Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 39 of 60

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"What do you mean you have to leave for a few days?" Sesshomaru asked angrily. Hoshi rolled her eyes, another trait that she had picked up from the miko he noted sourly.

"Exactly what I said, I have to leave for a little while. I didn't realize my words were so confusing," she answered slowly, like speaking to a petulant child.

"While I have a house full of guests and the Shikon Jewel around the neck of a human woman?" his voice was incredulous. Though he remained seated, his youki snapped against the air around them with barely leashed anger.

"You sell Kagome short, Yama. She can fend off an attacker long enough for you to reach her."

"That's hardly the point," he growled more than spoke, "Besides, I'm not concerned about her safety."

Hoshi hid a grin at his terse words, "If you say so." She sat calmly, hands tucked neatly in her lap and waited for his temper to cool, accustomed to his initial reaction to situations outside his control. He was very much like his father in that respect.

After a few minutes of rearranging his desk, reading paperwork and penning off a note to a vassal, he finally looked up with his normal stoic expression.

"How long?"

"Three days."

The muscle in his jaw twitched. She repressed another smile, his father used to do that too.

"What'll be done about the miko?" she asked innocently.

He noticed the twinkle that she tried to hide and wondered what she was up to. "What about her? She'll remain here and continue with her training."

"Of course. I was simply wondering about the nighttime hours. Shizuka must remain with Rin so I was wondering what we would do with Kagome?"

He raised a brow, her words confusing him. "She can survive three days without you Hoshi," his tone suggesting that she was now the simpleton.

"Perhaps you're right. There haven't been any other attacks since that night in the garden. Of course we've been much more vigilant."

Sesshomaru grunted, but couldn't help his mind from wandering back to the lake the previous evening. Taro's captain of the guard was a threat, and would probably take advantage of any vulnerability that presented itself.

Hoshi seized onto his doubt. "We could always have Hiraiku stay with her," the words were quiet, but had the effect she sought. Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed and his body stiffened considerably.

Golden eyes glittered like the sun and Hoshi once again had to repress a smile. "No."

She almost laughed at his obvious displeasure at the suggestion. "How about the taiji-ya?"

He shook his head and after a moment answered with finality, "No. We'll move her into the room next to mine while you're away. She'll be protected and have privacy."

Hoshi's eyes widened at his words, truly surprised by his solution. "Really? I thought you banished anyone from entering that room beyond an occasional cleaning by the maids."

The golden orbs softened slightly, "On the contrary, I simply had no reason to use it until now."

They sat in subdued silence, both pulled along the tide of memories long since passed. Hoshi was the first to break the stillness as she finally rose, silk rustling delicately.

"I leave at first light tomorrow."

He nodded curtly. As she made her way to the door, his barely perceptible question stopped her. A part of her had been waiting, unsure if he would allow the words to come. "You're going to see her, aren't you?"

She turned to face the young taiyoukai that she loved as surely as she would have loved her own son. She may not always tell him what she was planning, but she would never lie to him. "Yes."

Nodding stiffly, he returned to his paperwork. Hoshi bowed slightly and retreated to prepare for her journey and break the news to Kagome.

They stood in the courtyard of the castle to see Hoshi off early the next morning. Rin was sleepy, rubbing her eyes while holding Shizuka's hand.

Kagome's anxiety had all the other youkai on edge as she spoke her farewell to Hoshi. "Be careful on your trip."

The older woman squeezed her hand comfortingly, "Everything will be fine. If you need anything, ask Sesshomaru. He'll take care of you."

Kagome looked over at the taiyoukai skeptically, but nodded her understanding "Okay."

Hoshi let go of her hand and walked to Sesshomaru and Hiraiku who were standing by the gate. "You will watch over her while I'm gone?" her words more of an order than question. The bear nodded, but Sesshomaru only raised a brow at her.

"Have you become so fond of her?"

She turned back and looked at Kagome standing alone in the middle of the courtyard. Her small stature pronounced by the grandeur of Sesshomaru's familial estate at her back. Hoshi's answer was soft but full of warning. "Yes, I've become quite fond of her. My fear is that others have also…but perhaps not in her best interest."

Sesshomaru followed her gaze, his eyes reluctantly sliding past the miko to the figure leaning arrogantly against a beam on the porch. He noted how Sora's eyes were firmly fixed on Kagome with an intensity that instantly spiked his anger.

His voice held a deadly quality that reassured Hoshi, "She'll be unharmed when you return."

Kagome remained in the courtyard, staring after her retreating figure for several minutes. The housekeeper had been a constant companion since the first night she awoke in the House of the Moon. The absence worried Kagome as she wondered how she would be treated without that buffer to strike fear into the hearts of the youkai in the castle. With a deflated feeling, she turned and mounted the wide stairs that led to the large doors. Her eyes were on her feet with every step so she didn't see the youkai leaning against the doorframe until she was right in front of him. The black knee high boots stopped her cold, a shiver of alarm shot up her spine as her brain finally registered her surroundings. Before she could move, a large hand was at her back, comforting and firm. She didn't need to turn her head to see Sesshomaru, she felt it throughout every cell in her body. He guided her through the door, his tall frame sliding fluidly between Sora and herself.

They walked in silence through the hallways, both ignoring the fact that he had yet to remove his hand from her back. When they failed to turn down the hall that led to Kagome's room, she looked up questioningly. "Where are we…" she trailed off. His eyes remained forward with a predatory intelligence that gave Kagome pause. 'They aren't really very different from each other,' she thought with trepidation as she compared him to the other youkai they had just passed. Sesshomaru had tried to kill her numerous times before. What would stop him from trying again if the circumstances presented themselves? Kagome shivered as she felt Hoshi's absence keenly.

Sesshomaru felt the little miko tremble under his hand and finally looked down at her. Her gait had slowed as she suddenly seemed full of anxiety. He stopped and waited for her to look at him. When she finally did he raised an eyebrow purposefully, knowing that would prod a reaction out of her. Laughing to himself, he saw the instant flare of irritation, but sighed after it quickly washed away on the tide of her uncertainty.

"What is the matter?" he asked, the rumble of his deep tones seemed to reverberate off the walls.

"Nothing…" she hedged, the falseness of the words rang through the silence like a bell.

He sighed as he started walking again. "Follow me, then."

She rocked back on her heels and glanced over her shoulder, wondering how long it would take to catch up with Hoshi and beg to accompany her.

"I'd catch you before you made it to the gate," he tossed over his shoulder, the words full of warning but somehow gentle, as if he found her internal debate amusing.

Hurrying to catch up, she frowned as she tried to figure out how he seemed to know what she was thinking. Falling in step behind him she watched his hair sway with his measured gait, so like InuYasha's yet so different. Sesshomaru's hair seemed finer and had a glossiness that begged to be touched. Her hand rose up by its own volition toward the snowy locks. Her fingertips were mere centimeters away when he stopped in front of her. Jerking her hand away, she drew an unsteady breath and berated herself silently for the foolishness, 'You'd think I've never seen beautiful hair before!' she thought, chiding herself.

Sesshomaru slid open a door and crossed the threshold with only a slight hesitation. The door's guild edges were exquisite as a pair of cranes arced gracefully, their beaks touching over the top of the door. Flowers and butterflies were ghosted in the rice paper of the door, adding to the elegant and refined design. Kagome paused, her hand raised in wonder to trace the edges of the doorframe.

"Will you be staying in the hallway or come inside?" his clipped tone filtered out to the hall.

"Oh! I'm sorry. I was just admiring the doorway…" she blushed as she entered the room. Her words trailed off when she took in the perfect splendor of the room around her. It was larger than any other room she had seen in the castle so far. Windows covered the far wall, showing a large porch that opened out into a breathtaking garden. The design was lavish yet elegant with fine silks and fabrics giving the space a comfortable and warm feel. Kagome's mouth formed a little 'o' as she turned in a complete circle.

Sesshomaru watched her as she seemed in awe of her surroundings. He waited for her to get over the initial shock of seeing this room. Its opulence threw itself in sharp contrast of the simple, elegant and functional design of the rest of the castle.

"Whose room is this?" she finally asked as she pulled her eyes from the walls to him. Appreciation and wonder lit the beautiful depths and he found himself pleased that she approved of a room that was so important to him.

"It last belonged to the lady of the West." His voice was soft, as if to respect the hallowed space around him.

It didn't take her long to work out that bit of information. "Your mother?" she answered, looking around again with renewed interest. "This was her room?" she asked as she ran her hand along the smooth wood ledge along the wall.

His eyes dropped to the floor as memories assailed him as he stood in the middle of the room for the first time in decades. A million moments seemed to replay in his mind all at once. "Yes."

"It's beautiful," she breathed the compliment more than spoke it. Walking to his side, she dipped her head and tried to catch his gaze. "I'm honored that you brought me to see it, but can I ask why?"

He seemed to shake himself out of the past and refocused on her open expression. "While Hoshi is away, you'll stay here."

Kagome blinked as the words sunk in. "Why?"

He felt her anxiety rise and his inner beast stirred, restless at the nervous energy.

"Considering what happened two days ago, it would not be prudent to leave you half way across the castle with no protection. This is the safest room for you to be."

Her perfectly arched brows drew together in confusion, "And why is that?"

He walked to the door and raked her with an amused stare, "Because it's right next to mine." He took advantage of her stunned silence to make a quick exit, but not before adding, "I'll have your belongings brought to you."

She stared after him; the empty doorway seemed to expand until it was a black hole ready to engulf her. Eyes wide, she turned a slow circle to look at the room again. Halfway through her revolution she caught sight of another door. Padding slowly to it, she admired the large carving of a half-moon centered over Mt. Fuji as clouds from a storm swirled around its peak. Tiny stars winked around the moon and between the clouds, one star hung prominently to the left, standing out among the others. Kagome traced the moon with her fingertips, awestruck by the beauty of the artist's attention to detail. Curiosity piqued, she pulled at the door but it only moved a fraction. The track appeared to be clogged from lack of use. With a deep breath, she braced her feet and pulled again, this time using her body weight to her advantage. The door slowly moved, much less than she wished, but still enough for her to poke her head through.

Breathing heavily from the exertion, she braced her hands on the wall and carefully leaned her head through the open doorway. A part of her had known what was on the other side of the door, but to see it firsthand brought color to her cheeks. A large bed lay on the opposite wall, the thick bedding a snowy white expanse of the finest silk. A vase full of white lilies sat next to the bed. The room was considerably less extravagant than the one she was standing in, however it still held an elegance that spoke of refined taste cultivated over centuries of nobility.

Kagome's breath caught at the sight out the windows to her left. Whereas the view from her new room looked out onto a garden, the view off Sesshomaru's room stretched out to the mountain range and valley below. The balcony widened on this part of the house and Kagome craned her head to see how far it stretched along the back out of sight of her limited view. She really wanted to explore the beautiful room, mostly because it was his room, but also because it seemed to have some of the best views of the valley from the entire castle.

She heard deep tones along the hallway and felt Sesshomaru's youki approaching. With a yelp, she pulled her head back and shoved the door shut with her shoulder. Leaning her back against the door, she willed her heart to slow down knowing that he could sense every time it beat wildly. He never came into her room, but a troupe of servants filed in with her belongings, quietly placing the items neatly in their new places and withdrew. She remained along the wall. None of the servants spoke to her, only completed their duties in silence, many not even bothering to bow as they left. She felt Sesshomaru's youki in the room at her back. His strong presence was both oddly comforting and disconcerting all at once.

As the last servant left, the door slid shut and Kagome's shoulders slumped. She missed Hoshi already.

By that afternoon, Kagome had all but given up on entertaining herself. Servants only brought her the necessities, none bothering to speak to her as their wariness of her seemed to grow with every visit. After dining alone, she went for a walk in the garden outside her room. Its beauty seemed ethereal, the flowers still in full bloom even though it was late in the summer season. She crossed a small bridge and found a rock that hung over a large koi pond. Scooting to the edge, she lay on her stomach and trailed her hands through the water, giggling as the koi nibbled at her fingertips.

"I'll bring you guys some breadcrumbs next time," she smiled at a particularly bulbous eyed fish, reminding her of the drawing that she and Rin had made of Jaken months before. Relaxing in the warmth, she sighed as the heat from the sun baked rock seeped through her clothes. The minutes ticked by and she could not find the desire to return to her room. Something pulled at the back of her mind but she was so comfortable that she easily ignored it. Eyes closed, she laid her cheek against her forearm and listened to the birds chirping throughout the garden. She began to nod off when a strong youki rocked the air nearby. Snapping to attention, she scrambled back and caught a movement out of the corner of her eye a moment before a crushing pain exploded in her shoulder as she was knocked across the pond to land on the soft grass along the far edge.

Rolling from the force of the blow, her senses reeled as she tried to catch her breath from the rough landing. Pain lanced through her shoulder and she noted absently that the injury was more than a bruise. She struggled to her feet, turning toward the unmistakable youki that pulsed only a few feet away, hovering over the pond. Blinking to clear her vision she recognized the misty blackness that had attacked her all those months ago in the garden across the castle and stalked her in the bath house.

She gathered her miko powers around her, stronger and more prepared to defend herself than the last time they met. She felt Sesshomaru's youki respond, but the strength of it suggested that he was farther away than expected. With her shoulder throbbing mercilessly, she had to concentrate on keeping her powers steady. Shaking from the pain and sudden danger, she watched as it moved around to her left and then right, seeking a hole in the barrier she had erected around herself. When it didn't find one, it simply charged, ramming into it with such force that Kagome was forced back several steps. Like a battering ram, it continued its assault with a relentlessness that horrified Kagome. She held her injured arm to her, the pain of the powerful youki hitting her barrier felt like glass shards jamming into her flesh repeatedly. Sesshomaru's aura was growing stronger, but his approach seemed to take a lifetime.

The misty black cloud seemed to pause, almost as if taking stock of the situation. In a flash, it expanded and covered Kagome's barrier, closing her in complete darkness. She screamed as the evil aura seemed to suffocate her, drawing the energy from her like a sponge. She weakened and the barrier shimmered before disappearing completely. The black mist descended on her, wrapping her body tightly in its fluid, yet oddly strong grasp. She struggled but seemed to lose her miko powers the minute the mist touched her flesh. It wrapped around her shoulders, squeezing relentlessly as it carried her into the air.

A bellow of rage cut through the hazy fog of her pain. She opened her eyes to see Sesshomaru streaking toward them, Tokijin blazing with blue flames. The squeezing became unbearable at that moment as she felt the anger of the entity that held her in a death grip. To her surprise, she was suddenly released and began to free fall. It was at that moment she realized how far the mist had taken her into the air and away from the castle. With a shriek, she pitched forward and felt the wind rushing by as the tree tops halfway down the mountain grew larger. Squeezing her eyes shut, she prayed for a quick death, knowing that even a miko with the healing power that she possessed could not survive a fall from this height. Regret passed through her thoughts and she wished in that moment that she had done so many more things with her life.

"Brace yourself," a deep voice sounded right behind her as a steely arm circled her waist and pulled her back against an iron chest. Kagome opened her eyes and saw Tokijin braced out in front of them as the trees rushed closer at a relentless pace. "Sesshomaru?" she asked dazedly, not sure if she was hallucinating. She wrapped her own arm around his to prove to herself he was real. A moment before hitting the first branch, they rolled in the air and Kagome glimpsed blue sky as the trees swallowed them, twigs snapping and catching at their clothes. Sesshomaru struck out with Tokijin to slow them and when it finally caught, he swung them sideways and dropped the remaining way to the forest floor, landing gracefully with Kagome tucked up against him protectively.

He jammed the vibrating sword into the ground and turned Kagome in his arms to check her over. She sagged in exhaustion and the knot in the pit of his stomach pitched, fearing that he didn't make it in time.

"Are you injured?" he asked impatiently. She bobbed her head as her breathing remained labored and his inner beast whined, clawing for release.

"I'll be okay," she finally answered when she was able to look at him. She held her arm up by the shoulder and he narrowed his eyes at her wobbly expression. Her eyes were dull, clouded with what he finally recognized as pain.

He brushed his fingers against her shoulder and she winced with a soft moan. Her pain tightened the knot in his stomach even further. Dropping his hand, he waited for her to compose herself again.

"Did you kill it?" she asked as he pulled Tokijin from the ground and slid it into its sheath. Her voice was flat, the musical quality he had come to expect noticeably absent.

"No. I elected to save you instead," his tone was harsher than intended.

She mistook his clipped response for anger with her. "I tried to hold it off, but it caught me off guard. I guess I'm still too weak to be much good in a fight." Her despondent tone caught his full attention. She clutched her shoulder and stared at the ground, sadness and shame filtered through her normally bright scent.

The need to comfort her became overwhelming. He placed a hand on her bowed head. "You faced a more powerful opponent and didn't die. There's nothing to be ashamed of."

Her breath caught at his softly spoken words and gentle touch that seemed to dispel the rising shame she had felt at not being able to better defend herself. His hand was still on her head when she lifted her head, "Thank you for saving me again Sesshomaru."

Trailing his hand down the side of her head slowly, it dropped away. The air around them was charged with energy but they both seemed confused as to its source. Sesshomaru was the first to move, glancing around to assess their location.

"Wait here," he said a moment before leaping up into the trees and disappearing amid the thick canopy. Kagome stayed still, anxiously listening to the sounds of the forest. A rustle of leaves from behind had her whirling around a moment before a rabbit appeared a few feet away and froze as if shocked to see a human in this part of the deep forest.

A crack sounded from above and Sesshomaru landed with little noise right next to her without warning. She jumped back, a scream dying on her lips as she realized who it was.

He quirked a brow as he wrapped one arm around her waist and the other behind her knees. She squeaked as he lifted her up and settled her against his chest. Her heart stilled at the movement, the smell of sandalwood and pine filling her nostrils. InuYasha had picked her up like this hundreds of times, but never had she had butterflies in her stomach. His scent was spicy and male, which made Kagome's senses spin as she let herself enjoy everything for a minute before reminding herself whose arms she was resting in so comfortably.

He looked down, puzzled by her reaction of surprise and then pure contentedness. Shaking it off, he carefully adjusted her as he stared at her injured shoulder. "Hold on and I'll try not to make it worse."

With that, he leapt into the air and within seconds Kagome was staring at the treetops as he gracefully soared from branch to branch while they slowly worked their way back up the mountain. They remained silent, but every time she moved he glanced at her with concern. It was an emotion that she had never seen before and it caused no shortage of bewildering thoughts.

The exhaustion of the event and pain from her shoulder took their toll and the warmth of Sesshomaru's arms around her small frame lulled her into a state of sleepy security. She leaned her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes about half way back to the castle. His hands tightened on her at the trusting gesture while he silently picked his way along the tree tops.

He touched down a little more than an hour later along the large balcony outside his room. She remained fast asleep in his arms and he had no desire to wake her. He crossed to a large cushion and carefully placed her in the middle of its soft depths, propping her injured shoulder up at a natural angle. A few moments later he covered her with a thick white blanket to ward off the chilly breeze coming through the valley. Settling a few feet away, he stared off into the distance and let his mind work through all the possibilities that could be behind these attacks on her.

Kagome slowly came awake to the sound of crickets. She relished the warmth that cocooned her as she seemed to float on a cloud. Opening her eyes, she almost thought she was in the air as the mountain range spread out before her in all its grandeur. The momentary pleasure ended in a split second as she moved her right arm. A small cry escaped her lips as she rolled to her back and grabbed her shoulder. She heard a rustle of silk and then felt a hand rest gently on her stomach. She cracked an eye lid and saw golden orbs shining through the dim light of the early evening.

Opening them the rest of the way, "Sesshomaru?" she asked tightly.

"Sit up." He pulled the soft white blanket back and looped a strong hand under her good arm. Before she knew it, she was standing and the view that greeted her upon waking rose up to take her breath away.

"Wow!" she gasped. He looked down at her in silence but she pulled out of his grasp and walked to the edge of the balcony, taking in the astounding scene in awestruck fascination. He came to stand next to her and they both looked out over the valley as shadow took over what was left of the view.

"This is the most amazing view I've ever seen."

"You obviously have not seen many places in this world."

His dry response gave her pause for only a moment as she thought about the world she was raised in. "You'd be surprised," she smiled into the darkness. "So, if this doesn't impress you, I wonder what does?" she asked.

He looked out over the valley and shrugged. "I've traveled every inch of this land. There are many impressive views in this world if one is only willing to take the time to find them."

Kagome blinked at his thoughtful observation. She was about to ask him where he had traveled but the pain in her shoulder flared insistently. Wincing slightly, she shifted her arm to a more comfortable position.

He glanced down again and reached out to grab her elbow. "Come, let's fix that shoulder."

She reluctantly followed him through a large set of doors and into the room that she recognized from her earlier snooping. She blushed slightly as they passed the bed and stopped at a door covered with carvings of the five elements circling a half moon in the center. Sesshomaru opened the door easily, causing Kagome no small amount of irritation. He led her over to her own bed where he motioned for her to sit. She hesitated, but quickly complied when he glared at her suspicious reluctance. He placed a knee on the bed and slid in behind her.

Kagome colored prettily as his hands pulled her thick hair off her shoulders and tied it up with practiced ease. "Wow, you're pretty good at that," she laughed nervously and glanced over her shoulder.

His gaze was matter of fact and steady on her face. He shrugged slightly before answering, "Why? I have hair as well."

She laughed at his obvious answer, the sound musical and enchanting. He was already fixated on her small form after having run his hands through her ebony tresses, their silky lengths softer than flower petals. Her soft scent was surrounding his senses and he surreptitiously inhaled when she turned back to face forward. He probably shouldn't be enjoying their proximity so much, but he decided to worry about that later.

He ran his hands over her shoulder and back, feeling the injury of her dislocated joint. Luckily it was relatively minor and could be popped back into place with little effort. "Ready?" he asked as he wrapped one arm across her chest and on top of her injured right shoulder, the other around the same wrist. She stiffened in his arms, her small frame tense in anticipation of the coming pain.

"Wait! Do you know what you're doing?" she asked as sge scooted out of his hold and off the bed, turning to meet his surprised gaze.

"Of course."

"How do you know?" she asked with narrow eyes.

"I've set more broken bones and dislocated joints than years you've been alive," he answered in a bored tone. He reached out and turned her around before she could argue further, settling her again in front of him.

"Relax," he said into her ear and waited until she finally started breathing again. A quick jerk and push, Kagome heard the bones snap back into place. She whimpered as blinding pain stole her breath and vision. He kept his eyes on her bowed head and was about to release her when he felt wetness drip onto his wrist. He leaned forward and saw her eyes squeezed shut and face pale. He let go of her wrist and pulled her back against his chest lightly. She slowly relaxed and he realized how content he felt in that moment. Few things in the living world brought forth fear to the great taiyoukai, but none so much as this realization.

Kagome felt him tense suddenly and she turned her head to look up at him. The tears had not yet dried on her cheeks but she had finally started to feel the pain of the injury fade into soreness as her holy powers began to repair the damage. Sesshomaru's eyes seemed far away, an intense emotion glinting in the bronzed depths. Without warning, he pulled away from her and lifted his tall frame from the bed and the warmth of her body. He felt the loss profoundly but ruthlessly shut off the protests of his traitorous body and inner beast.

"I'll have a meal brought to you." He fairly sprinted from the room, leaving Kagome to sit on the bed and wonder what had just happened.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 39 of 60

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