“Harder!” the command echoed throughout the large sparring room, answered by Inoue's roar and the sound of metal to metal. “Faster! You’re sloppy!” the deep voice snarled. “There!”

The redhead cried out as Master’s foot cracked against his ribs, knocking the wind out of him and slamming him into the floor, sending his knives flying into the air.

A shadow crossed his face, and Inoue opened one eye, panting, gasping for breath, staring up at the blonde man towering over him. “That was shit,” Master snarled. “Get up.” When Inoue didn’t move, he received another hoof to the ribs, sending him tumbling until he slammed into the wall, knocking several weapons from their holsters.

He rolled out of the way barely in time, one broadsword nicking his arm. A hand closed around his throat, lifting him up slowly, choking him. “Have I taught you nothing?!” the man roared, shaking the smaller teen.

Inoue choked, tasting blood in his mouth, grabbing at the hand at his throat. “Ma-s--ghk!”

The blonde dropped Inoue, and the teen collapsed on the floor once more, panting.

“Your worst wounds are mostly healed by now. You think requests will stop coming for your services even after you’ve been wounded? You think if I was an attacker, I’d be letting up and going easy on you?!”

Worst wounds… Inoue winced. He had fresh stitches from three days ago across his back, from Master’s blade. The blonde had been lying on the couch, in pain, after a mission, and come home covered in wounds. Inoue had stitched him up, thanks to the training he’d received in that area, but had felt sorry for the man as he lay there, near immobilized.

When the blonde had dropped off into a fitful sleep, and had started to make noises indicating an obvious nightmare, the teen had approached him and gently tried to touch his Master’s face to comfort him. On instinct, Master had woken and sliced clean through his apprentice’s shirt and flesh with his dagger, making Inoue cry out in pain.

And then, after the wounds had been stitched up, he’d been lashed across the buttocks and thighs for two hours straight.

For trying to show affection or for being stupid enough to approach a sleeping assassin without making himself known first, he wasn’t sure. Probably both. Master punished him just as fiercely for being stupid as for trying to be kind.

It only made the redhead more resolute in everything. In becoming better at what Master wanted… and at becoming someone Master wanted.

He didn’t know why. He couldn’t give excuses to Master or to himself; all he knew was that the more injuries he saw inflicted upon the large man, and the more that were inflicted upon him in turn, the more he ached to feel those hands on him again, no matter what they were doing—hurting, helping, or holding him.

He stood shakily, his legs wanting to give out and his heart thrumming in his chest. Inoue unsheathed the dagger strapped to his thigh, and held it out, crouching and ignoring the burning pain in his back and the rest of his body.

Master glanced at him with his hard steel gaze, and sighed. “You’re useless right now, and dripping blood all over my sparring mats. Get in the bedroom.”

Inoue nodded. “Yes, Master,” he breathed, sheathing the dagger once more and walking unsteadily out of the training room.

The redhead stumbled once but braced himself against the wall, heading down the long corridor until he reached the bedroom.

No, this was the bathroom.

He frowned slightly and shook his head. They’d moved twice already since Inoue had first entered that initial apartment seven months ago; this one was five times the size and even after being here for three weeks he still forgot his way around sometimes.

“Smarten up, kid.” He heard Master utter the words, and felt strong hands scoop him up easily, carrying him to the bedroom, two doors down. Inoue was placed on his knees on the bed, and his shirt was peeled off him slowly. “Arms.” Inoue lifted his arms. “Lay down.” Inoue leaned forward and collapsed on his stomach on the bed, thankful for the soft covers.

How many sets of sheets had they ruined, how many blankets blotted with blood? Mostly Inoue's, but less and less over time.

He’d grown significantly as well; he was fifteen now, and instead of reaching the middle of Master’s chest, he was as tall as Master’s jaw. His arms were thicker with muscle, his chest broader, his legs longer and firmer.

The redhead was honest with himself—he’d grown to love this lifestyle.

It filled every hole in his soul; he had a constant partner, somebody who was always watching him and taking care of him, he was always becoming stronger and healthier, he had an amazing home with more than he’d ever need, he was learning and growing.

Master’s knee settled on Inoue's legs, and he felt the cool swipe of disinfectant. He barely winced at it any more. “Tell me what you learned today,” the blonde said quietly, as the needle pierced through the skin on Inoue's back quickly, repairing broken stitches.

“Never leave my sides open to attack,” the teen replied immediately, stoically. “And I finished the seventh volume of Poison Arts, as well as the three texts on self-defence.”

“And what did you do today?”

“Six a.m. to seven a.m., stretches and weight lifting. Seven a.m. to eleven thirty, gymnastics. Eleven thirty till noon, prepared and ate midday meal. Noon to one p.m., shower and maintenance of stitches and bandages. One p.m. to five, studying. Five to six p.m., preparation and consumption of evening meal. Six p.m. to seven p.m., stretches and weight lifting. Seven p.m. to present, sparring and maintenance.” He spoke steadily, without missing a beat more than three times as the needle worked through him quickly. By the time he completed his summary, the last of the iodine had been washed away and a damp cloth was patting the blood still leaking from him gently.

“Good, Inoue,” the blonde said quietly.

The redhead blinked in surprise. It had been months since Master had used his name. He glanced over his shoulder, and saw the cold eyes were focused on him in return. “Master?” he asked.

“You’ve done well in seven months. Grown, learned. Sit up.”

Inoue sat up, and watched as Master removed a small bottle from the medical case, and a syringe. He pushed the tip of the needle into the bottle and drew a small amount, then put the bottle back and squeezed the plunger a millimetre to force out any air in the shaft. The teen lifted his arm, holding it out calmly.

He had forgotten it was the third day; injection day. Both he and Master each took several shots of poison, different kinds, to build up immunity and maintain it. Today was… he glanced at the medical name written on the bottle. Rattler venom, a commonly used poison for dipped darts. The needle slid into his arm and he barely felt it, watching his Master’s face instead.

What could possibly have prompted him into saying Inoue's name?

Ever since he’d slashed the redhead for waking him, he’d been acting strangely. …It was the same way he’d acted the entire week after the first time he’d sunk his blade into the teen with intent.

…The one and only time he’d been touched by Master the way he desired it so badly.

Each day that passed made it harder on Inoue. He lusted for the blonde, and admitted it openly when asked. Which wasn’t often. Usually, it was after the teen had become brash and tried to rouse his Master in some form, be it touching him or touching himself.

He couldn’t help it!

He was a young man with high-strung, demanding needs that were not being met in any way, shape or form. They didn’t even sleep in the same bedroom very often any more, but if Master ever heard him stroking himself, he’d bark out a threat to break Inoue's fingers, one by one.

Naturally, when it happened the next time, Master didn’t warn; he simply walked into the room and broke one finger, as though it was nothing. He bound and straightened it immediately afterwards of course, but it didn’t change the fact that it was broken. And he showed no sympathy to the teen, or apology for what he’d done.

Master gave himself three shots as well, and then put all the medical supplies away, placing the kit on the floor and standing. “Sleep,” he said under his breath, heading towards the door. The blonde slept where his mood dictated, though Inoue was still unsure as to which moods meant what room.

Lately, he’d been sleeping in the library, the room directly beside the bedroom.

“Master…” Inoue began. Stay with me? No way in hell would he say it. He’d get a lashing.

The blonde waited in the doorway, his back to his apprentice, silent. When no answer came, he glanced over his shoulder, glaring. “Don’t waste my time, Inoue. Tell me what you want.”

What he hell was he supposed to do now? If he lied, Master would know immediately. He sighed and murmured into the pillow, “This room gets cold at night.”

There was a long silence, and the redhead tensed in the bed. He waited—the next noise he expected was either the sound of Master’s belt coming undone, or the door slamming shut.

To his surprise, he did hear the door shut, but he also heard footsteps coming towards the bed. Master’s weight shifted the mattress, and Inoue looked up into the hard expression. “You’re not subtle, Inoue,” the blonde said darkly. “Your efforts have gotten you nothing, or worse. Why do you pursue this?”

“I need it. Want it. Want you,” the redhead breathed, still unsure if he was going to have his pants pulled down and feel the crack of leather on bare flesh. He hated how much it made him feel like a child to be lashed like that, but knew it was exactly why Master chose that form of punishment; it was fitting for an immature kid who couldn’t control his urges.

“You don’t need it,” the blonde sighed heavily. “You just want it. Like a spoilt brat. When I first found you in my apartment, you were wild, like an animal, and deadened inside from the way people used you. And now you want to go back to being used.”

Inoue winced slightly.

On several occasions, usually after he had been wounded severely, he’d broken down near tears. When Master had demanded to know what the issue was that his apprentice was showing such weakness, Inoue had spilled forth everything; his entire life. From growing up in a small, happy village to Daniel to the fire to whoring to here. More than once he’d done this, but strangely, after he did, Master never whipped him. On any other occasion if the redhead broke down in sobs he’d be severely punished, but when it was about his past before he’d been taken under Master’s guidance, the blonde either left the room or simply sat there, listening.

And now, the man knew Inoue through and through; he knew each expression, each reaction, each subtle attempt at anything, and the reason for all of them.

“I don’t care if you use me,” Inoue muttered, looking away in embarrassment. “I don’t care if you don’t love me; I understand if you hate me. But it doesn’t change the fact that I want you. How many fingers have you broken?” The redhead lifted his left hand, which had become dominant during the time his right arm had been broken. His middle finger was still in a small splint and bound tightly, broken last week. “It’s only you I’m thinking about any time I—”

“Why!” Master snapped fiercely.

Inoue jerked, shocked at the sudden rage shown to him.

“Why do you show this affection! I beat you, I cut you, I kick the shit out of you daily!”

The redhead shook his head. “You give me a home. You feed me, take care of me, teach me, make me stronger, make me grow.” He turned so that he was on his side, and looked up into the angered face. “You’ve done more for me than anybody in my life.”

Master stared at Inoue for a long, hard minute, eyes narrowed. “Get up,” he finally said under his breath.

A tremor went through the teen’s body as he sat up. He’d never heard that tone of voice in Master before. Was he going to get a lashing worse than any he’d ever imagined? Was Master going to kill him once and for all?

“Pants off.”

Inoue moved to take his pants off without hesitation. Hesitation, in Master’s point of view, meant fear. Fear meant weakness. Weakness meant worse punishments.

He returned to sitting on the bed, completely nude, his long hair spilling over his shoulders. It reached the middle of his back now; it would have to be cut soon. Even Master kept his hair to just past his shoulders.

Master leaned forward, pushing Inoue onto his back, holding him down against the mattress by the shoulders. Pale hair shadowed either side of his face, and he stared hard at Inoue. The redhead gasped softly as he looked up and saw the expression Master was making.

It was identical to the one he’d made so long ago, when the boy had attempted to wipe away his blood in an act of kindness.

He released the teen’s shoulders and slid down further on his body, pushing the slender legs apart and taking a seat between them calmly, staring at the muscled flesh he’d trained, as though it was the first time he’d seen it in his life.

Inoue's breathing came quicker as he realized he wasn’t being set up for punishment, but appraised for something more. Was his request finally going to be fulfilled? His cheeks flushed as his cock began to respond to the heavy hands resting on his thighs, twitching and coming to life.

And still, Master didn’t move; only his eyes tore over the body, and Inoue could hear the man’s increased breathing as well. The mere thought of what could possibly happen beat in Inoue's veins, coursed through them endlessly, and he was completely hard before long, still held firm with the gripping hands on his thighs. “Master…” he pleaded softly, wary of touching himself before the man, though he ached to.

Or even, to touch the blonde himself, if he dared think that way.

The teen’s head rolled back and forth as he began to pant and the hands closed tighter on his legs, hurting him now, but he didn’t care. He gripped the sheets beneath him in turn, baring his teeth. “Master!” he hissed urgently, shuddering as his erection throbbed. This was madness!

The hands released him suddenly, and Master got off the bed, standing and squaring his shoulders, looking down at Inoue with a frown. “Dress yourself,” he ground out deep in his throat, hands fisting.

Inoue whimpered loudly, wanting to protest. He saw the bulge in Master’s training pants; he saw the lust in his eyes! Why was he holding back?

“Please!” He was reduced to pleading; how pathetic. “Please, Master, I’m begging you!”

“Inoue, you don’t know anything!” Master growled, near a yell, furious eyes set on his apprentice. “Don’t ask this of me!”

“When?” the redhead begged, sitting up, wary of standing and posing a challenge. “When! Tell me when, or what I have to do for you to give me this!”

Never!” Master bellowed back, taking a step closer to him and closing his hand around Inoue's thin neck, holding him still but not choking him.

In response, Inoue reached forward daringly, slowly, giving Master time to retaliate if he wanted to. When no hand struck out at his, he touched his fingers against the cloth between the teen’s fingertips and Master’s own erection, pressing tightly against the confines of his pants.

The hand around his neck tightened, and it only spurned him further; the younger man turned his hand and took the entire length in his hand, cupping it firmly, staring up at the stormy blue gaze daring him to try anything further, ready to snap his neck.

Fuck me, the boy pleaded silently. Fuck me!

Before he knew what had happened, Inoue was thrown on the bed, and being rolled onto his stomach. His hips were pulled back until his legs went over the edge of the mattress, and his knees came to rest on the floor. The teen gasped as his legs were pulled apart quickly, and a heavy arm rested across his shoulders, pressing against the fresh stitches.

Inoue gasped and bit back a groan of pain, then his body jerked again as he felt Master’s other hand slide down his back, caressing the stitches with a feather-light touch, making them sting, then across one taut cheek and between his legs.

The teen shuddered as one finger slid up into him slowly, and he felt Master’s stomach pressed to his back, the hot breath on his neck. “Inoue…” the deep voice growled out, as though he was about to begin a lecture.

“Master!” the redhead replied in a plea, parting his legs further as he saw stars in his vision from the pain of the forearm pressing down on his wound. He tried to turn his head to look back at his Master, but the arm moved quickly and pushed his head back, denying permission to watch his assaulter.

The digit moved back and forth slowly, plunging deep within Inoue, making the teen shiver. He pressed his face into the blankets since he wasn’t allowed to look back at his Master, and his hips bucked as a second finger pushed into him. This was far different from the only other time he’d asked Master to give him what he needed.

“You’re a demon,” the blonde whispered viciously into Inoue's ear, making the teen’s skin prickle as he pushed his hips back and moaned, trying to impale himself further on the searching fingers. He wasn’t allowed much room to move; Master kept him pinned in place with his arm fixed firmly on Inoue's back, pressing hard on the laceration.

The pain rang through his body, spreading out from his back all the way to his fingers and toes, and he barely noticed as the fingers drew out from him. Inoue did notice, however, as he felt the head of his Master’s cock pressed against his entrance; his eyes widened and he took a sharp breath as the man pushed forward, leaning his weight on the youth’s back heavily.

Ahhh!” the redhead released a cry, both from pain and pleasure, lifting his face from the blankets and digging his nails into them, squeezing his eyes shut as he felt the hot column of flesh push all the way into him. “Master!” he wailed, trying to turn his head back once more, and again having it pushed away, demanding he only face forward.

“Silence!” the blonde hissed in his ear, as his hand slid around Inoue's waist and took hold of his unattended erection, squeezing it firmly.

It was an impossible request, but Inoue did his best to obey as the man drew out of him, excruciatingly slow. When he pushed forward once more, Inoue pressed his face back into the sheets and released a muffled cry into them, dragging his nails down the satin and straining to push his legs open further, wanting to draw the man into him.

He couldn’t demand Master go faster, or push harder! He couldn’t say a word, as the blonde repeated the motion once more, slightly faster.

A whimper bled from his lips as finally the body behind him began to move faster; he felt the smooth, muscled stomach pressing against his back, and the throbbing length inside of him found a rhythm, thrusting deeper and harder. He struck the place within Inoue that made him see more stars than he already did thanks to the pressure on his wound, and the youth wailed, tears coming to his eyes.

Master’s grunts, Master’s panting, Master’s thrusts…!

Inoue thought he would go mad. He wanted to turn, wanted to see the beautiful man’s face, if not be able to watch him directly! He wanted to see what expressions Master was making, and watch his body move. The hand around his cock moved faster as well, mimicking the pace of the one thrusting harder into him, and the teen knew he was weeping with pleasure now, feeling the warmth of the damp blankets covering his face.

He didn’t think he could feel any more pleasure and pain at once; this was just like the first time! The agony of his injuries was doubling and tripling the heightened pleasure flooding his body—and then he heard it.

Master growled it out, barely audible, but he said it; “Inoue…”

He writhed on the bed, arching his back, pushing up harder against the arm pressing down on him, pushing back towards the ramming cock, biting down on the cloth blinding him, filling his mouth, choking him. Master! he cried out into the blankets, as he came with a shudder, his muscles aching and his back on fire with pain.

The rough hand stroked him until there were no more droplets of his release to be milked out, and moments later he heard a restrained snarl, and felt Master’s release inside of him; felt the face pressed into his back and the silken hair brushing across his arms and shoulders. The hot breath on his skin made him tremble, and he shuddered in time with Master as the blonde withdrew from Inoue, completely pulling away from him.

Inoue heard his elder tying his pants back up quickly, and finally he was able to turn back around, and look up at the glorious sight. Blonde hair was left unruly and untied, resting over Master’s shoulders and some golden threads clinging to his face. His cheeks were tinged with slight rouge, and his skin was slick with sweat; his chest still rose and sank faster than normal, and he was staring hard at Inoue, standing firm.

“Sleep with me tonight,” the redhead whispered softly, still bent over the edge of the bed, unable to move just yet.

“You’re the devil himself,” Master replied, glancing over the wound he’d just finished stitching and agonizing, and glad to see no new sections had been torn open.

Master lifted Inoue carefully, up onto the bed, covering him with the blankets he’d tossed about. He then slid under them himself, leaving his pants on, and lying flat on his back, arms above his head. It was the position he took whenever he needed silence to think.

The redhead didn’t push his luck and try to get closer to the man, or put his arm around him. The one and only time Master had ever held him was the night he had gone into shock, and that was because he needed warmth.

So, he lay on his stomach, though he did turn his head and face Master, watching him in the darkness, seeing the fine sculpt of his face in the moon’s pale rays from the skylight above.

“Tomorrow you go on your first mission,” Master finally said, an hour later, startling Inoue from his near-sleep. “You’re more than trained for it, it’s the simplest of jobs, but I chose it for a reason. Goodnight.”

Inoue opened his mouth to speak, but a glare from Master closed it once more, and he watched as the blonde sat up and got out of the bed, walking across the floor and leaving the room soundlessly, leaving the door open behind him.

He heard as the shower was turned on, and sighed heavily, pulling the blankets higher on himself and closing his eyes.

His first mission…

There was a sharp pang of discomfort in his stomach as he realized what that meant.

Inoue would take a life.

Memories of Daniel and the attacker flooded him, images he’d become rather good at forgetting in the last months, and the redhead trembled in the bed, clutching at the pillow Master had been resting his head on and pulling it to himself, hugging it fiercely.

He would do it, of course—but that didn’t mean he’d feel any better about it. This was his final test to Master, he knew; this would determine whether the months of training and time spent had been worth it. Whether or not the teen would live as a killer or die a failure.

The room felt suddenly cold as he lay there, imagining what it would be like to take a life again. It wouldn’t be for defence this time—it would be a completely cold-blooded murder for hire.

The red-headed youth fell asleep with a pained expression etched on his face.



“Up. Dress, now.”

Inoue took a sharp breath and sat bolt upright, eyes wide and lips parted. He didn’t remember falling asleep, and the look on Master’s face told him he’d slept in as well. He got out of the bed and removed a pair of training pants and a t-shirt from his drawer in the dresser, but when he glanced over and saw what Master was wearing, he clenched his jaw and remembered.

The blonde was in his black jacket, black pants and black long-sleeved shirt—it was a mission day. That meant Inoue had to don the clothes of the trade for the first time as well. He reached for the special pants and shirt that Master had provided him with a month ago, and put them on quickly, followed by black socks and heavy boots. The blonde handed him a new jacket, and pulled Inoue's hair back in a ponytail, keeping it out of his eyes.

His heart was pounding in his ribcage as Master remained silent.

No stretches today? No breakfast? Nothing?

He supposed not. Those things would give him time to build up more fear, and think over what he was about to do. It was probably for the best.

“Let’s go,” Master said quickly, handing Inoue two thigh-strapped blades and a hunting knife.

They left the apartment at six forty-four that morning, according to the clock on the wall that Inoue glanced as he closed the door behind him, his heart in his throat.