InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Sesshomaru's Children ❯ The Canyon Fortress ( Chapter 6 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Chapter 6: The Canyon Fortress
“I think Mother has secret magic powers she's not telling us about,” Kagome muttered to Souta as they lit candles in the temple. She kept her voice down, because there were a few people in the temple saying prayers.
“What do you mean?” Souta answered softly.
“It's the way she can get those kids to just sit down and play quietly. I can never get them to sit still for more than ten minutes at a time and she can keep them quiet for hours.”
“It hasn't been hours,” Souta replied with a chuckle.
“But still…”
“Maybe her games are just more engaging then yours.”
“They're the same games!” Kagome flushed as a few heads popped up to stare at her. She lowered her voice again. “It's more than just a knack. She's got some kind of weird magical talent, I tell you.”
Souta laughed. “You're funny Kagome. What are you going to do if you have kids?”
“Who said I'm having kids?!”
“Well…” Souta regarded her with a sly smile. “You and Inuyasha spend an awful lot of time together.”
“That doesn't mean we're planning to start a family!” Kagome glared at him. “I'm not cut out for this,” she growled as she resumed lighting candles. “I'm a priestess.”
“That doesn't mean you can't have a family.”
“I'm gonna smack you in a minute, Souta!”
Mrs. Higurashi appeared in the temple doorway with her purse in her hand. Kagome paled and hurried over to her.
“Are you going out, Mother?”
“Yes, dear. I have a few errands to run. The children are in the kitchen having a snack. You should probably go check on them in a few minutes. See you later!” Mrs. Higurashi waved as she walked away.
Kagome sighed. “There goes my peaceful morning,” she said mournfully.
“Oh, don't be such a grouse,” Souta said airily. “You love playing with those children.”
Kagome just sighed again. “I guess I better go check on them.” She slumped off toward the house.
Souta made no effort to hide his amusement.
The kitchen was a shambles. Sonnemaru was washing the dishes in the sink, but she had used too much soap and filled the sink too full with water. The floor was soaking and slick with suds. Massenmaru had picked up the sopping rug and was wringing it out over the table, so water was running off the sides and dripping onto the mats. Kebakushin was scrambling around picking up the mats and draping them off the edges of the counter to drip, but they were mostly serving as conduits for the large amounts of water that Sonnemaru kept splashing onto the counter whenever she put a freshly washed dish there for Koshitenba to dry. And Koshitenba was diligently removing each freshly washed dish from the counter by climbing onto the step stool, which she had covered with dish towels so it wouldn't be slippery, and placing them on the floor where she could sit down and carefully wipe them with a dish towel that was as wet as her clothing now was.
Kagome stared in horror.
Koshitenba held up the teacup she was theoretically drying. “Look, Miss Kagome! We're washing the dishes!”
“I… I can see that,” Kagome answered faintly. “Um… I think…” She stared around, utterly at a loss where to begin. “Maybe I should give you a hand with that rug,” she finally said to Massenmaru. “Let's take it outside.”
The two of them lugged the soaking wet rug outside and draped it over the fence around Grandpa's garden. Kebakushin followed with the mats and hung them up too. Kagome then retrieved several towels from the hall closet and put the boys to work drying the counter and the floor. She got a dry dish towel for Koshitenba and let her continue drying dishes while Kagome put them away. When they were finished, Kagome had everyone help her take the wet towels to the laundry room so they could be washed.
“But shouldn't they already be clean?” Massenmaru asked, puzzled. “We used them to clean up soap and water.”
“Yeah,” agreed Kebakushin, “maybe we just need to hang them up.”
“It's better to wash the soap out,” Kagome said, “otherwise they'll get stiff.”
So they put a load of towels in the washing machine and started it, much to the children's fascination.
“Mother would really like this,” Sonnemaru said. “She always complains when she has to wash our clothes in the stream, especially in winter when the water's cold.”
“Well, we're in a different world,” Kagome said quickly. “They don't have things like this where you live.”
“That's too bad.”
“Why don't you play outside for a while?” Kagome suggested. “It's nice and warm outside.”
“Yes, Miss Kagome.”
The children hurried away and Kagome went back to the kitchen. It didn't look too bad. And amazingly enough, none of the dishes had gotten broken. Still, there was a little more straightening up to do, so she pushed up her sleeves and went to work. She had just put another load of towels into the washing machine when Souta dashed into the laundry room.
“You better come outside quick, Kagome!” he exclaimed. “We've got a problem!”
“Oh no!” Kagome hurried after him.
Out in the yard, there was a small commotion. Several visitors to the shrine were clustered around the base of the sacred tree, pointing and talking excitedly. Kagome followed their pointing fingers and gasped. Several meters off the ground, Koshitenba was crouched on one of the branches, clinging to the trunk and crying. Massenmaru and Kebakushin were both much higher up, standing fearlessly on flimsy-looking branches, gazing down at her. Sonnemaru was standing at the foot of the tree, looking up at Koshitenba. She was also in tears.
Kagome pushed her way through the spectators. “Sonnemaru, what's going on?”
“I can't get Koshi to come down!” Sonnemaru sobbed. “She's too scared. I told her not to follow the boys! Mama says I'm supposed to look after her.”
“We told her not to climb up!” Massenmaru shouted. He sounded guilty. He and Kebakushin both looked worried.
Kagome smiled encouragingly at Koshitenba. “Don't cry, Koshi!” she called. “It will be all right! Souta, get the ladder.”
“It's not long enough, Kagome.”
“But it will get me close.” She stepped back as Souta hurried away. “Massen, Keba, I need you to come down level with Koshi.”
The boys nodded and began scrambling down. Their movements made the tree shake and Koshitenba cried out. She squeezed her eyes shut and clung to the trunk.
“Don't be scared, Koshi!” Sonnemaru scrubbed the tears from her own eyes. “Miss Kagome will save you.”
The boys reached Koshitenba just as Souta returned with the ladder. He leaned it against the tree and braced it while Kagome quickly climbed it as high as she could.
“All right,” Kagome said. “Boys, I want each of you to take one of Koshi's hands and lift her down to me. Once I have my arm around her, Massen will let go of one hand so Koshi can put her arm around my neck. Then Keba can let go of her other hand. All right? Let's go.” Kagome held out her arm.
It took the boys a minute to persuade Koshitenba to let go of the trunk and take their hands. They balanced naturally on the branch while they slid their little sister off the edge and dangled her down toward Kagome. Koshitenba began to whimper.
“Don't look down, sweetie,” Kagome said encouragingly. “Look at me.” She looped her arm around Koshi's waist and pulled the little girl tight against her. Massenmaru released her right hand and Koshitenba wrapped her arm around Kagome's neck. Kebakushin released her other hand and Koshitenba clutched Kagome so tight, Kagome wheezed. “I need to breath, sweetheart,” she rasped out, but she began backing carefully down the ladder.
Sonnemaru hovered anxiously at the bottom. As soon as Kagome stepped off the ladder, she clasped her sister's waist. “Oh, Koshi! You shouldn't worry me like that! I promised Mama I'd take care of you.”
“I'm sorry, Sonne.” Koshitenba wiped her eyes and sniffed. “It was so high. I got scared.”
Kagome put her down and Sonnemaru hugged her sister tightly. The boys came sliding down the trunk, digging in with their claws to avoid falling too fast.
“Well, that was certainly a close call!” one of the visitors exclaimed.
“Yes, that was quick thinking, Priestess Kagome.”
“Children will get in over their heads sometimes.”
“But what are they dressed up for? Are they going to a masquerade?”
Kagome started. She had been so focused on Koshitenba, for the first time she realized the children did not have their hats on. The handful of visitors standing about were all staring curiously at the children's triangular silver ears.
“Oh! Their, ah, costumes are for, uh, Halloween, but they like to, you know, dress up,” Kagome stammered. “Well, I better get them inside! After all that excitement, they'll need to calm down. Thank you all for your concern!” She threw Souta a desperate, get-rid-of-them look and started herding the kids toward the house.
Souta began herding the visitors toward the steps.
“We're sorry, Miss Kagome,” Massenmaru said. He and Kebakushin hung their heads dejectedly. “We just wanted to see how high up we could go. We told Koshi not to follow us.”
“She always follows you!” Sonnemaru said accusingly. “You should be more careful!”
“You're not Mama!” Massenmaru snapped back. “You can't tell us what to do!”
“I can to! I'm the oldest! Mama said I'm in charge when she's not home!”
“None of us are home!” Kebakushin shouted.
Koshitenba began to cry.
“Children!” Kagome said sternly. “Be quiet!” She picked Koshitenba up and stroked her hair comfortingly. “It's no one's fault. Nobody got hurt, so that's the end of it.” She looked at their unhappy little faces. “I know this is hard for you. I know how much you miss your mother. But all we can do is be patient and wait. Inuyasha will be back soon. You have to trust me.”
They all stared up at her with their enormous golden eyes. Kagome smiled back at them with affection tugging at her heart. I don't care how cold-hearted Sesshomaru is, she thought, how can he not love these children?
Jaken wiped sweat from his brow and groaned. The ridge seemed to go up forever. He had been looking for Sesshomaru for days without any idea where the demon had gone. He had only his instincts and his staff to guide him, and both said he needed to cross this ridge. With a sigh, he resumed trudging through the underbrush. It couldn't be much farther.
At long last, he pushed through a final screen of dry, scratchy brush to find himself on the crest of the ridge. Before him, the ridge descended slowly into a wide shallow plain that seemed to stretch to the horizon. A bright blue ribbon of river wound through the plain in the near distance. Farther away, the dark, rumpled line of a forest was visible.
And striding calmly along the bank of the river was a figure that could only be Sesshomaru!
“My Lord!” Jaken shouted. He waved the staff wildly. “Lord Sesshomaru! It's me, Jaken!” Jaken raced down the slope toward the river and Sesshomaru. As he expected, because of his short stature, he lost sight of Sesshomaru as soon as he was partway down the ridge and the bushes blocked his vision, but Jaken didn't care. He could feel the tug of Sesshomaru's presence now. He rushed through the brush and scrub desperately, not caring as sharp thorns snagged his robe and poked his skin.
“Lord Sesshomaru!” Jaken shouted as soon as he was clear. Sesshomaru had stopped to wait for him. Jaken hurried up to him and bowed deeply, both to show his respect and to catch his breath. “My Lord!” Jaken gasped out between breaths, “Rin is in danger! A demon has kidnapped her! He demands that you come to face him or he will kill her!”
Sesshomaru's expression didn't change, but in his stillness, he suddenly radiated a dangerous coldness that made Jaken straighten up quickly.
“When did this happen?” Sesshomaru asked quietly.
“Six days ago, my Lord. I have been looking for you ever since.”
“Did the demon tell you his name?”
“Bosoporu, my Lord. The men who took Rin said their master's name was Bosoporu.”
“I see.” Sesshomaru looked toward the northwest horizon. His hand lifted slowly and came to rest on the handle of the Tokijin. Jaken shuddered. Even that slight contact released the evil aura of the demon sword. “I was clearly too impatient in my youth,” Sesshomaru murmured. “I should have made sure every trace of Bosoporu's spirit was destroyed.” Without another word, he turned and started walking toward the northwest.
Jaken scurried after him. “What will you do, my Lord?”
“Kill him,” Sesshomaru replied flatly.
They walked in silence for several minutes.
“What of my children?” Sesshomaru asked abruptly. “What happened to them?”
Jaken was so startled, he didn't answer right away. This was the first time he had ever heard Sesshomaru refer to his offspring as “my children”, not “Rin's children”. Jaken realized he had hesitated too long when Sesshomaru looked down at him. “They are safe, my Lord,” he said quickly. “I took them to Inuyasha and he said he would take care of them.”
“My brother?”
“I did not know where else to leave them while I looked for you!” Jaken looked up pleadingly. “He is your brother, my Lord, no matter what your differences are. Your children are his flesh and blood.”
“Hmm.” Sesshomaru looked up at the sky. “So Inuyasha knows about Rin?”
“Yes, Lord Sesshomaru. I had to tell him everything.”
“He will probably interfere.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Because it is in his nature to want to help people. It is one of the many things I have always found incomprehensible about him.” Sesshomaru stroked the hilt of the Tensaiga. He lengthened his stride and Jaken had to trot to keep up. “We will have to hurry. It is a long way. There is transportation ahead.”
Jaken peered ahead, wandering what creature Sesshomaru had enslaved to carry him. Well, whatever it was, anything would be better than walking. Jaken was sick to death of walking.
“That is quite an impressive fortress,” Miroku said.
The signs of an old landslide were still in evidence, but the central part of the canyon had been cleared and the rubble used to construct an edifice of stunning proportions, including a curtain wall that completely blocked off the canyon. Guards paced the top of the wall and sentries stood above the heavy iron gate in the middle.
“It's pretty conventional, if you ask me,” Inuyasha replied with a shrug. “It's designed to defend against a human army. What kind of a demon is this Bosoporu? You think he'd be more afraid of getting attacked by demons.”
“I think he's very clever,” Sango said. “He's planning for all contingencies. I'm sure he has other defenses for demon attacks.”
“Maybe.” Inuyasha studied the fortress with a frown. “It's gonna make it tough for us to get in, though.” From their vantage point on the mountain above the canyon, they had a good view of the fortress below. He scanned the canyon walls behind and above the fortress. The rubble from the landslide had been loosened by the construction. Any attempt to traverse them would undoubtedly cause more landslides, but the fortress was too far out into the canyon for this to cause them any trouble. “Are you sure there's a barrier, Miroku?”
“Why are you asking me? You can feel it as plainly as I can.”
Inuyasha twitched his shoulders. “But it doesn't feel like a normal demon miasma. There's something, I don't know, wrong with it.”
“Kilala thinks so too,” Sango said.
Kilala growled in agreement.
“You can still break it with the Red Tetsusaiga, can't you, Inuyasha?” Shippo asked.
“Probably. But you know, I think we should try a straight frontal assault first.”
“Because Bosoporu's been out of it for a long time. He won't know anything about me. I want to get a feel for him before I show him all my power. Remember, our goal is to get Rin back alive. If he gets desperate, he might kill her. We need to trick him into coming out because he thinks he can beat us and kill him in the open.”
Miroku nodded admiringly. “Good heavens, Inuyasha! That is actually a well-reasoned, well-thought out plan. I'm astonished.”
“Give it a rest, Miroku!” Inuyasha growled. “I'm not stupid, you know.”
“After all these years, I may be forced to come to that conclusion.”
Shippo and Sango snickered.
Inuyasha muttered something unflattering under his breath and stalked away. “Let's get going,” he snarled over his shoulder. “We have a few hours before sunset. Let's see if we can't kill off a few of his henchmen before dinner.”