Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 19 of 60

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An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing.
~ Samuel Smiles

Hoshi returned a short time later followed by a servant carrying a tray laden with food. After placing it on a low table near the window, the servant bowed her way out, sliding the door gently shut behind her.

"Eat as much as you can Miko-sama. You will need all of the strength you can get."

Kagome dutifully sat at the table and began eating. A few moments later, she stopped and looked at the beautiful housekeeper sitting near the door.

"Would you care to join me Hoshi-sama?" Kagome asked slightly embarrassed. Kagome was so hungry that she hadn't noticed the older woman had not joined her.

"No, but I thank you Miko-sama," Hoshi replied with a smile.

"Please, call me Kagome," she asked quietly. She didn't think she would ever get used to being addressed so formally.

"As you wish Kagome-sama," Hoshi answered.

"No, no, just plain old Kagome. Please!" Kagome practically whined.

Hoshi smiled again at Kagome. She was beginning to like the Miko more and more, and in fact, she was beginning to entertain some high hopes for the beautiful woman sitting across the room so demurely.

Hoshi closed her eyes and focused in on Sesshomaru's restless aura. He hadn't yet left his study and Hoshi had been quite amused all day as she felt his youkai rise and fall more than normal. She repressed a smile. Sesshomaru's reaction to the woman was very intriguing.

There was much the sorceress had to do in the coming weeks and she wondered if the promises she had made all those years ago would finally be kept. Her eyes were drawn to Kagome again and the thought that had yet to take shape bloomed like a flower in the sun. This innocent maiden, sitting in the middle of a castle full of demons without a fear or worry, just might be the key.

Hoshi's eyes darkened as memories of long ago trickled through her mind. An ashy night where the air seemed to suck the breath right from her body and whispered promises curled through the darkness like black smoke. Voices from that long ago night echoed as they sounded in her head, calling forth a million little memories and moments in time, and of loved ones the passage of time had left behind. Hoshi blinked away the tears that always threatened to fall as her heart squeezed longingly in her chest.

The heart never forgets.

Kagome had resumed eating only to stop again a few minutes later, drawing Hoshi back to the present, for which she was silently grateful. After a moment's observation, it was apparent to even the casual viewer that the young woman had something on her mind and was just searching for a way to broach the subject. Hoshi took pity on the young woman and decided to break the tense silence.

"What's on your mind Kagome-sama?"

"Umm, well, now that you mention it. How do I go about performing this purification?" Kagome asked hesitantly.

Hoshi looked at her in surprise. "Have you never performed one?"

"Ah… no. No, I haven't. Is it very difficult?" Kagome looked from Hoshi to her plate, feeling embarrassed.

"It makes little difference, so don't worry yourself. I'll tell you what to do. Do not fear Kagome-sama, "Hoshi could feel the young woman's emotions swelling so she added quickly to ease her growing fear, "You are strong enough for this task." Hoshi continued solemnly, "But I will warn you, it will take much of your strength, both physically and spiritually. You'll need time to recover your health afterward."

"How long?" Kagome asked.

"That depends on your own inner strength. If you have never before purified evil from a living soul than there is no way to tell what kind of a toll it will take on you."

"Oh." Kagome looked from the plate to her hands. Her knuckles were white from clutching the chopsticks so tightly. The edges of her dark kimono contrasted sharply with pale skin, a subtle reminder of how fragile her health still was from the recent battle with Naraku. She still felt so tired.

"Anything else Kagome-sama?"

Kagome looked up, her eyes bright with curiosity. "Oh…yeah, there is one more thing!" Kagome placed the chopsticks on the table and turned to face the other woman.

"Do you know how to remove the Crown on my head? I thought that once Katsuro was killed, maybe it would come off easily, but it still seems to have a spell on it or something." Kagome's face drew into a frustrated frown as she added, "Please tell me that I don't have to live my whole life with this thing on my head!"

Hoshi chuckled at the fierce expression on the young woman's face. She was truly a passionate human.

"After you perform the purification process, we will tackle the issue of the Crown of Chikara."

"Really?! You think you can remove it? Oh, thank you Hoshi-sama," Kagome turned a dazzling smile on the sorceress before diving back into her meal.

Kagome finished quickly and leaned back, putting a small hand across her stomach. "Uhg, I'm stuffed."

Hoshi rose quickly and went to the door to open it. The same servant entered and quickly cleared away the empty plates.

She watched as Hoshi spoke to a second servant in the hallway in murmured whispers. The servant bowed low and hurried away before Hoshi turned back toward her.

"It is time Kagome-sama. Gather the things you need and follow me."

Kagome looked around helplessly. She didn't know what she would need so she just grabbed her yellow bag and slung the heavy pack over her shoulder. She followed the housekeeper down the hall, a feeling of dread trailed ominously in her wake.

Sesshomaru sat in his office staring at a land treaty with unseeing eyes. His thoughts were, much to his distress, occupied elsewhere. The troubling incident in the bathhouse trickled through his mind like ice water.

That one of the members of his household had upset the Miko was not what was bothering him. After all, he cared not about her comfort. The woman's safety did mean something though, especially since he went through so much trouble to retrieve her from Naraku. Once her task was done however, he could care less what happened to her, but until then…

Until then he was going to ignore the odd feeling that had caused his fingertips to tingle while standing in the doorway of the bathhouse. It must have been from the miko powers that were radiating so strongly from the small woman. Yes, that must have been what caused it.

Surely the large brown eyes filled with fear and surprise didn't cause it. Nor the ebony hair that seemed to be molded around soft curves, or even from the water droplets that traveled down porcelain skin as the steam curled around her, obscuring one minute and then revealing the next.

It had nothing to do with any of that.

A soft knock startled Sesshomaru out of his silent musings, for once a welcome distraction.

"Enter", his clipped tone broke through the stillness of the room sounding harsh even to his own ears.

The door slid open and a raccoon youkai entered, bowing low.

"The Miko is being taken to Rin-san, my lord."

Sesshomaru nodded his head and stood gracefully. He walked past the youkai and headed toward the soft glow of miko powers that moved through his house.

'Finally,' he thought with a weary sigh.

For the first time since Rin's poisoning, he felt a small measure of relief.

A few candles flickered in the stuffy room.

As Kagome stepped through the doorway she noticed right away the dark aura radiating off the small form of a girl lying on a pallet in the center of the room. Her holy powers flared up, sparking against the heavy current. Kagome took a step back unconsciously, trying to escape the cold feeling that started seeping through her body and pooling in her bones.

Hoshi continued into the room and briskly lit several lamps that had been placed in the corners of the large room. Their light cast eerie shadows across the occupants as Kagome reluctantly stepped further into the room and looked around. A quiet fox youkai sat next to the small girl in the center of the room, her head bowed with hands clasped tightly in front of her.

After lighting the final lamp, Hoshi turned back to Kagome and beckoned her to sit on the opposite side of the girl. As Kagome approached, she had the prickling sensation of recognition as she continued to look at the prone figure on the floor.

'I've seen this little girl before. This is the girl that used to follow Sesshomaru around all those years ago. So he must have adopted her or something,' Kagome thought with wonder.

'Yes, she has been with Sesshomaru ever since. I saw them many times together as I traveled', Kikyo supplied.

Kagome knelt down next to the girl and sucked in a breath as she took in the once vibrant young girl's altered appearance. Sunken hollows and dark smudges under the little girl's eyes made her look more like a corpse. Her skin had a slightly green hue, which made her look almost unearthly.

Hoshi's soft voice broke through Kagome's examination, forcing her eyes to the housekeeper.

"Shizuka, you may leave. I will come and get you when it's over. In the meantime, please have the Miko's room cleaned and prepared for her return."

The fox youkai nodded and with one final look at the little girl bowed low before rising from the bedside vigil she had obviously been keeping. She left without a sound, leaving the two women alone together. Before either could say anything, a swell of youkai announced the arrival of Sesshomaru. Both women looked at the door as the taiyoukai entered.

Hoshi bowed low. "We are about to begin Sesshomaru-sama. I will send word as soon as it's finished."

"I will stay", his deep voice seemed to fill the room.

"My lord. With all due respect, you cannot stay," Hoshi shot back calmly. She continued before he could protest, "The Miko will be unleashing a large amount of purification energy. It would be foolish for any youkai to be present during this process."

Sesshomaru pinned the sorceress with a hard stare. He did not like the insinuation that this small human had the power to harm him in any way.

His voice was more of a growl, "Then why are you staying?"

Hoshi grinned to herself, knowing that the powerful lord of the Western Lands would never take kindly to the inference that he was invincible. 'The pup could use a little humbling,' she thought wickedly, 'I should let him stay'.

"Because I'm not a demon," she answered with a sly smile. Due to the presence of the Miko, Hoshi kept her tone respectful, though she sorely wished she could poke fun at the man standing before her.

"You can wait outside if you insist on remaining close by."

The mirth dancing through Hoshi's eyes rankled Sesshomaru to no end. His clawed fingers twitched in agitation. He knew she was trying to provoke a response and if it wasn't for the Miko sitting so quietly next to Rin, he may have given in. His housekeeper loved to get his hackles up and was one of the only living beings that he allowed to take such liberties.

Sesshomaru gave Hoshi a look of warning before glancing down at Kagome for the first time. He held her gaze a moment, leaving her with the clear impression that he found her less than adequate.

He turned to leave but stopped in the doorway, the tenor of his voice smooth and silky.

"Make sure everything goes according to plan Hoshi. I'm in no mood to stain my floors with blood this late in the evening."

Kagome caught her breath as her heart missed a beat and she didn't notice as Hoshi rolled her eyes at the insinuation.

InuYasha perched in a tree and stared at the House of the Moon. As the days progressed he could feel Kagome getting stronger. She was still weak, her aura only a fraction of what it usually was, but she had improved. He took comfort in that and, not for the first time, wondered how she was doing.

Sango and Miroku spent a good part of everyday talking him out of breaking through the gates of his brother's castle and retrieving her. The frustration was so great that he could taste it, a lead weight that dragged against his limbs and gripped his chest with steel claws.

"InuYasha! Come down here and eat some dinner," Sango called out from below. InuYasha looked down and saw her holding a bowl with a hopeful expression.

"Hn. I'm not hungry. You guys go on without me."

"Okay, but if you change your mind, it's here," she hesitated a moment longer before walking away.

Just then he caught the scent of an approaching youkai. InuYasha recognized the bear youkai from the confrontation in the courtyard of the House of the Moon a few days before. He leapt from the tree and landed in his path.

"What do you want?" InuYasha asked brusquely.

"I have a package from the Miko. She wanted you to have these," the bear demon held out a silk bag to InuYasha. His giant hands were almost the size of the bag itself.

InuYasha took the bag from the youkai and asked curtly, "Who are you?"

"My name is Hiraiku. I am the Captain of the Elite Guard for the House of the Moon," the youkai responded proudly, his brown eyes glittering with animosity.

'So this is the Inu no Taisho's hanyou son', he thought dispassionately. Hiraiku had heard the tale of the Inu no Taisho and the great sacrifice he made in saving his hanyou son and human lover. It was a whispered scandal that had swept the Western Lands into disarray and instability when the great demon lord died. Though he was only a young cub at the time, he could still remember the feeling of danger and witnessing first-hand the destruction that was wrought as a consequence. Losing the Inu no Taisho had almost devastated the Western Lands as lesser lords fought to gain control. When Sesshomaru had finally decided to take back his birthright, Hiraiku was the first in line to take up arms with the young Taiyoukai.

InuYasha opened the bag and pulled out a brightly colored canister. After taking a quick sniff he smiled and dropped it back inside, closing the bag again.

"Is Kagome okay?" He asked the silent bear youkai.

"Yes. Her stay at the House of the Moon will soon end."

InuYasha looked at Hiraiku a moment before adding brashly, "If anything happens to her, I'll kill everyone in that castle."

Hiraiku snorted and then threw his head back, laughing deeply. His laughter could be heard throughout the entire forest as he made his way back to the House of the Moon.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 19 of 60

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