This story should actually be put under the file, Ken, which is my 30shards collection, but this thing came out so long that I thought it should have its own file. So, this is Shard 12. I split it into two parts for easier uploading and reading.
A Series of "Once Was" and Wishes
Squicks: References to non-con sex/concubines, murder, death, and war. Also bastard!InuPapa.
Couple: Sess + Swords (Tenseiga)
Theme: #28 - Secrets (actually, it was hard to pick a theme…I had so many that would fit…)
Words: 13,441 (give or take some edits)
Summary: There once was a woman… Sesshoumaru's mother, a woman only a shadow of what she thinks she should be. And everything she does, everything she believes in, is all tied to that one boy who is almost nothing more than a stranger.
Note: As you can see, this is rather long…and Tenseiga doesn't show up until the end…Also, this isn't how I normally picture InuPapa, but it's nice to step out of the box once or twice.
There once was a man who thought himself a demon lord.
He was not large then; standing only average when compared to anyone else. But he was not like the others. He was a not-man of swagger and violence. He was a creature of will that would not bend.
He was too powerful for them.
"I have conquered you -- demolished you-- and therefore I demand your allegiance. And tribute."
The elders of the pack dipped their heads in acquiesce, although they knew not what to give this self-named lord. Kneeling at the edge of a village crushed to the ground and lit by bloody flames, they could do nothing but allow him to chose.
Being an autocrat to the very soul he cast a heavy gaze along the surviving hordes. A swift movement and his choice was made.
"I'll take her."
There once was a woman who found herself without a family.
She knelt upon the soiled grass, eyes on the trampled, motionless blades even as he spoke. A moan rose around her in ignored protest and still she did not move. She thought of family shortly past, of horrors that sunk their dark fingers in her mind.
She could only put one face to her sorrows. And it was he who plucked her from the bloody ground and began to prod and pry, fingering her face, touching her breasts, breathing her in. It was only when she was labeled fit that he let her go.
"A perfect concubine."
She only stood, head hung low, as the elders murmured amongst themselves. But she was roiling inside, emotions like pungent lava in her gut as she gritted her teeth behind forced modesty.
"You can't give away our healer!" This from one of the village youths, his face bloodied and burnt. Around her age, he was a threat easily ignored. "We need her! Much more than you ever will! Especially after what you did to us!"
The not-lord released her for only a moment. But she did not run, even when he returned with soiled claws and an even more soiled smile. "Any more protests?"
There were none.
There once was a new house that was nowhere near a home.
They traveled in the silence of strangers. It was a swift voyage with little danger. She had no belongings, no retainers, nor any idea of what she was getting into.
It was only when they landed in a slightly decrepit courtyard that he finally released her arm. One glance told her this palace was conquered. Waving over the multiple tiered roofs was a torn banner of another clan that, as she watched, was just being removed. Blood was being scrapped from the stone walls and the bark of overly large trees that clustered around the courtyard.
But the most telling of all were the bodies of enemies still strung from the walls.
"This is much larger than my previous residence," the not-lord said, not to her but to the air. He looked at her for the first time since he'd stolen her. "Go inside, the others will be here soon."
There once was a woman who saw she was not alone.
Kneeling within the cavernous room, she listened to the lonely echoes of those recently lost. It reverberated in the air, this isolation, enclosing her and she felt so small. People unseen scuffled past her solitary room, tasks in mind as her thoughts wandered after them.
Then they came. Noise arose from the courtyard, the soft, cultured tones of woman and the creak of wheels. Rising, she crept to the door and was met with beauty. Alighting from palanquins powered by nothing more than air were creatures of resplendent silk and cultured poise. They ranged in all colors; hair, eyes and skin shining like luminescent jewels.
And at more than one pair of feet was a child. Tiny little dolls that bore a resemblance she'd rather not see. Each was a girl, tidied up like their mothers and all looked so out of place in the battle-torn yard.
She felt so plain then. Hair a shade of gray, eyes slate, and her skin work-stained made her wonder why she was here.
That thought lead to anger. With all these woman, why must she leave her home? Did he not have enough?
There once was a woman of station, unloved.
She was soon not alone. They crowded into her once-large room, making it ever so small. She wanted to creep away, but was stopped by a woman. Or perhaps, the woman.
Decked in robes of uncountable layers she stood stiff and straight, fan poised, and her lip curled in unsightly disgust. She was lovely, but not young or fresh, and she knew it. Whey-faced, heavily polished, but her strength was more in her perceived size than her brilliance.
The woman was a dog, just as she. She had no right to judge, but did so anyway.
"My husband has been quite busy, has he not? A new conquered home and a brand new whore. And this one being so plain, too. I should feel insulted."
The others did not speak, having been trained well.
The woman sighed, her claws tearing her fan even as she smiled. "I suppose we should prepare you. Being new, you will be wanted tonight. New residences do not mean new habits."
There once was a gathering of women, resigned.
"Let me tend you hair. I can make it so lovely!"
She knelt upon a mat, newly washed and dried as her fellows flocked about her. One had her hands, others her feet. Claws skimmed her face, her naked flesh. She remained immobile, a plaything for them as they did what they knew best.
Someone tapped her forehead. "What is the meaning behind your mark?"
Biting her tongue, she remembered. Her family, a special clan blessed to heal. A twist of nature that left them marked as different. Blessed by the moon.
"If you do not wish to say, that is fine. We've all been through this as well, you know. The cold does not last long."
It was those words that made her ashamed. She was so hasty to judge, knowing now that they were just like her. Or had been, at least.
"I was stolen from my husband, because the Lord suffered a need," one said, voice low.
"I was given as penitence for my father's sin against the Lord, although I do not know what it was," another added, in her ear.
And she…she was a lonely woman taken in by a monster.
There once was a plain woman that did not recognize herself.
She gazed into the looking glass, not comprehending. That could not be her. This woman had skin scrubbed to a pearly sheen, her hair burnished silver. Her claws were cut and shaped, her hands soaked to lady-smooth. Even her eyes looked different, circled as they were by artful, artificial colors.
"Oh, don't you look marvelous?"
"That sea-pattern suits you so well!"
She never knew silk could feel so heavy. It was beautiful, yes, but not for her. To her it weighed a thousand pounds, soaked in sadness as it were. The eyes reflected at her glistened and she turned away.
That was not who she remembered. But it was who she was, now.
There once was a woman who knelt, disgraced.
His chamber was not really his, still bearing the artifacts of his predecessor. The futon still bore crumpled sheets from the old master's rushed awakening, the cupboards were open and ransacked from the servants' haste to steal and flee, and he stood right in the middle of it, grinning at his conquest.
"Come in here, don't be shy," he beckoned, crooking his fingers. It was not inviting in her eyes because she'd seen them in action. More than once. Not once had the experience been pleasant.
She did as she was told, knowing not what else to do. Shuffling on her knees and breaking slowly inside, she knelt prostrate before him.
"Ah, such a good girl. And pretty too, I see. I chose well."
Then his hands were on her, dragging her forward.
Soon she knelt again, heavy silk thrown over her shoulders, bruises on her tender skin as he mounted behind. She pressed her face into a dead man's sheets, biting back shameful tears as she tried to think of home.
But now it felt so lost and far away.
There once was a household, full to the brim.
"Kairi, stop running around! Honorable Mother does not appreciate such rowdiness."
She knelt among her new womenfolk, watching one of the ladies scold one of the younger girls. She did not know many of their actual names, just as they did not know hers. She told no one, keeping that secret tucked away.
"Ten-san, would you please help me for a moment?"
She glanced up at her new name. It was not so much a name as a sobriquet, fashioned after the mark on her brow. It did not bother her. It merely allowed for conversation.
Kneeling beside a sniffling girl-child, she worked her magic. She saw the other woman's smile bloom and knew she'd made another friend. Trapped as they were in the Master's residence as he waged yet another war, they were far removed from outside sources. Her ability to heal stopped many restless nights. Nothing she fixed was deadly but she appreciated the chance to practice her skill.
Once alone again she settled to sewing. Nimble fingers wove spider threads of silk for children's clothing. Nothing she made went to her own, for she had none to give it to. So she spun the cloth for lonely children who knew nothing of their father and yet lived forever in his shadow.
The house was so busy now, no longer the desolate burial ground of before. Servants bustled, children learned, and the women lounged fed and cleaned like favorite pets.
Stolen, forlorn pets kept in a blood-gilt cage.
There once was a bitter woman who could still speak the truth.
"You will no longer be the favorite now, you understand?" It was Honorable Mother, painted and pressed with the normal perfection. Her face was blemished with a sour scowl. But her eyes shone with something that could be pity. An understanding.
"He will return here with another one like you to take his interest. Then you will merely become part of the rotation. Especially you, a childless one."
She hung her head in studied obedience. And yet she was relieved. She could only swallow so much shame in a lifetime.
She was pleased to have born him no children. She would not soil her line with his madness.
There once was another victory.
"We will be leaving shortly," Honorable Mother told them all. "Lord Husband has found us another home."
And so they left. She felt no sorrow, for this was a place of disgrace and death to her.
They entered a cleaner courtyard, entered a larger room, and found another concubine kneeling just as she had done. She said nothing to her, only taking up the task of brushing her jade green hair as she was instructed.
Later on she watched her go, glad beyond measure that it was not she.
And, for that, she felt even more ashamed.
There once was a time when complacency bred grief.
He came to them all unexpectedly. His face was bright with anger, his eyes horrible with fervor.
They all crowded away from him, huddling together like frightened cattle. It was only Honorable Mother who stood against him, although she wavered like a sapling in the wind.
"My Lord, what brings you to the women's quarters?"
His gaze bore into Honorable Mother with intensity like steel. "I grow tired of girls."
Then the women watched in horror, stunned, as he tore a little girl from her mother and tossed her to the guard outside the door. Then went another. Then another. Now the women were screaming, trying to shield their children from his hands, but his claws found ways around them or through them, plucking up his own daughters like ripe fruit for ravenous villagers.
She knelt far away, seeing this and not believing. Blood was being spilt now, from both children and women, as he continued to weed out the weakness in his line. It was a war, mothers fueled by instinct trying to stop him.
That only irritated him even more until he was snarling. Eyes blood red, he began to cut the girls down in mothers' arms, not sparing them the sight. It was an ambush, one that fueled his demon blood to frenzy.
So when he turned eyes on her, the lonely childless one, she was shocked as she inched away at his approach. Amidst the wails of grieving concubines he cornered her. Claws dagger-sharp sunk into her, holding her down, tearing her clothes, and spreading her open for him. Soon she was forced to silent tears as he vented his frustration and anger out on her, his only whore left to fail him.
And all the others did was watch, struck by horror.
There once was a joy that was nothing but shame.
Jealous eyes burned her back but she did not turn, gazing out the open door. Her arm rested across her ripening belly even as she felt their hatred. She now carried what they all had lost, all in a fit of pique.
Yet she could feel no pity. For they had done nothing for her.
It was not that all the children were lost. Older girls, the ones quite indistinguishable from their mothers, still lived. They were not the weak little ones and had thus escaped his wrath. They were not the precious ones much loved by the mothers. However, young children were not all the world was made for. That she knew.
Because she did not want this child.
There once was an inopportune victory.
"The Master wants us to leave soon," Honorable Mother said.
She knelt upon her mat, arms crossed over her swelled abdomen, and felt a trickle of fear. Smoothing down the stretch silk she knew that she was past due. Moving was not a wise option.
But what she worried about more in that moment was from where that fear had sprung. It was a maternal fear, of which she'd hoped to have none. But there it was and she cursed herself.
As the others collected their things, Honorable Mother came to her side. Peering down she dictated, her tone succinct, "You come too, he said. He grows angry at your delay."
Her delay? Teeth ground in a surge of rage. Was it her fault her child did not want to enter such a bitter, hostile world?
If it were up to her, she let them stay in her body forever. If only to spare them a cold, miserable fate.
The air choked in her throat as her thoughts jeered at her. Her child? When had she thought like that? It was not her child; it was his. Any child conceived with such hate could only belong to that beast.
And for that, she must go.
There once was a foolish woman who thought her heart was stone.
She bore the child as they traveled. It came on her suddenly, a rush of pain like none other. The women around her were trained to act, despite their feelings, and at least she was not alone.
She bit back her screams, only because she was so practiced in that art, and soon Honorable Mother stood above her, a squalling child in her hands.
She'd never seen that woman smile before. But there she was with her peevish face radiant, while she was sprawled on a bloody, wooden floor.
"Thank the heavens… it's a boy."
And in that moment, she almost cried.
There once was a woman who gave up something she did not want, yet felt bereft.
Honorable Mother was the one to give the Lord the news. She offered him a silk-wrapped bundle and said, so simply, "Your son."
And he swept the boy up in the blink of an eye, his face more luminous than the very sun as he smiled. And she found him beautiful for the first time.
But she rather would not have. It just crumbled the wall she was futilely trying to build about her heart.
She'd given the child up long ago. It was not hers.
And yet, to her shame, she just couldn't keep her eyes off of that little body, cradled within the tyrant's arms.
There once was a boy who bore an evil name.
"Sesshoumaru-sama, come down here."
She watched, heart thudding in loathsome fear, as Honorable Mother stared down the rambunctious child, who crouched on one of the ladies' higher shelves.
He said nothing, for he could not speak yet, but even speechless he could find trouble.
The other ladies, many plump again with child, knelt around her, twittering with nervousness at the Master's heir.
But Sesshoumaru paid them all no mind, content to sit there, idly picking at his bare toes.
She gazed up at him, solemnly, trying not to see what her heart already screamed at her. This was her son, no matter how much she denied it and everyone else ignored it. He looked so much like him; that was true. He even bore a name so befitting of his father's depravity.
But that slowly darkening moon spoke the other truth.
There once was a boy who had more than one mother.
"Why am I stuck in the women's quarters?" Sesshoumaru often complained, from where he was left kneeling amongst his father's many self-claimed "wives". They would not be called concubines when the Master's son was around. Whores were not noble mothers, which they all wanted to be.
And now, clustered around him as they were, he had an entire pack of them.
"My Lord is away, why not spend some time with us?" Honorable Mother asked, with a calm that barely hid the hope.
"But I don't want to." He stood then, and the women shuffled back, startled. She watched with a hidden smile. "Father would not want me cloistered away with all of you. There is much else I can be doing, instead."
She smiled more, watching his short silver-white hair brush his shoulders. Hair that length was the sign of the young, as tradition demanded. But the way he stood --arms folded and head haughtily angled-- was not quite fitting with such an appearance.
She should feel ashamed, but she could not help but be proud of his arrogance. Because he was doing what she often dreamed to do.
Just once she wanted to speak down to these simpering females. Just once.
There once was the Honorable Mother, the only one he must respect.
They all were out walking one day, something they had begun to do in the afternoons. She loved this time, the freedom of wind on her face. As they shuffled along, slow and sedate despite her desire to run, they had to stop and step aside.
Sesshoumaru was coming towards them. He was steps ahead of his tutors, walking with a brisk pace of impatience. But, seeing them, he was forced to halt.
"Honorable Mother." Never once did he look beyond the woman at the head. Honorable Mother was the only one allowed to speak to him on such occasions, anyhow. The rest were just her multiple shadows of bowed heads and labored silence.
Honorable Mother smiled, enjoying the son that was not hers, and trapped him in a short conversation.
She, on the other hand, watched the boy's feet, watching him shifting and straining against his bred manners to break free. Leaning unconsciously away, hand tight around the new blade at his side, he looked as if he just wanted to run, get away from all this needless propriety.
Sometimes she wished he would.
There once was a woman who lived in hypocrisy.
She knelt beside the half open door, watching. Sesshoumaru was outside, under the careful eyes of his tutors. He paced around the enclosed area, the others trailing behind and cursing his inability to remain still.
But he was listening to them, even as they struggled to keep up. The concentration in his eyes she recognized…from herself.
Her eyes fell shut then, breathing in. She was nameless, but she did not feel so. She was something else inside, but she refused to believe it. She'd told herself that long ago.
He was not her son.
Then why did she watch him so? This was not the place for women; she was outside their bounds. And yet she wandered there all the same and sometimes she dreamed…but those were all fanciful useless things.
He worked so hard to meet his father's demands, she knew this and it struck her. Sheer determination…such a sense of purpose…
Why did she do this to herself?
Leaning back, she traced the mark upon her brow. She was not the only youkai in the women's quarters to bear such a thing…in fact there were many. His didn't even match hers in color and size…and yet…yet…
Sometimes she dreamed of such stupid things.
There once was a father who wasn't really one at all.
"Honorable Mother, when is Father coming home?"
"I do not know yet, Sesshoumaru-sama. But, please, come sit with me some."
He did so, kneeling in the place the women shifted aside to make for him.
She found herself somehow next to him. When had he gotten that big?
Accepting his hostess's polite offerings, he placed the cup aside quickly enough, still full. "He said I am soon old enough to go with him, but he has not been here in so long."
Honorable Mother smiled as a mother does upon a little child. "I am sure he will return soon, Sesshoumaru-sama. Life involves a little waiting, sometimes. My Lord will return here when he is ready."
Sesshoumaru said nothing after that. Head bowed he sat beside her and was nothing but stiff silence. It was not the quiet of a boy. It was the self-control of one much older.
She knew he was unhappy, even if the others did not. She just knew.
She remained mute beside him as Honorable Mother sought to break the hush. Calling in some entertainment, a recitation of the Lord's past victories commenced.
Sesshoumaru looked up once then sighed, sinking back to his thoughts.
And she understood then how she knew. He was not just quiet… no…it was that he held the resigned silence of a lonely, hopeful child.
Her heart ached.
There once was a woman compelled by spurned instinct.
The not-lord did not come.
She knelt behind her door and watched Sesshoumaru take his frustrations out on his sparring partner. It was one of his father's guard-soldiers; a man threatened not to harm even when the young youkai began to easily take advantage of him.
They were not alone out there and soon the soldier was flushed and frenzied from the ridicule thrown at him by his fellows. He pushed back against his Master's heir and Sesshoumaru looked marginally surprised.
Then he gritted his teeth and fought back.
Amidst the panicked cries of the tutors and whoops of the guards, the two went at it; their swords flung aside in favor of claws.
She rose slowly to her feet, not really knowing…and then it happened.
Because, no matter his anger, Sesshoumaru couldn't stand out against an adult.
She didn't so much see it as feel it, deep in her gut, when his skull cracked. He was nothing but a heap of useless bones and flesh soon after. His opponent fell over him with his final attack and that woke the soldier up to what he'd just done.
No one said a word.
Not even when she was suddenly outside amongst the men. She fell to her knees at Sesshoumaru's side, hands stuffed in new-red hair searching to fix it…but…
She'd never felt so heavy before. Everything in her sunk --her heart, her mind, her body-- until she had her forehead pressed against his. He stared at her, but not really. But he was still breathing; she felt it against her cheek.
Maybe…maybe she could fix this…
There once was a woman and a youth, tied.
She'd never healed something this large in so long…but she tried. She pulled the strength she had stored away, hidden from the tiny world she kept.
And she felt something in him respond, sparked into stirring under her magic touch. It was so small she thought she was dreaming…but it really was there.
Sesshoumaru truly was of her blood after all. He was not like her, but he was part of her. She could not deny it any longer.
Just as she couldn't deny the joy the ripped through her the moment he mumbled a moan beneath her, lashes fluttering in false meekness as he struggled awake.
She only had a breath to meet his eyes before she was pulled away.
But that was all she needed.
Not only was he her son…she was a mother now, as well.
There once was a boy that never was strong enough.
The not-lord returned soon after. Sesshoumaru had finally been allowed up by the estate's healer, who had insisted that the already-healed boy rest, despite all protest.
So the boy was caught unawares when his father dropped down in the middle court one afternoon. She was there, with the other ladies on their daily stroll, when he came down in a rage, teeth bared.
Sesshoumaru, stripped of all armor and clothed in nothing but soft silk, stared at him with frightened eyes.
The first thing the Master did was bark a name and had a familiar guard dragged in. He spluttered, then pleaded, and at the last screamed as the Master took off his head.
And all he had to say was, "I warned you."
Then he had Sesshoumaru in his grasp, pulling the boy forward by his chin.
She sunk her claws into the nearest woman --deaf to her pained surprise-- in order to curb her desire to run over there.
"What is this I hear of you, boy? A failure? I expect better of you. You should be stronger than that. You should have beaten him, a mere guard."
Sesshoumaru only gazed down at the windswept gravel, his face twisted in a self-depreciating grimace. "Yes…"
She fought down her anger, a snarling beast that clawed her innards to be free.
That bastard didn't understand…he didn't understand at all. How could he expect the impossible from one still so young?
He needed time. But he had none.
Even from such a distance she could see the desperate determination in Sesshoumaru's eyes.
There once was a woman whose past caught up with her.
"You," the Master ordered then, pointed at her quite imperiously. She stared at him, not comprehending. He had not noticed her since those last few months after Sesshoumaru was born. She remembered that time well. He had tried to get another boy out of her, but had lost interest after a while.
She had been happy that his attention span was so very short. Now she wasn't, in regards to other matters. Or, perhaps, just a certain someone.
"Come with me," he told her and she did as she was told. She could do nothing else. As everyone else watched, she followed him through the court. She kept her head bowed as she approached the statue-like Sesshoumaru, who watched her with a quietly perplexed expression.
Just as she past him she shifted her arm just so to brush her sleeve against his. She felt so giddy after that, like some little girl with a crush, and she was embarrassed. But now it was only the little things to tide her over…especially now that the estate manager --tiny little flea that he was-- had scolded her for leaving the women's quarters, amongst her other offences.
That, apparently, was what she was called out for.
They entered the house and she was led into the smallest audience chamber. She knelt as decorum demanded even as he paced.
"I was told what happened. You…healed the boy?"
She stared down at her hands, hating the coldness of the room and the heat of his eyes on her. She wanted the comforting, mellow warmth of her son again; he always sat just right with her. Not like this monster.
"…yes, Lord," she grudgingly answered as his impatience crawled over her skin.
"How is this possible." It was not a question but a demand for her to explain.
She bit her tongue and willed herself just to melt away. She did not want to tell him. This was her past; she did not want to give it to him. He had taken everything else…
"Explain." He seethed, angered by her perceived insolence. He slowly closed in his pacing until he circled her like she was prey. Which she was very close to being if his eyes told her anything. "Speak before I remove that reticent tongue of yours."
Head bowed low, she gave in and told him. Each word took a bit of her very soul with it.
"I come from a youkai clan renown for their singular abilities. I, like many of my fellow womenfolk, have been granted the power to heal, to repair the body and mind without the use of medicinal herbs. This skill was given the mark of this three-quarter moon," here she touched her brow even as her eyes remained on the floor. "As to the males, there were--"
"Weak and pathetic," he sneered suddenly, taking her aback. Her head rose unconsciously and she wished she hadn't looked up. His eyes were burning with something so close to hatred that she thought he might melt her there and then. "Why did you not tell me this before? Because of you, my son is now ruined."
She stared up at him, shocked. Ruined? How could he call such a loyal boy ruined? Sesshoumaru did everything for his father: he fought for him, he struggled for him, he breathed for him. And now this...this bastard…
"Because of this useless talent of yours," he continued, scornfully, "your blood has created a blemish on a very powerful line of youkai. For my son to have such a purposeless ability as to heal…why, that is a simple waste of youki that can be used for much greater skills!"
She saw red. There was no other explanation for it. "Like what? Slaughtering the helpless?" she spat out through bared fangs. She was too exhilarated to feel afraid--this was freedom. The ability to fight back.
He hit her. Hard. The pain snapped over her face leaving her blind to anything else for so long. Her fingers flew to her face, feeling the blood running there, the torn skin that had once been a cheek. Her eyes welled with tears that she swallowed like putrid bile. This was the price of freedom.
"Get out of my sight, you damn bitch!" he roared, towering over her. He was intimidating the weak and she wanted to laugh. She just wanted to scream her laughter at him, telling him exactly what she thought of him.
She was vindictive, yes, but not suicidal. So, rising to her feet, she left. She intended just to walk right straight through the gate and out of this hell, but she was stopped by the guards and escorted back to her little prison cell filled with forgotten women and maternal longing.
But she couldn't help feeling just a small bit of satisfaction. She had not told him all.
He did not know about the poison.
There once was a imprisoned woman worried for another.
She sat within the small room, trapped in her indefinite seclusion. It had been this way for at least a month now, ever since her little spat with the so-called Master. Apparently he thought she would influence his other women with her wild ways. Preposterous, she knew. She had no more sway over those women than the wind had on a mountain.
And yet, sitting alone, she wondered why she was still alive. He was not merciful. She had seen him kill countless women. Perhaps…perhaps he felt at least some indebtedness to her for at least giving him a son. Even if he was so ruined…
She clenched her hands, forcing her rage to subside. There was a guard stationed outside her separate quarters and she did not want him in here. But, if she crawled carefully, she could reach the door. There she could find the hole she'd torn in the paper long ago and through it she could see the main courtyard.
She couldn't keep herself from watching, no matter how much it was tearing her apart. Her eye always found that hole and she would sit for hours on end, not moving at all, as her son worked himself to death.
And he was. Everyday, from sun up to sun down, he was working, learning, improving. It was as if he planned to shove a whole lifetime within only one season. He never seemed to stop, always on his feet and fighting even as he stumbled over himself in exhaustion. Either that or he was hounded by more and more tutors, who crawled after him like obsequious shadows.
She'd never seen someone work so hard. He had to be pulling his determination from his very bones because he looked so haggard and worn -- nothing like the boy she'd once known-- and yet he still remained standing.
But that couldn't last forever, she knew. Watching him now and the way he slipped over his own blood on the gravel, she felt her heart pounding erratically and she wanted to give some of this nervous energy to him. In fact, she'd give him every inch of power she possessed if only he'd stop this…
But, above all things, she wanted to talk to him. Because Sesshoumaru didn't know that he was worthless now.
No amount of training would clear his blood in his father's eyes.
That thought made her chest constrict painfully and if she were anyone else, she would have cried. But she couldn't do that anymore. Not even for Sesshoumaru.
But she could hate enough for the both of them. She was good at that.
There once was an ultimate shame.
She trailed along after the women's entourage, free now of her official seclusion. But no one wanted near her; she was a deadly disease, it seemed. She was content enough to follow after--she never was one of them, after all.
She could still remember the words of the estate manager from when he hopped up on her shoulder to whisper in her ear as she was lead to the women's quarters. "This is just the beginning of much worse things, my dear." He was not cruel, just truthful.
In the distance she could hear the training; it always had a sound of its own. She grimaced, like always. She listened to someone shouting, angry about some mistake. The more she listened, the slower she walked, until she stopped all together.
"Look!" It was that cry that drew her attention back to the women. One pointed up to the sky as they all raised their heads.
There was a palanquin there, flanked by a very familiar youkai. Her face darkened as she dug her claws into her palm. That bastard.
Noise swelled up in the courtyard as the soldiers and servants swarmed towards the Master's arrival. She turned just in time to see a streak of white push itself through the cluster of people, heading straight to the front.
Sesshoumaru --covered in scrapes, blood, and bruises-- wore an expression of heartbreaking anxiety as he emerged from the crowd just as the Master touched down.
An expression that easily morphed into one of absolute shock the moment the palanquin's flap was drawn aside and a woman stepped out. It was a youkai woman, and at her side stood a little boy.
"All bow before my Heir," the not-lord intoned, claw outstretched towards the new child, who stared at them all with wide purple eyes.
Everyone did as they were told. They all knew better than to disobey.
When she glanced at Sesshoumaru again his face astonished her. It wasn't angry, ashamed, or even glad that he didn't have to do this anymore.
It was nothing. He just stared at his father with blank eyes that made her very soul shiver.