It was early evening around midsummer. The sky was still streaked over with orange, pink and golden hues, spilling heat into the air and causing heat waves to rise from the ground and blur the vision of those who happened to see them. It was really too hot for anyone to be moving around. This was the kind of evening where it would have been wiser to stay indoors or under the shade of a tree or even go swimming in one of the many tamed ponds surrounding the enormous white palace. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the palace were not doing this. People were milling around, walking through the parched gardens, gazing out over stretches of water as they walked spiderweb-thin trails of marble and fanned themselves with their hands to stay cool. Despite how they tried, though, there was no helping it. The heat was unbearable enough as it was, but the heavy garments everyone wore only exasperated this problem.

Rasetsunyo closed her eyes, arms held up to either side as her servants fanned her. The sleeves of her heavy gold robes were wide enough to catch a cross breeze, but she still had almost ten pounds of jewelry, three layers of a thin white veil and a massive amount of auburn hair to content with. Wedding days were supposed to be joyous. This was anything but! Her fingers were swollen around the rings, her ears were being weighed down by the earrings, the heavy gold and diamond collar extended well down her throat and shoulders, covering any skin that might have shown. Oh, and she wasn't exactly thrilled to be getting married to begin with. Yes, this had to be the most unfortunate wedding in the history of creation!

"I'm dripping," she muttered as she felt a new drop of sweat slip down the side of her face. Madira, her servant and companion since they were both ten, was quickly there to dab it away.

"What is taking them so long?" Madira exclaimed, crimson eyes narrowing in annoyance. Madira was actually a half-sister of hers, born from her father and a human servant who died during child birth. Just like her mother had when bringing her younger sister into the world.

"They're men. They're probably having a pissing contest," Rasetsunyo replied uncharitably.

"Suni! That's your brother you're talking about!"

"And my future husband, yes, I know. Hyu's probably showing off those damned lizards of his again."

Madira snickered before she could stop herself. Their older brother, Hyumaoh, had just taken stock in a new breed of dragon, one that could fly twice as far without tiring and ate a third less. It was often joked that he slept more with the dragons than he did his own wife. "Your husband did seem rather interested in them, didn't he? Maybe it's not going to be so bad."

Rasetsunyo arched a brow in disbelief before leaning closer and whispering, "He sent me his whore as a wedding present!"

Madira's cheeks turned almost as deep a crimson as her hair. "Well... giving the bride a servant is actually pretty common..."

"Madi, were you NOT listening when I read the letter out loud? Gyumaoh said, and this is almost a direct quote-,"

"SH! Suni, please don't-," Rasetsunyo hadn't thought i possible to make her sister blush more, but she did.

Smirking, she continued anyway. Maybe if she was lucky, she could make those idiot girls hovering around and giggling faint. THAT would be almost worth the discomfort of wearing all this finery. "I am sending my concubine, Gyokumen Koushu-,"

"SUNI!"

"-to educate you in the ways I wish to be pleasured. She is to-,"

"STOP, PLEASE!" Madira was torn between laughing as the girls shrieked and began jumping around hysterically and trying to cover Rasetsunyo's mouth. "Gods, you're just awful sometimes!"

"Ah oo shtill goon do dell ee dad iss awride?" Rasetsunyo grinned behind Madira's hand as the young woman gave her a baffled look.

"What?" she demanded, pulling her hand away.

"I said, are you still going to tell me that it's alright?"

Sighing, Madira bit her lower lip before glancing out the open window at the burst of loud male laughter. "You know if anything bad happens, Hyumaoh will demand that Gyumaoh divorce you and that you return home alive. And, with the warmongering- excuse me, 'defending of peace'- that Gyumaoh likes to do, he can't afford to lose us as an ally."

Rasetsunyo sighed and motioned for the servants to continue fanning her. Gods, this heat was ridiculous! "Yes, I know, I know! That doesn't change the fact that I really DON'T want to do this, Madi." And that I'm scared to death of this whole thing. Scared of getting married, of my husband, of what is expected of me... everything!

She didn't need to say the words out loud for Madira to know what she really meant. They were just that close. Giving her a sympathetic look, Madira dabbed anothe sweat drop from her face. "At least Hyu negotiated for you to draw up the marriage contract with Gyumaoh. that's more than most royal brides can claim."

That was certainly true. When Hyumaoh had first mentioned the offer of marriage from the self-proclaimed King of the youkai, she'd been absolutely adamant on her refusal. She'd heard the stories, same as the next young woman of breeding and marriageable age. Gyumaoh and his brother, Hyakugen Maoh, were NOT ones to send your virgin daughters to! There was a very good reason why the two extremely violent brothers were still unmarried. Until this evening, that is.

"Watch yourself around Hyakugen, Madi. And watch Airiko as well." She was talking about their thirteen-year-old sister, who was noted for her exceptional beauty. Already, princes were vying for her hand when she would be available in three years. Hyumaoh was dreading the day when he and his wife would start to have a family.

Madira nodded, lips set in a thin, firm line. "Hyu's already seen to it. Airiko is to be with him or her body guards at all times until the guests leave. And I'm to be armed at all times until said time as well." She patted the thin swords strapped across her back and smiled grimly. As a halfbreed living with youkai, their father had insisted she learn to defend herself against those who were stronger than she was. Madira was positively lethal with most forms of bladed weapons. Not so great on the archery, though. Hyu had a scar where she'd shot him right in the buttocks a few years ago. She still swore it was an 'accident', but their father had forbidden her from ever practicing again. He'd died the next year, though not from any related causes.

A knock came to the door followed shortly by her new husbands play thing. Gyokumen Koushu very correctly kept her eyes lowered as she entered the room, bowing when she was closer. "Princess Rasetsunyo, my lord Gyumaoh is ready to conduct negotiations with me."

"Thank you. You may leave now."

The girl bowed again and left. As soon as the door was shut, Rasetsunyo shook her head, gritting her teeth. "She even sounds like a whore," she griped. Madi only smiled tolerantly and gave her face a final pat to ease the moisture. The sun was sinking fast, thankfully, and a cool evening breeze was beginning to pick up. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Rasetsunyo nodded once and turned to leave. "Let's get on with it then. Maybe if we argue long enough we won't have a wedding tonight."

"And if he gets out of hand, you can always torch him."

She snickered as the doors were opened and she and her sister stepped out into the hall, Madira holding the long train to her robes so they didn't drag too much on the ground. Her sister was refering to her skills as a fire mage and a summoner of fiends. It was a talent in their family that came with those who had auburn hair. Airiko and Hyumaoh had their mother's dark hair. She'd inherited the reddish color from their father, and he'd been the one to teach her everything she knew about spell casting and controling the hellspawn raised. She knew how to twist the power to her will, to work good and evil if necessary. It was yet another reason why Gyumaoh was so keen to marry into their family.

The usually long walk to the council hall seemed to go by in no time. One minute, she was in her bedroom, the next she was staring at the enormous double doors with two guards to either side. She smiled when she recognized the one Madira was sleeping with. "Hello, Saraf."

"Princess," he answered, his lips twisting just enough for her to know he was grinning on the inside. When not on duty, it was impossible not to laugh around the man. It was no wonder Madira loved him so much.

"Looks like I'm getting married today."

"So it seems, princess."

A silence fell as Saraf stood at attention and she stared at the doors. She was stalling, she knew it, but... was it really so wrong that she didn't want to get married to a warring, whoring, merciless youkai lord who was claiming to be the God of Death? She knew this was extremely generous of her brother to allow her to negotiate the contract herself, but it didn't change the fact that she was being forced into this. Sighing again, she motioned for the guards to open the door.

As the doors parted, Madira flattened out her train before giving her a gentle push forward. Rasetsunyo swallowed heavily and entered the dimly lit room. In the center was a long, low table made of highly polished dark wood that stretched from side to side almost the entire width of the room. Cushions were scattered over the brilliantly woven rug on the floor to offer guests a place to sit. Her groom was already situated facing her, long dark hair pulled back for a change in a tight braid, accentuating the heavy features on his face. He even LOOKED cruel!

His laughter barked out harshly as the doors were closed behind her. "A woman? They send a woman to bargain with me? Get out of my sight, wench, and bring me your master!"

"Forgive me, my lord, but that is not going to happen," Rasetsunyo said cooly, continuing her march to the table firmly. His laughter had served to fuel her temper, which gave her the energy to face him and whatever he brought.

His black eyes narrowed as she knelt on the other side of the table, folding her hands on the mahogany surface. She met his glare head on and didn't back down or waver. Her father was a frightening figure. Gyumaoh was just a bully, one she would not run from. If she was to spend the rest of her life with him, she wouldn't do so afraid!

"You're Rasetsunyo," he finally stated. There was no telling if this pleased him or irritated him.

"I am, my lord. Did my brother not tell you I'd be negotiating my own contract?"

"He mentioned it, but I thought it was a joke." Ah, so he wasn't pleased with her. Rasetsunyo smiled patiently and waited. "Well, woman, get on with it!"

It was obvious from his abruptness he wasn't interested at all in what she had to say. He was merely humoring her in hopes that when she was done speaking, he could tell her it was his way or no way. Ha, they'd see about that! "First, I wish to negotiate the stretch of authority over what's yours."

"What authority? Your duties are to do as I say, bear my children and that's it," he said firmly, crossing his large arms over his chest.

Rasetsunyo continued to smile even as she was slapping him inside her head. "If that's what you wish, the marry a breeding mare. I will be a queen in more than just a name, or there will be no wedding."

"WHAT? I will NOT share my power with a woman!"

"Then you might as well crawl back between your whore's thighs. I will have equal rank to you in all matters, I will have a voice in those matters and, in your absence, I will rule the youkai. If this is disagreeable, the door is right there."

Gyumaoh huffed angrily, eyes turning impossibly darker in his rage. "You may rule in my absence and offer me council in private, but you will not challenge me in matters of diplomacy or state."

Rasetsunyo bowed her head to acknowledge this point. It was about the best she would get from him at this stage. Right then, he needed her more than she needed him. "Second is in regards to acts of procreation."

"Screwing. I like this subject." he was grinning and eying her breasts like they were a feast.

Ignoring the heated look, she continued saying, "I will have sex with you every night until I'm pregnant with a child. After that, if I feel so inclined, we may continue to have sex every night. If not, then you may return to you concubine. But until such a time, you are NOT to have any type of sexual behavior that would result in that woman bearing you a child."

"YOU DARE! You impudent wench, I should belt your hide for that! I will fuck who I want and when I want!"

Rasetsunyo slammed her palms on the table and let her own anger show at last. "And I will NOT have some base-born harlot's bastard child sitting on your throne! To hold the nobles, your heir MUST have royal blood!"

Gyumaoh growled low in his throat, snarling and hands clenching. "You're pushing my patience, wench."

"Are we agreed on this point?"

He fidgeted a little more before saying tightly, "You will fuck me every night until you produce a MALE heir. I won't have some upitty little bitch ruling when I'm gone. And I won't fuck Koushu between now and then. After the male heir is produced, the question of sex will be brought up again at which time we can decide to continue or not. But either way, Koushu returns to my bed. And, since your bony ass will be the only thing I'll be inside for a while, I want it stipulated that you must pleasure me."

"I refuse to do most of what Gyokumen Koushu does. I will do what I can, my lord. Is that fair?"

He growled again, recrossing his arms over his chest. "You're not as dumb as those other females. A pity."

"Thank you, my lord. Are we agreed?"

"Yes, now is that all?"

"One more point, my lord. In the matter of future children." Rasetsunyo knew she'd be pushing the envelope with this one, but she knew enough about other royal weddings to understand this would be necessary if her children were to grow up happy... or grow up at all. "First, if I have a girl first, you will not put her to death. INSTEAD," she said it louder to stem off the argument she saw was about to start, "I will here and now renounce any claim she might have for your throne in favor of a son. And if the first child is a son, I request that he remain primarily in my care until he is ten, at which point we may share him equally."

"I WILL NOT BE KEPT FROM MY SON!" he roared, coming to his feet angrily.

Rasetsunyo met his gave, letting her anger rise to the point where she could feel heat forming on her hands. Smoke was rising from the table top where her hand still rested. It drew Gyumaoh's attention down and made his eyes widen just slightly. A subtle reminder she had power to contend with his. "Ten is just old enough to start any martial training you wish. He won't be a legal adult until he's twenty, so that splits his life in half."

"Except for the time he's in your womb," Gyumaoh pointed out quickly, grinning when he realized he'd caught her. "Nine months in the belly is common, correct? So, nine years and three months is what he spends primarily with you and then he's mine to train as I wish. And, before you even demand it, I'll be generous and allow the boy to visit you when he wishes."

She swallowed back the anger and smiled a little. He was viscious and more liable to slice someone's head off than let them speak, but Gyumaoh was not at all dumb. That was exactly what she'd been about to ask. "Thank you, my lord."

"Is there anything else, or can we get on with the wedding?"

Rasetsunyo stood up, smoothing out the wrinkles from her robe. "That covers everything, I do believe. Shall we?"

Gyumaoh shifted a little and begrudgingly gave her his arm. Rasetsunyo put her hand on it and together they walked out of the room.

The wedding was quick and to the point. No one said more than they needed to or did any more than they had to. Evening was full on when the couple left the council room, and it brought with it a breeze that was invitingly cool. Guests from both sides were laughing and enjoying themselves. But the merriment died down a little when, after several hours of drinking and feasting, Gyumaoh and Rasetsunyo stood from the main table and left, heading for the room prepared for them. Rasetsunyo's servants were still packing her possessions for the move the next day.

Rasetsunyo was trying very hard not to think about what was going to happen soon. All during the feast, Gyumaoh had kept a possessive hand on her thigh, which inched upward more and more the drunker he got. She'd finally made a pretence of turning away to talk to one of the ladies to her left, twisting her thigh out of his grip. He'd not been happy, but he didn't cause a seen.

Now, there was no way to avoid the inevitable wedding night. She followed him inside the room, lit only by candles on the window sills and along the mantle of the fireplace. Wine and two goblets were on the marble table top and Gyumaoh went directly there, uncorking the bottle to chug back without the cup. He smacked his lips loudly before turning and holding the bottle out for her.

She shook her head, moving passed him to remove all the heavy jewelry. The earrings, rings, bracelets, collar, and crown were all placed on the vanity. She took her outer robe off and stood it alongside the mirror. It was so stiff and heavy it could stand on its own. She rotated her stiff neck, grateful to be in the much lighter under robes. Rasetsunyo heard her husband chug back more wine as she began to unpin her hair, letting it fall down easily below her waist.

"Didn't think your hair was that long," Gyumaoh observed as he, too, began to disrobe.

"Is that a compliment or an insult?" Rasetsunyo replied, watching him in the mirror for only a moment longer before she quickly looked away. He pants hit the floor and, try as she might, she couldn't help blushing. The queasiness in her stomach tripled to the point where she was almost certain she was going to be sick. One of the consequences of getting married, she reminded herself grimly as she brushed through her hair. Gyumaoh burped before going into the bathroom without answering her. But he'd given her an opportunity to at least stall this for one night. If she was quick...

Rasetsunyo ran for the bed, slipping in between the sheets and settling on her side away from where he would sleep. She closed her eyes and hoped to the gods he would assume she was asleep and forget about her. She took slow, even breaths, trying to not only keep up the pretence but to also try and slow her heart down. The damn thing was beating so hard she could feel it against the mattress.

The bathroom door opened and heavy footsteps approached the bed. The mattress dipped heavily, almost spilling her over toward him. Gyumaoh was leaning over, trying to see her face. Oh, gods... Rasetsunyo fought the urge to gasp when he grabbed her shoulder roughly and force her onto her back. She could still see his black eyes in the darkness of the room and some how managed to keep her gaze locked with his as he pushed her robes open, forcing her legs apart.

"Did you think sleeping would stop me from fucking you tonight?" he asked roughly.

"Not really," she answered, surprised by how calm her voice sounded.

"I don't do foreplay."

"Just get it over with." Rasetsunyo took a deep breath and held it to keep herself from screaming in pain when he did exactly as she asked.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: So... I've been itching to get this one underway, and now here it is! This is only going to be a few chapters long at most. So, hopefully everyone enjoyed!