(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Liked what you saw did you?”
Takeshi quipped the moment Dan had returned to the car.
“I knew he was good looking, but damn, the pictures don't do him justice. He's fucking gorgeous.”
Takeshi snickered and ignored Dan's foul language.
“Oh, and he has Sora with him.”
“I know, I can sense her.”
They quickly found themselves on the starting line next to Hiroto's matte black R35 and their starter stepped out in front of them and took the usual position.
The young woman was wearing some rather interesting clothes, a long, black, qipao and a selection of goth style accessories, a very long black wig, and a pair of black, costume wings on her back.
As both drivers flashed their lights to show they were ready Dan could feel Takeshi's energy spike.
“Go get him, show him what you have become.”
“Karasu Tengu! tai Kuro Ryu!”
She announced the racers before starting the countdown.
This time there was no holding back, both cars took off like bats out of hell and by the time they reached the first corner they were practically trading paint to try to get the advantageous line.
A sharp flare of power brought in the extra weights through the teleportation circle, giving Takeshi the weight advantage for a moment, just long enough to force Hiroto out of his favorite line, and the moment Takeshi had it he reduced the weight again.
It was the first time he used abilities beyond what he had been capable of before his change, but this time his opponent was not human, and the note Dan gave to Hiroto had been a warning not to hold back, and it let him know that they were aware that he was a youkai.
“Damn, he did not like that...”
Dan muttered as he could feel the sharp flare of youki behind them as they forced their way into Hiroto's line and took the lead.
Losing his favorite line put Hiroto of his pace and for a moment he was unbalanced, but it didn't last very long, and soon Takeshi found himself fighting for every millimeter of road.
In the end though Hiroto's car just couldn't keep up with the modifications done to Takeshi's R35 and when they reached the finish line Takeshi was almost a full length ahead, causing quite a massive reaction among the spectators who were expecting their local favorite to finally knock the outsider down a peg or two.
The two cards didn't stay though, in accordance with the bet that had been included on the note they drove away to a private location.
They watched Hiroto get out of his car and moments later Sora came out as well and landed on his shoulder and Takeshi and Dan quickly joined him at the benches they had parked by.
“You drive well, and that car of yours is something special.”
“Thank you Hiro.”
Hiroto instantly froze, not many dared call him just Hiro, and from what he had heard about the one he had raced against they were both supposed to be polite and well spoken.
“Who are you?”
“Aw, don't tell me I went through all the hassle of remembering you only for you to forget me?”
While he spoke Takeshi allowed the illusions to drop, revealing his true face and aura.
“Yes Hiro, It's me, I remember everything.”
Sora was instantly on Takeshi's shoulder, rubbing herself against his face and he reached up and scratched the small feathers of her head and neck, but Hiroto was staring at him in silence.
“Hiro, do you remember what you promised me?”
Takeshi wasn't bothered by the lack of reaction, the true purpose of how they chose to confront him was to force him off balance.
The question spurred an instant reaction and Hiroto kneeled down while removing a bracelet from his wrist and presented it with his head bowed and his wings appeared behind him, held low in a fairly submissive pose.
“Kiryu Takeshi will you be my mate?”
The choice of words prompted Dan to step forward and place his hand out in front of Takeshi, preventing him from accepting the bracelet.
“My Alpha is not permitted to take a mate without the permission of his chosen family.”
Hiroto instantly focused on Dan and his aura gained a sharp edge, Takeshi just offered a teasing smile though, amused by the almost overly formal language Dan was using.
“We have agreed that we will not allow you to mate based on old memories. We will however permit a courtship, allow you a chance to get to know each other again, to prove yourself worthy. Show us just who Hiroto of Fuji is.”
Hiroto's eyes instantly went back to Takeshi.
“I'm afraid so. I promised my chosen family that I will never take a lover, or mate, that they don't approve of.”
There was a sharp trickle of fear from Hiroto that made Dan offer him a reassuring smile.
“Don't worry Hiro-san, we have agreed to allow the formation of a courting bond, your youma will not be refused a proper bond. We do not intend to leave room for your elders to interfere again.”
Hiroto immediately relaxed at the promise that his youma would be permitted to bond with Takeshi.
“As you wish. I will accept whatever trials you put before me to prove my worth as a mate.”
The very serious reply threw Dan off for a moment and he couldn't help snorting in amusement.
“You misunderstand, there will be no trials to prove yourself, unless you consider living with others and showing your character to be a trial.”
Hiroto managed to look very confused so Takeshi took pity on him and deviated from the plan to allow Dan to do the speaking.
“What my dear mate here is trying to say is that my loved ones wants to get to know you first before deciding if they will let you into the family.”
Dan hissed slightly at the interruption which made Takeshi laugh.
“Please amo, have some mercy on poor Hiro, remember, he is very Japanese.”
Dan paused for a moment, feeling Takeshi's emotions over the bond, then he nodded and lowered his arm.
It was a struggle for both of them to play their roles, but it was needed to ensure the balance of their family.
“Hiro, when my memories returned the first thing I remembered was how deeply I loved you. And as my memories of you returned I still felt the same deep love. And I know your kind are not fast to change so I have no doubt that you are still someone I can love just as deeply.”
Takeshi was struggling to speak so openly of his emotions, but he knew he had to.
“But I am not the same as I was then, I have grown, changed, become so much more than I was. I have taken on responsibilities, duties and oaths. I am soulmated, pack alpha, head of a House of my own.”
“I know, I have kept an eye on you. I know I need to get to know you again, I need to respect your bonds, but I too have no doubt that you are still someone I will love, and my youma refuses to turn it's back on you.”
Hiroto's words made Dan relax, it would seem there wouldn't be any immediate issues at least.
“Sora, would you go to Dan please?”
The crow quickly hopped over to Dan's shoulder, allowing the two males the freedom to move, and form the bond needed.
Dan watched in silence as auras rose and Takeshi accepted the offered bracelet before leaning in and sinking his fangs into Hiroto's shoulder, marking him as simoro, then offer him a similar bracelet and baring his own neck to be marked.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
Once the bond was formed Dan stepped forward again and unleashed his true form before letting his power bare down on Hiroto and much to their relief he submitted without resistance.
“Welcome to the family Hiro. Now, I wanna meet your youma.”
The change in Dan's demeanor and speech made Hiroto do a double take then smile and nod.
“Now you seem more like someone Take would choose.”
“Sorry about that, had a role to play.”
“Don't we all.”
Hiroto was quickly relaxing, and with a deep breath he prepared to release his youma.
“Now, it may be a bit over the top, I haven't allowed it to rise in a long time.”
“It's okay. We know it won't hurt Take, and it won't do anything to me 'cause that would hurt him.”
When the youma rose it began pushing its power against Dan, but he just allowed his own power to rise and once it was flowing freely there was a small spike of energy as the raijū appeared at his side, it had been hiding in his power so that it wouldn't reveal who Dan was.
The youma tried one last push, but when Dan's power remained soft, but unyielding it backed down and moved toward Takeshi.
“Hello old friend.”
Takeshi reached out and gently caressed Hiroto's face, looking deeply into the eyes that revealed it was the youma in control before leaning in and kissing him softly which made the youma's energy settle down into something soft and content.
“Don't worry. I'm sure my loved ones will come to care for you just as easily as I once did.”
The youma made a soft cooing sound and began nuzzling Takeshi's neck.
“Dan would like it a lot if you do that to him too.”
Takeshi whispered softly, making sure Dan wouldn't hear him and was rewarded with a questioning hum.
“Remember how you felt kissing Sumi-ane?”
The soft sound that followed was decidedly pleased and Takeshi knew Hiroto's youma would do as he had suggested.
When the youma started moving toward Dan Takeshi reached out for Yami, since they were no longer hiding their identities there was no need for Yami to stay in Miami with the others.
The energy that answered him was happy and eager, but Takeshi knew that such a long shadow travel was beyond Yami's ability right now so he would have to seek out Ylian or Emelie for help, which meant it would be a few minutes before he arrived.
A surprised yelp from Dan turned Takeshi's attention back to the males in front of him.
Dan was blushing vividly but it only took a few moments before he calmed down and wrapped his arms around Hiroto.
“It's okay, we all love cuddling.”
The youma's hum instantly turned happy but Dan gently flared his aura to get it to focus again.
“You have to promise to be careful with the girls, it takes time for them to trust unfamiliar males because they all had some pretty horrible experiences at the hands of human traffickers before they came under Take's protection.”
Dan spoke slowly, and took care to be extra clear, remembering that Takeshi had explained that the youma was more beast like and didn't think and understand like a human did.
The sharp flare of anger followed by a gentle calm told them the youma understood, and moments later it withdrew slightly to allow Hiroto to rise again.
“My youma wants me to tell you it understands, and that it will take care to protect your loved ones.”
Dan didn't answer though, instead he was blushing again as Hiroto was still nuzzling his neck.
“You know, I was telling you the truth when I said you are just my type.”
Dan's blush turned even darker which made Hiroto chuckle at him.
“I see why you love this one so much, he's quite interesting.”
Hiroto was just about to brave the pain and give Dan a kiss when Yami appeared next to Takeshi which made him turn around, and Dan finally sucked in the breath he had been holding.
“This is Yami, until recently he was my youma.”
Yami adamantly denied being his youma, but Takeshi had no doubt that he was, he was convinced that Yami was the youma of the youkai fragment of his soul.
There was a slight hesitancy before Yami stepped forward and started examining Hiroto's scent and aura.
“A shadow, and a strong one. A very good companion.”
He scratched behind Yami's ear before turning back to Dan and Rai.
“And what about your companion Dan?”
“He's the real Rai.”
Hiroto offered Rai his hand and after a few moments the raijū moved forward and examined him, then turned his back and smacked him with one of the front appendages, delivering a fairly sharp jolt that made Hiroto's hair and feathers frizz with static.
“I guess I need to prove myself to him as well.”
“Indeed. There's also Gere and Freke, another pair of shadow demons, and there's Kara, a blessed crow, and we have Honey, a demonic sugar glider, and Leiia, a hellcat. And a pair of titanoboa girls.”
“An interesting collection.”
“That it is.”
Takeshi hummed in amused agreement.
“Who is Kara?”
Sora was instantly curious about the prospect of meeting a fellow crow.
“Kara is a Japanese crow that my lovely mate Nel saved in Ginza when she got trapped in a restaurant and broke her wing trying to escape. Since then she has been given the blessing so she's more like a demon.”
“I want to meet her!”
“She is looking forward to meeting you too. But she is pretty sure she met you when she was still a mortal bird living in Ginza. She remembers meeting a crow hanyou who fled when the other crows came close.”
The happy caws that followed had everyone smiling.
“One thing though Sora, Kara has a bit of an odd way of speaking, always using names instead of pronouns, and I want you to be nice about and ignore it. Don't correct her, just speak normally with her.”
“It's okay. It took me many years to learn to speak.”
Sora continued to ask all kinds of questions and they were more than happy to answer them.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“If you don't mind me asking, what are your plans now?”
Once Sora had settled down Hiroto brought the topic back to the important matters.
“Well, the goal is to bring you with us to Miami so you can get to know everyone, and of course, screw your brains out once they give their okay.”
The teasing reply made Hiroto huff in a very familiar manner.
“But first we need to drop by Haruna and meet a friend.”
“You may know of her, a feisty young woman who drives a silver gray Miata.”
“The one with the perfect lines? Aya-san?”
“Yep, she's the one. We intend to offer her to become a test driver for Mandrake, give her a competitive car.”
“She might not accept that, from what I know of her she loves that car.”
“Indeed she does, but we can make an upgraded copy of it, that way she can have it both ways.”
“Yeah, she would probably accept that.”
Hiroto agreed that offering her another Miata but with with the same tech as in Takeshi's R35 would probably work.
“Take, would it be acceptable if we trade passengers while we drive there?”
“Dan with me and Sora with you, give us a chance to talk more privately.”
“It would have been fine with me, but I was thinking we would all go in the truck.”
“But it only holds one car...”
“Indeed, but Angel will be driving my R35 and we will load yours in the truck.”
“Angel, why don't you introduce yourself to Hiro while we wait for the truck to arrive?”
The indicator on Takeshi's watch told him it would be a few more minutes before it arrived, which should be enough for a basic introduction.
Once the truck arrived they quickly loaded Hiroto's car and invited Hiroto and Sora into the cabin.
“You guys know how to travel comfortably.”
“Yeah, we're somewhat spoiled in that regard.”
While Takeshi took a seat next to Hiroto Dan walked up to the tiny kitchenette cupboard and activated the summoning circle embedded in the counter.
The spike of unfamiliar energy had Hiroto nearly jumping out of his skin, which had Takeshi snorting in amusement.
“What was that?”
“A teleportation rune. How do you think I made my car heavier than yours to push you out of your line?”
“I knew something wasn't right about that!”
He wasn't upset at the revelation though, the challenge he had agreed to had said that powers were allowed.
“A brilliant tactic though.”
“Thanks. I'm not so sure I would have been able to win without it.”
“Nah, you would still have made it, you're every bit as good as me, and your car is better.”
Takeshi was about to respond when Hiroto's attention suddenly switched to Dan and he began sniffing at the air.
“Smell something you like?”
Takeshi recognized the scent of fresh gong, it would seem Dan was going to make them a nice treat.
“Yeah, I don't recognize it though.”
“It's just a little snack, some sashimi, a few nice dips. A little something while we talk.”
Dan didn't reveal any more details about what he was making, and after a few minutes he put a large platter of gong slices on the low table and it was soon joined by a few different dips, some soy and a piece of fresh wasabi.
Hiroto quickly snatched one of the slices of meat and gave it a sniff, then put it in his mouth.
“This is really good, and it has power in it, almost like youkai flesh.”
“It's similar, it's from a demon rodent called gong. A staple food in the demon realm.”
Hiroto just hummed and moved on to a slice of liver.
“Sora, I made these for you.”
Dan placed a smaller plate on the table with pieces that had been cut smaller to be manageable for Sora and her joy was obvious.
“Take, I have spoken to Aya and she will meet us at the lake tomorrow morning.”
It was a 140km drive to get back to Haruna so it would take them a while and Aya had headed home after watching the race between Takeshi and Hiroto so she wasn't all that keen on staying up for some 2 hours to meet them.
“Okay, thanks Angel.”
While Takeshi spoke to Angel he noticed the way Hiroto tilted his head and he remembered that it was usually followed by a question of personal nature.
“Would it be safe to assume we won't be doing much sleeping?”
“Indeed, we don't sleep much. But we usually do spend a few hours resting at night to maintain a cycle.”
“How much do you sleep?”
Hiroto was clearly curious about how much Takeshi had changed.
“We usually sleep in 3 to 4 hour passes. How often depends on power level, I used to sleep once or twice a week, but breaking the seal allowed my power to increase again, so now I don't sleep more than once a week unless I spend a lot of energy, I still mediate and rest though.”
“So pretty normal for a higher level demon or youkai.”
“You will find that we live very much like a demon pack.”
“Including usually sleeping all piled up in a den and the occasional rather public sex acts.”
Dan quipped with a wide smile.
“By the way, how big is your pack?”
“We're in the process of bringing the girls into the pack now, when done there will be 20 of us.”
“An impressive pack. And a lot of work.”
Hiroto laughed slightly, well aware of how much work it was for an alpha to take care of their pack.
“I have plenty of help. Dan here is one of three official betas.”
“Three? How are you managing that?”
“Dan is my beta, Manda is Em's beta, and then we have Em's susai, Ylian, who picks up the slack and backs them up.”
Takeshi quickly explained to Hiroto about somewhat complex structure of their pack and house.
“I always knew you were better suited to be Setai-nushi than Kage.”
“I much rather just be alpha and lover.”
Noticing the instant drop in Takeshi's mood Hiroto reached out and brushed his hand against his cheek.
He moved slightly so he could wrap his arms around Takeshi and it didn't take long before he melted into the touch and allowed himself to be lulled into a near sleep state before curling up next to Hiroto and placing his head in his lap.
When Hiroto glanced at Dan he received a smile and a nod before Dan shifted into his raijū form and curled up next to his alpha, and moments later Rai and Yami joined him.
With a soft sigh Takeshi relaxed even further, then glanced up at Sora who was perching on the back of one of the seats.
“Sora, you can come here too. And don't worry, were all used to sharing a bed with crows and ravens.”
He placed one of the pillows close to his face and patted it and his aura shifted into a deep sense of contentment when she landed on it and made herself comfortable next to his hand, allowing him to slowly sift through her feathers.
“Hiro, will you tell me about what you have been up to since my memory was sealed?”
Taking a deep breath Hiroto began speaking in a soft voice, further lulling his audience into a deep state of calm, the only motion was the occasional shift of position, and Takeshi moving a bit to give attention to all of his companions curled up around him.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
A soft knock on the door to the truck told them that Aya had arrived.
“Come on in Aya-chan.”
The door opened and Aya gave them a mock glare for the choice of honorific.
“I thought I told you to drop keigo.”
She was about to say something more when she noticed Hiroto and fell silent.
“Aya, this is Hiro, you may know him as the driver of the car I was racing last night.”
“Ohayou gozaimasu Hiro-san.”
“Ohayou gozaimasu Aya-san.”
Takeshi and Dan patiently waited for the two to exchange greetings and once they had Hiroto added that he was fine with Aya dropping the honorifics and she agreed that he could do the same.
“I can see why you would race all of Japan to get him back.”
Aya's smile was somewhere between shy and teasing as she made her observation.
“Indeed. Quite a prize catch.”
The fact that Hiroto actually blushed slightly instantly earned him some friendly teasing.
“So I guess you asked me here to say goodbye then?”
They could all feel the hint of sadness in Aya's aura as she spoke.
“Yes, and no. There is more we want to talk about. Starting with who we really are.”
“Well, I know your names aren't Ryu and Rai.”
“Indeed, that cute bundle of fur in his lap is the real Rai.”
She glanced at Rai before looking up at Dan.
“And you are?”
“My real name is Dan Lindgren, Beta of pack Kiryu, and that thing over there is my alpha.”
“Kiryu?! As in Okinawa Kiryu, Guardians of the Ryujin Shrine?””
She instantly looked at Takeshi with wide eyes.
“Indeed, I'm Kiryu Takeshi, Alpha of pack Kiryu, Yemo of House Shamarai.”
Aya looked utterly bewildered, and she was clearly unsure of how to respond.
“It's okay Aya, we are still the same. But I'm afraid this is just the beginning, there is more we need to tell you, show you.”
“So it's true then? The rumors that Kiryu Takeshi isn't human?”
The straightforward question made Takeshi laugh and slowly shift back to his true appearance while he spoke.
“Indeed it is. But you already suspected that, didn't you?”
“Yeah, you guys are way too good in bed to be ordinary humans.”
Her words had Hiroto struggling not to laugh, but Takeshi and Dan were used to her quirks and rather risqué humor.
“Oh, is that all..?”
The teasing quip made Aya laugh, then she went silent for a moment, clearly considering what she should say.
“Not really, I could feel you guys were different, And I can feel that Hiro is different too. My great grandmother always told us that her first husband, my great grandfather, was part youkai, but no one believed her.”
“But you did?”
“Yeah, it explains was too much.”
Takeshi allowed his aura to brush against her, but he didn't want to dig in too deeply so he couldn't really tell.
“What do think Hiro, could she have a youkai ancestor?”
Hiroto allowed his aura to reach out, gently tapping hers with his youki, trying to elicit a response.
“If she does it's distant. I can't feel a youki response so I would need to do a deeper search of her aura.”
“You can actually find out if it's true?”
“Of course. But it requires a deep search of your aura and that can be very unpleasant.”
Together they explained to Aya what they would have to do, the risks if done wrong, and how it could make her feel, but as Takeshi had suspected she readily agreed and together with Hiroto he began searching her aura.
“Ah, there it is.”
After about 10 minutes of gentle searching Takeshi found a flicker of youki deep within her aura, wrapped tightly around her soul and he began gently coaxing it, trying to get it to come up to the surface layers where he would be able to make it visible to her.
“Oh, it looks like foxfire...”
Aya's soft exclamation made them all smile.
“That's because it is. Whoever your youkai ancestor was they were Kitsune. Maybe they are even still around.”
“Is there any way you could find out?”
“There is. I know a kyūbi who can help us. But to do that she needs a sample of your foxfire.”
“What do I need to do?”
“Start with touching the foxfire with your finger, envision a flame at the tip, like a match or lighter.”
Takeshi carefully guided her through the same lessons he had given the girls
“That's it, now you need to get that little flame to move into this crystal.”
It took a few tries to get the small spark of foxfire into the crystal, but once they managed Aya was smiling widely.
“You should keep doing that whenever you have a moment to yourself, try to make it move from one finger to another. It's an exercise taught to young kitsune to help them build up their reserves and develop control.”
“Can we get back to the point now?”
Dan smiled as he pointed out they had deviated pretty far from the intended topic.
Curiosity was flickering though her aura.
“We didn't ask you to meet us one more time just to say goodbye, we have an offer for you.”
“What kind of offer?”
Takeshi tutted lightly at her for interrupting him which had her blushing, and glaring at him for not answering her right away.
“How would you like to become a test driver for Mandrake and test consumer adaptations of the tech in my car.”
“I don't know... Your car is really nice, but I like my little roadster, she's all energetic and cute...”
The small pout and the way she described her old 2032 Miata had everyone snickering.
“Well, the whole idea is for you to test aftermarket upgrades.”
“I'm not altering Mia!”
Her instant outrage made Takeshi and Dan laugh.
“We had a feeling you would say that. We're not expecting you to make modifications on your Mia, we will supply you with another car, same year and model, to work on and test.”
“Okay, I guess I could go for that. But why me? It's not like I'm all that fast.”
“Simple, you are a skilled driver, very technical and your accuracy is remarkable, this makes you a perfect candidate for being a test driver. As for not being very fast, your little Mia just doesn't have the power to compete with newer cars.”
“I guess... But I still love her.”
“She suits you well, small, but spirited, and with a nice, perky, rear.”
The teasing quip made Aya laugh, but it didn't last very long.
“I'm going to miss playing with you guys.”
“I bet you will.”
Takeshi teased lightly, Aya had an insatiable appetite for sex, which was one of the reasons she raced the tōge, it gave her access to young men who thrived on taking chances, adrenaline junkies who would be all pumped up after the races.
“You could always give us a booty call if gets too bad.”
Dan was more than happy to keep up the teasing, it was rare that he found himself genuinely interested in a female, attracted yes, but not interested in a long term relationship.
Takeshi had teased him mercilessly about it though, but he had also been a great help with sorting through the feeling, helping Dan realize what he was actually feeling, realize he didn't want a girlfriend, or mate, but rather a long term lover.
“That's a long flight with you guys going back to Miami...”
“Good thing we don't need to fly to travel between Miami and Tokyo then.”
With a teasing smile Taakeshi allowed his power to rise and reach out for the shadows around him, then he gave Dan a good shove, making him vanish into the shadow.
He waited a few moments to see if Dan would come out on his own before reaching out and open a different one for him to step out from.
“We can travel like this pretty much anywhere in the world as long as there is a shadow, and we know where we are going.”
“Oh, that sounds useful.”
Aya looked between them for a moment, then smiled and reached into her pocket for a deck of cards and a small bag of dice.
“Are we going to play one last game?”
She flicked the deck open and used it as a fan to hide her smile in a gesture of mock innocence.
The deck of cards and dice that Aya had were not normal ones, instead they were part of a very raunchy version of a party game for swingers, all depicting various sexual activities.
“What about you Hiro, will you join us?”
“I'm afraid I can't, my promise to await the approval of Take's family, and my youma's choice, limits my ability to partake in such activities.”
“Okay, hope you can touch yourself at least, I love watching.”
“She also loves being watched.”
Takeshi quipped teasingly, unless Hiroto had changed more than he seemed he too enjoyed watching.
“How fortunate then that those are traits I share.”
“Hiro, why don't you give us a bit of a show to get things started?”
Takeshi couldn't help recalling the first time he actually saw Hiroto, how he had been unable to look away from the unfamiliar male removing his clothes to wash himself.
It hadn't been the first time he had been joined the shrine onsen by a visiting youkai, but none of those had commanded his attention the way Hiroto had, the only one who had come close to it was Aoren, who he had shared the occasional exploring touch with.
“Oh, you wish to show me off?”
“I merely wish to share what I felt the first time I saw you.”
The teasing honesty made Hiroto pause and look at Takeshi.
“You really enjoyed watching me get undressed that much? I wasn't even trying to put on a show...”
“You didn't notice?”
Takeshi was a bit surprised that Hiroto hadn't noticed just how affected he had been.
“I caught the scent of your arousal, but beyond that I was far too distracted to determine to what extent I was affecting you, and what little focus I had left was spent on keeping my youma under control and make sure I didn't go too far with you.”
Takeshi couldn't help smiling at Hiroto's admittance that he had been close to losing control completely.
“In that case I have something I want to share with you.”
Part of Takeshi was eager to show Hiroto his new abilities, and another part just wanted to share all those feelings he had been unable to express.
“Oh, now I'm curious.”
“You're always curious.”
Takeshi quipped back before slowly reaching out toward Hiroto.
“Hiro, I need you to drop your defenses and trust me.”
“I have always trusted you without reserve.”
Takeshi could feel the spiritual shields falling away as he touched Hiroto's face, and when he allowed his memories to flow through the touch the tengu's eyes widened noticeably before closing.
“This is how you made me feel.”
For a moment there was just silence, then Hiroto's eye's opened, shining with emotions and a hint of tears.
“Thank you for showing me this.”
Hiroto took a few moments to raise his defenses again before continuing.
“That's an impressive ability. Can you do it without someone's defenses being down? Or without touching?”
Hiroto's curiosity was contagious but Takeshi didn't want to go too deeply into the topic at the moment, preferring to let Aya have their focus
“I can, but a lack of defenses makes it easier to control the flow, so does the touch. If I push my memories on someone who is resisting it can be very painful, I could even hurt them if I push too hard. But we can talk more about that when we get back home. Today needs to be all about Aya.”
Hiroto was quick to agree which made Aya blush slightly, then flash him a hungry smile.
“Does that mean I get a show?”
“I do believe it does.”
Hiroto returned the smile before giving Takeshi a gentle nudge, telling him to back away and make himself comfortable.
“I can see why you enjoyed this. He is crazy hot.”
Aya's pleased hum when Hiroto turned his back to them and pulled his shirt away, revealing large wings tattooed on his back, had everyone smiling.
“Indeed, inhuman beauty is a common trait among youkai.”
Takeshi was paying close attention to the way the black ink enhanced the play of the muscles on Hiroto's back.
“He didn't have that ink back then though.”
“I got it to remind me of you.”
Hiroto spoke softly while arching and stretching in an ancient dance to music only he could hear.
“Why don't you show us your real wings?”
Hiroto continued to move for a while as if he hadn't heard Takeshi, but then the air behind him began to shimmer with youki and the large, black, wings appeared.
Takeshi could hear Dan sucking in a breath when the wings appeared, and he found himself every bit as affected.
“Take, is Hiro the reason why you love being touched by wings?”
“Yeah, he is. Now shut up an enjoy the show.”
The teasing scolding made Dan huff, then laugh and lick the spot on his throat that he knew Takeshi enjoyed.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
By the time they were done playing it was late evening and Aya was exhausted, but happy, and the others were calm and sated.
“Aya, when we leave Angel will arrange transport for our cars to Miami, but I would like you to have this truck. This cabin is safer than a hotel room, or some strangers car, Angel is constantly monitoring it, and she is armed. She can protect you if something should happen.”
The way Aya engaged in some rather risky behavior had Takeshi and Dan a bit concerned so they had spoken to Angel and the others, and they had all agreed to give Aya use of the autonomous truck to give her a bit of safety.
“We have grown to care about you, so we want you to be safe. But at the same time we can't ask you to change who you are. What we can do however is offer you a bit of protection.”
“Are you sure? I mean, this cabin is larger than my home...”
To afford her lifestyle and car Aya lived in one of the new micro-apartment complexes just outside Tokyo which was basically a capsule hotel designed for long term residence, it had the slightly larger capsules of a luxury capsule hotel, but it was still tiny.
Each capsule was 2×3 meters with a 2 meter ceiling, each of them containing a bed that folded up against the wall when not in use, a small desk, small refrigerator and a small sink with a tap for drinking water.
Each floor also housed a community sitting area, kitchen, showers, toilets and on the bottom floor there was a laundromat and a parking facility for bikes and electric motorcycles, it wasn't much, but it was cheap, leaving her plenty of money to pay garage rental and other costs for her car.
It also had on site security guards so it was nice and safe.
“Of course we are. And don't worry about things like tolls, parking fees, water refills and such, Angel has authorization to charge all those costs to one of my accounts, so as long as it's not cash payment she can easily pay, and if cash is the only option she can help you make a withdrawal. The monthly fee for your garage and housing has also been rerouted to one of my accounts.”
“Aya, I have more money than I need, I'm more than happy to spoil those I consider friends.”
“If you really want to spoil me, financially I mean, there is one thing you could do for me...”
Aya kneeled down in front of Takeshi and bowed her head.
“And what is that?”
“Help me pay for having my sōsobo's kimono properly restored...”
“What kind of kimono?”
“I inherited all of her kimono, but my mother hadn't taken very well care of them so they are in pretty bad shape...”
“Now now Aya, that's not what I asked, was it?”
“How many, and what kinds?”
The way Aya acted made him pretty sure that there was a significant number of kimono, and probably old, high quality, ones that were expensive to properly restore.
“The oldest is over 500 years old, a Shiromuku, but the Kaiken and Sensu are missing.”
The shiromuku was the traditional white shinto wedding kimono with several layers of brocade silk embroidered with white silk thread, the missing kaiken was a small hidden dagger, and the sensu was an ordinary hand fan with white silk.
“There's also a matching Iro-Uchikake that's almost 300 years old...”
The iro-uchikake was a colored outer kimono that was a more recent tradition at weddings.
“There's also a collection of kimono of various ages between 100 and 200 years old, including a Furisode, Kuro-Tomesode, Hōmongi, and a five kamon Iromuji.”
“That is an impressive collection. It deserves to be tended by an expert.”
“I know, I have been saving up for a while, but I don't know where to start...”
“Fortunately I do. Angel, would you give her the address and number to my tailor in Ginza please?”
“Take them to him and he will see to that each piece is tended to by an expert. Give him this and he will know I sent you.”
Takeshi handed her one of his crystal coins, it would tell the youkai tailor that he had sent her.
“I will have a word with a smith friend of mine about replacing that kaiken with something appropriate.”
Bowing down completely Aya switched to a highly formal form of Japanese and thanked him properly.
It took almost an hour before they were done saying their goodbyes and Takeshi offered Hiroto his hand.
“I need to touch you to bring you through the shadows.”
“Hmm. But when you pushed Dan..?”
“That's 'cause I have shadow abilities. I just can't seem to open the doorways myself yet, once open I can travel freely though. But I need someone to let me out too.”
“Oh, okay. Let's go home.”
Hiroto took the offered hand and allowed Takeshi to bring him into the shadows and Dan followed behind them.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
When they stepped out of the shadows in the smaller room at the entrance to the underground den in Miami they instantly found themselves face to face with Emelie, Amanda and Ylian, and none of them were holding back.
Faced with the sudden mass of demonic energy Sora panicked and took of into the den while Hiroto's youki spiked sharply, bringing out his wings in preparation to fight, moments later he felt the energy of Takeshi's bonds with his pack and scrambled to get his youki under control and into a non-threatening pattern.
“Apologies, your energies surprised me.”
“That was the point.”
Em's teasing tone made Takeshi tut at her slightly.
“Now now love, be nice to poor Hiro and don't scare little Sora like that.”
When Takeshi mentioned that they had scared Sora the energies instantly died down and the welcoming committee instantly turned around toward the agitated crow hanyou.
“Oh I'm so sorry Sora, we didn't mean to scare you.”
The rapid caws were a mix between a warning call and a scolding which prompted everyone to carefully school their energies into calmer patterns, patterns that spoke of pack, belonging, safety.
“Kara, can you try to talk to her? I think she might be too far into her instincts to understand us. It might be easier for her to understand a fellow crow.”
Nelly's suggestion rewarded her with nods and soft agreement.
“Kara will try.”
While Kara tried talking to Sora Hiroto was watching with quite obvious concern.
“Don't worry, I'm sure she will calm down once she realizes she's not in any danger.
Emelie took charge of talking to Hiroto, a slight edge in her aura telling Takeshi that he needed to stay back and keep his silence.
“I know. It's just... She has taken this entire thing very hard.”
“She has never had a flock other than you, Take and Sumi-chan, has she?”
“Not really, no. She grew fond of the people at the Kiryu Shrine, being forgotten by them threw her into a severe depression, and not being allowed to approach any of them for the risk that they would remember and tell Take was even harder.”
“But she did on occasion, didn't she?”
Meeting with Sora reminded Emelie of the first time they took the girls to Ginza, the crow that had watched her and Takeshi on the deck of the Tiamat.
“She would sneak close and flee if noticed.”
“I think we have come across her on occasion.”
“Oh? She hasn't told me about anything like that.”
“She probably didn't want you to get in trouble.”
“Sounds like her. Would you care to share what happened?”
“It was the first time we brought the girls to Japan, to shop in Ginza, the first night there we were watched by a crow youkai, and now that I have met Sora I can tell she was the one watching us. I'm pretty sure I have felt her energy at other times as well in Ginza.”
“She does spend a lot of her time there as it's one of the places where she has a high chance of seeing him.”
“What about you Hiro, have you ever come across him, or us?”
“I have. It was a long time ago in Okinawa. I was driving outside of Naha with a group of racers when we met a limousine, the passengers were Sumi-chan, Take and his unit.”
“So you saw my mother then?”
“I did, you look a lot like her.”
When Emelie didn't answer Hiroto reached out for her and brushed his fingers against her face.
“I'm sorry you never got to know her. No child should have to go through that.”
Feeling a flicker of emotion in Emelie's aura spurred Hiroto into action and he wrapped his arms and wings around her despite the sharp warning pain from his youma, then moments later the pain vanished when Takeshi touched his shoulder, relaying trust and approval.
“Hiro, I have no objections to you touching the members of my chosen family, nor do I consider it a betrayal if you were to be intimate with them. Quite the contrary, we are all used to being close, to touching, including hugs, kisses and sleeping together as a pack. Just be careful with the girls. Also, since I have multiple mates and lovers it would be good for you if you and your youma can accept being shared.”
Takeshi's breach of the agreement to let Emelie handle things earned him a sharp hiss, but he could tell it was more a scolding warning than actually upset, but he did turn his head slightly in submission, and she accepted it with a gentle touch of the sharp tip of her tail.
She allowed herself to be held though as it seemed to calm Hiroto down as well, something that didn't surprise her in the least, his basic personality seemed pretty similar to Takeshi's.
When Sora seemed to have calmed down a bit Emelie untangled herself from Hiroto's arms and wings and approached the two crows slowly.
“Sora, are you calm enough to control your instincts and listen now?”
Putting her hand in her pocket Emelie fished out one of the strips of dried gong that she always carried as treats for the various animals and demons that shared their home and offered it to Sora who accepted it and began picking it apart.
“We didn't mean to scare you. Our little stunt here was to test Hiro, to see if he can handle suppressing his own instincts and fall into line as the lowest ranked member of our extended pack. Which he respond nicely to by the way.”
“I know. I just got a bit scared of all the power. Didn't expect everyone here to be so strong...”
“It's okay sweetie. Just try to remember that we will all be more than happy to use this power to protect you if you ever need it.”
“I know, Kara explained it. But I might still get scared sometimes.”
“Don't worry, we understand that, and if you do, we just do what we did now, pull back a bit and wait for you to calm down. Assuming it's safe to do that of course, but even if it's a dangerous situation we will do it as soon as it's safe to.”
“Good. Now how about we get you introduced?”
“Take, I think this is your cue to start talking.”
“Hai hai sweetie.”
With a nod Takeshi stepped forward and pulsed his aura once to gain everyone's attention.
“Everyone, this is Hiroto and Sora.”
“Please, there is no need for honorifics, just call me Hiro.”
“Just Sora is fine with me.”
“How about Sora-chan?”
Takara was more than happy to play the more childish role and suggest they use -chan with Sora and the way the crow hanyou instantly seemed to be very fascinated by the tiny scrap that remained of the dried gong was quite telling.
Had she been able to blush she would no doubt have turned bright red.
“Sora-chan it is then.”
Takeshi teased softly before starting on the introductions of his family.
“This is my co-alpha and soulmate, Emelie Eriksson, she is the first person I courted and mated.”
“Please, just call me Em.”
“Then of course we have Dan, my second mate and beloved beta. Amanda is Em's beta, and my mate, then we have Ylian, yi is the third beta and one of my mates.”
After the introduction of Ylian there was a slight detour to explain about shadelings not having sexes, then the introduction moved on.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
Introductions took well over an hour, but eventually did manage to get through them all and continue to the tour of their Miami home.
“You have built yourself a beautiful home.”
“We have a very good architect.”
The reply was paired with a teaching shove that sent Ethan stumbling forward, almost making him bump into Hiroto.
“You are an architect?”
Hiroto reached out, ready to stabilize Ethan if needed, but his blessed reflexes kicked in in time for him to recover his footing.
“Yeah. Met this whackjob while I was an intern and took a chance to show him my own work while waiting for my firm's appointment.”
“Would you care to share how you ended up being one of his? You clearly haven't lived with them the entire time since Nel is not related to any of the females here.”
For a moment there was a sharp surge of pain in Ethan's aura which instantly had Hiroto apologizing.
“No, it's okay. It's a long story and only the last chapter is bad, and the epilogue is great. Talking about it with someone who wasn't involved might do me good.”
“I would be honored to listen, and maybe be able to offer a bit of wisdom. Most tengu are followers of Shugendō and many have chosen the calling of the Yamabushi. ”
“I'm sorry, I'm not that familiar with Japan and it's traditions, much less the youkai ones.”
“Shugendō is a religious and spiritual practice that focuses on gaining wisdom and spiritual power through asceticism and endurance, and training mind and body in harmony with nature itself. And the Yamabushi are mountain hermits, hailed as healers and seers, often sought out for their wisdom which is said to come from communicating with the Kami.”
“The last part is mostly legend though, the Yamabushi simply have a lot of time to think about things, and they tend to have a less egocentric way of thinking that along with being object and having nothing to gain makes them suitable for solving conflicts.”
“Sometimes the Kami did chose to offer a tidbit or another when mortals were being too stupid.”
Hiroto listened calmly while Ethan spoke of how he had met Takeshi, his mixed feelings for him, especially after he met Susan, then he spoke of how happy he had been to learn that Susan was pregnant, the rush to get married and the boundless pride and joy when he held Nelly in his arms for the first time.
“I was completely clueless to the truth. When Take told me it broke me, and I sought him out for balance, like a drowning man grasping for anything to stay above the surface.”
When Hiroto turned to Takeshi with a hint of a glare Ethan started laughing.
“Don't worry, he was upfront about desiring that outcome.”
“I would have told him no matter what, he deserved to know the truth. And yes, while it's not something I'm particularly proud of part of me was happy to find out Susan had betrayed him, because I knew that finding out would drive him into my arms.”
They could all feel Hiroto's youma rise and none of them batted an eye when it wrangled control away to speak on the matter of betrayal, telling them that humans should learn about loyalty from the tengu and everyone agreed that many humans could do with lessons.
“You need not worry anymore, the one I chose will not betray your trust.”
“I know, that's why I chose him as well. A knight in shining armor to protect my heart while I heal.”
“And once healed, will you offer him your heart?”
Everyone was suddenly dead silent, waiting to see if Ethan would answer the question.
“I'm not sure, but I think I might eventually.”
Takeshi couldn't help feeling a surge of emotion at Ethan's words, even the slight hint of hope that his feelings might be returned made his heart soar.
“That would no doubt make him a very happy male.”
Ethan didn't seem to realize what he had said until Hiroto's youma mentioned how it would make Takeshi feel, and when he realized he turned brilliant red, then a peregrine falcon took off toward the roof of the central building.
“Excellent shift, you have gotten faster.”
Takeshi called after Ethan with a smile, he really had improved a lot, he used to have to sit down, shift, then take off, now he was able to shift straight into flight.
“But Hugin really isn't a good role model for coping mechanisms.”
The teasing addition earned him a somewhat defiant cry from the perched peregrine.
A sudden smack to the back of the head courtesy of Hugin's wing made Takeshi grumble and mock complain which only made everyone laugh and by the time they were calm Hiroto's youma had retreated and given control back to their logical side.
Nelly was struggling to contain herself as her father finally spoke about the topic of his feelings for Takeshi, and acknowledged the possibility for more than friendship.
After watching Ethan take off to the roof she turned around and studied Hiroto while his youma retreated, considering what to do about her urge to thank him for making her father speak.
While he was distracted by Takeshi mock attacking Hugin in retaliation to the wing smack she made up her mind and ducked under his wing and popped up in front of him and gave him a soft kiss.
For a moment she was surprised by the way he jolted back and hissed slightly, then she remembered just how extreme tengu views on fidelity was.
“Oh no! I'm sorry, I forgot...”
“It's okay, it's just an acquired reflex. My youma didn't actually react as it knows Take does not disprove.”
“Oh, good. I just wanted to thank you for helping my dad talk about his feelings a bit.”
“You're welcome. I'm just happy I could be of assistance.”
Nelly paused for a moment, unsure of how to continue as she wanted to thank the youma specifically.
“Uhm, Hiro, does your youma have a name?”
“Not really, why?”
“I would like to thank it for asking Dad about his heart.”
“It hears anything I hear so it knows.”
“I would still be useful if we have a name to call your youma as you are distinct personalities.”
Emelie's addition quickly garnered the agreement of the others.
“We used to call Yami Beastie while he was still a part of Take.”
Maria added how they had treated the shadow beast within Takeshi and after a moment Hiroto nodded and reached for it.
Everyone just waited in silence while Hiroto spoke to the youma and when he opened his eyes again there was a distinct feel of anticipation in the air.
“My youma agrees with you that it could be beneficial if you have a way to address it and has agreed that you may name it, but it reserves the right to veto any suggestion.”
The sudden silence had Hiroto confused for a moment, then he realized they were using the silent communication shared by the blessed which made him almost nervous, but very curious.
“Go on Taka, it was your idea.”
Once they spoke up again they did so while pushing Takara out in front of them.
“I was thinking...”
“Go ahead Taka-chan. I won't bite.”
“Well, your name is Hiroto, but you told us to only use Hiro, so I thought maybe we can call you youma Roto. I mean, you're both part of the youkai Hiroto, and with Hiro and Roto you would be equal parts. And part of each other...”
Hiroto could feel his youma agreeing right away, and when Takara continued to explain why she picked Roto it radiated a very pleased feeling.
“That is really good thinking, and Roto agrees with you, and is very happy with the name.”
The brilliant smile made Hiroto smile back at her and ruffle her silver hair.
“You will have a clever tail in no time if you keep that up. Though, maybe you should find a different way to name your own youma should it prove strong enough to manifest, having two Kara could be confusing.”
“I already call her Zerda because she looks like a fennec.”
“Oh, she is clear to you in your mind already?”
“Mhm. Mommy says that means I'm strong.”
“Indeed it does little kit.”
“Mommy says my Sanbi no Nenrei will probably be my fifth tail.”
“She is probably right, you will no doubt grow into a vixen to take great pride in.”
For a moment Takara smiled and blushed, then her expression turned contemplative.
“I think she's worried I will turn out to be a Yako, they tend to develop early...”
“Taka, being a yako is not a bad thing. It doesn't mean you suddenly become evil, it just means you are different than the zenko. The yako have always been feared, and hunted, so in return they tend to be stronger. Not only to be able to defend themselves, but to be able to balance the zenko.”
Takeshi didn't say anything as hearing it from another youkai would make a greater impact on the worried girl.
“I don't know...”
Her hesitation made Hiroto sigh softly while trying to figure out a different approach.
“Look at Take, he's an assassin, a killer, but that doesn't make him a bad person, does it?”
“No, Take is a good person!”
“That's right, and yet, most would say he is evil, a monster, simply because he doesn't hesitate to kill bad people. Yako are similar, but because they have been hunted, and hated, for such a long time they have grown to resent others and stick to their own.”
“If I become a yako I won't do that! I will be a good yako!”
“Of course you will, you have a good heart, and a loving family who will never abandon you.”
The turn of topic set off all kinds of warning bells in the back of Takeshi's mind, he had seen the Fates meddle far too many times to believe in coincidence.
“My little treasure really will become a yako, won't she?”
Eriko's silent voice carried all of her worry and concern.
“I think so. But we will stand by her side, she may become one of theirs by tradition, but I will not allow the House of Shadows to isolate her, or corrupt her with their legacy of mistrust.”
“I'm still worried that the others will shun her...”
“If they do, then I will shun them. I don't care if she's yako, she can still be our beautiful little silver treasure.”
While Takeshi and Eriko had their little silent conversation Hiroto had continued to talk about his experience with yako, telling them of one he considered a friend who he had had a lot of wild adventures with as a youth.
“Now, you need to be a bit mindful of the yako as they operate by their own rules, and tend to kill if offended, and they are kitsune. But, you should be respectful and mindful, not fearful.”
“So, a bit like the fae? They don't like it when people try to flatter them or grovel.”
“That's right, yako tend to detest sycophants, but they melt like butter in the face of honest praise.”
“So if we meet one we shouldn't hesitate to pay them an honest compliment?”
Takeshi decided to take advantage of the slight lull in the conversation to break in and direct attention elsewhere.
“Hiro, if you are done telling the girls tall tales we really should start preparing food.”
“Of course alpha.”
There was a teasing edge to the reply, but everyone did as suggested and began heading toward the main kitchen.