence, chatelaine. Shall I carry some of those? You look rather like a mouse trying to be a pack horse,” Mitsuhide said, offering her a smile in return.
The retainer glanced between them, drooping more with every moment.
“That’s awfully nice of you, but I wonder what the cost of your assistance will be?” She asked playfully as he took the parcels out of her arms.
“Dear me, you do make a simple favor sound so sinister! But I’m sure I’ll think of some kindness you can do me,” he answered lightly.
“Why are you still here?” She asked the retainer in a tone so icy Mitsuhide almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
“I was just leaving.” He mumbled, and shuffled away.
“And stay away!” she said to his back, which caused his shoulders to sag even more.
They turned together and walked in companionable silence for a time.
“A needle through the eye,” Mitsuhide said with amusement, “you know your way around a threat awfully well, Chatelaine.”
“Eavesdropping is a terrible habit, you know,” she shot back, looking stalwartly ahead as he studied the side of her face, watching a pretty blush creep across her cheeks.
“I’m a terrible man,” he said with a laugh.
She looked at him finally, studying him with a keen searching gaze. “I disagree.”
“Well after the carnage I just witnessed, far be it for me to argue.” He replied, and hoped she couldn’t see the hunger in his smile.