Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 31 of 60

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"Just as tall trees are known by their shadows, so are good men known by their enemies."
~ Chinese Proverb

Kagome had been training for weeks. There had been no incidents since that first day in the dojo, no one even walked by the building while she and Hoshi trained. Kagome grew stronger with every lesson, each one helping her aura to slowly piece itself back together. Before long, she progressed from creating barriers and defensive techniques to basic attack methods.

Spring dawned, the snow disappearing under the glistening sunshine. Only small piles remained along the shadows of the large trees and in the woods.

Kagome's days had settled into a comfortable routine. Mornings spent training with Hoshi, while afternoons in relaxed visits with Sango and Rin. Her evenings were often filled with reading from a collection of books she had found in a library while wandering the castle with Rin one blustery afternoon. Kagome was highly impatient for spring when the weather would warm up enough to spend more than a few minutes out of doors.

"Now concentrate Kagome-sama. Picture your attack going right through the target." Hoshi's stern command echoed off the dojo walls. Kagome stood in the center, a human shaped target used in sword training was erected at the end of the room facing her. She had been working on shooting blasts of energy from her hands as a way to attack an enemy. So far she had only had minimal success with her aim, damaging the dojo walls more than the dummy.

Kagome concentrated and let the blast go, hitting the feet but only knocking the dummy over.

"Better…but if that was a real enemy you would be dead."

"I know." Kagome responded dejectedly. She had always felt inadequate as a Miko. The only time she had done well was when she had worn the Crown and had the power of a thousand Mikos at her fingertips, not to mention Kikyo's guidance. A pang of sorrow stabbed at Kagome's heart. She could not think of the woman without regret. Though at one time they had been enemies, their shared love of InuYasha had forged a bond that would be disrespectful to deny.

The door to the dojo slid open. Kagome and Hoshi turned toward the unusual distraction as Hiraiku stepped into the room and looked at the pair.

"I came to see your progress Miko-sama."

Hoshi grimaced. "How is it any of your business, cub?" her voice ground out the question through clenched teeth.

"It is my business because I have promised to keep her safe. I have a vested interest in her progress." His answer was clipped as he tossed a glance at her over his shoulder before once again pinning Kagome with an interested stare.

"I feel your powers increasing and I am curious to see how much. Besides, it is my master's bidding to receive a progress report."

Hoshi bristled at the words. "He knows that he can ask me what her progress is."

"Well, he has asked me," Hiraiku responded triumphantly. He was not going to mention the other request the Lord of the Western Lands made to him.

Kagome bowed to the bear youkai and answered meekly. "Thank you, I'm doing my best to make Hoshi-sama proud."

"I am proud of your progress, child. You're doing well," Hoshi answered sincerely and smiled at the young woman.

"Thank you."

"Please continue with your training. I'll remain quietly and observe." Hiraiku did not wait for permission, but instead walked to the end of the room and sat on one of the lush cushions. He did not speak again, instead watched with acute intensity.

Hiraiku assessed the human in front of him. He could tell she was physically exhausted. Her slender frame had yet to rebound much from her captivity. Clothes hung loosely from her body, a high ponytail fell limply while her cheekbones were sunken, thrown into sharp contrast in the morning sunlight coming through the screened windows. With every attack, her shoulders slumped and her breathing became labored. Her strength was fading faster than he expected.

After a dozen or so attempts, he stood and approached the pair.

"Hoshi-sama, while I believe your training is important and something that should continue, I believe that relying on her Miko powers alone is a mistake. She uses up all of her energy when she sends out one of those blasts." He raised a hand and pointed his finger. Very gently, he placed his finger into her shoulder and pushed. Kagome stumbled to the side a few steps before she was able to right herself.

"Hey! What's the big idea?" she yelled glaring at him.

Hiraiku chuckled, relieved to see she still had a little fire. Hoshi crossed her arms and remained quiet, a thoughtful expression on her face as she continued to listen to Hiraiku.

"I think it would be wise to teach her some physical defense and attack techniques to use alongside her Miko powers. That way she is not drained of energy. If she comes up against an exceptionally strong youkai that is fast, she will expend all of her energy trying to land blows. From what I can see today, none of those blows would hit their mark."

"Well thanks for the vote of confidence," Kagome grumbled as she walked over and grabbed her bottle of water.

Hiraiku ignored her comment. "What say you Hoshi-sama? What if we split her training between the two of us, you with her Miko powers and me with some combat training?"

"Combat training? Wait, wait, hold on a minute. I didn't sign up for any combat training here people." Kagome's answer came strongly from the other side of the room.

Hoshi narrowed her eyes at the bear youkai for a moment. He fought the urge to squirm under her intense scrutiny. She turned her gaze to the girl and appraised her for a moment before answering.

"He may be right. I think that it will be very beneficial for you to learn some self-defense. Also, the stronger the body, the stronger the miko powers."

Hiraiku was pleased with her answer but surprised she acquiesced so easily.

"What kind of things do I need to do?" Kagome asked as she dropped the bottle and walked back to the pair, hands on her hips.

Hiraiku glanced at Hoshi. She stepped back quickly, her hands spread out in front of her. "Oh no, combat is your thing. I just blast people before they even get close."

Hiraiku looked skeptically at the housekeeper. "Could have fooled me when you had a blade pointed at my throat."

She threw him a smug smile and walked gracefully to the cushions at the southern end of the dojo. Kagome stared in awe at the two who only a few weeks ago tried to kill each other in this very spot. Now there seemed to be a sort of grudging respect filtering in the air between them. Before Kagome could think more on the subject Hiraiku pulled the ax off his back and placed it on the ground against the wall.

"Combat training is just as much about attack as it is about defense. It will focus your senses and make you aware of everything in your surroundings. You are leaving yourself vulnerable right now by only working on your miko powers."

"So what, I have to start doing push-ups in the rain and you're going to yell in my face and all that?"

Hiraiku looked at her like she had grown two heads. "I'm not sure what you mean? If you're asking what kind of training then I would say we would start by giving you exercises with a weapon, such as kendo or katas."

"Oh. So you aren't going to make me crawl through the mud or over giant walls?" Kagome sighed in relief.

Hiraiku looked over at Hoshi bewildered. She chuckled and waved a graceful hand toward Kagome. "You'll get used to it, don't worry."

Hiraiku looked back at the bizarre woman standing in front of him. He had no idea what she was talking about, her words sounded like they were from a different world.

"Where are you from, miko-sama?"

Kagome smiled sheepishly. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

A few short weeks later, spring was in full swing as the air warmed and the barren landscape gave way to life's inevitable push. The leaves began to bud on the trees and the brown grass was overtaken by new growth. The House of the Moon's many gardens were slowly transforming into the elegant refuge they were designed for. Kagome spent a small part of every afternoon traversing those gardens, finding hidden delights around every corner. She was amazed at the vastness of Sesshomaru's estate. The small gardens and shrines hidden amongst the giant forest within the castle walls were yet another testament to his great empire.

Kagome's training was progressing along with the season and the change in her mimicked the slow transition into spring. Where once her heart felt cold, it now was filling with warmth and a sense of accomplishment. Her Miko powers were strengthening and her body began to recover. Hiraiku had immediately put her on what he called a "warrior's diet." She steadily gained weight that transformed her body from bony sunken hollows to sleek and muscular lines. She had more energy and her mind was able to move with efficiency, which she had never known before.

She stood in the center of the dojo, a shinai gripped tightly in her hands. Hiraiku never went easy on her but he was also very restrained. He could easily crush her with one swing but always pulled back in the last second, keeping his blows as light as possible so as not to leave more than a slight bruise. She would never know the restraint he placed on himself in order not to harm her, and the true testament to his great skill to be able to train a fragile human.

He came at her again, swinging his own weapon downward. She blocked the strike and spun to her left, ducking under his arm and bringing her shinai up and around trying to land a blow on his back. He spun with her and blocked her easily. She backed off and regrouped a moment before he came at her again.

"Good try, but you have to move faster. Remember, I'm a youkai therefore my senses and movements are naturally better and faster than yours. You have to move as quickly as possible." His words came out as he struck again.

This time Kagome was only able to block the attack, pulling back immediately and retreating to a safe distance. Her arms were getting heavy as she fought to maintain focus. This was the point in her training when she began to tire and her movements started to slow. Hiraiku would push her only a little longer before ending the lesson. He always made her go just a little beyond her limit before calling it quits.

Hiraiku arced gracefully in a circle, swinging his shinai out at full reach. Kagome jumped up hoping it would pass under her feet. Her mind raced as she planned out her attack as soon as her feet touched the ground. That never came as the shinai caught her just above the ankle, pushing her legs out from underneath her. She landed on her side with an "Oomph!" her own weapon clattering a few inches beyond her grasp. She reached for it but Hiraiku kicked it to the other side of the room. Kagome tried to roll away but he brought his massive foot down on her hakima, stopping her movement altogether. Her heart raced as bleak memories slithered to the surface. She fought against the darkness that pulled at her mind and the heavy foot that prevented her escape. Hiraiku's giant silhouette was all she could see as the midmorning sun poured through the screened windows of the dojo. It pushed her fragile mind beyond the slight control she was able to maintain and the dark memory slithered like a serpent to take over her vision.

Kagome's side burned as the cold concrete bit into her body. The darkness of her prison was all consuming as she ached for an end to come. Any end. She couldn't even retreat into her mind to times of happy memories and peaceful thoughts. Katsuro kept close tabs on her and would interrupt any respite she sought.

And so Kagome would lie for hours staring at the empty wall, willing her mind to think of nothing but the slow tick of time. With no windows and only one door, day and night blurred together causing Kagome's world to stop turning. As she lay in the nothingness of shadow, her only interaction with another being was Katsuro as he brought her bland food and water.

The door creaked open and light flooded the room, blinding her to all else. Two figures walked toward her as she squinted against the bright torches they carried. She sat up slowly, shrinking back against the damp stone wall. Naraku stopped a few inches from her, his red eyes the only visible color to her.

"Well Miko, your friends are not coming for you. You have misjudged your worth in this world."

Kagome stiffened at his words. "InuYasha will come for me and when he does, he will finally kill you."

"Your faith in him is astounding. He could no sooner kill the fleas that infest his body."

"Whatever you need to tell yourself to keep from being scared…"

Her words were cut off as a slimy tentacle quickly wrapped itself around her, pinning her arms against her body and lifting her up from the ground. He brought her up to eye level.

"Katsuro, give this Miko something to think about."

Kagome felt their minds connect fully and her vision darkened.

InuYasha stood before her in a field of flowers. His smile and hand stretched out to Kagome as she walked toward him. She reached out her own and touched his warm hand, grasping it firmly. They stared at each other for a long moment, the summer breeze blowing their hair and clothes. Extending her other hand, she clasped InuYasha's beads of subjugation. Pulling down harshly, the rope gave way as beads spilled out of her hands to their feet. She closed her eyes at his question and held his hand tighter, her powers drawing on his own.

"I'm sorry."

She opened her eyes and gazed upon him. His black hair mingled with her own in the gentle breeze. The smile was gone from his face as he pulled his hand from hers. She plunged a small dagger into his chest, his blood darkening the red of his haori. Mortal brown eyes shown with unshed tears as he fell to his knees at her feet. Kagome tossed the dagger down and walked away.

She blinked. Naraku was once again before her, an evil smile graced his features.

"Monster," she hissed as tears rolled down her face. Her heart ached at the image that would now haunt her nightmares. Every time Katsuro gave her a vision, it played out like reality. Every sound, sight, taste and touch imbedded itself into her soul, making her question what was reality and what was a false memory. The more she fought these fake images, the more it would haunt her.

This was Naraku's favorite game. He had Katsuro torment her mind, forcing her to question her sanity and relished every tear she shed. It was his favorite game and she his favorite toy.

"I will make these visions a reality Miko. The Crown allows Katsuro to control your movements. There is no way to stop it." His smile sent a chill down her spine.

"No…" she shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut against his words.

"Give me the Jewel. Then maybe you won't have to kill your precious half breed."

She didn't know where her sudden courage came from, or what possessed her to goad him.

"You're pathetic Naraku. Having a human do your killing because you're not strong enough to do it yourself. How weak!"

She watched as his eyes darkened and the smile seeped from his face. "That was a mistake." He didn't hesitate as a howl of anger burst through his chest and he threw her backwards. She hit the stone wall and pain bloomed blood red before the inky black darkness swallowed her whole.

"Too slow Miko." Hiraiku's voice murmured.

Kagome was lost in her memories. Unable to hear or see what was in front of her. She was not in the House of the Moon's dojo. She was still in the damp blackness of captivity, fighting for her life.

Hiraiku moved closer. "That was a mistake."

Kagome screamed as memories assaulted her mind. She could feel Naraku's grip squeezing the air from her lungs. The hard floor bit into the scrapes and bruises she had sustained over the long weeks. Pain was her only constant.

Hiraiku stilled as he watched the miko begin glowing a bright pink. Something was wrong with her. As she looked at him, it was like she wasn't seeing him, like she was somewhere else altogether. Her eyes held the same empty darkness that he had seen all those months ago, a strange dullness that seemed so odd in the face of the young human he had begun to know on a deeper level. Warning bells sounded as he felt her energy swell up to engulf the room. He started to step back but her powers crashed into him like a thousand tons of sand. He staggered slightly forward under the weight of it but caught his balance before he accidentally fell on the tiny woman.

Crying out as he staggered toward her, she threw her arms up and out. A bright spark of light shot out, radiating from her body like a ray of pure white light catching Hiraiku directly in the chest. He flew backward, his arm catching Hoshi as she ran toward the pair. Both landed on the floor at the southern end of the dojo.

Kagome scrambled to her feet and ran for the door. She wrenched it open and practically flew through the garden, twisting and turning through the maze of low stone walls and giant trees. Shouts rang out from behind her. She ran faster, willing her tired body to outrun the danger she so desperately needed to escape.

The shouting faded as she wound her way through the garden. Rounding one last corner, she sunk to her knees and clasped her chest trying to catch her breath. Listening for any sounds that she was followed, she leaned back against a small wall. She stayed there for several minutes, listening intently. When nothing stirred other than the occasional chirp of a bird or the breeze humming gently through the trees, she stood and walked cautiously to the end of the wall and peered around the corner.

A twig snapped behind her, causing her to jump from fright and whirl around quickly.

The small youkai with the bizarre orange eyes was standing about 20 feet away, a basket clutched in his greenish-brown hands. He looked as surprised as Kagome. They stared at each other in silence for a few moments. The youkai spoke first as he carefully set the basket at his feet and bowed in respect to the woman. His movements were as awkward as his words.

"My lady, what are you doing all the way out here?"

"Um. I…I don't know," she answered, cheeks stained with color. Seeing the little demon had broken the hold of the awful memory. She was no longer being held by Naraku, but in the House of the Moon.

The little youkai looked around curiously. He stepped around the basket and fixed Kagome with an intense stare.

"Perhaps I should take you back to the house. I can imagine Hoshi-sama is looking for you."

Kagome looked around, turning in every direction. She had no idea where she was or even what direction would lead to the castle.

"Yes please. I don't know where I am." Her embarrassed expression made the little youkai chuckle.

"I am Ryuu, Master Gardener for the House of the Moon."

"Nice to meet you Ryuu-sama." Kagome bowed slightly.

"No, no. Just Ryuu. I do not like formalities."

Kagome's eyes lit up as she turned a dazzling smile onto the little youkai.

"I'll call you Ryuu if you call me Kagome."

Ryuu chuckled again. "Unfortunately Miko-san, I cannot call you that. I am only a lowly servant in this house and you are a guest. Sesshomaru-sama would have my body spread around the gardens I so love."

"Well, how about just in private? What Sesshomaru doesn't know, won't hurt him right?"

Ryuu's eyes narrowed a moment before he laughed loudly. His booming mirth did not seem to belong to such a small body but instead to a giant beast.

"Very well… Kagome. It will be our own little secret."

Kagome smiled as he waved a small hand to signal she should begin walking.

For the first time since entering the house, she had a relaxed conversation. No worried looks or reserved questions. She had been treated like fragile glass for so long that she had forgotten what it was like to be treated as she had before this entire ordeal.

They talked as they made their way back to the house, mostly about the gardens and woods surrounding the House of the Moon. She was enjoying their talk so much that she didn't even notice Hoshi's appearance.

"Back home, my mother is an excellent gardener and grows the most beautiful roses. I can't wait to see them here," Kagome's bubbly voice carried on the breeze as she looked up and stopped.

Hoshi was standing in the middle of the pathway, her eyes glittering in the afternoon sun.

"Where have you been?"

Kagome was almost jogging to keep up with Hoshi as she stormed through the castle.

"I can't believe you ran off like that! Who knows what could have happened to you..." Hoshi turned a corner quickly, her beautiful kimono sparkling with iridescent moons of indigo and blue. The fabric snapped between purple and white, telling Kagome how angry the housekeeper really was.

"I'm sorry Hoshi-sama; I didn't mean to worry you. I just… well, I got a little…" Kagome trailed off, not wanting to revisit the memories that drove her from the dojo earlier.

Hoshi stopped and turned in a flash. Kagome barely stopped in time, their noses only a few inches apart. She stepped back quickly but Hoshi grabbed her elbows and held her fast.

"You just what? You forgot that only a short time ago an Elemental somehow slipped through the defenses of this castle and almost killed you in the very garden that you just ran blindly into? Away from all of us who are here to protect you! Why Kagome, why would you do something so thoughtless?"

Kagome looked at her feet, her hands gripping her hakama tightly. She couldn't explain her actions without having to revisit the horror she experienced at the hands of Naraku. As much as she hated that Hoshi was angry with her, she hated thinking about those dark times even more. "I'm sorry, Hoshi-sama" she murmured.

"Not as sorry as you would have been had the enemy gotten to you first." Hoshi's tone was sharp as she released her abruptly and whirled back around to continue down the hall.

Kagome wanted to make things better, make Hoshi a little less angry with her. "I wasn't alone for long. I was with Ryuu. He was bringing me back to the castle." Hoshi stopped again and turned. "What if Ryuu had not been a member of this household? How would you have known? He could have killed you and we would have only known when someone found your lifeless corpse. This is not a game Kagome. You have no idea how ruthless those that seek the Jewel can be."

Kagome's face flushed in response to Hoshi's words as her anger rose beyond that of her remorse. She straightened her back and looked the older woman in the eyes.

"Believe me; I know just how vile and disgusting my enemies are. Or have you forgotten that I have the nightmares and scars to prove it."

With that, Kagome pushed by Hoshi. The housekeeper remained staring at the empty space Kagome just occupied, heart heavy as the anger dissipated into regret. Hoshi knew that Kagome suffered at the hands of Naraku, but because the woman had never shared much of her experience, she tended to forget that the scars were still raw below the surface of Kagome's cheery exterior.

The fear Hoshi felt when she could not find Kagome had brought on a surprisingly irrational reaction that she had not experienced in over a century. Seeing the destruction left behind at the dojo only reinforced what she had already come to realize about Kagome. She would not lose her, emotionally, physically or otherwise.

Kagome was sitting by the window watching the sun sink toward the tree line over the garden outside her room. Sango and Rin had kept their visit brief, feeling Kagome's need to be alone. Sango's worried glances and Rin's constant questions had been exhausting as she wanted nothing more than to put the day's events behind her.

The door slid open and Kagome immediately felt Hoshi's presence waiting patiently by the door. She glanced over her shoulder and caught her breath. Hoshi stood with her head bowed, uncertainty and remorse bled from her aura. Kagome had never seen Hoshi as anything other than the overly calm and confident woman who could take an 800 pound bear youkai to the ground with little effort. The subdued woman in her doorway was almost unrecognizable.

Kagome stayed quiet, not sure what to say to the woman who was her primary caregiver and closest thing to a friend in the castle. The silence stretched until Hoshi finally moved further into the room and bowed to Kagome before speaking.

"I owe you an apology Kagome. I should not have treated you like a child earlier in the garden. You, more than any of us, know the cruelty of those who seek the Jewel."

Kagome smiled slightly before turning back to the window. "Yes, I do know the desperate measures some pursue in order to possess the Jewel. I don't think I'll ever be able to forget."

Hoshi's heart ached for the young woman. "Forgetting and finding inner peace with the past are two very different things."

Hoshi walked the remaining distance and stopped next to Kagome at the window. They remained quiet as the sun disappeared and dusk settled over the trees like a cloak. An unspoken agreement between the women allowed the day's events to fade into the distance with the falling sun.


She turned violet eyes to the miko and raised a brow.

"Finally dropping the stupid formalities?"

Smiling, Hoshi turned and gestured toward the door. "Let's go get dinner…priestess."

Kagome hopped off the ledge and chuckled. "Okay…housekeeper."

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 31 of 60

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