Back to Chapter 33: A Qualifying Heat
Chapter 34: Tests, Flights, and Revelations
Kagome’s cry was torn from her throat, and Sesshomaru smiled savagely against her skin. His miko was more responsive than he could have hoped for; she flew apart before he could even truly taste her. He was eager to discover her reaction to everything he wished to do to her. Would do to her.
The only measure of control he had over himself was gained by focusing entirely on her. On her pleasure and the way she would call his name with her release – the way he would ensure that she would never seek to slake her needs with another. Cinnamon and salty musk flooded his nose and stained his lips: the scent of her emotions as well as her body. He watched, fascinated, as her flesh clenched in pleasure. Her creamy desire tempted him, and there was no reason to deny himself. He lapped at her skin. She shuddered in pleasure, whispering his name. The heavy current of need in her voice vied with the taste of her for his attention. Thankfully, he was daiyoukai, and more than capable of concentrating on two tasks at once. His left hand slid from her waist to cup her breast and knead the flesh gently. His right still gripped her bottom. One full globe filled his hand, the tantalizing crease between thigh and cheek caught in the wide span of his thumb and first finger.
He dragged his claws lightly up the swell of soft skin until the weight of her slipped out of his hand to bounce against her chest and he was left with only her hardened peak between his fingers. She gasped. He rolled. She blew out a noisy breath that sounded only vaguely like a plea. He flicked with one claw. She sucked in sharply. He pinched. She cried out – throwing her head back against the trunk and bucking her hips against his face.
He took advantage of her movement, thrusting his tongue out to meet her and spearing her sweet center. It was better, so much better than merely lapping up her juice, and he nearly forgot his resolve. He growled to chastise himself, but the sound, the low vibration had the unintended but not surprising effect of both intensifying and casting aside his frustrations. Her dull nails clenched and unclenched against his scalp and her chest rose and fell rapidly.
“Sesshomaru?” Her voice rose like a question. He answered her without words, finding that he rather preferred to speak to her in his own language.
You are mine, he growled. His tongue was still buried half-way inside her, so the meaning would have been unintelligible – even if she understood inu. The intent was not lost on her, however, and another rush of liquid and the renewed flutters of her inner walls signaled her enjoyment.
“Yes!” she gasped. It made a fierce pride beat within him that she agreed. Even if she did not know it, she accepted his claim. She allowed his touch. Welcomed it. Burned for it. As he burned for her.
He dragged his nose up her slit, taking in her heady orange scent of her excitement and withdrawing his tongue only to spear and withdraw again. Only mine, he demanded against her skin.
“Yes!” She repeated on a whisper.
His thumb slid forward until he found her needy center. Ever careful of his claws, Sesshomaru quickly clipped the deadly point with his teeth. He licked at her body, tracing the edges of her opening to seek out the berry hidden at the top. When he found it, he used the flat, slightly rough surface of his tongue to secure her complete attention. Forever, he swore. He used the tip of his tongue to trace around the center of her pleasure. His thumb thrust into her shallowly, the tight sheath of her body almost preventing him from curling to hit the spot he knew lay just inside.
“Yessss!” She moaned.
His lips closed around her berry. He pressed the pad of his thumb against her sensitive spot and sucked. Mine.
“Yes!” Her hoarse shout fell on deaf ears. He could hear nothing but the sound of his own blood thundering in his veins as her body seized around his thumb. Sesshomaru was driven by a searing fantasy image of his miko. Her legs wrapped around his hips instead of his shoulders. The clench of her gratification around the swollen flesh of his member instead of his hand. He drank down the proof of her desire as her release rocked through her – but he would not let her finish completion. He would not take her fully, but nor would he let her rest until every drop of pleasure had been wrung from her body.
His left hand cupped her breast again, crushing the hard peak against his palm and grinding it there. Her berry – the tender, sweet trigger for her release – was pulled into his mouth once more and rolled against the harder surface of his palate. She cried out again and another wave of sensation washed over him. The taste of her release. The scent of her passion. The feel of soft skin, taut muscle, and quivering flesh. His body throbbed, aching to respond in kind, but he denied himself with the reminder that he had promised her more pleasure than she could take.
Sesshomaru pushed her leg off of his shoulder and caught it in the crook of his elbow. He allowed her to slide down a few inches, just enough to bring her breasts level with his mouth. Saliva pooled in his cheeks as he gazed at her. Both mounds were swollen and heavy. One was flushed – the usually dark pink center red and hard from his attention. He glanced up at her face. Her cheeks were pink, her lips red and temptingly full. Her eyes were unfocused, the blue dark with satisfied desire.
“You may not rest, Ka-go-me,” he ordered. “This test has only just begun.” Her eyes widened briefly, and her mouth opened, but the sound that came out was more moan than words as he moved against her.
Arashi had left Aina packing for her own journey after only a few hours’ conversation. She was still young, considering her number of tails, and a kitsune, so convincing her to undertake a risky deception was not overly difficult. He had traveled far south to meet with her, and would have to set a brutal pace to return to the North in time to set the next phase of his plan in motion. Knowing the identity of the Miko no Mao changed everything.
Arashi ran through the forest, avoiding humans and other demons, and considered the shogi board in his head. All of Japan was the playing field, and it would be the prize – perhaps even more than that. The winner might claim power beyond what any of the four lords had ever dreamed of, if the game was played correctly. White versus black, Arashi pictured both sides facing off. Strength would only defeat an opponent who was weak of heart and mind. These players were neither. Arashi had been determined from the very beginning to run the board, and he would do that as he always had – with cunning.
The North had built up a plan to weaken the other demon lords’ power base, then attack them. After illness had spread through the lands, reducing the numbers in opposing armies and creating fear and confusion, the raids were supposed to begin. Masked forces that struck with devastating brutality would drive refugees into the West and East, straining their resources and sowing seeds of terror and resentment. Then the Northern Army would have swept down from the mountains, crushing the West swiftly and removing the largest obstacle to Ryukostokken’s quest for domination.
Matters had not proceeded as the Saigo Mao had intended. In the beginning, the weak demons that were infected and sent into the West had worked as planned. The sickness spread, and the West was slow to react; no illness had caused more than a minor inconvenience to demons in thousands of years, and so they were shocked into immobility when the lesser of them began dying. Even the great Sesshomaru was dilatory when the first reports were received at the Western shiro. When the spies in his castle reported that the human-child had fallen ill, Ryukostokken was engorged with delight. His personal celebrations left blood washing across the floors of his rooms.
It was not all celebration, however. The dragon prince ignored the reports, but Arashi immediately saw the potential for disaster. The pox had spread to the humans as well, and they sickened and died far quicker than demons. Although their panic over a plague could cause problems for the other three lords, it could also obliterate the opportunity for strategy. Scared humans were dangerous humans. It was a fact that Arashi knew well but Ryu dismissed as inconsequential. A lone farmer shaking in fear was inconsequential. A warlord gathering trained thousands was another issue entirely. Arashi had sent out inquiries to all of his sources and cautioned them to watch their backs.
Then, in the course of a fortnight, the entire board had been rotated. Sesshomaru had returned to his palace with a healthy human-child, a miko, and a cure. Arashi was, to the point of pain, honest with himself. He admitted that he had made an error in misjudging the priestess. His self-realization allowed him to take a closer look at her when he kidnapped her, to question what he knew and to know that he did not know enough. She had been left alone with Ryu too long. Long enough to potentially be damaged, long enough for Sesshomaru to have taken action. It could not be helped. He only hoped that she had taken his advice, kept quiet, made herself useful. By some miracle Ryu might have also kept his head and put her to tasks best suited to her skills – tasks that would keep her alive and unspoilt in her feelings towards the North.
She would be the fulcrum for the future of them all. On her mortal shoulders rested the balance of power in Japan. Arashi knew that siding against her would bring almost certain failure – if not the destruction of all that could be won.
The Miko no Mao. The Shikon Miko.
He shook his head, slowing his run as night approached. Much might have occurred while he was gone, but he had prepared for every eventuality. Aina would be in place in the West, closer to the heart of power than any of Ryu’s spies had ever dreamed. His most reliable, and most expensive, agent was already on his way to her village to gather more information and seek out her old allies. Arashi would return to the North and assess the situation there. Whatever steps were necessary to make certain that the miko was positioned to his advantage, he would take them.
Too much time had passed, and Arashi felt pressured to take action. Waiting was a tactic he had used often to good effect, but now he felt that events might rush by him if he did not move faster. They might have already done so.
He climbed to the top of a sturdy old tree and waited as twilight deepened into true night. The moon was still new, and the starlight too weak to do more than glint dimly on the curve of his black talons as he loosed his wings and took to the air.
Inuyasha forced a feeling of irritation to hide the hurt that he felt at his friends’ deception. Sango smelled of supple leather, soup, and Kagome’s soap. She smelled of camellias and hemlock, marimo moss and renkon. Only one person he knew had ever smelled of lotus, and Miroku’s scent had always been a mature plant. Inuyasha could put facts together, and he knew why Sango smelled like new lotus growth. Renkon, damn.
“Oi,” his loud exclamation attracted attention, and Inuyasha quickly lowered his voice. “What the hell do you think you’re doin’? You shoulda said something and I would have found somebody else to help train these idiots. And, hey…” He frowned, glancing at the back of the monk’s robes – far enough away to be out of earshot. “How come Miroku didn’t say nothing?”
Sango stared at him, her brown eyes wide and her mouth slightly open in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“You…you know…with the…” He found he couldn’t say it plainly, and so instead gestured with his claws and swiftly turned his head away. From the corner of his eye he could see her. A frown deepened on her face and she glanced from his hand, to his face, to her own body and back again. When she opened her mouth, ready to ask him for an explanation, Inuyasha blurted out, “Why didn’t you say you are going to have a baby?”
Sango’s eyes went so wide, for a moment he thought they might burst out of her face. She darted a glance at Miroku and then seized Inuyasha’s upper arm painfully. Her brown gaze narrowed and her jaw clenched. “Keep your mouth shut or you’ll wish you were still pinned to that tree.”
“You-” Whatever refusal he might have come up with was cut off as she spun him around. A sharp kick to the back of his knee had him stumbling forward.
“Oh, Inuyasha!” She exclaimed loudly. Her voice rang with an odd sort of false concern. Sango was a loyal friend, an amazing fighter, a passable blacksmith and had a dry humor that often had him cracking a smile days after a joke. She was not, however, a good liar. “You must be starving! Come have some of this soup I made! There is plenty left for anyone who is hungry.”
A circle cleared out around them as if by magic. Even Miroku had disappeared, suddenly remembering something he had to do on the other side of camp. Sango was a terrible liar – but she was a worse cook. Inuyasha moved with her to the small campfire in front of her pallet, reluctant to fight out of her deceptively strong grip now that he knew she was growing a little human inside her. Course, he considered privately as he was pushed down to sit on the ground, if the kid was anything like Miroku it would be able to take a considerable beating and come back for more with a smile.
“How did you know?” Sango shoved a bowl of hot soup at him, hard enough that some splatter on his hand. He let it burn rather than licking it up and assaulting his tongue with her seasoning. Her whisper was low, although he could smell her anger and a touch of fear, so he followed her example.
“Renkon,” he said quietly, then explained, “You smell like the pervert.” She blushed and he added hastily. “More than the usual, I mean.” That didn’t come out right. Inuyasha moved on, “It is the kind of thing that is hard to describe, but any inu would be able to tell, if he knew both your scents.” He stirred the soup absently, and almost took a bite before he remembered where it had come from. Sango cursed. Fluently. Inuyasha stared, fairly certain he had never heard the slayer use such language. Uncertain if he had never used such language.
“Do you think anyone else knows?” Sango interrupted. “There is that kitsune in camp, I know they have good noses.”
Inuyasha frowned. The conversation was not going how he thought it would – not that he had ever before considered that he might be having such a conversation. Certainly not with Sango – in the middle of a war encampment. “I doubt it,” he said slowly. “Kitsune aren’t as good as inu, and that kit is too young and occupied with revenge to worry about knowing every scent in camp. And it’s still early…I mean…” He blushed awkwardly. “It is, right? I, ah, haven’t spent a lot of time around females who are, ah, like this.”
“Yes, it’s early,” she confirmed with a hollow voice. “I wasn’t sure until a week or so ago. I haven’t even told…” She glanced across camp and Inuyasha followed her gaze to her husband, who was joking with a large group of bird youkai. “You can’t tell him, Inuyasha.” Her eyes fell down to her lap, where she twisted her fingers together. Although her voice was steady, the hanyou could smell the sadness and desperation flooding through her. “Not yet, maybe…” She shook her head, and Inuyasha was shocked to see a glimmer of moisture collect on her eyelashes. Sango was not a crier. “Maybe not ever.”
Inuyasha was not comfortable with emotions, and would prefer not to have to deal with them – his or anyone else’s. He wondered briefly if fate was having a good laugh at him: Lady Kimi, Sesshomaru, and now Sango. There was no way that he could just drop it, unfortunately. Kagome would have told him to look on the bright side. There weren’t any conversations that came to mind as more awkward than talking to his stoic female friend about making babies.
Except maybe talking to Sesshomaru about making babies.
Inuyasha’s shudder of horror was prevented from becoming something more violent when Sango spoke again, “The women in my family…they don’t…they lose a lot of babies.”
“Lose them,” Inuyasha repeated blankly. It took a moment for understanding to dawn. Ah hell. He winced, not quite knowing what to say. “Are you, I mean, is this one gonna-“
“No,” Sango said fiercely, her head snapping up to glare at him. She splayed one hand over her belly protectively. Her passionate conviction lasted only a moment, then she sagged into herself, slouching. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “Mama lost three before she had me, and another one after me. My aunt had two stillborn and died in childbirth.”
“Died?” Inuyasha gripped the hilt of Tessaiga and leaned forward, also whispering. “If you could be in danger, you definitely should not be here. You should be with Kagome or Kaede – they’ll know what to do if-“
“If I lose it? If I can’t have children?” The desolation fell away from her and was replaced with self-directed anger. “What then, Inuyasha? What good is a wife who cannot bear children? What would Miroku-”
“He’d sure as hell not throw you out of his hut,” Inuyasha interrupted. He continued, cheeks burning, “He didn’t marry you just to have you pop out a few kids, Sango. And it’s not like you guys can’t adopt or something. Hell, I’m sure Kagome has a few extra runts hanging around she could give you – if you can’t find one you like.” Sango remained quiet, but she still didn’t look comforted. The hanyou tugged on one ear and rushed out his last attempt to make her feel better, “None of these other assholes,” he gestured to the demons milling about the camp, “can have babies – and I still let ‘em fight with me, even though they ain’t half as good as you. You don’t see them cryin’ about it.”
“I wasn’t crying,” Sango said stiffly. “But…thank you.”
Inuyasha inhaled tentatively. She still smelled pregnant and anxious, but less sad and angry than before. Maybe there isn’t so much to this feelings stuff, he thought. It’s not so hard. “Great, so go tell Miroku and then you can-”
“I am not. Telling. Miroku.” Sango bit off each word and punctuated her husband’s name with a closed fist against one fuzzy ear. “Get it through your thick skull, Inuyasha. This is my decision, and I’ll tell who I want, when I want, got it?” He rubbed his throbbing appendage and nodded – not in agreement, but just to let her know he heard so she would stop hitting him.
“Fuck all, woman,” he muttered, “I just thought he’d be happy, and you shouldn’t be here, workin’ so hard training these morons when you’re-”
“Happy?” she snorted. “He’d be over the moon. And if the worst happened?” She swallowed hard, “He’d be crushed.” Sango leaned forward until their foreheads were almost touching. “You need me here, Inuyasha, and I need to be doing something that I am good at.’ Her voice cracked a little, and Inuyasha felt a rush of – something – that he didn’t like. It made the hairs on his arms stand up and his chest constricted painfully. He didn’t want his friend to feel like a failure – especially not at something that was so important to her. But he was inu, after all, and inu protected their pack and pups fiercely. Sango and Miroku were part of his pack, and he wasn’t going to take any chances with their safety, or that of their baby.
He could smell Miroku coming closer, so he spoke quickly. “There are other ways to be useful Sango – and you don’t need to prove your worth to anyone, sure as hell not me. If you don’t want to tell him yet, fine. I think you’re being an idiot,” he said with a snort, “but fine. Pretty soon though, it won’t be somethin’ you can hide, and then you’re gonna be a distraction to Miroku and about every demon for a half-mile around.” Sango looked completely destroyed, and Inuyasha felt that uncomfortable feeling in his chest again.
“I don’t want to put anyone in danger,” she whispered.
“Who’s in danger?” Miroku asked with a frown. The slayer had been so focused on their conversation, she hadn’t noticed his approach. Inuyasha had been listening to his footsteps carefully, however.
“Kagome,” he answered quickly, “who else?”
“Oh, that poor girl,” Miroku sighed and leaned against his staff. “Has she gotten kidnapped again?”
Inuyasha blinked. That happens way too often if it is the first thing that comes to mind. “Yeah, actually.” Both Sango and Miroku turned to him, mouths open and eyes worried. He huffed, “Oi. The bast- Sesshomaru got her back, she’s fine.” Like a light had been shone on the path, Inuyasha suddenly knew exactly how to manage the situation. “But you know how she is, probably it won’t be two weeks before some asshole tries to take her again. Or she falls off a cliff, or eats demonic mushrooms, or has some looney weirdo in love with her and trying to seal her soul in his pillow or something.” Both of his friends stared at him, half-smiles on their faces. “Well, you know what I mean.”
“Kagome does have a penchant for implausible peril,” Miroku said diplomatically.
“Keh. And she gets into weird danger too. So…” He cleared his throat and tilted back his head so he didn’t have to look at Sango while he spoke. “We were talkin’, and Sango and I think maybe she should take Sesshomaru the next report. Then she could stay at the palace for a while – at least until he has some news or something we need to hear, and keep an eye on Kagome.”
“That is an excellent idea, my friend,” Miroku cut off his wife and sat down beside Inuyasha, clapping him on the back. “Sango will be the least likely to be noticed, crossing behind enemy lines flying on Kirara, and Kagome might actually listen to her advice.” He turned his face toward Sango, “Do you think you could see if she has any more of those amazing little pencils? I have nearly used up the last one she gave me.”
Sango growled a response and stomped away, and Miroku took the bowl of soup from Inuyasha’s hands and began eating, humming happily. Inuyasha let out a long breath and relaxed slightly. It had gone better than he had expected – but then, taking care of Miroku and Sango was not nearly as hard as keeping Kagome out of trouble had been. His pack was smaller now, but, if things went well, it would get bigger again soon. He felt a little smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
“How can you eat that?” he asked the monk, to distract himself from the anticipation of seeing Miroku and Sango’s kid. It would serve Miroku right if he got a girl – beautiful like her mother and with all of the little human boys drooling after her. Not that Inuyasha would let them get too near, but it would be well-deserved justice for the lecher.
“My wife has worked hard to cook this meal, it would dishonor her not to eat it with a good nature,’ Miroku said calmly. He took another spoonful and spoke around it, “It is actually a lot better. She got the turnips cooked all the way through, this time.”
Inuyasha made a sound of disgust. “Hurry up, then. Everyone should get some sleep so we can break camp before dawn, and I need you to write a message to Kouga.” He stood and stretched, preparing to walk the perimeter.
Miroku touched the sleeve of the fire rat lightly, catching the hanyou’s attention. “Thank you, Inuyasha.” He said quietly, and then bowed over his soup bowl. He didn’t wait for the question that was on Inuyasha’s tongue and politely ignored the red flags on his cheeks. “Lovely Sango worries that she cannot be a mother – and that if she is, she will no longer be a slayer. You have given her the opportunity to be both. Thank you, my friend.”
“You- you know?” It was all Inuyasha could say. It made a certain kind of sense, however. Sango was a terrible liar. Miroku was an excellent one.
“She has been ill every afternoon for more than a week, and trying to conceal it,” he said frankly. “And she has been very attentive to my needs – while denying herself, which is unlike my passionate bride.”
“Don’t. Just – don’t.” Inuyasha felt a little ill himself at the image of Sango attending to her husband.
“I was not certain, until I witnessed your conversation with her this evening.”
“Why didn’t you say something to her?” Inuyasha was completely puzzled. He had lived among humans his entire life, had made three of them his closest friends – packmates. He still did not understand them.
“Sango was not ready to discuss it, and she should be afforded this privacy. I know that she worries that the unfortunate experiences of her mother will be her own fate, and only time and a positive outcome will ease those fears. When she is ready to share her burden with me, she will do so.” His eyes glittered with happiness, and for a brief moment, a grin of supreme bliss flashed across his face. “And when she shares the news, I will celebrate most eagerly.”
Fucking pervert, Inuyasha thought. Aloud, he said, “You’re sly as hell, monk.”
“Why thank you, Inuyasha. It is always pleasant to be appreciated for one’s talents. Now,” he set down his bowl to be washed later and clapped his hands together, “let us plot deviously to snare and destroy our enemies, shall we?”