Second Alliance – Chapter 5

Back to Chapter 4: My Actions Are My Own

 

Chapter 5: I Have You

How dare he presume to touch what is mine? Sesshomaru closed his eyes and willed his headache away. The unbidden thought had circled around inside him throughout the night while he listened to reports and discussed strategy with his captain. He’d read through the papers that had piled up in his absence and endured the long list of queries that needed his attention. The business of the Western Lands had been interrupted by his trip to Edo, and he had worked well into the morning to bring things into order. His workload was more intense than usual, with the additional problems of containing and dealing with the illness, seeking out information on his enemies, and guarding against an increased threat of espionage. It had required his focus, but his attention was divided by the memory of the anger and instinctive response he had felt in the infirmary.

…touch what is mine. The miko was not his. And yet she was. Cherry wood. She did not belong to him, as the servants and soldiers of the castle did. As Rin did. But she was under his protection. She followed his orders. Sesshomaru allowed himself the smallest, briefest smile in the solitude of his study. As long as she agreed with his course of action she followed his orders. The West needed her to combat the disease, and she had agreed to come with him and work to save his people. She had traveled with him. She had saved Rin.

Sesshomaru relaxed a fraction at that thought. He had taken Rin as his ward, but she had become more than that. She was his yojo, his adopted daughter. She was his pack. Not just the larger, political use of the term that, for a daiyoukai, included so many personal servants, close advisors, strong allies, and military vassals. Rin was his family. He did not have many who could be included in that intimate group, usually reserved for children and spouses, and sometimes expanded to include siblings and parents.

Even if he brought his extended pack into one room, there would still be only four, including him. Another small smile flitted across Sesshomaru’s face. Such an event might be humorous, in another time. Of course, putting his mother, Kimi, and Inuyasha into the same room would be disastrous for the room…and in all probability for his half-brother as well. He had admitted long ago, only to himself, that he did not outright kill Inuyasha because of the size of that pack. Inu were intended to have large families, and although Sesshomaru had never had any inclination to take a mate and sire pups of his own, he still acknowledged the instinctual need to provide for others – to have a pack.

It was why he had, eventually, come to think of Rin as a ward rather than an insufferably cheerful burr. And then as a daughter. It was why he had felt a moment of regret when Inuyasha had transformed Tessaiga and cut off his arm. Not for the loss of the arm, which was unfortunate, or of the Fang, which was galling and infuriating, but for the knowledge that he could have taken the sword if he had delivered a killing blow. He’d stayed his jaws, but it was a near thing. Constantly taunting the hanyou was amusing, and it vented some of the anger he still felt towards Inu no Tashio – but could not express to a dead man. By sparring with his half-brother and then fighting and traveling alongside him, Sesshomaru had begun to call him pack – at least to himself.

He wasn’t planning on inviting the hanyou to sit on his council anytime soon, but he would regret Inuyasha’s death if it were to occur. He was not even overly irritated by the knowledge that Inuyasha would arrive at the castle soon. He would be a nuisance until the miko put him in his place, and then he would be both irritating and amusing. Sesshomaru intended to put him to use on the training grounds. His half-brother’s skills were still inferior to his own, but the pup had become a decent sparring partner and he would give a new challenge to many of the soldiers. Perhaps even to some of the officers.

The miko had been part of Inuyasha’s unconventional pack for several years, but… Magnolia. Sesshomaru shook his head at the mild irritation that sparked by labeling her Inuyasha’s. He did not have any possessive thoughts of the slayer woman or the monk who traveled with his sibling. The kit he would protect, but that was right as he was a child and his injury or death would pain Rin. No, he had claim to the miko because of what she meant to Rin. She had healed his daughter, given her life. That was significant, and worthy of a place in his political pack. Her many attributes, her strength, also made her an excellent addition to those who surrounded him and added to the status of the West.

He frowned, not bothering to conceal the emotion in the empty room. She was more than that, he knew. …what is mine… He had overreacted to Gekien’s words and actions, melting the respected healer’s arm for an attempted strike – one that the miko could have dodged or purified if she chose, but he had not given her the opportunity to react. That instinct, that possessive, feral need to see her protected, respected, honored. Even to smell no other scent on her. Sweet citrus. Spicy pepper. He wanted to rip the turbulent emotions and confused thoughts from his body. He could not seem to find order in that chaos, to make straight, uncomplicated reasoning out of the winding, twisty contentment, heat, irritation, pride, amusement and almost…delightful surprises she created in him. And she-

He snapped his teeth in aggravation. Where the hell is that scent coming from? He surged out of his chair and paced the room, ignoring the stiffness in his limbs. It was unbelievable that even the verbiage of his internal monologue had devolved into uncontrolled thought because of her, his nose steadily tantalized by her scent regardless of where he moved. He knew she was still in the infirmary, by the whispers of the servants and guards, and his own careful probing with his youki. Still, he was distracted by that scent. It was sweet and soothing and frustrating. He braced one hand against the wooden shelves that stored his scrolls and gave in for a moment to exhaustion, of body and of mind. His head ached and he felt a rare weariness in his muscles and joints. He leaned his forehead against his arm and willed himself to calm down and focus on the task at hand, taking a deep breath.

New. Sweet. A cherry tree freshly cut. White silken petals, barely open and heavy with dew. Satsuma oranges.

Sesshomaru raked his own claws down the shelf in a rare of display of anger. He strode from the study towards his chamber and private bath, berating himself for his complete and utter inattention to the obvious. He had held her for hours while she slept. His clothes were saturated with her scent. He shut the shoji screen behind him with a snap – surprising the servant who had scampered to attend his needs. He disrobed quickly and resolutely left the clothing in a pile on the floor for laundering. He would not allow her to distract him further.

ooo

“Thank you,” Rin said politely to the servant who set out a lunch tray for the children. Jaken had disappeared as soon as they arrived at the castle; Rin said he had to make certain the other servants hadn’t been slacking their duties while he was away. Shippo echoed her gratitude and waited until the screen shut and he could no longer hear anyone near them before he continued their conversation.

“And Sesshomaru gave you these rooms?” Shippo had been unable to sleep in the large chamber that had been set aside for Kagome and him. Without her there, the strangeness of the castle and the opulence of the room kept him awake. By the time it was truly dark, he had slipped out and, very conscious of Sesshomaru’s strict orders to not bother Kagome in the infirmary and to stay in the castle, he followed his nose to Rin’s room. He’d spent the night on the piled cushions intended for the table in her anteroom, comforted that he at least knew someone nearby. When she had woken, she’d greeted him happily and shared the breakfast her servant brought. They had played in the little garden outside until she grew tired, but Shippo still had many questions.

“Of course! Sesshomaru-sama takes very good care of Rin.” While she poured tea, Shippo glanced through the open screen to the raised futon, piled with expensive bedding, and the ornate lacquered cabinet that held her clothes. Usually, when he saw her traveling, she wore a simple orange checkered kimono. At the castle, she wore a much finer cloth, in solid orange with a white branch of blossoms at the shoulder. Intricate petals cascaded down towards the hem. Her hair, too, had been affected by the formality of the castle. Servants had smoothed it into a simple bun and an ornamented comb held it in place.

“But, I mean, you’re…” He hesitated. He didn’t care that Rin was human. Kagome was human, and she had saved him and treated him like her own son. He’d played with lots of human kids in Edo. But Shippo wasn’t naive. He knew that most demons found humans diverting, at best, and at worst thought of them as food or killing sport. Sesshomaru seemed to fit somewhere in between, disgusted by an ‘inferior’ species but not bothered to do anything about it. Sure, he let Rin follow him around, but he didn’t play with her or really acknowledge her.

“Human?” Rin asked sweetly. Her big brown eyes blinked and she smiled. Shippo knew he was blushing in shame.

“Yeah, I guess.” He wanted to fall through the floor, but she was being so nice about it.

“Sesshomaru-sama doesn’t really care about human or demon. He just doesn’t like creatures that have no honor, or that serve no purpose.” She puffed up with pride, and Shippo could tell she was repeating something she had heard her Lord say. “Rin is just a pup, but when Rin grows up she will have a purpose and she will bring honor to the West.”

“They call you yojosan,” he said quietly.

“Hn. Rin has been adopted by Sesshomaru-sama.” Her eyes got a far-away look and she radiated happiness. “It was the most wonderful, most amazing, most happy thing ever!” She dished out rice and meat and handed a bowl to Shippo.

“So he- he loves you?” Shippo bit his lip, wondering if he was asking something too personal. He knew from experience, searching for the shards, that adults did not often like personal questions. Rin wasn’t an adult – she certainly didn’t act like one – but by human standards she was getting close.

“Of course,” she said with absolute conviction. She settled onto her own cushion and pulled a bowl of food towards her. She waved her chopsticks in the air, “Sesshomaru-sama is not…not…” she frowned searching for the right words, “…huggy, like Kagome-san. But he loves Rin. He pats Rin’s head when Rin does a good job, and he lets Rin hug him sometimes when Rin is sad. Rin’s Lord will kill anyone who tries to take her away or harm her. He will not allow anyone to speak badly of Rin.” Her voice dropped into a conspiratorial whisper, “Rin thinks he might have even threatened everyone not to think badly of Rin.”

She winked at him, and Shippo felt all of his tension ease away. Despite her weird talk, which he thought she might have picked up from Sesshomaru, Rin was very much like Kagome. She loved without reservations and liked almost everyone. Even the people she didn’t like, Kouga came to mind, she didn’t want to see hurt or dead. If Sesshomaru could make Rin part of his family, then Shippo didn’t have to worry that the daiyoukai would hurt Kagome.

“Your secret plan-” Shippo was cut off by a loud shush. Rin’s eyes darted around comically, as if she expected spies to pop out of the silk hangings or from under the tatami mats.

“Demons have much better hearing, Shippo-kun,” she admonished.

“Really?” He pointed to his ears and laughed. Rin quickly joined in. “There isn’t anyone nearby, Rin, I promise.”

“Hn.” She nodded. “Rin thinks that it will work. Sesshomaru-sama needs to be distracted, so he doesn’t have time to think so much. But he can’t be rushed.”

“I don’t think you can do both of those things, Rin.” Shippo frowned and ate quietly for a few moments.

“Not Rin,” she said finally, setting down her empty bowl. Shippo took a second helping while she settled in to explain the finer points to him. “Kagome-san. She is so wonderful, she can do it all on her own. Rin and Shippo just need to help a tiny bit.” Shippo agreed that Kagome was the best, but he still wasn’t sure that Rin had really thought things through. “It will be perfect, Shippo-kun. You will see. And then Rin can have Sesshomaru-sama, and Kagome-san, and Shippo-kun! There will be pats and cuddles! Doesn’t Shippo-kun want Kagome-san, Rin, and Sesshomaru-sama?”

Shippo wasn’t sure what she meant about pats and cuddles, but he was definitely sure he liked the idea of Kagome having an easier life and more time to play with him. He wanted to be with Rin more, too. However, Sesshomaru…

“Keh,” he responded, non-committal, and settled in to finish his lunch and listen to Rin work out the details.

ooo

Kagome was exhausted. Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford to do anything about it, her brain didn’t even have time to worry about how her legs felt like jelly and her arms like wet noodles. Her back ached, her shoulders burned, and her eyes felt like they were being dragged down by lead weights. She didn’t have time for any of that. She had to talk to Sesshomaru.

“If only I had a microscope,” she muttered to herself. She had thought seriously about bringing one, she really had, but the only one with good magnification she could get her hands on with short notice had weighed a ton. She hadn’t thought she would need it so badly.

“Kagome-isha, please, you must rest.”

Kagome looked up blearily from the notes she had made to stare at the healer, the isha, who had gained seniority when Gekien was…dismissed. His black hair hung over his forehead and once he had warmed up to her, she’d found out he was a relative of Kento. A little over half of the demons at the castle were inuyoukai, if the patients and those who had reported to her summons for help were any indication. She smiled warmly and glanced over the infirmary.

Six more patients had come in since she had arrived. The spread of the disease was gaining speed. None had died, yet, but she knew it was only a matter of time. The inoculation she prepared from the scabbed over rashes of the sick could only be made so quickly. And then it had to be administered, and she only trusted herself to oversee a few she had personally trained to do so. Then there was the eradication of the virus within the castle and the surrounding town. And of course the villages that had been infected.

Despite the modern treatment methods to ease the symptoms of those already sick, they would still have to fight off the disease on their own if they were too far along for inoculation. She double-checked the figures she had written in her notes against the medical text from her era. Sometime around when she should have had lunch, she had given up on trying to hide her books and set them right out on the table. She was providing medical treatment that wouldn’t be discovered for four hundred years, to demons, for a disease that the ‘one eyed-dragon’ daimyo would barely survive – and he hadn’t even been born yet. Hiding her own knowledge seemed irrelevant.

More important was the virulence of the disease. The smallpox strain mentioned in her textbooks took twenty days to complete its cycle. Although the symptoms she had seen were congruent with the more deadly form of hemorrhagic smallpox, modern doctors reported that type in only two percent of cases. Every demon she had seen with the disease had developed bleeding under the skin and black colored pox, which should almost always be fatal. She would have guessed that it would affect fewer demons than humans, but according to Kento’s reports, the opposite was true. And although the humans progressed faster, not a single demon that had been infected had survived. There was something inherently wrong with this epidemic.

She needed a microscope. And a couple thousand doses of real vaccine. And a ventilator, or five. And saline bags. And an actual medical degree. Kagome sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. She needed a lot of things she couldn’t have at the moment. The one thing she needed that was available, she hadn’t had much luck with either.

“Thank you for worrying over me, Jun-san. Has a response to my request arrived yet?”

“No, Kagome-isha.” His oddly silver eyes narrowed with concern. The two vertical blue lines on his forehead crinkled.

“Damn that man, and his ego. What the hell, Sesshomaru, what the hell could be more important than-” Kagome’s impassioned tirade was cut off.

“Shhh, not so loud, Kagome-isha,” he waved his hands and nodded to the few curious and shocked patients that looked their way. “You mustn’t speak so about the Saidai Mao.” He paused, and lowered his voice further, “My cousin said that he has not taken any meals, and only emerged from his study to bathe at midday. No requests for entry have been acknowledged since he returned to his study to continue working.”

Kagome glanced at the rice paper shoji screens. They were dark. She frowned, she hadn’t realized it was night already. “Is that usual?”

“It is not…unusual, Kagome-isha. But,” he hesitated again, and Kagome found her impatience giving way to concern, “Sesshomaru-sama spent all morning with his advisors. He had additional meetings scheduled for this afternoon, but he turned down several and then stopped responding to requests altogether.”

Kagome stood, removing the stained, long-sleeved apron that covered her wrinkled clothes. She ignored the way Jun averted his gaze – and the way many of the coherent patients did not – when her modern attire was revealed. She shoved her books and notes into her bag and marched toward the entrance, the healer trailing behind.

“You mustn’t leave, Kagome-isha. Kento has said that the infirmary is guarded until Sesshomaru-sama escorts you out himself.”

She stopped and turned narrow eyes on Jun. “He put me under house arrest?” That arrogant, high-handed demonic…

“No, no! It is for your safety, so that any who have not heard of your honorable station,” his voice dropped to a low murmur, “or of Gekien’s punishment, will not bother you. It is also a measure of the quarantine Kento said you requested.”

Safety my ass, Kagome thought in fury. Her anger died a quick death when she remembered why she had decided to go see Sesshomaru, summons or not. “I can take care of myself, Jun-san. I’m stronger than I look.” She pulled open the screen and stepped out, leaving the healer’s skeptical expression behind. “Keep the treatment up until I return and make note of any changes.” She shut the screen and was confronted by two rather large youkai. Both had a strange, ruffled hairdo that was reminiscent of a mohawk and stoic expressions.

“Kagome-isha,” they spoke in unison. They bowed shallowly and stood, one facing in, the other out, barring her way into the courtyard.

“Gentlemen,” she said sweetly, “thank you so much for your dedication to protecting the residents of the castle from this terrible sickness.” She bowed, deeply, and the one facing her seemed taken-aback by her show of respect. “As the one in charge of healing these peo- err, demons, I must report my progress to Sesshomaru-sama. Please summon someone to escort me, or direct me to his study?” She smiled, but her only response was a puzzled glance shared by the guards.

“We cannot allow you passage, Kagome-isha.” She could feel her temper beginning to get the better of her, and she knew that as tired as she was, she would have more trouble controlling herself if her anger got the better of her.

Whatever kind of youkai the guards were, they could obviously sense her changing mood, because they stiffened and both faced her, hands on their weapons. “Please return inside, most honored guest of the Saidai Mao.”

She opened her mouth to argue, but was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Kento. His race across the courtyard had been nearly invisible in the darkness, and he left a breeze in his wake that stirred the hair of the guards and made Kagome’s over shirt billow behind her. “Kagome-isha,” he bowed deeply. “I have come to escort you to Sesshomaru-sama.” He turned to the guards without waiting for a response. “The guest of Sesshomaru-sama will return soon. None but the sick shall enter until that time.” He waved at her to walk in front of him, and they were several steps away from the courtyard before Kagome realized what had happened.

“Sesshomaru didn’t send for me, did he?”

“I am certain he would have, had he read your notes. Any of them. Or all nine.”

Kagome glanced over her shoulder, rolling her eyes and waiting for him to indicate which way to go. She found the formal practice of leading a more high-ranking individual by following them ridiculous. As was the notion that she was higher-ranking than the personal… messenger? secretary? bodyguard? valet? …servant to the Highest Demon Lord.

“They were important,” she defended herself mildly, feeling a little silly, once she was no longer stuck in the infirmary, for troubling Sesshomaru so many times. Although, her concerns about the disease certainly weren’t silly. Nor was her reason for going to the daiyoukai without an invitation. “Your arrival was very serendipitous. I was just getting ready to go to Sesshomaru myself.”

“That would not have been wise, Kagome-isha. If Jun had not alerted me to the situation, the guards might have executed their duty and detained you. It would have been most embarrassing for you.” She couldn’t see his expression well in the dark, but she could hear the disapproval in his voice.

“They could have tried,” she corrected, “and it would have been embarrassing for them. So, how did Jun contact you so quickly?”

“The males in our line have alternative means of communication,” he answered shortly. “To your left, Isha.” He didn’t seem willing to speak after that, and Kagome worried for a few minutes that she had broken some social rule. Those concerns were gradually replaced by thoughts of the illness. She needed to alert Sesshomaru. They would need help if they were going to save even half of the demons that were infected, and it would be another three weeks before the well would allow her to return to her time. The delay was unthinkable. A wave of sadness washed over her. So many would die.

“Kagome-isha?” She turned, pulled out of her thoughts by Kento. He was staring at her with a puzzled look. “Are you…unwell?”

“I’ll be fine – once I can speak with Sesshomaru,” she responded with a strained smile. “Perhaps it would be faster if you took the lead?” His hesitation was obvious, but finally he stepped in front of her and they began moving at a much faster pace. She was breathing heavily and almost trotting to keep up as they entered the main castle building and turned down a long corridor. There was only indirect lighting on their path and Kagome had to concentrate to keep from falling as they climbed numerous stairs.

“Jun said – he said Sess-ho-maru,” she gulped and pressed a stitch in her side, but did not dare stop the near-race through the castle. “He said Sesshomaru, uh, wasn’t answering anyone?”

“He should not have repeated that,” Kento said tightly. He picked up the pace and Kagome did her best not to groan as she had to break into a jog to keep up. “Sesshomaru-sama has much work to do. If he does not wish to be interrupted, we will respect that. You may request entry, but if he does not accede, you will return to your room, or to the infirmary.”

“But, isn’t- huh – why, wouldn’t- he- just- say- to leave – him – alone?” She was panting, and so worried about tripping on her own feet that she slammed into Kento’s back when he stopped suddenly.

“He would,” the demon conceded. He searched her face, which she knew was probably red and sweaty, but whatever else he found made him draw his brows together with concern. “You are worried for Sesshomaru-sama.” He hadn’t phrased it as a question, but Kagome confirmed it anyhow.

“Of course I am. He refused to be inoculated, the egotistical- oh!” They were off again, this time Kento practically carrying her across the floor in his speed. She didn’t even have time to protest his claws digging painfully into her upper arms before he stopped. The corridor widened before them into a cavernous space with cushions along two walls and a long, low table covered in neat stacks of paper and pots of ink. The table was centered in front of a pair of painted sliding doors.

Kagome was certain that the colored ink depictions of great dogs and intricate landscapes were magnificent, but she was distracted by the row of demons seated on either side of the doors. Servants knelt next to soldiers. What she guessed was an administrator, by his dress, sat next to a powerful military demon. That one was closest to the door, and his eyes bore into Kagome. She swallowed back a sound of surprise and turned to Kento, her mouth open in question.

“Sesshomaru-sama had many who waited to see him today.” He conceded another point at her raised brow, “And they worried as well.” He led her to the doors, and the demon there stood, his clothing rustling quietly against his sword. Thin, jagged black lines streaked up his jaw and neck and into his dark hair. His ponytail brushed against well-used armor.

“Take the human away, Kento-san.”

“She seeks audience with Sesshomaru-sama,” Kento bowed shallowly and the demon curled back his lip, baring his teeth.

“When Sesshomaru-sama allows entry, you may request her…audience.” Kagome didn’t like the way he drew out the word, as if it left a foul taste in his mouth. “Until then, she can-”

She can do as she pleases, Captain-san,” Kagome bit out. “And she pleases to speak with Sesshomaru-sama.”

“What is the meaning of this insolence?” He bristled, and Kagome felt a stirring of youki from him. Several others in the room responded to his aggression, their youki rising as well.

“I am the honored guest of the West, and I will speak only to Sesshomaru-sama.” Kagome kept her back straight and her expression cold; she knew she couldn’t back down. At the same time, she was struggling to keep her reiki from responding to the threat the captain posed.

Honored? You dare to presume that our Lord would hold you above others? That he would grant you favor when he has-”

“What is the harm in trying, Hisao-san?” Kento said smoothly. “Perhaps she will learn her place?” Kagome turned to give him a piece of her mind. My place, indeed! But the military demon snorted and waved her past him.

“Yes, yes, show us how the Saidai Mao values your counsel,” he mocked her.

Kagome had never been known for her even temper, and it had been a very, very long day. She was tired, dirty, sweaty from her run across the castle, and worried about the disease. On top of that, if Sesshomaru hadn’t accidentally dropped a bookshelf on himself, preventing speaking or moving, he was going to get an earful for ignoring her. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembered that she was supposed to be afraid of strange, powerful demons. Some far corner of her brain whispered that she was in an unfamiliar and formal setting that could be very, very dangerous. There were too many other emotions pressing for her attention to give fear a chance to take hold.

“Keh.” It was all she could do to snap her mouth shut before she said something she would probably regret later – and Sesshomaru would most definitely not be pleased if she spoke what was on her mind in that moment. Kagome strode past Hisao and rapped on the wooden frame of the shoji screen. “Sesshomaru-sama,” she called. Her knuckles felt warm. She could feel the pulse of an immense youki, barely contained within the room and fluctuating wildly. She frowned. That was unlike Sesshomaru. She raised her hand again and pressed it against the pristine paper.

“Oh, no, Isha,” called one of the servants, no doubt fearing she would leave smudges on the rice paper. Kagome ignored her. It was Sesshomaru inside, and he was alone as far as she could tell, but his energy was not normal.

“That is enough, woman,” Hisao taunted. “We see how far your honor-” He was interrupted by a blast of youki.

Kagome stood stock still with her eyes closed while green light exploded into the room. Several of the demons behind her cried out. Even Hisao grunted under the heavy weight of his Lord’s power. Kento fell to one knee, breathing heavily. A magical wind blew through the room, drying the sweat on Kagome’s skin and blowing her clothing and ponytail out behind her. It washed over her, leaving the taste of cloves and the scent of damp earth and dark woods. The heat was intense, but not unpleasant. It was gone again as soon as it had come, leaving her shivering and the demons sighing in relief. He might not like the interruption, but that was overkill, even for Sesshomaru. She shivered again and squared her shoulders, grabbing onto the handle to tug the screen open.

“Kagome-isha,” Kento called out at the same time that Hisao snarled and reached for her arm.

“Woman!”

Kagome ignored them both and hauled on the door. True to the perfection she was sure Sesshomaru demanded of his home, the screen slid silently and smoothly. It was designed to open with little effort, and Kagome’s exuberance caused it to fly down the track and bounce back against the wall. Only Kento’s quick movement stopped it from hitting her on its return trip.

In silence, Kagome stared at Sesshomaru. He was seated at the far end of the room, legs crossed underneath a low table spread with papers and scrolls. His head was bowed forward slightly, his hair cascaded over his shoulders to conceal his face. She would have believed he was deep in thought, if not for the claws he had embedded in the surface of the table.

“Sesshomaru-sama?” She spoke softly as she stepped into the room, barely ducking Hisao’s restraining hand but unable to avoid the rake of his claws which drew lines of heat and dull pain across her shoulder. Another wave of youki blasted across the room. It lifted Sesshomaru’s hair in its fury and threw Hisao back from the doorway. Kagome pushed on. She felt like she was moving through water; the air pressed against her and then gave, allowing her passage. “Sesshomaru,” she whispered, knowing his ears would easily pick up the quiet word.

Other ears did as well. There were gasps of outrage and horror. Hisao, who had recovered his feet quickly, if not his pride, cursed her lack of respect and threatened to end the disgrace she brought to the Saidai Mao and the West. The youki pouring off Sesshomaru intensified. Hisao was forced into silence, struggling against his Lord’s power. Others were pushed prostrate on the floor or managed to flee the outer room to avoid the near-agony caused by his energy.

Kagome could feel her reiki rising to the surface, and she tried to tamp it down. Fear blossomed as she imagined how harmful it could be to Sesshomaru in his…condition… if he was hit with purification. Unfortunately, fear often triggered her reiki outside of her will, and a few wisps of power escaped her before she could lock them down. They curled forward, invisible, but she could feel the way they swam across and through the ocean of Sesshomaru’s youki. Seemingly finding a current, her holy energy gained speed and raced to the Western Lord. It hit him like a strong breeze, blowing his hair back from his face. His head lifted, and Kagome forgot all sense of self-preservation and rushed to him.

“Sesshomaru,” she cried. His eyes were completely red, but she had seen that before and it didn’t frighten her. The sour twist of terror squeezing her lungs and heart was brought on by the sickly clouds that glazed those red eyes. His pale, perfect skin was flushed pink, and on his hands… Kagome had her arm behind his shoulders and her free hand pressed against his cheek, trying to cool his fever. A rumble of warning started in his throat, but it silenced suddenly and he vibrated with repressed coughs. He did not turn to look at her, but stared straight ahead at the open door. “It’s okay, Sesshomaru, I’m here. I have my medicine,” she whispered to him.

She reached out gently with her reiki, trying to determine why he was losing control of his youki. Heat circled around his joints, pooling in his knees, hips, and shoulders. She imagined it would be almost impossible for him to straighten away from the table, much less walk. She stroked his cheek again, brushing down his marking to his lips, trying to get him to open so she could examine him. He bared his teeth slightly, but did not relent. She could sense the pain in his throat and mouth. “Shhh, let me help you.” He did not relax, and his claws dug into the table further.

“Kento-san,” she called quietly, “I need you to help me.” When the inuyoukai did not immediately respond she snapped, “Now, Kento.” She heard a hesitant footstep, and then nothing. “Your Lord needs you, move your ass,” she commanded in a furious whisper.

“I- I cannot, Isha. His youki-” She glanced away from Sesshomaru to see Kento doubled over, grasping at his chest. Of course he would come in if he could, idiot. He wants to help his Lord. Kagome wondered why it didn’t seem to bother her the way it did the demons, but she didn’t have time – Sesshomaru didn’t have time – for her thoughts to linger on it.

“Sorry, Kento-san,” she said quietly. She turned back to Sesshomaru and pressed both of her hands against his cheeks, moving her face to block his view of anything but her. “You have to let them in, Sesshomaru. They are loyal to you, they will help.” He was unresponsive, and Kagome dragged her fingertips down his stripes, gripping his jaw and finally drawing his eyes to focus on her. “I will save you, Sesshomaru, I swear it. Or I will die trying, but I need their help.”

She held her breath, and after a long moment he blinked. The thick youki around her eased, and there was a collective sigh of relief from the antechamber. Kento was at Sesshomaru’s opposite side in an instant. “We need to move him somewhere comfortable.” The press of curious, worried eyes behind her made her add, “And private.”

“Isha,” Kento started, and she turned to see what was wrong. The inu had wrapped both hands around Sesshomaru’s silk-clad wrist, but he was unable to dislodge the daiyoukai’s claws.

“You have to let go,” she whispered, easing back from Sesshomaru’s face to his side. She dropped one hand to his arm and smoothed along his sleeve to his hand. She did not flinch when her fingers met the flat bumps of the rash marring the smooth skin there, but she could feel a bottomless pit of sadness and anger threatening to overwhelm her. She slammed a mental door on those emotions and tucked her fingers between his thumb and first finger, holding his hand firmly. She slipped her other hand behind his neck and cupped the back of his head. “I’ve got you, Sesshomaru.” Her voice was so low, she doubted any other than the Lord and Kento could hear her. “Let go, I have you.”

Another vibration wracked his body and youki threatened to escape for a moment. Then his eyes slid closed and his muscles relaxed. His claws pulled from the wood with a horrible tearing sound and flying splinters. He sagged back, and Kagome barely had time to wedge her shoulder behind him to keep him from hitting the floor.

“Hisao, get something to carry him on,” she ordered. The captain did not respond to her, but sent servants racing to bring what she requested. The demon himself appeared next to her with a wide board, long enough for even Sesshomaru’s tall frame and fitted with rope handles at each end. Kento helped her lay him back and despite his bulk he slid easily, smooth silk on polished wood, to fit on the stretcher. Each male took one end and lifted the daiyoukai’s weight easily.

Kagome walked beside them, throwing stern orders to the servants that trailed them. She sent them for hot and cool water, clean cloths, and anything else she could think of to get them away. She only tried to pull her hand back once, and she decided it was a positive sign that he had the strength to keep his grip firm. Please let that be a good sign.

Chapter 6: Misplaced Anger

Leave a Reply