So much of it bubbling beneath the surface it takes a moment for the bitterness to start flowing. It begins in his toes, undulating in waves across every crevice before splintering onto the road mapping his legs, cutting up and up until the cold freezes into a glacier, plonking down in his gut.
He needs it to happen a lot faster if he’s going to withstand the impact of your palm striking his cheek.
And there’s no doubt it’ll hurt. You’re frozen in that vast space between a second and a heartbeat, and Mitsunari doesn’t think he’s ever seen you so alive. Blazing. Torn between hell’s fury and the devil’s wrath. Arm jerked high and hand poised, ready to strike.
He’s prepared for it, despite the curdling in his pulse and the ice in his gut.
“Don’t ever say that to me again.” And you tear away from him so fast, like a whip returning to its master, he feels the echo of a slap ringing out anyway. You can’t look at him, and the ice snaps and huffs as you stagger to his bookshelf, pitched forward, fingers etched too tight into the wood for purchase.
It’s all he hears, your breaths furious, rankling in his ears.
“Shut up. Don’t say a word.”
His breath shakes out of him too, once, twice, before you turn to look at him, red and puffy lining poison-black eyes. It’s the only part still savage when your entire face withers. He has but a beat to summon the ice again before you’ve stalked back, hands fisting into his sleeve.
“Listen to me, Lord Mitsunari. You can’t— you can’t say something like that without realising what it does to the people around you. It’s too cruel. We love you… Lord Hideyoshi loves you. I— I love you.” You gasp against the choke, swallowing, and every word has to be dragged out. “If I don’t see you barreling down the hallway with a book in your hand, my day doesn’t feel right.
“You are important and valuable and a part of this family. We would crumble without you. You don’t know how significant you are to all of us.” Your breath hitches, voice too shaky to go on. He wants to howl because he’s hurt you. “I need you to know that if you suddenly disappeared from this earth it would— it would—” Tears gather again though they don’t fall because girls like you don’t cry; strong girls, fierce girls, “—it would break my heart.”
In a broken rush of air you drop the world into his lap.
He doesn’t know what to do because he has ice in his veins.
So much of it bubbling beneath the surface it takes a moment for his heart to cry out a rhythm to the corners of his flesh. It starts in his feet, shooting out and pulsating so furiously it doesn’t see how his toes curl, cutting off the path and sending the ice hurtling head long into its first barrier and smashing little fractures all over. It back tracks in revulsion because the sensation is so foreign, crashing through the chambers of his veins up into his legs. The ascent is a rocky one, and along the way shards crack and hurl about, whittling the cold down before it reaches his gut.
Mitsunari can’t breathe.
His gut swallows the torrent and a glacier starts to form, a feeling so familiar to his bones it takes a moment longer before the cry reaches it and everything starts to spit and hiss and decompress, and his gut, wound so tight already, spits the ice back out because it no longer wants to be the sanctuary of so much fear. The ice weaves back into his veins and spindles out and out and, bypassing the heart altogether, funnels into his arms and down through his fingers, where it thinks it can make a mockery of how coiled his fists shake.
But Mitsunari can’t breathe.
And the ice shrieks against a blaze so thunderous it jerks back through the sensory paths and twists around his neck. Freezing and freezing.
He can’t breathe, he can’t breathe.
His mind steps in, his breath, short and stiff, steps in, his gut steps in, his toes and feet and arms and fingers step in, you step in, straight into his chest and they all clip and chip away at the stranglehold around his neck. The ice screams and chokes, spittles furiously, and it won’t let go because he is ice, he is nothing without the ice, he needs this ice.
It’s too much. He can’t breathe. It’s all too much.
Suddenly everything bursts.
He can breathe.
Because he feels it, so soft and sweet, against his chest and it makes him want to crumple to the ground and cry because your lips flutter through the fabric to his heart, hushing and cooing the storm.
It starts in his toes then.
Seeping out in lazy flicks, burning and lighting the path and sizzling the blood in his veins. It caresses every nook and cranny, each dip in his muscles, until the aching pool of warmth settles into his gut, and he feels the holding and whispering tendrils of heat fanning out and out. It’s fire. Hot and bright, gentle and misunderstood. And it’s you as well, breathing a fever through his heart, melting the winter and roasting the shards, making it blaze forever and ever until his whole body thaws into you.
What are summer nights? They are forever, with a Blaze of orange against Black and a hot back sticking To the shirt your pulse in. And the sound of the fox Is not distant, its bark. All That is dark is the future. Here is radiance that suggests Via moon and stars. Even at Midnight, the world is alight. I sense the true drunkenness Of this midsummer dream.
God forbid I should lessen France! But it is not lessening her to join her with Napoleon. So let's talk then. I'm a newcomer among you, but I confess you astound me. Where are we? Who are we? Who are you? Who am I? Let's say what we believe about the emperor. I hear you say Buonaparte, accenting the "u" like royalists. I can tell you that my grandfather does better yet; he says Buonaparté. I thought you were young men. But where is your enthusiasm? And what do you do with it? Whom do you admire if you don't admire the emperor? And what more do you need? If you don't like that great man, what great men would you want? He had everything. He was complete. He had in his brain the cube of human faculties. He made codes like Justinian, he ruled like Caesar, his conversation combined the lightning of Pascal with the thunderbolt of Tacitus, he made history and he wrote it, his bulletins are Iliads, he joined the figures of Newton with the metaphors of Muhammad, he left behind him in the Orient words as great as the pyramids; at Tilsit he taught majesty to emperors, at the Academy of Sciences he replied to Laplace, in the Council of State he held his ground with Merlin, he gave a soul to the geometry of some and to the trickery of others, he was legal with the attorneys and heavenly with the astronomers; like Cromwell blowing out one candle when two were lit, he went to the Temple to bargain over a curtain tassel; he saw everything; he knew everything; which did not prevent him from having a simple laugh by his child's cradle and all at once, a startled Europe listened, armies went into motion, artillery rolled along, bridges of boats stretched across the rivers, clouds of cavalry galloped in the hurricane, cries, trumpets, a trembling of thrones everywhere, the frontiers of the kingdoms wavered on the map, the sound of a superhuman blade was heard leaping from its sheath, men saw him, him, standing erect on the horizon with a flame in his hands a resplendence in his eyes, unfolding in thunder his two wings, the Grand Army and the Old Guard, and they saw the archangel of war! Be fair, my friends! To be the empire of such an emperor, what a splendid destiny for a nation, when that nation is France, and when it adds its genius to the genius of such a man! To appear and to reign, to march and to triumph, to have every capital for a staging area, to take his grenadiers and make kings of them, to decree the downfall of dynasties, to transfigure Europe at a double quickstep, so men feel, when you threaten, that you are laying your hand on the hilt of God's sword, to follow in one man Hannibal, Caesar, and Charlemagne, to be the people of a man who mingles with your every dawn the glorious announcement of a battle won, to be awakened in the morning by the cannon of the Invalides, to hurl into the vault of day mighty words that blaze forever, Marengo, Arcola, Austerlitz, Ièna, Wagram! To repeatedly call forth constellations of victories at the zenith of the centuries, to make the French Empire the successor of the Roman Empire, to be the grand nation and to bring forth the Grand Army, to send your legions flying across the whole earth as a mountain sends out its eagles, to vanquish, to rule, to strike thunder, to be for Europe a kind of golden people through glory, to sound through history a Titan's fanfare, to conquer the world twice, by conquest and by resplendence, that is sublime. What could be greater?