Authors: Sessha Batto
A Shadow Wolf Prequel
Copyright ©2012 Sessha Batto
Second electronic edition
Published in the United States of America with international distribution.
Cover Design by Sessha Batto
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the copyright owner except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Duty and honor-bound, Yoshi draws on years of training to fulfill his clan’s expectations
and obligations, suppressing emotions to safeguard and protect both himself
and those he’s sworn to serve.
His current assignment is to the Shuhan of Mochizuki who deems that training unsuitable and launches Yoshi into the world of women, of the fabled Geisha, to learn the grace and skills his master desires. Pain Yoshi understood, humiliation was something else entirely.
And his keeper, Zenshiro, decides that while Geisha training is all well and good,
the matter of seduction would be handled in a different fashion.
Keeping up the masquerade might be the biggest challenge Yoshi has ever faced…
Yoshi regarded his 'consort' with dismay. It was bad enough he was bound to a man so much older, but this was adding insult to an already untenable situation. “I must have misheard you, my Lord,” he demurred. “I could have sworn you said geisha training.”
“You are very beautiful, pet,” the Shuhan of Mochizuki shuudan was quick to point out. “Your social skills, however, are most definitely lacking. I'm paying your shuudan a fortune for the privilege of being with a callow, insensitive, robot.”
“I am shinobi, my Lord.” The shadow wolf of the Takahashi clan dipped his head, hiding his face behind a waterfall of platinum locks. “Emotion has been trained out of me.”
The Shuhan merely murmured something uncomplimentary, continuing to eye his much younger lover with disdain. He had made his decision and did not appreciate having it questioned by an ill-trained brat, no matter how appealing the prospect of punishing him for his transgression. “It has already been arranged. Zenshiro will accompany you to the hana-machi so you can study with the other maiko. You're supposed to be a genius, put your talents to work and master your lessons quickly. The longer you are out of my sight, the more … disappointed I will be. I believe you've known me long enough to realize that would be unpleasant.”
Yoshi suppressed a shiver, the Shuhan's idea of unpleasant was something he knew all too well. Pain he could handle, he'd been trained to withstand the most brutal of tortures, but humiliation was another thing altogether. Left to his own devices he would happily stay in the shadows for the rest of his life. Of course, the man who'd bought him knew that, it had been one of his first, and most triumphant, discoveries. Five years was a long time, it took a lot more to embarrass the shadow wolf now than it had at the tender age of fifteen. This, however, was too much. “My Lord, geisha training is for women. I'm a man, they'll never accept me.”
“Well then, we won't tell them, will we,” the Shuhan hissed. “Honestly, you're pretty enough to be a woman. You won't even need makeup, your skin is already bone white. I'll send directions that they're not to dye your hair.”
“But, when they see me, they'll know.” Yoshi worked hard not to show the panic threatening to overtake him. “They'll call the police. You'll be exposed.”
“You won't be living in the okiya, you and Zenshiro will stay in my penthouse in the city. There will be no reason for them to see beneath your under-kimono. Pad your chest and play along. Now go get packed. I'll send someone to your room to fix your face and hair and help you dress.”
The stunned shinobi left the room on autopilot, slowly navigating the maze of corridors before reluctantly slipping into his room. “I was afraid you'd be here.”
Amusement sparkled in the seated man's eyes. “Is that any way to greet your new roommate, guard, and closest companion?” Zenshiro's soft retort only spurred Yoshi's anger to new levels.
“Fuck you,” he spat, turning his back on the lounging figure and beginning to gather his possessions.
“Well, I certainly wouldn't protest. In fact, I'll happily take you up on that once we reach our new home. Until then you'll just have to rely on your memories.” Zenshiro smirked at the brilliant blush flooding the shadow wolf's face.
“I doubt your Shuhan would approve.” Yoshi's voice could have frozen lava. “I suppose I could ask him.”
“Go right ahead.” Zenshiro's smirk darkened. “He expects you to come back trained. Being entertaining is part of it, as is the humiliation of making you pass as a woman. But the most important skill you need is seduction. That teaching will fall to me.”
“I don't need seduction training,” Yoshi argued. “I seem to attract quite enough attention as it is.”
“You don't get it.” Zenshiro moved soundlessly, pressing hard against Yoshi's back so the shadow wolf could feel the heat of his erection, punctuating his words with smooth rolls of his hips. “It is much more enticing if your partner at least pretends to be enjoying your attentions.”
“You're under the misapprehension that I want any of this,” Yoshi hissed. “I don't care if they enjoy it, I certainly don't. Duty is not always pleasant.”
“But it can be. I look forward to showing you just how much fun duty can be.”
The trip to the okiya seemed to take a lifetime. The ban on cars in the hana-machi meant the last part of the journey needed to be made on foot. The shadow wolf was used to the freedom of pants, the formal kimono and high-soled geta made walking a nightmare. He endeavored at all costs to keep his head upright, fearing the elaborate pile of hair so artfully coiled and pinned would soon revert to his usual messy tangles. Zenshiro played his part to perfection, putting a gentle hand on Yoshi's elbow to steady him and bowing deferentially at the glares he received in response.
The streets were crowded with tourists, and Yoshi's every instinct clamored for him to fade into one of the darkened alleys and disappear. His striking appearance and traditional dress made the reclusive shinobi perfect fodder for snapshot hungry foreigners, and his sensitive eyes struggled to focus amidst the painful camera flashes.
A momentary sense of relief washed over him as they stepped through the gate of the okiya, the clamor of the city dissolving into running water, wind chimes and rustling leaves. Yoshi's nerves twitched and jumped, years of training demanding he surreptitiously check every angle of possible attack before allowing him to settle into a state of feigned relaxation, eyes fixed on the koi splashing in the courtyard pond.
“The okasan will see you now.”
Zenshiro gripped Yoshi's arm tightly, steering him down the dimly lit corridor and into the presence of the woman who would now be in control of his life.
“So, this is the remarkable beauty I supposedly can't resist.” The okasan stood and circled the rigid shinobi, sharp eyes eager to find any defect. “I suppose she's acceptable.”
“My master will be happy to hear that,” Zenshiro assured her. “He expects his consort to be of the highest standard in every regard, and he's confident you can transform this gawky girl into an alluring woman.”
“You're older than most of the other maiko,” the okasan pointed out. “If your patron wasn't so wealthy I would never consider someone like you for this okiya.”
The shadow wolf glowered, eyes flashing angrily, although he remained silent, continuing his contemplation of the ground beneath his feet.
“Still, you're a pretty thing. I've never seen your coloring before. A bit taller than the other girls, but I believe I have something that will fit you.” She disappeared through the sliding screen, leaving Yoshi alone with his guard.
“Having fun yet?” Zenshiro prodded. “You know she thinks you're a woman. Be careful, if the Shuhan takes a liking to you this way you could find yourself missing a few choice bits.”
“Jealous?” Yoshi snapped back.
“Hardly,” Zenshiro drawled. “It will be amusing to watch you try to pull this off. It may finally be the assignment that stymies the brilliant shadow wolf. Dancing, music lessons, the tea ceremony, your patience will soon run out and you'll blow your cover in a spectacular way. I, for one, cannot wait.”
“Lovely.” The muttered response almost passed unremarked.
“Of course, my favorite part of all this starts when we get back to our apartment,” his guard whispered huskily. “You obviously need a lot of training so we'll begin tonight.”
Before Yoshi could respond the okasan was back, untying his obi and slipping the heavy kimono off his shoulders. “Wait,” he yelped. “What are you doing?”
“This kimono doesn't suit you,” she explained as she worked his arms out of the sleeves. “It's far too plain. This one is more suitable for a maiko.” The subdued charcoal on black was replaced by a more typical flowered scarlet. “That's better. It's a shame about your hair. The contrast with your skin would be exquisite if we dyed it. Ah well, it isn't up to me to make money off of you. Now, about your name. The maiko of this okiya take flower names.”
“Kakutasu,” Zenshiro laughingly suggested. “She's very prickly.”
“Cactus?” The okasan shook her head. “No, lust is not an appropriate meaning for a maiko's name.”
“It is for this one.” Yoshi shot the smug guard a withering look.
“That is none of my concern and something I'd rather not know about.” The okasan turned her attentions back to the shadow wolf. “You don't talk much,” she noted. “Perhaps, amarylis for shyness. Your new name will be Amaririsu.”
“Great,” Yoshi muttered. “A lovely womanly name to match my new look.”
“Here's a schedule of your classes,” the okasan continued. “You can read, can't you?”
“Of course I can read, I'm a genius.” Yoshi bit his tongue moments t
oo late, afraid he might have given his deception away. While his appearance might pass as womanly, his voice was deeper and huskier than a girl's should be. The look the okasan directed his way made it clear she disapproved of his disrespectful outburst, but held no trace of anger, and he was grateful not to feel the need to disguise his voice.
“In any event, you'll start in the morning. Take the rest of today to get settled in. I'll have some more kimono sent to your address. As long as you are studying with us you must always be properly attired. I assume you have a maid?”
“Our Lord has provided one,” Zenshiro quickly assured her. “He is quite eager for Ama-chan to have the best of everything.”
“Are you telling me she's spoiled? I don't have time to waste on a pampered brat.”
“Spoiled and willful,” the guard whispered conspiratorially. “Feel free to beat her as required. My master is disappointed with her progress under his lenient hand, it's why he sent her here for a proper education.”
“I am not spoiled,” the shadow wolf insisted. “You can't expect me to be pleased about being forced from my home and shackled to a man fifty years my senior. Certainly I can't be the first dissatisfied person to pass through these doors.”
“It's the twentieth century, my girls choose this life,” the okasan insisted. “It's a calling to be proud of. They work very hard and devote years to their training.”
“I'm sure all your girls are paragons of virtue and hard work.” The smirk threatened to split Zenshiro's face. “Like I said, Ama-chan is a willful thing, always insisting she deserves better than everyone else.”
The walk back to the apartment was never-ending, at least, from Yoshi's point of view. His feet and legs ached from the awkward heels. As soon as the key clicked in the lock he pushed past his guard, kicking the geta towards the genkan as he frantically pulled the pins from his hair.
“What on earth are you doing?” The shadow wolf ignored the question and continued to divest himself of the womanly trappings, shaking his hair loose to hang down his back while he fumbled with the elaborate knot on his obi.
“Stop that.” Yoshi could only blink stupidly at the tiny woman who was determinedly redoing his obi. “It is not seemly for you to behave this way. A geisha is always calm and graceful.” She finished adjusting his clothes and began to tug his hair back into the painful knot.
“Who the hell are you?” The shadow wolf managed to wrench himself free from her surprisingly strong grasp.
“I am your maid, my Lady. The Mochizuki no Shuhan hired me to look after you.”
“Oh, hell no.” Yoshi rounded on his chuckling guard. “You get this straightened out. I'm going to bathe … alone,” he added when the maid tried to follow him.
“Ama-chan is very shy,” Zenshiro explained. “She doesn't like being fussed over. Perhaps you should just come in the mornings to help fix her hair.”
“It isn't appropriate for you to stay here alone with her,” the maid argued. “If she is to be geisha, she must be above reproach.”
“Ama-chan is the bound consort of my Shuhan. I am sworn to protect her with my life,” Zenshiro insisted. “My Lord trusted me with this duty, I will not fail.”
“If you're sure? It would be nice to sleep in my own home.”
“I'm positive.” He guided her to the door, easing her out with promises that Yoshi would be up and dressed by the time she arrived. As soon as the door clicked shut behind her he headed toward the bathroom, lazily peeling off his shirt along the way.
“You didn't wait for me,” Zenshiro pouted. “I'm hurt, Ama-chan. You have much to learn, the bath is an excellent place to begin a seduction.”
“What part of alone didn't you understand?” The shadow wolf's rather shaky retort only widened his grin.
“The part where you meant it.” The guard slipped into the furo, settling next to Yoshi and capturing his chin in strong fingers. “You don't have to fight me so hard. Just relax, I'm not going to hurt you.”
“I'd rather you did.” The slight pout of pale lips was enough to spur him into action. Zenshiro gathered the sullen shadow wolf into his arms, wrapping his arms around broad shoulders and slanting his mouth over those tempting lips. He growled deep in his chest when they parted, allowing him to dip inside.
Yoshi was somewhere between heaven and hell. Kissing wasn't a part of his usual duties, and he found it to be so much nicer than he’d imagined. He melted into the embrace, allowing his guard to dominate the kiss. He wrapped long legs around Zenshiro’s waist, pressing their bodies flush and moaning when their erections rubbed together.