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[personal profile] freeradical9
Originally written for [ profile] springkink

Title: Aromatherapy
Author: freeradical9
Rating: R
Word Count: 3200
Warnings: Rated for some suggestive bits

Summary: Yaone's life becomes complicated

A/N: Written for the prompt: Kougaiji/Yaone: Aphrodisiacs - More than chemistry at play. With sincere appreciation to [ profile] avierra, for pulling beta duties on extremely short notice.


It had seemed like a harmless request at the time, and Yaone hadn't really thought too much more about it.

It was springtime, and visitors had just arrived at Houtou Castle. The head of the contingent was the daughter of a foreign duke who was rumored to be a close friend of Gyumaoh 's concubine. Ostensibly the purpose of the foreign delegation was to open trade negotiations and strengthen diplomatic ties. Rumor in the castle hallways, however, intimated that the invited visit was a move to secure the support of soldiers and fighters. Everyone at Houtou could sense that conflict that was looming on the horizon.

Yaone had been living at the castle for just under a year at that point, working in Lord Kougaiji's employ. At first she had difficulty finding her place in her strange new life. Nonetheless, she was determined to find little ways in which to be useful. She took arms training with Dokugakuji, made fast friends with Princess Lirin, and created and stocked a small alchemical lab to practice her trade.

Her reputation as an alchemist quickly became common knowledge in the castle. As time went on, she received more and more requests for the creation of potions and simples. Lord Kougaiji never seemed to want any for his own use—with his combat skill and magical abilities he clearly had no need. However, Yaone had to practice in order to keep her alchemical talents sharp, so she had petitioned for her lord's permission to help those who came seeking her expertise.

The prince had agreed, but warned her to use caution. Plots were as thick as thieves in the castle, and attempted poisonings occurred on a daily basis. He told her firmly that he had no wish to see her imprisoned or executed for involvement in some petty political scheme.

Her heart had warmed at his concern, and she had promised to be careful. No poisons, was her interpretation, and she made a vow not sell her talents in that regard to anyone except at the behest of her lord. This essentially meant never, as she knew in her heart that Lord Kougaiji was too honorable to ever to call upon that particular skill.

Yaone had been working on commission for a number of months without any problems or incidents. So when one of the visitors, a lady-in-waiting to Princess Ianthe, had come to her alchemical workshop, swooning over the handsome Dokugakuji and asking for help, Yaone hadn't seen the harm. She’d actually been pleased by the lady’s interest on his behalf. Dokugaku was ruggedly good-looking, with a sincere and forthright personality. He deserved to be happy, and Yaone knew he'd make a fine catch for any woman when the time came that he was ready to settle down.

Yaone was quite fond of Dokugakuji, though romantically he wasn't her type. Her dreams were instead filled with a lean, muscular shape, expressive eyes, and the shine of sunlight on coppery hair. It made her feel conflicted and quite guilty, to think of her liege in those terms. Furthermore, as a prince, Lord Kougaiji was completely out of her league.

Still, a girl couldn't help but dream.

The woman from the visiting delegation had asked straight-out for a love potion, but that Yaone simply wouldn't do. Dokugakuji was a friend. She wouldn't even think of betraying him by robbing him of free will. What she proposed instead was an attraction potion, a subtle perfume that would catch and hold the attention of any nearby male. If it was worn in Dokugakuji’s presence, it would draw his notice. After that, providing he was receptive to the situation, feminine wiles could be used to accomplish the rest.

The lady seemed almost disappointed at the arrangement, but in the end had reluctantly agreed. At her anxious entreaty to obtain the elixir as soon as possible, Yaone promised to start work on it immediately.

The following afternoon, on her way to deliver the finished product, Yaone ran into Lord Kougaiji. He was just rounding the corner from the guest wing, looking harried and more than a little bit worn.

"Kougaiji-sama," she said in surprise, pulling up short in the middle of the hallway.

"Yaone," he looked understandably confused to see her in this particular part of the castle. "What are you doing here?"

She flushed, feeling suddenly very anxious. He had told her it was all right to practice her trade among the castle denizens, but she belatedly realized that this was the first time she had ever made an alchemical mixture for someone from outside of Houtou. "I have a delivery for one of Princess Ianthe's attendants."

"I see." She saw him glance down at the small bottle of blue glass in her hands, but to her relief he made no mention of it. "Go ahead, then."

She bobbed in an abbreviated curtsy as he continued past her on his way. Only a few steps beyond where she stood, however, he abruptly stopped again.

"Yaone," he began, turning back to face in her direction.

She tilted her head inquisitively. "Yes, my Lord?"

He hesitated, frowning. After a moment he only said, "It's nothing," and resumed his previous course.

Yaone watched him as with some concern, thinking his voice had sounded troubled. She continued to stand still, looking after him even after he had turned the corner and was lost from view.

Even after a year of trying, she still couldn’t shake the terrible crush she had on Lord Kougaiji. Her fantasies on the subject had become quite involved, almost to the point of being plotted like some sort of sordid romance novel. In moments of guilty pleasure, she imagined that he would realize how intensely she was attracted to him. He would come to her room, and in a fit of passion reveal that he felt the same. He would not listen to half-hearted arguments concerning the differences in their social status, and when she continued to protest, he would silence her with a kiss. All her defenses would melt beneath the heat of his ardor, and he would guide her willing body down onto the soft bed while his bronzed hands slipped beneath her clothing, roaming sensuously all over her skin….

In the empty hallway, Yaone flushed slightly as the thoughts evoked a twinge of entirely sexual pleasure originating from between her thighs. She drew in a deep breath and gave herself a little shake. Self-consciously straightening her tunic, she forcibly placed the fantasy from her mind and deliberately turned the corner to the guest wing.

Later that same evening, there was a formal state dinner in honor of Gyokumen Koushou’s high-ranking guests. As Lord Kougaiji's attendants, both Dokugakuji and Yaone were required to attend, although they did not have the status to dine at the table. Instead they were expected to stay nearby out of direct sight but within hearing in case their lord required their services.

Dokugakuji was already present, waiting behind one of the embellished screens designed to keep the servants and bodyguards from view. Without formality, Yaone took up a place beside him to observe the proceedings.

There were gaps between sets of screens, provided on purpose for bodyguards to keep watch, or in case one of the nobles should wish to summon their attendants with a gesture. Yaone peered through one such space, catching sight of Lord Kougaiji standing towards the head of the table, in quiet conversation with the chancellor of the castle. Arrayed randomly throughout the rest of the room were a dozen local nobles, and the Mistress of Ceremonies, Lady Koushou.

The arrival of the foreign delegation was announced shortly thereafter. Yaone craned her neck to catch sight of the main entrance. This was the first opportunity she’d had to see the head of the contingent of visiting dignitaries, Princess Ianthe. The youkai woman looked unquestionably noble--regal and beautiful, and flawlessly dressed in the finest silks and jewelry.

As Kougaiji came forward to greet the princess formally, a strange look came over his features, as if he’d momentarily become perplexed by something he’d seen. Yaone gave an involuntary little gasp as she watched him sway on his feet. He leaned in close to the princess, closer even than might be considered polite. Before Yaone could react to that sign of possible danger, however, he quickly recovered, disguising the misstep by offering an arm to Ianthe. The princess smiled coyly as she allowed him to guide her to her seat.

Yaone heard a disgusted noise from behind her, and realized that Dokugakuji had come up behind her, and was looking over her shoulder at the gathering. Or rather, he was looking at where their lord sat, leaning forward attentively towards the foreign princess, who was chattering merrily away. "I knew that Kou had his work cut out for him," he said grimly, "but I didn't think it would be so bad this soon."

Yaone looked at him in confusion. "I beg your pardon?"

"This," he growled, gesturing through the gap in the screens to where the princess sat. "The parade of highborn hussies dead set on seducing our lord. This particular one’s been after him like a barracuda since the moment she first set foot in the castle."

Some hint of the shock Yaone felt at his words must have been clear on her face. Doku peered at her a moment, then shook his head. "You didn't know? Gyokumen Koushou is trying to play matchmaker for Kou. She wants a political marriage to strengthen her power base. This princess is just the first of dozens that are all lined up to force him to choose."

Yaone stared at him, stricken. Before she could say anything further, Princess Ianthe’s attendants swept by, heading for a set of painted screens on the other side of the room. Among them was the lady-in-waiting who had made free with Yaone’s services. The two of them happened to cross glances, and when the lady caught the look of horror and betrayal on Yaone’s features, she a raised a delicate eyebrow and gave a superior smile.

"I don’t feel well," Yaone said faintly, as the last of the princesses’ attendants filed by. It was true, any minute now she was going to be violently sick. "I think I have to leave. Please, pardon me."

Doku opened his mouth to say something to her, but she didn’t stay to hear what it was. She turned and fled the room.

Back in the quiet and solitude of her private quarters, she closed and locked the door. Without hesitation, she put her back to it, and miserably slid down into a heap on the floor, with both arms wrapped over her stomach. Hopelessness made her feel like crying. How could she have been so naïve?

The princess was trying to seduce Lord Kougaiji. …And Yaone had been an unwitting accessory. She’d been taken in like a street hustler’s target, preyed upon as an easy mark. Yaone wasn’t the one who would pay the price for her folly, however. The one who would suffer would be her liege lord.

Yaone could only thank heaven that it hadn't been a love potion. If it had, she never would have forgiven herself.

How long she sat there, huddled in misery, she afterwards had no recollection. She only knew that eventually her dejected musings were interrupted by a knock on her door.

Her first thought was to ignore it. However, few people had reason to seek her out, and those who did inevitably had good reason. After the third set of sharp raps on the wood, she reluctantly uncurled and rose to her feet.

When she got the door open, she wished she hadn’t. "Kougaiji-sama," she whispered helplessly.

"Yaone." As she took a guilty step back, he put a hand on the door to keep it from swinging closed. "You look pale. Dokugakuji said you’re not feeling well?"

"It’s nothing," she said faintly, staring down at the floor. She couldn’t bring herself to look into his eyes. "I’ll be fine once I get a bit of rest."

"I don’t mean to bother you when you’re unwell, but I'd like a word. May I come in?"

"O-of course," she stammered. What else could she say? She stepped back and allowed him to enter the room. He closed the door behind himself. There was a small sitting table with chairs set up by the window, and she was about to offer him a seat, but he stopped her with a curt hand gesture.

"The bottle that you delivered to the guest wing earlier today," Lord Kougaiji said without preamble. "What was in it?"

Yaone immediately flushed crimson. If possible, the quiet words made her feel even more awful than she’d been feeling already. "The bottle, my lord?"

"Did you make something for the princess?"

If the floor were to suddenly crumble open and swallow her, it wouldn't happen quickly enough. Yaone fought back tears at the sternness in his voice, hearing the unspoken disappointment and disapproval. "One of her ladies came to me," she said in a small voice, "asking for a potion. A potion to make someone fall in love."

At his sharp inhalation, she hurriedly exclaimed, "It wasn't! A love potion, that is. It was merely an elixir of attraction." She bowed her head forward even further, letting her bangs fall forward to mask her eyes. "I didn't know. I didn't guess that the princess would use it." Her voice trailed off to barely more than a whisper. "Please believe me, my lord. It was never my intention to betray you."

"I see." Kougaiji was quiet for a moment. "Clearly, my followers need to keep better informed about what is going on in the castle and why."

Yaone kept her head bowed in mute despair. Servants were sacked for less than this. At Houtou, it was not unusual for servants to be executed for mistakes of this scale.

"I disapprove of what Gyokumen Koushou is doing, by arranging these state visits," Kougaiji continued sternly. "I fully intend to reject any offers of arranged marriage that result. Furthermore, concerning Princess Ianthe, in every interaction I have had with her I have found her to be rude, petty, and exceedingly arrogant. I knew there was something very wrong when I suddenly didn't want to let her out of my sight."

Yaone waited as he fell silent, something in her chest clenching in dread.

“Is there an antidote?” he asked at length.

Yaone blinked, considering. “Yes, my lord, I think so. I would have to do some research to be sure, and it might take a little time. I believe that I can make something to counter the effects."

“Good,” Kougaiji said firmly. “You will do so. I expect you to start work immediately.”

“Yes, my lord,” she whispered, chastised. At the same time she felt an uncontrollable surge of hope. Even in spite of her blunder, it seemed that perhaps he wouldn’t send her away.

"I've been too lenient," he continued. "This incident proves that the skills of an alchemist are too dangerous and too easily abused. If you wish to practice your trade for others besides yourself, you must ask my permission first. From now on, your services belong to me and only to me. Is that understood?"

Yaone closed her eyes. "Yes, my lord.”

Her head remained bowed in obeisance. She felt Kougaiji's hand catch at her chin, lifting. It happened so suddenly that she had no time to react, no time to protest, as a feather-light touch brushed against her lips.

Her eyes flew open. "My lord!" she squeaked. She would have staggered backwards, but her limbs had somehow become locked in shocked paralysis, and his hand was still grasping her chin.

He didn't let go, either. After a moment of looking into her widened eyes, he leaned forward and kissed her again.

Yaone trembled at that touch. It was exactly as she imagined it would be. His mouth was warm and insistent, moving against hers in a way that caused a thrill of excitement and pleasure to coil in her gut. She made an involuntary noise, feeling his lips part to taste her mouth with a gentle swipe of his tongue. Desire kindled within her. She wanted this, had wanted it for so very long. She yielded, melting against him, denying him nothing as he continued to kiss her, long and deep.

When he finally released her, Yaone stumbled, breathless and completely unsteady on her feet. She was dizzy with euphoria and reeling with disbelief, half expecting to wake up at any moment, to find that the kiss had been nothing more than another fantasy.

If it was a dream, she didn't wake. Kougaiji continued to stand in front of her, watching her with eyes that were grave. "It's taken me a long time to notice," he said quietly. "Now I finally have, at last."

Yaone blinked, as understanding dawned. "But," she protested weakly in confusion, "the potion...." Princess Ianthe had been the one who’d had it, not Yaone.

In response, Kougaiji grasped her hand, turning it palm up. He pressed it to his face lightly, and she heard him inhale--and only then did she realize that she'd unintentionally been wearing the scent that she'd made.

Kougaiji met her eyes, his gaze fierce. "You're the one I saw first. …This afternoon, in the hallway outside the guest wing."

She stared. "But," she said again, completely flustered by the feel of his warm breath against her palm. Her free hand fluttered helplessly. "I don’t understand. It's not a love potion…."

"It doesn't have to be." He straightened. "It's more than just chemistry, Yaone."

Before she could say any more, he took her into his arms, burying his face in her hair. She closed her eyes again, savoring the feeling of his strong arms around her, listening to his quiet breaths as he tipped his head further downward, sliding his lips along the curve of her neck. He shifted his weight, and she shivered in anticipation as he gently began to walk her back towards the bed.

"The antidote, my lord?" she ventured timidly, feeling it was only fair to give him one last chance to back out in case he was having any second thoughts.

"The antidote can wait."

Some time later, they lay together quietly, wearing Yaone's sheets tangled around themselves and nothing else. The stresses of the prince's political duties of the past few days had caught up with him, and Yaone noted that he had drifted off into sleep. She found herself staring at him in muted wonder, gazing in fascination as if memorizing every line of his body and face.

It was true she thought, laying her head contentedly on his shoulder, considering his earlier comment about her potion. Still, feeling the warmth of his skin under her cheek, the strong, steady beat of his heart beneath her palm, some small part of her couldn't help but think.

Sometimes, chemistry helped.



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March 2011

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