And this chapter earns the "T" rating. laugh Nothing graphic, but Roushouki is very, very rape-y. (Is that a word? It is now.) This is also where I start coming up with my own backstory for the Alichino world... well, it's more like I'm attempting to extrapolate from little hints in the manga. Some of Roushouki's dialogue in this is taken directly from the Volume 4 chapter scans of Alichino, so he really is that creepy!
Chapter 3: The Cause Is In You To Be Sought
Enju's eyes flicked open as he suddenly awoke from a rather disturbing dream. But dreams, like the fog that often misted the garden on brisk autumn mornings, quickly dissipated into nothingness.
It was then that he realized he was no longer in his room. The bedclothes were much too rich, decorated lavishly with gold threadwork and tapestry. Enju was modestly well-off, but his tastes were more earthy and elegant. He chafed at the ostentatious display of wealth even as he sighed in relief. He'd expected to wake up in a dungeon, if he woke up at all. Nothing in the richly decorated room suggested the sort of torture he had imagined in the fleeting seconds before that awful, violent woman had knocked him unconscious.
He was still acutely aware that he was a prisoner. Enju felt something like a small lizard trapped inside a glass terrarium. The plush, warm comfort of the heavy bedsheets and the sweet perfume in the air soothed his nerves, but it was all so empty and artificial.
...Much like the impossible beauty of an Alichino. Yes... he had definitely sensed something inhuman in the woman who had abducted him. Her face was perfect in its beauty, but flawed in that it hardly resembled the face of a real woman. A human face would be dotted with freckles, or creased from smiling. Like this room, an Alichino was too perfect to be real.
Enju tried to rise from the bed, but the stifling heat of the room and the oppressive incense dulled his senses. Had he been drugged? He managed to drag himself to a sitting position, but the effort left him dizzy and drained. At least he was now able to look through the large window to see an unfamiliar landscape of scorched earth and twisted trees. He'd never seen such a place to begin to guess where his captor had taken him. Nor did he have any way of knowing how long he'd been held in drugged sleep. Someone, probably a servant, had brushed his hair and dressed him in a soft embroidered robe, but Enju was no guest. He was a hostage, and whoever had ordered his kidnapping was keeping him alive for a reason. A growing sense of dread forced its way through the drug-induced stupor.
Tsugiri. They wanted Tsugiri.
Enju forced himself to think clearly. It would do no good to think irrationally when he must focus on finding a way out of this gilded cage before Tsugiri fell for the demon's trap. Ryouko and Myoubi would protect the boy until then. Despite his reassurances, Enju found himself anxiously running his fingers through his long red hair. The habit reminded him of the times when he had gently patted Tsugiri's hair after yet another encounter with the village children. Adults rarely saw an Alichino unless it was wished for, whereas children often saw the wisps of demon and called then fairies or elves or other such fanciful creatures. Tsugiri had always attracted Alichino as a lodestone draws a compass. He could only hope that the boy hadn't done anything rash, like rushing off to rescue him.
Enju worried himself to agitation until the sound of a door opening broke his thoughts. He instinctively moved to escape, but the drug-induced weakness had yet to leave his body. He'd be lucky to make it to the door before his strength gave out, so he certainly wouldn't be able to cross the unknown wastelands outside... assuming he even knew the way home.
It was not the Alichino woman who stepped through the doorway. Even though Alichino were shapeshifters, the beautiful man who turned to face Enju had an unmistakable presence. His hair was the deep red of fire itself, lightly brushing over heavily embroidered robes as he walked towards the bed with the self-assurance of a lord in his castle. Cool water-colored eyes regarded Enju with an air of bemused detachment, making the captive man feel suddenly awkward. The visitor's face was at once familiar and alien, like the reflection in a carnival mirror.
"I am Roushouki. I welcome you to my estate. I trust you are comfortable?
"As comfortable as I can be after being kidnapped, drugged, and imprisoned."
"I'm saddened that you think I would keep you prisoner. You are my honored guest. Is there anything that can be provided, some accommodation that could be made, in order to ensure your comfort?" Roushouki's speech was slow and sweet like honey being poured, but with an unpleasant aftertaste.
"I want to know where Tsugiri is, and if he is well." Enju struggled to keep himself under control. He was not a violent man, nor easily provoked, and yet he wanted nothing more than to shatter this man's beautiful face with his fist.
"Ah... Tsugiri?" It was obvious that Roushouki knew exactly of whom he spoke.
"You would know him as the Kusabi."
"Ah, yes, the curse with a human face." Roushouki laughed softly. "The boy is well, I would assume, given that he is under Myoubi's protection. Despite my efforts, he remains beyond my reach at the moment. Don't worry, though, dear Enju, he will soon join you. I'm quite interested in him... in both of you." The demon lord ran his fingers over the silk duvet covering Enju's bed in a way that made the delicate man's skin crawl. "For now, please enjoy my... hospitality. I believe you have already become acquainted with my servant, Matsulika. I hope her methods were not too violent - you seem unharmed, but she does take a certain pleasure in inflicting pain."
Matsulika. So that had been the Alichino who had kidnapped him. The name sounded vaguely familiar, yet Enju could not recall meeting her before. "I was under the impression that the Alichino served no one." Roushouki smiled more, practically purring with some unknown satisfaction.
"For a scholar, you know so little. How many years have you spent in that quaint little village, my dear Enju?" It suddenly occurred to Enju that he could not remember. The years before Tsugiri had came melted into a blur of seasons. He had only known a few people for any length of time - Ryouko, Myoubi, Tsugiri. It was not that Enju avoided people... it was simply that they seemed to wink out of existence, their lives extinguished like briefly burning candles. "I see, you've managed to hide the truth even from yourself. I'm sure Myoubi has guessed..."
"I'm not sure what you're implying, Lord Roushouki," said Enju, pulling back from the other man's sickeningly rich presence. The lord laughed softly as he sat on the edge of the bed, so close that Enju could smell the perfume on his clothes and feel the heat of his body. Unlike the Alichino, whose auras were cold and piercing, Roushouki burned with passionate fire. Enju had believed Alichino to be the strongest of all the demon species, but even Myoubi would appear as a pale shadow beside this man.
"You are as beautiful as one of my pets, an Alichino even..." Enju swallowed hard. "Have you ever wondered why that beauty does not fade?" Roushouki reached out to touch Enju's flushed cheek with long, cool fingers, but the scholar could recoil no further. He sunk into the pile of velvet-covered pillows behind him until Roushouki had nearly pinned him to the bed. "Even an Alichino would need to eat many souls to keep such a face, yet you have remained the same for decades..."
"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm not..."
"You've blocked your own memory so you don't even know what you are." Roushouki's body pressed him into the pillows until it was hard to breathe. Every breath of air was full of the heady scent of perfume and something sweeter, like opium. Enju had closed his eyes, but the lord's lips were hot against his neck. "It's said that anything I touch becomes mine forever. That being understood..." Enju closed his eyes even tighter – a pitiful defense but the best he could muster.
"Please... let me go..." he whispered.
"Open your eyes."
"No." Enju's defiance was born of desperation, but he could be remarkably stubborn.
"Open them." At this refusal, Roushouki kissed the other man possessively. There was no affection in the act, only lust and dominance. Enju immediately forget his attempted boldness and snapped his eyes open as he tried to push the lord away with all the power he had in his weakened limbs. Roushouki merely laughed, a sound that was round and smooth like chocolate bonbons, but after a moment he pulled away so Enju could breathe. "I know those eyes, Enju."
"I'm sorry, I don't believe we've met," he replied icily. "I don't usually associate with such ill-mannered demons." Roushouki ignored his protests.
"We've made our faces different, but you can never change the eyes. They're the windows to the soul, did you know? How ironic... even though we met only briefly, I could never forget my dear twin brother."
"What are you talking about?!" Enju finally found the physical strength to push Roushouki away and awkwardly roll to the edge of the bed. He reeled with dizziness as he stood, but managed to keep himself upright. "I... I don't have a brother! And I'm not an Alichino!"
"I never said that you were." Roushouki settled comfortably on the bed, his heavy robes a stark contrast to Enju's thin, shaking body. "Alichino are drawn almost hypnotically towards the Kusabi's radiance. There is no Alichino who does not dream of savoring that delectable boy." Roushouki licked his lips, sending a shiver through Enju. "And yet not a one would dare disturb the peace of your home, save Matsulika upon my orders. Have you every wondered why this is, or do you simply avoid thinking about unpleasant facts?"
"I... I don't know why that is. Myoubi simply told me that Tsugiri would be safer with me than anyone else in the world, so I have cared for him since then."
"The Alichino fear you, my dearest Enju." Enju was too shocked to respond. Alichino were creatures who could not die. Only the Kusabi and Lord Roushouki seemed to have any kind of power over them, and judging by the anarchic nature of the creatures, it did not appear to be very much. "Let me tell you a story, dear brother. You would think it a fairy tale, but such stories often have a seed of truth within them." Roushouki smiled as if he were educating a small, slow child. Enju shuddered to think of the demon ever producing offspring.
"Long ago, the noble lineage of Malebranche ruled this world and every creature in it, from the lowly humans to the great demon clans of the Alichino, the Navarrese, the Calacabrina.. The Kusabi was kept as a beautiful songbird in a cage, a delicate tool more subtle than the sword. Even the proud Alichino submitted to the lord Malacoda, knowing that rebellion could be quashed by a touch from the Kusabi."
"Ah, but in the many years since those times the world has fallen into disorder. The Kusabi was lost to the humans and the era of mankind's dominance began. The Alichino found a niche among humans as granters of wishes and eaters of souls, but the lesser demons retreated to the wastelands. Of the noble Malebranche, precious few remained. After many years, a child of the royal line was born. This child was to be gifted with power far exceeding the unruly Alichino. As Malacoda, he would ensure that demons once again ruled the world. However, a cruel curse had fallen upon the royal house. The long-awaited child was a twin."
The "twins" had to be Roushouki and Enju himself... if the Lord Malacoda was to be trusted. Enju had never thought of himself as anything but human. Alichino were the living embodiments of perfection, but he was as flawed as any other human. He was a respected scholar, but gifted neither with outstanding brilliance nor literary skill. He often overslept, especially on winter mornings, and he wasn't a very good cook. He had a streak of stubbornness that Tsugiri had unfortunately mimicked. Like all humans, Enju was a jumble of good and bad, beauty and baseness. "I don't understand."
"Of course you don't. You've never lived as one of us..." Roushouki rose from the plush bed and ran warm, possessive fingers down Enju's cheek. Enju dug his fingers into the polished wood of the bedpost and tried not to react. Roushouki was only testing him by touching him in ways no one else ever had... not that Enju hadn't quietly longed for someone to embrace him like this, but he had imagined far different scenarios. Maybe, when Tsugiri was just a bit older."
"Among demons, the soul is a very precious thing," lectured Roushouki. "The Alichino thrive on the souls of humans and only open their own when it becomes convenient to bind with a human servant. Twins, born from the same womb, have only one soul between them. The power or the soul is cut in half." The Malacoda walked around him, as if appraising a work of art and finding it amateurish. Enju shivered under his gaze.
"It is the custom among demons to kill the weaker child so that the other might inherit his rightful strength. However... if that other child were to be secreted away and never found, conditioned to believe that he was human... both might survive on that half a soul. One might even become the ruler of all demons, albeit a ruler too weak to control the belligerent Alichino. Forced to hide behind servants, watching as impertinent, inferior demons follow the example of the rebel Myoubi and live freely on stolen souls... all for the sake of a brother who had not the sense to die when he was supposed to die." Roushouki's smile was dangerous now, its sweetness turned crystalline and sharp. "Well, dear brother, did you enjoy the story?"
Enju could not say that he had. "If this story is true... then why have you not killed me?"
"Only the Kusabi could kill the heir of the Malebranche, my impatient brother. But do not worry, he will be here shortly. He does not know it, but he is already in my control." Roushouki made a gesture with his hand, making a small orb of brilliant white light hover in front of him. The light shifted between shapes, never settling on any particular form. At one moment it was a songbird, the next a mouse, then a creature half lizard and half mongoose.
"That's..." Enju had never seen anything like it before, and yet on some instinctive level, he knew what it was. It pained him to see it in Roushouki's lascivious fingers.
"Isn't it beautiful? Half the soul he lost when he died that time... with this, even the Kusabi is my puppet." Roushouki's smile twisted into a cruel snarl in the light cast by Tsugiri's glowing soul. "And then, dear brother, and then... I'll take what is my birthright."
"You won't touch Tsugiri!! Myoubi and Ryouko will stop you! ...I'll stop you!" Roushouki raised a thin eyebrow.
"Do you really think you could keep me from possessing anything I wanted?" He grabbed a handful of his captive's long, reddish curls and pulled just hard enough to make his point clear. "Anything at all..." Instead of a kiss, he ran his tongue against the smooth flesh of Enju's neck, feeling the fluttering pulse.
"I'll resist you!" insisted Enju, struggling against Roushouki's hold.
"I'd like to see you try," laughed the other man. In a smooth motion, he knocked Enju off balance and pinned him back to the bed. The kiss was feral as Enju tried to bite down on the tongue that invaded his mouth, but Roushouki grabbed his face in his hands to force his jaw open. He couldn't scream. Even if he had, who would hear him?
With great effort, Enju wrenched a hand free and slapped Roushouki as hard as he could. He ruefully wished that he had paid more attention to the fighting lessons Ryouko had given Tsugiri. But the clumsy blow had been effective: Roushouki took a step back, more from shock than pain. Enju sat up, his eyes burning with the same intensity as his brother's. He wasn't a brave man by nature, and he would much rather have run or hid. At the moment, though, there were few options other than to hope that Roushouki would grow tired of toying with his prey.
The Malacoda laughed humorlessly and struck Enju with a powerful blow. His heavy jeweled rings left a gash across the other man's forehead, from which blood began to flow freely. Roushouki pulled his stunned captive close and licked the first line of red with a pointed tongue, so their embrace was metallic and sweet with the taste of blood. Enju was almost relieved when the blood poured into his eyes and obscured his vision. It was a brief reprieve from Roushouki's hungry gaze before he finally succumbed to pain and exhaustion. Unconsciousness swallowed him whole.