A/N: Nothing new here really. I just felt like doing a little editing on this story, changing the way the chapters were split. It's still the same story, but I added a bit of new content here and there and chapter 6 is all new. Just had to add a little more fluff!
The demon lord stood alone on a windswept hill, watching as the scouting party he'd sent out days earlier made their slow way back to him. His expression was somber as their mission had been a successful one and they had brought in the renegade, alive as requested. Slowly, his heart heavy with a regret he couldn't afford to acknowledge, he turned and went down to meet the returning men.
Five days ago they'd taken this territory back from the rebellious clans, a bloody and tenacious battle had been fought at the foot of these mountains. He himself had led his army into battle and again they had made him fiercely proud. He was pleased to see that his training and leadership had begun to show their benefits. Their losses had been insignificant compared to the rebels. It was bitter moment for him still, not all of his losses had been counted in lives. His eyes met those of his lieutenant briefly before the man turned away out of respect for what his lord must be feeling.
Umani saluted his lord, dropping to one knee and bowing his head in what was custom for one of his clan to acknowledge his commander. He did not want to meet his lord's gaze as he knew the moment had to be painful. He wished again that he had not been successful, but his lord had known what to expect when he sent out his best tracker after the renegade. "We have brought him in alive, sire."
"I can see that," his lord said softly. Umani had been his service for many years, in private, they could dispense with formalities and treat each other as the cousins they were. He rose slowly, averting his gaze out of respect was the least he could offer his general, a man he considered to be a friend. He sensed that his lord would be comforted if they kept the report formal, but he couldn't be entirely sure. No matter how he phrased it, the report was a death sentence for the prisoner.
"Sire," he began, keeping his voice dutiful and emotionless. "We tracked our quarry for two days and two nights before capture. He attempted to elude us by destroying two human settlements in order to cover his trail. I apologize, sire, I was unable to get an accurate count of the casualties as there was no one left alive or recognizable. On the third day of our pursuit we managed to pick up his trail. As you had predicted, my lord, he was trying to reach his home territory ahead of us."
Umani paused, he found it difficult to speak. His lord looked at him steadily. "Please, Umani, continue."
He took a deep breath, willing himself to deliver the facts. "Sire, the renegade reached them before we could intervene. The entire Sutakasi clan has been slaughtered. We were unable to prevent the renegade from killing the rest of his family. I'm, I'm sorry, sire, there was nothing we could do."
His lord turned away. "Anuki and the children too," he murmured. He allowed himself one short moment for grief before turning an expressionless face to his lieutenant. Umani gestured quickly to a lithe demoness named Razani, his first cousin. She stepped forward, holding a bundle cradled in her arms. "My lord, we only arrived in time to rescue the youngest child, Lady Anuki must have hidden him when they were attacked. Razani smelled the baby's milk and pulled him out of the debris. He had some superficial cuts, but is whole and healthy thanks to Razani's nose."
"Commend her," the lord said. His light gaze brushed over Razani as she held the baby and she bowed her head respectfully. Umani continued his report. "We were able to restrain the prisoner from doing damage to himself and have brought him for your disposition."
"Thank you, cousin," the lord favored him with a reference to their blood ties. Even if his lord hadn't been close kin, Umani would have followed him into hell itself, such was the loyalty the youkai lord inspired. "You have had a rough journey, I urge you and your team to take some rest. We move at dawn."
Umani clapped his arm to his chest and bowed to his general. "Sire, what of the renegade?"
"You may leave him with me." The lord's voice was icy and hard. Two strong youkai moved forward, dragging a third. "On your knees, vermin," one of them hissed. They threw him down and he lay there quietly, not speaking although he'd filled their ears with curses during the long trek back to their lord. His long black hair was filthy and matted, old bloodstains covered his clothing like a resume of death. The guards withdrew, Umani gestured roughly at them to follow him and not linger to hear the lord's words.
"Have you got anything to say?" Now that his soldiers were out of earshot, the lord's usually smooth voice roughened with emotion.
The prisoner sat up on his knees. He was one of the few living men would have dared to look the youkai lord in the eye so defiantly. His face was badly bruised, Umani's squad had not been gentle in their task to bringing him to justice. He grinned, showing a few broken teeth in his swollen mouth.
"I have nothing to say to you, Sire," he drawled mockingly, making the title sound like an insult. The demon looked down at him. "It didn't have to come to this, Inoki. Whatever crimes you've committed, you know I would have spared your wife and children."
Inoki spat at him. "Better they should die under my claws than live under your mercy. At least then they died honest deaths, better that than grow up hearing how their great lord spared their miserable lives out of his so called compassion." Inoki started to laugh, but coughed up blood instead, a few of his ribs were shattered. If he hadn't been half-demon, he would have died on the trip back.
"You betray me out of spite, I can understand that. But I thought I knew you too well to ever think you'd kill your own family. Anuki deserved better. She loved you, damn it!"
"She loved you first and best," Inoki muttered. His wife's face as she died was terrible to remember, even in the grip of his massive rage, he knew she'd begged him to spare the children.
"She married you, not me," the demon lord snapped, his patience was at an end. "And I was stupid enough to be happy for the both of you. If I'd known what you were capable of, I'd have slit your throat on your wedding day." With an effort, he fought down his own formidable temper. "An act of rage might be forgiven, but you can't hide your intentions from me, Inoki. Why did you betray me to the rebels, what did they offer you that I didn't? Haven't I always been the first to defend you, even when Father..."
"Shut up," Inoki shouted suddenly. "I resented every single time you defended me, I hated you every time you fought a fight for me. Always there, always the perfect older brother, picking up after the stupid half- breed whelp that should have been drowned at birth. The rebels didn't come to me, I sought them out. I told them I could hand them the great general on a fucking platter if they liked. It would be enough for me just to wipe that superior look off your face for once."
Inoki's brother stood over him, letting his younger sibling's hatred wash over him like a noxious wind. "Inoki, you know I've never thought of you as anything less than my brother. And I know how hard it's been for you, being hanyou."
"You know nothing about it, brother." Inoki's face was sullen and twisted with hate. "You don't know what it's like so don't tell me you know how it feels to be hanyou. You didn't have to live with being your brother. You didn't have to listen to the whispers of the court about how your wife had lowered herself to bear a half-breed's children. You didn't ever have your own father look right past you when you asked him a question. No, brother, that was all mine. Now all I want is for you to look me in the face when you kill me and know that you failed to make me into what you wanted."
The youkai lord drew his katana, it pulsed to life in his hands, power radiating off the blade. Inoki glared at him fiercely, his teeth bared, waiting for the blow. Time stopped around them. As soon as he'd unsheathed the blade, the eyes of every soldier and every camp follower down to the youngest pup in training was were on them. He knew he could have spared himself this last bitter act, any one of his men would have been happy to carry out his order. It was beneath his rank and breeding to execute a half-breed traitor with his own hands.
This particular lord felt differently. He would allow his brother's blood to be spilled by no one less than himself, he who loved the murderous traitor. He raised the Tetsusaiga and brought it down in a graceful arc to take off his brother's head in one clean stroke.
Inutaisho turned away from Inoki's corpse, sheathing the blade without stopping to clean his brother's blood from its edge. His face was terrible to see and dark as the blood that was pooling on the ground. Even his closest lieutenants flinched as he stalked away from them. "Lord?" the bravest of them managed to ask.
"Burn the goddamn body."