Second Alliance – Chapter 4

Back to Chapter 3: What Will Be Mine

 

Chapter 4: My Actions Are My Own

“Please, at least try to be reasonable, Inuyasha,” Kagome pinched the bridge of her nose and counted to ten. She expected her friend to object, with extremely foul language, to her plan to travel by air with Sesshomaru and have the others follow once the village was secure against the disease. Actually, it had been the daiyoukai’s plan, and it hadn’t been a plan he proposed so much as the only course of action. It was a good thing Kagome agreed that haste was a priority, because she doubted that Sesshomaru would have done anything differently if she had refused.

Unfortunately, Inuyasha hadn’t just objected, he outright demanded that she travel with him. “You ain’t goin’ with that bastard, and that’s final.” He crossed his arms, as if the conversation was over.

She could feel an eye tick coming on. Inuyasha meant well. He honestly thought that Sesshomaru would not protect her as well as he could, because of the daiyoukai’s well-known hatred of humans. “Inuyasha-” she began, but was cut off.

“What’s he gonna do if he’s attacked in the air? Keh. Drop you, probably. And what if those snotty assholes at his castle don’t like having a human hangin’ around their ice prince? He gonna protect you from all of ‘em? Or you gonna fend for yourself against a bunch of fuckin’ demons?”

“Rin is human, and she seems to get along fine.”

“She’s a kid, Kagome!” Inuyasha exploded. “They see him bring home a human woman and they’ll think he’s gonna shame the West like father!” He obviously hadn’t intended to say that, but his temper got the better of him. The hanyou’s mouth snapped shut and he turned away, face burning. Kagome felt her heart twist for him. She imagined how awful it must be to be hated for something you can’t control. Even worse, to think that your own father was disgraced by your birth.

She wanted to comfort him, but, unbelievably, Sesshomaru beat her to it. “All in the West will respect the miko as an honored guest, and as the protector of the Shikon, or they will answer to This One.” His voice dropped a few degrees, “Do not presume that This Sesshomaru is no more capable of defending against attacks than yourself. The miko will come to no harm.” He turned away, clearly expecting Kagome to follow, and tossed a final, quiet observation over his shoulder. “Inu no Taisho was not shamed by fathering a hanyou. His disgrace was in keeping a concubine, in her father’s house, while he remained mated to another.”

Kagome’s eyes bounced between the two brothers in shock. Inuyasha was still, mouth open and red-faced. Sesshomaru continued to move toward his group with the same measured stride he used for patrolling his lands or stalking prey.

She wondered if the demon lord had finally gotten over his hatred of humans. Certainly, he still found them weak and, for the most part, offensive, but his words implied that he had distanced what he felt were the sins of Inuyasha’s mother from the entire human race. Kagome tried to imagine how it would have felt, to see your own mother cast aside while your father courted another. And apparently the Dog General had never divorced – if that was something demons could do – Sesshomaru’s mother, nor had he really legitimized his relationship with Izayoi. Kagome had a lot to consider.

Inuyasha must have been drowning in revelations as well. His brother had all but admitted that he didn’t care that Inuyasha was hanyou, and at the same time called their father’s honor into question. They both had a lot to consider. Perhaps, when Inuyasha arrived at the castle, the brothers could be convinced to speak further. It could do them both good. Kagome rolled her eyes at the thought and shook herself out of her stupor. She never minded her role as peacemaker, but getting Sesshomaru and Inuyasha to have a calm conversation about their parents was not a task anyone in their right mind would take on.

“As soon as the wall is done, follow us to the West,” she hugged her friend impulsively, earning an absent pat on the back from Inuyasha and an irritated ‘hn’ from Sesshomaru. “I better not keep him waiting.” She smiled, and waved to Sango, Miroku, Kirara and Kaede before jogging over to her new companions. Shippo and Jaken bookended Rin on Ah-Un. She frowned. She wasn’t sure there was room for her, unless Shippo sat on her lap. She picked up her bag and moved towards the dragon.

“Miko,” Sesshomaru commanded her attention. “Come here.”

“You know, Sesshomaru-sama, a ‘please’ every once in awhile can go a long- oomph.” He tugged her against him with more force than was necessary. Her irritation at being manhandled won a narrow race with embarrassment from being so close to him. “Excuse me, I-”

“Hold on,” he ordered without looking at her. Cool air circled around her leggings, making the thin cotton feel even thinner. She tried to look at her feet, but Sesshomaru’s arm kept her secure against his side. She leaned her head back as far as she could, prepared to tell him off, and found that they had risen well above the trees in Inuyasha’s forest. She gasped and latched on to Sesshomaru. She gripped his armor with one hand and circled the other around his back, clutching a handful of clothing under his hair. If she hadn’t been plastered against him, she might have missed the vibration in his chest. She narrowed her eyes.

“Are you laughing at me, Sesshomaru-sama?”

“You are afraid of flying,” he observed dryly.

“I’ve flown lots of times, Sesshomaru,” she responded. She squeezed as much sugar into her voice as she could manage. “It isn’t the height that bothers me, it’s the service.” He didn’t respond to that, but only stiffened. She sighed, “Try giving me a little warning next time.” She had seen Sesshomaru use his cloud before, and it looked substantial enough. She prodded around with the toe of her boot. Sesshomaru shifted, and she almost lost her grip, her foot sinking into what felt like thick mud. He growled, and the heat of his youki warmed her boot and licked along her calf, pushing her feet back into place on the ‘ground’.

“Miko,” he warned, “be still.”

“Right,” she laughed shakily. They were far above the land, moving at a pace that whipped her ponytail around her shoulders and stung her cheeks with cold air. “I’ll be more careful.”

She glanced over her shoulder to see the children, securely holding on to each other and Jaken. Both kids were wrapped in a blanket on Ah-Un’s back. She shivered, although her front was warm enough where she pressed against the daiyoukai, her back and legs were freezing. Kagome was determined to just bear it, but she didn’t have to. A length of white fur draped heavily onto her shoulders and curled around her waist. The end nearly reached her ankles, and it seemed unaffected by the wind. Within moments she was toasty warm.

“Thank you, Sesshomaru-sama,” she whispered. After such an unexpected kindness, the respectful honorific he deserved came easily and without sarcasm.

“Hn.”

ooo

Sesshomaru was not one to lie to himself, or shy away from examining uncomfortable issues. He strove for perfection in all things, and had achieved it in most. Ignoring potential weakness or failure was counterproductive. There had been no need to carry the miko. Her weight was nothing to his dragon, even combined with the two children and Jaken. He barely repressed a frown. Others might see his action as bestowing favor on the human woman, or even believe it would tarnish his honor to bear her upon his cloud – acting as her transport. He let out a short breath, almost a snort, although he would never admit to such a sound. He chose to carry her, he could choose not to at any time. The opinions of others were irrelevant. His honor was his own, and if it pleased him to carry the miko, his ward, or the severed heads of his enemies, he would do so.

If those at his castle, or any in the Western Lands, believed he favored the miko, then that was right. It was the truth. Certainly, there was no other human he would allow so close to his person, excepting Rin.

Sesshomaru considered his reasons. The miko was apart from, above other humans. She was the Shikon Priestess. She stepped across time. She had a disregard for race that defied every convention he had known of humans or demons. She trusted. Everyone. Everything. Until proven wrong, and sometimes more than once, she trusted others in a way that only a naive child could do. But she was also immensely powerful and did not hesitate to protect her friends, or those she deemed innocent, even if it resulted in death at her hands. She had not flinched when the final blow was needed to destroy Naraku. Now that he understood where she had come from and what the completion of the Shikon had meant for her, and her place in his world, her bravery was more impressive.

He alone decided who was deserving of his favor, and he chose the priestess – the future miko. Kagome. The wind whipped through her hair and blew it against his cheek. It brought with it her scent – magnolia and cherry wood with a thread of citrus he knew to be excitement, and the faint, persistent scent of his half-brother. It irritated Sesshomaru – and that did make him frown. She would smell like the hanyou. They were nearly always together, she often rode on his back. Still, he could not shake the prickling anger that the musky scent of Inuyasha, layered over the miko, brought out in him.

Why should his scent not irritate me, as the hanyou himself does? That logic was reasonable, but it did not soothe his tension. She shivered, and he became aware of the dropping temperature as they rose higher and the speed of the wind as it passed by. Cold did not affect him as it did others, even other demons, as his immense youki was constantly simmering under the surface. The children had a blanket, but a human woman – dressed improperly as usual – would not fare well.

She shivered again, and Sesshomaru twitched his mokomoko over her shoulders. The miko was small, the top of her head just below his shoulder, and the white fur was large enough to cover her entirely. It lay across her back, curled around her waist tightly and secured itself against her legs, completely blocking out the cold air.

“Thank you, Sesshomaru-sama,” she said quietly.

He nodded, acknowledging the appropriate respect in her tone that was absent more often than not. “Hn.” They continued in silence for a time. He was absently aware that she was bored, fidgeting slightly and then stilling once she realized what she was doing before repeating the process. He did not take time to examine the mild amusement her guilty motions inspired in him. Instead, he focused on his senses, guarding against attack from any quarter and monitoring Ah-Un and the dragon’s passengers. He kept his youki tightly controlled, as usual, to limit the chances of detection. He was pleased that her reiki was also hidden, although how she managed to contain such massive power with no apparent thought or will was a question he would pursue when the opportunity presented itself. He was just beginning to wonder how much longer she could contain her restlessness when she spoke.

“Sesshomaru-sama,” her voice was even, but markedly more formal and polite than he had come to expect from her. It did not bode well. “Would you reconsider my offer to inoculate you?”

“No.” He dismissed her medicine as he had done the first time and instead turned his mind to the advancements of her era. She claimed there were many billions of humans in her time. Such healing knowledge would allow them to-

“Sesshomaru,” she interrupted his thoughts. This time he could smell her irritation building. Inuzansho pepper. That pleased him. He almost smiled, but held it back. It would not do for her to think that it amused him when she questioned his decisions or actions. “This strain of smallpox is deadly to youkai as well as humans and if you-”

“This Sesshomaru will not succumb to disease, miko.” His chastisement did not seem to have any effect.

“But I-” He released a ribbon of energy that threaded through the high tail of her hair and wrapped around her neck and shoulders in warning.

“You would do well to remember that the Western Lord is no insignificant demon. This Sesshomaru is daiyoukai, and the poison in these veins is surpassed in power only by the blood alongside it.”

Hrumph,” she frowned and rolled her eyes at him. “Such ego,” she muttered. “I guess if you were going to get sick, it would have probably happened already, since you have been so close to Rin.”

He knew that the disease would not dare affect him, but he would not disabuse her of her notions if it kept her from foolishly insisting on the medicine. His youki slackened, but he did not withdraw, allowing it to rest against her skin, exposed as it was by her strange unfastened coat and immodestly low-cut shirt. Her future clothes. She brushed one hand against the youki, pressing it against her flesh and sending a tendril of her own reiki to travel along the ribbon back to him.

Had it been anyone else, the action would have been deliberate and he would have given them painful notice that such displays of power were disrespectful and ineffective. There was no doubt that the miko did it unconsciously. He was certain that not only would she never think to raise her reiki against him, but that she would be embarrassed if she realized that she had done so.

He examined the effects with interest. Once again, he received no hint of purification. A faint, fresh salty scent tantalized him. Gentle warmth, akin to a sunny day, trailed along his own threads of power and washed against his skin like ripples on a pond breaking against a stone. His power rose in response and an eager feeling began to grow. Her reiki matched him, calling his power out and growing in heat and intensity.

He slanted his gaze down at her. The miko’s eyes were wide and unfocused. Her breathing was slow and deep, her heartbeat heavy. Green light, his energy made visible in its growing magnitude, pulsed between them and her potent, intoxicating purity responded. The hand that clutched the back of his clothing relaxed, her small fingers kneading into his muscles. Her lips parted and her head fell back, exposing her neck. He lowered his head a fraction of an inch, ready to sample her scent and her power closer. Her pulse throbbed under the delicate skin. He was conscious of his fangs, sharp and deadly in his mouth.

Sesshomaru snapped back. His spine straightened and his will hardened like ice over them both, extinguishing the display of…such display. He quickly evaluated their surroundings, which had fallen to the background in his senses. Finding no threats, he corrected their course slightly and took in a deep breath. That was a mistake. Her sweet scent was thick around him, still tinged with excitement but also with a contented lethargy. No trace of her power remained. He glanced down at her to find her eyes nearly closed, her head dangerously close to leaning into his chest.

“Sorry, Sesshomaru,” she mumbled. “I must not have slept well last night.”

Her breath and heartbeat were steady and slow. He suppressed another frown. She was a sharp contrast to the pulse of his own blood and the air that rushed into his lungs. She appeared unaffected, while he was – he was. It merited more consideration, at a time when there was not such dire concerns ahead of them.

As he had told the insufferable hanyou, she was under his protection. He already showed her unique favor and high respect. She would be asleep in moments, if her scent was correct, and he knew it was. Her healing would be less effective if she arrived at the castle exhausted and uncomfortable. He applied gentle pressure to her neck and head, letting her fall against him. The dragon was at his back and none could see her. My actions are my own, he reminded himself. He lifted her under her knees and pulled her close to him, careful of his armor. He would allow her this highly unusual intimacy to better serve his purpose in bringing her to the Western Lands. The uncomfortable knowledge that other motives might lie beneath the surface prickled at him, but he pushed them aside with the promise to himself that he would thoroughly examine his intentions as soon as it was convenient.

He breathed deeply, calmly, and her scent coated his nose. He allowed the relaxing sensation it inspired to work on him. He reasoned that there was no harm, but that he could benefit from a serene mind in the decisions to come. It did not escape his notice that the smell of Inuyasha had been completely washed from her scent, and along with it, his irritation. He better secured his mokomoko around her, and inhaled again cherry wood, magnolia blossoms, and a new thin, stubborn layer of dark, woodsy musk that he recognized with contentment.

ooo

Shippo leaned closer to Rin and pressed his mouth near her ear so that the toad would not hear his whispers. “I can feel his youki,” he glanced at Jaken, apparently oblivious to the subtle display of power going on in front of Ah-Un. “You really promise he won’t hurt Kagome?”

“Sesshomaru-sama said she was under the protection of the House of the West,” she shook her head and her ponytail tickled his nose. “Besides, he doesn’t keep things he doesn’t want. He just kills them.” Both children nodded in complete understanding and acceptance of that grim and undeniable fact. “What does it feel like? Is he upset with Kagome-san?” Rin frowned and looked at her friend with worried eyes. “Sesshomaru-sama likes quiet and Kagome-san can be…”

“Not quiet?” Shippo filled in for her. They both smiled. Shippo concentrated, screwing his eyes closed and trying to assess the lord without revealing his own small youki in the process. “I don’t think he’s mad,” he said slowly. “He’s sort of…tapping her nose? And Kagome is,” he frowned, puzzled, “…she’s rubbing his ears?” He shook his head and opened his eyes to meet Rin’s puzzled gaze.

“You can see all that with your senses?” She glanced forward at her Lord’s back. “She doesn’t look like she’s touching his ears.”

“She’s not really- look it’s-” Shippo sighed, cheeks pink in embarrassment. “Youkai energy can be used to do a lot of things, without really doing them.” He concentrated again and let a little bit of demonic power wrap around his friend. It stopped abruptly, and he sagged against her, exhausted from the effort of spying on the adults and trying to show Rin what he meant.

“It’s like a pat on the back!” Her eyes were wide with excitement and wonder.

“Yeah, it can be. I’m not very good yet. My mom could use her youki to help me go to sleep at night, or make me feel better when I was sick. When I was naughty,” he smiled a little at the memory of a particularly good trick he had played on another kitsune, “my dad could press his youki on me, like a feeling of, of -”

“Disappointment,” Rin whispered. She glanced from Shippo to Sesshomaru and the kit nodded. “Sesshomaru-sama did that once. It was awful. Like Rin made him sad and angry and Rin felt bad, bad, bad.”

“Yeah,” he yawned, barely able to keep his eyes open and not really interested in the adults now that he knew they were getting along. The blanket was warm, Rin’s kimono was soft under his cheek, and the gentle rocking motion of the dragon was nice. “He tried to put her in her place, he’s a daiyoukai after all, and she settled him down. Ka’ome does it to Inubaka all the time, but not with reiki,” another jaw popping yawn interrupted him, “usually. He did somethin’ else too, like Father used to do to Mother.” He rubbed his nose against her shoulder and let his eyes fall closed. “Imma goin’ to sleep now.”

“Okay, Shippo-kun,” Rin whispered. Shippo didn’t even get a chance to acknowledge her before darkness overwhelmed him.

ooo

Sesshomaru debated for a moment whether to let the miko sleep. She had rested peacefully for the majority of the journey. Even as the sun began to descend and afternoon faded she only curled further into him. He decided that she would want to examine those who had fallen ill as soon as she arrived. She would also, no doubt, be foolishly excited to see the castle as they approached.

“Miko,” he said quietly. He would have nudged her with his youki, as he often did to wake Rin, but, reminded of their last encounter, he tightened his hands instead, squeezing her knee and ribs where he held her. She mumbled incoherently and pushed her face deeper into his clothing. “Miko,” he said again, and this time he jostled her and the mokomoko slid away from her face, allowing cold air to brush across her cheeks.

“Wha?” He glanced down, and was forced to look away again quickly. Her blue eyes were dark and heavy-lidded. Her cheeks were flushed and her lips swollen from sleep. Her soft scent sharpened as she woke up, blinking and trying to make sense of her surroundings. His mask was firmly in place; there was no chance that she or anyone else would see the emotions that he couldn’t name and didn’t have time to investigate. He relaxed the arm under her knees and she slowly slid into a standing position. He waited for her to wrap her fingers around his armor before he let go completely, focusing on his descent and the rapid approach of the castle.

The last, low layer of clouds parted and he did not deny the satisfaction her quiet “oh!” instilled in him. Her scent stirred with excitement and she nearly fell through his cloud again, trying to crane her head to see everything at once. “It’s magnificent,” she whispered.

Sesshomaru felt a surge of pride, entirely deserved, as he tracked the growing number of creatures in proximity, sensed her pleasure and interest, and reviewed his holdings with a critical eye. The outer moat, a river that had been diverted by his father’s father, surrounded the jokamachi, the castle village. Strategically placed arched bridges connected the town to the rest of the Western Lands. Sesshomaru noted that several new huts had been constructed outside of the moat; he would need to consider expanding his defenses if the village continued to grow. The plateau that formed the town rose sharply to the outer wall and the second moat. The waters there flowed through stone canals and dispersed into aqueducts and narrow stone channels throughout the houses and shops to provide water for the villagers before joining the river.

The outer wall was in need of minor repairs and white washing. The disease had disrupted tasks throughout the Western Palace. Sesshomaru felt a ripple of irritation. So far, nothing had been neglected that resulted in more than an unpleasant view. If the defenses suffered… He would not allow that to happen.

He passed over the outer wall and the bailey containing workshops, storage buildings, training spaces and barracks. The inner wall rose to meet the mountain, and Kagome let out a quiet gasp as she saw the political and military heart of the Western Lands. The palace had been built into and of the very rock of the mountains. Tiers of the castle, the topmost layers painted white and resting on storied foundations of stone, dominated the multiple courtyards, gardens, and accessory buildings that made up the inner bailey.

Sesshomaru slowed his descent, to give the servants and guards time to prepare for his arrival, and to allow the miko ample opportunity to admire his home.

“Before even Himeji, and so much better,” she murmured in awe.

Sesshomaru puzzled over her words for a moment, but quickly pushed them aside as his feet touched the stone courtyard and he dismissed his cloud. Ah-Un landed behind him with a snort and servants stepped forward to help the children down. The miko turned to face the small crowd bowing before him, but she did not loosen her hold on the back of his clothing. He caught a brief whiff of anxiety from her, but it was swiftly controlled and replaced with a calm demeanor. That was good. Not all of the demons present could smell her emotions the way he could, but it would be simpler if none viewed her as prey. He did not wish to waste time putting any in their proper place, and killing one of his own, while an efficient means of establishing order, would add to the losses brought by the disease. The miko would not be pleased either.

“Kento,” he stated in a cool voice. He did not wait for the inuyoukai to respond or step forward, but continued knowing that the demon was present and awaiting instruction. “Send for the captain, he will wait in the study.” Kento gave the briefest motion of his fingers and a younger demon bowed and raced away towards the training grounds.

“Hello, Kento-san,” the miko smiled hesitantly. “It is nice to see you again when I’m, er, I mean-” she coughed, and embarrassment was strong in her scent.

“Kento,” Sesshomaru ended her fumbling words, and the secretary nodded to the miko with polite acceptance. Without waiting for a response or acknowledging any others, he began striding towards the infirmary. The miko quickly let go of his clothing, and trotted to keep up with him. She nearly tripped over her own feet, and Sesshomaru slowed his pace so that she could walk with more care.

He listened with one ear to his secretary’s detailing of another death and reports of the progress of the disease in some of his villages. The spread had been halted, at least for a time, by his orders to barricade the roads and discourage travel. The miko asked a few quiet questions, which Kento answered with only slight hesitation. That was good. Those in the castle should recognize her place as his…his… Sesshomaru roughly pushed such thoughts away. She was his guest, and if all went well she would be the savior of many demons.

“Miko,” he demanded her attention. She stopped and stared at him, eyes wide and her being taut with focus. “There are healers here who will answer your questions and assist you.” He considered her for a moment before lowering his voice. “None here will harm you, if any-”

She waved him off, interrupting him again with her rude familiarity. “I can make my own friends, Sesshomaru.” She raised one brow, “Better than you, I imagine. Now let’s get to work.” She clapped her hands together and turned to the closed door, waiting for him to open it for her like a common valet. Kento, no doubt reeling from the disrespectful tone and words of the human, was a beat slow to slide open the door for them.

It was worse than Kento had described. Sesshomaru had prepared himself for the numbers, but not for their suffering. Youkai lay on every futon in the infirmary. A few were seated against the walls and on the covered balcony that overlooked the village. He swiftly counted eighteen ill. Two healers moved among them, while another knelt close by, tending to a patient. He closed the dead demon’s eyes and stood, bowing stiffly and walking with the slow gait of old age and exhaustion.

“My Lord, I fear that-” the healer stiffened, his eyes moving to the miko. He considered her with barely contained hostility. Sesshomaru was torn between an irritated sigh and a more efficient slash of his youki whip. Either would end such ill-advised behavior towards his guest. Instead, he did nothing, hardening his mask and staring at the demon who had worked in the castle infirmary since Sesshomaru was a pup. “Have you brought sustenance for the stricken, my Lord? I had not thought to try human meat, but perhaps-”

“Kento,” the miko interrupted calmly as though no one had insinuated that she would be killed and eaten, “have fires built in the courtyard and burn anything these demons have come into contact with – bedding, clothing. Anything else that can be boiled, should. Utensils, pots, jewelry, anything. I need additional help as well, anyone who has survived the illness or shown immunity from it should be brought up here – not inside the building, of course – and-”

“You impertinent little human! How dare you order-”

“Gekien,” Sesshomaru reprimanded. The old badger youkai turned red eyes on him and Sesshomaru had to bite back a growl. Allowances would be made, this once, given the healer’s age and extreme circumstances. “This Sesshomaru brings an honored guest to better direct your skills. She will command the infirmary.” Gekien went pale, then his eyes flashed red. Sesshomaru contained a sigh. Perhaps he should not have so baldly put the miko in charge. He was not given a chance to consider how to soothe the healer, although it was doubtful he would have bothered to do so.

“Human whore!” Spittle flew from Gekien’s mouth and his hand raised to strike the miko. Sesshomaru was overtaken by a sudden surge of anger. “You shame this house, but you will not touch my patients!”

Faster than any eye watching could see, Sesshomaru stepped in front of the priestess and caught the clawed hand that descended toward her. His grip was iron, and he had to fight against a wellspring of absolute fury. How dare he presume to touch what is mine? Dokkasou dripped from his claws and burned away the flesh and meat down to the bones in Gekien’s wrist. The healer sank to the floor in agony. There was silence in the room, and Sesshomaru was aware of the gossip that would be given birth by his actions. He pushed down both his anger and the wellspring of youki that he had not realized he released. There were several exhalations of relief as the oppressing weight of his power lifted.

“You attack an honored guest of your Lord, Gekien.” Under normal circumstances, he would punish such an action immediately. Sesshomaru was uncomfortably aware that if he started, he would find it difficult to stop. There were others present who smelled of distrust and hatred, even under the scents of sickness and fear. He would not allow himself to slaughter those who merely considered action against the miko, simply because he was unable to control himself.

He stiffened, dropping his hold on Gekien, and stepped back. The miko bumped into him and he was forced again to endure her scent and the strange sensations it caused while battling with the realization that he had nearly lost control. It was unacceptable. For a moment, Sesshomaru wanted to turn and leave the miko to deal with things on her own. He did not wish to remain in her presence any longer than necessary. Red wood. White blossoms. Anxiety. Determination. “Remove him from this one’s sight, Kento. He will be dealt with later.” He eyes sought out the downcast face of the senior most healer remaining. “This one leaves the human in command.”

He turned and strode back outside, but was unable to avoid glancing at the miko as he passed. She was pale, but her blue eyes were hard with resolve. “Kento, the fires,” she commanded.

Even as he walked across the courtyard, he could hear her requesting a detailed report of the treatment and condition of each patient. The healers responded with hesitation at first, but growing confidence as they realized her competency. Sesshomaru ordered the first guard he passed to see to Gekien and continued on to his study. There was much to do, and no time to deal with unwanted…thoughts. The list of things that needed to be contemplated in privacy during a more convenient time was rapidly growing. And he still smelled cherry wood and magnolia.

Chapter 5: I Have You

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