Second Alliance – Chapter 21

Back to Chapter 20: A Mother’s Love

Chapter 21: A Miko’s Worth

Kagome stumbled behind the guards that had come to fetch her shortly after dawn broke, glittering on the water far below her window. She was exhausted, her eyes felt gritty, and her back was stiff from sleeping against the stone wall of her room. Cell, idiot, it’s a cell. You’re a prisoner, and every time you heal one of these – these bad guys, you are helping the enemy. She sucked in a deep breath and tripped on the last step, falling into the soldier in front of her. Her palms slapped against his armor, but he didn’t do more than slow her fall as he jumped out of her way to avoid touching her past that first, accidental brush. Her knees hit the floor and a painful shock reverberated up her thigh bones.

She gritted her teeth to keep from crying out in pain, or yelling at the coward that was too afraid of purification to catch her when she fell. She was stuck in the situation, at least for the time being. She had to wait it out until an opportunity – to escape, or attack, or something – presented itself. She had been afraid, with Gakuto and Arashi, that her power would fail her if she attacked. She had been afraid, in front of the Dragon Lord, that her reiki would not be enough, even if she was completely well. Then she had begun the healing, and her body tired quickly. Her well of power remained nearly full, and she could feel Sesshomaru’s youkai inside her as well, warming her and helping her power to recharge. No matter how much reiki she could feel humming inside her, she wasn’t certain she could have purified a single, average demon in her current state. That rankled.

Kagome had just determined that she wouldn’t stand around helplessly and wait for a rescue anymore; she had concluded that sometimes, discretion was the better part of valor. Strength was good, she still wanted to do everything she could not to let the dragons know she was afraid, but she also needed to get the hell out of the North. Escape was her priority, and if she brought honor to the West in the process, that would be a nice bonus. Honor, however, wouldn’t mean much if she was dead.

She straightened her shoulders as they approached the reception room where she had been the day before. So far, she had only healed injuries that were created expressly to test her. She could argue that she hadn’t actually made the dragons any stronger – her power had just continued the status quo. That wouldn’t last forever, though. Eventually, Ryukostokken would order her to do something that would harm Sesshomaru, directly or indirectly, and she couldn’t do that. She refused to do that.

The doors opened, and she was roughly prodded into the room with the handle end of a spear. Kagome was grateful she had been working so hard to control her emotions. She probably would have peed her pants otherwise. In the center of the room was a dragon. Smaller than I imagined it would be, she thought wildly. It was the size of a family van, and covered in dark yellow scales the color of old brass. It’s head swung around towards her as she stepped forward, peering at her with one huge orange eye. If Kagome hadn’t been very aware of how small she was in comparison, how soft and munchable, she would have sworn the beast looked afraid. What on earth does a ten ton dragon have to be afraid of?

Ryukostokken’s youki flowed across the room, a blatant reminder of who was in charge in the North. The Lord himself stepped around the dragon and greeted Kagome with an oily smile. “Step forward, little human. This is a great day for you.”

Another prod to her back made Kagome’s eyes narrow, but she refrained from telling the guard where to get off. Anger was beginning to stir within her again, and she could almost feel Sesshomaru’s cold fury as well. She wanted to borrow his mask, as she had before, but she couldn’t seem to manage it. If she was calm, she would think about the fangs the length of her arm and wings that would crush her if the dragon had a mind to do so. If she was calm, she would think about Ryukostokken breathing smoke on her face and digging his claws into her skin to see her flinch.

Kagome wasn’t calm, she was temperamental. She was full of passion and life, and a quick anger that could frighten her best friends. She needed to be strong, but she couldn’t be Sesshomaru. She had to find a way to survive, to irritate, if not defeat, their enemies, and she had to make it her own.

A great day,” the Lord repeated. “This is the day you prove your worth to the North.”

He laughed and the sound made Kagome’s skin crawl. He held out his hand, and a sword, the blade as long as Kagome was tall appeared in his hand. The edge was serrated near the hilt, and honed to a deadly edge near the tip. He spoke, in grating hisses, and the other occupants of the room drew back to the walls. The dragon flinched, but at a second command, it extended its wings. The leathery skin of one appendage brushed against her ankles.

Make this your great day, Miko no Mao.” He hefted the weapon and braced his feet. “Either a great day for you, or a pleasurable day for This One.”

His flat, black eyes slid over her skin with eager hunger and Kagome wanted to slap his face. How dare he? As a fifteen year-old, Kagome would have blushed in mortification and shame, tried to hide from his disgusting interest. The four years she had spend in the feudal era had changed her, matured her. She wouldn’t hide anymore.

A great day?” She said, with as much sarcasm as she could manage. “The day will be great for me when Sesshomaru uses your foul head as a chew toy.” She smiled.

Ryukostokken bared his teeth with a growl. As quick as his displeasure had come, it disappeared. “This One had not expected such defiance. Perhaps you will fail, and This One will enjoy breaking you.”

He jumped, in a high arc that seemed to defy gravity. His form slowed and hung in the air, elevated above the heads of those gathered below. It was not truly a jump, but a prelude to flight. Lamplight flashed across the surface of his weapon, and time stood still.

Kagome felt every pulse of her heart, each rasp of breath as it moved through her lungs. Her empty stomach tightened. She licked her dry lips. There was fear there, deep inside her, so much that she knew if she allowed it to surface it would overcome her. She recalled an image of Sesshomaru in her minds eye to combat that fear. Tall and proud, she doubted he felt fear. Shippo and Rin came to mind as well. They had felt fear, but they kept going. She bit the inside of her cheek, tasting blood, and focused on the present. She would not give in.

The moment before he struck, Kagome realized his intent. Her mouth opened in horror, but for a suspended instant in time, nothing happened. Then a scream of pain, too vast and deep to come from any human throat, pierced her ears. The wing fell, and she was sprayed in a thick wash of blood. The heavy bone and muscle thumped against the floor, twitching as though trying to reconnect with the body, but the sound was drowned out by the wail of the dragon.

Ryukostokken landed gently in front of her, blood spattering his kimono and hands. He met her eyes, and brought his blade to his mouth. A long, greyish-pink tongue lapped against the metal, tasting the energy of his own vassal. Kagome’s stomach churned, even though her mind was blank. His greyish-black hair danced around his shoulders as he licked, cleaning every drop. When he finished, he smiled at her, his teeth washed pink with blood.

Heal him, Miko,” he ordered. “Heal what This One has destroyed.”

He tipped his weapon towards her, tracing her obi with the point and drawing a slash through the rich silk. The blood spray from the wing beaded on her jaw and dripped onto her collarbone. She could taste the coppery red flavor on her lips. Ryukostokken had cut off the wing of one of his own men – just to test her. She wanted to jab out his eyes. She wanted to cry. Kagome wished she had an arrow, just so she could shoot him, then pull it out and shoot him again. She wanted to close her eyes and wake up back in her bed at home, and find it had all been a terrible nightmare.

He walked around her, and leaned over her shoulder to whisper in her ear, “Show This One your worth, your value to the North.” The pressure on his sword increased, and Kagome felt it prick her skin.

She stepped forward to get away from his blade, her knees shaking, but her voice was steady and strong with her disgust and anger, “My worth is my own, asshole.”

He followed her forward, his anger causing his youki to pulse with malicious intent. “You are human.” His breath was hot on her neck. Before she could lean away he spoke again, breathing smoke into her face that smelled of decaying meat. “You are nothing, unless youkai allow it.” He snapped his teeth at her, making her flinch, involuntarily. “You will do as This One commands. Your only choice is in how you will serve.”

The sword prodded her again, making another dart of burning pain on her lower back. Then he strode away from her, taking his place on the dais, near the dragon’s head.

Poke me again, you sick sonofabitch,” she muttered, finally shaking herself out of her stupor. “Where I come from, they still hang people for this.”

Her attention was drawn to the dragon. His sounds of agony had grown quiet, but his eyes were wide and his breath quick. As she drew closer, she could see that something had been applied to the wound, probably the same poison that had been used on the soldiers the night before, that did not allow it to close on its own. He was in terrible pain, had been disfigured, might never fly again, because of her.

How would it feel, to be able to fly, and then have it taken away? Kagome pictured Sesshomaru, soaring over Japan on his cloud. She couldn’t imagine how painful it would be for him if that ability was hampered in some way. She walked closer, taking careful steps to not tread on the dismembered wing or slip in the blood that was still running onto the floor.

Her power was flaring under her skin, begging for release. She could have easily turned it on the Lord – and then had the fight of her life on her hands as she was trapped in a stone room with twenty or so assorted soldiers and administrators. A vibration, like a low moan, rumbled in the room. Trapped with youkai soldiers, Lord Asshole, and a hurt, pissed off dragon. Great Plan.

Instead of attacking like she desperately wanted to do, she called her power softly. Her hands flared into pink light. The dragon flinched away, and Ryukostokken quickly reprimanded it by smacking the hilt of his sword against the beast’s nose. One orange eye and two small black ones followed her movements as she closed the distance and examined the wound.

Kagome let her hands hover over the gash, ten inches wide and more than four feet in length. That had been done, because she was there, because Ryukostokken wanted to test her. It was her responsibility. She closed her eyes.

The wound was burning the dragon with cold as the drop in temperature where the air entered the dragon’s body met the intense heat of the fire inside the beast. His thick hide was what kept him warm, it insulated the chemical heat that stirred in his belly. Once the scales and skin had been pierced, his body heat leached out into the cool air of the room. Muscles and tendons had been severed cleanly, as had the strong, hollow bones that supported the beast’s weight in the air. She could sense the nerve endings, raw and shooting pain signals to the brain with every breeze or twitch. She started with those.

Nerves. Long, thin threads of axons, wrapped in connective tissues and bundled together like cables with a protective coating. Blood vessels. Tissue and smooth muscle shaped into a flexible tube and spreading like tree branches into tiny capillaries. Bone. Marrow and osseous tissue twined and branchd like coral formations – full of tiny holes to make it lightweight but capable of immense support. Skeletal muscle. Myogenesis. She searched for and found germ cells and stimulated growth. Layers of keratin built one upon the other to create skin.

Kagome was distantly aware of sweat beading on her forehead and under her arms. The ache in her back grew more intense as she worked. After nearly an hour, she stepped back. A section of wing, two feet across and twelve inches wide, had been regrown. The flesh was still new and soft. She glanced at the orange eye. It had fallen to half mast, and the head rested on the floor, tongue out and panting. It was still in pain.

Good,” Ryukostokken drew her attention with his pleased tone. He grinned at her, showing his fangs, and licked his lips. “Complete it.”

This isn’t Kentucky Fried Chicken, you creep,” she replied. “I don’t have an extra wing under a heat lamp, just waiting around for this occasion. It takes time.”

He frowned at her unfamiliar turn of phrase, but it did not deter him. “It will take less time. A youkai can heal on his own – given centuries. This One has tested others of your kind – and been severely disappointed in the power of those mikos. Even with incentive,” he grinned and ran his tongue along his fangs as though remembering a favorite treat, “they were not able to accomplish…what was necessary for their survival.” Kagome wanted to stab out Ryukostokken’s eyes; it was clear that the lives of those priestess he had captured depended on healing youkai, and that the Lord had had no use for them when they failed. “If you do not do it faster, then you serve no purpose. You will finish before This One returns.” He tossed a command to his administrator as he left, “If she tries to leave, or ceases to work, cut off her foot. This One has no need for that part of her.”

Kagome glared at the spot where he had been standing, but the combined moan of the dragon and the way the administrator gripped his weapon made her turn away. The injury was awful. No matter what the dragon might have done in service to the North, he hadn’t deserved such mutilation at the hands of his leader. Injury for no reason other than to make her use her reiki… She would heal him, because she felt responsible for his pain. But the moment she found an opening, she would burn a hole right through Ryukostokken’s face. If it resulted in her death, so be it.

Shhhh,” she whispered. She ran her fingers lightly over the pebbly skin above the wound. The scales were hot and smooth, like river rocks. An orange eye blinked at her, warily. “I’ll try to be gentle.”

Hours later, Kagome slumped to the floor, exhausted. Her reiki was quiet and still, not even sparking when several soldiers crept closer to push her out of the way with their weapons and inspect her work. The room was full of dusky shadows. How long have I been at this? she wondered.

Before her lay two wings. The one Ruystokken had removed was dark brass and splattered with blood, cold and lifeless. Shiny, new gold scales covered the one she had grown and it thrummed with heat and life. The dragon was asleep – exactly what Kagome would be doing if she wasn’t surrounded by the enemy. The administrator looked over the wing, as perfect as she could make it, down to the deadly claw at the end, and sniffed at her.

You will come with me.” He snapped his fingers and two guards came to attention.

They poked her several times to stand, but between her exhaustion and the sticky, slick mess on the floor she couldn’t manage it. The administrator finally ordered them to carry her. One guard slipped his arm around her waist and lifted her to stand, while two more guarded her – in front and behind.

Take her to the Sunset Chamber.”

The administrator disappeared, and Kagome tried to wake herself up enough to think of a plan. If she could get a weapon away from one of the guards, she might be able to… No way, maybe I’d get lucky and kill these three, but others would come, and I can barely walk. If they had a dagger she could lift without anyone noticing… Yeah, right. Pickpocketing is right up there in my skill set with fencing and judo. Kagome thought of and discarded several ideas before she was unceremoniously dropped against the wall in her cell. She resolved when she got back to the West she would demand Sesshomaru give her some training. Or maybe Hisao. Hell, Kento probably knew more about weapons than she did.

The door closed behind the guards, and she relieved herself in the small pot provided for her and leaned her head back against the cold wall to rest. Only a few minutes passed before it opened again.

Ryukostokken entered, followed by a light-haired demoness in a pale blue kimono. Two guards came behind, holding chains. Kagome scrambled into a standing position, fear and anger giving her a burst of energy. The Lord had smiled while he hacked his own soldier, and it was clear he intended to chain her.

Little miko,” he said with anticipation.

Kagome lashed out, but no matter how much adrenaline she had, she was no match for youkai reflexes. An iron bracer snapped around her wrist, and a sharp tug on the chain brought her to her knees. She managed to dig her nails into the thinner skin at the wrist of the second guard when he grabbed her. Her nails tore, embedded in the leathery surface.

In a matter of moments, she was secured, panting and struggling weakly, between the two guards. If she moved one way, the chain on the other side was pulled taunt. The iron cut into her wrists. Kagome gritted her teeth and did her best to burn holes through Ryukostokken with her eyes. She wished she had a weapon, anything, to charge with her power and gut the bastard. Or if he would touch her, she would let her reiki loose, regardless of the consequences. Whatever he was chaining her for, it wouldn’t be good. She would purify as many as she could, but she did not want to be at the sadist’s mercy.

He licked his lips with corrupt expectation. “That’s it, woman, struggle. This One enjoys the scent of your blood.” He leaned forward, close to her face, and his tongue flickered out. “Yesss,” he drew out the word and closed his eyes.

The sound of his enjoyment made her skin crawl and her stomach turn. She was fully dressed, but his gaze and the way he licked his lips made her feel naked in front of him. Kagome wanted to claw out his eyes; she strained against the hackles, and finding no give, spit in his face.

His response was a lightning-fast blow to her cheek with the hard lacquered sheath of his dagger. He growled, and wiped the spittle from his chin and looked at his palm. For a moment she thought he would strike her with his upraised hand, and she prepared her reiki. Instead, he smiled, and it sent a shiver down Kagome’s spine. “This One enjoys your spirit, but breaking it will be even more pleasurable.”

He circled around her and the guards, clicking his dagger in and out of the sheath. “You have been with the dog far too long; you do not know your place.” A hiss of steel precipitated a cool blade pressing against her forearms where they were stretched high and bare, as though she would be crucified for the dragon’s pleasure.

Ha,” she forced a laugh, “but I know yours. Right below Sesshomaru’s boot.” The eerie dancing of the sharp edge on her skin abruptly stopped. Her eyes widened and she gritted her teeth against the instinctive scream clawing up her throat as a white hot line of agony dragged along her arm.

His breath was in her ear, close enough to make her want to retch from the smell of whatever he had eaten – or roasted alive. “You will learn there are consequences for your actions, woman. You will mind your tongue.” The dagger slipped along her other arm, drawing another line of blood. She couldn’t help but whimper, anticipating the cut and the pain that would accompany it. “This could have been a great day.”

He inserted the sheath between her back and the neckline of her shirt. She bucked, trying to bend away, but it resulted only in the cuffs cutting into her wrists and her clothing parting and loosening around her – baring her shoulders and upper chest. Fortunately, the angle of her arms kept it from revealing her breasts completely. He walked in front of her again, obviously enjoying the taste of her on his weapon before tossing it to the floor at his feet.

She glared at Ryukostokken, successfully containing the tremor in her voice, “I take it you weren’t pleased with my performance with your dragon friend? No flowers? No coins?”

On the contrary,” he practically purred. His eyes were half-lidded and his mouth parted slightly. Something in his face stopped Kagome’s struggles, her sarcastic defiance, cold. He was enjoying himself. The Dragon Lord was – Kagome thought she might be sick.

Ryukostokken had a large bulge in his pants, clearly aroused by the pain he’d inflicted. He pressed a hand to his own growing erection and made a short sound, and the demoness stepped forward from the cue. Her face was smooth and beautiful, her lips red and full. Her eyes were a solid white. The milky, swirling surface did not shift to look at what she was doing. Kagome realized she was blind.

This One is most satisfied with your skill, Miko. The display of your power was…stimulating.” He made short work of his obi, folding it and laying it carefully on the floor. “Your worth has been proven, for now. But This One will be forced to deny himself the pleasure of your body for today. Fate has not seen to grant This One your skill and your wet heat.”

He gave a malicious grin in her direction as he slipped out of his kimono and settled it on top of the obi. “Do not worry, This One will consider a solution so that he may have both.”

The medical practitioner in her catalogued the pox scars on his face and arms, the strange distortion of his ribcage. The instinctive, survival-driven part of her was screaming. She very much doubted he had chained her and stripped so that she could examine him. So this is what fight or flight response feels like. The inappropriately timed though floated through her head as he untied his hakama. He seized the demoness by her hair, digging his claws against her scalp and pulled her back against his nearly naked body. He groped her through her kimono, and Kagome felt a surge of horror and anger welling up inside her. He’s going to rape her!

You have lived with the dog, so you are chained like a dog. Watch closely, woman. Pay attention, because This One will envision your body in place of hers.”

His clawed hand found her nipple and pinched it between the sharp points of his thumb and index finger. The female bit down on a cry before it could escape, and red blossomed across her kimono where he had pierced the cloth and her sensitive skin. His eyes fastened on Kagome’s breasts, and he frowned. He threw the demoness to the floor, and stalked forward again. This time she pulled back, kicking out to fend him off. He avoided her limbs, but her movements loosened her shirt further. The obi he had cut while he taunted her about the injured dragon could not stand up to the activity, and fell apart. Kagome felt her cheeks burn with anger and humiliation as her clothing parted, revealing both breasts.

The Dragon Lord licked his lips and caressed himself again as he stepped back, his eyes fastened on her breasts. “This One can not claim you until you have fulfilled your new duties to the North. But you shall not be denied for long. See what will be waiting for you, the moment you hesitate to use your power to aid This One.”

He reached down and grabbed the female youkai by the arm, hauling her to her feet. His free hand ripped through the pale blue kimono and the demoness struggled. It was a paltry, almost involuntary response, but the twisting of her hips and the way she bent away from him had painful consequences. Kagome screamed obscenities at the dragon, trying desperately to draw his ire away from Ko with no success. He snarled, and his claws dug deeper into her hair until blood ran down her neck. His other hand flung aside the remains of her clothing, leaving her completely nude in the freezing room, and grabbed her throat. He squeezed, until her face went red, then purple.

She turned a dark shade of blue before Kagome could stand it no longer. “Stop, please, stop! You’re killing her!”

Ryukostokken met her gaze and held it while he dragged his tongue along the female’s shoulder. She shuddered, and closed her eyes, but did not attempt to move away. His hand found her other breast, and that one he squeezed as well, bruising the soft flesh and grinding his palm down, hard. His hips bucked against her bottom, and his mouth fell open, panting. His eyes were still fastened on Kagome’s breasts.

Do not worry for her, little Miko. She has her place as well, and she is most satisfied with it. Are you not, Ko?”

The demoness did not answer, she could not, without any air.

Let her go!” Kagome strained against her chains, reiki flaring at her fingertips, but useless without a weapon or an enemy within reach. She couldn’t sit by, she couldn’t watch him do it.

Perhaps you are right.” He released his hold, and the demoness fell to her knees, gasping. Ryukostokken picked up his dagger while he considered his victim. “That was longer than the last time.” He stalked around the female, and then moved behind Kagome again, avoiding her kicking legs.

Don’t fucking touch me, you sicko,” she snarled.

His breath was on her shoulder, his eyes leering down at her bare flesh. Kagome froze in horrified disgust. His sheathed dagger appeared in front of her, rubbing across her sternum and under one breast to heft its weight before letting it fall back to her chest with a bounce. He trailed the cool lacquer over her nipples, already rock hard in the cold air. “What do you think, Miko? This one believes she has become used to such treatment. Something new then?” He did not wait for her response, but trailed the weapon across her neck and returned to the demoness.

He fell to his knees behind the still gasping female. He gripped her thigh with one claw, digging into the smooth flesh to pull her back towards him. Ko fought; she could not seem to prevent herself from doing so. Kagome strained at her own bonds, as though she could add her strength to the woman’s battle. It was not enough.

Blood, dark and thick, oozed from the puncture marks made by his claws and stained the pale skin of her thigh. A palm between her shoulder blades pushed her roughly to the floor. When Ko’s hand pressed against the wood to give her leverage, he seized it and twisted it behind her back, leaving the dagger on the floor at his side. Her cheek slammed down, and Kagome could hear the sickening crunch of bone. Her sightless eyes stared at the miko, her face expressionless, but her body still trying to pull away, to flee the assault she could not prevent.

No!” Kagome screamed, and Ryukostokken pumped himself with one hand while he pinned Ko with his other. His legs straddled one of hers, forcing her knees apart and preventing her from kicking him. He breathed heavily in anticipation and parted his lips, showing the miko his fangs. His penis was ashy grey like the rest of his skin, and appeared too thick for the small female. He released himself only to part Ko’s folds with cruel fingers. Kagome spit at him, desperately willing to try anything to get him to stop, to leave the woman alone. It fell short of its target, and the Dragon Lord laughed while his guards shifted uneasily, rattling the chains they held.

Watch closely, Miko,” he said. He stroked himself once more, running his eyes across Kagome’s straining body, making her feel exposed. “When your power no longer serves the North, this shall be your place. Learn it well.” He thrust into Ko, and she cried out, earning her a devastating blow to her ribs.

She was quiet after that, as was Kagome, although tears streamed down her face. Ryukostokken held her eyes, and when she tried to close hers against the sight, he dug his claws into Ko or twisted her arm harder. “Watch, Miko, or she will suffer more.” The thrusting went on, and when it appeared that Ko had grown numb to the pain, Ryukostokken withdrew, and replaced his member with his dagger. The enameled sheath was smooth, but it was much longer than his penis. A scream of pain was forced into the floorboards, and the Lord bellowed lustfully.

Kagome’s voice joined Ko’s in an involuntary scream. Bile rose in her throat – a mirror of the anger bubbling up inside her. Acts like that, what Ryukostokken was forcing on Ko, Kagome had never really believed that they happened. Assault on this magnitude was a frightening story, an exaggeration. It didn’t really happen. People couldn’t really be capable of such acts, but Ryukostokken was. The Dragon Lord debased the wind youkai in ways that Kagome would never have imagined, not in her worst nightmares. He defiled her in ways she would never be able to forget. Kagome wanted to kill him. With her own bare hands, willfully, eagerly, she wanted to end the Lord and his reign of terror.

The assault was not humiliating enough for Ryukostokken, or so it seemed, as he dislocated Ko’s shoulder to keep her in place and free both of his hands. He replaced the dagger with himself, gleefully pointing out to Kagome that the blood was hot and made Ko’s passage slicker. He spread her butt cheeks apart with his hands and rapidly forced the red-slicked dagger into that hole as well. Ko made a sound unlike anything Kagome had ever heard before. A muffled shriek of agony that resembled nothing so much as the desolate cry of the wind.

Kagome’s power surged in a righteous tide. Her fury was pure, and fueled by the raw maliciousness before her. This was her calling, this was the most basic tenant of mikos – to ease suffering and end evil. She cursed herself, even and she continued to struggle against her bonds. She should have trained harder, should have learned more about her offensive capabilities. Kagome had focused too much on healing since the threat of Naraku had been removed. She had foolishly believed that she would not need to fight any more. If she had been stronger, more skilled, she could have found a way to purify the degenerate psychopath to hell from across the room.

He spoke to Kagome while he raped the demoness. He spoke to her of his technique: what caused the most pleasure for him, what inflicted the most pain, the difference between the wetness of an aroused female and hot blood on his sick, debased erection. His eyes were always on the miko, sliding across her naked flesh with obvious hunger. He flipped Ko onto her back, leaving the dagger in place so that it was lodged tightly inside her and pressed deeper each time he rammed her into the floor.

He finally withdrew, both himself and his weapon, and sat the wind youkai up on his lap. Ko listed to one side, having difficulty struggling or even holding herself up with the wounds to her leg and her dislocated shoulder. He explained he did not want to finish too soon. A demoness could endure much more before death, or even passing out. He vowed that he would go much slower when it was Kagome’s turn, he promised that he would not injure her beyond recovery the first time he ‘tasted’ her pleasures, nor the second, perhaps not for many months. As long as he had another, like Ko, to slake his appetite before he came to the miko, he felt confident he could stretch her rape, her pain, over many, many sessions.

The descriptions, the disgusting fantasies that he used to torture the miko and drive himself to greater arousal assailed her ears until she would have done anything to block out the sound. Kagome had seen death. She had seen torture and murder and savage violence. Ko’s treatment was worse. It was not death, but a kind of living death. It was rape, not just of her body, but of her spirit. Ryukostokken was trying to break the wind demoness and he had nearly succeeded. She did not beg or plead, she endured. Kagome thought she had seen evil; she’d believed that there could be nothing on earth more vile than Naraku. Naraku who had used people, who took their hopes, dreams, lives, loved ones and had held them hostage.

Ryukostokken was far worse.

Something in Kagome changed in that room. A little piece of her, that part that was still the fifteen year-old girl who had fallen down the well and managed to wade through blood and destruction with a shred of innocence and naivete intact, that small, untouched corner of Kagome darkened. This is the world. Her cell, Ryukostokken, Ko – that was what existed in the world: pure evil.

There was no circumstance, no backstory, that would make the Dragon Lord’s actions excusable. There was no way to analyze and understand him. He wanted to cause pain – he reveled in it. He wanted to take everything that made those around him living, thinking creatures and twist it until there was nothing left but a shattered husk. Ryukostokken was the antithesis of Sesshomaru. Where Sesshomaru ruled to bring security to the West, Ryukostokken desired only to wield power over others, and he savored the pain of their broken wills in a way that made her spirit sick.

Ryukostokken entered Ko again, this time holding her on his lap so he could lick at the blood that streamed from her nipples. “It is not as sweet as your taste, Miko.” He glanced between Kagome and Ko, frowning. In a blur of movement, he raked his claws across Ko’s face, drawing three long lines of blood over each eye, from forehead to cheekbone. Ko gasped and closed her lids over the milky white color.

Better. Your blue ones will look beautiful filled with tears of pain, surrounded by blood. This One will like them best gazing up while your mouth is around his cock. Ko is already healing inside, tightening, but This One can imagine how much better it will feel with your pure flesh around him. This Ryukostokken will defile you, Miko.”

He was panting, devouring Kagome’s body with his eyes while he thrust his hips forcefully against the female youkai. “Every part of you will be marked by the Dragon Lord, in a way it never was by the impotent pup. Perhaps This One will let him see you again, before I kill him.” Each word brought him greater excitement. “He will smell dragon on your skin, between your legs, in your mouth and inside you. You-”

His face twisted with a strangely high-pitched moan as he finished. Although Kagome felt a lifetime had passed, his dissatisfaction at the quickness of the violation was evident. Ko’s white eyes, cast pink by the blood dripping into them, closed with defeat. Kagome had to bite her cheek to keep from vomiting. Ryukostokken pulled out, giving the wind youkai a shove to send her sprawling away from him. “She heals too quickly after each encounter. If she was not so tight, This One would enjoy himself longer.”

He stood, wiping himself on the remains of Ko’s kimono and leaving the wind youkai curled in a ball on the floor.

Release the miko after This One has gone,” he said to his guards. “Do not damage her, I may wish to repeat this activity yet tonight.” He tossed the semen and blood covered blue cloth onto the floor and began redressing, his eyes still on Kagome’s restrained form. He smiled contentedly at Kagome, as if sharing a much sought after secret, “There is a new prisoner that will revive This One’s lust, with appropriate incentive. Her mate’s pain will no doubt be sufficient.”

He folded his obi precisely, and stepped over to admire the miko’s exposed body once more.”If she does not survive long, This Ryukostokken will return and teach you more. Rest now, Miko. Ko will be ready again in a few hours, but it will be you, little human, who This One will think of when he enters her.”

He disappeared, and one guard held a spear at Kagome’s throat while the other removed her shackles. The moment she was free, she lunged after them. They were quick, and she earned a shallow cut on her shoulder from one of their weapons before they could close the door, locking her inside. Kagome beat against the wood, calling out profanities and promising death to the next person who came inside. Finally, she slid down.

Her voice was lost, her throat sore, but still a dark, bitter feeling that she had not known since Naraku churned inside her. She hated him. Ryukostokken deserved to die. He deserved to suffer for every malicious act of carnage he’d heaped upon the denizens of Japan. And Kagome would revel in the moment he was finally brought down by his own arrogance and cowardice.

A quiet shuffle behind her drew her attention. Kagome opened her eyes to see the wind demoness, Ko, pulling together the stained scraps of her clothing. Ko took no notice of her injuries, but felt around for something large enough to cover herself. Blood was drying on her neck and face. Her ribs were already bruising, one was clearly broken. Fresh red liquid seeped from the claw marks on her thigh, and down the insides of her legs, mixed with thick white fluid. How many times has he – Kagome cut off her own thoughts as bile rose in her throat. She hadn’t eaten recently, so her heaves brought up nothing but acid. Still, she wretched, trying to get the desperate, dark image of Ko and all she had endured at Ryukostokken’s hands out of her head.

She wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve and fumbled with her obi after gaining some of her composure back. “Here,” Kagome said quietly. She removed her ornate shirt. Untucked, it would reach nearly to Ko’s knees, she surmised. “It’s pretty bloody, but it’s all in one piece.”

Realizing that Ko could not see what she held out, Kagome crawled closer, trying not to sob when bloody, naked flesh shivered and flinched at the movement. She laid the cloth on Ko’s lap and sat back, turning her head to give her privacy. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

What have you to be sorry for?” Ko’s voice was gravelly, no doubt from her strangulation, but she still managed to inflict it with scorn. “The Denka takes what he wants, and has always done so. You have no effect on my circumstance. Why would you think yourself so important?”

I’m not – I don’t -” Kagome was at a loss for words. She understood Ko’s attitude, as well as someone who had never been so intimately victimized could understand. “I was not apologizing,” she said at last. “I was trying to let you know that I would do something to help you, if I could.”

Help?” Ko laughed shortly, ending in a hacking cough that brought pink spittle to her lips. She wiped her mouth carefully with a blood stained sleeve. “Can you bring my family back from Ryukostokken’s pox? Can you turn back time and kill that monster before he returned to Japan? No? Then do not speak of things which you know nothing about.”

Her bitterness stung Kagome’s heart, and made her hatred of the Dragon Lord stronger. He was the source of the disease; it disgusted her, and she was surprised she could feel any more contempt for the Lord than she already did. What is biological warfare in comparison to brutal, repeated rape? What is rape in comparison to genocide? She walked to the corner where a clay vessel and cup still sat, next to the chamber pot, and returned to Ko’s side.

I have water. I don’t know if it is poisoned, but you are welcome to some if you aren’t worried it-” The demoness grabbed the half-full cup Kagome pressed gently against her arm and gulped it down.

It doesn’t taste poisoned, but wait a few minutes and if I die, you’ll know.”

Kagome didn’t know what to say. Ko seemed to have lost all hope for life, for a time when her pain and humiliation would cease. And yet, she didn’t kill herself outright. She still fought, despite her situation. Even when it was clearly pointless, even though her body was acting without thought, she fought him. Kagome did not believe, she would not believe, that Ko had given up all hope – no matter what she said. If the demoness still had the will to fight against her rapist, even involuntarily, then she still had hope that the degradation would end – that she would one day escape. Kagome couldn’t believe that Ko had no chance to escape. If the situation was hopeless for a youkai who could fly, then Kagome might as well give in. She straightened her spine and pushed the disturbing images to the back of her mind. She would not give up hope. She was strong. Sesshomaru had said it: she was of the West. Even if Ryukostokken did that to her, she would not give up.

Kagome picked out the pieces of blue kimono that had managed to remain free of blood and semen and tore them into strips. She soaked a few in cool water, and folded it into a square pad. She considered infusing it with reiki, but she was already drained from healing the dragon, and Ko did not seem eager for her assistance.

Here, this will help.” She slipped the cloth between the front gap in her former shirt and pressed it gently against the broken ribs. Ko hissed, and seized Kagome’s raw wrist in a bruising grip. “If you let me wrap it, the pain will be less.”

The demoness paused, then gave a brief nod and released the miko. Kagome worked silently. When she was done with her ribs, she cleaned the wounds on Ko’s leg and neck, and dabbed gently at the deep scratches on the youkai’s face. She poured herself a drink of water, and once she had rinsed out her mouth and drank, she handed the refilled cup back to Ko.

So, why don’t you fly away?”

You don’t think I would, if I could?” Ko stiffened in anger.

Of course you would. So what keeps you from doing so?”

There was a long silence, which Ko broke with a curious tone, “Can you not tell that I am blind?”

Yes,” Kagome spoke slowly, “does that keep you from flying? I thought you might navigate by smell, or something…” She trailed off, suddenly wishing she hadn’t started the conversation. Ko had been through, well, more than anyone, even her worst enemy, should have to go through. It couldn’t feel good to talk about how awful her situation was. Unfortunately, blindness was the least sensitive topic available. Kagome had a brief wish for the days when her most emotionally challenging conversation concerned an unavailable hanyou and his undead ex-girlfriend.

I can fly,” Ko said shortly. She turned her head away and whispered, “I need another youkai’s eyes to guide me.”

Kagome felt a surge of hope. She glanced at the window, it was large enough for her, and Ko was slightly smaller. The sun was just beginning to dip along the horizon, it would be light enough to see for an hour or so yet. The snow was falling lighter than it had in days, she was sure she could see where they were going. She opened her mouth, trying to find the best way to ask another prisoner to escape with her, but Ko was already shaking her head.

Don’t bother. Even if I was healed enough to fly, and it will be a day or so with my ribs and shoulder like this, I need a youkai. That is how I know where to go. They send direction to me with their youki – they let me see that way.”

Oh.”

Both women fell silent, leaning against the wall. Kagome stared out the window, trying not to lose hope, trying not to let her desire to see Ryukostokken in pieces overwhelm her. He had too much to answer for. Sesshomaru would make him pay, she knew, but she wanted to be at his side when it happened. And she wanted Ko to be free as well. If Kagome escaped, but left Ko behind, she didn’t think she could live with herself, knowing – having seen – what Ko went through at the Dragon Lord’s hands. She shuddered. The silence was deafening, and she couldn’t stand it. So she did what she always did: she talked. Kagome spoke of what she knew of air currents and the design of a bird’s wing. She talked about biology and her difficulty with math classes, even when she was younger. She described her friends from home, and the silly coded notes they would pass to each other to avoid being caught.

Her throat was nearly raw when Ko interrupted her, “Why would you help me? You begged him to stop, I heard you, you…you cried for me. Why?”

Why wouldn’t I?” Kagome stared at her in shock.

I am a demon, you are a miko.”

So? What does that have to do with anything? Who could watch what he did and not react that way? I should have done more,” she chastised herself. “If I had a weapon, or if I had trained harder – I am so sorry I didn’t do more, Ko.” She tipped her head back against the wall, feeling tears of frustration pricking at the backs of her eyes. “Sango would have killed the guards before they could chain her,” she muttered. She sank into herself for several minutes, trying to find a way she could have done better.

Are you really his miko?” Ko asked quietly.

What?” Kagome was startled out of her own internal examination. Her reiki was still there, tired, running on reserves, but not hurt, and a little tendril of Sesshomaru’s youki remained as well. It felt comforting to have something of him with her. She tucked it into place and focused on Ko.

The,” her voice lowered and her sightless eyes flickered to the locked door, “the Saidai Mao. Are you his miko?”

I am my own,” Kagome answered sharply. Ko’s expression became withdrawn, and Kagome smiled in apology, even though she knew the demoness couldn’t see it. “But I am of the West, now. I guess if I belong to anyone here, it would be him.”

Ko leaned away, and a gentle breeze stirred around Kagome, lifting her hair and tugging at her clothes. The youkai’s eyes widened. “You want to be with him? Is he your-” she cut herself off and pressed a finger to her lips, nodding to the door. Nearly silent footsteps stopped outside, then continued on after a few seconds. Ko leaned close to Kagome’s ear and whispered, “Will the West take revenge on the North for this?” She gestured vaguely.

Kagome shook her head. “Not revenge,” she spoke as softly as she could. “Sesshomaru will kill Ryukostokken, because he deserves to die.” She stared into Ko’s wide, milky eyes, thinking about the pox, and the many ways it could scar a patient.

If you were to see your Lord, now, would you make certain of it?” There was something in her voice, something urgent and solemn that made Kagome reach out and grab her hands.

Sesshomaru will end this, I know it.”

Come, before the light is too far gone,” she seized Kagome’s hands with the strength of a youkai and pulled her to her feet. Ko hunched over her belly protectively and walked slowly. Her limp was prominent, and fresh blood still trailed down the insides of her legs, but she leaned against the wall and held her open hand out the window. A leaf, still green in the center but curled and browned along the edges, floated into her palm. “Lie still, and do not use your holy power. I will command the winds to take you as far as they can, but with this storm you might not make it all the way across the water. Can you swim?”

Kagome blinked, uncomprehending for a moment. “Yes,” she answered slowly, “I can swim, but-”

Good. Climb up onto the sill and-”

But you said you couldn’t fly without youki to help you,” Kagome blurted.

I cannot. But I can call the winds. I cannot say for certain where you will land, but it will be as close to the mainland and as far west as I can get you. When you reach the shore, stay quiet, and keep moving south and west. Ryukostokken’s troops are heading East, seeking a path through the chaos left in the wake of Kuren’s assassination to the Southern Lands. There shouldn’t be many soldiers for you to avoid.”

You – you would do this for me? You’ll be caught, he’ll know you helped me escape. I can’t, you’ll be punished.” Unbidden, the memory of his twisted smile as he thrust mercilessly into Ko came to Kagome’s mind, making her head ache and her stomach churn. “I can’t!”

You will,” Ko insisted, her face hard. “You will go, and you will make certain the Saidai Mao meets Ryukostokken in battle. Make sure he kills that wingless son of a whore!”

Youki swirled down Ko’s arm towards the leaf, and Kagome seized her hand drawing it back into the room. “Wait!”

Damnit! Are all humans so stupid! I am trying to help you,” she hissed.

Just give me a minute,” Kagome pleaded. She pressed her hands at the sides of Ko’s head, and called her power. Sluggish, her reiki answered, flowing up to her hands and seeping into the demoness. Ko’s eyes were scarred. Kagome could see the tough tissue wrapped around the nerves that sent electrical signals to the brain. The organs were alive, but filmy with mucus that built up from deformed tear ducts. She tugged, gently, and her holy power slipped along each fiber, sliding under the thick remains of Ko’s fight against the pox and stripping away the scars. Footsteps sounded outside again, startling her, and her reiki surged. Kagome jumped back, and Ko let out a tiny sound of pain. The miko ached with remorse. Twin spots of red flesh, burnt black at the edges, fanned out from Ko’s temples. The demoness stared at her. Pale green eyes wide with-

Pale green eyes.

I can see you,” Ko whispered. Kagome gave her an uncertain smile, relieved at least something had gone right and hoping the wind youkai would forgive her for the accidental purification. “I can see you,” she repeated. A smile lifted the corners of her lips, and Kagome was stunned by her beauty. The smile broke into a grin, and Ko jumped. The air bent and swirled under her to give her extra lift. She immediately sank back to the earth with an expression of pain, holding her ribs and squeezing her knees together.

Oh,” Kagome said, “let me just-” A wave of dizziness overcame her, and she had to lean against the wall to keep from passing out. “Give me a minute and I’ll take care of everything.”

No, you need to go. The guards will have sensed your reiki and report to Wei, the administrator. He will come to check on you.”

No, I can- I just need to-”

You need to go, before they come back.”

They’ll see your eyes and know I healed you.” Kagome watched, stunned as air swirled in from the open window. Cold moisture clung to her cheeks and hair, and circled Ko’s head before settling and thickening around her eyes. When it dissipated, they were milky white once more. “Oh, you shouldn’t have-”

It is just fog.” With a wave of her fingers the whiteness fell away, revealing green irises once more. “I can call it at will when there is enough moisture nearby. Now come,” she urged.

Kagome pushed away from the wall, and the moment she was upright, dizziness struck, and then she was falling, blackness closing around her vision. A leaf cushion, smelling of autumn and buzzing gently with youki, was waiting to catch her, and it curled around her as she sank into it in exhaustion. The last thing she saw was Ko’s pretty green eyes.

Stay quiet, and remember this: black for treason, blue for danger to your allies, red for attack. Say it.” Kagome mumbled the words, uncomprehending, but learning the mnemonic device easily. The light was fading, and Ko’s lips pressed against her forehead. “If you are of the West, Miko, then tell your Lord you have made allies today. And tell him Ryukostokken should suffer for what he’s done.”

Chapter 22: Eloquence

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