In his home under the ocean, Susanoo capered with glee. After centuries of searching the key to regaining his father's favor had finally appeared. In response to his mood the seas foamed, monstrous waves toppling fishing fleets and washing away villages. The people crowded into the shrines, praying to Amaterasu to calm her brother's ire and protect them.
The sun goddess stretched languidly. She was torn between her desire to save her people, and her aversion to spending time in Susanoo's presence. Duty won out and she reluctantly made her way to his underwater home to plead her case.
"Brother, calm yourself. You threaten to destroy all that our father created.”
"Like I care about those puny islands or the pitiful worms who inhabit them. My grand plan will soon take effect, then the people's hearts will turn to me and you will be forgotten.
"Unlikely. Beauty will always triumph over brutality.” Amaterasu turned her back on her sibling and ascended to her rightful place in the heavens.
Dai Go Shou
Dawn spread fingers of fire across the heavens, ribbons of rosy light painting abstract patterns on the shoji and rousing Hiroshi from a restless sleep.
"Time for morning kata.” Kenshin's too cheery greeting rattled the bones of his apprentice's skull.
"It's barely dawn. Why do we have to start so early?” Hiroshi groaned, pulling the covers over his face and snuggling deeper into the futon.
"The day is most productive when it starts with exercise.” Kenshin yanked the covers off his slumbering apprentice, prodding him off the futon with his foot. “We rise at this time every day, I'm sure in time you will get used to it.”
"I seriously doubt that.” Hiroshi scrubbed a hand across his eyes, squinting up at the mirthful face of his master. “You are getting far too much enjoyment out of this.”
"What do you usually do in the morning?”
"I sleep through the morning, like any civilized person.” The curt reply was a sharp contrast to the whirlwind hair and pillow creases marring otherwise perfect cheekbones. “Couldn't we skip morning practice and start after lunch?”
"And then you'll want to wait until evening. You've spent enough years dawdling in bed, time to actually do something.” A strong hand latched onto Hiroshi's rumpled yukata and heaved him to his feet. “Your father expects me to turn you into a warrior. Get dressed and meet me in the dojo. The sooner we start, the sooner you get breakfast.”
The strappy ties on his hakama were a puzzle he couldn't decode in his half asleep state. Forty minutes passed before Hiroshi entered the dojo, hair roughly scraped back into a bushy tail, hakama tied in an impatient knot barely restraining his crumpled yukata. The sight of his new master peacefully meditating, hair and garments perfectly arranged, was enough to drive him to despair.
"I see you finally made it.” Dark eyes opened to study his reluctant student. “Tomorrow I will expect you to join me for meditation. Clarity of mind is crucial for productive training.”
"Clarity of mind assumes I am actually awake,” Hiroshi quipped. “I'm not sure that is possible so early in the morning.”
Kenshin's laugh was open and unexpected. “Let's get started.” He selected a bokken from the weapons rack. “Show me what you know.” He handed the wooden sword to his student, ignoring the electric tingle that rushed through him when their fingers brushed.
Hiroshi wobbled through the first of the simple kata he remembered, conscious of the poor showing he was making. As much as he disliked the warrior arts he wanted to make a good impression on the man who was giving up so much to train him. His attention was focused on Kenshin's reaction, further distracting him from what he should have been doing.
"Just stop,” Kenshin snapped. “Obviously we need to start at the beginning.” He snatched the bokken from lax fingers. “Lesson number one, how to properly hold a sword. Like this, see, all the work is done by these fingers, the others are just a guide.”
He handed the weapon back and watched critically as his apprentice tried to duplicate what he had been shown. “Better, but more space between your hands. It's a lever, you get more power that way.” Calloused fingers wrapped around Hiroshi's pampered digits, sparking another frisson at the contact.
The next few hours passed in a blur. When Kenshin finally called a halt the bokken needed to be pried out of his student's hands. “I think I'll be doing that cut in my sleep,” Hiroshi grumbled.
"Just make sure you soak your hands after we eat. I wouldn't want you to be unable to practice tomorrow.”
"Are we done for today?” The hopeful look directed in Kenshin's direction had him feeling momentarily guilty.
"We're done for this morning. Let's get something to eat and then we'll work on hand to hand skills for awhile.”
"How many of hours do you practice each day?”
"That depends on my duties. Eight to ten hours when I'm home, less if we're in the field.”
"Just kill me now,” Hiroshi declared. “There's no way I'll survive the week.”
* * *
The daimyo stared at the captain of his guard in disbelief. “Yes, Hiroshi's assignation was unseemly. That does not give you leave to assault his whore. The issue was settled, but now...well, now I'm waiting for the backlash. If this turns messy it is on your head.”
"But if you'd seen him. All painted up like a geisha and proud of it. Vanity like that is understandable in a woman, in a man it's an insult.”
"At least tell me you didn't kill him.” The daimyo's hand clenched on the hilt of his katana. The urge to punish this man for undermining his plan was nearly overwhelming. Several deep calming breaths passed while he waited for an answer.
"He was breathing when we left. Do you honestly expect me to go check on the creature?”
"Check on him. Get him to a healer if need be. Hiroshi will fly to his defense if he finds out and then all my efforts to separate them will be for naught. If you need further incentive keep in mind I just apprenticed my son to Yakushi-san. I imagine he would react strongly to anyone hurting his charge.”
"How did you trick Kenshin into taking your brat under his wing? He's turned down a dozen apprentices that I know of.”
"It was a lifetime favor. Why do you think I'm so determined it works out? Now go find that actor and make sure he'll keep his mouth shut. And not by killing him.” The daimyo turned and strode out of the hall, leaving his guard to figure out how to undo the damage.
* * *
By the time night fell Hiroshi was more exhausted than he thought possible. The afternoon passed in a blur, 'falling training' mostly consisted of Kenshin throwing him into things at high speed. His bruises were bruised. All he could think of was a long soak followed by sleeping for a week.
When he failed to appear for dinner Kenshin went looking. The last thing he needed was his apprentice escaping from his home on the first day. When he went to check the bathhouse he found his wayward pupil sound asleep in the furo, head barely above the water line. His fingers hovered above black clouds and half a flower intricately inked on an exposed shoulder. Of all the secrets his student held, this was one he never expected. “Oi, wake up, time for dinner.”
Hiroshi woke in a world of pain. The hot water did little to relieve the ache of muscles pushed far beyond their usual bounds. “Huh, what?”
"I would not have expected you to have a tattoo. Such a rebellious student I've managed to end up with. Sakura at dawn, and done by an irezumi master.”
"It's permanent, of course I went to a master.” Kenshin's gentle teasing picked at his student's last thread of patience. “Is nothing in my life private anymore?”
"Not from me.”
The smug smile on his master's face pushed the normally reserved Hiroshi over the edge. “You have got to be kidding me. As if being relegated to this mausoleum isn't enough, now you're spying and prying for my father as well?”
"My questions are my own,” Kenshin retorted. “And what I find is for me as well. You flatter yourself. A boy like you isn't worthy of such a grand plot. Now get out and dress, our dinner is getting cold.” He reached out to give Hiroshi a hand, only to have his arm slapped away.
"I'm perfectly capable of getting out of a tub on my own. Now turn around, I don't need you ogling me.”
"You think an awful lot of yourself. Why sakura? I would have pegged you for a dragon or perhaps yokai. Something more obviously manly, in any event.”
"It was Jun's suggestion,” Hiroshi admitted. “He thought it suited my personality.”
"Indeed.” Kenshin stepped behind his student, tracing the pattern with calloused fingers. “It is beautiful. New life from the darkness. I approve.”
"Thank you, I guess. Not that I need your approval.”
"Sit.” Kenshin pushed his student down onto the bathing stool, then knelt in front of him. “I want you to be able to walk tomorrow.” Strong fingers began kneading tired feet, pushing into tender arches until they relaxed. “Next time tell me when I'm pushing you too hard.”
"I did. You laughed at me.”
"My apologies, I forget not everyone works themselves as hard as I do.” Knotted calves gradually eased under the insistent pressure, and Hiroshi groaned, curling into the painful bliss. “After we eat I'll give you some lineament for your hands. It will toughen the skin so it doesn't tear. For now we will alternate days, swordsmanship one day, hand to hand the next. Just until you get used to the routine.”
"I'll try harder, I promise.”
"You did very well for your first day. I just set my expectations too high. We will find a balance, I'm sure.” Kenshin stood and hoisted him to his feet. “Better? Do you think you can walk to the table?”
"I'll manage. Give me a few minutes to dress and I'll join you.”
Over dinner they spoke of inconsequential things. Their mutual disdain for the pageantry of rule had them giggling into their cups at Hiroshi's uncanny mimicry of some of the daimyo's advisors. For the first time Kenshin thought that, perhaps, this arrangement might work out and he let go of some of his lingering resentment over the change in his routine.
* * *
Hiroshi was exhausted, yet sleep eluded him. All his plans of sleeping for a week fled the moment he stretched out on the futon. Instead of wandering in the land of dreams his mind kept flashing pictures of his new mentor. His cock lay hot and heavy against his thigh, stirring to life at the thought of the corded muscles of Kenshin's back. Yet again he couldn't help but wonder if his new master's ass was as impressively sculpted. So he's attractive. Lots of men are. Jun is devoted to me. I owe him my fidelity.
Despite his internal monologue, the nagging thoughts of Kenshin unguarded, eyes dark with lust and twinkling with amusement, niggled at his control. Hiroshi's cock twitched against his thigh, filling with blood against his wishes. He wrapped his hand around his straining erection, a squeeze and a single stroke from balls to tip had him arching off the futon with a passionate sigh. Another slow stroke further inflamed his passion. The thought of his new master overhearing him masturbating evoked a strange mixture of lust and embarrassment, and he bit his lip in an effort to stifle any further suspicious noises.
His eyes fluttered shut, his cock swelling as he pictured Jun sprawled naked on tangled sheets. Despite his intentions, the man he pictured grew taller and heavier, sleekly feminine features growing more rugged the closer he came to orgasm.
* * *
Kenshin listened to the sound of his apprentice pleasuring himself, oblivious to the fact that paper walls did nothing to keep his actions private. The steady strokes and occasional low moan only served to remind him just how long it had been since he'd sought release with another. Hiroshi had made his displeasure with such an arrangement between them crystal clear. As unappealing as the prospect was, perhaps the time had come to seek out a temporary assignation. His friends had spoken highly of the local pleasure district. Anything would be preferable to spending his nights listening to the sound of masturbation.
He tried to remember the last time he had even thought about sex, let alone touched himself. In the first few years after his master's death it had been a common practice. But as time passed he found his thoughts turning in that direction less and less. As best he could recall, it had been at least a year, possibly more.
So it's settled, he decided. Tomorrow I will go and see if the willow world holds anyone of interest to me.