InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ Sixteen ( Chapter 16 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Ten Years Earlier
Growling softly with annoyance, Kouga stared up at the imposing gate of the huge fortress. He did not want to be here, but he didn't have a choice. When the lord of the West sent you an invitation, you didn't refuse if you wanted to keep your head.
“Gods, this place is big,” Ginta muttered softly. Kouga turned to scowl at him. He didn't like them being impressed or showing it. Damn stupid dogs, he hated the stench of this place already. He had a pretty good idea what Sesshomaru wanted to talk to him about and he already hated the idea. He hated even more that he wasn't going to refuse.
An alliance was a good idea and not entirely unheard of. His territories bordered Sesshomaru's and it was in their best interest to work together. Human armies tended to lay waste to everything around them while marauding bands of youkai attacked anything they could find. Kouga had moved his people as far west as he could after the defeat of Naraku. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The gate started to open, creaking softly as massive locks were rolled back and iron hinges protested with their use. Kouga studied the mechanism warily. His people preferred to live out in the open, finding that natural caves had always suited them best. It had been nearly five years since Naraku had been destroyed and Kouga still wasn't used to being a leader of so many people.
The wolf tribes of the north and east had been decimated, slaughtered really. First his own people had been nearly hunted to extinction by the birds of paradise, as nasty a little clan of foul smelling demons he'd ever met. Then Naraku had destroyed the ablest warriors of both his own surviving clan as well as the ones who'd been foolish enough to be drawn in by his treachery. What had been left was the females with pups too young too fight, as well as elders who were too feeble to defend themselves.
“Ginta,” he snapped, folding his arms over his chest. Immediately his comrade went to stand in front of him, side by side with Hakkaku. He placed his most intimidating expression firmly on his face and watched a figure emerged from the small opening of the gate.
“Kouga-sama,” the inuyoukai said, approaching him slowly, hands hanging loosely at his sides. “You are welcome here. My name is Jano, on behalf of Sesshomaru-sama I bid you greeting.”
It went better than he'd expected and by the time Sesshomaru had dismissed him, Kouga was feeling rather pleased with himself. It seemed as if the lord of the West was as concerned as himself about the constant problem of marauding lesser demons. The daiyoukai had suggested tactfully that it would be in both of their interests to secure their borders. All it seemed that Sesshomaru wanted from him was for Kouga to allow his soldiers to police the borders of his territory. He had no wish to dominate any of the lands that Kouga's people had claimed and asked no tribute from his new ally. Security, Sesshomaru advised, could only benefit them both.
Kouga had grunted his assent, unwilling to show ready acceptance. One thing that had not come up during their negotiations was the matter of the demon lord's long-vanished younger brother. It burned in Kouga's mind to ask, to look at that cold, impassive face and demand answers. Do you know where that miserable half-breed is? Do you know what he did, what he became? As Inuyasha's brother, Sesshomaru should have concerned himself with the matter.
Still, he kept his tongue, realizing that it wouldn't be impossible for Sesshomaru to use his power to make an alliance by force. If Kouga had refused for some unknown reason, Sesshomaru's reputation didn't promise any acceptance of that refusal. He could very well find himself dead and his corpse tossed into a rocky ravine. Then the lord of the West would be able to have his patrols as he wished, unchallenged, and the wolf tribes would again be left without a leader.
A no win situation, he decided, following one of Sesshomaru's servants down the long, quiet passages. It was good that he had no reason to object and he suspected that had been Sesshomaru's plan in the first place. A willing ally would be far more useful than an angry one. So now Kouga could return to his people with the news that for the first time in centuries dog demons and wolf demons would unite in alliance that would benefit both of their tribes.
He reflected sourly that one certain member of his pack wouldn't take the news with any gladness. Shippou was still young and still so angry. He was glad that he'd taken in the traumatized kitsune, but nothing he'd done had ever been able to ease the boy's hatred. He smiled to himself thoughtfully, earning a confused look from Ginta and Hakkaku as they noted such an uncharacteristic expression. His own hatred of Inuyasha hadn't dimmed, not a whit. He still longed for the chance to find that white-haired monster and…
“Get out the way, stupid!”
Kouga froze at the sound of that voice, so hauntingly familiar and utterly unforgettable. It couldn't be, it had damned well better not…
“Kouga-sama!” The anxious inuyoukai servant chased after him when Kouga spun around and broke into a run. Of course he hadn't smelled him, how could he believed his own nose in a fortress full of stinking dogs? His mind had turned over and over to the subject and he'd kept his mouth shut, thinking that it was only his own banked anger that made him continue to think about Inuyasha.
Why hadn't he considered that this would be where he'd gone to ground, where he'd been hiding for so long? Because you know he hates his brother, Kouga told himself bitterly. You thought the last place Inuyasha would ever run to would be Sesshomaru's territory.
He followed his nose now, his nose and his instincts and took a turn that led him to a small open courtyard. A pair of servants was wrestling with a long tabletop that they were trying to set up, getting ready for the evening meal, no doubt. They were being supervised by a pissed looking white haired young demon, one that he'd waiting to encounter for one last time.
“Inuyasha!” Kouga shouted, his fists clenched as he charged into the courtyard. The other demon glanced up as he ran at him, turning just as Kouga leapt into the air and kicked him hard in the face. Satisfaction like he'd only imagined swept through his body as Inuyasha went sprawling on the ground, caught off guard by the wolf's vicious attack.
“You son of a bitch,” Kouga snarled, flinging himself down Inuyasha. His fists crashed into the inuyoukai's face, bloodying his nose and splitting his lips. Dimly, he heard shouting in the background, Hakkaku and Ginta yelling for him to stop before a squad of guards came to kill them all. Kouga didn't bother to answer, he was too busy getting his fists bloody on Inuyasha's face.
“Did you think you could hide here forever?” the wolf snarled as he beat the other demon. “Did you think you weren't ever gonna pay for what you did? You sick, worthless piece of shit, I should have killed you when I first met you! She loved you, damn you to hell!”
With an outraged roar, Inuyasha suddenly flung him back, moving faster than Kouga remembered. Blood smeared his face and Kouga stared at him, seeing the violet slashes on his face that marked him as a full demon. He could feel a powerful aura of pure youki radiating off his opponent and for the first time, Kouga felt afraid. What the hell had he done to gain power like that? Was it the sacred jewel? Even the shards he'd worn in his own legs hadn't ever made him guess that the completed power would alter the mutt like this.
“Who the fuck are you?” Inuyasha snarled, advancing on him. “Why did you attack me?” The demon cracked his knuckles menacingly, his golden eyes burning with an inner crimson fire. “Answer me, wolf!”
Rage consumed him so that he could barely force the words from his throat. “You know who I am,” he growled. “Don't treat me like I'm someone else!”
Inuyasha laughed and the sound sent chills up Kouga's spine. A wave of evil power flowed from Inuyasha like a rushing torrent, it flooded the small courtyard and from the corner of his eye, Kouga could see Ginta and Hakkaku huddling on the ground in fear.
He couldn't blame them; this wasn't the Inuyasha they'd known. It wasn't anything like the half-breed, the stupid mutt that he'd fought with so often. Hell, it was only his own wolfish pride that kept him on his feet. Instinct screamed at him to grovel and beg for mercy, plead for his life. This wasn't a hanyou. This was an angry daiyoukai of immense dark power and Kouga's mind went blank.
“I don't know you,” the dark creature hissed, flexing impossibly long, sharp claws. “But I will know you as you die.” Moving swiftly as a deadly snake, Inuyasha swept forward and seized Kouga's throat, bearing the wolf back to a hard stone wall and crushing him against it sadistically.
“What do you say I make you scream first?” Inuyasha muttered, digging his claws into Kouga's skin. Warm blood flowed from the wounds, covering Inuyasha's hand and wetting Kouga's chest. He tried to gasp out the words, but he couldn't breathe. His vision was going dark and pain flooded him, agony as Inuyasha's other hand tore aside the lacquered armor and found the soft flesh of his belly. Kouga had the distinct feeling that he was about to see his own guts pour onto the ground.
“Did ya hear me, wolf?” the inuyoukai said with a grin. “I said I want to hear you scream before I kill you. Scream loud enough and it will be a fast death instead of painfully slow one.” With those words, he eased his grip on Kouga's throat, allowing the wolf to draw a breath. He had no intention of screaming.
“Fuck you,” Kouga whispered. “No wonder she ran away, you're a fucking monster.”
“Huh?” Inuyasha looked confused. “Who ran away?”
Taking advantage of the demon's confusion, Kouga kicked out hard with both legs, letting Inuyasha take his weight so he could use the last of him remaining strength in a desperate move. He didn't care if he died now; all he cared about was inflicting one last bit of pain on the monster that had ravaged his pure Kagome. It made Kouga sick to his stomach to think about what this thing must have done to her.
His tactic wasn't entirely successful. His feet landed true, he felt bones crunch under the blow, but Inuyasha barely reacted, only gave a soft grunt of response. “If that's the way you want it,” he husked, licking his lips as he stared into Kouga's eyes. “We'll have some more fun then.”
He flung the helpless wolf to the ground in a harsh move and Kouga flopped as his forehead hit the stone paving. A heavy hand grabbed his hair and flipped him over, Inuyasha looming over him with claws outstretched.
Looks like I'm gonna die quickly after all, Kouga thought dizzily. He hated that he'd die at Inuyasha's hands, but Kagome, even an absent and abused Kagome, was worth it to him.
“She was always too good for you,” he whispered. Inuyasha snarled angrily and his claws came down on Kouga's exposed throat.
I'm sorry, Kagome, he thought as he felt those claws dig into him. I should have protected you from him.
The ice-cold voice seemed to paralyze his executioner and Kouga cautiously opened his eyes. Sesshomaru was walking slowly across the courtyard, his long fur pelt rippling in the breeze. He moved as smoothly as a specter, unconcerned with the trivial interactions of lesser beings. Kouga felt Inuyasha's weight shift and managed to look up as the demon moved away from him.
Inuyasha remained in a half crouch, staring as his brother slowly approached him. Sesshomaru stretched out a long fingered hand and Inuyasha darted away, breathing hard and looking for all the world like a wild, cornered animal, frightened and wary. Kouga had sat up to watch, reaching to rub absently at his sore neck where the wounds were already clotted. He couldn't look away as the elder brother advanced on the younger, a strange tension echoing against the stones of the courtyard. What the hell was going on?
“Inuyasha,” Sesshomaru said again, his voice low and quiet. “Do you not know me? Think now, remember your name and mine.”
“Sesshomaru,” the feral demon murmured, the fear in his eyes slowly receding. “Brother.” He fell to his knees, looking exhausted and utterly confused. “What happened to me?” he whispered.
Smiling faintly, Sesshomaru reached out and touched his brother's hair. “Nothing you need concern yourself with,” he said, again using that remarkably gentle tone. “I'm here now, there is nothing to fear as long as I am with you.”
Kouga couldn't help but stare in utter shock as the lord of the West reached down to help Inuyasha to his feet. The younger demon seemed dazed as he allowed his brother to guide him away, leaning heavily on his brother's arm as if he couldn't have moved without the support. Perhaps he couldn't, Kouga thought, getting to his feet with a soft groan.
“You're a lucky wolf,” a new voice commented, making Kouga start as he turned around. The dark haired demon that had greeted him earlier was standing behind him, an expression of disapproval painted on his face. “Sessh should have let him tear you apart, you deserved it for a stupid move like that.”
“What do you know,” Kouga muttered, feeling every bruise and gouge as he tried to keep his dignity. “You have any idea what that son of a bitch has done?”
Jano's eyes narrowed. “I don't care,” he said softly. “He's Sesshomaru-sama's brother and has my loyalty for that alone. Whatever crimes you might think he's committed, they don't matter in this place. Understand me, wolf? If you want to keep your head, you'll leave now before my lord orders it removed from your body.”
“Fuck you, I'm going,” Kouga retorted, relieved at the idea of being ordered out of this stinking fortress. He was still furious at Inuyasha's refusal to acknowledge him.
“What did that bastard think he was trying to prove, pretending that he didn't remember me?” he asked bitterly
“He doesn't remember you,” Jano said shortly, gesturing at him to follow. Kouga kept a sullen silence as the inuyoukai led him and his companions to the nearest exit. The wolf realized there were more exits to the fortress itself than he had realized, but they all led to the same heavy gate. He told himself to keep his mouth shut, get the fuck away from this cursed place as fast as his feet could carry him. Still, it nagged at him and just before he reached the gate, he stopped, glaring at Jano.
“What do you mean, he doesn't remember?” the wolf demanded. “I knew that fucker from years back, he should have remembered me. Did something happen to him? Did Sesshomaru do something to his head or what?”
Jano moved swiftly and flicked the tip of Kouga's nose like he was nothing but a pup. “Sesshomaru-sama,” he admonished coolly. “And no, my lord did nothing to his brother's memory. Inuyasha-sama was found delirious from fever and dying. When he recovered, he had no memory of his past or what had befallen him.”
“What?” Kouga said, incredulous. “He forgot everything? Even Kagome and Shippou, that monk and the demon slayer who were his friends? How could he forget…”
Jano's expression was one of patience being slowly eroded by a wolf's inane questions. “He does not recall his companions that traveled with him, nor does he recall you or anyone else from that time. That is how Sesshomaru-sama wishes it to remain, so I advise that you forget your quarrel with him if you intend to keep your alliance.”
Growling softly to himself, Kouga stalked out the gate, followed by a silent Ginta and Hakkaku. He broke into a run almost as soon as he cleared the fortress walls, sprinting as fast as his battered body could take him. Forgot about it huh, he thought, fresh anger flooding him.
It wasn't fair, Shippou still had nightmares about that bastard, hell, he still felt sickened when he thought about what Kagome must have been through at his hands. And Inuyasha was just allowed to forget it all as if it had never even happened?
Kouga snorted, holding bitterness close to his heart like a lover's face. Mutt was blissfully unaware of his crimes or his guilt. It was too bad the rest of them weren't as lucky.
He was in a bad mood.
She'd thrown his apology, his sincere apology, back in his face like it meant nothing to her. He'd honestly meant it too; he was deeply ashamed of losing control and wanted her to know that, for what it was worth anyway. It wasn't worth shit and deep in his heart, Inuyasha couldn't blame her.
Idiot, he told himself, since when do you care what some human wench thinks about you anyway? She should be getting down on her knees and praying to whatever gods a priestess held dear that Jano had intervened when he did. He didn't like to think about what he'd almost done.
And to a human no less. It was too bitter to accept. His mother had been human, the few memories that he did still have and called pleasant were of her. He could remember her holding him, whispering that she loved him, that it wasn't his fault he was born a hanyou, that there was nothing wrong with him. He wished he could believe that now, but he hadn't believed it even then.
Then there was Kikyou. He'd deluded himself into thinking that she could love him and it still burned bitterly inside him, burned in a scar over his heart that would never fade. Why did she turn on me, he asked himself for the thousandth time. Did I do something wrong, did I make her angry? Did she think that I was still just after the stupid jewel?
For that matter, had he been? Inuyasha scratched his ear, not exactly remembering. He could recall running, destroying everything in his path. Sometimes he remembered crashing through the roof of a hut, snatching the jewel in one hand and leaping away from the angry villagers. He hadn't killed anyone, why did she have to go and shoot him with her cursed arrow?
Sometimes he wasn't sure about it, he remembered that same village but he wasn't hunting for the jewel. He was just hunting for someone to hurt, someone to tear apart with his bare claws. It was rage, pure and transcendent, all consuming rage that he felt. He just wanted their fucking blood, he wanted to taste it in his mouth. Men, women and children, he didn't care. He wanted to kill as many people as he could because she had betrayed him, left him behind like he was nothing, just a dirty half blood monster…
Inuyasha stopped, the half lucid memories making his head throb terribly. He winced, leaning heavily against the wall as he rubbed his temples.
Calm down, he told himself, don't try to remember. You only hurt yourself when you try to remember. He kept his eyes closed until the pain passed, the sick and dizzy sensation that followed it. His brother had taught him to relax, let the memories wash away, leaving only calmness behind. He inhaled deeply through his nose and slowly released the breath with a soft growl.
His ears twitched and he picked up the sound of a muffled shout, a harsh laugh. What the hell, he wondered, scowling as the scent of fresh blood touched his nose. It was familiar, very familiar, and he could almost place it. Not a long hidden memory this time, no, this blood belonged to someone he'd met recently. It didn't smell like inuyoukai and it wasn't human either, but there was still something different and…ah shit.
He broke into a run, tracking the sound and scent while not even realizing that his heart was pounding angrily in his chest. Who did it, it wasn't on his orders, it damn sure wasn't on Sesshomaru's either, but he was going to rip their asses for this one. Damn fools, always taking it one step too far, dog demons not being known for their self restraint. Didn't that stupid punk of a fox know any better than to provoke them?
Inuyasha skidded to stop in front of a wardroom and slammed the door open with his palm. His eyes glittered in fury at the scene before him. Shiou and Haru got to their feet, looking guilty and not meeting his angry expression. Inuyasha glared at them, his gaze going to the table where they'd obviously been having an off duty drink, then his eyes tore to the corner of the room where a battered figure was slumped against the wall.
“You miserable pissants,” he snarled, his hands curling into fists. “Who gave you permission to beat him up like that?”
Haru looked abashed and Shiou studied the ceiling. “Well, Inuyasha-sama,” Shiou began. “He tried to escape, you see. We just stopped him.”
Growling with fury, he stalked over to corner and grabbed the kitsune's hair. Kid was unconscious, his face bruised and blood crusted under his nose. He let go of the boy's hair and turned around, glowering. “You idiots nearly stopped him to death,” he spat angrily.
“You should have heard what that little snot said to us,” Haru said, his face going red.
“Yeah, he tried to trick us with some kind of illusion so he could run away,” Shiou put in to defend their actions. “You said not let him out of his room!”
Patience had never been one of his strong points, Inuyasha was sure of that. He smiled slowly, turning to the guards and approaching them with a menacing air. Shiou and Haru exchanged apprehensive looks, backing away from Inuyasha-sama and trying not to show their nervousness.
“He's not in his room right now,” Inuyasha told them coldly. “Looks like you disobeyed orders, boys.”
A few quick blows later and both of the guards were unconscious themselves. Inuyasha rubbed his knuckles and glared down at them in agitation. Stupid bastards, they never listened. He'd have Jano sort them out for their actions later, right now he was more concerned about taking care of the fox brat who had enjoyed a harsher version of inuyoukai hospitality than was necessary.
“Assholes,” he muttered, hefting the kid to his shoulder before stalking out of the room. “Don't they know I have to travel with this punk tomorrow?”
He grimaced to himself, thinking of what that woman was going to say when she saw her pet kitsune looking like his face had been used to break down doors. It wasn't going to be a pleasant journey; he could just feel it. What the hell was Sesshomaru thinking by making him do this?
Never mind, he told himself. He couldn't figure out his brother's mind any better than anyone else. Somehow he didn't think this brat of Kouga's was going to be plotting with anyone and if that damn Kouga was plotting something…
Inuyasha smiled nastily to himself, thinking of what he'd like to do to that arrogant wolf if he was foolish enough to betray his alliance with Sesshomaru. He almost hoped that this was a trick, some kind of ruse that Kouga and that priestess had cooked up.
Then he wouldn't have to feel guilty.
Kagome shifted restlessly, wishing that she could sleep. Every time she dozed off she was jerked back awake, the tension in her body making her twitch. She sighed and threw off the blankets for the fifth time that night. The room wasn't overly warm, but she was still sweating.
Grumbling to herself, she got up and stripped off her light yukata. It was damp with sweat and twisted around her body. Naked, she went to the window and looked outside. It was well after midnight, she decided as she looked up at the moon. A cool breeze washed over her bare skin, making her shiver slightly.
You've really gotten yourself in a mess this time, Higurashi, she thought, letting her elbows rest against the stone casement. Absently, she pushed her hair back and closed her eyes. Yes, a real mess. Her only hope of getting back to where she belonged lay in the very person she couldn't trust. She wondered how good her chances were in even making it back to the well.
He'd apologized to her, as if a simple statement could take away the dirty feeling of his hands, or the memory of his hot breath against her skin. Kagome shuddered again, this time it had nothing to do with the breeze that was gently caressing her. Did he think he could apologize for nearly raping her in the hallway?
Bastard, she thought, her mind turning in dark circles. She'd snapped, she knew that it had shocked him. Somehow his simple apology had sent her into a transport of pure rage, the pain and disgust writhing in her belly like a nest of snakes. She wanted to shove his words right back down this throat, tear his skin off so that maybe, just maybe, he'd have some idea of the hell he'd put her through.
But it was useless, useless as anything she'd ever done to defend herself. There was no way to erase the past, no way to take back what he'd stolen from her. How did he dare to think that an apology could ever suffice, as if words could mend the broken pieces of her soul. It made her sick to even think of it.
He might not remember who she was, remember who he had been, but it was obvious that nothing had really changed. He was still the same dominating demon bastard that thought he owned her. Kagome's hands curled into fists, her nails scraping against the hard stone. She had a right to her anger, she owned it, and it was a part of her.
And still, why had she let him kiss her like that? Why had she responded, even if only for a moment? Again her body betrayed her and Kagome's hatred for Inuyasha twisted and reformed itself into loathing for herself.
You miserable slut, she thought darkly. He probably thought you wanted it. Isn't that what happened before? You should have fought and screamed every single time he touched you, instead you let him take what he wanted. You gave it to him like there was nothing else left.
Slowly, she reached up to touch her throat, letting her fingers trail over her hot skin like a benediction. It was easy to remember that, easy to remind herself about how weak she had been. One slim hand slipped down her chest, cupping her breast just like Inuyasha had done, her fingers tightening on the soft mound of flesh until she felt her nails digging in just like claws.
That's why she had to get home, that's why she had to return and push the memories back again. His violence, his cruelty, her hatred was easy to live with. It was the way she'd screamed for him, begging him for more, that she found hard to accept. Why did she have to remember these feelings?
Kagome sighed, a tear slipping down her cheek before she realized she was about to start crying again. Seemed all she knew how to do anymore, cry for herself. Self pity hadn't gotten her back home before, it sure as hell wouldn't save her now. She wasn't a scared and traumatized child anymore, she wasn't in love with a boy who had become a monster. She had become stronger than that, strong enough to put aside the way he'd made her feel. It was in the past and that was where she was right now.
“Once upon a time,” she whispered. “I thought that dreams could come true. Once upon a time, I thought I could be the one to change him. I was a fool to believe in fairy tales. There's no such thing as happy endings.”
“Are you sure about that?”
She spun around, covering herself almost instinctively as she searched for the intruder. She didn't know if she should be glad or start screaming. Her knees shook unbearably and she pressed her back against the wall, the coolness of the stone against her buttocks seemed like reality. Reality shouldn't include dead monks.
“Why are you here?” she murmured, staring at Miroku's ghost. “I thought you were done with what you wanted to tell me.”
Miroku smiled cryptically. “I am sorry, Kagome. I didn't mean to startle you.”
She almost laughed and choked it back. It seemed like everyone was apologizing to her tonight. “Why should I be startled?” she asked, her voice still shaking. “I'm getting used to hallucinations and conversations with the dead.”
“Ah good,” he said, smiling brightly. “I always did admire you for your ability to adapt to the most trying circumstances.” He glanced down at her naked body and a familiar leer crossed his face. “And I always admired you for your charming disregard of concealing garments.”
She blushed, impossible to be embarrassed in front a hallucination, she thought. Deliberately, she dropped her arms and stepped away from the wall. “Is it just coincidence that you're here now,” she asked, proud of the way her words seemed to match his nonchalant tone. “Are you always going to appear when I'm naked, Miroku?”
The monk closed his eyes reverently. “If Buddha permits,” he answered, a mocking note to his familiar attempt at purity. He opened his eyes again, grinned and gave her a saucy wink. “If so, I must have led a better life than I had thought to be so rewarded.”
Kagome wanted to laugh at his expression, every bit the lecher even in death. Miroku moved across the room and Kagome realized that he cast no shadow in the moonlight. She swallowed hard. This really wasn't funny.
“I see that you've managed to convince Sesshomaru to help you,” he said mildly. “I told you that you would find a way.”
She exhaled and rubbed her eyes. “Yes, for what it's worth. He's ordered Inuyasha to take me to the well and see if will open for him. That's the best I can come up with for now.”
Miroku nodded, his expression grave. “And what are you going to do if it doesn't work?”
Bile rose in her throat, she refused to consider it. “I don't want to think about it.”
“You should,” the monk answered mysteriously. “You should be thinking about why it might have opened for you in the first place.”
Kagome raised her eyebrows and went to pick up her yukata. She didn't miss the disappointed look in his eyes either. “I give up,” she said, slipping the thin cloth over her shoulders. “Bad luck? The universe hates me? Are you saying there's a reason I came here?”
“I'm not saying that there isn't,” he murmured.
“Bullshit,” she said, her eyes glinting angrily. “I don't care even if there is some great spiritual reason. I'm not a goddamn priestess, Miroku. I gave that up along with believing that there was good in everything.”
“If you aren't a priestess, don't you find it strange that some of your spiritual abilities are still so strong? It's not every woman that can flatten an angry daiyoukai with her aura.”
She stared at him. “You know about that?”
Miroku smiled gently. “Of course, I'm sure that the spiritual realm is still quaking. Your power has been felt far from here, Kagome. I think you should know that.”
She grit her teeth and turned her back on him. “If you know that, then you know everything else,” she said, biting off the words like chunks of iron. “You know that son of a bitch hasn't changed.”
“And what would you have done if he hadn't been interrupted?” Miroku asked quietly. “Would you have let him rape you against a wall, crying like a frightened schoolgirl?”
Kagome hissed, her breath caught in her throat. “Don't mock me,” she whispered, tears prickling at her eyes. “You don't know how it feels, you didn't have him all over you. Am I just supposed to pretend that didn't happen?”
“I'm not asking you to pretend anything,” Miroku answered, his voice gone hard and final. “I'm telling you to have more faith in yourself. You defended yourself once, you would have been able to do it again.”
“I couldn't,” she shouted, wanting to beat his face in if only he'd had substance. “I tried, damn you to hell. I tried to bring it up again and there was nothing, absolutely nothing I could do! I'm not a priestess, Miroku! I'm not Kikyou!”
She stopped, horrified by the turn her words had taken. Miroku smiled sympathetically. His hand moved as if he wanted to touch her to comfort her, but he pulled back and slowly closed his hand.
“No,” he said solemnly. “You are not Kikyou. For that at least, we can be grateful. However powerful she may have been, you will need more than just her strength. You will need your heart, your compassion, and your ability to look beyond the surface. I don't envy you, Kagome. But I will do whatever I can to help.”
Her eyes were wide and she felt cold from the inside out. “What are you talking about?”
His eyebrow quirked meaningfully at her. “When you were in the village with Shippou, did you not sense a presence nearby? An unbearably sad presence, like grief itself had been given substance and allowed to wander the land?”
Kagome stared at him, her mouth dropping open. “Yes,” she whispered, forgetting that she was speaking to a ghost, a memory of a long dead friend. That thought drove Inuyasha from her mind, evaporated her hatred and worry. “I felt exactly that.”
Miroku turned away, his outline already fading and his dark blue robes darkening to match the shadows against the stone walls of her room. “That is why we are lucky to have you and not Kikyou. I doubt she could remember pity for such a loss.”
“Wait,” she cried, reaching out for him. “Tell me what's really going on, tell me what that was about. Why wouldn't she…” Her hand closed on air and Kagome drew her arm back before sinking to her knees. Pity? What loss? What could possibly be more important that her own return to safety. Damn him! And damn her too.
Fate was laughing again.
”They will leave at dawn,” Sesshomaru murmured, watching ghosts of his own as they danced in the fire. The flames leapt and played in shades of gold and amber, matching the demon lord's eyes. His expression was completely neutral, time itself could not etch regret upon his pale features, only tease them to a shade of melancholy that brought a touch of ethereal pain to his eyes.
“The arrangements have been made as you ordered, my lord.” Jano's voice was quiet, a touch more pensive than usual. He was by nature a lighthearted youkai, known for his charming demeanor and his wry sense of humor. It was strange that they had been friends for so long, he reflected, watching as Sesshomaru studied the fire.
His wife often remarked on that, as usual, she often remarked that he could do with adopting a bit more serious a tone in his duties. She had the gift of understanding them both, Sesshomaru's dark and serious mind complemented Jano's easy going personality. They wouldn't have been able to tolerate each other if they weren't such opposites.
And Jano never questioned his decisions, knowing that Sesshomaru possessed a calm and calculating intellect that suited his responsibilities. It was day to day interactions with his people that tended to annoy him, make him short tempered and wrathful. His lord had not inherited his father's charisma.
Where Inutaisho had been the type of leader that had inspired fanatical loyalty, love even, in the hearts of his people, Sesshomaru tended to intimidate by his silent presence. No one questioned him, wanted to invite his notice. Although given to long periods of solitary reflection, Sesshomaru had never considered gaining his people's hearts to be a priority, or even a necessity, to his duty as lord of the West. He neither invited nor inspired warmth and many spoke of his icy indifference with fear and respect.
Not so for his younger brother, Jano thought, smiling a little at the thought. Inuyasha was fire to Sesshomaru's ice, blustering reality in contrast to his brother's cold mysticism. Jano thought it was funny that so many of the young ladies of the fortress pursued the temperamental young demon, including even the sole human resident. If Sesshomaru found Rin's infatuation with Inuyasha to be amusing, you'd never know it.
He sighed, running a hand over his dark hair and decided he was tired of waiting. Sesshomaru was perfectly capable of making him stand here for hours in silence and he'd learned years ago that sometimes you had to make the necessary gestures in order to get what you needed from him.
“Will that be all, my lord?” he asked politely. Makiko had a late supper waiting for him, he was sure. It had been a long and difficult day and he was glad to see the end of it. And he was sorry too, for the dawn would bring yet another change to their lives and Jano, for all he would never question Sesshomaru's decisions, thought that they would have done better to have turned that blasted priestess away instead of giving her what she asked for.
Sesshomaru waved a finger at him, still staring into the fire. “You may leave,” he said, sounding as if his thoughts had been reeled in from far away. Jano bowed, his hair falling over his shoulder in a long sweep. It was bit more formal than needed, Sesshomaru didn't stand on ceremony in private. Public was an entirely different matter.
He headed for the door, thinking of what Makiko would say when he told her about the incident with the kitsune. He knew that she disapproved of this plan of allowing Inuyasha to escort the priestess and her fox demon friend back to this whatever it was. She was more than a little protective of Sesshomaru's younger brother and just as Jano was about to leave, he turned back and thought he might as well give voice to the one thing that had been bothering him the most about this plan.
“Might I ask a question, my lord?”
Sesshomaru pulled his gaze away from the fire. “Of course.”
Jano took a deep breath. “I just wanted to ask, are you entirely sure that Inuyasha is stable enough for this task? Not that I question your reasoning, Sessh, but he will be going rather far from the fortress and could be gone for some time. I know that he gets…unreliable…if he's too far from Tenseiga. Makiko will express concern for his health if something should happen.”
“It is not a concern,” Sesshomaru said, his voice distant. “I am aware of the situation, but I have made my decision. It doesn't matter.”
Jano frowned, leaning against the doorframe. “So you think he might have one of his turns while out there? Is that part of the plan? It seems like it would be a lot less trouble to simply kill them now if that's what you're intending.”
Sesshomaru met his eyes. “It is not my intention that my brother murder either the woman or the kitsune in a rage,” he said, his tone darkening slightly. “I'm sure she's aware of the risks. It will be up to her if she wants to survive him again.”
He scowled briefly before folding his arms across his chest. “But that's dangerous for Inuyasha, isn't it? You've always said that the darkness needs to be kept in check, he could be in danger of losing himself again. I can't believe that…”
“It doesn't matter what you believe,” Sesshomaru said, his voice hard with finality. “Nor does it matter that I would wish otherwise. I don't give a damn what happens to the woman, but it's pointless to deny her request.”
“Then why didn't you just say no?” Jano asked in exasperation. Here was where their long association became evident. No one used that tone with Sesshomaru and expected to live. No one but Jano had ever done so. “If you want, I'll go with them, just to make sure he doesn't get out of hand. You should have seen him today, Sessh. It was bad, worse than he's been in a long time. She sets him off.”
“Perhaps there is reason,” the demon lord said, looking back into the fire for answers. “Perhaps this is the least he can do to mend his crimes against her. I do not care for a human's justice, but I will not have my brother die with no chance to resolve his own mysteries.”
Jano blinked, startled. “But he's…Tenseiga, you've always told me that…”
Sesshomaru stood up, his silk robes flowing around him in a graceful arc as he stalked to the window. There he stood, staring up at the same moon even as Kagome stood at her own window and asked her own questions.
“I said it doesn't matter,” Sesshomaru said quietly. “There's nothing that can be done for him anymore. Tenseiga has only been able to delay the inevitable. Now even the katana's mysteries are failing him, its hold over his destroyed mind has been waning. I would not want to be put in the position of executing him should his madness return.”
His mouth dry, Jano swallowed hard, shaken by the news. “What are you saying?”
Sesshomaru's lips quirked in a bitter smile. How ironic that after seeking his brother's death for so long, he now found himself regretting his powerlessness to heal the damage done by a single, cursed jewel.
“My brother is dying,” he said quietly. “There's nothing I can do to stop it. All I can give him now is the chance to rediscover his own memories and the person he used to be. I would not go to my death ignorant of my own past. I will do no less for Inuyasha.
“He is, after all, my brother.”