Daimyo's Lover 01
A/N: Any part of the story told in first person narrative is Inutaisho recalling a memory. Also, this story is undergoing a serious revision. I'll be posting the revised chapters as I finish them.
I think I was three, maybe four years old. Hell, even I'm not sure anymore. It was long ago and seems far away now. One thing I do remember for sure is that even when I was that young I was a rotten, disobedient whelp. Always into something, damn near had to tie me down to keep me still. I couldn't help being curious; there was always so much to do, so much to see in the fortress.
My room couldn't hold me and that night was no different. I slipped from my bed to sneak past the old woman who was supposed to keep an eye on me as I slept. Yeah, they'd figured out by then that I needed a guard to keep me from prowling around at night. The old bag assigned to watch the hell-child that particular evening liked to embalm herself in cheap sake. I can still recall the reek of it on her breath as I crept out the door.
The stone floor was like ice under my bare feet, but I wasn't concerned about getting cold. I wasn't concerned about getting lost either. Damn, but the winters always seemed endless when I was a child. I guess it was a matter of perspective. A child as young as I was couldn't understand the turn of seasons; couldn't know that spring would always follow winter's darkness.
Reasoning was hardly by strong point then. I learned the hard way about thinking things through. And so it was little more than instinct that guided my feet that night, instinct and a fine sense of smell. I wanted to find my mother's rooms, you see. I was just a child after all. I wanted my mother, the comfort of her scent and the touch of her hand.
You want me to tell you about her? The memories are faint now, bleached away by years and a lot of trying to forget what happened. She was beautiful, but I know that's probably not much of description. Her hair was white, pale and soft as clouds. It flowed over her shoulders like fresh cream and she always smelled so good.
I remember she had a dimple in her right cheek, you could see it when she smiled. She didn't have a lot to smile about but I remember it just the same.
Her eyes were the same color as mine, same color as my son's eyes. You know, people always say that Sesshomaru favors his mother in looks, but I can still see a lot more of his grandmother in him. He got lucky. He inherited her grace and poise, her ability to hold an expressionless face no matter how angry he gets.
As for me, I look like my father except for her hair and eyes. Thank the gods that's all I got from him.
Anyway, I was telling you about my mother. About that night, the time I wish I'd stayed in bed. I found my mother's rooms easily enough. When you've got a nose like mine, you can pretty much always find what you're looking for. I picked up the faint traces of mother's scent and followed it right to her door.
You'd have thought that it would have been locked or something. You'd think than some guard or servant would have been posted in the outer apartments so that something like what happened to me wouldn't have happened at all.
Maybe they figured nobody in their right mind would have gone in there but they never figured on me.
I entered her rooms quietly, hoping that she was still awake. Perhaps sitting by the fire, ready to tuck me into her warm arms and whisper stories to me as I fell asleep. It was quiet, only a low flickering fire and I decided that she was probably asleep. It didn't matter, I was just as happy to climb into her wide, soft bed and cuddle up against mother's sleeping form.
I was a just child, after all.
So I didn't hesitate to open her bedroom door, starting to feel the chill in the air and thinking only about warm fur blankets and soft pillows. I was surprised to see my father there. You'd think I would have known better, or at least had the sense to run away when I saw him. I guess I must have been too shocked by what he was doing. I wonder if it would have made any difference if he hadn't seen me.
He was standing in the middle of the room, shirtless so that I could see the hard, powerful muscles of his arms. He had a big and heavy build for a youkai, like a bull ox. His hair was black as his evil soul, tangled and wild like a stormy night. I think his features might have been called handsome if they weren't always twisted in some kind of cruel expression. His eyes were always like black flames, alive with a burning inner hatred or sadistic glee.
Yes, I was terrified of him, then that night and for years afterward. I've never been afraid of anything else in my life. Not one fucking thing. The terror that bastard inspired in me burned out my ability to ever fear anything else. There aren't words enough for me to tell you how much I still hate him to this day.
My mother was naked, caught against my father's body by one cruel hand wrapped tight around her throat. His face was buried against her neck, that's why he didn't see me, didn't look up when I entered the room. He was standing behind her, the claws of his free hand raked down the front of my mother's body and left long crimson welts from the pearly white skin of her breasts to her soft belly. Her eyes were tightly closed and I could see in her face how much she loathed his touch.
As his claws scratched her over and over, her lips trembled in pain and tears spilled down her cheeks. It was then that he looked up and saw me, his mouth smeared red with her blood from where his fangs pierced her skin. He smiled at me then.
"Well, my dearest wife. Look who's come to pay us a visit."
I should have run.
Her eyes snapped open at his words and she looked at me with horror written all over her face. "Inutaisho," she said softly. "Go back to your room. You shouldn't be here."
My father's cruel laugh kept me rooted to the floor. He rested his chin on her shoulder, his fingers still stroking my mother's breasts. "Why shouldn't he be here darling?"
He always called her darling, dearest, some other loving term. Never by her name, I think he did it just to emphasize his own amusement at having forced her to be his wife. His eyes glittered at me while he pinched her nipple hard enough to make her gasp.
"A child's proper place is with his parents."
"Go," my mother said again. Her eyes begged me to leave.
"Don't you move, brat," my father snarled. He shoved my mother away from him so hard that she fell to the floor, staring up at him with a pitiful, pleading expression.
"My lord, I beg you!"
My father ignored her, grabbing me by the arms and hoisting me into the air. My small hands had balled into fists when he threw my mother on the floor. "Defiant, are you, my little white haired son?" he purred sadistically. "That's good, this will be educational. I'm going to show you how to make a bitch learn her place."
He carried me over to the bed and dropped me. I crouched on the pillows, not understanding why he wanted me here now. He'd always kicked me out of the way before, ignored me otherwise. I think he kept me there that night simply to amplify her pain and make me sick with fear of him.
Smirking at my mother's stricken expression, he started to remove his clothing. My mother whimpered and tried to crawl away from him before he grabbed her by the hair and pulled her to her knees. "Now, my love," he told her kindly. "I'd better not feel any teeth this time or your little son over there will feel my hand."
"Please," she whispered, "not in front of the child. Have you no decency at all?"
"I thought you knew me better than that," he hissed, growling as he gagged her fiercely, forcing her to submit to him. After a few hard thrusts at her mouth, he pushed her away with a satisfied grunt, breathing raggedly and grinning at her distress.
I won't describe what he did to her next; I've spent too many years trying to forget. I should have closed my eyes, he probably wouldn't have even noticed. He didn't notice when I covered my ears to block the sound of her sobbing, her voice begging him to send me away even as he held her face to the floor. Finally he let her go with a guttural moan and reached down to stroke her cheek.
"Thank you, my dearest," he whispered, his voice mockingly gentle.
After he left us, me frozen in confusion and her weeping, I dared creep from the bed and comfort my mother.
"Don't cry, mother," I said, touching her hair with my little child hands, my puny claws barely blunt tips at that time. "When I'm bigger, I'll take you away from him. I'll kill him for you, I promise."
She stroked my face with cold fingertips. "Don't say that, Inutaisho. Just promise me you won't grow up to be like him, you won't give in to the darkness."
"I promise," I told her, knowing I'd kill him someday.
I would. I did…
She died not long after that. On an icy winter night, she slipped and fell from the tallest tower. I told myself it was an accident, but in my heart I always knew she'd simply had enough, more than any living creature could bear. My father went into a magnificent rage over it, furious that she'd found a way to escape him at last. I watched it all and didn't shed a single tear.
I'd promised to be strong and not give into the darkness.
I always keep my promises.
He turned, his eyes narrowing as he identified the source of his name. "Naota," he answered, letting the chill in his voice dictate his mood to his cousin.
Naota glared at him, folding his arms across his chest. "Where the hell have you been? He's been looking for you; I've been looking for you. You were due back from patrol hours ago. Don't tell me you got lost!"
"I never get lost," Sesshomaru said coldly. He really didn't feel like dealing with his hanyou cousin right now. "Unlike you, I can always find my way."
Naota made a rude noise as he fell into step with him. It had been years since he'd gotten lost anywhere, in the fortress or the valley, even the far reaches of the forest. Sesshomaru was being a colossal prick...again.
"Okay, you didn't get lost. You just like pissing off the Daimyo and pulling back-to-back patrols? He told you to..."
"I know what he told me," Sesshomaru answered in a dangerous voice. "I don't need you to remind me, Naota. Mind your own damn business."
The hanyou sighed. This was going nowhere and he was sick of trying to keep his uncle and his cousin from fighting. "I don't really give a damn what you were doing. The council started twenty minutes ago and you were supposed to be there."
Sesshomaru stopped. He was tired and dirty; right now he just wanted a bath before supper. There was no way he was going to go running in there like a pup and sit at his father's side, pretending to care about what the councilors and advisors had to say. "They don't need me there, I'm going to go take a bath and then get something to eat. I've been out on patrol duty for three days."
Groaning, Naota watched his intractable cousin stalk away. Just great, now he had to go back and report that yes, my lord Daimyo, your son has returned safely. No, my lord Daimyo, he won't be joining the council today. Yes, my lord Daimyo, he's in a royal snit and probably was late deliberately so that he wouldn't have to show up for the meeting.
Then he'd duck out of the way while his uncle shouted and threw things for a minute or two. Councilors who had any brains would make a run for it, the ones who weren't fast enough might get singed by Inutaisho's temper. Personally, Naota loved watching his uncle go off, especially when there were stiff-necked court nobles around to take the brunt of his notorious temper.
He rarely hurt ever anyone seriously and his tantrums were usually all smoke and fire. The Daimyo could freeze a room solid with his lack of response when he chose to do so. A cold, calculating look would light his eyes as he made important decisions, weighed choices and options before executing a calm, logical line of defense.
Naota grinned. That was where Sesshomaru got it all right, that unreachable sense of superiority. Gone were the days when he would have engineered a nasty prank or two to bring his cousin down a notch. There were better ways of dealing with it now, and the most satisfying course of action was for Naota to simply not return to the council room. It would only interrupt the proceedings and it wouldn't resolve anything.
Instead, he thought he might go out for a quick run around the valley, maybe a swim in the lake. Let Sesshomaru be the one to deal with his angry father and take the consequences for his truancy. For angry the Daimyo would certainly be, fuming in fact, when his meetings were over and he found out that Sesshomaru had returned to the fortress and then gone off for a damn bath when he should have been reporting to his father.
Idiots, he thought, smiling a bit. Probably the two most stubborn dog demons ever born...and they're my only family.
Somehow, he was always pushed in between them, either as peacemaker, advocate, or instigator. Let them sort it without me this time, the hanyou thought with a grin. As much as he adored his temperamental uncle and respected his icicle of a cousin, he'd had enough of being caught up in their clash of wills.
His uncle had been in a foul and restless mood lately and he mentally shook his head at Sesshomaru's attitude. He just seemed to need to bring the Daimyo's displeasure down on himself, provoke his father's temper. Not for the first time, Naota wondered how things would have been different if Sesshomaru's mother had been around to diffuse the relationship.
He snorted softly to himself, pushing open the gate and gazing out over the green valley. Not far from the lake was a field of wildflowers and a memorial to his long-deceased family. Naota didn't like to dwell on a past he had been too young to remember, he didn't like to think about how his life might have been if his own parents had raised him with his siblings.
The Daimyo had raised him with affection and love, treating his nephew more like a son. That rankled in the heart of his real son and had to be the true reason for the tension that always defined them all.
From what Naota knew of Sesshomaru's mother, she wasn't the kind of woman who had been a calm influence anyway. It was also a matter of fact that she had been the reason for his family's destruction. Perhaps Inutaisho treated him this way because he still missed his brother. Or it was out of guilt for the intrigue that had taken them and apology for the massacre. Naota shrugged, he couldn't find it in his heart to resent Inutaisho or Sesshomaru for the tragedy that had left him an orphan.
It was only fate. And Naota respected the bonds of fate that had tied him to his cousin and uncle more fiercely than to the memory of his dead family. He was brother and son to them; they were brother and father to him. He didn't need anything else; he would stay at their side.
Namichi grinned to herself, listening to Naota babble on about some obscure piece of history he was reading. The ancient scrolls that had been collecting dust in the lower levels of the fortress since before he was born fascinated the hanyou. She herself sat and polished her sword, something definitely more useful.
She didn't care for the dusty smell of the parchment and skins when Naota unrolled them and she didn't want to learn the ancient kanji they were written in. But she liked the sound of Naota's voice as he read them aloud, more for his own benefit than hers, and it was a good enough way to wile away her free afternoon.
"Look at this," he said, getting excited as he pointed to a faded bit of ink. "This tells the story of a great invasion, centuries ago. The youkai that wrote this reported how his people fought for ten days and nights to protect the human settlements of this territory."
"And this is relevant how?" she smiled, putting aside her blade. She pulled out a piece of armor next; it had been nicked up in her last patrol when she'd been attacked by some kind of serpent oni. Namichi grimaced as the armor still stank of the creature's vile blood. Naota, of course, was oblivious to the smell, his nose never having been as sensitive.
He sighed, looking at her like he wanted to shake her. "If you read the scrolls, you'd see that these invasions are cyclic, they come every fifty or so years. No wonder we've been having so many problems with foreign youkai trying to invade the West. I'd like to know what the reasons are."
"You're too curious for your own good, Ta-kun," she answered. "What do the reasons matter? We'll fight them off like we always do."
Annoyed, the hanyou got up and went over to another stack of moldy, smelly old scrolls. "Some of these talk about humans and youkai working together," he said seriously. "It's entirely possible, centuries ago, our ancestors worked with humans to defeat a common enemy. Doesn't it bother you that now humans flee from the descendants of the people who once protected them?"
"Humans are stupid," Namichi said. It didn't matter that much to her, as long as whatever humans she encountered were properly respectful of the Daimyo. In the far reaches, down by the borders where inuyoukai presence was considerably thinned, humans still attacked anything that looked the least bit like a demon.
The girl snorted. As if a common oni could be confused with an inuyoukai warrior. She was well aware that some of the other clanlords didn't discourage their people from playing with the peasants. As it was well known that any such abuses of the humans might reach the Daimyo's ears and bring down his wrathful disapproval, mass murder was rare and any excesses were kept discreet.
Naota blinked at her. "Just because you think they're stupid doesn't mean that they don't deserve to live. The Daimyo doesn't think that way."
"I think I liked you better when I thought you were an idiot and your main goal in life was to annoy Sessh," she grumbled.
He grinned wickedly at her. "I've never abandoned that goal," he said, his eyes twinkling. "You should see the look on his face when I bring this stuff up in front of him. He looks like something foul was going on under his nose but it kills him that he can't say anything in front of the Daimyo."
"Where's Jano got to?" Namichi asked, changing the subject. Naota's obsession with youkai history was starting to get on her nerves.
"Don't know," Naota answered, distracted by his reading. "Off with some girl, most likely."
Namichi shook her head. Their cousin was well on his way to getting a reputation like his uncle Izitaki. He'd already been challenged four times this month over someone being offended by his indiscretions. Luckily, the Daimyo had put his foot down on the subject and declared that a formal challenge was no way to settle the disputes of lovesick young demons.
Jano had just grinned, taking the reprimand his commander, whom also happened to be his father, had handed down while continuing with his ambition to seduce every female he met.
"Jano is such a pig," Namichi said mildly. Stupid giggling girls, either servants or well bred young ladies of the court, Jano played absolutely no favorites in his affections. She'd even heard rumors that he'd gone down to human villages to make eyes at the maidens there. If so, he was risking more than just another reprimand. Inutaisho had bluntly told him to leave the humans alone before the fortress was overrun by a swarm of half-demon offspring.
Naota had told her about that one, still laughing over the look on Jano's face when the Daimyo had cornered him. Inutaisho had quietly pointed out to the rebellious Jano that hanyou children weren't going to be accepted by the families of the girls he seduced, and it was very likely that the young women and their babies would be killed outright.
It was enough to sober up even the amorous Jano, she hoped, and privately thought her friend could use his time better by honing his skills in battle.
If the Daimyo's comments had bothered Naota at all, the hanyou didn't show it. He had no interest at all in meeting humans, in spite of the fact that he looked so much like one. He also seemed to shy away from the inuyoukai girls who were curious about him. His half blood heritage didn't bother them. He was after all the Daimyo's own nephew and desirable for that alone. His stunning smile and fine, graceful body took care of any other reservations.
She smiled, wondering what her hanyou friend was going to do when one of the young ladies didn't take no for an answer.
Sesshomaru stood placidly unconcerned as his father glared at him. Inutaisho was pissed; a blind fool could see that. Sesshomaru was careful not to let any hint of expression cross his face. In contrast, the Daimyo wasn't hiding anything about what he felt. His annoyance and anger shone plainly from his glittering eyes to the sardonic twist of his mouth.
"You damn well knew that you were supposed to attend that council. Don't you think you could have shown some basic courtesy and at least reported to me when you got in?" My own son doesn't have a grasp of simple protocol it seems!"
"I apologize, my lord Daimyo," Sesshomaru said in an even, inflectionless tone. "Please forgive me, I simply forgot that it was scheduled for this day."
Inutaisho growled, sure his son was lying and half proud of the younger demon that he couldn't tell for certain. It was one thing to keep a straight face during a deception; it was another to be able to mask his scent well enough that even his own father doubted the truth. It was time to take a different tactic, which was why Inutaisho had allowed his annoyance to wait until an appropriate time.
Easing back against his chair, he waved his hand dismissively. "This once, I will forgive you, Sesshomaru. Your presence was hardly necessary. I had expected a simple staff meeting, but due to that messenger's unexpected arrival, things became considerably more heated."
"Messenger, my lord?"
The Daimyo yawned, digging through a stack of work that had accumulated on his desk. Damn Juni, always so methodical about his correspondence, it was maddening really. "Oh, don't trouble yourself, Sesshomaru. Just a minor bit of politics, one of the clanlords asking for a personal visit to his territory. I was going to ask you to attend with me, but I do recognize that you've been far too busy with patrols and could probably use a bit of a rest."
Sesshomaru's slight frown did not go unnoticed by his father. He knew when he was being insulted and he hardly needed a rest. His father had a look of airy disregard on his face, every bit as much an act as his own.
He inclined his head graciously. "Certainly, my lord, I will go if you wish. What clanlord is asking for assistance?"
Inutaisho shrugged, getting up so he could look out over the balcony. "Actually, I'm not going to go at all. I'm far too busy to make an appearance and it seems I don't have anyone with the political savvy or discretion to do the job. I will have to simply send word that I can't get away right now."
"Aren't you at least going to send Ari or Izitaki?" Sesshomaru asked, feeling that his father was definitely hiding something from him. Who could it be, who would send word to the Daimyo that his presence was needed? In contrast, most of the clanlords he knew would be a bit too intimidated to actually ask Inutaisho to visit their territory. It definitely couldn't mean anything good, surely that warranted further investigation.
The Daimyo seemed preoccupied with the texture of his sleeve, then even went to so far as to pick at a claw absently. It was all an act for his benefit; Sesshomaru knew when he was in the presence of a master showman.
"I could send Ari or Izitaki," his father finally answered. "Still, there are probably more useful purposes I could put them to. Ari's been complaining about the quality of readiness the guard is displaying, I really need to have him work out something with the captain of the household guard regarding training."
Sesshomaru sighed. "Do you want me to go?" he asked. It was no point to continue this charade; after all, if the Daimyo wanted him to go, then he would go. Might as well volunteer and save them both the trouble of dancing around it any longer.
"Hardly necessary," Inutaisho said lightly, letting a faint hint of disdain enter his tone. "I don't think you're ready to involve yourself in what might be a delicate situation. It's not appropriate for me to send someone less experienced simply because I'm too busy to see to the matter."
Sesshomaru flushed in spite of his self-control. At least he could hold a steady tone. "I wouldn't consider myself to be inexperienced at politics, father."
Inutaisho hid a smile; he'd known that the implied insult would get to the young demon. He might consider himself above such maneuvering, but no one would counter the fact that Sesshomaru had a gift for diplomacy. The court practically fawned over his son, and not just for being his son either. Sesshomaru had developed a grace and sense of balance that was envied by lords twice his age.
He could be as gracious and winning as any court councilor, icy and determined as a battalion commander the next. Most of the court had a healthy respect for Sesshomaru's opinions, if not his abilities. To tell the truth, Inutaisho couldn't think of a single person he'd rather handle a touchy inter-clan set-to than his only son.
He let none of his assessment touch his face though, regarding his son with a cool disinterest. "You really thing you're ready for such responsibility?" he asked in a deceptively mild tone of voice. "This is not the time to overestimate yourself."
"If you don't think I'm ready, I can accept that, my lord," Sesshomaru said, grinding his teeth in an effort to keep his voice inflectionless. Damn him, the younger demon thought, why does he want to play this out? Either tell me to go or tell me not to go. I'm not going to stand here and be played with.
Inutaisho suddenly shouted with laughter, surprising his son and moving over to put a friendly arm around Sesshomaru's shoulders. "Don't get yourself in a knot, Sessh," he said, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. "You damn well know I'm going to send you, I decided that before you ever even came in here. It will be good practice, Izitaki is already making the arrangements."
Sesshomaru was pleased that his father had faith in his abilities, even if he hadn't enjoyed Inutaisho's little game. His father's sense of humor was notorious and Sesshomaru hated being made a pawn in the Daimyo's idea of a joke.
"You're sending Izitaki with me, my lord?"
His father grinned and slapped him on the back. "Well of course, as much as I respect your choice of companions, I don't think it would hurt to have him along. After all, what better way to get an impartial evaluation on what you accomplish? Izitaki understands that you will be in command of whatever it is you need to do, he'll follow your orders to the letter."
Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow. "Really? You trust my judgment?"
The Daimyo scowled at him. "I trust Izitaki's judgment as well. If you look like you're fucking up, I know he'll step in. Izitaki is experienced in this sort of appearance and he knows how to be discreet. Besides, if nothing else, having him around will keep you and Jano from doing anything rash."
"I'm never rash," Sesshomaru told his father with a stern voice. "How did you know I was going to take Jano and Namichi?"
The Daimyo sat back down to work on his correspondence. "I think you've chosen well in picking those two for seconds, they're loyal if nothing else. Who else would you choose if not them?"
"I could have asked Naota," Sessh said, watching his father's reaction.
Inutaisho snorted. "In that case I would have said no." He met his son's eyes. "Not because I have any less faith in Naota's abilities than yours, Sesshomaru. Your cousin has the ability to make people trust him instantly and fall over themselves to do what he asks. But right now, I have another use for him. I'm sending him out of the fortress for a time for his education."
"Education?" Sesshomaru couldn't help but be curious. And a bit jealous if that was the case. Unlike himself and his two closest friends, his cousin hadn't been made part of the household's regular guard. No one would deny the young hanyou's ability to defend himself, or the fact that he'd grown from the obnoxious child he'd once been.
"Where are you sending him?"
"Not your business," Inutaisho said flatly, looking at his son with an expression that invited no argument. "You should be asking where I'm sending you."
Sesshomaru nodded. "Very well. Where am I going and what is the situation?"
His father's smile lit the room. "You'll be the one to assess the situation, Sesshomaru. Give my regards to lord Barou when you see him."