Author's Note: I wrote this story as a get-well-soon and birthday prezzie for houses, who managed to injure herself. She's a fantastic beta and truly remarkable person.
by CinnamonGrrl for houses
We were together
Only a little while
And we believed our love
Would last a thousand years
Our first meeting was in battle.
Long had I wished to fight her, the powerful Southern miko called Midoriko. She had cut a swathe through the lower ranks of youkai that might never be recovered; her prowess at the slaughter of we darker beings was matched only by her wisdom, it was said.
"Ha," thought I when she came to engage me in warfare. How wise could she be, if she did not flinch at the mere idea of crossing swords with me? For I am Inutaisho, greatest lord of the West that has ever been, and I am undefeated. She is renowned, but I am a legend. Long years have I ruled my lands, long years that I would not have ended by a human, no matter how powerful a miko she may be.
We met on a fine spring morning. All night she had pressed closer to my realm, her slaughter of the lesser demons unabated, and when she crested the ridge to where I awaited her, she was bloody and tired. The sun was at my back, welcome warmth against the dew and chill, and it fell on her surprised face like a lover's caress.
"At last," I said, watching with patience as she came forward, and wondered why she did not immediately attack. Later, she would tell me that she had been struck dumb and nearly senseless by my beauty as I stood there, haloed by the weak, early sunlight. At the time, however, I thought she must be weary indeed to not press forward in an onslaught to defeat me.
She was not especially beautiful, it seemed to me, but rather ordinary. Plain. Petite in the way of her mortal people, of course, and dark of hair and eyes. Those eyes seemed to burn with a hidden fire, though... intelligence and wisdom, and also a glimmer of mercy...
It was that mercy that was to be her downfall, and mine.
The miko Midoriko seemed to reawaken, then, and squared her slight shoulders. "You will be Inutaisho, then," she commented as if we were meeting at a party.
"I am," I acknowledged with a nod of my head.
"I had expected a beast," she said bluntly. "Like the others."
Ah. So accustomed to the lesser youkai she killed, it had never occurred to her that one so strong as I would be capable of both bestial and human forms.
"Shall this make it harder for you?" I inquired, curious. "That you must attack one who appears to be one of your own kind?"
"Harder, yes," Midoriko replied with an honesty I would learn was ingrained into her being. Then she raised her sword, and her eyes flattened, became purposeful. "But not impossible."
She came at me then, and our swords rang off each other, filling the fresh morning air with the sound of battle. It was a sound I had always taken much joy in, and this day was no exception. We thrust, swiped, slashed and parried. I engaged the whip of power that jetted from my fingers, slicing open her armour, and each touch of her weapon released a bolt of purifying violet that burnt off my protective garb.
We fought for hours, and it seemed that each had finally met his match. Finally, chests heaving with breath and limbs limp from fatigue, we lay on the ground recovering from the exchange of heavy blows.
"I do not wish to kill you," she said suddenly, propping herself up on her elbow and fixing me with a probing stare. "If you will pledge to do no harm to ningen, and control those under your rule from doing the same, I will permit you to live."
I was struck by her gaze, feeling pierced to the core. I am old now, but I was old then, too, and still this miko had managed to surprise me. An extraordinary comment it was, after all. "Why do you not wish to kill me?" I asked, curious.
But she would not answer, only watched me with her fathomless eyes. She was dirty, streaked with blood and sweat, and yet unbeaten. She would fight me to her death, I knew, and suddenly did not want to end the life of such a being, courage and skill being two qualities ever in short supply in this world...
"Only this, I must pledge?" I asked her, getting to my feet. She rose, too, and we stood regarding each other. "You would trust my word?"
"You are honourable," Midoriko stated.
I had to smile. "You know this, how?" I tilted my head to one side in the dog-like way all inu-youkai possess.
"I tested you," she replied calmly. "I allowed many openings in my defense you could have taken advantage of, were you interested in a dishonourable but quick victory. And yet, you did not pursue a single one, though I knew you were aware of them." She brought up a small, grubby hand to scrub at the tracks made by sweat in the filth on her face.
The gesture, remarkably childlike, sent anger surging, pure and hot, through me. It reminded me that I had been fought to an impasse by a human, a female, and one centuries younger than myself. Yes, I had seen those openings, had thought she needed improvement and wondered how she had lasted so long with such flaws in her technique.
"That you would dare test this Inutaisho!" I hissed in fury. "I am inu-youkai, but not a dog whose mettle must be tried!"
My anger distressed her, but there was no scent of fear... she stood before me without a trace of humility or terror, and my anger descended into rage. In a flash I was before her, my hands on her arms. In that moment, I was determined to vanquish her in a way that showed my contempt of her, in a way that had nothing to do with her being a warrior and everything to do with her being female. I wanted to conquer her in the most primal way possible.
I kissed her, hard enough to scrape her lips with my fangs and draw blood, but she only opened her mouth for me. I ground myself against her, but she only melted in my brutal embrace and clasped me tighter. I tore at her clothes, baring her to my hungry gaze and hungrier mouth, but she only pushed the scraps of fabric out of the way and offered herself to me.
My hands grasped her hips, pulled her up to my mouth, and I plundered her, tasting the honey that poured because of me. I was not gentle, and yet her only protest was when I stopped.
Mikos must be pure, it is said; untouched, virginal. Had I had any of my mind left at this point, I would have realized that my actions were to my benefit. Relieving her of her maidenhead would effectively solve my problem, or so I might have thought. But there was nothing of strategy in my actions as I settled myself between her thighs and pierced her deeply, no, no strategy at all. Just this burning need to slake myself in her willing body.
I rode Midoriko hard, kissed her harder. And still she welcomed me, encouraged me, her heels drumming against my back as she urged me to join her in completion. When we were finished, I stared down at her face, flushed pink from lust and exertion. Her eyes were dark as a moonless sky, and even more secretive. I wondered how I had ever thought her plain.
"You have ensorcelled me," I accused softly, even as I could not stop my lips from tracing the line of her jaw.
"Only as you have, me," she replied, her hands gentle as she combed my hair with her fingers.
I disengaged myself from her, ignoring both my pang of loss and her face's expression of the same. "This changes nothing," I said, and stood.
"No," she agreed, standing also, and beginning to pull the rags of her clothing back on. "Nothing is changed."
The was nothing more to say. I took up my sword from where I had so shamefully discarded it on the ground in my passion, and flew north, toward my home. And though I did not look back, still I knew she watched as I left.
I had made Midoriko no promise, but I made no attack on the ningen in my lands of the West. I made my displeasure of it known to those of my youkai subjects who would brutalize the humans, though made no formal decree in my pride's refusal to bend to the request of the miko.
Over the course of the next year, I found my thoughts often returning to her. Virgin no more, what had befallen her? For a despoiled miko is without temple, without congregation, without power.
Or so I believed.
After a year, spring was melting into the heat of summer, and some of my subjects were chafing against my informal prohibition against violence toward humans. Concerned with matters of warfare against the lord of the North, I was not aware that these youkai under my rule were behaving thusly until rumours of their particularly brutal slaughter by the powerful miko from the South reached my ears.
And so, once more, I sought her. When I found her, in a rice paddy of all places, I wondered again at her supposed wisdom, for unless I were mistaken—which I never am—there was a flash of joy, of utter gladness, on her face before it settled into a cool, remote mask.
Then I wondered at my own wisdom, for her joy was matched by my own. The year had been kind to her, and she appeared as serene as at our first encounter. "This Inutaisho has heard lore," I began, "of a miko more powerful even than the famed Midoriko." I studied her a moment. "But Midoriko is maiden, and thus miko, no longer," I continued.
She smiled, then, surprising me. "I had not thought you susceptible to old wives' tales," she said. "Purity is a state of mind, not of body. My power remains undiminished." She paused a moment. "It is, in fact, augmented by my... newfound knowledge."
I will admit that I gaped at her a moment. By ravishing her, I had made her more powerful? Truly, I am a fool, in more ways than merely the one. But she was still smiling at me, and my gaze roamed over her face with a hunger that should have shamed me.
"You have killed my subjects," I said, forcing my attentions to more important matters. "I do not fault you in this, as they were disobedient to me."
Midoriko nodded, but seemed sad. "The human lords clamour for me to defeat you," she said abruptly. "They want your war with the Northern lord to end. Too many humans are trapped within your dispute." She looked away a moment, speaking to the horizon. "If I do not, they will send an army here, and destroy both your realm and the North."
"Do not scoff," she warned, seeing my skepticism. "They are most determined, and their forces are mighty and well-provisioned." She dropped her gaze. "I fear for you," she whispered.
"You insult me," I snapped, drawing myself up.
"I do not," she snapped back. "Each of us has a point at which we are vulnerable, at which we can be defeated." She forced a half-smile. "Even this Inutaisho can fall."
"And yet I shall not," I told her, stepping close and forcing her chin up to meet my eyes. "I shall not fall."
"Do not chance it," she urged. "What compromise can be made with the Northern lord?"
"Compromise?" the word tasted bitter on my tongue. "I, Inutaisho, compromise with no one."
"Do you wish to fight always?" Midoriko demanded. "Do you never wish for peace for your lands, your people? Do you wish for your heirs to inherit a prosperous realm? Or one wracked by death and misery?"
Her hands came up to clasp my arms. "Inutaisho," she said, the first time she ever addressed me by name, "I will not be long for this world. I have held my people at bay for this year, but they will not listen to me forever. Once I am gone, they will attack you. They will defeat you."
Now it was I who clasped her. "What do you mean?" I asked, and my voice was raspy with emotion. "What have you seen?"
"There are omens," she replied, and the sadness in her eyes was nearly my undoing. "It is said that a mighty battle is coming, and though I shall win, I shall also lose."
I was unprepared for the flare of grief within me, of panic and pain and fear. "No," I told her. "It shall not be. I will not allow it."
"Inutaisho," Midoriko said softly, her hand a mere whisper on my striped cheek. "You cannot change this. I accept my fate; always have I suspected that my life would be short."
But I would not hear such words being spoken, and silenced her with my lips. Once more, we sank to the ground. This time, I took her without rage, but no less passion. This time, it was her mouth that worshipped me, and I chanted her name like a saving mantra. When she sank onto me, I wondered where my disgust of humans and loathing of their sacred mikos had fled to; the feelings Midoriko engendered in me held no resemblance to those darker emotions.
Her scent beguiled me; I revelled in it, rubbed her against my skin so I was steeped in it. Her power and knowledge called to me, turning contempt to respect. And when we soared to completion together, I found myself repeating and returning her gasps of love.
"What compromise can you make with the Northern lord?" she asked me again as we lay, languorous and replete, in the tall grasses besides the paddies.
Forcing my pride away, I scrutinized the situation. She was correct; I could not support a war against both the North and ningen. "I do not know," I replied at last, feeling a tinge of despair seep into my euphoria.
"I have heard," she said after a long while, "that the Northern lord's daughter is ripe for mating." She gazed down at me from her position sprawled over my body. "I have heard she is lovely, with eyes of silver and hair of fire."
I stared at her in horror. "She is tiger-youkai!" I exclaimed. "And cold as the ice of her homeland!" Another thought assailed me, and I blurted it out before I could stop myself. "You wish me to wed another?" I growled, pushing her off me to sit up, pulling my clothes on. "An odd sentiment, I feel, after what we have shared here."
Midoriko watched quietly as I dressed, then reached for her own garments. "I do not," she answered at long last. "No more than you wish me to wed another."
"I would kill any who dared," I said flatly, and stood, looming over her. "Know this, Midoriko. I, Inutaisho, will kill any who even think of courting you."
She stood as well, her little hands resting on my chest and reminding me how much smaller she was than I. "I know," she said. "I think only of a way to end this unrest between your lands. Marrying the Northern lord's daughter would bind your realms, and your child would form a basis for peace and unity."
Midoriko took my face in her hands and fixed me with a stare that was unsettling in its intensity. "I want you to prosper, Inutaisho," she said. "I would sacrifice all else to know you are well."
I crushed her to me, feeling her heart pounding against my own. "Then you are a fool," I sighed into her hair, hair that had blades of grass entangled in it from our tryst. "We are both fools."
Within the month, my proposal to the Northern lord's haughty and distant daughter had been received, considered, and accepted. Neither of us were eager for this union, but just as I loved my realm, Akako loved hers, and wished for the carnage and destruction to end.
Just as Midoriko had said, Akako was lovely, and even if she were cold, her beauty was temptation enough for me to concretize our vows on the wedding night. Still, though, it was another face that swam in my vision and another name hovering on my lips when I was undone...