Taishakuten lived his life by one rule - become strong enough to take what you covet the most.
Beta reader/support giver: Manxsama
Warnings: Mentions of gore and spoilers for the end of the manga.
Word count: 2974 words
A/N: Written for the September round of the kinkfest community on InsaneJournal. It was meant to be a short, easy piece, but it became long and overly complicated. The lack of an English canon to refer to didn’t help, since I read the manga as it was published in my country. I researched the original Rigveda text and legends for help, but that only resulted in several bits of it finding their way into the story. In the end I decided to stick with the names as I know them. Therefore, Taishakuten is referred to as Taishaku through most this fic, as the suffix ‘-ten’ indicates the title of Heavenly Emperor. For more references, you’ll find footnotes at the end of the fic.
The Castle of Zenmi was so different, young Indra thought. Everything in his life so far had been blood and war and death as he followed his mother on the field. Śhakra Taishaku, his mother, was a strong warrior, as cold and unyielding as the steel of her sword. She had little patience for fat, pampered nobles with poisonous tongues, elegant marbles and fine cloths. Become strong, she always said, and nothing will stop you from taking what you want. Strength was the law that really ruled the Empire, and the only one she’d ever respected.
Strength was the reason why she answered the invite to the Gracious Emperor’s birthday celebrations, and took him with her to the Castle. He hated every moment of it - the sounds, the colors, the opulent and flowery rooms. What is the point, the boy kept wondering, I don’t care for these luxuries and these useless people. The battlefield is my home. He asked her many times, but silence was his only answer. However, she didn’t say anything to his spending all of his time training in his room.
The fourth day from their arrival, and the third day of celebration, she ordered him to get dressed and follow her to the throne room. He refused angrily. The stony look from her face didn’t waver as she punched him in his stomach, threw him over her armored shoulder and calmly walked out to join the party.
She dropped him on a balcony overlooking the throne. Don’t move, and don’t stop watching, was her last order before she joined the lines of soldiers in the main room. Indra didn’t move, but didn’t bother watching until he heard the announcement of a sword technique demonstration.
Ashura-oh, the voices whispered. Concealed in depths, mysterious, the chief Warrior God, great enchanter, him who checked Heaven, others said. Indra watched.
The lone man standing in the middle of the room looked barely over the edge of adulthood, black and gold and pale and elfin, elegant and delicate like a swan. But then a sword appeared in his hands, and everything changed, the swan disappearing in a blaze of fire like he was one of the war birds of the Karura clan. Strong, deadly, burning gold and red and elegant. Otherworldly. He would look beautiful on the battlefield covered in the blood of his enemies, Indra thought, the way Mother does.
He was still clutching on the edge of the banister when his mother came to retrieve him, still wide-eyed and breathless. Now you saw what strength looks like, a strength so fearsome it’s kept sealed and locked away under the Emperor’s own castle, she told him, serious. That is the man you will aim to defeat.
Indra nodded, but he wasn’t listening. Such strength was not made to be controlled or defeated. He would become strong, enough to take the name and mantle of God of Thunder from his mother, enough to become a warrior god himself, as strong the Emperor himself if needed. And then he would claim Ashura-oh for himself.
/Fair cheeks hath Indra, Maghavan, the Victor, Lord of a great host, Stormer, strong in action.
What once thou didst in might when mortals vexed thee,-where now, O Bull, are those thy hero exploits?/
“Taishaku,” the King of East greeted him when he entered his tend. “Your conduct today on the field was remarkable. You serve me well, and your strength seems to grow every day.”
Taishaku kneeled and nodded, eyes firm on the ground. How boring.
“The Heavenly Emperor’s birthday approaches,” the god went on. “I want you as part of my personal guard when I’ll leave for Zenmi.”
The cold expression on Taishaku’s face didn’t change, not even when his heart skipped a beat. Ashura-oh is never far from the Emperor’s side...
But showing himself too eager to obey orders wouldn’t do. “With all due respect, sir, but wouldn’t my presence be better placed here at the camp during your absence? The demons won’t take time off attacking because we’re celebrating our Emperor.”
“Your concern for our campaign is appreciated, but I don’t do things without a reason,” the King said, idly stroked his bear. “As part of my guard, you will make yourself known to the Emperor and his cohorts. In a few years, when the time is right, he will not deny my humble appeal to bestow the title of Warrior God on you.”
Taishaku looked up slowly. “Sir?” He had not expected this to happen so soon.
The King was staring at him with heavy eyes. “Maybe it’s my grandmother’s prophet blood, or just the imagination of an old fool, but I feel you will play an important part in the future.” He got up. “Now you are but a sprout. I decided I will help you grow.”
Taishaku bowed his head slightly. “Thank you, my lord.”
The head of Jikokuten’s personal guard, old Yama with his white liony mane and gruff laugh inspected him carefully from head to toe. “The new ceremony armor looks good on you, lad.”
Taishaku tossed his long hair behind his shoulder. Looking good was almost inconsequential in his plans, but still, he didn’t need other people telling him so to know he was. “Will the whole court be present today?”
“Of course. No one would miss the opening ceremony for the celebrations.” Yama’s grin was wolfish. “Is there maybe a young lady you wish to impress?”
“I have no need to impress.” Taishaku turned around sharply on his heels to join in the rows of soldiers in the throne room.
Yama opened his mouth to ask something, but the doors of the room opened and the Emperor was announced, and everyone bowed.
Taishaku, kneeling in the first row, looked up briefly to watch Ashura-oh passing by. Not yet, he swore silently, but I will get what I want in the end.
/For, overthrowing what hath ne'er been shaken, thou goest forth alone destroying Vrtras.
For him who followeth thy Law the mountains and heaven and earth stand as if firmly stablished./
“Taishaku, congratulations on your accomplishments in the East campaign. You do deserve the name of God of Thunder with the way you wield such element.” The Emperor stood in front of him. Ashura-oh was just behind him on his left. Taishaku didn’t raise his eyes from the carpeting. “I will grant you any reward.”
“Oh.” Any reward? “I will take up your kind offer.” Taishaku repressed a smirk. It would be a pity to waste such a good chance. “I’d like to ask Ashura-oh for a lesson in sword technique.”
Ashura-oh frowned slightly, turning to the Emperor. “Your majesty?”
The Emperor smiled. “Oh, go ahead. It’s been quite a while since I last had the pleasure of watching a show of your sword skills, the finest of my kingdom.”
Taishaku raised his head, meeting Ashura-oh’s gold eyes for the first time. Accept me. “Maybe Ashura-oh wishes to forfeit...?”
“No.” Ashura-oh’s eyes and voice were flat. “The Emperor’s wish is my command.”
He didn’t move. The cloak and the armor covered the shiver that ran down his back.
Ashura-oh waved off the underling offering him his sword. “I will use this for the occasion.” Ashura-oh closed fist shone red, and a gleaming blade slowly emerged from his flesh. Shura.
The people in the throne room burst out in barely concealed whispers.
Taishaku couldn’t stand still anymore.
He unsheathed his sword and charged on, crossing his blade with Shura. “You’re using your sword Shura against me, it’s a great honor.” He leaned closer. Only the swords separated their faces now. Ashura-oh’s breath smelled faintly of lotus tea. “May I consider it an acknowledgement of my strength?”
Ashura-oh frowned minutely. He was so close he could clearly see the slight crease on his forehead. Yes. Taishaku felt impossibly hot under his armor. Look at me. See me.
They sharply disengaged their swords, Ashura-oh pushing him away with apparent ease before attacking him, eyes flashing for a moment with murderous intent.
Taishaku couldn’t stop smiling smugly as he met and diverted the attack, that then collided harmlessly with a column.
Someone screamed, and in a moment Ashura’s twelve commanders stopped the duel, forming a compact shield with their bodies in front of their king. Ashura seemed surprised and faintly annoyed. Taishaku wanted to kill them.
“You are skilled, Taishaku,” the Emperor said. “Keep going, and one day you’ll be part of Ashura-oh’s troops.”
Ashura-oh’s was staring at him from the corner of his eyes. Taishaku bowed to the Emperor, smirking at Ashura through a curtain of hair.
The Emperor dismissed the assembly and retired. As soon as he crossed the door, the commanders got up and started to fuss around Ashura-oh. He barely suppressed a disgusted noise. And those were supposed to be the twelve ashuran divine commanders? Headless chickens would be more useful, and have more brains. They were ignoring him completely.
Ashura-oh was waving away their concerns when he finally noticed the rip on the front of his vest. The twelve made a clamor with half-worried, half-indignant cries. Time to remind them of his presence.
Ashura-oh looked up straight into his eyes when he stepped forward. He was ignoring his underlings’s fussing too.
“In one way or another, I always get what I want,” Taishaku said, meeting his gaze with his head high. “Remember it, Ashura-oh.”
The stupid underlings called out in outrage, one or two going for their swords. Taishaku turned around and walked away, ignoring the clamor. They didn’t matter. He could feel Ashura-oh’s heavy stare on his back as a solid thing. Keep watching. Soon, I’ll be standing right in front of you. A red-hot shiver ran down his back. Never stop watching.
/Indra alone filled full the earth and heaven, the Pair who meet together rich in treasures.
Yea, bring thou near us from the air's mid-region strength, on thy car, and wholesome food, O Hero./
It was so unusual to see Ashura-oh walking around the castle without his cohorts. Taishaku, hiding behind a column, took a moment to just look at him without interference. It was shameful and pathetic the way they followed him around. Did they not trust their king in the least?
Ashura-oh looked thoughtful. Worried, too. And he was coming from Kuyoh’s quarters.
He stepped out of his hiding place, resolutely walking up to him. “Are you going back to your castle, Ashura-oh?”
Ashura-oh seemed surprised for a moment. He had not noticed his presence. “Taishaku...”
He smirked even as he bit on his tongue to stifle a sound. My name sounds so good on your lips. “It is not safe to walk around with no escort,” he said, with thinly veiled sarcasm. “You might run into evil scoundrels.”
The weary expression on Ashura-oh’s face didn’t change. “Taishaku, do... do you think that Fate can be changed?”
Taishaku frowned. What could have the prophetess foretold him, what disgrace? Then his lips twisted into a hungry smile. “In order to get what I covet the most, I’m willing to change the course of the stars itself if I have to.” I don’t care if I have to be your enemy. One day you will be mine.
Ashura-oh smiled. “If that’s so, would you help me change the course of the stars?”
Taishaku stared at him for a long moment. He had not been expecting this. Ashura-oh’s lips looked paler when he smiled – they had not been meant for smiles. “If I helped you, would you give me what I want?” Don’t deny me. Can you not see how similar we are?
A hint calculated coldness flashed in his gaze. “What do you want?”
He took a step forward, and finally dared to let his mask fall, let the heat and longing fill his eyes. Do not deny me. “I want you.”
Ashura-oh’s eyes widened, lips parting slightly in surprise.
You expected me to ask for money or power, don’t you. He buried his fingers in Ashura-oh’s long hair. It felt as silky and fine to his calloused fingers as he had always imagined. You have always been the biggest prize.
Those pale lips closed again as Ashura-oh forced the astonishment out of his features. His eyes flitted to Taishaku’s fingers in his hair, but he didn’t knock his hand away, nor took a step back. He was considering it.
Then he sighed softly, looking down. “If this way you’ll manage to alter fate...”
Yes. Anything for you. He reached out with his other hand, grasping his chin lightly and lifting his face. You are not meant to bow to anyone. There was no one around. Slowly he bent down, brushing his lips against Ashura-oh’s for a moment. It took him all of his control not to groan at how soft they felt. “Tonight at midnight. Come to my quarters.”
Ashura-oh’s expression suddenly lifted, a small smile illuminating his face. It was as if a huge burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Taishaku couldn’t help but kiss him again, properly. He tasted sweet, like lotus tea.
“I am expected,” Ashura whispered when the kiss broke. His lips were bruised red. “I will see you there. You will get what you asked.”
Taishaku nodded and stepped back, watching him go. The kiss had been good, but empty.
The realization was sobering. He would get Ashura-oh’s body, and nothing but that.
He wanted more than that. He wanted Ashura-oh to want him back. He tightened his fists at his sides. He would still take what was offered, and no price would be too high.
/Yea, Much-invoked! in safety through thy glories alone thou speakest truth as Vrtra's slayer.
E'en these two boundless worlds to thee, O Indra, what time thou graspest them, are but a handful./
Taishaku, sweaty, cloak torn and stained with dirt and blood, stood in front of Ashura-oh. He had left his steed behind for this.
“All the troops of Zenmi have fallen,” he calmly informed his lover. “There is only you and the Emperor left.”
“I see.” Ashura-oh shook his head. “So the time has come for my last request, Taishakuten.”
Taishakuten. It would take him a while to get used to be called that way. It still sounded good coming from Ashura-oh’s lips.
A gleam of light, and Shura appeared in Ashura-oh’s hand. Taishaku tightened his grip on his sword, and launched his attack.
He met him full front, locking their swords. It was almost like being back in the assembly room in front of the Emperor. Almost. Except the assembly was dead, and Ashura-oh’s attacks were not restrained in the least.
He’s strong. Strong, and beautiful, and soon to be dead. Such was the price for tasting his love and going against Fate.
“Kill me... and then eat my flesh.”
Taishaku froze, staring at Ashura-oh’s grim face with badly concealed horror. What?
Ashura-oh closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. “Should you not be able to change the course of events before my child is reborn as the God of Destruction... I wish for you to kill him.” He opened his eyes again, and this time there was sadness hiding in the gold. “But to do so, you’ll need a lot of strength.”
Taishaku understood, then. Feeding on Ashura’s flesh, he would also fed on his great powers. He tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword. He didn’t like it, but he understood. Vajra's hilt was slick with his blood, and his hand hurt.
Taishaku summoned his thunderbolt and attacked with a hoarse cry.
It took only a moment. Everything was silent as the roar of Vajra faded. Taishaku was holding up the dying body of his beloved. The blood dripping down the hilt of his sword was sticky and hot.
Ashura-oh’s hands let go of his sword to grip on Taishaku’s shoulders and hauled himself up, brushing his lips with his own bloodied ones. His breath was erratic, but his pained eyes didn’t waver. “Make me yours... completely...”
His breathing faltered. His hands lost their grip and he slipped down, his head resting on Taishaku’s shoulder and his body heavy against his chest.
Ashura-oh was dead. Dead by his hand, just as they had planned. Just as he had asked. Taishakuten looked straight ahead, seeing only his sword protruding from his beloved’s back.
Make me yours.
A last gift from Ashura-oh, then. His last words a small lie, a slight consolation for the man who had gotten everything and lost just as much to keep his word to him. He felt cold.
He couldn’t afford to believe anything else. Because if he thought for a moment that Ashura-oh had fully honored their deal, that he had given him something beyond his body, then...
Taishakuten held his beloved closer, kissing his lips for the last time. Everything was done now. The Emperor but a dead man still walking, and his place on the heavenly throne assured.
He carefully extracted his sword from his body, and laid him on the ground. He took one of his hands to his face, kissing the white knuckles, the back and the soft underside of a thin wrist, slowly rubbing his cheek against it.
Taishakuten sunk his teeth in the pale flesh, tearing of a chunk of it. He was the new Emperor, and his beloved was growing cold. The wound on his side from Shura’s kiss was still bleeding. The middle of his forehead was starting to hurt.
He started to chew slowly. He still had a promise to keep.
Ashura-oh still tasted sweet.
/Forthwith thy Bay steeds down the steep, O Indra, forth, crushing foemen, go thy bolt of thunder!
Slay those who meet thee, those who flee, who follow: make all thy promise true; be all completed./
Notes: (for more info, wikipedia is just a click away)
Shakra Devanam Indra Taishakuten: God of thunder, god of weather and war, hero. Main deity depicted in the Rigveda, lord of heaven and ruler of gods and men. He is one of the chief gods in the Rigveda. As such, I picked Indra as Taishakuten’s childhood name, and Shakra as familiar name for his mother.
Om Lam Indraya Namah: Loosely translated to "Om, I bow to Lord Indra", it's the mantra (ritual prayer/adoration) to Indra. Maybe not the most fitting title, but I just couldn't resist the irony of it.
Vrtra/Vritra/Ahi: An asura and a dragon, mortal enemy of Indra. He stole all the waters from the earth and kept them captive until the god slain him. Several quotes about him from the Rigveda were worked into Ashura-oh’s description.
Yama: Guardian god of the South according to Hinduism. I used it as pre-revolution name for Zochoten before he became the King of the South under Taishakuten.
/.../: Rigveda, Book 3, Hymn XXX, transl: R.Griffith.