Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 36 of 60

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A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness. ~ John Keats

Kagome jumped back as Sesshomaru's claws arced through the air, inches from her stomach. She was getting good at anticipating his moves, though she was sure that he still held back so as not to actually harm her. She grimaced at him a moment before swinging her shinai around at his shoulder. Sesshomaru grabbed the end and jerked her forward, reaching to grab her other arm. Twisting before he got a firm grip, she ducked out of his reach, losing the shinai in the process.

Sesshomaru let the practice weapon slide through his hand until he gripped the end firmly. Kagome waited a few feet away, breathing heavily. He would never admit it aloud, but he was pleased with her progress. They had been training for the past week and he was surprised at how easily the new routine fit into his life. Morning training sessions were followed by tea with Rin and the afternoon in his study dealing with noble responsibilities while dodging Emi and her father with varying degrees of success. He had thought that they would depart soon after Kagome's existence had been brought to light, but instead it seemed to make Emi and her father more persistent.

He held the shinai out toward Kagome but she only eyed it warily, remaining rooted to the spot. He raised an eyebrow and waved it back and forth, "Don't you want this back?" he asked tauntingly.

Kagome wiped her damp brow and answered saucily, "Sure, toss it over."

Staring at each other, they both considered their next move. A twinkle lit his eyes and she knew she was doomed. "Come and get it."

"Not fair! Even if I did get a hold of it, I couldn't take it back even if I wanted to," Kagome whined with slumping shoulders.

"You speak as if you already know what will happen." He waved the shinai at her again, "Try."

His tone was both demanding and encouraging. She looked at the shinai longingly, wishing that just once she could best him to show that she was capable. Failure chased her like a specter and Sesshomaru's respect had become a goal that she was unsure she could attain. Every day their sessions became more intense and moves more complicated. Kagome was feeling increasingly sure of her ability to feel his movements with her aura and Sesshomaru felt more comfortable with his own control. He wanted to avoid harming her and the more time they spent together, the easier it was to gauge. He held back in order to keep her alive but he also knew that she held back her holy powers in exchange. If she were to fully release her energy, it could very well do some damage to his youki. It was a cautious dance they followed.

Hoshi entered the room and rolled her eyes at the standoff. Earlier that morning, Hiraiku had been the one to fetch Kagome and bring her to the dojo, telling her that Hoshi had business before joining them.

Sesshomaru dropped the shinai to rest against his shoulder as she approached. He frowned, "I already told you they're unnecessary."

She sent him a withering glare before turning to Kagome with a conspiratorial smile. "When have I ever listened to you?"

"What's going on?" Kagome asked when Hoshi pulled a small red pouch from her kimono.

"I brought something to help you train. Sesshomaru might not be very happy about it, but we need to do what is necessary." She opened the pouch and two silver bangles dropped out, clinking softly.

"What are those?" Kagome picked one up and held it, the light shining off the polished edges.

"Suppression bands." Hoshi answered crisply before clipping the other to Kagome's wrist.

She pulled away, fear coming to her eyes for the first time in weeks. "Wait, what are you doing?" she tugged at the band, panic evident in her aura. "I don't want to wear this, please take it off now." She pulled at the band harder with a sharp breath.

Sesshomaru shifted, a frown pulling at his features. "Take it off Hoshi."

Hoshi sent a surprised look at his command, grabbing Kagome's hand quickly. The woman stilled, but fear remained evident as she breathed heavily. "Kagome, these are harmless. They suppress your holy powers so that an accidental release doesn't hurt any of the youkai here at the castle." She turned Kagome's wrist and showed her a small switch. Pressing it, her calm voice soothed the younger woman's fear. "Push this button here," the band popped open and fell into Hoshi's waiting hand. "See? You don't have anything to be afraid of."

Kagome quieted. Picking up the bangle, she stared at it thoughtfully until Sesshomaru broke the silence, his deep voice ringing across the room. The truth of his words weighed on Kagome desperately, "They're not like the Crown. You would choose when to wear them, not us."

Kagome's watery gaze shifted from the bangles and his chest tightened. Palms itched to reach out and brush away the tear that gathered at the edge of her cocoa eyes. Her fear caused him discomfort, but tears had a more severe effect. He had similar reactions when Rin would cry, but with her he would simply use brute strength to fix the situation. With Kagome, he wanted to prevent them from happening all together. It was an odd feeling, foreign and unbidden to the steely Lord of the West.

Hoshi finished clipping the bangles on Kagome and turned to Sesshomaru. "Now you take it easy on her until she gets the hang of it." Her look was very much that of a mother warning a child.

He looked as if he might say something, but obviously thought better at the last minute. Instead he sighed and turned to Kagome.

She stood in the middle of the room at a loss for what to do next. Seeing her confusion, he tilted his head and spoke softly so that only she would hear him. "Release some energy and see what happens." When she gave him a wary look, he returned it with an impatient one of his own, "Do what I say, miko."

Kagome took a deep breath and opened the invisible lid that kept her powers tightly bottled up. They seeped from her powerfully but stopped at the bangles like the end of a vacuum. She opened control even more and the power stayed within, the air surrounding her still and unruffled.

Sesshomaru seemed pleased with her cautious test. He walked around her and murmured, "Carefully now. The bangles have almost no limit and will take everything if you let them."

Kagome pulled back immediately, her eyes snapping to his. "Can they hurt me?"

He stopped only a step away, her worried expression causing the discomfort to return. "We would not expose you to harm."

Kagome snorted, "Hoshi maybe, but I'm not so sure about you." She meant it as a joke, a continuation of their incessant banter. Sesshomaru's expression remained serious and his body stiffened, his entire demeanor radiating a tightly leashed power that simmered under the surface.

"At one time perhaps, but circumstances have since changed."

Kagome paused. His words were so different from anything else he had ever said before that she was sure she had heard him wrong. When he didn't move she wrinkled her brow, about to ask him what he meant when Hoshi's voice rang off the walls, effectively ending the conversation.

"Are you going to train or stand there and stare at each other?!"

Kagome snuggled into her favorite chair in the sun room and opened the book on youkai history she had found in Sesshomaru's vast library. The tome had revealed many interesting facts that helped Kagome understand the inner workings of the household around her, allowing for a more discerning eye when observing the staff and Sesshomaru. She didn't have a problem admitting that she needed all the help she could get.

A commotion in the hallway pulled Kagome's attention away from the book, her nose wrinkling in distaste at the uncommon disruption. Emi's shrill voice echoed off the walls as she barreled toward the reclusive room that Kagome spent much of every day. It was Kagome's bad luck Hoshi had left a few minutes earlier in order to handle a dispute among two maids.

The demoness burst into the room, a harried looking servant trailing after her, flushed and lugging a large chest. Emi stopped the moment her eyes caught Kagome, ruby red lips curling with disdain.

"My, don't you look comfortable. It's interesting that a miko has found a house full of youkai to call home." Emi's words dripped acid as she sauntered forward to stand at the end of Kagome's chair.

"Hello, Lady Emi." Kagome spoke quietly, but her voice was strong as she met the hostile demoness' eyes fearlessly. She was sure that the inuyoukai had felt her aura and followed it to this room.

Without looking around Emi called out arrogantly, "I want this room to myself. Leave."

Kagome blinked, "Wha…" She closed the book and gripped it tightly. Taking a deep breath, she calmed her mounting anger before responding coolly, "With all due respect, I was here first." Patiently, as if speaking to a child, she went on coolly, "The castle has more than one room offering the same pleasant view. If you want solitude, maybe you can find one that isn't already occupied?"

Emi's eyes were shooting daggers before she finished. "Why you little…" she stepped forward, raising her hand as if to strike Kagome when a deep baritone stilled all movement in the room.

"I hope I'm not interrupting," Sesshomaru's voice held a note of warning as he spoke the casual observation to the pair.

Emi turned quickly, her hand dropping to her side. Melting her expression into one of sweet innocence she admonished, "My lord, you startled me."

Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow at the demoness but remained silent. His hard stare was unnerving to the other youkai, but she held her ground bravely. "I was just telling the human that I found this room lovely." With that, she swept to the opposite chair and plopped down like a petulant child. "Care to join me?" she looked at Sesshomaru expectantly.

His jaw flexed as he ground his teeth. Glancing at Kagome, he almost smiled. She remained quiet, an aloof expression on her face while she looked at Emi but he could feel her barely concealed exasperation. The sunlight streamed across the room, its soft light making her hair shine with blue and violet highlights. In the presence of Emi, Sesshomaru was surprised to find that he found the woman striking in comparison. Her composure and grace in the face of such ugliness was something that Sesshomaru could respect. It was odd that he felt drawn to her, but the past weeks of training had shown her to have a quiet strength that many youkai could not boast. A portion of that strength could be attributed to the time spent training at the House of the Moon, but he could not deny that most of her strength was inherent.

"I was only passing through," his clipped tone made Emi bristle, though she remained silent. He walked over to Kagome and held out a hand. "Come with me."

Kagome took his hand before thinking, a shock of energy shot through her at their touch. Her breath caught and she looked up, his eyes fastened to their joined hands. A puzzled expression crossed his as he looked from their hands to her face. A loud huff from across the room seemed to snap him out of it long enough to pull Kagome to her feet quickly and leave the room. He towed her along behind him as they weaved throughout the house until making it to his study. He slid the door open and pushed her through before following.

She stumbled a little, clutching the large book that she had barely managed to keep a hold of before turning to face him. "What was that all about?" she asked, thinking of his quick exit and seeming dash through the halls.

His eyes hadn't left her since pushing her through the doorway. He looked troubled as he considered her question, emotions warring against each other. He paused as an unwanted thought blossomed out of the darkness, something that had never occurred to him and shook him to the core. Tingling still moved up his left arm, an overwhelming desire to hold her hand again yanked at the pit of his stomach. She clutched the large tome to her chest and waited for his answer. He realized with frustration that she was again wary, standing so small in the center of his private study. His inner beast whined in response and he ruthlessly ignored it. She called his name softly when he didn't answer, a slight tremor to her dulcet tone.

He blinked, dragging an answer from his racing thoughts to pacify her. "It was not a good idea to leave you alone with that particular youkai."

"Why? I'm not afraid of her," Kagome's lips lifted at the corners slightly.

He made a sound to her that almost sounded like a quick laugh, but the emotion in his eyes remained troubled. "That may be so, but it would displease me to find you dead."

Kagome's eyes widened slightly, a mischievous look glinted in her eyes. "What, would you miss me?"

Sesshomaru snorted and turned his back on her, mostly to hide his reaction. He wouldn't admit that he would miss her exactly, but the thought of her absence was… uncomfortable. "As much as you might like to believe that, the truth is that I would prefer to avoid open war with a neighboring ruler should his obnoxious daughter kill a member of my house."

The smile drained from Kagome's face as his words sunk in. She never really considered that Emi would actually kill her, but if Sesshomaru thought it a possibility then it changed her perception of the situation.

Hoshi chose that moment to appear. She burst through the door looking around frantically until she found Kagome. She exhaled deeply and slumped against the door frame.

Sesshomaru sighed at her dramatics. "She's fine, no thanks to you."

Hoshi's nose flared at his acidic tone. "I left her for two minutes. I had no idea that little bitch would find her the minute I left."

Hoshi and Sesshomaru made eye contact and something seemed to pass between them. "I know, I know," Hoshi said impatiently as she grabbed Kagome by the hand and pulled her to the door.

"Wait, what was that look for? Hey, wait a minute!" she cried as she was towed outside and down the hall. "Why do I always feel like I don't know what's going on!"

Sesshomaru listened to her cries of outrage until she was out of earshot. He took a deep breath and sat behind his desk, placing his hands on the smooth wood in front of him. He stared at his left hand ominously, listening to his inner beast whine at Kagome's retreating aura. His golden eyes reflected the concern he felt for the first time, while the emptiness of the room closed in around him.

Kagome and Hoshi were on their way back to Kagome's room when Shizuka stepped out into the hallway in front of the women. She bowed in respect at their approach and waited patiently until they drew up alongside her.

"What's the matter?" Hoshi's warm tone held a touch of concern at the other youkai's clouded expression.

"Rin has been very quiet lately. I've done everything to try and lift her spirits, but none of the usual activities are working."

"Well, let's see if we can't find something to cheer our little girl up," Hoshi smiled at Kagome conspiratorially.

They entered the room and found Rin by the open window, a wilted flower dangled from her hand. Her sad eyes and droopy figure stopped Kagome in her tracks. She had never seen the girl as anything but full of energy and excitement, a far cry from the pale and docile girl sitting before her.

Kagome walked forward, ducking her head to try and catch the girl's attention. "Rin?" she called softly.

Rin looked up and a subdued smile graced her face. She stood and bowed at the two women's entrance. "Hello Hoshi-sama, Kagome-chan."

Kagome exchanged glances with Hoshi before crawling into the window seat and pulling Rin down next to her. "How have you been? I haven't been able to spend any time with you the past few weeks."

Rin twirled the limp flower between her fingers, a forlorn look on her face. "I've been okay." She tossed the flower aside and drew her feet up, resting her chin on a knee.

Kagome looked at Hoshi quizzically, prompting the other woman to step forward and make another attempt. "Would you like to play a game with Kagome and I?"

Rin perked up slightly at that, "Can we play outside?"

Hoshi sighed, finally understanding what was depressing the young girl so much. "I'm afraid not. Lord Sesshomaru would like you to stay inside until his guests leave."

Her face fell tragically and Kagome's heart ached at the sad expression. "It's okay. I think I'll stay here and look out the window." She turned and leaned back against the window frame, her face turned toward the garden that teased just out of reach.

Kagome watched the little girl and considered the dilemma in front of her. An idea started to form in her mind, but this time she was going to need help.

Kagome and Rin crept along the shadows, moving as silently as their feet would carry them. Every creek of the floor or rustle along the wall made them both stop and wait, listening for possible discovery. Rin's eyes were bright as they padded along the back hallway of the castle toward the door leading to the lower garden and out of sight of the main part of the house. It had taken Kagome almost an hour to convince Hoshi to let her sneak Rin outside after dark. It was only after virtually begging and promising several favors in return that she was able to barter this little excursion. Hoshi was on the far side of the house, keeping an eye out for Sesshomaru and any other house guests. Shizuka waited outside for the pair to emerge from the dark hallways.

They turned the last corner and stopped short. A small youkai, Kagome thought it looked like Ryuu, traveled in the opposite direction. She held her breath and controlled her aura, keeping it steady and muffled. Glancing at the bangles, she was happy for their existence for once. The little youkai soon turned a corner and was out of sight, allowing Kagome to begin breathing again.

Creeping along the shadows of the sleepy castle, Rin remained glued to Kagome's side with her hand gripping the back of Kagome's shirt tightly. When they reached the door, they slipped soundlessly into the warm night and followed a path through the garden until out of sight from any night patrols or sleepless members of the household.

Crouching low, they hurried along the winding walkways, keeping on the grass when possible. Kagome let out a long sigh and smiled as soon as they made it to the pond at the lowest level of the rear garden. She had discovered this secluded spot during one of her many expeditions to pass the time.

Kagome sighed and turned to the little girl. "Well, we made it," she whispered with a smile.

Sesshomaru rounded the corner from his study to his private rooms when he spied a figure in a window frame down the hallway. He placed a hand on Tokijin as he approached carefully. It took only a moment to realize who it was.

"What are you doing," the low timber of his voice seemed to seep out of the darkness.

Hoshi jumped, an explicative escaped her usually reserved demeanor.

"Yama, you scared me!" she pulled away from the window, nervousness filling the air as she glanced out the window before looking back at him. He was immediately suspicious.

"You didn't answer my question. Why are you here and not with the miko?" his voice was heavier this time.

"Calm down, she isn't alone."

Hoshi's knowing voice grated against his nerves. "I've gone to great lengths to keep that woman alive. I'd appreciate other members of this house doing the same."

"Oh, Yama, you're so stuffy sometimes. Of course we're keeping her safe. No member of this house would dare endanger her, including myself."

Sesshomaru lifted a brow, suspicion growing at her sugary tone. "Who's with her while you're roaming the house without apparent reason?"

Her eyes narrowed in the weak light of the half-moon. To his youkai senses, he could read her expression clearly. He watched with a sense of dread as she considered her answer. The fact that she was searching for the right words sent a clear warning.

"Answer me," his words were lethal in the dark shadows of the hallway.

"Fine! Now, don't overreact and I'll tell you. Promise me." She crossed her arms and waited, jaw set.

It was never a good thing when she took that stance. "The last time you said that to me, a servant had burned down my kitchen."

"And you overreacted anyway! This time you have to promise me."

"You have five seconds," he braced himself for further resistance but she surprised him by relenting.

"Okay, okay. Rin has been very sad of late, and Kagome decided to take her out to the garden to view the stars. Since you forbid her outside during the day, I thought this was an acceptable solution."

He growled at Hoshi before walking swiftly past her and down the hall. Hoshi rolled her eyes and hurried after him.

A familiar sparkle lit the young girl's eyes and brought comfort to Kagome's troubled heart. She was out of ideas if this didn't cheer the exuberant girl up. Rin grinned back, her teeth glowing in the moonlight. "I haven't been able to say hello to my family in a long time. Thank you Kagome-chan."

Kagome's brow drew together at the odd words, "What do you mean Rin?"

The young girl had walked to the edge of the pond and knelt in the soft grass to dip her hand into the warm water. Her voice was quiet, the natural vibrancy dulled by memories buried under her cheery personality. "After my father died, my mother used to tell me a story about how when you die, you get to go and live in the sky with the stars and look down on those you leave behind." She stood and the water dripped from her fingers like silver as she looked at the sky, a hopeful air about her. "When the stars twinkle, she said that it was my father telling me that he loves me."

Kagome watched Rin and the sadness that seeped from her was tangible. Shaking herself from the moment, she pulled the blanket that was tucked under her arm and shook it out to lay flat on the ground. "Come…let's watch the stars for a while."

Rin joined Kagome on the blanket and they lay shoulder to shoulder. "It's been so long, do you think they would have forgotten about me?" Rin's anxious voice echoed in the stillness of the night. Kagome reached out and grabbed her hand, squeezing it gently.

"Of course not. They'd never forget about you." Searching the night sky, her heart beat heavily as she thought of her own family. Though they weren't in this time, she missed them as much as Rin missed her family.

Sesshomaru stopped at the tree line, taking in the scene before him. The two girls lay on a blanket, safely tucked up against a hill, looking and pointing at the stars. Hoshi drew up and waited patiently, watching the girls alongside him.

He was somewhat fascinated that the miko had stealthily picked her way through the darkest shadows, avoiding the guards that patrolled the grounds at night. To his chagrin, he realized that his training had only taught her how to avoid detection. To be honest, he was also proud of the fact that she had come so far in such a short time. He was acutely aware of all her movements as she lay on her back and pointed to the stars. The moonlight gave her skin a soft glow while her dark hair seemed threaded with blue, shining as it spread out around her. Kagome's melodic voice carried on the breeze and he held his breath while listening to her.

"My Dad died when I was a little girl. I don't remember much about him other than he was very kind. He loved my mother, my brother and I very much." Kagome sat up and tucked her legs under her. Her voice was thick with memories and emotion. "I used to come out and speak to the stars too, when I was younger. I always hoped that he could hear me and that if I made sure to tell him what was going on with me, he would remember how much I love him."

Kagome remained quiet for a few seconds, overcome by memories and the sadness of not knowing her father better. Her sadness called out to Sesshomaru and he tightened his fists to keep from moving as she finally spoke again.

"You know Rin," Kagome began hesitantly, "the stars aren't the only place you can find your mom and dad."

Rin looked at Kagome expectantly. "The people that leave you behind only do so in body. They don't take the love they felt for you, but let you carry it…" Kagome held her hand over her heart, a sad smile tugged at her mouth, "…here."

Rin sat up and placed a hand over her own heart with a quizzical look. Seeing this, the other woman pressed on. "When you think about your Mom, how do you feel?"

Rin stared at the grass, her hand still over her heart. "I remember how she used to hug me. It was warm and she smelled like flowers."

"When you think about those hugs, how does your chest feel?"

Rin's eyes narrowed as she considered the feeling that enveloped her while thinking about her mother. She looked then at Kagome, her eyes watery. "I feel warm. Happy." A crooked smile split her face as she took in the feeling and realized what Kagome had been saying.

Smiling warmly, she draped an arm around Rin's shoulders. "That is the love that your mom left behind for you."

Hoshi bumped Sesshomaru in the shoulder, "See, I told you all was fine," she whispered quietly as they observed from the trees.

He nodded but didn't move. 'So, the miko lost her father too.'

The minutes stretched as the two girls told stories about their families, Rin about her travels with Sesshomaru and Jaken, and Kagome about her brother, grandfather and mother. He was keenly interested in her stories so when Hoshi offered to stay so he could return to the house, his voice was rather brusque.

"I'll stay and make sure they make it back to the castle. You return and get some rest."

Hoshi paused for only a moment before a muttered goodnight. She left without a sound and Sesshomaru sighed. He wasn't sure if he preferred her sarcastic comments or knowing silence.

A short while later, the voices grew softer and then into silence as they both drifted off to sleep. Shizuka emerged from the trees and stood looking down at the two, deciding how she would get them both back safely without leaving one alone. Sesshomaru took pity on the other youkai and leaked a small portion of his youki to let her know he was nearby. She stiffened and braced her arms out, crouching over the two sleeping girls until he stepped out of the shadows and approached the threesome. Shizuka immediately backed up and bowed to her lord.

He looked at the sleeping pair with a closed expression. Something tugged at his heart but he quickly buried it under stoic indifference. "I'm surprised Hoshi talked you into this Shizuka." He spoke quietly so as not to wake the two girls.

Shizuka nodded her head and almost smiled. "It was not Hoshi that persuaded me, but the miko. She can be rather convincing when she wishes."

"So I have heard." Sesshomaru bent and picked Kagome up and waited for Shizuka to do the same with Rin. Together they carried the two back into the castle.

Kagome's soft scent tickled his nose as he traversed the corridors of his home. She was so small and slight in his arms, her human body fragile against his youkai strength. Reaching her room, he slid the door open with his foot and walked to her bed, placing her carefully on the surface. Her face twisted painfully and he drew a breath, confused that he harmed her though not sure how since he had been so careful. She groaned as if in pain and he stepped back, looking around. She wrapped her arms around her stomach and shivered as another groan escaped her writhing form. He looked toward the door, unsure of whether or not to fetch Hoshi when a wrenching sob escaped her lips. He stepped away toward the door but stopped when his inner beast howled fiercely. His left arm burned painfully as he turned back to her. Looking one last time at the open doorway, he returned to sit next to her. Brushing her hair back, she calmed instantly to his touch. When he drew his hand back she whimpered and he instantly returned it to rest against her cheek. She stilled and let out a long breath. He waited while her heartbeat and breath returned to normal. The pain in his arm dissipated with her anxiety. He remained like that for some time, afraid to remove himself from her bed and unsure of what he would do when the time came that he had to. A throat cleared softly behind him and he drew back quickly. His inner beast growled and he felt its frustration boil to the surface instantly. He turned to find Hoshi standing behind him, with a curious expression.

"Would you like me to come back later?"

He stared at her, his expression telling her that he was in no mood for their usual banter.

"I've been waiting for you to return." He stood and walked quickly to the door but stopped before crossing the threshold. "Does it always take a comforting touch to stop her nightmares?"

His question surprised Hoshi. She answered without preamble, "My touch has never stopped her nightmares. I can only wait for her to wake and then offer comfort."

Sesshomaru glanced down at his left hand, "I see." With that, he left and went to his own room. Everything about the little miko was turning into a complication.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 36 of 60

<< Previous     Home     Next >>