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[personal profile] ink_stained
Day #19 -

Title: Lost and Found
Fandom: Natsume Yuujinchou
Characters: Matoba Seiji, Natsume Takashi
Rating: PG
Words: (+/-) 1600
Summary: AU. Matoba meets a young Natsume and takes a special interest in him.
Notes: I probably shouldn’t be starting another series, but this idea has been driving me nuts.

To become the leader of the Matoba clan, there were two conditions. One, the person had to be of Matoba descent. The blood of their ancestors had to run strongly through the candidate’s veins or the demon that sought retribution would take more than the promised eye. And two, the successor was required to have a powerful ayakashi at his or her command. It was a showcase of power, authority, and control to the other great clans.

Matoba Seiji disliked these customs as much as he disliked youkai. He refused when the current Head of the clan ordered him to find his familiar, to go searching and not come back until he found a being worthy of him. She may have been his mother, but he wasn’t about to search for something he would not find. No ayakashi would stand beside him. Not a single foul demon had that right.

His mother didn’t want to hear that and left him no choice, no way out, so his quest for a ‘worthy’ familiar began in vain. “I’m off,” Seiji called, lackluster, and tightened his shoelaces at the front door. When he stood, there was no real conviction in his actions, no motivation to do his best.

“Have a safe trip,” his mother replied, and it was a touch sarcastic.

Seiji offered her a smile that conveyed just what he thought of this farce. “Don’t work too hard, Mother.” He slid the door aside and stepped out into the sunshine. It was almost a relief to close the door behind him, blocking out the sight of her. The odds were high that she would have someone follow him, as he was her only son nowadays, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t think of the ayakashi ‘search’ as an escape.

Day in and day out, clan-related matters were drilled into his head. An age-old hierarchy of rules, regulations, and how to be the best little figurehead he had every right to be. He was led to believe he would have absolute control, but that wasn’t true. He was supposed to be an untouchable prince, but he was merely someone who possessed all the skill and held none of the cards to play the game. The laws of the Matoba made sure of that. And to defy those laws meant treason.

In the future, he would be like his mother: treated with respect and then sneered at behind the facades. The new clans despised the olden ways, seeing them as out-dated. While that wasn’t wrong, neither was it right. The main problem with such an old-fashioned clan was its inability to adapt to the times. They weren’t willing to change, and Seiji hated them for it. Because of them, he had lost the most precious thing in his life, and he couldn’t get it back. No matter how many times he ventured into hell, what was lost would stay lost.

The sun overhead mocked him: warm and bright and so very much alive. He dismissed the idea of catching a train and opted to venture into the forest nearest the manor. Dark, cold, and unwelcoming suited him better than some far off place in the sun.

His search could not begin, however, until he had an idea of where to look. Once he had that, he could waste time. No one said he had to catch a strong ayakashi on the first day of the hunt. A loophole in those never-ending customs.

For his plan to work, it required the aid of one of the youkai contracted under him, despite his reluctance to depend on such things. Particularly the one he was about to call, but it had a good nose for tracking and that was what he needed. The quicker he scouted for prey, the sooner he could nap in one of those trees above him.

“Come out, Inugami,” ordered Seiji once he had reached the outskirts of the forest. “I have a job for you.”

A dog-eared man appeared from thin air and bowed low in subservience. “What can I do for you today, Master?”

Seiji wasn’t fooled by the sickly sweet voice or beatific smile. Beast youkai were known as tricksters and weren’t to be trusted. They took the form of humans, pretending to be something they could never be. Some even had the detestable ability to appear human before those who couldn't and shouldn’t see them.

“Today,” Seiji began, his tone shockingly even given how much he loathed the thing in front of him, “you are to find an ayakashi more powerful than yourself. You have until sundown to lure it here.” He wasn’t expecting much, but he made sure to add, “Failure will meet with punishment if you waste my time.”

The fake smile dropped into a feral snarl, revealing pointed teeth, and the youkai growled, “Do not ask for impossible things, brat.”

From the folds of his black yukata, Seiji pulled out a piece of paper with a marking on it and started to chant. A fierce howl ripped through the forest, and Seiji stopped. “What was that, Inugami?”

“I’ll be here by sundown,” the youkai ground out through tightly clenched teeth.

Seiji grinned as the paper crumbled and faded away, its job done. He would have preferred to see a youkai do the same, but that would be asking too much, indeed. “Good. Don‘t make me wait too long, my dear servant.”

The beast sent him a scathing look before leaving. There were five hours until sundown, hardly enough time to find what Seiji wanted, but it would be enough if Inugami found something that could keep him entertained.


Asleep in the highest boughs of an oak tree, Seiji was having a pleasant dream. There was laughter and an awe-filled voice, and he had found what he had lost. A dream was all it would ever be. A piercing scream shattered it far too easily.

When he jolted awake, he had to grab onto the firm branch below him to keep from swaying unsteadily. Then he looked down and the sight caused him to rub at his eyes instead. Surely he was still dreaming because Inugami wasn’t that stupid. The events unfolding on the forest floor weren’t erased by that faint hope and he was forced to climb down from his tree. Along the way, he shouted, “Let the boy go, Inugami, or there will be repercussions.”

Inugami reluctantly retracted his death grip on the boy’s throat and simpered, “But Master, he could use the discipline.”

Glaring at the youkai, Seiji leaped from the last branch and pulled another piece of paper as he did so. “Watch your tongue. Or I’ll cut it out.” The beast backed away and the boy struggled to sit up, a hand on his bleeding throat. “How bad is it?” Seiji asked, taking a step closer to inspect the wound. The boy curled in on himself, refusing to show it, but now that Seiji looked at the boy properly - “Are you a girl?”

That seemed to earn a reaction. The kid lifted his head a little and replied, regardless of how weak his voice sounded, “Does a girl usually where a boy’s uniform?” To be honest, Seiji had seen weirder things, but he didn’t answer like that. He took advantage of the boy’s exposed neck and grabbed him by the hair. All in an attempt to study the injury his contracted ayakashi had caused. Thankfully, the beast had missed the carotid artery and the bleeding was light. It would clot soon and the boy would be fine. “Looks like you were lucky,” he said dismissively.

He let go of his hold on the boy - and then the boy moved as far back as possible before hitting a tree. Seiji chuckled at the sight. “Are you lost?” he ended up asking. When he received no response from the boy, none that wasn't trembling, he turned to Inugami and reissued his question as a demand, “Tell me why you led this boy astray.”

“You haven’t noticed?” The beast smiled widely, showing off its teeth. “He’s a powerful ayakashi, Master.”

Seiji wasn’t that easily convinced. It was true, the boy gave off a strange aura, but it was fundamentally human and it put his mind at ease. “You got him from the nearby middle school, didn’t you? He does seem to possess power, especially if he can see you, but he is not what I asked you to bring me.” He flourished the piece of paper still at his disposal, prepared to punish the demon who thought itself smarter than him, but then he noticed something. The boy was watching him. “You should cover your ears and shut your eyes.”

The last time he had said something like that was long, long ago. He didn’t dislike the feeling.

Perhaps he would have to keep the boy around.

Then he began to chant and the howls of a beast in pain eroded his hearing. He settled for watching the boy, and the boy had obeyed him. His eyes were shut, his ears were covered, and he had huddled in on himself once more.

Seiji had found something interesting, even if it wasn’t what he had lost.

Part 2
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off on an adventure

August 2012

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