Most people who had ever had contact with Mitsunari swore that the young boy was almost perpetually frowning. While his foster brothers spent their time running around the estate, playing soldiers or ninjas (“Just like Lady Nene!”) or simply running around making a mess of themselves, Mitsunari was more than satisfied to declare their games “stupid” and sit quietly; reading, studying, or pretending to do one of the two while he listened to the adults talk. Nene was more than happy to let Mitsunari follow her around, allowing him to observe much of what went on around the adults while only occasionally being forced to go outside and play with Kiyomasa and Masanori (because Nene thought he needed the exercise, as if merely trying to keep up with her weren’t a feat in itself), an event which was usually followed shortly by Mitsunari stumbling back inside with a pair of skinned knees, dirty clothing, and a very convincing set of tears that caused Nene to keep him inside for days.
It was while he was nursing a fresh set of scrapes that Nene announced to the three boys that they were having visitors. “They have a boy your age, too,” Nene told them, “I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun together!”
Mitsunari was unsurprised and didn’t really care when the visitor’s son was promptly snatched up by Kiyomasa, declaring himself “bandit captain,” and making Masanori and the visitor the local law enforcement. They spent the better part of the afternoon running around the gardens, the more nimble Kiyomasa always staying ahead of his pursuers, be they his playmates or the annoyed household staff. Finally, a bump on the head brought the bandit terror to a standstill, causing Nene to sweep him inside as the tears threatened to fall. The visitor, being freed of the game, found Mitsunari sitting inside.
“Do you wanna play with us?”
“No. Kiyomasa’s games are stupid.” Mitsunari did not hesitate to give the stranger his exact opinion of his foster brother.
“So, what do you like to do?”
“Oh,” the visitor sat down beside him, “What kind of stuff?”
“Stuff I like to do.”
“Oh.” A pause. “Is it fun stuff?”
“I guess so.”
“What are you doing right now?”
“Nothin’. Lady Nene was giving me a math lesson, but then that dummy bumped his head and she had to go take care of him instead.”
“Is it hard math?”
“Not really. But Kiyomasa can’t seem to do it anyway. And Masanori’s no good at anything that doesn’t involve hitting things. That’s why Lady Nene gives me lessons all by myself.”
“Wow, cool. Do you take lots of lessons?”
“Yeah. She’s teaching me all kinds of stuff. History and literature and science. She says my calligraphy needs work though. I don’t see the problem; I can read it fine. And I’ve started learning the tea ceremony from her, too. Lady Nene says I make the best tea in all Japan.”
“The tea ceremony? That’s not fair. They told me I couldn’t learn it until I’m older.”
Mitsunari beamed, “Lady Nene says I’m so good she’ll teach me anything I ask.”
The visitor sat up straighter, “Maybe you can ask her to teach me. I’m Yukimura, by the way. What’s your name?”
“I’m Mitsunari. That kinda sounds like fun. Maybe she could give us both a lesson at the same time.” Mitsunari was interrupted by a clumsy set of footsteps and the return of the bandit captain.
“Hey, dummy! Now you’re playing with us too!” Masanori yelled at him.
“Hey! Who are you callin’ a dummy? And I don’t wanna play your stupid game! It’s stupid!”
“Lady Nene said you have to come play with us,” Kiyomasa said with his best air of authority, “And I say that we’re bandits and you and Yukimura have to come catch us!”
“That’s stupid! She didn’t say anything like that!”
“Well, she didn’t…” Kiyomasa stammered, “But she said we have to play with Yukimura, and since Yukimura’s playing with you that means you’re playing with us!”
“No I’m not!”
“Yes you are!”
“Hey Mitsunari?” Yukimura ventured into the argument, “Why don’t we just play with them for a little while? And then maybe we can go find Lady Nene.”
Mitsunari frowned and crossed his arms, but relented, “Fine. But only because Yukimura asked me to, got it? It’s still a stupid game!”
Within 15 minutes, Nene was carrying Mitsunari back inside, on the verge of tears thanks to Kiyomasa pushing him off one of the ledges in the garden, causing him to scrape both knees and an elbow as he fell. It really did hurt, but in his tearful state Nene did promise to give him Yukimura lessons together in anything they wanted the next day.