Amaterasu and Tsukiyomi soon fell into a comfortable relationship. For several hours every morning and evening they lingered together, exchanging ideas about how they could best improve the lives of the creatures living on their islands. Susanoo refused to join in their discussions, preferring to work his wiles on individuals and reveling in the chaos they introduced into his siblings' plan. Inside, however, he hankered for their acceptance. This conflict drove him to ever greater heights in an attempt to garner their father's undivided attention. He spent his days looking for the lynch-pin, the one human who could throw the entire nation into turmoil. Once he had his pawn, then he could make his move.
Dai San Shou
Jun was pulled from his misery by the sound of footsteps on the engawa. “You came back.” He ran out into the hall to greet his lover, only to find the entry filled with soldiers. “How dare you break into a lady's home,” he hissed. “Leave at once.”
"We are here to collect Murakami-san's belongings. Step aside or we will have to restrain you,” the leader of the group explained.
Soldiers filled the space, pawing through chests to create a messy pile of male clothing. “Stop that.” Jun threw himself against the nearest samurai in an attempt to snatch back the garments clenched in an armored fist.
"You would be smart not to fight us,” the leader of the squad insisted. “We would prefer not to restrain you.”
"Take your hands off Hiroshi's things. He'll punish you for this insolence.”
"Murakami-san will not be returning.” The commander's grip on Jun tightened. “His father will no longer tolerate this assignation. Hiroshi is being sent to live with Yakushi-sama. It is past time for him to be trained in the way of budo. Do yourself a favor and forget you ever met, for it is certain you will never meet again.”
"Hiroshi would never abandon me,” Jun sobbed. “We are eternal lovers. We swore never to be parted.”
"That is not a promise he was free to make to a woman like you. The daimyo's heir needs a match worthy of his family name. No street whore, no matter how lovely, could ever hope to win his hand.”
"I am no whore.” Jun rose to his full height, glaring imperiously at the men surrounding him.
"You aren't a woman, either,” the guard realized. “Hey, this girl is a man.” The atmosphere in the room turned dark. The samurai amused themselves by shoving Jun back and forth between them, stripping off layers with each pass. Finally he was naked except for remnant face paint smeared across his cheek and a single kanzashi caught in the tangle of his hair.
"You'll pay for this.” Jun found himself pressed onto the tatami, rough hands leaving bruises on soft flesh. His protests faded under the onslaught, all his energy focused on weathering the storm.
One by one the soldiers took their turn, filling Jun's mouth or ass. He gagged as semen blocked his throat, thrashing and coughing. His lips were turning blue when he finally vomited up the contents of his stomach on the man currently using him. The punch to the head that followed rendered him unconscious, not that his abusers cared.
When the last of them had taken his pleasure they gathered Hiroshi's things and left. The battered man on the tatami would never again be thought beautiful. And deep in his ocean lair, Susanoo smiled.
* * *
Mai added water to the inkstick, swirling the mixture with her brush until the consistency was perfect. She eyed the blank page with trepidation. This was her one chance to convince Kenshin to meet, a mistake could leave her relegated to the women's quarters in the Shogun's palace. I'd rather be dead. She made a mental note to visit the herbalist, surely there was no harm in being prepared for the worst.
She shook her head to clear it, shutting her eyes and picturing the future she wanted. Then she lifted the brush and began to write. Defying all logic, she decided to eschew the flowery phrases and subtle innuendo so favored by the court. Instead, she spoke from the heart, going into detail about her dreams. She hoped Kenshin would read between the lines and realize the plan meant freedom for both of them.
She folded the letter carefully, melting wax to seal it with her chop. The last thing she needed was one of her brother's councilors opening her plea. Mai delivered the sealed message to her attendant, asking that it be delivered immediately. Then she went to the shrine to light incense and pray.
"Amaterasu, grant me this boon. Turn Yakushi-san's heart in my direction. As your daughter I ask this blessing. In return, I will devote my life to honoring you and becoming the warrior you need me to be.”
* * *
Hiroshi glared sullenly through the window of the carriage, ignoring the scenery in favor of plotting revenge on his father. He was pulled from his introspection when they turned off the road down a drive lined with old pines. He distantly noted the serenity of his surroundings, carefully manicured plantings highlighting swirls of sand. Craggy rocks punctuated the scene, mountains writ small, their texture emphasizing the whole.
The door to the carriage opened, his guard eying him warily. “Are you coming, or do I need to carry you?”
"Don't be ridiculous.” Hiroshi stepped onto the path, unconsciously straightening his garments. If he had to be here it was best to make a positive impression. Good behavior would be the quickest path to regaining some freedom. Thoughts of Jun's disappointed face when he failed to reappear tore at his heart. He quickly pushed them aside, no point in dwelling on what he couldn't change.
"Welcome to my home.” Kenshin bowed politely, deep enough to acknowledge Hiroshi's family ties, but shallow enough to make it clear who was in charge.
"My apologies for intruding.” A deeper bow, held a fraction longer, acknowledged the status quo. “I hope my father hasn't caused you too much trouble.”
"I am honored to be tasked with training Murakami-sama's only son.” The cryptic response gave no indication of the samurai's true feelings. “Was your journey pleasant?”
"As much as any unexpected travel could be. My father sprang this on me without warning. I can only hope his lackeys collected all my possessions.”
"Anything missing can be sent for,” Kenshin assured him. “You will be here for the forseeable future, I want your stay to be a comfortable one.”