Recap from previous chapter:

She kissed the top of the snowy white head before inhaling the pure scent that was her pup. /Innocence…love/

/One day Yasha, you will be great. And I Ame, of the house of Xu-Fa am proud to call you the son of my heart. I love you so. Never forget that. Never forget my love for you./

"Never forget, little one."

She knew her silent whisper was heard when the furry white ear twitched.

"Never Mimi." Came the soft reply.

They secret promise to each other.

They sat in silence for a while, before a familiar scent greeted them upon the winds. Followed by an amused voice.

"I thought I might find you both here."

……………………

Chapter 3: A Proposed Deal

Both woman and child turned and smiled at the demon male that was walking towards them. Ame glowed with happiness and love as she gazed upon her husband. In his elegant pale green haori and hakama he blend naturally with his environment. He stood tall and regal, as was his birthright. His long ebony hair danced in the winds as he walked, caressing his olive skin and hiding his emerald gaze for a few moments. He was a handsome kitsune with a loyalty to the Inu-youkai.

Ame smiled softly as he came and sat beside her. He leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips in greeting.

Before they could speak to each other a white blur pulled from her embrace and launched himself at her husband. She gazed at them with amusement as he chuckled at the young hanyou's chatter.

"Yoshi-san! Meet my friend Piho. It's he beautiful?"

Yoshi nodded his head in agreement as he pulled Inuyasha to his chest and kissed his puppy dog-ears. He smirked at the child's whine about how sensitive they were. But before he could deter the boy's attention, Inuyasha was off and playing with his new friend. Leaving the two adults to watch him wistfully.

Yoshi turned to his wife when he heard her sigh. Upon seeing the sad look forming on her delicate features he gathered her into his embrace and kissed her forehead. There was no need to voice any reassurance, for they were both grateful for at least this moment, with little Inuyasha.

Yoshi voice was quiet but strong as he stroked her soft black hair. "He will always be the son of our hearts."

Against his chest he felt her nod her head silently. That will always have to be enough.

"What are you doing out here? I thought you had an important meeting with Lord Inutaisho. There's nothing wrong is there?"

Yoshi sighed and groaned in frustration. "Nothing's wrong. We just had to postpone our meeting for Lady Sasami had some things she deemed more worthy to discuss with Inutaisho. You should have seen the look on Inutaisho's face, he was about to explode in his fury."

Ame shook her head in silent remorse on that subject. No one was allowed to speak about the unsteady relationship between Sasami and Inutaisho. She never did like Sasami, but Inutaisho did treat her unfairly. Of course, Ame tried not to dwell on that fact, because it was those circumstances that allowed her the happiness that was Inuyasha.

Time seemed to pass as they relaxed there, quietly watching Inuyasha running around the gardens. But after a while Ame pulled away from him, realizing the late hour, she got to her feet and called to her charge before turning to regard her husband.

"Our break is over, Inuyasha hasn't finished his studies yet. When we're done, would you like to have lunch with us here in the gardens?"

Yoshi nodded as he too straighten and stretched. He chuckled as Inuyasha ran over and tried to tackle him. As he pounced, Yoshi grabbed him from midair and watched as the little demon tried to swat at his hand.

"You need more work Yasha. We will continue our own studies after lunch. Now be a good puppy for your Mimi. Until later young Prince."

Setting Inuyasha down, Yoshi smiled as he nodded to both his wife and Inuyasha before he left them.

Ame turned toward her little one to see him waving to the bird Piho.

"I'll see you later Piho. Be here for lunch, I'll feed you some fish."

She watched as the bird sang and chirped as he flew around Inuyasha head before disappearing over the garden walls. It wouldn't surprise her if the bird did show up later. She learned not to question the special bond that Inuyasha had with all living things around him.

Ame held out her hand and entwined hers and Inuyasha's fingers as they made their way indoors to the library.

………………..

Ame was laughing as she listened to Inuyasha reanimate a story that he heard from one of the servants early that morning. She was still smiling when she opened the door and both she and her student entered the library. Her laughter died in her throat as she bowed upon seeing the occupant in the quiet library.

Sesshoumaru stood arrogantly next to a window looking out into the massive acres of land that surrounded the castle. She grudgingly admitted that he looked like the handsome lord that he personified. His long white hair was smooth and soft. His immaculate white haori and hakama fit his tall and masculine frame well, even making his pale skin glow with unbridled power. But no matter how handsome he looked, his cold indifference will always destroy the image of his beauty.

She tried not to frown at the unusual occurrence, for everyone knew that this time of the day, the library was reserved for Inuyasha's studies. And no one was to disturb them, not even the royal family. Why would Sesshoumaru seek out the brother he despised so much? So she remained on guard, she did not trust anyone with Inuyasha's safety, especially Sesshoumaru.

"Lord Sesshoumaru. What a…pleasant surprise. Was there something I can do for you?"

Ame tried to soften her voice, appearing submissive and pliant to the inu-youkai. But she did not lower her gaze from his, she also was of noble blood and no one can make her a slave to those cold golden eyes.

Sesshoumaru contained his anger at her insolence as he tore his gaze from her and glanced down at the figured that was standing at the fox demon's side. Their golden eyes met and Sesshoumaru had to suppress the urge to snarl when the boy did nothing but stare curiously at him.

For the past few weeks Sesshoumaru had been keeping an eye on the progress the damn hanyou has been making. No matter what trial or problem that the young half-breed faced he never complained or gave up. It annoyed Sesshoumaru to no end. So he decided that it was about time that he confronted the little mute.

"How are his studies moving along?" He kept his voice at a minimal, just enough to be heard as he stared down at the hanyou.

Ame was momentarily surprised by the question and she did not speak fast enough for his liking. He narrowed his eyes at his little brother, but spoke again to her. "It there a problem Lady Ame?"

"Nothing my lord. We are making progress, Prince Inuyasha is…adjusting."

Sesshoumaru didn't acknowledge that he heard her, but continued to keep track of all the movements that the dog pup made. He had this sudden urge to tear open the innocent face that gazed back at him. He barely managed not to snarl as he spoke through gritted teeth.

"Leave us." Both Ame and Inuyasha stiffened at the order. They blinked at him in confusion, which quickly turned into dread for Ame when the young lord spoke again.

"I want to speak to Inuyasha alone." The distaste was clearly heard when he spoke the name.

Ame's heart started pounding erratically as her feared spiked. She was torn, for if she refused, Sesshoumaru would probably kill her leaving Inuyasha at his mercy. But if she left, Sesshoumaru might hurt her pup.

She was still hesitating when she felt someone pull at her kimono. She glance at the small face that gazed lovingly back at her. In his golden eyes, she saw patience and understanding of her undying devotion to him. His eyes twinkled with mirth and affection as he smiled his toothy smile.

"Could I have some sweets now Mimi? I'll be good and wait here until you returned."

The underlying promise that Inuyasha would be all right eased her panic. She nodded and forced herself to leave the room without looking back. She knew that only a glimpse of Inuyasha standing alone with his older brother would heighten her urge to turn back, grab her pup and flee Sesshoumaru's presence. No matter how intelligent and wise Inuyasha seemed to be, he was only five years old.

…………..

After the door closed, Inuyasha turned his gaze back to the towering youkai. The ever-present stoic veneer had not changed but his eyes spoke of a different story. For just a second, Inuyasha saw the hatred that burned within the older demon before his eyes turn cold and indifferent again. Inuyasha tilted his head to the side in question. When Sesshoumaru remained silent, Inuyasha shrugged and moved to his usual seat to continue his studies.

Sesshoumaru remained standing a few feet away, watching as Inuyasha sat down at the table and started reading scrolls. His anger and confusion seemed to boil over at the child's insolence. The small boy had no fear of him, no outward desire to run from his presence. Sesshoumaru quelled his frustration as he turned to look out the window again. He called for patience and wisdom to deal with this once and for all.

His musing was interrupted when he smelled it again. Evergreen, autumn leaves, sakura blossoms. Every once in a while he would smell the scent in the air, and despite himself yearned for it; at times, he would wake up aching to smother his very being in the scent; it calmed his nerves, he found peace and longing of things that he had no name for.

But that was why he hated it so, for it emitted from the one being that Sesshoumaru wanted to destroy. Inuyasha, the half-breed carried a scent that attracted this Sesshoumaru. The little mongrel confused his youkai, and Sesshoumaru suffered from this craving and instinctual urges. His hatred for Inuyasha, tainted his yearning. And his disgust at his own weakness made him more furious.

"I know you hate me."

Sesshoumaru stiffened at the soft voice that broke the silence. He turned away from the window to look at the child. He stifled the sneer when he locked gazes with the mutt. The sun's rays brightened the room from the large window as it cascaded down over Inuyasha. His snow-white hair seemed to glow against his soft tanned skin. His golden eyes sparkled with undisguised brightness.

Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow, willing the boy to continue. They both knew that Sesshoumaru would never refute Inuyasha's statement.

Inuyasha bit his lip; he took a deep breath before replying to the unspoken request. He was a child, and many believe him ignorant or too childish to realize the state that he occupied within the castle. But he saw the looks; he recognized the barely concealed loathing towards him. It saddened his heart that his own stepmother hated him, and his half-brother was waiting patiently for his demise. But he was not alone though; Mimi and Yoshi adored him and his father loved him.

He may be helpless now, but he will grow and face those who hated him head on. No longer will he cower behind Mimi's skirts, no longer will he hope for his stepmother's approval. And he will never again fall prey to his half-brother's taunts and abuse. Although, he knew this to be true, his ambition will never sour and grow bitter, he will never hate those who hate him; he would simply be indifferent.

He will learn to accept, but his heart and soul will never, ever forgive them.

"Father will not let you kill me. We both know how much you want to be rid of me. You're hoping that when you are Lord of the Westernlands, you can accomplish this. That will be a long while."

Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes at the concealed taunt. He hid his surprised at the sudden seriousness in the boy's voice and manner. The hanyou was carefully watching his reaction with quiet and reserved patience. It was disconcerting to see such a behavior in one so small. Sesshoumaru was painfully reminded of how much Inuyasha looked like their father.

Taking Sesshoumaru's silence as confirmation to continue, Inuyasha straightened in his seat and held the older demon's gaze.

"I propose a deal."

Sesshoumaru found himself smirking at the ridiculous notion. /This Sesshoumaru is two hundred years old, and you dare brat to think I would degrade myself so/

Without missing a beat, Inuyasha forged on, "Instead of waiting a century or two for father to pass down the title so you can initiate my demise, we can settle this in a battle. Wait thirteen years for me to complete my training, and make the decision. Father plans that I employ his military, but first I must prove my worth. In a battle of strength and will, if I win against you, I lead father's forces as is my right."

Sesshoumaru clenched his fists at his side at the arrogance of the whelp. He steadied his anger and fists as the sudden urge to kill the half-breed bubbled within him.

"And if I win?" His voice was hard and venomous.

Inuyasha swallowed softly when he felt the temperature drop a few degrees. But he didn't back down from the narrowed gaze. /I can do this. Be brave Inuyasha./

"You will have the right to strike me down, for by winning, you have proven that I was not worthy to be apart of the royal family of Inutaisho. Honor will dictate this, and no one will interfere, not even father."

Sesshoumaru stared at the child in muted shock. It seemed that he had underestimated the child's courage. But nothing will prove more fitting than to set an example for all to see. Elation warmed his being at the child's foolishness, for he had signed his death and no one can help him now.

"You are a child, Inuyasha. A stupid, foolish, child; you will meet your retched mother soon half-breed. I will be counting the days until then, brother." The sneer was clearly heard when he spoke the last word before departing, leaving Inuyasha trembling behind him.

Inuyasha bit his lip and tried to keep himself from feeling the fear that was growing in his heart. The deafening silence was horrifying as doubt manifested within him. When a soft loving voice broke through the dreaded silence, he looked up and into the beloved gaze of his surrogate mother.

He stifled a sob as he launched himself at her and started to tell her what had transpired in her absence.

Ame felt her blood run cold as she listened to all. Her first instinct was to take him and run, but she forced it down. /Oh..Inuyasha…why? You brave boy, brave…but so foolish./ She refrained from voicing her thoughts as she held the terrified pup. It was done, and honoring the rules of such must be in play. /Have faith./

"It's all right little prince. Never doubt your strength, you will succeed Yasha."

"I'm so sorry Mimi." As the tears fell down the soft youthful face, Ame smile gently at him.

"You have to be brave Yasha. For when it is time, you must stand against it all. I will welcome that day, and be proud to stand by your side."

Inuyasha gazed at the honest blue eyes that smiled serenely at him. He nodded his agreement before matching his smile with hers.

………………….

Thirteen Years Later:……………….

Ame tried to hold her tongue when she quietly watched Lady Sasami continue to subtly degrade Inuyasha in front of the entire court. Her voice was soft and filled with poisoned honey.

"It was a effortless order that was suppose to be accomplished to precision and refinement. How could a simple thing elude you, Inuyasha?"

Because of Inutaisho and Sesshoumaru's absence from court, Sasami ruling was final in their lands. But Ame was sure that they would return soon, maybe even later today. She was almost at her wits end without her husband to complain too. Inuyasha was hardly around, for she had become Lady Sasami's errand boy.

/How dare she treat my son that way/

Many a years ago, Ame realized that maybe the gods were punishing her for all the cruelty that she had shown in the past; for only the gods would have the power to make her barren. It was her penance and she had accepted it, but for a long time before Inuyasha, she was afraid that she would loose Yoshi because of the malice in her heart. It seemed a miracle that only one glance at a helpless baby, changed her. Love over flowed her heart, and Inuyasha not only loved her, but also helped her find peace within herself and her husband.

She was content, she may not have children of her own, but Inuyasha was more than she ever hoped for. She was frightened to think of what would come of her beloved pup if she wasn't present in his life. Ame knew how the Lady of the Westernlands felt for the child. She despised the very sight of him, will never fully accept Inuyasha into her home or her family. But Lady Sasami was from proper etiquette, so her disdain was in forms of silence and ignorance of his attendance in her presence. There weren't any cruel words or physical incidents, but her cold countenance was cruelty enough for a child.

Inuyasha's half-brother was even worse. For even with higher breeding, he didn't see it beneath him to insult the child for what he represented. He made remarks of Inuyasha's taint and poison to their family. The disgrace that will occur if Inuyasha continued to reside with their household; the humiliation he will bring when he can not up hold against stronger demons, for as a hanyou, he will never measure up.

Ame tried everything in her power to keep Inuyasha away from them. And with hard work and time, she had molded Inuyasha into a better being than his family. Because of Inutaisho's rein, his time and energy was always taken over with political matters or training his heir, Sesshoumaru. And so, Yoshi took it upon himself to train and perfect Inuyasha's skills.

Remarkably, Inuyasha was a fast learner, found everything exciting and challenging. Indeed he was full of mischief and mayhem, but he was also cunning and mature when he wanted to be. His strength grew and his understanding of history and war was phenomenal. His intelligent knew no bounds.

Of course the child pup was shed and the young demon appeared. At eighteen Inuyasha had grown tall and beautiful. Unlike his father and Sesshoumaru, Inuyasha had a lean musculature build with soft and angelic features. And due to his mother's blood he was only a few inches below their towering heights. His tanned skin glowed with an exotic hew, complimenting his long white hair that he tied simple at the nape of his neck and letting the rest flow freely down his back.

As he was in attendance of other lords and ladies, Inuyasha was dressed as was his station, the Prince of the Westernlands. His blue silk haori was well fitted with a dark hakama that accentuated his slender frame.

His usually smiling golden eyes were blank as he stared at his stepmother. The ever-present grin he always bestowed upon favorable people was pulled into a straight line. He seemed uncaring as he waited patiently for her on going droning to cease. He could hear the snickering from other lords that have come to visit the royal family, but he paid it no mind. He thoughts began to wonder when the commotion from outside reached his ears.

He turned his head to see Ame glancing at him in joy. Without waiting to be excused he stood up from his seat and exited the throne room at fast, as the formal attire he wore would permit. He kept a hand on the decorative sword at his side so it would not jostle.

Finally in the courtyard, Inuyasha came to a stop and straightened his appearance. In the distance he could see his three figures approaching and he tried to keep his excitement at bay. He glanced to his right and saw a demon standing at the entrance, but upon Inuyasha's scrutiny the demon turned and grinned at Inuyasha.

Inuyasha returned the grinned before looking about to check if anyone was paying attention to them. The brown haired wolf demon started to chuckle. "Don't worry mutt, everyone is busy watching as their Lord approaches and lets not forget the Ice Prince."

"Whatever bastard." Inuyasha joined in the merriment. For even with the vulgar name calling, it was full of shared moments between friends.

The wolf demon grabbed Inuyasha and kissed his red lips. Inuyasha chuckled against the onslaught. He stifled a moan as he felt a tongue lick at the seam of his lips. He opened to the wolf demon, and for a few moments he welcomed the desire that always consumed him; he entwined their slick muscles in his mouth, before he ended the kiss with a soft bite to the wolf demon's bottom lip.

"When did you get here Kouga?"

Kouga shrugged but immediately growled in irritation when Inuyasha teased.

"Hell must have frozen over, Kouga." Inuyasha smirked at the sudden blush that stained Kouga's cheeks. He tried to look indifferent to Inuyasha's admiring gaze.

Inuyasha had never seen his friend where anything besides his animal skins. Even when Kouga's father threatened him with a beating, he was adamant in his decision. But before him, Kouga was freshly scrubbed and primed. He was wearing a simple brown haori with matching hakama. But Kouga's natural good looks made it stand out gloriously.

Noticing his friend's embarrassment he smile kindly, "You look very nice, Kouga. Very handsome."

Kouga visibly relaxed as turned his gaze to him and looked him up and down, he leered at Inuyasha beneath his brown bangs. "Thanks pup. You don't look half-bad yourself. In fact, you look good enough to eat."

Inuyasha rolled his eyes but smirked at the wolf demon. He wasn't able to say anything else though, for someone called his name. He turned and smiled warmly at the arrivals.

He moved across the space between them and bowed to his father. "Welcome back father. I hope your journey was successful. Lady Sasami is waiting inside to greet you."

Inutaisho nodded in greeting. He kept his face neutral as he inspected his son before him. By their customs, Inuyasha was of age, and ready to test his skills. Even as his son looked fragile and small to him, he knew that he held a hidden strength within him. And it must hold now.

Before Inutaisho had left on this excursion, Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha had agreed that the arrangement they had made years ago would commence upon their return. His youngest son must prove himself against Sesshoumaru before the whole court and his family.

Trying not to dwell on the events yet, Inutaisho moved towards the castle, followed closely by Yoshi. He remembered their journey back, where he would catch Sesshoumaru staring off into space. He did not know what Sesshoumaru's thoughts pertained, but he knew that for a long time, his eldest was gratifyingly waiting for this day.

……………

Inuyasha watched his father and Yoshi leave, but not before Yoshi nodded at him in greeting. He returned the gesture, and then waited patiently until all who were left in the courtyard besides him was Sesshoumaru and Kouga. He silently thanked Kouga for standing a few yards away and remaining quiet as he faced his brother.

Sesshoumaru held his gaze unflinchingly. No emotion was harbored within his eyes as he stared at Inuyasha. They did not greet each other but waited. The silence settled over them.

Sesshoumaru broke their silent battle of wills and gazed beyond Inuyasha to Kouga. His eyes narrowed and for the first time since arriving an emotion flashed through his eyes. He almost sneered in disgust as his angry glared was met and challenged by the wolf demon. But nothing happened, both knowing that Kouga was no match for the dog demon.

Turning his gaze back to Inuyasha he raised an eyebrow. "Tomorrow." Upon seeing the nod of agreement, Sesshoumaru continued his trek towards the castle.

/Tomorrow…I will finally kill you little brother./

……………

TBC…….

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