Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 34 of 60

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A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are for. ~John A. Shedd

Time passed in a tortured crawl for Kagome. By day fourteen of being locked in her room, she felt like murdering the next person to walk through the door. The only good to come from her unwelcome isolation was the time she had to think about what she wanted to do when she finally left the House of the Moon. The first thing she would do was go home to reassure her family of her safety as growing anxiety, particularly for her mother, plagued her mind.

Not knowing how long that would take, the short term solution was to draft a letter, which took hours and several revisions to complete. The message reassuring her family that she was fine and promising to come home soon was relatively easy to compose. Explaining why she couldn't return right away was the hardest part, forcing her to rewrite over and over to alleviate the fear that seemed to bleed through her words. After about the fourth draft, she finally found a suitable explanation that would be enough to put her mother's mind at ease. Now it would fall to convincing InuYasha to take the letter back to her family. She hoped he would put aside his stubbornness long enough to put her mind at ease.

She kept the letter folded and tucked in her kimono for safe keeping. It took her another several days to figure out how she was going to get the letter to InuYasha. At first she had hoped that she could get to Sango for a few moments, knowing her friend would deliver it safely. To her everlasting chagrin, Sesshomaru had forbid the demon slayer to enter the House of the Moon while his guests were in residence. She would have asked Hoshi, but couldn't trust the housekeeper not to read the letter. After all, Hoshi had made no secret about where her loyalties lay.

Leaning back in the window seat, she stared longingly out onto the garden. At least the last time she had been confined to a room, she was still recovering and slept most of the days away. This time around was pure agony on her free spirit and healthy body. She was looking forward to getting out of her room and only had to wait for the perfect opportunity.

Sesshomaru was in hell. Not the literal hell that would merely cause physical discomfort, but the kind of hell that scratched at the inside of the brain until death became a desirable option.

"The Western Lands are very beautiful." Emi, the daughter of the Northern Lord said over the cup of wine she held in a slender, graceful hand. Her voice was like nails on glass to Sesshomaru's ears. She was beautiful, like all Inuyoukai females, but her banal conversation and shallow disposition overshadowed any positive physical attributes she possessed.

They sat in the formal dining room, all pomp and circumstance being carried out at Sesshomaru's directive to satisfy his role as noble host. Inclining his head at Emi's compliment, his jaw clenched to keep from showing his contempt. So far, she had been relentless at seeking him out and finding all manner of excuses to require his presence.

"Show me around the surrounding woods tomorrow?" Her words were more of a command than a question and Sesshomaru ground his teeth at her arrogance. 'I'd sooner have my arm cut off again.' He met her eyes with a mask of stoicism. "With regret, I must decline. I have business that requires my immediate attention and will likely take all day."

Emi's gaze hardened a moment before her face fell into a dramatic pout, "Well, if you must…" she dragged the last word out before grabbing the goblet of wine off the table again in a huff.

Taro, who had been relatively silent during the exchange tried to smooth things over. "Forgive my daughter. She does not understand the responsibilities of rulers such as us."

Emi slammed the goblet down, splashing wine carelessly onto her sleeve. She stood and bowed stiffly, her voice ice cold, "I will retire immediately. Good evening." Sweeping out of the room, she left without another glance.

He bit back a smile. If that was all it took to get rid of her, he would have made comments about her stupidity earlier. The real problem was that she was far from stupid. In fact, she was extremely shrewd. Though she tried to pawn herself off as a simple and frivolous noble, he had glimpsed moments of her intelligence before she retreated behind her innocuous mask.

Taro was watching him pensively. Sesshomaru met his gaze and arched a brow, daring him to speak his mind. Since his arrival, the other lord had been trying to find the proper words to ask about the Miko who carried the famous Shikon Jewel.

"My daughter is very passionate."

Sesshomaru remained silent. That was not what the Northern Lord had wanted to say and they both knew it. He could see it in the older youkai's mossy green eyes and despised him for his cowardice. Sesshomaru picked up his own goblet of wine for the first time that evening and drained the contents in one fluid movement.

'When will this torture end?'

Early the next morning Sesshomaru walked the halls silently, heading to the wing of the house that he had been avoiding for the last two weeks. Stopping by Rin's room first, he checked on her quickly and quietly gave instructions to Shizuka. He exited before the little girl awoke, knowing her innocent joy at seeing him would increase the guilty feeling that already gnawed at his heart.

Making his way through the maze of hallways, he turned down the final walkway and stopped at Kagome's door. Holding up a hand to brush against the powerful sealing spell, he was pleased with Hoshi's expert skill. He slipped through it quickly and made his way into the miko's dark room. Hoshi sat in the window humming softly while she watched the sky begin to brighten. She stopped when he reached the middle of the room.

"Don't wake her. She finally fell asleep," Hoshi spoke softly, pulling herself from the window at his approach.

Sesshomaru paused by the bed and glanced down at the sleeping miko. Her hair was fanned out across the bed, falling in shining waves. Sooty lashes curled over her cheeks becomingly. She had her arms wrapped around a pillow, hugging it to her chest fiercely. Sesshomaru's palms itched as he watched the gentle rise and fall of her breath and listened to her steady heartbeat.

"Finally?" he asked, keen eyes spotting a slip of folded paper peeking out from under the pillow. Curiosity piqued, he was just about to reach for it when Hoshi's words stopped him.

"Nightmares plague her sleep. This last evening was especially hard on her."

Sesshomaru finally looked away from Kagome to meet Hoshi's lavender gaze. "What torments her still?"

Hoshi sat gently on the edge of the bed, "Naraku," she whispered as she brushed Kagome's hair back from her brow. The young woman stirred, nuzzling deeper into the pillow as if the single word was a threat.

Sesshomaru's anger burned that the hanyou still had power over her even in death. He shouldn't care, he reminded himself. She was merely a useful tool for protecting Rin from another attack. Unfortunately, the beast within reacted to her discomfort regardless of what his brain wished. Its restless energy swirled inside him, reaching out to her… but for what? 'What is it you desire?' he asked the wild and tempestuous side of him that he kept tightly leashed.

With a low growl, he turned to leave. "I'm going for a walk. Keep the house in order."

Hoshi repressed the smile that threatened. "Geesh, thanks a lot," she groaned sarcastically, but he was already gone.

Later that afternoon while Hoshi was busy attending duties, Kagome seized the opportunity to deliver her letter. Tucking it safely into her dark green kimono to rest by her heart, she opened the door and peeked out. The house was silent except for the distant sounds of daily activity on the side where the guest quarters were located. Taking a deep breath, she stepped beyond the sealing spell into the hallway and whimpered as pain lanced through her body. Seclusion from the youki in the house for the past two weeks made the first few moments agonizing as she adjusted to the sensation. Rallying her strength, she dragged her body forward and darted down the hallway. If she was caught, she would never be able to deliver the letter. Winding through the hallways to a side exit, she was able to follow a tree line to the edge of the main courtyard. Luckily it was quiet, with only a few guards leisurely patrolling.

She looked around, not quite sure how to get out of the gate unseen. Glancing frantically to her left, she saw a guard approaching at a fast pace, his eyes intent. Her heart beat wildly as she flattened against the wall. Sure she had been spotted; she held her breath and waited for the soldier to pull her out from the shadows. At the last moment, he veered left and kept walking to the gate. The creak of wood had Kagome looking up as the pulley system along the top of the wall began to move. She inched to the edge of the shadowed tree line and looked toward the gate.

She grinned as it opened to allow a burly youkai pulling a cart full of food into the courtyard. The soldiers were all watching the delivery, giving Kagome the moment she needed to slip through the open door and disappear into the woods.

Once she was out of sight, she leaned back against a tree and took a deep breath. Her fingers brushed reassuringly against the paper tucked into her haori. Closing her eyes, she focused her mind on finding InuYasha. 'Thank goodness, he's nearby.'

Pushing away from the tree, she picked her way carefully through the dense foliage toward her friend's campsite, never realizing that as luck would have it, she was not alone.

Hoshi stepped into Kagome's room and slid the door shut with a sigh. The northern guests had been running her and the staff ragged since they awoke that morning. Emi was particularly demanding as she openly seethed about Sesshomaru's absence. She had finally been able to slip away to check on the girls, first stopping to make sure Rin wasn't driving Shizuka and Jaken crazy and then on to Kagome. She was sure that the young woman was eagerly awaiting someone to talk to.

Moving to the middle of the room, a shiver of apprehension slid down her back. Looking in all the usual places that Kagome tended to spend her time, expecting to find her curled up with a fresh stack of books from Sesshomaru's library. The window seat was empty, as was the bed and low table that served for taking meals. Wrinkling her brow, she walked through the room, checking every corner.

"Kagome, where are you?"

Met with silence, the housekeeper's heart started to pound in her chest.

All the sudden Hoshi realized what had been bothering her. Like being hit with a sack of rice, Hoshi felt the emptiness of the room like a physical blow. Kagome's warm spiritual energy was replaced by a coldness that made the room heavy and unpleasant.

Borrowing one of Kagome's favorite phrases, Hoshi put her hands on her hips, "Oh crap!"

She turned and hurried out of the room, calling for Hiraiku at the top of her lungs.

Kagome followed InuYasha's aura into a small clearing not far from the castle entrance. What she found was one of the most wonderful sights she had ever seen.

Sango was sitting quietly by the fire, polishing Hiraikotsu. Miroku was meditating close by, secretly stealing glances at the young demon slayer, while Kirara was curled up with Shippo on Kagome's sleeping bag napping. Kagome sensed InuYasha, but he didn't immediately appear. 'Oh well, if he wants to come down then he can meet me half way,' she thought glumly.

She took two steps when a rustle of the leaves sounded overhead. A moment later a flash of red made Kagome jump as InuYasha landed a few feet away. He stared at her with a hopeful face but his body was stiff, braced in unknown anticipation.

The whisper of the wind moved the upper branches in the forest. Kagome's eyes misted as emotions consumed her. Kikyo had not only shared her miko powers while they were bonded together with the crown, she had also unknowingly shared the depth and soul wrenching love that the she and InuYasha had shared. It was a bond that, though Kagome had known existed, was far more powerful and intrinsic than could be seen by an outside observer.

Yes Kagome had loved him passionately at one time. She loved him still, but age and perspective had tempered that love. Now it existed as a love that could never be severed by action, nor would it stand in the way of his happiness. Theirs was a deep connection, founded on friendship that only a lucky few would ever find. InuYasha had been beyond her grasp before they had ever met. He had surrendered his heart to Kikyo fifty years before that fateful day she had been pulled through the bone eaters well. Over the past three years, Kagome had come to realize that the woman inside wanted a love like that for her own. She would never find satisfaction with consolation, but instead with a love that defied expectations. It had to be a love that fully embraced her in that moment, and remained encouraging even through failure.

He seemed frozen, waiting for her to speak. She smiled through watery eyes at his stubbornness and closed the distance in a few steps to wrap her arms around him. He stiffened a moment before crushing her in his strong arms.

"I'm sorry Kagome," he whispered into her hair.

She chuckled lightly as she squeezed him back. "I know. I've missed you."

He pulled back and looked at her carefully. "Has my mangy brother been good to you?"

"Yes. They're taking very good care of me," she reassured him before smiling slyly, "except for the beatings of course."

His eyes shot daggers. "What?! Who is beating you?" he shouted, turning her around looking for injuries.

She laughed at his hotheaded reaction. "Did I say beatings? I meant training sessions."

He straightened up quickly and met her laughing gaze, eyes narrowing. "Ha ha ha."

Sesshomaru was making his way back to the House of the Moon when a strange fissure of energy shot through his left arm. He paused and looked up to the canopy of trees swaying gently in the summer breeze. Flexing his hand, he tried to shake off the odd feeling that went through him occasionally without warning. He knew that it was because of her. It bothered him that there was some sort of physical connection that now linked him to a human. A warm, pulsing energy would invade his senses when she was near and increased when she was fearful or angry. It was as if he could feel her emotions, though he couldn't explain them since human sentiments were beyond even his considerable understanding of the world.

He looked down at his claws in disgust. The last thing he wanted was to be tied to another human. Sparkling brown eyes filled his vision a moment before he blinked them away ruthlessly. No, he couldn't afford to be tied to someone like her.

The breeze picked up again, rustling through the trees. It caressed his skin and the neighboring forest filled his senses. A deer was just beyond the tree line watching him cautiously; a wild boar was a quarter mile away with her babies drinking from a creek. He took in his surroundings, including the proximity of the soldier that had given him the smug look at dinner the evening before. After some quiet questions by Hiraiku, he had informed Sesshomaru that the soldier was the captain of the Northern Lord's personal guard. The youkai was between him and the castle, moving slowly. Sesshomaru frowned, wondering what he was doing outside the castle alone.

The breeze shifted, pulling with it the scent of other animals in the forest. He began walking toward the castle when the scent of his half-brother crossed his path. Sesshomaru wrinkled his nose distastefully. 'When will I finally be free of him?' he thought angrily. He changed directions, ready to ask that very question when another scent, elusive and soft, fully captured his attention.

His arm tingled again, this time sending a sense of foreboding to his core. Immediately, he hurried in the direction of the scent. It couldn't be her. She was safely tucked away in his house behind a powerful barrier. Hoshi would ensure that she remain there. He had almost convinced himself when a spike of InuYasha's youki was quickly followed by a fearful pulse of Kagome's.

His chest constricted as an irrational need to reach her fought against his steely self-control. The beast within clawed to be released. Sesshomaru had long since tamed that wild part of him, but its call never ceased to fire his blood. Heart beating fast, he raced in the direction of the miko's fear as it rolled through his forest in waves.

Kagome's reunion with her friends had been everything her soul needed. After long embraces and joyful laughter, she handed the letter to her family over to InuYasha begging him to take it through the well so that they would know she was alive and well.

"Take it yourself. We'll leave for the well today," his brash words were as arrogant as ever.

"InuYasha, I only snuck out of the castle to deliver this. I can't go home yet," she answered sadly.

"Keh," raising his chin, he crossed his arms. "I don't see why not. It's not like my stupid brother can stop you."

Kagome smiled at his obvious annoyance. She would stay a little longer to make sure she could convince him to deliver her letter before sneaking back into the castle.

Miroku and Shippo peppered her with questions wanting to know everything that had been happening while she stayed in the House of the Moon. Settling down between Sango and InuYasha at the campfire with Shippo nestled in her lap, she jumped when a twig snapped along the trail that led to their little campsite. InuYasha shot to his feet and drew Tessaiga. She couldn't feel anything, but intuition told her that there was someone watching them, particularly her.

A soldier stepped into the small circle of trees. His long black hair was pulled into a high ponytail while a sword hung jauntily from his hip. Light armor covered his shoulders and legs while knee high black boots showed there was little opening for a weapon to cause damage. His orange eyes glowed in the dim light of the tree covered campsite. Kagome tilted her head to the side as she studied the man. There was a crest with a dragon surrounding a mountain embellishing his breastplate, its eyes made of rubies. There was something odd about him as he stood there staring at Kagome, face stoic but hatred and something else burning in his eyes. It was then that she realized he was a powerful youkai, with the ability to suppress youki to the point that it took all of her concentration to feel the faintest whisper calling out to her miko powers.

"Who the hell are you?" InuYasha asked, raising his sword and stepping in front of the others.

"My name is Sora," the youkai's voice was deep and melodic and he raised a hand to point at Kagome. "I'm here to kill that miko."

Kagome sucked in a breath at his words. Her friends moved to surround her and face the strange man. There was something about him…but she couldn't put her finger on it.

"Not likely," InuYasha snorted and then charged. They crossed blades in an instant, each releasing their youki. Kagome was hit with the power of it and staggered under the weight. Sora sent InuYasha flying into a tree, splintering it instantly. He turned and strode across the clearing. Miroku raised his staff and moved in front of the women. Sora slashed his arm out in front of him in a quick movement and Miroku went flying, landing on his back, his staff impaled into a tree on the opposite side.

"Miroku!" Sango cried as she unleashed Hiraikotsu. Sora caught it deftly and flung it away distastefully. Sango stood dumbfounded as he approached her and brushed her aside violently. Her back hit the trunk of a nearby tree, knocking the wind from her. Kagome's aura spiked dangerously as she took in the condition of her friends. She pushed Shippo away from her as he approached.

"Why do you want to kill me?" she trembled as he backed her across the campsite, away from the others.

"You're a powerful miko in possession of the Shikon no Tama. Miko love to destroy youkai. Why do you think?" His voice was laden with a calm malice that only reminded her of one other person. She shuttered as memories of Naraku slithered through her mind. Sora was the same type of merciless killer.

He raised his sword and pointed it at her chest. "I will kill you before you can kill any more of my youkai brethren." He smiled evilly and raised his sword to deliver a blow that would surely take her head cleanly from her body. Kagome closed her eyes, waiting for death. It never came.

Something tickled the tip of her nose as the air stirred slightly in front of her. She opened her eyes to a sea of white. 'Am I dead?' she wondered. A breath later she realized that it was not a heavenly light in front of her, but Sesshomaru's thick hair. She looked up and saw his fist gripping Sora's hand around the hilt. He was as still as stone, anger bleeding through his iron control. Kagome jumped as his deep voice broke the silence that had descended on the campsite.

"I trust you have good reason to kill this miko?" Sesshomaru asked stonily.

Sora's eyes were wide as he tried to figure out how the Lord of the West had gotten between him and his prey so quickly, and without warning. He narrowed his eyes before pulling from Sesshomaru's steely grip.

"I am charged with protecting Lord Taro. This miko carries the Shikon no Tama. By her very nature, she will seek to harm my master and possesses the power to succeed."

"Hey!" Kagome yelled from behind him. He felt her small hand grab his sleeve as she started to step around him. He pushed her back, not wanting to give the youkai another opportunity to harm her. Sesshomaru wanted to tear the captain of the Northern Lord's throat out. If he had been a heartbeat later, she would be dead.

"This miko will not harm your master," Sesshomaru kept his hand around her upper arm as he spoke, demanding she stay behind him while she struggled to break his hold, "it is not in her nature." Kagome stilled when his words registered.

"How would you know that?" Sora's eyes turned suspicious.

Sesshomaru took a deep breath as he debated what to tell Sora. He could try and convince him that she was merely passing through, but he saw the possible fallout of that lie including the appearance of weakness in his land. Sesshomaru did not like to be backed into a corner. Frustration bubbled up as the situation quickly spun out of his control.

"The miko is a member of my house and as such falls under my protection. She has yet to harm any youkai in over two seasons."

Sora stepped back as if struck. "You're consorting with a miko?"

Sesshomaru hesitated. He never answered questions like that as it was no one's business but his own. He thought better in this instance, "I have my own reasons for her presence in my house, none of which concern the North."

Sora sheathed his weapon and withdrew further. He bowed respectfully to Sesshomaru. "As you wish," he said through gritted teeth, "I need to report this to my Lord." An instance later he was gone.

Sesshomaru closed his eyes. Well, there was no use in hiding her now. Kagome stood patiently behind him. He opened his eyes and whirled to face her. She stepped back but he grabbed her by the shoulders before she could escape.

"Give me one reason not to kill you right now?" he growled more than spoke the words.

Her eyes were wide at his sudden turn on her. "Um…because you've bothered to keep me around for almost nine months… and it seems like it would be a really big waste of time to kill me now. Besides, you just saved me from that guy," she thumbed in the direction of the retreating youkai before continuing quickly, "so if you wanted me dead, you could have just let him finish me off." She laughed nervously, glancing around for one of her friends to draw his attention.

Sesshomaru stared at her. The beast inside had calmed the instant he touched her, but his brain was screaming to strangle her for all the trouble she was about to cause his once peaceful home. He let go of her shoulders as the others started to come to their feet.

"Kagome, are you alright?" Sango asked as she gave Sesshomaru a cautious look.

"Yes, I'm fine." She smiled tentatively at her friend to try and reassure her. Sesshomaru grabbed her arm and started to haul her across the clearing.

"We will discuss this later, including how you got out of the castle. I obviously have some guards to kill for their incompetence." He ground out while dragging her toward the path that led back to the House of the Moon.

"Hey, wait a minute! Can't I even make sure my friends are alright?" she dug her heels into the ground but it didn't help. She cast a look over her shoulder at InuYasha, who was just pulling himself up from the ground. Her anger snapped at Sesshomaru's unwillingness to let her have two minutes to tend to her injured friends. She summoned her powers, gathering them. Sesshomaru stopped and pulled her around in front of him. "Don't even think about it." His voice was menacing as his golden gaze burned into hers.

"Then let me have two minutes to make sure they're okay." Her own eyes were determined.

He sighed heavily. "One minute."

"Two." She yanked her arm from his and flounced away and over to InuYasha. He wiped his brow as she approached. "Are you okay Kagome?" he asked, concern plainly written across his features.

"Don't worry about me, I'm fine. What about you, are you okay?"

"Keh! I'm fine. He only caught me off guard." He yanked Tessaiga from the ground and slipped it back into its sheath.

Kagome smiled at him fondly. "Okay." She turned to see Sango tenderly brushing the hair back from Miroku's brow. His own hand was cupping her cheek, eyes showing relief that she was unharmed. 'Finally.' Kagome thought with satisfaction.

She turned back to InuYasha, "Please do what I asked of you earlier, InuYasha." He looked at her with a puzzled expression before turning accusing eyes on Sesshomaru. "You're going back?" he looked back to her with a hurt expression.

She dropped her gaze. "Yes. I have to." Emotions choked her as she sought to explain why it was important that she continue to train with Hoshi. For the first time in her life, she was learning how to harness and use her holy powers in a way that would actually help in a fight. Her paralyzing fear a few moments ago while her friends were sacrificing their bodies to protect her was a reminder that she still had a long way to go. She couldn't leave until she could be of use to them in a fight.

"Please, promise me." She placed her hand on his chest, where the letter was tucked safely. He gripped her hand in both of his and he met her eyes. The depth of her need for this small favor was tangible. The moment stretched as he debated. With a grudging expression, he relented. "I promise."

She shuttered in relief before grabbing him in a tight hug, tears slipping down her cheeks silently. InuYasha wrapped his arms around her small waist in return, laying his head on top of hers. It lasted only a moment before they were pulled apart. Sesshomaru's fierce expression took InuYasha by surprise. He stared at his brother as he pulled Kagome away from him and toward the path. "Your two minutes are up," he murmured seemingly more to himself than her.

Kagome looked back at InuYasha before the tree line cut her off from view.

InuYasha sat down in the grass as suspicion slithered into his mind. "No way," he shook his head and brushed it aside without a second thought.

Red eyes watched as the powerful Lord of the West tugged the miko toward the House of the Moon. Everything was going exactly as planned.

No more hiding her away behind barriers. She would be accessible. Vulnerable. Razor sharp, jagged teeth slipped beyond slimy gums as they thirsted for her blood. Excitement blossomed at the prospect of tearing into her soft skin, forcing screams of terror and pain as the mighty Sesshomaru watched helplessly. It was almost too much to wait for.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 34 of 60

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