Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 24 of 60

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Few people even scratch the surface, much less exhaust the contemplation of their own experience.

~Randolph Bourne

Kagome perched on the window seat and stared longingly at the fresh dusting of snow covering the sleepy garden beyond her reach. Her breath ghosted ever so softly against the cool air. She was surprised that a month had slipped by so quickly despite the fact that most of her time had been spent in drowsy recuperation. Recovery had been slow but steady, as her spiritual powers remained barely noticeable to those in the House of the Moon.

Kagome's eyes drifted shut as she reached for the small white light flickering in her core. At one time, that light was a radiant beam that shone with the force of the sun, coursing through her body like liquid fire. Now, she had to concentrate just to feel a small spark. With all the quiet solitude her recuperation had pushed upon her, Kagome began to wonder whether she sustained permanent damage in her quest to save Rin as that bright light was now only a fraction of what it once was. Answers were not forthcoming either as Hoshi fell curiously silent whenever Kagome spoke about the fateful night four weeks ago.

Since that night, Kagome had spent every day with the intriguing housekeeper. The relationship seemed to blossom easily with the initial awkward phase passing quickly to settle into a comfortable companionship. Their conversations, which had at first centered on the conventional, steadily moved to more interesting topics as they each found solace in the presence of the other.

That comfortable ease extended into all areas but one. Kagome never spoke of her time with Naraku, making it apparent that the young woman couldn't yet face the dark memories of her captivity. Hoshi seemed to understand and never forced the issue, knowing it would push her fragile mind to the breaking point. Instead, Hoshi encouraged an increasingly vibrant Kagome to pepper her with questions every chance she got. The young woman was fascinated by the dark secrets that seemed to swirl around the housekeeper, and as the bond grew, so did Kagome's strength.

Kagome looked away from the window and surveyed the room she had occupied since entering the House of the Moon. Though the room was elegantly decorated, it exuded an almost forlorn mood. Kagome smiled as the word museum came to mind not for the first time. She would have to see if the House of the Moon still stood when she finally made it back home. Her eyes drifted to the comfortable bed a few feet away.

She had awoken many times to find Hoshi sitting in the window seat, gently humming the same melody. It was a song that Kagome had never heard before her time in the House of the Moon, but now knew by heart.

Her strength slowly returned as the days passed in an endless cycle of eating, sleeping and bathing. She had yet to see InuYasha, but knew that he remained close by. His aura frequently washed over her senses as a silent reminder of the life that waited for her outside the confines of the castle walls.

Since that fateful night four weeks ago in the healing room, Kagome could feel that she had changed not only as a miko, but also as a person. Her senses were heightened to an almost alarming capacity as the feeling of every demonic aura as well as their location within the house filled her senses. She had always been able to sense youkai, but never tell the difference between them or the subtle distinction in power. Now it was blatantly obvious who the stronger youkai were and who were only a minor threat. Sesshomaru was of course the dominant force amongst the house and Kagome could feel his white-hot energy fluctuate no matter where he was within the castle. Her curiosity always piqued when she felt the now familiar aura spike and lull. Often her own emotions would rise and fall with him like a rollercoaster even though she hadn't seen him since healing Rin. In fact, he hadn't come anywhere near her room since she had felt him standing outside her door. It was obvious that she was beneath his notice.

If it weren't for Hoshi's daily visits, Kagome knew she would go insane with boredom. The only other youkai Kagome had even met in the House of the Moon was Shizuka, a quiet fox demon that came every evening to help her bath and assist Hoshi with tidying up. Kagome wondered why no other youkai were assigned these seemingly menial tasks. She was sure some sort of customary etiquette was observed in a noble house such as this, though she had no idea what that entailed.

Kagome's thoughts drifted along the past, skimming the surface, not lingering in any place for too long. A face registered in her mind and found a foothold, keeping her attention and drawing it down. A smile tugged at Kagome's pink lips as the past brought forth more recent memories.

To Kagome's surprise and pleasure, Hoshi had brought a new visitor to her room for the first time a few days ago. She recognized the little girl instantly and was relieved to see that Rin was recovering from her ordeal rather nicely. She looked like the vibrant little girl from her memories, though still a little thin. Her eyes were bright with life and perpetual excitement and Kagome soon learned that Rin remembered nothing of the ordeal that almost took her life. She also learned that the master banned the other members of the house from mentioning anything to the little girl. The visit lasted several hours and Kagome felt lighter as the young girl's exuberance seemed to fill the room with dazzling light. They talked and played games while Hoshi sat at the window watching contentedly. Her customary smile softened her features frequently during the afternoon. Though she wasn't participating, it was clear that Hoshi enjoyed the experience as much as the two humans. As with all good things, the visit was over too soon and Rin returned to her room, yawning as she followed Hoshi down the hallway.

Kagome's eyes focused back on the scene before her. The sun finally broke through the snow-laden clouds, glinting off the surfaces of the beautifully designed garden outside her window. The cherry blossom tree sparkled with brilliant light as the rays glistened off the frosted surface. It wasn't the first time she had seen a snow covered tree but somehow it held a beauty that was unrivaled. Since her captivity, what used to be ordinary had somehow changed to things of wonder and interest. It was yet another testament to the change she had undergone.

Kagome's vision darkened as shadowed memories pressed for attention. She shuddered as suppressed emotions crept past the mental wall she had erected to protect herself from the torturous thoughts. She suspected that was the reason Hoshi was a nightly tenant in her room. The miko woke almost every night shivering, her body drenched in sweat as terror leached her sense of reality away. Hoshi would be at her side smoothing away damp bangs and murmuring hushed words of comfort bringing Kagome back to the light and easing the horror. Kagome clung to her sanity at these moments and was ashamed that she relied so thoroughly on someone she had only met a few short weeks ago.

Squashing back the ugly thoughts that threatened to overtake her, she turned her mind in the direction she always found comfort.

InuYasha. Sango. Miroku and Shippo. Her family and life back home.

Those were the things that kept her spirits alive and hope from drowning under a sea of uncertainty and loss. She wondered how her mother, brother and grandfather were faring. Whether or not they were beginning to worry. She had stayed away this long before but it was getting to the point that they would start to wonder about her, especially her mother. Kagome didn't want them to worry; considering this life had always been her choice and therefore she should be the only one who suffered because of it.

She reached up and traced the pattern of the tree into the frost that now covered most of the window. Restlessness stirred again as her limbs tingled. The following swell of Sesshomaru's aura somewhere in the opposite side of the castle no longer came as a surprise. She seemed to know when it was coming and the anxious surprise that used to rush through her body no longer came as a shock.

Slowly standing, she walked with only a slight shuffle to her bed. Her backpack lay open, its contents spread all over. A notebook lay off to one side with a pen, the cap long gone. A small book of poetry she had brought along as homework was next to it along with a medium sized sketchpad and charcoal sticks of varying sizes. The remaining contents were stuffed into the pack in a rumpled pile. She picked up the book and flipped through the pages listlessly for a moment before tossing it aside and reached for the notebook and pen. She had begun writing in it as a journal of sorts, deciding to chronicle her adventures up until this point. She had never felt the urge to write her experiences before, but there was a feeling of loss that tugged at her mind, compelling her to have some tangible record of her most vivid memories. She felt a pressing need to be remembered, even if only in a cheap spiral bound notebook. Her writing often came out in a jumbled mass of half thoughts and simply phrased sentences, but it was enough for her. After every story, the weight of despair grew thinner and allowed her breath to come easier. Her latest entry was of how she had met Miroku and their mutual decision to travel together. She kept Naraku out of her stories, unable to bring herself to write his name knowing that the minute she did, her memories would begin an assault that she felt incapable of surviving. Instead, she just wrote the word "him" when necessary.

She decided to write about meeting Sango next and felt the warm love of her dear friend wash over her with pleasure. Kagome smiled at the thought of the women she considered more like a sister. It had been so long since they had seen each other. Kagome silently mused about whether Miroku had finally made his move and proclaimed his love. It was long overdue and she had plenty to say if he hadn't. Kagome was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn't feel or hear Hoshi until the housekeeper was standing right next to the bed.

"Oh! You scared me half to death Hoshi-sama." Kagome clutched her chest as her heart pounded painfully.

"Forgive me Kagome-san, I did not mean to startle you." Hoshi's eyes sparkled with barely concealed mischief and Kagome doubted that she was truly repentant.

Sighing, she started stuffing her things back into the crowded backpack. "That's okay. How's it going?"

Hoshi smiled again at her young charge. She had gotten used to the bizarre way the woman talked, though sometimes it took her a few extra minutes to work out what she was saying.

"Everything is as usual, nothing out of the ordinary to report."

Kagome returned the smile. Her large eyes were growing more alive with every passing day. Hoshi was relieved at the improvement though uneasy that it was taking so long. Rin was almost back to normal, though still a little thin, but the miko had yet to be even strong enough to leave her room. It was a complication that Hoshi had taken pains to conceal from the other members of the House of the Moon. She trusted her staff only to a point and knew that a weak miko in possession of the Shikon Jewel would present a temptation to even the most loyal servant. Youkai were fundamentally selfish beings and the fear of death would not stop a power hungry fool. Therefore Hoshi had made certain that only she and Shizuka were allowed entrance into the room and Hoshi spent her evenings here as a precaution. The incident in the bathhouse when Kagome first arrived had sparked concern that her lord's home may be host to a silent danger that masqueraded as an ally. She would not risk the plans she had made or the foundation that all her hopes were based. Kagome would remain safe by her own hand until that responsibility was taken over by the one destined to carry it.

The miko's nervous energy vibrated the air in the room. Hoshi grabbed a kimono slung across the small chair in the corner and held it up to the young woman. "How about a short walk around this end of the house? I think you could do with a change of scenery."

Kagome's eyes lit up like a lighthouse. She was off the bed and grabbing the kimono before answering. "YES!"

Kagome disappeared around the screen and emerged a few minutes later, slightly rumpled but decent.

Hoshi chuckled lightly as she straightened the kimono and re-tied the sloppy knot with a few efficient tugs. The dark green kimono was simple and elegant, transforming Kagome into a stunning picture of understated natural beauty.

Hoshi led the way to the hallway and fell in step beside the young woman as she moved with only the slightest drag. She would keep the walk short so as not to overdo it. The miko's mind was beginning to fray from the solitude of her room and the fresh air of the house would do more for her healing than any amount of sleep ever could. The back of the house would be empty at this time of day so Hoshi knew that she would encounter no trouble.

They paced along until the hallway opened into a large room with some comfortable seats surrounded by windows. Kagome looked around with wonder at the beautiful woodwork and simple elegant d├ęcor. Hoshi waved her over to a sloped back chair with white cushions sitting along a wall of windows. Kagome sank down and looked out to the view of a valley that she didn't even know existed. Never having been to this part of the castle, she realized that this was the side farthest from the main entrance.

"Is the House of the Moon on a mountain?" Kagome asked, not able to tear her gaze away from the view spread so gloriously in front of her.

"Yes. The great Inu family chose this site for its strategic defense against enemies. Even strong youkai find the cliff just on the other side of that stone wall hard to climb."

Kagome looked again and saw the seemingly small stone wall that upon closer inspection turned out to be a very large stone wall. She hadn't noticed it because the land from the edge of the castle descended rapidly allowing for a perfect view of the valley while remaining an inconspicuous guardian against the outside world.

The wall brought a measure of safety to Kagome's frazzled nerves. She knew that Sesshomaru would live in a heavily fortified home, but this was the first glimpse into just how muted and discreet those defenses were. Every brick, every board, every wall had a purpose of absolute protection from any unwanted enemy. It was built into the very fabric of the layout with a concise attention to detail that could only be designed by a military mastermind. Kagome wondered if someone from her time could achieve this level of security with the same flawless execution, all the while never interfering with the inhabitant's enjoyment of his or her surroundings.

Hoshi watched with great interest as understanding bloomed behind Kagome's breathtaking eyes. Most had no idea just how perfect the defenses of the House of the Moon were. The castle was built with great precaution to make it seem like a typical Noble House, unassuming and elegant. When Sesshomaru reclaimed his father's home, he took great care to renovate the previous austere feeling of fortress first, home second. He didn't want Rin to feel like she lived in a dangerous home ready to take up arms in a moment's notice. Sesshomaru knew, coupled with Hoshi's wise advice, that the little girl would never truly relax enough to simply enjoy her childhood if she had the constant reminders of war at every corner. The house would hold against any enemy and that was apparent to those who sought to look beyond the surface.

"It's beautiful," Kagome breathed the words as a new appreciation for her surroundings filled every pore of her skin, saturating her with a safe and contented feeling.

Hoshi's eyes never left the miko.

"Yes, it is."

The clinking of teacups and Rin's happy chatter filled the room. Sesshomaru sat on the other side of the table silent as ever while Rin recounted the latest folly of how Jaken slipped and fell down the stairs on his way back from the bathhouse. Sesshomaru listened with half attention, the other focused on the movements of Hoshi and the miko as they made their way through the back of the castle. The barrier Hoshi erected on the miko's room had effectively kept her presence out of his notice except in the middle of the night when he felt more than heard her cry out in terror a moment after his left arm began to tingle. A subtle inquiry had yielded the miko's terrifying nightmares and Hoshi's now nightly presence in the human's room. Sesshomaru listened intently to his servant's murmured gossip; satisfied when nothing more than mild curiosity was expressed about the woman. He found himself only slightly inconvenienced by this nightly occurrence and held steadfast to his resolve not to allow the woman any interference in the daily activities of his house. Sesshomaru stubbornly ignored the small unease that bloomed in his chest in those moments during the night, refusing to acknowledge the possible cause.

Rin continued her chatter, which had turned to the coming winter and the first dusting of snow outside the window. Winters were hard on the exuberant little girl but Sesshomaru made sure the staff did an acceptable job of keeping her occupied. He placed his teacup down and slid his arms back into his sleeves while Rin finished her last few sips. It was difficult for Sesshomaru to watch her drink tea considering what had happened and he couldn't help but wait for the moment she slumped to the ground, a victim of his enemies once more. He also couldn't suppress the smug satisfaction of knowing he had the only cure in his possession. It was yet another reason to keep the miko around. In fact, Sesshomaru was finding more reasons to hold on to the woman then let her go back to her companions. She was infinitely more useful to him then she would ever be to his mangy half-brother. It was very few youkai that could boast that they kept a powerful miko at their disposal, since they were generally predisposed enemies. Of course that only stemmed from a fundamental struggle for supremacy that neither side would yield. Those youkai that were able to forge an alliance with a miko, and there were few, found only a handful of resistance from both the human and youkai societies. Those that were smart enough to grasp the situation knew that they would never win. Those that were foolish enough to rise up against the pair were destined for failure.

The only drawback to having this particular miko in his house was the Shikon no Tama. Its legacy had drawn all sorts of power hungry individuals to its sweet siren song and persuaded those that would normally know better to reach for what they couldn't possibly have. Sesshomaru never understood the inevitable pull that the Jewel seemed to have on other youkai. His path of conquest was to be traveled alone, not with the crutch of borrowed power. His honor demanded that every victory be bought with the strength of his own sword. Anything else was dishonorable and went against everything he was raised to be.

He may not have agreed with many of his father's choices, but one thing Sesshomaru would never doubt was his father's integrity and character. The very essence of his father's spirit was defined by the creed that true power does not need to show itself to the outside world. Only the weak and vain need to flaunt their strength in order to garner respect.

Sesshomaru grew up watching his father rule the West using little more than a quick mind and silver tongue. He had watched his father on more than one occasion quell a raging feud among his vassals with a few softly spoken words and well-placed silences. It was an awe-inspiring sight and one that Sesshomaru had adopted in his own rule with overwhelming success. Of course the current ruler of the Western Lands preferred the use of silence to words.

The fact that his father had been the most powerful Taiyoukai was known throughout the land and only the ignorant felt it necessary to test him. They never lasted more than a moment. It satisfied Sesshomaru to know that his own legacy was approaching that of his great and honorable father. He was pleased to be seen as the strongest of the current Four Houses of Nobility, and that he was carving his name into history. Despite this, Sesshomaru could also see that though he was respected, he still lived in the shadow of his father. That he was observed, measured, and found lacking brought forth an aggravation that had no outlet. He had done everything he could to rise above, other than reclaim the great Tessaiga, and still was seen by many as only the great Inu no Taisho's son and not the great Sesshomaru, Lord of the Western Lands.

Hell, he had even taken in a human girl and dedicated himself to protecting her. His father's last words had taken on new meaning when he finally made the decision to keep Rin with him permanently. Though her initial revival and subsequent addition to his traveling party had been a whim, the reclaiming of the Western Lands had been a tactical decision based on his long-term happiness.

Rin's soft voice called him back from his memories. His eyes focused on her worried expression. She had moved from the other side of the table to stand on his right side, a small hand stretched out ever so slightly toward him. Rin rarely ever touched him, unless she became overly excited and forgot herself in the moment. He looked from her worried face to her small hand, taking in the fragile little bones and pale skin. Something caught his attention and she must have seen the sudden focus of his eyes. She jerked her hand back to her side, afraid that she had offended him.

"Let me see your hand, Rin." His velvety smooth voice reassured her that she was not in offense.

She held up her hand obediently and Sesshomaru saw that her nails were an unnatural shade of pink, as if she had rubbed them with cherry blossoms. They glinted in the morning light, changing from sparkling pink to a shimmering gold. He pulled her hand closer to his face and sniffed. A strangely bitter smell assailed his nose. He quickly calculated his age and determined he had many centuries to go before he might see a decrease in his senses. Various options raced through his mind, landing on the only plausible cause.

An enemy had gotten to Rin again. Whatever this bizarre substance was on her fingertips, it smelled dangerous. It smelled like something he had never encountered before. Yes, it had to be dangerous. It could even be deadly.

Without a word he scooped her up and strode through the door to seek out the miko.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 24 of 60

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