Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 25 of 60

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"The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety."
- Henry Louis Mencken

Hoshi continued checking the inventory lists in her ledger as she kept Kagome company in the small sunroom located at the back of the castle. Winter preparation was always such a tedious task, and this year was no exception. Hoshi sighed and closed the small ledger quietly. She observed the silent awe on the young woman sitting across the room.

Kagome had yet to take her eyes off the scene in front of her. The valley behind the castle stretched out in a sea of green, rising and falling with the shape of the mountain. Mist wound its way through the treetops, spiraling from the base to the top of the mountain across the valley to obstruct the snowy top from view as the wind pushed the dense clouds over the high peaks. She feasted on the glorious beauty of the wild nature stretched out as far as the eye could see. The thick scent of pine filled her nostrils and consumed her senses. Memories of her quest to recover the Shikon jewel surfaced as her mind wandered into the past. Bright red cloth of the Fire Rat, bonfires reflected across dear friend's faces, laughter as Shippo and InuYasha chased each other hopelessly, hopeful antics of a very amorous Monk. A smile tugged at her mouth at the same moment her heart ached with longing to see them again. Hoshi's soft voice pulled her out of the bittersweet reverie and back to the sunlit room.

"What's wrong Kagome-sama?" Hoshi's eyes were narrowed as she tried to read the young woman's aura and facial expressions. She had been watching the warring emotions play over the miko's face for the last few minutes.

Kagome looked up quickly and smiled genuinely. "Nothing Hoshi-sama. I'm fine really, I was just thinking of my friends."

"Of InuYasha?" Hoshi asked a little too innocently.

"Of course. He is one of my friends after all," Kagome answered, puzzled by the housekeepers question.

"Only a friend? I wonder at that considering how protective he is of you. Most men don't give in to that baser instinct unless they feel very strongly about someone. Especially an Inu-youkai."

Kagome blushed profusely at the remark. At one time, she would have given anything to have InuYasha love her like that. He was her first love after all and she had felt very passionately about him at one time. That love hadn't gone away either, but instead changed. It had shifted to encompass a whole new meaning. Kagome had experienced too much of the past not to let what happened almost sixty years ago change her view on InuYasha. His heart had been given away then, never available to her in the way that she desired. At first she had mourned the loss profusely, but in time came to realize she was grieving for something she never really had. InuYasha loved her. He always would. But it wasn't to the same depth and fierceness that he felt for Kikyo. Kagome accepted that and moved on, not fully understanding how and when it had become tolerable. It was like something had flipped inside her, allowing her to embrace what fate had decided with minimal discomfort and propel her to focus on the retrieval of the rest of the Shikon Jewel.

"InuYasha and I are just friends. It's never been anything more than that Hoshi-sama."

Hoshi blinked back the surprise at Kagome's clipped response. The young woman was always so warm and happy, and to have her respond so coldly warned Hoshi that there was more to the subject. She wanted to pursue the topic further but at that moment was distracted by the spike in Sesshomaru's youki. The hair on the back of her neck prickled as she felt his thunderous approach.

Hoshi sighed as she stood and braced herself for the impending storm.

Kagome was still reeling from the questions Hoshi had asked when she felt the angry youki cracking against her. She knew instantly that it was Sesshomaru and that he was angry about something. Angry and full of anxiety.

Hoshi sighed and stood, placing her ledger on the chair she just vacated. Kagome felt the housekeepers own powers concentrate and brace against the wild friction that Sesshomaru's aura was stirring. Kagome became a little alarmed as the two energies swirled menacingly around the room forcing the air from her lungs.

Just as she thought she couldn't take any more, he rounded the corner and headed straight toward her, something small tucked in the crook of his arm. His thunderous expression had Kagome leaning back slightly against the cushion, not sure what had angered him so.

Her eyes never left his as his powerful stride brought him right up to the end of the small couch. He uncurled his arm and carefully set his small cargo at her feet.

Kagome tore her stunned eyes from the golden blaze of his and dropped them to a set of very scared chocolate brown pools. Rin sat with her arms wrapped around her knees, eyes the size of saucers as she looked at Kagome.

"Rin? What's wrong?" Kagome asked, her voice an octave higher than normal.

Rin just shook her head slightly as she continued to stare at Kagome. Neither seemed to want to move, for fear that they would cause Sesshomaru to strike. He seemed poised on the threshold of control, his youki vibrating the room. Hoshi moved slowly to stand beside Kagome, her very essence pushing back the strong currents the powerful lord stirred.

"What's the matter Sesshomaru-sama?" Hoshi's voice was cool and strong, channeling his focus away from Kagome.

"What is on Rin's fingers?" Sesshomaru's left hand flicked out quickly, his claws catching the sunlight for a split second. Kagome flinched as she was reminded how dangerous those claws could be when provoked.

His hand stilled and dropped to his side. "Rin, show the Miko your fingers." His tone was softer, less angry this time.

Rin raised a shaky hand and held it out to Kagome.

Kagome swallowed audibly, before taking the girl's hand in her own. She looked at the pale skin, expecting to see something dreadful and grotesque. Instead what met her sight was that of a normal healthy hand.

Kagome glanced at Rin and the fear shining from her cocoa eyes. She then met Sesshomaru's. He was studying her with an intensity that would have been unsettling in any other situation.

"What is it I'm looking for Sesshomaru-sama?"

Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed with warning as his voice cracked against the stillness that had settled over the room. "Do not play games. I know you are human and that your eyes are inferior to my own, however, even a human can see the unnatural color of her fingertips."

Kagome bristled at the insult as the need to defend herself burned in her chest. Her eyes went back to Rin's fingertips as she tried to compose herself. It was then that the soft pink hue revealed itself to her in the fading sun. Kagome blinked as understanding washed over her at what troubled Sesshomaru so.

Laughter bubbled up in her chest as the full weight of the past few minutes hit her. She continued to look at Rin's fingertips. Laughter built as it spread and pulled at her insides, filling her with warmth she hadn't felt since before her time with Naraku. She fought valiantly to keep her face straight and her eyes down, knowing that if she looked anywhere other than the small hand in front of her, she would lose her inner battle.

'I just need a minute,' she thought to herself, fighting for control.

"What is it Miko. What's wrong with Rin's hands that make her fingertips change colors?" Sesshomaru's angry voice sliced through Kagome's control, breaking the tenuous hold she had on her mirth.

Laughter gurgled past her lips and out like a staccato drum. It echoed around the room a moment before falling silent again. A pin drop would have sounded like a bomb.

Kagome looked at Hoshi and pointed to Rin's hand.

"Nail polish."

Sesshomaru stood there staring at the women at an utter loss. 'Females are absolutely mad,' he thought with exasperation.

The miko had stared at Rin's hand like an imbecile for several minutes and then laughed. To think, he had actually felt a moment's remorse for barging in and scaring the small woman with his anger and concern. When she had flinched away from him, he actually felt unhappy that she feared him.

He should be feared. He is the Lord of the Western Lands and the most powerful Inu-Taisho to rule since his father. He is to be feared by all in this world.

He would not dwell on the dissatisfaction he felt when the miko showed her fear of him. She should fear him. That is the natural way of things between humans and youkai.

The miko looked at Hoshi and pointed to Rin, mirth dancing in her eyes.

"Nail polish," she said as laughter rose and spilled over the room. Her laughter was bright and airy, like a songbird. Hoshi joined in almost immediately and the two laughed until they were crying. Rin sat in silence in front of him, not knowing what to do. He felt his anger rising, knowing that they were somehow laughing at him.

His actions were swift and fluid. The laughter cut off immediately as he grabbed the miko around her upper arms and hauled her small frame up nose to nose with him. Her eyes sparkled with the remnants of tears of laughter, her mouth a small 'o' with the shock of finding herself an extra three feet in the air.

"Sesshomaru-sama!" Hoshi's voice was full of warning as she moved to stand at his side.

Sesshomaru did not take his eyes from the miko as he addressed his housekeeper.

"I do not appreciate being the object of your mirth."

Kagome seemed to snap out of her shock then, "Hey, put me down!"

"Oh Sesshomaru-sama, stop it. I was laughing at the situation, not you." Hoshi continued patiently as she tried to explain the misunderstanding to the enraged lord.

"You see, the girls painted each other's nails with something called nail polish that Kagome-sama brought with her from her homeland. It's a custom that women from her culture partake in. Kagome show him your nails so he can see that everything is fine."

Kagome slowly lifted her hand and held it up for Sesshomaru to see. His eyes glanced at her fingertips, revealing the same pink hue. He looked back at the miko and something in her face caught his attention. Behind the shock was a fear so profound and unnatural, he forgot all else but what he saw in the dull depths. No longer was there any trace of her earlier humor. No longer was there anything of the woman he had once known when she traveled with his brother. Gone was the miko that had stood against him on several occasions without fear or reservation. Instead what he saw sent a shock of raw anger through him. This woman had seen the real darkness that existed in life. It was the kind of darkness that few faced and even fewer survived. It was the remnants of what was left behind when the world sought to break you.

He lowered her slowly to the couch and released her arms. Her eyes remained clouded as she continued to hold his stare.

Without a word he turned and left the room as a single tear slipped down Kagome's cheek.

Kagome slowly made her way back to her room, exhaustion dragging at her limbs. The earlier incident with Sesshomaru had drained all of her energy.

After fighting her way back to the surface, repressing the darkness that threatened to consume her, she realized that she and Hoshi were alone in the sunroom, the last of the afternoon rays gilding the surfaces in amber light. Hoshi waited patiently beside her, one hand resting on Kagome's, the other absently stroking the stone hanging from her neck. She was humming softly, her kimono pattern swirling in the fading light to the tune of her song.

Without words, Hoshi helped Kagome back to her room where she dressed for bed. The castle was unnaturally quiet, as if waiting for something. Kagome fell into the darkness of sleep, knowing she was powerless to stop the plaguing nightmares that would haunt her relentlessly that night.

Hoshi left Kagome and made her way to Sesshomaru's study. She entered soundlessly and sat across from his brooding form. He had not lit any candles, instead sitting in the rising moonlight. He sat against the wall, his head resting back and off to the side so he could gaze out the window of his study into the garden slightly below. Snow was falling lightly beyond the window, announcing the arrival of winter.

Hoshi sat patiently, knowing he had something to say. She could feel it over the past few hours, his need to speak with her as his troubled mind fought with itself.

"Has the miko talked about her time with the half demon?"

Hoshi wasn't surprised it had something to do with the woman. She was surprised at the topic though.

"Not really, though she's fond of him, they're only friends, not lovers."

Sesshomaru's eyes flew to his housekeeper. In a breath he had it worked out and his eyes returned to the garden.

"Not that one. The other worthless hanyou that has caused me so much trouble."

"Ah yes, Naraku. Forgive me, I thought you meant InuYasha." Hoshi bowed her head in respect, but also to hide the conspiratorial smile that pulled at her lips.

"The miko does not speak of her time with Naraku. I have tried, but she's not ready to face that experience head on yet."

Sesshomaru didn't respond for a few minutes. He was so still that he appeared to be made of stone, the moonlight casting him in an ethereal blue light.

Hoshi remained patient as the silence stretched on. Sesshomaru was incredibly intelligent, needing a willing ear more often than guidance.

"When she finally talks about it, I want to be informed. In the meantime, bring the taiji-ya into the castle occasionally for short periods of time. Perhaps that will speed her recovery."

Hoshi bowed low and left quietly, returning to Kagome's room after checking in on Rin.

Hoshi grinned as she stood outside the miko's door. She entered silently and resealed the room with a charm.

Sitting in her usual spot, she looked at her charge as the moonlight spilled into the room. Kagome's hair was almost purple in the lunar glow, her lovely skin soft and smooth with sooty eyelashes so long they seemed to reach halfway down her cheeks. It was only a matter of time before she would be revealed to the entire household and things would be set into motion, carrying with it the fate of them all into the unknown.

Hoshi smiled at the young woman sleeping so peacefully. Sesshomaru's face had said it all in those moments before he set her back on the couch.

'You've caught his interest little one. Now let's see what you do with it.'

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 25 of 60

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