Nikki was sealed away with the various royal women and the seamstress in one of the studies looking at wedding kimono ideas for Kagome. All of the males were in the throne room, which was moved around a bit so the judges of the various trials could sit where the thrones were and there were chairs for everyone watching. Higashi walked up to the other three lords as everyone filed in and started to get it ready to start.
“We will be beginning shortly,” Nishi said as Higashi nodded. “If this gets to be too much for you or the boys, no one will doubt you if you have to leave.”
“I’m not leaving this room until I know what’s going on with each and every one of them,” Higashi said as he looked at them, a dark look crossing his features. “They captured and tortured my daughter when they should have been keeping her safe. She can’t be here, so I will, through the whole thing.” The three lords nodded, they all would have felt the same if they were in a similar situation, and now that it’s happened they are not as confident as they once were.
Everyone sat down and the first prisoner was brought in. He looked ragged already, a few months in the dungeon would do that though, and he was chained and shackled as he was drug in. He stood before them, head held high, and continued to look confident in himself and beliefs.
“State your name and rank,” Minami demanded of the ex-guard.
“My name is Itsuo,” he answered proudly, “and I am a member of Lady Mai’s personal guard.” They nodded as they listened.
“Do you understand the crimes you are being charged with?” Nishi asked him.
“Yes, my lord,” he answered bowing.
“And what might they be?” Inuyasha asked, confirming the guard knew what was going on.
“I am one of the six being charged with the capture and torture of Princess Nikki,” he answered as everyone nodded and listened.
“What was your role in the crime?” Minami demanded of him.
“I, with the assistance of Fusao, captured the princess after the castle went to sleep, including the princess.” He answered with a shrug. “We then escorted her to the dungeon she was located in with her two personal guardsmen as her keepers there.”
“Do you feel remorse for your actions?” Kouga asked him curiously as he sat back.
“No, my lord,” Itsuo replied as he bowed again. “I was under orders; I carried them out to the best of my ability.” Several of the members from both the audience and judges seemed to bristle at his answer.
“Explain yourself,” Minami demanded annoyed. “Remember, your statements prior and after this will determine whether or not you live after we are through here.” Itsuo just looked at him mildly bemused; nothing seemed to be perturbing this youkai before them.
“Lady Mai was upset, the princess was refusing suitors left and right when she was supposed to be accepting one already,” he answered bluntly. “She had even refused a young lord from the south earlier in the evening before we captured her. She had scared him off, one of her more defiant tactics when she wouldn’t comply with the lady’s wishes.” Higashi rolled his eyes as he listened to him. “So, Lady Mai decided we needed to teach her daughter a lesson and ordered Fusao and me to capture her and take her to the dungeons. She did put up a fight, mind you, but once we got to the dungeon and her guardsmen were there with the cell all set up for her, she was easily subdued. We would then check on her once a day with Lady Mai, but we were not instrumental in her actual torture.” The judges all looked at him as they prepared for what they were going to do to him.
“Do you feel you should be punished for what has happened?” Kouga asked him, he looked genuinely curious about the answer. It was obvious this youkai’s demeanor was throwing off the heirs and what they had already determined.
“Should I be punished? For what? Following orders?” Itsuo asked confused. This seemed to further irritate the youkai before him.
“You’ve been heard, is there anything to your defense you’d like to add?” Minami demanded. They were preparing for the next guardsman, though if they were all like this the lords determined they’d be done the four in the day. Maybe even have their sentencing prepared.
“Just that I was under orders, my lord,” he answered with a final bow. Minami waved his hand and the guardsman was escorted out of the room and back to the dungeon.
“He should be put to death,” Seiji muttered to his father annoyed. Sesshomaru nodded in agreement as he listened. “He doesn’t even care what happens to him at this point.”
“He has already done the crime, at this point we’re not going to punish him more than maybe what his conscience has already put him through. He will have to live and face what has happened until whatever death he meets at whatever time.” Higashi told them. They watched as the next guardsman was brought in, also chained and shackled.
“State your name and rank,” Nishi ordered the new guardsman.
“My name is Genji, I am one of Princess Nikki’s personal guardsmen,” he answered shakily. He looked exhausted and verge of collapse.
“Are you capable of standing?” Inuyasha demanded.
“Yes, my lord,” Genji answered bowing. His chains shook and rattled as he stood up straight and faced them, though his coloring never improved beyond a sickly gray.
“Do you understand the crimes you’re being charged with?” Kita demanded of him. Genji sighed and nodded.
“Yes, my lord,” Genji answered with another bow.
“What was your role in this crime?” Miroku demanded of him.
“I was in charge of Princess Nikki’s imprisonment in the dungeon, with Akihiko. Once Lady Mai’s guardsmen brought her down, we chained her and kept her in the cell within the dungeon. Upon Lady Mai’s orders, we were to punish her for her defiance after her visits.” Genji answered shakily.
“How did you punish the princess for her defiance?” Inuyasha asked him shortly.
“I didn’t like doing anything, my lord,” Genji answered softly, “so I didn’t. Princess Nikki was always good to us, but Akihiko…he enjoyed it…too much. He would laugh when he would hit her, unable to defend herself. I would usually leave the dungeon; I couldn’t bring that kind of pain to the princess.”
“Why didn’t you stop it?” Nishi demanded angrily, it was obvious they were all growing angry with his answers.
“I was afraid, my lord,” Genji answered as he shook violently and attempted to bow. “Lady Mai was out of control once Lord Higashi left the castle with the boys. She ruled and threatened those who didn’t comply. I have a mate and several kittens, I feared for them more than myself.”
“Do you feel you should be punished for what happened?” Inuyasha asked him curiously.
“Yes, my lord,” he answered after swallowing hard. “I should have done something, I should have saved her…little princess…but I was a coward and didn’t do my job because of it. I deserve the punishment of heaven and hell for this…we all do…”
“Just to let you know, what you told us will be determined to what that punishment will be, either life in dungeons or death,” Minami told the trembling guardsman. “Is there anything in your defense you’d like to add?”
“No, my lord,” he answered shaking his head. “I deserve whatever you feel is necessary.” Minami waved his hand and Genji was practically carried out of the room and back into the dungeon.
“He was a coward, I don’t know if that means he deserves death,” Ryo said softly behind his father.
“So far it’s one death, one not death,” Jiro said softly as they watched the next guardsman be brought in with his chains and shackles.
“State your name and rank,” Minami demanded of him.
“I am Akihiko, one of Princess Nikki’s former personal guardsman,” he answered simply.
“You don’t seem very upset or worried,” Inuyasha pointed out.
“Should I be, my lord?” he asked mildly curious.
“Do you understand the crimes for which you were charged?” Kita demanded of him.
“Oh, yes, my lord. I’m being charged with what happened to Princess Nikki,” he answered smoothly. They all noticed a faint smile grow on his face. “It is a shame.”
“What was your role in the crimes committed?” Kouga asked him as he sat back and eyed him warily.
“I was one of the princess’ keepers during her time within our dungeons,” he answered as if it were no big deal. “On occasion, under the orders of Lady Mai, I’d dispense punishments. Genji, too weak to actually grow a spine and do anything, usually ran and hid when she was to be punished.”
“What punishments did you administer?” Kita inquired.
“Depends on the offense, really,” Akihiko answered thoughtfully. “When Lady Mai would come visit, if she didn’t answer her questions, we hit her. She spit at her mother once, she got beaten for that as well. She lost food privileges when she tried to hit her mother with her darts.” Higashi wanted to rip this one to pieces; somehow he managed to keep his composure and knew the other lords were glancing in his direction to see his reaction. He knew they’d stop if he was getting too agitated. Sesshomaru was doing a spectacular job of remaining visually emotionless, but he was shaking a little as well.
“The princess informed us quite a bit of what was done to her within that dungeon,” Nishi said softly, it was obvious this was a dangerous question he was about to ask, “what was the worst punishment that you administered to her and why?” Akihiko smirked at the question.
“If she told you, you know my lord,” he answered confirming their worst fears, “and why not? There was no offense created for it, I doubt Lady Mai would have approved of it, but how could I not? It’s very hard not to take advantage of one so pretty and defenseless like she was.” Every male in the room was prepared to attack at this point. Several guardsmen were around Higashi and his family, obviously more for the prisoner’s protection than theirs at this point. Sesshomaru had gotten up and stormed off, probably to calm down and find Nikki.
“Return this creature to the dungeon, where he belongs,” Minami growled furiously. They watched as he was led out of the room, a wide grin on his face the whole way.
“We will stop for today,” Kita announced shakily before standing up with the others. “We’ve heard enough that we can decide for the three we’ve heard. Tomorrow we will hear from the final two guards and Lady Mai before announcing the final decisions for them all.” With that everyone stood and headed out of the room.
“Now’s a good time to stop anyway,” Seiji said as his father looked at him. “It’s almost time to get ready for dinner; I don’t want Nikki walking by while the worst of her offenders is bragging or even out of his cage.” Higashi nodded in agreement, the trauma would be almost too much on her at that point.
“You boys go get ready, alert everyone of the time,” Higashi said as he sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. He left the hall alone as the other three lords watched him curiously.
“Where’s he going?” Minami asked curiously.
“Who knows, but can he be blamed if any of the prisoners are dead by morning?” Jiro asked curiously as they all seemed to smirk a little.
“No,” the three lords answered as they prepared to head to their own temporary chambers and prepare for dinner.
“Honestly,” Inuyasha said as he looked at the retreating form of the neko lord, “I’m surprised Sesshomaru vanished when he did.”
“He was out of here quick enough, but he also wasn’t handling this well,” Kouga agreed as Inuyasha looked at him. “Our fathers may have been watching Higashi, but I know I was watching him. She’s his court, official or not, and he wasn’t here to protect her.” Inuyasha nodded in agreement as they went off as well.
Higashi walked outside the castle and headed to the last place he wanted to go on earth. He opened the door, almost gagging at the smells as he headed down the stairs. He had taught his kittens to avoid this area of the castle like he did, explaining no ruler should be in a dungeon except as punishment for their crimes. He passed the dungeons containing the guardsmen and headed for one of the final cells in use. In it occupied the most dangerous of the criminals to his daughter, it contained his mate. He didn’t know what possessed him to come down here, to see her now of all times, but he was here and already he regretted it.
Chained to the wall, in a similar fashion to how Nikki had been, was Mai. She was frail, ragged, starved, and exhausted looking, with the only real difference being that Mai wasn’t being tortured. She had put her own daughter through horrors that should never be inflicted on any living creature, let alone their own child.
“Higashi…” she whimpered hoarsely, barely moving to look up at him, “you…came…”
“I can’t imagine why you think I’m here, but I’m sure you’re wrong,” he said as she sighed and shifted slightly.
“I was…hoping…you’d forgiven me…” she replied softly, “allow me…to…come home…” Higashi shook his head as she shifted slightly to look at him better. She paled as she noticed his motion.
“No Mai,” he informed her as she nodded and looked down, “your trial is tomorrow. I can’t imagine how you’re living with yourself right now, how you feel you’re so innocent…You caused harm to our daughter…I can’t even figure out how you thought it was an idea.” Mai whimpered as he looked at her confused and hurt. “After the decision of the judges, no matter what your fate, I’m having a priestess come through to remove your mating mark.” Mai looked at him alarmed as he shook his head and prepared to leave. “Either way, you’re not welcome here anymore.” With that he turned and left the dungeon, Mai whimpering and crying in her cell as her fate seemed highly uncertain.