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even to our deaths, i would say yes

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"I have to leave," Renji says, and Seiichi's lips purse.

"Why," he says flatly.

"You know why," Renji replies.

"It's merely a fantasy."

Renji smiles. "Even so, I intend to leave. I don't want to spend the rest of my life here, just waiting for death."

Seiichi takes ahold of Renji's hand. "Then I'll come with you, Genichirou too. Wait for us."

Renji says "thank you" to the retreating form of Seiichi's back.

*

Genichirou is on patrol duty this month, but Seiichi tracks his group down in three days. He comes into the camp at daybreak, the crest of the land painted onto his face, and is received readily.

"I assume you have an urgent message to deliver," the patrol leader says, and Seiichi affirms it.

"Yes, I need to speak to Sanada." He is the most skilled of his generation, the man who has yet to fail the governors, and so they have no reason to refuse him.

*

"Seiichi," Genichirou begins when he sees Seiichi, his surprise evident on his face.

"Genichirou. Renji plans to," he replies. There is no need to finish the sentence, and he would not, in any case, to prevent from being overheard.

Genichirou frowns. "How soon?"

"He is just waiting for us now."

"I'm still on patrol duty."

"When will you be at Nagano?" Seiichi asks.

Genichirou runs through the patrol schedule mentally. "We should be there in a fortnight. You—"

"Yes. That's the easiest way, isn't it?"

Genichirou exhales. "Yes."

It never crosses his mind not to join Seiichi and Renji.

*

The only personal effect of his that Genichirou requests for them to bring is the remnants of his family stone. It's the last link he has to Before, the last symbol of what his family had once been, and they can understand, because Genichirou is the one of them who most follows the old ways of the warrior.

Seiichi is surprised that Renji brings only the copy of The Book of Five Rings he inherited (still in good shape despite its age), when he's worked so hard for everything else he now has. Renji merely smiles, says, "I won't need them either way.", and Seiichi understands what he does not say. They'll have them if we reach there, and if we don't, then I won't have need of them anyway.

Seiichi brings along no personal effects. He has none, and he needs none as long as Genichirou and Renji are by his side.

*

They meet Genichirou at Nagano. It's an easy journey, not only because they are travelling light but also because Seiichi and Renji are two of the three strongest in their generation.

Genichirou is the third.

They send him the signal at nightfall, and after he's sure everyone else is asleep, Genichirou goes to join them.

"Are you sure you'll be able to continue until at least daybreak?" Seiichi asks.

"Yes," Genichirou replies. He's gone longer without sleep.

Renji takes Genichirou's hand. "I'm sorry. Thank you for coming with me."

Seiichi looks at Renji, says, "What else could we have done, Renji?" Both Genichirou and Renji know it is not a question seeking to place blame but rather a statement of helpless love. Seiichi, exceptionally strong and effortlessly assured, has no weakness but this, and when Seiichi clawed his way back to full health after nearly a year, after nearly being sent to the Plots, Genichirou and Renji had agreed that they would never let themselves become a burden on Seiichi.

Renji had known that this could be the only outcome, and he had done so anyway. He wants a life befitting them all, one that would allow Seiichi to garden and Genichirou to study what little is still known about the ancient arts; one in which Seiichi's smile would not be the rare flower it currently is, in which Genichirou's belief in honour and dignity would not subject him to derision and contempt.

Renji wants, and so he is willing to sacrifice the secure lives (as much as lives can be in this kind of world) they have for the world that could be. He is willing, as long as Genichirou and Seiichi are with him, as long as they can be freer than the wind together, because he trusts that the three of them together can overcome anything.

It would not be worth it, anyway, without Genichirou and Seiichi.

11.05.29