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Hatsu Kousou

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Akihito’s breath came in pants and gasps as he ran, his legs carrying him as fast and as far as he could go. He ran with everything within him because he didn’t want the men chasing after him to catch him; he could hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears and feel his muscles straining under the onslaught.

Dodging between wooden and bamboo row houses, he felt splinters in his feet as he moved, trying his best to get away. Yes, he was barefooted because they surprised him and he ran left his slippers, which would have slowed him down anyways. What the men wanted he had no idea, but he didn’t want to find out because they seemed dangerous. Though if he had to guess he would say his father borrowed money again and couldn’t pay it back. The man was a notorious gambler and drunk who often abused him when he couldn’t get his fix. His lungs burned and muscles ached from the effort, but he pushed forward because whatever the cause for his current circumstances were it couldn’t be good.

The town tavern came in to view and he sprinted towards it as the shout to catch him got louder. He knew wherever liquor was one could usually find a crowd, if even a small one that he hoped he could get lost in. There was a group of people at the entrance that he was sure would provide enough cover for him to get lost in, and with an extra burst of speed he moved forward.

People gasped in surprise and shock as he dodged around and bumped into them while they moved, but before Akihito could reach his destination he was grabbed from behind and yanked backwards, causing him to fall painfully on his back, hitting his head and back and crying out at the white hot surge of pain that ensued. A hand was clasped over his mouth while the men dragged him out of view, causing him to kick and wriggle in protest. His hazel eyes widened in fear when he was slammed against the wooden wall of one of the houses they were sandwiched between and he looked at the men blearily.

“Don’t damage the merchandise, we’ll get more for him in mint condition,” the man with his hand still covering Akihito’s mouth said. The other one, the one with a hand on his shoulder snickered in agreement.

Merchandise?

The hand over his mouth grabbed his chin suddenly and painfully while inspecting his face and Akihito held his breath in fear of what was to come.

“With a bath we’ll get a decent amount for him,” the one doing the inspecting muttered. “He’s pretty enough to become one of those boys.”

“Yeah, I’d pay for one of those boys right now,” the other laughed, a sickening sound that sent a shiver through Akihito.

Akihito felt his stomach drop at the implication. Were they taking him to Shoumise?

“He’ll fetch a good amount at Oomise. If he isn’t of their standard Shoumise will have to do, though we’ll get less for him there.”

“No…” Akihito muttered lowly because his throat suddenly felt drier, like cotton was wedged in between and wouldn’t budge. He didn’t want to become a prostitute. He tried even harder to break free of his captors hold, but they only laughed at his futility.

There was suddenly a prickling sensation in his right arm, and when he turned his head to look he saw the needle being removed from his vein; the bastards had drugged him.

“You son of a…” Akihito started to curse when the hands holding him in place retreated, but the drug worked quickly and before he knew it he was out cold.

******VF******

Later that night Akihito was delivered, clean and fresh and wrapped in a dark blue silk kimono held together by a red obi to the brothel in Oomise; the most sophisticated and high ranking brothel in all of Edo, Japan. It masqueraded as a teahouse on the surface, but everybody from the area knew what really went on there and the clientele the place catered to. He wondered why they would even consider taking him in when he was sure he wasn’t cute or doll-like to match their criteria. He had to kneel in a waiting room on tatami mats with other young soon-to-be apprentice courtesans, or maiko as they were formally called, all dressed in the finest silk, who were led outside one by one to be evaluated.

Akihito’s stomach churned unpleasantly as he watched the occupants of the room slowly leave, not knowing what their, or his fate was. He didn’t want to be here, he didn’t want to be sold like merchandise because his father couldn’t hold his own.

He didn’t want to give up his body to anybody unless it was on his own terms.

He thought about escaping, but they were in a windowless room and the men escorting them were muscular and intimidating, as if they were chosen to make sure those with thoughts along lines of his own were deterred from trying anything. Not to mention that even though he was scheming in his head and taking in his surroundings, his body was surprisingly acquiescent. Although he kept telling himself to move, to run, to do something, his limbs refused to co-operate. He didn’t know what kind of drugs those men gave him, but the command leaving his brain was not meeting his nerve endings and it was frustrating.

He watched as the two guards walked over to him, each of them holding him under his arms until he was on his feet. Despite his increasing doubt and fear he still didn’t have the strength to do as he wished.

The wooden floorboards were sturdy and smooth as the three of them walked, unlike the splinters and creaks that could be felt in his old home that his father refused to renovate. He could use only one side of his futon to sleep on at nights because the other side had too many splinters embedded between the fabrics. He vaguely registered the shoka style flower vases lining each door he passed while perched on a single, small wooden table about waist high. He was escorted down a hallway to a sliding door on the right, and when he entered he was greeted by a brown haired man who wore an expensive looking three piece suit, sitting in an expensive looking high chair and twirling a small cane between his fingers while watching him. He had waist length, shining, beautiful hair and a lanky appearance, though there was something evil about the smile he had on his face.

Akihito was led to the first of the three steps that led up to the man, but before he could break the threshold he was forced to get on his knees again and look the man in the eyes. The cane was extended and came to rub lightly along his left jaw then the right while he was evaluated by the man’s intimidating brown eyes. He glared in defiance.

“How old is he?”

The man’s voice was deep and rich, authoritarian and something churned unpleasantly in Akihito’s stomach. He hoped he wouldn’t be their type. He prayed he was rejected.

There was the rustle of parchment being unfolded behind him and Akihito listened as one of the guards answered the question.

“He’s fourteen years old, Yuudai-sama.”

“How much does the old man want?”

At the mention of old man Akihito’s frown deepened, so his father did sell him to this brothel after all. He wasn’t certain before although he highly suspected it, but now he had concrete proof.

“Five hundred thousand yen, but when we deduct what he owes the company he’ll be left with only fifteen percent of that amount.”

The man, Yuudai-sama, smiled wickedly. “Strip him.”

“Wha…?” was all Akihito managed to blurt out before he was grabbed and his obi removed, which allowed his kimono to fall easily from around his shoulders, exposing his upper body while it pooled around his legs. His stomach dropped from the lecherous gaze he received and he turned his head to the side.

The cane was upon him again, and this time it was flicked across his nipples and he trembled from the feel before bringing both hands up to cover his chest.

“Bend him over.”

A grunt of unease was all Akihito could get out when he was roughly pushed to the floor with his ass sticking up in the air. The man stood and walked behind him, each step of his leather shoes reverberating through Akihito’s chest like a gavel sentencing him to his demise. His fingers clenched painfully when a hand cupped one of his ass cheeks and he visibly trembled. His eyes widened when a finger circled his anus before pressing inside slowly, pushing past his resistance and making him feel like he wanted to throw up. He writhed and tried to get away from the uncomfortable feeling but was held in place by the two guards.

“Stop, please…” the blond moaned in pain, it was the worst feeling ever.

“So tight…he’s sensitive and pretty enough,” the man muttered pleasingly behind him and Akihito’s ass muscles clenched tighter in response, as if trying to force the finger out. His stomach did flip flops and his head started pounding while his heart rate sped up. There was a light sheen of sweat covering his body and he suddenly felt nauseous and weak. The thing is, he had no idea when he passed out; just that one moment he was conscious and the next he was not.

******VF******

It was a comfortable cool, like the sort of calming opposite to one’s burning body. It originated through Akihito’s forehead and even though he could only register darkness, whatever the cool item was it was slowly pulling him back to the surface of reality.

His sense of touch was the first to return, and he realized he was on a futon, on his back with his head resting on a takamakura, a small support for his head and neck which was a lot better for aligning one’s spine as opposed to those westerner’s pillows.

Next was his sense of smell, and he realized there was a soft scent of freshness surrounding him like the bloom of a clean and warm summer day. His eyes opened then, albeit blearily and the fuzzy outline of a woman’s face could be seen leaning over him. She had long, fluent hair, small eyes, sharp nose, small pink lips and a petite face.

It took the few seconds needed for Akihito’s vision to focus properly for him to realize that the ‘woman’ was a man. Sitting up suddenly, the wet towel fell from his forehead, but he had to lie back down because the sudden movement caused his head to pound like crazy and his vision to swim once again.

“Don’t push yourself too hard, lie back down,” the man instructed with a hand on the kid’s shoulder. It was obvious he wasn’t well and the last thing he wanted was for him to become even worse for wear. The kid was his newly appointed apprentice maiko after all.

“W…who are you?” Akihito asked in a raspy voice after a few seconds of willing his ailment away. He took a closer look at the man, who reached beside him for something before he realized he was handed a glass of water.

He drank greedily to help wet his parched throat.

“I’m Lui Feilong, your Onii-san, and you’ll be my assistant through the duration of your stay here until I say otherwise,” the man answered in a soft, non threatening voice.

Akihito suddenly became wary, and he put the glass down before getting into a sitting position slowly. He remembered all that happened before he passed out and really wished he could strangle his father right now; the man sold him to a fucking brothel.

“You were forced to come here, weren’t you?”

Akihito looked at the man then, and it only registered now when his head was a little less hazy that the man before him was Chinese based on the accent to his voice. But then the question sunk in and his brows knitted into a tight frown.

“How did you know?”

“Most as young as you are. You’re under aged, so for now you will be groomed into becoming the perfect Courtesan by me, your appointed guardian for the time being,” Feilong answered.

“I don’t want to sell my body to anybody,” Akihito bit out, clenching his fingers at his side in rebellion. There’s no way he’ll sit in this type of environment for another second, he’ll find a way to escape, to be free, to be his own man.

“You’ll be relatively safe until you turn sixteen. And don’t try to run away, if they can’t bring you back they’ll find you and kill you. You have to work here to pay back the money that was paid for you.”

Akihito didn’t buy that one bit, there must be a way to get out of here. And it wasn’t fair for him to end up like this with no say in what he wanted to do with himself. It wasn’t fair at all.

“We’ll see.”

Feilong only sighed in resignation; they all started out like this until reality set in.

“How did I end up here?” Akihito asked after looking around the vast and sparsely decorated room. There was a hassock, two futons (one of which he was currently on), a chest of drawers and a full length mirror to one wall. Right by the door was another shoka style flower display like the ones he passed earlier.

“I was the only courtesan in need of a maiko, so I had to take you in,” Feilong answered.

The blond looked closely at the Chinese man and realized he was avoiding his gaze. “What happened to him?”

“He was buried yesterday,” Feilong sighed and Akihito felt his blood run cold.

******VF******

A week later, after he was basically taught most of the inner workings of the brothel, like the time he and the other maikos had to gather for food, baths and delegated tasks, Akihito was a little more fascinated and frustrated by everything. He still didn’t want to be here, but had found himself more interested and curious about the Courtesans themselves. Most were people like himself, ending up in this type of situation instead of wanting it and only doing what they did to get by. They weren’t allowed outside the brothel walls at all and most of the other maikos he interacted with had dreams of leaving like he himself did.

Akihito found himself sitting behind Feilong and combing out his hair while said man knelt on a cushion before a wide oval mirror with his red floral kimono pooled around him like steady, settled water. He liked combing Feilong’s hair, it was incredibly soft and easy to manage.

Akihito also realized he’d broken his promise to himself, because even though he tried to escape, he was caught and almost beaten for his efforts. Luckily Feilong was there to plead his case and as the greatest Courtesan in Oomise and his guardian; the man had vast influence in a lot of matters regarding the brothel. Feilong promised to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t try it again in exchange for escaping his punishment, but he couldn’t promise Feilong that, not with the way he felt about how normal it was to be surrounded by such sexual indiscretion. Some of the courtesans were loud and some were shameless, but Feilong never had to ask for customers, they always came to him.

It was close to 3:30pm when Akihito put the comb down and informed his onii-san (he could be punished by the mistress of the house if he was ever out of line with any of his seniors, so he had to refer all by their correct suffixes until he was old enough to become more important and could be granted leeway in his attitude) he was finished. By 3:45 Feilong normally had a customer come in that made him uneasy. The man was a Daimyo, the youngest one he’d ever seen at twenty eight, called Asami Ryuichi. He was a kokushu whose village produced more than 300,000 bushels of rice annually and from the rumors he heard, the man had vast amount of retainers; samurais to whom he was held responsible. The man’s appointment as a young master came shortly after he sided with and built a strong relationship with Iwyasu Tokugawa, the founder of Japan’s last great feudal house. But said man irked him on so many levels. He hated the way he was so demanding and stubborn, like he thought everybody would be frightened by his presence (though most were).

Every body wanted that man, Asami, and even though he did admit he was handsome, he was a bit turned off by the man’s cold demeanor and wayward attitude. He only ever saw him entering Feilong’s quarters a few times, and he was glad that was all the contact he had with the man.

Feilong also had another frequent customer, a trader called Yoh and he was way more tolerant of the humble man than he was of the young lord.

Feilong ran a hand through his hair and smiled at Akihito. “It’s lovely, thank you for your time.”

Akihito blushed, which he found himself doing a lot lately, before bowing in thanks. Feilong was so beautiful with his thick eyelashes and doll like appearance he couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed. Not to mention he was nice, which might not have been the case since a lot of the other maikos whispered about emotionally abusive onii-sans. He took up the silver tray with Feilong’s special comb and brush and deposited it on the side table beside the mirror.

Feilong was about to excuse Akihito when he remembered he repaired the Zori that was damaged when his young charge tried to escape. He wanted to give it to him before he left because Akihito had mentioned to him when he just got it that it was his favorite because of how comfortable it felt.

“Akihito-kun, I have something for you.”

Surprised, and overly curious as to what Feilong had gotten him, Akihito stood and watched as the man walked over to his built in closet. Feilong opened the sliding paper doors before bending, making sure to maneuver his kimono so he didn’t kneel on it before taking some thing off the floor. When the man gracefully approached him he held out the straw slippers he’d damaged while trying to run away. Taking the item, Akihito beamed at the man.

“Thank you, Feilong-sama.”

Feilong smiled warmly at the look on Akihito’s face, he was so cute. Then a chuckle left his lips when the kid kicked off the zori he was currently wearing, one borrowed from another maiko, and replaced it with his own. He ruffled the kid’s blond hair lightly while Akihito kept glancing at his feet happily.

“It’s alright Aki-kun, run along now and get something to eat,” Feilong said. Those hazel eyes looked at him warmly and his smile widened.

“I’m grateful, Feilong-sama,” Akihito reiterated with a deep bow. He turned to leave, not looking before him in his haze of happiness at Feilong’s kindness and when he was to go through the door, he bumped into something hard and fell on his butt unceremoniously.

“Ow, what the hell was that?” Akihito asked while rubbing his sore behind before he looked up at the wall he must have ran into. A piercing set of golden eyes looked back at him, one eyebrow raised in perpetual question and he frowned at the sight of the ‘wall’.

Asami had never met such an unsophisticated and feisty maiko; he liked him.

“Asami, Takaba!” Feilong exclaimed at the collision.

“You could have told me you were standing there, bastard,” Akihito bit out while trying to get into a standing position.

The young Daimyo was highly amused at the kid’s brazenness.

“Akihito…” Feilong directed at the young blond sternly. “…you know you’re not supposed to speak to customers in such a tone.”

Akihito looked at the man dressed in a dark blue hakama with grey obi and his scabbard tied to his waist uncouthly, before wiping it off his face and turning to look at Feilong apologetically. “I’m sorry.”

Feilong nodded in acquiescence, then watched as Asami stood there for a second before stepping to the side so his young apprentice could walk out.

When Akihito turned back to the man, he realized there was mirth dancing behind those piercing golden eyes, and when he mouthed for him to move it, it pissed him off more that the man smirked down at him like this was amusing. Who the hell did he think he was? He liked humble Yoh much more than he did this annoying man.

Asami faced Feilong with his smirk when the young blond stormed out of the room and shut the door behind him. “Cute. I like picking on your new apprentice, he's interesting.”

Feilong looked at Asami before stating tiredly. “Please don’t rile him, he has a very short temper.”

“So I’ve noticed, but shouldn’t you be telling him to be careful of me? I am paying my money after all,” Asami answered while walking over to the beautiful man before him, who sighed in return before giving him a wayward glance. He placed his scabbard on the floor before placing a hand on top of Feilong’s head, then running his fingers through the soft tresses. He wasn’t in the mood for foreplay and he pulled Feilong flush against him, liking the way his cheeks became a rosy hue at the implication. He loosened the *obijime, then the obi before allowing the silk of the kimono to glide off his lover’s shoulders, then he told Feilong in as husky a voice as possible, to get on his knees and open his mouth.

/Tbc

*Obijime-the sash that keeps the obi in place.

Chapter Text

Six months later and Akihito didn’t like helping out anybody but Feilong around the brothel. The mistress of the house, a brooding middle aged woman who looked like she was the talk of the town in her prime, but whose face resembled a shriveled prune when she frowned, sometimes had him catering to other Courtesans when their maiko was indisposed for some reason or another, or when she needed the lot of them to cater to guest she had for a ‘tea party’. Like now. His irritation mounted when he poured red plum wine from a porcelain, twelve inch wine bottle into the ceramic cup of a drunk-off-his-ass rice trader, who stepped on his kimono and nearly made him trip over his own feet. The man even had the audacity to try and accost him sexually for his troubles, for which he pushed the guy away unceremoniously.

Needless to say the mistress blamed him for treating her customer with such disrespect, and would have made sure he got a sound beating until she got distracted by another wealthy patron. For now, he was free to get back to his ‘duties’.

He noted that only maikos were reprimanded with harsh punishments such as beatings. Since courtesan’s had sex with men their value would decrease if there was any blemish on their body. So superficial.

There were five courtesans and an equal amount of maiko around to entertain and serve the guests, which consisted of five men who were rich enough to afford the lot of them since the courtesans alone cost a hefty amount each.

One of the courtesans, someone who’s always been jealous of Feilong, knelt in a corner of the room on tatami mats playing soft notes from a shamisen, which didn’t do anything to calm Akihito’s irritated nerves at the situation. The men were loud, boisterous and irritating, groping and making advances at them, the younger ones, even though the policy of the house stated the maiko’s were off limits until after their *Mizuage.

He still hated the place with every fiber of his being, but he didn’t feel that bad about it with Feilong around. The man was a master of the arts and could turn his most dreary nights into one of laughter, or at the very least tolerability. He was to be the highlight of the night, the main attraction and the others were only used to make sure the men were comfortable until they got what they paid their money for.

Balancing a small tray with more warm sake in his hands from the bar in a corner of the room, Akihito made his way over to one of the men again. If he remembered correctly he was an attendant on a famous trade ship. The brothel was a haven for certain type of gossip. On his way back he almost bumped into Takato, another maiko a little older than him who seemed to be a bit more adjusted than he was.

“Sorry, Takaba-san, we’ve been doing this for hours and I’m really tired,” Takato huffed before looking back at the small crowd.

Akihito only passed the other a sympathetic glance before going on his way. If the lady of the house caught them fraternizing instead of working they would be in big trouble. His waiting punishment might even double.

Akihito had just put the tray on the low table in front of the drunk patron when the light suddenly dimmed. Only the two paper lamps on each side of the platform at the front provided lighting in the area and the courtesans and maikos all knelt and faced forward with their hands folded in their laps, resting atop their multi colored kimonos, keeping steadfast in a show of respect towards someone their senior.

The lady of the house came up and briefly acknowledged that it was time for the highlight of the evening. There was a red pair of heavy set curtain at the back of the platform, and when the tune from the shamisen changed to a slow, sultry type of melody, Feilong’s outline could be seen with the shadow of an oiled paper parasol in hand.

When the curtains parted Feilong emerged, moving with the grace of an ethereal being with a beauty held in the highest esteem. There was a pair of crossed *Tama Kanzashi with black balls on the end sticking from the bun behind his head, along with small floral kanzashis hanging from the sides. He wore a fluent fuchsia colored, floral kimono that accentuated his make up covered features. The entire room was silent because he held everyone’s attention with his movements, like a swan moving graciously atop the most calming body of water. He really deserved the title of *Oshoku.

******VF******

It was night when Akihito was done cleaning up the tea house along with the other maikos, and even though he was tired, he didn’t mind helping Feilong after his performance. And after a much needed bath, when he was done helping Feilong into one of his kimonos, Yoh showed up. Getting the drift, he bowed politely to the normally reserved man and left the room, carrying the empty bowl and ceramic cup on a tray that Feilong had a light supper out of towards the kitchen. Walking along the wooden hall, he bit his tongue and held his head down when the irate face of the house mistress came into view, praying to Buddha that she wasn’t looking for him.

“Takaba!”

Akihito cringed at the sound of such a high pitched screech of his name before looking at the woman.

“Takaba, where the hell were you?” The woman asked before grabbing the blond’s arm and squeezing tight. She began dragging him off and he almost dropped the tray in his hand at the pressure.

“Tamafuyou-sama, I was…” Akihito’s arm burned and he tried to explain but she quickly cut him off. He almost tripped in his straw slippers from the force.

“Shut up you unruly little…” the woman spat without turning around. Akihito feared for his buttocks, which is where they were mostly hit as punishment with a piece of thick, steel rimmed ruler, guaranteeing they wouldn’t be able to sit for at least a few hours.

“Tamafuyou-san, what seems to be the problem here?”

That voice held a thick, deep, authorative baritone to it and Akihito felt his stomach drop, he would recognize that voice anywhere.

“Asami-dono!” the woman gasped after she turned around to see the young Daimyo looking at her expectantly. His golden eyes were hard, and when they stared intently on the too tight grip on the blond’s arm she quickly let him go.

She took a few steps towards the man. “Asami-dono, I was just about to punish this unruly maiko. You do know the policies of the house after all,” she said in a coy voice.

Akihito felt peeved that even the house mistress would kiss this man’s feet, but he also felt a little panicky because Feilong wasn’t available at the moment and everybody knew Asami only came for one person and nobody else.

Asami inhaled before pointing out in a serious voice. “Put your hands on him again and I will personally withdraw my services from your brothel.”

The woman visibly paled. “B…but…Asami-dono…”

Tamafuyou-san looked between both Asami and Akihito before hanging her head in resignation, there was no way she could afford to lose one of the best paying customers she had. She agreed with a deep bow of her head.

Akihito was very confused. Why would Asami save him from his punishment?

“Leave him with me, I’ll have him escort me to Feilong’s room,” Asami commanded before turning around to walk away.

“I…I apologize Asami-dono, but Feilong is indisposed at the moment,” the woman stammered out with an even deeper bow of her head, like she didn’t want to see the wrath that would be directed at her if the man exploded.

Akihito was afraid of what the man’s reaction to that information would be too; even he didn’t want to feel the after effects of Feilong losing one of his main sources of income if the man decides to never come back. He realized some time ago that even if he wasn’t a fan of the daimyo, he’s the reason Feilong could bring him gifts and candy when he travelled outside the brothel walls and he didn’t want that to stop. Feilong was kind, he treated him better than his own family ever did and he wanted him to remain on top at all cost.

Akihito watched as Asami turned in his tracks and looked at the woman coldly. “Care to repeat that?”

“There was a time shift in Yoh-sama’s schedule and he insisted on seeing Feilong this evening; not expecting you, I granted him pass to Feilong’s quarters,” the woman explained.

Asami’s features relaxed. “That love sick fool. Its fine, leave them be…”

The woman sighed in relief. She didn’t know what she would have done if the young lord insisted on wanting Feilong for the evening; he would have to get him since there’s no way she would give a trader preference over a young lord who could destroy her business just by waving a hand.

“…I’ll take his apprentice as entertainment for the evening instead,” Asami finished.

“What?!” Akihito bellowed when the words registered in his head, there’s no way he’d want to spend any time with that man.

The house mistress gave him a stern look at his outburst and that ass was smirking at him again. Akihito had no plans to settle for this and he frowned.

“Tamafuyou-sama…” Akihito started in protest.

“Deal!” the woman shouted merrily and Akihito gaped when she walked over to him and took the tray away, then reached into one of the side pockets on her kimono for a key before passing it to Asami.

“Room 3B.”

“What…?!” Akihito spluttered when the man walked over and grabbed his arm before leading him down the hall once again. He kept trying to pull his hand away but the man’s grip was incredibly strong and he couldn’t escape. Looking back at the house mistress who was now walking with a pep in her step, he felt himself getting even angrier; everything was business with these people.

“Let go of me…” Akihito bit out when they rounded a corner. He realized Asami back was extremely broad in his dark blue hakama and the fact that he smelt faintly of jasmine. He honestly didn’t want to create too much commotion, so he bit his tongue and walked. When they reached room 3B he was pushed inside after the slide doors opened and after stumbling a bit, he turned and gave the man his coldest glare.

“How dare you, you bastard.”

Asami ignored the boy in favor of lighting the paper lamps by the door and when he was through, he regarded the other with a long hard look.

“Why the hell did you take me here?”

“You’re cute, I’d like to get to know you,” Asami answered.

“Cute?” Akihito asked bewildered. He’d been called that a few times since he’s been here and he always wondered how anybody could think that.

“Don’t look so confused, you are,” Asami said while walking over to the blond.

Akihito watched the man warily as he approached. “I don’t care what you think, why am I here with you alone?”

“Are you scared?” Asami smirked and Akihito could feel his temper flaring again.

“I saved you from your punishment, aren’t you grateful?”

Akihito’s frowned deepened and he pointed an accusing finger. “What makes you think I’d want you to do anything for me?”

At that point Asami was close enough to grab the pointing finger and when he did, he pulled the smaller teen flush against him.

Akihito gasped in surprise and looked Asami straight in the eyes. He had both hands on the man’s chest and tried to push back but Asami’s strong, sword calloused hands around him prevented any movement. Not to mention that from this close and in such an embrace he couldn’t help feeling a little flustered. What was this man doing to him?

“What the hell…?”

“You wouldn’t know much about pleasuring a man yet, and you’re still young. But keep this in mind, I will be your first whether you like it or not. You won’t have a choice but to give your body to me at your Mizuage, I’ll make certain of it.”

Akihito felt a shiver run through his body at the conviction used in Asami’s voice; the man was dead serious. But true to his nature he wouldn’t accept that, there’s no way he’ll make any man have their way with him if he didn’t want it, especially not this man who behaved as if he owned all of Edo, Japan.

“Let go of me!” Akihito shouted before pushing with all his might and managing to become free from Asami’s hold. He stepped back, away from the man and kept their eyes locked so he could gauge if Asami was planning anything. All the man did was stand there, smirking at him with an evil glint in his eyes.

“I like it when you fight.”

“What?”

“I’m tired of people giving in too easily, you make things very interesting,” Asami pointed out while taking a seat on the tatami mat on the floor. He put his scabbard to lay flat beside him before crossing his legs, straightening his back and then allowing the extra fabric of the hakama to cover his legs.

Akihito was a little confused. “You like when I defy you?”

“Yes, I do.”

Akihito crinkled his nose at that. “You’re even weirder than I thought, all the more reason to stay away from you.”

Asami smiled faintly. “Like I said, from now on you belong to me.”

Akihito balled his fists at his side. “I don’t belong to anybody, worst of all you. And besides, don’t you have a relationship with Feilong-sama already?”

Asami smirked. “If you call paying for services rendered a relationship then you’re extremely naïve.”

Akihito took a few steps closer to the sitting man, he became increasingly curious and wanted to know more about what the man was thinking. “Then if you’re not in a relationship, why do you only choose Feilong-sama to sleep with when you can have anybody else?”

“Because I only want the best, nothing else will do. The only person looking for a relationship is that rice trader from the north, Yoh-san. He’s so head over heels it wouldn’t surprise me if he pays Feilong’s ransom and take him home with him.”

Akihito was afraid he wasn’t the only one who noticed that. Yoh-san, though quiet and reserved, was obviously in love with Feilong and it showed whenever he looked at him or was near him. He didn’t want Feilong to leave, but he did consider the possibility Yoh-san would pay Feilong-sama’s ransom and take him away. As a matter of fact it was a fear because as far as he knew, Feilong was the kindest soul in the place and he couldn’t be replaced.

“I want Feilong to be happy.”

“You don’t sound too convincing,” Asami smirked. “Seems to me you’d want him by your side forever if you could do it.”

Akihito could feel his irritation meter rising.

“So what if I do? Is it bad to want something good in your life to stay there?”

“It doesn’t matter what you want, just know that in another eighteen months I’ll be inside everything regarding you, even that tight little spot reserved only for me.”

Akihito’s eyes widened at the implication of the man’s words and he stormed over, pulled his hand back and threw a punch. Unfortunately, Asami dodged his attack, caught his arm and pulled him down before rolling over so he was trapped beneath his larger body.

“Get the hell off me!” Akihito shouted and he was totally and utterly surprised when the man locked lips with his, kissing him while holding him in place.

To be honest, it was Akihito’s first time kissing anybody and it was deep and powerful, even if he had a hard time keeping up. Asami tasted faintly of liquor, and even though the man had him right where he wanted him, his mind was still screaming at him to get away.

Even though the kiss was interesting Akihito bit down on Asami’s tongue, and when the man pulled back and looked him in the eyes he was the one that smirked this time. He took a deep breath and said haughtily, “Try that again and you won’t have a tongue to use next time.”

Asami looked at Akihito seriously before smiling. Then his smile slowly transformed into a grin. “We’ll see about that.”

Asami rolled to the side before sitting beside him and Akihito composed himself and his kimono before standing. After putting sufficient distance between them he gave Asami the hardest glare he could muster. “Try anything like that again, and I’ll guarantee you you’ll need a physician when I’m done with you.”

Standing, and watching Akihito back away even further, Asami took his scabbard off the floor and reattached it to his waist.

“I look forward to you keeping your threat,” Asami smirked before walking towards the door.

When he was out of sight, Akihito collapsed on his knees and breathed a deep sigh of relief. That man was insufferable.

 

/Tbc

*Tama Kanzashi/kanzashi-Japanese decorative clips and hair pieces.

*Mizuage-A ceremony undergone by a maiko where a man pays money to have sex with an apprentice geisha. This also signifies their coming of age.

Chapter Text

Another six months later, three days before Akihito’s fifteenth birthday found him on his hands and knees scrubbing the floors of the okiya common room. He had to wear a yukata since it would be too troublesome to clean in a cumbersome kimono and to be honest, the silk would ruin easier. His hair, now grown to just below his shoulders was tied up in a headband to prevent it falling into his eyes when he bent to scrub the wooden floors with the board hand brush he was given by the house mistress. Ever since the daimyo, Asami, had forbidden him being punished the house mistress had made his life an even bigger nightmare than before. His chores doubled, his rations sometimes lessened or were absent all together and his trips to the city with Feilong were lessened dramatically. Not to mention he was more verbally berated than anybody else, sometimes enough to cause a scene.

And all this was Asami’s fault; because if he hadn’t interfered he would have been a lot better off now.

Speaking of the devil himself, Akihito hadn’t seen him in the past four months. Not that he was worried, but he’d heard that a month and a half ago a provincial war had broken out between daimyos west of their position. It was harsh when it came to the politics of the shogunate but strict rules had to be followed, and wars broke out quite often between daimyos who wanted to take over each others’ fiefs and be the ultimate ruler of the lands.

He wasn’t worried per se, but Akihito really wondered if Asami was cut down by a samurai’s sword; it wouldn’t surprise him. He figured with a forceful attitude like that nobody could like Asami, he couldn’t see how.

Not that he cared. Really, he didn’t. And it didn’t have anything to do with the fact that he couldn’t get that kiss, his first, out of his head, even after all this time. A few times after that incident the man had visited Feilong and he made sure to stay away unless Feilong explicitly asked for him or requested his presence, which wasn’t often, thankfully.

Shaking his head from side to side in a bid to get rid of all thoughts pertaining to Asami, Akihito held the wet brush between his fingers and scrubbed harshly at the defenseless wooden floor boards. And to add insult to injury his back was beginning to hurt.

Getting back to his original train of thought, Akihito really looked forward to leaving with Feilong to the town streets he once called his home. There was so much more to see and take in and be remembered. It was freedom and he missed it dearly. Now here he was, on his hands and knees with a bucket of soap water while Feilong was away. It made him bitter and angry, not to mention he was down right hungry. His stomach growled in response and he sighed in resignation. Dinner started fifteen minutes ago and Tamafuyou-sama had him cleaning floors at such a time.

With his brows and forehead covered with a light sheen of sweat, Akihito threw the brush down and stood, mumbling under his breath; there’s no way he’s doing anything more until he got something to eat, this was cruelty.

Storming towards the door, Akihito was taken aback when it slid open and Takato, the apprentice he’d found himself becoming friends with stood there with a plate housing two rice balls and a small fried fish.

Takato quickly stepped inside and closed the door behind him. “Akihito, I knew Tamafuyou-sama wouldn’t have given you any food since you were absent from the dining hall so I brought you some of mine.”

Akihito smiled warmly at the gesture; Takato was a really good friend, and he looked splendid in his turquoise colored kimono with small butterflies stitched throughout. He took the plate and bowed gratefully. “Thank you so much, Takato.”

Takato smiled when Akihito rolled his eyes in bliss after biting into one of the rice balls and swallowing. His friend kept going until in no time at all all the food was gone. He watched Akihito lick his fingers clean before handing him back the plate.

“Thanks again, Takato, I needed that,” Akihito said appreciatively while rubbing his tummy. It wasn’t a lot, but it sure did stop the growling and gnawing feeling in his stomach.

Takato smiled. “No worries about it Akihito, I’m sure you would have done the same for me.”

“Of course I would,” Akihito chortled before ruffling Takato’s hair lightly. Last thing he wanted was to untangle Takato’s hair design, it normally took a little while do properly.

Takato giggled while a light blush dusted his cheeks. He really liked Akihito and after taking back the tray, he rested it on a wooden table close by. When he turned back around, his friend was halfway across the room with a thoughtful look on his face.

Akihito took a seat on the sill of the open window in the room and looked at the long row of houses that stood tranquil in the sunlight, like a silent Boa with him trapped inside its belly without a successful means of escape. The thought was depressing, especially when he equated his assimilation into the lifestyle to being digested.

Takato, noticing his friend’s sudden contemplative look drew closer and touched him lightly on the shoulder.

“Are you alright?” Takato asked after Akihito looked at him with a start.

Akihito smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m alright, Takato, just thinking.”

Takato only nodded his head in understanding and withdrew his hand since he himself had his moments in the beginning when this was all too much and all he dreamt about was going home. Although he never tried to escape like Akihito did since he was afraid of the repercussions, but that didn’t mean he was any less depressed about it. It was incredibly scary knowing that they…he was being groomed to give up his body once he reached what they accepted as a ‘ripe’ age. Some of them left the experience scarred and detached.

Actually, what Takato realized about Feilong is that he knew where his head was at, and he never let his ‘job’ affect his personality or private life. He remained on top by being level headed, professional, empathic, but also headstrong when the need arose since a lot of customers were men who thrived on the pain and misery of others.

With his own Mizuage coming up soon, it bothered Takato more and more everyday.

“You look even worse for wear than I do, what’s bothering you?”

Takato’s train of thought derailed at Akihito’s question and he turned his eyes on the blond before offering a weak smile. “Nothing, I’m fine.”

“Thinking about your mizuage?” Akihito asked anyway, disregarding Takato’s obvious tact to try and drop the subject regarding himself. Everybody’s impending Mizuage was like an open secret nobody could miss, even if they didn’t want to hear. There was even bets made in secret about who would be able to manage and who would give up easily and to be honest, the general consensus was stacked against his friend but he had faith in Takato, he would make it one way or another.

“How did you know?” Takato sighed before leaning on the sill and looking out at the vast nothingness its view had to offer.

Akihito had to shift his legs to allow Takato room to stand beside him and it bothered him to see how scared his friend was of the thought of his deflowering at the hands of some stranger. “I know it must be scary, I hope you get a nice person or a tired old man who can’t get it up for more than five minutes.”

There was a pregnant pause before they both burst out laughing at that remark.

“I wish! Things are never that easy. But I can hope, can’t I?” Takato snickered. Akihito didn’t realize that it was the little things like this that made him special to Takato, he was a true friend, which was a rare thing to find in the Okiya since most was ultimately looking out for only themselves.

Akihito guffawed. “You sure can, at least it’s remotely possible for you. I already have some asshole laying claim on me and I’m not even halfway ready for all this yet.”

Takato’s smiled changed to sudden curiosity and he looked at Akihito with inquiring eyes. “Really? I’ve never had anybody set their eyes on me specifically before. Though with how beautiful and free spirited you are I can see why someone would want you.”

Akihito’s eyebrow rose at Takato’s fidget while he spoke his last sentence and he honestly didn’t see how his friend could find him pretty. He didn’t like wearing make up, and only allowed himself to wear the most basic since it was a must and only on special occasions. But other than that Feilong had to step in and save his ass a lot of times because there were just some things he will never put up with while in this place. He wasn’t a doll and he sure as hell wouldn’t dress exactly like one; neither did he behave how they always wanted him to; it just wasn’t in him.

“You just don’t see yourself the way others do,” Takato sighed, which ironically, his own Onii-san told him some time ago.

Akihito’s eyes wandered back to the outside where a prim courtesan walked regally along the corridor with his head held high and his maiko following behind him with his head downcast; their body language told him so much. “And I never will.”

Takato shifted his weight from one leg to the next. “But still…”

Akihito could hear the hesitation in Takato’s voice and out of curiosity he looked at him, only to realize he was nervous and kept avoiding his gaze. He got off the window sill and stood directly before Takato before placing a hand on his shoulder and squeezing lightly.

“What’s the matter? You know you can talk to me, right?”

Takato looked at Akihito then, really looked at him before biting his bottom lip in worry. He knew Akihito was genuine, but what he’s considering was something he’d been thinking about for a while and he wondered if Akihito would take it with a grain of salt.

“Come on, Takato. You know whatever it is you can talk to me about it,” Akihito pressed. He was too inquisitive to not know what was happening with his friend, and to be honest he won’t be satisfied until he finds out.

Takato took a deep breath and decided to just ask, he won’t be satisfied either until he gets it off his chest.

“Akihito…Takaba…”

Akihito looked expectantly at Takato when he paused, prompting his friend to continue with his facial expression.

“…I’ve been thinking, that my first time…”

Takato paused and his jaw muscles tensed as if he was trying hard not to say anymore while he diverted Akihito’s gaze again.

“Takato, you know I won’t judge you, you can tell me what’s bothering you,” Akihito tried to coax in a non-threatening voice; the suspense was killing him.

“I want my first time to be with someone I know and trust…”

Takato fidgeted even more and Akihito craned his neck for the rest of what was to come. When he realized Takato wasn’t going to offer anything more, he became a bit more perplexed than before.

“Yeah…so, what about it? I’m sure there’s somebody you can ask that won’t get you in trouble since its forbidden and will decrease your value,” Akihito answered pragmatically. He couldn’t see why such a small thing was bothering his friend so much.

Not unless…

It was the hopeful look on Takato’s face that made Akihito realize exactly what was going on.

The blond pointed a finger at himself. “Y…you want me to….?”

Takato nodded once with that hopeful expression still on his face and Akihito shrank in on himself. The idea didn’t sit well with him at all.

“Takato…I…”

Realizing what Akihito’s facial expression and body language meant, Takato deflated immediately.

“You don’t like me, do you?” Takato asked dejectedly and he turned his back on Akihito, not wanting to show how much the very thought hurt him.

Akihito suddenly felt a pang of guilt run through him. “Hey, it’s not you. I’ve just never been with a guy before and all this is new to me, that’s all.”

Takato looked back at Akihito then. “You’ve never…?”

Akihito definitely remembered the one time he ever did anything intimate with another man. “I… was kissed by a man before…”

Intrigued, Takato asked while walking closer, “Did you like it?”

“No…maybe…I don’t know!” Akihito sighed. To be honest, if Asami hadn’t done that he wouldn’t be confused now; this was all his fault.

Takato processed Akihito’s answer and his voice dropped an octave when he spoke again. “Since we’re friends, can I try? Maybe you’ll like it, and if you do we can have sex, because I know you won’t hurt me, which I can’t guarantee from some random guy who will pay to have his way with me later.”

Takato stepped closer and Akihito felt his stomach drop. As much as he understood Takato and wanted to help him, this was still a bit too much. But he stood his ground, because if this could help his friend then he could at least try; if he didn’t like it he could always stop.

“Alright, let’s kiss and see if it’ll work out.”

Takato blushed while smiling, and he stepped closer to Akihito before shyly leaning forward so their lips met in a chaste kiss.

Takato pulled back and searched Akihito’s features for any sign of discomfort or disgust. There was none so far. “How was that?”

“It was alright.”

Takato took that answer as an incentive to continue and he decided this time he would use his tongue. He held Akihito’s chin which one hand and tilted his head before slowly leaning in for an even deeper kiss.

Akihito waited with bated breath for what was to come next, and he vaguely wondered if kissing Takato would be anything like kissing Asami. Their lips suddenly met and he parted his to allow Takato access while closing his eyes. It was slow and wet, the end result of two novice and they both fumbled around until they were able to get a good grip on things.

The spark wasn’t there like it was with Asami, Akihito noted regrettably, but it wasn’t really bad, especially since Takato tasted of sweets. But when he felt Takato’s fingers slowly snaking up his arms he didn’t move, trying his best to hold still. Akihito honestly didn’t know if he could go through with the sex part, and that was the last thought he managed to have about Takato before the other teen was suddenly wrenched away from before him, feeling their lips disconnect in an uncomfortable way.

Takato yelped, and Akihito opened his eyes to the sight of angry, murderous golden eyes staring right at him. He suddenly felt very uncomfortable.

Realizing who it was, Takato scrambled to his feet and bowed deeply while mumbling an apology, then he quickly left the room and shut the door behind him, not wanting to face the wrath of one of the most feared Daimyos in the region.

Something suddenly snapped inside Akihito at Takato’s terrified expression and when the sliding door closed behind the brunet, he turned his own angry eyes at Asami before getting into his personal space.

With clenched teeth and narrowed eyes Akihito spat, “What the hell is your problem? How dare you scare my friend off like that, you bastard!”

Asami’s eyes were stormy and his expression tight and controlled. He grabbed Akihito’s arm and squeezed hard.

“What the hell are you doing, that hurts!” Akihito cried out before trying to pull away.

A whirlwind of emotions was running through Asami at what he just witnessed, not excluding the need to break something. When Akihito tried to pull back he grabbed his other arm and squeezed that one too. Those hazel eyes looked at him with a cross between defiant and pleading and he felt the strong urge to reiterate what he told Akihito the last time.

“What did I tell you the last time I saw you?”

Akihito was still trying to free himself from Asami’s hold; it felt like the man wanted to break his arms off. “The hell…? You didn’t tell me anything, asshole!”

Something snapped inside Asami and he pushed Akihito back until he was against the wall. A little defiance was good, but not too much since he could feel his control slipping because of Akihito.

A rush of air left Akihito’s lungs when he hit the wall and Asami’s larger body pressed against his. This man was out to make his life miserable, he was sure of it.

Asami leaned in close so his lips were next to Akihito’s ear and he hissed. “If I ever see anybody touching you inappropriately again I can promise you both won’t like it. You belong to me and only me. Remember that.”

Before Akihito could respond to the insult of being owned Asami’s lips were on his once again, giving him no room to maneuver away even if he tried. He felt his heart pounding in his ears and the blood rushing to his veins and his body heating up. This kiss, unlike the last one was about dominance and force; Asami was trying to make a point and it wasn’t lost on Akihito.

Asami pulled back after a moment and looked into the dazed face of the blond. “Since you want to be kissed so badly I’ll kiss you all you want. But mark my words, if I ever see anybody else kissing you again they’ll be eating their own tongue for dinner.”

While delivering his threat Asami had his sword hand on his scabbard as if to emphasize his words and Akihito drew in a breath; Asami was crazy. “I really hate you, you know that? I belong to me, you need to remember that. Who I want to kiss or have sex with his my business, egotistical bastard!”

With his head held high and his lips kiss bruised and his heart pounding, Akihito walked…more like staggered… away from Asami towards the door after making his point.

Asami didn’t turn around while Akihito walked away, and the blond could practically feel the smirk he knew was plastered on Asami’s face, but he wouldn’t fall for that trap, he was pissed off enough as it is and he still had things to do; Asami and his bullshit could stay for later.

Asami drew in a breath and stood his ground even after Akihito left the room. He didn’t think he would ever lose so much control because of the brat, what was Akihito doing to him…?

Tbc/

*Okiya-Geisha House

Chapter Text

Feilong sat by the koi pond on a wooden bench in the front of the yard. He wore a white silk kimono decorated with red and gold mini roses, white tabi socks and a pair of wooden Geta clogs on his feet. His hair was done up into a high bun with the end covered and wrapped with a piece of silk ribbon while a lock of curved tresses was set loose at the side of his face. One hand pulled back the over sized fabric of the kimono sleeve while his other hand was lightly brushing the top of the water, creating a ripple effect that the fishes seemed to follow. When Akihito spotted him from inside the house, he hurriedly delivered the bucket of water he had to its destination before hurrying to find out why Feilong looked so deep in thought; so bothered.

As Akihito drew closer, he attracted Feilong’s attention and when the man spotted him he quickly plastered a smile to his face that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Feilong-sama…” Akihito greeted with a small bow when he was within earshot.

Feilong sighed before shifting on the bench, then patting the empty spot beside him. “I thought I told you not to be so formal, it makes me feel old and I’m just twenty one years old.”

“In another year you’ll be considered old by this place’s standard,” Akihito pointed out and he didn’t miss the solemn look that came over Feilong’s beautiful face.

“What’s bothering you, Onii-san?”

Feilong ruffled Akihito’s hair lightly. “I’m just wondering about a lot of things. But first and foremost I have a question to ask you.”

“Of course, what is it?” Akihito prodded.

Feilong drew in a breath. “Do you have a relationship of any sort with his lordship Asami?”

A wave of cold sweat washed over Akihito and he tried his best to hide his surprise at the question. It’s not that he wanted to lie or anything, but with all the things he knew Feilong had to deal with he knew he wouldn’t be happy about Asami’s apparent interest in him, plus he didn’t know how Feilong would react seeing as how he was sleeping with the man on occasion. He’d made sure to keep to himself about his encounters with Asami, because the last thing he wanted was for it to create a rift between the two of them. He even begged Takato to keep his mouth shut about what happened between them a few days ago, even though it was now apparent Takato wouldn’t walk within a mile of him once Asami was around.

He honestly wondered what he should say; tell the truth or tell a lie.

“I…”

Noting the teen’s hesitation, Feilong chuckled before ruffling his mop of unrulyblond hair once again. “You don’t have to put too much thought into it, I know the type of man he is and if he isn’t against you in any way, then that’s one less thing for me to worry about.”

Akihito was confused by that statement and he looked to Feilong for clarification. “What do you mean?”

The smile fell from Feilong’s face again and he averted Akihito’s gaze in favor of watching the fishes swimming in circles in the pond. Round and round in a never-ending cycle; that’s how he felt about being in the Geisha house.

“Yoh offered to pay my ransom…”

Akihito was taken aback by that and he quickly stood with the startlement evident in his hazel eyes. “What?”

Feilong grabbed the smaller arm and gently drew the slightly panicked teen back to sit beside him.

“I know it’s sudden and I honestly wouldn’t want to leave you behind but it’s been my dream to leave this house for a very long time,” Feilong answered. His emotions were written plainly on his face.

Akihito felt torn about Feilong’s position, because on one hand he wanted to be selfish and always have the man by his side, but he knew if the opportunity to leave came to him he wouldn’t have even thought about it twice, he would be out the door before another word could be said. His muscles were tense, but he took a deep breath and exhaled audibly, he needed to be rationale about this.

“Don’t worry about me, your freedom is important and I want you to take it.”

Feilong smiled. “Thank you for that, but I won’t be leaving just yet, I have up to six months to decide…Yoh’s decision.”

Akihito relaxed visibly, he was happy Feilong wouldn’t be leaving the next day like he initially thought. He didn’t think he could bare becoming anyone else’s maiko, because Feilong gave him the freedom to be himself and with the head mistress not able to touch him, he was the same unruly kid he was on the outside, the only difference being the pretty silk kimonos and the occasional hair clips and makeup. But something was still bothering him about earlier.

“Sorry, Onii-san, but I sill don’t understand why you asked me about Asami,” Akihito pointed out.

Feilong made a noncommittal sound in the back of his throat before answering. “Let’s just say I’ve been noticing things lately.”

Akihito was afraid of the answer to the question he was about to ask. “Like what?”

Feilong stood suddenly and with a smile on his face, grabbed Akihito’s hand and pulled him towards the house.

“Onii-san, what…?” Akihito questioned while the man pulled him forward.

Feilong looked back at the teen and laughed. “Have you forgotten what today is?”

Perplexed, Akihito allowed himself to be pulled towards his and Feilong’s room where he was deposited on a tatami mat and left to wait while the man rummaged around in his closet for something. Anticipation curled in Akihito’s stomach when Feilong stood and faced him with both hands behind his back. There was a mischievous twinkle in Feilong’s dark eyes and he made to move towards him.

“Stay where you are Akihito, or you won’t see what I have,” Feilong teased while slowly walking over. “You really don’t remember what day today is, do you?”

“No,” Akihito answered with a slight shake of his head, because quite frankly he was too curious as to what was going on to think about what day today was.

When he stood directly before the blond, Feilong had to twist his body to stop Akihito’s prying eyes from looking over his shoulders. “Alright, close your eyes for a second.”

Akihito grudgingly did as he was told.

“No peeking. Now open your eyes.”

When Akihito obeyed he was greeted with the sight of a ten inch wrapped gift box with a red ribbon on top.

“Happy Birthday, Akihito,”Feilong smiled.

With the overwhelming emotions rampaging through Akihito, he accepted the gift with a bow so deep he almost toppled Feilong over.

“Sorry…” Akihito muttered excitedly before carrying the box to a wooden table in a corner of the room.

Feilong followed close behind, moved at Akihito’s reaction to his surprise. Normally he didn’t spend the time or effort on other people since most were envious of him for some reason or another. But Akihito was different; a good friend for one so young. He remembered his last apprentice basically stabbed him in the back right after his mizuage by soliciting and seducing a few of his clients for himself, not wanting to do the hard work of building his own clientele.

But that was water under the bridge, and when Akihito tore at the glossy paper to reveal the specially designed Obi with his named stitched around it with gold threading his eyes lit up wide like saucers while his lips parted into a wide grin.

It was beautiful, the softness of pure silk with a turquoise hue that was both elegant and stylish, which glistened softly under the light from the sun’s rays shining brightly through the room’s window.

“It’s beautiful…” the blond marveled. “…thank you so much, Feilong.”

Feilong’s smile widened when Akihito hugged him and he ruffled his blond hair lightly. “It was no problem at all. I’m glad you like it.”

“Takaba-san?”

The two parted when an unknown voice sounded from the door way. It was a maiko Akihito had seen about the place before but had never talked to.

“Yes?” Feilong inquired.

The youth stepped further into the room and bowed politely. “Sorry, but Tamafuyou-sama requests that Takaba-san clean the storage room immediately.”

Akihito scowled at the intrusion and the instruction.

“Thank you, dismissed,” Feilong answered and the youth left silently.

“Sorry you have to do so much chores on your birthday,” Feilong apologized while Akihito folded the obi and replace it in the gift box.

Akihito sighed. “It’s no problem, it’s not your fault. Besides, I don’t mind keeping myself busy or I’d get bored out of my mind and we all know what that will lead to.”

Feilong agreed wholeheartedly. Akihito couldn’t keep quiet and unless he was working he’d get into a lot of trouble.

Akihito put the box in his closet which was adjacent to Feilong’s before leaving the room. The sooner he got his chores done the sooner he could bathe and wear his birthday present.

******VF*****

The cherry blossoms swayed in the evening breeze as the twilight sun set to signal the end of another busy day. The atmosphere was lethargic, as was Akihito’s mood and all he could do was sit lazily reclined on the curved eave roof of one of the layered out houses and watch the scenery around him.

He could see the city skyline beyond the metal gates of the premises, and the navy blue kimono he wore swayed in the evening breeze around his legs. Taking a deep breath he exhaled and reminisced about the day’s events, mainly the gift he received and how happy it made him feel; the obi he currently had around his waist.

All was going well until that voice drifted to his ears.

“Nice evening, isn’t it?”

Akihito closed his eyes and breathed deeply as his mood suddenly turned sour. “What do you want?”

A chuckle. “A redundant question, wouldn’t you think?”

Akihito chose not to respond to that.

“Happy birthday.”

An item suddenly fell into Akihito’s lap and he cracked one eye open to peek at what it was.

A plain silver ring.

“What’s this for?”

“A commitment.”

“A what?”

“Foreign children call it a promise ring,” Asami answered.

Akihito sat up straight before bringing the metallic ring up to eye level and looking at it suspiciously. “A promise for what?”

Asami smirked. “That you’ll save yourself for me and only me…that you’ll belong to me always.”

Akihito threw the ring back at Asami before replying sarcastically. “You really expect me to do that?”

Asami caught the ring and walked closer to Akihito before taking one of his hand in his, making sure to hold on firm because the blond was trying to take it back.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Being repetitive, aren’t you?” Asami reiterated before forcing the smaller ring finger to point outward.

“You bastard, let go of my hand!” Akihito ground out while trying futilely to free his hand.

Asami didn’t stop until the ring was nestled comfortably on Akihito’s left ring finger.

Akihito lurched forward, bringing his hands up and pulling hard on the ring. It wouldn’t pass his knuckle. “Son of a bitch, get this thing off!”

Asami leaned on the area Akihito was laying on previously and spoke. “Like I said, happy birthday.”

Akihito stopped suddenly and looked at Asami, his hazel eyes alight with fury. “What the hell kind of birthday present is this?”

Akihito held up his finger with the silver ring glistening in the evening light and Asami smirked at how good it looked on him. Akihito didn’t realize yet that the katakana for both their names were engraved on the inside. He straightened and predatorily walked over to the blond, taking note of the obi he wore; there’s no way Akihito could afford that so somebody must have given it to him.

“Do you really want to know what type of birthday present it is?”

Akihito suddenly felt a shiver race up his spine at the hungry look on Asami’s face, and he took a fumbling step back when the man advanced upon him.

Asami grabbed the collar of Akihito’s kimono and when he pulled the blond flush against him, he brought his head down so that their lips were hovering less than an inch away from each other.

“Where did you get the obi?” Asami asked huskily and Akihito swore he became drunk from just the man’s aura and his breath on his lips.

“Feilong…” Akihito answered in a near dazed state, torn between wanting to go forward and wanting to retreat from Asami’s hold. He held on to Asami tight with the intention to push him back, but for some reason he hadn’t even flexed a muscle towards that action yet.

At the mention of Feilong’s name Akihito’s lips were captured in a smoldering kiss, one that short circuited some nerve ending in his brain from how tantalizing and zealous it was. Asami sucked on his tongue and he knew he shouldn’t be feeling the way he was, but only Buddha knew why he wasn’t biting the man’s tongue off at the moment; eliciting the muscle to probe deeper into his mouth.

Asami placed a hand on Akihito’s lower back and pressed himself flush against the smaller body, loving the way Akihito’s frame molded against his so wonderfully and the way his hold tightened on him in response. There were soft and sinful keening noises emitting from Akihito’s lips and Asami found it hard to restrain himself.

Just one more year…

Asami was never the type to wait and he always got what he wanted, but one article in the Shogunate code of living forbid an adult to bed any maiko or younger; lest they face death by the hands of the samurai. So he had to wait until the mizuage to get what he wanted.

The longer the kiss prolonged, the more Akihito felt overwhelmed by it all and when Asami finally pulled back, licking at his lips in the process he felt like a wave of something strange, but not unpleasant, had washed over him. He opened his eyes to look into stormy golden ones and he licked his lips before swallowing hard, this was too much.

“Happy birthday,” Asami repeated huskily before placing another chaste kiss on those kiss bruised lips.

Akihito didn’t answer, and when he could feel his senses slowly returning his hands fell boneless from Asami’s side.

Asami stepped back and turned around to walk away, taking comfort in the fact that he was cementing a place for himself in Akihito’s heart whether he liked it or not. He also had a matching ring to Akihito’s he’ll be wearing the next time he sees the blond.

Akihito was breathing hard, and when Asami’s figure disappeared down the flight of stairs that took them to the roof he held his right hand up and gazed at the ring once more…

…it felt like he just got married to the bastard!

Chapter Text

Dinner was steamed fish, vegetables and okayu…okayu made with Jasmine rice though the smell was faint since other ingredients were used. Asami smelt like jasmine flowers, so even eating reminded Akihito of the bastard. Takato sat before him in the dining hall around a long wooden table housing other maikos, and to be honest he was feeling more than a little dejected; it was Feilong’s last day at the Okiya and right now he was in his quarters with Yoh.

 

They’d started packing earlier, the day after Yoh had finished the monetary transaction of Feilong’s ransom. Akihito hadn’t said a word to either men about what was happening, because he was afraid he would beg Feilong to stay. Every time the man looked at him he could see the worry in his eyes, so he remained the strong one for Feilong’s sake; he wasn’t selfish enough to back the man into a corner even though a little voice in his head was telling him to.

 

He’d also learned that Yoh had a young son, around ten years old Feilong said and his name was Tao.

 

Tao liked him a lot, Feilong mentioned in their last conversation, because he’d met the youngster on one of his trips to the city and the boy said he’d make a beautiful ‘mother’. With the adoration in his eyes Feilong smiled and Akihito couldn’t help the small pang of jealousy he felt for this Tao kid, he was lucky.

 

Now came the hardest part of the whole thing, Akihito thought solemnly; finding a replacement for the one man that made his stay in this god forsaken place tolerable.

 

“Aki, you alright?”

 

The blond looked up from playing with his food to stare at Takato after he spoke. His friend looked worried.

 

In a mechanical voice the blond answered. “I’m fine, why do you ask?”

 

“You’re bothered, I can tell, “Takato pointed out before using his chopsticks to pick at and eat some of the fish on his plate. The stir fried vegetables tasted exceptionally well today.

 

“Good guess,” Akihito sighed sarcastically; it’s not like Takato didn’t know how he felt about Feilong leaving.

 

Takato swallowed. “Don’t be like that, I’m not trying to mock you.”

 

“Then just shut up, Takato, I’m not in the mood,” Akihito answered.

 

Takato’s eyes narrowed. “Well sorry for trying to cheer you up, Akihito, I’ll know better next time.”

 

With the fake smile on his lips belying the anger in his eyes, Akihito threw his chopsticks down and left the table.

 

“Hey…!” Takato shouted at the sudden rebellious display before watching Akihito’s retreating back. The red and gold kimono he wore quickly disappeared around a corner and he sighed; maybe he was just a tad bit insensitive even though he wasn’t trying to be? Now Akihito made him feel bad.

 

When Akihito was sure he was out of eye shot, he leaned against the wall and took a deep breath, exhaling audibly. A part of him felt guilty for treating his friend like that; he was in a royally dark mood after all, so he decided he had to calm down before he faced anybody again. He slowly walked back to his quarters, hoping Yoh and Feilong hadn’t changed their mind from formal pleasantries to something a bit more physical in the bedroom. He wasn’t supposed to return so soon after all.

 

Upon nearing the front door Akihito heard child like giggles. Curious, he knocked once to announce his presence before entering. Feilong sat on a cushion in the lotus position with his almond colored kimono and hair fanning out around him. His head was slightly bowed and there was a smile on his lips while Yoh, who sat beside him in the same position pinned a single hibiscus flower to the side of his hair. There was also a child in the room with dark hair and wide chibi eyes. He figured that was Tao.

 

They all looked up when he entered and Akihito bowed politely before saying, “Sorry to intrude…”

 

“Oh, it’s no problem,” Feilong smiled, barely able to hide how flustered he was. He passed Yoh a look and both their cheeks colored a darker shade of pink.

 

Akihito was amused at the child like display of affection between the two, they were so cute.

 

“Is this your apprentice, Lui-sama?” the young boy asked before standing and walking over to Akihito’s position.

 

“Yes. Tao, meet Takaba Akihito. Akihito, this is Tao, Yoh’s son,” Feilong introduced.

 

“*Konbanwa,” Tao greeted with a polite bow.

 

“Konbanwa,” Akihito returned courteously.

 

“He’s as cute as you say he is, Lui-sama!” Tao chirped at Akihito before running to retake his seat beside Feilong.

 

Akihito chuckled. Feilong gave him permission to join their little circle so he sat beside the child.

 

“Dad, will we be taking Lui-sama home with us now?” the young boy piped up and Akihito felt his stomach churn at the question.

 

“Not just yet,” Yoh answered and Tao pouted.

 

“But he’s so pretty, won’t others try to steal him?” the boy asked, genuinely curious and they all had to try and stifle a laugh.

 

“I won’t be easily stolen, Tao, I can guarantee you that,” Feilong answered with a smile before ruffling that raven hair slightly.

 

Tao giggled.

 

Akihito missed getting his own hair ruffled already.

 

Tao then focused his inquisition on his father. “So when will we take him home, dad? When the sun sets?”

 

“Eager, isn’t he?” Feilong chuckled.

 

“He’s not the only one,” Yoh answered before raising a hand to brush a lock of hair behind Feilong’s ear.

 

Akihito thought that if he had a Yen dollar for every time Feilong blushed around Yoh he could pay his own ransom and get out of this place.

 

“When Lui-sama comes home I’ll finally have a mom and we can finally be a real family, yay!” Tao chirruped before standing and running around the room.

 

“He still doesn’t believe you that I’m a man?” Feilong whispered to Yoh while they watch the little boy run around the room happily.

 

“No. Though I do like the idea of you being called ‘mother,” Yoh chuckled.

 

Feilong shot the man a mock glare before the corners of his lips upturned into a smile.

 

Akihito felt he had to lose his only ‘family’ for Tao to gain his. But he’d accept it and move on, there’s nothing he could do anyways.

 

Feilong hid his anxiety at what he assumed was going through Akihito’s head at the moment. He was happy, so very happy to finally gain his freedom at the hands of a man that cared for him deeply, but he couldn’t help worrying about Akihito, whom he had spend a year and a half grooming and growing. It almost felt like he was giving up on his own child. It wasn’t until he realized how quiet and detached the blond was that he whispered to Yoh to give him a few minutes alone with Akihito.

 

“Come, Tao, there’s something I want to show you outside,” Yoh commanded before he held out his hand for his son to take.

 

“Really?” Tao questioned and he took his father’s hand before they walked towards the door.

 

On his way out the child looked back at Feilong before pulling on his father’s pants leg to garner his attention. “Dad, are you sure Lui-sama won’t get stolen if we leave him alone?”

 

“He’ll be alright,” Yoh chuckled before closing the sliding paper door behind them.

 

Akihito took a deep breath to compose himself at the talk he knew was to come.

 

Feilong smiled before standing and walking out the door. It took only a minute and when he came back he had a small tray with a tea pot and two porcelain cups on it in his hands. It was placed directly between them before Feilong sat back down, adjusting his kimono so it was fanned out around him again. He adjusted the tea pot and cups so he could pour the hot water over the green tea leaves.

 

Akihito quirked an eyebrow at the action. “Aren’t I the one that’s supposed to serve you tea?”

 

“Think of this as my parting gift, we were always equals,” Feilong answered while the tea leaf steeped in the hot water poured over it.

 

Akihito smiled. Feilong did always treat him as an equal, didn’t he?

 

“I’ll come back to…”

 

“Don’t,” Akihito interrupted, not wanting Feilong to make any promises he might not be able to keep. He couldn’t imagine why after tasting freedom the man would want to come back to this suppressive place. He took up one of the cups and blew lightly at the steam. Lemon, his favorite.

 

“But I…”

 

Akihito cut the older man off once again. “I wouldn’t have looked back twice at this place if it was me; be happy.”

 

Feilong nodded with happy tears brimming in his eyes. “Thank you, Takaba Akihito.”

 

They hugged briefly, a small show of all their pent up feelings before separating. They both felt a little better about all of this.

 

******VF******

 

The palanquin being carried away seemed so surreal to Akihito. He was lost in the small crowd of all the other maikos and courtesans who came to bid Feilong a final farewell after a small going away get together for the man.

 

After everything that he did to remain strong, to not let Feilong leaving get to him it was seeing the man actually moving away from him that burst that peripheral dam inside of Akihito; it was as if he was finally hit full force with the knowledge that the man was gone; leaving; not coming back.

 

Akihito could feel his blood run cold all of a sudden, it was a little too much.

 

The other young men and boys slowly filed back inside the house and Akihito was left standing there, watching until the four bearers that carried the palanquin with the three inside slowly become a small dot until it disappeared. He didn’t know how long he stood there, except that pretty soon it was darker and he was cold; trembling; whether from said cold or his emotions or a combination of both, he wasn’t sure.

 

Nobody came back out to see if he was alright, and all Akihito could think was that Feilong would have noticed. Feilong would have cared; he would have been there. His hazel eyes never left the expanse of dirt road that held the invisible tracks of the only person that was like a family to him.

 

“Why are you trembling?” a familiar voice asked after strong arms came around to encase Akihito before pulling him back against a broad, warm chest. He shivered again.

 

“He’s gone…” Akihito whispered more to himself than to the man behind him and he brought a hand up to touch Asami’s forearm, to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating about his presence.

 

The wind carried on Akihito’s voice and while hugging the teen, Asami felt for his finger to make sure the ring was there; it was. Satisfied, Asami then brought his head down and whispered in Akihito’s ear. “And your point is…?”

 

The audacity of the man broke Akihito out of his morose trance and with the anger rising inside him he snarled before pushing at the hands around him and stepping away. He angrily turned around to look into mirthful golden eyes before spitting caustically. “What the hell do you want, bastard?”

 

Now there’s the Akihito he knows, Asami thought to himself. If Akihito should lose his composure over anybody it should be him only, nobody else. Watching Akihito’s now a little more mature and irate face did something to him; only six more months to go, he couldn’t wait.

 

“Get inside before you catch a cold,” Asami instructed before walking ahead and somehow Akihito felt a twinge of something run through him at the action. He wasn’t very fond of Asami, but now he was the only semi-tolerable face around and he didn’t like him turning his back on him.

 

“Wait up, bastard,” Akihito growled before he hurried over to walk by Asami’s side. Somehow, having the man’s company tonight didn’t seem like such a bad idea.

 

Asami slowed down so Akihito could catch up to him. He smiled when he realized the teen had listened for once.

 

When they made it back to Akihito’s now empty quarters, the blond’s mood took a depressing dive at how empty and bare the surrounding space was. It wasn’t his room anymore, it had become a room.

 

Asami held Akihito’s hand and pulled him from the doorway before closing it so he could hug him, and Akihito allowed him before a heavy sigh escaped his lips. Funny how he found being so close to Asami comforting, listening to the rhythmic heartbeat of the man while his head rested on his chest.

 

Asami slowly walked them over to one of the futons, Akihito’s to be exact and when he reached he guided the blond to lie down.

 

Akihito subconsciously scooted over so Asami could lie beside him. It was a tight fit because Asami was so broad, but Akihito didn’t mind, he wasn’t alone tonight…and Asami made no move to molest him…yet. They bathed in the silence of the room for a few minutes with Akihito letting the gloom resurface and fester despite Asami’s presence.

 

Asami, feeling the morose aura emitting from Akihito slowly put a hand around his shoulders so his head was resting on his arm before using said hand to lightly stroke the soft blond hair.

 

The gesture was soothing for Akihito and somehow, it made him feel he might not miss Feilong’s similar caress too much f he got this treatment often enough.

 

Pity he wasn’t too fond of Asami, which was what he kept thinking even while he fingered the promise ring on his finger subconsciously.

Chapter Text

“It’s time for you to acquire a new Onii-san, Takaba. No use having you here if you don’t even know basic etiquette to make a dime. Your Mizuage is in six months time, but do you know no man will want you if you remain the way you are? So…so uncouth and uncivilized…”

Akihito, who was kneeling on the floor in one of the meeting rooms before Tamafuyou-sama, who was also kneeling before him, wasn’t particularly interested in what the woman was talking about. Feilong’s been gone less than a week and already she was looking out for her and her employer’s pocket.

Besides, Akihito sarcastically wanted to rebut the woman’s statement about no man wanting him, because if he remembered correctly there was a man who ruled many lands that wanted his body… badly.

Not that he was proud of that fact, but it was good ammunition to use against her argument.

“Feilong’s always made enough money for both of you, so now that he’s gone you need to pull your weight around here. You cost more money to feed and look after than you’re worth and if you don’t get your act together you’ll be here for as long as that ass of yours can save you.”

The condescending tone the woman used to convey her last statement had Akihito eyeing her openly because honestly, she barely spend anything on him as it is.

She bristled as she asked him if he’d like to do something about what she said.

Akihito only smirked in response, which pissed the woman off even more.

“As of now you’ll be rooming with Hiroki-san down the hall. Excuse me.”

Akihito cursed under his breath after the woman walked away. Hiroki Daichi wasn’t known for being empathic in any way, shape or form. As a matter of fact, he’d go so far as to call the man an ass. Suffice to say, he was always second behind Feilong and Akihito just knew this would not end well. He, as the former maiko of Hiroki’s former biggest competition would not have things easy in such a situation.

But, maybe Buddha would be smiling down on him and Akihito wouldn’t have things too bad. Maybe…

******VF******

“Get me a glass of water and fill my bath when you’re done, Takaba. You’re also quite filthy, please do something about that dirty kimono you’re wearing, I’m sure you also need a bath yourself...”

Hiroki-san was currently kneeling on his tatami mat, lounging about like the lazy ass he was… in the guise of meditating. His shoulder length, roasted chestnut colored hair was decorated with floral kanzashi clips much like Feilong’s used to be, but he had jade green eyes and he even wore Kimonos that Akihito could have sworn the man stole out of Feilong’s closet.

Akihito frowned before he walked out of his shared room with his new ‘Onii-san’, though he’d never call the man that. Such a deep rooted title would be reserved for the one man that was like a real big brother to him, and no matter how Hiroki-san tried Akihito would not allow him to get him out.

This was the worst. It was his first day rooming again and things were already off to a bad start. Walking to get the bucket to fill water in the blond bumped into Tamafuyou-sama in the hall, who scowled at him when she realized who it was.

She pushed him to the side roughly. “Takaba-san, be more careful around here before you cause even more accidents.”

The woman scowled before hurrying away and Akihito felt the weight of all that was happening slowly working its way through him. Was he really so full of bad luck?

After a few minutes the bath was set and Akihito wanted to leave the room and find Takato; the only other person in the Okiya now that didn’t either hated or looked down upon or ignored him, but before he got too far Hiroki-san was calling his name again; he swore the man was like an evil dictator.

Hiroki stood and walked towards the window in the room, his cornflower blue kimono draping around him while he looked outside. He didn’t turn around when he spoke.

“Takaba, I’m expecting a high profile guest later, find somewhere else to sleep tonight.”

Akihito didn’t answer; just turned around and walked away because in all honesty that was the best thing the man could have told him. After inquiring from Takato’s Onii-san about his whereabouts, he was told his friend went on an errand to the city with another Courtesan.

He walked out to the garden out the back and sat beneath one of the plum trees, on the grass and just wondered to himself how much longer he’d have to put up with all this, would he ever escape from his current life?

He hoped so.

*******VF*******

Three months later Akihito sat before Tamafuyou-sama once again, the third time in a month really, and paid no heed to how red her face had become because of her anger. Hiroki Daichi knelt to his left and apparently he was complaining about something he’d told him to do and he hadn’t done.

To be honest Akihito would never enter a room while the man was there getting screwed no matter how much he called. Feilong was never so lackadaisical about his former trade and he just wish this man held the same standards.

“The condom broke, Tamafuyou-sama, and I needed another one because the customer came without. Thanks to Takaba’s ignorance I might have caught a disease or something,” Hiroki frowned, which grated on Akihito’s nerves like claws being dragged across a chalk board.

Even redder in her round face, Tamafuyou-sama chastised him with eyes like the devil’s. “Takaba! Next time Hiroki calls you for something you answer, or so help me the next time you do something like this you won’t like the end results. Now leave!”

Akihito, with an impassive expression on his face looked between the two before settling his gaze on the man beside him. With a relaxed air he spoke what was on his mind. “The next time you don’t properly prepare to do your job is no fault of mine. I’m not the one having sex with men for money, don’t drag me into your problems that have nothing to do with me.”

With that Akihito stood, holding the hem of his earth yellow kimono so he wouldn’t trip before walking away with his head held high and his geta clapping against the wooden floor noisily, not caring about the sputtering indignation he heard coming from Hiroki-san behind him.

With wide green eyes and a disbelieving aura Hiroki looked at Tamafuyou-sama for an explanation. He pointed at the door the younger blond just went through accusingly. “Why is he not punished for his insolence? He’s worse than the dirt beneath my shoes!”

The older woman sighed. She’d hit other maikos for less, but… “His lordship Asami has taken a special interest in him, I can’t even wring his pretty little neck even though I’ve felt the need to countless times.”

And her frustration at not being able to wring that pretty little neck was clearly written on her make up clad face.

Hiroki was taken aback by that response. He drew closer to the woman conspiratorially. “A Daimyo interested in that…that brat?”

The woman nodded. “I can’t even scold him in public because if his lordships were to see…”

She shuddered at the thought.

Still disbelieving, Hiroki watched the woman leave with his mouth slightly opened and his fists clenched. A Daimyo? And such a powerful one at that looking at that poor excuse of a human instead of at his beautiful self?

There was no way he would sit and accept that. Hiroki decided that one way or another he would make his lordship forget someone so insignificant, somebody with nothing likable about them in the first place.

Strengthening his resolve and willing his…was that jealousy? To a minimum he left the room also, deciding that the next time he saw that man he’ll definitely make him forget about everybody but him; including Takaba Akihito.

*******VF*******

For an entire week both Hiroki and Akihito had taken to ignoring each other. They barely said anything other than a flat greeting sometimes in the mornings, and even that was sparse and few in between.

Akihito was more than a little bewildered at the change in the other man’s attitude since he took much pleasure in making him miserable, but he didn’t want to question what could be a potential blessing in disguise. He met up with Takato in the evening after his friend was done with a customer, now thinking strongly about his own upcoming mizuage. Another five months and he probably would be fighting off some perverted geezer in a bid to save his chastity.

Or maybe he would be fighting off Asami, the man was overly possessive enough for Akihito to imagine him running his sword through anybody that even hinted at wanting him.

After they met up, Takato and Akihito found themselves in the back garden, taking in the sweet and strong smells of plum trees, Kanzan and Yoshino cherry trees and fresh Azalea bushes. The backdrop was a beautiful multi-colored array of many different plants and trees that were tended carefully by a Uekiya, a professional landscape gardener.

But belying the amazing ambiance was the tense and awkward atmosphere of the two, because both teens realized that they’ve drifted apart over the years, even more so after Takato’s mizuage eleven months ago. And although Takato’s focus shifted after that night when he took a man for the first time; his new priorities and duties didn’t allow him to be a child any more, so Akihito gave him his space to focus on what was now important.

But Akihito always knew he could call on the other if he needed a listening ear or just peaceful company. No matter what Takato would always be a good friend to him and he cherished that.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” Takato commented off handedly as they took slow steady steps through the garden.

“We’ve been busy,” Akihito commented casually, noticing the light dew on the grass from what must have been a light shower of rain earlier.

“Are things still bad between you and your Onii-san?”

Takato always did know when something…or more precisely someone was bothering him.

Sarcastically the blond replied. “Never better.”

Takato made a non-committal grunt in response.

“Say, how do you feel about your own upcoming mizuage, Akihito?”

Akihito shifted one of his legs so as not to step on a bug. “To be honest, the idea scares me.”

Takato chuckled. “That’s normal. If you weren’t scared I’d have to think something was wrong with you.”

“Now I know how you must have felt.”

Takato didn’t respond to that, because every time he thought about his own mizuage he remembered the shear amount of humiliation and pain it caused him at the hands of a stranger that was into heavy BDSM. And it also left a lingering bitterness at losing his chance to be with Akihito that one time and knowing he would never get another chance because of who the competition was; he wanted to be much more than a friend to Akihito, even though the house rule strongly forbade it. Even now, the urge to just grab his friend and kiss him like they did so long ago was stronger.

But the cold, malicious look in those golden eyes when that Daimyo had spotted them sent shivers through Takato even now. He even had nightmares about the man and always made sure to become invisible the few times he’d seen him after.

“Have you heard from Feilong-sama at all after all this time?”

“No,” Akihito answered dejectedly as he picked a few petals from a blooming hydrangeas tree they were passing. He did wonder at times what the man was up to and if he was alright, and why not even a letter to say how things were with him and his now family. He allowed the petals to slip through his fingers at that thought.

*******VF*******

Asami left his horse in the stables before his two most trusted samurais followed him up to the front door of the Okiya house. They waited out the front while he entered, politely ushered inside by a trained courtesan. He knew his way well enough around to not need an escort for his destination. He headed straight towards the head mistress’ office and went inside.

The woman was writing kanji on a piece of parchment and when she looked up and spotted him she put the brush down and stood with a bow.

“Asami-dono, it’s always a pleasure to acquire your presence, what may I do for you today?”

While she spoke the woman walked towards the man, offering him a cup of tea she had steeping on her low desk for which he politely declined before asking his question.

“Takaba Akihito, where is he staying right now?”

As if she never knew he’d want to find the brat. She figured if she played her cards right she could use Takaba to make a small fortune off the Daimyo before she got rid of him.

“He’s currently rooming with Hiroki Daichi in block C, room 12,” the woman supplied.

Asami’s eyes narrowed before he took two *hansatsu scrips from his pocket and handed it to the woman, each with convertibility in silver. Akihito didn’t know this, but he had to pay to keep him off the market, because even with his influence he was not allowed to disrupt for his own personal gain any money making business under the Shogunate, it was a trespass punishable by death as the Shogunate saw it as a way to try and stifle his own wealth and the wealth of those around him; like stealing.

The woman’s smile almost split her face when she was presented with the notes. She then put them in her bosom as the man turned to walk away.

“Asami-dono, allow me to offer you an escort to Takaba’s room.”

She clapped her hands loudly and a maiko wearing a lavender-purple kimono entered. The woman then instructed the maiko on where he was to go and the young boy bowed politely at Asami before walking ahead.

Asami was sure he was almost to Akihito’s room when he was solicited by a green eyed, chestnut colored hair courtesan. Without his permission the man slipped a hand around his and held on while whispering in his ear if he wanted good company tonight.

“No,” Asami answered crisply, while he kept his head forward and his feet moving. He didn’t know what the cause was but he’d never met such a desperate courtesan before. Was he being starved or something?

“I’m the number one courtesan in this house right now, you’re guaranteed to have the most excellent time with me, Asami-dono,” the man continued in a salacious voice while batting his eyelashes, which went unnoticed by Asami since he wasn’t the least bit interested.

Not paying the man any heed, Asami was led to a door and the maiko held his hand out with his head bowed to indicate they’d reach their destination. Then he walked away.

“Good, this is my room, please enter,” Hiroki pointed out while entering.

Asami hoped Akihito was present so he wouldn’t have to put up with this other man, he was annoying. But to his disappointment the room appeared empty.

“Where’s Takaba?”

Hiroki’s back was to Asami and he scowled before turning around with a ‘noh mask’ smile plastered to his face. “I don’t know, but I’m sure whatever it is you need I can help.”

Asami ignored the hopeful look on the man’s face. “Show me Takaba’s tatami mat.”

Now Hiroki felt his cheeks heating up in disdain, why wasn’t this man giving him the time of day?

When said mat was pointed out Asami was about to walk over to it when he felt a pair of arms encircling him from behind and a face being buried in his back.

“I’ll lie with you, Asami-dono…”

*******VF*******

Akihito felt a little more relaxed after his walk and chat in the garden with Takato a while ago. He would have liked to stay longer, but the sun was setting and Takato had his duties, he had to leave. He was looking forward to a bath and bed, all psyched to get some rest. He slid the paper door open and entered his room, a surprised gasp leaving his lips when he was greeted with Hiroki and Asami, looking like they were about to…

“What the hell…?!”

Asami spun around at the sound of Akihito’s voice with Hiroki still clinging to him, knowing that how they looked could be perceived as something it wasn’t, and somewhere in the back of his head he could hear a little voice pushing him to say this is not what it looked like.

Something erupted in Akihito, like a fireball of fury and the first thing he did was to stalk over to the two, grab Hiroki by the shoulders and push him away forcefully.

“Takaba! What the hell…!” Hiroki shouted in foreboding when he nearly stumbled and fall from the force of the shove. Once he was able to correct himself properly he turned icy green eyes on equally cold hazel ones.

Akihito bristled. “What are your filthy hands doing on him?”

Hiroki was taken aback by the question and Asami raised one eyebrow in surprised amusement.

“My hands are doing what yours can’t, you cheeky little brat,” Hiroki spat in defied response, bristling at the audacity of somebody so obviously below him.

Akihito took a threatening step forward before hissing. “Nobody touches him but me. Try this again and I’ll make sure you’ll regret it.”

Hiroki could feel his blood pounding in his ears. “How dare you!”

“No, how dare you for touching him,” Akihito rebutted, clenching his fists as if to get his cat claws out.

Needless to say, Asami was highly pleased by the possessive display from his Akihito. This is just what he wanted to see.

Hiroki pointed a finger accusingly at Asami. “He didn’t say no!”

That remark made Asami feel the need to defend himself since the other man was now stooping to being petty. “I didn’t say yes either, you were all over me like a leech.”

Hiroki was taken aback by the direct disrespect by the man and the now smirking face of Takaba at the remark. He could feel his face heating up with embarrassment and anger, and with his teeth grinding and his muscles tensed he stormed out of the room, almost tearing the paper door off with how forceful he slammed it shut.

“Mnph, serves him right,” Akihito accused with both hands on his hips. The nerves of the guy…

Asami walked over to the teen and wrapped both arms around him before placing a light kiss on the side of his neck. “I didn’t know you were so possessive of me…”

Scared out of his wits, Akihito jumped in Asami’s embrace before turning around to try and push him away.

“Son of a… what the hell are you on about?” Akihito groused.

Asami held firm so Akihito couldn’t get away before pulling him into an earth shattering kiss. It was most effective for keeping Akihito still as he became weak in the knees and he had to hold him even tighter.

When Asami pulled back, Akihito felt dazed and a little breathless, marveling at how Asami could always steal his breath away with his kisses.

“So I take it that as of now only you are allowed to touch me?” Asami teased.

Akihito could feel his face heating up even more and he quickly pushed Asami away and turned his back on him to hide his embarrassment. “Th…that wasn’t what I meant, his hands are literally filthy and he shouldn’t be touching anybody, that’s why I said what I did.”

Asami chuckled disbelievingly in response.

“Bastard,” Akihito hissed. He turned back around to face the man before walking over to his tatami mat and sitting crossed leg on it.

Asami sat facing the blond. “Otherwise, I do hope you’ve been behaving yourself while I’m not here.”

Akihito’s right eyebrow twitched. “What’s that suppose to mean?”

“You’re quite the looker Akihito, you haven’t become interested in other men, have you?”

Now Akihito really felt like breaking something. And was that a hint of uncertainty in Asami’s voice? “I’m not interested in anybody, especially not you right now.”

Asami shrugged. “Just making sure, your mizuage is a few months from now.”

“Don’t remind me,” Akihito sighed.

Akihito watched as Asami slowly brought his face closer to his, knowing full well the man’s intentions and not being able to stop it at this point. He really looked at the man then, his handsome features; a sexy straight nose, pink, thick lips, high cheek bones and a pair of the most mesmerizing golden eyes he’d ever seen. Very sublime.

“What the hell are you doing?” the blond asked breathlessly, feeling his heartbeat increase the closer Asami’s lips got to his.

“Only five more months before you’re mine completely,” Asami whispered sultrily before he captured Akihito’s lips once again.

Akihito wanted to voice a snappy come back, but for now his mouth was very busy and he allowed Asami to push him back with the force of his kiss. When the man was on top of him he held on tight to keep himself grounded. Even though he still didn’t like the man, that didn’t mean he hated him completely…

…or something to that effect.

What the hell was this feeling?

 

/tbc

*Konbanwa-Good evening.
*Hansatsu scrips-Paper currency which supplemented the coinage of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Chapter Text

Five months later, the day of his sixteenth birthday Akihito sat in his single room. Ever since the incident with Hiroki Daichi, Tamafuyou-sama had gotten him his own quarters, even though he couldn’t understand why she was looking out for him in such a way.

Maybe she didn’t hate him anymore? Wishful thinking, he knew. There was something else going here.

But all that aside, Akihito felt nervous and jittery and just plain anxious. His mizuage, as the house mistress explained to him earlier, would be conducted with him in a small showroom of sort while men bid on him, on his virginity. The highest bidder of course would be the man he would sleep with that night, and that would signify his attainment of the title of courtesan and his transition into manhood. Not only that, but the bidding was to accommodate his entire ensemble change after his coming of age, which was very expensive considering he would now be wearing more refined clothing and having more ‘grown up’ hair do’s and styles.

It was an event he’d wish to bypass, but it was an important right of passage and there was no way out of it unless he was dead.

“You look far away.”

Akihito raised his head to look at his reflection in the mirror he sat before while Takato helped do his make up and hair. The man was very talented with his hands and had become the one Tamafuyou-sama mostly calls to deal with such matters. He noted his now snow white complexion was due to the rice and flour mixture Courtesans wore often on their faces. His eyebrows were lined in crimson and black and his lips looked bee stung-also painted crimson.

Akihito sighed. “Just thinking.”

“You look very beautiful,” Takato whispered conspiratorially in his right ear while he stilled his hands entangled in his hair.

Akihito smiled and muttered a shaky thanks. He looked down at his *Furisode, mostly white with red cranes dyed throughout, which represented longevity and good fortune. The sleeves were longer than the traditional *Homongi and other informal kimonos and was only worn during ones’ mizuage. His hair was being done into a special ceremonial style he wasn’t interested to learn at the time, but now he had appreciation for it when he saw how much time and effort went into doing it. He’d been sitting for close to two hours now because extensions had to be used. Normally a maiko’s hair had to grow out so the ceremonial hairstyle being done wouldn’t cost extra by the extensions, but he had short hair so the money had to be spent.

“Don’t be nervous, You can always close your eyes and pretend you’re in the Shogunate’s elaborate garden with the mystic ambiance of many different blossoms and elaborate trees while folding paper cranes if the man bores you in bed,” Takato teased.

Akihito scoffed. “Only if he’s small and smells good; which I highly doubt.”

“I’ll pray for your good fortune, Akihito.”

With much sincerity the blond answered. “I appreciate that, thanks.”

*******VF*******

The room was bare, and while Akihito sat on his knees in the enclosed space by himself, hands folded in his lap in a show of complete surrender, he couldn’t help the churning in his stomach. His emotions spiraled between worry, forced calm and to a lesser extent indifference. He tried to accept that this had to happen, one way or another.

Sometimes he tried to imagine how many men would be behind the patterned paper screen before him. Two, five, ten, more? He wasn’t popular at all, so the thought that no man might be in the room also crossed his mind. Not that he’d never been approached or solicited, but he was never interested and that turned most of his ‘admirers’ off. They wanted compliant and easy… that he was not.

But then there was Asami. The man kept drilling in his head over the years that this day would be solely his. Not that it wasn’t possible, but Akihito highly doubted that would be the case even if the man was more stubborn than a mule. An uneasy feeling washed over him when the thought that Asami might be all bark and no bite crossed his mind. Why was that? Was he hoping Asami would be present? He quickly shook that thought out of his head. What if the room was full of bidders and Asami left because there was too much competition?

Somehow Akihito highly doubted that.

But then again he wasn’t sure as his thought process drafted a variety of ‘what if’ scenarios. Including Asami in any thought process always made him confused.

One thing he knew for certain though was that his virginity would not be handed over quietly. So help him he will hold on to it for as long as he could, fight for it like the famous Shingen Takeda of the Takeda Clan in the battle of Shinano; A famous Samurai, a great warrior, a man of virtue….

“Takaba, why are you so tense?”

Broken out of his thoughts, Akihito’s eyes focused and he looked up at the sound of the house mistress’ voice.

“Nothing,” the blond answered. She would be lining her pocket heavily for this so he knew her main concern wasn’t his well being. He took a deep breath and exhaled, relaxing himself.

She smiled, a noh mask of a smile that Akihito actually found creepy. She wasn’t looking at him and seeing a person, she was looking at him and seeing merchandise; money.

“You’ll have sake and wine with the winning bidder to help you….relax. You’ll both have a room for yourself for the night and in the morning we’ll check to make sure everything went according to plan,” the woman explained.

Akihito heard all about the procedure through the grapevine a long time ago, it was like an open secret that he didn’t need reminding of at the moment. Coming from the woman’s mouth it sounded like another business transaction, which it was in essence.

The woman took his silence as silent agreement and continued. “Don’t mess this up, you can create the chance to leave one day with a man willing to buy you or stay here the rest of your life selling yourself, your choice.”

Akihito liked neither option.

She walked over to him and held his chin between her fingers, tilting his face up while scrutinizing him with curious, hard eyes.

“You’re actually quiet beautiful, Takaba, but I wouldn’t have noticed under that ugly attitude of yours.”

Akihito glared as the woman walked away, he was used to the insults and verbal abuse. After a moment there was a light tapping noise coming from behind the paper screen and he knew that signaled they were about to begin. His initial paradox of emotions returned and he took a deep breath before schooling his face into a look of indifference. The make-up didn’t allow for him to be able to show facial expressions anyways.

His breathing sped up in anticipation and foreboding as the screen slowly parted, revealing…

One freaking man; Asami!

Akihito looked around the room in mild disbelief, was he really the only one there?

The house mistress’ voice drifted from somewhere to Akihito’s left, forcing him to look back at Asami who sat there in the lotus position wearing one of his signature Hakama with his scabbard on the floor lying innocently beside him . “Takaba-san, your highest and only bidder, his Lordship Asami Ryuichi.”

Akihito wanted to retort that he wasn’t blind but he looked around the room once again to make sure he wasn’t missing anybody else. A maiko approached him before holding out one hand, and he took it before standing slowly in his Zori slippers and tabi socks. He was led over to sit before Asami with a low table dividing them. The man had a look of smug satisfaction on his face.

Somehow he knew the bastard planned this.

“Now, let’s get the sake, shall we?” Tamafuyou-sama directed at the maiko, who bowed before walking out.

Akihito sat there a little befuddled, not sure what to say or do at this point.

“Look at me.”

Akihito looked at Asami at the sound of his voice, feeling vulnerable as those golden eyes stared with much intensity.

“Don’t be afraid, I’ll take very good care of you tonight.”

Asami leaned in and captured his lips in a slow, sensual kiss and Akihito closed his eyes and shivered when the man pulled back. Despite how use he was to Asami, he was still trying to accept all this.

The house mistress and the unknown maiko then returned with two trays, with each housing two decorated wine containers made from lacquered wood. They set it down to their right then left.

Akihito watched as Asami poured them both a cup of what looked like plum wine. By right he should have been the one pouring it since he should have felt ‘honored’ to have Asami’s company tonight, but luckily Asami knew the type of person he was, because if he tried to force him he’d be wearing sake instead of drinking it.

Asami placed the cup before Akihito and instructed him to drink and when he took it up, they both drank quickly the burning liquid. Akihito coughed once.

“How do you feel?” Asami asked.

“Like I don’t want to be here,” Akihito answered before putting the cup back before him. The sake was warm and sweet and it burned slightly as he swallowed.

“I know, but this is happening tonight whether you like it or not,” Asami answered before tilting another cup of warm sake at his lips.

Akihito could just imagine the smirk the man was hiding behind the cup and his eyes narrowed. “Somehow I knew you’d say that.”

Asami replaced the cup on the low table before looking at Akihito seriously, his golden eyes taking in the beauty before him. Contrary to what Takaba might think he was quite exquisite, and coupled with his demeanor, the attractiveness and fiesty brawn combination was something Asami rarely came across and it attracted him like bees to honey.

“I’ve been waiting far too long for this moment, all the anticipation and build up over the years has made me yearn for you something fierce. Now, let’s go, shall we?”

Akihito blushed as Asami stood and held out his hand to him. The sudden implication of them leaving hit him full force and he suddenly felt anxious all over again. This was it. What he was about to do with this man would help shape his future as a man and as someone to be seen and not ignored.

He hated that fact.

*******VF*******

The room allocated had the ambiance of a Westerner’s honeymoon suite; he saw it once in a photograph a trader returning from overseas had shown him. There was an actual foreigner’s bed in the room, something he’d only ever heard of before but never seen. He marveled at the size, it could hold three people easily and it was off the ground, a bit high by his standards since he was so use to practically sleeping on the floor on his futon. He touched the polished wooden bed frame in awe before fisting the soft sheets, it reminded him of the clouds.

“Is this a westerner’s pillow?” Akihito asked while pointing to the item on the bed. He touched one and it was so much softer than the neck pillow he was used to.

“It is,” Asami answered. He had both hands on Akihito’s waist while the blond marveled at how different the room looked from what he was use to.

Akihito had never seen curtains so thick and colorful and they almost touched the ground, and the furniture was so much larger. Incense burned on a low wooden table from a corner of the room and there were a variety of colorful flowers in vases in every corner of said room. Overall Akihito was enthralled by the presentation.

“Go wash your makeup off in the bathroom,” Asami then instructed. As much as he’d like Akihito to be able to explore, he needed to do what he came to do, it was hard holding himself back.

Getting the hint, Akihito glared before he stormed off towards the bathroom, aggravated that Asami couldn’t allow him the luxury of satiating his curiosity. The bathroom was also set up different from the communal bath he was use to, but Akihito didn’t take the time to explore as he’d like because the last thing he wanted was to get into too huge of an argument with Asami over this; the man’s impatience was quiet obvious. When he looked back at his reflection in the face mirror over the white porcelain basin, another first since he was use to the wooden and stone basins of his culture, his face was free of all makeup. He used a towel to dry the excess water off before walking back out to the bedroom to face his fate.

Asami sat on the bed, already half undressed. The Hakama pooled around his waist, revealing the *Kataginu that draped his upper body, which outlined all those lean muscles and his broad chest. He held out a hand and Akihito took it slowly, allowing himself to be pulled towards the man when he tugged lightly on his hand.

Asami wrapped both hands around his waist, resting his head against his stomach before a hand shifted and moved and transposed the silk fabric of the Furisode so his hands ran up the expanse of his leg, sending a new bout of shiver down Akihito’s spine.

Asami, for all intent and purposes was in no mood to play around. He was serious and he couldn’t hold back another second at the smooth, supple skin he could feel under all that fabric. He looked up into unsure hazel eyes, watching Akihito bite his lower lip into plumpness while the grip of his smaller hands on his shoulders tightened.

For Akihito, his breathing suddenly felt constricted when those larger, sword calloused hands kneaded his ass cheeks. Asami was unabashed in his come on and a squeak of surprise left his lips when the man quickly brought a hand up, grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him down into a wild, wanton kiss.

Asami wanted to catch Akihito off guard, because while kissing him he shifted the blond’s legs from under him, then angled them both so in the end Akihito was on his back on the bed with him on top of him; between his legs.

Akihito struggled and tried to push back, but Asami was like a boulder on top of him and he couldn’t decide if his irregular breathing was due to the kiss or the man’s weight. He made a lot of indignant grunts in his bid to try to speak because Asami wasn’t relenting in their tongue lock and he couldn’t get a chance to bite the man’s tongue off.

Asami angled himself so he could rip the silk fabric from Akihito’s body while he struggled from under him, but he had him trapped good, because there’s no way he would allow him to get away. It also took less than a second for his own Kataginu to join the rest of fabric on the floor, disregarded and forgotten.

Akihito managed to force his head to the side in his panic and he pushed at Asami with renewed vigor when he realized this was it, his final moments as a virgin. He wanted to prolong it for as long as possible, to keep his pride wholly intact.

“Get off!” Akihito grunted indignantly. His braid was now all over the place and his hairstyle was ruined. Only a bed-head version of his own shoulder length blond hair remained after all the trouncing and fighting he was doing; all thanks to Asami.

“I’ll get off on you, Akihito, don’t worry,” Asami smirked before grabbing and pinning the blond’s hands over his head. Akihito thrashed when he moved the ripped kimono to expose a flaccid cock nestled between soft blond hair; a shade lighter than the color on his head. Asami couldn’t deny his mouth watered at the sight of such a lean, sexy body, the scrumptious V dip of the blond’s pelvis and he spat in his hand before deciding to cop a feel.

“Don’t you dare!” Akihito half pleaded half growled when the man’s free hand reached for it, held it…stroked it. It sent a jolt of something electric through his body, a foreign feeling; a mix of something mind numbing and free falling.

“Stop it…” Akihito moaned after a few minutes, trying desperately to hold on to his pride through the haze of his heightened lust. Asami was relentless and kept jerking him off despite his pleas for him to stop. He tried one more time to close his legs but Asami forced them apart with the elbow of the hand he was using. And the way he stroked, twice down the shaft and once over the head before repeating the process had Akihito crying out no matter how hard he tried to stifle his voice. A drop of sweat ran down his brow to trail over his cheek until it disappeared into the pillow under his head.

Asami relinquished his hold on Akihito’s hands, because despite what the blond wanted to say or do he was grossly enjoying his actions. His slender hips thrusted in tandem with each stroke of his cock and he was inadvertently widening his legs for him now, he didn’t have to force the issue anymore. With the sweat lightly grazing Akihito’s flush body and the way his muscles rippled under his touch left Asami feeling like the luckiest man alive. He hadn’t felt this excited in years and despite his heightened libido, he decided that tonight would last right back into tomorrow morning whether Akihito liked it or not. This was it, the seal of ownership, the mark, the brand that would make Akihito his forever. He would make sure Akihito’s first time would be a memorable and pleasurable one, nobody else will be able to compare.

Nimble fingers grabbed at Asami’s stroking hand while lips wetted with saliva made all sorts of conflicting commands for stop and more and please. While Akihito was distracted by the haze of his foreplay, Asami brought the middle finger of his free hand down to scoop up a glob of precome before playing with that twitching hole. He barely pushed said finger in before circling the virgin entrance. Akihito’s cadence got a note higher, his body shook with pleasure and his feature became more wanton, begging for something more.

“Akihito…”

Akihito’s eyes focused on Asami at the sound of his voice.

By this time Asami’s finger was slowly pumping in and out of Akihito’s tight-like-vice opening and he could feel the sticky wetness of his own precome on the hakama pooled around his waist. He brought his head down and planted a slow, sensual kiss on Akihito’s succulent lips, tasting him one more time before he stood up and allowed the hakama to fall to the floor. He liked the way Akihito’s eyes widened when they landed on his length; daunting and worried. Even though he knew the girth was a bit intimidating, Akihito would just have to get use to it.

“No way in hell…!” Akihito squawked when Asami moved towards him. All the feeling of lust lessened slightly at the intimidation of that monstrous thing that was supposed to go inside him. How the hell would that fit without killing him anyways?

“Don’t be afraid my cute Akihito, you’ll get use to it soon enough,” Asami answered. He had to grab Akihito’s ankle when he tried to make a run for it. He pushed him back, hard, on the bed and Akihito landed with an audible thud, the bed shifting under the force of his fall. Asami quickly mounted the teen, even as Akihito pushed and prodded but he pinned him in place with one hand before he brought his head down and sucked him off, which deftly shut the blond up from his display of ire.

Asami sucked hard and fast and obstinately and Akihito couldn’t find the breath to tell him to stop. The man widened his legs before bobbing his head even faster and the feeling shot from his cock and up his spine to short circuit something inside his brain.

Taking advantage of Akihito’s weakness, Asami grabbed both his legs and pushed them up, exposing the teen to his now ready and waiting cock. He wasted no time pushing forward, but he didn’t drive all the way in. He stayed on the edge to give Akihito time to adjust to his size, last thing he wanted to do was to hurt him too badly. The blond was too tense and if he wasn’t careful Akihito’s sphincter could splinter like wood.

Akihito hissed before crying out at the pain of being penetrated. He closed his eyes tight and arched his back slightly before grabbing Asami’s waist and pushing back, he felt like he was being ripped to shreds.

“Stop…Asami…it hurts!” Akihito pleaded with his eyes still closed, this was too much.

Asami, who was bracing himself over Akihito so that he didn’t put his weight on his hips answered, “Relax, you’re tense and it will hurt more that way.”

“I…I can’t, take it…take it out…please,” Akihito stammered as he broke out in a bout of cold sweat. It felt like his nerve endings were fried and his heart pounded in his ears. The pain started at his penetrated ass and raced up his spine, stopping his breathing and constricting his muscles. He looked down between his parted legs and saw for himself that Asami wasn’t in all the way. But even the sight of what was left to enter him made Akihito shiver from fear even more.

“It’s just the head, relax and it won’t hurt so much,” Asami said in a parody of a soothing voice, trying to coax the panicked teen into relaxing. It was hard considering all he wanted to do was push forward and fuck Akihito to within an inch of his life; his tight ass was squeezing his cockhead so hard and it hurt and felt so damn good at the same time. It felt like Akihito was tensing to try and push him back out, it was prurient.

For Akihito, the humidity in the room dropped dangerously low and his throat felt dry. He kept pushing back against Asami with his hands but the pain increased ever so slightly and he knew Asami was trying to skewer him shamelessly. Swallowing his pride, he decided to plead with the man one more time to stop this, it hurt too damn much.

Akihito swallowed a lump in his throat and looked up at the man hovering over him pleadingly. “Asami…please, take it out, it hurts. Please.”

Asami sighed before stroking Akihito’s hair softly, he really hated that kicked puppy look. He stared down into those pleading, watering hazel eyes before kissing the blond lightly on his forehead. He tilted the smaller chin up before telling Akihito quiet bluntly that he was going to get fucked and that it will feel better soon, he should be patient.

Akihito sniffled once, before he willed himself to calm down and relax. If this was inevitable then he might as well not make it any harder than it had to be. His ire returned full force and when the pain of being penetrated teethered out to a dull ache, he looked at Asami and glared like he was looking down at a pit of vipers.

“Fuck. You.”

Asami smirked. “You wish.”

*******VF******

Tamafuyou-sama slept more peacefully than she had in a long while the night before. She woke up with a smile on her face, an actual smile before preparing for the day ahead. There was a light pep to her step, a resounding ‘feel good’ feeling that came with success, bearing the fruits of your labor.

What was the cause of her unusual good mood?

Takaba Akihito.

Yes, that unruly, good for nothing, trouble making brat had made her more money in his short years at her Okiya than any other Maiko or Courtesan over the same period of time. Yes, even the famous Feilong made less amount of money over the same time period since there was never a Daimyo so possessive over him.

His Lordship had paid twice the cost of a maiko’s Mizuage from the brat, and that was almost the price of a ransom. Almost.

Coupled with the amount of money his Lordship had spent over the years to eliminate any and all competition, she was surprised he wasn’t broke. She figured he had to be making some extra money to be paying for such an unruly person on the side. She couldn’t figure what the man saw in the kid anyways.

But whatever it was he saw she’s happy about it, because right now she made a substantial amount of money for herself from the deal. Asami had to hide his extra curricular spending lest the Shogunate found out, so she had to write up the books for it to appear he paid the due amount for the Mizuage, which meant half of the money paid went straight to her pocket.

Oh yes, it was a very good day today.

But, she still had her duties to perform running the place and that meant she had to check on the brat, make sure he was deflowered and that his Lordship was satisfied, because if the man wasn’t, then Takaba’s value would decrease exponentially.

The hallway was quiet as she walked, and she approached the room Takaba would be in carefully. Normally, when the men were through they left in the middle of the night or in the early morning, they got what they came for and rarely ever lingered. She stood before said door and was a little surprised when a muffled voice and whimpering could be heard through the doorway. It wasn’t unusual, but usually the young men were too fucked out to be awake so early.

She grabbed the sliding door and pulled back slightly. She angled her head and peeked in, curious as to what was happening. What she saw had her eyes widening in utter and complete shock.

To be honest she’d seen her charges and their customers before, but with Takaba on his head, his mouth open as saliva ran from the side of his lips with the young lord over him pounding away mercilessly she felt something stirring inside her, a feeling she’d put to rest a long time ago.

Takaba looked worn, stressed and completely fucked out as the early morning waves of the rising sun barely illuminated the room, causing them to glow as the rays bathed over both their sweat slicked and fluid coated skin. The kid looked like he’d been through purgatory and back, and she smiled before she closed the sliding door and left the two alone.

Chapter Text

Earlier in the night…

Akihito didn’t know if he could open his mouth to say another word. It’s been hours now and his throat felt hoarse and raw; his body felt weak, drained, like how a used dish rag looked after doing its time.

He could hardly breathe; Asami had him every which way while they had sex. On his head, on his hands and knees, on his damn face…on the floor. He had no idea there were so many sexual positions available for them to try, Asami seemed well verse in the art of fucking, like he received apprentice lessons from Konsei Daimyoujin, the phallic God of sexual prosperity, himself.

Akihito loathed to admit, but despite their treacherous start, after a while Asami made it feel good, forced him to beg and grovel for something he swore he wouldn’t. Like now, sitting on Asami’s pelvis and riding him while the man wrapped both hands around his waist to hold him in place felt damn good, especially the way that special spot inside him kept getting hit. He wanted to cry out in protest, but every time he opened his mouth a moan slipped pass, so he proffered to keep it shut as much as possible.

Their hot, sweaty bodies moved in tandem against each other, making Akihito compare them in the back of his mind to birds in a mating dance. Asami’s muscles flexed each time he moved and Akihito’s own body reciprocated. His body, not his mind, because somewhere in the back of said mind he remembered he shouldn’t be wanting this.

“Don’t stop,” Akihito moaned, his voice sounding hoarse and raw even to his own ears. Strong fingers dug into his hips as the man thrusted harder and forced him to move faster. That hot wet tongue laved at his nipples and his body shook with undeniable pleasure. The size of that dick, initially intimidating, was now reaching deep inside him, marking and claiming him for the first time.

But now, Akihito felt fatigued…how many hours had they been going at it?

Holding tight to Asami for purchase, Akihito hated the way he supposedly whined when Asami stopped moving, forcing him once and for all to admit that he wanted this, craved it. He rode the man as hard and fast as his tired body would allow, and when it wasn’t enough for Asami they were flipped over with him on his back, both legs planted steadfastly on the man’s shoulders with a wild, feral look in his golden eyes.

Asami had skilled hands, that much Akihito could admit to himself. Dexterous fingers roamed all over his body, sending tingles and shivers of pleasure up his spine. Sometimes the soothing touches were distractions for some perverted action Asami wanted to try on his virgin body, like sticking his tongue where it didn’t belong, or upgrading from one finger to three. Mind you, he wasn’t as compliant as his thought process made things out to be, because he still pushed and snarled and fought, even if only at half capacity.

“Why do you fight so much? For the last time relax,” Asami grunted, his golden eyes staring with deep concentration and lust.

Akihito really wanted to curse, but Asami then angled his thrusts deeper and he could only scrape along the man’s back and shoulders while he moaned and grunted, no way would he be giving in that easily.

They kissed, long and hard and passionately and Akihito couldn’t resist the temptation to bite down even through his lust. Of course, Asami punished him with even more back breaking sex. Figures.

For the umpteenth time orgasm was denied; it was going to be a long night.

*******VF*******

There was a rapt knock on the Shoji screen door before all returned to quietness. There was the permeating smell of sweat and sex in the air, undeniable proof of the activities that went on earlier.

Akihito was passed out on the bed with the sheets barely covering his ass while he laid sprawled in the form of a pentagon. His alabaster skin, now lined and dotted with black and blue finger bruises, a few teeth marks and shallow cuts from his constant fighting looked appealing in the afterglow. His kissed bruised lips looked plump and delicious.

By now the sun was high in the sky, bathing the room in a warm, soft glow. Asami knew he was a bit rough on the kid, more than a bit rough, actually, but it was partly Akihito’s fault for not willingly giving himself over to his destiny. He tried to drill in his head that this had to happen and he should just relax and let nature take its course, but of course the kid had to be difficult even while compliant. A virtue which drew him like moth to a flame, but one he wished could have been extinguished last night. Things could have gone so much more smoothly for Akihito if he’d just relax and given himself freely. Still, it wasn’t like Akihito didn’t get immense pleasure out of it, because despite his protests he came five times.

The fifth was actually a case of dry come on the blond’s part but that was neither here nor there, it still counted.

Still, spending the entire night fucking and fighting, with only a few hours of sleep now left Asami satiated and hungry. He knew the knock earlier signaled food, which was more than likely left on a tray by the door for them. He left the bed and padded to the door, side stepping blond braids and pieces of clothing, before opening it and looking down. Sure enough, the tray housed a small tea pot, two small ceramic cups with a single green leaf inside and a semi large plate, covered. Taking the tray he went back inside and sat on the bed.

Asami debated between waking Akihito and letting him sleep. On the one hand, the food would help the boy immensely after such a wild night on an empty? stomach, but on the other hand so would some rest. Asami admitted to himself that Akihito getting some rest would be more important. He’d eat the food then leave, returning at a later date for an encore performance. His libido flared when a small moan left the blond’s lips before he shuffled, causing the sheet to be tugged away, leaving him naked and exposed to Asami’s view. Now he could really see the state Akihito was in.

Maybe a few days for him to recuperate would be best, it’s not like Akihito would be going anywhere until he came back for him.

And come back for him he will. As soon as he settle the affair with the impending war between his province and a rival’s he’ll pay Akihito’s ransom and take him home. Last thing he’d want is to bring the boy amidst all the blood shed and fighting taking place outside the city walls right now. He feared losing him to the way of the samurai while the uprising was in full bloom.

Akihito was a weakness he couldn’t allow to be exploited.

*******VF*******

Pain laced through the fog in his mind as Akihito slowly awoken from slumber. The pain radiated through his body, making him wish he was still fast asleep. His eyes were screwed shut against the glare from the light in the room created by the sun and he groggily rolled over on to his back, wincing at the effort it took. He looked around the room and it was empty. Did that man fuck and run? The bastard.

That hurt.

He rubbed his aching forehead and groaned before falling back on the pillow, he felt too drained to move. His first time, he admitted to himself could have gone better, but it could have been much worse. His tale of deflowering wasn’t exactly a horror story, not by the standard of some things he heard happened to others at their Mizuage.

He didn’t wake to see Asami though. Did that mean the man was dissatisfied, that Akihito wasn’t appealing enough in the end? After all the effort and everything Asami put into the build up was this it? Akihito felt a pang at that and was berating himself for not expecting it. Well, in defense of himself he did consider it, he just didn’t know why it was affecting him so much right now. He was a toy, a piece on a chess board like every other Courtesan in this forsaken place.

One hand, crusty with dried cum, came up to rub at his temple and he decided a bath would do him good, this wasn’t the end of the world after all and Asami could go to hell in a palanquin decorated with balloons and ribbon; the devil’s bride.

The trip to the bathroom seemed like a near impossible feat, and he was halfway there, clutching his stomach and holding the wall for support when the Shoji door was suddenly slid open, startling him as the house mistress entered, the same maiko from the night before by her side with a new clothes draped over his arms.

“Takaba, I’m surprised you can still walk after all that,” she said in a voice sounding all too pleased.

Akihito’s irritation doubled at her presence.

“You’re now a full fledged Courtesan, a male Geisha in subtext. Your wardrobe was replaced last night, along with your entire ensemble. Your scheduled has changed. There’s a list in your room of the new hours to eat, sleep and when to service customers. By right there should be a ceremony celebrating your new status, but I didn’t care to spend any more money on you than necessary. You will be assigned a maiko in due time and until then…” She looked his naked body up and down. “…you’ll still be carrying out your regular duties.”

Akihito snorted. “Sorry, but the only customer I’ll be servicing is myself.”

Akihito turned and walked towards the bathroom, ignoring the ignorant smile he knew was directed at him. He kept his disposition as regal as possible despite the lower back pain radiating from his rear and abdomen and the myriad of other bruises heating his body.

This, this he never wanted to experience again, especially not with Asami much less a total stranger. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and gauged the sorry state he was in. The bruised stood out against his pale skin like a beacon in the dark, his hair was wild and untamed and his face looked tired. He felt tired, damn, he needed a bath.

*******VF*******

“So, how was it?”

Akihito bit into the sliced bitter melon he had in a plate before him while sitting around one of the wooden tables in the dining hall and he didn’t look Takato in the face when he answered. “What do you think?”

“I’m not a mind reader,” Takato sighed exasperatedly before taking a seat beside him.

“And I’m not in the mood to talk about it.”

“It was that bad, huh?” Takato sympathized before stealing one of the wedges and biting into it.

Akihito glared, both for the stealing and for his friend’s perception.

Takato leaned over the table with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes before inquiring, “So, you’re a full fledged man now at Sixteen years old, how does it feel?”

Akihito frowned, but at the look on Takato’s face he just shrugged. “The clothes feels nicer.”

“Purest silk,” Takato grinned.

Akihito laughed as Takato patted himself down, apparently reveling in the feel of the fabric against his skin. But then Takato looked serious again and he honestly didn’t want to know what he was thinking.

“So, I was thinking, was it that Daimyo from before, or somebody else? I’d be surprised if it wasn’t him since he’s so possessive over you. By the way, where’s the ring you were wearing?”

Akihito made a mental sigh, everything came right back around to Asami all the time. Why couldn’t he just be rid of the man once and for all? He fucked him then left when he got what he wanted, that was the end of their saga. “It was him. He got rid of the ring, said it served its purpose when he took me.”

Akihito subconsciously rubbed where the ring once resided, not aware that Takato was watching him intently.

“You care about him, huh?”

That, snapped Akihito out of whatever daze he was falling into and he stared at Takato as if he’d grown two heads.

“Don’t try to deny it, it shows every time you think about him.”

“What shows, how can you say something like that?” Akihito asked disgusted. Him? Care about Asami? When the Westerner’s hell freezes over.

“Right…” Takato drawled, not buying Akihito’s denial.

Akihito pouted. “I do not care about him!”

“Don’t throw a tantrum,” Takato teased. “It shouldn’t be bothering you so much if it wasn’t true.”

“Why you…” Akihito snarled.

Takato laughed. But then he stood as if to leave.

“Sorry Akihito, I have a meeting in fifteen minutes, we’ll talk later. Bye.”

Akihito waved his friend off dismissively. He couldn’t get Takato’s words out of his head. Why the hell would he care about Asami? And if he didn’t care why was it ‘obvious’? He was doing a mental brain screwage over this. He closed his eyes and repeated to himself like a prayer;

I hate Asami. I hate Asami. I hate Asami.

Besides, Akihito seriously doubted he’ll see Asami again since its two days after his mizuage, even though it normally took months at a time for him to see the bastard due to how far away his province was. But the fact that Asami left immediately after getting what he wanted that fateful night led Akihito to believe that was all he wanted; he was a means to an end. Maybe Asami was just the kind of man who perved obsessively on virgins, and once he got what he wanted that was the end of it.

Despondent, Akihito cradled his chin in his right hand and sighed. If only things were different.

*******VF*******

A week later Akihito was still alone, thankfully, in the same room he had been appointed after his rooming split with Hiroki Daichi. He still saw the man around occasionally, and he didn’t try to hide his glares or disgust for him.

But, Akihito didn’t care what anybody else thought of him, it was no skin off his back.

Tamafuyou-sama kept her word about having him retain his regular duties though. Everyday chores was a Maiko’s duty, which he no longer was, but he still scrubbed floors, did other’s laundry, fetched water and all the menial things his title should have surpassed. But Akihito didn’t mind, he preferred that over ‘servicing customers’ any day. He saw more pride in washing cum covered kimonos than spreading his legs and coming for strangers.

“Takaba-san.”

Akihito looked in the mirror he sat before at the inverted image of the house mistress at the entrance to his room. He put the brush down that he was using to comb his hair and turned fully to face the woman before standing. He gritted his teeth.

“Yes?”

Tamafuyou walked closer, and as she approached a man with shoulder length almond colored hair and green eyes followed closely behind her. He was dressed in a blue and white Hakama and carried a scabbard on his side, just like Asami.

Forget Asami!

The woman had a very serious look on her face. “Takaba, this is Takeshi-sama. Unfortunately for you, he asked specifically for you, in behavior that is. You’ll be entertaining him for the evening, don’t disappoint me.”

The man smiled, a lecherous little upturn of the lips and Akihito felt abhorrent. “You know I don’t entertain, find somebody else to look after your clients.”

Akihito turned his back to the two after he spoke, hoping that they would get the hint and leave. He didn’t want to do this, at least Asami pretended to court him before he was violated. This was outright pimping, and he wouldn’t put up with it.

“He’s as feisty as you say, Mistress,” the stranger chortled in a deep voice and Akihito hugged his stomach with one hand and held the collar of his kimono tightly closed with the other in what he didn’t realize at the time as nervousness.

“Just like you like them,” the woman answered, a mischievous lilt to her voice. The sound of her feet shuffling away could be heard and Akihito spun around to look.

The man, Takeshi-san, was still there as the woman’s back disappeared through his room door. Akihito’s eyes narrowed. “Why are you still here?”

Takeshi smiled, a wolf in sheep clothing kind of smile before he slowly walked over to Akihito, who was taking steps to be as far away from the man as possible.

“Why are you running? I’m not here to hurt you.”

“I don’t know that,” Akihito spat. He could sense the danger from the man before him, like a predator and its prey. He tried inching over to the door, but the man must have picked up on his ploy because he suddenly lunged for him, grabbing his arms and wrestling him to the floor.

“Let go of me!” Akihito shouted, thrashing and snarling and trying to fight the man off. The blood pounded in his ears, his heart rate sped up and the adrenaline pumped through his system as they fought.

There was a smile on Takeshi-san’s face as he wrestled him for dominance, like he was enjoying this immensely. Akihito tried to slap him but the man blocked it with one hand, then he grabbed him by the hair and slammed his head into the wooden floor underneath him; he saw stars.

“Stay quiet.”

Akihito’s vision swam while his head felt like he got hit with a rock. It throbbed fiercely, rendering him immobile but not unconscious. He felt the hand that ran slowly down his chest before it started unfastening his obi, untying the knot. He weakly brought his hands down to try and refasten his clothing, but they were harshly slapped away. The folds of his kimono were then held and ripped open, exposing his bare skin to the man and his head came down, then tongue and teeth were on his neck, his jaw, his chest...licking at his nipple.

“Stop it.” Akihito gritted his teeth, frowning as the slimy, disgusting muscle licked him all over. It didn’t feel good.

“STOP!” His legs were forcefully nudged apart and Takeshi’s hard on was felt through the man’s clothing. He was about to be raped and it made him feel so vulnerable and disadvantaged.

“Hehehe, you’re so cute and hot, Takaba, I want to hear you scream,” the man purred while his grip bruised Akihito’s wrists.

Akihito writhed and whimpered as Takeshi changed strategy, using only one hand to hold his wrists together while the other fumbled to free his Hakama to provide the tool for penetration.

Akihito fought harder, freeing one of his hands but Takeshi was too busy watching his own hand as it worked to free his manhood, not paying attention to what Akihito was doing as long as he was beneath him.

With his free hand, Akihito felt around him for something, anything to defend himself. His fingers brushed something hard and he gripped it. It took a second for him to bend his head back to look; it was Takeshi-san’s scabbard.

Takeshi managed to free it, his hardened cock and when Akihito looked down and spotted it he panicked even more, he didn’t want to be violated by this man. Without thinking, he used his free hand to bring the end of the scabbard to his immobile hand. He gripped it, unsheathed the katana, and right before Takeshi-san was to penetrate he brought his hand down to shoulder level and swung it across in the *hidari ichimonji giri cut, slicing Takeshi-san’s throat open.

Akihito gasped in shock and fear as the man’s salacious expression changed to one of utter and complete shock, his mouth hanging open and his eyes rolling back as blood spewed from severed tendons in the man’s trachea.

Scared out of his mind, Akihito backed away, shivering at the sight of the man bleeding to death and knowing he caused it, and the feel of the warm blood that splashed on his face, neck and hands.

“I…I…I’m…” Akihito stammered as he dropped the katana as if burned at the realization that it was smeared with blood, so much blood from the man floundering on the floor. He started hyperventilating, not able to breathe properly as the fear creeped up and blocked his airway. A bloody hand reached out towards him and he backed himself away harshly, not knowing what to do.

The man’s eyes dimmed as the blood pooled around his head, and slowly, as the life left his body, his head lowered until nothing moved. He was dead.

Akihito became terror-stricken. He clutched the folds of his kimono in a death grip as the realization that he killed a man sunk in. Who this man was he had no idea, all he knew was that he would be dead when they found out. Instead of his integrity being defended he would be fed to the wolves for the sake of the Okiya. They had a reputation to uphold and getting rid of him would be the easiest way out.

He had to get away.

He had to run.

Run, Takaba, Run!

Standing on quivering legs, Akihito ran.

Chapter Text

Akihito's feet and lungs burned. He got a few minutes head start on his plan to escape since the house was mostly empty due to a festival in town. He learned from the mistake of his first escape attempt, and instead of running to where he knew men were watching the yard, he ran to a little cave like area in the huge forested back yard of the property, a place he discovered years ago and would go to a few times when he really didn't want to be found. Luckily the little hole, barely big enough to fit him comfortably, was shrouded with shrubs and vines, so it was near impossible to spot even in the burning afternoon sun.

Footsteps could be heard running; they were looking for him. His hands trembled as he tried to will his breathing to normal, last thing he wanted was to be found because he couldn't keep quiet.

"Any trace of him…?" An unknown voice spoke and Akihito drew his legs closer to his chest and held his breath as the fear slithered up his spine.

"…No, not yet. His trail disappeared somewhere around here."

A shadow of a man moving, using his katana to cut at overgrown bushels could be seen. He wore battle ready armor and a helmet. A Samurai. Another shadow appeared; this one carried a bow and arrow, stance ready and poised to strike.

"Orders are t kill him on the spot then burn him, there should be no trace he was ever here." That was the samurai with the katana and the other nodded his head in agreement.

A wave of cold sweat washed over Akihito. His hands sudden felt too hot and clammy against his legs. He honestly wondered if he would make it out alive; his mind scrambled with dubious hope.

Asami.

"Who was the guy in the room?" Bow and arrow-san asked while covering their back.

"Takeshi Hikaru-sama, second son from the house of the Takeshi clan in the Totomi Province," Katana-san answered.

A man of stature, Akihito visibly trembled, even though he tried not to, at the implication. The second son of the head of a province… they would kill him without hesitation; demand his head on a silver platter in retribution.

"Let's hurry and find him, the Mistress is throwing a fit right now, that kid messed up the reputation of the house, this won't be pretty."

There was a grunt of affirmation from the other man before the two hurried off in search of him. Akihito could feel his pressure rising, like a metaphorical pressure pot about to explode. He was scrambling in his head as to his next move. Should he run or should he stay? He took a deep breath, willing his racing heart to calm before deciding the cover of night would best aid his get-a-way; he would be less visible that way. He hoped.

*******VF*******

Hours passed before twilight covered the landscape in a deep orange and red glow, then the cover of night fell. Akihito couldn't tell how long he sat in the little hole, but he knew by this time his muscles were so sore, protesting any and all movement, no matter how small. He'd kept himself completely still and quiet the entire time, only shifting when his ass burned or his back or legs hurt from his uncomfortable position.

Men searching for him passed occasionally and Akihito held his breath, becoming as still as a Buddhist statue. But they always passed, none seemed to be able to detect him from his hiding spot.

After a while the pounding of his blood in his ears were rivaled by the loud chirping of the crickets and other insects outside the mini cave. It was night, and fireflies lit a dancing and buzzing path through the shrubs of his hiding place like festive lights in the dark. It was incredibly cold as the icy breeze of the chilly night air swept over the land. He was cold down to his bones and his teeth chattered. The now dirty, layered kimono only helped him so much.

After an unbearably long wait, Akihito decided it would be time for him to risk moving. He wished he could have stayed in the mini cave forever and hide, but he was hungry, dirty, sore, weak and scared. He had to risk moving to see if he could get away, to attain freedom.

Nothing tried, nothing done.

Gingerly, ever so slowly he lifted his right leg and put it forward, towards the entrance. He had to ditch his zori to run more comfortably and he stared at his tabi shrouded toes as they barely touched the shrub, wondering if pushing out even his big toe would have made him visible to others. The tabi socks gave him little protection against the pebbles, sharp stones and prickly vines and shrubs of the forest floor, but it was better than his bare feet, which would have caused even more damage to his sole than was already there.

He started shaking again before ruminating about staying put a bit longer, but weighing the pros and the cons of that decision made him feel risking now would give him a better chance at escaping than waiting until day when the cover of night would be gone. He would starve to death if he went two whole days without food or water, or even the convenience of a sanitary outlet.

Akihito pulled his foot back and twisted his body until he was on his hands and knees. He slowly, ever so gingerly poked his head outside, just enough for him to take a sweeping glance of the surrounding area. His vision had to adjust to the endless shadows and slivers of light that made up the forest backdrop, and he thought that if it was too dark for him, maybe it would be too dark for the samurais as well.

Tentatively, Akihito sluiced slowly across the dry leaves and branches and dirt of the forest floor. He instinctively crouched as he moved, not wanting to be obvious against the setting of the landscape. He stepped carefully, trying not to make any noise by stepping on dry twig or any other noise inducing element. He was scared as he moved, praying to any deity willing to listen to help him get away. He didn't want to die here, he didn't want…

Snap.

Akihito held his breath and stood still at what he thought he heard. The blood pounded in his ears and the hair prickled on the back of his neck as he looked behind him, trying to focus his eyes as well as his hearing. He prayed he was only hearing things, or that it was a raccoon or a cat or something. Cold sweat washed over him, and when after a few moments there was no other sound, he started to move forward carefully again.

The trees rose up, dark against the night sky like blackened hands offering worship. The leaves and branches rustled, crickets chirped and owls hooted eerily, setting Akihito's nerves on edge. He had to use both hands to hold up the ends of the kimono as he moved.

Snap!

Akihito gasped this time before looking behind him; that definitely wasn't his imagination. The thought that he was being followed had him breaking into a full time run, not caring that he was making noises or that his feet were splintering from sharp vines, jagged rocks and barks that protruded from the earth.

Chilled to the bone with fear, Akihito took a glimpse behind him as he ran, and could make out the silhouette of a samurai running full speed towards him with sword drawn and held battle ready. This man intended to kill him.

Picking up speed, the sweat rolled from Akihito's forehead into his eyes, momentarily blinding him from the salty sting. He tried wiping at his eyes while he ran, but didn't see the correlated vines that stretched across his path, tripping him and sending him face down into the dirt like a sack of potatoes. He heard his own whimpering and gasps as he scrambled to move on quivering hands and legs; to run, to get away. But his movements were sloppy, impeded by the length of the kimono he kept stepping on, his slippery hands and feet that couldn't adhere to the sodden surface of his surrounding and the fear that gripped his heart like a vice, rendering him inept and clumsy.

The approaching footfalls grew louder and more rapid. Akihito's heart clenched as the sound made him realize he was about to die.

"Come here, you little shit!" A deep baritone voice reverberated through his senses and Akihito gasped as his hair was grabbed from behind painfully, then he was slammed on his back and his head hit a rock, hard. His vision swam as a hand came down and grabbed his throat after the man straddled him, keeping him in place and cutting off whatever cries and pleas was about to leave his lips. He clawed at the hand cutting off his air supply while watching the samurai's free hand raise the sword high above his head with the blade pointed at Akihito's heart.

Eyes widening and breath stopping, Akihito waited on the inevitable strike that would make him a corpse in the middle of the forest floor. His heart felt like it wanted to beat out of his chest, he was stricken with an overwhelming sense of terror, especially from the discomfort and pain of having such a bulky man on top of him with a death grip around his throat. He then closed his eyes, making a split second decision about not wanting to see his own demise. He waited, whimpering and holding back a cry at the knowledge that any second now that man's hand would drop like a guillotine and his life would be over.

The air shifted around him and Akihito anticipated this was it, but instead he heard what sounded like metal clashing against metal. He risked opening one eye and saw the tip of the sword the samurai atop him held being mere inches from his right eye, the grey moonlight glistening off the blade. But it was suspended in midair from another katana pushing against it and the masked face of a second samurai pushing against his attacker's katana using his upper body could be seen. Grateful, though he was still scared shitless, Akihito watched as his attacker was pushed off him to stumble a little away. He was then grabbed by the folds of his kimono and shoved roughly to the side, out of harm's way.

Shaking and coughing and trying to make himself as small as possible against the huge bark of a tree, he watched as the two men faced off.

"Who are you, betrayer?" Akihito's attacker asked, voice gruff and low.

The newcomer's face was covered in an eerie mask, but Akihito didn't miss the small detail that he wore the same uniform as the man that tried to kill him. He was also tall and extremely lean. The man didn't answer and only raised his sword above his head before charging.

Fear pounded in the back of his skull and through his chest like a hammer and Akihito ran while the men were distracted with each other, not wanting to be a part of the carnage. And what if the newcomer lost? Then the other samurai would want to pick up where he left off, wouldn't he?

Akihito ran, ran as fast as his weakened body and even weaker spirit would allow.

********VF*******

Akihito didn't know how long he'd been moving. He stumbled and fell along the way, the pain in his skull intensified and bile threatened to rise from his throat for the umpteenth time. He could hardly breathe, his lungs burned and his muscles ached. He didn't know how far outside the Okiya's perimeter he was, but he knew he was deep in the heart of the forest. Everything was thicker and denser around him.

Akihito's vision swam and he swallowed thickly, which hurt his dry, parched throat. His dirt covered arms came out to hug a tree as he stumbled towards it, using it for leverage as his body threatened to fail him. But he only had one thing on his mind and that was to get away. It was the only and the last thing he thought before darkness encompassed him and he fell to the ground in a heap.

*******VF*******

Consciousness slowly returned to Akihito and he realized whatever he was currently sitting on was bumpy, and moved with the grace of a horse.

It was a horse, he realized, which was confirmed when the clapping of the hooves reached his ears. Even through the darkness he could tell he was straddling the rider, because his legs rested atop the legs of whoever it was and his head was on the man's armored shoulder. He noticed he was positioned so the arms holding the reigns blocked him in, preventing him from falling sideways. He slowly opened his eyes and blearily looked at the passing scenery; more vegetation. The sun wasn't too high in the sky, shining from the west, which suggested approaching evening.

Akihito vaguely wondered if his mystery savior was Asami. Who else could it be? He hoped it was the man. His resolve strengthened and he wrapped both hands around the man's waist and held tight, willingly ignoring how the other man tensed at his touch.

The idea that it was Asami comforted him and Akihito closed his eyes once again, falling into another pain induced sleep.




Chapter Text

The next time Akihito awoke he felt way more comfortable, on blankets and surrounded by a warm bonfire in the secluded area of another forest. It was night and he opened his eyes before sitting up groggily, using both hands for support.

Sitting across from him on a log was the mystery samurai that saved his life. The man held his head in such a way that Akihito couldn't see his face while he ate. He cleared his throat to get the man's attention and when he looked up, a pair of unfamiliar, really dark eyes looked back at him. He clenched his fists, it wasn't Asami.

"Who are you?"

The samurai inclined his head. "Kirishima Kei."

Akihito waited for further response, because if this man thought to kidnap him for personal gain he had another thing coming. He wondered why the man saved him if he was working for the house Mistress.

"You work with the house Mistress at the Okiya, why did you save me?"

At the mention of saving him, Akihito could make out what appeared to be blood stains on the man's armor. Was it only his attacker's, or did this man kill more people?

"I was instructed to keep an eye on you," the man answered. Forward and to the point, Akihito liked that.

"By who?"

"Asami-dono. He instructed me to get you away from the place if needs be, and to see to it that you didn't get into too much trouble…"

…and to make sure that nobody else laid a hand on you.

Somehow that revelation didn't shock Akihito in the least. He was surprised he didn't suspect it sooner, considering how possessive the older man was of him. Some of the tension left his body at the mention of Asami's name. If Kirishima-san worked for Asami, then that would explain his earlier actions. He felt his head throbbing and touched it to realize it was bandaged. He still wore the filthy, dirt covered kimono from the night before and felt the need for a bath. He looked down at himself; cuts and bruises and dirt stains were all over his body and his feet hurt.

"There's a river nearby," Kirishima pointed out. "Water and food here, if you're hungry."

Akihito's stomach chose then to rumble. He blushed in embarrassment. "I think I'll clean up first, thank you. Can I get some water?"

Based on how dry his throat was it felt like his trachea was on fire. He figured that was also due to his near strangulation along with being thirsty. Kirishima grabbed a small canister and stood, his height and muscles even more intimidating from Akihito's lying position on the blanket. The man hovered after passing him the canister and he drank greedily before handing it back.

Kirishima then took up something on the forest floor over his head before handing it to him. It was a pair of zori slippers.

"Your feet are hurt, wear these."

The blond nodded in silent thanks and took the slippers. Kirishima then pointed to his right and Akihito took one of the blankets and a yukata offered to him before heading towards said river.

The river was only a few meters away, and Akihito figured they camped so close to it so Kirishima could keep an eye on him. He could see the man's back from where he stood taking off his clothes, and to be honest he was glad Kirishima was in range in case of an attack. Naked, he tested the temperature of the water with his right foot. It wasn't too cold, he could work with it.

Submerged in the cool flow of water, Akihito let all the tension flow with the current downstream. Now that he had time to relax, he couldn't get the image of Takeshi-san's bloody, dying corpse out of his mind.

Red, there was red everywhere, covering his entire being like a canvass. The scent of blood was strong in his nostrils still, making him feel nauseous. The warm tingle of the bloody sploshes made his skin crawl like tiny poisonous snakes were rampaging through his pores. He wanted to forget, to be free of the image but it was near impossible. With eyes open or closed, the image lingered in his peripheral vision like a ghost on the edge of his consciousness, scary and dark.

Akihito was vaguely aware that he was shivering uncontrollably, but whether it was from the sudden drop in temperature or his infringing sub-conscience he wasn't sure. His hands wrapped around his body in an attempt at comfort, but his own hands weren't any help against his cold, clammy skin.

His own hands, nothing like the strong hands of Asami.

Akihito didn't know how long he stood in the now freezing water, except Kirishima's voice calling his name sounded distant and enclosed like an echo; almost frantic.

The rushing water loomed closer for some reason and he couldn't figure why. His body felt numb and heavy and he didn't even panic when his head was totally inundated under the current. He was aware he should be panicking when his body slowly started to tilt and move with the river flow, but even then he couldn't get all the blood and the sound of metal slicing through flesh out of his mind; front, back and centre. Takeshi-san's open mouth as he struggled for his last breath, his slowly dimming eyes as they watched him were branded behind his eyelids.

"Takaba!"

The water shifted harshly around him before Akihito felt himself being grabbed and dragged up to break the waters surface, which stunned him out of his distress.

Akihito's teeth chattered as the water ran from his hair to his shoulders, and he looked up into the face of his second time savior. He coughed. "K…Kirishima-san?"

Kirishima quickly wrapped Akihito in the blanket he left on the river bank before lifting him in his arms and carrying him back to the camp fire. The blond was made to sit close to the warmth of the fire while Kirishima shook him by the shoulders until he responded.

"Takaba-san! Takaba-san!"

Akihito watched the man's tightened features as he alternated between drying his hair and rubbing his arms through the blanket, supposedly trying to warm him. Kirishima's brows were knitted and his lips were downturned into a frown. Trying to focus on the man, Akihito could feel the nausea subsiding and his vision coming back into focus.

"Kirishima-san, why are you so upset?"

Kirishima hung his head and sighed. He then looked back at Akihito sternly. "Don't do anything foolish like that again, brat. It'll be my head if you were to drown."

Akihito nodded his head once, then watched Kirishima as he stood and walked to a stone opposite him before sitting down and glaring in his direction. He then lowered his head.

"You were going into shock, get some sleep," the man instructed without looking up.

Akihito pulled the blanket up over his shoulders before turning on his side and taking the man's advice. He was too out of it to do otherwise anyway.

*******VF*******

The next time Akihito opened his eyes the sun barely peaked over the horizon, making thin ribbons of golden rays over the land. Pushing the blanket down his body he sat and rubbed his eyes. Looking around him, his vision rested on Kirishima, who now wore a short sleeved, silver and gold *Dobuku Sugata with a cut up the back and a pair of zori slippers.

He threw a container of water on the campfire, which sizzled and crackled as the small flames died out. The few things they had were already packed and placed on the horse tied to a tree nearby, who bristled before bringing his head down to eat at the grass by his hoofs.

Krishima walked over with a bowl in his hands, proferring.

"Breakfast."

Akihito took the bowl, nodding in thanks in the process. Fried rice with herbs, tasted good too. When he was through, a small bowl of miso soup was offered and he hurriedly drank it. Everything was packed away and the camp site cleaned as if no-one was there.

Based on what Akihito could gather about Kirishima from the small amount of time spent with him, he was very good at domestication. But even with that thought, Akihito still had questions he needed answers to. Namely…

"Ne, Kirishima-san, where is Asami?"

Kirishima paused in his cleaning up efforts to look at Akihito. "Right now, Asami-dono is a two day's ride away in the Kozuke province."

Akihito frowned. "Kozuke Province, what's he doing there?"

If Akihito remembered correctly, Asami was the head of the Mino province, situated in the heart of Honshu, a great and fertile plain surrounded by mountains. Ifthe rumors that he heard were true. To be honest he'd never seen it fit before to ask Asami about where he came from, now he wish he had.

Kirishima's features then became grim. "War."

Akihito felt a pang of something at that revelation. As a Daimyo, Asami would have to defend his territory consistently against others who wanted what was his and battle was never a good thing, even for those who won. The collateral damage sometimes far outweighed the spoils.

Thinking about war, the feel of the sword and Takeshi-san's dying eyes suddenly came to mind. Akihito willed the heavy feeling in his heart away.

"Are you ready to go, Takaba?" Kirishima asked while putting away the last of his things.

Akihito nodded before getting on the horse behind the man. "Let's go."

*******VF*******

They travelled until evening, when the sun lit up the horizon and the land in a bright fire orange and yellow color. They'd passed small villages to come upon a town in Chuubu of the Owari province, more than likely the capital since it was bustling with a variety of peasants, merchants and buyers.

There were flower merchants, candle wax buyers and used umbrella rib buyers just to name a few.

"I need supplies and you need new clothes," Kirishima had pointed out and Akihito nodded in agreement. Riding on a bumpy horse for hours was no fun and his backside hurt. Other than that he felt thirsty and hungry. And, the yukata wouldn't do him any good in the cold night air to come later, he needed a kimono.

They found an area watched by a young boy to leave their horse, although they had to barter for his services.

Kirishima had candy; it was enough after a little coaxing.

The town had lots of little shops and stalls along the roadway and the townspeople went along their business as usual. Rowhouses could be seen in the distance and Akihito noticed the few glances they got from the townspeople, it seemed they were wary of strangers.

They'd walked until they were passing a fruit an vegetable stall and the juicy red apples just called out to Akihito like a beacon. His stomach rumbled at the sight and he touched Kirishima lightly on the arm.

"Kirishima-san, I want apples."

Kirishima stopped and looked over to the stall, then his eyes gained recognition and he walked towards it.

Akihito grinned at what he saw. Juicy peaches, persimmons and oranges, banana, grapes, pineapple, melon and pomegranate. He grabbed an apple and a persimmon, biting into each enthusiastically. Kirishima only looked at him before turning back to the vendor and ordering a small bag of the delicious fruits and a larger bag of the ground provisions. After about a minute they head to a small roadside rice shop where Kirishima ordered Onigiri and Daifukumochi. They were wrapped to go because the man didn't want to spend too much time in one spot, which caused Akihito to frown and pout.

"Then give me one to eat now."

Kirishima kept on walking with the bags in hand. "There's a time and a place for eating, Takaba."

"But I'm hungry. Give me an onigiri, now."

"Stop whining, brat. We'll eat whenever we can settle, and it irks me to see people eating on the roadside," Kirishima answered, obviously bristling at the idea.

Akihito had to take long strides now to keep up with the taller man's faster pace. Steaming, he grabbed Kirishima's right arm, spun him around then stomped his foot on the ground. "I'm hungry and I want to eat, now."

Kirishima, the hulking samurai, looked sheepishly around him at the attention Akihito was attracting. "Fine, stop throwing a tantrum, we'll go find somewhere to eat, brat."

Akihito smiled. "I'm not a brat, just hungry."

They were passing a clothes merchant when Kirishima stopped and pleaded with Akihito. "Look, I know you're hungry but let's jut get this one thing out of the way so when you start eating we don't have to come back."

Akihito looked over Kirishima's shoulder through the open door of the bamboo store that housed an array of kimonos. "But I'm…"

"We won't take too long, Takaba. In no time we'll be out and you'll be eating."

Akihito wanted to protest as Kirishima used his free hand, the one that wasn't holding the bag with the rice snacks and produce to prod him towards the store. He thought about it and decided that if he could just not do anything
after eating that would be best, so with a sigh he gave in.

The shop was really small with horizontal polls running along the walls that housed the variety of kimonos on wooden hangers. In a corner there was a single dressing room and beside it a full length mirror and a wooden stool. The shopkeeper was a middle aged man with droopy eyes and hair done in the chonmage style. He wore a brown Dokubu Sugata, one without the cut in the back like Kirishima-san's, and tabi socks with zori slippers.

"Aah, welcome, Sirs. How may I help you this fine evening?"

Kirishima nodded his head at Akihito, who was already looking around at the different clothes the man had to offer. "He needs a kimono."

The man's smile broadened when he spotted Akihito. He leaned closer to Kirishima and with a lick of his lips, asked. "Is he your concubine? He's a really beautiful little boy, isn't he? Around these parts he'll go for a lot, men like them pretty like a girl."

Kirishima itched to pull his sword and slice the man's tongue out for uttering such ludicrous, but considering they were probably wanted men by now for what went on in Shoumise, he'd rather not draw attention to him or the boy. He put enough venom and scorn in his voice before he spoke. "Keep your hands to yourself, he's off limits."

Besides, there was the knowledge of what Asami-dono would do to him if the boy was hurt in any way. One harmed hair on Akihito's head would be weighed by fifty of his own.

The man backed off and waved his hand in surrender. "Suit yourself." Then he walked over to Akihito with an overly bright smile on his lips. "Say, young Sir, see anything you like?"

Akihito thought about it with a finger on his lip. He looked up and down the length of the wall before grabbing a suit off the rack. "This one."

"Excellent choice!" the merchant laughed. "You can take it and try it in the changing room."

Kirishima's eyes narrowed at the hand the man had lingering on Akihito's shoulders. Luckily for him, the offending appendage was removed before Kirishima could reach for his sword and just as Takaba walked off to the changing room.

"So cute, so cute," the man laughed earnestly while he turned. His head was lowered, but he wiped the smile right off his face and cleared his throat at the murderous look Kirishima was giving him.

Kirishima watched as the man bowed apologetically. "Sorry." Then he quickly walked over to his little desk and got busy. Sighing, Kirishima walked over to one of the stools beside the changing room and took a seat. He had a hand planted firmly on his scabbard while the groceries rested by his feet. He admitted to himself that the kid was honestly a looker—if one cared to look—but now he saw why his boss inexorably stressed the 'make sure no-one lays a finger on him or else…'part. It was frustrating to think he had to go through all this trouble because of one's looks. Also, with being raised as a courtesan, the kid was trained to exude pheromones even when he wasn't trying. Beauty, as they say, had its price.

"Kirishima-san?"

Kirishima grunted in response.

Akihito poked his head out the changing room door, looking for the man and when he spotted him he emerged fully, holding both hands out and spinning around for the man to see. "What do you think, Kirishima-san?"

Kirishima was about to answer that the peach color of the kimono went well with Akihito's skin tone, but his eyes narrowed dangerously when he spotted the salesman licking his lips while watching the blond from across the room. He abruptly got up, startling Akihito who stepped out of his way when he stalked over to the merchant.

The man's eyes widened in fear and Kirishima reached into his breast pocket to extract and count the currency he had on hand.

He bit out in barely controlled ire. "How much is the kimono?"

The man stammered the amount and Kirishima slammed the money on the counter before leaning in close to the quivering man. "Look at him that way again and I assure you it will be the last thing you eversee."

The man grabbed the notes and nodded, risking a hesitant glance at Akihito before he turned his head away.

"Kirishima-san, what's the matter?" Akihito's inquisitive voice asked. He watched as the larger man stalked back over to him, grabbed the groceries and his arm and proceeded to drag him out of the clothes merchant's store.

"What was that all about?" Akihito inquired while they walked along the street. Kirishima was obviously tense and he said nothing, but he noticed the man kept glancing subtly behind them at intervals.

"We're getting out of here," Kirishima suddenly said and Akihito felt something was terribly wrong. Feigning ignorance, he risked a glance behind himself.

Samurais—three of them in silver and red uniforms with eyes trained on them and hands on their scabbard. He began shaking at the idea that men had come for him for the death he caused in Shoumise.

"Takaba…" Kirishima's voice was strong and stern. "…calm down."

Breathing deep, Akihito willed most of his fear away, not wanting to panic and give them away. He leaned in close to Kirishima. "W…who are they?"

Kirishima didn't look at him while he whispered back. "Oda army."

"What do they want?"

"I rather not find out."

It was then Kirishima grabbed his arm and ducked into a good sized *truss hoop repairer's shop. The place was musty and there were rows of wooden barrels and tubs balancing on pieces of ply board with the bamboo fasteners broken or warped.

"Where are they?" A voice bellowed and Akihito held firmly to Kirishima's hand while they moved.

His breathing became shallow as they crouched between the barrels and wooden tubs until they reached the back of the store, where the exit was illuminated by bright rays of setting sunlight. As quickly as they entered they ducked out and disappeared into the tree line, circling carefully to where they left their horse. Akihito had to use his free hand to lift the hem of his kimono up to prevent him stepping on and tripping because of it. After reaching their destination, they quickly mounted their horse and cut through the surrounding forest, avoiding the main road in case it was being watched.

They rode for hours, straight into the dead of night, until Kirishima felt it was alright for them to stop. They made a small fire in a clearing near another river and Akihito sat close to it with his knees up to his chest and his arms wrapped around it, dazed by the day's events. As the adrenaline slowly tethered out from his system his hunger returned and he gazed longingly at the stew Kirishima had been stirring for a while now.

Crickets chirped. "How are you feeling, Takaba?"

The blond regarded the other man with inquisitive eyes. "What happened back there?"

Kirishima dipped his pinky in the stew and tasted it before nodding his head and grunting satisfactorily. He didn't look up from his small black pot that simmered over the fire they made while he addressed the issue. "According to information, Oda Nobuhide is a *Tozama Daimyo deep in open warfare. So far, this district and the entire Owari province are divided, with each faction working on their own."

Akihito drank all of this in. "In other words, there's no central ruler to govern and unite the different districts that make up the entire province…?"

"No, there's no way to say definitely who wants us and for what, so it would be safer to leave while we can. For now we'll get a short rest, and then leave before daybreak."

The blond fidgeted. "Do you think…it's because of what happened at the Okiya?"

Kirishima shrugged. "I honestly can't say since I know of no affiliation between the Totomi and Owari provinces. It could be as simple as a vassal wanting you for his concubine."

Akihito tightened his hands around his legs at that, he wanted to be no such thing; a toy for anybody to use as they see fit.

He watched as Kirishima scooped some of the stew into a small bowl and hand it to him with a pair of chopticks. He gratefully took the offered item and ate until his stomach was full, he even asked for seconds. Kirishima was an excellent cook.

After the stew they capped the meal off with the onigiri and Daifukumochi. Strawberry flavored sweet paste filled Daifukumochi, his favorite.

As soon as they were done eating both men went to sleep, deciding they would need all the rest they could get before their early morning rise to continue their journey.

/Tbc

Chapter Text

Call it a sixth sense, hackles rising on the back of one's neck or simply a terrible unease. The open air felt stuffy, slowing his breathing as his heart hammered in his chest through the darkness.

With eyes closed, Kirishima waited for the telltale sign that they weren't alone. Call it gut feeling or premonition. With skills honed to detect something as minute as evil intent, he waited in the early morning dark with eyes now opened for any sign that the wind blowing through the trees and the folly of nature's residence were the only company they had. The first thing he did when he opened his eyes was to make sure Takaba was safe, and he released a breath when the mop of blond hair greeted him as the smaller body huddled snuggly under the blankets he laid upon on the grassy foliage a few feet away.

He'd put the fire out hours before so they were in relative darkness, hopefully allowing them to be invisible to the naked eye or any wandering passerby. They slept near trees, avoiding the clearings where the moon shone bright enough to illuminate like oil lamps in the darkness.

A twig snapped. With heightened awareness, Kirishima twisted his shoulders slowly and reached for his scabbard, withdrawing his sword while his eyes scanned the area around him. Battle-ready, he rose slowly, silent like a desert snake and took one tentative step forward. With body rigid in anticipation, he turned once again to gauge his surroundings, eyes sharp and slitted as shadows danced and swayed eerily around him.

He was expecting something to happen; the air was heavy with suspense and thick with unease.

Then it lunged. Swords clinked loudly as they clashed against each other; another samurai. Grunting with the effort it took to divert the man's attack, Kirishima noticed a variation of the Oda Army's uniform on the man and the fact that he had a long scar across his forehead. Older looking, mid-thirties, maybe, with battle hardened skin.

He grunted as their katanas clashed in a wayward dance of violence. They managed to fend each other off; a scratch here and a cut there, waiting for the opportune moment to resume attacking and Kirishima decided this was as good a time to ask his question as any."What do you want?"

"We want the child," was the tactile response while the man stabbed his sword forward towards Kirishima's mid-section. With a flick of his wrist he diverted the weapon, almost using the same attack on the perpetrator. The air sung as their weapons sliced through it.

But then something clicked in the back of Kirishima's mind. "We?"

He looked over then to realize that Takaba was gone! This man was only trying to distract him while others took the brat. He felt a small level of panic rise up within him.

His nostrils flared while he looked the man in the eyes, almost as sharp and determined as his own. "Where is he?"

The man laughed balefully while they circled each other like predators. "He's none of your concern anymore."

And then he licked his lips; heavy pink tongue darting out to swipe at thick, chapped lips.

Kirishima needed no more clues to know what was going through the man's head. He would die.

Shouting a battle cry of immense rage, Kirishima charged forward and in a flurry of moves that saw him outwitting his attacker, he managed to cut clear across the man's stomach, who paused with his hands in mid-strike, eyes wide and mouth opened in an O of surprise as his intestines hit the foliage with a wet smack. With the katana falling from slack fingers, the body fell to its knees, then face down in the dirt. Dead.

Kirishima ran back to where he'd left Takaba. The kid's blanket was strewn haphazardly on the ground and he realized they must have drugged him before they took him; there's no way that noisy brat would go quietly.

The horizon had slowly started to light up with the approaching morning, moving from black to an orange/blue hue in strobes of light across the sky. Kirishima was grateful because it meant he could follow the tracks of the men that took the kid. He spotted two sets of footprints by Takaba's blankets and decided that the fastest way to follow was by horse.

Except…his horse was dead. Multiple stab wounds while he lay by the tree he was tied to, eyes closed and body deathly still.

He growled lowly under his breath, these men knew exactly what they were doing. Professionals.

Leaving everything behind except his scabbard, Kirishima decided to the follow the trail by foot. The sooner he started, the sooner he could get Takaba back before something regrettable happened.

*******Saiyuki*******

Akihito came to with the blurry vision of wood and the smell of incense. Willing his vision into focus, he looked clear across the room at the polished wood of the wall. He tried to think where he was and how he got here, but his mind was blank, fuzzy around the edges of his memory. Last thing he remembered was Kirishima tucking him in, hands surprisingly gently as he covered him with the blanket at night.

He bolted upright immediately. Where was Kirishima? Looking frantically around, he could tell the room belonged to someone with money, because even mostly empty the room exuded wealth. Everything was polished clean, perfectly positioned and expensive looking. Even the futon he laid on was extra thick and incredibly comfy.

He clenched his fists as panic rose inside him and he wondered where he was and why. Was Asami close by? Were he and Kirishima together somewhere else in this place?

No. Something was wrong here, he didn't remember leaving Kirishima's side last night at all and if they'd reached Asami, he was sure the older samurai would let him know. He tried to stand but staggered when a wave of nausea hit and his vision swam. Sitting there panting and clutching his eyes, the shoji door slid open and he looked up blearily.

A man approached, dressed in the full white garb of a servant with a tray held before him. He was accompanied by another…a Honzan priest if his robes were anything to go by. The priest had a small paper incense holder in one hand and a prayer bead wrapped around the other. Small trails of smoke lazily drifted upward while the man silently murmured a prayer.

A prayer for what? And for whom? He waited with bated breath as the servant got on his knees and left the tray on the floor beside him, bowing respectfully before getting up and leaving the room. The priest remained and Akihito looked between the tray with the single cup of what looked to be tea on it and the man still chanting, not paying him any heed. He still had questions he wanted answers to and even though he wouldn't normally be disrespectful enough to interrupt a priest while chanting, he needed answers.

"Excuse me, but where am I?"

The priest stopped his chanting immediately and looked down upon him from his standing position. For a few agonizing seconds he said nothing, until…

"You are in the house of Hirotshi."

"Why?" Why am I here?" Akihito went on to question. He needed answers, he needed to know what was happening and he knew nothing about this house or what they were about.

The priest held out his right hand towards the tray on the floor. "Please drink, I'm sure you have travelled far and are thirsty by now."

Akihito's throat did feel parched and his body weak, which made him even more suspicious in the face of this stranger, even if he is a priest, giving him something to drink. He bowed his head in apology. "Forgive me, but I am not thirsty."

The priest held a neutral expression on his face. "Even so, as a guest it's rude to refuse the hospitality of your company."

Akihito knew that, he just didn't feel comfortable. He didn't feel safe and he kept his head down so he could avert the priest's gaze. "Please, tell me why I'm here."

The priest answered. "I was paid to recite a prayer for this room and its occupant, I do not know why you are here."

The priest left after that and Akihito sighed in frustration. Why was the priest hired to pray for him? He tried to stand once again and even though it was a little easier than before, he still felt weak enough to stagger on his way to the door. The hallway outside was empty and lit only by the dim light of oil paper lamps along the wall and Ikebana. The decorated stems were evenly spaced and mirrored each other perfectly. He started in one direction, hoping that wherever he ended up would lead him to answers. The hall ended before a huge oval doorway and letting his curiosity get the better of him, he pushed it open and peaked inside.

"Enter."

The room was vast with red carpeting leading from the doorway to the middle of the room, which was an elevated platform with steps leading to the centre. Sitting in a half lotus on huge, fluffy, red and gold cushions was a man dressed in a teal blue hakama. The top of his head was bald with the back pulled into a bun. He looked to be around his forties and exuded the authority one would equate with being the head of the household; a daimyo, or at the very least a landlord. Akihito pulled his body inside but stood rigid by the door, he had no idea who this man was or what his intentions were after all. He bowed in greeting before asking;

"Who are you and why am I here?"

The man beckoned him over with one hand and seeing no other choice, he walked hesitantly up to the steps and bowed. The man then indicated to the extra set of cushions beside him and Akihito held the hem of his kimono up so he wouldn't trip and fall while climbing the four tier step. He sat cautiously beside the man who kept his head looking forward and never once turned to look at him. For some reason the man seemed to be meditating and Akihito didn't try to interrupt until the man was finished.

A long inhale and exhale of breath was what signaled the man was through after a few minutes. Akihito stared as the man's breathing regularized and he finally turned his head to look at him.

Said man stared endlessly and Akihito felt uncomfortable, but not threatened, under the man's scrutiny. He seemed more curious than anything else. "What is your name?"

Akihito folded his hands in his lap before saying his name.

"Takaba…sounds familiar," the man answered. "I'm Hirotoshi Nankai, successor to this house."

They both bowed in formality.

Still, time to get back to business. "Why am I here?"

The man produced a small tea cup from behind him…Akihito just noticed the small tray…and the scabbard. He watched as Hirotoshi-san sipped monotonously.

An exaggerated sigh was released before the man returned the cup to the tray. He then turned fully to face Akihito, legs still crossed with both hands resting on his knees.

"The Shogun forbids our family from leaving Edo. They must remain there to ensure the Shogun keeps a tight hold over us daimyos."

Akihito nodded once, he knew that. As a matter of fact, Daimyos were required to spend every other year living in Edo as another regulation by the Shogun. The Shogun wanted to make sure he held absolute reign and power over the lands. Not even the emperor managed to garner the same authority. Still, what did all this have to do with him…?

"My marriage…" the man continued and Akihito suddenly didn't like where this was going. "…was forced upon me by the Shogun. I did not get to choose who I wanted to be with."

Akihito felt sympathetic but… "And in the process I must admit that my interests had taken a turn in a different direction."

Now Akihito understood. Those neutral features then changed into a look that was predatory in intensity. Something inside him urged him to move, to create as much distance as he could between him and the man before him; a seasoned predator that had lots of practice in luring unsuspecting prey in. Normally he could sense ill thoughts and perverseness against his person but this time he was fooled. Utterly and completely.

Akihito made to run, stumbling back and shuffling from under his kimono but he didn't get far. His left wrist was grabbed and he was pulled back harshly, falling half way across Hirotoshi-san's lap while the man dug his thumb painfully into his wrist as if to break it. Akihito cried out from the pain.

Hirotoshi ran his free hand softly through his hair and Akihito closed his eyes and cringed at the touch. He wanted this to stop, it reminded him too much of what happened with Takeshi Hikaru and how he killed the man. Panic slowly made its way up his spine and curl around his heart; could he do such a terrible thing again?

Well, if he must, considering the situation. But to be honest Akihito would prefer to avoid such a situation all together.

"I promise it will not hurt in the least. I had a priest pray for your good fortune with me tonight."

The man twisted his arm back and the added pain only made Akihito cry out more. His upper body was twisted in a way to try and alleviate the pain while the man kept running his other hand through his hair, down to the back of his neck where a fluttering kiss was placed upon his skin.

"Such exquisite beauty."

That was disgusting…

*******VF*******

Kirishima stumbled upon what looked like a *Shoin-zukuri styled house perched on huge rocks on a small hillside with a river flowing behind it. The eaves on the roof were a deep dark red color and various trees from cedar to cherry blossoms and Sakura trees littered the landscape.

Hiding at the top of a tree, he scoped out the house and its surrounding. There were two samurais to the front guarding the entrance, two to the left side and he assumed at least another two at the back. He also needed to have an idea of how many were inside the house. If Takaba was being held hostage then there would also be samurais inside. It didn't seem like an amount he couldn't handle, and regardless he just had to get Takaba back.

Descending the tree with the skill of a lion, Kirishima quickly drew his katana and stealthily charged the main entrance. There was no warning at first except the slash of his sword against flesh. First one, then the other samurai from the main entrance fell. An alarm was raised and before he could reach the end of the first hall, he was attacked by two more samurais. He accumulated some cuts and bruises from their fight but in the end he struck them down one by one. They were hardly any match.

Another samurai attacked and with the speed of a cheetah, Kirishima made him sorry they ever crossed paths. A stab through the heart made this particular battle end rather quickly.

Walking swiftly down the hall with his sword held battle ready, Kirishima quickly slid shoji doors aside to see if Takaba was in any of the side rooms. He wasn't, so far.

A battle cry resounded to his left and almost a second too late, Kirishima brought his katana up to shield his exposed neck. He looked into the face of one angry samurai, who snarled before retaliating with a backward sweep of his sword. Naturally Kirishima blocked it and counters with an upward slash of his own, which does little to deter his opponent. He fends the man off with a series of strategic slashing and jabbing motions while their legs moved to and fro in some deathly waltz.

"Where is the boy?" Kirishima gritted out when their katanas clashed and they leaned against it with their body, face close enough to feel their hot, panting breaths. His only response was a smirk while the man goes on the offensive. The tables were eventually turned and deciding not to waste any more time, Kirishima made a leap through the air in an overhead attack that saw him striking his most formidable opponent down with a slash that started on his right shoulder and ended on this left.

The head fell to the floor first, then the body hit the ground. Blood pooled around the severed organs and Kirishima ran the rest of the way down the hall. Turning the corner he saw an oval door at the end. Slowing down to a jog, he stopped to push the wooden structure open with both hands to reveal…

"Kirishima-san!"

Takaba's frightened voice reached his ears and from where he stood, Kirishima could see there was a dagger pointed at Takaba's throat while one of his hands was twisted behind him by his assailant. This wasn't good.

"Who are you and why are you here?" the stranger gritted out through clenched teeth, obviously annoyed at the interruption.

Kirishima barely inclined his head before answering. "I am Kirishima Kei, a samurai from the Mino province."

The man snorted in disdain. "Mino province? Asami-sama. I'm Hirotoshi Nankai…"

"A tozama daimyo," Kirishima pointed out. He'd heard a few rumors here and there of this man. He was hardly a threat to Asami-dono and they decided to ignore him…until now.

Hirotoshi-san frowned at the title. A tozama daimyo was an outside one, a daimyo whose title was handed to them even though the Shogun doubted their utmost loyalty.

"Hand Takaba over or face my wrath," Kirishima continued, legs parting in a defensive stance. His grip tightened on his katana, this was a do or die moment.

"Drop your weapon or I'll slit his pretty little throat." The man sunk the dagger deeper into Takaba's neck in response and the youth whimpered, craning his neck in a bid to ease off the blunt end of the weapon.

Takaba's fearful eyes were trained on him and Kirishima willed him to calm down by look alone. He lowered his weapon towards the ground before throwing it a little away, directly in front of him.

The man then laughed, a distracting sound that made Akihito wince for his ears.

"You're a smart samurai, Kirishima-san."

Kirishima then gave him a piercing look, ruminating how he would go about his plan. One thing he knew about predators was that most times they became too easily distracted by their prey; he would use that to his advantage. "Will you send the boy over here or will I have to take him from you?"

The man then licked the side of Takaba's face, who cringed in obvious disdain at the contact. "He's coming with me."

The few seconds it took for the man to be distracted with Takaba's neck, Kirishima communicated with a sudden shake of his head what the boy was to do. Takaba's demeanor didn't change and the way his breath came in short puffs hinted at his fear, but he trusted the hyperactive kid to do what he needed to do when the moment arrived.

When the low level daimyo looked back at him with a grin, Kirishima made his first move. "Fine, if that's the way you want to do this…"

The man hesitated, wondering just what Kirishima had planned just by the clear amount of confidence he exuded…and that's when Akihito followed through, elbowing the man in the stomach before turning around and kicking him in the balls after the man staggered back.

The dagger clattered on the floor.

From the split second Takaba made his move Kirishima took off at a sprint. Using the momentum from his running, he dived for his katana and rolled over so he could grab it in the process, until he was on his legs again, never missing a beat.

When Hirotoshi-san recovered enough from the attack, he made to grab the retreating Takaba, but when realization dawned and the shadowy outline of the impending attack from Kirishima caught his peripheral vision, he stopped short and looked up.

And Kirishima struck, across the man's upper body, slicing through muscles and tendons while blood erupted and sprayed from the wound. Hirotoshi-san made a guttural scream before falling to his knees.

Keeping his head trained before him and his arms still outstretched with blood dripping from his katana, Kirishima listened for the thump of the body hitting the floor. When he heard it he turned around to look at a shocked Takaba, whose eyes were wide as he watched the twitching body.

To stop the teen from going into shock a second time, Kirishima grabbed him by the arm roughly, pulled him from the floor where he'd landed after falling when Hirotshi-san was killed and walking swiftly away.

"Takaba, let's go."

*******VF******

Akihito looked back at the bloodied corpse of the man, the red liquid pooling around the side of his face touching the floor and it reminded him so much of when he killed Takeshi-san.

Red. Red and blood and gore everywhere and goosebumps prickled his skin while he felt his chest tightening. Kirishima pulled him until they were outside the room and he never realized how bad he was trembling until Kirishima stopped, leaned him against the wall and looked him in the eyes.

The man ran a hand through his hair and demanded his attention. "Takaba, look at me."

Akihito tried his best to focus on Kirishima and only him.

"Are you alright?"

Akihito gulped in a huge breath and willed himself to calm down. "I'm alright, Kirishima-san."

"Good. There are more dead bodies on the way out, will you be able to stomach it?"

"Will I see Asami after this?"

"Yes."

"Fine, let's get out of here."

Kirishima chuckled before hurrying out of the residence. Last thing he wanted was to be caught at the scene of the crime. If they could avoid more problems then why not? Blame it on bandits or robbers for all he cared. Takaba was back, safe for the time being and his sole goal was to get the kid to his master. A trouble magnet like this he did not want.

But then again, Takaba was a tough trouble magnet, that much he could admit to himself. They worked well together; most wouldn't have catch on to his hints in their prior situation. They found a stable across the yard and stole a horse, fair trade if you asked him for the one they killed. After making sure Takaba was safe on the back, he decided he wouldn't stop riding until they reached Asami-dono.

/Tbc

Chapter Text

Kirishima rode endlessly for what felt like hours, heading towards Asami's location in the Kozuke province. Akihito had to hold tight around the man's waist and he buried his head in the middle of Kirishima's back so the strong wind wouldn't sting his eyes while they rode on eastward. He willfully ignored the blood and gore they left behind, opting instead to focus on less depressing things; mainly his reunion with Asami. He wouldn't say he was dependent on Asami for his sanity, but he acknowledged that with everything that had happened he trusted the man to be there for him.

If he didn't have Asami looking out for him…he hated to think of the consequences.

The sun arched behind a mountain top, casting orange and yellow multi colored rays across the countryside by the time the scenery changed from sparse teahouses, bars, homes and shops to nothing but forestry and serene landscape. He didn't know how far outside of the Owari province they were, but the unpopulated area indicated they were leaving all their troubles behind them as they moved.

He hoped.

The horse galloped at a maddening pace while Kirishima braced himself with the reigns in hand, managing and controlling the situation.

Akihito trusted the man to get them safely to their destination; he had faith in his abilities. The only gripe he had with the whole thing was that there was no straight path from Owari to Kozuke. They had to travel around a huge mountain, Mount Kurohime, which stood on the border of the areas, diverting them through the mountainous North Shinano Province, the farthest area from sea from all angles.

After a while dusk started to settle, and to be honest Akihito felt hungry, tired and sore from sitting on a moving horse for so long. He sat sideways on the back of the horse to accommodate the narrow kimono and it also caused muscles in his side, back and shoulders to protest his awkward position and constant jostling. The temperature dropped drastically by the time they made it to the mountain pass. By nightfall, Kirishima had found a small cave and decided they needed to rest, especially him. Kirishima checked inside the cave for animals before leading him and the horse inside. They built a fire to combat the cold by collecting dry twigs and branches from the surrounding area, especially since the drop of temperature at twilight brought with it a light dust of snow. He was huddled around the fire with a blanket strewn across him while he watched Kirishima scale some fish he caught in a river close by after he made the fire.

The air was damp and musty and the scent of the fish permeated the area. The horse brayed occasionally while slowly chewing on a leafy branch Kirishima had left for it. The fishes were then gutted, their innards removed and then Kirishima skewered them with a thin twig so he could roast them over the fire.

Akihito watched as the fish slow cooked over the open flames, but he kept shifting and rubbing his shoulders from the lingering pain he was feeling.

"Are you alright?"

Akihito looked from the fish to Kirishima at the sound of his voice and the look the man was giving the hand he had rubbing his shoulder clued him in to what he was talking about.

"Kind of, my muscles are tense from the all the riding."

Kirishima nodded. "I'll help you out with that after we eat, I'll need you in top shape to walk the few miles until we get off the mountain early tomorrow."

Akihito started at that. "Walk…? What…? Why?"

"The horse cannot ride over mountainous terrain with us on its back, it wouldn't benefit us in the end," Kirishima answered simply.

Akihito pouted, twirling the twig with the fish in his irritation. "I hate walking on mountainous terrain too, my slippers always burst and I fall and my clothes get torn and…"

"Yes, I get the picture, Takaba-san," Kirishima cut in with a sigh. "You're stubborn, but that won't work with me. You either walk tomorrow or I'll go on without you."

"You wouldn't dare!" Akihito panicked. He stood suddenly and walked over to Kirishima, dropping to his knees and pleading in defiance. "You can't…!"

Kirishima chuckled before trying to stifle a laugh. "No, Takaba-san, I wouldn't leave you behind. It would defeat the purpose of my rescuing you in the first place, wouldn't it?"

Akihito blushed before standing with a huff. He should have realized Kirishima was only bluffing, but he didn't and now he felt like an idiot.

"Ah, the fish is done," Kirishima muttered. He pulled his hand back with the fish and touched the hot item with his other hand, pulling it back when it burned him.

In retaliation Akihito grabbed the twig from the man's hand and ran to the other end of the cave, grinning.

Kirishima stood abruptly, surprised at the sneaky attack. "Get back here with that, brat!"

There was nowhere to run and when Kirishima stalked over to him, Akihito handed the fish back like a peace offering, throwing in the towel. He kept grinning when Kirishima snatched the twig from him.

"Nobody messes with my food." And with that Kirishima bit into the fish, chewing it with narrowed eyes.

Akihito laughed. "Serves you right."

Ignoring the obvious tease, the man walked back to his previous position around the fire and retook his seat. Akihito did the same, but his fish wasn't finished so he had to give it a few more minutes over the fire. His was a little bigger.

"Ne, Kirishima-san, how soon do you think we'll reach Asami?"

The man seemed to think about it. "Maybe another day and a half or two days."

Pulling his legs up and hugging his knees, the teen then asked, "Why couldn't we have ridden the horse through the village? Why take the mountain pass?"

Kirishima took a piece of fish bone out of his mouth, threw it to the side then look at him seriously. "You're a trouble magnet and prevention is better than a cure. Remember what happened in the last village we stopped in?"

Akihito couldn't argue that point, so he didn't rebut the argument.

"Your fish should be done."

"Oh." Akihito then pulled his hand back and allowed the fish to cool before biting into it. When he was done eating, Kirishima produced a canteen with water and he drank heartily from it.

"How do you feel?" the man asked after.

"A lot better, thank you."

Kirishima inclined his head in acknowledgment.

When Akihito was done eating, Kirishima gave him a short back and shoulder massage to ease some of the tension in his muscles and to be honest, as much as it was painful the end result was amazing. Kirishima had really dexterous hands. When he was done blankets were spread and his bedding made. The man basically tucked him in, making sure he was secured enough before announcing he would be gone for about an hour.

Puzzled, Akihito asked: "Why, where are you going?"

Kirishima didn't seem one bit perturbed by Akihito's reaction and he answered sternly, "I have some things to take care of and would appreciate if you would get some sleep while I'm out, I won't be gone too long."

Akihito nodded his head hesitantly. He really hated the idea of being left alone.

"What if a bear comes to attack me while you're gone?"

Kirishima snorted. "Unless we're talking about polar bears, then bears hibernate in cold weather; if one hasn't attacked already it won't again."

Akihito pouted.

"Stop acting like a brat; you're such a child, Takaba-san," Kirishima chided softly while smoothing out the wrinkles in the blanket.

"And you're such a mother-hen," Akihito countered. He cried out in mock protest when Kirishima ruffled his hair.

Kirishima chuckled. "Now go to sleep."

Akihito did as he was told and closed his eyes, willing himself to calm down and accept that Kirishima had to go, he would be back soon anyways. Honestly, what could possibly go wrong in an hour?

One hour and ten minutes later…

Kirishima pulled the hooded cloak he had around him tighter as the thin sheet of snow seemed to pick up gait. His boots crunched over pieces of ice as he walked back up the mountain pass, heading back towards the cavern. He had a bag in hand and he held the item closely, praying that his fingers, now numb from the cold wouldn't break and fall off from how stiff they felt.

Chilled, he wondered if Takaba was asleep yet. That kid was more trouble than he'd had to deal with in a while and to be honest he couldn't see what his master saw in such a child. Asami-dono was obviously going out of his way to send him, his right hand man, to cover one teen when he would be more suited by the man's side in battle. At first when he got the orders to infiltrate the Geisha house he chalked it up to infatuation, but then things started to not add up. He'd be tempted to say that his master's feelings ran much deeper than that. The cavern entrance loomed into view and he recognized it by the faint glow created by what was left of the flickering camp fire. Upon closer inspection, Takaba's silhouette could be seen leaning against the far wall with what appeared to be his blanket strewn around him, no doubt to offer some protection against the biting weather. He walked up to the teen.

"Where were you? You've been gone more than an hour." Takaba's voice shook while he spoke, whether from the cold or his emotions, Kirishima wasn't sure.

"I was out getting supplies." Kirishima then walked further into the cavern before dumping the bag he had on the floor. Takaba followed behind him, looked at the bag then took a seat and relaxed. He sneezed once, twice, thrice, and Kirishima handed him a rag before re-igniting the camp fire so it burn brighter and provide more warmth.

Akihito sniffled a few times. "Thanks."

Kirishima acknowledged him with a grunt. He then proceeded to empty the bag. There were clothes, two pair of slippers, some random food items and a few toiletries.

"How did you manage to get all that?" Akihito queried.

"I stole it," Kirishima answered simply.

"Oh."

"But that aside, why aren't you asleep? I told we'd be leaving early and you should rest," Kirishima pointed out. Last thing he wanted was Takaba complaining of fatigue first thing before they decide to continue their journey.

Akihito blushed before fidgeting. He diverted Kirishima's gaze. "Well, you left me alone and I couldn't sleep." I was scared being by myself.

Kirishima sighed. "You're a spoiled brat, you know that?"

Kirishima held back a chortle when Akihito stuck his nose up at him in defiance. "I'm not spoiled; I just know what I want."

"And it seems you want somebody to sing you a lullaby to bed, which won't happen. Now get off your hide and get some rest, you're going to need it."

Takaba pointed an accusing finger. "Why you…! I don't need anybody to do anything and I don't need you!"

And with that outburst Takaba stalked towards his blankets, where he threw himself down and turned his back to Kirishima in a huff. The man chuckled at how easy it was to get what he wanted; Takaba in bed, asleep.

The horse was also asleep and he sorted out the clothes he stole, separating them from the food, which was separated from everything else. He had to get Takaba prepared for the trail ahead and the first order of business would be to get him clothes he can move around in, instead of the constricting kimono he now wore. When he was through he threw water on the camp fire before getting some rest himself. He would need it.

*******VF*******

The journey over the foot of the mountain, as accurately as Kirishima could describe it, was comical at best. He'd never laughed so much over someone else's plight. Takaba, not use to the task at hand slipped and fell a total of five times so far (twice he slipped on moss covered rocks while crossing a river and three times he tripped over his own feet). His leg twisted and the zori on his right foot burst apart and he had to give the blond the extra pair he stole the night before. To make movement a little easier Kirishima had him downgrade from a silk kimono to hemp pants and a sleeveless tunic.

When Takaba tried to get on the horse the animal would have none of it and kicked until he came off. The youth pouted and grumbled the entire walk until midday, when they decided it would be a good time for lunch.

They sat under the shade of a huge oak tree while eating fruits. The horse was left to graze and eat grass close by.

"Damn it! Why is hiking so hard?" Takaba groused while rubbing his sore legs.

"You just need to get use to it," Kirishima answered simply while biting into a piece of melon. He did a mental laugh at the image of Takaba with callus on his feet.

Akihito bit into his own apple. "Whatever. I swear I'm going to develop calluses at this rate."

Kirishima snorted at that, he was just thinking the same thing.

One of Akihito's eyebrow rose in question. "What's so funny?"

Kirishima immediately returned to his serious disposition. "Nothing."

Takaba gave him a look that screamed 'liar! But I'm gonna drop it for now'.

Kirishima was finishing up his melon when Akihito asked him a question, drawing his attention away from his pineapple. "Kirishima-san, you said Asami's at war. Will he be alright?"

The look on Takaba's face was one of deep concentration, concern and rumination, driving home that he was no ordinary teen; that despite his obvious childishness he was still someone who with depth and character. He knew that his master was at least worried for the teen's safety and it touched something in him to know it wasn't one-sided; that he wasn't putting up with all this for naught.

Kirishima expected Asami-dono to be alright, the man had the guile and prowess of a tiger; he was made for battle. He made this much known to the reflective blond.

Takaba then smiled bright enough to light up a dark room, seemingly genuinely happy to be alleviated of that aspect of his worry.

"I'm glad to hear that," Akihito laughed and Kirishima just bit into his peeled pineapple. What a brat…

*******VF******

"We're getting close!"

Kirishima's words travelled on the wind to reach Akihito's ears and he felt his heartbeat increasing at the information. They were almost upon Asami's position and the thought of their reunion made his stomach flutter and his muscles weak. What was the telltale sign? What had Kirishima seen to make him so sure they were close? He chanced a glance over Kirishima's shoulder and saw flagpoles in the distance. They were white with an imprint he couldn't make out from so far away. It made him feel giddy at the idea that Asami was there, waiting for him to arrive. His hands tightened around Kirishima in anticipation as the horse rode on, hoofs echoing against dirt and stone.

Akihito took a deep breath and counted the minutes until they were upon Asami's camp. When Kirishima slowed down and they entered the barricaded area where men baring battle gear with the kanji for 'Conquer' sewn on the back roamed, he all but jumped off and ran.

But, he didn't know where exactly Asami was so Kirishima just had to play escort a little while longer. Most of the men they passed bowed to Kirishima in respect, only driving home that the man is in fact a high ranking person in Asami's army.

A slight trace of fear hit him when he realized most of the men were injured in some way. Some limped, some had crutches, others had to depend on others for leverage and most were bandaged somewhere.

When they happened upon a house guarded by two samurais, Akihito all but flew off the horse and ran towards it, but Kirishima must have sensed his apprehension because he whispered for him to stay put, explaining that he was a stranger and would be treated as a threat if he made any sudden movements…especially towards their leader's quarters.

So Akihito swallowed the lump in his throat and followed studiously behind Kirishima when the man walked up to the entrance, bow to the men stationed there, introduced him and then walk in.

The scent of peach blossoms and flowers gave way to faint traces of jasmine and scented lamp oil. His eyes took in the sparse surrounding of the house, which only had around three large rooms. Kirishima knocked once before opening the shoji screen door to the master room. When he entered, it was sparse with only a table with a map on it, two chairs and a futon laid out in a corner…

…There was no Asami.

But there were bandages. Bloodied bandages piled on the floor near the table.

Akihito tugged on the other man's arm, fearing the worst. "Kirishima-san, where is he?"

Kirishima's brows were knitted, his mouth set in a grim line and his body tense; Akihito could sense his unease also.

"Wait here, I'll…" Kirishima started while turning to head back out, but when they both turned Asami strode in with his midsection and right arm bandaged while wearing his hakama pants, not in the least bit surprised to see them.

Kirishima immediately bowed at his master's appearance.

Akihito on the hand, launched himself at the man, nearly knocking him over and not realizing that Asami winced when he hit him. When he did realize though, he pulled back immediately, even though his hands were still around the man and blushed.

"I'm sorry."

Asami only chuckled before ruffling his hair. "Don't worry. You're alright. I was wondering where you were so long."

At that Asami looked over at Kirishima expectantly.

Kirishima bowed again. "We encountered a few delays along the way, mostly from other men who couldn't keep their hands to themselves."

Asami's eyes darkened at that and his hold over Akihito got a little bit tighter. "I take it they're all dealt with?"

"Yes, Asami-dono."

Akihito could feel the man's hands slowly roaming down his back and across his shoulders. He closed his eyes at the feel, not paying much attention to their conversation until…

"And the house mistress has also been taken care of?"

"Yes, Asami-dono."

Akihito started at that, trying to push out of Asami's hold but the man wouldn't relent. "Wait…!" But, he got cut off when Asami continued as if he wasn't there.

"Good, did you get the letters?"

Akihito watched as Kirishima handed Asami a small stack of papers, maybe four or five and they were folded. The man unfolded two, gazed over the contents then handed the pile to him. He took them questioningly.

Asami took a step back and looked him in the eyes while nodding at the papers in his hands. They looked like informal letters. "Take a look."

Akihito unfolded one, then two, and then three. His mouth hung open in shock when he saw who all those letters were addressed from. He looked to Asami, then Kirishima, then back at Asami before reading the first one aloud with tears threatening to fall from his eyes.

"Takaba-kun, this is my third summer sending you a letter and I just want to let you know that I'm doing well for myself. I hope you are too. The shop I mentioned before is still doing good and Tao is growing into such a fine young man. Even though he knows the nature of my relationship with his father he calls me Nii-san because of the adoption. I'm sorry for always mentioning my regret at you not being at such a monumental affair even though it's been almost two years. I miss you and look forward to seeing you again. Kindest regards, Feilong."

Emotions overwhelmed Akihito at the knowledge that Feilong had not forgotten him after all these years. He read another letter and tears rolled steadily down his cheeks before a short chuckle left his lips. The letter explained Feilong's shock and awkwardness at the knowledge that Tao was kissed by a girl and his explanation thereafter. He looked at Asami, who he didn't realize had gone to get a drink.

"But why…? Why would she…?"

Asami took a sip before answering. "How often did she tell you you're worthless and nobody cares?"

"Every chance she got," Akihito answered bitterly. When he really felt down he even believed her. Now when he thought about it, it made sense. There's no way her words could ring true if he kept getting encouraging letters from Feilong.

"Exactly," Asami said when his realization must have shown on his face.

"But you didn't have to…" Akihito muttered hesitantly under his breath. All that bloodshed and carnage over such a short period of time… It was a lot to take in.

"She asked for it when she broke our oath. Nobody…nobody was to lay a finger on you until I paid your ransom."

Asami was pissed, that much was obvious from the man's demeanor and it only brought back how possessive and hard headed the man acted back at the Okiya.

Akihito wrung his hands nervously while watching the floor, images of other people he cared for flooding his mind. "What about my friend, Takato? Did something happen, is he alright?"

"No one else was hurt, not by us anyway," Asami reassured.

That was all he got and Akihito decided he would make the best of that answer since he knew Asami probably wouldn't go into any more details. Those he knew back at the Okiya had to be safe since Kirishima didn't kill them. The man wasn't heartless, that much he was sure of. But then something struck him about what Asami said earlier and he gave the man a quizzical look.

"You were going to pay my ransom, why didn't you tell me?"

"I was going to after that night." Asami then held out a hand, pointing it across the room. "But as you can see, I didn't get to come back."

Akihito lowered his head and scoffed. "I thought you were out raping virgins every night."

Asami stalked over and captured his gaze. "What was that?"

Akihito backed away and started nervously. "Nothing, I didn't say a thing."

Asami chuckled.

"By the way, will I be able to see Feilong?" Akihito really missed his first friend/Onii-san and he would love the opportunity to see him again.

"That can be arranged," Asami answered. Akihito beamed.

The man then turned to Kirishima, who just stood there placidly the whole time.

"Suoh is with the injured, you can get an update and progress report from him…"

Taking the hint, the man bowed then left. When they were alone, Asami put the small porcelain cup down and walked over, standing close enough so there was no space left between them. Akihito bit his bottom lip when Asami tilted his head up to look fully into his eyes by softly gripping his chin. When the man slowly brought his head down and kissed him he didn't back down, neither did he fight it, which would have been the norm before this whole thing started. He could taste rice wine on the man's lips and could detect the faint jasmine smell he'd grown accustomed to. He drank it all in, wrapping his arms around Asami in the process, albeit not too tightly since he remembered the man's injuries. He tilted his head to offer more, to offer himself up to the man holding him so protectively as their kiss deepened. Their tongues collided as Asami sucked his own into his mouth, stealing his breath away and leaving him praying that this wasn't a dream, it was all real.

After a moment Asami pulled back, nipping at his bottom lip while looking into his eyes, conveying without words his feelings. Asami rested his forehead against his while closing his eyes and taking in a deep breath. His head felt light, his body hot and his conscience relaxed.

"I want you."

Akihito pecked the man on the lips before answering, "You're hurt."

"I don't care."

After those words Akihito was surprised when Asami lifted him by the arms; how bad were his wounds anyway? And in reflex he wrapped both legs around the man's waist and his hands around his neck as they kissed deeply once again. With both hands holding him by his buttocks, Akihito didn't question when Asami started walking with him. He could feel the man's hard on and figured he was being led to the futon he'd seen in the corner earlier.

As suspected, he was lowered to the futon on his back and they broke the kiss. The lust and want was clear in Asami's eyes and even though Akihito felt it too, it puzzled him. His confusion must have shown on his face because Asami suddenly said,

"I'm still running on adrenaline and seeing you again after so long… I want to feel you."

Akihito gave in as he was smothered; overwhelmed by Asami on top of him and his forming lust was slowly being chipped away by fear and doubt.

What was he afraid of? To be honest he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Asami's fervent, enthusiastic ministrations stopped and the man pulled back, seemingly searching his face with his penetrative gaze.

"Something's wrong. What is it?"

Akihito was tense, rigid and he wasn't too sure about the answer to that question himself. He said as much.

Asami pulled back with a sigh, taking a seat beside him and Akihito took the hand Asami offered to help him sit up too. He tried to smile as if nothing was wrong. "You're hurt, I'm sure getting some rest would do you good."

At that Asami kissed him again, capturing his lips and Akihito returned it in earnest. Then Asami's hand trailed from his shoulder down to his stomach and when it was suppose to go further south, he felt panic rise up in him once again.

"Wait!" Akihito pulled back from the kiss, breathing hard and looking at Asami, who was glaring, seemingly looking straight through him.

"Don't tell me nothing's wrong, because obviously me touching you is a problem…"

Akihito tried to compartmentalize his feelings at that. He came to a sudden conclusion. "Well, you didn't exactly make my first time all rainbows and sunshine, did you?"

Asami thought about it a moment. "I guess I didn't."

"So make it rainbows and sunshine now," Akihito offered.

Asami's lips quirked into a half smile before pulling the sash that tied the pants he wore from his waist. He tied it around Akihito's eyes, rendering him sightless as the boy tugged lightly at the piece of cloth.

"Asami, why are you…?"

Asami kissed the blond on the lips to silence any more questions. When he pulled back he offered, "Rely on your sense of touch for the time being. Trust me."

Akihito nodded, worrying his bottom lip while following Asami's command. The man started kissing down his neck, peeling away the tunic so he could work his tongue over his chest, especially his sensitive nipples. He could feel them hardening at Asami's attention. The man then stopped.

"Forget about our first time for the time being, worry about now and the pleasure I'm going to give you. Can you do that?"

Akihito nodded his head once again. It wasn't that he was afraid of Asami, or that there was no pleasure- eventually -in their first coupling, but it seemed he was somehow scarred by something Asami did to him at that time, even if he couldn't remember exactly what it was all these months later.

Unfortunately, subtlety was not one of Asami's strong points in the bedroom, and with the one experience to judge and compare, that was the problem; he was nervous to do it again.

Asami's warm tongue then licked a trail down his stomach before stopping above his pelvic area. Akihito raised his hips so Asami could remove his pants and he grabbed lightly at the man's hair when his legs were widened, apprehension and hesitant expectation nestling in his groin.

"You're hard," Asami pointed out.

"How observant," Akihito chuckled. Asami's face was so close to his heated sex that he could feel the man's warm breath on him, but said man kept holding back, making him thrust his hips forward for some type of salacious contact. Asami shifted and then there were butterfly kisses being placed on his inner thigh, an erogenous zone which sent jolts of rising pleasure through his body. Asami teased him relentlessly with only promises of intense pleasure by using his mouth everywhere but on the place he needed it the most, and after a while he lost his inhibitions, needing more than what he was being privy to.

Asami's hands were holding his hips in place and Akihito groaned in desire when the man finally swallowed him whole, stilled, and then pulled back, hollowing his cheeks and sucking hard. It was the first time he'd ever been deepthroated and to be honest it blew his mind…made him arch his back and curl his toes in lustful torment.

It was all pleasure and no pain so far as Asami used his mouth to work him relentlessly, twisting to the left on the down take and to the right as he pulled back up. His heartbeat sped up and his chest heaved as the pleasure rippled through his body. The lack of sight caused him to throw his head back and brace on his arms while Asami tongued the slit before sliding his tongue over the underside.

His sex pulsed while being sucked into that talented mouth and somewhere in the back of his mind he wanted to see Asami, to watch the man go down on him and see him work. Biting back a groan, Akihito brought a hand up and slowly peeled the blindfold away. When he looked down he was greeted with the perfect picture of homoeroticism; Asami watching him with lust blazing in those golden eyes and his cock in his mouth, his eyes rolled back for a bit and he shuddered. It was a lot to take in, a side of the other man he didn't get to appreciate before.

There was a scent in the air, like perfumed oil and through everything that was happening it registered that a lubed finger was toying with his entrance. It took what little self control Akihito had left to not cry out too loudly at the ministrations being received. He was stretched with one, then two and then three fingers, each of which slowly added to the pleasure of what he was feeling.

Asami was relentless and focused by the time he nearly became undone and Akihito shuddered and moaned at the man's ministrations. After a while he couldn't support himself on his elbows and he slowly eased on to his back, arching his body and pulling his legs back until he ejaculated; a powerful orgasm that had his vision blurry and his body pulled tighter than a whip-cord. Asami's mouth never left him and it only intensified his carnal desires while he slowly came down from his high.

Boneless and satiated, Akihito felt when Asami laid beside him before pulling him into another carnivorous kiss. With his eyes closed and his breath ragged he returned the kiss with fervor.

"How was your first time having someone go down on you?" Asami asked after he pulled back.

Akihito smiled, he could taste himself on Asami's lips. "It was excellent." He felt hot and bothered at the memory.

"Good," Asami smiled. "Now…"

Akihito shifted when the man settled between his legs, pushed them up to expose him so he could line himself up properly with his entrance and then stop to look him in the eyes.

"Are you alright?"

Akihito nodded. Asami leaned forward to capture his lips in another heated kiss while slowly, ever so slowly putting pressure on his hips. They never broke said kiss, even when Asami was halfway deep because things were different this time around. It wasn't easy taking something so big and this time the pain was bearable; it was like he was a virgin all over again.

"Relax, don't tense…" Asami instructed and he drew in a breath before nodding in acquiescence. He wanted to say that it was hard not to tense, but he didn't want to mention it. He could feel Asami watching him, even as he closed his eyes and tried to think of a happy place while the uncomfort and pain bloomed in his ass, even if it was less painful than the last time.

"You're still tensing."

Akihito exhaled. "Easy for you to say, you're not the one taking it."

"I'm fully inside, keep still," Asami instructed and Akihito's hold on the man's arms tightened. He let go when Asami pulled back so he was on his knees but the man's shaft never shifted an inch inside him. It felt so uncomfortable. He watched Asami as the man's hands roamed over his stomach and mid section until they both started pulling and pinching his nipples. He hardened instantly. A moan left his lips when one of the man's hands came down and fisted him, intensifying the pleasure once again. It shifted his mind from the fact there was a huge cock inside of his ass until all he was focusing on was the pleasure, inside and out.

Asami moved. Damn if he could move and all coherent thoughts fled Akihito's mind when Asami started thrusting into him; throwing one of his legs over his shoulder and angling himself to go as deep and hard as possible. Sweat rolled off as his body as he thrusted back against Asami, taking all of the man and wanting more.

The sex blew his mind.

At the end of it all, when they were both spent and satiated, they just laid there on the futon, basking in the afterglow of their first 'official' coupling.

Akihito felt good, damn good and he snuggled into Asami while the man laid on his back. The spent cum on his stomach and inside him made him feel a little queasy, but he didn't want to break the flow of the time he was spending with the other man. He laid half atop Asami with a foot draped over the other man's while said man ran a hand slowly through his hair.

"How was it this time around?"

Akihito smiled while circling the man's sweat cooling bicep with his index finger. "Much better."

Asami kissed the top of his forehead. "Glad to hear."

Asami then got up, threw on one layer of clothing and then head towards the exit.

"Where are you going?" Akihito asked, surprised when a yawn escaped his lips.

"We need cleaning up, get some rest until I return."

Akihito yawned again, nodded and then put his head on his hands and closed his eyes. He was really tired and sore…

…and happy.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks saw Akihito slowly assimilating into the bushido code of conduct with Asami and Kirishima's help. He went from the Courtesan style of dressing to more informal and formal samurai men's wear, adopted more of the samurai moral code stressing frugality, loyalty and martial arts mastery which were born from Neo-Confucianism, Shinto and Buddhism.

Done were the days of make up and extensive body ornaments and decorations. He now had to meditate and train extensively.

After returning to the Mino Province with Asami and his retainers, he took up to living with the man, training to become an archer and working under Asami with Kirishima to pass the time.

Things weren't flowing as smoothly between him and the man as he'd hoped since their personality clashed on occasion. Akihito was stubborn and hard headed and apparently, so was Asami. He never got in the way of the man's duties as a Daimyo though since he knew little about the tenor of running a province. Sometimes things got overwhelming for Asami and he was glad to be there to help him relieve some of the stress. To be honest with himself, he was grateful, he felt free with Asami.

Well…as free as one could feel with a possessive boyfriend who wanted to direct every aspect of your life as if he owned you and then some. Needless to say that's where the personality clash came in; but just like with his father and the house mistress, he would never allow himself to become anyone's marionette.

*******VF*******

The day so far had pass without incident and they both sat in Asami's meditation room, meditating on one of the several Bushido moral code; Benevolence. The room was bare except for the tatami mats they sat on with their eyes closed and their breathing regulated while in the lotus position.

Akihito had learned to focus more and concentrate better on all things around him; to take notice of all the small things in order to gain wisdom and knowledge, which builds character. His concentration was broken when he had the distinct feeling he was being watched and he opened his eyes to see Asami staring at him, a passive look in his golden eyes.

He took a deep breath. "What is it? What's the matter?"

"Nothing," Asami answered. "I'm pleased at your progress, a few weeks ago you couldn't sit still for five minutes; it's been thirty now."

Akihito grinned widely. "Well, I do want to become stronger so I can be the one to save your life next time."

Asami chuckled. Akihito got on his knees and slowly leaned into Asami for a slow, deep kiss. He had his hands on Asami's knees and he felt when his arms where grabbed and held, pulled forward until he was in the man's lap straddling him. Wrapping his legs around Asami's waist, his hands followed suit around the man's neck and tilting his head to the side, the kiss was deepened.

Asami was hard and Akihito grinded his pelvis into the other man's, sending a wave of salacious pleasure through his body. Asami's hold on him was tight, as if he never wanted to let him go and he broke the kiss, panting as he looked Asami in the eyes. He nipped at the man's bottom lip, pulling back teasingly when Asami opened his mouth to suck him in. He laughed and Asami grabbed his ass and squeezed while pushing him further against him.

"We should be focusing on our meditation," Akihito groaned while Asami made a show of rubbing their clothed hard-ons together.

"I'm meditating on you," Asami answered before a hand pushed against Akihito's chest, pushing him far enough back for Asami to free both their erections. Akihito watched in awe as Asami took them both in hand and stroked, his grip powerful and potent as shivers of pleasure wracked his body. He bit his lip while his grip on the man's shoulder tightened, especially when Asami's hand wrapped around both precome covered head and squeezed them together. Their hot flesh mended into one in Asami's larger hand and Akihito couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight. It was dirty and sexy, especially when Asami gave him his hand to lick before he resumed fisting them in unison. His lust filled gaze switched between Asami's face and his dexterous hand and all he could think was how good it felt whenever Asami became hands on…they never failed to arouse him inexorably.

Both their hot flesh throbbed and leaked as Asami pumped, spreading the exotic fire of arousal through Akihito's every nerve. Asami didn't like the idea of intercourse in the meditation room since it mostly tended to end up messy. He had some respect for the place he and others used during the days and nights and would always make sure the sitting area was clean, which was why if they did do anything it was mostly mouth or hand jobs.

They kissed in-between moans and groans, intense feelings and their need to be close to each other. They tasted one another in more ways than one.

"I-I'm going to…" Akihito stammered as his body tensed, muscles pulled tighter than a whip cord. One hand held tight a lock of Asami's hair while the man watched his face with lidded lust filled eyes. He could also feel the tension in Asami's body and he arched his back, pushing up more into Asami's hand and against his pulsing flesh while the man sped up his pace.

Now, the mewling sounds and groans of pleasure couldn't be held back, and they became an octave louder when the hand that held him around the waist pulled to the side the top of his kimono that freed his erect nipple, which was sucked into Asami's mouth and grazed with the edge of his teeth. They were licked, sucked and pulled harshly. Both of them.

And that did it. All the tantalizing sensations combined sent him over the edge of his sexual precipice and he came with a strangled cry. Loads of hot come ran down Asami's hand, which was joined a moment later by the man's own release.

Akihito slumped against Asami, resting his head on his shoulder while evening out his breathing. All orgasms rated a 10 on the Richter Scale.

"Are you alright?"

Akihito lifted his head and answered with a small smile to his lips. "Fine."

"It's time for your archery lesson," Asami informed while shifting so they could both stand.

Akihito nodded, then watched as he went to wash his hands using a pipe around the back. Just then there was a knock at the shoji door before Kirishima walked in and Akihito nervously rushed to put himself in some semblance of order.

Kirishima only chuckled at his efforts.

"What's so funny?" the blond inquired.

"I was outside waiting for you, so there's no use hiding yourself now."

Akihito spluttered and blushed. He felt a little embarrassed, albeit glad that it was Kirishima and nobody else. Suoh kinda scared him with his gigantic body and everybody else didn't need to know his business. Just then Asami walked back in to the room and they bowed to each other. Asami knew why Kirishima came for him so he left with the man and went out to the back garden of Asami's home.

Asami's home, 1Inabayama Castle, was a three story, grand structure, with an elaborate garden that spanned acres. It sat on a mountain top, overlooking the vast 2Sunomata River, which was strategic to prevent enemies easily sneaking on to his territory. There was one bridge across the river and it was guarded by retainers the man had on standby.

The archery range, which was a little area lined with targets was as beautiful and serene as any other area around the castle. Flowers and trees bloomed in an array of colors, although the soft pink of peach blossoms was the majority in this part. Artists from the main town often asked permission to paint the landscape and Asami allowed it because it showcased how well kept and striking his garden was. It was well known that competition between the Daimyos' about who had the most beautiful garden was a fierce one at times. Sometimes Asami was at the top, sometimes he wasn't.

Kirishima handed him the asymmetrical longbow he normally used for practice and stood back. He took his stance then aimed, focusing on the target and the tip of his bow. He let it go and missed the bull's eye by three inches.

"Not bad, you're getting better at this," Kirishima appraised. He handed him another bow. Normally he'd missed the target completely.

"Thanks. I have been practicing with Asami's help also," Akihito answered. He took his stance once again and aimed.

"Right. And you manage to get much done?"

Akihito blushed before leveling Kirishima with a glare. The man only smiled.

"Carry on, Takaba, you need to focus to get this right."

Akihito decided then that he did need to focus, because the way of the samurai also taught to live everyday as if it was your last, and if he didn't want his last to be soon, he'd better concentrate and learn to defend himself. He wasn't dealing with cat-fights between courtesans anymore….

*******VF*******

The main town was extremely busy on a Saturday morning. The food and craft markets, shops and even road side vendors were busy with the bustling of one of the busiest days of the week.

Asami had insisted on sending an underling to do his shopping like normal, but Akihito refused vehemently. This was a task he wanted to do for himself; experiencing city life…being free to do what he wanted.

Being able to live like regular people.

It pissed Asami off because according to him, there was no telling who knew about their relationship and would try to use it against him.

Akihito agreed, but in the same breath he digressed; he needed to move freely and he would whether Asami liked it or not. It developed into an argument before they tapered off into angry sex….

And then more sex… And even more…

"Takaba-sama!"

Akihito was broken out of his thoughts at the mention of his name. He looked around to notice the stall of the old couple that sold fruits and ground provision. Houmi-tachi. He frequented them a lot whenever he came shopping and they always looked out for him. A bunch of ripe grapefruits and potatoes were held out for him to see.

"What would you like to buy today, Takaba-sama? We've got all your favorites," the old woman smiled, proffering her goods. He grinned broadly at them before walking over and looking.

To be honest, Akihito didn't like the honorific, but they used it because he came from the castle…everybody did.

"These sure look delicious."

"Only the finest for you. You are taking it back to the castle with you, right Takaba-sama?" the old man prodded.

Akihito smiled, although he really wanted to frown at the way everybody tried to kiss Asami's ass. "Sure, why not?"

He grabbed bananas, sweet potatoes, mangos and Goji berries in a bid to support them. As a side business they made Gyoza, scrumptious little dumplings with pork and cabbage and he bought a few. Delicious. They even gave him a few extras to give to others in the castle, he refused but they steadfastly insisted.

The couple waved enthusiastically as he walked away. They were a really nice pair.

"Takaba-sama! Takaba-sama!"

Akihito groaned, too many people were use to him now…or at least heard the rumor that he lived in the castle. To them that equaled money, but it couldn't be farther from the truth since he would never take Asami's money unless absolutely necessary. He had his pride after all and he wasn't a usurper.

After about an hour, Akihito looked back and spotted a man he knew from the castle. A retainer. He felt upset that Asami would still have people following him around, but he dealt with the situation the way he always did…

He ran away from the man.

*******VF*******

"How was your trip?" Asami asked after Akihito walked into his living quarters and throw himself down on his futon.

"Tired," the blond replied. He acquired Kirishima's assistance in putting the groceries away before coming back here, Kirishima didn't like him doing anything of his own accord in any part of the castle except Asami's bedroom. Everywhere else was off limits because according to Kirishima, when he cleaned sometimes, all Takaba did was mess the place right back up.

Asami scoffed at his answer.

Akihito raised one questioning eyebrow at Asami. "What's the problem?"

"Didn't I tell you not to go to the city?"

Akihito braced on his elbows and rebutted. "Didn't you agree to let me go if I took an escort?"

"My point exactly. So why did the man send message that you ran away from him, do you know how dangerous that can be?"

They've had this conversation – no, argument - too many times to count and just like Asami was tired of saying it, Akihito was tired of hearing it.

"I told you no bodyguards, that's why people treat me so different!"

Asami was getting upset and so was Akihito. It's not like he didn't understand the man's point of view, but Asami knew the type of person he was and knew no matter what he would go mad if he wasn't allowed his freedom. That's why they couldn't deal with him at the Okiya, he was like a caged bird flapping his wings mercilessly against the bars holding him in. He would not put up with the same treatment from Asami.

Asami took a deep breath and calmed himself. "Who did you buy from today?"

Akihito released another sigh, Asami was like an interrogator every time he made a move, wanting to know every detail of everything he did…even going to the bathroom.

"Houmi-tachi, Yumi-san, Anko-san, Nagarashi-sama and a man called Jiro-san."

Asami stepped towards him, looking suspicious and Akihito wondered what the man was up to now.

"Jiro-san, you don't seem to know him?"

"I don't, personally. This is the second time I've seen him, he seems to be a new merchant," Akihito answered. "But he sells really good sweets."

Asami left at that. Just like that the man turned around and walked away, leaving a bewildered Akihito behind. He shook his head and relaxed, deciding to get some sleep before meditation and exercise later.

*******VF*******

Kirishima stood before him as he huddled under the futon in Asami's bedroom, holding out a bowl of some type of mixture. He had his mouth puckered in disdain.

"Takaba…" Kirishima growled warningly.

Akihito peeked over the blanket with watery eyes and sneezed. "No, I'm not drinking that."

"You're being rude, Takaba…"

"…call me Akihito, Kirishima,"

"Only if you drink this to get rid of your cold, Takaba."

"Akihito."

"Takaba."

"It tastes like warm slime, I don't want to." Another sneeze. Kirishima groaned as snot caught the blanket.

"Do you know how long these blankets take to wash? Drink the medicine. Now."

"But…"

"No buts! Unless you want it to be mine on the line when Asami-dono gets back. If after a week he comes back and there's no improvement in your condition I will suffer the consequences. Now drink."

Kirishima was beyond pissed if his features and the way he shoved the bowl in Akihito's face was anything to go by and the blond glared balefully at the mixture; egg in warm sake. Kirishima's handiwork, most definitely.

He drew the blanket over his head and sneezed once again. He felt chilled to the bone, weak and his throat felt sore. His eyes watered uncontrollably. "Don't wanna."

"That's it, I'm getting Suoh," Kirishima gritted out. He made to get up.

Akihito flew up at that and stretched out his hands, barely suppressing a cough. "NO! I'll try to drink it, don't call him. Um, give it."

Kirishima couldn't hide his triumphant smirk at the change of events. Takaba was intimidated by Suoh's size and he often used that to his advantage. He handed the bowl over, Takaba took it and suddenly went pale. He looked up with the chibi-est set of eyes he'd ever seen.

"Do I have to…?" Sneeze.

"Drink." The command was clear.

Kirishima stood there until he finished the entire bowl. When he was done he wanted to throw up, but held it down when the other man looked at him in warning. He was handed a small menthol sweet and it quickly killed the bad taste in his mouth. He was then allowed to return to sleep with Kirishima pulling the blanket up around him and smoothing it out.

They had all become like a really weird, extended family.

*******VF*******

A few days later, after getting over his cold, Akihito trained in the art of martial arts along with Kirishima and Suoh. It was a class involving a group of them and they did an hour of running before the sun came up, warm up exercises and then they delved into proper stance and techniques for fighting.

Akihito felt proud of himself because of how far he'd excel in almost a year. He had become extremely toned and even more flexible, something Asami had complimented him on a few times in bed.

They partnered up in the class and learned Kyusho Jitsu from Kirishima, then they practiced point sparring techniques and did meditative exercises with Suoh, all in the space of around eight hours. Asami wasn't around to distract him so he could focus on his training and he put out his best effort. Whatever rumor had started floating around that sleeping with Asami would get him special privileges were short lived, because Kirishima and Suoh made sure to work him just as hard, if not more because he was a novice, compared to those who spent their entire lives training to be a warrior. Asami even made sure he never missed a lesson unless completely necessary, he needed to be able to defend himself when the time came, not if.

Asami always did tell him that he might not be around to save him every time something was to happen.

At the end of a long tiring day, Akihito took a bath in Asami's private bathhouse (because the last, and only time he took a bath in the communal shower with other men, Asami almost ordered the death of a retainer he saw checking him out) and then he decided to spend some time reading before bed. Suoh had brought him a sandwich for supper, something all who lived in the castle got and he munched on it while reading ancient text scrolls from former Shugos [Governors] of the Muromachi period. After about an hour he found himself drifting off to sleep, slowly slipping into the darkness of the mind fueled by the wariness of the body.

The next thing Akihito knew, he was being aroused from sleep by the shuffling of feet and the ruffling of clothes around him. He groggily opened one eye and peeked at the source of the disturbance. Asami had returned. He'd left for a total of one month to another province for business purposes and to be honest, he missed him in those few weeks, though he'd never willingly admit it.

He watched as Asami walked over to him, then kneel down beside the futon before cupping his chin and pulling him into a warm, soft, almost impatient welcome kiss. When they pulled back he glanced at the man softly.

"Did you give any trouble while I was away?" Asami asked while disrobing right there beside him. He watched the peep show with much interest; Asami must have been horny to be wanting sex right now.

A smile bloomed on his lips. "No more than usual."

"Good."

Asami then freed his very erect cock, cupped his own then squeezed. A gasp of pleasure left his lips and Asami then shoved his hand under his night wear kimono and gripped him. His legs widened of their own accord as the man pumped him into more hardness. He returned the favor by hand-blowing Asami also, only a lot more clumsily since his motor functions were always affected whenever Asami started on him. He decided to use his mouth and a growl left Asami's lips at the first contact. A hand threaded through his hair while he looked up into intensely focused golden eyes, making a show of sucking slow and hard, hollowing his cheeks and using his tongue.

Asami's legs trembled minutely; attesting to how much one month apart with no sex had affected him since the man rarely ever showed any physical signs of his wanton desire except his impatience. The hand that was in his hair tightened, keeping his head in place and Asami decided to thrust into his mouth himself, trying not to gag him with how hard and deep he wanted to go. But it was a hard task because Asami was big, so to level the playing field the man used the hand that was fondling him to hold the base of his own length, shortening how far down Akihito could go.

Akihito got on his knees, positioning himself better for the blow job and his hands gripped Asami's hips for leverage. The head, thick and meaty slid across his tongue, jabbed against his inner jaw and sometimes scraped along his teeth. Asami's erratic thrusts and tighter grip on his hair was the evidence that the man was at his limit. He looked for the tell tale sign that Asami was about to come- when he grabbed his hair so hard it hurt and he flattened his palm against the base. When the final thrust into his willing mouth came, it was to the force of Asami shoving most of it down his throat and ejaculating, spasming and jerking and he learned to take a deep breath in that moment because once Asami started he wasn't going to stop, not until he made that final jerk of euphoria before pulling back, still semi hard and dripping.

Akihito wiped at the come trailing from the corner of his mouth while swallowing the last of it. "Impatient, aren't you?"

Asami smirked in answer before bringing his head down to kiss him, tasting the lingering flavor of himself in his mouth and relishing in it. Akihito moaned in heat.

Akihito was still hard and wanton and he made that quiet obvious. Asami returned the favor, fingering him in tandem with the same fingers he had to suck on. The eroticism that coursed through his body from pleasuring Asami guaranteed that he didn't last too long, and it was only about five minutes later when he himself ejaculated down Asami's throat.

Now that the preliminaries were out of the way, they stripped completely, none of them satiated enough by just a blow job to stop.

Asami laid on the futon and Akihito stood over him, fisting himself and loving the way it enthralled the powerful man under him. Asami was like a man starved and he relished in the knowledge he could do that; he could make Asami submit to him without actually submitting. He moved his legs until his feet were by Asami's shoulders, then he bent down, inviting Asami to rim him while he kept fisting himself.

Asami obliged enthusiastically and he had to brace with his free hand in an effort not to topple over from the pleasure that caused his body to weaken. Asami was too skilled for his own good and just before he was to come again, the man slid from under him and mounted him in the doggy position, then he slowly slid in until Akihito's world revolved around only this moment and the feelings.

They fucked to take the edge off, and when they were complete they became aroused again and made love. This was a routine for them. Sometimes the need was too great for slow and measured at first, but there was always room for their emotions to speak louder than any words could.

This is what Akihito meant by their intercourse sessions being limited to Asami's bedroom because it tended to get messy. It was long and usually was accompanied by two orgasms the least. Sometimes he would hide from Kirishima because he sent baleful glances his way when he did Asami's laundry and chores. He told Kirishima to understand that nobody's thinking of him in the throes of ecstasy and he shouldn't blame him. But of course, there was no other scapegoat and he always got the short end of the stick.

*******VF*******

The first time Asami ordered the execution of two people while he was around, the idea left Akihito uneasy and depressed. He knew by law this had to happen, the man had dishonored himself and his family name by killing his wife and trying to run away with his mistress.

Needless to say, both the man, his mistress and their parents were to receive the death penalty for their transgressions. They were to be sent to the execution grounds in Itabashi for crucifixion.

It was the look in their eyes when they were held in a prison near the castle that made Akihito throw up…they were really in love and they had to die for that love.

The penal law had to be maintained, but that didn't mean he had to like it. This is what would have been his fate if he remained at the Okiya after killing Takeshi Hikaru. No, his transgression was much higher than this one because of the man's status, he would have been killed on the spot and his body (head, most likely) paraded around town for all to mock and jeer.

It made him sick to his stomach at the injustice. Nobody would have cared that the man tried to rape him, in their eyes he was already a well groomed whore.

It sometimes made him think, what his life would have been like if Asami hadn't staked his claim all those seasons ago.

*******VF*******

A few months later, for some reason Asami had become really tense, having countless meetings with the highest ranking in his military, which was head by Kirishima and Suoh. He wasn't sure what was happening, and when he asked he was ignored. Something was brewing and he was determined to find out what.

His answer came a few months later… when the castle came under siege.

That fateful night, Akihito didn't know what was happening, but he awoke from his slumber - hours later he assumed if the absence of sunlight was any indication - due to some shouting and noise echoing around him.

He became startled when he realized what he was hearing sounded like a battle, as if the castle was being attacked. He panicked when the sound of clashing swords could be heard, along with screams and explosions.

The room rattled and shook after each explosion. What was Happening?

"GUARD THE ROOM!" A voice bellowed. Asami.

In his alarm, Akihito didn't know when he reached the shoji door separating him from what was going on outside, but when Asami's voice rang out again to guard his bedroom and a gut wrenching scream of pain was heard, he hesitated. The walls seemed to close in on him as he tried to contemplate his next move. Remembering his meditation and how often he was taught to remain calm, he drew in a deep breath and tried to compose himself. Then his fingers tightened and he opened the door…

…to more blood and carnage than he'd ever seen in his life.

There was a slew of men fighting in the hallway and even more men lying in a pool of their own and other's blood on the floor. He wanted to wretch.

"A…Asami…?"

Asami dodged an attack when he called his name to turn and look at him, then with the determination of a wild animal he sliced through his opponent, cutting him almost in two before running over to his position.

Kirishima was also to the side, battling it out with another samurai in uniforms he didn't recognize. As was Suoh and two more men he'd recognized as Asami's.

Grabbing his arm, Asami pulled him into the room and shut the door behind him. He was then led to the futon where Asami had him kneel before shaking his shoulders.

"Look at me, Akihito," Asami growled. "Focus."

Akihito did as he was told and willed himself to calm down, this was no time to give in to the fear, he would die quicker that way. He took another deep breath before looking at Asami. "Alright, what's happening?"

"It's an attack for control of this castle by men from the Sakai Clan," Asami answered. But then a contemplative look came over his face. "They asked for you by name, turns out the new merchant was a spy. Suoh took care of him."

Akihito nodded, taking this all in, but then that last sentence finally sunk in and he turned questioning eyes at Asami.

"Wait, they asked for me by name? Why?"

"It could be revenge. Either way, you need to stay here and don't come out."

Akihito nodded at Asami, then the man stood and swung his blood covered blade before heading out once again.

Revenge? By whom, and for what?

The destroyed Okiya and the death of Takeshi Hikaru suddenly came to mind. In his bid to achieve a higher state of being he'd put all his past sins and worries to rest, focusing on the future and what he had with Asami. One of the several Bushido codes taught rectitude, which meant he had to become true to himself, morally upright and being straightforward and correct in his judgments.

He had to be reborn to become a full fledged samurai. It wasn't just physical, it was also spiritual.

Now here it was, the past coming back to bite him in the rear like a rabid animal. Asami had said to stay put, but how could he sit and wait to be gutted; to cower and wait for death?

No, that wasn't him. He would never sit and wait to be killed. There were people fighting for his very life right now, fighting for their own and the least he could do is not put their efforts to waste. Remembering the twin swords Asami had hanging on his wall, he went and grabbed one, deciding that he would forge his own fate. If he was to die tonight, he would die with honor and without regret.

The blade was thin and surprisingly easy to manage, the handle black and sleek. He sliced a few times through the air, remembering what Kirishima and Asami had taught him about 3Shinkendo.War still raged on outside the bedroom door and taking a deep breath, Akihito walked towards it and slid it open.

The hallway was now empty, but the amount of bodies and blood on the floor increased from what he could see. He held the katana with both hands, alert and battle ready before proceeding to the end of the hall. The cries and echos of madness was all around and Akihito didn't stop when the sound became more intense, along with the pounding of blood in his ears. He moved with the stealth of a leopard, not wanting to give up the element of surprise.

Everything he'd learned was now being put to the test…it was do or die time.

There was suddenly a huge explosion from the room he was passing that blew a hole in the wall. His body slammed into the side of the other wall and he slumped to the floor, hurt, dazed and disoriented. The sword fell from his hand as the pain radiated from where he got hit.

In his peripheral vision Akihito noticed the approaching silhouette of a man he couldn't make out, his outline was fuzzy from all the cloud of smoke he could see through the hole in the wall.

Was it a friend or foe?

Foe, because the unknown man moved faster towards him with his sword held offensively. He scrambled for the blade he dropped. Grabbing said blade in the nick of time, he brought it up to protect his head as the man tried to decapitate him, barely blocking the blow with how strong the other samurai was. But, he'd also garnered strength and he wasn't going to make easy for any of the enemy to kill him, that much he was sure of. Angry, dark, ignorant eyes stared back at him from behind a mask…that is, until the tip of another blade pierced his heart from behind. The eyes of his attacker widened extraordinarily before the body dropped and his savior was revealed; Asami. His heart beat at a rate too fast to be normal and he exhaled a breath. That was too close for comfort.

"Takaba, stand," Asami commanded and he did as he was told without preamble, no longer a lover but a soldier.

But that didn't stop Asami from stealing a quick kiss before they moved forward, alert and vigilant. An enemy charged at them from around a corner and they both took on the man together; Asami attacking from the right and Akihito from the left. In the end the man was no match for both of them and he fell.

Explosions rang throughout the castle, the place was archaic like a theatre of war and in the end, it was obvious his home for the past year was razed, almost demolished by the enemy. A lot of the furniture and décor was destroyed.

Akihito and Asami caught up to Kirishima, Suoh and a bunch of Asami's other retainers near the castle entrance. They all had battle scars, cuts and bruises…some serious and some not. The fight heated up and everybody had to fend for themselves, the enemy was relentless and no matter how much they killed they kept on coming.

The adrenaline rush made Akihito a force to be reckoned with, he was fighting along side the others, gaining his own battle scars and taking pride in the fact that he wasn't dead yet. He'd grown a lot since that time he had to run for his life, not able to fend off one attacker much less so much. Kirishima was being ganged upon, three to one, and when he realized he took on one of them after cutting down his own opponent.

Kirishima had saved him once before and this time, he would be returning the favor.

Suoh had just cut off the hand, then the head of his adversary and he ran over to Asami's position, helping him to quickly get rid of his own pest before suggesting. "Asami-dono, we'll hold them off here so you and Takaba can escape."

Asami grunted his acknowledgment before they both turned their head at sound of Akihito's scream.

He was stabbed…through the stomach and the level of blind rage that took over Asami didn't afford him the chance to realize when he'd moved, swung his blade so hard it broke the blade of the man that dared to stab his Akihito when he brought it up to defend himself, slicing haggardly across his upper body and almost cutting him in half. The guy died with his mouth wide open in a silent scream.

Panic like never before took over Asami as he turned and watched the sweating, fallen, blood covered body of his young lover with one hand pressing against the wound. He quickly bent down and pulled him to his feet.

"Taka…Akihito, are you alright?"

Akihito grimaced before nodding his head, he didn't look too good. "I can't believe that guy stabbed me."

Asami threw one of Akihito's hands over his shoulders and held him around the waist with the other as support. They tried to hurry out of the castle, which was a slow event because with every step Akihito tried to hold back his cry of pain. A man tried to attack them and with his one free hand Asami put him down like an animal, moving even more aggressively with Akihito slipping in and out of consciousness, he needed medical attention immediately. The blood loss was increasing.

The amount of men attacking had lessened somewhat and with the help of the others Asami was able to slip out of the castle and around the back, he needed to get to the stables. With Akihito slipping farther away from him, he moved as fast as he could, praying to Buddha to not let his lover die. It's been too many years since he'd last experienced this level of alarm that caused him to retreat from a fight. He was almost at the stables when a voice rang called out into the night, too close and too calm to be a part of what was happening inside the castle.

"I hope you're not planning to leave so soon…"

Stopping in his tracks, Asami looked around and spotted the silhouette of a man that emerged from the shadows brandishing a sword. He recognized him instantly.

"So it was you?"

The man's face came into the fore, illuminated by the light of the moon and a smile graced his lips. His waist length hair hung over one shoulder in a loose ponytail and he pointed the tip of his sword at Akihito. "He killed my brother so he has to die…" then it was pointed upon Asami. "…and killing you in the process is just a really nice incentive."

Yuudai Tomatsu, landlord of the Geisha house Akihito stayed at and half brother of Takeshi Hikaru, the man Akihito killed.

Asami lowered the now shivering and half conscious Akihito to the ground, he would not be able to ignore this one. He prayed this fight would end soon because Akihito was going into shock. He gripped his sword as if it was the man's neck and took a few steps forward, getting into a defensive stance. "Just like Akihito killed your brother, I'll take pleasure in putting you out of your misery."

The man scoffed. "He's just a whore, he should have spread his legs like taught and this wouldn't have happened."

Asami bristled indignantly. Akihito was nobody's whore and the fire churning in the pit of his stomach caused him to attack, using the adrenaline rush of his body to his advantage. Of course the man didn't go down as easily as his foot soldiers and they clashed like two ox in a head on collision. None of them were willing to give in easily and Asami did his best to defer any and all attacks before retaliating. He'd acquired as much cuts and bruises as he'd given out and he realized after a few minutes he'd met his match. They were on par as far as strength and technique went but Asami could not lose, Akihito's life hung in the balance.

After a few minutes they stood a few meters apart from each other, panting and sizing each other up. The sound of the surrounding fight and the pounding in his ears was all Asami heard.

"You know, I'd sent a report to the Shogunate about your lover being a murderer and your involvement in hiding him. The Shogun himself sanctioned this attack; there's nowhere for either of you to run now."

Asami believed the man and he knew if he wanted this fight to end soon, he had to come different, think outside the box and rely on his senses. He took a deep breath and focused, calming his body and mind, becoming one with his surrounding. When he opened his eyes the other man attacked, raising his blade above his head with both hands. He didn't move, and when his opponent brought his hand down swiftly over his head, he blocked it and made a sideway slash across the man's stomach before he could rebuff. He didn't turn around after the sound of Yuudai's body hit the floor, lifeless.

Now, he had to get away before they got caught. If what the man said was true, then the Shogun himself had put a bounty on their heads. Akihito needed medical attention and protection, and as he grabbed the fire hot, sweating body of his unconscious lover and mounted his favorite horse, he had only one goal in mind; for both of them to stay alive.

Chapter Text

The world was way too hot, nauseating…and bumpy.

Akihito felt like he was burning inside an inferno, but he couldn’t figure out why. In the inky darkness that surrounded his very existence, he could barely focus on anything.

What was happening? Why couldn’t he see, and why did everything hurt? Somehow he felt like he was drowning, drowning in misery and confusion and hurt.

There was someone he should be looking out for though, someone that would make everything better, but the disorientation, darkness and vertigo clouded the person’s face. And even though in his mind he reached, stretched his hands as far as he could to hold on, the man slipped through his fingers and consciousness like water.

Somehow, that thought set him into a bout of panic that made him sink back deeper into the darkness from which he came.

*******VF*******

“How is he?” Asami asked while looking out at the ashened sky from the front door of the shack he stood in, which was housed deep into the mountainous region between Hida, Etchu and the Kaga provinces. He had to avoid all major towns and roadways since they were both wanted criminals at this point.

“The fever hasn’t broken yet, Asami-dono,” answered A middle aged man sitting beside Akihito, who was barely conscious at the moment.

Asami looked back at his young lover, whose midsection was bandaged while a cool, wet rag was placed on his forehead. His body was covered in thick sheens of sweat that soaked his hair and what little clothes he had on. He was extremely pale with his breathing erratic, the Doctor fed him a blend of medicinal herbs, then he applied a special blend to the wound after cleaning it. Once the fever broke (and it must, because if it didn’t Akihito would be lost to him forever), Akihito would be alright. Now, all he had to do was wait, deep in the heart of the woodlands where it was less likely to be noticed, with the Doctor whose life he’d saved once before.

Asami was a smart man, and he’d planned for such an event from the beginning. He made friends in strategic places, ensuring some backing if something like this were to happen, which is what was saving them now. Aside from the Doctor, there was a merchant between here and Noto, which was his destination, who could transport them under guise in his palanquin. He would send word with the Doctor once Akihito didn’t require so much of the man’s attention.

Now, all he had to do was sit and wait for his lover to overcome the worst.

*******AxA*******

Tao walked through the living area, seemingly lost in thought. Feilong lowered the book he was reading while sitting on the dark brown couch, which went perfectly with the decor influenced by Yoh’s travels to the European nations.

He glanced at the teen; Tao would be sixteen in a few months. “Tao?”

The boy was broken out of his stupor at the sound of his voice. “Oh, Feilong-sama. I apologize for ignoring you, I did not see you sitting there.”

Feilong smiled, such politeness in one so young. He adjusted himself so Tao could take a seat beside him if he liked. “It’s alright. You seem troubled, is something the matter?”

Tao sighed before taking him up on his silent offer. He watched as the teen seemed to gather his thoughts hesitantly before looking him in the eyes.

“I…I’ve been steadily courting Michiko-kun for the past few months, but…I, I think I might like someone else.”

“Oh.” Feilong could see the child’s dilemma; he must be confused and uncertain about his feelings. “Well, Michiko is a very sweet girl, who really likes you. You must consider, if what you are feeling towards the other person is just an infatuation, which will pass in due time.”

“No, Nii-san, I assure you I’ve harbored these feelings for another before I got together with Michiko. In fact, I think it’s made me realize even more that this is the person I want to be with in the future.”

The younger held his head in his hands and sighed. In all honesty, he was too young to be worrying about such things. Feilong knew that Tao and Takaya Michiko becoming future partners were based on their father’s hope, which would strengthen business relations between the two men. They weren’t exactly promised to each other, but they grew up together and their fathers just put them in each other’s way and hope for the best. They were playing cupid, so to speak.

Except, Feilong could see how more happy Tao was when Michiko’s older brother, Takaya Fujimaru, was around. At two years the fifteen years’ old senior, Tao was more taken with the older boy instead of his sister. They were more alike than anyone else; two peas in a pod.

“Well, I would advise you to not worry about it too much. You’re still young and can decide for yourself what you want to do with your feelings at a later time. For now, I’d say focus on your studies and become a good navigator, your father would be so proud.”

Feilong ruffled the boy’s hair and he smiled. “Thank you Nii-san. Yes, study first and worry about love a little later. Easier said than done but I’ll try.”

“That’s what I like about you, Tao,” Feilong smiled before planting a chaste kiss on the boy’s crown. Tao blushed and muttered a shy thanks.

Tao’s resolve was firm as he walked off and Feilong released an exasperated breath. He was all for Tao loving whoever he wanted, but with the rapid increase of sexual diseases being brought back to the coast by traders known to be involved in same sex relationships, their lifestyle were slowly being frowned upon. He would not want Tao to experience the developing bigotry until he felt he’s at a suitable age to manage.

It was this bigotry that made Yoh adopt him after all. As family, no one would ponder their proximity or relationship.

Now, thinking about Tao and his troubles lessened Feilong’s interest in the book he had in hand. Yoh brought it back from one his travels overseas; Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. He didn’t understand everything since he knew only a handful of people that knew English, but he found it interesting none the less. He set the book down beside him and walked to the kitchen where he poured himself a cup of lemon green tea. He was so engrossed in his internal monologue that he didn’t realize he was no longer alone.

That is, until a hand shifted the hair at the back of his neck before a pair of soft, warm lips descended on his neck in a chaste kiss.

“Yoh…” Feilong greeted softly when he turned around to see his lover standing there with a small smile on his lips, wearing a button up, cream shirt, boots and breeches.  He wrapped both hands around the man’s neck and smiled teasingly. “Oh, has my significant other been replaced by a foreigner?”

Yoh smiled as Feilong wrapped both hands around his neck and shuffled closer. With his hands on the man’s hips, pulling him close enough to feel him, he whispered huskily. “If you want to look at it that way. But my outward appearance is all that’s changed, my love for you remain the same.”

Feilong smiled lovingly, and the hand that he ran through Yoh’s soft hair tightened a fraction and he pulled the man closer for a passionate kiss. Their mouths parted and their lips tangled as they tasted each other greedily.

Yoh immediately got harder, a testament to how much he missed Feilong’s body over the course of the long grueling month out on the sea. The clothes he wore was the gift he brought back for himself this time, not discounting Tao’s and his lover’s.

And speaking of his son…sucking on that plump bottom lip, he pulled back and asked, “Tao has been behaving, I assume?”

Feilong smiled. “Of, course, he’s the perfect gentleman after all; just like his father. He’s in his room studying.”

“Good.” Yoh answered. Then he swept Feilong off his feet, lifting him bridal style as the man gasped in surprise and hold on tightly to his neck at the action. “I can spend a little time ravishing you and then I’ll greet him.”

Feilong only smiled, then he buried his face in Yoh’s neck, breathing in his scent as the man walked up the stairs towards their bedroom.

Feilong enjoyed his time with Yoh. He was grateful to the man for freeing him from the place he spent most of his teenage and young adult life in, all because his mother couldn’t stand the sight of him. She sold him to that awful place, because every man she ever fell for fell for him in return. He wasn’t even into men, but she branded him a whore and sold him to the Okiya spitefully. They resembled, a lot actually, but his mother believed her beauty was marred by the puckered flesh running across her cheek and right eye, blinding it and almost erasing the color of her iris. The wound was delivered by a samurai sword some time before she had him. His father was killed.

He had to get use to being with men very quickly since because of his looks and grace he came in very high demand. He was too young, many deals were made to get him bed, and by the time his Mizuage came around he was already too far removed from being a virgin. Then there was Akihito, his new friend and only hope…

“Are you alright?”

Feilong was broken out of his thoughts by Yoh’s concerned voice and he move to put him on the bed. “Oh? I’m fine, just thinking.”

“Sometimes you think too much,” Yoh answered nonchalantly and Feilong grabbed his shirt before pulling him down on the bed for a searing kiss. He widened his legs so the man could fall between them, then he rolled over so he was straddling Yoh. He pinned the man’s hands on the pillow beside his head and kissed him without care. Their clothed hard-ons grinded against each other, testament to the lust coursing through their veins. Yoh freed his hands and used them to hold the hair cascading around them on top of Feilong’s head, then he pulled back, exposing Feilong’s supple, smooth throat to his hungry lips. He nipped and kissed his way down, leaving a few hickeys before he attacked those sinful lips once again. His free hand explored his lover’s chest before he started toying with his nipples, earning him a delicious little moan.

“I’ve waited so long…to have you like this.” Feilong swallowed thickly as another moan threatened to rise from his throat. In response Yoh pushed him back gently so he could free himself. His lover’s eyes said it all; he was at his limit too.

They undressed quickly because frankly, who had the time when it’s been a month?

Yoh prepared then entered Feilong carefully but with a little less finesse than previous times, and Feilong made sure to pleasure his man thoroughly all night long.

*******VF*******

Feilong awoke the next morning to the smell of a delicious breakfast tickling his nostrils. He groaned before rolling over in the now empty bed. He felt a little sore and tired, Yoh was really enthusiastic last night. Getting out of bed with a yawn, he cleaned up and then went down to the kitchen to see what was going on.

The sight was so endearing Feilong couldn’t hold back a smile.

“Morning, Nii-san,” Tao smiled from around the stove where he was frying fish while his father sat around the low table, sipping tea and reading the morning paper.

“Morning, Tao,” Feilong answered before walking over to Yoh and kissing him softly on the cheek. He didn’t pay any attention to what his man was reading, so he didn’t see the frown he had on his face before it disappeared. He sat around the table and watched Tao cook, which can be a sight to behold sometimes.

“What’s on the menu this morning?

Tao didn’t stop what he was doing to answer. “Tossed vegetables, fried fish and miso soup.”

Feilong inhaled deeply. “I can’t decide who’s a better cook, you or your father.”

Tao laughed and Yoh raised an eyebrow at him. Tao kept going with the breakfast and Feilong kept staring at his boyfriend, remembering the amazing night they had and wanting a repeat. Yoh didn’t have mush to say though; he was reading something that bothered him and it showed.

“Everything alright?” Feilong asked.

Yoh looked up at him then and folded the paper before putting it on the floor opposite him. “Nothing’s the matter…”

“Ready!” Tao shouted then and they both looked up to see him coming forward with a tray in hand. He put it on the table and they ate in companiable silence before Tao had to leave for lessons. They both started cleaning up, but Feilong could still see that something was bothering Yoh.

He put the rag he had in hand down after he finished wiping the counter and decided to ask his previous question again. “Yoh, are you sure you’re alright?”

Yoh looked indecisive as he stopped rearranging the dishes to look at him. “I’m just thinking, I’ll talk to you later.”

Feilong was puzzled as Yoh walked away. But, maybe he just needed some time to sort out whatever he had on his mind so he decided to leave him be for now. In the meantime, he would go get ready to open the shop.

*******VF*******

The morning was already bustling with people; civilians, children, traders and a few warriors and it kept Feilong busy because lots of people liked his sweets. Especially children and teens. He pulled his hair back, twisted it into a bun and wore a kerchief on his head to prevent his hair from getting into the confection. People were fickle about hygiene in this village.

It was good business, because more people seemed to buy from him than at other shops. He just finished serving two children when a pair of gossipers came up and stood near the side window where he worked. He wasn’t interested in gossip normally, but sometimes he couldn’t help wanting to know what was happening. Having the right info could get one very far in the long run.

“So, it’s really a daimyo?” one woman’s voice asked.

The other female voice answered conspiratorially. “Yes, the once ruler of the Mino province. Right now I’ve heard he and his lover…a younger man at that…” The first voice gasped. “Have a bounty on their heads and their castle was burnt to the ground.”

Mino Province? Wasn’t that Asami’s territory?

“The Shogun has ordered the execution of all his loyal retainers and have issued a reward for their heads…” the second voice continued. “I can’t believe a daimyo would give refuge to and take a murderer to bed.”

Feilong couldn’t wrap his head around it. He wasn’t even too sure if the women were talking about Asami because it came out as a passing mention in one of his earlier times with Asami in bed years ago. The man rarely talked and only came around for sex so other than their coupling there wasn’t much to remember.

“Last anybody saw of them they were heading East, they might even pass through our village…”

At that Feilong took the kerchief off his head, threw it on the counter and quickly tried to close the shop, but he was interrupted in his plans when a man’s voice said from behind him, “Are you going somewhere? I’d like some sweets for my daughter.”

Feilong recognized the voice before he turned and looked to the speaker. This was a habit of this man’s and right now he felt even more tired of it than previous times. He ignored Kurou-san, another trader who decided he was a vain person who would be swayed with promises of travel and riches, to continue closing up shop.

“You bought enough candy to last a week yesterday, surely you do not expect me to buy your excuses today?”

Feilong wasn’t paying the man too much attention even though he was talking to him and he gasped in surprised when his arm was grabbed and he was spun around to look said man in the face. But, he didn’t mention that he knew advanced martial arts and instead of making the surprise freeze him in place, he countered the attack with a flurry of hand movements and side steps that saw Kurou-san pushed face first against the shop door with one hand twisted tightly behind him. He cried out in surprise and pain.

Feilong brought his face close to the man’s ear while he struggled against his hold, but to no avail. “I’ve warned you enough times…don’t touch or I’ll break something important.”

And Feilong emphasized his point by putting a little more pressure on the twisted arm. The man cried out and that’s when he pushed him to the side roughly, causing him to almost stumble and fall.

Kurou-san looked at him and smiled crookedly. “Beautiful and dangerous…just my type.”

Feilong didn’t wait to hear further and he turned around and hurried home, wanting to get to the bottom of the rumor he heard.

*******VF*******

Yoh thought he heard a noise downstairs, so quietly he left his bedroom and made his way towards the stairs. He opted for stealth in case it was a burglar, but he realized it was only Feilong, who was looking around frantically for something. He was about to make his presence known when he saw is lover snatch the newspaper and start to flip through it hastily. He made a mental sigh when he realized Feilong must have heard the news about Asami. He made his way down the stairs, watching as Feilong looked up from the paper and glare at him.

“Is it Asami?”

Yoh nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Because you care way too much for a man that use to sleep with you. “I didn’t want to upset you.”

“But…” Feilong looked back down at the paper. “…who is this murderer he’s with, what about Akihito?”

“I don’t know,” Yoh answered truthfully. To be honest, he felt Feilong was taking this way too personal, but he knew the men meant a lot to him so he would keep his opinions to himself; no use upsetting his love further, he tended to act rashly at times.

Panicking, Feilong suddenly stood before throwing the paper down. “We have to go find Asami before something ominous happens…”

Yoh moved quickly, grabbing Feilong and keeping him grounded before he could make it through the door. “You need to stop and think about this, we have no idea where he is or if he’s even alive at this point.”

Feilong felt his blood run cold, Asami couldn’t be dead…he prayed he wasn’t.

“And besides, if he’s going to find the one friend he has in all of this then you need to be here when he comes,” Yoh continued. Feilong seemed to consider his words and he calmed down before shaking his head in the affirmative. “Good, now go take a shower and lie down, I’ll make you some tea.”

Feilong nodded before walking off and Yoh sighed. He too, wished for Asami to be alright, just for Feilong’s sake.

*******VF*******

A week later, Feilong sat frozen, staring at the letter he’d received in private from a horse back courier. A middle aged man had seeked him out personally and had handed him the letter in secrecy, making him swear to keep the information to himself. He’d rushed home and opened the sealed envelope before reading it. His heart felt relieved when he realized it was from Asami and the man was telling him to expect him the next day under the cover of night. He knew if anybody even suspected anybody in their household was helping a fugitive then they would be killed on the spot; him, Tao and Yoh.

When he was through he burned the pieces of paper over an open fire, getting rid of any evidence. He sought out Yoh, found him in their bedroom before relaying the gist of Asami’s plan; Asami wanted to cross the border on the ship Yoh used for his overseas trades. It was very risky and would probably get them killed, but he knew there was no one else in all of Japan who could do it or would help.

Yoh seemed hesitant. “Feilong, I know you care for Asami, but would you really put our family in jeopardy like this? He’s wanted for the murder of a prominent landlord and his retainers, whose brother was also murdered by his lover. Most of his men were executed and his castle burnt to the ground, that’s how much the shogun wants him dead…”

“I know Asami, and even though he might not be the kindest man alive he’s a man of principle. He wouldn’t have killed unless he had to. Now, if you won’t help me help him, I’ll just have to do it myself,” Feilong answered firmly.

Yoh was afraid of the determination he saw in Feilong’s eyes and he knew without a doubt he will go through with this. He sighed in exasperation, three heads was better than two anyways, and if he could prevent Feilong losing his then that was just a major added bonus. Besides, he knew the navigation and authority of the seas and he knew Asami was banking on that knowledge. By going through Feilong, Asami knew he would have to get involved; the man was as cunning as a fox. 

“Let’s start preparing, shall we? First thing in the morning Tao will be sent on a journey to visit his grandmother in the north-east province of Iwate just in case, after that I’ll make preparations for a journey to North Korea, the Shogun has no say over areas governed by the Qing Dynasty. After that, they’ll be on their own.”

Feilong nodded in thoughtfulness. “Fine, but how will we get them past port authority?”

Yoh’s features became even more serious, “As dead bodies.”

Chapter Text

Nervous and restless, Feilong waited under the cover of night for his visitors. The lamps at the back door weren’t lit because the last thing he wanted was for eavesdropping, nosy people to know his business. The trickling of water and thud of the segmented bamboo tube hitting rock from a Sozu* water fountain nearby resonated throughout the neighboring   vicinity. He stood by the door, on the inside, looking out while wearing a cloak over his tunic. He didn’t know what time to expect Asami, but he knew it couldn’t be early and by this time it was pretty late.

Tao was upstairs, in his room asleep because his grandmother, as they found out, took a long  trip to another province and was not available to keep the teenager. Yoh did not like the idea of his son being around when something dangerous was about to happen, but by this time it was too late. The man didn’t trust his child in the hands of others, so the boy stayed, although his father made him go to bed earlier than usual. Yoh himself was in their bedroom, putting together whatever he needed for their plan while he kept watch, it wasn’t like Asami gave them a specific time for his arrival.

“Anything yet?”

Feilong looked away from the blackened scene of the landscape covered in darkness, except for the few houses and people that had their lamps burning, to look at his lover. “No, I haven’t seen anything. What time is it?”

Yoh looked at his spring driven clock, looking at the segmented hours from sunset to determine their current time. “We’re in the fifth hour….”

Feilong nodded before glancing back outside, then he turned fully to his expectant lover.

Yoh looked at him. “I’m making tea, honey lemon.”

Feilong smiled. “My favorite.”

He was about to walk away when the bristle and clap of hooves against dirt and stones could be heard. He paused, looked back out into the semi-darkness to the palanquin that stopped a few meters away from his back door. There was only shadows and silhouettes as he watched, but the feel of Yoh over his shoulder didn’t deter from his need to know if this was the moment of truth.  Was it them? Was it Asami and company?

Sure enough the figures approached steadily. The palanquin languidly moved away and even as the shadows stood on his doorstep, Feilong didn’t light ay lamps. He could feel the palpitation of his heartbeat resonating throughout his body.

“You can open the door.”

Recognizing Asami’s voice immediately, Feilong gasped before throwing his door open. He pulled Asami’s shadow inside his house, realizing that the man had an arm around the shoulder of his companion, who grunted at the sudden movement. He and Yoh ushered their company around the corner, into the heart of their family room where a single lamp was lit.

Feilong drew in a breath when he realized Asami was supporting Akihito, it made his heart flutter gladly. He hadn’t seen him in so long.

“Akihito?”

The blond nodded before smiling weakly at him and it took a moment for Feilong to register that Akihito was in worse shape than he realized. His posture was a little stiff and his eyes were a bit droopy. When he led them over to the couch Asami gently deposited the younger man, who gingerly took a seat, wincing slightly before he was almost completely down. He quickly sat down beside him and took him in fully. Even through his clothes he could see the bandages.

“You’re hurt…” he then looked to Asami. “What happened to him?”

“He was hurt in battle,” Asami answered stiffly, obviously agitated at the situation.

He looked back at a perspiring Akihito, who smiled weakly at him. “Hi, Feilong. It’s been a while.”

Akihito tried to smile through his sentence but ended up coughing instead.

Feilong almost panicked. “Water, he needs…”

He was about to stand when he saw Yoh entering with a tray housing a tea pot, tea cups and a glass of water…he hadn’t even realized he’d left. He smiled gratefully before standing and pouring Akihito a cup to drink. He was about to feed him when Asami grabbed it out of his hand and did the honors himself. He was a little startled, but then he smiled at the man. That one gesture proved the man’s feelings for his young friend.

“So, what really happened after I left the Okiya?” Feilong prodded.

Asami briefly retold the sordid tale of all that led up to this moment.

Yoh frowned at the end of the story. “You do know it will be very risky getting you two to China, don’t you?”

Asami nodded.

“And you do know you will be endangering my family, don’t you?”

Again Asami nodded. By this time there was barely concealed animosity between the two men and Feilong would rather avoid the contention, so he decided to create a distraction. Akihito was half awake with his head bucking at interval and he said, “Asami, there’s a futon set up in the guest bedroom for both of you in that room, let him get some rest until we’re ready.”

Asami led Akihito to where Feilong pointed and when they were out of hearing range Feilong glared at Yoh. “Was that even necessary?”

“It’s the truth. Let’s go, I have the ship ready to set sail and the coffins around back.”

*******VF*******

While Yoh prepared things on his end, Feilong took his make-up kit to the guest bedroom. He knocked before entering to the sight of Asami sitting on the futon with Akihito’s head in his lap while he rest. He walked over and knelt before them, then he place the kit on the floor beside him.

“What is that?” Akihito asked groggily.

Feilong looked at his friend before answering. “Makeup, you two have to look the part, don’t you?”

Akihito frowned. “What part?”

“We’ll be crossing over to China in coffins.”

Akihito gulped.

“And both those coffins will be painted with the number four in the hope that the guards at the port will be too superstitious to look into it,” Feilong added.

Akihito gulped again. “The number four? But that number is pronounced with the same word for death. What if we really die because we are in coffins with the number equivalent of death on it?”

Feilong became grave. “If you don’t leave Japan, you both will definitely die at the command of the Shogun, there is nowhere in Japan for you to hide forever. Getting out of the country is your only hope and I’m sure that by now all samurai and retainers are on high alert for both of you. A direct command by the Shogun for both your heads will not be easily overlooked.”

Akihito was definitely agitated and Asami just seemed indifferent. Feilong wanted them to get away and live just as much as he’s sure they wanted to stay alive. He started by applying make to Asami first, since Akihito tended to burst into cold sweat because of his injuries and worries. When he was through, both their exposed upper body was completely white and then lighter shades were applied to create a gaunt, deathly look. It took about a half hour to do both men. Now all that’s left is to go and get the new kimonos he got them just for the occasion.

“Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

Akihito looked solemnly at Asami when Feilong left the room and Asami in turn held his chin and tilted his face up for a passionate kiss. Confident and determined, he looked into those hazel eyes he adored. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you live, even if it’s the last thing I do.”

Akihito smiled, returning that loving gaze to the man he gave himself over to completely. “And if you fall into the deepest layers of hell, I’ll descend with you.”

Both men, knowing that this could possibly be the end, conveyed their love for each other without words, through actions that rang out louder for both of them than anything else ever could.

I love you.

I love you too.

“Ehem.” Feilong watched as both men separated from their intense kiss at the sound of his interruption. He handed them both black kimonos. “Remember to wear the right side over the left.”

Akihito paled; he was certain he would not be favored by Buddha tonight.

*******VF*******

“Don’t I at least get to see Tao before I leave?” Akihito whined, wanting to delay the inevitable for as long as possible. They stood in the barely lit back yard where the coffins laid innocently under a shed in a cart, attached to two horses.

Yoh handed Feilong the transfer papers for the two ‘Chinese men who died in Japan and their families requested their bodies to be buried in their homeland of China’. He got it signed as a favor by a Buddhist priest he knew.

“Tao is asleep, he’s staying out of this,” Feilong answered.

Akihito grabbed his stomach as a sharp pain shot through him and Asami was there holding him in the blink of an eye.

“Are you alright?” Asami asked with concern evident in his voice.

Akihito bit his lip and nodded, riding out the sensation of the stab wound in his stomach acting up. “I’m fine.”

Feilong was also concerned; he wanted to get them away from here so Akihito could get dealt with by a physician without hinder as soon as possible.

“Let’s hurry, the sooner we get this over with the better. Plus, we need the cover of darkness to make this work, it will be light in the next few hours,” Yoh pointed out. He made sure everything was in order, then he instructed the two men to get into the wooden boxes, which would not be properly sealed in the event the men needed to make a quick getaway.

Akihito was dealt with first, since he believed heavily in superstition and Asami needed to be the one to reassure him before the coffin was closed. Feilong could hear him breathing heavily through the wood and he touched it lightly. “Please, Akihito, relax.”

Akihito’s breathing slowed minutely and he smiled. “Take deep breaths until we get there, I want both of you to get out of this alive…and for me and Yoh to return safely, of course.”

At that Akihito’s breathing slowly regulated.

Feilong smiled. “I have the utmost faith in you, that you’ll both make it out of here…”

There was no response except Akihito’s attempt at calming down.

“Feilong, we need to go.”

“Dad?”

At the sound of the teen’s voice, both men abruptly stopped what they were doing and looked at him, frightened.

Yoh moved towards his son, who was rubbing his eyes sleepily while trying to suppress a yawn. He held him by the shoulders and looked at him sternly. “Tao, what are you doing up at this hour?”

Tao shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Yoh looked back at Feilong apprehensively, what should their next course of action be regarding his son?

“Where are you both going?” Tao’s worried voice asked. He then realized he was looking at coffins, his eyes widened. “Father, what’s going on?”

“Stay here, don’t move,” Yoh commanded and he left the teen standing there to converse with Feilong.

“He won’t stay by himself now, he can tell something’s wrong.” They both looked back at Tao’s timid expression.

Feilong frowned at what he was about to suggest. “Do you think we should bring him?”

Yoh looked grimly at his frightened son. “What if something was to go wrong?”

“Then he’ll be left behind to face the shogun’s wrath, he’ll die a painful and dishonorable death.”

Yoh nodded. He took the child to change him out of his sleepwear into more presentable clothes. When they returned, Tao was afraid to go near the coffins.

Tao stuck close to his father.  He inclined his head at the coffins. “Who’s are those?”

“You’ll find out later,” Feilong answered. Tao was allowed to ride with him on the front of the horse and as much as he could tell Yoh didn’t like the idea of Tao’s presence as much as he did, there was no other choice at present.

*******VF*******

The two samurais that stood guard at the entrance to the port looked from Yoh to the paper in their hands, and then to the coffins skeptically. As hoped, none were too keen on the bad omen perpetuated by such coffins being in such close proximity.

“Where did you say you were heading, Yoh-san?”

Yoh didn’t hesitate to answer. “China. As the papers suggests, these bodies needs to return to their homeland for burial.”

Both samurais looked at each other hesitantly. “Won’t you take a look in them?” one asked the other.

The other one sighed before walking over to the coffin Asami was in, thank fully, with a lamp. When he pried the top open, he was greeted with the gaunt, lifeless face of Asami. Feilong did a very good job with the makeup. The bulky man didn’t engage in any further inspection and closed the lid. He seemed to have no interest in looking at the other. Before he could return to his earlier position, he glanced at the horse with the other two.

“There’s a child here, why?”

At this query Feilong answered. “Nightmares.”

The man bought the excuse, then he walked back over to his partner. “Sign for the transfer so these can be shipped out immediately.”

The other samurai did as told. Yoh was handed the papers and they were allowed to pass through the gates without further preamble.

Feilong was glad things went relatively smoothly and by the time they were a little distance away, there was a command for them to halt from one of the samurais.

Sensing the tension, Feilong held his breath before looking back. His eyes widened minutely, because not only was the samurais there, but a third person had joined them and from what he could see, it was Kurou-san, the other trader that’s been after him for a while.

“Yoh, go.”

Yoh could tell something was wrong, because both samurais advanced on them with their swords drawn and on the defense. He spotted the other man smirking and frowned, he would kill him tonight. He’d been wanting to harm him ever since he found out he’d touched his lover and was openly soliciting him behind his back, but couldn’t risk his lively hood nor life for such a worthless person.

But now…

Feilong watched as Yoh drew his sword. He did the same and then dismounted his horse, leaving a frightened Tao there.

“Do not move, stay out of harm’s way.” Feilong instructed the young boy before hurrying to his lover’s side.

“Hold it right there!”

Yoh drew the sword he had hidden in the cart, knowing that their cover was blown. Kurou-san, although just a shadowy silhouette of himself, could be heard laughing.

“If I can’t have you, then you’ll die, Liu Feilong,” Kurou-san chuckled under his breath as he watched the proceedings. He’d been passing their household earlier when he caught sight of the strange carriage and its companions and decided to eavesdrop on what was happening in their household. It was hard to make out in the darkness of night, but when he realized what they were doing he’d decided to throw a wrench in their plans. He would have them all killed for their transgression of not allowing him to taste the sweet, forbidden fruit of a man more beautiful than his own wife. He was highly obsessed, beyond the point of no return in his need for the man.

The fighting men advanced and the four were pitted against each other in a sword fight to the death. The clanking of sharp metal against sharp metal sliced through the stillness of the early morning darkness as they attacked, alerting others to what was taking place.

Sensing the shift in circumstances, Asami kicked the lid off his coffin and grabbed the sword hidden at the side of said coffin. He rose like the harbinger of death and attacked the samurai that Feilong was fighting. Two against one-it was hardly a fair match and in no time that samurai was impaled through the stomach. He fell to the sandy floor of the coastline, dead, painting the area beneath him in crimson. The two were about to assist Yoh when about seven more samurais ran through the gate, all with their swords drawn and their eyes burning for their blood. They were surrounded and outmatched; eight against three, but come high or low they would die fighting, that is the samurai way after all.

Feilong, Yoh and Asami stood with their backs to each other while the men surrounded them. It was Asami who spotted Akihito’s silhouette out of the corner of his eyes as he dismounted the coffin and cart and he wanted to tell him to stay put, to stay out of harms way, but it seemed no-one else noticed him and he wanted to keep it that way.

Tao also, whose chest palpitated like an African drum in his ears fell off the horse and started backing away from the fighting men. When Asami and Feilong had killed that samurai, it left him emotionally and physically handicapped. With the fear that pumped through his blood and coursed through his veins, his instinct was telling him to run, to get as far away as possible from the carnage and he was going to…until he felt a firm pair of hands grab him from behind. He jumped in fright and screamed, trying to fight his attacker off.

“Tao, shhhh. It’s me, Akihito.”

At the realization, Tao turned tear filled eyes up at the blond, young man holding him. Tears off joy mixed with overwrought horror ran down his cheeks and he buried his face into Akihito’s chest while hugging him tightly in return.

“I don’t want to be here,” Tao sobbed even as the rambunctious duels continued some distance away. He didn’t want o see anybody hurt his friends nor family, but neither did he want to see them hurting anybody else like before.

Akihito hugged the boy tighter, but then he looked at the edge of the water and spotted various ships decked by their anchors as they swayed softly on the rippling body of water. He needed a place for them to hide.

“Tao, show me your father’s ship.”

Wiping tears from his eyes with one hand, Tao’s gaze swept along the coast and when he spotted his fathers ship, he pointed to it. “There.”

Akihito nodded and then he stood and started leading them to the ship. Tao would be safer in there.

Even with all that was happening, Asami still kept an eye on his Akihito, and when he realized what the plan was, he smiled to himself. He was about to focus back on the battle when he realized that one samurai had veered off in the direction of the two. The man was sneaking up on them and Akihito didn’t realize it. But he had to keep him-them safe, and with a burst of energy accompanied by the fear of losing his loved one, he managed to kill the two samurai he was fighting before sprinting towards Akihito’s location.

Akihito didn’t realize how close both he and Tao came to death until there was a scream behind him. They both turned around in shock to the sight of the samurai poised over them, frozen stiff and eyes wide with both hands in the air holding his katana, ready to strike them down. But he didn’t miss the hilt of the katana that protruded from the man’s stomach. He covered Tao’s eyes with one hand as the blood trickled from the man’s lips to spot on his dark hakama. He fell face first into the sand with eyes still open and lifeless and Akihito stared at Tao then Asami.

“Go,” the older man instructed and Akihito turned Tao around and led him away, but not before realizing that he mouth the words ‘I love you’ to Asami before the man threw himself back into the fray of the others. When they boarded the ship, he took Tao down to the cabin and kept him there.

Yoh knew that if they were all to escape from this they would need to end the fight now and leave. Unfortunately, these samurais were highly skilled men and it wasn’t an easy feat defeating them. Even though he’d managed to counter-attack and block a lot of his attacks, his enemies did the same, and he was sometimes fighting two at a time. The orange tinge of early morning was bathing the land in soft light, and even though the battle seemed to be in their favor, it would mean complete loss if they stuck around for the enemy to gather re-enforcements. He could tell Asami and Feilong knew it too and they worked in harmony to try and bring down the men, but it wasn’t an easy task.

“ASAMI!” Feilong shouted when he realized one of the samurais was going to make a sneak attack on the older man. Asami turned around just in time to counter-defend, then he slashed the man’s throat. Blood flew everywhere and Feilong found himself dodging an intended stab through the heart. He surmised that they were running out of time fighting like this, and if they didn’t get away soon, they wouldn’t be leaving at all…except to be buried.

It came as a God-sent boon to Asami when familiar yelling could be heard as two men ran through the gates towards them and started attacking the enemy. Asami smiled at the sight of his two most trusted men; Kirishima and Suoh, dressed in matching hakamas and brandishing katanas of their own. He felt elated that they’d survived. How they found him he had no idea, nor did he care, but with their help the battle moved along a lot faster, the enemy died out quicker.

Yoh had no idea who the men were, but they weren’t enemy so he didn’t pay particular attention to them. As he withdrew his bloodied sword from the chest of the last man he’d killed, he looked towards the gate, eyes narrowing and skin burning for the need to kill the man cowering behind said gate in fear. He ran with break neck speed towards Kurou-san, watching as the man tried to fumble away as the fear numbed him.

Feilong watched as Yoh ran towards the gate. He called out for him but he stood his ground when Asami planted a hand on his shoulder. He didn’t understand until he realized who his lover was after. When without preamble Yoh decapitated the man that caused them so much trouble. His spirit lifted like a bird set free from its prison, that man would be causing no more problems for anybody ever again.

“Asami-dono.” The two new comers greeted Asami reverently with their heads bowed.

Feilong recognized one of them, the dark haired one from his time in the Okiya when Asami use to visit him.

“I’m glad you both made it,” Asami chuckled. He took a deep breath as the exertion from the battle took over. They were all tired and sore, apparently.

Yoh jogged up to them. “Let’s go, we’ll all have to leave since I’m sure by now news have reached the local authorities and ultimately the shogun of us all. None of us can stay here.”

Feilong nodded. He could feel himself tensing slightly at the thought of leaving his home and his country behind, but he knew it had to be done. He had his family, and he wanted to live his life. There would be no honorable death to be had here. By now, the first of the early morning rays bathed the landscape with its tendrils of light and they started walking towards Yoh’s ship.

“Wait,” Suoh broke the tense silence, stopping the group in their tracks as they turned to look at him. He ran towards a bag that was lying on the ground a few meters away. When he took it and brought it back, he explained it was mini bombs he’d took from a man he’d killed back at Asami’s once castle. It was a new European invention brought over by men of high stature and he took them for emergency purposes.

“Let’s prevent others from following us, shall we?” Kirishima grinned and the other three got on Yoh’s ship, then watched as Kirishima and Suoh bombed the other four ships anchored at the port.

“Good thinking,” Asami praised as the men got on board. He and Yoh lifted the rope ladder and the anchor, then they started the engine and began moving out, away from their old life and towards their new one.

The ship started to set sail and they stood at the bow, watching as other samurais and local authority figures filed on to the water front amidst the littered bodies of their comrades. They were rendered immobile since all other ships had holes in them from the bombing. The group watched the last sight of their homeland they’ll ever see with ambiguous feelings of triumph and loss.

As the ship sailed further away, Asami had both hands wrapped tightly around his Akihito, who had joined him once the ship started moving.

Yoh had moved to the stern with Feilong, and they shared a long, passionate kiss of gratitude for making it out alive and having each other. Tao had joined them amidst their kissing, scrunching his nose at the action. But laughed and ran to hug them both when they welcomed him with open arms, happy that they were together and not separated for any reason since things could have gone much differently.

“Well, aren’t they a happy family?” Akihito teased lightheartedly when he spotted the three. He had an arm around Asami’s waist while the man held him across the shoulders.

Feilong smiled. “So are you two.”

Tao ran towards Akihito, bumping into him and wrapping his arms around his waist. “Akihito, I’m so happy to see you again!”

Akihito groaned at the contact, Tao didn’t know he was stabbed. He softly pried him off. “Sorry, I’m hurt.” Tao looked extremely apologetic and he stepped away from him. He ruffled his hair and smiled down at the boy.  “I’m also very happy to see you too. Let’s go below and make something to eat, shall we?”

Tao laughed and dragged the blond off. “I’m a great cook, Akihito, just wait and see!”

“I’m going below too, I’m filthy,” Feilong announced. He gave Yoh a final peck on the lips before walking off, bowing to Asami as he walked pass.

Asami grabbed the man and pulled him into a tight hug, making him know undoubtedly that he appreciated the risk he took to save both his and Akihito’s life. With an endearing smile, Feilong pulled back and walked away.

Asami stood and faced the side of the ship, looking out at the vast sea and he felt Yoh come to stand beside him. He didn’t look at the man, but he also wanted to let him know his gratitude at his sacrifice. He drew in a breath before muttering a simple but heartfelt ‘thank you’.

“I didn’t do anything for you,” Yoh answered.

“I know,” Asami answered as the morning air whipped around them. Anywhere Feilong went Yoh is sure to follow, and for that, in this moment, he was eternally grateful.

The ship sailed away from the past and towards the future, a future hopefully filled with good fortune and unequivocal blessings for the seven people who gave up everything for what they believed in.