Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 43 of 60

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"Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody's looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you're misunderstood." - Charles Swindoll

Kagome returned from the hospital late that night. Her wrist was in a cast from fingers to elbow and still ached through the heavy pain killers she had swallowed tiredly at a nurse's insistence. The doctor also diagnosed a mild concussion after giving her three stitches above her left ear where the wall had split it open.

Her mother clucked disapprovingly as she helped her into bed, a grim expression written into her features. Giving her a full dose of medication, she pulled a chair up and sat with Kagome until the early morning hours, only leaving as the sun started to rise.

Kagome didn't stir until mid-morning. The medication clouded her brain, making her feel sluggish and heavy. Sitting up, she groaned as her head protested all movement. With great effort, Kagome slowly dragged herself to the bathroom. Slumping against the closed door, she surveyed the bright bathroom with appreciation, thankful for the convenience of modern technology and indoor plumbing.

"Kagome?" her mother called from behind the closed door. Cracking it open, she saw the relieved expression on her mother's kind face.

"It's okay mom. I'm just gonna to take a bath. I'll call if I need help." She smiled weakly, hoping she would not actually need anything. Considering the scars and bruises covering her body, she didn't want to upset the gentle woman any further.

It had already been hard enough for her mother to find Kagome at the door, bloody, bruised and barely coherent. Her grandfather's quick thinking and years of storytelling became the only thing that saved them from a police report. The elaborate story of Kagome accidentally falling down the well at their shrine trying to retrieve the family cat was truly one of his most creative and believable tales to date.

"Okay dear. Call me if you need anything." She heard her mother's hesitant steps as she left her to the silence of the echoing bathroom.

Shuffling to the mirror, she sucked in a shocked breath at the face staring back. The left side of her head was bruised and puffy from hitting the wall. Her ear, cheek and temple scraped raw and scabbed with dried blood. With some awkward maneuvering, she slipped her shirt off and stared at the angry red marks that would surely turn into an ugly black and blue pattern along her collarbone, shoulders and upper arms. Turning her shoulders slightly, she took in the small punctures at the back of each arm where her flesh had been cut open by Sesshomaru's claws.

The soft clinking of metal caught her attention as she moved. Glancing down, she saw a bangle still looped around her good wrist and frowned. Pulling it off anxiously, she dropped the gold sphere into the trash and turned on the hot water. Deciding to have her mother help her wash her hair that afternoon, she piled it on top of her head awkwardly and then worked on stripping off of the rest of her clothes, which was much easier said than done with only one functional arm.

When she was finally able to sink into the steamy tub, a sigh of relief slipped out as the hot water soothed her sore muscles. Resting the cast on the edge of the tub, she closed her eyes and tried to push all thought from her mind. She hoped that InuYasha would figure out what happened and make his way through the well to check on her sooner rather than later. In the meantime, she was going to focus on putting the past year behind her, along with the confusing emotions that a certain taiyoukai had stirred. Her eyes began to burn at the thought of him but she refused to give in. Splashing water over her face, she rubbed fervently to stop the wave of sadness that loomed like a black cloud.

Minutes ticked by and the water turned tepid. Rousing herself, she washed as best she could with one hand and rose from the water to carefully climb from the tub. Wrapping a large towel around her middle, she tucked the edge under an armpit and hobbled to the sink. Popping off the lid, she swallowed another pain pill hoping to dull the ache that throbbed through her body like tiny earthquakes of jabbing needles. Tiredly, she grabbed her toothbrush and squirted a liberal amount of toothpaste onto the end, brushing vigorously and savoring the minty flavor. She was rinsing when the heady sense of weightlessness started to take effect. Exhaling heavily, she welcomed the dulling of her senses, but unfortunately it didn't remove the pain completely.

Rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand, she focused on the reflection in the mirror as the medication made her limbs heavy. Slowly, she set upon pulling the pins from her hair one by one. When the long tresses were finally free, she ran a comb through the lengths, working on the knots that had accumulated during the windy trip home as Kirara raced her back to the well. A familiar tingle registered on the periphery of her sluggish mind, trying to get her attention but losing against the haze of the painkiller's potent effects.

A noise outside the door finally pulled Kagome from the fog. She winced as the last downward stroke pulled against the hair closest to her stitches. Tossing the comb down, she slid her dirty clothes along the floor with her foot until they were up against the basket at the edge of the room. Goose pimples danced along her skin as she approached the door, but her sleepy brain chalked it up to a side effect of the powerful pain killers and still damp skin from her bath.

Opening the door, she stumbled back and grabbed for the ledge of the sink with her right hand. Sesshomaru towered over her, a severe look on his perfect features as the doorknob pulled from his hand. Her heart jumped into her throat at the sight of him as the events of the last 24 hours flashed through her memory. Clutching the towel tightly, she backed up as he followed her into the small bathroom, stalking her like prey.

"What are you doing here?" she asked thickly, trying to focus her blurry and tired vision on his pale face.

His eyes traveled over her body, pausing at every injury within view. His expression grew angrier with every passing moment as each bruise, cut and broken inch was tallied. It had taken every ounce of restraint he had not to kill InuYasha, knowing that once found, she would be upset to discover he murdered the irritating hanyou. Instead, he simply beat him until unconscious, and then only received the information that he was seeking from the taiji-ya after explaining that the miko was in danger. Believing that the taiji-ya would be most useful if informed of the growing threat, he shared the suspicion that there was a new enemy trying to make him believe that Naraku was alive. Only after assuring her that he wanted to bring her friend back to the safety of his home did the woman tell him where he could find the miko. After some argument, the houshi won the battle of leading him back to the well while the woman remained behind to tend InuYasha. It had been interesting to watch the two human mates try and assert dominance over each other. To his surprise, the human's exchange reminded him of how many youkai mates behaved.

Kagome wavered a little in front of him and he finally noticed the glassy expression that muted her normally bright eyes. Confused, he reached out to steady her, but she whimpered and shrunk away from his hand as if he were about to strike her. He froze at the odd behavior, noting through the dim focus of her eyes lay a fear that he had never thought he would see in her brown eyes again.

"What happened to you?" the warm timbre of his concerned voice was at odds with the angry look etched in his features.

Kagome blinked at the odd question, confusion racking her brain as she tried to shake the iron hold of the medication dragging at her from all angles like lead weights. She ignored his question and said the only thing that pressed against her mind. "Have you come to finish me off?"

The words were softly spoken, but it was like an explosion going off in the room. He raised a brow, "What are you talking about? Why did you leave?"

Kagome exhaled and looked at him as if he sprouted two heads. Finally, the words burst from her lungs in a half hysterical tone, "You tried to kill me!"

This time it was Sesshomaru who could only blink and look at her like she had gone mad. Drawing up to an impossible height he answered coldly, "I did no such thing. Besides, I do not try to kill things, I succeed in killing things." Looking around the oddly bright room with the glowing orbs on the ceiling and then back to her, his eyes fastened on her broken wrist. "I do not pretend to understand this statement. Why would I do anything to make you leave when it's obvious that the moment you did," he gestured her entire frame with a wave of his striped wrist, "you would end up like this?"

Tears sprang to Kagome's eyes. The anger and frustration she had experienced over the past few hours shattered the dam that was tenuously held by utter willpower. "Don't you dare pretend any of this is my fault," the last words broke on a tide of emotions. Pressing a hand against her throbbing head, the rising anger pushed the pain up and over the medication's threshold.

Just as her legs started to buckle, he brushed aside her feeble attempts to push him away and braced her against the sink with a strong hand, the other examining the cast that encased her wrist. 'What is this oddity?' he thought as he let his fingers brush the rough surface. Dropping it after a baffled moment, he turned attention to the rest of her wounds, brushing her heavy hair aside to inspect the bruises and punctures along her arms and shoulders. His fingertips grazed the sensitive skin and she sucked in a pained breath. Tipping her face up with a finger, his eyes roved her swollen features. Concern was clearly evident as he ran his thumb over her cheek, directly under the abrasion that was starting to scab over.

"This should not have happened."

A muffled sound of shock caught his attention, dragging it away from the dark thoughts of retribution that were playing through his mind. The one responsible would pay with their life, he vowed silently as his claws itched to draw blood. "Tell me who did this."

She shook her head at him, "Why are you acting like you don't know what happened? I have eyes. I was there, remember? You did this!" her brows were drawn as she considered him carefully.

"I left the House of the Moon before dawn yesterday. I haven't seen you since that previous evening." His voice was forceful through the confusion. Certain.

She paused for only a second, "No, you met me in the hallway and said you were going to paint the Western Lands with my blood." She pushed at his hands again as she added, "Those were your exact words."

He relaxed his hold but not enough for her to break free. Searching his mind, he could not for the life of him figure out what conversation she was mixing up to think that he had threatened her. "Your injuries have obviously caused confusion."

Irritation crashed through her. Large brown eyes drilled into his and she answered with a desperate tone, "No! You did this. First you threw me into the wall," she pointed to her shoulder, "then you stabbed me with your pointy ass claws," turning her head to the side, she held up her broken wrist and pointed at the bandage on her head, "Then you threw me into a wall again and I broke my wrist and cracked my head open." Facing him again with tears shining brightly, "I'm not confused. You did this to me, whether you choose to admit it or not. I know the truth," she choked out angrily.

He stared at her silently, his mind chewing through all possibilities to figure out what had happened. Perhaps she was delirious and unable to see reason or logic. The only other alternative he could come up with was that a very unsavory and dangerous type of youkai had somehow gained access to his home and perpetrated the attack.

She drew herself up, blinking back tears with a shuttering breath. When she finally returned his gaze, a cold expression was in place that shook him to the core. It was an unnatural expression for one so open and honest. "I left so you wouldn't kill me. Why are you here if not to finish me off? You made it clear how very far beneath you I really am."

Her cold words tore through him, and the discomfort that she was trying to hide under an icy façade gnawed at his gut. She had never acted that way around him before. "I came here to bring you home."

"I am home," her clipped answer was punctuated as she once again pushed at his unmovable frame.

Kagome's mother peered around the corner with wide eyes. "Kagome dear, is everything all right?" She was remarkably composed for finding a strange man in the bathroom with her towel clad injured daughter.

Sesshomaru looked at the woman and Kagome felt him tense into a deadly stillness that she recognized instantly. Raising a hand, she leaned into him and looked at her mother imploringly, "I'm fine. I'll be down in a bit."

"Who's your friend? He looks a lot like InuYasha." Her mother's innocent words were a death knell to Kagome. She felt Sesshomaru's aura spike and she grabbed him as best as she could, pressing up against his tall frame. A barrier formed between them causing her mother to step back in fear. Kagome spoke hurriedly, "Mom, I'll be down in a few minutes. Can you make me something to eat? I'm starving."

"Okay, dear. I'll be in the kitchen." She answered as she cast a worried glance at Sesshomaru before turning to leave.

Kagome released the barrier, noticing that the moment the word "mom" came out, he seemed to calm. The expended energy drained what little reserves she had left and the moment the barrier came down, so did she. Slumping forward, his arms were the only thing keeping her from crashing face first to the ceramic tiles of the bathroom floor. With steady hands on her waist he lifted her to sit on the counter next to the sink. His hands dropped to either side as he stared intently into her eyes. Her exhaustion was clear and a desire to calm and comfort rose up from deep inside. Something had clearly muddled her mind into believing that he had something to do with her injuries. Perhaps it was because he hadn't been there to protect her. Maybe he was to blame, then.

He watched her fight valiantly to stave off the sleepiness that was creeping upon her steadfastly. Carefully, he slid his hands around her small frame and carried her back to her bedroom. Her scent clung to every surface, intoxicating as it enveloped him in its warm embrace. Laying her on the bed, he pulled a blanket over her as she reluctantly slipped into a deep slumber. Curiosity piqued, he circled the room slowly and inspected the odd contents. It was a window into the woman that confounded and intrigued him daily.

Calm focus returned with her proximity and he found himself finally able to sort through his racing thoughts for the first time since discovering she was gone. As soon as she rested, he would take her back through the well and home to the West. There he would find out who had attacked her and kill them for the trouble they had caused. Then things would go back to normal. The thought stopped him cold and he turned back toward the tiny woman laying helplessly a few feet away. 'When did having this woman under my roof become normal?' His heart pounded uncomfortably at the discovery.

Shaking the unexpected thought away, he let his eyes roam unchecked across her motionless form. Her pale, exhausted features reminded him too much of the first few months at the House of the Moon. He would get to the bottom of this, but in order to do that, he had to get her back to the West.

Satisfied that she would remain asleep for some time, he wandered in the direction of clanking dishes and the gentle feminine humming of Kagome's mother in the kitchen. He would need an ally that she could not ignore.

Kagome woke several hours later to the dim light of her bedroom. The house was quiet and Kagome relished the stillness that surrounded her after the chaos of the past day and a half. Shifting slightly, her battered body protested fiercely, causing her to draw in a sharp breath at the pain that shot through her limbs like hot pokers. A rustle of silk nearby caught her attention and she focused her eyes to the foot of her bed.

Sesshomaru sat on the floor next to her feet watching her intently. Pulling her feet up, she slowly worked her way into a sitting position, eyes never leaving his. With only a blanket and towel clutched to her chest, she felt vulnerable and exposed.

Unfolding his long frame, he towered over her, dwarfing the modest bedroom with his large presence. Warily, he stayed at the foot of the bed and kept his tone soft. "Are you feeling better?"

She nodded curtly, still confused by his presence and convinced he had changed his mind and come to finish her off. "How did you travel through the well?"

Sesshomaru shrugged, glancing around the room with curiosity in his eyes. "The monk told me that you simply jump in, so that is what I did."

She pulled her knees up and wrapped her one good arm around them. The stiff cast lay at her side like an anchor. "How did you find me after that?"

Considering her words, he seemed uncomfortable at the answer. She thought he might not answer but finally the words came out reluctantly. "I could feel you."

Taken aback, she narrowed her eyes at him and pressed for clarification, "What do you mean, you could feel me?"

Sesshomaru went to the window and pulled the curtain aside. "At the bottom of the well, I was overwhelmed by the sound and smell at first," he turned his face back to her as the lights from the street illuminated his pale form, "but it wasn't long before I was able to single you out from it all." Letting the curtain fall back across the window to engulf him in shadow again, he added evenly, "It was easy to find you from there."

Shifting under his intensity, she looked down at the bruises on her arms. "I don't get it. Why come here? I wasn't going to come back if that's what you're worried about." She heard him sigh and felt the bed dip slightly with the weight of his large frame. Holding her breath, she finally gathered the courage to look at him again and found he seemed to have been waiting for her attention.

"I was in the north dealing with an uprising and came home to find you gone with no explanation. I came here to bring you back. Those are the facts."

His earnest expression pulled at Kagome's resolve but she would not be easily manipulated again. Stiffly, she quipped, "Yeah, well… you can see there are some conflicting facts written rather visibly all over my body."

A growl escaped his lips and she recoiled from his anger, scooting into the corner of her bed against the wall. Stifling his reaction, he calmed himself before standing to look down on her. "We will leave at once. I suggest you gather what you wish to take back and say goodbye to your family."

Eyes watering with frustration, she shook her head adamantly. "I'm not going anywhere with you."

Grabbing a bag from her nearby desk and dropping it onto the bed in front of her, his tone brooked no argument, "You have no choice."

In the end, Kagome reluctantly left with Sesshomaru only after the fear of his harming her family if she didn't go overshadowed all else. She would find out much later that he allowed her to think they were in danger to get his way.

She sat stiffly in his arms as they journeyed back toward the House of the Moon. The wind was cool on her bare skin and a shiver ran through her body. He looked down at her and noticed the goose pimples that dimpled her soft skin. His eyes lingered at the creamy expanse of her throat and chest. Even bruised and battered, she was undeniably beautiful. The foreign part of him that seemed obsessed with her comfort rose to the fore, warring with the repressed taiyoukai born of tradition. She felt his grip tighten for a moment before they slowed. He landed and put her on the ground gently.

Looking around, she asked uneasily, "Why have we stopped?"

He slipped her overstuffed bag off his shoulder and removed his fur pelt. She stiffened as he wrapped it around her and watched with disbelief as he slung the bag back over his shoulder. Silently, he swept her up and into the air with a graceful ease that she always resented.

Her look of confusion finally prompted a response from him. Gruffly he looked down at her with a guarded expression, "You should've told me you were cold."

Though the words were admonishing, his face was soft when he looked at her. Confusion rocked her brain by his gentle behavior. 'How can he be so different all the sudden? One minute he tries to kill me, the next he cares I'm cold?'

They continued in silence until finally touching down in the middle of the courtyard. Hoshi was waiting and the look of relief on her face bespoke the affection that she unabashedly felt for Kagome.

Rushing forward, she embraced the girl only to draw back sharply at Sesshomaru's warning tone. "Be careful of her injuries."

Kagome smiled weakly at Hoshi but stayed close to her side. "Yeah, apparently he's the only one allowed to spill my blood around here."

Hoshi cocked her head and then turned to Sesshomaru with an inquiring expression.

He only shrugged and added, "I was hoping you might be able to make sense of it."

Hoshi ushered Kagome back toward the castle but was stopped by Sesshomaru again, "I want her in the room next to mine."

Hoshi did not turn around, but Kagome noticed the shock that registered on the housekeeper's face only to be quickly replaced by a knowing smile. She nodded, "As you wish."

Hoshi entered Sesshomaru's office later that evening after spending the entire day sequestered with the young woman. Sesshomaru had subsequently spent the afternoon pacing behind his own closed doors. Every time he returned to his own room, Hoshi had shooed him away citing that his presence was upsetting Kagome.

When she finally appeared, Sesshomaru dropped the paper he had been holding and sat back. "What happened to her?"

Hoshi shook her head and began telling the tale that Kagome had painfully relayed of how she had awoken that morning and ran into who she believed to be Sesshomaru in the hallway. As Hoshi finished, Sesshomaru's anger burned white hot in his chest.

"How can that be? I was in the north with Hiraiku."

Hoshi nodded again, "Yes, and I've told her this but she doesn't want to hear. She believes that I'm blinded by affection for you."

Sesshomaru snorted at the thought. "She obviously doesn't know you very well."

Hoshi smirked at his terse words but her face soon fell back into a serious expression. "What if there is a shape shifter among us?"

"It would seem the only explanation if her story's to be believed."

"Yama, you've seen the damage yourself. She's not making this up and you know it."

Sesshomaru's jaw ticked as he thought about the bruises that had marred her fragile body. The only way to allay her fears was to discover who had harmed her. "Keep an eye on her."

"Of course." Hoshi hesitated for a moment before adding, "Your mother sends her regard."

Sesshomaru stilled, refusing to look at her for fear of giving himself away. They had yet to speak since the day she left after his father's death. He knew that Hoshi kept in touch with her, but they had always had a silent understanding to avoid the subject. Until now.

"How is she?"

His voice sounded small for the first time in centuries and Hoshi had to school her features to keep the surprise from showing. "She's as haughty and full of disdain as ever."

Sesshomaru let out the breath he had been holding. Silently, he allowed himself to be grateful for the news; sure that Hoshi could see beyond his forced facade. To his relief, she remained silent and continued as if he had said nothing.

"I have a plan regarding the Jewel that should eliminate some of the danger around Kagome."

Sesshomaru raised a brow, his interest piqued.

"With your mother's help, I've brought back something that can be used to rid us of that wretched thing." Smiling, she leveled a gimlet stare on Sesshomaru, "And it'll allow you to finally be rid of your need to protect the little miko."

His heart dropped at the words but kept a serene expression. "Removing the Jewel would not be a reason to make her leave. She stays because she is able to heal Rin if she becomes ill."

"She could do that regardless of staying under this roof. Besides, I heard that she knocked you over in your last training session. It's the Jewel that puts her in constant danger." Hoshi narrowed her gaze and dared him with her words, "I thought you would have welcomed this news?"

Sesshomaru returned her stare. "Even with the Jewel gone, I'm not sure if I will permit her to leave."

Hoshi only smiled slightly and nodded, "Of course."

The housekeeper was just leaving when a crash sounded near the front of the castle. A familiar youki filtered through the air. Sesshomaru took a deep breath and grabbed Tokijin from the floor next to him. Rising, he strode out into the courtyard to see InuYasha fighting off a contingency of his guards.

The hanyou was about to strike out with Tessaiga when Sesshomaru's booming voice rang out over the evening air. "Enough!"

InuYasha stilled. Stepping back, he lowered Tessaiga and marched toward his brother. "Where is she?"

"InuYasha?" the faint voice trickled through the courtyard like silver flower petals.

Everyone turned toward the steps of the castle where Kagome stood, braced against one of the thick wooden pillars of the porch. The sight of her bruised face and shoulders took everyone aback except Hoshi and Sesshomaru.

"Kagome?" InuYasha said hesitantly. He started toward her at the same moment she pushed away from the porch. With unsteady legs, she met him at the bottom of the steps and threw her arm around him, sobbing into the crook of his neck. Tessaiga dropped from his hands as he drew her into his arms and cradled her carefully against him. Bending his head, he placed his cheek on top of her head, eyes meeting Sesshomaru's who was now only a few feet away. Golden eyes clashed, spiting fire at each other while the air in the courtyard tensed menacingly.

"It's okay Kagome. You're coming with me." Pulling back he grabbed Tessaiga from the ground and looped an arm around Kagome's waist. She kept her head bowed and clung to his side with her one good hand.

Sesshomaru moved toward them but found Hoshi suddenly in between, a hand held out to stay his movement.

Her voice was low, soothing as she stepped carefully toward the pair. "I know that you wish to protect her, but even you'll agree there is something she needs to do before leaving."

InuYasha snorted at Hoshi, "She doesn't owe you anything." His hand tightened around her as he stepped back. Kagome went willingly with him causing Sesshomaru's inner beast to howl in rage.

Hoshi held her hands out toward them as she stepped forward. "Kagome has a duty to protect the Jewel of Four Souls. A selfless wish can rid the world of its dangerous power."

"Keh, tell me something I don't know lady." His surly tone clearly told her what he thought of her obvious statement.

"Yes, well what if there's a way for her to do that now?"

InuYasha's eyes narrowed, distrust clear on his youthful face. "Like I already told you, she doesn't owe you, or anyone else for that matter, a damn thing." He turned and dropped slightly as he prepared to leap out of the courtyard with Kagome hugging his side. Sesshomaru drew Tokijin and stepped forward but was stopped as Hoshi's words came out in a rush, "Even if you could see Kikyo again?!"

InuYasha stilled at the words that echoed through the courtyard. Sesshomaru had prepared to battle, but all remained silent after her shouted words. InuYasha's wide eyes turned toward her, "What did you say?"

Drawing a calming breath, she swallowed the lump in her throat as control slipped back into her grasp. She had InuYasha's full attention now. "Kagome has a chance to restore what was lost to you. In order to do that, she must remain here."

He looked down at Kagome's bowed head and back to Hoshi, eyes mixed with hope and skepticism. "How?"

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 43 of 60

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