Daimyo's Lover 08

Naota jerked awake, his sleep broken by a single high-pitched scream. He sat up, rubbing his eyes blearily and wondering what was going on. It was the middle of the night; he'd been dead asleep. Then he heard the sound of cursing and shouting and struggled to his feet, grabbing his clothing and stumbling toward the door. Something was happening, it sounded like the whole village was in chaos.

"What's going..." he started to say as he shoved aside the mat that served Honshu's home for a door. A sharp blow to the back of his skull sent him sprawling face down in the dirt.

"On your knees, human!" a harsh voice snarled. A rough hand grabbed him by the neck and hauled him up before flinging him down again. This time he crashed into a warm body and barely managed to roll to the side instead of squashing the poor man he'd landed on. It was old Honshu.

"Stay still, Naota," the old man hissed, keeping his face pressed to the earth. "Don't give them a reason to hurt anyone."

Naota looked up, seeing dark figures moving in and out of huts, hearing the sounds of terrified weeping from women and children. It was the dead of a moonless night and there was no light at all in the village. The communal fires had been doused and he wished for a moment that he had Sesshomaru's keener youkai eyesight. His cousin had never had any difficulty finding his way in the dark and although Naota's vision was sharper than the average human's, it still paled in comparison to that of a pure demon.

"Who are they?" he whispered, low and urgent to Honshu. Raiders or bandits? Attacking a human village within the Daimyo's territory? Inutaisho would demand blood when he found out about this.

"Demons," a voice whispered, low and angry on his right. He turned to see Michu; the young man's fists were clenched in the soft earth. "Filthy youkai bastards."

"Shut up!" the harsh voice rang out again. Naota saw a pair of booted feet appear in front of Michu, the threat hanging heavy in the air. "No talking, human scum."

Naota dared look up, trying to get a glimpse of the demon's face. He could make out dark leather armor, of a familiar sort of style. The demon's hair was pulled back from his face, but Naota couldn't make out his features well enough to tell if he knew him or not. Who were they? Enemies, invaders? Or just rogue youkai that had trespassed into the West?

Slowly, he eased onto his knees, straightening his back. Around him, he could see that the others in the raiding party were taking what they pleased from the huts and storehouses. Bags of grain, vegetables, a few bolts of cloth that he knew the village women had been working so hard on. They planned to trade their weavings for some metalwork produced in a nearby village. At this rate, the youkai were going to take everything the villagers had worked for all summer long.

"Thieves," he muttered, getting angrier by the minute. How dare they raid and loot in his uncle's territory? This had to be stopped, these people deserved better than to be robbed of all their possessions.

He leaned over into Michu's shoulder. "We have to stop them," he whispered.

Michu's eyes lit up in agreement and he nodded. Then Honshu grabbed Naota's shoulder hard. "No," he hissed urgently. "You mustn't fight them, you don't understand."

"I thought I said no talking, old man!" Honshu grunted when a heavy fist came out of the darkness and cuffed him. Naota sat up, openly glaring at their assailant.

"Leave him alone," he ordered, authority and anger in his voice.

The demon turned swiftly and kicked Naota hard in the face. Surprised, he fell forward on his fists again, blood streaming from his nose.

"Shut your hole, whelp," the demon sneered, arrogance and cruelty coloring his voice.

Anger like he'd never felt filled Naota's heart. He sat up again, glaring openly and spat blood at the leader of the bandits who were ransacking his adopted home. "Fuck you," he sneered. "Your lives aren't going to be worth piss when the Daimyo finds out about this."

The demon laughed and reached down to seize Naota by the front of his yukata and haul him to his feet. "We got us a loudmouth here, boys," the leader called out, drawing his men closer. "You wanna know what we do to mouthy little humans like you?"

With a graceful twist, he broke the hold and danced away from the demon. He was far too well trained to be at the mercy of the likes of these. "You wanna know what the Daimyo does to trash like you that raid inside his borders?" Naota asked sweetly.

"Naota, please," Honshu hissed at him. "They'll kill you."

"Listen to the old man, boy," the demon said, his voice no longer mocking, but cold and serious. "He knows more than you. We're soldiers of the Daimyo's army, understand? We take what we want."

Impossible, Naota thought, not letting them draw closer to him. He didn't believe for one moment that any of the Daimyo's men would dare violate his standing orders against harassing human villages. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, he could pick out more details about the raiders. They were wearing armor similar to that worn by the army, yes, but he could tell that it was shabbier and pieced together poorly. The Daimyo's armory was better than that and even the lowliest foot soldier wouldn't stoop to behavior like this.

"I don't think you're soldiers," he said calmly, watching the demon's eyes. "I think you're renegades if anything. You definitely didn't come from the fortress."

"What?" The leader of the raiding party looked angry now, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. They started circling each other warily, Naota backing away, keeping his distance from the other false soldiers, leading them away from the huddle of frightened humans.

"You heard me," Naota said loudly, making sure his voice carried to the villagers. "You aren't the Daimyo's men, they know better than to pull something this low. Even if they wanted to, they're not stupid enough to try. You must not be from around here if you're this damn dumb."

The demon showed a mouthful of sharp teeth. "I'm going to enjoy tearing you apart, human," he hissed, cracking his knuckles.

"You can try," Naota murmured. This was going to be fun. What else had his training been for, if not to defend himself and helpless people in the face of thugs like this? He was going to show these bastards there was price to pay for attacking innocent villagers and ransacking their homes.

The demon ran at him and Naota laughed, springing easily out of the way. The sharp claws never even touched him. For the first time, he really wanted to use those martial skills in something more than practice. Sparring with his cousin was fun, but this was deadly serious. Suddenly everything Tsing Pao had ever tried to teach him about battling clicked home for the young hanyou. He could feel fire springing along his nerves, fire and an aching for punishment.

The leader made another strike at him, clumsy and slow by Naota's standards. He was used to sparring with Sesshomaru and Jano, this pitiful fool was a joke compared to them. "This is getting boring," he snickered, hardly recognizing himself.

He ran forward, leaping and twisting in the air and drove his foot into the demon's face. The man staggered backwards, stunned at the amount of force behind the blow. Naota was on him before he could recover, driving his fists into the demon's ribs and abdomen with astonishing speed. He heard bones crunching under his knuckles and something started to wake up inside of him.

Something...hungry...

"Is that the best you can do?" he taunted, circling while he gave the renegade demon a chance to recover from his assault. "Are you going to fall to a measly human like me?"

"Bastard whelp," the demon hissed, drawing a long, deadly looking dagger. "I'll cut your heart out and make you eat it."

Naota's laugh rang out, pure and joyful. "Don't make promises you can't keep!"

"Naota, stop it," Honshu shouted, his expression fearful. "Your uncle wouldn't want this for you!"

"My uncle isn't here," Naota cried, whirling around and taking the leader with a savage kick. The demon dropped to the ground and Naota dashed forward, yanking his head up by a fistful of long hair. "You aren't even inuyoukai," he snarled at the demon. "What are you, a wolf demon? Something else?"

He dropped the youkai on the ground, folding his arms and glaring at him. "Take your men out of here," he said coldly. "Remember this the next time you even think of attacking humans."

It was getting harder to restrain himself; Naota suddenly realized He wanted to tear the other demon apart. It was shocking really; he'd never felt anything like this before. Not in any practice match, not in any mock battle. He felt powerful; his head was swimming with it. He could almost taste blood on his lips. It would feel so good just to let it out, this darkness swimming inside of him.

Limping slightly, the demon he'd been humiliating got to his feet. The others of his pack were coming in close on either side; their eyes alight with hatred. Naota stood proudly between them and the villagers. It seemed like the demons weren't ready to withdraw, he thought with a cocky touch of pleasure. They seemed to want to go some more, not give up and slink away like curs. That's fine with me, Naota thought, cracking his knuckles again.

"Take him," the leader snarled, his bruised face contorted in hatred. The other demons surged at him, shouting and reaching for him with their claws. Naota became a whirlwind of frantic blows, kicking, punching and leaping gracefully. They couldn't touch him; he was above them, beyond them. He threw punches so fast that his arms blurred, hearing howls of pain and rage, feeling bones crunching deliciously under his attack. His mind was floating; he became nothing more than pure light as he drove them off. This was better than any practice; this was better than the most perfect kata, the most exquisite form. This was purely heaven.

A single high-pitched scream pierced the night and Naota looked up, even as he delivered a savage kick to the temple of an attacking demon. His ears were ringing; he could barely focus his eyes. Somehow, in his daze, in his newly woken bloodlust, he had missed that the leader of the youkai bandits had slipped past him and made his way to the villagers.

It was Yumiko's voice that had screamed, the youkai had snatched her by her hair and dragged her away from the others. Grinning, he held the girl up, letting Naota see the long blade that was still in his hand. He held the sharp edge against the girl's milky white throat and licked his lips as he looked at Naota.

Time stopped. He stood frozen, his arms hanging limply at his sides. Dimly, he was aware of Michu shouting, being held back by several of the village men as he tried to get to Yumiko. Naota couldn't take his eyes away from her frightened face, the terror in her eyes. No, she was too sweet, too innocent and good. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

"No," he said softly, stepping closer to them. The bandit tightened his grip on the girl's hair, wrenching her head back until tears leaked from her eyes.

"It's me you want," Naota said. "You want to kill me, right? Let her go. This is between us now, not them."

The demon grinned at him. "Beg me for her life, you worthless mortal. I want to hear you beg for it."

Naota dropped to his knees, heedless of the demons that were getting to their feet and surrounding him. "Please," he begged. "Just let her go." He didn't care what they did to him now, what they stole. He just couldn't stand there and watch Yumiko die. She was his friend, just like Michu and the other villagers were his friends. He had just wanted to defend them. Nobody had to die over his mistake.

"You beg well," the demon said, a sadistic turn in his voice. "For that alone, I'm going to be merciful. And let her die quickly." He shoved the blade deep in the girl's throat, Naota saw only a flicker of astonished pain in her eyes before dark blood poured from the wound, splashing him with its warmth. The demon let her go then, Yumiko's lifeless body falling forward and her arms splayed out, her now sightless eyes seeming to focus on him accusingly.

He heard Honshu's broken sobs. He could hear Michu's howl of agony. Naota's head dropped forward, his hair hiding his eyes as something old and cold stirred inside of him. He could feel the other demons closing in on him, ready to tear him to shreds where he knelt as if in prayer for Yumiko's departed soul. He felt strangely disconnected from his body, as if his mind was going away, leaving just his physical form behind. He should be angry, he should be shouting with grief and rage. But he wasn't, instead darkness was overcoming him, blinding him with a red tinged fire.

He was too far gone. He wasn't Naota anymore, he wasn't anybody. Strangely enough, his last conscious thought was of a stinging pain in his fingertips, where long claws were taking the place of his ordinary human fingernails. Then the madness erupted from inside him and Naota knew nothing more.

oOo

I couldn't see. My eyes were swollen shut. I could barely breathe, trying to give my punctured lungs a chance to heal. Of course I needed the oxygen, it would help me heal and drew in one painful breath after another. Stubbornly, I knew I wasn't going to die, but it was not going to be a fun or fast recovery. Not even for me.

I heard steps then, my ears being one of the few undamaged parts of my body. My nose wasn't working properly, being shattered and swollen to at least twice its normal size. I thought maybe my left cheek was crushed, I was pretty sure my jaw was fractured as well. Carefully, I tried to lick my split lips and realized with some chagrin that the son of a bitch had knocked out all my front teeth this time.

Something cool and wet rested on my forehead and I caught a whiff of herbs. I wondered how long I'd been unconscious. Even in this much pain, I hated the idea of being helpless and unable to defend myself.

Stupid, I chided myself. Unconscious or not, you are helpless right now. You couldn't fight off a flea demon in this state.

"Brother," a soft voice murmured in my ear. "Can you hear me?"

"Inoki." My voice was hardly more than a croak of a whisper. I knew he'd grabbed me around the neck at the end, squeezed hard enough to nearly make my ears pop from pressure. He hadn't quite crushed my throat; I knew that because I could still swallow. It just hurt like hell and I knew I'd be drinking my meals for some time to come.

I felt a soft touch on my bare shoulder and figured that Inoki was still trying to clean off the blood. That made me wonder where the hell I was. Under me was a soft surface, it felt like a bed. My hands twitched, broken fingers and all, and I tried to shift myself a bit.

Agony made me want to be sick, shooting from every single joint and muscle. Damn, that had to be at least six broken ribs, no wonder I couldn't hardly breathe. My left arm was more numb than anything; I figured I'd broken my fist when I tried to hit him.

It had been worth it, I remembered, feeling a little bit of pleasure. Got him square in his ugly mouth that time.

"Don't move," Inoki said, his voice still quiet. "You have no idea how badly hurt you are, do you?"

I made my jaw move by sheer will, forcing the air into my tattered lungs and back out past my lips. I felt a bubble burst on my tongue and tasted blood. "I've been worse," I managed to croak out.

"No, Inu," my brother said. "You haven't. I thought you were dead when he brought you back. I was sure that he'd killed you this time."

He brought me back? That confused me; I honestly would have thought he'd have left me for dead in the forest. And I surely would be dead if he had. I couldn't fight off a rabbit in my current state. A butterfly could stop my heart. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to kill a youkai just by beating them to death? It's more than difficult, it's damn near impossible. And I healed quicker than most, was stronger than most. Any other demon would have died from this beating. I probably should have died anyway.

My father always was a persistent man.

The day had started out normally enough. At least as normal as my days ever start. Since I'd obviously become adept at all forms of combat, my father had decided it was time for me to be useful. He wanted me to learn how to command men, how to inspire fear in the hearts of demons so that they would obey me.

Unfortunately, that meant that I had to spend more and more time with him. I was always in attendance; always at the ready with whatever ridiculous orders he had for me. I had eventually learned it was just best to keep my mouth shut, not provoke him by telling him what I really thought about him. He already knew exactly how I felt and I'm sure the feeling was mutual.

I studied him critically as I watched him interact with his lackeys and henchmen. Privately, I thought he was being wasteful with his resources. Instead of letting them brawl amongst themselves and wantonly destroy each other, I would have cultivated the smart ones, weeded out the dumb, violent brutes. His forces were hardly more than a vicious mob that only answered to the most vicious one of all. He kept them in line more or less to his standards. A quick flash of those claws and anyone who annoyed him was meat on the ground.

This is how you command, I thought as my eyes bored into his back. This is how you inspire. Any one of them would turn on you with at a moment's notice, glad to do it, if they were sure they'd be victorious.

Absently, I watched them drill, grimacing at the clumsiness and slow movements. Pathetic, really. No discipline, no purpose, no intelligence. I sighed and rolled my eyes.

"Is there a problem, my dearest son?" His voice was like black silk stretched over steel. I met his eyes and let no emotion touch my face.

"No problem, father."

He smiled and slowly walked behind me, the threat of his presence implicit. His hand touched my shoulder, wandering lazily up my neck to caress my hair. I felt my cheeks burn, realizing the men were watching him. Humiliating to have to stand here and let him touch me. I wanted to tear his fucking guts out and string them around the courtyard like a festival banner. I wanted to shove my fists so far down his throat that I could touch the cold black center of his heart and crush it to dust.

"Are you thinking of killing me, Inutaisho?" he whispered, his lips only inches from my ear.

"Yes, father," I answered, pleased that at least my voice didn't shake. I could be just as cold and emotionless as he.

"Good," he purred, his fingers around my throat. "Maybe someday you'll even have the balls to try it. That would be interesting, wouldn't it?"

I didn't reply and his hand tightened until I could barely breathe. "Answer your father, my dear, beloved son."

"You'll never see it coming," I hissed softly, turning to face him. I looked right into the monster's eyes, right into the place I knew that fear lived, my fear. We stood there, so close, so intimate that it was almost an embrace. I kept my body still, poised to react, defend myself if his claws started to dig into my skin. I didn't care that half his guard was watching us anymore.

He seemed to be deciding something and I waited. Would it be today? Would it be now? I tensed, my heart pounding so loudly that it was almost a funeral drum, a hard staccato beat that pulsed to my adrenaline and my rage.

"You make me very proud," he murmured.

My eyes widened and in that split second of shock at his words, my father leaned close and brushed his lips against mine. Furious, I shoved away from him, staggering backwards in my desperation to put any amount of space between us.

"You sick fucking bastard!" I swore, my voice dripping with hatred.

Coarse laughter greeted my outburst, the amusement of the watching henchmen. I looked murderously at them and the laughter was cut off as suddenly as it had started. Go ahead, I dared them silently. Laugh again and I'll show you all exactly what kind of demon I am. I'll show them that I've learned nothing else but cruelty and violence from pervert that calls himself my father. I show you how much of a bastard I can be.

My father ignored them and turned away. "Come with me, Inutaisho," he ordered.

I didn't want to, but I had no choice. My heels rang angrily against the stone as I followed him, my fists clenched so hard that my claws drew blood from my palms. I cursed him and I cursed myself for not at least trying to destroy him. I would have done it, I would have at least tried, and I no longer had any fear for my own life. But my brother would pay the price of failure; Anuki would pay it as well I was dead sure.

He kept walking, heading for the main gates of the fortress. What the hell are you up to now, I asked him in my head.

My father stopped when he reached the gate, pressing it open with one hand. That gate was heavy; it usually took at least two strong youkai to move it. He opened it as if it weighed no more than a feather and stepped outside, flicking his fingers at me to make sure I knew I was to follow him.

"What's this about?" I demanded to know. The morning breeze was brisk and lifted my hair until it spun around my face. My clothes rippled and flapped and I stood still, watching as his black hair was moved and teased by the same wind. He turned back to me, smiling with that hateful, sardonic smile that I loathed. I hated everything about him, but somehow I always hated him more when he smiled at me.

My father's smile was darkness, cruel and absolute. Sometimes it was mockingly gentle, as if he had affection for me, caring as a normal father should have for his son. There was nothing normal about my father. His power, his brutality, it all was extraordinary. He pretended kindness when his voice was low and soft, but I knew him better than to ever believe it. He treated my brother with a dismissive violence, usually engineered to send me into a rage stupid enough to provoke him.

I hated seeing Inoki hurt by him, I hated more the sad expression that would be in his eyes from my father's callous disregard. At least if he hit him, he was paying attention to him and seeing Inoki as something more than his own whim when he had raped and impregnated a human woman, a demon slayer, for the pure fun of it. But even in the abuse, I knew that his bile wasn't for my brother.

Every blow he'd ever struck Inoki had been aimed at me from the very beginning.

"I am going to the fire country," he murmured, his soft voice nearly lost to the wind. "There's a sword smith there, one who has the reputation of making exquisite blades. I wish to see for myself."

His eyes locked on mine. "You will accompany me, Inutaisho."

With those words, he transformed. My father's form grew and shifted until he became the massive dog with shaggy, pitch-black fur that was his true form. We would travel as dogs for this journey; he knew I had enough command over my own youki to do so. Still, I kept my usual appearance until he drew closer and lowered his muzzle and used it to bump me almost off my feet.

Now.

I knew I didn't have a choice, it would get very ugly indeed if I tried to resist. Still, the idea of spending any time alone with my father made me nauseous. He knew it too, saw the flicker of disgust on my face and it amused him. It made me sick the way he felt about me, humiliated that he was open about it. To know that your own father desires you for sex is something no one should have to endure.

If he'd wanted to force me, he could have done it long ago. But this wasn't about rape; it wasn't about force or even his perverted desires. It was about submission. He wanted me broken, and he wanted me willing in my own degradation. Then it would be his victory. I would become like him, evil and cruel, sadistic for the pure pleasure of seeing others suffer. That was what he wanted from me, that was what he couldn't make me give him.

He could force my obedience. He could not force my love.