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Gyumaoh 18
~*~*~

It was on a particularly stormy day, with rain drumming a steady tattoo and the wind howling around the upper floors of the castle, that Prince Rajesh looked up from his book suddenly to fix a blank, yet annoyed, gaze upon the youkai child peering around a corner at him.

"You should not be here," he said sharply. "Go away."

The child blinked enormous green eyes at him. "You shouldn't either."

"I am the Prince," Rajesh replied, marking his page with one clawed finger. "I may do as I please."

The child jumped around the corner and forward several feet in one fluid motion. Hands on hips, it declared, "And I am the Princess! I--"

Rajesh snorted. "You are not," he said, rising to his feet. "I do not have any siblings."

Folding her arms across her chest, the child glared up at him. "Just because your mom is the Queen," she began, but her bravery ran out beneath Rajesh's cold stare. She squirmed a little, twisting one foot from side to side.

He knew his father had mistresses, concubines; women with whom he spent his time when his wife was indisposed. And yet it had never occurred to the Prince to wonder if there were children from such unions. He had had no playmates, and had not wanted for them. Now, at 15, it was strangely unsettling to discover there had been other children in the castle. This child couldn't be more than eight or nine at the most -- not so many years between them.

"Yes," he said, "My mother is the Queen, and that makes me the Prince and Heir. Who is your mother? What is your name?"

Darting forward, the girl wrapped her arms around his legs. "Illa!" she declared.

His first instinct was to apply the book to the side of the child's head and pry her off, but Rajesh restrained himself. Grasping her shoulder, he pulled her back gently. She let go reluctantly, giving him enough room to crouch on his heels before her.

"Is that your name or hers?" he asked, hiding his unexpected amusement.

"Me," Illa said, nodding. "Iriana, but momma calls me Illa. You have pretty hair. Why do you wear a collar?"

Rajesh blinked, one hand rising almost self-consciously to touch the silk lined leather. "By my mother's will," he said softly.

Illa wrinkled her nose. "How come you got no face marks? Is that a Prince thing?"

"Yes," he said. The simplest answer, though, come to think of it, his Lady mother did not have any noticeable facial markings either.

"I got tiger stripes!" Illa declared proudly, brushing her hair back to point to the honey-orange-coloured markings on her right cheek. Her hair was a wild tangle of half-hearted curls, too dark to be called blonde, too light to be called brown, too reddish to be either.

"So you do. Are you brave as a tiger, then?"

"Yes! I'm prowling the castle." Illa mimed the action, slipping around behind Rajesh and jumping out again on the other side.

Rajesh bit the inside of his lip to hide a smile. "Ah, so that is why you are here, where you should not be."

"Unhunh," Illa nodded, curls bobbing. "Why is Big Brother here?"

"You must address me as 'your highness'," Rajesh said sharply.

Illa giggled. "High and mighty highness," she sing-songed.

"Iriana..."

He was engulfed so suddenly in a fierce hug that he nearly toppled over sideways. "Big Brother, don't be mad!" Illa said, pressing her cheek to his shoulder.

Something in him, some fierce aloofness, melted suddenly, leaving him dizzy. "It's alright," he whispered. "Big Brother's not angry." Letting his knee touch the ground for better balance, he wrapped one arm around her slender frame.

"'K," Illa said, her voice muffled against his robes. "Will you come and play sometime? I bet Big Brother knows good games."

"Play?" he echoed. "I... well... We'll see. Big Brother is quite busy."

Illa tightened her embrace for a moment, then released him and squirmed away. "Grown-up stuff, right? You shouldn't have to do grown-up stuff yet. But don't forget, okay?"

She beamed at him, bounced on the tips of her toes, and then whisked away, back down the staircase. Rajesh blinked after her, completely dumbfounded.

Date: 2005-07-21 10:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shirochan.livejournal.com
Illa reminds me of Lirin so much.
Speaking of which, what happened to Lirin and Yaone? And Hakuryuu/Goujun even. o_o

I still think Rajesh is Hakkai but I keep doubting myself. *sweatdrop*

Am now going to friend this LJ and hope for future chapters ^___^

Date: 2005-07-23 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nekonexus.livejournal.com
It wasn't intentional, but she seems to be quite the Lirin, doesn't she? ^_^ We'll see what happens.

Things will get explained along the way. And Goujun will be re-intro'd soon. It's Goku that's giving me trouble. :p

Date: 2005-07-24 06:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] y-sanada.livejournal.com
So Rajesh has a soft spot for children (I am still siding with Hakkai on this one). I once again agree with Shirochan. Illa sounds like Lirin (who if I remember correctly was needed to resurrect Gyumaoh, and from what I understood, the resurrection would have probably been fatal to her, so a re-incarnation would not have been out of the question). But then again Kou has red hair and facial stripes, so maybe it is a genetic trait from Gyumaoh even if Rajesh does not have any facial markings.

AU fics give such wonderful possibilities. I cannot wait until the rest of the group gets introduced.

Date: 2005-07-24 07:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nekonexus.livejournal.com
Your thoughts about Lirin are what I remember, and what I'm going with, from the "real" storyline. Eventually someone will explain what happened at the resurrection... more or less. ^_^;

Date: 2005-08-02 12:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] reichsfreiherr.livejournal.com
Strange child. It’s interesting that she highlights the fact that Rajesh doesn’t or at least didn’t have much of a childhood.

And if I remember correctly, Gyokumen-Kousho’s markings were on her stomach, though it was only the smallest thing anyway.

Date: 2005-08-02 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nekonexus.livejournal.com
Yes, Illa is quite the character.

Interesting. That could be a useful tidbit of knowledge, all things considered. ^_^;

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