The First Legacy
Disclaimer: I do not, have not and will not ever own InuYasha, although I hope to someday become a writer for it. Hey, I can dream, can't I? Even then, I won't own the show; I'll only own the words I write. Still, I don't think I'll own them. Oh well. Enjoy the book!
Izayoi could see the caravan riding into the palace gates. This was no surprise; she'd been expecting this. Caravans were always visiting her father from distant points of the western and northern hemispheres, bringing goods for trade, such as silk from the continent, spices and precious stones. But she knew that this caravan, no matter how much it resembled others, was different. Very different. She saw how fine the decorations were on the carriages and how strong the horses looked, clearly purebred. Every muscle on their toned bodies colored bronze showed them off as strong, proud steeds brimming with strength and energy required to pull their loads. The drivers were cool and calm and never whipped anything but the air, as they were supposed to do, simply to get the horses moving. They lasted so much longer uninjured. Izayoi respected anyone who cared for their fellow nature as people like these fine drivers did.
At the head of the procession, rode a proud young man with short brown hair and fine dark eyes. He had a proud, regal look about him that both drew Izayoi in and repelled her at the same time. He pulled his mount to a stop as the gate guardians barred his way. She heard him explain something to them and they opened the gates without question. He motioned the caravan forward and flicked the reins on his own horse, only to pause yet again not twenty feet inside. He dismounted slowly and patted his horse on the neck fondly. As he turned to approach the door, he happened to glance up and see her watching him. Every instinct told her to run and hide, but she was a regal lady of the border of Setsuna and she would not reveal her fears to any man. She knew that in order to keep control in a disliked situation, she had to keep a cool head and a calm heart. That was the only way she would ever win anything she wanted. She stared right back at him, forcing herself not to look away from that piercing gaze. To her, it was piercing. But it was actually quite kind and gentle. He bowed his head in respect and continued on. She heard the door open and close as he was allowed inside and she turned away from the balcony as the caravan was led to a distant part of the castle. She knew who this man was. He was Lord Takemaru, of Setsuna. She also knew why he was here.
He had come to court her. She smirked to herself. She was a kind and caring woman outside and usually inside, but she adamantly refused to marry Takemaru. She sighed and made her way to the door.
Down on the first story, she found her father, Koeske and Takemaru deep in conversation. She heard the word, 'dowry' in there. That would explain the elaborate caravan.
" Yes, she seems eager." Koeske boasted. Izayoi felt her temper flare up. She was most certainly not, eager. She anything but that as far as she was concerned. She forced it down however and slowly padded into the room, clearing her throat quietly. Koeske and Takemaru looked up. Takemaru smiled warmly at her. " Lady Izayoi." He said in a polite greeting. She dipped her head slightly in return and faced her father. Koeske turned to her and beamed. " Izayoi, good morn." He said. She returned his greeting somewhat darkly. " Father, I wish to visit the village this morning." She said. He nodded. " Of course, my dear. Why not allow master Takemaru to accompany you?"
" Not to be rude, father, but why?"
" Because there's a rumor that the lord of the western domain is visiting once more and it's safer to be around others. He's quite dangerous you know." Koeske said gravely. " He has three swords. One can bring the dead back to life to do his bidding, one can open the gates of hell, or so the legend goes. Finally, the last sword can bring down a hundred enemies with a single stroke."
Izayoi resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She'd heard this since she was little. Though the three swords never scared her nowadays, the concept of such a demon did.
" Not only that, milady," Takemaru added. " But don't forget the diets of most demons." He said warningly. Izayoi hadn't heard this one before.
" And that is?" she asked, feigning interest.
" When a demon is suffering from hunger, it usually goes to a village and captures a human. While the human is still alive, it forcibly drains the blood from the still living body. The corpse is then only a dry, lifeless husk, barely recognizable as human."
Izayoi felt her face go white. " Do they really?" she stated more than asked, attempting skepticism. He nodded, no trace of humor on his streamlined features. " Yes. Which is one reason why I should accompany you. If such a demon were to try to attempt such a thing on you, I'd protect you with my life." He said with love and tenderness in his deep voice, she almost found herself drawn in by his natural charms. But she resisted and nodded once. " My thanks, lord Takemaru," she said. " But I have gone to the village on my own plenty of times, even when the western lord has been traveling through. I have never seen him, but I know that he is there. As far as I know, he has never been hungry enough to attack me, so I doubt there is much danger."
She knew her father was glaring at her with disapproval evident in his gaunt face, but he said nothing. " Izayoi, my dearest, please, for my sake, allow him to go with you. Takemaru is a skilled swordsman and if the western lord were to attack you, Takemaru could easily defend you."
Izayoi wanted to just scream that she wasn't a helpless pansy; that she could make it there and back on her own. But she was a refined lady of Setsuna and she would not resort to childish habits. Instead, she sighed. " Very well, Lord Takemaru." She gave in. She saw him smile happily and bowed to her. " I shall await for your announcement." He said, referring to her time of departure. Izayoi nodded and turned. When her back was to them, she made a face of disgust. It wasn't that she hated Takemaru, but she just didn't like him as her father imposed on her to. He wanted her to marry and bear children in order to keep her regal bloodline flowing strongly. But she was still only twenty and considered herself unready for such commitments. However, she'd always been taught to obey her parents and even though her mother had died giving birth to her, Izayoi never let her father down intentionally.
" Enjoy yourself in town, dear." Koeske said fondly. He turned and left the room quickly. Takemaru watched him leave and turned to Lady Izayoi. " Shall we go?" he asked politely. He reached for her arm. Izayoi grudgingly let him take it.
Okay, she thought, so he's a gentleman. That doesn't mean I want to marry him.
They left the grounds of the palace through the front gate where the caravan had been earlier.
" It sure is a lovely day out." He said, attempting light conversation. But Izayoi, refined lady though she was, would have none of it. She managed to tune him out until he finally concluded that she was lost in her thoughts and wasn't listening. He fell silent and busied himself by studying the fauna.
One reason Izayoi liked to take these walks to the village alone was because it gave her private time to think. She never had any of it at the palace. Koeske was always irritating her about her future, one of the maidservants and her friend Minako was always bursting in on her reveries and now that Takemaru had come, it only made things that much harder.
" Milady, is everything all right?" he asked concernedly. Izayoi pretended to snap out of a deep trance. " Huh? Oh, yes, Lord Takemaru." She murmured.
" Well, we have reached the village."
Izayoi blinked twice and looked out over the horizon. The village was at the bottom of the hill, but suddenly, she didn't feel like going. Yet she'd feel stupid saying so. So, she allowed Takemaru to drag her to the village. For the sake of her father, Koeske, she browsed through the various stalls, buying nothing in particular. When she came across a stall selling some poor quality silk and discovered it was only such because it was quite old and the family needed money, she purchased three spools of it, giving them twice as was asked. Then, when Takemaru wasn't looking, she returned the heirlooms and told the family she would help them and they would have to sell no more family treasures. They were very grateful and offered to give her a spool of the best silk they had, but she refused. Takemaru noticed this, and lifted an eyebrow curiously, but said nothing.
About an hour passed as they walked and it was beginning to get dark. Izayoi sighed and turned back toward the village. She was a little dismayed to see that the forested path was shrouded in darkness and quite bare of travelers. It wasn't that she didn't trust Takemaru, she just preferred there be others around. Just in case.
When Takemaru saw her stiffen at the sight of the shadowed path, he thought she was remembering the rumors of the western lord and took her arm carefully. " Be calm, milady. I will protect you." He said soothingly, though to Izayoi, it was anything but soothing.
That's what I'm afraid of. She thought grimly. Takemaru smiled. " No western demon lord is going to get you. He'll have to go through me first. I'll never let him lay a hand on you."
" Takemaru, for the first and last time, I can handle myself." She said firmly, but gently. He seemed taken aback, but nodded understandingly. " I can grasp that, milady. But it does do no harm to allow a little protection now and again."
Izayoi sighed irritably. How could she not agree with him? If she did, he'd continue his delusions that she loved him as much as he did her, and if she disagreed with him, Koeske was sure to find out and she'd be severely punished for disrespecting her elder, though Takemaru was barely a few years older than she. She glanced over at him inconspicuously. He was watching the forest like a hawk and didn't notice.
He's really taking this rumor seriously. She thought to herself. Is he always so watchful? I wonder if any other women have had this 'honor'?
Sarcasm often worked wonders for her, mentally and literally.
" Lord Takemaru," she began.
" Please, just address me as Takemaru, milady." He interrupted politely. Izayoi resisted the urge to roll her eyes. " Very well, Takemaru. But the rumor about the western lord roaming these parts is very unlikely. Why do you seem to expect to see him jump out of the forest to ambush us? Neither of us has ever even seen him before. We might have passed him in the village for all that we know about him."
" Ah, but milady, all demons are the same. They all have sharp claws and fangs, pointed ears, and all are fierce-looking monsters that prey on humans. They care not for allies, and have no feelings of their own. Like animals, they rely on instinct on just about every aspect in their pathetic lives." He growled. Izayoi detected a hint of revulsion in his ordinarily placid voice.
" Do you have something against demons?" she inquired. He looked to the side and then at her. To her surprise, he stopped and placed a hand gently on her face, stroking her temple with his thumb. He had a tender look in his dark eyes.
" Milady, I fight demons only to protect humankind. Demons are the worst thing the gods could have cursed us with and I see it as my mission to purge the world of both the demons and the few humans who share an affinity for them."
" There are humans for care for demons?" Izayoi exclaimed. He nodded.
" Of course. There are bad ones in every group. That is why half-breeds exist. They are the products of such relationships between humans and demons. Half-breeds are even worse than demons themselves, for they reflect the nature of their parents and care for both species. They are accepted in neither world and they should not exist at all. It is severely wrong for a human to fall in love with a demon and the same goes for otherwise." He snarled. Izayoi pondered this a moment. Humans sometimes fell in love with demons. Demons sometimes fell in love with humans. Takemaru made it seem as though that were the ultimate sin. But then, there was this fact to consider.
Was it therefore, a sin to fall in love?
Izayoi wondered how this could be. The gods had divided humans into two separate types, male and female, that they might fall in love and bring forth new humans into the world. She figured the same went for the rest of nature's creations, demons included. Why was it so horrible for the two creatures to interact with one another?
She'd heard of a mystical place called Horai Island, where demons and mortals lived in harmony with their half-demon children. But Horai Island had never been found, even with the first emperor of the Chin Dynasty looking for it. He had been searching for eternal youth, but had failed. Even if he had found eternal youth, it wouldn't have given him eternal longevity. He'd have eventually died anyway, without growing old, but as though he had died young. He was still a human and he had had limitations, so therefore had never found the island. If such a place existed, even under the command of the gods, then interaction between demons and humans mustn't be so sinful if the island hadn't yet been destroyed by the fury of the heavenly beings.
She turned to Takemaru. " Takemaru, what about the mythical island, Horai?" she asked. " The island of demons, where humans and demons live together in peace?"
He snorted in contempt and she was appalled. That was extremely rude.
" Izayoi, that island doesn't exist. The gods had destroyed it long ago. Those humans living on that island couldn't have been living in peace with the demons. They must have been slaves forced to interbreed. That's the only explanation." He said, laughing humorlessly.
" I was only asking a question. Why is it not possible for humans and demons to live in peace? What harm could it possibly do?"
Takemaru suddenly glowered at her and she shrank back. He gripped both of her arms and stared her in the face until his was but inches from hers.
" Izayoi," he whispered. " You are damning yourself to an eternity in hell by talking like this. Demons and humans cannot live together and it is the fate of all humans to conquer the demons and win the earth back. Demons are wicked, hateful, disgraceful beings and you have no business in dealing with their pitiful affairs."
" Lord Takemaru—"
" And furthermore, I do not wish to hear anymore of this. Do you understand, Lady Izayoi?" he hissed. Trembling in his strong grip, she nodded once. He released her and continued on. " Let's go. We're almost there." He said blankly. She followed along behind him in silence. As she matched his pace again, she kept her eyes averted forward. She had never been one to hold a grudge for something, but she figured that since she particularly disliked Takemaru at the moment, she'd make an exception.
That night, Izayoi sat with Minako and discussed the evening with her over a cup of blackberry tea, imported from the continent. Izayoi sipped hers thoughtfully and sighed as she listened to her good friend. Though Minako was much older than Izayoi and was actually a midwife as well as a servant, Izayoi thought of the old woman as a sister and a mother all at once. Minako sort of was her mother, since it had been through her guidance that Izayoi had been given life and managed to hold onto it, though her own mother did not. True as told, Minako thought of Izayoi as her daughter. Her own daughter, Chiyo had been killed by wolf demons when she was very young. But surprisingly, Minako never held a grudge against demons of any kind. In fact, she highly respected them and gave them their distance when she met them. Nine times out of ten, they respected her as well and left her alone. Izayoi found it hard to believe both Minako and Takemaru about the habits of demons, but her mind fondly swayed toward Minako more often than Takemaru.
" So my dear, you do not care for the young master?" Minako asked, surprised as she drank her tea. Izayoi shook her head, her long wavy black hair swishing back and forth as she did. " No. I do not like him in that perspective. I do not wish to marry him. I only wish to remain friends." She whispered. It seemed to Minako that she was afraid her father might be listening in. She grimaced and leaned forward, taking Izayoi's hand. " I know how you feel. I was in an arranged marriage as well. I was lucky enough to love the man I married. But sadly, he was killed in battle up north just days before my Chiyo was born."
A small sob escaped her, but she quickly forced it back. She cleared her throat and regained her regal composure. " Izayoi, I truly want the best for you, since you are a kind of replacement in a sense, for Chiyo, though no one will ever replace her."
" I understand your meaning. And I am thankful, and honored for it." Izayoi murmured. " I want to marry, eventually, but I'm still so young. I'm not ready for this."
" Most women your age have children already." Minako pointed out. Izayoi nodded. " I know. But I'm not most women. I want to choose my own husband. I want someone who cares genuinely about me, not about what he will inherit when father dies."
" Most men can be like that. I have yet to meet one who respects a woman for who she is, not what she is. Even my own husband had his flaws. But he was good to me, and excited for the daughter he never saw." She said sadly.
They fell silent. Izayoi could hear Koeske downstairs, talking with Takemaru, making plans for the wedding in a few months. Takemaru would be leaving in a few days, and he wanted everything to be perfect for his 'bride-to-be'. Izayoi wanted to scream at him that she didn't love him like that. But it was no use and she knew it. She loved her father, but she respected him far too much to disobey him like that.
" Izayoi, are you feeling all right?" Minako asked worriedly. Izayoi smiled at her warmly and lifted the cup to her lips, though no liquid parted them and she tasted nothing. " I am fine, Minako." She responded. She looked away for a moment. " Minako, if I ever were to have children, would you stay by me?" she asked. Minako seemed surprised at her question, but she smiled a wrinkled old smile on her careworn face. " I'd always stay by you. I'd do my best to deliver you a healthy baby someday. I promise you." She said. Izayoi closed her eyes.
" Thank you, Minako." She whispered. Minako nodded. " Izayoi, dear, I think it's time you get some rest." She said. Izayoi nodded and stifled a yawn. As she was moving to the shoji screen to change into a gown, someone knocked at the panel door. Izayoi squeaked and ducked behind the screen.
Please don't be Takemaru! Please don't be Takemaru! She whispered frantically in her head as Minako went to answer the door.
" Ah, Minako."
Izayoi's heart slowed. It was only Koeske. She let herself relax as she quietly began to undress and get the gown on before he realized she was in there.
" Yes, Lord Koeske?" Minako asked.
" I came to see if Izayoi is feeling all right. Master Takemaru said she was acting a little…odd on the way back earlier. Is everything okay?"
" Yes, milord. Everything is fine." Minako said. " Now, run along. The young lady is getting ready for sleep."
" Oh. Very well. Izayoi? Goodnight, wherever you are in there!" he called.
" Goodnight, father." She called. The panel shut and Izayoi finished getting her gown on. Folding her day outfit, she stepped out from behind the screen and made her way to her pallet on the floor. She lay down and pulled the blanket up to her chin, facing the window as Minako moved to leave the room. She paused at the door and looked back at her. " Sleep well, Izayoi." She whispered. Izayoi lifted her head slightly. " Same to you, Minako." She replied. Minako smiled and left the room. Izayoi's chamber was bathed in darkness, save for the moonlight wafting in through the screened window. The gentle beams illuminated the darkness and came to rest on her still form beneath the blanket. She gazed out at the starry night sky with wonder and a sense of building peace, even though her bitter fate hung suspended in plain sight in the back of her mind. The thought of Takemaru claiming her as his wife was unsettling, yes, but she was strong and she was proud. She'd live through this, whether it killed her or not.
Well, she thought as she snuggled into the covers. I've had a fairly peaceful life. No sense asking for more.
She sighed wearily and closed her eyes. She only wanted nothing more than to choose her own path in life, not have it chosen for her. If she allowed that to happen, what good would her life be? She'd be a puppet, a toy and a factor in life, nothing more. She'd become another miserable girl straining for things in life she could see, but never reach for and grasp. She would die alone on the inside and ashamed of how her life had turned out. The very thought of it made her shiver with fear. That wasn't what she wanted to do. She wanted a family and children, yes, but she wanted those things on her own time.
I suppose it's asking for too much. She thought to herself. She glanced at the moonlight one final time, sighed, turned over and fell into a deep, restless slumber.
Izayoi awoke to the panel door opening and someone stepping inside. It wasn't her room entrance however and she was startled to realize that it was coming from the window behind her. The breath hitched in her throat when she realized someone was breaking in, yet she feigned sleep hoping they'd go away. She didn't dare open her eyes to see if there was a shadow. Instead, she listened intently for footsteps.
There were. They were quiet. They were very, very quiet, like a cat's. She heard them pause on the balcony outside and stay still for a few minutes. She considered moving and alerting Minako, but she was afraid to. So much for strength and pride, she thought.
As she listened, the footsteps suddenly vanished and she heard nothing more. Deciding to just try and forget it until morning, she closed her eyes and returned to sleep. But she remained alert, just in case Takemaru, or whoever it had been returned. She was sure it was Takemaru and she would ask first thing in the morning.
He was getting to be annoying.
A/N: This is my newest story and I hope you enjoy it. I plan to attempt an update every four or five days, depending on how fast I can write and still keep it good. Within the next few weeks, I will be terribly busy what with exams and a trip 2600 miles long. Please bear with me as I try to make this as regular as possible.