Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 5 of 60

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The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.

-Henry Ward Beecher

Crimson eyes discreetly watched the inuyoukai walking with the young girl in the garden. It was disgusting how the Lord of the West treated a weak human as an equal to the other youkai living at the House of the Moon. Humans had no place in the lives and homes of youkai.

Slipping the poison undetected to the powerful Taiyoukai was going to be one of the most challenging assignments that he had ever undertaken. It was fortunate indeed that he had been offered a position serving within the House of the Moon since that made his task much easier. The powerful Taiyoukai thought he was beyond the reach of enemies now that he had reclaimed his lands.

'What an arrogant fool!' All he had to do was bide his time and wait for the opportune moment. Then all of the carefully laid plans and months of waiting would be worth the risk.

Keeping to his current disguise, he slinked back toward the castle, pushing aside the impatience and contempt that lived in his heart.

It was time for a new Lord of the Western Lands. One who was not so presumptuous.

"We will sleep here tonight," Katsuro's voice sounded from behind Kagome.

Kagome dragged her body to the nearest tree and crumpled under the weight of physical and emotional exhaustion. The nights were cold and damp and for the hundredth time Kagome wished she had worn something warmer.

She drew her legs up to her chest and tried to retain some warmth as she watched Katsuro build a fire. The demon sometimes seemed to do things merely for her comfort. It was baffling when one minute he would be controlling her movements and powers, and the next he would be cooking a meal and allowing her to rest when she could go no further.

Kagome's anger was the only thing she could hold onto, but the strain of the past few days had effectively drained any extra energy she might have been able to channel into ire. She felt as if her mind was about to break into a thousand pieces and wasn't sure how much more she could handle before giving up completely. Cold seeped into her bones, causing her body to shiver violently.

Katsuro looked over at the miko and stood. He walked over to the place where Naraku's insects were hovering and spoke in low tones to them. A few flew off quickly and the youkai turned back to the fire and resumed his earlier position.

Though Kagome was aware of the youkai's movements, her mind continued to dwell on the events of the past week.

After the first encounter with InuYasha, Katsuro had led her east until they had ended up near the coast. There they had set up camp near a cave and remained, much to Kagome's growing confusion. Those next few days were miserable as Katsuro seemed to put her powers through the paces and test how much she could handle as he purified all the demons in the surrounding area. Every day he had demanded a little more until she was sure she would break. By the time they left she was exhausted, but oddly enough, also felt stronger in both body and mind.

It had been several hours since Katsuro had spoken to her either through the crown or verbally, and the quiet had gone a long way to soothe Kagome's stretched nerves. He seemed to have a destination in mind, but had not given Kagome any indication of where they were heading. Though he seemed able to read her thoughts with the help of the crown, she was not so lucky as to be able to read his. She wondered if his quiet stemmed from the incident by the river earlier that day.

Closing her eyes, she replayed the events once again in her weary mind, hoping to understand.

Kagome stared at her reflection in the gently moving river. She nearly didn't recognize the hollow eyes rimmed with dark circles staring back at her. She had certainly looked better. Even though she had found a small piece of string and was able to tie her hair back, it was still knotted and dirty and her clothing and skin felt sticky and uncomfortable.

'Oh how I wish I could take a bath' she thought forlornly, staring at the stone in the crown. It was the first time she had been able to see what the crown looked like and was surprised that something so elegant and beautiful was the source of so much misery. She had started to become accustomed to the feeling of Katsuro being linked to her mind as well as the feelings of him taking control of her powers and using them. She didn't have any other choice at the moment and knew her only hope was to remain sane and alert until an opportunity to get out of this mess presented itself.

As she continued to look at her reflection in the river, Kagome stretched her senses out and felt the strong presence of Katsuro nearby as well as the familiar faint youkai of InuYasha, who had continued to remain at a distance since they returned from the coast. He and the others had obviously been trailing her, but stayed away because of her earlier plea and possibly because of the effects the crown had on InuYasha.

Kagome heard the grass crunch softly behind her.

"Come Miko, we need to move on."

With a heavy sigh, she rose and turned around. As she began walking behind the youkai, she heard a familiar voice call out from the opposite side of the river.

"Hey Kagome!" InuYasha shouted as he landed in the thick grass.

Turning, she looked with fear at the man she had loved in her youth so completely. All of those fond feelings were forgotten as she remembered how stupid and rash he could be at times.

"InuYasha I told you to stay away!" she backed away quickly as she felt Katsuro gather her powers and focus them on InuYasha.

She turned quickly to Katsuro and pleaded "Please don't, not this, not by me…" she brokenly sobbed. Time slowed to a crawl and the moments ticked in rhythm to her heartbeat. Her powers began to burn and crackle as she looked over her shoulder at the man who had saved her life more times than she could count.

Brown eyes met gold and in the next heartbeat Kagome saw InuYasha sealed to Goshinboku, saw him in his human form shielding her from harm at great risk to himself, saw him in a million other memories of the last four years as they flashed through her mind. Her heart screamed in despair as her powers began to flow, a final vision of broken flesh wrapped in the robe of the fire rat embedded itself in her mind.

"NO!" the word was torn from her throat as her body was enveloped in a pale pink light.

At the last moment, as the enveloping pain began to take hold, she felt a shift from deep within her body. The constant buzzing in her head dimmed and she could feel her powers as they coursed through her body. A vortex of wind surrounded her and tousled her hair and clothing in a violent cyclone of fury. Something was different this time as she felt her heart contract and expand with every beat. She could feel the blood pump through her veins, carrying her spiritual powers with it. From deep inside she heard a voice, not her own but one she had heard before, telling her what to do. With desperation and fear controlling her heart she wrenched control of her powers away just long enough to send the purification blast toward the bank only a few feet from her friend. The size of the crater left by the blast was echoed in the amount of strength sucked from Kagome's small frame. Before she could say anything, Katsuro grabbed her around the waist and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Kagome opened her eyes and stared at the fire now burning. She could feel the warmth as it began to seep through her shoes, warming her icy toes. Sighing, she reclined against the tree allowing her head to fall back and to the side, eyes remaining on the fire. Her only comfort was that she knew InuYasha was okay. Just as the smoke had closed around her, she saw a blur of red as InuYasha landed a few feet from the crater.

Kagome knew that somehow she had been able to take back the control of her powers, but had no idea how it had happened. Since recovering some strength from the incident, she had been trying to focus her remaining energy on recreating the same feelings she had by the riverbank, but to no avail.

Her powers had always seemed greatest when she was either very angry or scared. It was frustrating to not be able to control and tap into those powers anytime she wished. The more she thought about it, the more anxious she became. Something inside was telling her that the key to her freedom was the ability to wrest back control of her powers from the spell of the crown.

Katsuro was similarly occupied with thoughts of the morning's incident. His miko was so powerful that, in a moment of terror, she was able to break through the binding spell. Though she was nowhere near strong enough to do this for more than a moment, it didn't mean that as she became stronger, she couldn't figure out how to break the spell completely. He knew she was powerful, but he had no idea that she was capable of such a feat, and had been in deep contemplation of how to proceed ever since. He realized, rather uneasily, that if she was ever able to fully comprehend the scope of her powers, she could easily break the hold he had over her and probably destroy him in the process.

As the youkai invested time and energy in drawing out her powers, as well as strengthening her body and mind to use them, he realized he was in fact building a ticking time bomb. Katsuro's brilliant plan began to unravel before his eyes, and he needed to figure out how to stop her from repeating the action of earlier and thus figuring out the only weakness in his nearly flawless strategy.

He was determined to keep her. The miko's power was unrivaled and with her, no other youkai could ever defeat him. Controlling her made him unstoppable and the moment other youkai discovered this; they would covet her and envy him.

Katsuro's greedy heart accelerated at this thought and he looked at her from his position near the fire.

'It is unfortunate that she is only a human. Her powers are equal to that of a demon but her body could never withstand those powers to be unleashed to their full potential'. He didn't dare risk her life to test how truly powerful she was.

The Saimyosho that he sent off earlier returned with the objects he had requested. A dark blue blanket dropped into his hands along with another scrap of cloth. He stood and walked over to the small figure huddled under the tree. As he spread the blanket over her, Kagome raised her eyes and looked at him for the first time without wariness or fear. He realized that she was very much altered as a result of the morning's event. He stared back for a moment and then dropped the other cloth onto her lap. She looked down as he answered her unspoken thought.

"So you can have the bath you so longingly wished for this morning."

Kagome just stared at the blanket and the brown cloth that was intended to serve as her new towel. Even though she still hated him and the situation that he had put her in, she couldn't help but be grateful for the small comfort that warm sleep and a bath could bring.

Rolling up the towel she tucked it under her head as a pillow and burrowed under the blanket. It wasn't long before sleep claimed her even as thoughts continued to swirl inside her head.

Green eyes continued to watch the miko as the firelight played across her soft features. He still felt the softness of her skin as his clawed finger accidentally brushed her cheek only a moment before. His fascination in her was growing. It was becoming imperative that he keep her in his possession.

Kagome awoke close to dawn to the sound of voices arguing. She cracked open one eye and searched the campsite trying to locate the source. She didn't need to see them in order to know who the owners of the voices were, their powerful youkai was grating against her senses.

"I am not interested in why you wasted a week along the coast. We made a deal, and it does not include playtime with the miko. Do not think I am in ignorance of your growing obsession with her. What I am concerned about is how long it will take to find the remaining shards." Naraku's angry voice reverberated in the stillness of the morning air.

His presence in the campsite spoke to the volume of his displeasure. Katsuro's blatant disregard for Naraku's order to find the shards as quickly as possible was something that he could not ignore.

"If you want her to be able to collect the shards, then she must be able to control her powers long enough to battle those who possess them in the first place," Katsuro seemed immune to the hanyou's venomous tone.

"Do not try my patience! I don't care if she lives or dies. I want the missing shards. There are four left. Two are in the wolf's legs, the others are unknown." Naraku walked up to where Kagome was slumped against the tree and then turned back to Katsuro. "Find them soon or she dies."

With that Naraku disappeared in a cloud of miasma.

Kagome's breath caught as visions of death swam in her mind. She knew that when Naraku decided to kill her, it would be slow and horrible. She really didn't like the idea of dying. There were far too many things she wished to experience in her life. Namely fall in love with someone who loved only her and maybe have a family. Not lose her life as an eighteen year old virgin who has only been kissed once by the one man who has never had the guts to tell her how much she means to him.

For the first time, Kagome regretted ever coming to the Sengoku Jidai. This stopped her short. That was something she never thought she would feel and sparked her anger. Hardened resolve made an appearance for the first time in a week.

No. She wasn't going out like that.

'I refuse to regret any of this. If I regret coming here then I regret meeting InuYasha, Miroku, Sango, Shippo, Kaede, and dozens of other people who have made me who I am today. There's nothing that Naraku or anyone else can do that'll make me regret having been here. I won't give up. I'll get through this and I'll be happy.'

"You might as well get up so that we can begin. We must appease the all powerful Naraku," Katsuro's voice was soft but laced with sarcasm.

Kagome sat up and passed a hand over her face. She often forgot that Katsuro had the ability to see, feel, and hear everything about her, including the moment she awoke or even when she needed to go to the bathroom. She decided that in order to survive this ordeal, she was going to need to let go of some of her modesty.

She still didn't like the hold he had over her and had no problem what so ever taking her temper out on the slimy lizard youkai. The small things he provided for her comfort did nothing to appease the anger and dislike she harbored.

"You're the one in league with him. Don't pretend to hate him for my sake." Kagome stood and stretched her cramped muscles. She had fallen asleep half sitting against the tree and her body was stiff and sore.

Katsuro remained silent to her bitter words and instead tossed her a chunk of bread. Since they began their travels it became apparent to Kagome that he frequently sent some of the Saimyosho to nearby villages to steal food and other provisions as needed. She was sure that some poor villager was left without a blanket last night while she was warm for the first time in a week. A slight twinge of remorse was all she could dredge up since that same villager was still free and not being used as a pawn by their mortal enemy in an evil plot to destroy the world. When put that way Kagome's already low spirits plummeted further as she once again looked into the pit of despair that was shaping up to be the final chapter of her life.

She folded the blanket and slung it over her arm. She ate the bread as they traveled and continued to mull over what she had overheard upon waking this morning. Four shards were all that stood between Naraku and what he needed to destroy them all.

A thought passed from Katsuro just then that added another layer of confusion to her already buried mind.

"You need not worry about your future. I will not allow any harm to come to you," his voice trailed off.

They continued walking in no direction in particular searching for the shards that neither really wanted to find. It was becoming clear to them both that when the jewel was complete, the final battle would begin and the future of all would be decided.

Back at the House of the Moon a daily ritual was taking place.

It was the highlight of both of their days…though only one admitted to it openly. The other was too stodgy by far to admit that afternoon tea with an eleven year old was the only bright spot in a very boring day otherwise full of land treaties and petty squabbles between vassals.

Sesshomaru watched as Rin poured the tea, perfectly executing every movement with a grace that was surprising for one so energetic and young. She seemed to be growing even as she sat across the table from him.

At least ten times a day he contemplated the idea of grabbing Rin and taking off into the wilderness to live like they had in the past. Life seemed better during those days. He did his two favorite things during that time. One was watching Rin play; allowing her exuberance to seep into his cold existence and thawing the frozen soul that was a product of living in his father's giant shadow. The second was killing. Stuck in the House of the Moon didn't present many opportunities, since none of the youkai got in his way and therefore deserved to die. Instead he was surrounded by those that served him. There didn't seem to be any honor in killing those that did all the things that he himself would never do, since those things were decidedly beneath him.

He often wondered what would happen if he came across someone who didn't cower out of fear in his presence. Then maybe he could kill someone, or at the very least, get some enjoyment out of scaring the hell out of them. Hoshi was the only one who would speak plainly and that was only because she was there when he was born and resided in every memory of his youth. They were equals in intelligence and power, though only Sesshomaru was aware of this fact. Most residents of the House of the Moon knew her to be stern in the running of the house, but none knew her true purpose and role in the Taiyoukai's home and life.

"Here you go Sesshomaru-sama!" Rin placed the cup in front of him.

He met her sparkling eyes and found a small amount of comfort for his growing restlessness. His self-proclaimed guardianship was one of the only things that held any real personal value in his life.

He accepted the tea and waited for her to prepare her own. As she finished, he took a sip from his cup and inwardly grimaced. He didn't really like tea but he would never let her know that. It all started when he accepted tea from her one time shortly after coming to the House of the Moon. She had become so excited that he didn't have the heart to deny her the small pleasure of these few moments every day.

To Sesshomaru, Rin's place in his life was intangible, but to her, small actions such as making tea and picking flowers for his sleeping quarters were important and gave her purpose. He fully understood the importance of that and refused to be the one to take that from her. So now, the Lord of the Western Lands and the most powerful taiyoukai in existence took tea with an eleven-year-old girl in the middle of the afternoon, every single day.

"What did you learn in your lessons today?"

"We worked on my calligraphy" Rin's mouth puckered a little as she answered distastefully. She hated calligraphy since her teacher, Shizuka, was such a perfectionist about characters.

"Well executed calligraphy is important. You must always strive for perfection."

"I know Sesshomaru-sama. I just don't like sitting for so long when the gardens are blooming and the sun is shining!"

Sesshomaru sighed and finished his tea. He looked at the young girl and frowned when he noticed a bruise on her wrist as she drank from her cup.

"Rin. Where did you get that bruise?"

At his frowning question Rin looked down and pulled back the sleeve of her kimono. The bruise was small but a deep purple, and still tender when touched.

"Oh this? Jaken got angry with me when I fell asleep in the garden yesterday. He said he couldn't find me, but I think he fell asleep as well and was embarrassed when Shizuka had to come and get me for my lessons."

Sesshomaru only growled quietly and gracefully stood.

"Rin, the next time Jaken strikes you, I wish for you to tell either myself or Hoshi immediately."

"Yes Sesshomaru-sama," she answered cheerily as she started cleaning the tearoom, oblivious to the fact that the Imp she cared about was in serious danger.

Sesshomaru walked from the tearoom and quickly located the hapless Imp as he awaited instructions in the Lord's office. The only reason he allowed Jaken's continued presence was because of Rin's bizarre fondness for the annoying youkai. It was still a mystery why she liked Jaken, for he was often cruel to her and had a borderline creepy loyalty to the Inu-Youkai himself. However Jaken did serve one purpose for the powerful Taiyoukai.

Hoshi was walking with Rin back from the tearoom when they heard Jaken's excited voice jar against the walls of the castle.

"Sesshomaru-sama, I am so glad that I found you!" Jaken's high-pitched voice sounded from inside his office. A loud thump soon followed and Sesshomaru walked out without a backward glance.

He needed to take a walk.

He needed to kill something.

Red eyes once again observed the Lord of the Western Lands as he left the House of the Moon. He finally knew how and when he could get to the arrogant Taiyoukai. Now it was just a matter of gaining access to the food stores.

An evil chuckle bubbled from his chest as he ventured off into the forest. It was time to meet with the Saimyosho once again and tell Naraku that he would finally have his long awaited revenge.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 5 of 60

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