InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity Redux: Vivication ❯ Pensive ( Chapter 19 )
Saori awoke with a smile on her face as she blinked and opened her eyes to the bright light of day. It took all of ten seconds for her to realize a couple things: number one, she was cuddled up next to Fai, which was entirely too nice, and number two?
He was wearing nothing at all.
The towel that he'd wrapped around his waist after his bath had worked itself loose. It was crumpled in a forgotten heap underneath them. She'd thought about the idea that he really ought to put on something last night, but he'd been so tired, she hadn't had the heart to wake him. After all, towels never worked themselves loose, now did they? Oh, kami, no! Not ever. Except . . .
Except they apparently did.
Biting her lip, she tried to scoot a little farther away from him, only for his arms to tighten around her, locking her effectively into place. Well, she probably would be able to gain her freedom, but not without waking him, and that . . .
'Quit blushing! He's asleep, and it's not like you're looking at . . . anything . . . so, there's no reason at all to be embarrassed!' she scolded herself. It had the exact opposite effect, though, and the trace heat in her cheeks blossomed into a raging inferno under her skin.
'I don't know, Saori. I mean, would it really hurt anything if you took a quick peek? He won't even know!'
'Shut up—shut up—shut up!'
'Yeah, but you remember that one morning while you were traveling to the orphanage, don’t you? That was entirely impressive, right? Don't you want to see what you felt then. . .?'
'No! Absolutely not! That would be taking complete advantage of the situation! How would I feel if he peeked at me? I mean, not that he would. He wouldn't. Why would he? Anyway, no! I'm not . . .' Glancing wildly around the room, trying to look anywhere but there, she gasped in the quiet. Eyes flicking over him, only to dart right back again to that part of him that was so blatantly presented to her, she sucked in a sharp breath. His body wasn't overly bulky like her cousin, Bas, but he was very well defined, very well proportioned. Even in his relaxed state, his body held a certain kind of symmetry that the stillness couldn't touch. The long cut across his chest was almost healed over, and even that wasn't enough to detract from his overall impact . . . 'O-O-Oh . . . He's . . . He's beautiful . . .'
Her youkai-voice chuckled. 'Yeah, he is!'
'Even so . . . I really shouldn't be staring at him like this . . . It's . . . It's wrong, isn't it?'
'And what's wrong with it? You're not hurting anyone, and he's holding onto you, so it's not like you can just get up and move away, even if you wanted to. It's kind of his own fault, don't you think?'
Somehow, that bit of logic really seemed messed up, in Saori's opinion. Using her toes to latch onto the blanket that had gotten shoved to the bottom of the bed, she managed to tug it up over him with a little maneuvering, which really didn't do anything to quell the butterflies that were churning her belly in a wholly delicious kind of way, and she was appalled when she realized that her breathing was stunted, heavy.
"Saori? Are you all right?"
Smothering a gasp when Fai's deep, but soft voice broke the stillness, she shot him a wild-eyed look as she very quickly shook her head. "What? Me? Fine, fine . . . Did you sleep well, Fai-sama?"
He grunted, turning his face away and closing his eyes again. "Till you added the, '-sama', yes."
Frowning when she caught sight of the scratches on his cheek, she wiggled around, pulling herself upward to examine them closer. He grunted again, but didn't try to stop her. "They're healing well," she allowed, albeit grudgingly. "I'll look for some of the little ears today . . ."
"It's fine," he insisted mildly.
"It just takes a little infection, you know. You fought valiantly, so the last thing you want is to be laid low by something as ridiculous as that, right?"
"I assure you, I'm fine, and—" Cutting himself off abruptly, he propped himself up on his elbows. "Valiantly?" he echoed, cocking an eyebrow at her.
She nodded. "In my head, you were very valiant," she assured him.
He snorted, flopping down once more. "He put up a decent fight," Fai muttered.
"In my head, you rode in on your huge and hulking warhorse—a thick and broad black beast of a horse that allows no one near him but you—we'll call him, 'Odin'—"
"I don't have a horse," he told her.
She ignored him. "—With the sun, reflecting off your shiny armor, blinding your opponent in all your glory—"
"—Hefting your sword—Fai-sama? Do you have a sword?"
He sighed. "Yes, the one factual part of your story."
She nodded, pleased with the idea of Fai with his sword held aloft. "—Hefting your mighty sword, high in the air . . . 'Bow before me, infidel!'" she continued in as deep and booming a voice that she possibly could.
"Okay, I did not say that," he protested.
She nodded again. "In my head, you did."
He snorted. "You've been reading one too many of those tawdry, bodice-ripping romance novels, haven't you?"
She gave a little shrug as she giggled. "Not one!"
Fai heaved another sigh. "All right. Go on with your fabrication since it seems to please you to do so."
Satisfied that he was finally listening, she scooted around to sit on her knees, clapping her hands happily as she considered the rest of her story. "So, you charge in, Odin's mane and tail majestically blowing in the breeze, and you lower your sword to point at your opponent. 'I am your tai-youkai! How dare you challenge me?' you demand, your eyes shooting fire as you sit, straight and proud in the saddle—"
"I really don't have a horse, Saori, and even if I did, I would never name him, 'Odin', for God's sake."
She ignored him. "It was very noble of you to allow him to take a couple swings at you before you defeated him," she went on.
He rolled his eyes, slowly shook his head. "Is that what you think? I let him have at me a couple times?"
"Well, you're so strong and so brave and so talented that there's really no other way he could have hurt you, so, not only are you those things, but you're also very noble, too."
"Hardly," he scoffed, reaching out to brush her hair back out of her face. "He threw a handful of dirt in my eyes, though . . ."
She wasn't able to hide the wince that flickered over her features. She rather didn't need to know that, not really. The scenarios that she'd already considered had been harsh enough . . .
He sighed. "As you can see, I'm fine," he told her. "He couldn’t defeat me, even though he tried to fight dirty."
"I . . . I know," she whispered, her gaze dropping to her hands, folded together neatly in her lap. Then she lifted her chin, forced a bright smile that was for his benefit alone. "I'm going to go get dressed . . . You've got work to do, don't you?"
He opened his mouth to say something, but Saori was faster. Scooting off the bed, she darted over to the door and let herself out of his room.
Once in the hallway, she leaned back against the closed door for a minute, gnawing on her lip as she tried to force back the feeling that she was being silly, a coward . . .
‘And just why are you freaking out so badly right now? You know, don’t you, that he was very, very naked last night in that tub,’ her youkai-voice reminded her.
She made a face. Of course, she knew that, but Yerik had come to her room, told her that Fai was injured, that he might need her assistance, and that was what had made up her mind. Oh, she’d known the very moment he’d stepped inside the castle. So attuned she was to him that she’d simply known, and, while she didn’t stop to question why that would be, she also hadn’t thought twice about seeking Fai out once Yerik left her room again, either . . . ‘It’s . . . It’s . . . Oh, it’s everything,’ she said, unable to put into words, just what it was that bothered her. ‘It wasn’t his lack of clothing that made me leave. I just . . . I-I mean, he’s fine, sure, and . . . and I know that, but . . .’
'Any tai-youkai is going to be challenged at one point or another,' her youkai-voice pointed out in an entirely philosophical tone. 'You, of all people, know that.'
She grimaced. True, she did know that. Toga had been challenged a few years ago, and she remembered it. More to the point, she remembered Sierra-oba-chan's face—the fear that she tried to hide—the fear that everyone else pretended not to see while they'd waited for him to walk through the door . . . He hadn't been challenged since, but that one time was enough.
She did know, and at that time, she thought that she understood, that she empathized with her aunt's concerns. She didn't, though. She hadn't known a damn thing.
She was starting to now.
Heaving a sigh as he pushed aside Yerik's official report of the hunt, Fai rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes, slowly dragging his hand down his face. It was well-done, and, judging from the overall report, he couldn't find any fault with his brother's first assignment, and, if he were to be completely honest, he'd have to admit that he had hoped on some level that he could find fault in the way Yerik had conducted the hunt and ultimately, the outcome of it. At least then, he could have argued his case that Yerik was just not a hunter . . .
All of his work was done for the day.
Pushing himself out of his chair, he rounded the desk, ambled over to the window. The last time he'd looked out, he'd spotted Yerik, sparring with Saori in the garden behind the castle, but that was a while ago, so it wasn't surprising that they weren't still at it.
Rubbing idly at the laceration on his chest, he made a face. It itched, which meant that it was healing nicely, despite the really smelly and rather disgusting salve that Saori had made for him out of the little ears she'd found. Or maybe because of it . . . Though he didn't want to admit any such thing to her, he had to admit that he was healing even faster than he usually did. He hadn't actually seen the herb to know for sure what it was, and if she hadn't been standing right there, staring at him in a somewhat anxious kind of way, he might have just pretended to use the nasty stuff. Too bad she'd stood there, watching him until he did use it, and then he was pretty grossed out. Not only did it sting, but the smell had actually gotten worse—she said that it meant it was leaching out infection. She'd made him leave it on for half an hour before she allowed him to take a shower to wash it away . . .
By the time he'd finished cleaning up, he'd been more than ready to hightail it into his office . . .
Of course, now that he was finished for the day, however, and since the trace irritation that had accompanied the smelly salve had worn off, he thought maybe he'd seek her out, see if she would be interested in walking the lands with him. Given the hour, he could even pack up a late lunch for her, as well . . .
All in all, he had to admit that he was in a much better mood than he ought to be. The last time he'd had to defeat a challenger, he'd spent days, brooding over it, and, while it still weighed heavily on his mind, it wasn't enough to send him into introspective silence for days, either.
Which bothered him on some level. It was a grave thing, to have to take a life, even if he really didn't have a choice in it. The last thing he wanted to do was to become desensitized to it—for it to become commonplace, to the point that it didn't get to him.
'You know, maybe you're looking at it wrong . . . It's not that you don't comprehend or give proper respect to your opponents. It's just that she helped you, didn't she? Maybe she didn't even realize that's what she was doing, but she understood, and that's enough . . .'
The sudden memory of her face, while she sat there, telling him that overblown and fanciful story of what she envisioned his challenge to be, flickered to life in his head, and he frowned. She had known, hadn't she? She'd understood on a level that she shouldn't have, and that was why she'd come up with that ridiculous tale: because she wanted to distract him, and she had . . . 'But . . . how would she know? Youkai don't go around, challenging each other nowadays. It's just not allowed anymore, outside of official sanctions . . . So . . .?'
'We could ask her, you know. I get the feeling that there's more to the girl than we've given her credit for, don't you think?'
Fai wasn't entirely sure, just what to believe. She'd been pretty open with him thus far—at least, he thought she was . . . If he asked her more about her family, what would she tell him?
'It's not like she's trying to hide things from you. At least, that's what I sense from her.'
' I didn't think that she was. She's been pretty forthcoming all along, hasn't she? Well, other than knocking me out and tossing me into her van . . .'
'That's kind of funnier than anything else. Okay, so you got behind on a little work, but it wasn't too bad, and really, I think that brief sojourn did us good.'
Fai wasn't entirely sure he was ready to say it quite like that, but he could see the logic in his youkai's words. Still . . .
Turning around, he stepped back over to his desk once more, dropping into the heavy old chair with a deep exhalation. Before he left the office for the day, he really needed to write down his report about the challenge. It wasn't that it was required, but he'd gotten into the habit of doing so, just for his own recollection later, especially after the second challenge.
About a week after that brief and almost anticlimactic fight that had only lasted about five minutes, all totaled, the man's son showed up—a young man, maybe a couple years younger than Fai at the time—and he had wanted to know the sordid details. What had struck Fai about the whole thing wasn't that the man's son had showed up, but the quiet sense of resignation in his every movement, the haunted darkness that veiled his eyes . . .
"I . . . I wondered if I could just . . . just ask you . . .? My father . . . I mean, you met him, and you won . . . But he . . ." He trailed off, wincing as he stared at his thin hands, clasped in his lap as he frowned in concentration, as he sought to find the words that he wanted to say. Thin of build like most blackbuck-youkai, he seemed almost nervous, bouncing one leg in rapid vibration.
"He's dead," Fai replied frankly, not unkindly, despite the abrupt words.
The young man—Anatoli—grimaced. "I know," he replied quietly, shaking his head, and for a brief moment, Fai had to wonder if he wasn't about to break down in tears. He didn't, but he did clear his throat a few times. "We—Mother and I . . . We begged him not to do it: not to challenge you. He . . . He was strong, but . . ."
Settling back in his chair as he regarded the blackbuck-youkai for a long moment, Fai nodded. "He fought well," he said, hating the lie, even as it tumbled out of him, and he brushed aside the memory of the man, of his shocked expression when he'd dashed forward in such a haphazard kind of way that he'd all but impaled himself upon Fai's blade . . . "He . . . He died valiantly . . ."
Anatoli's head snapped up, his eyes flaring wide, his expression a strange mix of pride and sadness—one that Fai would never forget. He stood abruptly, clutching his jacket in his hands as he twisted it unmercifully, over and over again. "Thank you, Your Grace," he said, offering Fai a hasty bow. "That's . . . That's all I wanted to know . . ."
Fai stood, watching in silence as Anatoli had left his office.
He'd promised himself when he'd taken over as tai-youkai that he would never, ever lie. He hadn't understood at that time, though, had he? He hadn't anticipated an encounter quite like that one.
He'd come to understand in the years that followed that a lie like that one was all right. What good would it have done him to say that his father was sorely lacking? At the very least, Anatoli was still able to hold his head high, not bearing the shame of some perceived fool's errand, and that was enough for Fai, too.
The truth of those encounters, however, he wrote down—all of it, from start to finish—just so that the reality existed somewhere. He wrote the accounts down, filed them in the Demyanov vault, and no one would ever see them. He supposed that it was his way of committing it all to memory, and maybe in doing so, he'd found that it made it easier for him to let go of it, to finally step away from it, so that he didn't have to carry the guilt around with him every day, all the time.
The scratch of his pen against the paper was the only sound, other than the ticking of the antique clock on the mantel. He didn't know how long he sat there, writing down his account of the altercation. Though he tried to retain a level of cold factuality, he knew somewhere deep down that his side of things was inherently biased. Even so, it was the best he could do.
Minutes stretched into minutes, and those flowed on in a gush of silent words. When he finally dropped the pen with a heavy sigh, his relatively good mood was all but entirely shattered. Scooping up the papers—ten of them, front and back—he tapped the bottoms against the desk a few times before slipping them into the bottom drawer of the desk and securing the lock. The vault was in the basement, and he didn't care to make the trek to go down there at the moment. He'd put the account away the next time he had reason to do so. Then he stood up, let his head fall back, rolling slowly from side to side, eyes drifting closed as he sought to gather his thoughts, to clear his mind once more . . .
He gasped, jumped, eyes flashing open as he turned his head, shielded his face with his raised forearms against the flash of brilliant yellow, like lightning—like an explosion—as the castle shook, as the thick and old double oak doors literally shattered, splinters showering the entire office as a loud bellow echoed in the air.
"Kaze no kizu!"
Kaze no Kizu: Wind Scar.
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Okmeamithinknow ——— WhisperingWolf ——— minthegreen ——— TheWonderfulShoe ——— Monsterkittie
Nate Grey ——— lianned88
Final Thought from InuYasha:
Where the fuck is she …?!
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.