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The hallway was silent save for the clacking of heeled boots. They echoed off the windows, muffled only slightly by the tapestries that hung along the walls. The servants knew better than to be found in the path of the angered general; by now, they had a foolproof system that warned anyone in the area to steer clear. Not that many servants could be found in this area of the castle. Toga only trusted a handful of servants to work in the areas around his mates abode.

 

Toga balled his fisted hands even tighter, tiny droplets of blood dotting the floor as he pressed on. He was close to losing his control, and all he wanted was to bask in the warmth and love of his mate and pup.

 

Once again, he was forced to listen to the vitriol from another courtier about how Toga was "defiling the very nature of our people" by taking a human mate and siring a "half breed". Toga wasn't sure how many courtiers he had to threaten to get them to back off, but so far the number was rising with no end in sight.

 

Toga let out a deep, throaty growl at the thought of their hatred towards his mate and pup. Did they forget who he was? Toga was Lord of the Western lands, the great dog demon general. He had the power to slay a hundred demons in one fell swoop. He held life and death in each of his hands. Who were they to condemn him for his choice of mate?

 

It wasn't as if mating with Izayoi had been much of a choice for him anyway. Toga had known the moment he had laid eyes on Izayoi that they were meant for each other. She smelled like a field of flowers basking in the sun on a warm spring day, and it called to the youkai in him. When he was angry or upset, only her soothing touch could calm him. She always knew the right things to say, or even when she didn't need to say anything at all. She was beautiful and graceful - learnt from being born a princess - yet determined and outspoken in ways a princess should never be. She was a woman unlike Toga had ever seen, and she was irrevocably his.

 

'When did this hallway become so long?' Toga was growing more and more impatient with how long it was taking him to reach her, and began sprinting the rest of the way down the hall. He finally made it to the door at the end of the hallway to enter a small courtyard. It was smaller than the courtyard that was tended to by Inukimi's servants, but it was an exceedingly beautiful space. It was like stepping into another world, vibrant hues of an abundance of all different kinds of flowers intermingling with the evergreen foliage, giving off a wonderful floral scent to the air, even for Toga's more sensitive nose. Placed sporadically around the courtyard to take advantage of the exquisite views were several benches to sit at. Toga barely gave the courtyard a second glance as he continued to sprint to the other side. His destination was a well kept fence marked by a set of tall, immaculately kept rose bushes.

 

It wasn't ideal to house Izayoi so far from the rest of the castle, but ever since the birth of their son, Inuyasha, Toga had become paranoid at the thought of someone sneaking into her room for any number of unsavory activities. Toga had his best and most trusted men keep an eye on the area, and he could easily sniff out if anyone had been around who shouldn't have been - a task that had been much more difficult in the middle of a bustling castle. Toga would do whatever it took to keep Izayoi safe; he had already used Tenseiga on her once, so he could not depend on its help again. He had almost lost her and their unborn pup almost a year ago because of that snake of a human, Takemaru, not to mention his own life as well.

 

Beyond the rose guarded fence was a well kept trail that led to a decently sized building. It was nestled beside a looming cherry blossom tree, and one could see the edges of a koi pond in the back. It was far smaller than any of the living quarters that Izayoi was used to, growing up as a hime, but she had reassured him time and time again that the space was perfect for their little family.

 

He had to swallow the lump in his throat at the thought of his 'little family'. Who would have thought this voracious little human woman could turn the fearsome Inu no Taisho into such a sap?

 

Toga walked up to the shoji screen and opened it, stepping through to the main room. Toga barely gave the empty foyer any thought as he made his way to the main bedroom off to the right. Another shoji door shoved to the side and he was finally treated to the sight he had been craving the most.

 

There, lying on a plush tatami mat, was the most beautiful sight in the world - Izayoi, propped up on a plush bed of fluffy pillows with their pup swaddled at her breast. Kiyo, Izayoi's only maid servant, was in the process of throwing a large, soft blanket over the bottom half of his mate's body.

 

Izayoi looked up towards him as soon as the shoji door opened, a sleepy smile growing on her face at the sight of her husband. As soon as the blanket was secured over Izayoi, Kiyo turned toward him and reverently bowed. 

 

"Toga-sama," she greeted him.

 

"Bring us a dinner tray in about an hour, you may be dismissed afterwards. I will attend to all of Izayoi's needs for the remainder of the night," he stated softly. Kiyo bowed to him once again and once to Izayoi, a soft smile on her face as she gazed for a moment on his pup, and quietly passed by.

 

Toga stayed where he was at the door until he could no longer clearly hear the soft padding of Kiyo's footsteps as she traveled back to the main castle. Keeping her left hand holding Inuyasha up to her breast, she reached out to Toga with her right. He longed to rush to her side, to feel the warmth of her body beside his, but despite his insistence to rush to her room, he took his time to reach her.

 

Izayoi watched as he meticulously started taking off every individual piece of armor, slowly lowering them to the floor so it didn't startle the pup. Izayoi didn't look irritated in the slightest by the lazy way he undressed; she loved it, in fact. He never took his heated gaze off her as each piece fell, and it never failed to give her goosebumps.

 

As soon as he was down to just his kosode and hakama, he knelt down beside her and clasped her hand in his. Izayoi giggled as Toga nuzzled his nose against her cheek as his own chest rumbled in satisfaction at the soft tinkling of her laugh. She turned her head to meet him face to face and placed a tender kiss at the corner of his mouth. Toga removed his hand from hers to cup her jaw and deepen their kiss.

 

Toga would never get enough of her. The way she inhaled as she opened her mouth for him, and sighed deeply, a slight whimper in her voice as her tongue would carefully glide against his fangs. She was so soft and so warm . She tasted sweet and fruity. If he wasn't careful with his little human mate, he could just devour her.

 

Their kiss was cut short, however, when Izayoi let out a yelp, accidentally pulling at some of his hair from where she had been lightly gripping at the nape of his neck. It had taken a bit of control for Toga to not bite down on her tongue due to the unexpected sharp pain that now bristled at the base of his head.

 

"Ahh, be careful little one!" Izayoi lightly scolded the infant feeding at her breast. Inuyasha had taken too hard a bite as he drank his mother's milk, scratching the side of her breast with his newly formed - and very sharp - nails. They were not quite long enough to be labeled as 'claws' yet, but they were still sharp enough to tear lightly through human skin.

 

Inuyasha immediately tried to grab onto Izayoi's breast as soon as her hand let go of his little arm. Toga reached out, offering his own hand to the tiny hanyou, which could more than withstand Inuyasha's baby claws.

 

Toga squinted his eyes down at his son suspiciously. Inuyasha's gaze never left Toga's as he continued to suckle at Izayoi's breast.

 

All inuyoukai pups were extremely territorial towards their mothers. Even Sesshomaru had been known to growl at Toga whenever he vied for Kimi's attention - although the stubborn boy would never admit to it. It seemed that fact could also be said of hanyou pups. Toga could practically see the smirk on Inuyasha's face, satisfied that Izayoi was now fussing with him instead of with Toga.

 

'The brat,' he thought, although it came with no heat behind it. Toga's eyes softened, staring at his youngest son. A warm smile adorned Inuyasha's face as he ate, loving the attention he was receiving from both his parents. His little hand squeezing just a tad tighter around Toga's finger.

 

It was obvious the pup felt completely safe in the moment, knowing even at such a young age that his parents were there to protect him.

 

How long would this sense of safety last? At what age will he have to get in the habit of looking over his shoulder at all times? Why must such an innocent life have to have to grow up with such worries? The earlier events of the day began to seep back into Toga's mind, furrowing up his brow at the thought of the other council members and their vitriol.

 

"What is wrong, my love?," Izayoi asked, sweeping her free hand across his bangs in a loving manner.

 

"It is quite amazing," he started, not quite ready to answer her question just yet. "For something so small, so delicate, he is already so strong." Toga tried to pull his finger away, but Inuyasha kept a firm grip, unwilling to part with it yet.

 

"Well, he takes after his father," Izayoi said with a bright smile on her face. Toga did not respond to her, although the small smile didn't leave his face despite the slightly increased furrowing of his brows. Izayoi knew this look; he often came home like this whenever he was forced to fight against his council, usually because of her and their son.

 

"What did they say this time?" She asked. A part of her didn't want to hear about all the awful things they were saying about their son - she didn't quite care about whatever they thought about her, she was stronger than they all gave her credit for - but she knew there was real fear for the future of the little boy in her arms.

 

"It doesn't matter."

 

"Their opinions may not matter, but you shouldn't keep it all to yourself." She lightly gripped his chin in her hand and turned his face to look at her. "We are a team, anata . Do not keep this to yourself"

 

Toga leaned in towards her neck and inhaled, letting out a deep sigh as he touched his forehead to hers, basking in the warmth she emitted. Her stubbornness, despite opening one of the things he loved about her, was also one of the things he sometimes hated about her, especially when it was up against himself. He wanted to keep them separated from all the hate and viciousness he experienced almost every day. But as he slowly opened his eyes to see the hardened look in her own, he knew there was no keeping anything from her.

 

For a human, she really knew how to tear down all his walls.

 

"I don't understand them,"

 

"Understand who? The council?"

 

"Them. Everyone. They all believe they have the right to judge who I love, or the children I help bear. How can they look this little one in the eyes and think him an abomination?"

 

While he was talking, Inuyasha had switched breasts and was now facing away from him, giving Toga a view of his tiny ears. They quirked slightly as Toga talked, trying to pick out his every word. Honestly, they were the cutest things he had ever seen, and they never failed to put a smile on Toga's face. He caressed the back of one of Inuyasha's ears with his knuckle - noting how soft the fur was - making Inuyasha give out a light sigh of contentment as he continued to eat.

 

"People often fear or hate what they cannot explain," Izayoi said.

 

"But these are not people, they're youkai - "

 

"Who also has the tendency to do the same," she interrupted. "You know, you youkai are not all that different from us."

 

Toga had to stifle a huff at her statement. There were many differences between humans and youkai. From their anatomy to their culture and their social hierarchy. Hell, even their mating rituals were different - Toga had been saddened to find out he could not bind his youki to Izayoi, no matter how hard he tried.

 

But he didn't want to start an argument about it. He understood where her thoughts were coming from. Youkai would hate him because of the human blood that flowed in his veins, and humans would fear him for the youkai attributes he would possess. Both sides were unable to see past the traits they deemed unworthy or tainted. For all their differences, it was something they could agree on, and the thought made Toga chuckle a bit.

 

"I suppose you could be right, my little rabbit."

 

"Of course I'm right, anata ," Izayoi replied with a smile on her face. She regarded her husband as he continued to watch Inuyasha, softly stroking his ears or running his hand through his little tuft of white hair. The actions were light, but Izayoi could still see the hardness in his eyes, most likely replaying everything he was forced to listen to today.

 

Izayoi knew they couldn't just ignore the threats, but she wouldn't let the opinions of others control how they lived. They would teach their son about the necessity of staying vigilant and how to protect himself when his parents couldn't, but they would also teach him how to laugh, and to love with all his heart. They would show the world just how special their family was.

 

They would have to tread carefully, but if they did it right, they could completely change the dynamic between human and youkai relationships.

 

"Don't let them get to you Toga. Let's just enjoy the night,"

 

It was like any other night they spent together. They laid together on the futon, one wriggling child in between them as they made idle chatter about everything and nothing all at once. Kiyo came in to bring them supper, and after Toga had made sure that his mate had eaten her fill, Izayoi and Inuyasha fell into an easy slumber as Toga watched over the pair.

 

The future he was working toward would not come easy, and there would be many obstacles put forth to hinder him, but in that moment Toga promised both his mate and his pup that he would do whatever it took to bring them a lifetime of happiness.

 

One changed mind at a time.