Lord Inutaisho stood alone on the balcony, looking out over his lands. The cherry blossoms were just beginning to bloom and he closed his eyes to enjoy the sweet smell of their fragrance. It was a beautiful, sun filled day, a bright and promising morning. He was glad he'd chosen this day for the name ceremony. The fortress was packed to capacity. No one wanted to miss the festivities, no one dared refuse his summons.

He turned and went back into the darkness of his private rooms, one hand absently pulling at his unbound hair. If he went back to the balcony and looked hard into the distance, he could almost see the place where the Sutakasi estate had stood. Inutaisho's eyes were unusually sharp even for a Tai-Youkai. He'd had the estate demolished, what his brother had left of it anyway. All of the clan's treasures and artifacts had burned along with the timbers of the building, he'd ordered nothing be taken from the rubble other than the bodies of Anuki, her children and their loyal servants who'd tried to defend their mistress to the end.

Certainly, there were cousins of the family, blooded well enough to even claim the title of clanlord. Inutaisho's face twisted in a bitter smile. None that had the guts to come to him and ask it. He'd had the bodies burned as was custom in the West and scattered the remains with his own hands into a lake that a certain young woman had once thrown him into.

He sighed, frustrated with himself for thinking of such things on a day like today. As soon as the Sutakasi estate was ready and all the rubble of timber and stone and ash had been carefully cleared away, he was going to plant an entire field of wildflowers. It seemed the only memorial he could think of for her. It was at least something he knew she would have loved.

Quietly, he started down his private stair the audience hall. The guests were gathered, he could hear their voices buzzing excitedly. It was supposed to be a happy day, why was he so overcome with melancholy now? Maybe because it was a happy day and he was going to be forced to smile and put on a gracious face for the sake of appearances. The lord Daimyo must display himself, he thought, irritated by the necessity for ceremony and prestige. Just to give his boy a name. He shook his head, as bound as ever by the ancient traditions.

He was starting new traditions himself. And putting an end to ones that annoyed him. Like ridiculous matters of bloodline and purity. The court knew better than to push him on that one. Knew that to mention the word hanyou in a sneering voice in his presence might be a death sentence. Mentioning the name of his brother to his face absolutely was a death sentence. He didn't want to discuss it, didn't want to discuss the fact that every time he closed his eyes he saw Inoki's face before he died. Again he reminded himself that he had no choice, even if he'd managed bring his brother back from where Seshiko's mind warping spell had taken him, Inoki would want to die anyway after what he'd done.

Inutaisho touched the hilt of Tetsusaiga and smiled thoughtfully. If only you were capable of dealing life as well as death, he told it. As usual, the mystical katana kept its own council and did not reply. A blade that would cut death, now that was something to think about, he reflected. Death was something he did well himself, with or without his powerful ally.

The Azaryu had borne the full fury of his rage. His army had chased Kashikoto's rebellious cowards back to the filthy mountain lairs that spawned them. And then they'd begun the painstaking task of eradicating, slaughtering, every last one of the Azaryu hill demons, right down to the last female with pups.

He wasn't proud of himself when he thought about that. He'd been in the grip of his rage when he'd gone into those mountains to deal revenge and punishment. In retrospect, it seemed excessive. At the time, it seemed to be the answer for the anguish tearing him apart. Youkai justice was blunt and brutal. The clans understood their Daimyo very well now and no one questioned his decision to destroy the Azaryu so completely. The mountainsides had run with blood and still he'd been left wanting more, unable to slake the guilt and grief that raged inside him. If they'd surrendered, he might have spared them. Might being the word in question. Kashikoto had ordered his people to resist to the end, foolish arrogant bastard.

Inutaisho felt a cool smile of pleasure cross his face when he thought of the satisfaction he'd felt when he'd cornered the old lord and torn his head off with his own bare claws. He'd even brought the head back as a momento and left it sitting there to rot on his father's chair so all the assembled clan lords and their whispering yes-men and boys could look at it and know DAMN well who he was and where he stood on the subject of loyalty.

It was barbaric, it was uncivilized, he agreed with that consensus. And he was a youkai lord and it was up to him to decide what was civilized or not. Mercy was something he couldn't afford at the time. Anuki hadn't received mercy from the Azaryu when they'd destroyed her husband. Her son hadn't received mercy in being forced to grow up without his parents and siblings. Inoki was right, the bastard, he thought miserably. I am just like Father when it comes down to it.

He set his face in placid mask and went into the hall. The guests hushed their annoying murmur when they saw him take his place. His eyes roamed impassively over the assembled guests and nobility. "Gracious cousins," he said softly, deliberately making them strain and hover to hear his words. "I thank you for coming today and being part of this joyous event."

Joyous? His cool voice held but a whisper of the sarcasm he felt over the word. Still, it was time for him to put aside the past and look to the future. Inutaisho's eyes fell on his young son laying quietly in his ornate cradle, looking up at him with those golden eyes so like his own. He wondered if the child would favor him or his mother, from the shock of white hair the infant was sporting it seemed likely to be himself. He raised his eyes and found the young woman who was holding his nephew with his unruly black crown so like Inoki's. The girl blushed when she realized the Daimyo was watching her. Pretty, he thought absently, making a note to find out her name. It seemed as if he was still himself, even if he missed Seshiko or at least the idea of her.

He didn't love her, never pretended he did. And he was sorry for her death in spite of what she'd done. In the end, she'd found her own peculiar brand of loyalty to honor. He only hoped to be as lucky with his own. But now it was time for the show. "Gracious cousins," he said again, lifting his son up to hold the boy high over their heads. "I present you today with my son, my clan heir. Give him this name and call it into the wilds, for he is of my own blood and of my own body. I name him Sesshomaru!"