note: this was finished five months ago, as a graduation present for Luna. this fic is therefore dedicated to her. as a fanfic writer, i believed i've bended reality a bit too much in here, as you shall see in the proceeding chapters.

legality: CLAMP owns the stuff, and I'm not worthy

Masquerade
by Ekai Ungson

for Luna, in gratitude for created beauty, and grace, and friendship

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"Tomoyo is of age. I must marry her off as soon as possible if I want to ensure our survival."

"The child will resist vehemently to the idea," the man pointed out. "Although getting a man to marry her will not be so hard a feat. Tomoyo, after all, possesses the beauty of a goddess, against her mouth of hell-fire and brimstone."

"Exactly. And I know just the man to marry her off to."

-One: Fire-

She had an air about her that could be defined as "scorching".

It wasn't in her eyes or on her hair or anywhere in her physical appearance. But her aura simply burned.

It could be owed to the fact that her mother was the woman known as "Flame", the most well-known harlot in the country. Her father was Lord of Daidouji, Ken. According to urban legend, he had been the only one brave enough to marry her mother. Suffice it to say that a daughter gave him a lot of gumption.

But although she was not an illegitimate child, she and her mother were frowned upon by general society. Her mother had broken far too many homes. Her mother was a sinful pariah. Her mother had gotten rich off the money of foolish men.

In fact, her mother seemed to have serviced all the men in town, which she knew for a fact as an absolute lie. She knew that if a man philandered with the Flame, he was sensational. If he philandered with just any woman, he was an idiot. She amused herself with the populace's illusions of grandeur. Her mother had stated in more than one occasion that she only serviced people who could pay the price, and their town wasn't exactly crawling with people rolling in money.

Her name was Tomoyo. Quite a soft name for such a fiery woman. So she was more commonly known as "Kurotori". The black bird.

And now here she was, walking the streets with her chin up. She knew all the women were looking down on their noses on her with disdain. She also knew that the men were looking at her in varying expressions of lust. She could almost laugh.

She made her way into her father's grounds, and inside the house.

"-- must marry her off."

"-- preferably a rich man--"

"-- tame her--"

Tomoyo's eyes narrowed as she entered the room.

"Have you no manners, young lady?" her mother barked. Her real name was Sonomi.

She only glared scathingly at her mother. "Discussin me again, dearest okaa-sama?"

"If I do not take charge of your affairs, no one will, seeing as you've been so irresponsible about this," Sonomi replied. "Your father's estate has seriously depleted. The only way for us to survive is to marry you off for a handsome fee."

Tomoyo scoffed. "And which brave soul of an idiot might agree to marry the daughter of the notorious Flame?"

"Quite a number, actually," said Sonomi in a smug voice. "It seems that these gentlemen believe themselves to be man enough to take you on, Kurotori."

"No man can conquer an Amamiya," Tomoyo told her mother. "You said so yourself."

"It does not stop them from trying, nevertheless," Sonomi answered.

"I will NOT marry for your satisfaction, okaa-sama," Tomoyo muttered firmly.

Sonomi stood up and grabbed her daughter by the shoulder. "You WILL, Tomoyo. I will NOT return to the streets. I will not have you grow to be a whore like me. I WILL have you taken care of, by hell or by God!"

Tomoyo stared up into her mother's eyes, the defiance there mirroring her own.

"Just watch me."

----

And there were quite a number of men who had wanted the position of the husband of the Kurotori. There were princes and kings, and dukes and lords. There were strong young men from lands near and far, who had heard of the infamous Amamiya beauty. They all wanted her, see if they could own her, tame her.

But Daidouji Sonomi knew that ninety-nine percent of these men would only crash and burn when faced with her daughter. For Tomoyo was headstrong and brilliant, and always, always potentially dangerous. No man stood a chance, for Tomoyo was Amamiya, and in the Amamiya women ran blood of infinite heat that could enflame, as well as scorch fatally.

In choosing a potential mate for Tomoyo, Sonomi knew that he had to be more than a match for her daughter. More than equal.

But as far as she knew there was no man yet born who could best an Amamiya.

This man had to be intelligent where Tomoyo was brilliant, cunning where Tomoyo was cautious. He had to know how to defend himself from an Amamiya woman's double-edged wiles and scorching fire. He had to know how to attack and where to attack Tomoyo.

He had to master her. And no man had been yet born to master an Amamiya.

Sonomi had to be very careful.

And very quick.

Time was running out.

----

Tomoyo knew that she was about as brilliant as her mother, and that all attempts to escape this would be futile. She knew that her mother would not rest until she was good and tied to some rich, abominable man.

Tomoyo hated all men with a vengeance. She hated them when they laughed and jeered at her mother, and sought to claim her for themselves as if she were a possession. Those brutes that thought that they could win against her. She derived great pleasure from making them crash down with devastationg results.

There was no place for a man, much less a marriage, in her life.

----

Sonomi had decided.

The man she had picked to marry Tomoyo was strong, rich, darkly handsome. Above all, he was noted for having a superior mind and cunning intellect. He was also notorious with the women and for having a vile temper.

It seemed that this man had been dropped from the heavens straight to her lap, for her rebellious daughter.

She smiled.

----

"His lordship accepts the invitation to see.... the estate, my lady."

/The estate?/ Tomoyo scoffed. /More like me./

"We expect him here within the morrow."

-tsuzuku-
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