Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha
A small thrush began the morning by singing cheerfully and quite loudly, disturbing the small sleeper. Being that this was spring, the little feather duster was probably trying to attract a mate. So far, it wasn't having much luck and just continued to fill the air with its hopeful warbling.
Inuyasha wrinkled his nose and burrowed farther under the covers, hoping for a few more minutes of sleep. He grunted and flattened his ears against his head. The stupid bird refused to shut up and Inuyasha began to consider permanently ending its search for a mate when a tantalizing aroma reached his sensitive nose.
He stuck his head out from under the covers and sniffed. It smelled like breakfast, and something else. Something he hadn't smelled in a while. Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes sleepily and noticed for the first time that he was alone in the room. He yawned, revealing sharp pointed fangs, and tried to remember where he had smelled that particular smell before.
His eyes widened as his sleepy brain made the connection. That was it!
Scrambling free of the covers, he raced out of the room, following his nose. He skidded into the great hall, stopping and looking around frantically. Finally, he spotted the two people seated at the low table, enjoying breakfast and conversation.
"Father!" Inuyasha flung himself at one of the figures. The demon caught his small son before he could crash into the table and swung him into the air. Inuyasha shrieked with laughter. Everything would be all right now, Father was home.
"I missed you, Father! Are you going to stay home for a long time? Mother missed you, too! Did you miss me?"
Inuyasha winced and lowered his ears, peering through his bangs at his mother.
"I know I've taught you better than that, Inuyasha," Izayoi scolded. "You don't interrupt and you don't jump on people."
Inutaisho laughed and settled Inuyasha comfortably on his knee. "He's just a pup, Izayoi; don't be too hard on him. And I did miss the both of you very much."
Inuyasha relaxed, though inwardly he kept berating himself for being such an idiot. He had wanted to show Father that he was big enough to mind his manners and take care of himself and Mother. Maybe then Father would let them come with him when he was out patrolling his lands. Anything would be better than having to stay here. He leaned against his father's chest and accepted the bowl of miso soup his mother handed him.
"--tomorrow morning. There are reports of a dragon encroaching on my lands that is terrorizing humans and demons alike. It is something that must be attended to personally. I need to check some of the old scrolls for any information about this particular demon, but there shouldn't be any problems."
"What!?" Inuyasha's head snapped up and he dropped the, luckily, now empty bowl. "Why are you going so soon? I don't want you to go! Take us with you!" He ignored the disapproving look on his mother's face and focused his large golden eyes on his father.
Inutaisho sighed. "I'm sorry, Inuyasha. Where I'm going is very dangerous and is no place for pups." Inuyasha's ears drooped and he bit his lip to keep from begging. The son of the great Demon Lord of the West didn't beg. His father's clawed finger tapped him on the end of his nose. "I need you to stay here and protect your mother. It's a very important job."
Inuyasha's chin lifted slightly. "Don't worry. I'll take care of Mother while you're gone."
The Demon Lord nodded in satisfaction. "Now, how are you doing with your lessons?"
"They're boring," Inuyasha answered promptly. "Why do I have to learn human history? I want to learn how to fight, but Sesshoumaru won't teach me. He says I'm slow and useless."
"You're not useless," Inutaisho assured him firmly. He lifted Inuyasha from his lap and set him on the floor. "Your brother has some strong opinions right now that he will hopefully grow out of. How about I teach you some fighting moves later today after I've gotten a few things done?"
"Great!" Inuyasha stood as straight as possible, beaming with pride. His father was the strongest and bravest demon in the whole world. With a quick kiss on his mother's cheek, he raced from the room. Maybe he would track down the bird that was singing earlier and make sure it didn't disturb his sleep tomorrow.
"Where are we going, Mother?"
"I thought it would be nice to get outside for a while, Inuyasha. Now, stop trying to catch grasshoppers and help me find a place where we can enjoy this food I've brought."
Inuyasha reluctantly stopped terrorizing the insect life and went to help his mother. How was he supposed to become a big, strong demon like his father if he didn't practice? Izayoi sank to the ground under the spreading branches of a tree overlooking a small stream. There were dark circles under her eyes and they looked bloodshot.
"Were those mean bastards making you cry again, Mother?" Inuyasha balled his small hands into fists. "Why can't they leave us alone? What did we ever do to them?"
"Inuyasha," his mother scolded. "Where did you learn such language?"
"They made you cry," the small demon defended himself. "They're stupid jerks! I wish Father was here. They leave us alone when he's around!"
Izayoi busied herself setting out the bowls of rice and pouring tea. "Your father is a very busy demon. He would like to be home more often, but he can't. Now come and eat." She held out a small bowl of pickled daikon enticingly. Inuyasha's nose twitched at the wonderful aromas and he hurried to help his mother so he could start eating.
"Mother," Inuyasha asked later as he nibbled at his sixth rice ball. "Why don't the other demons like us?"
"What makes you think that, Inuyasha?"
"None of the other pups will play with me and everybody stops talking when I come near. Myouga says that he will explain when I am older."
"Myouga is very wise." Izayoi cleaned up the remains of their meal and packed everything away. "You don't need to worry about that right now. Why don't you go play? Just don't go too far."
Inuyasha nodded and went to chase grasshoppers for a while. He even caught a few, but the crunchy taste failed to take his mind off of what his mother said, or rather what she didn't say. Checking on his mother, he noticed that she had leaned against the tree and closed her eyes. Inuyasha took the opportunity to widen his circle of explorations, one ear cocked for his mother's voice.
Busy pretending that he was a mighty demon putting the thrill of fear into a horde of lesser demons, it took a while for him to notice the laughter coming from up ahead. Curious, and wondering who it could be, Inuyasha clutched the stick that he was using for a sword tighter and crept closer to the source. Whoever they were, they sounded like they were having fun. The voices were coming from the other side of those bushes. Gingerly, he pushed the branches aside and peered into the small clearing.
A handful of simple huts huddled together in the middle of the clearing. Barely a rabbit's hop in front of him stood a circle of ragged human children. They laughed and shouted to one another as they tossed around a hand-stitched, leather ball. Inuyasha shifted position in order to see better, but lost his balance and tumbled into the open.
The children were quiet as Inuyasha pulled himself to his feet. He grinned widely, his eyes fixed on the ball held by one of the children, and took a step forward. As one, all of the children stepped backward.
"May I play?" he asked eagerly. Only silence greeted his question. His grin slipped when he looked up to see a huddle of frightened, hostile eyes. One of the little children began to cry, to be immediately hushed by an older one.
"I have a ball like that at home," he offered. "I can throw really far. Do you want to see?" Not a sound greeted his remark. A few of the children started to edge away from the group. Inuyasha glanced at them curiously and they immediately froze. He frowned, wrinkling his nose as the reek of human sweat became laced with a sharp and bitter odor. Fighting the urge to sneeze, he turned his attention to the boy holding the ball. The boy, a few years older than Inuyasha, trembled and the disturbing scent grew stronger.
"Can't I play?"
Two of the children pushed the ball holder forward. The boy seemed to gain confidence when he realized that he was taller than the young demon. "You're a half-breed. We don't play with demons or their half-breed spawn."
"A half-breed?" Inuyasha echoed.
The boy altered his stance, the fear in his eyes fading to be replaced with contempt. "My father says that half-breeds are abominations. Any human who lies with a demon is defiled and the resulting offspring should be strangled at birth."
Inuyasha narrowed his eyes and lifted his lip, revealing sharp baby fangs. "My mother did not defile herself! She--"He might have said more, but his sudden anger caused the children's courage to melt away. They scattered, shrieking about demons in the village.
Deciding not to stick around to find out what human adults would do to a young demon in their midst, he bolted back to the safety of his mother. Izayoi had awakened from her nap and was growing concerned when she couldn't find her wayward son. Inuyasha appeared, looking like the hounds of hell were hot on his trail, but refused to tell her what had happened. Izayoi sighed and took Inuyasha's hand for the short walk back home.
Inuyasha scrounged in the back of the armory, sifting through broken weapons and bits of pot metal incapable of holding an edge for even one swing. Sesshoumaru had finally noticed his small brother and his incessant pleadings to be taught how to wield a weapon. The remembered conversation brought a scowl to his face. Dust rose in clouds and he fought the urge to sneeze. His nose was still tender from Sesshoumaru backhanding him into a wall.
Sesshoumaru had stood over his brother's prone body, his usual calm expression replaced with contempt and anger. "I refuse to teach you anything! You are an insult to our father's blood!"
Touching his throbbing nose, Inuyasha had looked down to see bright red blood on his fingertips. "Why? What did I do?"
"You were born."
Gritting his teeth in a renewed surge of anger, Inuyasha tossed aside a shield that had been split nearly in half and a broken spear. He'd show Sesshoumaru! He'd show them all! Once he got his hands on a decent weapon, he'd become the best fighter ever. Then they'd all be sorry for the way they treated him and his mother.
At the back of the room, nearly hidden in a dusty corner, Inuyasha found a long dagger in fair condition. It was too short to be a real sword, but that was okay, it fit his small hand better than one made for an adult fighter would have. After a bit more scrounging, he even managed to come up with a sheath to put his new weapon in and a strap to fasten it securely about his waist.
Attempting to swagger the way he had seen the adults, he patted his new acquisition and left the armory. He took two steps and almost tripped as the sheath got tangled with his legs. The first thing he would have to do was learn how to walk without falling down. It was harder than he thought.
Inuyasha had been around adult fighters all of his short life. Demons seemed to feel the need to engage in mindless violence at least several times a week. Izayoi disapproved of her young son visiting the practice grounds, but they proved to be too much of a lure for him to resist. Inuyasha did not tell his mother how often he snuck away to watch the fighters. He did not like to cause his mother distress, and consoled himself with the thought that he was sparing her worry by not letting her know. Hopefully, the practice grounds would be empty at this time of day and he could learn how to use his newly acquired weapon.
He carried his weapon, which he solemnly christened Bloodfang, everywhere he went. It even went to bed with him. Izayoi sighed, but for once did not make a big issue over her son's fascination with big pointy objects. About the only time she objected was when Inuyasha wanted to take Bloodfang in the bath with him.
It had to happen sometime. Afterwards, Izayoi told him that it was inevitable. A small group of older pups were making their way through the corridors. Inuyasha quickened his steps when he caught sight of them. Most had been learning how to fight under their father's or a retainer's careful tutelage. He was eager to be included as one of them and tightened his grip on Bloodfang's hilt.
"Where are you going? Can I come?" Putting up with Sesshoumaru's cold disdain all these years served him well. The unfriendly glares didn't disturb him in the slightest. Usually, the others put him off by saying that he was too small or that since he was unarmed, it wouldn't be fair.
The largest of the group, a dog demon pup with a brown mane of hair tumbling around his shoulders and into his eyes, took it upon himself to be the spokesperson.
"My father's taking us hunting. We got new daggers." He touched the sheath strapped to his waist with possessive pride.
"I've got a weapon. See? And I'm a good tracker."
The young demon stepped forward until he was right in front of Inuyasha, towering over him with his greater height. Inuyasha tilted his head back to challenge the boy's stare with his own and refused to back down. "Maybe I didn't make this clear," he snarled. "You're just a filthy half-breed. And we don't associate with your kind."
"But I'm a dog demon just like you," Inuyasha protested.
"You're not like us." Low growls of agreement came from the circle of watching demon pups. "Lord Inutaisho is too soft to admit it, but you are an abomination. Why don't you hurry up and die to spare him the shame of having sired you in the first place, filthy half-breed?"
"I'm a dog demon," Inuyasha insisted, "son of the great Demon Lord of the West. I have fangs and claws. What makes me different?"
The brown-haired demon reached out and tugged hard on one of the younger demon's soft ears. Inuyasha yelped, jerking his head away. "Even if we didn't already know that you have a useless human for a mother, these ears would give you away. No full-blooded demon would have puppy ears on the top of his head."
"My ears?" Inuyasha reached up a hand to touch the ear the older boy had cruelly yanked. He had never given much thought to his ears. They allowed him to hear and his mother thought they were adorable. "What's wrong with my ears?"
The group formed a tight circle around the young demon, cruelty twisting their features as they taunted him.
"You're a filthy half-breed and you'll always be a filthy half-breed."
"You'll never be one of us!"
"The Lord should have smothered you at birth!"
"You don't even smell like a real demon!"
Inuyasha flexed his claws, struggling to breathe through the tightness that constricted his throat. Fiercely, before he could break down in tears, he threw himself at the chief of his tormentors.
Growling and yelling erupted as the fight spiraled out to include the entire group. Inuyasha sank his fangs into yielding flesh and held on despite the furious assault of the others with claws and daggers. Suddenly, strong hands were forcefully prying him away and throwing him to the ground. He grunted at the impact with the rough stone, his bleeding body protesting the movement. Almost before he could register it, protective arms enfolded him in a warm embrace as a comforting scent filled his nose.
"Can't you keep that abomination under control?" Inuyasha blinked to clear the last of the battle-haze from his vision. Izayoi murmured something to him and continued to hold him close, not quite meeting the angry eyes of the grown demon standing before them.
"He's just a child!" she defended.
"He's a worthless half-breed. One of these days the Lord will not be able to protect either of you and we will rid the world of you and that abomination, human whore!"
Inuyasha growled, his fingers inching to close around Bloodfang's hilt. Izayoi's arms tightened around him, silently warning him to be quiet.
"I understand. I'll have a word with him."
Inuyasha looked up into his mother's face, losing his rage in bewilderment. Why would she let another demon talk to her like that? She had her head down, eyes fixed on the floor. After a bit more grumbling, the corridor was emptied of everyone except Inuyasha and Izayoi.
"Come on, let's get you back to our room and see to those wounds." Izayoi released Inuyasha and climbed slowly to her feet. She held out her hand, but he turned away. Crossing his arms over his chest, he marched back to their quarters ahead of his mother. How could she do that? Why was she acting so submissive before the other demons? Now the other pups would really think he was weak.
Reaching their sleeping quarters, he entered and walked over to sit on the edge of his futon. Izayoi entered several minutes later with a bucket of water, a small dish containing a smelly green salve, and clean bandages. She helped Inuyasha remove his shirt, wincing as the fabric pulled at the blood encrusted wounds. The small demon sat silently, making no sound throughout the whole process.
"That should do it." Izayoi tightened the last bandage and stood up with Inuyasha's ruined shirt in her hand. "I'll just get rid of this and have some dinner brought from the kitchen."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Izayoi stopped, turning to look at Inuyasha who was still seated on his futon. He met his mother's soft brown gaze with a hard yellow stare. "Why didn't you tell me that the other demons hate me for being half human?"
He sprang to his feet, cutting off his mother's sentence and not caring if it was rude. Clenching and unclenching his fists, he took two steps forward and stopped. "I bet that the humans hate me for being half-demon, right? And it's all because I have these stupid puppy ears on top of my head! I hate 'em!"
"Oh, baby!" Izayoi dropped the shirt and enfolded Inuyasha's form. He refused to relax and, after a few minutes, she released him. Again she picked up the bloodstained shirt. With one last glance at Inuyasha, who had his eyes firmly fixed on the wall behind her, she left the room.
Inuyasha listened to his mother's footsteps fade away. Slowly and deliberately, he stalked to the corner where Bloodfang rested. Izayoi had tossed it over there, holding it with her fingertips, a grimace of distaste on her lovely face when she took it from him. At the time, Inuyasha hadn't objected.
Picking up the blade, he tested the edge with his thumb. A bleak smile of satisfaction curved his lips when it easily parted his tough demon skin. He studied the thin line of blood for a long moment before reaching up to grasp the soft tip of his right ear and placing the sharp edge of Bloodfang against the base. It was an awkward stretch, but he managed it.
"I don't want to be different anymore," he whispered. "These stupid ears ruin everything." Taking a deep breath, he tensed, prepared to sever his damning ear in one stroke. A sharp cry from behind him caused his arm to jerk, the resulting slice being uneven and rather messy.
"Inuyasha!" Izayoi dropped the tray she carried, ignoring the dishes as they rolled across the floor, scattering their contents. She rushed to her son's side, knocking the blade out of his hand and trying to stem the spurting blood. Already his half-demon body was struggling to heal itself, and the blood had slowed to a trickle.
She washed and bandaged him again, punctuating her movements with tearful scoldings. "Why did you do it, Inuyasha? Haven't you bled enough today?"
"They made fun of my ears, Mother." Izayoi stopped what she was doing and stared at her son's bent head. "If I got rid of them, maybe the others would let me play with them."
"Oh, Inuyasha." Izayoi wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. "That is the silliest thing you've ever said. Your ears are a part of you and I think they're adorable. And no matter what, your father and I still love you." She picked up the bucket and unused bandages and left the room again.
Inuyasha flopped onto his back on his futon, ignoring the dull ache in his ear. His mother didn't understand. Nobody understood. He stared at the ceiling far above him and vowed to become so strong that nobody would ever pick on him again for being a half-breed. As soon as he figured out how, he was going to become a full demon.
No matter what it took.
Food for thought:
Doing a job right the first time gets the job done. Doing the job wrong fourteen times gives you job security.