First posted: September 13, 2002
Updated/revised: January 6, 2005
by Becky Tailweaver
The Fall of a Prince
Part 1: Adventure
Sesshomaru, eldest son of the Daimyo of the White Dog Clan, paused in his footsteps at the sound of the shrill, eager voice. He sighed deeply in exasperation, but that sigh didn't have much rancor behind it; in fact, one might almost say he was more amused than impatient.
Hiding a faint smile, Sesshomaru turned to wait for his small companion catch up, gazing back down the grassy slope at the odd little figure that hurried to reach him.
His baby brother, Inuyasha, bounded up the hill--as much as a quadrupedal toddler can bound, anyway--golden eyes bright and merry and his short mop of downy white hair shining in the midday sun as he breathlessly pounced up to Sesshomaru's side, wriggling in joy like the young puppy he very nearly was. He tottered to his feet after his considerable dash, gripping the edge of Sesshomaru's sleeve for support. Utterly delighted to have his big brother's undivided attention, the hanyou child beamed up at the older youkai with a wide, baby-fanged grin, panting in between his attempts to smile. His fluffy little white wolf-tail wagged so hard it took half his small form with it, his entire body caught up in eager puppy-wiggles of pleasure.
"Finally," Sesshomaru commented, not unkindly. "You'd be fine prey for a kame-youkai if you were any slower. Come along then; I grow tired of waiting for you."
Inuyasha giggled, smiling as if his brother had praised him, tail wagging all the more. Without hesitation the little pup trotted happily after his big brother, hop-skipping every few steps to keep up.
Inuyasha was still young enough that he was faster on four legs than on two, which explained the increasingly ragged condition of his play clothes and the dirt on his chubby hands. Trying to mimic his big brother's stately stride with his stubby little legs had the unfortunate effect of getting him left behind, causing his intermittent quadrupedal sprints to catch up again.
What Sesshomaru had intended as a quiet stroll in the woods surrounding the High Stone had become a wild adventure for Inuyasha; he doubted the tiny pup had ever even been this far from the safe confines of their home. Inuyasha certainly acted like he'd been offered a grand new territory to explore--not only did he have to catch up from his slower walking, but also from romping little side-trips to investigate interesting smells, laughing and yipping like a playful puppy set loose.
Slowing his stride a little as Inuyasha tagged after him--mostly to avoid having to stop and wait so often, he told himself--Sesshomaru let himself recall the brief, strange encounter with his father, Seibunishi-sama, Daimyo of the Dog Clans and Taiyoukai of the West.
Sesshomaru! There you are, boy."
Sesshomaru drew up short at his father's voice, almost taken aback that the elder youkai had addressed him at all. "Chichiue?" Seibunishi strode toward him through the busy Great Hall, dressed in what Sesshomaru recognized as his Council clothes and bearing a tiny giggling passenger on his shoulder. "Hi Niisan!" Inuyasha all but shrieked, overjoyed to see one of his favorite people in the world. As if his father's hail had not been enough of a surprise, Sesshomaru was further astonished when the Daimyo of the White Clan lifted the little boy off his shoulder and simply plunked him into Sesshomaru's arms. The younger youkai scrambled to get a grip on the child, his face almost comically startled as Inuyasha wrapped his arms around his brother's neck and hugged him ecstatically. "Niisan!" "Chichiue--what--?" Sesshomaru was almost stuttering, shocked. Despite the little boy's warm greeting and his apparent ease at handing the child over, Seibunishi's gaze was glittering with dark gold, hard and direct. "Would you mind looking after Inuyasha for a few hours?" "Nani?" Even more than being handed his little brother so abruptly, Seibunishi's request caught him completely off-guard. Never--not even once--had his father ever asked such a thing of him. "I have a short-notice Council of Houses to attend, and Inuyasha needs a caretaker," Seibunishi informed him. "But what of Ayako-san--?" "His mother needs a rest from child-care anyway, which is the reason I took him in the first place," his father stated. "Surely her ladies-in-waiting--!" Seibunishi cut him off with a gesture and quick words. "Is it possible for me to ask my son to look after his baby brother for a while? Ayako is resting, her women are busy, and I'm indisposed--you're apparently available and I've no one else in a suitable position to watch Inuyasha." Sesshomaru came within a hair of gulping loudly. "Not even...Shirokiba...?" Seibunishi's tone softened, as did his eyes. "I'm making a request of you, father to son. Is that so hard to believe? Can you do this...or is my confidence in you misplaced?" This time, the gulp came out as a hard swallow as something caught in the younger inu-youkai's throat. "No sir," he replied quickly. "I'll look after him. No harm will come to him while he is in my care." Seibunishi's features relaxed slightly, as if a hidden weight had been taken off. "That's my boy. I knew I could count on you." The warmth that suddenly spun through Sesshomaru's heart was like nothing he'd felt since he was very young--since the days he'd been a child running at his father's side for a bit of attention, and those same words had lit him up from within with their affection and trust. Trust. His father was trusting him to take care of Inuyasha. Choosing him to look after the child, this pup, his baby brother... "Take good care of this rascal, Sesshomaru," Seibunishi said, a wry smile gracing his features. "And Inuyasha--you behave yourself for your niisan, hear me?" Inuyasha replied with another affectionate hug to his brother's neck, and a happy cry of "Niisan!" Sesshomaru's response, however, was quiet and even, but earnest. "I will take care of him, Chichiue. You have my word." Seibunishi seemed to pause and regard him for a bare moment, just looking into his eyes. Then, with an almost reluctant nod, the ancient youkai turned and strode away, leaving Sesshomaru with a bundle of energetic little brother in his arms.
Sesshomaru drew up short at his father's voice, almost taken aback that the elder youkai had addressed him at all. "Chichiue?"
Seibunishi strode toward him through the busy Great Hall, dressed in what Sesshomaru recognized as his Council clothes and bearing a tiny giggling passenger on his shoulder. "Hi Niisan!" Inuyasha all but shrieked, overjoyed to see one of his favorite people in the world.
As if his father's hail had not been enough of a surprise, Sesshomaru was further astonished when the Daimyo of the White Clan lifted the little boy off his shoulder and simply plunked him into Sesshomaru's arms. The younger youkai scrambled to get a grip on the child, his face almost comically startled as Inuyasha wrapped his arms around his brother's neck and hugged him ecstatically. "Niisan!"
"Chichiue--what--?" Sesshomaru was almost stuttering, shocked. Despite the little boy's warm greeting and his apparent ease at handing the child over, Seibunishi's gaze was glittering with dark gold, hard and direct.
"Would you mind looking after Inuyasha for a few hours?"
"Nani?" Even more than being handed his little brother so abruptly, Seibunishi's request caught him completely off-guard. Never--not even once--had his father ever asked such a thing of him.
"I have a short-notice Council of Houses to attend, and Inuyasha needs a caretaker," Seibunishi informed him.
"But what of Ayako-san--?"
"His mother needs a rest from child-care anyway, which is the reason I took him in the first place," his father stated.
"Surely her ladies-in-waiting--!"
Seibunishi cut him off with a gesture and quick words. "Is it possible for me to ask my son to look after his baby brother for a while? Ayako is resting, her women are busy, and I'm indisposed--you're apparently available and I've no one else in a suitable position to watch Inuyasha."
Sesshomaru came within a hair of gulping loudly. "Not even...Shirokiba...?"
Seibunishi's tone softened, as did his eyes. "I'm making a request of you, father to son. Is that so hard to believe? Can you do this...or is my confidence in you misplaced?"
This time, the gulp came out as a hard swallow as something caught in the younger inu-youkai's throat. "No sir," he replied quickly. "I'll look after him. No harm will come to him while he is in my care."
Seibunishi's features relaxed slightly, as if a hidden weight had been taken off. "That's my boy. I knew I could count on you."
The warmth that suddenly spun through Sesshomaru's heart was like nothing he'd felt since he was very young--since the days he'd been a child running at his father's side for a bit of attention, and those same words had lit him up from within with their affection and trust.
His father was trusting him to take care of Inuyasha. Choosing him to look after the child, this pup, his baby brother...
"Take good care of this rascal, Sesshomaru," Seibunishi said, a wry smile gracing his features. "And Inuyasha--you behave yourself for your niisan, hear me?"
Inuyasha replied with another affectionate hug to his brother's neck, and a happy cry of "Niisan!"
Sesshomaru's response, however, was quiet and even, but earnest. "I will take care of him, Chichiue. You have my word."
Seibunishi seemed to pause and regard him for a bare moment, just looking into his eyes. Then, with an almost reluctant nod, the ancient youkai turned and strode away, leaving Sesshomaru with a bundle of energetic little brother in his arms.
Sesshomaru's frown had faded slowly over the course of his reminiscing, replaced by a look of amused acceptance--if a bit of puzzlement. His father had indeed never shown him such faith before--never simply handed him Inuyasha and entrusted him with the child's care.
But somehow, he didn't mind it as much as he'd initially thought. It made Sesshomaru feel....important. Significant. For the first time, he felt somewhat relevant to his father's life. The very idea gave him a warm feeling, tinged with the hope that Seibunishi really did regard him as a reliable member of his family--as a loved and trusted son.
It was as if his mother's icy shadow no longer hung over him, blocking the sunlight of his father's love.
Sesshomaru sighed, taking in a deep breath of the fresh, vibrant forest air. Yes, it felt good to be free of her legacy, at least for today.
His next thought brought a trace of wry smile to his lips; babysitting his little brother was not without its own share of...quirks. He'd never looked after Inuyasha on his own for such an extended period. His usual contact with his baby brother consisted of tracking him down to bring him back to Lady Ayako's quarters--or visiting him for an hour or so, usually under the watchful eye of one of the child's parents.
Now, without the help of his father or Ayako, he was quickly realizing what a job parenthood really was.
At first, Inuyasha had been content to be carted around in Sesshomaru's arms as the young youkai lord went about his business. However, no matter how much he loved his "Niisan," there was no way any toddler could sit still for that long--and soon the little hanyou was fidgeting and demanding to be let down to play.
Then it had proved equally hard to get anything of consequence done with a bored toddler chasing after his ankles. After what seemed like the hundredth pounce on the back of his knees and the thousandth pull on the end of his tail, Sesshomaru gave up on getting any of his business done and decided to take the child outside. At least Inuyasha would be distracted from his tail out there--and once outside, the little hanyou immediately kicked off his slippers to run barefoot over the soft grass, toddling, falling, then galloping puppylike on all fours chasing grasshoppers and butterflies.
As far as Sesshomaru knew, Inuyasha had rarely been outside the High Stone. Closely guarded from his enemies within and without the Stone, Inuyasha's experiences with the outdoors were generally limited to gazing from windows in the rock. Or the occasional picnic with his parents, with Seibunishi jealously guarding his mate and offspring, several of his loyal sentries in watchful attendance. Everyone knew that there were many who would see the child dead--whisperings in the halls and uncovered plots made it clear that Inuyasha's life was in danger should he ever wander too far from his protectors.
Sesshomaru had no illusions about his mother's involvment in most of the schemes.
But at least being outside with plenty to explore kept Inuyasha from swinging from his tail, Sesshomaru considered with a sigh. With hopping insects to chase and birds to scare, Inuyasha was kept well-entertained indeed. He wasn't sure if Lady Ayako would approve of her son snacking on grasshoppers--far be it from him to know how ningen raised their children--but he himself was content to let Inuyasha indulge his youkai blood in puppy play-hunting. Ayako would definitely frown if Inuyasha ate birds, but Sesshomaru was certain he wasn't skilled or fast enough to catch them yet anyway.
He'd watched the pup's clumsy attempts at pouncing and coursing for a time, sighing in exasperation. A good tracker Inuyasha might be--it was in his blood, naturally--but the little hanyou would need time, growth, and strength before he could hunt anything larger than field mice. If his human mother wasn't squeamish, perhaps Sesshomaru could begin to tutor him in hunting once the child was of suitable age and size...or at least accompany him when Seibunishi brought him out to learn.
No matter that half his blood was human, Inuyasha should be allowed to track andhunt his own prey as any true inu-youkai did--successions, bloodlines, and rivalries aside, Inuyasha deserved the chance to know his heritage. It wasn't as if the pup had asked to be born of a human dam; that being said, it certainly wasn't Inuyasha's fault he existed.
Until Inuyasha was old enough--and until he gained his father's full trust and approval--Sesshomaru would have to content himself with simply watching over the hanyou as he'd been asked. So when the grasshopper-chase had ended, Sesshomaru had announced that they were going to take a stroll through the forest. Off they went, leaving behind the High Stone and its prying eyes and its politics and its gossip, venturing out into the woods beyond the great meadow at the foot of the mountain. Safer territory, or more dangerous--depending on how you looked at it.
There really were no safe places for a baby hanyou in this world, save in the loving arms of his close family. Once he left those arms, he would be prey to many, youkai and ningen alike. That was why so few hanyou ever lived very long--or even reached adulthood.
Sesshomaru frowned at that thought, especially when his mother's sneering face came first and foremost in his mind. Well, no matter her power, she wouldn't lay a claw on Inuyasha--not her, nor any of her allies. Seibunishi had made a request of his eldest son, and Sesshomaru of House Setsuken meant to see that he kept his promise to his father. He was strong and fast, a matchless warrior thanks to his father's noble blood; few could stand against him, even amongst his own kind. No being, Dog or otherwise, would dare attack Inuyasha while Sesshomaru was with him.
As long as he kept a close eye on the pup--despite his apparent impatience and nonchalance, he was actually well aware of his little brother's location and safety. This very moment, Inuyasha was--
Where was he?
Sesshomaru blinked, a sudden jolt flashing through him as he whirled to the path behind him.
The forest was quiet--there was no sign of Inuyasha.
The harsh curse fell from his lips before he could rein it in, startling him with his own alarm; chagrin and self-reproach flooded him as he realized he'd been too absorbed in his own thoughts to keep track of the pup. And he'd just been congratulating himself for doing a such fine job of protecting his little brother!
When did I get so thickheaded? he berated himself. My father trusted me with Inuyasha and I've let him wander off into the forest! I gave Chichiue my word, and if something happens to him--!
All the tracking abilities of a full-blooded inu-youkai came into play as Sesshomaru rapidly retraced his steps, searching for the place where Inuyasha's scent separated from his own. It wasn't difficult; a hundred meters back along the path, just inside the forest from the edge of the meadow they'd crossed, the smell of inu-hanyou turned downhill from the trail, leading into the thicker brush.
His face once again a cold, emotionless mask, Sesshomaru bounded rapidly and silently through the thickets; hopefully his speed would allow him to overtake the pup before anything drastic happened. He was so intent on his little brother's scent that he almost didn't notice the other odors wafting from the base of the hill--and his eyes narrowed when he caught them.
There were other youkai here.
He'd been aware of the presences of several other youkai in the vicinity, most of them not Dogs but common forest folk--but they were also aware of him and for the most part none had come near, choosing to avoid his location altogether.
But these youkai were closer; his senses registered them as non-inu, denizens of whatever shadowed valley Inuyasha was foolishly heading toward. Their scents had probably caught the hanyou's attention and piqued his curiosity--and the child was too young and naive to be wary of other youkai.
And, Sesshomaru mentally snarled, too damn human to listen to his instincts!
His nose told him he was close, and as the valley bottomed out he could smell the pup to his left. Angling toward the scent, he was startled when he leaped over a tangle of vines and almost tripped over the little hanyou crouched on the forest floor near a log.
Sesshomaru lurched to a stop, almost not caring how awkward he was in doing it. He also didn't care that a good portion of his emotions showed on his face, and he couldn't help the deep breath that forced its way up from his lungs as he stood over Inuyasha, gazing down with equal parts relief and anger.
"Niisan!" Inuyasha seemed surprised to see him, too, leaping up to cling to his knees.
"Why did you wander off like that?" Sesshomaru demanded, more harshly than he'd intended. "Don't you know you could have been killed?"
Inuyasha's small ears flattened completely at the tone of his brother's voice, his eyes going suddenly stricken and remorseful. "Gomen, Niisan!" he cried, anxious to do anything that would appease his big brother's anger. Tail-tucked and eyes welling, the little pup clung to Sesshomaru's kimono and whimpered sorrowfully. "Gomen...!"
At the sight of brimming tears, the older youkai's face softened. "I should think so," he said, moderating his tone. "It was very foolish of you to go off on your own. What would I tell Chichiue if something ate you?"
Inuyasha blinked, as if that notion had not occurred to him. "Ate me?"
"Yes. There are many youkai in this forest who think a little hanyou is very tasty."
Wide golden eyes went wider in alarm. "Bad things!"
"Indeed. So remember next time--you should never leave my side." Sesshomaru glanced at the woods around him, eyeing the muddy pond-swamp at the bottom of the valley, before gazing down at the child. "Shall we go? I suppose Chichiue should be done with his Council meeting fairly soon."
"Chichiue! Otousan!" Inuyasha's face lit up at the mention of Seibunishi. He bounced, then changed his grip to the end of his brother's tail as Sesshomaru turned to lead him from the valley.
"Why did you wander off in the first place?" Sesshomaru wondered, mostly to himself, not really expecting Inuyasha to know how to answer.
"Funny smells," the pup replied, surprising him. "Wanna see."
"Did you now..."
"Icky mud," Inuyasha continued solemnly. "Yucky water. An' smells--"
The child's voice cut off at the same time there was a sharp yank on his tail--sharp enough to make him gasp, but before he could turn about and glare at the pup something set up such a howling, screeching racket that his indignation was quickly forgotten.
As he whirled he caught a glimpse of Inuyasha clinging tightly to the end of his tail, tiny fangs exposed in an open-mouthed cry of surprise and fear--and a glimpse of something brown and slimy wrapped around the child's midsection--before the terrified little face was whisked out of his view, the panicked grip taking a handful of white hairs from his tail as it was forcibly pulled loose.
"Inuyasha!" Shocked beyond belief that anything would so brazenly attack the pup in his very presence, Sesshomaru leaped after the stolen child. Whatever-it-was had a grip on the small hanyou and was dragging him kicking and screaming toward the swampy, mosquito-infested pond in the center of the small valley--some kind of brown, algae-coated tentacle, with many of its fellows writhing up from the water, waiting.
How dare some sorry piece of pond-scum think it can snatch my brother from beneath my nose!
Fury flooded him, lighting his eyes on fire, turning them the ghastly, glowing blood-red that marked an inu-youkai's battle rage. In a flash he outraced the withdrawing tentacle, razor-sharp claws flashing down to sever the limb in one clean blow.
Writhing like a chopped worm, the severed half of the tentacle released Inuyasha. Sesshomaru snatched him up and prepared to get them both clear of whatever lurked in the swamp--but something cold wrapped around his leg and pulled; caught mid-leap, he was spilled unexpectedly into the mud, face-first. He was forced to toss Inuyasha away from himself or risk crushing the pup as he crashed to the earth, even more angered than before.
Not only did this muddy bastard think it could steal his little brother from him--now it thought it was youkai enough to take him on!
Either it was a lot tougher than it looked...or a lot more stupid.
The tentacle on his leg was joined by another about his waist and a third around his throat, intent on dragging him into the swamp. A snarl broke from him--the first since the battle began--as he brought his talons into play once more, slashing himself free of the grip on his neck, digging in with his heels to keep from being pulled into the murky waters. Even as powerful as he was, if this thing got lucky and dragged him into its domain, even he could be drowned and eaten.
The cry made him glance up, spotting Inuyasha dodging the set of tentacles after him. Startlingly agile considering how childishly clumsy he usually seemed, the pup leaped and rolled into the cover of a log, terrified, but reluctant to leave his brother behind.
"Inuyasha, go!" Another tentacle was slashed through, and another, but the thing seemed to have an endless supply and Sesshomaru was distracted. "Run!"
"Niisan...!" Hesitating with a whimper, the little hanyou turned and darted away from the swamp, obeying Sesshomaru's command--but before he could take three strides another tentacle snatched the poor pup by the tail, eliciting a shrieking yelp, and began pulling him toward the water again. "Niisan, tasukete!"
With another wordless snarl Sesshomaru ripped the tentacles away from himself and leaped clear of the mud, heading in Inuyasha's direction. More tentacles shot from the swamp to stop him, but in a whirl of shattering claws he slashed them to ribbons. "Keep your filthy limbs off me!"
A high-pitched snarl made him whip around--and to Sesshomaru's intense surprise, little Inuyasha had turned about and set his tiny teeth into the slimy tentacle that held him prisoner.
Finally, youkai instinct had kicked in, pushing aside human fear; terrified but determined, the pup savaged the thick limb and tore at it with his baby-claws. The hanyou-child had the spirit to fight, but his fangs were only milk-teeth, too small to aid him now; his little claws were sharp but too short, too soft, and his tiny child's-hands weren't strong enough to force them through the rubbery flesh of his enemy.
But in less than a moment Sesshomaru was there, longtalons ripping through the tentacle in a single swipe, his other hand scooping up the struggling child and holding him close as he darted away from the enraged thing's other attacking limbs.
The little hanyou was still battling, eyes bright and wild as he fought his brother's grip as if it were another tentacle; both were covered in the mud of the swamp, and in the heat of the moment Sesshomaru's scent was hidden under the stench of the swamp-beast's slime. The same tiny fangs sank into Sesshomaru's arm--but he didn't even wince, intent on dodging aside of the grasping tentacles. Inuyasha caught his brother's blood-scent and released him immediately, the wild terror vanishing from his eyes. "Niisan...?"
"Hold on tight," Sesshomaru commanded, ignoring the sting of the tiny bite. His free hand slashed through the whirling limbs blocking him as he alternately plowed through and leaped over the swamp-slime and water, heading for the center of the pond.
He summoned power for a critical blow, bringing forth the poison in his claws--a power that his mother had bequeathed him, thanks to her tainted foreign bloodline. His deadly talons struck down in the middle of the pond, sinking him in up to the shoulder as he released his toxic attack.
The swamp began to boil with vapors as the tentacles writhed in sudden agony. Sesshomaru withdrew just in time; the mud erupted, the owner of the tentacles coming up from the poison-filled swamp-water to gasp for breath. An ugly thing, somewhere between octopus and slug--but Sesshomaru cared little for appearances and moved to attack.
The swamp-monster's skin was already blistered from toxin, and it writhed in burning pain from the poison. Sesshomaru's swift retribution was almost a mercy, a single massive strike slicing it into five pieces that fell lifeless into the swamp. The inu-youkai leaped clear of the poisoned pond, carrying Inuyasha to safety, landing in the harmless mud severalmeters away.
In the silence that followed, Sesshomaru stood motionless in the knee-deep slime, holding Inuyasha close; the little pup was trembling, and both of them were coated with cold swamp-slime. Sesshomaru's eyes faded slowly back to their usual brilliant gold as he looked down at the pup in his arms, ensuring that he was unharmed.
"Niisan..." Inuyasha quavered into his kimono, still holding on tight as he'd been told, his face buried in his brother's chest. "Niisan..."
"We're safe now," Sesshomaru announced, his voice softer than his usual dispassionate tones. "It's dead."
"All gone?" Hesitant, Inuyasha peeked out.
"Very much gone," Sesshomaru replied, his voice slightly haughty as he recovered his composure. "A mere swamp-youkai could not hope to defeat me."
"Niisan tsuyoi," Inuyasha agreed, staring wide-eyed at the pieces of the monster that had attacked him. "Yucky. Not gonna eat me!"
"It certainly isn't," Sesshomaru snorted, leaping clear of the swamp-mud in one bound. He looked down at the child in his arms, taking in the blood on the tiny claws, smeared around the frowning mouth--some of it his own. "You fought well, Otouto. You were very brave."
"Hontou?" Inuyasha seemed to light up at that, turning to regard their fallen enemy. After a moment, he stuck out his tongue at the corpse. "Biiii-da! Yucky! All gone!"
Sesshomaru couldn't help his snort of amusement. "Let's go home," he announced, with a look of distaste at the mud on his person. "Chichiue will be looking for us soon, no doubt." And I'm going to be in serious trouble if he finds out what kind of danger I put Inuyasha in...
"Home...Okaasan..." the little pup murmured, looking pensive. The child was probably wearied from the battle--obviously, sincesomething like this had never happened to him before. With a frown, Sesshomaru wondered if having human blood would allow such an event to scar Inuyasha's mind...or if his youkai heritage was strong enough to let him overcome this fright.
"Home...and a bath," the young youkai lord agreed, wrinkling his nose at the stench of pond-scum that clung to the both of them. "Before anyone sees us..." he added, almost as an afterthought, leaping into motion and bounding back up the hill. They would be back to the High Stone quickly, and then it would be up to Sesshomaru to get them through the halls without notice, into his chambers where he could clean up this mess before anyone found out.
He growled at himself in disgust. Why am I so worried about someone finding out about this? It's not as if no one's ever been attacked by a mud-monster before.
Because I know Chichiue will have my ears for this, he answered himself, almost ruefully. Inuyasha is my responsibility, and I almost let him be eaten. In my own defense, at least I prevented it from actually happening.
Somewhere deep inside, in a place he was refusing to acknowledge right now, he prayed that this tragic attack would not make Seibunishi withdraw the precious trust he'd shown today.
To be continued...