Continuing Tales

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 7 of 42

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Tales from the House of the Moon

"The nearest to my heart are a king without a kingdom and a poor man who does not know how to beg." - Khalil Gibran

I've really screwed up this time, thought Kagome as she stared at the still, statuesque figure of Sesshoumaru. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to handle this, I don't know what to tell him, and he's going to kill me. Despite the coolness of the night, Kagome felt a thin trickle of sweat run down her spine.

Most of her mind was screaming with half-formed notions while some distant part was still listing, calmly and rationally, What To Do in Case of Youkai. Kagome ignored it, panicked imaginings ricocheting around inside her skull.

I'm not an actress, she thought, but not only am I onstage, I've completely forgotten my lines. No, I don't even know which play I'm in, and I walked onstage naked. I'm naked, I was prepared for a burlesque, and now I'm supposed to be performing kabuki and I have bronchitis. I'm naked, I have bronchitis, I'm supposed to sing opera and the yakuza are threatening to give my entire family concrete shoes if I don't bring in the crowds and give them the moneys.

He had appeared no more than twenty feet from her, his youki more unleashed than she had ever felt before, except in two instances. Either he was losing control, or he was about to become a giant dog and gulp her down like yesterday's leftover chicken. Giddily, Kagome wondered if people really tasted like chicken, or if they tasted like pork like she had always read in books. She toyed with the notion of asking him.

Sesshoumaru was still standing, half in light, half in darkness, and beside her Kagome could barely make out the panicked breath of Amaya, who seemed to be having a heart attack. The demon prince hadn't moved an inch, but knowing how quickly he could move, Kagome did not find this fact comforting.

Kagome didn't think she could deal with the suspense much longer. I'm dead. Really dead. It's not just an expression, he's going to kill me. I'm not a miko. He's fought me before. We fought together against Naraku. He came for a miko who could help him, but he knows me; he knows I was his brother's companion. He knows I'm just a hotheaded girl who once waved the Tetsusaiga in his face. I can't believe I yelled at him so many times.

I wish Inuyasha were here.

He was still just standing there, and Kagome couldn't decide if this was a good or a bad development. Surely he recognized her. Surely he would be angry, enraged at not finding the miko he wanted. Maybe the story got it wrong – it seemed to have recorded everything else incorrectly – maybe the youkai lord killed the miko and ate her heart. There was no way to tell. She could feel her fear distorting her perception, because she thought he looked furious beneath his immobile façade. Kagome imagined he was trying to figure out where to dispose of her body. To her right there was a thud on the ground, and she could not help but turn – don't look away from your enemy, her mind supplied sensibly – to see that Amaya had sat heavily on the earth, eyes open and petrified with fear.

Even she can feel his youki. I'm dead. Almost despairingly, Kagome turned back to the still unmoving demon lord.

Kagome probably would have felt better if she knew that Sesshoumaru had yet to think any thoughts that involved skewering the girl across from him on his claws. Instead, he was trying to overcome his astonishment at not only finding his brother's companion alive, but also virtually unchanged. She smelled a little different – she had grown into a mature female in the intervening time – but other than that she remained almost the same as she had been last he saw her, over forty years ago.

Everything about her scent, from the strange dusty quality to the hint of growth teetering on the edge of decay, marked her as a wholly unremarkable human being. And yet she had not aged as a human should. Sesshoumaru could feel his pulse spike at the thought of some way to preserve a human body before he remembered that he had no need of such fanciful magic any longer. Turning his thoughts forcefully from the useless glimmer of hope, Sesshoumaru noticed that the scent of fear was tickling his nose as well.

It wasn't possible. He was mad. Too many days sitting under a tree in the hot sun had finally taken their toll on him, and he was hallucinating. That had to be it.

She was still just standing there. Sesshoumaru felt a stab of annoyance that his brain was so unimaginative; if it was going to conjure up a face from the past, the least it could do was make her a little more interesting. Maybe dress her up a little more. Yes, that would be nice.

Sesshoumaru let himself blink, hoping that she would be more intriguing when he opened his eyes again, but when he looked again she remained stock still, bow still clutched in her small white hand. Well fine, he thought sourly, be that way.

He was obviously tired. A good night's sleep would go a long way in getting rid of such a ridiculous apparition, and if his hallucination of her was just going to continue to stand there like a vaguely sentient, extremely terrified rock he probably wouldn't miss anything important if he simply left.

She was going to faint. She was breathing heavily, on the verge of hyperventilating. Not only was she afraid, but she found herself woefully unprepared with confronting what appeared to be the sole survivor of her long quest for the Shikon jewel. Beneath conflicting feelings of relief and aversion, she was ready to just scream and crawl into a hole, so when the demon suddenly moved Kagome thought her heart would shatter her chest. This is it, she thought. The moment of truth.

But instead of darting forward and ripping her throat out, Sesshoumaru merely turned around and began to retreat into the darkness of the forest.

It was an unexpected development, to say the least. Legs shaking, Kagome dumbly stared at his retreating back, watching as his silver hair tossed in the wind. She was struck with the distinct feeling that she had just missed something very important.

Right! Kagome thought. What just happened?

She blinked several times, trying to come to terms with the sudden change in the tide; she was being swept along by events she couldn't control or understand, and in her mind she wrestled with herself as she watched him. He was slowly walking away, the dappled moonlight falling down around him, and within moments he would be swallowed up by the heavy night that surrounded them.

Kagome could feel the weight of her responsibility, the crushing burden of legend bearing down as his shining figure moved ever further from her. If she really was the miko in the story and he really was the demon prince, then she should call out to him, give him good counsel, and send him on his way. If she were truly the good and kind priestess from a distant future, she would not be afraid. She would know what to say to give him aid. If she were really the girl that had selflessly sacrificed her own dreams and happiness for the one she loved, she should be wise enough to solve the small problems of a lord who had lost a child.

But all her rationalizations and all her responsibilities meant little. As she opened her mouth and drew her breath, all Kagome could think about was the feeling of being adrift in a strange time and strange place, with no one who knew her, and no one to mourn if she died. All she could think about was the pit of loneliness yawning in her chest.


The youkai stopped. For a long moment, in which Kagome had ample time to reconsider her actions, neither of them moved. Then he turned back toward her, and walked, measured and even, through the moonlight-sprinkled trees and into the circle of warm, dancing light.

She was calming down, and when he came to a halt Kagome finally had the opportunity to really look at him.

Missing from his right shoulder was the enormous, fluffy pelt; the loss of the pelt made him look smaller, even a little naked. The armor that she had always seen him wear was also replaced with more form-fitting metal, and with armor for both arms instead of only one. They sat close to his shoulders, heavy and unadorned, and around his waist the patterned obi remained, though his swords were missing. Almost as an afterthought, she noticed that he had both arms again. She wondered how long it had taken for him to heal.

All in all, he didn't look much different except for one thing, but that one thing struck Kagome in a way that brought home all that had happened to him, and to herself, in the intervening years. It was like a punch to the stomach – just a little thing – and she wouldn't have even known its significance if she had not been so studious.

It was his kimono. He still wore white clothing, but the flower pattern that had always graced his shoulders and sleeves were gone. In its place was a simple splash of indigo; the color of royalty without a crest.

Sesshoumaru was a king without a kingdom.

It hurt to think of it that way. A prince in exile, his family and household dead, and the years stretched out in front of him, endless, in which he did not age. All the living he could do would never return him to the past, and all her little words that she had planned to tell him suddenly seemed paltry and empty in the face of such loss.

Kagome did not know what to say. Her vision was blurring a little with unshed tears of stress and exhaustion, and before her the youkai lord stood still as a statue while his kimono, bereft of all insignia, fluttered in the breeze. She couldn't take her eyes from his sleeves as they lifted and swelled with each gust of wind, twin banners of solitude in the quiet of the night, and the silence bore down again.

"Yes?" Sesshoumaru finally said.

Startled out of her reverie, Kagome dropped her bow, suddenly in the present again as the task at hand reasserted itself. The bow bounced off her toe. That was smooth, she thought grumpily as she nudged it behind her with her foot. Now what? She had no experience in the field of offering advice to deposed heads of state, but luckily her instincts took over; her mother always taught her to be hospitable to guests, to offer them something to drink or to eat. Well, there was probably no better time to be polite.

"Tea?" she asked brightly. Her voice sounded nonchalant and absurd in the quiet of the campfire.

Sesshoumaru showed no change in expression and said nothing, so after a moment Kagome took this as a sign that he did not object to the offer. "Amaya," she said. Beside her, she heard Amaya start at the sound of her name, and she could feel the other girl's questioning eyes on her. "Could you go fetch some water for us?"

There was a puzzled silence, and then Amaya rose to her feet and came toward Kagome. Leaning in, she whispered as low as possible, "Will you be all right by yourself?" Kagome groaned inwardly. There was no way Sesshoumaru would not have heard such a thing; his hearing was twice as good as Inuyasha's had been, and the hanyou could detect surreptitious murmurs at twenty paces. It may have been a trick of the light, but she thought his eyes – gold, like his brother's – had narrowed in something resembling irritation.

"I won't be by myself, Amaya," she said out loud, hoping Amaya would just do what she asked. She suddenly had an inkling of what Inuyasha must have felt all those times he told her to stay out of the way and be quiet. "Please, find us some water."

Mercifully, Amaya said nothing else, only bent and rummaged in Kagome's pack for a second before coming up with the kettle and then moving into the trees in the general direction of the stream they had crossed earlier that evening. A few rustles and she was gone, and Kagome was alone inside the legend.

Sesshoumaru had yet to move and Kagome was getting the distinct feeling that she was going to have to do most of the work in this conversation. Her mind was going over the aspects of the story that she had memorized, but unfortunately it seemed to be wrong on most counts. For one, Sesshoumaru had not cut his hair nor donned the clothes of a peasant; for another, she had no idea what to tell him. In the original story, the miko gave the prince black clothing and told him to soak them with his tears, which, in retrospect, was just the sort of damn fool thing that happened all the time in fairytales. Kagome bit her lip.

"Please take a seat," she said finally, bowing a little in deference. Across from her, Sesshoumaru stayed as still as stone. It felt like she was banging her head on a brick wall.

"Then if you do not mind, I would like to sit," she said. "I've been traveling all day."


Suppressing the urge to sigh in frustration, Kagome lowered herself to the ground first, sitting seiza and folding her hands in her lap. In her mind, she debated either demonstrating some knowledge of the youkai's situation or feigning ignorance; would he be offended or awed if she addressed his problem without any beating around the bush? Glancing up at him, she decided that prudence would probably be best. He was still looking at her with narrowed eyes and making her think uncomfortably of how very breakable her bones happened to be. No, perhaps the circumspect approach was best.

"What can I do for you?" she asked as genteelly as possible. No one to kill here! she thought. Move along, move along.

To her surprise, instead of answering, Sesshoumaru stepped to his right and gracefully dropped to his knees, mirroring her posture and tucking his hands into his voluminous sleeves. Kagome had to drop her own hands to the ground and scoot to the side so she was facing him directly, the fire now off to her right.

"Tea would be fine," said the demon.

Kagome didn't know what to say to that. "Amaya will be back in a bit," she finally replied. Sesshoumaru said nothing more.

The minutes stretched out, the king without a kingdom and the maiden without a shrine staring at each other in the light of the fire.

Oh, boy, this is really awkward, Kagome thought, the taut stillness broken only by the crackling flames. The only way it could be more awkward was if Sesshoumaru suddenly started to pick his nose.

Please, please, don't do that, she prayed.

In the trees behind her, Kagome heard the now-familiar step of Amaya, reemerging with a full kettle of water. Sesshoumaru didn't even glance at her as the other girl knelt and set the pot over the fire, and no one spoke as the water began to heat to a boil. It took forever.

When the tea was finally ready, Amaya, in a graceful fashion that surprised Kagome, poured the tea out into cups and placed them next to the sitting figures. Kagome waited as Sesshoumaru slowly unfurled an arm and grasped his cup, bringing it to his lips and sipping, still staring at her. She did the same. The hot tea felt good on her throat and soothed her thoughts somewhat, which was a pleasant side-effect to what was meant only to be a polite gesture. She took the cup away from her lips and looked back to Sesshoumaru.

His eyes flickered, briefly, in the direction of Amaya.

Kagome immediately understood. "Amaya," she said, this time turning to look at the girl, who still appeared frightened but much more in control than before. "I'm sorry, but could you leave us, please?"

Slowly she nodded and rose. "I – I think I'll go wash my face," she said. As she passed out of the campsite again she picked up her knife and headed back in the direction of the stream.

Kagome decided it was time to try again.

"How can I be of service to you?" she asked, aiming for a more polite approach; perhaps she wasn't showing enough deference to suit his tastes, though a small, but ugly and uncharitable part of her mind snidely remarked that he was in no position to demand any sort of deference at all. Kagome told that part of her to shut up, and waited, gathering her thoughts.

Sesshoumaru, for his part, was coming to a realization. He had thought he had no pride left. He had actually come all the way out here to ask for help from a human – though he told himself it was only to placate Myouga – so he was clearly at the bottom of the pit of despair, and his old, stiff-necked pride was surely gone. Surely.

Unfortunately he was being promptly and brutally disabused of that notion as he sat and studied the miko who was most certainly real and who was most certainly the miko who had traveled with his brother.

He had come to ask for her help, and now he was suddenly ashamed to have showed his face. He had been on the verge of breaking and running when she had called out his name, and that voice dredged up such a strange mix of memory that he had stopped in his tracks, feeling fifty years younger, once again imprisoned in that time that he had tried so earnestly to forget.

It had been the first time in years anyone had said his name without appending the honorific –sama, as though she was an equal, or an old friend of the family. Which, in a way, she was, he supposed. But she'd never called him Sesshoumaru-sama, even when they'd been at the start of their acquaintance. She brought back a rush of recollection; the air must have smelled sweeter then, and he had felt more alive, hunting down his enemies, pondering the puzzle of Rin, circling his brother throughout the country, and coming to terms with his father's legacy. Strange… he recalled those times as happier, though he could not remember actually being content. Perhaps they were only happy in retrospect; perhaps those years were only happy because he had not been miserable.

Her voice had reached down through the leaden fog that crowded him and drawn out the places he never thought to see again...

And despite the overwhelming apathy that had drained his years of color, Sesshoumaru found, staring at this impossible priestess whose name he could not really remember, that there was still a small measure of hope that had been slumbering, unnoticed and uncalled upon, somewhere in his soul. He was here for his old life; this old face could be a sign.

He had to ask her for her help. He had never asked for help in his entire mature life.

Kagome watched as a shadow passed across Sesshoumaru's eyes, his first movement in almost a minute. She gazed at him in fascination, wondering what he was thinking, curious as to what he was going to do. She watched expectantly. Slowly, almost painfully, as though his bones were iron and his joints stained with rust, Sesshoumaru placed a hand on the ground in front of him. Then he placed the other next to it, his thumbs and fingers forming a triangle. Realization hit her.

He was going to bow.

The thought filled her with humiliated horror. It was bad enough when people she didn't even know bowed to her; she somehow couldn't stand the thought of her only link to the past humbling himself, even when she was the only witness. "Don't," she said quickly.

Immediately he stopped, but did not return to his former position.

"Please," she added.

Slowly he sat up.

Kagome could feel her fingers fiddling with her sleeves, a gesture that made her seem more nervous than she actually felt. Forcing herself to stop, she took a deep breath.

"Please," she said again. "Tell me what you need."

"I need my land," he replied, the words dropping from his lips like lead weights, heavy and unexpected.

Immediately, Kagome responded. "What happened to it?"

He seemed unaccustomed to speaking. "My father's vassals..." He stopped, as though searching for the right words. "His vassals... decided they would be more fit to rule."

Like pulling teeth, Kagome thought. "How?" she asked him.

A long pause. Kagome counted to ten. "They burned the house and killed my household."

"They killed everyone?"

For the first time that night, Sesshoumaru's expression actually changed. He shot her an annoyed glare. "I was away in the North. I was not there when it happened," he told her, as though she had accused him of impotence.

Kagome raised her hands in a conciliatory gesture. "I didn't say it was your fault," she said, a little shrilly. Those glaring, golden eyes were rather unnerving.

His eyes narrowed further, and Kagome shifted uncomfortably. "I could hear you not saying it," he said, his tone of voice even and measured.

Kagome blinked, then frowned, momentarily distracted. She repeated what he had just said in her mind. Then she went over it again. "Wait a minute," she wondered, "how can you hear someone not say something?" Sesshoumaru sat up a little straighter. He hadn't actually thought about it, so he sniffed to hide his confusion. Now that he was confronted with the situation, he silently wondered why he was being so uncouth. She hadn't been anything but deferential and polite; it was just his stinging pride that put the laughter in her eyes.

That was probably it. Even though it went against all reason, he had been just that much more humiliated when she had stopped him from making the proper gestures, as one who needed the aid of another. He needed help; he didn't know why it stung so much that she would offer it freely, and it was putting him on edge.

She was still looking puzzled. "Sometimes it is what one doesn't say that is important," he finally told her. He mentally congratulated his brain for the save. It sounded pretty slick, if he did say so himself.

Kagome frowned even harder. "But I didn't not say it," she told him.

Sesshoumaru remained stoic.

Kagome shook her head quickly, trying to steer the conversation back on track before it became any more surreal. "Never mind, that's not important. The question is, what do you want me to tell you?"

Sesshoumaru gave the barest of elegant shrugs. "You are the miko. You tell me what I need to do."

Twisting her mouth in frustration, Kagome thought back to the fairytale that had sent her on this bizarre quest. "I believe you should find new allies."

Sesshoumaru arched a brow.

"You know," Kagome continued, "ones that won't stab you in the back."

That narrowing of the eyes again. "It is an option to pursue," he replied. "But," he glanced over her left shoulder, staring off into the distance, "that is not why I am here."

There it was. Kagome looked away from him and stared down at her hands. "I know."

The wind rustled in the trees, and the shivering leaves made her think of autumn, and the coming winter.

Her fingers were worrying the cuff of her haori sleeve again. The fabric felt thick and coarse, but warm, beneath her fingertips, and the heavy stitching was strong and stable. The haori would not wear out for years. Kagome ran a thumb over it, searching for the right words.

"You are... sad," she said. "About Rin."

Sesshoumaru said nothing, and Kagome remembered Inuyasha, whom she had known and loved, and Kikyou, whom she had never known but who was a part of her still. She wished, with the knowledge that it was not possible, to see them again; she wished to know them.

"You wish you had appreciated her while she was still alive."

For a long moment the demon was still.

"Yes," he finally said.

She licked her lips. "Everyone feels that way, when someone dies."

Sesshoumaru looked away – really looked away this time, turning his face outward into the darkness.

"I know that," he informed her. His voice was low and flat.

Kagome sighed, but it wasn't frustrated. She felt resigned, and tired. "You know," she said conversationally, "my mother used to tell me that as long as you remembered someone, they weren't really gone. But I don't think that's true. My father died when I was ten years old, and I still remember him. But..." Her heart felt heavy, like cold iron in her chest. "I don't really remember all of him. I remember what he looked like, and sometimes I remember his voice and the way he smiled. But that's not really him. He was made of a hundred other things I've forgotten, that really made him who he was. So he really is gone."

The breeze stirring his long, silver hair caught her eye, and Kagome raised her gaze and watched it swell and fall.

"And what do you do then?" he asked, sounding far away.

Kagome shrugged tiredly. "I guess you do what you have to do. You keep living until they don't haunt you any longer. Until you both forget and remember and it doesn't hurt as much."

A pregnant pause. "How long does that take?"

She wanted to cry. "It feels like forever. But it probably isn't."


"Maybe probably. I don't know."

Sesshoumaru didn't respond to that. He turned back toward her. "You are a reincarnation," he said simply. "The reincarnation of Inuyasha's first mate."

"Yes." Kagome wondered if Kikyou would have known what to say.

"There are... reincarnations... in this world."


He was looking at her again with that piercing gaze. "But," he said slowly, as though acknowledging a hard truth, "they are not the same."

Kagome shook her head. "No. They are not."

He nodded once.

The memory of a little girl ran, laughing, through Kagome's head.

"She must have been very scared," she whispered, knowing Sesshoumaru would hear her. Her forefinger was picking at one of the stitches on her sleeve, loosening it just a little. The demon stared at her hands.

"She wants vengeance," he said quietly.

Kagome closed her eyes. "Maybe."


"Maybe it's just you who needs revenge."

He let out a breath he seemed to have been holding. "Yes," he replied. "Maybe."

"Just remember that it won't bring her back," Kagome said. It sounded trite and cliché, even to her own ears.

He snorted softly. "I know that."

She shook her head. "I mean… when you kill her murderers…" Here she looked up at the sky, at the twinkling stars, as though seeking what she truly meant to say in them. "When you kill them, and you don't feel any better, don't be surprised."

He was silent for a long while. Kagome continued to loosen the threads of her sleeve. The stitches were becoming damp from the slight sheen of sweat that covered her palms, and her fingernails were growing weaker. She waited for him to say something.

"Why?" he finally asked, and Kagome didn't have to hear the rest of the question to know what he was asking.

"Because... you know, they say it makes you stronger to lose someone. But I don't know. It seems to hurt just as much each time."

"Then why?"

She didn't answer for a minute. She was afraid her voice would crack. Finally she just shrugged.

"Because," she told him. She looked up at him and smiled wanly. There was no better answer; it was the best and worst reason she could give for something so stupid and so wise. "Just because."

He didn't respond. Instead he slowly and gracefully rocked back on his heels and unfolded in one liquid movement to his full height. Kagome stood as well, somewhat more clumsily, her hands still fisted in her haori, the cuffs looking frayed and worn.

"And what next?" he asked her.

She almost laughed. "I don't know," she said to him. "I guess it's up to you."

He did laugh then, that small, sharp sound that was like an audible smirk.

Sesshoumaru gazed down at her; he could smell salt tears hanging just on the verge of being shed, and it struck him that she was grieving as well, although for whom he did not know. It didn't really matter though; her grief was not his grief. Her sadness was not like his. It was personal, private. It was something she would take out late at night and turn over and over in her hands, relishing its weight and its misery before putting it away again. He wondered if it was difficult.

It was so strange to feel something again that he almost hadn't known what she meant when she had asked if he was sad. But he was sad. It was terrible and painful and both better and worse than being so numb that he was nothingness in the shroud of his body.

For the first time in years, he felt painfully alive.

He glanced down. Her hands, always in motion, were slowly and methodically ripping her haori to shreds in sharp, nervous movements. And he remembered, quickly, slowly, that Rin used to do that when she was anxious or scared.

He had forgotten. He wanted to laugh out loud, long and hard.

He didn't laugh. Instead he reached out – with both hands this time, he had never had both hands while Rin had been alive, and it had been more difficult to do this – and gently pried her fingers from the cloth, softly soothing them until they were limp in his own, and then let go.

"You'll ruin your kimono," he told her. She nodded, looking at him with wide eyes.

Sesshoumaru turned around, and walked into the forest, the moonlight falling down around him, and feeling so sad and so light that he thought he might dissipate into the silver air and fade in the night breeze.

But he didn't, so he kept on walking.

Kagome watched him go.

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 7 of 42

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