Back to Chapter 25: Measuring Contest
Chapter 26: Black Letter Day
His anger still boiling over, Ryustokokken ripped his claws from a guard that watched over prisoners. The dragon had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he was just as dead as the imbecile that had waited to notify Wei of the miko’s reiki – of her escape.
She was gone.
Ryustokokken roared, flames erupting from his mouth and roasting the corpses scattered around him, and two prisoners still chained in the room. Their screams of agony did nothing to calm him, and the sounds quickly stopped as the heat of his fire roasted the iron that bound them to the interrogation tables. White-hot metal sank through flesh and bone and collapsed against the stone surface with a strangely crunchy clatter that sent bursts of scent into the air. His tongue flicked out. Charred skin and burnt hair. Terror. Agony.
Such things were normally pleasing to him. Pleasurable. He sank his fist into the half-burned, half dripping mass of the dead guard and spun, throwing the mess into the corridor and taking out another guard. What should have been pleasurable was not. What should have been a great day was not. What should have been the beginning of his triumph was-
“Denka-ue,” Wei interrupted his thoughts and the Dragon Lord responded by ripping a metal restraining cuff from the wall and hurtling it in the administrator’s direction. The fool had prostrated himself on the floor, and so the projectile hit a prison slave behind him. It exploded through the youkai’s chest before he had an opportunity to look surprised and another body fell to the floor.
Ryustokokken grabbed Wei by the throat and held him high, shaking him to punctuate each word, “Someone has ruined This One’s victory today. Someone has allowed the miko bitch to escape. Someone. Will. Pay.” His claws sank into meaty portion of the administrators neck. Smoke rolled from his nostrils and the smell of sulfur and methane choked those few still alive within Ryustokken’s sight. “If she lives to go back to that pup – “
Wei attempted to interrupt again, and in a haze of red Ryustokokken nearly severed his neck. A hunk of gore ripped away in his hand and the administrator fell heavily to the floor. The Dragon Lord snarled, but before he could sink his claws in again, a gurgling voice stopped him, “She smells of you.” His claws were only inches from Wei’s heart, the tips already puncturing the skin and drawing blood. Heat surged behind his eyes and he longed to roast the incompetent retainer where he lay. He breathed deeply, tongue flickering out, gathering the poisonous gases in his gullet that would form flame once they passed his lips. His own scent slid across his mouth.
Concentrated, saccharine musk. Biting, metallic mica. Copper. Sulphur.
The pup would know. That realization dampened his fury, and reason had an opportunity to be heard. He had been close to the miko. He had cut her, his clothes had brushed across her. She had slept in a room he often used for his pleasure. She would be drenched in his scent – no inuyoukai, not even the false Saidai Mao – would not notice. The miko had escaped. She might even live long enough to return to her dog, but he would know that another male had held her in his grip. Sesshomaru would know that a dragon had captured his weak little human plaything – cut her, hurt her. His scent would be on her back and breasts from the brush of his tanto sheath. When they met in person, Sesshomaru would scent Ryustokokken and know it had been he who touched the female. The Saidai Mao would live in fear that his precious miko would be taken again.
And she would be.
Ryustokokken relished the thought. Sesshomaru, horrified that the pretty little priestess had been held captive – that the Dragon Lord could have taken her body in ways that the pup could only dream of. She would be retrieved. When she arrived back at the Northern Palace she would be shivering and afraid, smelling of flowers and terror, calling out for her impotent lord that would not save her. Sesshomaru’s nightmare could be made true. Ryustokokken would force her to finish the task he needed her to complete, then he would make certain that his pleasure, and her pain, were drawn out as long as possible – months, years, if his healers could make her live that long. She would see the obliteration of the West and would learn to bow before her new master. She would learn to enjoy his treatment – to long for it – before Ryustokokken would even consider ending her.
He bared his teeth in vicious enjoyment, making Wei and the last guard flinch. “Summon Arashi. Prepare Ko for This One.” The miko had proved her value to him, and he would not let her get far. If she believed herself to be safe, the taste of her broken spirit would be that much more delicious when she was once again at his mercy. The bastard half-breed was irritating, and a stain on the pure bloodline of the Northern Dragons, but he produced excellent results. He would retrieve the miko, the Saigo Mao knew, and he would bring additional intelligence that would hasten the triumph of the North.
Wei sent the guard to find the spy and careful rose from the floor. “My Lord,” he said hesitantly, “the wind demoness is still unable to perform her duties. Shall another-”
Ryustokokken strode away in irritation, Wei scrambling to keep up behind him. Ko was by far his favorite toy; she was more difficult to break and recovered faster than younger youkai. However, the thought of regaining the miko stirred his interest. “Bring two or three others instead.” He snapped out further orders as they walked to his private bathing chambers. The metal tub, molded from basalt under dragon fire, was already filled with steaming water when he arrived. He disrobed and sank into the water, a frown marring his features. He would have the miko again, but he wanted her now.
“Wei.” When Ryustokokken spoke the administrator snapped to attention. “Make certain the females selected for this one are human. Dark-haired and well-shaped. This One will practice for the miko’s return.”
“Denka-ue-” Wei began, but was interrupted by the entrance of a dragon soldier.
“Ryustokokken-denka,” he kneeled with his eyes cast down.
“You are not the half-breed,” the Dragon Lord noted in a flat voice. Wei and the soldier stiffened, their postures bracing for an outburst.
“Arashi has not yet returned, Denka-ue, but he sent a message for you.” He held out a folded paper, sealed with wax. Wei immediately took it and passed it to Ryustokokken before quickly stepping back again, out of easy gutting distance. Wax crackled and broke over the hot water. It took only a few minutes for him to read the short missive, but his anger rose even faster. Ryustokokken surged out of the water, his roar echoing off of the stone and alerting all in the Northern Palace to his displeasure. Fire followed, white hot and searing anything in its path. The heaving tapestries that sheltered bathers from drafts were engulfed in flames and fell to the floor.
The fire was cut off with a snarl of rage as Ryustokokken crushed the paper in his claw. His assassination squads had met resistance in the East. There were rumors that a youkai had risen to command the remnants of Kuren’s troops, and had brought together the wild youkai as well. The Dragon Lord would have killed the messenger for that news alone, but Arashi added fuel to his wrath by informing him that the spread of the pox had ceased. Something, or someone, had prevented it from infecting much further south than the Eastern and Western palaces. The pox was his secret weapon, his means to eroding the strength of the other Lords and preparing them for defeat against his army.
Instead of three dead or dying nations, Hirimoto and the South were untouched, but no doubt on alert. The East had a new would-be warlord that he knew nothing about, and the West. The fucking West was still ruled by Sesshomaru. And that disgusting dog, that should be a rug to wipe his boots on, was healthy and whole and had Ryustokokken’s miko! Another roar of flames exploded from his maw, and the doors that had been hidden behind the now destroyed tapestries groaned and creaked under the onslaught. The iron hinges and pulls began to slump into disfigured orange slag as the heavy Katsura wood succumbed and broke into chunks of charcoal and ash. With the slam of his fist, Ryustokokken cracked the stone tub and swallowed his fire.
The room was silent, save for the crackle of burning wood and the heavy breathing of the Dragon Lord. Smoke drifted in the air, pulled outside through the gaping holes in the doors. Sunlight filtered in, stronger and brighter than the Northern Palace had seen in weeks. Ryustokokken’s fearsome expression grew darker. The remains of one door collapsed, and he could clearly see outside. The sky was blue and empty of clouds.
The storms were gone. His means of concealing his troops and harassing his enemies with difficult conditions and cold, starving refugees had disappeared. His pox had been stopped. The East was not defeated. The dog lived. The miko whore, the one who would heal him, had escaped. Ryustokokken stepped from the bath, lifted it with both hands, and threw it through the outer wall. His primal scream nearly drowned out the cries of the youkai in the courtyard below as four tons of rock plummeted to the ground.
Kagome felt the insistent tug of wakefulness trying to force open her eyes and buried her face in her bedding to avoid it. It was surprisingly hard under her cheek; she frowned to herself, wondering if Shippo had stolen her pillow again. A quiet rumble vibrated through her and warm breath brushed along her temple.
“Relax,” the order, given by Sesshomaru’s smooth, deep voice, sent a bone melting tingle down Kagome’s spine – immediately followed by muscle-freezing anxiety. “We are nearly home.” Her legs were draped over his right arm, while his left cradled her shoulders. Long fingers stroked at her elbow. Kagome was riveted by the dangerous tickle of claws brushing lightly across her skin. The same claws that had brushed across other skin. The same long fingers that had…she squeaked, which Sesshomaru seemed to take as a sign of discomfort due to the stygian atmosphere, rather than psychological distress.
“We will be out of the dark soon.”
The darkness was the least of Kagome’s concerns. It could not have been a dream. She knew that. The images were too vivid, the uncomfortable sensation of dried fluid on her thighs evidence that Sesshomaru had, indeed, run his hands over her naked body and touched her in a way that made her see stars. Her anxiety was growing into something akin to terror. She had asked the Saidai Mao, the Killing Perfection, Inuyasha’s brother, to make her forget. To make her feel.
A moan of disgust and guilt built up in her chest. She had left Ko behind and she had spent the night begging for Sesshomaru’s touch. They should be separate in her mind, somewhere deep inside she knew that. Knew that her enjoyment of his touch, that he had helped her forget for a brief time the horror of her captivity did not lessen what Ko had gone through. Holding her shame and guilt to herself and refusing to be comforted would not free Ko, it would not keep Ryustokokken from raping her again. She knew that what had happened with Sesshomaru did not trivialize Ryustokokken’s actions or her response to them.
Heedless of logic, her remorse intensified. She had been enjoying perhaps the most intensely pleasurable experience of her life, while Ko… Kagome’s stomach knotted. Kagome felt like she couldn’t breathe – but she was breathing too quickly – gasping for air but no oxygen was reaching her lungs. Light grew overhead, stabbing her eyes through her lids. She could feel her throat constricting, but she could not calm herself. It was awful, mortifying, shameful, amazing, thoughtful –
Thoughtful? Sesshomaru? A wave of dizziness swirled in her head and reality turned itself inside out. For a moment, Kagome worried she would pass out. Then, when Sesshomaru’s voice broke the silence again, she hoped to pass out.
“Eiji, have the Miko’s bath things and clean clothing brought here. Eiichi, no other shall enter the pack springs.” Solemn responses of ‘yes, Sesshomaru-sama’ were followed by silence. Her breathing sped up further, and black dots swam under her closed lids. He was taking her to bathe. Presumably with him. It was too much. The kidnapping, the torture…Ko’s rape. Her escape and Sesshomaru’s perfectly timed rescue. She forcibly turned her thoughts away from her experiences at the Northern palace and allowed the enormity of Sesshomaru’s actions to block out everything else.
The…the.. Kagome’s mind short circuited; it was the grain of rice that tipped the scales of her ability to cope. She barely noticed being set down to lean against a smooth boulder. Her brain kept flashing images of his face: golden eyes pinched with concern, magenta stripes that speared across sculpted muscle, pink tongue laving her wrist firmly. And, just before she fell asleep, she could have sworn she saw him licking a thin sheen of fluid from his fingers. That wasn’t…it couldn’t be…Sesshomaru would not do that. Her logic balked after so many unimaginable things happening in such a few days, and the Killing Perfection kissing her – calling her beautiful – enjoying the taste of her cum was at the top of the list of unimaginable things.
The soft crinkling sound of salt-crusted cloth falling to the ground snapped her back to reality and Kagome’s face exploded with red embarrassment. She squeezed her eyes tighter shut and struggled to stand. Her mouth was open in a desperate attempt for air, her muscles shaking with exhaustion and oxygen deprivation.
“Do not-” The deep voice ended right next to her ear as Sesshomaru caught her before she could collapse to the ground, “strain yourself,” he finished. Kagome leaned back, trying desperately not to touch him and gut-wrenchingly aware that he was nude. This is Sesshomaru. That was Sesshomaru – with his mouth on my neck and his fingers buried inside me. “Breathe,” he commanded. His voice softened and he stroked her hair. “Deep breath, Kagome.” He sucked in air with her, noisily, as if to show her how it was done. As sweet, clean oxygen flooded her system Kagome wondered if he had ever made noise unintentionally. The remembered sound of a growl, low and deep and sending vibrations from his lips to her neck and straight to the throbbing knot of need in her belly had her blushing brighter and squirming to get away.
“Calm yourself,” he said. His hand left her hair to brush across her cheek and Kagome’s body froze against her will at the touch. She wanted this. Had wanted it. The night before she was taken, she made the decision that she wanted to explore her attraction to the daiyoukai – his seeming attraction to her. She wanted to know if he cared for her. The pad of his thumb brushed across her cheekbone and startled her. Her eyes popped open and for a moment she was nearly blinded by the light reflecting from his skin and hair. “Relax, Kagome. You are safe.”
A tiny, vertical crease marred the skin between his brows. Kagome was fascinated. He was worried for her. So worried that he allowed it to show on his face. Even if she was the only one that could or would see it, it was still significant. Whatever else happened between them, whatever what had already happened meant, Sesshomaru did worry for her. He was right. She was safe with him. She could relax. Incrementally, she felt the tension leave her muscles as she stared into his golden eyes. Her guilt, her worry for Ko and her anger at Ryukostokken were still present, but they settled in the background of her mind. Sesshomaru, no matter how concerned he was, was not someone to allow intimacies – or in her case, initiate them – on a whim. He was honorable, loyal, and protective.
She had time. Time to work through the feelings left in the wake of her experience in the North. Time to plan with Sesshomaru how to end Ryustokokken’s reign. Time to consider what had happened in the cave and what she wanted it to mean. What he wanted it to mean. Her blush intensified, but her breathing evened out. It was awkward. So, so awkward.
What the hell was I thinking? She worried what Inuyasha would say. What Sango would think. Her friend would never speak poorly of Kagome, but Sango was a feudal woman and nice girls, in any era, did not go around begging men to make them orgasm until they blacked out. That brought on another wave of anxiety, mixed with so many other emotions Kagome was sure she would start screaming like a lunatic at any moment. Inuyasha would know. He would smell it, or see it on her face, or hear her heart beating like a dub-step album, and he would be furious.
Kagome tried to look on the bright side. She never really saw anyone at the castle if she didn’t want to, outside of Sesshomaru, Shippo, and Rin. Sango and Miroku would stay close to Edo for the remainder of the winter. And Inuyasha might not be back for weeks. A little bit of the spirit that had allowed her to accept time travel and demons – to be the object of Naraku’s sick obsession and nearly made the bride of a child lord, to roll with whatever crazy thing happened in her life any given week – returned, and Kagome offered Sesshomaru a hesitant smile. She had dealt with mythical jewels emerging from her body, a crush that longed for his undead girlfriend, and schoolmates that still thought she carried a dormant version of the bubonic plague. She could deal with this too. He hadn’t brought it up, so she didn’t need to either. Not until she had a handle on her feelings.
“I-” she cleared the roughness from her throat and began again, “I could really use a bath.”
“Indeed.” His flat observation had her frowning with irritation. She was sure she didn’t smell great. She hadn’t bathed in three days – unless she counted her dip in the ocean, and she didn’t – but it was rude of him to bring it up. She opened her mouth to tell him so, but he spoke first, “You have salt in your hair, and the heat will improve your condition. Also,” he paused while Eiji entered deferentially and left a basket of cloth and soaps near the water’s edge. Kagome blushed enough for both males, who seemed unconcerned with the daiyoukai’s nude state. He continued as soon as the rock demon disappeared back down the path, “I desire to assay your injuries.” He leaned closer, and his lips quirked slightly. On anyone else the expression would have been unremarkable. On Sesshomaru, it was practically lascivious. “And any damage I may have done.”
Kagome spluttered, “You- assay-”
“It means evaluate,” he interrupted smoothly. Kagome’s temper flared. She had been through a great deal in recent days. Not the least of which was the first, and decidedly intense, sexual experience of her life. And the damned youkai felt the need to condescend to her.
“I know what it means,” she said through clenched teeth. “You-”
“Then why did you seek clarification?” His tiny smiled cleared, but his eyes remained warm and his head tilted slightly, as if to say, why are humans so contradictory and uneducated. For some reason it was even more infuriating than Inuyasha’s bluntly rude questions. She wanted to punch him.
“I didn’t! You-”
“Good. Then we are in agreement.” He stood swiftly, scooping her up and stepping towards the water. Her mouth fell open with equal parts shock and outrage.
“We certainly are not! Stop,” Kagome’s commands became shrill as he waded deeper, until her feet were wet and her bottom was in imminent danger of being soaked. She was unable to struggle; her good arm was trapped between their bodies and her free arm was still tender and pulsing with restraining bands of his youki. She settled for a glare. “Sesshomaru!” His eyes slid to hers, although his face remained firmly forward. All of her concerns and anxiety were overshadowed by her ire, so much so that she forgot for a few moments their circumstances and the precarious nature of her clothing. “Put me down, this instant!”
“As you wish,” he replied in a monotone that was belied by the smirk twitching his lips. Kagome had a split second to consider that Sesshomaru never did anything that he didn’t want to – certainly not because someone else demanded it. With a movement quicker than the human eye could follow, she was tossed into the air – leaving her salty borrowed shirt behind. She splashed down with a strangled shriek, but did not touch the bottom of the pool. Her head did not even go under the water as Sesshomaru caught her and pulled her once again to his chest, this time deep enough in the spring that she was submerged up to her neck.
Kagome stared, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, at the shredded remains of white silk that floated on the water. He stripped me. The arrogant, egotistical, domineering, youkai stripped me – he ruined my clothes! Somewhere in the recesses of the miko’s brain, it registered that how Sesshomaru had removed her clothing was far less important that the fact that it was done, and he had done it. She was naked, the ruined garment wasn’t even hers, but her overloaded mind couldn’t seem to focus on anything past his wanton destruction of expensive material.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Do you ever listen? Can you even hear things you don’t agree with? I am not one of your subjects, you can’t just order me around and expect me to obey!” She was glaring at him, her eyes spitting fire while she sharpened her tongue on him. Her face and neck were hot with an angry blush, and she could not find enough words to express how absolutely rude and asinine she felt Sesshomaru had behaved. The longer she went on the more ridiculous she became, accusing him of everything from ‘peeping’ to, contradictorily, ‘an aloof disgust for humanity’. The tirade continued, his calm expression only fueling her as she became more expressive, until she finally ended with, “Just because you made me cum my brains out doesn’t mean you can play doctor whenever you want and if you think that a hot body and talented mouth can get you whatever you want, you’ve got another think coming!”
With that she poked him in the chest to make her point. His head tilted to the side slightly, as though he were considering her words, and she could feel her temper flaring again, until he said, “Although I have not before heard this expression, ‘cum your brains out’, I believe I understand the meaning.” His eyes were sparkling with mirth and more than a little bit of lust, and Kagome’s mind rapidly replayed everything she had said in the heat of the moment. Like surround sound, she got the full impact of words that had escaped without thought. Sexy brat. Running hot and cold. God-like prowess with an ego to match. Lickable. Yes, Kagome closed her eyes against the rush of heat to her face and did her best to sink into the water, something made impossible by the way he held her against his chest. She had referred to the First among Demon Lords as a ‘lickable piece of eye candy that should be given the surgeon general’s warning for being a pain in the ass’. If her luck hadn’t been just as abysmal as it always was, she might have been snatched away to hell in that moment. Unfortunately, her fate was not so kind.
A rumbling, humming vibration shook his chest and caused the water around them to ripple and lap against them. She opened one eye to steal a quick glance, and the other eye followed in confusion. She couldn’t decide whether to be angry or pleasantly surprised. The daiyoukai was laughing. His fangs were bared and his eyes crinkled to narrow slits. His body shook and the sound coming from his chest was low and warm and sent a thrill of pleasure straight through her.
Although the sound eliminated most of her anger, a flood of embarrassment made up for it. He relaxed enough that she could slide out of his grasp to stand, still within the circle of his arms. She crossed her arms over her chest in a vain effort to provide some modesty and muttered, “You are so lucky I don’t have any extra beads right now.” She threw a dark glance to his face, still grinning wickedly but his laughter was tapering off. “I’d like to see how hard you laugh after being subjugated.”
His claws trailed up her spine, making her shiver despite the hot water, to sink into her hair and tip back her head. She firmed up her frown, determined not to let mortification overwhelm her. He leaned closer, golden eyes boring into hers, the corner of his mouth still quirked upwards, “If you desire me on my knees before you, you need only ask.” Calloused fingertips caressed her hipbone and Kagome could not help but imagine him as he described, offering a repeat performance of the pleasure she had recently experienced.
“Pervert,” she rasped, her throat suddenly tighter than expected.
“Generous,” he corrected, dipping his head to hers. “Accommodating,” he whispered against her lips. His pressed his mouth against hers, firmly, before pulling back to nip at her full lower lip. “I appreciate the offer, but I must decline.” While his tone was regretful, his words had her head snapping up and her eyes bright again with fury.
“Offer? Why you-” He surprised her with a ladle of hot water poured over her head. She brushed dripping hair out of her eyes and glared at him.
He had maneuvered her within arm’s reach of the supplies that Eiji had left behind and blocked her into a niche in the wall of the pool. He began lathering a bar of soap while he spoke, “We do not have time for such intimacies, you still need a bath, and we have company.”
“Company?” She repeated dumbly. They were in the baths far below the ground floor, she did not understand how he could know if anyone was arriving at the castle.
“My mother approaches.” Sesshomaru dropped that bomb in her lap with a calm facade, then lit the fuse, “I believe Inuyasha is with her.”
“Geiken, you understand This One had a duty to perform, no matter how distasteful.” Kimi smiled a soft, almost seductive smile at the aged healer imprisoned in the Western dungeons and rolled her implements of torture back into a bundle. “This One understands that you only wished to protect the honor of the West.” The youkai bowed again from his place on the floor, touching his forehead to the cold stone. Hundreds of pinpricks dotted his exposed skin and made weeping stains on his clothing. Kimi had been generous with her needles. “The last time a Western Lord became acquainted with a human female, it was most inauspicious. Your distrust of the woman healer is not surprising.” Geiken trembled from pain, blood loss, and a worshipful awe that was impressive in its tenacity after Kimi’s expert interrogation. Inuyasha wasn’t sure which made her more dangerous: her ability to find every nerve ending in Geiken’s body, or her loving, benevolent tone as she did it.
Inuyasha wanted to snort at the heavy scent of gratitude and righteousness that rolled off of the prisoner. He held himself back, though, maintaining his position in the darkest corner of the room, slightly behind the bastard’s mother, as she had instructed. He had been disgusted initially by her suggestion that he participate in an interrogation, assuming that directly translated to torture at his hands, but he was also a bit curious. She think I’ll be impressed or afraid of her if I watch her cut on somebody? Keh, he huffed to himself, not likely. As they had made their way to the dungeon, she ordered him to keep himself as unobtrusive as possible until ‘the time is right’. Inuyasha didn’t know exactly what that meant, but her technique was strange enough to keep him watching – and following her lead.
She ordered fresh water and a change of bandages for the badger demon. The linen wrapped around his arm was stained with blood and pus. The servant that changed the bandages noted an infection had set in from Sesshomaru’s acid. Inuyasha listened to the story of the injury, both bewildered and unsurprised by his half-brother’s defense of Kagome. The girl was cheerful, accepting – the most loving and honest person he had ever met – and the level of devotion she inspired in nearly everyone who knew her was almost revolting. Although picturing the cold, heartless prick melting someone for calling the miko names was difficult to imagine, if anyone could draw out even a tiny bit of feeling from Sesshomaru, it was Kagome.
More baffling than the story itself was the Lady’s reaction to it. Despite her earlier attitude of acceptance towards her deceased mate’s bastard, she made sounds of sympathy and understanding as Geiken spoke. Her youki made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up too. She seemed to be comforting the prisoner, but at the same time, Inuyasha could sense her power restrained and controlled, but ready to strike. The guard in the hall and the idiot chained to the wall by his ankle did not appear aware of the Lady’s energy, coiled around her like a protective snake, but it set his teeth on edge.
“Yes, My Lady,” Geiken exclaimed. “That human whore is just like the one before – only she has the audacity to enter the palace itself. She calls herself a healer, but I felt her power.” His eyes narrowed and he gripped the edge of the futon under his knees. “She is a miko,” he hissed. “She has used her holy magic to cast a shadow over the Saidai Mao, as that weak mortal princess did to his father.” Inuyasha tightened his fist on the hilt of Tessaiga, fighting the urge to lash out at the sniveling moron that insulted his mother. “Now that you are here, My Lady, you can break this dark spell and the Western Lord will see clearly again!”
“You believe she controls your Lord?” Lady Kimi’s question, lilting and just short of sounding fearful, cast a pallor on the prisoner.
“No, My Lady! None can control Sesshomaru-sama!”
“What then, what purpose would be served by removing her, as others have tried to do in your stead?” A frown marred her beautiful face, but Inuyasha was not fooled. Her scent, muted and nearly undetectable, was not puzzled, but anticipatory. The inu bitch was ready to pounce.
“I see no reason to kill her,” Geiken answered easily. “Although I believe others will desire her death when they see how she has turned our Lord’s eye. Turn her out to go back to whatever human hovel she came from. That will destroy her presumptions and free Sesshomaru-sama of her entanglements.” He made an expression of distaste, “Besides, I can think of none who would want to be close enough to a human to kill her. Filthy creatures.”
Inuyasha was vibrating with fury, wanting to show the old fucker exactly what human heritage could do, but the Lady’s regretful sigh held him back. “Poor Geiken. This One had hoped that you had grander ambitions than mere prejudice. It would make so many things easier if you held value as part of a grander scheme, but it is apparent that you do not.” His confusion was obvious, but he did not get a chance to speak. “This One does understand your hatred of humans, Geiken, but it is not excused. Especially now that the Saidai Mao’s pack has human blood in it.” He understood, then, what she had meant when she said ‘when the time is right’. That time had come. He stepped forward, into the shaft of flickering light made by a single lamp in the room. He grinned, baring his teeth and knowing the effect his height and bearing made with shadows cast about him. He purposefully flicked his ears forward, displaying his hanyou heritage clearly. He cracked his knuckles. Scaring the holy hell out of the fucking’ asshole that tried to hit Kagome would be a decent way to pass the time until she returned.
Geiken swallowed hard, eyes wide and face pale. It was clear that rumors of Sesshomaru’s acceptance of Inuyasha had not made it to the dungeons. “You have allowed this, My Lady?” he whispered in shock.
“Allow?” She smiled and crouched on the floor until she was eye-level with the badger, mindless of the grime that would stain her expensive kimono. “It is not This One’s place to allow the Saidai Mao to do anything. However, This One is most pleased to have another of the InuTashio’s sons brought home.” Her smile was both pleasant and chilling, the combination disturbing in how well the two juxtaposed emotions were expressed together. She stood, sweeping her hair behind her shoulder with an air of finality. “The Saidai Mao has more important matters to deal with than your punishment, Geiken. This One has taken the task on.” His shudder of relief was short lived. “Inuyasha-san will carry out such tasks in This One’s name…as he sees fit.” Inuyasha took a single step forward, trying to maintain a look of intimidation without betraying the tingling confusion he felt over the title of respect she gave him. If the old healer had even a single like-minded acquaintance in the palace, Inuyasha would find out and ensure that they never got close to Kagome.
Lady Kimi paused in the doorway and cocked her head, drawing his attention. “Unfortunately,” she said, “that will have to wait.” She turned to Inuyasha, “Our Alpha has returned.” Her smile sent a spike of apprehension through him. He didn’t know what she was planning, but he felt certain he wouldn’t like it. “We shall greet him together. Come, Inuyasha-san.” She placed her hand on his forearm and guided him out of the cell with an insistent push of youki.
“Ain’t like he needs me to say hello, wen – er, Lady. We don’t have time for chat and neither of us fuckin’ want it. I’ll just grab Kagome and go.”
“Oh, dear pup,” she chuckled, and his foreboding grew, “This One simply cannot allow such an opportunity to pass by. We will go to them immediately.”
Ko sat at the window of her chamber, looking out over the training grounds. The view was considered less than appealing, which was more than likely why the room had been assigned to a blind youkai. Her mouth twisted in a vindictive smile. She wasn’t blind anymore, and while the view might not be attractive, it was very informative. She watched the progress of the army’s preparation and counted the number of soldiers that remained in the North, giving her an estimate of how many had already been dispatched. Her intelligence gathering was cut short as she heard the unconcealed approach of more than one demon. With a practiced motion, she pulled moisture from a nearby pitcher of water to cloud her eyes.
The door was pushed open with enough force that it bounced against the wall. Her senses recognized Wei, anger pulsing off of him as he stood in the entrance. He surveyed her condition, she could feel his tongue flicking out to scent the air, and hissed in disgust. “Your blood is still fresh, such weakness. It is to be expected of an elemental. I will never understand why my Lord has chosen to favor you with life, when he slaughtered the rest of your kind.”
“Favored,” Ko broke her usual silence to laugh harshly. “Yes, I am most honored by his favor.” She did not have to manufacture her discomfort. The wounds Ryustokokken had inflicted were deep, and still bleed sluggishly. It would take days for her to heal completely.
Hot breath was on her face in an instant, and the dragon administrator spoke harshly, “Do not mock me, whore, or our Lord.” His voice turned sly, “Another will take your place tonight, since you cannot do your duty. We still have some humans and a few little tree youkai chained – perhaps he will select one of them.” Ko bit down on her own tongue, refusing to give in to his provocation. The tree youkai that had survived Ryukostokken’s purge of elementals in the North were all young enough to not yet have taken root, some no more than children. “You will attend him in his private study and instruct the females on my Lord’s pleasure.” His claws bit into the slowly mending scratches on her face, reopening the wounds. “Tree youkai are so unpredictable at that age. Will she bend, or break, do you think?”
“Lord Ryustokokken’s desire will be accommodated,” she replied noncommittally, concealing her disgust and anger with the ease of constant practice. The administrator made a vulgar observation about what else she could accommodate, and then Wei backhanded her, almost as an afterthought, before he departed. Ko waited until she was sure he was gone before she carefully stood and began the short trip to the Dragon Lord’s chamber. She would need to send information to Kagome soon, and hope that she had survived the journey back to the West. In the meantime, she offered a prayer to any Kami that might be listening that whichever tree was cursed to be selected for the evening’s activities would break – quickly. No one deserved to endure Ryustokokken’s pleasure.
Soon, she promised herself, soon no one will have to.
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