Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 48 of 60

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"The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man." Madame de Stael

Kagome wandered the garden next to Sesshomaru. The autumn sun was warm, but a slight chill to the air heralded the coming winter. Since the incident with Sora, she had been spending more time with Sesshomaru. His softened demeanor when speaking to her had also not gone unnoticed by the rest of the house. Murmurs traveled the elegant corridors as speculation grew to a vibrating crescendo. When she relocated from the sun room to his study to spend many quiet afternoons, the entire Western Lands saw their taiyoukai as following in his father's footsteps.

Sesshomaru felt the curious eyes watch him meander through the brightly colored garden beside Kagome and Rin. At one point, it might have bothered him to think that the members of his household were foolishly making assumptions on his character. Now, he found it easier to push the knowledge aside, knowing that it didn't matter how the rumors swirled since there was never any truth to it.

He had a firm grasp on his emotions toward Kagome. Yes she was uncommonly beautiful for a human, which accounted for the rogue moments of desire that flooded him unexpectedly. And the fact that she restored both his arm and Rin's health had provoked a deep seeded loyalty that was a part of his nature. Yet through all of this, there was still no reason to believe that their relationship was anything beyond what it was. No complications, no expectations. He was satisfied with how they were at this moment and would allow nothing to change it. He refused to believe that keeping two human women in his home made him anything like his father. All the nonsensical conflict happening inside his head was just that, nonsense. His eyes followed the dark head bobbing happily in the sunlight.

Rin skipped ahead, plucking flowers at random. She had resumed her favorite past time of picking and arranging flowers into vases and placing them around Sesshomaru's room. He pretended not to notice, but inside treasured every petal. Glancing to the side, he found Kagome with her head bowed slightly. It wasn't the first time he'd caught that particular expression on her face that day. InuYasha and the others were leaving the following day, so Sesshomaru was using Rin to try and distract Kagome from the coming melancholy he knew was buried below the careful facade. She had spent the morning with Sango, preparing supplies and making sure that they would have everything they needed to get back to Kaede's village. It had become even more important since Sango announced that she and Miroku had finally decided to marry and were anxious to do so before the first snowfall.

Kagome was thrilled to be able to promise Sango that she would make the journey to visit them in a couple weeks for the wedding. Glancing at him, she hid a smile at the memory of his gruff acceptance, surprised and warmed by his agreement after she had turned soulful eyes to him, blatantly pleading.

He caught her gaze and raised a brow. Blushing slightly, she tried to cover up her embarrassment by blurting out, "Thanks for letting my friends stay here. I know it wasn't easy."

He paced alongside, matching her steps effortlessly. Though it wasn't ideal to share a roof with his brother, it had soothed her nerves which became his number one priority after what the dragon had put her through. Of course, he couldn't let her know that and hid it under a blanket of grudging concession. "You owe me a debt of gratitude."

"Oh whatever! He's your brother," she chided, nudging her shoulder against his playfully.

He snorted at her words, "Half-brother."

She giggled and he grimaced inwardly at the tremor that ran through him. Pausing, she was about to say something when Rin cried out from across the garden. He stiffened at her exclamation and started past, a hand brushing softly against her upper arm as he went. Kagome watched him cross the garden swiftly and hold a hand out to Rin, who had tripped and fallen onto the gravel path. He inspected her dirty hands and patted her on the top of the head, gently telling her to be more careful.

A noise like the rumble of thunder had Kagome turning around. Ryuu stood a few feet away, his orange eyes burning into her with a shocking amount of anger. Stepping back, she cocked her head to the side and asked worriedly, "Is everything okay Ryuu?"

He glanced in the direction of Sesshomaru, indecision in his eyes. With a curt bow, he only murmured, "No my lady." Turning, he disappeared down a nearby path. Kagome thought about following him to make sure the little youkai was alright, but Sesshomaru's deep tones drew her attention, a shiver of excitement running down her spine. Their friendship had grown into something special to her, something that she never expected but had come to rely on through the ups and downs of the past year. His steadiness was like an anchor, giving her something to hold onto. She turned back around to find Sesshomaru and Rin had wandered further away. The young girl was taking advantage of his attention, showing him all of her favorite flowers and asking if he liked them too.

The air behind her stirred, blowing her loose hair over her shoulders with force. Pushing it back quickly, she took a step to follow after the pair but a hand clamped down on her shoulder, jerking her to a stop.

"It's been too long Kagome."

The moment seemed suspended in time as her brain fought against recognizing the voice that just whispered in her ear. All sound in the garden ceased, as if the birds and insects knew not to draw attention to themselves if they wanted to survive. No matter how many years passed, she was sure to never forget this man or his frightening voice. "Naraku?" she breathed more than spoke the single word that would forever instill within her a soul deep terror. Her mind screamed in agony, clawing at her insides like a wild animal trying to escape certain death as if he had already clamped down on her throat to extinguish her life. He grabbed the dagger from where she had tucked it into her obi. The scrape of the metal sounded sinister in the quiet of the garden.

Sesshomaru paused and glanced back, wondering what was keeping Kagome. The sight that met his eyes stopped his heart. Naraku was standing behind Kagome, his red eyes burning across the distance. He was obviously waiting for Sesshomaru to notice them. Reaching out with his senses, he felt nothing other than those of his household and Kagome's terrified scent on the wind. He stuffed his confusion at seeing the disgusting hanyou down, focusing on the pair with rising anger.

"Go and hide, Rin."

The girl recognized his commanding tone and hesitated only a moment until she looked passed him to see Kagome. "Yes, Sesshomaru-sama."

He pulled Tokijin from its sheath and walked toward the pair, his eyes spitting fire. He leashed his control…barely. "How in Kami's name are you still alive, maggot?"

Naraku chuckled, wrapping his large hand around Kagome's upper arm. "You think far too much of yourself dog. It takes more than your best to kill me.

"I doubt that," he snarled back.

"Well, it doesn't really matter now, does it? The Jewel's gone and the only thing I have left is the pleasure I can take from you," he squeezed Kagome, shaking her slightly, "And her of course."

Sesshomaru took a step forward but stopped as Naraku held up the dagger, its tip angled toward Kagome's stomach. "What do you want?"

"For you to finally make the choice you've been avoiding for more than a year," his evil smile sent a chill down Sesshomaru's spine.

"What choice?" he hissed back. His hatred was nearly overwhelming at the look of triumph melting over the twisted features of the hanyou.

Naraku ran a palm over Kagome's upper arm and shoulder. "Why…whether or not you'll follow in the footsteps of your father, of course." His satisfied sneer was impossible to ignore, "Will you choose to save this human, or defeat me in battle?" Naraku's mouth split evilly into a garish smile.

Sesshomaru stiffened as his meaning set in. He wasn't going to play this game with Naraku, for many reasons. "I'll make no such choice."

Naraku's smile widened and he ducked his head to press his mouth against Kagome's cheek as he let the words slither out, "I don't think he gets it." Kagome tried to pull her head away from the contact, but he held her cruelly in place. He looked back at Sesshomaru, "Make your choice. Do I let her go so you can live happily ever after?" he raised the dagger and held it to her throat, "Or cut her throat where she stands in order for you to take your father's place in history by defeating me?"

Sesshomaru growled back, his eyes seeping to a deep crimson. He knew that the hanyou was trying to manipulate him, but the truth of the words took a deep hold in the back of his mind, twisting and biting against the logical part that could see beyond the devious tactics. Steeling himself, he answered in a gravelly voice, "Your threats mean nothing." He knew he was playing with fire, but he couldn't allow the growing onlookers to see him show weakness. He also wasn't about to allow Kagome to be killed.

Naraku's face was still next to Kagome's. "Did you hear that? I don't think he has any intention of taking you as his mate. To think, both brothers don't want you...that must be so disappointing. Oh well…" his voice dripped with false regret, "We both know what that means."

"Wait!" Sesshomaru stepped forward, but paused as Naraku flicked the blade back up to Kagome's jugular. "You came here to fight me. Let her go and draw your blade."

His red eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "No, we play by my rules this time. Make the choice… claim her…or watch her die." Sesshomaru shook his head but Naraku's patience seemed to crack, "Choose, or I choose for you!" he shouted across the clearing.

Sesshomaru heard the low murmur of those lined along the windows of the castle. The pressure to maintain his aloof facade eventually won out over the pounding of his heart. "Neither." Kagome's expression nearly broke his resolve as the color drained from her face and her eyes screamed at him in betrayal. He was confident that the hanyou knew he would die instantly if he harmed her. He was counting on self-preservation to win out as it always had in the past.

Naraku's face darkened and a sinking feeling began to pool in Sesshomaru's stomach. "Then the choice is mine. I choose…" he pulled her arm until she faced sideways and met Sesshomaru's eyes, "…to break you." Before he could react, Naraku drove the blade deep into her chest past the hilt until it broke bone to extend all the way between her shoulder blades.

"No!" Sesshomaru roared as the hanyou flung her limp body toward him. He dropped Tokijin and caught her deftly, staring in shock at the blood pouring from her chest. "Kagome?" he rasped, her skin already the color of his kimono. A cry from the porch had all turning to see Hoshi with her hand over her mouth. Running forward, she skidded to a halt next to them to stare in horror. Holding out a shaky hand, she pulled it back and met Sesshomaru's eyes. The look of absolute fear rocked him to the core as the meaning behind the absence of her unshakable composure took root in his mind.

Laying her down carefully, Sesshomaru grabbed Tokijin from the ground and faced Naraku. The hanyou was watching with glee as the life seeped out of her on to the cold autumn grass. With a feral shout, he sprinted forward and barreled into the hanyou's body. The force drove them into a nearby tree where Sesshomaru pinned the other man by the throat against the rough bark.

Wheezing, Naraku laughed at Sesshomaru's anger. Through his compressed throat, he rasped, "You're indeed like your father. When she dies, it's with the knowledge that you chose your pride over her. The guilt will destroy you."

Sesshomaru pulled him forward and slammed him into the tree again. "You're a fool. I won't let her die."

Naraku met his gaze unflinchingly. "I'm the fool? Your words already ring false," he answered with a smile.

Driving Tokijin into the hanyou's shoulder to pin him in place, Sesshomaru looked over to find Hoshi bent over Kagome's body. Their eyes met and he didn't need the words to confirm it. His inner beast roared to the forefront, raging at the loss of her aura and the desperate need to spill Naraku's blood for it. He dropped his head to stare at his feet as the world tipped on its axis. The breaths seemed to be ripped from his lungs as his chest burned mercilessly. Raising crimson eyes he glared into Naraku's gleeful face.

Something in Sesshomaru's expression seemed to drain the smugness from the hanyou and he began to transform into his true form. Not wanting to give him the opportunity, the taiyoukai sunk his claws into Naraku's neck, releasing as much poison as possible before the writhing half formed spider pulled out of his reach, tearing a large gash into his shoulder as his body separated from the blade imbedded in the tree.

Pulling Tokijin from the mangled trunk, Sesshomaru stalked the slowly retreating hanyou who half dragged, half stumbled away desperately. As soon as the moment presented itself, he leapt into the air and brought the steel blade down through Naraku's back until the hilt hit the roughly bubbled skin. The wound sprayed miasma in a dangerous stream, shooting high into the air forcing him to flip away from the noxious substance. He dropped to the ground and growled, not ready to give up inflicting pain on the dying creature that caused so much pain to so many. He darted past Naraku repeatedly, hacking and slicing through the large spider's body with his poison whip and claws. He could feel the hanyou's blood coat his skin and clothes, hoping with every blow to bring back a semblance of the control he relied upon in battle and in life. But it only seemed to feed the rage of his inner beast, a rage that he suspected would simmer there for eternity. When Naraku finally collapsed, the wounds too extensive to move, Sesshomaru stopped and stared coldly at the sight of his enemy reduced to a twitching mass of bloody limbs and torn flesh. He hid his surprise when Naraku still had the ability to speak.

Naraku's gasping breath rattled, "You failed Sesshomaru. I devoured your servant and lived undetected in your home for a year, watching her. Watching you. I die proudly, knowing what I finally took from you."

Sesshomaru snarled and raised his sword, ready to end the noxious being he loathed, but a small hand reached out and stilled his movement. He looked down at Kikyo's bent head as she stared dispassionately at Naraku's battered body.

Her words were soft, but full of implication, "I claim the right to rid the world of this creature." She looked up at him with mournful eyes and added just for him, "I owe it to her as much as to myself."

InuYasha stepped forward and handed a bow and quiver of arrows to the frail miko. Naraku screamed, calling for Sesshomaru to finish him off, obviously unable to bear that it would be Kikyo to deal the death blow. He writhed in agony that her eyes would be his last memory in this life. The eyes that always inspired pain and longing in his soul to mix with the pure hatred and frustration.

She stepped directly in front of him so that he was forced to look upon her fully. "You did not win, Naraku," she added as if reading his thoughts, "It's fitting I be the last thing you see before departing this world." She notched the arrow and drew it back deliberately, "My final act as a miko could not be more fitting, indeed."

Naraku's eyes slid past her to InuYasha, who stood with a hand on Tensaiga's hilt and eyes full of pride trained on Kikyo. The woman's long hair shifted in the breeze and InuYasha reached a hand out to place on her lower back, supportive and loving. Naraku screamed in desolation only to be cut off abruptly as she let the arrow fly.

They all stared at the mass of burning flesh, Kikyo's purifying arrow dissolving what remained after Sesshomaru's wrath.

Sheathing Tokijin, Sesshomaru tried to take a deep breath but the air seemed to be locked in his hollow chest. A strong pulse at his hip finally released the invisible hold and he drew a quick breath before looking down. He touched Tensaiga's hilt with surprise. Raising his head, he saw Kagome still cradled in Hoshi's arms, his lifelong friend not bothering to hide the tears that fell from her lavender eyes. Sango and Miroku were kneeling alongside, Sango's head buried in Miroku's shoulder as she wept forcefully. He walked slowly, dragging his heavy heart with him until pausing at their feet. A thousand moments presented themselves in his mind, moments filled with open smiles, pink flowers and raven black hair that was softer than the clouds in heaven. A slight breeze shifted around them, mournful in its lackluster strength. Wilting lotus tickled his nose and something deep in his stomach clenched as he stared at the pale miko's face that would never show the world her gentle grace again. Naraku had called his bluff and now it was his fault that she was gone.

He felt the panic rising like molten lava in a volcano. It was all wrong. Like the earth wasn't where it belonged and Kami was out of control as a result. Beings such as Kagome were not supposed to die. They were meant to make life more interesting. Like a punch in the stomach, his world was suddenly less stimulating…duller. He felt something missing, as if there were less of the sights and sounds that made the world tolerable. Trying to pinpoint what exactly was missing, he settled on the only word he could think of to explain it. Everything was just less. He didn't care how it appeared to others; he could only focus on the demanding sensation that if he did nothing, the restlessness swelling up to surround him would never again let him take a deep breath. Needing to again feel what he had only a few short hours before, he stepped forward and drew Tensaiga, silently willing the sword to do his bidding.

"Stand back," his tone held a note of uncertainty.

Hoshi withdrew, her expression closed and drawn in evident grief as she sank heavily onto the edge of the porch a few feet away absently wiping Kagome's blood onto her kimono. Miroku scooped up Sango and stepped away, her crumpled body wrapped tightly in his arms as he buried his face into her hair and let his own tears finally fall.

Chest constricted in fear; Sesshomaru closed his eyes and asked Tensaiga not to fail him. The mighty Inu no Taisho's face rolled through his mind fleetingly, for once not mocking his oldest son but instead radiating empathy. For the first time in his life he understood his father's choice the night he died. When he finally opened them, he could see the demons surrounding her, waiting for her soul to rise up from her body. With a somewhat shaky slice, he cut the creatures down to dissipate on the wind that rose briefly to carry them away.

Kagome's chest rose sharply as she inhaled. Rolling to her side, she began coughing up the blood that had poured into her lungs from the deep wound. Throwing Tensaiga to the ground, he kneeled down and pushed the hair back from her pale face. When her coughing ceased, she pushed herself up and caught sight of Tensaiga lying nearby. Slowly, she lifted her eyes to meet his with a surprised and knowing expression.

His eyes burned her with their intensity and she saw the rawness in his expression, calling out for solace. With a half-smile she whispered, "What is it with me and gardens, seriously?"

The conflicting feeling of relief and dread tumbled through him. He didn't like how much the need for Tensaiga to work had taken over every fiber of his body. Though they had triumphed over Naraku, he felt as though he had lost. Glancing around, he found the dozens of eyes watching them speculatively. The knowing expressions of the servants and guards in the House of the Moon said it all. He bent down and gathered her up in his arms, holding her a bit too tightly, but she kept silent. She could sense that he was barely hanging onto his control in that moment.

Sango rushed forward and grabbed Kagome's hand, her cheeks still wet from the tears she had shed. Squeezing it back, Kagome reassured her dearest friend with a tired smile, "I'm fine." Sango bobbed her head, eyes still wide with wonder as Miroku slipped an arm around her waist. Pulling her aside, they watched as Sesshomaru brushed by toward the entrance to the castle. Hoshi fell in step behind them, her face closed off in thoughtful concentration. Kikyo and InuYasha joined Sango and Miroku to watch the tall lord take their friend into the castle.

They traveled silently through the hallways. Her mind caught up in replaying the last minutes in the garden staring into the blue sky as Hoshi chanted spells to prevent the life from seeping out of her before the inevitable darkness overcame her consciousness. His attention was on every youkai he met along the way and the look of speculation in varying degrees he felt was cast their way. It was obvious to all that they had lived in peace the years before he brought her into the house. Since she joined them, they had been attacked by two powerful youkai who had killed to get to her. Kagome would be an easy target for any one of them that felt she was a threat to their safety. To keep her with him would mean days like today would replay endlessly. Only now, the stakes increased since using Tensaiga to revive her negated any second chances. No, it would be best to distance himself from her now. 'You tried that already, remember?' he ignored the mocking voice in his head. It would be unpleasant, but he could be ruthless when needed, even with himself. If all else failed, he could always take an extended tour of his lands for a few months.

They reached her room and he set her down gently next to the bed before turning toward his own room. She watched him go, anxiety rising with his continued silence. Reaching out, her fingertips brushed through his hair as he pulled out of her grasp. "Sesshomaru?" she questioned, hoping he would stop and look her in the eye.

Pausing at the door he turned his head to the side, still avoiding her searching gaze and asked curtly, "Hoshi, can you take care of this?"

The older woman nodded and murmured, "Of course." She turned and saw Kagome sway slightly as her face crumpled.

The door slid shut with a snap and Kagome burst into tears.

Hoshi joined him later that evening. The setting sun bathed the Western Lands in gold and red visible from his balcony. He stood at the far end, staring into the distance with his forearms leaning against the smooth wood railing. He had yet to bath from the day's battle, only stripped away the outermost layers of clothes and tied his hair back loosely. His hands were still stained red, and Hoshi knew in that moment that her earlier suspicions were right. She could feel the warring emotions rolling off him in waves. With a false smile, she drew up next to him and mimicked his pose.

"Kagome finally cried herself to sleep."

His shoulders slumped almost imperceptibly. Blowing out a breath he answered, "Not surprising. She did die today."

"It would be easier if that was why she cried."

He merely grunted at her words, the meaning not lost on him. They remained quiet as the sun set behind the mountain range, plunging the valley into darkness. Hoshi patiently waited for him to finally voice what was simmering under the surface.

"I am not weak," his words cracked across the night air like thunder.

"Whoever said you were?" she asked mildly, knowing how to draw out his feelings after centuries of practice. Normally he lived behind walls that guarded his feelings and thoughts, never confiding in her beyond a few comments. This evening however, his innermost self was close to the surface and seeking guidance for the first time in centuries.

He shook his head with a self-deprecating wince, "Speaking such things aloud is a death sentence, but it does not stop the brain from thinking."

"Hmmm," she replied, looking down at her hands. She treaded carefully, "I still fail to see how any could suppose you weak."

"You're blinded by affection toward the humans. That is how you do not see it."

Stiffening at his words, she shot back at him balefully, "I've lived among youkai for more centuries than you can count. In that time I've learned that affection is only a weakness when feared." She tossed a fierce look at him, "You've become stronger since you've taken in Rin, and even stronger with Kagome. Don't hide behind the opinions of others. It is a small, cowardly way to live."

Her passionate words surprised him. Of course it was easy for another to pass judgment on his situation. He looked at the stars as they started twinkling high above. He thought of his mother and the sadness she endured at the hands of his father. He still hated humans and only counted Rin and Kagome as exceptions to his general rule of avoidance and disdain. They were different. Rin's relentless loyalty and trust spoke to his basic instinct, endearing her to him for eternity. Kagome on the other hand, seemed to inspire a bond that fired a protective instinct that he did not understand or seem to be able to control. It was primal and raw. Wishing desperately to ignore this traitorous part of himself, he growled, "I am the new Lord of the West, not to be confused with my predecessor."

Hoshi snorted at the denouncement of his father. "Fight it all you want, but you know the old saying, tiger father beget tiger son."

Her words had the opposite effect than she hoped for. He turned on her with a snarl. "I am not him! I'll never be like him. I'm stronger and my legacy will reflect my will."

"Being able to see what's right in front of you and not run away is how you'll truly have the legacy you want. When you finally see that, is the day I continue to wait for."

Slamming his hands down on the railing he straightened. Pushing away, he prowled along the balcony in agitation. She waited for him to work through the anger that she was stirring, knowing that it was not necessarily toward her, but the feelings he didn't want to acknowledge. Finally stopping, his hands were fisted tightly at his side. "I will not make the same mistake as my father."

Hoshi turned and leaned her back against the rail, regarding him carefully. Her anger was mounting at his stubbornness. "So, taking Kagome for your mate would be a mistake? How so?"

"For one thing, she is human."

Narrowing her eyes on him she asked sharply, "Is that all? I fail to see the justification in such a simple statement."

"Damn it Hoshi, you know what I'm saying. Why would I take a mate that is constantly being hunted? It would put my house in constant danger. It already has!"

Hoshi's face was red as she glared at him. "That's not fair and you know it! She doesn't seek out these enemies that covet her power."

Crossing his arms, he drew up to an impossible height trying to intimidate the defiant housekeeper. "Regardless, I have a duty to the West to continue the pure inuyoukai lines and take a full blooded youkai mate that can live through time with me, not someone who will grow old and die before our offspring are even self-sufficient."

"I can't believe you're saying this. I never thought I'd see the day that you'd bow to the opinion of others. You didn't seem to feel this way when you brought Kagome back from the mountains. What changed?"

"Everything changed," he answered vaguely.

"What changed Yama? she asked softly. Knowingly.

His anger spiked at her relentless probing, "She died!" he bellowed as he turned back to look out onto the valley, his breath coming harshly as he dropped his chin to his chest and closed his eyes. His voice held the barest tremor, "She died and I…" He stopped himself and after a long exhale, pulled his iron will back around himself like a cloak. His voice was stronger as he added, "I've made up my mind in this."

She stepped around until directly in front of him. Glaring up into his face, she replied sharply, "Letting you make this choice means I've failed your parents and the promises I made to help you find your destiny."

He stepped back at her confession, unsure of what promises she had made on his behalf. His anger soared at the interference he saw those around him casting against his fate. He was the master of his own destiny, no one else. Shaking off his surprise, he snarled, "It's not your decision to make. I won't trouble myself with such a fragile and useless mate."

Hoshi's anger boiled over at the finality she saw in his golden eyes. "You're making a mistake, Yama! How can you be so wise and stupid all at once?"

Leaning down, he spoke each word with crisp decisiveness, "This is my last word on the subject. I am destined for greater things and will not foolishly saddle myself with more weakness…especially a human mate."

Frustration and condemnation in her eyes, she pushed past him but came to an abrupt halt with a soft intake of breath. He turned to see what held her transfixed and his heart plummeted to his feet.

Kagome stood in the doorway, her drawn features washed in the blue moonlight. Holding the edge of the door frame with white knuckles, she looked back and forth between the pair. Her eyes sparkled with the faintest trace of unshed tears, the salty trace mixed with pine on the breeze. Shakily, she filled the awkward silence, "I'm sorry, but I woke up alone and…" she trailed off. Her smile failed to reach her eyes and he knew instantly that she had heard every word. Something inside slithered through him, uncomfortable and cold. His words rang through his ears like a hollow echo as he shifted under her morose gaze.

Hoshi shook off the frozen shock and stepped forward quickly, "Come on Kagome, let's get you back in bed. You need to rest."

Holding a hand up, she turned a genuine smile on Hoshi, "Thanks, but I need to talk to Sesshomaru for a minute. Alone."

Hoshi held her gaze before finally turning a silent warning on Sesshomaru. He sighed in irritation as she withdrew hesitantly; casting anxious looks at Kagome the whole way.

Kagome waited with an intent expression, sorting through the conversation she just overheard. She wasn't sure what to expect from the stoic taiyoukai, but a complete dismissal of their relationship, whatever it was, never occurred to her. Stiffly, she pushed herself away from the door and moved to the railing. Running her small hands along the smooth surface she looked out over the valley, memorizing the breathtaking vista. He remained quiet behind her, his aura showing uncertainty but also determination. Digging deep, she found much needed resolve. "I'm leaving with the others in the morning."

Her words sliced through him like a blade. Logically he knew it was for the best. In fact, it would make his life a whole lot easier, but the traitorous part of him fought wildly to be heard. The words came out before he could stop himself, "Why are you leaving?"

"Come on Sesshomaru. We both know I was standing here listening to you just now. After years of tagging along behind InuYasha and fighting something I could never change, do you expect me to repeat the same mistake?" she turned around, pinning him with a sad stare. "I promised myself I wouldn't be a fool again."

"Staying here would make you a fool?" the thought pained him beyond anything he had ever experienced. Even though she was agreeing with what he had just told Hoshi, it felt like a part of him was mortally wounded, bleeding out with every heartbeat.

Tilting her head to the side, she looked directly into his eyes and asked, "Do you want me to stay?"

The question went deeper and he knew it. The distance he felt he needed could be achieved through self-discipline, not by her leaving the West. The thought of her gone forever seemed excessive and unnecessary. Despite his better judgment, he answered truthfully, "I don't want you to leave."

Kagome didn't pause, "Why? If I stay, what does it mean? What am I to you…to this house?"

He turned with an exasperated sigh and began pacing the balcony slowly, his emotions warring between wanting to comfort her and hold his ground. "You're an ally, and as such, have a place in this household." 'You fit in here,' he thought glumly.

Nodding, she wrapped her arms around her chest stiffly and stared at the space between their feet. Her heart ached as she realized that once again she was faced with the same choice. Stay and settle for a life that would always be less than she wanted, or believe that she deserved more and take the risk to go get it. One choice was easy and assured, the other took courage and faith. Had it been the Kagome from a year ago, she probably would have stayed. The Kagome of today had experienced too much despair and pain to settle for less than everything. Today's Kagome wanted to be someone's first and only choice, and she would hold out for this life without reservation or regret.

Dropping her hands to her sides she bowed deeply, grateful to him for so many reasons, most of which was her new-found courage never to settle for less than what she desired most. When she straightened she looked him in the eyes and held back the tears. "Thank you for everything Sesshomaru, but I want more than the House of the Moon can give me right now." She approached him and wrapped her arms around him briefly, squeezing him as tightly as she could before leaving him alone in the moonlight.

Hoshi and Kagome watched the sun rise from the porch. They sat shoulder to shoulder, enjoying each other's company for the last time. Hoshi had spent the better part of the night trying to convince her to stay, but in the end understood why Kagome had to leave.

Kagome leaned her head onto the other woman's shoulder and sighed heavily. "Why do dogs have to be so hard on a woman's heart?"

The housekeeper chuckled, her own heart heavy with defeat, "Because they're stubborn fools who deserve a good beating." Kagome laughed at her petulant tone but didn't respond. Hoshi put an arm around Kagome and hugged her comfortingly. Though Kagome didn't come out and say it, she was still reeling under the discovery that her feelings ran much deeper than she had realized.

"Sesshomaru has always done things at his own pace. He's not the type to jump into anything without knowing exactly what'll happen. Unfortunately, when he makes a decision, he's immovable," Hoshi thought out loud.

"That's not always bad, but sometimes life makes you change your mind." Pulling the blanket in her lap up a little higher she added, "Look at me and InuYasha."

"Yes, well, I don't call him Yama for nothing. He's stubborn, set in his ways and for all his wisdom often unable to see beyond the immediate horizon." Hoshi's eyes turned to Kagome and she squeezed her shoulder slightly, "It's why you're so good for him."

Looking up at her friend, Kagome wrinkled her nose, "I'm not so sure about that."

Wisdom from a place beyond space and time glowed from the lavender depths, holding Kagome transfixed. "Have you ever heard the legend of the Lonely Mountain?" When Kagome shook her head, Hoshi continued sagely, "It's an old story from when I was a little girl that my mother used to tell me and my sister before bed. You see, the Lonely Mountain's heritage bound him to the earth, keeping him from experiencing all the beautiful things the world had to offer. This isolation created a bitter and hard soul, resistant to change. His surface reflected this hard character, full of sharp rocks and barren landscapes. Nothing alive could venture there for fear of death due to his foul temper. Not even the sun could shine through the dense fog of unhappiness that surrounded his entire being. Because of his inhospitable personality, he never had to worry about anyone other than himself. And so he lived that way for a very long time, cold and perpetually angry."

"One day, a fierce and beautiful wind blew warmly over the mountain, brushing away the fog. She looked down on a soul that needed help so decided to stay, bringing to him the essence of renewal and the four seasons. The change first enraged the mountain and he fought against her, spewing fire and rock into the air, hoping to scare her into leaving him in peace. But she was impervious to even his most vile attacks. Her persistence proved to be stronger than his anger and she remained, bringing the seasons to him year in and year out with relentless tenacity."

"As the centuries passed, the mountain started to show signs of life as trees and animals began to take root. He felt interest in the life that surrounded him. The changing seasons brought about new perspectives, giving the mountain more than a solitary existence. Had he scared her away, all the animals and trees that made the mountain their home would not have been."

"Now, the mountain lives in harmony with the wind, welcoming her storms and sunshine, for she cannot deny her need to sooth his rough soul and he cannot sustain life without her. Together they create beauty and congruence."

Hoshi straightened and met Kagome's eyes intently. "The Wind and the Mountain live in harmony. The wind changes the shape of the mountain with her rain and snow, steadily carving her mark into his soul through the years. In return, the mountain gives her purpose, a place to belong. Even though the wind cannot move the mountain, she is the ultimate source of his happiness."

The entire household gathered in the courtyard, the heavy atmosphere of the castle reflecting their lord's mood. He stood to the side, silent and foreboding to all who had the courage to look his way.

Miroku and InuYasha were murmuring to each other as they loaded supplies onto a horse. Another stood nearby patiently with Kikyo in the saddle. Sango waited a few feet away from the horses; Kirara perched on her shoulder and Shippo hugging her chest sleepily.

All eyes were on Kagome however, as she hugged Rin tightly as the little girl cried. There were no reassurances of return or apologies. Kagome did her best to comfort the girl, but in the end there was little she could say to make it better. She worked her way down the line, first hugging Shizuka then Hiraiku. The large bear youkai choked out his farewell with surprising emotion before he picked her up in his massive arms and hugged her against his barrel chest. She met it with a misty smile and a softly whispered, "I'll miss you too, sensei."

Approaching Hoshi, she embraced the older woman as a sister. Whispering to each other they pulled apart with watery eyes. Nodding, Kagome left her and walked up to Sesshomaru. His expression was blank, but Kagome could see it for the mask that it was. For the first time, she was angry with him for being so stubborn. Her words came out with a sharper edge than she intended, "Well, looks like you can finally fix your gardens without fear of them being destroyed again."

His eyes roamed her face. Heart squeezing in his chest painfully with every beat, he tried to push the uncomfortable feeling of drowning aside. Refusing to give in, he nodded curtly, "Considering your tendency to find trouble, I can only wish your companions luck."

Her eyes narrowed and she answered through gritted teeth, "Yes, well they're used to it aren't they?"

When he didn't answer, she shook her head and muttered as she turned away, "Goodbye Sesshomaru."

Losing his battle, the words tumbled out, "Is leaving really the best option?"

Turning back, she searched his face with a look of surprise. "It's the only option."

His jaw flexed and she could hear his teeth grinding. The long pause was dreadful. Finally, he let the words out in a rush. Grudgingly as though he didn't want them to be true, "It would be best for you to stay. The House of the Moon is the safest place for you to be."

She let out the breath she'd been holding, not surprised that he couldn't say the words she wanted to hear. "I need more than that." With a knowing glance to Hoshi, she gave a heartfelt smile that was mixed with sorrow and acceptance before facing him again. Her words were sad but earnest, "Someone not afraid of what a little wind will bring."

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 48 of 60

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