Continuing Tales

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 37 of 42

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Tales from the House of the Moon

"It's a shame I have to wait until the ending
everything I've yet to break is surely bending
every vow I ever take is just pretending
that this mess I make is worth defending."

- Barenaked Ladies, "Next Time"


At the edge of the shrine courtyard stands a majestic beech tree, large and imposing, its green, sunbaked branches reaching ever upwards into the starry night. It is a triumph of nature, of the glory of creation, however only the most acute observers will be able to discern that something is amiss in the darkness.

For there, cradled in the branches, is something odd. It is an indistinct shape, soft and dark, and perhaps only the faintest metallic gleam shines softly beneath the crescent moon. Something sinister.

A prowler.

But no ordinary prowler! This prowler is our intrepid heroine, Higurashi Kagome. Brave, bold, travel-weary, and thinking about herself in the third person. Clearly, it has not been a good day for Kagome.

Er, I mean, me.

A moment passed.

On her solid but somewhat knobbly perch, Kagome shifted with increasing discomfort and tried to quell what appeared to be her fatigue-induced schizophrenia.

Not a good day for me. Right, Kagome?

...please don't answer that, by the way.

Another moment passed and, to her relief, no one did. Sighing, Kagome reached up and pushed down against the painful, swollen skin around her right eye, a ritual she had adopted in order to keep herself awake. It was marginally more effective than making up her own voice-over, but less exciting. A hiss escaped her at the self-inflicted pain as it jerked her back into full consciousness.

Exacerbating her wounds probably wasn't the brightest of ideas, but the way Kagome figured it she had so many already that one or two more probably wouldn't matter. In all frankness, she was a mess. She wasn't even certain she was going to be able to get down out of this tree without re-injuring her ankle; she'd almost broken it jumping back into the well on the off-chance that it would play nice with her and take her to a time in which she could actually be useful for once. Of course, it hadn't worked, and the landing had sent a sharp lance of pain up her already sore legs. Even the hot shower hadn't helped much.

Neither had climbing through Souta's window in the first place. Her brother hadn't even heard her frantic pebbles against his window, so she had to break into her childhood home without his help. Theoretically she could have just gone in through the door, but that was out of the question seeing as how she had promised her mother that she wouldn't go back to the well and all. Though, in retrospect, Kagome was forced to grudgingly admit that her mother's concerns might not have been totally unfounded.

Souta had almost blown it for her anyway. Apparently waking up to one's bruised, bloodstained, and near-hysterical sister induced screaming, and only after much frantic shushing and hissed explanations did Souta finally seem to get what was happening.

He'd been mad, but had still helped her, telling her she owed him one; while she took a quick shower he had rooted around his room and eventually unearthed some of his old clothes that had last seen daylight in the late nineties. Which was fine, since walking through Tokyo in a bloodstained priestess outfit was probably not the best way to travel incognito. Then it had only been a quick raid through her grandfather's things before she found a book on the shrines of Tokyo and had hightailed it home, only to find the shrine she was looking for ten pages in.

Maybe the universe is being nice to me.

Kagome paused to let that sink in.

Haha, she decided. Wow, do I need sleep or what?

At least her temporary insanity seemed to be subsiding; cuddling her crowbar closer she glanced at the moon and silently urged it to go faster. A low pressure in her belly was beginning to make itself felt, and even though Kagome was highly aware of the fact that she was not unused to relieving herself at the foot of trees, it still didn't seem right to do so when there was a perfectly good toilet not three hundred meters from where she sat. Amusingly enough, Kagome knew of the location of this toilet because it was in her apartment.

It was funny, really, how close the shrine in which Sesshoumaru may or may not be imprisoned was to where she had been living for the past year.

Haha, yes. Terribly amusing, in the same way that a basket of strangled puppies was cute.

With a scowl, Kagome tightened her grip on the crowbar. Hilarious! she thought bitterly for the fourteenth time that night. Good one, Universe! You totally got me this time.

For the briefest of moments Kagome wished the thick metal in her hand was actually a machine gun of some sort. Blasting a few bushes into oblivion and possibly even teaching a wall a good lesson it wouldn't soon forget seemed incredibly cathartic, and such an action would probably take her mind off of her possibly-impending death, as well. In fact, if she had an uzi, it might even delay her death!

For maybe all of two seconds.


Swallowing hard around the sudden beating of her heart in her throat, Kagome nervously peered through the leaves that surrounded her, taking in the moonlit shrine in front of her.

This was it. The most likely spot. If he was in there...

Oh, man.

He is going to fucking kill me.

Well. That'd be twice in one day, then.

In the pit of her belly, there was a hollow empty trembling, and with something akin to panic Kagome shoved it away. She was certainly not in the right frame of mind to think about what had happened in the space between life and death; she needed to focus on the here and now. Here and now was the only place and time worth thinking about, after all.

If only she weren't so uncertain about the here and now, too! Had been uncertain ever since she landed gently at the bottom of the well, the scream in her throat still raw and grating, and then she had looked upwards, filled with pain inside and out, hoping and wanting -

- and finding nothing. Just the light of the courtyard spilling in through the doors and creeping into the depths of the well. She had wanted - half-expected, even - to see Sesshoumaru standing there, looking down at her with exasperation or anger or something, but he hadn't.

Which left her in a bit of a predicament as to her course of action. Miserably, Kagome shifted in the tree again, feeling it poke and prod every bruised and tender place on her body; probably adding a few more bruises to the collection, too.

Stupid tree, she thought. Unless you have a doctorate in quantum thingies, we can do quite well without your input.

Huffing with annoyance, Kagome struggled to put her scattered thoughts in some kind of order, because even though she was perched in a tree waiting for the opportune moment to make her criminal debut, Kagome was still not at all certain she was doing the right thing. Since she had not yet made any irreversible moves, she could still start over from first principles and go from there, just in case there was something she had been overlooking.

So. He hadn't been waiting for her, which meant one of three things: he had escaped and now, after four hundred years, he had forgotten her, or had not known when she would be coming back, or something similar; he hadn't escaped and was even now waiting for her to come and free him; or there was another story that would take her back to him.

She supposed that it was also hypothetically possible that he might be dead, but Kagome dismissed this as ridiculous; Sesshoumaru wouldn't do something so banal as die.

Nope. Not without killing me first, she added.

With difficulty, she swallowed around the dread that had knotted in her throat. No matter what happened when she found him, he was going to be furious. Or completely insane. She could only imagine his state of mind after god knew how many years sealed up and conscious. Maybe he would be so crazy that he wouldn't even recognize her when they finally met again.

If they finally met again.

When you come back.

This was, of course, where it all started to break down. Finding the shrine in which Sesshoumaru was imprisoned seemed like a good move, but if she understood quantum uncertainty and the nature of causality correctly, which she probably didn't, then doing something definite kind of... solidified the past. Or the present. Or something. So if she found him here and now, then there was no way for her to go back and possibly free him at an earlier point, because it was the past that dictated the present... or was it that the past didn't change the present because it had already happened, so if she found him in the shrine now it would prevent her from finding him in the past because obviously she hadn't... no, it didn't matter because...?

Damn damn damn damn damn!

Ooooh, she hated this sort of thing even at the best of times! Of course now that she was so tired she couldn't even see straight, now was the time when all that theoretical stuff became not-so-theoretical and actually mattered. On the other hand it probably didn't make any difference; no matter how many knots she tied her brain into, there was still absolutely no way for her to discern the correct course of action. It was all too connected, too endlessly self-referential.

Ugh. Maybe she should have tried finding a new fairytale, but she would only find a new one if he weren't in the shrine, so it was possible that she could spend her entire life looking for the next fairytale to take her back to him when one might not exist. Maybe she should have waited a little longer for him to find her.

...and it's been four hundred years... maybe he would be better off sealed...

Violently, she shook her head, trying to dispel her own traitorous thoughts. Doesn't matter. Screw it, Kagome thought ferociously. I've found the shrine. If he's there, he's there, and if he's not, I'll look for him. There'll be another fairytale, or he escaped and is alive, and when I find him -

...when I find him...

Well. Everything seemed to go kind of fuzzy after that bit. Almost as if someone had just cut off her head.

And frankly, that just didn't seem fair.

God! Stupid Sesshoumaru! Stupid, stupid Sesshoumaru, who thought he was so goddamn invincible that he just... ugh, that he just stood there and brought her back to life. He didn't even pick her up and take her somewhere else, because obviously he could never be in any danger. If only he'd snatched that first knife out of the air, or dodged it, or something, but no! It didn't even warrant his attention and... and... arg!

Dammit. If he didn't kill her first, there was a good chance she just might strangle him instead.

A sudden well of nausea in her belly caused her to wince and press her hand to her stomach, temporal problems momentarily forgotten in favor of her physical ailments. It passed after a moment.

Swallowing hard, Kagome closed her eyes.

Okay, He's either there, or he's not. If he isn't, he's somewhere else. If he is, he most likely exists in one of two states: completely bonkers or fucking furious. Schrödinger's Sesshoumaru. I just... don't know.

She took a deep, shuddering breath.

Time to find out, then.

Leaning back Kagome stuffed the crowbar into her belt with icy fingers before wiggling down onto her stomach and gripping the branch tightly.

Slowly, slowly, she lowered herself to the next branch down, her ankle protesting as she let it take her weight. The branch gave and wavered.

Kagome froze, heart in her throat, certain that she was going to fall and break a leg right at the finish line.

That didn't happen, though. After a tense moment she edged towards the trunk and repeated the process, trying to make as little sound as possible as she descended, not that there was anyone around to hear her. She hoped.

After a minute or so she finally dropped to the ground, landing in a crouch. Pain from her injured ankle lanced brightly up her leg, nearly sending her to her knees.

"Ah - !" she gasped, barely repressing a cry of pain. Determined to ignore it, Kagome skittered with a distinct limp towards the side wall. The moon was bright tonight, but there was a long line of trees lining the side of the courtyard, providing much needed cover. Heart pounding, Kagome moved forward and attempted to slink as nonchalantly as possible through the shadows.

Her heart fluttered in her throat as she dragged her shoulder against the wall, staying away from the light. Beneath her feet she felt the grit of the stones through the soles of her shoes as she strove to make as little noise as possible.

It took forever to reach the main building, and Kagome paused, crouching in the shadows, trying to calm her breath. This was going to be the part where she would be most exposed to the light, most likely to make a lot of noise, so she had to do it as quickly as possible.

Just... look like you're supposed to be doing this, she told herself, though even in her head her voice was shrill and nervous. Lifting a hand she wiped sweat from her brow, shivering; she was wearing gloves and long sleeves and the summer night was warm, but each breath she took chilled her more and more.

She felt her shoulders hunch, as though she were trying to withdraw into herself.

He might hate her. He might prefer to stay sealed than to live in a world full of humans. He might be insane, lost to centuries of nothingness, might not even know her name any more. He might not even be there, might have escaped, might not have cared to even look for her return.

He might kill her. She might die.

And if she did, would she wait for him, there on the banks of the river?

Would he want her to?

In her ears, Kagome heard the thundering of her heart.

But I promised him, she thought.

I promised.

For one last, long moment, she stayed there, formless.

And then: Okay.

Kagome stood immediately, almost popping out of her crouch, and began to stride with purpose out of the shadows, across the small courtyard. Her breath came fast and quick, her teeth clenching against the trembling.

It took forever and no time at all, strolling through the silver light, hoping that she would not hear a shout over the roar of blood in her ears -

- and then she was softly mounting the steps of the main building, passing the bell and the empty offering box, reaching out towards the closed doors and praying that they would be unlocked.

They were, and she gave a tiny prayer of thanks that she wouldn't have to use the crowbar for this at least. Clumsily, her gloved fingers fumbling, she opened the doors, wincing at the slight noise they made, and slipped inside.

Her hands were shaking so badly that she was almost unable to shut them behind her.

She didn't like being in here. She lived in a shrine, but she wasn't a shrine maiden, a real one, and it was just like trespassing to cross the threshold. She didn't belong here, wasn't supposed to be here -

Breathing hard, Kagome let her forehead fall lightly against the door, trying to calm herself, and deep in her stomach she could feel her fear and anxiety, her guilt and regret, roll over and over, crashing into one another.

Down the backs of her legs she could feel a slender line of fearful electricity; it tickled her muscles, urging them to jerk and run, and she couldn't stop her shaking hands.

Stop this, she commanded herself. Just stop. If this is where they put him, then there is nothing holy here, and no reason to be uncomfortable. If this is where they put him, then this is a prison, not a shrine.

Somewhere behind her was the altar, and beyond this room was the next where the shintai - the home of the kami that lived here - was held.

Okay. If he's here, he'll be in the next building.

Kagome took a step backwards, began to turn around and -

- a jolt shot through her, from her toes to the top of her head, forcing her to her knees.

She gasped, tensed, terror bolting through her, and she wanted to run, run, run -

- but -

Oh -

Her eyes flew open as she felt her jaw drop, but she couldn't make a sound.

Struggling for air, Kagome stared at her hands against the wood of the floor as beneath her fingers thrummed a spell so powerful that it shook her heart.

She was a jumble, her thoughts in disarray. This is... this could be...

Desperately she squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated, felt the texture and weight of the magic, tasted the colors it sang, and she knew.

A binding spell.

Here, this is where he is, he is here, they put him under the floor, this is where he is -

It had been so silly to assume that the sealing daggers were all that the sorceress would leave to hold him, of course she would put other wards in place, and this was why she couldn't have felt him even if she had known.

Kagome felt the years weigh heavy and dark above her head.

But he could still have escaped, she thought desperately. He could have been freed. He might not be here, oh, please don't let him be here.

Everything seemed as though she were in a dream, moving weirdly, and she was tired, so tired that the world stuck out at odd angles against the humming magic and roiling fear. Through the translucent windows the moon shone blue and dim, but it was just enough to see by. Tracing trembling fingers over the seams of the wood, Kagome let her hand draw the crowbar from her belt, her stomach lurching at the thought of ripping up the floor, at the thought of what she might find, what she might not find, what was real and what wasn't.

Grinding her teeth together, Kagome moved further into the shrine, moved down the spell and turned, trying to figure out where to start before she chose the end closest to the door. Carefully she traced the borders of the magic.

He might be here, she thought. Might have been here all along.

God, no.

Her power swelled in her chest, down through her arm to her fingers, igniting down the length of metal she held in her hand, and with a feral grunt she jammed the glowing end of the crowbar between two seams of wood and yanked -

Where the bar touched the spell dissolved with a strange steamy hiss, and the sound of splinters cracked through the silence of the room.

For a moment Kagome froze, straining to hear any movement, any sign that someone had heard her, but she could detect nothing.

So she did it again, and then again, and then again and again and again, ripping up the beautiful polished floor in ragged strips, and there were strange tears of effort and rage trembling at the corners of her eyes, but they didn't fall.

I'm coming, she thought, distant, disjointed. Please don't be there, please, I promise to be good, please, please be free, I'm coming, I promise...

Again and again she tore at the prison that held him, widening the dark hole between here and there, now and then, until she had destroyed nearly half of the enchanted section of floor as her power ate up the rest of the ancient spell. Only then did she let her quivering muscles finally halt in their wild frenzy.

Gasping she set the crowbar down and listened again for footsteps or distant shouts, but there was nothing.

Nothing came from underneath as well.

Kagome felt ill.

Her heart pounded all over her body, fear and longing and a desperate denial beating against the cage of her skin as she leaned over the black hole she had made.

Breathing hard, she yanked one glove from her trembling hand. She was soaking with cold sweat, wanted, needed to see, but she didn't dare turn on the flashlight. Air scraped down her throat, scratched her lungs, clawed at her from the inside out, and gingerly Kagome reached down into the darkness, clenching her teeth to fight the trembling of her stomach.

All around her she felt the dead quiet pour in.

Her freezing fingertips itched as she lowered her hand, praying that she wouldn't find anything, praying that she would, she didn't even know any more.

Please let him have escaped, she begged, the plea blotting out all other thoughts. Please let me find him, please let him be free, please let me touch him, please, please, please...

Just please.

And there was cloth. Heavy silk.

Something firm but cool beneath it.

Oh, please no.

She didn't want to, but had to, her mind was just burning blue static, fear and disbelief crowding in, and Kagome slid her hand up the seams of the kimono she had found. It sloped gently down, a shoulder, over and up, and then there was silken skin against her own. Cool to the touch.


Kagome felt the world open beneath her, yawning wide, and she hung, suspended, bloodless and cold.

He can't be dead, she thought. He can't be dead. He just can't. He would have rotted, wouldn't he? Was Inuyasha cold? Did he breathe? I can't remember! Horrifying images flashed through her head, of Sesshoumaru dying of thirst, starving for lack of food, there beneath the shrine floor, and dimly Kagome registered the sound of a high keening whine, full of air and anguish, in the back of her own throat.

She moved her hand down, over his still, cool chest, found the hilt of a knife.

Her fingers closed around it.

Beneath her fingers, she felt the spell, old but intact, spark against her hand, and suddenly Kagome flared, burning rage in her heart spreading up, up through her throat, into her brain.

It should not be this way. I won't let it be like this.

A rush of electricity jolted down her arm.

The spell vanished beneath her fingers, and without stopping to think she yanked the dagger out, tossed it to the side, barely heard it clatter against the floor.

She waited.

There was nothing -

And then she felt it, felt his youki well up from beneath the floorboards and filling the room with the silent wild wind of his power. Not dead. Still alive.

For a second she knew nothing but a relief so powerful that her limbs buckled, and she was slumped on the floor, her hand still anchored in the darkness, her fingers fastened in his kimono.

- thank you, thank you, I'll be good, so good, thank you, please, thank you, good thank you -

She waited for him to sit up, to say something, to embrace her or kill her or do anything at all.

She kept waiting.

He didn't move. Kagome licked her dry lips and tried to grab enough air to speak.

"Sesshoumaru?" she whispered urgently.

No answer.

For a moment she was just as immovable as he, and then she was running her hands frantically over him, down beneath the wood, down his side to his arm, another knife, another angry surge of power. The spell cracked and broke, the knife sliding easily from his flesh, and there was another swell of youki - she felt it, as of thunder rattling in her bones - but still he didn't move.

Panic trembled under her skin, urging her to scream or to run or to do something, but she crushed it ruthlessly, her anxious fingers tracing up, up, to the knife in his shoulder, and the second she brushed over the hilt Kagome felt all of her rage and tear, breaking the spell and the knife came away in her hand.

Now he was free, was liberated, and she felt his presence fill the room like a stormy night beneath the shrouded moon.

He was still as stone. She snatched her hand away, not wanting to feel his impassive body.

Wake up, she screamed, in the silence of her head. Get up, god dammit. Fuck you, get up, wake up, wake up, strangle me, slice me to pieces, kill me if you want, but just fucking wake UP -

Desperately she swallowed around a throat full of tears, and tried one last time.

She drew a shaky breath.

"Sesshoumaru?" she whispered.

The soft sound of her voice drifted down, slipping into the darkness below.

For an eternal falling moment, there was no answer. The space under the floor, black and impenetrable, was silent, and for that moment Kagome forgot how to exist.

And -

Then there was a rustling from beneath, as of silk on silk, and then a voice.

"Kagome," Sesshoumaru said.

Her heart stumbled in her chest.

It was... no, this couldn't be right. There was no anger, no rage or insanity, nothing, he sounded exactly the same, exactly, as though no time at all had passed, and for a moment she thought she was dreaming this, that it couldn't be this way, that the fates would never let him be all right because that would be something good, and good things didn't happen, and it was never that easy, never never never -

And then he broke through her breathlessness, through her aching hopes and desperate denial, and said, very quietly:

"What are you doing here?"

What - ?

From far, far away, Kagome felt her mouth drop open.

Oh, she thought.

Oh, my god.

A damp, choked laugh, desperate and high in her throat, escaped from her. It didn't even sound like her voice. She was so far away, lost in this unreal dream that still felt real, but couldn't be but please oh please yes please -

And then she asked, "Have you - have you been planning to say that for four hundred years?"

God, that was not what she wanted to say, but she just could not open her mouth and pour out the thousand little words that she wanted to tell him. Kagome quaked at her cowardice, trembled with her need, and waited for him to tell her all the things she wanted to hear.

A quiet moment slipped between them. Then she heard him snort, familiar and sharp. It tweaked her heart.

And then, "More or less."

She couldn't think. She hurt so much she couldn't feel her brain.

The world condensed down to her, and to him, and all things that flowed between them.

Kagome placed a hand over her mouth, struggling to swallow the sadness and pain, to keep it inside where it would never find him again. She felt it clawing up the back of her throat. She felt herself begin to crumble.

For forever, she was still.

And after forever, she slowly, slowly lowered her hand, and whispered:

"I am so, so sorry."

Then she was crying so hard she couldn't make a sound, and then he reached across the years, through all the words and thoughts and moments that bound them together and kept them apart as if they weren't even there at all, and placed his fingers against her cheek, brushing away the tears.

"Do not cry," she heard him say.

And there in the incandescent darkness Kagome turned her face to his touch, branded a trembling kiss against his palm. Wept, could not speak.

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 37 of 42

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