InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity Redux: Vivication ❯ Comedy of Errors ( Chapter 3 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter 3~~
~Comedy of Errors~

~o~


"Thank you, Vasili.  I'll call if I require anything else."

Clicking off the cell phone, he handed it over to Saori and watched through narrowed eyes as she carefully stowed it in her pocket once more.  She'd allowed him to borrow hers long enough to call his butler, to ask him to cancel all of his appointments for the next two weeks since it would take that long for them to travel to the orphanage and back again, although why he'd agreed was entirely beyond him.  Common sense told him that he was far too busy to humor this girl, and yet, he couldn't deny that a part of him really did want to see this place.  There were a hundred things that demanded his attention, and here he was, allowing a woman he'd just met—who had tossed him into the back of her van instead of knocking on the door to ask for help when she'd cold cocked him with the van door . . . All in all, a part of him had to wonder if he hadn't knocked something loose in his brain.

'Except that she's gorgeous,' his youkai-voice pointed out in an entirely pragmatic kind of way.

'Looks are overrated, especially when she doesn't have an ounce of common sense to back that up.'

'Hmm . . . Her eyes, Fai . . . Did you realize that they're blue?  I mean, they look gray, but if you stare at her awhile . . .'

He snorted inwardly.  'Which I am most certainly not going to do.'

'I don't suppose that you noticed her ass, have you?'

'What's wrong with you?'

His youkai sighed.  'I like her, Fai.  I like her a lot, and her ass?  Just look at it, will you?  Okay, so maybe she is a little too impetuous, but you know, there's something to be said for that, especially when you're the polar opposite.  You really don't have to overanalyze everything, to think every little thing through, to pick apart motive and reason, which is exactly what you do.  She cares about the children—about that orphanage—just like your mother did—and maybe that's not a bad thing, even if she did bruise your ego a little.'

"I'll . . . I'll buy you a new cell phone as soon as we get to a store," Saori remarked, biting her lip as she kept her eyes focused on the road ahead.

"No need," he replied a little tightly.  His had broken during the kidnapping.

'Or at some point—maybe when you got clobbered by the door . . .'

He snorted inwardly.  'Not helping.'

She didn't look convinced.  "Are you sure?  I mean, it was . . . was my fault in a round-about way, at least . . ."

"It's fine. That one was a few years old already, so I needed an excuse to replace it anyway."

She laughed.  It was an entirely pleasant sound, and still, it grated on his nerves, just the same.  "Can I ask you something?"

"Can I stop you?"

She glanced at him, but her smile widened.  "Well, you wouldn't have to answer me, I guess . . ."

Shifting slightly—there was a rather uncomfortable spring, sticking him in the back—he sighed.  "Go ahead."

"I just wondered . . . How much does it cost to fund the orphanage yearly?"

"A lot," he muttered, glaring out of the smudgy window. "It varies.  Between paying the staff, the regular bills, the costs for schooling, clothing—everything . . ."

She bit her lip, her gaze taking on a slightly clouded sort of expression.  "What about fundraisers?  Not the kind where the children do anything, but a real fundraiser?  The Zeligs—you know, the North American tai-youkai—they have a foundation that holds annual fundraisers to collect donations for their various charities, so . . ."

"I wouldn't know the first thing about arranging something like that, and even if I did, it takes money to make money—and there's no way I could possibly stretch that budget far enough to attract the attention it would require."

"My family is . . . is pretty good at arranging those sorts of things," she ventured.  "If I asked, I'll bet—"

"We don't need anyone's charity," he growled.  The idea of asking anyone for favors?  No, he wouldn't do that . . . The last thing he wanted or needed was for those who already opposed his ascension to the title of tai-youkai to catch wind of something like that.

"But—"

"I said no," he stated flatly, in a tone that left no room at all for debate.

She grimaced.  "I . . . I have money," she said.  "If it would help—"

"You don't have enough to keep the orphanage open," he informed her, struggling to keep a lid on his rising irritation.  "Anyway, it isn't your problem."

"If not mine, then whose?  It's everyone's problem, don't you think?  These children—"

"You can talk until you're blue in the face, and it's not really going to change facts," he told her brusquely.

She sighed, but she did finally let it drop.  He wasn't even slightly deluded into thinking that she was done; not by a long shot.  For now, at least, she was willing to let it go, and he couldn't help but be just a little thankful for that.

The silence that fell between them was deafening.


-==========-


The click of stack heels on the tired stone floor resounded in the quiet, echoing in the cavernous hall.  She stopped outside the closed wooden door and tapped precisely two times in short order before taking one step back to wait.

"Come," the deep, gravelly voice called as a soft click and hiss announced the release of the airlock, and she gave the handle a curt twist before stepping into the office.  Glancing up from the opulent desk across the room, his gaze lingered on her for just a moment before summarily dismissing her, the scratch of the pen on paper almost as pronounced as the rhythmic tick of the clock on the prodigious mantle.  "I trust you have good news for me," he said, dispensing of any pleasantries and getting right to the heart of the matter, as it were.

She cleared her throat and strode over, depositing the slim-file on the desk before him.  "As requested: all accounts have been frozen.  Lord Gostoyev bid me tell you, however, that he cannot retain holds on them long—a month, at best."

"A month is enough," Evgeni Feodosiv rumbled.  "It will be enough to bring everything to a screeching halt."

A slight smile twisted her ruby red lips as Katja Petrova slowly nodded, crossing her arms over her chest, careful not to rumple the hopelessly expensive wool jacket.  "You'll ruin his credibility completely," she intoned, arching a delicate eyebrow.

Evgeni chuckled, letting the pen fall from his fingers as he sat back in the heavily upholstered chair.  "That's the plan, yes."

She laughed—a husky, breathy kind of sound.  "Is there anything else you require, my lord?"

Steepling his fingertips together, tapping them in time to the ticking of the clock, he looked rather thoughtful for a long moment.  "Send him word, if you will.  Tell him I want to see him at his earliest convenience."

Her expression gave nothing away of her thoughts, but he knew well enough that Katja despised Taras Stepanovich . . .

She nodded, bowing slightly at the waist as she took a step back without turning away from him.  "As you wish," she said.

Evgeni watched her go, careful to keep his expression completely blanked until she'd closed the door behind herself.  Only after the airlock re-engaged did he finally break into the barest hint of a smile—for him, little more than the slight lightening of his dark gaze.  Letting a long-fingered hand fall onto the smooth surface of the slim-file, he dragged his claws over it slowly, methodically.

He'd come close before—so close that he could taste it—only to have his meticulous plan fall apart because of one man's arrogance.  He'd known from the onset that Gregor's grandstanding could well work against them, and he was right.  That had ended badly, but at least Gregor had been good enough to take his secrets with him into the afterlife.  Evgeni had learned his lesson then—that if he wanted the whole thing to come together, that he'd do best to handle it himself.  But as easy as it could have been, simply to step forward, to voice his grievances and to let things ride in the natural order, he'd realized that the better course—the far more effective one—required a little more brains than brawn.

The plan was absolutely foolproof, and it was coming together much better than he'd dared hope.  Of course, a large amount of credit was due to Katja.  Thanks to her . . . very formidable skills, she'd managed to arrange things without Gostoyev ever suspecting a thing.  No doubt about it, he would have to pay her back for her dedication—her loyalty—just as soon as the dust settled, once and for all.

It was all falling into place, wasn't it?  After so long, after so many setbacks . . . The ruse that he so despised would end soon enough, and then . . .

'Just a little longer . . . a little more patience . . .'


-==========-


Fai landed with a terse grunt as he gritted his teeth and rolled to his feet once more.

"Sorry!" Saori said for the umpteenth time in the last hour.  "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

He snorted.  "No, just as you didn't the last time—nor the time before that, nor the time before that."

She didn't look entirely convinced as she hitched her shoulders and readied her stance once more.  "If you're sure . . ."

"As if someone with your skills could actually hurt me," he scoffed darkly, ignoring the slight ache in his hip where he'd landed the first time she'd neatly tossed him.

Narrowing her eyes at his blatant taunts as indignant color blossomed in her cheeks, she pointed at him.  "I'm trying not to hurt you, you realize," she pointed out haughtily.  "I could be a lot tougher if I wasn't trying to hold back!"

He rolled his eyes.  "Oh, please.  I'm tai-youkai for a reason," he shot back.

She uttered what could only really be described as a terse little growl.  "Yeah—because your father was tai-youkai before you!"

He wasn't quite expecting it when she sprinted toward him, fists moving so fast that he could only block her on instinct, bringing up his forearm on one side, and then the other, pushing away her ankle when she spun around, kicking up and out.  She switched feet in a blur of motion, giving him just enough time to lift his arms, to prevent her from connecting with the side of his head, before she hopped back and raised her chin in stubborn defiance.  "Not bad," he admitted, letting his hands drop to his sides.  "Where'd you learn to fight like that?"

"My second-cousin's mate," she replied.  "She's more like an aunt, though, than a second-cousin."

"Is she a martial arts instructor?"

Saori shrugged.  "Nope.  She's a mechanic."

He stared at her for a long moment, trying to decide if she was being serious or not.  She didn't look like she was joking, and he slowly shook his head.  "She's a . . . mechanic . . ."

Giving a curt nod, Saori braced her hands against the small of her back and stretched.  "According to her mate, it's women's work."

Digesting that, he strode over to grab a bottle of water out of the back of the van.  "You have a strange family," he decided.

She didn't disagree. In fact, she laughed.  "They're not—Well, I guess some of them are, a little . . ."

"You have a large family?"

Taking the bottle of water that he offered her, she giggled as she broke the seal around the cap.  "I have a huge family," she corrected him.  "They're all over the place, too—Japan, North America, a couple in Europe . . . I've got a couple cousins in China, one in Australia . . ."

He slowly nodded.  "Do they go around, kidnapping people, too?"

"Of course not!  In fact I—" Cutting herself off abruptly, she whipped around to stare at him, her silvery-blue eyes shining.  "Are you teasing me?"

He snorted, draining half of his water bottle in short order.  "Absolutely not.  I'm making the best of a horrible situation," he replied dryly.  "Does your employer realize that you're a criminal?"

Snapping her mouth closed as her cheeks pinked prettily, she wrinkled her nose and uttered a little 'hrmph' sound.  Reaching for the black denim jacket she'd stripped off just before launching into an attack on him, she shrugged it back on before pulling her long ponytail from the collar and yanking out the scrunchie she'd pulled her hair into.

'What color do you call that, by the way?'

'Huh?'

'Her hair, stupid.  What color would you call that?'

As far as he was concerned, he didn't actually think that deserved an answer.  'Not only did she kidnap me, she attacked me, too,' he reminded his youkai-voice, wondering vaguely just why he would have to do any such thing.

'Stop being such a wuss, will you?  Okay, so maybe you didn't ask to go on this little adventure, but kidnapping is kind of a stretch, given that you could easily walk away from her whenever you want to, and she didn't attack you, per se.  She told you to look out.'

'Two seconds before she launched herself at me!  That's hardly fair warning!'

'Yeah, and about that . . . She's good, isn't she?  I mean, maybe she's not as good as you are, but for a woman?  She's got some skills.'

'And that was entirely sexist of you to say,' he shot back dryly, wandering off to gather kindling and fire wood for the night.  He'd prefer a hotel, but he highly doubted that they'd find anything nearby, and even if they did, he was pretty positive that it wouldn't be anything worth the money, either.  It wasn't that he minded camping, but he'd also rather that it be a planned outing and that they'd have at least had the foresight to pack a few basics—like blankets, for example . . .

'I wasn't trying to be sexist.  I was pointing out the obvious.  How many women do you know that are even remotely trained to fight?  Your mother wasn't even trained to defend herself, if you'll recall, which wasn't a huge deal, given that she was never far away from your father—until she was, anyway, but even your great and mighty father couldn't have done a thing to save her, considering what happened . . .'

'So, Saori's learned some martial arts somewhere along the line: a crazy aunt, she said.  It doesn't mean much.  It makes her dangerous, actually.  Someone who has learned a little bit, but not nearly enough to be effective in a real battle, becomes a liability because they don't realize that they'd be better off to stay back out of the way instead of putting everyone else in danger, trying to compensate for their lack of ability.'

'Well, that's a damn dickish thing to say, don't you think?'

'That's what they say whenever anyone points out the truth that they don't want to hear.'

'You're being awfully presumptuous there, though.  I mean, she told you that she just needed to get some exercise because she's not used to being trapped in a vehicle for so long, and whether you like it or not, you agree because you're not too keen on it, either.  Anyway, at least you got some exercise, even if it's not to the degree you're used to.'

Which was true enough, even if he hated to agree with his youkai-voice on anything.  He'd started training with his father and with Master Ling, the aged sword master that had come to live with them, when Fai had turned six.  He'd been trained in swordplay, hand to hand combat, harnessing and controlling his youki . . .

He'd never thought to question it, and by the time he'd become tai-youkai, he'd been grateful for it, too.  There were more than enough youkai in Asia that had not been pleased with his ascension to power, and his first official challenge had come less than a week after taking over—less than a week after his father had walked out of the family's home, never to be seen again.

The first ten years of his tenure had seen more challenges than any of the other tai-youkai in the world, he was sure—maybe ever.  In their regions, it was the exception, not the norm, but here, where the general tone was a little more savage, a little wilder, a little more volatile . . . Well, as far as he was concerned, he'd more than proven his ability to hold his title on his own.  After all, he was the last one standing, wasn't he?


-==========-


"These are better than the ones from last night . . ."

Glancing up from the fire, Fai lowered the bottle of kvass, shaking his head slowly as Saori picked at the cheese pirozhki.  Tonight, she'd stuck the foil-wrapped turnovers near the fire enough to warm them through, which accounted for the better taste, she figured.  Fai hadn't said much of anything since the impromptu sparring match, but he didn't seem to be in as bad a mood as he had been thus far—at least, the feel of his youki was less abrasive, which seemed like a pretty good sign.

"They were better," he allowed after a moment.  "I've had better, though . . ."

"Oh, I'm sure!" she agreed.  "You've probably eaten in the best restaurants . . . Have you ever stayed at the Bertsche Hotel in Moscow?"

He blinked, looking somewhat confused by her abrupt change of topics.  "Uh, no, I haven't . . ."

She nodded slowly, thoughtfully, as she chewed a bite of the cheesy confection.  "But you could, couldn't you?  I mean, you're tai-youkai, right?  I went sightseeing in Moscow just before I took the job, and I just love the way that place looks on the outside.  I was going to go in, see if I couldn't look around a little, but I was running short of time, so I never got to . . ."

She sighed almost dreamily, remembering the awe that had swept over her as she'd stared at the gorgeous structure.  Even though it was built around 2020, it had been designed to blend in with some of the older Russian architecture.  The pamphlet she'd read—Moscow's Definitive Hotel Guide—had said that it was actually fashioned out of concrete and could withstand nearly any natural disaster known to man, but the façade was gorgeously ornate, and no expense at all had been spared in the design and building of the place.

"I'm not sure what being tai-youkai has to do with staying at the Bertsche Hotel . . ." he ventured at length.

Saori shrugged, crumpling the tin foil into a small ball that she stuck back into the paper bag once more.  "I love architecture," she admitted.  "I couldn't decide if I wanted to study that or child psychology in school."

"So, design buildings for children," he remarked in a rather tongue-in-cheek tone as he lifted the bottle of kvass to his lips once more.

She laughed.  "Like schools or something?  That'd be interesting . . . But the schools here are so much different from they are where I grew up . . ."

"Older?  More run-down?  Laughable?" he supplied almost defensively.

Saori shook her head.  "That's not what I meant," she corrected. "They feel so . . . institutional here; that's all."

"Because they are," he responded simply.  "It's why I was sent abroad for schooling."

"You were?"

He nodded, setting the empty bottle aside, leaning back on his hands and letting his head fall back as he stared up through the tree branches at the few stars that could be seen from beneath the cover.  "Italy," he replied.

"You mean, you lived there, all the time?"

The look he shot her was rather dry, as though he thought the idea of having attended a boarding school was normal.  "Yes.  I usually came home over the summers, though—well, here or to the beach house my parents owned in Sri Lanka—wherever they were."

"How exotic!" she breathed, her eyes taking on a glassy sort of sheen as instant images of the tropics came to mind.  Palm trees and beaches and crystal blue waters . . .

'Saori . . .'

'Hmm?'

'Maybe you should change the topic.'

'What do you think it'd be like, to vacation every year somewhere like Sri Lanka?'

'I don't know, but Fai-sama doesn't look too happy about this discussion . . .'

'What do you mean?'

Her youkai-voice sighed.  'Look at his face, Saori.'

She did.  Then she frowned.

He was still staring upward, but her youkai was right: the scowl on his face was impossible to miss, and it hadn't been there earlier.  It was even darker, more foreboding, than any of the others he had sported thus far, and she had to wonder why.

Biting her lip as she cautiously drew a deep breath, she shook her head.  For some reason, she just couldn't bring herself to ask him about it, could she?  Couldn't bring herself to question him about what was bothering him so much . . . It was . . . too personal, wasn't it?  Whatever caused him to look like that . . . and she most certainly didn't have the right to ask him about anything that intimate; not now.  "Does your brother go to boarding school, too?" she asked, hoping that it wasn't what had caused him to scowl like that.

Fai sighed, lowered his head once more as he gazed intently at the fire.  "He did.  He finished school last year.  Currently, he attends Novosibirsk State University.  Chose to live on campus . . ." He shrugged almost offhandedly.  "Probably tired of having to answer to me all the time . . ."

"But I thought you said that you get along all right . . .?" she prompted.

He shot her a quick glance, but at least that foreboding sense was gone from his expression, much to her relief.  "We do," he said.  "Well, we usually do.  Lately, not so much."

She considered that for a moment.  "Can I ask why?  If you don't want to answer, I understand.  It's just . . ."

"Surely you don't always see eye-to-eye with your brother," he countered, arching an eyebrow at her to emphasize his question.

She wrinkled her nose.  "Most of the time . . . But then, he's also a lot older than me, so I guess we never had the typical sibling rivalry.  Nii-chan is kind of like a second father, really.  Most of the time, I like having him there to give me advice or to help me if I need it.  Sometimes, though, it can be a little too much . . ."

Fai grunted.  "Then you understand perfectly," he said.

Saori frowned, but remained silent.  Sure, she might understand the idea of not always agreeing with Rinji all the time, but somehow, she felt like there was more to it—more that Fai hadn't explained . . . and maybe she didn't really understand, at all . . .


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A/N:

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Final Thought from Fai:
She … is interesting
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Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Vivication):  I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga.  Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al.  I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~