Raidou/Okuninushi. R. ~800 words.
Demons are tenuous allies, respectful of strength of arm and of will and always with a vicious eye for weakness.

The screen doors are open to the warm night breeze, allowing the diluted bustle several streets over to be carried in on its heels. Raidou turns his face to the sky and breathes deeply, relishing the clean scent of rain to come.

Behind him, Okuninushi works the powders to liquid ink in silence. The lamplight warms the icy gleam of the demon’s pale skin, so stark against the jet fall of its hair.

Its red gaze lifts, sensing the weight of Raidou’s attention. “Soon, my lord.”

Raidou nods and sets his back to the wall to watch. Though the room is spartan, it feels like an indulgence. The Capital is rife with the eyes of the Clan, some who tolerate his youthful ways because of friendship, some who wait patiently them to prove a fatal folly. It is a guilty relief to be free of them all.

Neither would approve of this night.

Head bowed respectfully, the demon still towers above him as it smoothly rises to its full height to lay out the futon. Its weapons stand proudly beside Raidou’s, well within reach. Their weight, when it had carefully handed them over to his keeping, had been immense. Like the demon itself, the air about them ripples with power, as if this world fights to contain them.

Beneath its battle-worn armour, ritually set aside now as with their weapons, it wears simple white clothing, traditional both in cut and material. Its no less deadly for it, and Raidou’s skin prickles uncomfortably as it kneels on a wide pillow.

“My lord,” it says, voice rich and ringing of dark, shadowed things, “if it would please you, we may begin.”

Despite himself, Raidou hesitates. In all his years of training he has had a guiding hand. The experiences of those who came before him are invaluable and have always steered him to the proper course. In this, not even Gouto would find wisdom.

“You have doubts?”

Foolish to let his thoughts reveal themselves. Demons are tenuous allies, respectful of strength of arm and of will and always with a vicious eye for weakness. A commodity, the Clan teaches, to be acquired and used and when the time comes, fused into a stronger, faster tool. They are to be valued no more than any weapon.

Less, he has been counselled, because no sword has ever turned upon its wielder.

With steady hands, Raidou unbuttons his school coat, his cape, hat and shoes already placed neatly by the entrance. Okuninushi watches unreservedly as he sets it aside, moving next to the buttons of his shirt.

His life as a student seems so very distant as his slacks slide down over his hips, the neat pile of his clothing at his feet growing until he stands naked before the demon, vulnerable and human as he has never been since claiming the name Kuzunoha.

If Okuninushi can sense his unease, it doesn’t show, merely gestures for Raidou to take his place on the futon. Raidou’s blood pulses faster in his veins as he settles on his stomach, cheek pillowed on his crossed arms. His skin feels alive, tight and raw as the demon takes a long-handled brush in hand to dip into black ink.

“Your faith in me is-” the demon pauses, its hand hovering close to Raidou’s bare skin, cool as the press of winter. A tiny shiver ripples through him, bringing again with it the demon’s voice, “-unprecedented.”

At the first touch of ink to flesh, Raidou turns to face the open doorway. The modest courtyard is bathed in white moonlight, broken only at the step by the yellow glow of their lamps.

“The place I learned this verse is long forgotten,” it continues, each brushstroke soft and sure, elegant. “It will continue to serve you even after I have passed from Kuzunoha memory.”

Raidou allows his heavy eyes to close as the bristles sweep across the small of his back. The wooden bowls clunk dully in the hush, then the whisper of cloth as the demon shifts. Its hand settles cool and foreign on his hip. The answering tension that tightens Raidou’s body has less to do with his training than it should.

The brush strokes lower, over the of curve sensitive flesh to rest against the back of his thigh. “I have served Kuzunoha for lifetimes,” it says. Ink trickles down his leg as the demon leans close, drips between them to soak into the futon. Its breath is like frost dusting his skin. The touch of its lips to his shoulder burn as ice.

Raidou turns to face it. Its hair drags through the still-wet ink on his back, like silk after the brush’s touch. The light in its eyes is bright, heated, startling compared to the coolness of the demon’s mouth when it presses to Raidou’s.

Without malice, it says, “You are no Kuzunoha.”


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