Disclaimer:"Inuyasha" and all characters and events therein were invented by Rumiko Takahashi and are her intellectual property. That's not to say that some of them aren't my property in different ways… I'm not making any money from this, but I am having fun.
Author's Note:It's my best friend's theory that Sesshomaru really isn't trying to kill Inuyasha at all. He probably could at any time if he were really trying, but when he had a clear chance, he walked away (or flew away, really), saying it wouldn't be sporting to kill Inuyasha when he couldn't defend himself. He's a demon! Since when do demons care about sportsmanship? And whenever Sesshomaru shows up, Inuyasha seems to learn something new. You know: "I've been doing some research; here's where your sword is." "I can't pull it out of the stone and anvil – er, I mean table – I can't even touch it – can you?" "Your sword can kill a thousand youkai with one swing – what's your problem? Never heard of Kaze no Kizu?" "Hmm, let's see if you can really turn into a full youkai when you don't have your sword and you're about to die." You get the idea. It put me in mind of a quote from Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card – my favorite book, by the way – about enemies and teachers…well, the quote's in the fic, and you don't need to have read the book.
I don't know if my concept of Sesshomaru and Inuyasha's father is quite right, but he never shows up in the show in person, and I don't know when he dies, but please…just accept things as I present them.
I didn't even have to turn around to know whom that voice belonged to. I would have known those rough, deep, strong tones like the thunder and the waves from a hundred miles away; I would have known that scent of fire, steel, dog, and power from the other side of the world.
"What is it you wish, Father?" I said evenly, carefully respectful. Among the youkai that take human form, there were at least minimal standards of behavior, and those regarding filial piety were among them.
"Only to speak with my own son."
"You went looking for me for a heart-to-heart?" My voice was unfailingly calm, but I couldn't stop the sarcasm. No youkai ever seeks out another without some self-serving purpose. Even my father.
"Look at me, Sesshomaru," he barked. Becoming testy, I see.
I could have shown my irritation through petty defiance of this request, but it would have been pointless. As there was no benefit for me in defiance, I showed my filial piety and turned around to face him. He looked much like me when in human form, though the piece of fur he carried over his shoulder as a link to his powerful dog-self was reddish in contrast to my own white-silver. And his face was different: rougher, more weathered, showing not age – for demons like us do not age – but time; harder, angrier, though at the moment that may have been simply because he was annoyed with me. I never show anger, nor any sort of emotion. It would be a waste of energy and a point of weakness to reveal my emotions in my face.
"Yes, Father?" I prompted, as calm and expressionless as ever.
"There is something urgent I must discuss with you," he began. He was on an errand, then, but a verbal one only, so he had not lied. "You know that you now have a younger brother."
Yes, Father, well I knew. In the hut of one of those disgusting creatures called humans there was a mewling, squalling infant boy that would dare to claim to be of your seed. Yes, you had sired a filthy bastard hanyou and dirtied the blood of your great line. "I know that you have another son."
My father was not stupid. He sensed the implication behind my delicately chosen words. "He is your brother, Sesshomaru, and you will not fail to recognize him as such," he warned.
"Yes, Father." My voice was still perfectly even, not betraying the slightest hint of my anger; I had practiced long to keep it so.
"I will not live to see your brother become a man," he continued.
"I doubt anything but that you will live to see a ripe old age, as immortals often do," I replied. I let him read the irony in my words, because I still refused to let my tone express it.
"I can be slain, Sesshomaru," he snapped. "That you know."
I knew it was possible, as it was possible to slay any demon. I simply did not believe that it was possible. I knew, whether it was true or not, that my father was the greatest youkai who ever lived, and a thousand other taiyoukai couldn't bring him down. I did not hero-worship my father; in my mind, it was merely axiom that he was too strong to be killed. But I did not tell him so. "And how are you so sure of when you will die?" I asked calmly. "Did a fortune-teller read your illustrious palm?"
"Contain your acid wit, Sesshomaru," my father said. The sarcasm I must have inherited in part from him. "I am not a fool. Do not ask me how I know what I know. I simply know that I will be dead before Inuyasha comes of age."
Inuyasha. There it was – the name around which the rest of my life would revolve, though little did I know it then. It even surprises me now that there was no grand unveiling of the name of my father's half-breed bastard; it was simply slipped into one of his sentences.
"I will not be able to teach him as I taught you," he went on. "How to fight, how to hunt, how best to use his inheritance."
"And you want me to be his teacher," I stated coldly.
"Yes. You are the only one who can teach him as well as I could have." My father smiled – something I rarely did unless it was in contempt. "I know that my younger son will be a great warrior – greater than any save his own father and brother." Then his face turned grave, almost sad. "He will not disappoint you as a student. Do not disappoint him as a teacher because of whatever scorn you must bear him for being a hanyou and your father's son at the same time."
"Delegate your flea," I said dismissively, "if you want a teacher who will not disappoint."
"Sesshomaru," my father said warningly, "set aside your stupid pride and obey the command of your father."
"Very well," I replied. Cool, even, dispassionate as always, the anger in my chest not a smoldering of fire, but the piercing of shards of ice. "I will be teacher to your son."
"Your brother!" my father corrected hotly.
"My brother," I conceded with carefully concealed distaste. "But I will not be his mentor. I will not be his father."
"I never asked you to be," my father rumbled, his eyes flashing.
Liar, I thought. No, half-liar. You never asked it of me, but you would have, if I had not refused before you gave the command. You wanted me to watch over my little half-breed brother with the stern, protective eye that his father could never cast upon him. You wanted me to guide him as you would have – not to ease his path, but to cast light upon it. I will not. Not for the hanyou whose dirty blood disgraces you, and shames me as well because you are not ashamed.
"What is this inheritance that I must teach him to use?" I asked, bound by duty to obey my father's wishes.
"My sword. Tetsusaiga."
Calm. Face of stone, heart of ice. Show no anger. Cold anger can be used as a weapon; hot anger is only a blinder, impeding the mind.
But my silence in itself betrayed my rage. My father laughed. My anger wanted to strangle him, but that was the part of my mind that I kept tightly leashed. "You too will have your birthright sword, Sesshomaru. Do not think that I have forgotten my firstborn."
A lesser being would have spat at him. "And where is his – inheritance?" I asked calmly.
"And why would I tell you that, when I know you covet it, my son?" my father asked me, a taunting smile hovering around his lips.
"How will I show my – brother – its use if I cannot find it to use it?" I returned, my own smile a cold mask.
"In time – in time, Sesshomaru. Wait until he is ready to learn. As to finding it, I trust to your persistence. And your hunger." My father's smile was real this time, warm and full of something I couldn't quite identify – pride? "My sons will both discover things in their own time, in their own way." He chuckled. "Let Inuyasha find things out for himself – he will be clever and strong; you won't need to coddle him – " (if I snorted softly, unable to maintain my utterly emotionless façade, my father paid no heed) " – but point him in the right direction every once in a while, neh? And let him cut his teeth on sparring with you."
The disgust that saturated every inch of my being was oozing out my words, but I forced my voice to remain expressionless. "I am honored that you have enough faith in my skills to deem me worthy to be your new puppy's chew toy."
"Now, Sesshomaru, watch how you sharpen that tongue, or you may cut yourself," my father rebuked. "And you know I have faith in you – you are the only one in the world other than myself who has both the knowledge and the ability to use Tetsusaiga."
"And yet you will not even entrust to me its location, much less the sword itself."
"Having faith in your skill doesn't mean that I trust you," my father countered. "And yet I am trusting you to teach my own child. I am entrusting his life to you, against my better judgment – don't think that I am blind to your hatred for the mere idea of your hanyou brother. Don't think that I am foolish enough not to know that you would have killed him if I had not commanded you to teach him. You could kill him even so – you could make it look to the gods and my spirit that it was an accident, that you thought you were pushing him no harder than his skill and strength could bear. I know that you could kill him easily – few others will be able to, even when he is young, and when he has reached his full strength, none; you are among the few who will have the ability to kill him at all. But you are my son, Sesshomaru. I could not bear to think that you do not deserve my trust. As I said, I know that my son will be a great warrior. It is my last command to you as your father that you let him become what it is in his blood to be. Let me be proud of my son – of both my sons."
Even I could not hear in my own voice the wells of bitterness that poisoned my mouth as I replied, "Yes, Father."
"Swear it on your blood's strength as a youkai."
"I swear it."
Perhaps my father saw the bitterness in my eyes, though I had trained myself for so long to keep them blank as shuttered windows; perhaps he heard it in my voice, when I had taught it so painstakingly to be as even and silent of emotion as an ice-covered lake; perhaps he sensed it emanating from me where I stood, smelled my icy anger. Or perhaps he merely knew me well enough to know that, though silent, invisible, and imperceptible, the bitterness was there. However he knew, he said quietly, "I know you resent me for this. But I also know that however you go about teaching your brother, you will not disappoint me. I am already proud of both my sons."
A lesser being might have succumbed to emotion at these inspiring fatherly words, falling into his father's arms and weeping as he had not done since his childhood – or, at the very least, exchanged a warm smile with him. I merely raised an eyebrow and said coolly, "Proud of me? I'm touched."
My father smiled wryly and said, "You may think you're made of stone and ice, Sesshomaru, but I know there's a youkai's flesh and blood in there somewhere. I should know – half of it's mine." Then he murmured four lines under his breath, softly but clearly enough that they did not escape my keen hearing:
"As the elder is white, the younger shall be red;
As the elder is ice, the younger shall be fire;
As the elder is poison, the younger is the sword;
As the elder is thirst, the younger is desire."
I raised both my eyebrows this time and commented, "I didn't know you set any store by prophecies and other badly written poetry."
My father shook his head and said irritably, "I don't know how you've managed to develop that horrible, irreverent sarcasm of yours."
I smiled. "I practice it three hours a day," I replied.
I never knew when my father would take my horrible, irreverent sarcasm in good humor. He laughed thunderously, clapped me on the shoulder (either not noticing or intentionally ignoring my wince of discomfort with the affectionate gesture), and said in his deep roar of a voice, "Sesshomaru, you need to find a woman to occupy your time – and soften your heart."
Like the woman who's softened your heart? Like the woman for whose protection and for whose son's inheritance you commissioned the greatest sword in the world, the sword that could destroy thousands of youkai in a single swing? Like the woman whose son's future you are so devotedly providing for after your death, when most youkai would simply leave their offspring to fend for themselves or die? Like the woman who has softened your heart to pain and sorrow, to fatherly pride, to – can I even think the word without breaking the immaculately clear surface of my face with a sneer – love? And – if you are so certain that your life is soon drawing to a close – is it for this woman that you will die? But I did not voice any of the bitter thoughts that ran through my head. Instead I merely turned aside his words with more sarcasm: "She'd have to find it first."
And I never knew when my father would take my horrible, irreverent sarcasm seriously. "No," he said gravely, a little sadly. "She'd just have to thaw it out a little." He looked at me appraisingly, and I was disgusted and disturbed by the pain in his eyes. Pain is a weakness, and it had always been an axiom in my world that my father was strong. But if I were to trust his mysterious knowledge that soon he would die – if I were to accept that he loved a human woman and their half-breed whelp – if I were to acknowledge this pain and regret in his eyes – I would have to let it into my understanding that my father could be weak. "You're so cold," he said simply. "Silver and crystal, stone and ice. Like your mother."
If I had been a lesser being – if I had been Inuyasha – I would have lashed out in anger, shouting, "How dare you speak of my mother?" Or perhaps my eyes would have gone closed up inside and I would have snapped, "My mother died a long time ago." But my eyes are always shuttered, and I never show petty rages. To show in some way that my father had touched a nerve would be to give him the misleading idea that I could feel pain – or, for that matter, feel at all. "Entertaining nostalgia," I coolly asked instead, "or trying to provoke a reaction?"
"Oh, just the nostalgia," my father said casually.
"I have no time for that, and based on your certainty that you will be dead soon, neither do you," I pointed out mildly. "You have said nothing of the sword I will inherit."
The wistful look passed from his face and his demeanor became stern once more. "A Tetsusaiga for the younger…a Tenseiga for the elder. Only the other is the equal of each. Toutousai is their maker – go to him for your sword."
"And what power did that fire-breathing lout give Tenseiga, to make it Tetsusaiga's equal?"
"My sons will both discover things in their own time, in their own way," he repeated. "I trust to your thirst, my elder son." He smiled with that strange warm, proud expression. "I know that as I have nothing more of importance to say, you would rather I left. You wouldn't dream of appearing impatient, but I know that idleness tries that practiced patience of yours. But before I bid farewell forever, know this: My younger son and his mother were not the first ones I ever loved. Love is common among humans and rare among demons, yes, but the human woman who bore Inuyasha did not teach me how to love. I knew long before. You are my son, my firstborn, Sesshomaru, and I love you."
What reply was I, who had never loved and never planned to, supposed to make? As And I, you was out of the question, then, I honor you as my father? Was that even true? Now that I knew that my father was weak – weak enough to die; weak enough to love – how could I find it in myself to honor him? My hesitation betrayed my indecision. Father laughed. "I know, I know – you think you cannot return the sentiment. You already have it in your heart to love, my son. In time, you may learn to understand it; it may take your full youkai's lifetime to learn to express it."
It would have been futile and disrespectful to argue the point; Truth and I knew that my father was wrong. "Farewell, Father," was the only reply I made.
"Farewell, Sesshomaru, my son," he said, and in a clap of light and a roar of thunder, he was gone. Perhaps I only imagined that in the distance somewhere, I could see a great copper-colored dog charging across the sky. My father had always loved spectacle.
Teacher for the brother whose very existence I hated. Once again, the thought of callously, carelessly letting him die or even killing him myself crossed my mind. What do I care what becomes of the hanyou bastard?, I thought contemptuously. Am I my brother's keeper? Unfortunately, yes – my father had appointed me just that. How could I teach him when I scorned and despised him?
By scorning and despising him, of course. A wise man and warrior once said, "There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will ever tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the only rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you."
Very well, Inuyasha. I set myself against you; I will test you, taunt you, wear you out to your breaking point, wound you grievously – though never so much that you cannot heal – and enjoy the feel of your blood on my claws and the smell of it in my nostrils. I will show you where you are weak, tell you how I am stronger, and if you are as great a warrior as my father promises me you will be, perhaps you will learn how to become strong. I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher.
References:The "I practice three hours a day"/ "You need to find yourself a girl" exchange was inspired by a similar conversation between Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Hilarious movie, that.
The thing that a wise man and warrior once said ("There is no teacher but the enemy…") and "I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher" were in fact said by Mazer Rackham in Ender's Game, so it's kind of true that "a wise man and warrior" said it…he was a soldier. Orson Scott Card wrote that bit of profundity, not me.
Notice the little biblical reference: "Am I my brother's keeper?" I thought it worked.
And the badly written poetry – that's all me.
Author's Note II:AFTER YOU LEAVE A REVIEW, OF COURSE, please check out some of my other fics. The poetry-in-prose vignette "Dust and Butterfly's Wings" should keep Sesshomaru fans happy; for Harry Potter readers, there are a bunch of fics featuring everyone's favorite (or second-favorite, if you like Sesshomaru better) misunderstood bad guy, Tom Riddle/Voldemort; and for lovers of Lord of the Rings, I've written boatloads of Frodo-angst; and I've even got a few Ender's Game fics on the off chance that some of you have actually read it…