Chapter 9: Breaking Down Walls
“Whadaya mean you’re stayin’?” Inuyasha’s eyes narrowed and he crossed his arms over his chest.
Kagome was too familiar with that pose. He was preparing for a long argument. She sighed. “I need to check on everyone here, Inuyasha. I still can’t believe I healed all of those people at once, and without purifying anyone!”
“Oi! Don’t forget about me, wench – and why are you always fryin’ me anyhow? Asshole didn’t even look singed,” he complained.
“Inuyasha-san,” Rin warned. The hanyou blushed and Kagome glanced over to the human girl who was helping Shippo lay out a futon on the floor. She wasn’t really a little girl anymore, especially not by the standards of the feudal era. Kagome guessed that she was around twelve – although perhaps more. Her lifestyle before she met Sesshomaru was not conducive to healthy, normal growth. She could be small for her age. Kagome covered her mouth to hide a smile. Rin certainly had the presence of an adult when she wanted to. Inuyasha was put in his place with less effort and more success than Kagome had ever managed. Perhaps it was a skill the girl picked up from Sesshomaru.
“Keh,” he huffed in apology.
“I already said sorry for that, Inuyasha,” Kagome repeated for perhaps the fourth time. “I don’t know why it is so hard for me to keep my power from purifying you. Maybe my reiki just has trouble deciding if you are more human or youkai. Or maybe,” she considered a new thought, “maybe it just forgets you are there.”
“What?” His ears drooped, and Kagome felt awful.
“Not like that!” she reassured hastily. “I mean, you’re always with me, since my first day in this era. I think I am so used to you, I just expect you to be there. I don’t have to think about it, you’re just around when I need you.” She smiled, trying to tell him that she didn’t mean to slight him. She relaxed when he rolled his eyes and sat down, back against the wall. “I’m glad that Sango and Miroku decided to stay in Edo and make medicine for some of the infected villages in the East. I should go around to some of the Western villages as well. Sesshomaru said that the disease was in several – both human and youkai.”
“Don’t be thinkin’ you’re gonna do healing stuff tomorrow or anything. You still look like shit.”
“Gee, thanks Inuyasha,” Kagome said dryly. She was tired. Exhausted, really. She had eaten a late breakfast by herself, and after discovering Sesshomaru had disappeared, she’d made use of his bath and lain down on the futon in his antechamber to go back to sleep. She didn’t sleep well though, and was almost grateful when Shippo and Rin had arrived to wake her up. She had eaten lunch with Inuyasha and the children and spent most of the afternoon watching them color and listening to her hanyou friend describe all that had happened in the village since she had left.
It didn’t escape her notice that the rock brothers had discreetly followed her most of the day as well. Inuyasha had, of course, bluntly confronted them, saying that he was more than enough protection for her. Eiichi was only saved from a physical fight by Eiji, who smoothed things over. The two were in the hall still, despite the late hour. She could tell from the twitching of Inuyasha’s ears. Unfortunately, she couldn’t sense them with her own reiki. At first she had worried that she had broken herself somehow, or used up all of her power. A brief meditation, just like Miroku had taught her, reassured her that her reiki was still there – just resting.
Resting sounded like an excellent idea. Shippo had begged with his huge eyes to stay in Rin’s rooms, rather than on the other side of the castle in the guest quarters. Kagome had relented, unable to deny her little two-tails. She felt another burst of pride over his accomplishment. Shippo was still a bit stunned; he kept petting his own tails as if to reassure himself they were there. Kagome admitted that his illusion of the pox-stricken Rin had been very convincing, but despite the new tail she had extracted promises from the kit that he would not use his tricks to frighten innocent people, or demons, in the future. She studied him for a moment as he argued good-naturedly with Rin; he seemed to have grown a bit taller, too. She frowned, wondering how fast kitsune developed. Perhaps Sesshomaru could tell her later.
A blush returned to her cheeks. She hadn’t seen him since the incident that morning, and she wasn’t eager to do so until she could look him in the eye without picturing…everything else. Kagome had never thought she could be so attracted to the daiyoukai. He was beautiful, certainly, and well-built, obviously, but he was Sesshomaru. He was Inuyasha’s cold, murderous older brother. He had tried to kill her once, although…he had been their ally for years. Well, almost two years. Or maybe closer to a year and a half.
He had even saved her a few times. She forgave him for the first misunderstanding. She would have been upset too, under the circumstances. He didn’t even really fight with Inuyasha anymore, not since Naraku’s defeat. It was more like…play fighting. Like Souta and his friends wrestling on the lawn. They pushed each other around to see who was strongest, but nobody was seriously hurt. She pictured Sesshomaru pinning Inuyasha in a headlock. The daiyoukai’s sleeves pushed up, his muscles tensed, his eyes glowing in triumph and his mouth–
She shook herself. Maybe it would be better if she asked Kento what he knew about kitsune. It would certainly be safer. For her sanity. And her pride. Kagome pushed those thoughts away and washed her face and hands in the basin the servants had provided. She gave the children fresh water to do the same, and they all brushed their teeth as well. Even Inuyasha did so, although he grumbled about it. She made a mental note to bring back more toothbrushes the next time she went home. Inuyasha went through them at an alarming rate, and she hadn’t seen Rin in months before the sickness came. The pink sparkly child’s brush was looking bedraggled, and a bit juvenile for a girl who was nearly a teenager. She then brushed everyone’s hair, drawing shy thanks from Rin and limp contentment from Shippo. Inuyasha refused, as usual, but she knew he would borrow her comb once everyone was asleep and take care of himself.
Kagome crawled into bed and Shippo cuddled up next to her. Rin lay down on her futon, close to the edge so she could look down at them, “Will you tell us a story, Kagome-sama?”
Kagome shook her head. She was a little uncomfortable by the girl’s new title for her, but Rin had apologized sweetly and profusely for her outburst during Sesshomaru’s illness. The girl insisted that the new title was deserved and continued to place Kagome on the same high level as her Lord. Well, perhaps just a bit lower. Kagome smiled to herself and smothered a yawn. She tried to think of a short story, but she really was exhausted.
“Please, Kagome,” begged Shippo.
“Keh. Kagome’s tired, leave her alone, runt.”
Rin’s eyes grew huge and she turned them on the hanyou, “Inuyasha-san, Rin really needs a story.” Kagome wanted to grin. That is a master at work.
“Eh,” he gave in to her puppy-dog face, “I’ll tell one tonight.” Inuyasha rearranged himself to lean against the open shoji to the anteroom, the outer doors within view so he could protect them, and began, “My mother used to tell me this one. Long, long ago, there lived an old bamboo wood-cutter. He was very poor and sad also, for no child had Heaven sent to cheer his old age…” *
Kagome smiled as she drifted off to sleep, thankful that her friends were safe. Glad that Inuyasha was taking staying in his brother’s castle so well. Happy that Sesshomaru was healthy and that she had helped his people like she’d promised she would. She cuddled Shippo close and wondered when Sesshomaru would rest, and if he ever told bedtime stories to Rin. Sleep claimed her, and she dreamed of long silver hair and white fur.
She wasn’t there.
Sesshomaru felt a moment of panic and unreasonable anger. When he’d left, she had been eating and he was certain she would go back to sleep, she’d smelled so tired. He had left strict instructions with the guards to keep her safe, and yet she was no longer in his rooms. Someone was going to explain why his expectations were not met. It would not be a pleasant conversation.
A servant had followed him into the anteroom and quietly began setting out a meal. Sesshomaru ignored the ravenous calls of his stomach and followed his nose back into the hallway. He turned one corner, heading towards the other end of the castle, and immediately found his quarry.
The guards stood in front of Rin’s rooms. They sensed his arrival and lowered their heads with respect, but did not move from their positions. He reached out with his senses and relaxed fractionally when he found Kagome, most likely sleeping considering her steady heartbeat and even breath, alongside Rin and Shippo. Distaste soured his relief. The hanyou was there as well, once again mixing his scent with the miko’s. He entered without a glance at the rock demons and found his half-brother, hand on the hilt of his sword, guarding the doorway into Rin’s sleeping room. His daughter was buried deep underneath her bedding, head covered as usual, only one arm poking out to flop onto the futon below her. Her fingers tangled in the kit’s red hair.
The miko was turned towards him, her pale face calm, her pink lips parted in a ghost of a smile. His youki smoothed out at the sight; he hadn’t realized it was agitated…until it no longer was. She wasn’t where he had left her, but she hadn’t gone far. The miko was safe, and he could make her aware of her new quarters later. No doubt the kit needed her reassuring presence after the unsettling days of illness and worry when he could not see her. The hanyou, on the other hand had no acceptable reason for his presence.
Sesshomaru turned narrowed eyes on Inuyasha, who met him with an equally irritated expression. There was no need for the hanyou to be in Rin’s rooms. And since Sesshomaru had decided he would keep the miko, there was no need for Inuyasha to be at the castle at all. He would not wake her; she was sleeping peacefully and needed the rest. The guards would watch over her – and this time they would alert him if she changed rooms. He still needed to eat, and Inuyasha needed to know how things would be. His chest rumbled in a low command that had Inuyasha straightening, eyes wide, and the kit twitching in his sleep. Sesshomaru gestured with a slight tilt of his head for the hanyou to follow him, then returned to his rooms. He paused only to give precise instructions to Eiji and Eiichi – and notify them of very personal consequences should they fail.
Inuyasha followed him back to his anteroom and leaned casually against the wall while Sesshomaru sat down to eat. The daiyoukai could have swallowed a wild boar whole, but he set a sedate pace as he served himself a bowl of meat and a cup of tea. He had almost finished his second helping when Inuyasha finally exploded. Sesshomaru was surprised; he hadn’t expected the hanyou to have so much patience.
“What the fuck do you want, asshole?” His tone was disrespectful and nearing petulant, as usual, but he did not make any aggressive movements, which was unusual. Perhaps the pup was maturing. After almost a quarter millennium, not counting the time he had spent pinned to the God Tree, it was high time.
“This Sesshomaru informs you that the miko will no longer need your protection. She is staying in the West.”
“No shit, she already told me.” Inuyasha rolled his eyes and Sesshomaru paused. He hadn’t expected his half-brother to take the news so well. Nor had he considered that Kagome might agree with his intention – and inform the hanyou. Sesshomaru would have secured her acquiescence shortly, but it was gratifying to know she had reached the same decision on her own. “Your rock guards are okay for here in the castle,” Inuyasha continued, “but I’ll stick around until Kagome is finished up and take her back to Edo. There ain’t much to do there in the winter anyhow, and Kagome is slow as hell. If I don’t carry her she’ll-”
Sesshomaru was across the room before his chopsticks hit the table. One claw held his half-brother’s sword hand immobile, the other gripped Inuyasha’s throat. No one takes what is mine. He could feel his youki rising, tensing for a fight. The miko would stay in the Western Lands. And no other male would carry her, would touch her, ever again. His lip pulled back from his teeth and Inuyasha’s eyes widened before he scowled and punched Sesshomaru in the face.
“What’s wrong with you, fucker? If you want to fight, then let’s do this!” He lashed out with one foot that Sesshomaru didn’t bother trying to dodge. He accepted the blow and responded by squeezing his brother’s throat. Youki flared around him.
“She stays,” he growled.
Inuyasha snarled, then hesitated. “You want her here?” His voice was a little garbled, but that was understandable with the claws sunk into his neck. Sesshomaru’s youki responded in the affirmative, lashing out and sending Inuyasha a firm message to put him in his place. “You didn’t ask, didja?”
Sesshomaru bared his teeth and repeated his command, “She stays.” Inuyasha laughed. The sound was unsettling. Not just because it was inappropriate, given the situation, but without enough air it had a wheezing, high-pitched quality that hurt the daiyoukai’s ears. He let go of the hanyou and swiftly moved out of range. The laughter didn’t stop, but grew in intensity, until Inuyasha was rolling around on the floor. “What is the meaning of this?” His tone promised deadly intent, but his half-brother ignored it, grabbing his ribs and struggling for breath.
“You- you think-” Laughter overcame him again, and Sesshomaru briefly wondered if insanity ran in Izayoi’s family since it certainly didn’t come from the pup’s demon side. “Oh man, I can’t wait ‘til she hears this. Finally, someone else gets to know what it’s like to be on her bad side.” He managed to sit up against the wall, and his chuckles died down, but he was grinning.
Sesshomaru couldn’t repress a tiny frown. It was troubling that he seemed unable to control his own responses where the miko was concerned. First Gekien, then he threatened Hisao, then Inuyasha…although he had injured Inuyasha more grievously while sparring. However, he’d never lost his temper with the hanyou. For a moment, he had been acting completely on instinct. It was not a comfortable sensation, to lose himself to his emotions. He needed to consider the implications with calm logic. Unfortunately, there were more pressing matters ahead of him.
“You do not believe the miko will remain,” he stated. Inuyasha didn’t answer, but his eyes, so human and full of emotion, sparkled with gleeful malice. Sesshomaru was loathe to admit that he lacked knowledge of any sort, especially to his half-brother. Especially regarding the miko. However, he refused to accept defeat in his desire to have her, and if there was strategic advantage in what the hanyou knew… “Why?”
“You’re askin’ me? Oh, fuck no, this is gonna be too good! She’s gonna turn you out like a muddy pup and jump back down the well so fast you’ll swear she can fly.”
Insolence. Sesshomaru wanted to rip out his tongue for taunting him. It would grow back…eventually. Hn. Perhaps there was another way to get information from the idiot. “She stayed with you.”
“I didn’t make her, you idiot. She stayed ‘cause she loves me.” The easy reply was not what Sesshomaru expected, or desired. Hot flames of rage seared his stomach and burned his blood. The miko loved the hanyou. A human sentiment, but he knew it was powerful. Hers should not be given to Inuyasha. Sesshomaru was not prepared for the rush of feeling that overcame him, and his control slipped for a moment. Inuyasha’s eyes widened, and the daiyoukai immediately lashed iron bands around his emotions too late. Inuyasha sniffed dramatically, and his eyes narrowed. “Oh hell no.” He growled and crouched in a fighting position. “No fuckin’ way.”
“Hn.” Sesshomaru decided no response was wisest. Inuyasha’s nose wasn’t even half as sensitive as his own, but it was still just as good as most full inuyoukai. He would have smelled Sesshomaru. It only remained to be seen if the hanyou could accurately decipher the scent.
“You- you’re jealous? You want her? You think you have the fuckin’ right to want her, you asshole!?”
Sesshomaru braced himself, and was hit by a snarling ball of red and silver. They crashed through the shoji screen and into his private garden. Snow was falling, and it blanketed the ground, softening their impact and tingling the bare soles on Sesshomaru’s feet. He grappled with his half-brother, trying to reign in his own instincts when he caught her scent on the hanyou. She had touched him, probably embraced him. Sesshomaru snapped his teeth and shoved, throwing Inuyasha away with a powerful thrust to crash into the rock walls of the secluded garden.
With surprising grace, and quick reflexes for a half-demon, Inuyasha flipped and hit feet first. He sprang off of the stone and launched himself again. “She’s too good for you!” Sesshomaru was ready with extended claws.
Inuyasha saw the danger in time to change course, but not quick enough to completely avoid the deadly weapons. They raked across the side of his head and neck, drawing blood and snagging the threads of the fire rat. How dare he, Sesshomaru seethed. How dare he try to keep her from me? He charged and with lightning swiftness slammed his fist into the hanyou’s gut and slashed his claws through the place where his face had been only moments before. His half-brother dodged the second attack, landing a blow of his own to Sesshomaru’s lower back as he twisted and rolled away from the fight.
“You heartless sonofabitch, what makes you think you are even good enough to look at her like that?” His shouted accusations only made Sesshomaru angrier. He could feel his youki rising, even as he tried desperately to tie it down and curb the instincts screaming at him to kill, to destroy, to end the existence of one who was weaker than him. One who made claim to her. Kagome.
He darted forward, only to have Inuyasha feint. Sesshomaru’s face split with a savage grin, seeing the ploy for what it was. He anticipated the movement and caught his brother with a blow to the chest, throwing him back into the bathhouse. Wood splintered and cracked and he circled, prowling, waiting for the hanyou that would touch what was his to rise and make a target of himself.
“She stays,” he snarled. It was a promise, a vow, a pledge not to his half-brother, but to himself. He would not let her go. Inuyasha rose unsteadily, shaking his head and preparing to attack again. The miko was his, and she would be with him, at his side. There was no other choice, no other path. He would accept nothing less. He would do whatever it took to keep her, to make her stay, to see that this was where she belonged. With him. Dokkasou dripped from his claws. He would even cull his pack if it came to that.
“What are you doing?” Her voice cut through the haze of desperate rage that had nearly consumed him. He did not have to look over his shoulder to know she stood at the narrow tunnel that led to the larger family gardens and Rin’s rooms. “Are you trying to kill him?”
Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes and prepared for her anger. He could smell it coming off of her in waves. Thick, heavy pepper burned his nose, followed by the sharp bite of her concern. She stomped forward and he did his best to smother everything inside him in a frozen lake of apathy. He would deal with it later. He would find a way to soothe her, to make her see reason. She would be angry for a time, but she would stay. He would find a way.
“Sit.” The command plunged Inuyasha to the ground. Sesshomaru had the briefest impression of wide, shocked golden eyes, and then the beads of subjugation glowed and his half-brother was tasting the rich earth of his garden. He blinked, not sure what to think of that. The miko defends me. A sweet, warm blanket of pleasure wrapped around him – made even better by its unexpected nature.
Then, she ripped it away. “And you!” She rounded on him, eyes blazing with blue fury. “I just got you fixed up. What do you think you are doing antagonizing him? You are his older brother, act like it! There is no reason for you to constantly assert yourself! Grow up,” she snarled. He keenly felt the loss of that strange feeling of comfort and at the same time admired her ferocity. “I don’t know why I bother with either of you!” She threw up her hands and the daiyoukai realized exactly what she had done to him. For a moment, he’d felt as he had before he met her. Cold. Empty. Unfinished. She wouldn’t bother with him. He had to turn his face away, fearing even his mask would crumble under the terrifying nothing that expanded before him. He closed his eyes and held his breath, unwilling to even smell her delicious scent when it became coated with disgust as he feared it would.
A soft, small hand cupped his cheek and his eyes flew open. She was there, in front of him, her face crumpled with worry. She still smelled of anger and concern and exhaustion. But there was also more, so many more complex scents and feelings that he could not sort them all out. “Are you all right?”
“Him!” Inuyasha shouted, outraged, as he finally freed himself of the spell, “What about me?”
She didn’t turn around, but her face tightened. “He has been very sick, and recently, thoroughly, purified. He shouldn’t be playing around with you right now!”
“Playing! What the fuck, wench! You think he was playing with that poison?” The claw marks on his face were already mending, but Sesshomaru knew the hanyou would be sore for several hours.
“Unless you want to be eating dirt again you should watch what you say, Inuyasha.” Her voice was deadly calm, and her fingers were stiff with tension against his face. He was captivated by the authority she demanded. “Or maybe you would like to see what it feels like to have my reiki crawling around inside you? Hmmm?”
A wave of violently possessive rage nearly consumed him. She belonged to him. No other would feel her power, her self, in such an intimate way. Inuyasha’s pale face was reassuring. Clearly the miko had not gifted him with the same exclusive experience he had been privileged to. Or perhaps the hanyou was not strong enough to bear up under her power. She is meant for me alone. His youki flared in agreement.
“Ka-go-me,” Inuyasha said softly. It was almost a whimper.
“Inuyasha,” she said quietly, “You broke my bath.”
Sesshomaru would have laughed. If he were anyone else, in any other moment, he would have laughed at the expression of absolute horror and stark terror on the hanyou’s face as he realized the growing puddle he was standing in was formerly a bathhouse. A bathhouse that the fastidious Kagome had used and appreciated. She was extremely fond of her baths. Sesshomaru recalled that fact about her and filed it away for future reference. In the meantime, he was gratified to see Inuyasha’s ears flatten against his head.
“I didn’t mean to wake you up, Kagome,” he whispered by way of apology.
“Go watch over Shippo and Rin.” His half-brother clearly didn’t appreciate her imperious tone, but he slowly obeyed, shuffling towards the narrow path cut into the mountain and Rin’s rooms. “I am going to make sure Sesshomaru is okay.” He would have denied that the hanyou could have injured him in any way, if not for Inuyasha’s immediate protest, and her swift denial. “He is my patient, Inuyasha. Get your ass. Out of my sight. Or you’ll be a patient too.”
She seized Sesshomaru’s hand before Inuyasha had even disappeared and started a determined march towards the destroyed shoji screens and his anterooms. The snow was falling thicker, catching on her waist-length hair and melting on the light material of her sleeping robe.
Sesshomaru contemplated many things while she pulled him into his sleeping quarters and directed him to the futon. She dug through the bag on his floor, her round bottom high in the air and covered only by thin silk, muttering, “Arrogant youkai, always have to prove something…Neanderthals…testosterone…brains of a flea…” She was strong and determined. Magnolias and round curves. She had her own mind and was not hesitant to protest his decisions or make her own thoughts known. It was part of the intricate puzzle that made her unique. That made her Kagome. Cherry wood and enticing shadows. He decided he would not want to keep her if it meant she would have to lose that part of herself. Perhaps the hanyou was marginally correct; perhaps he needed to strategize. She might need more than just a command. He might even have to present her with reasons. Maybe even…compromise.
She gave a triumphant shake that drew his eyes back to her curves. She had found what she was looking for and glided toward him. He sat patiently while she used her flash-light to look in his eyes and mouth. Before she could lift the end of her listening tubes, he removed his shirt, reassured and supremely satisfied by the thick scent of cinnamon she tried to smother. She pressed her hands against his chest and listened to his heart and he allowed himself a smug smile while she wasn’t looking.
He would plan an appropriate course of attack for this particular prey. She was cunning and rare, and worth the effort of a long and challenging chase. When she brought out her device to measure the heat of his body, he scooted backward, forcing her to kneel on the futon to put the stick in his mouth. His mokomoko secured itself around her while she counted, waiting for the stick to be ready. She was his. She would stay. She withdrew the stick and frowned when she read it.
“Too warm still, I think,” she muttered. He seized the stick and tossed it into her bag.
“My Isha decreed rest,” he replied. He used his youki to create a breeze that blew out the only lantern still lit in the sleeping room. Gilded by the flickering shadows made by the candles in the anteroom against the closed shoji screens, her skin glowed, her eyes wide with surprise and trust. She would stay, because she wanted to. He would make it so. He lay back onto the futon, pulling the bedding over them both. She squeaked in protest, but he ignored her sounds, focusing on what her scent told him instead. He smirked in the darkness, sensing success was very close indeed.
Ryukostokken prowled through the snow that drifted across the battlements of his castle. It melted under his boots, leaving a trail of water that quickly re-froze into icy puddles. He had not heard from his spy in over a week, and he was growing restless without any new information. He had expected news sooner of the pup’s worsening condition – if not his death. Ryukostokken breathed deeply of the frigid air. Winter was upon Japan. He could smell a hard, heavy storm moving south. It would lock the Western Lands in cold and make any defense they had managed to construct while battling the illness easy to overcome. He blew out, sending a gust of steam and ash into the air.
The half-blood spy would return soon enough, and the waiting, while tedious, only meant that Sesshomaru’s suffering was prolonged that much further. The Dragon Lord smiled. He relished the thought of striding across a battlefield littered with the dead of the West to meet the pup. Seeing his pride wracked, his legendary face ruined by scars, his forces decimated by casualties of the disease… it would be worth the wait. In the meantime, he would inspect his army. They were restless, but he would make his move soon. Once the West fell, all of Japan would be his. Ryukostokken jumped onto the wall and looked to the stone courtyard far below. He would crush them all below his heel.
A bellow of pent up rage, of anticipation, of triumph echoed in the Northern Castle, and those few who did not know the source felt the hairs on the backs of their necks raise. Those that recognized the voice of their Lord trembled in terror.
*The Bamboo-Cutter and the Moon-Child, a Japanese folktale from World of Tales .