Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 33 of 60

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"He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."
~Albert Einstein

Summer was in full swing, the temperature rising as the days stretched into an endless cycle of comfortable routines. Under the watchful eye of Hoshi, Kagome steadily strengthened in both body and spirit as the care and training she received helped to patch the most severe damage she had endured at the hands of Naraku. The months of captivity fell behind her as time relentlessly marched forward. So too the House of the Moon bustled along, revolving around the whims of an arrogant master and the fiery housekeeper who kept a tight rein.

Sango had become a part of this routine, but at the same time she craved for it to come to an end. Naturally, she was happy to spend time with Kagome, but also couldn't stop the growing desire for their group to leave the West. She was sure that once Kagome left, she would finally be able to put the memories that still plagued her dreams in the past. Though she had often tried to get Kagome to talk about those dark days of captivity, her friend held fast to silence and turned the subject with a deftness that would make any politician proud.

Sango returned to their camp to find Miroku cooking over a fire and Shippo dancing around merrily, his sing song voice chanting excitement about the coming meal. He stopped when he noticed her, running forward with a hopeful face.

"Sorry Shippo, just me again today."

His face fell and she picked him up to snuggle into her shoulder with a deep breath. She knew that the best she could do for the little kitsune was to provide the comfort and affection that Kagome would had she been there. She also knew that Shippo could smell Kagome on her clothes after their visits, bringing bittersweet security to the little demon and lessening the heartache caused by their separation.

Sango walked to Miroku who was hunched over a small fire. Dropping down next to him, she sighed heavily as he stirred the simmering pot of soup, releasing a delicious aroma throughout the small campsite. He glanced at her quickly, asking the familiar question, "How was your visit?"

Sango shrugged before replying with the same old answer. "Same as always," her tone flat.

Miroku's brows knit together as he turned, "Is something wrong?"

Sango met his concerned expression with a troubled look of her own. Restlessness was getting to her as she waited for Kagome's release. Miroku could see it growing with the summer days. Looking up at the tree limbs, she knew InuYasha was listening to their conversation. Since their confrontation at the House of the Moon, he had been very quiet, avoiding the subject of Kagome like the plague. But Sango knew that he hung on every word she brought back from the castle.

"Nothing's wrong… exactly. Kagome's the same as always, but that's what worries me. She won't talk about her time with Naraku. I fear she's holding it all inside. That can't be good, even with a pure heart like hers."

"I see…" Miroku said, the pensive look still etched into his features. "Have you asked her outright?" He hated to see Sango worry about anything, especially when their worries were shared and he knew that he could do nothing to alleviate them.

She wanted to smile as the pit of her stomach fluttered when she looked at him. It always warmed her when his concern showed so openly. Refocusing on his question, she shook her head. "No. She won't even let me get close to asking. She's very good at steering the conversation in a different direction."

Sango put Shippo on the ground before rising gracefully. Silently padding over to her belongings, she knelt and began sorting through her bag. Miroku watched adoringly; his eyes lingering over the smooth arch of her back; the long line of her arms to her thick, long hair that shone like mahogany. Every inch of her always managed to captivate him. Lighter strands of her hair mixed with darker, a result of the summer sun as she roamed the gardens on the castle grounds with Kagome, or trained just beyond the line of trees in the clearing near their campsite. The honey colored tones added warmth to her complexion, making her dark caramel eyes stand out with an exotic appeal.

She pulled a comb from the bag and came back to sit across the fire. Transfixed by the light playing off her face, he watched her run it through the long tresses in soothing strokes. A breath suspended painfully in his chest as he fought the need to cross the short distance and bury his hands in the soft strands. Never had he wanted to be a comb so much in his life.

Sango finally opened her eyes and caught his hungry gaze. She blushed prettily, dropping her hands to her lap, fidgeting with the comb nervously as she stared into the fire. Miroku snapped out of his trance and chuckled quietly, stirring the soup again. One day he would end their silent courtship by finding the right words to express just how important she was to him. How his heart tripped over itself when she smiled, and the desire to protect and care for her overrode any regard for his own well-being.

One day…

Kagome walked aimlessly around the garden, trailing her hands through the flowers along the path's edge. She had started taking quiet strolls in the south garden after Sango's visit because it gave her time to compose her thoughts and bury the emotions that inevitably dredged up from the deep, dark places Kagome hid them away. She knew that her friend only wanted to help, but it was too frightening to open that door and let the horrific memories of being bound to a cruel and ruthless hanyou surface. It was easier to find distraction by keeping busy, the conversation light.

Her mind wandered and settled on InuYasha. She wondered if he was still angry with her. The anger she had felt subsided long ago, replaced with an ever present ache that she couldn't go and meet him to smooth things over. This was the longest they'd ever gone without speaking. She wondered what he was up to, though she could feel his aura never ventured far from the castle. It was comforting and heartbreaking to be so close, yet so far away. Their bond seemed stretched with the distance and strain of forced absence.

Kagome wound her way along the trail until she reached a small bridge that crossed a koi pond. She walked to the center and leaned against the rail, staring into the clear water to watch the orange and gold fish weave lazily through the rocks and plants below. Closing her eyes, the sounds of the garden drew her mind from the troubling thoughts into the peace of nature. A gentle breeze lifted the ends of her ebony hair, cooling her in the warm afternoon sun.

Murmuring broke through the tranquil solitude a moment before Jaken's shrill voice jerked her out of the comforting reverie.

"Why must you always drag me around this garden? I am much too important to my lord Sesshomaru to have to trail after you in such a manner!" The little toad youkai huffed, dragging the Staff of Two Heads behind him as he followed Rin.

Rin giggled, long immune to Jaken's incessant ranting. Gathering flowers in a basket, she walked along picking at random. Following the curve in the trail, she stopped abruptly the moment she spotted Kagome on the bridge.

"Kagome-chan!" Barely holding onto the basket, she ran to Kagome's side. "What are you doing way out here Kagome-chan?" Rin's open face and bright smile were infectious, chasing away the lingering sadness that had been plaguing the miko all morning.

"I'm just having a look around." Kagome took the large basket from Rin and they continued down the trail. Jaken had quieted after seeing Kagome, but he sighed impatiently as they paced along slowly to pick flowers and talk about the garden.

"Why are you picking flowers?" Kagome asked as she shifted the basket on her hip. She had no idea how the little girl had been able to carry it to this point since it seemed to weigh at least twenty pounds with all of the flowers that she had managed to accumulate.

"I was picking flowers for Sesshomaru-sama's room." Rin bent to a small grouping of pink flowers, seeing if any were worthy of selection.

"Why do you do that?" Kagome asked, her curiosity piqued that a little girl would do such a thing considering Sesshomaru had a house full of servants for something so menial.

Rin straightened and faced Kagome, her small brows drawn together as she grasped a perfect pink blossom in her tiny hand. She seemed to consider the words carefully, "Because Sesshomaru-sama doesn't smile very much." Rin looked down at the flower, turning it slightly, "Flowers always make me smile. So I hope that if he has them by his bed in the morning, they'll be the first thing he sees when he wakes up and he might smile too. Even if I don't see it, I can imagine he does."

Her guileless words touched Kagome. It had been a long time since she had looked at the world with such innocence. Smiling, she held the basket out so that Rin could add the pink bloom. "I think that's a wonderful reason to pick flowers."

The two continued until they found a small clearing. Kagome set the basket down and walked up the small hill to a spot with thick grass. Dropping down, she wrapped her arms around her bent knees and sighed contentedly as the breeze wafted over her face and neck. Rin quickly joined her, mimicking her pose shyly.

They stayed like that, quietly observing the clouds crawl across the sky until the sun descended toward the horizon. Rin glanced at Kagome a few times but remained silent. Smiling inwardly, she waited for the young girl's curiosity to finally get the best of her. It didn't take long before Rin spoke hesitantly, anxiety coloring her voice.

"Kagome-chan, how long are you going to stay here with us?"

Kagome paused to consider how best to answer. She turned and saw the worry in the girl's dark brown eyes. Extending her arm, she took one of Rin's small hands in her own and smiled warmly, "I'll stay as long as Sesshomaru-sama thinks is necessary. But even after I leave, I can always come back to visit."

Rin smiled back timidly and squeezed her hand. "Good. I like having another person living here who is like me."

Kagome's heart caught at the simple words. She hadn't thought about it before, but the little girl must occasionally feel lonely at the House of the Moon. She was old enough to know that she lived in a home full of youkai and by nature very different from the other members of the household. A throat cleared, catching the attention of the two girls. They turned and found Hoshi a few feet away. She had a smile on her face but it didn't reach her eyes. Kagome's senses immediately picked up on the woman's apprehension.

"Is something the matter, Hoshi?" Kagome stood up and helped Rin to her feet. She looked back at the housekeeper and caught a warning look pass between her and Jaken.

"Jaken, report to his lordship immediately. I'll escort these two back." Hoshi's brittle tone put Kagome on alert as she bent to grab the basket and join Hoshi on the trail.

"Hoshi…?" Kagome asked again, worry obvious in her tone. Rin looked back and forth between the two women.

"Not now," her voice was low as she grabbed Rin's hand and began walking down the trail back toward the castle. She chattered absently with Rin, but Kagome could see the tension in the other woman's frame.

'What now?' Kagome thought impatiently.

Kagome entered the castle behind the pair and paused at the scene of complete chaos. Servants were running frantically, carrying stacks of bedding, cleaning every visible surface and squabbling as they worked furiously. Hoshi walked quickly, barking orders as she passed members of her staff, never pausing until she reached Rin's door. Shizuka met them and guided Rin through smoothly. Hoshi grabbed the basket from Kagome and handed it to Shizuka before sliding the door shut. To Kagome's surprise, she placed a sealing spell over the room before turning and walking back down the hall past Kagome. "Come with me, and stay close," Hoshi's clipped tone had a sense of urgency.

Practically running to keep up with the housekeeper, they made it to the beginning of the hallway that led to Kagome's room before she was stopped cold by a very strong youkai aura coming from the entrance of the castle. It took Kagome's breath away as the unfamiliar youki pressed against her miko powers brutally. She grabbed the wall to support her weight, the warring energies snapping against each other relentlessly.

Sesshomaru and Hiraiku rounded the corner at that moment. The taiyoukai's gaze found Kagome immediately. "What is she doing here?" his voice was irritated as he quickly took in her labored breathing and pale complexion.

"We're on our way. I had to get Rin to her room first… per your orders." Hoshi added that last part with emphasis as if to remind him.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes before responding. "Yes, well they're almost here…" he moved so quickly, Kagome didn't even have time to blink. He grabbed her upper arm and pulled her from the wall, tucking her under one arm like the basket of flowers she had been carrying for Rin all afternoon.

"Hey!" she squirmed in his hold, trying to win her freedom. He strode purposely the length of the hallway until he reached her room. Entering quickly, he deposited her into the center of the room without ceremony. She straightened in a huff and glared in the dim light of the setting sun. He seemed to glow in the low light, the paleness of his hair and clothes shining against the darkness of the furnishings in her room. The moment seemed to freeze as she forgot why she was angry an instant before the unfamiliar youki swelled again, this time with overwhelming force.

The pressure pushed against Kagome's miko powers, crushing the air from her lungs. She gasped, swaying as her hand reached out to brace against the fall that was eminent. Soft white silk pressed into her cheek, lifting and placing her on the small bed at the center of the room. She clutched his haori fiercely in her small hands while the world spun. Her miko powers were pushing back in response to the assault from the unknown youki that was trying to exert dominance over all that were in the House of the Moon. Sesshomaru wanted to release his own to answer the unspoken challenge but would wait until this room was sealed from the intense ritual that was about to begin. He gently untangled Kagome's hands from his clothing, carefully pushing the new youki out of the room by filling it with his own. Kagome instantly relaxed, her miko powers settling into their normal rhythm.

She was struggling to breathe before Sesshomaru's aura enveloped her, chasing away the strange youki that was burning her skin like acid. Its warmth soothed away the uncomfortable pressure and she opened her eyes to meet his contemplative stare. If she didn't know better, she would have sworn that there was concern hidden in the golden depths.

He stayed for a moment, staring at her relaxing features. It was purely a hunch that by releasing a higher level of his own youki, it would drive out the other. The fact that she calmed as a result was interesting.

"My lord, they've just entered the courtyard." Hiraiku's deep voice sounded from the doorway.

Sesshomaru didn't move as he continued to look at Kagome. It was as if he were made of stone, one knee perched on the edge of the bed with an arm draped across her body. Her heartbeat increased as she wondered what he was thinking.

"Um… what's going on? Who's in the courtyard?" Kagome asked, her confusion finally making it from her brain to her mouth.

The question seemed to snap him out of his thoughts. His brows drew down before answering darkly, "Unwelcome guests."

Before Kagome could respond, Sesshomaru stood and left the room, murmuring something to Hoshi as he left. The housekeeper turned curious eyes on Kagome as she bowed in respect. She slid the door shut behind her, leaving Kagome alone in her room. A sealing spell came up quickly, shutting out the coming tide of youkai energy that was about to hit the House of the Moon like a typhoon.

Sesshomaru settled across the table from the Lord of the North, jaw clenched in anger. If it wasn't for the fact that it would plunge his lands into a bloody war, he would tear the other Lord's head off and throw it in his koi pond to feed his demon fish. Instead he spoke his greeting with thinly veiled fury, "Welcome to the West."

Taro, the lord of the Northern Lands inclined his head in acknowledgement. He waved a hand and a soldier came forward quickly to place a small golden box upon the table before backing away with head bowed. Taro placed his hand on the box and slid it toward Sesshomaru. "A gift from the North," he said with a simpering smile.

Sesshomaru flicked open the box with one finger. Inside was a small ornately carved golden tanto with a snarling dragon curled around its hilt, its large ruby eyes glittered in the dim light. It was truly a beautiful blade, but such things rarely impressed Sesshomaru.

Taro spoke, his voice loud and pompous, "It was commissioned especially for you by my daughter. She would have presented it herself, but the journey was tiring."

Sesshomaru bit back a snort of derision. He wanted to shove the tanto back at Taro, but refrained from the rude gesture. He would try to diffuse this situation first with tact, but if that failed, he would follow his instincts and deal with things like the perfect killing machine that had made him a legend. Closing the lid, he inclined his head to the lord respectfully. Taro beamed from across the table, oblivious to the other man's distain.

"Well Sesshomaru-san, how are things in the West?" Taro asked, playing innocent that his presence in the House of the Moon was completely uninvited.

"The West is peaceful and prosperous." Sesshomaru answered through clenched teeth. He waved a hand and a servant came forward to pour tea for the pair. Glancing around the room, he took in the small contingent of soldiers by the door that kneeled, eyes vigilantly watching all movement in the room. The only soldier that seemed unconcerned about his lord's surroundings was a tall demon that leaned nonchalantly against the wall. His long black hair was pulled back into a high ponytail and a sword hung jauntily from his hip. With closed eyes, a smug smile hinted at his lips. Sesshomaru took an instant dislike to the demon. There was something familiar about his aura and he wondered briefly if they had met on the battlefield before. He shook that notion off quickly. None were left alive on his battlefields.

"Yes, I hear that there are many who fear a great power in the West. One that can crush all that might wish to challenge if unleashed." Taro leaned forward as he watched Sesshomaru closely for any reaction to his words, glancing down at his left hand pointedly, "Though I hear that this power is hidden away in secret."

Sesshomaru kept his face bored, "I'm not sure where this rumor of a hidden great power originates since I never hide from anything."

Sesshomaru's subtlety was not lost on Taro. He knew that he wouldn't get an easy confession from the young lord. Smiling tightly, his words were smooth. "I am glad to hear that it has been peaceful," the lord responded as he picked up his tea and sipped gingerly before setting it back on the low table, "War is expensive and serves only to create a mess that must be cleaned up."

Sesshomaru merely inclined his head at the comment. The lord of the North had only sent a very small number of soldiers to help Sesshomaru when he led his campaign to regain his lands. He was well aware of how stingy Taro was when it came to initiatives that did not benefit him directly. Instead Sesshomaru let the silence stretch, waiting for the declaration of why Taro had ignored Sesshomaru's latest set of excuses to delay this visit. He met the older lord's eyes as he lifted his own cup, sipping slowly to allow the moment to drag out as long as necessary.

Taro finally spoke, realizing that it was up to him to continue the conversation. He had forgotten how tedious interactions with the son of his father's cousin could be. "Well, as I mentioned earlier, I brought my daughter to show her the West and also introduce her to you since one day she will be ruling the North. It will only benefit her to begin making connections as soon as possible."

Taro's own subtle words were not lost on the taiyoukai. He held back a distasteful retort that weighed on the tip of his tongue and simply inclined his head in response. The door slid open to reveal Hoshi and Sesshomaru had never been happier to see the tempestuous housekeeper. She just might keep him from killing the stout dog demon sitting across the low table sipping his tea innocuously. Hoshi moved to stand at the end of the table and bowed low to the two lords.

"My lord, the rooms for your guests have been prepared. Lady Emi is already settled and as soon as Taro-san is ready, I would be more than obliged to show him to the room next to his daughter."

Sesshomaru bit back the smile that threatened. Hoshi could certainly lay it on thick when she wanted. His fiery housekeeper could crush the lord of the North and all of his soldiers in the blink of an eye all on her own. Taro had no idea the level of power that lay in the West and Sesshomaru saw no reason to volunteer the information freely.

"Thank you, Hoshi. He will retire directly." With that, Sesshomaru stood and waved a graceful stripped wrist toward the door.

Taro stood awkwardly and lumbered to the door, casting a look over his shoulder at Sesshomaru. He clearly wanted to continue their conversation, but knew better considering he came to this land unbidden. The soldiers for the Northern Lord followed dutifully, keeping their heads bowed as they exited the room behind their lord. Hoshi met Sesshomaru's eyes through the doorway and winked conspiratorially.

The soldier with the long hair unwound his limbs slowly and pushed away from the wall. He glanced at Sesshomaru with the same smug look before turning without a word.

Sesshomaru scowled when he was finally alone. He was not happy with today's events.

Red eyes traveled the hallways of the House of the Moon late that night. Reaching out with youki senses, there was no sign of the miko in the house. 'Where have they hidden you now my lovely?'

Continuing to wander, the faintest brush of holy powers, muted but as pure as the sun, wafted through the hall. It was her. Dialing in, the eyes found the source in the next hallway. The door had a strong sealing spell, but the miko's powers were so powerful, they seeped like water from a leaky bucket.

Jagged teeth gleamed in the dim light of the half moon, 'There you are.'

"Are you really that surprised, Yama?" Hoshi asked as Sesshomaru sat fuming from across his desk.

"I had hoped Taro was a bit more intelligent," Sesshomaru grumbled.

"He was never very bright, even as a pup. I can't tell you how many times your father used to complain about that demon." Hoshi sighed as she absently turned the small stone at her neck between two fingers.

"I want someone with Rin and the miko at all times." Sesshomaru looked at Hoshi and for the first time since their return to this land, saw past the stoic façade to what she knew existed under the surface, "I want them kept in their rooms too."

"Do you think that's feasible?" Hoshi had to ask. She could already hear the protests in the air.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes, picking up on what Hoshi was getting at. It was the benefit of centuries of familiarity. "It'll be feasible because I said so. If there's a problem, I'll make my wishes known personally."

Hoshi met his gaze squarely. 'Oh yeah, he would love another opportunity to bend the spirited little miko to his will.' The only problem with wielding power over others is that one day, especially when least expected, the roles can reverse themselves. Hoshi smirked, 'Then what would you do my little Yama?'

"If you wish," she responded in a sugary sweet voice.

Sesshomaru raised a brow at her tone. "What does that mean?"

Hoshi stood up and put her hands on her hips, something that she clearly picked up from Kagome over the past few months. "I tell you that I'll do your bidding and you immediately think there's an ulterior motive?" she asked huffily.

Sesshomaru graced her with one of his rare smiles. "Hoshi, if there's one thing I've learned over the centuries, is with you, there's always an ulterior motive."

"What'd you mean I can't leave this room? What about my training?" Kagome cried as Hoshi stood patiently in the middle of the room later that evening, grimacing at the young woman's outburst. If she would quiet herself for five seconds, Hoshi would explain everything.

"Is this Sesshomaru's idea? How am I going to get strong enough so that I can finally leave this place if I can't train?" She wailed as she fell back onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling, her arms stretched out at her sides.

'So dramatic,' Hoshi thought as she rolled her eyes. "If you'd stop talking for a moment, I'll tell you everything you need to know." Hoshi stepped forward and settled next to Kagome on the bed. With a sigh, the younger woman sat up to face the housekeeper.

"There are visitors from the North that showed up yesterday, unexpectedly. Sesshomaru believes that it's safer for you and Rin to remain in your rooms while they're here. These youkai are not as accepting of humans so it's merely a precaution." Hoshi finished and braced for Kagome's reaction. To her surprise, Kagome was calm.

"Well, that makes sense I guess." She chewed on her nail for a minute before another thought occurred to her, "Are Sango and Miroku going to be okay? They don't have a room to be hidden away from dangerous youkai."

Kagome's sarcastic tone let the housekeeper know that despite the good face she was putting on, she was still not very happy with the situation. "I'll make sure that your friends will be fine until you can see them again."

"Wait, I can't even see Sango? Man, this is like solitary confinement!" Kagome crossed her arms over her chest and sulked.

Hoshi walked across the room, torn between wanting to protect Kagome from danger and seeing how she would handle herself with youkai from outside the West.

"You'll live." Hoshi tossed gently over her shoulder before leaving the young miko to stew in misery.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 33 of 60

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