Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 41 of 60

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The strongest force in the universe is a human being living consistently with his identity. ~Tony Robbins

Kagome crouched behind a tree, straining to hear the sound of footsteps along the walkway that wound through the private garden outside her room. The weapon in her hand was pliant, warm from her firm grasp and the summer sun. A satchel hung against her hip filled to the brim with more ammunition should she need it. Heart pounding in anticipation, she waited silently.

When no one came, she ducked along a hedge that led back to the wide porch along the back of the castle where her rooms were located. Turning sharply, she came face to face with Jaken and groaned audibly.

"I found her, I found her!" he squawked, waving his staff wildly, "Rin, come quick, I found her!"

"Thanks a lot Jaken," Kagome mumbled as she started running toward the porch. If she could only get to its wide planked surface, she would be considered 'safe' in their game of water balloon tag. Just as her hand was reaching for the smooth wood she felt the cold sensation of another balloon breaking against her back. A cry of triumph sounded behind her as Rin ran from the shadows, giggling excitedly.

"I got you Kagome!" she jumped up and down, water balloons spilling out of her own satchel to cover the ground in a rainbow of squishy delight.

Kagome turned a wide smile on the cheerful young girl. Summer seemed to reassert itself for one last hurrah as the day grew hot, perfect for a water balloon fight. She would have to thank her mom for thinking of such a fun game to share with her friends, even if it was 500 years before it would be invented. It had taken a little bit of convincing, but Shizuka relented after being assured that it was safe for Rin and no one could get hurt. Of course, once they had started and Kagome took the first hit in the thigh, the quiet fox youkai relaxed and sat unobtrusively on the far end of the porch to watch with serene interest.

Kagome had ended up being the hunted more often than not because Jaken had decided Rin was at a disadvantage because of her age. He served as her scout to help locate the miko and even up the odds. Kagome suspected that it was actually Jaken's sick sense of humor to see Kagome pelted with water balloons that motivated his uncharacteristic argument for fair play. Of course she didn't really mind. She was having a blast watching Rin so thoroughly enjoy herself, and since she was the one running around on an 80 degree day, welcomed the frequent dousing when it came.

"Wow Rin, you're really good at this game." Kagome approached the young girl and they picked up the errant balloons at her feet. Kagome reached into her own satchel and gave more to the young girl. When they were sufficiently re-armed, she leaned down and whispered conspiratorially, "You know who looks a little warm?" she nodded her head at Jaken who was making his way up the path. "Maybe we should help him cool off?"

Rin smiled back, her small teeth flashed white in the late summer sun. "He'll be mad," she said, though her tone seemed more excited than worried.

"Eh, he'll get over it," Kagome replied with a shrug.

Both girls turned and launched balloons at Jaken, landing squarely in his face and chest. Screaming, he ran toward the closest bush to hide.

The girls laughed at the audible outrage that drifted through the garden as he complained loudly and shouted warnings about humans respecting youkai. Kagome glanced around and then back at Rin. "No more tag, let's just see who can hit the other more. We'll keep count and the winner gets to keep the rest of the water balloons."

Rin's eyes lit up as she shook her head enthusiastically. They looked at Shizuka, who sat placidly on a cushion sipping tea. "Are you sure you don't want to play?" Rin called longingly.

"No, thank you Rin-chan. I'm more than content to sit here and watch."

The girls grinned at each other and took off in opposite directions. Kagome was thankful that she wore her blue tank top and some black cotton shorts that her mom had included in the bag InuYasha brought back. She wished she had them earlier in the summer. The sun warmed her skin as she zipped through the gravel paths, having become lovingly familiar with the private garden over the past two days. The flowers and design had such a unique feel that they seemed more in tune with the future style Kagome came from, not the traditional lines that existed in the feudal era.

As the afternoon stretched on, Kagome and Rin had several encounters, both getting soaked in the process. The laughing and screams had to be drawing attention from the sensitive youkai in the castle, but no one came to tell them to keep it down.

Kagome had just taken a particularly cold balloon to her chest, causing goose pimples to cover her arms and neck. Digging out the largest balloon she had from the bottom of her bag, she ran after Rin who had taken off in the direction of the castle. Her clothes clung to her body, but she was determined to push on. The blue balloon was the size of a grapefruit and still cold from hiding in the depths of her cloth bag. Kagome grinned wickedly as she stopped and spotted Rin stalled at the mouth of the path ahead, the edges obscured by hedges and trees. The little girl was looking to the right but as Kagome ground to a halt she began to turn. Before she was spotted, she dove off to the right behind a small rock wall that curved toward a low bridge.

She waited patiently, her heart pounding in her ears. The gravel crunched behind the wall at her back. Kagome strained to hear Rin, realizing that the little girl was moving carefully this time, being quieter than earlier in the day. Turning, she got ready to chuck the heavy balloon just as soon as she was in range. The gravel crunched again, only a few feet away this time. In order to land a good hit and have enough time to get away, Kagome straightened quickly and launched her balloon at the moving figure she saw at her right.

"Ah ha!" she laughed as the balloon lobbed across the short distance. It took Kagome's sun washed brain a few seconds to realize that this target was considerably taller and didn't have the black hair of her younger friend.

Sesshomaru was quick to act, his hand coming up to stop the flying object that was speeding toward his head. What he did not count on was that the object would collapse the moment his claws came into contact with its flimsy exterior. In a heartbeat, he was soaking wet with ice cold water and staring at a completely stunned and silent miko.

Dropping his outstretched arm, he looked down at the water dripping down his face and hair to his soaked kimono. He had come to investigate the ruckus that had been filtering across the castle into his normally peaceful study. When he had found Rin at the end of the pathway, she had told him they were playing a new game Kagome had taught her. When he asked about the miko, Rin had pointed down the path and told him that she was probably planning retaliation and would be along any moment. He had no idea what his young ward had been talking about and when the miko failed to appear, decided to seek her out. For his efforts, he found himself curiously covered in water.

She had yet to move so he took the opportunity to approach cautiously. He looked at the satchel and the brightly colored rocks that filled it. Reaching down, he grabbed one but it instantly broke as his sharp claws pricked through the thin outer membrane.

Kagome laughed huskily at his perplexed expression. His golden eyes found hers and she smiled back warmly, "I'm sorry about the water balloon." Her face was pink and she subtly wrung her hands in front of her in embarrassment. Pieces of her long tresses had come free from the braid that hung down the length of her back, clinging to her neck and face. Wet clothes hugged her curves like a second skin, or at least the parts of her that were covered in clothes.

Of course she was no less clothed than when she had traveled with his half-brother, but it had been a long time since she had worn such ridiculous attire. He found himself wondering if she had looked this enticing all those years ago, or had he simply failed to notice her due to his blind quest for power. He decided that it must be the former since he didn't think very much could keep her from his notice at the moment.

He carefully reached into the bag at her hip and extracted a balloon. Holding it carefully, he glanced back at Kagome. "What manner of projectile is this?"

She smiled again and his stomach flipped at her open expression of happiness. "A water balloon. You throw them at people."

He regarded it with haughty disdain. "It isn't a very fierce weapon. Is that why you were showing Rin how to use it?"

Kagome burst out laughing, its whimsical quality dispersing his momentary frustration that she found his question amusing. "It isn't a weapon. It's a game." She grabbed one out of her bag and held it out to him, tilting her head with a sly grin, "It's fun Sesshomaru. Do you know how to have fun?" Her last words seemed to dare him. The husky quality to her voice sent a chill down his spine as he watched a bead of water trail down her cheek and drop to her chest.

Kagome's eyes glinted mischievously and without warning, took the balloon in her hand and flattened it against his chest. It burst on impact and soaked his kimono thoroughly. She whirled around and started running through the garden laughing. Blinking in surprise, he watched her speed away from him for only a moment before following.

He took only a few moments to catch up and Kagome knew that she really had no hope of getting away unscathed. While she knew that she was going to get some sort of retaliation, she had no idea exactly how he would react so just kept running. A koi pond loomed ahead as the path cut sharply to the left. His arm slipped around her waist like a steel band and she was pulled off her feet causing a little cry to slip from her surprised lips. As he jumped over the pond, he dragged her legs across the water, soaking her to her knees. Landing, he skidded to a halt on the other side turning Kagome as they went.

She looked up into his golden eyes and was taken aback at the amusement that lit their gilded beauty. He held her to him, her hands trapped between them at his chest. She gasped at the combination of her sprint and the feelings that jumped along her body at the unexpected contact. A devilish flash of his fang glinted in the sunlight as the deep tenor of his voice rumbled through them both, "I know what fun is."

Kagome was about to ask him what he meant when he lifted the balloon he still carried and broke it over her head. The water tumbled down her face and back as what she recognized as a low rumbling laugh reverberated through both of their bodies.

She glared up with false annoyance and chided softly "Yeah, fun for you."

He released her and stepped back, their interaction seeming to finally dawn on him. A breeze rustled through the garden. "Did you just laugh and say that you're having fun?" she put her hands on her hips in a playful manner hoping to diffuse the tension that was suddenly between them.

He raised a snowy brow, "Are you surprised?"

She snorted, "That you know how to laugh? Um, yeah!"

He started to walk by her but paused at her side. Before she could move away, he grabbed two balloons and broke them both over her head. "You obviously have a lot to learn about me, miko."

She watched his perfect hair as it swayed gently in the breeze while he walked back to the castle at a measured pace. 'Obviously…whoever the hell you are.'

Kagome entered her room that evening after Shizuka took her to the bath house to clean up from her afternoon of fun. She left the young miko as soon as she delivered her to the door so that she could return to Rin and help the young girl get ready for bed. The sky was darkening quickly and Kagome looked forward to a relaxing evening on the wide porch watching the last of the fireflies dance along the garden landscape.

Walking to her bed, Kagome noticed that the lanterns were not yet lit. The room cast in dark shadows as the last of the sun's rays slipped past the horizon. She padded over to her bed and looked for the lantern that always sat with extra oil. It was curiously absent so Kagome checked all the other locations that she could remember lanterns hanging or sitting during previous evenings. To her growing discomfort each space was curiously empty.

With an audible sigh she went to the hallway and poked her head out, hoping to find a servant that she could ask to bring a lantern. The castle seemed peculiarly quiet and the lantern just outside her room was also dark. Thinking that perhaps the servants had been delayed in lighting this section of the castle, Kagome returned to her bed and lay down to relax a bit while she waited. Minutes ticked by and she started to doze, lulled by the quiet stillness that surrounded her like a thick blanket.

A familiar sensation flickered along her aura, prickly and hot. The unfamiliar youkai spiked nearby as it prowled along the exterior of her room, jerking her out of the sleepy state. Scrambling to her feet, she looked around the room but couldn't sense what direction the youkai was coming from.

"Hello?" she called tentatively, hoping that it was a servant that had come to finally light the lanterns. When there was no answer, she took a few steps toward the door but stopped cold when something brushed the bare skin just above the back of her tank top, right below her hair that was still piled on top of her head from the bath. She gasped and whirled around but couldn't see anything.

The youkai's aura swelled again and this time Kagome could tell that it was in the room with her. She conjured a barrier and heard a hiss as the youkai shrunk back from the sudden influx of holy powers. Turning toward the sound, Kagome caught sight of a figure retreating, not quite human or animal and not quite solid. It reminded her of the smoky mist that had attacked her in the garden and then again the first day Hoshi had left.

It hesitated on the outer edge of the room, shifting its shape constantly. A smoky tendril came out of the mass and touched the barrier, testing its strength before withdrawing sharply as it sparked against the contact. Kagome let out a little whimper as the contact seemed to burn her, though the youkai had not actually touched her flesh.

She heard another noise and the door that connected her room with Sesshomaru's slid open with a bang. She didn't have to see him to know exactly where he was behind her so she backed up quickly and dropped the barrier right as she reached him. With fluid grace, she ducked behind him just as his hand reached out and pushed her between his body and the open door at his back.

Pressing herself against his tall frame, she peered around his arm, ready to point out the danger. It disappeared before she could make up her mind exactly what was there, but she knew that whatever it was, it was the same youkai that had twice attacked her when she was alone.

He glanced down, golden eyes crashing into brown. "Are you okay?"

She nodded as she glanced around the room, her hands remained clutched in his kimono tightly. He nodded back curtly and returned his predatory gaze to the dark room. "Stay close." The low timber of his deadly voice sent shivers along her skin and for once she was glad that she was not on the receiving end of his poisonous claws.

He walked throughout the room and Kagome stayed only a step away, one hand gripping his long sleeve loosely. When he ascertained that they were alone, he finally turned to face her. "What happened?"

She recounted her evening from the time that Shizuka brought her back from her bath and ending with his entrance. Sesshomaru listened quietly and when she finished, he only nodded once. "Come with me."

They entered his room and Sesshomaru grabbed a burning lantern and then led them along the corridors to his dark study. Kagome looked around in fascination at the piles of paper and elegant décor of the room that epitomized Sesshomaru's noble status.

He rummaged around for a moment and Kagome laughed quietly, her husky tones once again grazed his senses like warm honey. He couldn't stop himself from asking, "What's so amusing?"

Without any embarrassment, she answered honestly, "You always act so disciplined, and yet your office looks like a pigsty."

He stopped searching, confused by her words, "I don't understand how pigs have anything to do with it, but I assure you that my study looks better than all other youkai rulers."

His irritated tone didn't deter Kagome in the least. When he went back to searching she asked innocently, "What're you looking for exactly? Maybe I can help."

"Hn, I don't want you to cause a mess."

Kagome blinked at the mountains of paper piled all around the room. She snorted at his choice of words and mumbled, "I think it's too late for that."

His keen ears heard her perfectly and without pausing he shot back, "There's nothing wrong with my study. I know precisely where every item is in this room."

Kagome rounded the corner of his low desk and stared down at him while he moved stacks of paper around. "Yes, it sure looks like you know exactly where everything is."

"Do not make me regret saving you yet again."

Before she could answer, he pulled a beautiful dagger from beneath a pile of paper. The blade glinted in the low light cast from the lantern that Kagome still held. Standing, he turned and held it out to her. Kagome stared at it like it was a two-headed snake.

"What am I supposed to do with that?"

He raised a brow, silence stretched out for a minute before he finally answered her like she was a child, "You stab an enemy with it when they attack you."

She sighed at his answer, "Well, duh. I mean, why are you giving it to me?"

His brows drew together as he tried to sort through how his words were confusing, "So that you can stab an enemy with it when they attack you."

Kagome growled her response, "Yes, we have established that I would stab enemies with this if they attack me. Why do you think I need a weapon all the sudden?"

He glanced at the dagger and turned it in his hands. Kagome was transfixed by the long fingers that twirled the blade expertly. "It was made by a master sword smith, forged within the fiery breath of a dragon. It'll be able to harm even the strongest youkai."

Kagome didn't miss his meaning as she took the dagger from him and marveled at how light it felt in her hand. The hilt had a beautiful dragon curled in a spiral up the hilt. Two large rubies made up the eyes and winked even in the low light of the room. It was a piece of art and Kagome could tell that it held significant value.

"Thank you, Sesshomaru." Her voice lilted gently in the summer air.

He nodded and grabbed the lantern from her after slipping the sheath over the sharp blade. As they made their way back, Kagome held the dagger to her chest as her eyes darted around nervously. Every unknown sound had her moving closer to him until their arms touched lightly, but she would soon pull away again to a respectful distance. By the time they returned to her room, the lanterns had been replaced and she had four guards stationed at every entrance.

She slipped off to sleep that night holding the dagger to her chest and Sesshomaru's golden eyes dancing through her dreams.

Kagome hummed softly as she made her way to the dojo the next morning. Hoshi was due back that evening and she was looking forward to the housekeeper's return. A silent guard had met her the moment she opened her bedroom door and wordlessly followed her as she traversed the myriad of hallways that led to the garden that separated the dojo from the main house. She missed Hoshi's witty conversation and sparkling eyes in the early morning.

Halfway there, a particularly beautiful flower caught Kagome's eye and she stooped to smell the fragrant bloom. The vibrant pink petals and blue center stood out from the rest of the garden and Kagome found herself fascinated by its unique shape and color. Her fingertips brushed the soft petals and she blinked as a yellow butterfly landed on it at that moment, unafraid of the human that was admiring its food source.

A throat cleared behind her intentionally. Turning, she found Sesshomaru regarding her curiously. He lifted a brow at her crouched form, letting his eyes travel her curved body and ending on the flower that she was still touching.

"Are we going to train today, or would you rather sit around and smell flowers in my garden?"

Her brows drew together, "No, I'm not going to sit around and smell flowers all day," she answered rather huffily. Her gaze turned back to the flower and her fingers brushed the petals again. The butterfly flitted away and she watched its ascent into the clear summer sky as her words drifted up to his ears, "I've never seen a flower like this before. It's not like any other in the garden."

Reluctantly she stood and continued her trek to the dojo. Sesshomaru regarded the bloom for a moment, noting that indeed it was not like anything else on his estate, much like the miko that defied his expectations at every turn. Returning his eyes to her retreating figure, he watched her long ponytail swing with her cheerful gait.

When she reached the wide porch of the dojo, she turned and saw him still standing by the flower. With a mischievous twinkle, she called, "You gonna stand there and stare at flowers or are you gonna come over here and fight me?"

Instead of anger at her taunting words, he was pleasantly surprised to find that he found their banter refreshing. With his customary composure, he walked slowly to her. Looking up as she stood on the porch, his words were said in a threatening tone, "Are you ready to fight me for real?"

She watched his features carefully. Though it was hard to discern, Kagome was starting to be able to tell when he was serious and when he was goading her into a reaction. She smiled at his mock warning, "I hate to break it to you, but I'm not afraid of you anymore."

In a flash she found herself staring at a wall of white silk. Craning her head, she caught his amused gaze mocking her gently. "Are you sure?"

Stepping back slowly, she kept her eyes on his. Her open expression held an honesty that none could miss. "I'm sure."

Later that morning, Kagome was returned to her room by Shizuka after a particularly long bath to sooth her aching muscles. Sesshomaru had not taken it easy on her, but she expected nothing less considering their earlier exchange.

Dropping her yellow bag down on the bed, a vibrant pink caught her attention. She turned and the sight took away her breath. On a low table by the door that connected their rooms was the pink flower in a simple gold pot. A lit lantern and jug of oil sat next to it, casting the flower in a warm glow.

That evening, Kagome was sitting on the porch outside her room enjoying the late summer weather. The evenings had grown cooler and she knew that the summer weather they had been enjoying the past few days was only temporary.

The lantern sat at her side as she curled up with a light blanket around her shoulders. She became so engrossed with watching fireflies dance around the garden that she didn't realize that she was no longer alone. As one of the tiny insects floated across the space in front of her, her eyes landed on the black boots that stood a few feet away. Jumping in fright, a strangled cry was the only sound she could manage as she rolled away to her feet. The dagger was drawn and held out by the time she faced her surprise guest.

To her chagrin, a familiar pair of golden eyes witnessed the overreaction with obvious humor. "Sesshomaru! You scared me half to death!" she fairly shouted, sheathing the small dagger and stooping to grab the blanket from the ground where she had tossed it in her mad scramble.

A sound that was suspiciously like a chuckle filtered through the air. Kagome settled back into her comfortable position at his feet and ignored him in pouty silence. Seemingly unconcerned with her ire, he gracefully sat next to her and set a small jug and two tiny cups on the smooth wooden planks between them.

She eyed them silently, crossing her arms over her chest under the blanket. When she didn't speak, he sighed inwardly. "I brought youkai brewed sake to toast your success the other day in training."

Her curious nature got the better of her, and to her irritation the question slipped out before she could stop herself, "What success?"

"You landed a blow on your sensei. It is worthy of celebration. Especially because you are human and your sensei is youkai." His words were matter of fact and she could tell that he was being honest about her accomplishment.

"Why now and not the other day when it happened?" her curiosity would not be appeased until she understood his recent change in behavior.

"Youkai sake is not made for daily drinking, but instead only in honor of a great event. I had to have it made." His hands skillfully poured the pale liquid into small cups. He slid one toward her and picked his own up and held it aloft, waiting for her to do the same.

She regarded it warily, debating whether to believe him. Tossing over a quick glance, she saw the guarded expression he wore and relented. She didn't want to offend her host, nor the customs that were obviously important in youkai society.

Taking the cup in both hands, she mimicked his pose. He held it toward her and tipped his head slightly before draining the liquid in one fluid movement. He waited expectantly for Kagome with an intent look. Taking a deep breath, she clumsily imitated his previous actions and swallowed the sake in a big gulp. It burned like fire and she coughed violently as it made its way to pool in her belly like a hot coal.

Sesshomaru chuckled again and Kagome looked at him like he sprouted two heads. "What?" he asked as he caught her confounded expression.

"Two laughs in one day? I didn't know you could do that."

His humor remained as he realized that she held the same misconception that many others shared. "I believe it's common to laugh in amusing situations, even for humans."

"Of course! I just didn't think that you found anything amusing."

Refilling their cups, he almost smiled at her incredulous tone. "I find many things amusing. I just don't believe that it is anyone's business but my own what those things are."

Digesting his words, she turned away with a thoughtful expression. The sake had already taken effect as she felt her body relax. "I bet you think humans are stupid because we always share what we're thinking."

He thought back to her conversation with Rin in the garden regarding her family. Her thoughts had fascinated him as he drew a parallel between his own childhood and hers. "Occasionally."

He slid the cup over to her again and this time she didn't hesitate to lift it in homage before draining it. A shutter ran through her system at the bite of the strong alcohol but she kept from her earlier coughing fit.

His next question stopped her cold. "Why do you travel with InuYasha?" The words were soft, but the steely edge belied his distaste.

"I promised I'd help find the Jewel shards so he could turn into a full demon."

"Do you want him to become full youkai?" his amazed tone didn't surprise Kagome.

"No, but I can't make that decision for him. I made a promise long ago and I won't break it."

He couldn't help but admire her convictions. It was honorable to stand by one's word, even in youkai society. "Will you still travel with him after he becomes a full youkai?" Sadness bled into her features and he immediately both regretted and needed to know her answer.

"I don't know. My purpose is tied to the Jewel and without it I don't think InuYasha would have much use for me."

He refilled the cups again and pushed one back over to her. "If he's that foolish, then you're better off."

Her haunted eyes squeezed at his chest. "Yes, but who would I be if not the Miko that travels with InuYasha?"

He drained his cup and set it down quietly. Turning, he saw a single tear sliding down her cheek. Before he thought better of it, his index finger brushed the wetness away gently. "Is your identity tied so closely to another?"

They stayed like that for a tense moment, holding each other's steady gaze. She used to see him as nothing other than a cold calculating killer. The past few days had shown her another side of him. One that had similar emotions to her own, but was held back by a staunchly reserved façade. Shaking herself out of the moment, she grabbed the small cup and held it in front of her chest to stare down into the pale liquid. "I don't know any other life than the one with InuYasha." Her words were a mere whisper, but easily heard by his sensitive ears.

Sesshomaru didn't answer right away. He sought the right words but in the end could only say what he felt. "Is this life you speak of really your own, or a life that you live because of a promise made in youth?"

She drew a breath at the meaning of his words, a meaning that she had been pondering for the past three years. A shaky laugh escaped her lips, though it held no happiness. "I don't know." She drained the cup and held it out to him.

His hand brushed hers as he took it, sending goose bumps up her arm. Turning toward the garden, she shrugged the blanket up around her neck and leaned ever so slightly into his shoulder until they barely touched. Within minutes, he relaxed the rest of the way until they had settled into a comfortable silence.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 41 of 60

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