Originally posted: December 5, 2000
Updated/edited: January 5, 2005
by Becky Tailweaver
The Birth of a Son
The soft, mewling cry of a newborn infant rose sweetly, muffled through the chamber door. The many attending witnesses that stood outside that door stirred and murmured in anticipation, hearing the brief, yelping squalls that quickly fell to silence. The six nobles gathered stiffly near, waiting and listening; they were eager, uneasy, and apprehensive--the long-awaited time had come.
"He's here," whispered the youngest present, a youth with mottled gray-and-brown hair and blue-gold eyes who stood at the back of the group. His quiet words drew him not a few disapproving glances.
"Hush," warned a beautiful young woman with shining gray hair, turning a sharp and scornful look at the young man. "Or I will regret I allowed you to follow me."
"Gomen nasai, Hahaue..." the youth responded softly, lowering his head. Avoiding confrontation, he neglected to retort that his mother had not been the only person to invite him to this momentous occasion.
"Don't be too eager, pup," an older man scolded lightly--one of the lords, a noble with a battle-weathered face the same dark, solid gray hair as the younger of the two women beside him. "We don't even know if it's male."
The youth stepped back, deferring, even as a taller lord with long ebony tresses growled in the back of his throat. "I pray it's not," the black-haired man grumbled. "He needs no more excuse to place a hanyou as ruler over us."
"Peace, Kurobikari," cautioned a thickly-built brown-haired noble.
"Be at ease, my friend," said the lord nearest the door, the richly-dressed one with thick silver hair. "The Great Daimyo may do as he wishes, in accordance with the old Laws."
"That's exactly the problem!" the black-haired man shot back. "He promises to make this half-human whelp his sworn successor, if it is male--without a thought as to what the rest of us must put up with when he's gone! The indignity of having a hanyou lead our noble Clans--!"
"Kurobikari!" the brown-haired man warned again. "Be more tactful with such talk."
The black-haired noble, Kurobikari, snorted but left it at that.
"I'm just glad the time's finally come," spoke the young man again, softly. "They've been waiting--"
"Hold your tongue, Wolf-cub!" Kurobikari hissed viciously, causing the mottle-haired youth to flinch back; his mother turned away, paying no mind to the verbal assault. "A filthy animal like you has no right to speak out in the presence of Dogs. Just because the White Daimyo let you come here--"
"Oi, that's enough," said the gray-haired man, sternly fixing the taller noble with a disapproving glare. "I won't have you speak so to one of my House, Wolf-bred or not."
"Kaishika..." the black-haired noble growled.
"I need not remind you that your slanderous words to this pup might also be seen as your opinion regarding our Great Daimyo," the Gray went on conversationally, with a rather bloodthirsty, fanged grin. "And if you mean him such insult, I would be happy to rip out your throat for it."
The black-haired Kurobikari snarled in answer, but removed himself and his companion to the other side of the group.
The youth did not offer more than a nod of thanks to the older gray-haired man, keeping his silence to avoid further attack. His own mother continued to ignore him, while the others in the room shot brief, cold-eyed glances at him before resuming their own private conversations.
There were various quiet murmurs among the gathering as the minutes passed; they were hesitant yet anxious to meet the new child of their leader. It had been the subject of much dismay, unease, and debate among the Clans, ever since word had first come of the child's existence.
Each of the men gathered here were youkai, from the six powerful Daimyos to the various other dignitaries of their respective Clans and Houses brought as witnesses. Specifically, each of them were inu-youkai, marked by the faint canine cast to their features and the striking, almost catlike eyes that each posessed. Though they appeared as elf-eared, strangely-colored, furry-tailed humans, their true forms were those of giant Dogs, fearsome in size and power.
Though they were of different Clans and colors, they belonged to the same proud race, and they had gathered on this Full Moon night, as tradition dictated, for a Council meeting--only to find that, by some luck, their high leader's child was being born. They had gathered in their great lord's domicile upon his invitation, to bear witness to the event--though by most it was only dubiously regarded as "blessed."
The White Dog Daimyo's home was a large underground den beneath the High Stone, a great earthen cave with many chambers. The newest of these chambers, off to one side of the White Clan's halls, had been carved out in human proportions to serve the needs of the Great Daimyo's chosen bondmate, the Lady Ayako.
Middle-aged, charismatic Ginpatsu, the Silver Daimyo, had come with his general, Higin. Ever polite, supportive, and mediating, Ginpatsu was a good friend of the White Dog Daimyo. Disdaining open combat, he preferred to face his enemies over a table--a politician, rather than a fighter, but powerful in his own way. His younger brother and second-in-command, Ginke, was also with him.
Gray Lord Kaishika had come with his Lady--and his daughter, the sharp-tongued mother of the mottle-haired youth. Although older than all the other Daimyos save their leader, he was a burly, powerful youkai, unafraid of anything and something of an old wardog, having fought joyfully beside his lord in uncounted battles long past. His lady, a youkai-woman of soft eyes and a gentler disposition, often spoke up to moderate his blustering temper.
The Black Daimyo, Kurobikari, was a tall, thin man with a sharp face--and an even sharper temper. Often found by Ginpatsu's side, the Black leader was the most outspoken opponent of the White Daimyo, yet strangely never hesitated to support the Silver Daimyo. Kurobikari had brought only his trusted right-hand man, Ankoku, as his fellow witness.
Noukatsu, Daimyo of the Brown Dog Clan, was heavyset and solid both in body and in mind--a simple, straightforward leader of great strength and loyalty. Ever a staunch ally of the White Daimyo, he and his Clan were the most numerous of all the Dogs, and therefore quite influential by sheer population. His two most faithful generals stood beside him, ready to be added witnesses to the blessed event.
Slim, handsome, aristocratic Anseki was the leader of the Red Dogs, having recently inherited his position from his deceased grandsire. His flashy temperament matched the rich crimson of his flowing hair and the many hues of his extravagant robes; though he was slightly vain and pouted often when he was thwarted, he was a wise and cunning man, never to be underestimated. The Red Dog Clan considered themselves friends of the Browns, and usually sided with them in disputes--though there were far fewer Reds. His companion was his younger brother Benike, who stood at his side.
Koudo, Daimyo of the Yellow Dog Clan, was short and shifty, with scraggly blondish hair and narrow eyes. The Yellow Dogs--the smallest and weakest inu-youkai of all the Clans--owed no solid loyalties to any one House, but they were quick to stand with those they thought were strongest. The Yellow Daimyo had brought with him his eldest son and heir, Koushoku--a taller, more handsome youkai whose conniving gaze and appeasing smile were always on the lookout for opportunity.
These high leaders of the Western Dog Clans talked softly amongst themselves as they waited impatiently for news of their leader's new pup. In the earth-walled chamber outside Lady Ayako's quarters, many of the youkai quietly admitted their reluctance and resentment of having a half-human child be named the heir to the White Daimyo's authority, and the murmurs had long since grown to full-blown conversation--drowning out any sounds from within the private chambers.
Quite a while passed before a noise just behind the door was finally loud enough to catch the attention of the Dogs--and cause all activity to cease.
The heavy chamber door slid open. The gathered nobles tensed and all eyes focused on the tall, white-haired man emerging from the inner room.
"Seibunishi-sama!" a dozen voices spoke in salute, as every knee bowed before the mighty Taiyoukai of the Western Lands, the Daimyo of the White Dog Clan.
Seibunishi raised the bundle he carried, a wide, pleased smile on his face. "My son!" he announced proudly, his voice deep and strong and carrying through the entire chamber.
The attending witnesses knelt even lower, while the six lords clapped their fists accross their chests and bowed their heads in fealty. "Hail!" the entire gathering cried.
However, among those who knelt, only one was truly smiling; the young man in the back of the crowd--the Wolf-cub with the strange hair and mixed-color eyes--was the only one whose face bore an expression of joy.
"Rise! Rise, my friends--come and see," offered the White Daimyo, cradling the softly whimpering infant close to his chest once more.
The Great Daimyo was a well-built, middle-aged man, with a youkai's pointed ears and bright golden eyes. His long white hair was tied back in a series of leather bands, and his roughly grinning face was free of any markings or stripes.
Hesitant, the nobles stood and stepped forward to view the newborn--fearing what they might see, but anxious to find out who their future ruler would be. Despite their reserve, exclamations of surprise and disbelief marked their first sight of the infant.
"Masaka--his scent...so he's not so human after all!" marveled the red-haired youkai lord. "Look--see how well-favored he is!"
"Aye--as white as snow, from head to tail," agreed the Gray Daimyo. "His blood's pure and strong--he'll be no weakling, mark my words!"
"A fine heir to the White Clan's legacy," spoke the brown-haired lord, with an approving glance at his fellows. "I see many of us were wrong to doubt--this is no common hanyou child."
The Silver Daimyo cleared his throat politely, looking to his leader. "So then, what shall be his name, my Lord?"
Glancing briefly at his friends and allies, Seibunishi smiled fondly down at the babe he held. "He shall be named for what he is, so that no one will forget and dare think him lesser--so that no matter what comes in his life, he will always remember the strength of his heritage, the pride of our people. I name this child, my son...Inuyasha."
The nobles murmured heartily in agreement--most of them--and remained near to gaze and marvel at the infant, and offer their compliments and congratulations to the mighty White Daimyo.
Unable to see through the group of tall men, the mottle-haired youth stayed back with a few of the others--lesser servants who awaited the word of their Daimyos. As he patiently waited for his chance to come near, he noticed another young man hanging back from the crowd--one who stayed near the entrance hallway, where he had just recently come in. He stepped over to the newcomer, cautious.
The second youth was his height, with long, silky white hair and two stripes on either cheek. Above his sharp golden eyes, the center of his forehead was graced with a distinct crescent-shaped mark, and while his gaze was intense, his expression remained carefully disinterested.
"Aren't you going to go see him?"
The white-haired young man glanced disdainfully at the mottled youth. "Why should I, Shirokiba?"
Shirokiba's reply was cut off; Seibunishi had scented the newcomer even through the crowd, and focused on one of the two standing at the far wall. "Sesshomaru!" he called loudly, cheerfully, startling the white-haired youth. "Come here, son, and meet your little brother."
Surprised, Sesshomaru hesitated--but Shirokiba nudged him with a soft laugh. "There's your chance--go on."
The White Daimyo's older son came obediently to stand before his father. Almost reluctantly, he let his eyes fall from his father's face to the little bundle the elder youkai held.
"Here," Seibunishi chuckled with a wry smile, gently setting the child in his son's astonished arms. "Be careful with him, now."
Startled at the precious burden he'd been suddenly entrusted with, Sesshomaru clutched the infant close, unsure of what to do and vaguely terrifed for a moment that he might somehow damage this important little thing. A few of the others tittered amusedly at the briefly-unguarded expression of wide-eyed surprise he bore, something near unheard-of for him.
Swallowing hard, he looked down at the tiny face, somehow unsurprised to see how perfect it was--nothing monstrous or twisted about it, nothing like the stories of pitiful, hideous hanyou that had been whispered in the halls these many months past. The infant also posessed a surprisingly thick skullcap of hair so white and fine that each strand seemed almost transparent--fluffy baby-down that would one day grow into a silken white mane, just like his father and brother.
The baby's scent was strongly inu-youkai--startlingly so--with only a simple, mild counterpoint of human-smell, just enough to remind one that it was there. Beside his scent, the only physical indications of his hanyou status were the furry white puppy-ears atop his tiny head, still crinkled down from birth, soft and unable yet to stand upright.
Amidst Sesshomaru's curious perusal, the baby wriggled a bit, stretching; the toothless mouth opened in a wide, round yawn, letting out a tiny gasping sound.
Unconsciously, Sesshomaru's expression cracked into a small smile.
As if in response to his brother's smile, the infant's eyes came open, surprisingly large in the small tired face. They were soft baby-blue, like any newborn pup's--but they held flecks of bright sun-color, promise of the golden gaze they would one day bear.
Those large, curious eyes focused sleepily on Sesshomaru's face, studying him--as if realizing that this was not his mother nor his father, but still someone important. With another wriggle, the hanyou infant gave a small puppylike cry.
Sesshomaru's smile twitched up a millimeter. "Hello," he whispered softly, barely above a breath, in reply to the tiny pup-child's uncertain interrogative.
Pleased, Seibunishi grinned and clapped a hand on his elder son's shoulder--breaking the spell between them, but not the results. "You two will get along just fine," he affirmed happily. "Remember, he'll need his Oniisan to help show him the way, son."
Sesshomaru looked up into his father's eyes, feeling a sense of connection as he never had before--he'd never had the chance. For the very first time since he was a young pup...he allowed himself a full, pure smile.
"Sesshomaru!" hissed a sharp voice from the hallway. "Sesshomaru!"
The faces of both White Dogs fell, disappointed. "Your mother is calling you," Seibunishi stated, with a hint of reluctance.
Sesshomaru gazed at his father almost pleadingly. Tell her off, for once! his eyes seemed to beg. Let me stay!
Seibunishi carefully took the baby from his son's arms, much to Sesshomaru's disappointment. "Go on, now," the White Daimyo said gently. "See what she wants."
With an inaudible sigh and visible unwillingness, Sesshomaru headed for the hall.
Seibunishi turned his back on his elder son and grinned to his fellow Daimyos. "Come!" he commanded proudly. "To the Council Chamber. I will name this child my heir."
The six lords, along with one fellow witness from each of their Clans, obediently followed the Daimyo through the halls to the huge, vaulted room that was the central meeting place for the leaders of the Seven Dog Clans, set in the crown of the High Stone. Not a single one of them looked back at the younger White Dog, and none saw the half-hidden expression of fond wistfulness on his face as he paused to watch the child go, carried in his father's arms.
When they were gone, Sesshomaru had to follow his mother, Yukishima, in the opposite direction.
The White Lady was an old woman, even for a youkai; her face was beginning to show lines of age that she strove hard to hide with paints and fine clothing and well-primped hair. Despite her near-ageless beauty, she was marked with dark stripes far more heavily than Sesshomaru--but she bore the same crescent mark on her frowning brows.
"What were you doing?" the elder Lady demanded in her soft-steel whisper, once the Daimyos were out of earshot.
Sesshomaru drew back, trying not to let his confusion show on his face. "Doing? I went to see--"
"I told you not to come here!" Yukishima snapped. "I thought I made it perfectly clear that I do not want you near that human's filthy quarters."
"Hahaue, I only wanted to see the child," Sesshomaru stated flatly, in his usual manner. "I was curious."
"You had orders."
"I wanted to see him." Sesshomaru gave a small frown. "He is my brother."
Yukishima let out a low snarl. "That human whelp is not your brother! You are Seibunishi's one true son and heir--or have you forgotten that?"
"No, Hahaue, I have not forgotten that I am the son of the White Daimyo," the younger youkai sighed, working hard to keep his expression impassive,gritting his fangs with the air of one long-accustomed to repeating these things. "But--"
"Do not let sentimentality interfere with your purpose," the White Lady reminded him, ever-sharply. "You have been raised and trained to succeed the White Daimyo as the Taiyoukai of the West. Only you can fulfill this destiny--not that smelly little hanyou beast. You are strong, you are clever, you are powerful--you are a true taiyoukai, and you have no mercy on those who oppose you."
"This little game of Seibunishi's--naming that ningen spawn as his heir...it must be stopped," she growled. "Something must be done about this."
"Nothing can be done," Sesshomaru stated, more strongly.
"We shall have to be more forceful when we move this time--I will not see your rightful place usurped by that little animal..."
"Hahaue, it will do no good."
"Listen to me, Hahaue," the younger youkai broke in, his face shifting to just this side of angry. "I know your plans, and I know how often you have commanded me to do this, but...I cannot. I will not."
Yukishima's face flashed sudden shock--then, controlled rage.
"I've long since grown sick of your secret obsession, Hahaue," Sesshomaru said flatly, angrily. "And I'm tired of being your tool. I know that I could have been the Daimyo of the White Clan, even Taiyoukai of the West. But it has never been up to you, nor me--the White Daimyo may choose his heir as he pleases, and he has chosen. And despite what it might mean for me..." The young inu-youkai paused, swallowed, and tried to find words to continue. "I will not be your pawn. Seibunishi is my father, and Inuyasha...is my brother."
The two White Dogs locked in a staring match for several long seconds, the elder's burning with rage and the younger's flickering in nervous resolve. This silent showdown had been a long time in coming; Sesshomaru had long been resentful of Yukishima's careful control of him, of her cunning ways and endless plans to control the Clans through him. And when it came down to it, she would ask him to destroy his new baby brother with his own claws...and that--no matter that it might make him Seibunishi's default heir--was not something that he was willing to do.
"You will do as I command, this moment," Yukishima hissed, venomous.
"No. I will return later, if you still wish to speak to me," Sesshomaru spoke conclusively, stomping down his fear and hesitation to make his voice as flat and firm as it could be. "I am going to see Chichiue--and my brother."
Without waiting any longer, he dared to turn his back on his mother--and strode quickly away, heading for the Lady Ayako's quarters once more.
Yukishima could do nothing but stand and tremble with rage, staring after him in unfamiliar shock.
By the time Sesshomaru came back to the first hallway, the Daimyos had returned and were filing past him to return to the outside--and to bear the joyful news to their waiting Clans. Seibunishi was in Ayako's chambers with her and her handmaidens; he could hear his father's deep voice speaking kindly and laughingly.
That voice held many pleasant memories for him; whenever his mother let him spend time with Seibunishi, it had always been enjoyable. When he was a little pup, just being held in his father's arms or placed on his father's shoulders was enough to brighten his heart and his face for the entire day. As he grew older, their quality time spread to things such as swordplay and hunting, running alongside his sire through meadows and over mountainsides.
With Seibunishi nearby, he could put aside the coldness and calculation his mother enforced in him, and finally feel free to truly be himself. He could be open with his father--could tell him nearly anything, could speak and laugh with him without a mocking reply, without a hissed rebuff, without constant reminders that love and familial attachment were just burdens to be removed or weapons to be used. There was none of that with Seibunishi; his father's warm voice, with that rough burr and gentle tone, always calmed and comforted him inside.
However, it was short--always short. Those interactions were few and far between, with Yukishima watching over him like a circling hawk, as though to make sure he didn't get too close to his father. She had great plans for him as the Taiyoukai of the West, as the Great Daimyo of the Clans, and they did not include feelings other than contempt and resentment for Seibunishi.
But it was far too late; it had been too late the moment he'd first set eyes on the great White Dog as a young child--since he'd seen his father's first warm, welcoming smile and been swept into arms that were strong and safe. From that moment on, there was nothing Yukishima could ever do to separate his heart from its devotion to Seibunishi.
He continually regretted how much of his life he had allowed his mother to control--and how much she still controlled. She had insisted on keeping him away from his father as much as possible as a pup, refusing to allow him to live in the White Daimyo's halls no matter how much he begged--and when he was older, she kept him on errands and training, with plenty of her constant venom, to keep him apart from his father. And they had grown apart over the decades--they'd become near-strangers almost before either of them realized it, though Sesshomaru's loyalty had never wavered.
Perhaps his new little brother was the link they needed to become close again. Those few minutes he could spend in his father's warm presence whenever he had the chance--as he had just a while ago, meeting his new brother...those were moments he cherished deep inside. They were the only treasures that his mother's spite could never take from him.
Sesshomaru came to the door of Lady Ayako's private bedroom. The door was slightly ajar; he peeked in quietly, alert with nose and ears, to be sure he was not disturbing a private moment between the Daimyo and his mate.
Lady Ayako reclined on the bed, looking tired and bedraggled but still just as beautiful--her long dark hair flowing around her, and her deep violet eyes shining with maternal love. Her handmaidens were quietly busy at their various stations; some cleaning up the aftermath of the birth, some serving their Lady with fresh water and blankets, and others playing soft music to soothe and relax.
At her bedside stood Seibunishi, still just as cheerful, laughing and talking as he held her hand. He didn't see Sesshomaru standing in the doorway--didn't even seem to notice his scent--and to the younger White Dog's surprise and dismay, another person had taken his place beside his father.
Shirokiba--that wolf-dog boy his father had taken in from the Gray Clan--was cradling the infant Inuyasha and talking happily with Seibunishi. The younger youkai had a look of joy and wonder on his face--as if he too had been given a new younger brother that day. Seibunishi was laughing with him, talking freely--and the group of them seemed like such a happy family...
Then Shirokiba gently passed the baby back to Seibunishi, who cradled the tiny pup while bouncing him a little. Awakened, Inuyasha creeled loudly in protest of the unfamiliar movement; Seibunishi laughed and knelt to set him in his mother's arms. Smiling, Lady Ayako kissed her lord's cheek and gathered her newborn son close to her.
As the pup nursed, Seibunishi stayed beside his mate, one arm around her. His other hand--a paw that had crushed mighty oni and slaughtered vast armies of youkai--gently stroked the baby's silky head. The great White Dog's expression was peaceful and full of love, contented, with his family gathered close in his arms.
As Sesshomaru watched them there, something cracked painfully deep inside him, making his temper sharp with anger and loneliness.
He was not noticed; he was not invited in. It was bad enough that he knew his father could not completely trust him, thanks to his mother's cruelty and constant plotting; bad enough the discarded mongrel Wolf-cub could just walk in there and snatch his place as older brother. But what hurt all the more was that the half-human, second-born pup--far worse than usurping his position as the future White Daimyo--was also taking his place as his father's son.
Inuyasha would grow up knowing all his father's love and attention--he would be carried on his father's shoulders, bounced on his father's knee; never taken away, slapped and scolded, for holding any love for his father. Seibunishi would make time to play with him and tuck him into bed every night--would take him out hunting every day and teach him to fight expertly with a sword. His father would be there for him always--not only on select occasions when a bitter, jealous, hateful mother allowed.
Sesshomaru's impassive expression slipped. He felt a great wave of anger and hurt, and for now it only had one source--the infant who had stolen his father's heart. Before his face slid completely into a snarl, he whirled and strode away, not even announcing his presence.
Shirokiba, glancing up at a faint movement outside the door, had an instant to notice Sesshomaru's intent stare at the infant in Lady Ayako's arms. He had barely seen the jealousy and pain that flashed across the young White Dog's face--but couldn't move to call attention to the other youth, to get him invited in; the other's expression held him transfixed.
Sesshomaru was gone before he could finally say anything, and Seibunishi never noticed.
His expression tense with pity and dismay, Shirokiba wondered how he might help his mentor's oldest son break free ofYukishima's dark legacy.
Outside the White Daimyo's den, on the grounds surrounding the High Stone, Sesshomaru shifted to his true form--needing his real body's strength to hold back what had broken within. For, as the conventional wisdom goes, dogs are unable to shed tears.
Unfortunately, seldom do youkai adhere to conventional wisdom.
Deep in the snowy woods, lit only by the silver light of the Full Moon, a giant White Dog fled swiftly through the night.