Disclaimer: The characters belong to Rumiko Takahashi; the lyrics were written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, and recorded by the Rolling Stones. All I did was play with them for a few hours before returning them to their respective owners.
Summary: Naraku discovers that some things are always just out of reach…
…And if you just read the disclaimer and said 'What lyrics?' then you're reading this at fanfiction dot net. Feel free to check out the songfic version at MediaMiner dot org. The link is in my profile.
Sympathy for the Devil
Once there was a hanyou who wanted to be a youkai. He despised his human heart, hating the treacherous emotions that haunted his sleep. His humanity made him feel things, made him weak. While his demon side raged and schemed and plotted and killed without mercy, the soft spot hidden deep within his human heart would flare from time to time, reminding him that he was less than youkai.
The hanyou dared to reach for ultimate power, and failed spectacularly. Contrary to what was believed, however, his failure did not result in his death. He was merely…resting.
The hanyou recovered from his failure, and began the long, arduous process of regaining his power. Being an intelligent creature, he studied his failure in order to discover just where he'd gone wrong. After some time, he came to a surprising conclusion – it was far more effective to be the power behind the scenes, rather than the reigning figurehead. Figureheads, after all, had a tendency to attract assassins.
This time, the hanyou decided, he would do things differently. This time, he would raise his armies quietly, attack his weaker enemies first, build his own empire before attempting to capture another. This time they would not know his name, but they would know his power.
So the hanyou began anew, and immediately ran into the age-old problem of supply and demand. Much had changed since his defeat, and while the numbers of aspiring megalomaniacs were still great, the chances for success were limited. Better living conditions and new cures for diseases had made serious inroads into the opportunities for empire-building, for it was difficult to raise an army of malcontents when so many were…content.
He tasted disappointment in Russia. It was easy to brew revolution in such a place, for the country had been the doormat of warring tribes for centuries. He enjoyed himself for a while, but he soon discovered why no one held power for long in such a place. The Russian winters were just too damn cold.
Making use of Japan's rising military dictatorship was his next step, but he still felt incomplete. True, they'd made some inroads into Manchuria, but it wasn't enough. China was no longer the world leader it had once been; the balance of the power had shifted to the west. The hanyou eyed these European nations thoughtfully. Human nature being what it was, he was sure to find a power-hungry bastard somewhere on the continent.
To his pleasure, he found the man in a beer hall in Munich. Amused, he allowed the ranting creature to make his initial push for power, then laughed as the attempt failed. While the little man was still licking his wounds, the hanyou began to orchestrate his moves from the shadows. He began the process of gathering the players for this drama – here were the brilliant minds who longed for glory, over there were the souls consumed with hatred and anger, and right before him was a population too downtrodden to see what was happening.
The situation was perfect, and yet – he failed again. Fortunately, he had ample warning that the tide was turning against him and was able to make his escape before the Allies reached Berlin. Tucked away deep in a cave in rural Japan, he once again pondered the question as to where he'd gone wrong.
The hanyou eventually concluded that he'd made quite a few errors, but two of them in particular came to his mind. His first mistake was in overestimating his control of the German dictator. He'd given the man too much free reign, and the overconfident little weasel had gone and attacked Russia. The hanyou's own unfortunate experiences with a youkai named Sesshomaru had taught him the error of alienating your allies; it was too bad the dictator hadn't learned the same lesson.
The other misstep was equally inexcusable – the hanyou had stupidly failed to account for the unpredictability of human hearts. It was embarrassing, considering that he, too, was in possession of said heart. Even when all logic decreed that one should bow down and surrender, humans would ignore the command and continue to fight to protect the ones they loved – how could he have forgotten this?
Nuclear bombs gave him fresh hope. Here was something capable of bringing the world to its knees – a weapon for a true emperor! The escalating tensions between the United States and Russia were fueling the frenzy, and it was only a matter of time before one of them pulled the trigger. The chaos of nuclear aftermath would dismantle both of the super-powers, leaving plenty of opportunities for him to take control.
But in spite of his prodding, neither side attacked. The hanyou thought it would happen in Cuba, but in the end, the Russians took their missiles and went home. The frustration this caused was only slightly alleviated by the social upheaval of the decade. Misery, the hanyou thought bitterly, certainly had plenty of company.
The years passed, and the hanyou found himself less inclined to conquer the world. After a few more failed attempts (the fall of the Berlin Wall was downright depressing, considering how hard he'd worked to erect it) he gave up the idea entirely. Who wanted to rule a world over-run with humans, anyway? It wasn't as if he'd have any help…most of the youkai had disappeared. The few that remained kept to themselves, the extraordinary hidden among a society of the mundane.
Disheartened, the hanyou chose to concentrate his energies on the business world. To his surprise, he found it a comfortable refuge. Dominating small groups of people, while not quite as gratifying as ruling an empire, at least brought about the satisfaction of a job well done. Tormenting helpless people with petty minds provided endless entertainment, and it certainly kept his skills fresh. No point in letting all of his talent go to waste…
But his human heart, which he'd never managed to get rid of, brought about a new problem. Late one night, when all of the employees and even the cleaning staff had retreated, the hanyou came to a horrible realization. The knowledge caused him to curse his human side with a vengeance.
He – the half-demon who hated the weak emotions of the heart, who had made every attempt to rid himself of all feeling – was lonely.
Perhaps that was the reason he was so happy to see a familiar face enter his corner office one spring day. Some things had been altered – the silver hair and golden eyes had been exchanged for a more normal looking appearance – but the aristocratic features were unmistakably those of Sesshomaru. Smug as ever, the youkai merely lifted a refined eyebrow at the hanyou's obvious surprise.
"You've been remarkably absent of late," the hanyou commented over their three-martini lunch. "With all of the chaos and upheaval in this century, I'd have thought you'd be taking advantage of the shift in power."
"Who says that I haven't?" Sesshomaru responded smoothly. "You are not the only one who enjoys pulling the strings from the shadows, Naraku."
"Don't call me that," the hanyou ordered. "Naraku was defeated. I use other names now, names associated with success, not failure. And what are you talking about, pulling strings? Do you mean to tell me that you're the reason I haven't been able to build an empire?"
"I look after my own interests, not yours, Hanyou," Sesshomaru said dryly. "Your failures are your own. Some of them were quite spectacular, I might add."
"Hitler," the hanyou fumed, remembering. "I was so damn close!"
"Yes, it's a shame Churchill had such good advisors." Sesshomaru flashed a fang, his eyes glinting with mischief.
"You – you!" the hanyou spluttered, choking on his martini. "Dammit, Sesshomaru, why'd you have to interfere?"
"I had no desire to spend the next fifty years singing Deutschland uber Alles," Sesshomaru retorted mildly. "And I had to protect my business interests. Power needs financing, as I'm sure you've realized."
"What's the name of your business?" the hanyou asked. When Sesshomaru named a prominent company in the petroleum industry, the hanyou was startled, to say the least. "You're an oil baron?"
"Among other things," Sesshomaru answered, looking pleased with himself. "Always follow the money, Hanyou."
"It can't buy everything," the hanyou sniffed jealously.
"It has bought your companionship for the last two hours, has it not?"
"No," the hanyou retorted, happy to have caught the youkai on this point. "Your money bought the food; it didn't buy the conversation. I was under no obligation to do anything other than sit here and eat."
"True," Sesshomaru agreed. He pushed himself back from the table. "Same time next week, Hanyou?"
So the youkai was lonely as well…
"Sure," the hanyou replied carelessly. "Same time."
"I saw her yesterday," the hanyou told Sesshomaru. They were playing a game of shoji, and Sesshomaru was losing. The hanyou often won when they played, which left him with a feeling of petty triumph…and the niggling suspicion that the youkai was losing on purpose so the hanyou would continue to have an interest in playing. With Sesshomaru, one never knew.
Sesshomaru didn't bother to ask for clarification as to the girl's identity. "I was wondering when you'd run in to her," the youkai murmured as he moved his piece. "She's from this era. Did she have the Shikon no Tama in her possession?"
"No," the hanyou sighed as he contemplated his next move. "She'd already completed her task and purified the jewel. How did you know she was from this era?"
"Her clothing was unforgettable," Sesshomaru answered. "When the schoolgirls first started wearing those outfits, I remembered the wench and made the connection between her time and ours."
"You remembered the outfit, huh? And here I thought you were too busy ogling her when the wind blew that ridiculously short skirt up around her waist," the hanyou leered.
The youkai didn't bother to respond to this allegation, although a trace of a smirk could be seen at the corner of his mouth. "Your move," he reminded the hanyou, waving a hand at the shoji board. "Choose wisely."
The hanyou moved his piece, and the game continued in a comfortable silence. After a while, when the game had ended and the two were sipping brandy by the fire, the hanyou spoke of something that was on his mind. "Sesshomaru, you never desired the Shikon no Tama – why?"
"All power comes with a price, and the jewel's price was an irreversible taint," the youkai answered. "I had power enough, why should I acquire more at such a heavy cost?" Sesshomaru took another swallow of his brandy before continuing. "The better question, Hanyou, would be this – why would anyone want ultimate power?"
"You've never wanted to rule it all?" the hanyou asked, surprised.
"Absolute power is boring," Sesshomaru replied.
"I wouldn't know," the hanyou pointed out bitterly. "Every time I come close to achieving it, a certain youkai gets in the way. How'd you manage to convince the Soviets to tear down the Cuban missiles, anyway?"
"Let it go. You lost that round fairly, now put it behind you." Sesshomaru set his glass down upon the side-table and leaned forward. "Tell me, Hanyou – in the midst of all those power-grabs, were you ever bored?"
This was something he hadn't considered before. "Come to think of it, no," the hanyou answered honestly. "I was frustrated as hell sometimes, but never bored."
Sesshomaru leaned back in his chair and gave a rare smile. "Neither was I," he stated. "It was mentally invigorating, trying to stay one step ahead of you. There was more than once when I thought I wouldn't succeed. You're quite good at manipulation, you know."
"That's high praise, coming from the Puppet-Master himself," the hanyou scowled. "This is all just a game to you, isn't it? Or maybe it's a movie – I'm cast as the villain, and you're the hero riding to the rescue."
"A true hero would never be as self-serving as I am," Sesshomaru sniffed. "And as for being the villain, there are quite a few who would testify that I play that part very well on my own. No, Hanyou, this isn't about good versus evil. We are simply opposing sides of the same coin."
"So why do we bother?"
"You and I have lived a long time, Hanyou." Sesshomaru suddenly looked weary. "We have seen the world change, seen those who are like us disappear into the mists. Who will we play with, if we cannot challenge each other?"
The hanyou pondered this. "Fine, then," he said at last. "I'll play your game. But don't expect me to cut you any slack just because I like you." He rose, making his preparations to leave.
"I would be incredibly disappointed if you did," Sesshomaru assured him, ushering him out the front door.
The wet, windy night slapped the hanyou in the face, clearing his brandy-muddled brain. For the first time in a long while, he felt…rejuvenated. His lingering depression had cleared, and his brain was sparking with ideas.
Absolute power is boring, Sesshomaru had said. The hanyou didn't know if that statement was true or not, but he'd be damned if he was going to take the youkai's word on the matter. No, he was going to find out for himself. Time to stop playing petty boardroom politics and go for some real control.
This time, he would do things differently. He'd start with the corporation, building his armies of sycophants quietly, absorbing the weaker companies, building his own empire before attempting a hostile takeover of another. They would not know his real name, but they would certainly know his power…
A/N: Happy birthday, Sophie-chan. Since nobody's paying me to write this stuff, this should be considered the kind of gift that money can't buy…