Youko shivered as he waited for someone to come and speak with him about what had happened yesterday. He couldn’t quite believe the prompt response his Patron had got when he demanded that a representative of the Reikai come to see him about the human who’d attacked him - or tried to at least. Shuuichi had been furious about what had happened, but he’d made a point of telling Youko that he’d done precisely the right thing, and reassuring him of his support repeatedly. That didn’t mean Youko wasn’t still worried though, he’d used his powers against a human, and the Reikai government tended to assume guilt lay with the youkai in any cases like that, even if it was self-defence, and his master had realised that.
“You won’t be any use to Yukina until this is cleared up will you?” Shuuichi had an amused expression on his face as he spoke, with a faintly contemptuous set to his mouth.
“I’m sorry Shuuichi-sama, I don’t mean to be so emotional.” Youko apologised for his inadequacy from where he knelt in front of his Patron, only for the redhead to sit down and pull him into an embrace, cradling him against his chest.
“It’s alright, I’m not angry at you. You’ve never been allowed to be emotional like this before, have you?”
“N-not since my clan were destroyed. My old Patrons would never permit such a display, and then I couldn’t afford to look weak.” Youko couldn’t quite believe Shuuichi was willing to permit him to do this, lean up against him and almost cry into his chest, he never had the patience to indulge him in this when they shared a body.
“Well, I don’t mind if my concubine is emotionally weaker than I am, it turns me on a little. You don’t always have to be strong, and I’m flattered you trust me to protect you while you’re weak.” Then he’d just whispered soothing, reassuring words to Youko until he’d calmed, and told him that he didn’t have to visit Genkai until this was settled, he’d explain it to her. And he hadn’t even expected Youko to spread his legs for him that night, he’d actually gone to Asuka for release.
Asuka had thanked Youko for that, for the fact that their Patron had been ready to pay sexual attention to her again, before she left to train with Genkai that morning. He hadn’t bothered to correct her assumption, but he had to acknowledge that it had made her feel better about herself, more confident, and he knew her confidence had taken a blow when Yuusuke had apparently decided not to accept Shuuichi’s offer to bed her. He shook his head, his concern for his fellow concubine aside, those thoughts weren’t really helping him calm down, they were just making him feel more nervous, and he needed to find something to help him calm down.
Working with plants might help, especially if it wasn’t for anything but to create beauty, and Shuuichi had brought some pots, compost and orchid seeds last night, as a reward for doing well in the teamwork exercise on Sunday. Asuka’s reward had been a little different, she was to be fitted for a formal kimono on Saturday. So when he heard a knock on the door Youko was just finished germinating his third orchid, having decided to let them grow ‘naturally’ once he’d set them to produce their first true leaves. He’d also managed to calm himself, and thanks to Shuuichi’s repeated assurances he was certain he’d been in the right, even if the Reikai didn’t agree, Shuuichi was the only one whose opinion mattered anyway.
When he got to the door he could sense that it was Botan who’d come to talk to him with more than a little relief; he knew that was a good sign, she was comparatively friendly towards the demons in the Tantei. And it meant that Lord Enma was unlikely to have got involved himself, so this was just Koenma, and he probably hadn’t even needed to call in any favours to keep Youko out of trouble.
“Come in please Botan.” She did have some power over him, so Youko made sure he kept his eyes cast down, and did his best to avoid offending her, but he did have to remind her to take her shoes off. “You can put your shoes in the closet to the right, and your jacket in the closet to the left.”
“Okay.” She looked more as if she’d simply forgotten than as if she’d deliberately intended to be so uncivilised, and perhaps that tradition didn’t exist in the Reikai, it didn’t really exist in the Makai after all. Certainly not among kitsune, although races like the Koorime might follow the practice.
“Lord Koenma ordered me to talk to you about something that happened yesterday, but he didn’t explain exactly what, he just said I should promise you that we have no intention to prosecute you for defending yourself without resorting to killing. Can you explain what happened?”
Youko fussed with his yukata a bit as he settled into seiza to get time to compose himself, Botan just looked at him patiently, as she mirrored his actions, managing her trailing sleeves with practised skill. “When I went to visit Shiori-sama there was a man stalking me, a ningen unfortunately. I gave him the opportunity to attack me, and he did, so I used bindweed to immobilise him, then knocked him out with a blow to his head. After that I called the ningen police about him.”
“The only part of that you have to worry about is using bindweed to immobilise him, and since you didn’t do any damage with it you should be safe enough. I’d suggest that you don’t use your powers on humans at all, but as long as it’s not intended to hurt humans you should be alright. Do you think there’s any chance of him being believed if he tells anyone about how he was captured?”
“I doubt it, I hit him hard enough to give him a concussion, and even if he didn’t edit that out of his memory by himself I released him before calling the police, so there’s no evidence.”
“You don’t have some sort of memory wipe pollen or something?”
“Yes, but...I didn’t want to mess up my hair, and besides I wasn’t sure how badly Reikai authorities would react to me using something like that on a human.”
“Better than if we have to use our power to cover up your mistakes.” Botan sounded just a bit impatient, and Youko bowed his head in apology. “As long as you don’t use your powers in any noticeable way, or do permanent damage to humans you’ll be fine. I suggest you find somewhere else to hide your seeds if you’re going to be fussing over your appearance.”
“Yes Botan, I’ll remember that. I intend to find somewhere to hide the seeds for plants I can use for something outside of fights other than my hair. I swear I wouldn’t have bothered about how my hair looked if I had been in real danger, or if I hadn’t been going to visit Shiori-sama.”
“You care about her, a lot. That will probably help if you ever get into serious trouble.”
“Yes, she’s been treating me almost as if I were her daughter. Thank you for taking the trouble to reassure me.”
“Your Patron was very insistent, but it’s nothing.” Botan waved his thanks off as she left.
Asuka carefully hid her smile at Youko’s apparent anxiousness to hide his new Ikebana, she really didn’t think the silver kitsune would react well to her amusement, but she was just waiting for him to ask if she’d hide it in her bedroom for him.
“I don’t understand, why is it so important that our Patron not see that arrangement?” Youko turned to her at that and blushed.
“I...I’m not entirely sure that Shiori-sama did want me to hide it from him, but she asked me to make a suitable Ikebana for the tea ceremony I am to perform for Shuuichi-sama on Friday, so I think it might be better if he didn’t see it before then.”
“I see your point. Shuuichi-sama is working on foxfire at the moment, but he doesn’t usually go into my bedroom for that, and you could always create an illusion that the Ikebana is something different, or even just an entirely different Ikebana.”
“Or I could do the same in the kitchen, since he doesn’t usually go there, but...” Either way, if Shuuichi decided he wanted to go into the room in question there was no way they could stop him, and Youko must have been dithering over this since he got back here.
“Cast the illusion to hide the Ikebana. I think it will be more plausible for it to be in my bedroom.” Asuka only realised that she’d given Youko an order when he looked at her coldly, with all the arrogance he could muster on his face, but at least he didn’t seem to be angry with her, or if he was then he wasn’t letting it show. “I do not mean to be insolent, but I cannot think of another solution, and we should do some more work on your shapeshifting before our Patron returns to take you to that Go parlour you like so much.”
“It isn’t the Go parlour, it’s one of the players there. He reminds me a bit of someone I cared for once, and he’s very good.” Was Youko...blushing? Yes, he was, ever so slightly. Asuka wondered if that was something he’d learned to do on cue, or whether he just betrayed his emotions so obviously - although if he did it had to be something recent, since his reputation would preclude that.
“So, does he play like this person, or just look similar?” Asuka tilted her head to one side in question, distracting Youko as he wove an illusion over his Ikebana.
“Just looks, that and how much he cares for the game. Here, put it in your bedroom. I’ll need to check on it tomorrow as well, but for now I can work on my shapeshifting just as well without you watching.”
He could do that indeed, Asuka thought as she took the Ikebana into her bedroom, putting it beside her bed. Except he didn’t seem to be anywhere near as motivated as Shuuichi had been and she wasn’t certain if it was his inability to master the skill as swiftly and easily as their Patron had or his reluctance to work on it that was holding him back. He’d decided to work on transforming into a tengu like someone he called Karasu first, something that their Patron had put off until the end of his training, that he’d actually shifted into as part of his ‘graduation exam’. And Shuuichi had frozen when she showed him that picture, whispering the name before shaking his head and forcing himself to take the correct form. It wasn’t often that their master showed any sort of weakness, and she’d made a point of not showing that she’d noticed it - it would be dangerous if she let him know she’d seen his weakness, even if it had been fleeting.
When she returned to the main room she saw that Youko was constructing an illusion of this Karasu - or a tengu at least, from the bone outward. It was a technique Shuuichi had used as well, but not one she’d ever heard of before. Considering how useful it seemed to be she should consider asking Shuuichi for permission to let her clan know about it, especially since from what she could tell it was something he’d invented himself.
“Impressive.” She let the truth of that statement show in her voice. “But can you apply that?”
“I’m not sure. Shuuichi-sama once asked me to create a construct of Karasu in the dreamscape, but I didn’t know how to. This is an extension of that so far, I think anyway. I’ll have to see if I can apply it, here or in the dreamscape.”
“Well, try now.”
“As you wish.” Youko stood to give her a better view, reverting to his kitsune form first.
Youko shifted uncomfortably as he waited for his Patron to return home. He was using Shiori-sama’s formal tea set for the ceremony, and they’d set everything up together, Youko blushing sometimes at Shiori-sama’s comments. He supposed that was the effect of seeing her as ‘Kaasan’ while Shuuichi was growing up physically, exacerbated by her request for him to address her that way now, humans did have a tendency to always perceive their parents as asexual, and while kitsune didn’t have that option his clan had been destroyed when he was first becoming aware of what sex meant. They’d done as much of preparing for the evening meal as they could in advance, and now all he had to do was wait until Shuuichi returned, so he could perform the ceremony. Perform the ceremony, and hope that his Patron wasn’t angered by the presumption he was showing.
He was wearing his kimono as a geisha would, tied to display his figure (even artificial as it was) and without the padding that a proper housewife would wear, but Shiori-sama hadn’t objected to that. He had to wonder if that was because she agreed with what that said he thought his place in Shuuichi’s life was, or just because she didn’t realise what the implications were. He’d been tempted to pant his face the way a geisha would as well, but he’d known better than to try something that obvious, and besides it would have gotten him far more stares than he wanted. Not that he didn’t get stares anyway, for dressing in such an old-fashioned way, when he looked so young, but for Youko there was a difference between stares as a result of something he’d been ordered to do, and stares from something he did without orders. He knew that he was exotic enough that people would be staring at him even if he dressed like them, the way people stared at Shuuichi, but that wasn’t the same thing at all, and there was nothing he could do to change that, but what little he could do to reduce the stares he would do.
While he was waiting he could at least get something useful done, and since he hadn’t managed too well with the effort to shapeshift into a tengu on Wednesday he might as well spend some more time working on getting the details right. Youko began the process of creating his illusion of Karasu from the bones outward, hoping he hadn’t got any in the wrong places, but knowing that if he had that was nothing he could do to correct it. He was pretty sure he understood the anatomy of a tengu intellectually, but not...not with the sort of understanding he needed to shapeshift into that form successfully.
“You’re missing a few points there my silver rose.” Youko looked up at his Patron in surprise, he’d been so focused on what he was doing that he hadn’t noticed his Patron arriving, and he fully expected to be punished for that. He made to destroy the illusion but Shuuichi stopped him with a raised hand, adding a few tiny details to the illusion, details that somehow made it all fit together right in Youko’s mind.
“Thank you Shuuichi-sama.” He lowered his eyes submissively as he smiled up at his master in gratitude. With the help he’d just been given...Youko thought he’d be able to take a tengu’s form within a week, and then he’d have to decide what sort of demon he should try shifting to next. Probably whichever of his Patrons he felt had been the least abusive and he’d been most comfortable with.
“How are you doing with the shapeshifting anyway?”
“I tried to shift into tengu form on Wednesday, but I didn’t do very well.”
“You don’t have to feel obligated to hurry. I expect this will take you a lot longer than it took me, simply because you need to figure out how to combine illusion and shapeshifting to appear to change gender as well.” That made Youko feel a lot better about how poorly he seemed to be doing, and it meant at least his Patron wouldn’t be comparing how fast they learned to shapeshift. “Kaasan said she wanted you to show me one of the tea ceremonies you’ve learned?”
“Did she explain what it was for?” Youko still prepared to begin the ceremony as he spoke, while Shuuichi settled into seiza opposite him.
“Engagement, that means she approves of us at least. Pity I have to disappoint her when it comes to grandchildren.”
“Yes, but we can’t risk having kitsune born in the ningenkai.”
“Probably not, no. They couldn’t stay in the ningenkai all their lives, and if they didn’t grow up in the Makai we couldn’t be certain they were capable of surviving there.” When Shuuichi fell silent that time Youko took the cue and began performing the tea ceremony, grateful that he didn’t see it as a case of Youko overstepping his bounds. Then, before they left Shiori-sama added Youko to the family register.
Youko, Minamino Youko Akari now, was almost purring in absolute contentment as his Patron lavished attention on his body, stroking, kissing and lightly biting him all over. It didn’t matter that he was tied to the bed, or that Shuuichi seemed to be trying to keep him aroused and wanting for as long as possible, he’d just been taken into his master’s family, and Shuuichi was giving his undivided attention to him. Finally Shuuichi seemed to decide enough was enough, and entered him, fucking him through one climax, and on to a second before coming himself. Then his master began slowly untying him, fingers lingering on his wrists and ankles for a few moments longer than necessary, and even though Youko knew that it had to be post-coital languor it felt like genuine affection.
“So, I’ve made you part of my family. What do you think that means?”
“That you chose to claim me as yours more thoroughly than my previous Patrons did by giving me the protection of your name.” Meaning that even when-if Shuuichi freed him the other would still have some obligation to aid and protect him. It was at least a low level, permanent commitment, if not quite of the type he longed for. “And perhaps that you do not anticipate becoming tired of me within the next hundred years or so.” He didn’t dare say what he hoped it meant, and besides that hadn’t been the question. His answer didn’t seem to have made Shuuichi angry, since it elicited an almost approving hum from him.
“Still, I don’t think Minamino is really an appropriate name for a kitsune clan, do you?”
“No Shuuichi-sama.” And if his Patron was thinking of starting his own clan at some point did that mean...
“Recreating the Youko clan would probably work better, and the Toura clan would be more likely to help us out by raising the first litter or three if the kits we offered were sired by a silver than by a red. You were what, the grandson of that last golden kitsune?”
“Yes Shuuichi-sama. But...it would be an insult to offer a concubine as breeding stock, especially if keeping...” Youko flushed and bowed his head when he realised he was criticising his Patron.
“I’m not going to keep Asuka as my concubine, but I will offer her the option of starting a clan with us. Not that we can do anything about it until I get my fifth tail, at the earliest.” And that was probably assuming that Youko didn’t manage to gain his sixth tail first - not that he thought that was likely. “And at least for now you have to stay my concubine. We’ll see about other options after we’ve got that demon gang put away, okay?”
“As you wish Shuuichi-sama.” Was he hinting that he might...Youko didn’t know, and he didn’t want to think about it. There were other arrangements besides making Youko his consort, some more equal, some less, and Shuuichi could only take one consort, and he could take, and share as many breeders as he chose, for instance. “Might I ask what proportion of the kits you intended to offer?”
“Half of the first litter, a third of the second and a quarter of the third. All of their choice. And rounding up if we have to offer that - I’d prefer rounding down.” It was pretty rare for kitsune to decide to try and start a new clan so they didn’t have any traditions to guide them, but Youko was sure that Shuuichi could organise everything and make whatever plans and deals he needed to so he could recreate Youko’s clan with him. “We’ll try for a litter by you, followed by a litter by me and then, if we can manage it both of us getting Asuka with kits.”
“If that pleases you Shuuichi-sama.” Youko didn’t know if Shuuichi had considered birth control already for Asuka, or if he fucked her rarely enough that it wasn’t a concern. “So, you’re planning on my siring the smallest litter?” As he knew Asuka hadn’t carried kits before, and a first litter was always smallest.
“Well, it balances out, I doubt there’ll be enough of an increase in numbers between the first and second litter to make a third of the second litter more than half of the first.”
“So they won’t be bothered by that, and with the third litter the Toura clan would probably try to take my kits rather than yours.” If they could tell the difference. It was perfectly logical, and Youko couldn’t feel a bit offended by it, because of course Shuuichi would prefer more of his blood in the reborn clan than Youko’s. And besides, most lords wouldn’t ever share a breeder with their consorts, so just by being permitted to impregnate Asuka Youko was ahead of the game.
“We should bring Asuka into this discussion if we’re planning how to create a clan. Go and get her.”
Asuka wasn’t expecting a visit from their Patron that night, and she certainly wasn’t expecting Youko to tap lightly on the frame of her screen door and then walk into her bedroom naked without waiting for her to invite him in.
“Our Patron wishes to speak with you.” He paused, as if uncertain about whether or not to continue. “He is considering possibilities for the future, probably after the humans around us have died.” Asuka had thought that their Patron was intending to free her after she’d taught them what she could about how to use their powers, and she was certain that wouldn’t take more than a year at the rate the two were learning. Well, it didn’t matter, he was a good and generous Patron, and he seemed to understand that sex was still an uncertain thing for her, so he attended to her pleasure as well as his own. She stood, fastening her robe more tightly closed - not that she was stupid enough to think her appearance was much of a temptation for him, but she was more comfortable covered, at least a little bit - and followed Youko.
There were enough cushions littering the floor of Youko’s room that she had somewhere comfortable to join Shuuichi in sitting seiza, and she focused her attention on him. “You summoned me Shuuichi-sama?”
“Tell me, when I free you what is your plan?” When, not if, so he wasn’t thinking of keeping her long term.
“I...want to return to my clan.” She didn’t have enough confidence to travel the Makai any longer, and she probably wouldn’t for a while. Youko had told her that he’d felt the same, when he finally gained his second tail he’d immediately left for the ningenkai, to learn how to use his abilities well enough to stay safe. Even though she knew she should really try to fend for herself, to keep from developing a phobia and ending up a prisoner in her clan’s territory, she couldn’t contemplate the idea at the moment. She did feel safe under Shuuichi’s protection, but...
“And if I offered to let you stay under my protection, affiliated with me?” That sounded like he was offering the sort of thing she couldn’t let herself ask for, or even hope for.
“As what? I...if you wanted me sexually then you would have taken more advantage of the claim you have on me now. What else can I offer you?” She knew he couldn’t love her, even if he did seem to care about Youko.
“Youko cannot carry my kits, you can. I am thinking of recreating the long destroyed Youko clan. How do you think your clan would react to a proposition to trade some kits we have sired on you for the raising of the rest of your first few litters in their lands until we have numbers enough to hold our own lands?”
“I...you are proposing to take me as a breeder, and to share me with Youko then? My clan would be insulted if he was still a concubine when you made the offer, but they would gladly accept if you named him your consort, or spouse.” She was interrupted by a quickly stifled gasp from Youko, and Shuuichi pulled the silver into an embrace, stroking his hair carefully. “But, might I ask something?”
“Go ahead.” Shuuichi’s voice was rough, almost angry, she was treading on dangerous ground and she knew it.
“You have made it clear you are unlikely to come to me for more than breeding purposes, so how much freedom would I have to take lovers?” It wasn’t exactly unheard of for a breeder to bed others than her lord, but she had to make sure that she only had children by him, or those he instructed her to carry children by. And she could easily get in trouble if her encounters were discovered anyway, there were plenty of stories about breeders being tortured to death for indiscretion; rarely kitsune breeders belonging to a kitsune lord, but still...
“Others in my new clan. I intend to recruit some more kitsune in situations like yours, preferably females, but males will work too, either as part of my own household, or for my kits when they mature. And I expect you not to have kits by anyone I don’t approve.” That was really reasonable, generous even and Asuka was surprised by that considering how controlling he was with Youko...But then, it made a strange sort of sense, their Patron valued Youko, cared for him, so of course he was possessive and controlling about him. All Asuka was to him was something to breed his offspring, and Youko’s, and to teach them.
Youko had let his eyes slide shut as his master began to cradle him after Asuka had spoken his most secret hopes. She’d as good as said that the only way he’d be acceptable to her clan as the father of her children was if he had the status of being Shuuichi’s consort or his spouse. He’d rather be a consort, but there were precisely two real differences in the status of a consort and a spouse; consort was permanent, while a lord could ‘divorce’ a spouse, and a lord could have up to five spouses. He couldn’t even bring himself to be jealous over what his Patron said about recruiting other kitsune, not when he had the prospect of actually getting his dream, or at least a step closer to his dream, in his mind.
“Then, if you desired to make me your breeder I would be willing Shuuichi-sama, provided I had the right to refuse to carry kits by any particular male if I wished to.” Youko couldn’t quite believe how much courage she was showing in making demands of their Patron in such a steady voice, he couldn’t have done that.
“I don’t intend for you to carry anyone’s kits but mine and my silver rose’s at the moment. Will you have a problem with that?” There was a hint of a threat in Shuuichi’s voice, enough to make Youko nuzzle against his chest, enjoying the way his Patron absently petted him in comfort.
“You saved me, and you’ve given me self-confidence and a sense of self-worth I thought I’d lost. And Youko is incredibly gentle with me. Of course I’ll bear your kits and his.” Shuuichi pushed Youko to sit alone at that, still stroking his hair though. “But...there is the question of names. If we are going to recreate the clan Youko then he can hardly use merely that name.” That was a very relevant question, and not something he’d consciously considered before, although he’d given up any thoughts of returning to the Makai as the notorious Youko Kurama himself three years ago. And besides, he’d been given a new name, by someone he respected, almost loved.
“If I might Shuuichi-sama, I would prefer to be known as Youko Akari in the Makai.” It was pretty eccentric for a male to use a female name without actually playing the female part to the hilt, but Youko - Akari, he should start thinking of himself by that name if he was serious about this - wasn’t sure he could live as a female to the extent of keeping up the disguise constantly. And females weren’t really limited among kitsune, so the disguise would interfere in his activities in the Makai in a way it didn’t here, at least until he learned the whole trick to changing his gender on the surface, and that would drain his energy, so he wasn’t certain he wanted to do that. Not unless he was ordered to anyway. “And, which name do you intend to live under in the Makai?”
“What do you mean?” He sounded surprised, Youko wasn’t entirely clear on why though. “I’ve always used Kurama around the Reikai and with other demons. And besides, since the Dark Tournament everyone knows that I’m Youko Kurama reborn.” Even if he wasn’t, not exactly. “I’m as strong as you were when you died now that I don’t have your energy and soul inside me, messing things up, so it isn’t as if I can’t live up to that reputation.” Akari wanted to flinch at the reminder that he hadn’t been a source of extra strength to Shuuichi when he was still trapped inside the other’s body, he’d been a source of weakness, even though his master would have been like Kuwabara or perhaps Yuusuke without him.
“I had just thought you might want to break all connections to that life Shuuichi-sama.” The way Yo-Akari wanted to.
“Tempting, but no.” Then his master got the odd, almost cruel smile that Youko knew from painful experience showed he was thinking something Akari was unlikely to be happy about. Not always something that would hurt him, physically or emotionally, but something that would unnerve him, and make him feel uncomfortable. “If you’re intending to go by Akari in the Makai then I think we ought to start using that name for you now. Asuka, you are to only use the name Akari for him from now on.” And that wasn’t as bad as he’d thought it might be, it would even help Yo-Akari remember which name he was going to be answering to in future, and help shift his thinking too.
“Then should we address you as Kurama-sama in future Shuuichi-sama?” Asuka’s voice was quiet, and very reasonable, but Akari still wanted to flinch at what she was saying.
“No.” And that was that.