— NEW —
A refreshing sunrise streamed into a simple room. After having breakfast and getting dressed, Shanao took a deep breath, breathing in fresh morning air. Shortly before staying here, Shanao left Hiraizumi to join her brother, Yoritomo Minamoto, after his defeat at Ishibashiyama.
"Are you awake, Shanao?"
"Brother! Good morning!"
Yoritomo, who had awoken earlier, returned to the room. In his hand he held a scroll of paper.
"I have sent out many messages to military leaders throughout the land to come to our aid. This reply just came today."
Yoritomo quickly sat down and unrolled the scroll of paper. Shanao watched as Yoritomo's eyes scanned the page. She wondered if the sender had agreed to join them or not.
"What does it say?"
"They will come as soon as they can."
Shanao's face lit up upon hearing the good news. The more people that joined her brother, the more the momentum would shift away from the Heike.
"Still, I'm not optimistic."
"It's only one reply. I won't know where we stand until we hear back from more of the generals."
Yoritomo's tone was plain. His eyes seem to be quietly looking out in front of him, calmly assessing the situation. Shanao's expression tightened and she bowed her head.
"It's just as you say, Brother. I apologize for getting too excited."
"If you want to be on the safe side, you can't let your guard down. We also don't know what the Heike have been up to."
Shanao watched as Yoritomo's stared intently at the ground, his mind seemingly racing with a thousand different thoughts and strategies. In awe of him, she lowered her gaze.
"What's wrong, Shanao?"
"You were thinking about something just now. Are you scared of what lies ahead?"
Shanao shook her head as he stared at him. However, she knew her brother's intuition was not wrong.
"I came here to help you, Brother. There is nothing to be afraid of. It's just…"
"I'm just a little worried about you. You've been working so hard ever since we got to the inn. You must be tired."
From the first time they had met, to their reunion on Mount Ishibashi, Yoritomo's strict attitude never broke, not even once. He stood as Genji's son, driven by a fanatical desire to overthrow the Heike and crush any obstacle that stood in his way.
"That's right. But if we don't act now, we'll lose our chance."
"I have no time to rest. The situation changes from moment to moment."
Shanao opened her mouth to speak, but she knew no words could reach her brother.
"Hey, Brother! I was going to eat that!"
"You're the one who's always saying finders keepers, Tadanobu."
From the next room the voices of the Sato brothers, Tsugunobu and Tadanobu, could be heard as they ate breakfast.
"Oh c'mon now, don't pout."
"I'm your younger brother! You're supposed to take care of me!"
"Fine, fine, I'll give you half."
Shanao wanted to tease the two of them for acting like children, but remembering she was next to her brother, she thought better of it.
She expected her brother to get up and scold the Sato brothers for the noise, but looking up at him, his expression wasn't what she had expected. The sharpness disappeared from Yoritomo's face, and instead he looked slightly flustered and embarrassed.
The change was so slight, it could have easily gone unnoticed. Unconsciously Shanao's lips curled into a soft smile.
"What is it, Shanao?"
It was only natural for brothers to tease each other like the Sato brothers were doing in the next room. Still, because Shanao and Yoritomo hadn't been raised together, they both knew it would take time for them to establish a relationship like that. Perhaps that's why Yoritomo looked so embarrassed just now.
"Sorry, Brother. I'll tell them to be quiet later."
"But they feel just as strongly as I do. We all want to work together and bring victory to you in the next battle!"
As if to solidify her own determination, Shanao gave a small nod after she finished speaking and Yoritomo's face returned to its normal, harsh contenance. Shanao couldn't help but stare at his radiant appearance.