Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 32 of 60

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"It is the beautiful bird which gets caged" ~ Chinese Proverb

Hoshi sat across from Sesshomaru and stared at the parchment in her hands, trepidation gnawing in the pit of her stomach. "How many requests have there been?"

"Three," he replied as he read through another document, not bothering to look up.

"What will your response be?" Hoshi asked as she placed the paper on the desk. She watched him carefully, looking for any indication of his thoughts.

"The same as my previous two responses," Sesshomaru's tone and expression showed intense boredom, but Hoshi wasn't fooled in the least. This matter was far too important to the stoic young lord.

"Perhaps you should allow the visit. It may help ease the tensions growing in the north."

This stopped Sesshomaru. He dropped the document and placed both palms flat against the desk in front of him, pinning Hoshi with a glimmering scowl. "I don't fear the Northern Lord."

"Yes, but after two declined requests to visit the House of the Moon, it will be seen as disrespectful to refuse a third."

Sesshomaru knew all too well how a third refusal would be interpreted. He also knew that there was more to the Lord of the North's request to spend time in the West. By now, word would have spread amongst youkai that a Miko in possession of the famous Shikon no Tama was firmly ensconced in the heavily fortified House of the Moon. Add to that the Northern Lord's long standing desire to unite their lands through a marriage between Sesshomaru and his only insufferable daughter; it was a foregone conclusion that the requests would persist.

He grabbed the letter Hoshi had set down and pulled it toward him. The elegant script blared back with inevitability. The significance of this letter and what his duty as lord of one of the four noble houses was inescapable. After all, his father married his mother for the same political gain. Of course, Sesshomaru was not his father and had sworn that he wouldn't make the same mistakes. He would never allow himself to be ruled by anything other than his own desire, nor fear consequences of any kind.

As if she could read his thoughts, "You don't have to follow the path of your father, Yama, but consider the fallout. There's no need to bring unnecessary war to your lands." Hoshi's soft voice belied her concern.

"I am not concerned about war. There's none who can challenge my authority or defeat me in battle."

"If it were only you to consider I would agree. But there are others in this house who wouldn't stand a chance should an army of youkai wage a full scale attack." Hoshi stood and looked down on the young lord she watched grow into a confident and capable leader. She wasn't concerned about him. It was the miko who was just starting to come into her own and the little girl she loved like a daughter. There would be no chancing their lives, just because Sesshomaru believed he was invincible.

He sighed impatiently while rifling through the stack of papers on his desk. "I am well aware of my perceived weakness Hoshi, and how easily it could play into the hands of my enemies. It's the reason I have refused any visitors."

Hoshi strode to the door and slid it open. Sesshomaru fought so hard against the memory of his father and the mistakes that he was so sure the great Inu no Taisho made. What foolishness. Before crossing the threshold, she paused. After centuries of walking the fine line between gentle guidance and all out opinionated outbursts, she learned not to hesitate. The young lord would always do as he pleased regardless of what she said, but he always considered her wisdom in his decisions.

"Weakness…strength…it all looks the same hidden away in shadow. The truly strong do not fear the sun."

Sesshomaru leaned back and looked out his window with a thoughtful sigh.

Hoshi gently closed the door to her living quarters. Kagome was in the sunroom spending the afternoon with Sango and Rin, which was good because she needed time to think.

She walked over to a seemingly inconspicuous wall next to the door leading to her bedroom. Running her fingers along a painting, she found the trigger and popped open a panel. Pulling up and out revealed a large opening where several boxes and wrapped items were stacked. This was Hoshi's private hiding place, the place where she kept things that were entrusted to her throughout the centuries.

Sliding a dark wooden box forward, she opened the lid. Pink light reflected off the surface of her face as she stared down at the Crown of Chikara's luminescent stone. She had placed the Crown and necklace here for safe keeping until making up her mind what to do with them. Grief and the desire for revenge had spurred her only sister to create a terrible weapon. Hoshi wavered between a desire to redeem Leiko's tarnished memory, and that of a solemn promise to a dear friend under the moonlight more than two centuries ago. In the end it was the painful memory of her sister's sad life spurring on the resolve to find a way to erase her mistake, replacing the family legacy with something greater, thus vowing to keep both promises.

Running her fingertips along the smooth gold, whispering voices of mikos reached through the contact and filled Hoshi's head. One in particular was at the forefront, making her presence known. Hatred and a heartbroken soul had forged the crown's destructive power, but love and trust would remove its memory from the world. Hoshi blinked back tears as the sorrow of that miko seeped into her sensitive aura.

She thought back to the night she had recovered her sister's beloved crown…

Kagome lay motionless on the bed, her black hair spread around her like a dark halo. Hoshi picked up the young girl's hand and felt the weak heartbeat as her spiritual powers decreased to almost nothing. If Hoshi didn't act soon, the Crown would absorb what little was left of the miko's power, seeking to replenish itself after healing Rin and restoring Sesshomaru's arm.

Walking to a small table at the back of the room, Hoshi opened the wooden box and pulled the heavy necklace from a dark satin pouch. Its black stone glowed menacingly, reacting to such close proximity to the Crown. She turned and looked at the poor girl that had gotten caught up in a battle that would rage until the cycle of revenge could finally be broken.

Wrapping the heavy chain around her hand she stepped toward the bed and reached her other hand into her sleeve, pulling a small golden dagger from its hiding place within the heavy silk. It'd been centuries since she had to use the ornate weapon that once belonged to her sister.

The door to the room slid open and Shizuka bowed low. Without turning, Hoshi spoke in a low tone, "Did you get our young lord back to his room?"

Shizuka's voice was like gentle rain, low and soothing. "Yes, milady. He's still unconscious, but his aura is very strong."

Hoshi snorted. "His aura will be even stronger when he wakes, as well as his anger." Hoshi sat on the edge of the bed and picked up the miko's hand. "Be sure to keep the staff away until he calms down."

Shizuka watched the sorceress place her hand on the young woman's brow with two fingers against the strange stone in the middle of the crown.

"Shizuka," the fox snapped to attention at the commanding tone, "bring me that box on the table." The youkai quickly slid the door shut and hurried across the room to do the housekeeper's bidding. She grabbed the bizarre box and carried it to Hoshi's side without question. The auras in the room were heavy and oppressive causing Shizuka's own youki to feel tense.

"Stay still. This may feel uncomfortable for a moment, but whatever you do, don't drop that box."

Shizuka gripped the smooth wood tightly and braced herself for the unknown. Hoshi raised the black stone and bent her head. Murmuring softly, she began to speak an incantation in a language that Shizuka had never heard. The stones glowed brightly as Hoshi removed one hand from the miko's brow. The moment her hand was removed, a faintly green light erupted from the white stone and circled over toward the necklace. The glowing path seemed to be drawn directly to the blackness of the stone where it quickly ended, tracing a path between the stones. Shizuka sucked in a breath as the green path become more solid, like a finely woven rope swirling upon itself, dancing gracefully in the air like dense mist. Hoshi raised the golden dagger and sliced a thin line on the back of her forearm. Her blood coated the blade as she lifted it high in the air. The incantation became louder as she brought the blade down, slicing through the green path and sending an invisible shockwave out that almost knocked them both over. Shizuka stumbled but quickly recovered, gripping the strange box firmly.

Hoshi took a deep breath and quickly pulled the satin pouch forward, stuffing the necklace and its long chain away. She then gingerly removed the Crown from the miko's head, placing it on top of the necklace and snapping the lid closed with a loud click.

Standing, she took the box and headed toward the door. "Make her comfortable. I'll return shortly."

Hoshi then placed the box in her room's secret compartment and returned to the miko's room, but only after placing a seal on Sesshomaru's door to alert her to when he finally awoke.

Regardless of the gift that the miko had given him, he would surely be in a foul mood when he realized what happened. His mood would be even worse when he finally sorted out the lasting effects.

Hoshi carefully closed the box and pulled the panel down, snapping it into place. She replayed her conversation with Sesshomaru as she twirled the stone that hung from her necklace absently. Its warmth was familiar and comforting.

She smiled as her thoughts melded with another for a brief moment and chuckled as they shared the same thought.

"So intelligent and confident our little Yama, yet cannot see the truth that shines in front of him brighter than the sun."

Kagome enjoyed the fresh spring air as she walked to the dojo for her early morning lesson. The trees were full of young leaves and flowers began to bloom across the garden. Kagome saw Ryuu near the large koi pond and waved cheerfully. The little youkai's orange eyes glowed brightly before he ducked his head respectfully, remaining that way until she was out of sight.

An hour later, Kagome was fully warmed up and working with Hiraiku on a few katas. The door to the dojo slid open and Sesshomaru walked in, stopping to look first at Hiraiku, then at Kagome.

She felt her temperature rise as his gaze traveled up and down her body. 'What the hell is he looking at?' She thought testily as his gaze finally returned to hers. Without saying a word, he strode over and sat next to Hoshi along the southern wall. They began murmuring quietly, but no matter how hard Kagome strained, she couldn't make out what they were saying.

"Pay attention." Hiraiku's voice sounded impatient as his shinai came down smartly across her forearm, snapping her attention back to the task at hand.

"Uh, sorry." She turned back to her lessons, trying desperately to ignore the golden eyes assessing her every move.

"Alright Miko, are you ready to spar?"

Kagome looked nervously at her audience before looking back at Hiraiku. "Um, yeah. I guess so." She took a defensive stance, still tossing worried glances over at Hoshi and Sesshomaru. His presence made her uncomfortable, though she couldn't explain why.

Hiraiku took his place across from her and watched as she fidgeted, eyes darting around the room. Her usual focus absent for the first time since they began their lessons. He attributed it to the presence of Sesshomaru, understanding her anxiety. He too was nervous the first time he trained in front of the Lord of the West. What she didn't know was that Sesshomaru would often observe training sessions of the guards to ensure that they were up to his standards. Hiraiku waited for the moment that Kagome would finally dial-in and focus enough to begin, giving instruction patiently to deaf ears. It didn't take long for him to realize that this would never happen, she was too distracted. With a loud sigh, he swung his shinai downward, holding back slightly but needing to get her attention.

Kagome's mind was going a thousand miles a minute as she tried to pay attention to Hiraiku's instruction. His deep voice reverberated through her chest as her powers hummed along her body. Between Hiraiku, Hoshi and Sesshomaru's powerful auras, she was on edge and having a difficult time seeing beyond the worry and doubt that plagued her like a shadow. Sesshomaru's eyes never left her as he continued to talk with Hoshi at the end of the dojo. They seared Kagome's skin even with her back to him. She turned her head to the side and saw that both Sesshomaru and Hoshi had momentarily ceased talking to watch her intently, both of their expressions serene, almost bored. The whistling of wood through the air called Kagome's attention back immediately.

A high-pitched noise came from her throat as she pulled her own shinai up and blocked his attack a mere inch from her shoulder. She jumped back and darted out of range, attention fully on Hiraiku now. She could still feel Sesshomaru's eyes following her, but the desire to keep her limbs intact became of utmost importance.

Hiraiku swung again but this time she was ready. Using what instruction she had already been given, she evaded the attack and tried to counter. Her movements were slow and less than graceful, but she managed to dodge all of Hiraiku's blows. They worked through the first set of movements succinctly with few problems.

"Again," Hiraiku said as he took his stance once more.

Kagome prepared and they quickly began another set of exercises. Her arms began to feel heavy as sweat trickled down her face and shoulders but still she continued. Hiraiku managed to land a few blows as her body slowed with fatigue. He took care not to hit her very hard, but with each strike her muscles screamed in agony. She would definitely have bruises after this lesson.

"Again," Hiraiku said once more.

"Perhaps she can catch her breath first," Hoshi called from across the dojo.

"No. Her enemies will not be so merciful," Sesshomaru's answer silenced any hope Kagome held for respite. "Again."

Kagome cast a murderous glare at Sesshomaru but only received a finely sculpted, raised eyebrow in return.

"Yes milord." Hiraiku responded without hesitation. He took his stance and began even before Kagome had a chance to raise her shinai. She jumped back and just barely evaded Hiraiku's attack. Taking advantage of his downward movement, she brought her own weapon up and out, trying to land a blow to Hiraiku's chest. His movement was like lightening. Pain lanced up the back of her right leg, buckling her stance immediately. She tried to regain her balance but another blow hit her left side, the pain sucked the air from her lungs and she crumpled to the floor onto her hands and knees. Hiraiku placed his shinai under her chin and lifted her face toward him.

"You will improve, but it will take more work," his voice was gentle but authoritative at the same time.

Kagome took little comfort and frustration seemed to bubble up from her exhaustion. "Improve? How can I improve when I keep getting the crap beat out of me?!"

A loud sigh and the rustle of silk was Kagome's answer. She scooted back and sat on her bottom, casting a sullen glare at Sesshomaru as he lazily approached the pair. She braced against his snarky comments.

"In a fight between a youkai such as Hiraiku, and a human such as yourself, there is no contest. If you manage to improve enough to actually land a blow, I will be greatly impressed."

His condescending expression rankled Kagome exceedingly. 'God he's such a jerk!' she thought fervently.

He must have read her expression. The corner of his lips lifted the barest fraction as his eyes glimmered in the morning light streaming through the the dojo. She realized in that moment that InuYasha's older brother took a great amount of pleasure in provoking her.

"Many youkai would kill to be trained by the captain of my elite guard. After all, I trained Hiraiku personally. It could be considered neglectful not to thank me for such generosity."

Kagome's jaw dropped. 'Are you kidding me?!'

Kagome was still grumbling to herself by the time she made it to the bath house after her training session. Normally she would wait for Sango, but her foul mood and sore muscles demanded immediate relief.

"No good, pompous jerk…" she mumbled as she flounced down on a stool and pulled off her shoes, throwing one across the room for good measure. Angrily, she grabbed the bottom of her shirt and yanked it off with gusto. Within seconds her sweaty training clothes were strewn about the bath house as she sloshed into the water. She sank under the water and stayed there until her lungs screamed for mercy, only coming to the surface at the last second. Gasping and sputtering, Kagome broke the surface and wiped the water from her eyes. Standing waist deep in the middle of the bath, she looked at the water and thought back on her training session. She didn't like that she had appeared weak in front of Sesshomaru, though she wasn't sure why it bothered her so.

Her long tresses clung to her neck and back as the steaming water soothed her aching legs. Trailing her hands through the warm water, she replayed his condescending statement while her temper continued to sizzle.

"Thank you? Thank you for what, for locking me up and…" her words trailed off. 'No, if it wasn't for Sesshomaru, I might still be with... That is worth any frustrating behavior he could ever toss my way.' She shuttered unconsciously at the mere thought of her time with Naraku. Shaking it off, she focused on the comfort of the warm water.

With a sigh, she dipped under the water and began running her fingers through her hair, pulling the morning dirt and sweat from the long, shiny lengths.

Had she been topside, she would've heard the door open and a strong youkai presence fill the room. She could have prepared herself for the intrusion and shielded her modesty. Most importantly, she would not have surfaced from the water and immediately stood.

Hiraiku dropped his heavy ax on the stone floor at the sight of the miko in the middle of the large water basin, smoothing her wet hair away from her face. The resounding clatter of the ax cracking the stone floor had Kagome jumping in fright. Her eyes were as large as saucers as she turned to the noise and stood staring at the giant bear youkai. Even though it was only a split second, it was long enough for sharp youkai eyes.

Hiraiku remained as still as stone, dumbfounded a moment before her shattering scream rent the air. Kagome ducked her shoulders under the water and continued to shriek a moment before she just started shouting, "Sit. Sit! SIT!"

Hiraiku was immobilized by confusion and shock when he was unceremoniously shoved aside by Hoshi, whose aura snapped wildly as she entered the bath house. A moment later, she was followed by Sesshomaru who quickly pinned his golden gaze on Kagome.

"What on earth is going on here?" Hoshi's voice cracked with anger as she looked at Hiraiku and then Kagome.

Hiraiku lifted heavy paws and held them out in front of him. "I just came here to clean up after training, like always," he emphasized glancing at Kagome before continuing, "and all the sudden, she popped up out of the water and started screaming." He looked back at Hoshi, "She told me to sit?" he said, confusion clear in his tone.

Sesshomaru shifted and narrowed his eyes on Hiraiku but remained silent. Hoshi tossed a glance at Sesshomaru, but continued without missing a beat, "So you just came in here without checking first if it was occupied? Might I remind you that we have two humans now that you need to be more aware of? You're responsible for their safety too, after all. That includes their reputation."

"Don't lecture me sorceress." Hiraiku growled as he bent to retrieve his fallen weapon. He slung it over his shoulder before looking back at Kagome, "Forgive me, lady miko." Sesshomaru stepped in between the two before Hiraiku bowed and swiftly left the bath house.

The taiyoukai watched the bear leave; his continued silence carried more meaning than words. Hoshi curiously watched the young lord, intrigued by his silent anger before finally turning toward Kagome. The woman was bright red, arms wrapped tightly around her small frame turned away from the door.

Hoshi grabbed a large towel, waiting for the mighty dog demon to leave. He remained still, looking at the door with an odd expression before finally looking toward Kagome. She remained still in the water, her head bowed. He felt her discomfort rolling across the room in waves, burning him in a pulsing cadence. The uncomfortable feeling was troubling as he tried to determine the reason behind it.

Hoshi cleared her throat loudly. He looked to his oldest ally and saw the question in her far too observant eyes. Without a word, he spun on his heel and left the bath house, slamming the door behind him.

Hoshi glanced back at the miko. "Well, that was interesting." She chuckled before holding the towel toward Kagome who seemed frozen to the spot. "Come child, before you catch a cold."

A short time later, Hoshi and Kagome left the bath house. Kagome walked with her head down, shuffling through the garden on her way back to the main house. She was quiet, shame and embarrassment plaguing her steps.

Lost in anguished thought, she didn't notice being followed. The distance between her and Hoshi increased, Kagome's distracted pace a fraction of the high energy housekeeper.

Stopping in her tracks, a thought popped to the surface of her roiling emotions and blared like a trumpet. "I can't ever face him again. Who will train me now?" she groaned as her head lolled to the side.

A velvety voice next to her ear nearly had her jumping out of her skin. "Was this an attempt to get my captain to go easier on you in the future?"

Kagome whirled around and came face to face with Sesshomaru. His intense stare was disconcerting, forcing her to step back to keep eye contact without craning her neck.

As soon as she had a comfortable distance, his words registered and she saw red. "What do you mean, easier? Just what are you getting at?" Her voice had gone up an octave. He just raised an eyebrow at her in an infuriating manner.

She sputtered as his full meaning crashed down on her like a wave. "How…. you…. you asshole!" she yelled as she stepped toward him.

He watched the woman in front of him curiously. Her eyes snapped brown fire, little fists curling at her sides as she drew herself up in righteous fury. She was quite amusing when indignant. He had always known that the woman who traveled with his half-brother was different. Watching her now, he began to see what may have been so intriguing.

She stood a foot from him fearlessly and poked him in the chest several times, punctuating every word for emphasis. "I'm not that kind of woman. DO YOU GET THAT, YOU… BIG… OAF?!"

She whirled around with a huff, mumbling under her breath the whole way back to the house. He paced behind her, listening to every word and surprised at the smile that tugged at his lips.

"Big pompous dog demons and their overgrown egos…. what kind of girl does he….. like I would do something like that EVER…. if I was bigger I'd kick his….." She threw open the door with gusto and charged through, kicking it shut with her foot. Sesshomaru caught it deftly before it smacked his shoulder, pushing it open silently to follow Kagome.

She turned a corner, and in her tirade failed to see the youkai servant scrubbing the floor. One moment Kagome was sliding precariously on the wet surface, the next she was lifted against a rock hard chest by a large arm wrapped snugly around her waist. The maid froze in awe, she and Kagome locking eyes as the Lord of the West stepped over her gracefully. Kagome had barely taken a breath before she was set on her feet gently. Standing there a minute, she let her mind catch up with what just happened before finally turning around. His golden eyes held a touch of humor tinged with something else that she couldn't quite identify.

"You're still a jerk."

His lips twitched before a graceful hand motioned toward the hallway. Narrowing her eyes, she spun and started marching toward her room. He followed her until she turned the final hallway that led to her door. By the time she glanced over her shoulder, he was gone.

Sliding the door shut to her empty room, she thought about the past hour's odd events. 'What the hell was that all about?'

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 32 of 60

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