Continuing Tales

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 28 of 42

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Tales from the House of the Moon

"The only thing men learn from history is that men never learn anything from history."
- Hegel

. . .

It only took the space of about five heartbeats, staring at Kagome in the fading light of the sunset, for Sesshoumaru to reach three revelations.

Revelation number one, he thought to himself gloomily. It is, perhaps, theoretically possible that I might be an idiot.

It was a discouraging conclusion to say the least - one that he had previously considered to be unthinkable - and yet the fact of the matter remained that he had made a mistake. Worse, he appeared to have made the same stupid, short-sighted blunder twice now within the span of approximately half a century, and as a man unaccustomed to making mistakes - and, if he did make them, they were to be learned from and not repeated - Sesshoumaru could only surmise that he had some sort of learning disability hitherto undetected. It was the only explanation he could think of to explain this new, disastrous attachment he had developed to this human girl whose company he enjoyed and who was still smiling at him, which only served to reinforce revelation number two.

Which was that, despite the peril inherent in continuing with said attachment, he found himself remarkably disinclined to rectify this problem in a simple, straightforward fashion. Of course, there were any number of ways to cleanly and efficiently disengage himself from Kagome, but he didn't want to, and as his wants were paramount he was just going to have to be comfortable with the new complications that followed behind her. Not to mention he had the sneaking suspicion that his newfound affinity for annoying, troublesome mikos with beautiful smiles would preclude any of the dark solutions to the situation that tickled the edge of his mind.

Hurriedly, Sesshoumaru shoved aside those vague suggestions. They were each unacceptable to him, so he was just going to have to learn to live with this problem; it was not like he had a choice about it, anyway.

Still, neither revelation number one nor revelation number two were nearly so exasperating as revelation number three, which was that he could almost hear his father informing him of his thoughts concerning this turn of events.

There was nothing in the world, Sesshoumaru decided, quite like hearing the voice of one's dead father gleefully chanting, "I told you so, I told you so!" over and over in one's head.

Though his father probably would not have been nearly so childish as to rub Sesshoumaru's sensitive nose in this particularly piquant mess, that didn't stop the little voice that sounded remarkably like his father from putting in its two cents on the issue.

"Not so easy, is it son?" he was saying. "Never thought you'd follow in my footsteps, did you?" he was saying. "Sorry you treated Izayoi and Inuyasha so badly now, aren't you?" he was saying.

No, Sesshoumaru thought sullenly, intensely displeased that this answer could apply to all three questions. On the other hand, if his father had ever been inclined to listen to what anyone else had to say, Sesshoumaru certainly would have qualified that he still didn't think he would follow in his father's footsteps. This situation was not the same as his father's situation.

At all.

Yes, he had grown to enjoy her company, and yes, it pleased him to have her alive, but that did not mean he was about to toss everything away as his father had so foolishly done. There were any number of contrasts to their respective situations, though, for some reason, the fact that Kagome was nothing like Izayoi seemed to stick out in his mind the most.

And, of course, it went without saying that he had not courted her, bedded her, given her a child, nor fallen in love with her, and he was just going to stop this line of thought right now because it could not end any way but badly.

In fact, Sesshoumaru decided, it might be better if he just stopped thinking about the situation altogether because the direction it had taken was becoming extremely uncomfortable, not to mention highly unsettling. Besides, thinking too deeply about matters only left him confused so he generally avoided it, a course of action that had served him passably well up to this point.

Yes, that was probably the best thing to do. Satisfied with his decision to refrain from further forays into the cognitive arts, Sesshoumaru allowed himself a small sigh of relief, feeling, for some reason, as if he had narrowly escaped something.

"Sesshoumaru? Are you all right?"

Sesshoumaru blinked, confused and off balance at the sound, before his eyes focused once more on Kagome, who had stopped smiling. He blinked again, this time in annoyance with himself for drifting off course.

Next to him, Kagome shifted under his gaze, wondering just what he was thinking. "Only you look like you've seen a ghost," she added by way of explanation, feeling incredibly nervous.

She couldn't help but feel that he was acting rather odd; he seemed to have become lost in thought, and when she had pulled him out of it the expression on his face as he looked at her was uncharacteristically telling.

He looked... almost shocked, as if he had just seen something for the first time and recognized it. On top of the fact that the stare was directed at her, Sesshoumaru was very rarely shocked; that he should be so now was making her stomach flutter strangely, and she didn't need that on top of the heavy, guilty gratitude and sharp apprehension his declaration had inspired. Not to mention that his tense demeanor and dark reticence were growing ever more unsettling; she was used to his boredom and his dry remarks, and the fact that he seemed to have regressed to the insufferably regal hauteur that she had first seen in him was discouraging.

Come on, she thought anxiously. Say something!

She saw him tilt his head and his brows draw down just a little, as if he were suddenly suspicious.

Kagome was in no mood to endure his cryptic expressions. Her mouth twisted. "Also you've been staring at me for almost a minute and a half," she continued, a little sharply. "It's kind of weird."

Not, Kagome admitted to herself, that being the object of his gaze was unpleasant - it did, in fact, stir the strange, low fluttering in her belly that had been so dangerously insistent whenever she had thought of him for the past nine months - but it was beginning to get a little strange. Even if he did not inspire such feelings in her, being subjected to such an intense stare was enough to put anyone off their stride, and she wasn't feeling particularly sharp to begin with.

Abruptly the expression fled from his face. Kagome watched as Sesshoumaru's features melted easily into a scowl - they'd had a lot of practice, after all - and turned away from her quickly. He appeared to consider her statement for a moment. Then without preamble he suddenly unfolded his body and rose to his feet.

Startled, Kagome stood up as well, though considerably less gracefully. Patiently she waited for him to speak, but he did not. After a moment Kagome occupied herself with attempting to surreptitiously brush the dirt from her behind.

"I believe," Sesshoumaru suddenly said, startling her out of her hakama maintenance and causing her to look up at him, "that our business would be better conducted in my study."

"Why?" Kagome wanted to know, unhappy with the thought of more walking and trying in vain to follow his train of thought.

Sesshoumaru looked at her from the corner of his eye. "Unless you wish to sit in the dark?" he asked, and she breathed a sigh of relief at his tone. It was almost facetious.

For a moment, Kagome considered saying that yes, she did want to sit around in the dark with him, but decided against it lest someone - such as herself - get the wrong idea. Instead she shrugged and followed him as he turned and strode across the lawn to the house, where a servant was lighting the lamps hanging from the eaves.

Three minutes later they were standing in his study.

Kagome, who had been too exhausted to take notice of much of anything yesterday, was staring in dubious fascination at the blizzard of papers that covered Sesshoumaru's desk.

Sesshoumaru tried to capture her attention as subtly as possible. When her eyes fluttered to him he gave her an ominous look, as though daring her to say something about his personal organizational habits.

She didn't say anything, though, just turned back to his atrociously unkempt desk and stared, seemingly entranced.

Sesshoumaru frowned. "Do you find my desk so engaging?" he asked dryly.

Kagome jumped a little, eyes snapping back to his face. "Um, not really," she said. "It's just that I think I expected you to be more..."

He raised a quelling eyebrow, but instead of discouraging her it only seemed to spur her onward. She grinned at him.

"I expected you to be more meticulous than this," she told him. "This looks like my brother's bedroom."

"Your brother's bedroom is covered in land treaties?" Sesshoumaru asked, feeling a sudden, perverse need to be disingenuous. "I had no idea your family was so influential."

Oh, she thought, so now we're joking again? "That's not what I meant, and you know it," she told him.

"Do I?" he wondered out loud, and she saw his shoulders melt ever so slightly, as though he had just wound down.

"What, you mean you don't know everything?" she teased. "I don't know what to believe in now."

Sesshoumaru refrained from closing his eyes. Exasperating woman, he thought. Why did I miss her, again? He looked down his nose at the girl standing next to him and tried to pin her with a glare, though it seemed to have little effect. "Do not make me reconsider my hospitality," he said severely.

Her grin only expanded. "Throw me out, then," she dared him.

The youkai only glowered more, apparently finding nothing to say to that. With what she considered to be admirable restraint, Kagome declined to do a victory lap around the room. Not to mention that, considering the way he appeared to be grinding his teeth, such a move would probably have had a severe impact on her longevity anyway.

Abruptly, Sesshoumaru turned away, seeming to write the past few minutes' exchange out of the universe for the sake of his pride, and lowered himself down on one of the several cushions placed in front of his desk, which Kagome assumed were usually reserved for supplicants seeking his favor. When he indicated that she should sit opposite him with a sharp, meaningful glance, she shrugged and made a great show of preparing to sit, checking the fabric as surreptitiously as possible for bloodstains.

When she was finally settled to her satisfaction, she looked up at him expectantly.

Deliberately, Sesshoumaru folded his hands into his sleeves. "Now," he said imperiously, "tell me why you are here."

Kagome blinked, thinking that, for Sesshoumaru, this sounded remarkably philosophical until she realized that she still had not told him about her mission. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "Well... I'm not quite certain where to begin." Frowning, she tried to think back over the past week. Her encounter with the madoushi had taken on a very dreamlike quality, dim and misted over, and she found it difficult to remember it clearly. It had been such a raw experience. She had been so terrified that she would be injured, perhaps permanently scarred, badly wounded, stranded on some straw pallet for a week while she fought off infection, that when she tried to remember it clearly the effort made her feel as if someone had skinned her brain. Add that to the grueling five day trek from Edo to the western coastline, now hopelessly blurred beyond all recognition in her mind, and she felt a headache forming as she tried to determine the important parts of the story.

After a moment of sifting through the strange bits of flotsam drifting by on her stream of consciousness she gave up and dove in.

"I read another fairytale, and it sounded like me. I couldn't be certain of course until I jumped into the well, but it was a really distressing story, and... well, it was true. And the miko in the story was me." Kagome watched as his eyelids lowered fractionally, clearly bored.

"And?" he said abruptly.

"Oh!" Kagome jumped, realizing that she had trailed off. She frowned at the floor in front of her. "Well, I guess the gist of it is that there's a sorceress in Edo, and she's... I don't know, released a plague on the village, or something," she finally said. She looked up to gauge his reaction to this.

"A plague?" he asked, arching a brow. "What sort of plague?"

Kagome shook her head. "I don't know," she confessed. "The story I read said that it was an influenza outbreak, but I've never seen influenza like that. Usually it's a fever and maybe an upset stomach, but this was worse. People were dying."

Sesshoumaru frowned inwardly. He had never heard of this disease. "People do not die from influenza?" he said quizzically, almost tripping over the strange word.

Kagome didn't appear to notice his slight difficulty. "No," she replied, "people do die from it..."

- Kikyou and Inuyasha, for instance, she remembered suddenly, they died from a flu outbreak, or something very much like it -

"But this was different," she forced herself to say. Briefly, a shuddering memory of the sad rows of corpses arrayed against the forest flashed across her mind. She had seen many dead people, and many of them had died in horrible, bloody ways, but this, somehow, was worse than all of those dim-remembered visions. It made her sick to think of it, not because it was the most horrible thing she had seen, but because it was the most horrible thing for which she had ever been responsible. Even when she had shattered the shikon no tama, there had been Inuyasha to help her shoulder the burden.

This, though... she had to fix this on her own, and she didn't even know what illness had struck down the people of Edo. Even if she did defeat the madoushi, she had no idea how to treat the ones who would still be ill. They wouldn't get better immediately, would they? That wasn't how the world worked, was it?

Sesshoumaru seemed to pick up on her confusion and unease. "How do you know it was different?" he asked.

Wrinkling her nose, she could almost taste that horrifying stench. "I'm pretty sure it wasn't the flu, since I've never seen flu patients look like that. This illness makes people a little more... oozy," she said carefully, certain that she did not want to discuss the particulars of blood-laced shit with him. Sure, they had slogged through dragon intestines together, but somehow it just seemed crude to actually talk about it.

Blinking at her, Sesshoumaru decided not to press the matter and sighed softly. "So there is a plague and a sorceress," he said instead. "What is your objective?"

She shot him a look that clearly meant she was having very pointed speculations concerning his mental acuity, but she did not voice those speculations out loud. "To fight and defeat the madoushi and her god," she said, as if it were obvious.

Sesshoumaru ignored her tone and her glance, instead grabbing onto a passing word. "God?" he said.

Kagome nodded. "She gets her power from some kind of sinister spirit. It gives her the power she needs to work her spells, I think, and then it feeds on the misery she creates with those spells." He saw her shudder visibly. "I could feel it all over the city," she added, voice trailing away. "I could feel it watching me."

"Is it watching you now?" Sesshoumaru asked.

"No. But I think it was watching me as I traveled."

He looked rather displeased at that thought.

"I can't feel it any longer," Kagome hastened to reassure him, though she doubted he needed any such assurance. "It faded as I got further away from Edo. I don't think it knows where to find me."

Sesshoumaru only nodded, seemingly thoughtful. "Why did you not defeat the madoushi when you first came through the well?" he asked, not unreasonably.

Biting her lip Kagome looked away from him, feeling mildly ashamed, though she had no idea why she should feel that way. After all, she simply hadn't had the time or resources to learn the things she needed to do. She'd grown very good with the bow, and Kaede and Miroku had taught her one or two useful things, but ultimately she was completely clueless, both in combat and in the spiritual arts.

"I'm not ready," she said, glancing back at him.

She was slightly dismayed and quite annoyed when he gave her a very old look. "You jumped into battle without a plan or proper training," he stated.

Kagome glared at him. "It's not my fault," she said. "I just never had time, or anyone to really teach me!"

"What do you have to do to defeat them?"

She turned back to look at the tatami mat in front of her, which seemed to have grown terribly engaging. "Learn one-on-one combat and how to seal things. I have to incapacitate the sorceress just long enough to seal the god," she informed him.

"And how are you supposed to do that?"

"Training, I guess. But I don't have long; I don't need to be great at it, I just need to be good enough." Kagome bit her lip. It would be nice to learn more about her power, but annoying to learn weapons, and she didn't have any idea how she was going to do that.

Sesshoumaru pursed his lips slightly, suppressing a frown. "How do you plan to go about doing this?" he wondered aloud, obviously thinking along the same lines.

He watched as she shrugged, still staring blankly at the floor in front of her. "I guess I have to find an older, more experienced miko to train me. Which is why it would not be a good idea to go with me," she added, giving it one last reluctant shot.

Kagome could almost feel his annoyed amusement when he snorted at the notion. "I do not fear mikos," he said.

In her mind, Kagome very slowly banged her head against the ground. Her gaze shot to his face. "Not for you," she said, exasperated. "For me. It would be bad for me to be traveling with a daiyoukai. I can't prance up to a miko and say, 'Hey, what ho, want to train me, and, oh, by the way, can my youkai bodyguard come with?' Oh, yes, I'm sure that will end well."

"I am your ally, not your bodyguard," Sesshoumaru reminded her with a trace of annoyance in his voice. "I do not serve you."

Kagome waved a hand, clearly not about to let his pride get in the way of her point. "I mean," she continued, "it's bad enough that I'll be asking her to train me for nothing - I don't know what having a youkai lord with me will do. It's not like you'd be welcome in a shrine, you know."

Sniffing, Sesshoumaru raised his chin fractionally. "And," he said dryly, "I suppose that you will fight those that will come after you on your own?"

She stared at him as her train of thought ground to a halt. Oh, right, she thought to herself, that whole mutiny thing. It really was amazing to her how easily she seemed to forget that she was in fairly immediate danger, and she wondered why she continuously did so.

For his part, if he hadn't been so annoyed with her continued resistance to him Sesshoumaru might have been amused at her sudden silence. As it was he simply seized the opportunity to further convince her of the need for his company. Not that he was going to listen to anything she said on the subject anyway, but it would probably cut down on the amount of self-sacrificing gestures in the future, and that was always good for all involved.

"At any rate," he continued, absentmindedly picking a bit of imaginary lint from his sleeve, "for some reason I would wager that whoever trains you might perhaps be appreciative of the fact that there will be no youkai attacks for the duration of your training."

Kagome scowled. He noticed that her hands, resting on her knees, clenched into fists. "I already told you that you don't have an obligation to me," she said.

Sesshoumaru shrugged. "I find that I rather pleasantly anticipate it," he half-lied. "I have not had an opportunity to kill many things for some time now."

At least this much was true, and, much as her presence inconvenienced him, the knowledge that he could look forward to quite a bit of very satisfying bloodshed in the near future was quite heartening. It was one of the only good things to come out of this horrible mess.

The miko across from him just wrinkled her nose. "Bleah," she opined.

He smirked.

Still making a face at him she shook her head. "All right, you can come with me," she said, as if she had ever had a say in the matter. "Though I still don't think it's a very good idea to ask a miko to train me when I have an alliance with a natural enemy."

Sesshoumaru shrugged again. "It does not matter," he said airily. "The only thing you should be concerned with is just how you are going to find this hypothetical miko."

"Um," Kagome ventured. He watched as she bit her lip, worrying it with her teeth. "You... you wouldn't happen to know any mikos around here, would you?"

She flashed a sheepish grin.

He almost closed his eyes in exasperation. "Somehow I am beginning to suspect that you have not thought this cunning plan all the way through," he said slowly. For some obscure reason he could feel a painful pressure building behind his left eye.

Kagome had the decency to be abashed. "Ahah," she said, voice strained. "Not as such, no." Then, because she was a little cranky and a little embarrassed, she added, "Is that a problem?" Just to annoy him.

She succeeded in her quest. With a long-suffering sigh he unfolded from his seat and stood before making his way around the desk. With only a little trepidation - who knew what could be under there? - he sat down and began to sift through the drifts, looking for a report that he may or may not have imagined reading some five months ago.

Watching him methodically inspect the mountain of parchment, Kagome wondered how long it would take for him to find whatever it was that he was looking for. Already she was feeling tired again and wanted to return to her temporary quarters; apparently her twenty-four hours of sleep weren't enough for her.

Stupid body, she thought, don't I take good care of you? Can't you hold out for another hour or two?

She yawned. Obviously not.

"Do try to stay upright for a few more minutes," Sesshoumaru said to her, refocusing her attention. "This is, after all, for your benefit." She watched as he grew impatient with his measured actions and swept two months 'worth of household ledgers onto the floor.

Kagome aimed a scowl at him that was, unfortunately, ruined by another yawn. "Hey, I can't help it. I'm tired," she protested feebly.

He gave her a brief glance, and it seemed to her that he was repressing a smile, though his tone revealed nothing. "I can only hope that you will be rested enough by the time we leave tomorrow morning."

That dragged her out of her sleepy complacency. It felt as though someone had tossed her in a lake of icy water, and Kagome felt her spine sag in protest.

"Leave? Tomorrow?" Even as she said the words, the blisters on the bottom of her soles chafed against the rough fabric of her socks. Across from her Sesshoumaru finally pulled out a sheaf of paper - that, to Kagome's untrained eye, looked exactly like every other sheaf of paper that populated his desk - from beneath some old maps. She watched as he delicately began to leaf through it.

Unwilling to distress her further Sesshoumaru feigned boredom while inside he felt himself twist up at her tone. She was still tired, and she hadn't recovered from her long trek across the land, but that didn't matter; she was in danger, and the best way to ensure her safety would be to leave as soon as possible. He briefly toyed with the idea of telling her that it was all for her own good, but then she would want to know why she wasn't safe in his house and he would have to tell her and then it would just be a mess. Or rather, more of a mess than it was already. Already Sesshoumaru almost missed that stupid bear; the urge to half-kill - or fully kill, he really wasn't picky at this point - was quite strong, not to mention annoyingly out of reach. He grit his teeth.

"Yes, tomorrow," he told her. "As soon as possible."

"Why?" Kagome wanted to know.

Sesshoumaru didn't answer. Instead, he held a document aloft. "We will be leaving and going south and east. There is a powerful miko one days' hard walk from here," he informed her, as if she had not spoken. "She has apparently been giving us some trouble lately."

Uh-huh. While she did not appreciate being ignored, Kagome decided she was too fatigued to argue with him. Passing a weary hand across her face, she sighed. "Do you at least know her name?" she asked tiredly.

He spared a quick glare at the writing on the page and found, to his surprise, that the woman's name was indeed mentioned. Unfortunately that probably meant that she had not just been some trouble but a great deal of trouble. He felt a flash of annoyance at himself for not seeing to this matter sooner. Ah, well, at least she would serve a useful purpose before he dealt with her.

Kagome was still looking at him expectantly. He glanced back at the paper. "Fuyu," he read aloud. "Her name is Fuyu."

Kagome just nodded, looking thoughtful. Sesshoumaru pretended to reread the document as he waited for her to fill the silence and tell him what was on her mind. Finally she spoke.


He looked up and cocked his head to the side, indicating that he was listening.

She smiled wide at him. "I also need a combat instructor," she announced.

Sesshoumaru gave her a blank look.

Kagome shifted in her seat, appearing a little uncertain. "And... I thought that you might be able to teach me?" she said, optimistically.

To Kagome's intense puzzlement, Sesshoumaru stared at her for one long moment before, very slowly, he lifted a hand and covered his mouth. She saw his eyebrows twitch slightly, just a tiny, involuntary leap.

He was laughing at her.

Huffily Kagome crossed her arms. "What's so funny?" she demanded, chagrined.

He lowered his hand, expression as bored as ever. How the hell does he do that? she wondered sourly. He made a great show of straightening the papers in front of him before folding his hands into his sleeves.

"No," he said, not bothering to answer the second question.

A wave of intense disappointment swept through her. "But why not?" she said, voice rising.

Sesshoumaru put up a hand. She subsided and he returned it to its sleeve.

"First," he said, as though explaining something to a retarded kitten, "you are not youkai."

She blinked, stung. "So?" she demanded. "What does that have to do with anything? Just because I'm not a demon doesn't mean that I can't learn to fight just as - "

"And," he cut her off, voice sharp, "I am youkai."

Irritated Kagome huffed, blowing her bangs out of her face. "I repeat, what does that have to do with anything?"

He shrugged. "Nothing," he said, "unless you do not mind getting killed every five minutes while training."

"You said you didn't kill women and children," she reminded him, not unreasonably.

Frowning with exasperation, he lifted his hand once more to his throbbing temple. "That is not the point," he said, striving to stay as calm as possible. "As my strength is exponentially greater than yours, I will most likely kill you accidentally. Often."

Kagome sat back, looking chastised. "But - "

"And second," he said, "what on earth makes you think that I possess the patience to teach anyone anything, especially combat?"

She shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "I thought you might make an exception for me?"

Sesshoumaru shook his head. "Most likely not," he replied. "When Rin was first learning her katas, I was banned from the dojo by her instructor."

Whoah, Kagome thought. "Why?"

Pursing his lips he looked off to the side, as if unwilling to meet her eyes. "I could not help but remark on her form in hopes of correcting her," he said. "She was in tears within ten minutes."

He paused. "I think that might have been the first time she cried since..."

He trailed off.

The atmosphere in the room had suddenly become curiously heavy, full of regrets without repair.

Swallowing hard, Kagome could not think of anything to say to that aborted thought, so she settled for looking as apologetic as possible. "Oh," she said.

His eyes flitted back to her and he gazed at her for a long moment before he appeared to snap out of it. "Suffice to say she did not cry easily. So you see," he said abruptly, cool and bored again, the heaviness of the air dissipating as quickly as it had settled, "it would not be a wise decision for either of us. You will have to find a human instructor." Without further comment he picked up the report on the miko Fuyu and perused it once more, frowning slightly.

"Damn," Kagome muttered. She'd been hoping to circumvent the difficulties inherent in finding someone willing, able, and available to give a crash course to a woman in one-on-one combat, and now she could only hope that Fuyu had a background in weapons or martial arts or she was screwed. Well, more screwed than she was already.

There was silence for a moment as both pondered their respective thoughts concerning the situation, until Kagome cleared her throat. He looked up at the noise.

"Um," she said, "I guess I'm going to bed if we're starting out tomorrow."

"Wise choice," Sesshoumaru told her. He laid the report down on one of the haphazard stacks - presumably so that it could return to the bosom of its family - before striding across the room and to the door. Sliding it open, he stood aside so she could pass through.

Kagome remained rooted in the middle of his study and stared expectantly at him.

"Yes?" he said after a moment, his voice coming out a little more sharply than he had intended.

She rolled her eyes, clearly unable to believe how slow on the uptake he could be. "Could you show me the way?" she asked him. "Your house is... kind of big."

Sesshoumaru blinked.

"And twisty," she added.

It couldn't hurt, could it? he lied to himself.

Nodding curtly, he swept out, and she followed in his wake. As they walked, he could hear her whispering to herself, trying to remember the way to and from his study to her room - as if it could help her any - and at the edges of her whispers were the furious, hushed murmurs of his servants, spreading the word through his house, speculating, scheming.

When they finally arrived she padded inside without a word and Sesshoumaru watched as she limped across the floor to collapse gratefully in her bedding. After a moment she turned to face him in the dim light.

Wide-eyed and pale, she brought him back to their month of traveling, and suddenly it was as if she had never left him.

"See you in the morning," she murmured before closing her eyes, already sinking into defenseless sleep, and all around them, outside by the walls, tucked away in their quarters, even behind the corners of this very hallway, were youkai waiting to see what he would do, waiting for the chance to correct his folly.

Or perhaps they were waiting for him to correct it himself.

He had not allowed himself to consider them right away when first they plucked at his mind, but now she slept and his servants watched, and Sesshoumaru remembered his grieving thoughts, his exiled thoughts, his dark, ocean thoughts -

If he were strong, he would have killed her himself.

He gazed at her already-sleeping face, so peaceful, so trusting, so ruinous, so treacherous - he could do it now, and she would never know a thing.

He would do it right now, if he were strong.

And in his head, he replayed, over and over, the memory of her in the sunset, tossing her hair over her shoulder; he revisited her in the firelight; he held her gaze as she disappeared down the well, saw her in the light of the moon, broken and mending, her hands in his, remembered the strange, bittersweet circle of her embrace -

Mutely, Sesshoumaru closed the door and walked away.

. . .

It was past midnight when Myouga squeezed through the crack between the frame and the door of Sesshoumaru's study to see Sesshoumaru slumped in a remarkably slovenly posture over his desk and staring with unseeing eyes at nothing in particular. This would not have been unusual except that the expression on his face was almost listless, rather than the normal blank look that he generally sported, which always looked to Myouga like the lord had fallen asleep with his eyes open.

"Troubles, Sesshoumaru-sama?" he asked sympathetically as he bounded over to his master and perched on the desk in front of him.

Slowly Sesshoumaru slid his golden eyes away from whatever dimension he had been studying and focused on the old retainer in front of him.

Then he squished him flat against the desk.

He watched with detached interest as the flea struggled to repair himself. "What was that for, Sesshoumaru-sama?" Myouga finally cried after he had managed to set his head correctly on his shoulders.

Sesshoumaru shrugged, very slightly. "You know very well that there are troubles. Don't be disingenuous," he ordered. "It will only irk me."

"How do you know that I know?" the flea demanded, still peeved.

"You wouldn't have asked if you hadn't. I expect you to help me solve them, not indulge them. Now," he said, "tell me what the servants are saying."

As usual, Sesshoumaru was right to the point; clearly he did not need a sympathetic ear, though he might after he'd heard what Myouga had to say. The old flea sighed and thought back over the scant half-hour that he had been home.

"The master's got a human whore," were the words that had greeted Myouga when he had arrived.

He was so tired and the announcement was so incongruous with his previously accepted view of the world that Myouga had nearly felt the need to sit down. "What?" he'd said, surprised.

"A concubine... whatever," said Akira, who had met him at the gate. "And she's human."

The old flea was not entirely certain he was in the right frame of mind to receive information like this. He was feeling a bit on edge, having just spent the last ten days snooping about and gathering information in the south for political use, and as it was late and he was tired he was finding it difficult to formulate a proper response. Blinking, he scratched his head for a moment as the captain of the guard shifted from foot to foot, clearly anxious to see what the oldest servant of the family thought about this.

"Well," Myouga said finally, "that was certainly fast. He didn't have one when I left."

The captain snorted. "Is that all you have to say?"

Myouga shrugged, hopping to the captain's shoulder as they both turned toward the servant's quarters from where they stood in the courtyard. "Maybe?" he said. "I'll have to talk with Sesshoumaru-sama about this first before I can say anything else about it."

"Pfft," Akira said, ambling across the grounds a little quicker than necessary. "He insists she's just an ally, so you might not get any information out of him."

"What if she is just an ally?" Myouga asked.

"Oh, he would say something like that," the captain replied.

"Well, he is a trustworthy and honorable man," the Myouga tried. This was true, at least; dogs were fundamentally honest creatures, and found lying quite difficult. Unfortunately Akira did not seem to buy this.

"Then I'm sure things will go south soon enough," he said. "I was told the last one was supposed to be just a pet."

In his heart the flea felt a twinge over this off-hand mention of Rin, whom he had always liked. "And she never did become a concubine," he informed the guard lightly. "Perhaps this one is not either?"

He was answered with only a snort, and together they ducked into the cozy building that housed the staff.

The unrest was immediately evident; throughout the servant's quarters was the low rumble of gossip, little rumors being passed back and forth, each one being planted and nurtured with loving care until it bloomed into something grotesque and unrecognizable from its previous incarnation. Something was certainly going on, concubine or not.

Sighing, he adjusted his position on the captain's armor. As an old man, he was dying to engage in a bit of this no doubt juicy and dangerous gossip, but as the oldest servant of the family he was bound to go to Sesshoumaru-sama and discover the root - though not necessarily the truth - of the situation. Both options would inform him of what, exactly, was going on, but gossip just seemed more fun. Considering the uproar this had caused he doubted the lord would be in any sort of mood to be pleasant.

Myouga shook his head, listening to the whispers. There were many of them, ebbing and flowing through the air, and he heard the word human repeated, over and over. It was a strange thing indeed; he had not thought that Sesshoumaru would ever take a human lover after what had happened with his father. Then again he would have never thought the daiyoukai would adopt a human child, either, though admittedly that was probably not Sesshoumaru's initial intention regarding the little girl.

He was torn away from his musings when Akira tossed aside the hanging door covering the small common area of the servants' quarters, where quite a number of Sesshoumaru's skeleton staff had gathered, drinking sake and nervously embellishing their stories to each other. The guard passed most of the small groups by before selecting a seat at one of the low tables. There were only two others seated with them, and both of them were subordinates of the captain, passed out from too much alcohol.

"Anyway," Akira said, adjusting his position as he tried to get comfortable, "doesn't matter if she is or isn't. We all know the end." He sighed. "Guess I should start the troops on double drills from now on, eh?"

Yes, Myouga thought wearily.

"Have you seen this - er- concubine?" he wondered out loud, passing a hand over his eyes and trying to rub the sleepiness from them.

"Oh yes," the captain replied. "She pointed an arrow right at me."

Something tickled Myouga's mind, and his hand slowed in its rhythmic massage over his tired brow.

An arrow?

The old flea looked up, blinking. "She did?" he asked. He did not have much practical experience, but to him this did not sound like typical prostitute behavior; usually one had to pay extra to get that sort of treatment. "Why?"

"We wouldn't let her in," the guard said as if this were obvious. He leaned forward and Myouga hopped from his shoulder to the table, watching as the man picked up a bottle of sake and drank from it directly.

This didn't sound right at all. "Why wasn't she with Sesshoumaru-sama?" Myouga wanted to know.

"Don't know. She looked like she'd come a long way."

Frowning, the flea stared at the wood beneath his feet.

"Funny thing though," the captain added after another swig. "She had some holy powers."

Myouga felt the pieces clicking into place, though he felt extremely thick, because, really, Sesshoumaru had only associated with one human in the past fifty years. "She was a priestess?" he demanded, just to make sure.

His companion nodded. "Frankly," Akira confided, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, "I didn't know it was possible to bed a miko and not get your dick purified off, though I can see how the danger would add a bit of fun to it."

Ignoring the man's crude color commentary, Myouga momentarily reflected that he should have known who it was the second someone had said the word 'human,' but coupling it with the word 'whore' had thrown him off. He fought the little wave of relief that swelled inside.

"Kagome-sama," he murmured.

"You know her?" the captain asked, sounding surprised. "I thought she was just a recent acquisition."

The flea whirled on the guard, feeling far more awake than he had in the past few hours. "Fool!" Myouga barked, jumping a little in agitation. "She was the woman who freed Inuyasha-sama from his seal fifty years ago! Didn't Sesshoumaru-sama say anything about that?"

Akira blinked. "What?" he asked dumbly. "I thought that was just a lie!"

"I was there!" Myouga cried, taking deep breaths in an attempt to calm down. "And as far as I know she is not Sesshoumaru-sama's lover."

"Hmmph," the captain had replied, bringing the bottle to his lips again. "Could have fooled me. I've never seen an argument look so much like foreplay before."

Now, standing in front of Sesshoumaru himself, Myouga had to admit that his master and Kagome did tend to bicker like an old married couple, but it was just that - bickering. Unfortunately, he was also certain that the captain of the guard - and most likely everyone else in the house - wanted to see that implication there. Not out of any sort of perverse desire, of course, only that it would make things... neat. Clean. Easy to deal with. It was not at all surprising to him that they would not know how to handle the idea of Kagome as comrade - would probably not even think such a thing possible between a human female and a youkai male as the power distribution would typically be completely uneven - and so they would take whatever clues they could get and stuff her into a convenient role.

Not that it would make a difference what role she was in. Associations with humans were weakness, and the specifics of the relationship were significant only in how deeply they ran.

The deeper they went, the weaker the youkai.

Myouga looked away from Sesshoumaru and at the polished wood beneath his feet. Absently he noted that it was so well-tended he could see his reflection in it.

He cleared his throat. "As far as I can tell they think you and Kagome-sama are... well..."

Sesshoumaru made an annoyed noise. "I know that," he snapped. "I meant have you heard anything... speculative?"

Traitorous, Myouga translated inside his head. It was a small blessing, but he had not heard anything in the whispers of the servants, only eager gossip and some arguing over the girl's precise purpose with their lord. "Not yet," Myouga said, shaking his head.

His master just nodded curtly. That was a relief, though no doubt a short-lived one.

There was a long silence before the flea scuffed a foot against the desk. "If I may ask, my lord...?"

Sesshoumaru didn't even bother to reprimand him for the pointless lead-in to his question. "I am sure you will ask anyway," he replied.

"Er... what is it you are going to do?"

"Do?" the youkai lord said. "I'm going to get her out of here, that's what I'm going to do. What did you expect?"

"You are... going with her?"

Sesshoumaru did not even meet the old man's eyes. "Yes," he said.

"You are leaving the house?"

"Yes. I rather suspect there will be an attack within one to two weeks, but I am certain that the guards will be able to repel it easily. It is not necessary that I remain."

There was a long pause.

"Well! I am certain milord knows what he is doing!" Myouga exclaimed brightly, clearly thinking no such thing. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have a sick cousin in Okinawa that I have to, uh, go take care of. Yes, he's quite ill. And needs, uh, his house painted. No telling how long I'll be gone, you know, so I'll just get going right aw – "

"As you have no doubt surmised I am leaving you in charge while I am gone," Sesshoumaru said abruptly, interrupting the flea's pathetic attempts at dodging his responsibilities.

"What?" the flea cried, trying to sound shocked. "I am not - I mean, I cannot - " he stuttered over his own tongue. "That is to say, I am not qualified!"

"Yes, you are," Sesshoumaru told him lightly. "You are a trusted servant and you are beloved of the staff, especially the guards, so you are the ideal candidate. Besides," he sniffed, "you yourself have said that you are more than capable of the job on several occasions."

"Ah!" Myouga said hastily. "That was before... um, before..." He stumbled, searching for the right words before giving up. "I am certain there must be someone more qualified than I am, who is... um... is..."

"Not a coward?" Sesshoumaru asked.

Myouga bristled, indignant. "I am not a coward!" the flea lied. "I am resourceful."

"Resourceful? That sounds like a valuable quality to me."

Too late, Myouga realized that he had made a tactical error. "I mean! That is to say - arg - !"

Sesshoumaru just smirked, darkly amused. "Excellent," he continued. "Then you agree that you are the best choice for the job. Now sit down. We must talk strategy."

Myouga's shoulders slumped in defeat. Sighing, the flea resigned himself to a long night, and an even longer few weeks ahead of him.

. . .

Kagome awoke to find Myouga attached to her cheek, as if he had never left her without saying goodbye.

She squished him.

As she waited for him to recover she noted with some measure of drowsy despair that it was still dark outside, and she had slept in her clothes.

Bleah, she thought indistinctly. Well, this sort of oversight would certainly change at some point - she had packed a pair of light pajamas for this trip as she was tired of feeling dirty upon waking in the mornings. Her last trip here had taught her the value of a fresh change of clothing; a lesson well learned, especially since the weather was now quite warm.

Warm, she thought indistinctly. Oh yes... it was warm, wasn't it? Strange, but it seemed to be the same time of year here in the Sengoku Jidai as it did in her time, and, frowning sleepily, Kagome once again wondered just how long she had been away.

There was a movement against the palm of her hand and she looked down in surprise, jerked out of her groggy thoughts by the light pressure against her skin.

"Kagome-sama..." the flea wheezed, struggling to get to his feet after her punishment. "... it is so good ... to see you again..."

He didn't sound very happy to see her, but Kagome decided it was too early to care. "Sorry," she yawned, feeling grouchy. "I was dreaming that someone was sucking my blood, even though the last time I was here he was so inconsiderate as to leave without saying goodbye. Oh, wait."

She watched as he appeared to set one or two arms back into their sockets. "I do apologize Kagome-sama," Myouga said, though he sounded a little resentful, "but Sesshoumaru-sama ordered me home, and am bound to honor his requests as soon as he delivers them."

This was news to her. "You just didn't want him to punish you any more," she said, raising an eyebrow in what she thought might be a passable impression of Sesshoumaru.

Myouga didn't even bother to deny it. "That, too! That, too!" he said, bending his neck this way and that as if to make sure his vertebrae had returned from their excursion into his spleen. "So you see, I had to leave. And now you are back! And I will definitely be there to say goodbye to you when you depart again."

In the depths of her head, a few sluggish synapses fired to life.

Depart, depart... Why does this seem like an important concept? she wondered.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, suddenly jerking fully into consciousness. "That's right, we're leaving today, aren't we?" Not bothering to wait for Myouga to answer she nudged him firmly from her hand to the floor before she quickly scrambled to her feet and stumbled over to her backpack, wincing and pressing a hand to her stomach as she did so. The feeling of nausea that had plagued her all through the school year was suddenly back full force, a fact that Kagome found exceedingly unfair; even pregnant women only had to vomit for a month straight, she reflected moodily. Withdrawing a brush from her backpack she began to hastily comb her hair into some semblance of order, trying to turn her attention from her stomach to the task at hand. "Myouga! How soon until we go?" she demanded.

"Er," he said as he hopped toward her, sounding surprised at her sudden show of energy. "You and Sesshoumaru-sama are leaving as soon as you are ready, I believe."

Kagome shot him a glance. "You mean, as soon as Sesshoumaru gets tired of waiting for me to get ready, right?"

"Perhaps, perhaps," the flea conceded. "Is that a problem?"

"No," she sighed, scraping stray strands of hair into a high ponytail. "I expect no less." Deftly she tied the style into place and was reaching for her wakazashi when something struck her.

"Wait," she said turning to the flea beside her, "aren't you coming with us?"

Myouga looked almost despairing as he shook his head. "Not as such, no."

"Oh," she replied. Her movements became less hurried as she slid the sword into place beneath her obi. "I'll be going with Sesshoumaru alone?"

She watched as he tilted his head to the side, a strange look on his face. "Is that such a punishment?" he inquired.

Kagome bit her lip in consternation. "Well... no. But he can be so... um, overbearing, sometimes. You know."

She couldn't look Myouga in the eye as, to be honest, that was not the whole reason she felt a certain amount of apprehension over the extremely impending journey. She had not really given much thought to their traveling arrangements, but now that she was thinking of it she found that she, in fact, wanted to be alone with him, which was probably why it was a good idea to avoid that situation. The idea of having a bit of privacy now seemed darkly illicit and somewhat thrilling in a way that it hadn't been when they had traveled through the mountains together. Kagome licked her lips.

Myouga seemed completely oblivious to the vaguely titillating turn her thoughts were taking and chuckled warmly, effectively pulling her from such thoughts. "Ah, but he is only overbearing because he is used to giving orders and having others follow them, instead of throwing them back in his face as you do."

"Well, I don't mean to," Kagome pointed out. If he didn't give any orders, I wouldn't have to disobey them.

"It's good for him," Myouga told her. "I would not worry about it."

"Yeah, well... what are you going to do while we're gone?" she asked, standing. She hefted her backpack onto her shoulders and wriggled a bit, letting it settle as he replied.

"Ah," Myouga said. "Sesshoumaru-sama has given me control of the house, and I am to look after it while he is away. Which is good, because maybe something will get done around here for once."

Kagome grinned as she shouldered her bow and arrows. "Right, you'll get things done," she teased.

"Have you seen milord's desk?" the flea asked, sounding hurt.

She just smiled at him and held out her hand. "I think I'm ready," she said. "Will you show me to the front of the house?"

"Of course," he said, hopping into her hand and then onto her shoulder. Cautiously Kagome slid her door back and peered into the hallway, looking for youkai. Seeing and sensing none, she stepped out and held her hand to her face as Myouga instructed her to turn right and walk the long stretch of polished wood to the crossway ahead.

Kagome limped in the direction he indicated. "Er, speaking of leaving," she said, "how long has it been since my last visit?"

"About... a year and a half," he informed her after appearing to think backwards for a moment.

A light flutter of surprise stirred in her stomach. "Only a year and a half?" she asked. "Wow, the intervals just keep getting shorter and shorter. I wonder what that means."

Myouga only shrugged, a gesture Kagome had never failed to find fascinating on those with more than one set of arms. "Why must it mean anything?" he asked with idle curiosity. "Turn left here."

Kagome blinked, following his directions absentmindedly. Come to think of it, why did she think it meant something? Perhaps because it seemed to her that she was always doing something that had been fated or decided before she was even born, so clearly everything must mean something. For instance, what did it mean that she always seemed to run into familiar faces? What did it mean that she seemed inextricably entwined with the lives of Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru? What did it mean that so far the events of her quest seemed to match up with the fairytale she had read? What was the point, and if there was no point... well, that seemed pretty damn pointless.

Shaking her head she returned her attention to her guide. They padded quietly down the deserted hallways, Myouga whispering in her ear which turns to take, though despite his comforting presence the silence of the house made her stomach grind more forcefully against itself. In a way, Kagome supposed, leaving now was a good idea, as Sesshoumaru's home was almost oppressive in its austerity, and she hadn't felt wholly comfortable the entire time she had been there.

She hadn't really realized how anxious the house made her until she finally stepped into the courtyard and breathed an almost-unconscious sigh of relief. The feeling of being watched was still there, but it was far less than it had been within the walls of the house, and, of course, the fact that Sesshoumaru stood at the gate, illuminated in the dim, early morning light, didn't hurt either. He was speaking to an important looking guard, whom Kagome guessed was the captain.

She saw his eye slide, briefly, from the youkai to whom he was speaking toward her.

The moment his gaze locked with hers, Kagome felt her stomach flutter and turn, and the disjointed discomfort that had plagued her when he wasn't near was swept away by fresh new feelings that were simultaneously welcome and unwanted. Determined to ignore this, she lifted a hand and waved.

"Morning!" she called out to him, forcing a cheerfulness into her voice that she did not feel.

Even though every youkai in the courtyard turned to stare at her, the greeting was wasted on him. His eyebrows fell into a frown, and he turned away, very deliberately.

Kagome felt a stab of pain lance through her chest as she let her hand fall, trying to keep the hurt from her face. Fine! I didn't want to talk to you, anyway, she lied to herself with false bravado. Everyone was still staring at her, and she shifted self-consciously, wishing she could suppress the blush rising to her cheeks. As Sesshoumaru resumed talking to the guard, she let her eyes fall to the ground so she wouldn't have to look at his back any longer.

She could still feel eyes on her. It made her jumpy in her own skin.

After a moment Myouga cleared his throat, startling her out of her quiet, painful reverie. Coming to her senses, she forced a smile to her face and held out her hand. He hopped down.

"Kagome-sama," he said, his voice almost comically formal, "I must take my leave from you now. I wish you well on your journey. I am only regretful that I cannot go with you."

Grinning she shook her head. "But Myouga, there will only be danger and adventure where we are going. You should be happy to stay here and sort through the paperwork."

He laughed at this, though, for some reason, Kagome thought it sounded a little forced. "Yes! Yes, of course! How silly of me." She watched as he shifted in her palm before seeming to shake whatever slight discomfort he had felt at her reminder. "So! I will see you when you return! Good luck, Kagome-sama. I know you will do well."

She felt her own smile go brittle. It was all well and good for him - it wasn't he who was leaving, it was she, hopefully drawing the danger to herself and away from his home. Her stomach twisted again. "Thank you," she told him, suddenly fighting the urge to close her fingers around him and keep him with her. They'd been through so many battles together - sort of - and it would be nice to have him stay...

"See you soon!" the flea chirped, and then, as the little splinter of sadness at this parting twisted in her heart, he hopped down from her hand to the ground and bounded away into the shadows of the house, his form fading until she couldn't see him any longer.

Biting her tongue, she turned back to Sesshoumaru, only to find him two feet away from her and staring off into the distance, a look of boredom on his face.

Kagome almost sighed. Two steps forward, one step back, she thought glumly as she tried to ignore the little stabbing pains in her chest. Not only did his distance hurt, but she was annoyed with herself that she allowed him to hurt her. Worse, she could probably help it, and that made her more annoyed and miserable.

"Are you quite finished?" he said, the sound making her jump.

She scowled at him. "I am," she said, "and good morning to you, too."

He only looked at her for a moment before snorting and turning away. "It grows less pleasant by the moment," he informed her cryptically, beginning to stride away across the courtyard. When he reached the edge didn't even wait for her, but merely stepped over the threshold of the gate and into the world beyond, steps calm and even, though his shoulders seemed strangely stiff. Belatedly, she galvanized her legs into action and jogged after him.

Only ten yards out of the courtyard, she hissed faintly at the stinging soreness in her feet, and she saw, so slight that it might only have been her imagination, a tiny twitch in his fingers.

A noise at her back caused her to cast a look behind her, to the gate, where a group of guards were gathered, and she was struck with a horrible, twisted sense of deja vu.

The tableau behind her was exactly the same as when she had first arrived, guards piled at the gates and peering out, staring at this strange apparition that had stumbled upon them. There was only one difference - there was no fear or anger this time. Instead, she saw, on each face, only a strange, predatory leer.

Stomach twisting, her heart sped up even as her feet stumbled over each other, the skittish, primitive part of her waiting, waiting for the pounce, waiting -

"Keep up."

Sesshoumaru's voice physically jolted her, and she whirled back to him. He was still stiff and silent; he hadn't even turned around.

Quickening her pace, Kagome strove to follow, and wondered, even though she was leaving the safety of his home, why it felt as though she were escaping.

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 28 of 42

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