Second Alliance – Chapter 57

Chapter 56: Impetus for Rebellion

A/N: Thanks to Victoria for her review of North Sea Dawn!


Chapter 57: End Game


“Arms loose,” Kimi repeated, for what seemed to Kagome was the billionth time, “you are announcing your movements.”

Obediently, the miko forced her arms to hang more naturally at her sides and continued their conversation, “When do you think he will return?”

“Today, perhaps. Tomorrow evening, at the latest,” Kimi murmured absently. She waved her hand as though brushing back a stray hair. A fine spray of yellow acid arced across the tatami mat. Kagome ducked and rolled, banging one knee hard against the ground. She gritted her teeth against the pain and whipped her wooden bokken up to protect her face and neck. A few splatters landed on the hem of her shirt, burning holes through the cotton.

“And no one will notice an army of bear youkai marching into the West?” She stood, breathing hard, and tried to prepare for the next attack. Kimi, despite the hours they had already spent training that morning, looked cool and composed. Her kimono was a pale cream, dyed with elegant swaths of browns and embroidered with spirals and shooting streaks in gold thread. The design reminded Kagome of modern art.

“Widen your stance,” Kimi prompted gently. Kagome looked down at her bare feet, only to be broadsided by a wave of youki that knocked her onto her butt. “Never let down your guard.” Kagome let out a grumpy sigh and struggled to get up. She had always prided herself on a cheery disposition, no matter the situation, but there was only so much humiliating defeat she could take before even her optimism wore thin. She had bruises in places she shouldn’t have been able to get bruises. Her reiki was tired, her skin itchy with dried sweat and wet in places from fresh sweat, and her head was beginning to ache. Training with Kimi day after day was no walk in the park.

“Of course Hirimoto will be noticed,” Kimi picked up the strand of discussion easily, “it would be impossible to hide the movement of that many demons. However, they will travel at night, keeping their detection by humans unlikely, and measures have been put in place to guard against youkai espionage.”

“What kind-” Kagome let out a little screeching gasp as her feet were swept out from under her. Whatever Kimi did, it was too quick for human eyes, but it ended with the miko sprawled on her stomach – her practice sword on the other side of the large room. “Ugh,” she grunted and flopped onto her back.

“You may have a brief rest,” Kimi allowed. Kagome took the opportunity to gasp for air like a fish out of water and try to will her body not to melt into a relieved puddle.

When she could speak again, she repeated, “What kind of measures?”

“This and that,” Kimi shrugged delicately. “A little counter-spying, a few holy auras, one or two tongues removed and nailed to trees. The usual.” Kagome was concerned that she felt very little surprise over what Kimi considered ‘the usual’. “Should word of his return to the West reach Ryukostokken, it does not alter our plans. It may even work to our advantage if the dragon believes our only ally to be tired from travel and grief. If Ryuu feels he knows our secrets, then he will be less inclined to look deeper.”

“Okay,” Kagome nodded and her forehead crinkled in thought as she stared at the ceiling. “That’s why Sesshomaru left the map of Inawashiro in the council room, right? He wanted anyone who is spying for the North to think they had found a secret.”

“Very good, Miko, I may make you into a devious mind yet,” Kimi’s approving smile looked sinister from upside down.

“Er, no, thank you,” she responded awkwardly. “So the spy-”

“Spies,” Kimi corrected, “there were three among the staff of the councilors.”

“Spies, then. They see the ‘hidden’,” Kagome made air quotes as she traced the wooden beams above her with her eyes, “map that marks a route near Inawashiro and think they have found a good spot to ambush us. But really that is where Sesshomaru wanted them all along.”

“Correct. There are still other variables that must be understood, alternatives that need to be removed from Ryukostokken’s consideration, but that is the heart of the matter.”

Kagome rolled to her knees and sat facing the Western Lady for a moment. She seemed tired. Not that she looked it. Kimi was as flawlessly beautiful as ever, but her shoulders were stiff and if Kagome squinted, she could see a haze of golden youki around the demoness that thrummed with a desperate sort of agitation. Her dealings with Hirimoto had been difficult for her. Understatement of the year, Kagome knew. Whatever had happened at the teahouse in the blink between the charge of a grief stricken bear and Kimi’s jaw around his neck, it had profoundly affected the lady.

“He won’t hold it against you,” she blurted, then covered her mouth with a hand. Her face was on fire. She couldn’t believe she had said something so thoughtless and presumptive to Kimi. The daiyoukai’s eyes widened, the magenta lines on her lids emphasizing the dark gold of her iris. Her lips parted, and Kagome thought she would say something, but her expression quickly shuttered.

The reason for her nonresponse was apparent when a moment later a knock came on the shoji screen. “Enter,” Kimi commanded. Aina slid the screen carefully open, remaining on her knees on the porch and bowing low. Kagome was on her feet in an instant.

“What is it? What’s wrong? Is one of the kids-”

“No, Kagome-sama. Nothing untoward has occurred,” Aina assured with a soft smile as she raised her head. Thick locks of loose red hair slid across her simple kimono. “Nankae-kun and Shippo-kun are training with the other youkai children. Rin-yojosan is reading to Emi-chan in the family quarters. The rock demons are on guard there.”

Kagome let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “Oh, okay, thanks. Well, um,” she brushed a sweaty lock of hair back and tried to stab it into her ponytail, “was there something you wanted?”

“My Lady is needed in the shiro. I have only come to request her presence.” Aina bowed again.

Kagome opened her mouth, ready to question who needed Kimi – and cursing her stupid brain for caring why her torturous lesson was ending, when Kimi herself replied, “Has Jaken still not figured out how to run this household? Honestly, Kagome-san,” she huffed in amusement as she walked past the priestess, “you really should make hiring a new steward your first priority after the mating.” She paused in the open doorway, waiting for Aina to stand and replace her shoes. The daiyoukai’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “Well, perhaps not the very first thing.”

Kagome’s blush exploded to new levels of red when Kimi winked at her. Why couldn’t I get a mother-in-law with bad cooking, or a desire to give unwanted fashion advice? No, I get the one who is the feudal equivalent of Dr. Ruth, Kissinger, and Bruce Lee all rolled into one. The screen was just about to close on her mortification when another blast of youki caught her by surprise, knocking her over again and triggering a startled wave of purification in response.

“Never let down your guard.” The amused reminder sounded suspiciously like a laugh as the screen clicked shut.




“This news comes from Arashi?” Ryukostokken narrowed his eyes at his administrator, enjoying the hard swallow of fear and the way it caught on the scars in Wei’s throat.

“Yes, my lord. The half-breed instructed one of our scouts in the far West to deliver it. Is it,” Wei swallowed again, and then seemed to find his self-confidence. His shoulders straightened and he folded his hands into his sleeves. “Is the news well-received, denka-ue?”

Ryukostokken fingered the rough, economical paper that had been hastily folded into an interlocked square and sealed with wax. Crumbles of the common yellow candle drippings were scattered on the floor near his feet. Arashi was a disgrace, a stain upon dragon blood, upon the North, but he was unparalleled as a spy. The Saigo Mao let his eyes drift to the map of Japan spread across his table. To the southwest of what remained of Kuren’s shiro was a long, broad valley. He traced it to a place where the surrounding forests thinned and a few villages dotted the landscape. A massive, deep lake cut off all but the narrowest escape route. If the dog would bring his troops north there, Ryukostokken could plan an ambush. The cowardly Killing Perfection would have rough mountains to the east. Natsou and the lucky little bastard of a human bitch could use them as a staging ground for their attack. To the west – flat, open ground and a thick tangle of ancient forests that would be easily scorched from above. At the sniveling pup’s back would be the freezing lake water and a strip of a road that would clog with bodies if he tried to flee, trapping him for an easy kill.

To war, Ryukostokken thought with a smile. Aloud, he said, “send a flyer to Natsou. This One is ready for blood.”





Sesshomaru silently watched his intended stomp around his dojo. She was muttering under her breath, and her obvious irritation – but not fear or injury – was a reassurance to what he had already told himself. Despite what he knew about Kagome, and his mother’s dedication to training the miko, he had not been able to help leaving his study when he sensed her rather wild explosion of reiki. So he had found her, sweaty and red-faced, grumbling as she put away various training weapons. She looked terrible and smelled extremely human. Sesshomaru smiled to himself and stepped inside, closing the screen quietly behind him.

“Don’t see why she has to make a point of it,” his miko was saying. “It’s not like I asked. And if I had, and I didn’t, it wouldn’t be to his mother. And how would she know what I know anyway?” Kagome huffed indignantly, “I know stuff; stuff she doesn’t know that I know she doesn’t know.” She slammed a wooden bokken into a holder. “Oh, I know things!” Sesshomaru did not bother hiding his confused grin at her circular and nonsensical argument. He had never before known a person that found the need to settle their mind by arguing aloud. Alone.

“…letters to the editor? I have! And they can get pretty graphic, let me tell you!”

“Do,” he purposely let the word roll across his tongue. Kagome gasped and jumped, whirling around to face him.

“What?” she screeched. The sound hurt his ears, but he didn’t let that stop him from stalking forward.

“Do tell me,” he clarified. “How graphic are these letters you claim to have read? Perhaps you would care to demonstrate?”

“Why- you-” she spluttered. Sesshomaru chuckled, enjoying her discomposure. It was not often, especially since the Council had begun, that he had the opportunity to tease and bait. In the privacy of his dojo, with his intended blushing and barefoot, he found a modicum of relaxation that he craved. He refused to let it pass quickly.

“Although,” he turned his mouth down in a mock frown, and was surprised to find it difficult to keep the unhappy expression in place, “I believe a bath would be appropriate, before such an exhibition.” Truly, her scent was not unbearable, or even offensive, merely pungent and more muddied than he preferred.

Her mouth gaped open like a fish, but he had only a moment to enjoy it before she turned the tables on him. Her eyes settled half closed and the corner of her mouth quirked, her pink tongue coming out to touch her lips briefly. That was all it took for the game to be over, as far as he was concerned. It had been days since the courting ceremony. Days since he had tasted his miko in a close, dark room and shown her to whom she belonged. Days since he had any opportunity to be alone with her that did not consist of her murmuring sleepily into their futon or snoring softly against his chest. A ‘graphic’ interlude was more than appropriate. Imperative, he decided.

“Oh? Perhaps you should run along to the springs then, Sesshomaru. I may still feel like indulging in some show and tell when you’re done. Maybe.”

“Not me, Ka-go-me.” His voice had gone deep and quiet, and he admired the effect it had on her. Her eyes darkened, the pupils widening, and her heart beat in double time. “You are the one in need of a bath. And if I enjoy your show-and-tell,” he had to reach out and hold her arms carefully or risk pulling her tightly against him despite her odor as his imagination conjured images of her slowly removing her clothing. Then his. With her teeth. “If you please me, then I will help you bathe.”

“I think you have this wrong, Sesshomaru,” she said, her own voice husky. “In my time, it is very important for a good boyfr- mate, to make certain he pleases his woman first. So it is you who must please me, Sesshomaru.” She leaned up on her toes, brushing her lips against his even as the heat of her blush warmed his face. Kagome whispered, “Graphically.”





Kimi did not speak, she was a patient demon, and Aina would not have summoned her if the news was not of great import. They walked in silence from the dojo, through the gardens, deep into a frosted stand of sculpted hedges to a small hidden pond. The bridge over it was well-maintained, but rarely used. Aina stopped halfway across the little structure and Kimi followed, bringing a subtle barrier into place to protect against spying.

“I met with my contact last night,” the kitsune began without preamble. “The Saigo Mao is getting more creative.” Kimi watched carefully as the shorter female pulled from her obi a small, clay vessel. It looked completely unremarkable in every way. She prodded it gently with her youki, but received only the warm push of kitsune magic in return. Kimi raised an eyebrow in question. “I shielded it,” Aina said simply.

Her lids closed over green eyes and she chanted, just under her breath. A popping sound caused Kimi momentary deafness, and then she was awash with a sickening sensation. A wave of dark, unholy energy rippled out from the vial, lapping against her youki and rubbing her nerves raw. Kimi gasped. It lasted only a short time, the space between heartbeats, and then the power subsided into a faint glow around the vessel.

“I know,” Aina whispered, “I feel nauseated just holding it.”

“What is the purpose of this?” Kimi did not reach for it, but watched it closely, using her other senses to try to gauge its goal and composition while she listened to Aina recount what she had been told. The base of it would have sent a chill down the spine of a lessor youkai. Blood. Vulture youkai. A mated pair. The potion was powerful indeed, designed to force a disturbingly strong bond between two individuals. Unripe, bitter orange. To suppress the appetite and stimulate energy flow. Monkshood. A poison that caused the heart to palpitate and blood to seep into the organs. Chinese foxglove root. For treatments of hearing, although the seeds affected the pulse as well. Ginger. A stimulant, providing energy – to excess if not used properly – and an aphrodisiac that mixed with other ingredients could cause mania. There were other herbs as well, some of which she ascertained were solely added to cover the scent and taste. They would be effective on a human, but were no match for an inu sense of smell.

The mixture, combined with the aura of unholy power that infused it, made for a concoction unlike any Kimi had encountered before. Ryukostokken’s desire for the miko Kagome had driven him to create something that should not have ever been used. Even one as morally corrupt as the dragon lord should have been able to see the side effects. The elixir would have been dangerous for a youkai to consume; the chances a human would die from the effects were extremely high.

“…witch will know when the cork is removed, and it must be used before the sun rises the next day. It cannot be poured out or fed to an animal. She will know the moment it is ingested by a being of power. If any but a powerful youkai or holy person drinks it, the poison in the herbs will be drawn directly to the heart and kill that person.”

“A being of power?” Kimi interrupted sharply. “That is what your contact said?”

“My lady,” Aina bowed deeply, “I am repeating his words just as they were spoken.”

Kimi’s mind whirled with that information. Just as they were spoken, she repeated to herself. “And the name, how did he say it?”

“The name that is spoken will become that person’s whole focus. Their world will narrow to that point, and all things said while they are in the trance of the first hour will become true to them.” Aina’s face twisted, but she continued, “He said, ‘you know he who gives me commands, and whose name this vial is intended for. The imbiber must be told to love, to desire, to cherish, and to defend and heal and obey the name which is spoken – above all other things. Even their own life.’” A shudder ran through the kitsune. “The thought of having that evil…thing…in Lady Kagome’s head. In her heart!”

“You have come to trust her? To desire to defend her?” Kimi questioned. Only recently had she discovered that her heart still beat in her chest, was still capable of the softer emotions of love and joy.

“As I am loyal to you and the West,” Aina swore, straightening her back and looking the Western Lady proudly in the eyes. “I would do anything for her safety.”

“Even if that meant putting yourself in danger? Even if that meant putting someone else you care for at risk? Even if to ensure that she lives and the West is victorious, it means her suffering in the here and now? Perhaps your suffering?” Kimi had been pleased to feel the closeness of pack again. But the new tenderness of her unarmored heart felt the pain of what she must do twice as keenly.

Aina hesitated, clearly thinking over those words and realizing the lady’s intent. Her shoulders sagged and her eyes closed in defeat. “Even then,” she agreed.

“Then you know what must happen,” Kimi stated over the disgust that churned in her stomach. “This potion must be used, exactly as he spoke it.”




The night was quiet and dark; the servants long since retired to their own chambers. Kagome had gone upstairs after their interlude to a late lunch. Before he had returned to stacks of paper work and a reception room full of audience seekers Sesshomaru had extracted promises from her of waiting to bathe, again, until the next day. After hours of finishing the work he had left undone while he tarried in the hot springs with Kagome, Sesshomaru was finally able to dismiss Kento and turn his path to the family quarters and his bed. He discreetly inhaled the stubborn fragrance of cinnamon spiced flowers and cherry wood that clung to his skin. He was most eager to find if Kagome had done as she was told and remained covered in his own scent. Sesshomaru allowed the corner of his mouth to twitch upward, once more able to set aside his burdens for a short time and think only of his miko. If she had not obeyed, he would simply have to tell her again, and show her what he desired.

When he reached their rooms, he found his quarry wrapped in furs and seated on the garden porch. It was too cold to stay outdoors long, but he gauged from the easy pose of her body and the steaming pot of tea at her side that she had not been there more than a few minutes. He lowered himself down next to her, enjoying the soothing scent of him on her and the quiet of the night. She smelled softly of worry and confusion, so Sesshomaru remained silent while she sorted out what she undoubtedly wished to say. A war was nearly upon them; there was a great deal for one as loving and kind-hearted as Kagome to worry over. Certainly, she was also capable of saying a great deal as well. Or perhaps it would be more accurate that she is incapable of saying little, Sesshomaru mused, equally entertained and vexed. He would allow her to speak for a time, if it was not too inane and the cold did not become uncomfortable for her, before he carried her to their bed.

“Did you-” she began, and then stopped. Her brow furrowed and sour melon grew heavier in his nose. “Is Kimi still up?”

Sesshomaru felt a twinge of surprise. He was grateful – more than that, there was no word he knew of to describe the feeling of having the Lady Kimi and his intended alone together for the first time and not finding any mess, emotional or physical, to clean up afterward. But his gratitude for the easy comradery, of sorts, that those two females had fallen into did not extend to having private time with his intended interrupted with thoughts of his mother. “I can find out,” he said slowly. “Do you wish to speak with her?”

“No, I mean, that’s okay. I just…” The worry faded out again, to be consumed with confusion. Her full lips pursed and she stared hard enough at the stone walls of the garden he wouldn’t have been shocked if they had surrendered and collapsed before her. “I was taking a nap, earlier. After the children were in bed. By the way, Nankae is staying the night with Shippo. Aina dropped him off earlier,” she waylaid her own conversation, and then faded into silence again.

“You were sleeping,” he prompted gently, curious as to what had her in such turmoil.

“Aina helped me tuck them in,” she continued slowly. “She brought me tea and I thought Kimi came in…and then…” She frowned and shook her head, whispering almost to herself, “I’ve been so tired with the longer training sessions. It must have been a dream.” Her volume rose again, “I woke up a few minutes ago here on the porch. And see,” she nodded to the tea tray, “it’s still hot. I must have just dozed off for a minute.” She chuckled, “Clearly I was exhausted.” She leaned into him, her shoulder round under the heavy fur, but her weight welcome against him.

“Ah, yes,” he replied, pressing a kiss into her hair. “Activity is good for you. It will help you sleep deeply.” He smiled, a wide, fang-revealing grin that she couldn’t see. Admitting she had fallen asleep played quite well to his intentions. “No doubt we should ensure you are properly tired now, or you will not be able to sleep after your nap.”

“Sesshomaru,” she said with a laugh, tilting her head back to look into his eyes, “who would have guessed that you are kind of a horn- oh, Ha!” she dissolved into giggles. Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. He had the suspicion she was amused at his expense, but he was willing to accept that fate as her scent was cleared to make way for happiness.

He was loathe to ruin her mood, but there were other things that needed to be discussed. Issues which he would rather broach with her in private, and such moments were few and far between. War would make them more difficult to come by. “We will need to leave soon, in order to establish our position before Ryukostokken can move his soldiers south.”

“I am ready,” she said quietly, “whenever you are.”

“Kagome,” he began, then stopped. He knew the argument was pointless. It was one they had had many times, one which he was not even certain that he had chosen a side on, but he needed to say it one last time. “You should go to your home. You will be safe there, until I have defeated our enemy.” He wanted her to be secure, far from harm, and paradoxically wanted her by his side – powerful and protective of all that he had sworn to defend.

“Not gonna happen,” she said swiftly. “I’ve already said it,” she paused, “and so have you. Our enemy, Sesshomaru.” She sat up and faced him, the fur sliding off of her shoulder to reveal a thin sleeping yukata underneath. He was struck by the dichotomy in her: the fragility of a slender neck and collarbone contrasting to a stubborn commitment to her responsibilities. “Ours to fight together, right?” She was holding her breath, her blue eyes wide and dark and hopeful. Resolute. Perhaps a bit fearful. He nodded, and she sighed in relief. “Besides, there is no guaranteeing what will happen when it is over. I always thought the well would close completely when the Jewel was finished. If this is what I am meant to fix, then there is no way to know if this might end its magic. If I went home, I might get stuck there.”

His arms tightened automatically around her and a short growl escaped him. As much as he could not allow himself to think upon the possibility that she could be separated from him, he had to force himself to say, “Then there is a chance you could be separated from your family.”

“I know,” she said easily. Her tone was casual, but her scent revealed how painful that decision was for her. “I’ve said good-bye to them many times, and we always knew that each trip could be my last. I have lives in both places. People I love in both places,” her eyes searched his, sweet carnations and citrus flooding his nose. “People I care for,” she added, leaning forward to press her lips chastely against his. “I want both. Want to be able to go on as I have,” she grinned, “with one impossible, amazing life that spans centuries to be with my future family and my past friends.” Her smile faded to nothing more than a ghostly tilt of pink lips, however her voice was strong, even, and determined, “But if I can only choose one, I choose this place. This time. Here. With you.”

He kissed her then. Later, he would realize that it was the first time he had done so not out of instinct or desire, but for the pleasure of being with her. It was a kiss that thanked her for being with him. A press of lips that was as much about what he felt for her, what she meant to him, as it was about the softness of her skin and the minty, tangy sweetness of her mouth. In the moment, he thought only that it felt right. To be with her, Kagome.

He was complete.

When he pulled away, her eyes were closed, and her mouth was an open smile. Her bare neck was on display and her breath puffed white into the winter air. Sesshomaru carefully, deliberately poured her a cup of tea. “Drink,” he commanded roughly, “before it gets cold.” Dark lashes fluttered against pale cheeks, tinted pink, and her hands emerged from somewhere deep inside her fur cocoon to grasp the delicate porcelain. She sipped, her eyes fixed on his. Sesshomaru inhaled the fragrance of the tea – tart citrus and ginger and complex other flavors he did not take the time to identify. She turned the cup, pressing it against his mouth so he tasted her lips even as the warm liquid washed across his tongue. It might as well have been plain water, for all that he noticed it. He was drunk on the smell of her. Satsuma oranges and rich magnolia. Fresh cherry wood and spicy cinnamon. Sweet carnations and thick gardenias. Her reiki reached out, following that scent, slipping under his skin and along his nerves. Swimming though his blood and seeping into his bones.

His youki responded, just as quietly, as naturally. He could feel her heart pulse from the inside, hear how it quickened as she leaned forward, lips parting, eyes glazing. He felt dizzy, hazy, yet at the same time focused exclusively on the narrow slice of the world that contained Kagome. He pressed his lips to her chin, ran his nose along her jaw to her ear. His tongue darted out, tasting her skin – tasting his own woodsy musk layered over her.

“Sesshomaru,” he rumbled, teasing her lobe with his fangs. “Say it. Say my name.”

“Kagome,” she responded, ever contrary. “I love how you say it. Growl it. Oh, I-” His teeth found purchase around the muscle on the side of her neck and he bit down, just hard enough to remind her of how dangerous he could be. Never hard enough to injure. Her scent clouded his brain and stirred his instincts. She became his focus, more than ever before, everything to him. She was his world, in that moment, under a snowy sky – his life.

“Sesshomaru,” she moaned, running her blunt nails up the back of his neck to bury them in his hair. The sound of her calling out to him combined with the prickle on his scalp to send desire flooding through his system. His hands had been questing without thought while they kissed, and he finally found entrance under her blanket. Even through the thin material of her yukata, he could feel the softness of her skin. He circled her back with one arm, loosening the fur enough so that it fell to the ground and replacing it with his mokomoko. His other palm skated up her leg, parting her garment as he reached the smooth column of her thigh. He sucked, pulling the flesh of her neck into his mouth and causing her to buck her hips against him. “Yes, oh! Love me! Sesshomaru!”

He had barely touched her, but she was on fire for him. He growled, her words commanding him, driving him. There would be no more waiting, no more teasing. She was his. He would show her how he felt, show her what he had realized she meant to him. Anything, everything, his fevered mind promised.

“Give yourself to me, Ka-go-me,” he growled, the words so low they were almost inaudible to human ears. “You are mine, wholly, forever. Mine,” he snarled. His knuckles brushed against her core and he found her hot and wet – ready for him. Her back arched and he pressed forward again, with intent.

“Yes, yours! Mine, mine too! Sessho-maru!”

She was close, already so close to the precipice and Sesshomaru was stunned – somewhere far in the recesses of his mind that he paid little attention to – that he was nearly there as well. He scooped her up, standing swiftly and moving into their private room. The screens closed behind him, his barrier went up, and he divested them both of their clothing – leaving long tears and tattered silks scattered on the floor. Blood dripped from a small wound, already closing, on his finger where he had bitten off his claws too hastily. The entire time, his mouth remained on some part of her, words still pouring out for her ears alone. Words in his own language: Mine. My Mate. My Kagome. One of my heart. One for my body. Mine. Mine to pup, mine to protect. Always you will be at my side. My equal. On and on he went, growling and nipping at her, testing her flesh.

He found all of the sensitive spots again that he had discovered in the past months. He drew every cry from her mouth, wrested promises from red lips wet from her tongue. Promises he held close: Always. With you. My husband. My mate. Sesshomaru. Love you. Want you. Need you. Forever.

She knew what tested his limits as well. Her legs slid against his, her toes pressing into his calves, the muscles of his thighs, kneading, driving. One hand threaded through his hair, tugging, scraping lightly – and sometimes roughly – against his scalp, sending a tremor of need down his spine. Her other hand followed that tremor; her palm was cool compared to his heat, the silken slide of her fingers down the valley of his spine to grasp at the muscle of his backside was welcome. Desired. Needed. Urged.

He had intended to take more time with her, to prepare her, but her slickness coated his fingers and he slipped into her entrance past his knuckle unimpeded. She uttered a mewling sound that did him in and he pumped within her, once. Twice. Added another finger and hooked them both high inside until she arched off of the bedding and cried out his name.

There was no further speaking after that. No words, in any language, that could compare to the taste of her, the feel of her around him. The feel of her reiki inside him encouraging and inciting him. His own youki wrapping around the wellspring of light and heat and everything that was Kagome. He settled between her thighs and took her mouth as he pushed in to her. She stiffened, not in pain, but in a shock that quickly wore off and became a squirming, deliciously painful mock thrust up to him. He gave her what she sought – what they were both seeking. Shallowly at first, but soon deeper at her forceful sounds. He pressed inside her until they were entwined with one another so deeply he was not certain they could ever be separate again. Did not want to be. She was his. He had promised her everything. His forever.

Youki and reiki clashed and melded, swirling and sparking in a maelstrom of power over their heads and inside them. When she came, it was with his name on her lips and a pink glow in her eyes that seemed to sear him. When he found release in the next moment, it was to a crescendo of power, the thunder of blood and energy in his ears, and her name – whispered.




Kimi paused just outside the gate that would lead her to the meadows and forests surrounding the Western shiro. She need to hunt, needed to let the drive of her instincts, the pounding chase of quick prey, and the taste of hot blood in her mouth soothe the disturbance in her mind and heart. To lead was to make difficult choices. Often, it was to take choices away from others. The balance between a life worth living, a free life, and any life at all was precarious. More so for one who had the power to bend others to their will – to decide who shall die, who shall live, and who shall live under the command of another. The thrall of another, Kimi thought with a bitter frown. It was a burden she had long borne well, since the day she had decided to mate Toga.

The war with the North, the battle lines and first blood drawn by Ryukostokken, had made her feel that responsibility heavily. She had chided Sesshomaru for his indecision in rescuing the priestess when she was taken. She had lectured her only pup on responsibility, difficult choices, and instinct. When presented with a similar choice, she had hesitated. It was only for a moment, and her reluctance was known only to her, but Kimi still felt it acutely. She could not forego an opportunity to weaken the enemy, to trade upon what Ryukostokken perceived as an asset and turn it into a liability for him. It was a sacrifice the West had to make. Still, she had not taken the most obvious solution, but had tried to find that delicate balance – to salvage what could be salvaged and to do as little harm to her own as possible. It was the right decision.

Kimi was not proud of it. Not shamed, she would never allow that emotion within herself, but not proud either.

The unnatural stillness that had caused her to hesitate at the threshold to the castle was broken by a burst of possessive youki. It was quickly stifled, but the strength of it ruffled fur and feathers of the occupants of the Western stronghold. Kimi let out a breath – slowly, evenly. It is done. She turned then, back towards the vast wilderness outside the walls and away from a decision made. Away from any opportunity for regret or vacillation. Her own power surged under her skin, shedding the mask she wore and reforming her into what she truly was. A killer. A protector. An inudaiyoukai. Her great white form leaped into the sky, seeking prey. The breeze in her wake stirred fat flakes of snow and smelled of the sweet, woody fragrance of amber and lavender.

Chapter 58: Check