Continuing Tales

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 2 of 42

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Tales from the House of the Moon

"There is an hour wherein a man might be happy all his life, could he but find it." – George Herbert

Sesshoumaru, the Prince of the Western Lands, King of the Moonlit Country, and Lord of the House of the Moon, quietly wondered why he was standing in the chill air and staring at the western wall of his house so early in the morning that it might as well still be yesterday.

Beside him, Rin was looking mildly disappointed. "Don't you see anything, Sesshoumaru-sama?" she asked him, earnestly. She was shivering slightly even though her kimono was thick and layered, but she seemed alert and determined to show him... whatever it was. He cocked his head to the side, as if to shake the vision into something different, but only succeeded in crossing his eyes.

He heard Rin sigh impatiently as he gave in to an enormous, tongue-curling yawn. Not for the first time Sesshoumaru felt mildly regretful that the one human being he'd picked to save was the only human in the world who rose so early that going to bed was just an excuse to change her hairstyle.

Perhaps, Sesshoumaru thought as he let his mind wander off course a little further, she needs all night to fix her hair. That might be it. It did seem that it would take an hour or two for her hair to be coaxed into its daily confections, so this hypothesis had a strange appeal. This particular morning Rin wore her hair in a strangely elaborate coiffure, full of intricate loops and glossy locks and skewered through with enormous hair pins that would probably put someone's eye out sooner or later – maybe even her own, if she turned her head too quickly. There was a time when she never thought about such things at all; she wore her little yukata and her hair was pulled to the side in a simple style, and she was content to walk with him through the forests of his lands as he tracked his enemies and made short work of them. And then she grew right before his eyes, so quickly that one day as she was bending over to inspect a particularly interesting species of caterpillar the yukata almost burst at the seams, and only quick thinking on his part had saved her modesty, although it cost him his haori and a measure of dignity.

And now she had an excess of heavy winter kimonos and light summer yukatas and she seemed to want to change them every other week, a habit which left him mildly perplexed. He had come home one evening to find all of Rin's clothes in a heap outside her window and a number of terrified servants running through the house, picking up stray obis and kimonos and returning them to her room where she would promptly throw them out the window again in a seemingly unending cycle. Sesshoumaru feared that she had taken ill – the little display could only be a result of fever – until he presented the problem to Myouga as the old retainer was passing through, and the flea had assured him that it was perfectly natural for young girls to obsess over what they wore and to toss perfectly good clothes out the window in fits of pique because the colors had faded slightly.

"One might call it a fever," Myouga had said as sagely as he could, "except that it lasts for several years after the first blood."

Sesshoumaru had arched a brow. In his experience, when a woman reached maturity it merely meant she found a mate, not that she went insane.

"It happens to those of human heritage who have not mated," Myouga said. "Milord's brother was rather susceptible to it as well."

"Are you saying Inuyasha is a female?" Sesshoumaru had asked. Myouga's information sounded rather sketchy to him.

Myouga vigorously shook his head. "He is part human. After he reached maturity he became wild and rebellious, ne?"

Sesshoumaru had snorted. "He was always wild and rebellious. And lacking in sense."

"Well, do you remember Kagome-sama?"

There was a pause. Sesshoumaru had met many people over the years, many of whom soon joined the ranks of the dead, but he could not recall anyone with the name Kagome. "Who?" he had finally asked.

"The miko with whom Inuyasha-sama used to travel."

Sesshoumaru digested this information. "Was that her name?" Truly, the world was filled with wonders.

"Hai. If you recall, she was quite rebellious as well, and had very little sense. I remember she jumped into quite a few battles without thinking first."

"That is not quite the same thing as tossing clothes out a window," Sesshoumaru had replied.

"Ah," Myouga said, "but it was quite foolhardy and senseless, nonetheless. Even more so than purposeful defenestration of one's own wardrobe."

Sesshoumaru had been forced to admit that this was true, and reluctantly accepted the fact that Rin was not the little girl he used to know, but was instead growing into a human woman. The thought tweaked his heart, just a little. Resolutely, he ignored the feeling and ordered more clothes for her and trod on Jaken to make himself feel better.

Unfortunately she hadn't stopped her strange changes. She was volatile now, but she still seemed to love him just as much as she did when she was a young girl; when he had suggested that it was time for her to take a husband, she had wept and wailed and clung to his kimono, begging him to reconsider. He did reconsider – who would want such an inconsistent female as the mother of his children? But also, she would be unhappy if she left. She insisted that she wanted to be there with him, rather than with any young, upstart lord who offered for her hand, and he had listened. Her wishes should be inconsequential, but they weren't, and he allowed her to stay in his house and tend his gardens and spend long hours combing her long, glossy black hair instead of moving forward with her life and finding a husband and starting a family. In the distant parts of his mind that Sesshoumaru tried to ignore, he wondered if, in halting the natural progression of her life, he had halted the natural progression of her aging as well, but he could smell the constant growth on her, and knew that it wasn't so. She was a young woman now. Sometimes she was a stranger with Rin's face, but when she laughed she was still that little human girl who had brought him rank fish and suspicious mushrooms and who had smiled at him with broken teeth.

She wasn't laughing now. Instead she looked rather sullen, as if she had eaten a particularly bad bit of fruit and was feeling the roiling consequences. Still, that damn pout made him squint harder, as if he could divine her desires by willpower alone.

He felt silly. He should be able to see whatever she wanted him to see – it was impossible that his demon sight would be less than her human vision – but the wall of his house remained as dull as ever. Perhaps this was some sort of Zen exercise that she had picked up from one of the wandering monks that he periodically abducted for her educational purposes? The thought made him cringe a little; Rin conseidered herself rather superior in several areas already (Myouga had assured him that this was also an entirely normal development) and the last thing he needed was a scrap of girl who had found the Truth. The Truth was usually annoying and always inconvenient, and rarely seemed to agree with the truth in any case. The Truth might say that staring at a wall was significant in the time spent searching for what was real, whereas the truth was that staring at a wall was boring and significant only in that he was far too soft where she was concerned.

He should send her away. She was trouble. She was weakness. At least, this is what his advisors told him, but Sesshoumaru ignored them; he owned her life, and she was his until such a time as it pleased him to release her. Besides, she needed to grow out of this bizarre phase in which she swung between moods like a crazed monkey. He'd never find any lord on whom to pawn her off if she kept it up. On the other hand, perhaps this was her plan... Sesshoumaru frowned. He found he didn't like this thought at all. He was, after all, an inu-youkai. He wore the form of a human being, but his basic instincts were straightforward and to the point without any messing about in subtleties. Intrigue did not come easily to him, but Rin was human. She could be quite cunning when it came down to it; perhaps he should marry her off as soon as possible and go back to his normal, drunk monkey-free life.

"Do you see it now?" she asked, cutting into his reverie. He could hear a note of petulance creeping into her tone.

Sesshoumaru said nothing, and Rin gave a huge sigh of impatience and grabbed his half-empty sleeve. In another five years she would be able to grab his hand again when his arm had grown back entirely, but for now he was glad she didn't take such liberties with his person. He was content to let her lead him with scraps of his kimono, as long as no one else saw.

She stopped directly in front of the wall. "Here," she said, and pointed.

Sesshoumaru leaned in closer until his nose was nearly touching the wood. He was silent for a long while, and Rin held her breath.

"Yes?" he finally said, knowing it would annoy her.

"Sesshoumaru-sama," she cried. "Don't you see?"

He turned his gaze to her; in all, she was more pleasant to look at than a wall. "Yes?" he said again.

Rin huffed, peeved. "Right here," she said, and ran her fingers along a slender shoot of green that Sesshoumaru hadn't noticed before. He stepped back in surprise.

He honestly hadn't seen it; why would he pay attention to green stems that wove themselves over the wood and stone when they would die in a year and the wood and stone would endure much longer? He had rebuilt the House of the Moon and supervised the laying of these very stones and timbers, and now spread over them in a soft lacework of spring were hundreds and hundreds of stems, growing deep within the cracks and spreading insidiously across the surface. He didn't have to ask to know that Rin had planted the seeds. He had raised the wall, but somehow she had set her mark on it. How odd that it should happen like this, he thought to himself.

"I see," he said.

"Watch," she whispered fiercely. The sky behind his home was still inky and black, but he could feel the world turning; dawn wasn't far away. Sesshoumaru kept his eyes trained on the delicate knots of green that had invaded his home without anyone realizing it.

Sesshoumaru was not known for his patience, but he kept his eyes trained on the wall, every once in a while letting his gaze move deliberately from one area to another. Occasionally he would let his eyes gaze for a while at one area, and then at another; when he returned to the first area, something would be different. Tiny white specks were appearing up and down the lacework beneath the light of the moon and stars, and each time he looked away and looked back, they became larger and larger.

Ever so slowly, but also so very quickly, the wall burst into silent bloom. Beneath his watchful eyes, Sesshoumaru saw hundreds and hundreds of luminous white blossoms open and bathe themselves in the light of the night sky.

As the horizon behind the House of the Moon turned grey, Rin let out a whoosh of air, as though she had been holding her breath. "Isn't it lovely?" she asked him. Sesshoumaru didn't answer, but Rin seemed content enough that he had watched the wall turn from dead, cold material into warm, bursting life.

He stretched out a hand and cupped a bloom against his fingers. The petals felt almost like powdery silk to the touch, and he held it for a long time. The way the flowers had blossomed had been remarkable. It was almost as if the universe had sped up and opened them just for him. He had watched the growth of the flowers in less than an hour; they had bloomed before his very eyes, just like Rin.

"They are beautiful," he said. The human girl at his elbow beamed widely.

"I planted them myself," she said, rather gratuitously. Who else would plant them? He just nodded, and Rin took this as approval.

"They're called moonflowers, and I thought they were particularly appropriate, since we live in the House of the Moon. Of course," she prattled on, "they don't live very long; not far past dawn, actually, and they're pretty susceptible to cold, but I think that just for the small amount of time they live that it's worth it. They seem to shine like the moon, ne?"

"They die quickly?" he asked.

Rin nodded, but she sighed happily. "It's nice to watch them grow, but I don't want to be around when they droop. It's so much more pleasant that way. Don't you agree, Sesshoumaru-sama?"

The wind was cold and the dawn was coming, and the flowers shone, bright and beautiful, just for a moment in time.

Sesshoumaru said nothing. He merely stared at the wall of doomed flowers and tried not to think in metaphors.

Kagome stood in the shrine gazing down into the empty, useless well. All around her was the soft rustling of the wind as it whispered through the tiny cracks between the timbers of the shrine, and the spring air smelled like flowers and sweet milk. The blood-red sun, setting in the sky, warmed her back and gilded her black hair a glittering gold. In the corners, shadows shifted and moved with the turning of the world, and beneath her the darkness of the well sighed without breath.

Kagome stared into it, waiting.

After a while she growled and threw a rock into it.

"Stupid well," she muttered. "Why do you have to be so difficult?"

The well said nothing, just sat there with its gaping mouth and mocked her silently.

Kagome passed a hand across her furrowed forehead, silently willing the pounding in her temples to go away. She couldn't count how many times she had leapt into those depths over the years, but she probably didn't have enough fingers or toes. The memories were so vivid, too: the sensation of falling with the air rushing through her hair, the tickling in her stomach, even the occasional misfired landing were so familiar and even welcome to her that even now, years away from her last trip to the past, she could still summon the feeling of anticipation that accompanied her each time into the streams of time. Desperately, she wanted to feel those things again, but she knew better. Her secret attempts after it was all over never failed to end in bruises and tears.

The last time she'd tried to go back again she had broken her ankle and sat on the ground of the well as the pain set in and she had watered the floor with her tears until her grandfather had found her. Souta, growing like a weed at that point, had been compelled to carry her up the ladder himself as she sobbed into his shoulder like a child. It was then that she had known that the past was gone for good, and nothing she could do would bring it back. But still, in her heart, there was that small, niggling hope, irrational and seductive, always telling her that maybe this time, it would work. This time... maybe...

Kagome threw another rock into the shadows beneath her and sighed heavily as she shook her head. "This is stupid," she told herself. "Stupid. Just because you read a story you think you should be able to go back in time again. Stupid." Behind her, a bird chirped as if in agreement with this conclusion. Kagome considered throwing a rock at it as well, but after a brief struggle decided she probably deserved the chastisement.

It was stupid, and she knew it. She could never go back again, and she might as well stop daydreaming, because all she was doing was wasting time.

And yet… there was something about that horrible story that made her want to try. All day she merely had to close her eyes and she was visited with visions of a little girl, broken and butchered and laying in the dust far from the one she loved, and it made Kagome's fingers itch and her heart pound with a surprising and frightening intensity in her chest. She could smell the blood on the earth, and hear the crackle of flames, and echoing in her mind was the cruel laughter of those who callously betrayed their lord and his ward. It was so horribly distracting that Kagome had nearly wandered straight into the path of an oncoming bus in her reverie.

There was a pain in her jaw, and Kagome realized that she had been clenching her teeth. The pain didn't seem to matter, though. You deserve it,You couldn't go back for Inuyasha. You couldn't go back for love. What makes you think this time will be any different?

Below, the shadows seemed to shiver and move. In her chest, she could feel her heart leap unbidden even as the cold knowledge that it was just her imagination settled around her.

God, but this was frustrating. Kagome ran a hand through her hair and gave the well a kick, which only earned her a throbbing toe. "Let me in!" she said angrily. "I don't care, let me in!"

The well just sat there and guarded its secrets. Suddenly Kagome slammed a fist down on the lip. "Dammit!" Nothing had changed, and jumping in only meant pain and possibly bruises, and she couldn't go back again. A story would not open the well, and all the wanting in the world would just leave her cold and alone.

Nothing is different, she thought. Nothing at all. Kagome turned and climbed the steps of the shrine to the outside world. It was time for dinner again, and then time for sleep, and there would never be any time to reclaim what was lost. No time at all.

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 2 of 42

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