Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters.
Summary: Life is going to become much more perilous in the Western Lands when the Inu no Taishou drops his proverbial bombshell. Sesshoumaru and his father are both grasping at whatever elusive certainties they can find. One Shot.
It helps if you've seen movie 3, but it's not crucial to understanding the story. Translations and author notes are at the bottom as per usual.
Chichi-ue had always been gregarious by nature, so Sesshoumaru found it odd when he realized that his father had unobtrusively vanished from the brightly lit banquet hall without him noticing. Normally it was Sesshoumaru whose patience ran short when faced with the noise and smells and boisterous behaviour of revelling youkai. By contrast, Chichi-ue was usually at the thick of things, laughing and drinking and gambling with zeal to match even the rowdiest courtiers or guests.
This was no formal celebration, and no one was obligated to stay — the Inu no Taishou least of all. Still, it was unusual for Chichi-ue to have retired from the festivities so early, even if Sesshoumaru had been longing to do so for the last hour. Formal banquet or not, propriety insisted that Sesshoumaru put in at least a token appearance at such gatherings when at all possible, especially now that he was considered an adult. The noise and close quarters made him feel irritable, overwrought, and drained. Inu were social creatures, but these youkai were not pack members. Half of them weren't even inu. While Sesshoumaru had no particular complaint against most of them as subjects or allies of the Western Lands, he found them highly uncomfortable to associate with for more than an hour or two, especially in such large numbers. It seemed to be a fact written into his character — that Sesshoumaru might never be at ease in a crowd.
Enough time had passed now that his departure would not be deemed impolite. Sesshoumaru made his escape, maintaining his impassive façade so that none would ever have reason to believe that his aloof nature could be any sort of weakness. Any fool who held such a belief would be gravely mistaken, of course, but Sesshoumaru wished to avoid such mutterings altogether.
Sesshoumaru stepped out into the courtyard garden, enjoying the fresh night air. The further he walked from the festivities inside, the more he could feel the tension leave his body, loosening the muscles in his shoulders and neck. He gladly replaced the smells of too many youkai, foods, drinks, and perfumes with the scents of summer grass and nocturnal flowers. There was no place in this wing of the castle where he could entirely escape the din, but the further he got from it, the easier it was to tune out.
Sesshoumaru's contentment with this solitude was such that, absorbed by his own inner world, he nearly overlooked his father's figure. Chichi-ue was seated on the roofed wooden porch that ran around the sides of the courtyard, at a point furthest from the banquet hall. He was silent and still, apparently stargazing. Sesshoumaru watched him quietly for a while, looking for clues as to what might be on his mind.
After a few minutes, Chichi-ue turned his eyes from the heavens to fix Sesshoumaru with a contemplative gaze, studying him as if from a great distance. Sesshoumaru passively endured his father's casual appraisal; Chichi-ue already knew all there was to know about him, and Sesshoumaru was confident that he had not done anything to give his father cause to find him lacking. By and by, Chichi-ue's gaze became warmer and more welcoming, and then he spoke.
"Come and sit by me, Sesshoumaru," he invited. "I suspected that you would join me presently."
"Chichi-ue," Sesshoumaru acknowledged quietly, doing as he was bid.
As Sesshoumaru sat, he noticed that two cups stood on the polished wooden platform, along with the bottle of sake that rested beside his father. Evidently, Chichi-ue had indeed anticipated Sesshoumaru's presence. Lifting the bottle, Sesshoumaru filled his father's cup, and then Chichi-ue poured Sesshoumaru's drink in return, as manners insisted. Chichi-ue then took to staring across the courtyard at the lights and silhouettes behind the shoji where the festivities were taking place.
Sesshoumaru savoured this sort of interaction. This is what he was made for, to sit in companionable silence with his father, his pack leader, enjoying the finer things in life — luxuries made all the sweeter for having been hard-earned through battle and strife. This was where he was most content.
Chichi-ue seemed to have a very introspective disposition tonight, and Sesshoumaru wondered what had brought this on. He examined Chichi-ue's scent idly, trying to discern his state of mind. There was his father's regular scent, of course, a smell of forests tinged with clean sweat, metal, and something akin to foreign spices. Lately, he constantly carried traces of that human woman's smell as well, adding notes of silk, apple wood, and ginger to the mix. Then there was a subtle blend of numerous seemingly-contradictory emotions, including contentment, frustration, anxiety, pride, affection, and defiance. Chichi-ue was nothing if not complex.
Sesshoumaru abandoned his silent query. Chichi-ue would speak if and when he wished to, not before. For the time being, Sesshoumaru concentrated on the starlight, the flavour of the sake, and the nuances of the scents on the wind. The world beyond the glowing shoji across the courtyard seemed very distant.
"I am a very lucky youkai," Chichi-ue mused aloud some time later.
Sesshoumaru turned his attention from the stars back towards his father. Chichi-ue still seemed unusually pensive. No doubt some interesting information would be forthcoming if Sesshoumaru was patient enough.
"Very lucky," Chichi-ue continued, sipping from his cup. "My power has served me well. I have united the Western Lands and brought peace. My territory is one of the largest and most affluent in Nihon. I have the love of a kind, beautiful, and devoted woman. And I have a fine heir that any father would be proud of." Chichi-ue's hand found Sesshoumaru's shoulder and squeezed briefly, before falling away. "Yes, a most worthy and admirable son, who must make the other lords sick with envy at the futility of hoping for such heirs of their own."
Sesshoumaru was no child, in need of pretty words to bolster a fragile ego. But nonetheless, Chichi-ue's praise filled his chest with a warmth similar, but far superior, to the warmth of the sake that slid down his throat. It had always been so, no matter how independent or confident Sesshoumaru was. His father, one of the only beings who knew Sesshoumaru's flaws and shortcomings (although they did not always agree on what traits fell into this category), still thought him worthy of great praise.
"The kami heap blessings upon my back, it seems," Chichi-ue added, but Sesshoumaru thought that he sounded as though he felt more worried than blessed. What had happened?
Chichi-ue took another slow swallow of sake, his eyes still fixed on the lights across the courtyard.
"Lady Izayoi is pregnant," he announced softly.
If a word in the right ear could spread a wave of influence like a tossed stone spreads ripples in a puddle, Chichi-ue's announcement was more akin to a boulder tumbling into a koi pond. For a moment, Sesshoumaru thought he must have misheard. Then he dismissed this thought, because really, how surprising could it truly be that Chichi-ue's union with the human woman had resulted in the natural outcome? It was really more surprising that the woman hadn't conceived far sooner, unless Chichi-ue had demonstrated an unlikely amount of restraint. It occurred to Sesshoumaru to wonder if his father had been unable to smell his human mate's fertility, but Sesshoumaru dismissed this notion as well. His father had either been careless or had simply not been averse to impregnating the woman. It didn't matter which was true; either way, the fact remained that Chichi-ue, Inu no Taishou and lord of the Western Lands, had sired a hanyou.
Chichi-ue was not looking at Sesshoumaru, but he thought his father seemed to be waiting for some reaction. What Sesshoumaru really wanted to do was to drop his head into his hands and groan, but of course, he would hardly do something so juvenile and undignified.
"A hanyou," he commented flatly, with distaste.
Instead of becoming irritated, Chichi-ue surprised Sesshoumaru with a soft, self-deprecating laugh. "Yes, quite ironic, isn't it?"
Chichi-ue seemed to have a slight smile on his face as he propped his elbow up on his knee and leaned his chin into his hand. He still hadn't taken his eyes off the well-lit shoji. "I have never hated humans or even hanyou, as so many of our kind do," Chichi-ue commented. "In my youth, at worst, I was indifferent. But never did it cross my mind that I, of all people…" Here he shrugged philosophically, looking wry. "The kami are laughing at me, I think."
Sesshoumaru found his father unnerving. Chichi-ue seemed in a strange mood, as though he found his own circumstances amusing. He certainly didn't seem upset. Concerned, perhaps, or maybe stressed was a better term for it. But not unhappy.
"They already think I'm mad, you know," Chichi-ue continued conversationally, with a nod towards the lantern light where the carousing was still in full swing. "They're already after my lands; now they'll be after my throat." He turned and finally looked at Sesshoumaru, smiling at him. "Do you think that I am mad, my son?"
Sesshoumaru didn't think his father was mad at all. If anything, Chichi-ue was almost disturbingly sane. At least if he'd been mad, it would have been some sort of explanation.
"Why do you ask such a question?" Sesshoumaru responded. "Are you now finding your actions to be cause for regret?"
Chichi-ue chuckled. "No, not even for a second."
It had always been a source of frustration for Sesshoumaru to encounter anything that defied his attempts to understand it. He had always possessed an inquisitive nature, and his intelligence — while perhaps one of his weaker attributes in comparison to his great power, strength, and skill — still far surpassed that of almost everyone he knew. In fact, the only one he could think of who matched him in intellect was probably Chichi-ue, who had always been good at appearing deceptively simple-minded. Chichi-ue had a way of making it easy for others to forget that he was a great deal cleverer than most of those around him. Which was perhaps the reason why Sesshoumaru was struggling so greatly to understand his father's actions and attitudes.
"It won't be long before my enemies are howling for my blood," Chichi-ue remarked solemnly. "And not long after that, some of my so-called 'allies' will be clamouring at the gates. Already some of my foes are making rustlings, and Izayoi's condition is still unknown to them."
How could Chichi-ue just sit there, saying such things so placidly? Did he have no sense of self-preservation? Would he not stir to save himself, his pack, or his territory?
Driven by some need to warn his father, to make him see reason, Sesshoumaru could hold his tongue no longer.
"Then do something! Would you rather see the Western Lands torn asunder by war once more? Would you have all that you worked for be in vain? Have your woman abort her abomination. Or better, renounce her, discard them both, before all is lost!"
Sesshoumaru had been watching his father's face carefully for some sign that his words might be heeded. It was because of this that he was caught utterly off guard. Without so much as a flicker in his expression, without even moving his gaze from the shoji he was watching so intently, Chichi-ue could have been carved from stone. So Sesshoumaru was completely unprepared for the hand that lashed out, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him belly-up onto the wooden porch.
"No," Chichi-ue replied softly, with a calm intensity that was somehow more frightening than any shout.
Sesshoumaru would not have dared to challenge his father at that moment, even if he'd been offered all the gold in the earth, or all the power in the West, or all the glory in the world. This was Chichi-ue at his most mercurial and most dangerous. No good would come of trying to sway him from something he was so set upon. He had chosen his course.
Chichi-ue was still not looking at him, but Sesshoumaru averted his gaze anyway as he forced his body to go limp in submission. Chichi-ue released him, but Sesshoumaru remained still for a moment, careful to avoid any possible provocation. Chichi-ue would not kill him, but if sufficiently incensed, he could still deal his son a trouncing that would make Sesshoumaru wish he had.
"Are you so averse to having a little brother?" asked Chichi-ue presently, without any trace of anger in his voice.
Sesshoumaru took this as his cue to sit up. "Or sister," he pointed out in a half-hearted bid to be contrary, rubbing his throat as he corrected his father.
Chichi-ue suddenly turned and grinned at Sesshoumaru, which made him realize that his statement came perilously close to declaring that he was already acknowledging this unborn half-breed as his sibling, as family, however grudgingly. Sesshoumaru wished he had kept his mouth shut. He was never going to live this down.
"Or sister," Chichi-ue amended, but then he corrected himself. "Ah, what is the point? It will be another boy. I can feel it in my marrow. Besides, I wouldn't know what to do with a daughter. No doubt she would be just as powerful and fearsome as any son of mine, but I would likely shelter her too much and make her grow to hate me. Or she would charm me too thoroughly, and I would let her run wild without consequence. It is better that it will be another son."
Chichi-ue said this in the almost childishly stubborn way he had, as if he could make it so simply by saying the words. Sesshoumaru almost found it amusing, but the fact was that when his father was so insistent about something, he was usually correct. The unborn pup was almost certainly a male.
Chichi-ue grew sombre again, frowning distractedly as he took another drink.
"I am no fool," he said suddenly as Sesshoumaru dutifully topped up his cup. "I know that the pup will not have an easy life. Fate is not kind to hanyou."
This was a fact. Sesshoumaru had never cared to pay much attention to the matter, but he knew enough to realize that there were very few accounts of hanyou surviving to adulthood. He had never heard of any dying of natural causes.
Although, he considered, dying of natural causes does not seem to be a popular option in this family, considering the fates of most of our ancestors. Going out in a blaze of glory, that's more our style, apparently. The pup should fit right in.
"Already I can feel the pup's youki," Chichi-ue commented, his voice awed, and perhaps slightly dismayed. "Only two months in the womb, and already he is strong. Perhaps too strong, I fear. Hanyou are unpredictable in this way. There is no telling how the blood will combine."
Sesshoumaru was well aware of this. Hanyou were notoriously unstable, and while some could pass for humans or youkai at a glance, others were monstrous in nature or appearance, or both. Sesshoumaru felt his unease increase tenfold. What was his father playing at? What sort of creature had he created?
"There are measures that one can take, precautions to stabilize the youkai blood in hanyou," Chichi-ue continued. "Some sort of seal will have to be devised."
Sealing. The concept was repugnant to Sesshoumaru, whose very nature rebelled against the notion of any sort of externally-imposed containment or limitation. How could any living thing survive being restrained thus? It was unfathomable.
"Soon the challenges from my enemies will be made." Chichi-ue turned then and fixed Sesshoumaru with a look so solemn that he froze, his breath caught in his chest. "If I should be slain, I charge you with a most essential duty, my son."
Irritation helped Sesshoumaru recover quickly from his surprise, and he started to lodge his complaint without hesitation. "Do not ask this Sesshoumaru to play guardian to your…"
Chichi-ue grabbed his upper arm tightly, transfixing Sesshoumaru with his fierce expression. "Hear me! If I am slain... if the pup ever loses himself to his youkai blood, it will be up to you to stop him."
Sesshoumaru's shock and confusion must have showed on his face. He was too startled to school his features into impassivity.
"You have not seen such things, Sesshoumaru, but I have," Chichi-ue went on. "I have witnessed what becomes of hanyou who lose themselves. I will not let that happen. It is too cruel a fate."
Sesshoumaru had not been frightened by anything in years, but his father's intensity had gone beyond unnerving him now. He listened in silence as his father continued.
"If I am not there, if my pup, your sibling, is driven into bloodlust and madness, if whatever methods I devise should fail and there is no hope for his return to sanity… you must slay him."
Sesshoumaru stared in dismay, struck dumb by this shocking decree. When several moments had passed without response, Chichi-ue grabbed Sesshoumaru's other arm as well, compelling him to turn so that they faced each other more squarely.
"Swear it, Sesshoumaru," demanded his father. "Vow to me that you will not let such a thing happen to a pup of mine! Swear it now!" He gave Sesshoumaru a shake when he did not immediately comply. "Swear it!!"
"I swear!" Sesshoumaru gasped out, aghast to witness his mighty father in such a state. "I swear it!"
Chichi-ue released him, calming. Meanwhile, Sesshoumaru reeled, vaguely horrified by his father's compulsion to plan for such a grim eventuality in regards to a pup who was still unborn. What had possessed him to command such a thing?
When Chichi-ue had regained his composure, he spoke again. "You do not understand. That's fine. You won't understand until you have pups of your own. Only then can you know the lengths to which a father will go to protect his own."
Rallying, Sesshoumaru formed a reply. "Protect? You speak of kin-slaying, not protection."
"I speak of mercy, not murder," retorted his father. "If you lost yourself to a bloodthirsty madness from which you could not return, I would slay you myself, no matter how I would weep to do so. And I would expect the same mercy from you if the situation was reversed."
It should have been a chilling declaration. Somehow, Sesshoumaru found it oddly comforting, soothing enough to allow him to recover his own composure. There was no point in feeling upset about being forced to make such a disturbing promise to his father concerning the fate of the hanyou pup. There was no revoking his vow, now that it had been given, and in all likelihood, there would never be a need to fulfill it. Chichi-ue would never let things become so dire.
Simultaneous urges to lighten the grim atmosphere and to be contrary made him give voice to an impudent comment. "As you noted, some would already call you mad."
His father's dark mood vanished as he laughed at Sesshoumaru's purposely conniving tone. "Are you offering to be 'merciful', my son?"
Before Sesshoumaru could formulate a reply, Chichi-ue seized him, yanking him sideways and off-balanced into a tight embrace. "Not today, Sesshoumaru."
Chichi-ue planted a rough and noisy kiss on Sesshoumaru's forehead, and chuckled when his disgruntled son struggled half-heartedly. Chichi-ue was still stronger, but they both knew that Sesshoumaru could have broken his hold if he really wanted to. And they both knew that when Sesshoumaru gave up and submitted to the indignity, his nettled air was merely another mask.
"I am not a pup," Sesshoumaru pointed out after a few minutes, when his father showed no signs of releasing him. "I no longer fit in your lap."
"You will always be my pup," Chichi-ue replied, his chuckling breath stirring the hair at the crown of Sesshoumaru's head. "No matter how old you are. Even when you have pups of your own, you will still be my pup. Even when you become strong enough to defeat me in battle, and become the new Inu no Taishou… even when you leave me at home to live out my dotage with only my grandpups to lessen the monotony, while you fight all the exciting wars… even then, you will still be my pup. And you may be nearly as tall as I, but I'd wager I could still fit you in my lap, so don't tempt me unless you wish me to try it."
And he wasn't bluffing. Chichi-ue didn't bluff. So Sesshoumaru carefully steered away from the wager.
"You speak as though you would ever retire quietly," Sesshoumaru huffed. "It is impossible to keep you from the field of battle, and I cannot imagine that this will change, even when you become as old and feeble as Toutousai."
The vibrations of Chichi-ue's hearty laugh travelled through Sesshoumaru's chest, a not-unpleasant sensation. "You are probably right," he agreed amiably, before finally releasing Sesshoumaru from his embrace.
Not for long, however, for almost as soon as he turned Sesshoumaru loose, he grabbed his arm, pulling Sesshoumaru to his feet as he stood up.
"Come for a run with your father," Chichi-ue insisted, tugging Sesshoumaru along behind him as he set off down the covered porch (but not before scooping up the bottle of sake with his free hand). "Who knows how much time we may have for such simple pleasures?"
Sesshoumaru let himself be dragged along without offering any resistance. Chichi-ue was like a force of nature, and it would take far too much effort to do anything but follow, even if Sesshoumaru felt slightly ridiculous — like a little fishing boat bobbing in the wake of a warship. But the idea of going for a run, outside the palace and far from the guests, was quite agreeable.
Chichi-ue had neglected to bring the sake cups, but this didn't deter him in the slightest as he took a deep drink directly from the bottle. Sesshoumaru looked at him askance when the bottle was offered to him, and his father rolled his eyes.
"I've failed to cultivate nearly enough vices in you," Chichi-ue commented. "Whoops!" He stumbled slightly, apparently over nothing, and caught himself on Sesshoumaru's shoulder. "Careful there. The floorboards are in bad repair." And he laughed to himself merrily.
Sesshoumaru glanced at the smooth, polished floor, but did not comment. Instead he threw dignity out the window and accepted the sake bottle from his father, making a modestly impressive dent in the contents. It wasn't that he wanted to keep his father from drinking any more; Chichi-ue wasn't actually as drunk as he liked to appear. It was just that Chichi-ue was always a little easier to manage when Sesshoumaru was a little drunk.
Passing the bottle back and forth between them as they walked, they finally arrived outside the gates, away from the noise. Chichi-ue drained the last few drops of sake before dropping the bottle carelessly into the grass. He turned and gave Sesshoumaru a reckless grin, and then cut loose all the restraints on his youki, rapidly transforming into his true self.
For a moment, Sesshoumaru just stared at the massive dog that was his lord father. The lamplight outside the palace gates seemed unaccountably red tonight, and for an instant, his father's fur seemed soaked in blood, until reason reasserted itself to Sesshoumaru. It was only the reflection of the lamps on his father's silver coat. But even as Sesshoumaru loosed his youki to his own transformation, the foreboding feeling lingered.
His father bayed at the stars before nipping at Sesshoumaru playfully and springing away into the darkness. Sesshoumaru matched his pace, running shoulder-to-shoulder with his mighty sire, who currently looked like nothing so much as an overgrown puppy with his tail wagging and his tongue hanging out. Chichi-ue was clearly as contented and relaxed right now as he could possibly be. But Sesshoumaru was still troubled. The ominous vision he had glimpsed would not leave him. Surely — surely! — it was merely a combination of lamplight and drink, not some portent of things to come.
But then, even as unease gnawed at his insides, he realized something. Chichi-ue wouldn't die. Chichi-ue couldn't die. It was Sesshoumaru who was destined to defeat him in battle. No other was strong enough to do so, and even Sesshoumaru had not yet attained quite enough power. And Sesshoumaru didn't intend to kill his father when the day finally came.
Sesshoumaru was destined to be the one to defeat his father, and therefore, Chichi-ue would never fall to one of their enemies. Chichi-ue was unassailable.
It was a thoroughly reassuring thought.
Chichi-ue – father (formal and archaic term)
Youkai – demon(s)/spirit(s)
Inu no Taishou – Dog Leader
Inu – dog(s)
Sake – rice wine
Shoji – sliding doors made of wooden frames and paper screens
Nihon – Japan
Kami – god(s)/goddess(es)
Koi – fish, carp
Hanyou – half demon
Youki – demonic energy/aura
AN: I wanted to try my hand at depicting a relatively amicable father-son relationship between Sesshoumaru and Inu no Taishou, while planting the seeds of all the conflict and hard feelings to come that seems to be suggested in the opening scene of the 3rd movie. All the triggers are in place to create a rapid degeneration of their relationship, and to lead up to Sesshoumaru's whole "give me Tetsusaiga, I don't care if you're off to die, I just want supreme conquest" attitude. But for now, the world hasn't quite gone to hell in a handbasket yet. Hopefully my little foray into backstory-land has added something and given more depth and dimension to Sesshoumaru's future self. The story is also intentionally foreboding. We all know what is to come, and these poor saps have no idea.
I'm really interested to find out how my readers react to this piece, so your reviews are much appreciated. And if you are fond of Inupapa and Sesshoumaru, check out my latest piece of fanart, "Ambush", on my deviantArt page. It's not related to this story, but you get to see Sesshoumaru as a child and Inupapa in all his protective paternal glory. I think it's my best fanart ever. Leave some comments there if you like it so I'll know what you think of it.