After the three guardsmen were tried, the agitation in the castle could be smelled even by the human members. The ladies all sat on edge due to the aggressive nature of their males. Nikki hid from her father and brothers, despite them each telling her it was alright to come out and that no one held her accountable for what had happened to her and what they had done. So far only Sesshomaru was once more allowed near her.
After Akihiko’s trial, Sesshomaru had vanished from the court room. He had immediately sought after Nikki, once finding her convincing her to just relax for a bit together that afternoon. If one had been looking for her, they would have found the two curled up together in the back of the library, reading fairy tales together, as he reveled in her scent and that she was now closer to being find. He didn’t show up to dinner, though she had attempted to and once seeing her brothers just as upset vanishing back into the castle with her court.
“This morning we will be joined by a local taiji-ya clan,” Higashi informed them all the next morning at breakfast as they looked up and nodded. So far the only two that wouldn’t know would be Sesshomaru and Nikki.
“Where are Nikki and Sesshomaru?” Naoko asked curiously as Higashi shook his head while Nishi shrugged.
“After yesterday, I don’t think the pup will be sitting in on the trials,” Nishi said as Inuyasha shrugged. He had eventually spoken with his brother to know he would be, but he just wanted the comforts of knowing Nikki was truly safe.
“I can’t honestly blame him,” Kouga muttered with a shrug. “I’d hate to be in the room with the asshole that hurt my court.” Inuyasha and several others nodded as the lords looked at them curiously. Higashi sighed and nodded as well.
“I wasn’t sure who was going to leave first,” Higashi admitted, “me or him. It was leave or rip him to pieces.” Izayoi and Naoko listened as Minami spoke softly to Kayura.
“He was the one who did the worst to her,” Izayoi said softly. Higashi and Nishi nodded as she sighed and thought about it. “Maybe it would be better if Sesshomaru were ordered out of the room. Then he can spend the time with Nikki where he needs to be.” Nishi shook his head as he thought.
“No, because he won’t listen,” Nishi mused as she sighed and nodded in agreement. “No, I won’t keep him in the dark for what happened to his mate. But we’ll just have to keep an eye on him.” They all nodded as they returned to their breakfast in peace.
Later that morning Higashi and the other three lords stood and waited in the courtyard for the arrival of the taiji-ya clan called in to help with executions. They watched as several approached them, including two younger members.
“Greetings, my lord,” the leader said with a deep, respectful bow. “I am Takeshi, head of our clan.” Higashi nodded as he shook hands with the man.
“We have heard of your reputation,” Higashi praised as Takeshi smiled proudly. “Though the idea that you bring kittens with you is surprising.” Takeshi looked at the two and shook his head with a proud look on his face, Higashi immediately knew that look.
“This is my daughter, Sango, and son, Kohaku,” Takeshi said proudly as Higashi nodded to both of them. “They are the best of our clan, though it is surprising for how young they are.” Higashi nodded in agreement, he knew that pride quite well as he wore it for his own kittens.
“The servants will take your men and kittens to their chambers,” Seiji said as several maids came out and bowed to them. “We will retire to the study to discuss everything so far.” Takeshi nodded and looked to the girl behind him.
“Sango, watch over your brother and make sure everyone is settled,” he ordered before following the lords and heirs into the castle. Sango bowed to her father before she followed one of the maids with a hand on her brother’s shoulder.
“So, who wants to bet that thing is lighter than it looks?” Kouga joked once they were gone.
“Anyone want to bet she hits Kouga on the head with it before any of the prisoners?” one of his siblings joked as the oldest of them scowled and stormed off to catch up with the lords. The rest of them laughed and headed inside for the warmth of the castle and finding various things to do. Some were planning on going back to the trials that afternoon; others were looking for other things to do.
“Nikki,” Kagome said as she and the neko princess were seated in one of the gardens for a bit to soak up the bright sunlight, “does this mean they’ve determined who is to die and who is to live?” Nikki shrugged as she thought about it.
“Possibly,” she answered softly, “but I’m not sure. I haven’t asked about the inquiries…not with how upset they all were yesterday.” Kagome nodded as she thought about it, Inuyasha had kept her close last night as if afraid she’d vanish. “Sesshomaru was so…I don’t know the word for it, but he couldn’t have left my side last night if he had wanted or tried to.” Kagome nodded as they noticed the girl from the taiji-ya clan walk by in a simple kimono. “It’s so odd having so many humans here, though mother is human and certain nights, so are we, humans don’t usually visit us here.”
“Nor do they at our castle,” Kagome agreed as Nikki looked at her, “Though I’m sure it’s not because they’re unwelcome.” Nikki nodded in agreement with a sigh as she thought about it. “So, I heard Kouga doesn’t believe it, do you think she can throw that large boomerang?”
“Yes,” Nikki said nodding as she stared off a bit, “and if her father is bragging her to be one of his best, she can do it with precision.” Nikki sighed as she leaned back a little against a tree. “Which mean none of the youkai should lose their tempers while they’re here.” Kagome chuckled and nodded in agreement as they fell back into a comfortable silence together.
Since their arrival at the castle, Kagome had tried to befriend Nikki to the best of her abilities. Beyond Kagome couldn’t wrap her mind around the youkai royalty systems, it was a lonely job, and Nikki was one of the best to befriend as a result. She sighed as she thought about the idea that most humans shunned her because her mate was going to be a hanyou, a blasphemy of a youkai and human union, it was almost worst than mating a youkai. It didn’t help her case when Inuyasha was so very possessive of her; a friend was a rare commodity.
In Higashi’s study sat the four lords and Takeshi in deep conversation. They had explained everything they had thus far, excluding the crimes. Takeshi nodded as he listened to them and thought about what he was being asked to do.
“So you have five guardsmen imprisoned, so far two are slated to die, and your mate?” Takeshi repeated as he tried to understand the situation. Usually taiji-ya remained outside of the youkai world, only handling those that attacked humans for sport or something. Higashi nodded as Takeshi looked at him and thought about how worn out the neko lord looked. “If I may ask, my lord, what were their crimes that they were sentenced to die at the hands of humans?”
“They imprisoned and tortured my daughter on my mate’s demands,” Higashi answered softly. “She is still not back to normal.” Takeshi nodded as he thought about it, the amount of strength it must be taking Higashi not to go into those dungeons and rip apart the offending youkai must have been amazingly great. Takeshi didn’t know how he did it, if anything like that had happened to Sango he’d destroy anyone connected to it. “This afternoon the other lords will question the final two guardsmen, and if we have the time, my mate.”
“Are we to punish her as well?” Takeshi asked confused.
“Oh, no,” Minami answered shaking his head, “she’s human and we have certain punishments for royal members.” Takeshi nodded as he thought about it; he didn’t want to get into the whole business of family members anyway. He could easily take care of the guardsmen without issue.
“When are you going to be ready for us to take care of them?” he asked curiously. “We’ll be ready when you are.”
“If we finish today, the sentencing will probably be tomorrow,” Kita answered as he thought about it. “So at latest beginning of next week.” Takeshi nodded in agreement. “It’s more we have to watch the weather than anything.”
“Yes, I’d rather not have to worry about feeding creatures slated to die in my dungeons,” Higashi grumbled gruffly as Takeshi nodded in agreement; he figured it a reasonable request. As a maid came to announce lunch, the men all got up and left the study.
Lunchtime in the castle seemed jovial again, as if they were truly gathering just to gather as friends. The newcomers were all welcomed by everyone; youkai, hanyou, and human alike, and were quite in awe of their hosts and fellow guests. They joked and goofed around as if they weren’t there for the trials.
Everyone separated for the trials; women and the males not participating in the trial all headed off to do their own thing. After yesterday, it was a shock to see Sesshomaru seated with Higashi’s family again as they prepared to hear the final two guardsmen’s testimonies and then Lady Mai’s. After everyone had calmed down and prepared as best they could mentally, the first guardsman was brought in.
“State your name and rank,” Minami ordered the guardsman. He trembled a little and the chains rattled as he looked at all the faces looking back at him.
“I am Fusao, I was one of Lady Mai’s personal bodyguards,” he answered timidly.
“Do you understand the crimes of which you are charged?” Kouga asked him. Fusao nodded silently with a sigh.
“Yes, my young lord, I do,” he replied after a few moments. “I wish I didn’t…” the last part more whispered than spoken out loud.
“Didn’t want?” Nishi pressed him.
“Didn’t do what I did,” the prisoner replied. “I didn’t know they were going to torture the princess…I helped capture her the night we did, I admit that, but I didn’t even see the first two months of torture, I wasn’t here.” The males around him murmured a little. “I was injured, I was sent home by the healer to my mate. I have always had the misfortune of being a bit of a klutz I’m afraid.”
“So far no one has mentioned you missing for two months,” Inuyasha observed.
“No, I would imagine they wouldn’t,” he replied with a shrug. “No one would have noticed minus Lady Mai, Kurou, and Itsuo. Kurou was called in after I had gotten hurt the same night Lady Nikki had been captured. He informed me of everything that was going on once I was cleared to return to work. I had immediately then spoken with Lady Mai about the treatment of her daughter, but she wasn’t upset about what was happening to her in that dungeon. She even made the comment about them avoiding her face so that she could meet with heirs if she learned to behave.” He sighed and shook his head as he thought about it all.
“Before we had captured her, Lady Mai had lost her mind when it came to the princess,” Fusao explained to them. “Especially when it came to lack of suitors for the princess. She had at one point considered selling her before Lord Higashi had returned from the Western Lands…” At this males both listening and judging what was being said looked livid at the thought. Nishi glanced at his best friend and oldest son; both seemed to remain calm at this so far. He watched as Sesshomaru crossed his arms, his right hand closer to his face and wanted to smirk. He noticed the hint of a scarf hidden up Sesshomaru’s sleeve and he’d have bet anything that it was bathed in Nikki’s scent.
“Fusao, why did you help capture the princess?” Miroku asked confused. “You seemed to like her enough.” Fusao shrugged and nodded in agreement with that statement.
“Lady Mai had been fuming about the princess again, one night after a particularly bad argument between the two. She was furious, Princess Nikki had refused another suitor, and she was rejecting her mother’s teachings, having even thrown a notebook with everything her mother had ever dictated or written out for her into one of the fire places. At some point Lady Mai just….snapped… She was pacing her quarters trying to come up with a plan to punish her when Itsuo suggested that if the princess wished to act like a wild animal, then she should be treated as such.” Fusao explained as they all listened to him.
“Itsuo suggested what, exactly?” Minami asked him.
“Lady Mai had mentioned that she couldn’t understand why the gods punished her with a disgraceful daughter, who was more wild than civilized. Itsuo told her the best thing for the uncivilized was to be thrown in the dungeons, removed from the path of those willing to evolve. He had also told her, if he had ever had a daughter as disgraceful as the princess, he’d throw her in the dungeons himself.” Fusao seemed to sigh as he fell into a daydream as he spoke. “Lady Mai’s eyes lit up when she heard that. I suggested allowing the princess to lie low a couple days before doing anything brash, but it was too late, the damage was done. She ordered us to capture and put the princess in the dungeon as punishment; I protested and told her I refused to join in this.”
“Conveniently you got hurt after that? Or was it from a wound the princess could have inflicted?” Kita questioned him. “Itsuo did mention the princess fought back, despite being woken by you.”
“The princess wasn’t asleep,” Fusao replied confused as they all looked at him surprised. “She was up writing something; I think late nights she would accomplish her own goals. She did look exhausted, which is the only reason I think we succeeded in capturing her.”
“How exactly did you capture the princess?” Inuyasha questioned. Higashi and Nishi both looked at him as he sat back and looked at the guard seriously.
“We walked up to her room, which was strange because the two guardsmen who were supposed to be there were gone,” Fusao said as he thought about it. “They were ahead in the dungeons getting the cell ready or something, apparently. Itsuo didn’t seem to care or notice; he was already sliding the door open slightly to get into the room. There was a small amount of light coming from the room, enough from a candle.
Princess Nikki was supposed to be asleep, I didn’t know what she was doing at first and I didn’t get a good look at her at the time. When we entered, she stood up abruptly, knocking over a jar of ink, and looking furious. She told Itsuo to get out of her room, that if her mother wanted her for anything at that hour it could wait until morning.” Fusao smirked as he thought about it. “The princess is quite articulate, though her language is as colorful as the lord’s.” A few of the males chuckled at the thought while Fusao was obviously remembering as much as possible from that night. A slow look of dawning grew on his face as Inuyasha sighed and shook his head. “She didn’t suspect us because she didn’t know what was going on, obviously. He grabbed her, there was a bit of a struggle but he did so quite easily. She kicked and thrashed about, but she didn’t try poisoning us and was quickly subdued. I opened doors so he wouldn’t lose his grip on her.”
“Did she smell normal?” Nishi pushed as he realized what Inuyasha had inadvertently asked.
“She didn’t smell abnormal,” Fusao answered as he thought. “Itsuo kept her blocked for the most part from my view just kept telling me to get the doors and not to worry about the princess. I didn’t know it was her human night.”
“That explains why Nikki kept saying she was weak,” Seiji muttered to his father softly. “She’d never admit she got waylaid on her human night.” Higashi nodded in agreement, now angrier knowing his mate took advantage of that night. The males before them had obviously made the same guess to Nikki’s silence before Fusao’s revelation. After he was done they waved him back to the dungeons to be switched out with Kurou.
They watched as Kurou was brought in to the room and stood before the panel of judges. He stood shackled and ready for the worst, but still quite exhausted. Higashi watched as they prepared and looked at the next guard.
“State your name and rank,” Kouga ordered the soldier.
“Kurou, I am relief body guardsman to both Princess Nikki and Lady Mai, otherwise I guard the main gate to the palace,” he answered proudly as they all looked at him curiously.
“Do you understand the charges brought against you?” Miroku asked tiredly as the youkai before them nodded.
“Yes, my lords,” he answered as they nodded.
“What was your part in capturing the princess and her tortures?” Minami asked point blank.
“I had none,” he answered as they looked at him. “I was called in the night the princess went missing because Fusao, who is as skittish as a kitten, got startled by Itsuo and fell into a sword, cutting up his side pretty badly. I when I was brought in, the princess was already missing. I did go with Lady Mai into the dungeons for her visits with the princess.”
“What did those entail?” Nishi asked him curiously.
“At first, Mai trying to show the princess where she was wrong,” Kurou said with a shrug. “That lasted about a week, and then because they weren’t getting results the beatings started. I asked Itsuo if it was necessary to be hurting the princess, after all by all technicalities she was also a commanding officer and we could get more in trouble upon the return of the lord.”
“How so?” Kita asked casually.
“I didn’t want Lord Higashi to think we were forming a coup against him,” Kurou answered as they nodded. “I wanted no part of the torture or punishment or whatever they called it of the princess; I wanted her out of the dungeon and back in her chambers. I also informed both of them of that.”
“What happened when you did?” Kouga asked him.
“Itsuo kept saying that the princess would be back before we know it, originally,” Kurou answered as he shook his head. “I believed it because for the most part, in the beginning, it wasn’t all that bad and she was still being fed and yes she was being hit, but it wasn’t what they gave her in the end. As I was switching back with Fusao, they got brutal on her. I suspected they had done more to her than the torture methods Lady Mai insisted on, but without the princess talking to me I couldn’t prove it to get her out of there.”
“What do you mean by brutal?” Inuyasha demanded as he glanced to see Sesshomaru staring at the back of this youkai. If looks could kill, he’d be dead right now.
“I joined Lady Mai for one of my last visits,” Kurou answered as he thought about it, “and there was a gash down her right arm. Lady Mai asked what happened; she apparently had found a way to get her arm free but the end result was she cut herself on the chains, according to Akihiko. Genji didn’t know because he always apparently ran away when she’d be punished. Then there was the morning her clothes were more ripped than usual, she was silent through the whole visit, just kept staring at the ground. Lady Mai didn’t care what had happened; she was taking it as a start to her victory in changing over her headstrong daughter.”
“What moon was out when that happened?” Inuyasha barked at him as Kurou jumped and looked at him confused.
“Same as the moon on the night she was captured,” he answered with a shrug, “a new moon.” They all stared at him surprised as Sesshomaru got up and stormed off again, the scarf’s scent no longer keeping his fury at bay. Higashi shook his head as his sons all stared at the youkai before them stunned. “Lady Mai had essentially given them the ability to do whatever they wanted any night they wanted,” Kurou explained as they all just stared at him stunned, “as long as it didn’t kill her, she really didn’t care. I tried to get Fusao to stop her and attempted to write the lord, but my runner never left the castle.”
“What do you mean never left?” Minami asked him surprised.
“Someone found out that a correspondence was leaving the castle that wasn’t Lady Mai’s,” he answered, “I found the runner behind the castle killed and his pack burned.” They all nodded and waved him away; sending him back to the dungeons as they all thought about what he told them.
“We’re going to adjourn for an hour,” Nishi announced as everyone looked at them curiously. “We need to deliberate on the fates of the five guardsmen and whether or not we want to hear Lady Mai’s testimony.” Everyone separated as Higashi seemed to sigh, releasing a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
“Mother had her attacked on her human night?” Ryo asked softly as he tried to accept the truth of it all. Higashi looked at his five boys and sighed as he thought about it, he understood why Nikki was so traumatized from this even she was in shock from the attack.
“I think we should stay out when they question your mother,” Higashi advised them as the five looked at him surprised. “I think we should spend the time with your sister.” Seiji nodded as Jiro looked at the doorway and was obviously thinking. The males all separated for a bit to clear their heads as the judges tried to figure out what they had heard.