|A Simple Legacy II & III
Author: elle6778 PM
COMPLETE. Part 2: They parted ways after the agreement, until Sesshoumaru decided it was time to collect on the debt Kagome owed him. Part 3: The appearance of an enemy from the past brought Sesshoumaru and Kagome together once again.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Sesshomaru & Kagome H. - Chapters: 27 - Words: 177,192 - Reviews: 1,609 - Favs: 779 - Follows: 230 - Updated: 05-01-07 - Published: 01-11-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3335822
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Inuyasha and its characters are created by Rumiko Takahashi, not me, but the new plots are mine. This fanfiction had been written for entertainment purposes only and without intention of infringing upon any copyright.
A/N: Thank you for reading and reviewing the previous chapter. And yes, this is the final chapter of the entire trilogy. As of now, there are no plans for a Part 4 or a sequel (smiles sheepishly). But I'll be posting a new Sesshoumaru-Kagome fic in a couple of weeks.
A Simple Legacy III by elle6778 – Chapter 12
The tension within the castle grounds was thick as the pending battle loomed over its remaining occupants. With the agreement of the generals, the warriors were allowed to return to their homes nearby to visit their family prior to their departure for battle. Some of them, however, had chosen to remain in the grounds to conduct a final inspection on the weaponry.
Standing silently to one side of the training ground, Sesshoumaru swept his gaze over the mostly deserted area. He felt oddly detached as he considered the pending battle. Everyone had been given their orders and should know their own tasks. There was really nothing else for him to do but to wait for the approach of dusk.
Except to concern himself about the fate of the miko.
Once again, Sesshoumaru forced away the image of the stubborn set of the miko's expression. Her behavior was infuriating. Never before had he encountered an individual who had the audacity to defy him on so many occasions and lived to tell the tale. He could only wonder if it would continue in such a manner once they were mated.
A small twinge of doubt nudged at him. What if it was already too late for that? What if the miko did not survive?
Sesshoumaru's lips tightened as he brushed the unwanted thought away. There was no question about it. They would be mated. And the miko would certainly survive her rashness long enough for him to punish her for it.
The very idea of her absence from his life brought on an odd feeling of pain in his chest. He realized that the miko was human and thus, would certainly depart the world of the living many years before him. Unless, of course, the effect of the sorceress' spell prevented such an occurrence. He hoped that that was the case.
However, the thought of losing the miko even before they were mated…irked him.
Annoyed at the interruption to his musings, Sesshoumaru frowned at the sound of his brother's disrespectful address. Arms crossed over his chest, Inuyasha approached from the castle entrance, a scowl marring his expression. Sesshoumaru glanced away into the distance when Inuyasha reached his side.
They stood in silence. One which was strangely tolerable, Sesshoumaru thought in astonishment.
"She'll be fine."
Sesshoumaru's eyes darted sideways to the hanyou. Inuyasha was wearing a thoughtful look, with a small furrow marring his brows. Was his brother attempting to reassure him?
A sigh escaped the hanyou's lips as he uncrossed his arms. "Kagome's not stupid. And Akiyama not useless."
Sesshoumaru's hackles immediately rose at the mention of the elemental youkai. Eyes narrowing, he declared icily, "The water youkai will pay if the miko is endangered in any way."
Inuyasha smirked. "Yeah. You know, a year ago, I wouldn't have guessed that you'd be feeling this way about someone. Let alone a human miko." Then he glanced into the distance. "Kagome has this strange way of changing others for the better."
Sesshoumaru's growl of irritation was cut short as he digested the hanyou's words.
"Not that I'm saying you've improved. You're still the same bastard," Inuyasha continued blithely. "Just that instead of obsessing over other stuff, you're now obsessing over Kagome. Lucky for you she's got a thing about hopeless cases."
"Inuyasha…" he warned through gritted teeth. Hopeless case? How dare the hanyou…insult him?
"Keh! What's wrong, Sesshoumaru? Can't take a little bit of truth?" Inuyasha taunted.
Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes at the hanyou. His brother's audacity obviously knew no bounds. Perhaps he should be reminded of his manners. "Do you wish to be re-acquainted with the ground, Inuyasha?"
Crossing his arms over his chest, Inuyasha simply snorted derisively. "As if!"
The notion that he, Sesshoumaru, would be unable to take down a hanyou, even if said hanyou was his brother, was simply preposterous. A slow smirk of anticipation grew upon Sesshoumaru's lips. He itched to lay his claws onto Inuyasha. And considering that Inuyasha would not be going into battle, it would not harm anything if the hanyou ended up a little bruised.
"You challenge this Sesshoumaru?" His voice was silky.
Inuyasha gave him a bored look. "What if I am?"
In a blink of an eye, Sesshoumaru shot forward with his claws extended. Inuyasha did not waste any time in unsheathing Tetsusaiga to block the attack. The hanyou was not completely useless, Sesshoumaru thought with an inward smirk as he swung around, unleashing his whips. Any moment now, Inuyasha would retaliate with a blast of Kaze no Kizu.
To Sesshoumaru's puzzlement, Inuyasha simply continued to fight and dodge the attacks without using the blade's strength, earning him a number of minor injuries. Suddenly he stilled, finally comprehending Inuyasha's intentions.
His brother was trying to distract him, to take his mind off his concern for the miko. Lips slightly parted in astonishment, Sesshoumaru lowered his arm to stare at his brother. Inuyasha's action was… unexpected.
Panting heavily, Inuyasha drew himself upright. "Had enough?" he asked raggedly.
"Now that you're calm, make sure you get Kagome back in one piece," Inuyasha remarked.
"This Sesshoumaru does not need such a reminder." Seeing that his attempts to expel the thought of the miko from his mind had been unsuccessful so far.
They stood there side by side, staring into the distance. The miko's request suddenly came to mind, reminding Sesshoumaru of something he should do before he departed for battle.
"You require a courting gift for the forest youkai?" Sesshoumaru asked stiffly, hardly believing what he was about to offer his brother.
Inuyasha spun around to face him, his bewilderment clear in his expression. "What did you say?"
Raising an eyebrow, Sesshoumaru asked dryly, "Your inferior hearing is failing you, Inuyasha?"
"Hey, quit with the insults already." Then the hanyou frowned. "I guess Kagome told you, huh?"
"Hn. There is a place you should know of. Come."
Sesshoumaru walked away, not bothering to look back to see if his brother was following him. As the son of Inu-no-Taishou, Inuyasha had every right to enter the underground chamber which held their family treasures. Perhaps Inuyasha could find something there to present to his future mate.
Silently, he led Inuyasha through the castle to his chambers. At the hanyou's questioning look, Sesshoumaru revealed the hidden hatch with lead to the underground chamber. Inuyasha would be able to access the chamber the way he did, Sesshoumaru thought as they descended the narrow wooden steps.
When they arrived at the chamber, Inuyasha's eyes rounded incredulously, his gaze darting from one object to another. Then he walked around, placing his hands on various items. Sesshoumaru suppressed his impatience at the hanyou's obvious lack of urgency. But perhaps that was not unexpected, considering that this was the first time Inuyasha had stepped foot in this room.
"This belongs to…" Inuyasha paused, giving him a questioning look.
Inuyasha's eyes widened, his jaw slack.
Did the hanyou think that the Western Lands were destitute? Then Sesshoumaru realize what he had said. Their family.
After a moment of silence, Inuyasha exclaimed brusquely, "Keh! So that means all this…" he paused as he waved a hand around them. "…is ours?"
Inuyasha's eyes gleamed as he grinned. Then he rubbed his hands together. "Moriko won't know what hit her," he exclaimed gleefully.
Hopefully Inuyasha would refrain from presenting everything in the chamber to his future mate, Sesshoumaru thought dryly.
She had been glad that when they finally arrived. Traveling with Akiyama had been a strange experience, one she did not think that she cared to repeat. While they had been submerged, she had this strange feeling of consciousness, knowing that her body was basically a part of the current streaking through the sea. But she had been unable to do anything, seeing that she had no solid limbs or anything like that.
Akiyama had managed to sneak them in by merging into the stream running across Ryokusen's compound. They had timed themselves to arrive just a few hours before Kouga was due to commence his attack and had materialized in a small pond within the castle.
Stone walls surrounded them, bathed in the eerie moonlight as she and Akiyama masked their presence, hiding in the shadows. She held her breath as a couple of neko-youkai guards passed close to their hiding place. When they disappeared from sight, Akiyama nodded at her and gestured at a particular window set into the stone walls.
"That should be where he is," he mouthed.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. It occurred to her to wonder how Akiyama knew so much about the layout of the castle before she remembered that the spies he had killed.
Stealthily, they slunk within the shadows, keeping themselves hidden as they made their way to Ryokusen's window. A short while later, they reached the window, thankfully undetected. Without wasting a moment, Akiyama straightened to make a small hole in the screen and then blew into it. The poison would render Ryokusen unconscious for a while. Too bad that it was impossible to use it in an open area, Kagome thought. Otherwise, Akiyama could have used it on the guards.
"Now we wait," he mouthed when he crouched back down next to her.
She nodded and pressed herself closer to the ground, trying to make herself invisible. They must wait for his poison to take effect. However, being a taiyoukai, Ryokusen's system would only succumb to it for a short span of time before the effect was neutralized. Timing was crucial. She inhaled shakily, hoping that they had enough time to get in and out before the neko-youkai woke up. Her heart was thumping so fast and so loud in her ears that she wondered why the neko-youkai guards did not hear it.
Soon, Akiyama gestured to her that it was alright to proceed.
Licking her dry lips, Kagome watched as the elemental youkai scanned the area before reaching up to open the window. In a blink of an eye, he jumped through the window into the castle. Glancing around and finding no guards, Kagome did the same.
When she landed in the room, Akiyama quickly shut the window, immediately enveloping them in darkness. She could hear the snores of the taiyoukai as she waited for her eyes to adjust. Then, her eyes went to the sleeping form of the Northern Lord before they landed on the shiny katana beside his raised futon.
Her entire body tense, she held her breath and made her way stealthily towards the emerald-studded katana. To her relief, it did no reject her when she picked it up and moved it to the end of the room, away from the futon. As she knelt down in front of the katana, she felt a light squeeze on her shoulders. Glancing up, she found Akiyama giving her a reassuring look. With a small smile and a nod to him, she turned her attention back to the katana.
Calling forth her powers, she concentrated on barricading the emerald's powers, all the while hoping that Ryokusen would not wake up at the surge of pure miko energy. Her hands glowed with its usual pearlescent hue until her powers reached out to envelope the entire katana in its barrier.
Only then did she retract her arms.
An urgent nudge brought her attention back to Akiyama.
Ryokusen had stopped snoring.
Her eyes widened in alarm as Akiyama pulled her to her feet. Without thinking, she deserted the lightly glowing katana and followed Akiyama out through the shoji screen. Her eyes darted left and right when they appeared in a deserted hallway.
Panic almost blinded her when the sound of footsteps rushing down the hallway caught her attention.
Without pause, Akiyama grabbed her hand. They darted into a room opposite Ryokusen's and slid the shoji shut behind them. The occupant, a female neko-youkai, jumped awake at their intrusion and opened her mouth to scream. But before any sound could escape, Akiyama shot forward and clamped a hand around the female's mouth, surrounding them with a blue mist. A moment later, the female slumped unconscious down to the floor.
Kagome let out the breath she had been holding and flattened herself against the wall. The sound of footsteps came closer and finally halted at what she guessed was Ryokusen's room.
"Ryokusen-sama. Our humble apologies for disturbing your rest," a gravelly voice said.
The sound of sliding screen reached Kagome.
"Is there a problem?" the Northern Lord queried coldly.
"The Eastern forces are at the coastline," the voice informed him. "They are in attack formation."
A derisive snort sounded. "Deploy fifty warriors and bring me the wolf prince alive." Ryokusen voice rumbled with laughter. "I want his youki."
Then the warriors departed and she could her the shoji screen sliding shut again.
Akiyama waited a short while before inching their screen open. Kagome held her breath as she crept behind him, hoping that they would get out before Ryokusen checked his katana. To her surprise, Akiyama suddenly stopped and turned around.
"Get back into the room and wait there. No matter what you hear, don't move," he whispered urgently, his blue eyes flashing with some strange emotion.
To her horror, he pushed her back into the room before she could utter a single word. She was alone now, she thought with mounting panic. Pinning herself back against the wall, she willed her breath to calm down.
Soon, she heard another sliding sound. Then the fine hair at the back of her neck stood as she felt the sudden rise of youki.
Eyes widening, Kagome clamped her hand against her mouth to stop her exclamation of surprise. Ryokusen knew Akiyama?
A mirthless chuckle reached her. "I admire your skills. No one else could have gotten into my castle without being detected. Or killed."
"I don't need your admiration, Ryokusen," Akiyama replied flatly. "But you know what I want."
What did he mean? Then the unthinkable occurred to her. Could it be that Akiyama was a traitor? She did not want to believe it. She did not want to believe how gullible she had been. But then again, if he was a traitor, why did he make her hide? The whole thing did not make sense.
Ryokusen laughed, a sound which grated on her nerves. "I believe that we had this conversation a while ago. But you refused then. You even had the nerve to kill my messengers just a few weeks back."
"Your messengers deserved it."
"For reminding you of what you might lose if you don't comply?" Ryokusen asked in an oily voice.
"Where is Eiko?" Akiyama's tone was icy. "I want to see her."
Kagome frowned. Eiko? Who was Eiko?
"You will get what you want once you hand over the miko."
"The miko is around. Hidden. But I will not hand her over until you prove to me that Eiko is alive and well," Akiyama shot back.
Kagome gulped, her blood instantly freezing in her veins. The elemental could not be trusted after all.
A short pause followed before Ryokusen responded, "You should know that your mate-to-be had been good to me over the last few decades. She is… irreplaceable. But once I get hold of the miko, I'm sure that Sesshoumaru would follow. Now his youki would be even better."
Kagome's lips parted as she blinked in surprise. His mate-to-be? The one he could not find?
Akiyama's voice was terse when he retorted, "I don't care what you want to do to the others. Just show me Eiko."
The sound of retreating footsteps reached her, a heavy pair followed by a lighter pair. Kagome held her breath until the sound disappeared. Her mind whirred with indecision. She did not know if Akiyama would return and she needed to get out just in case he was really a traitor and was planning to hand her over to Ryokusen once he got hold of his mate.
Silently, she waited a little longer before she peeked out. Satisfied with what she saw, she held her breath and snuck out, tiptoeing silently along the empty hallway. It suddenly occurred to her that this was possibly a very bad idea. Her rashness would get her killed one day. And she fervently hoped that it was not today. Sesshoumaru would never forgive her for dying on him.
Silently, she turned around the corner.
It was then that she heard the sound of heavy footsteps returning. Her heart raced as she streaked into an empty room. Before she could find a place to hide, she heard a loud curse from the direction of Ryokusen's room.
Her eyes widened in alarm. She heard metal scraping against wood as another curse exploded from Ryokusen. Had he just realized what had happened to his emerald-studded katana?
"What is the meaning of this?!" A moment of terse silence passed before he continued in a calmer, but menacing voice, "We have intruders. Raise the alarm."
Her heart beating frantically, Kagome scrambled as silently as she could towards the window, hoping to make her escape before she was found.
She froze as a scraping sound reached her.
It seemed that she was not fast enough.
"Do you take me for a fool, Miko?"
She turned around slowly to find herself facing Ryokusen. His slitted green eyes raked over her in obvious distaste as he stood there, clad in a rich red outfit surrounded by armor. She did not recognize the red katana in his hand, but she could recognize the glowing one at his feet. He was obviously unable to pick up the emerald-studded one.
The Northern Lord laughed harshly. "Well, at least you saved me the problem of bargaining with Akiyama for you. And when I'm done with you, you will tell me what happened to my mate."
Lips curling in a sneer, Ryokusen replied, "He's…occupied." His eyes narrowed dangerously as he kicked the glowing katana towards her. The pure barrier sparked against his boots. "Enough of idle talk. Right now, you will release this barrier."
Kagome snorted. "You wish!"
With a harsh laugh, he extended his arms and shot forth a blast of glittering spikes.
Her eyes widened for a moment at the suddenness of the attack. She raised her kodachis just in time to deflect the attack, scattering the spikes away from her. Unperturbed, Ryokusen simply streaked towards her with his katana raised. The glowing blade pulsed for a second before a fiery red wave of power expanded from it. This time, she launched herself into the air, flipping herself out of the way.
The blast hit the wall behind her, carving a hole in the stone.
That was close, she thought shakily as she swung around.
As Ryokusen advanced again, she caught a rapid movement out of the corner of her eyes.
"Akiyama!" she gasped in surprise. Doubts assailed her. Whose side was he on?
"Get out of the way!" he shouted in warning, pushing her to the floor.
She saw Akiyama's eyes widen in alarm as a series of fiery-red energy orbs headed straight for her. Just as she was about to raise a barrier, the elemental youkai darted between her and Ryokusen's attack.
"No!" Kagome shrieked in horror as she scrambled to her feet.
Akiyama raised his arms and let out a gush of fluid. As the two attacks clashed, a loud explosion rocked the air. Squeezing her eyes shut, Kagome threw her arms up to protect herself, pressing herself against the wall.
When she lowered her arms, she found herself facing a sneering Ryokusen. There was no sign of the elemental youkai anywhere.
"Akiyama?" she whispered, her voice trembling in trepidation.
"How unfortunate," Ryokusen mocked carelessly.
Her eyes hardening, she gripped her kodachis tightly and yelled, "What are you talking about?! This is all your fault!"
He raised a brow. "Oh? May I remind you that you chose to intrude upon my territory?"
Her entire body shook with rage. Akiyama had died at Ryokusen's hands. The number of atrocities committed by this power-hungry neko-youkai disgusted her. She wanted him dead. Without a second thought, she swung her kodachis and released several bolts of miko power at the sneering youkai.
Ryokusen retaliated by bringing down his katana, releasing a blast of spikes towards her. Holding up her kodachis protectively in front of her, she managed to sidestep most of the spikes. Then a piercing pain exploded in her left leg, causing her to buckle slightly. Gritting her teeth against the burning feeling, she threw her whips out at the Northern Lord, forcing him to take a few retreating steps.
Suddenly, she heard the sound of footsteps approaching from behind. Warriors, she thought in alarm. She swung around to face the neko-youkai warriors before she realized her mistake. The next thing she knew, she was caged in a fiery barrier. Frantically, she reached out with her glowing hands to force away the barrier only to pull them back quickly at the burning heat. Letting out a scream of frustration, she tried again with her kodachis, but the barrier refused to budge.
Realizing the futility of her actions, she finally shot a murderous glare at the neko-youkai.
"Now…" Ryokusen began menacingly. "You will tell me where my mate is. And then fix my blade."
Kagome's glare intensified. "You killed your own mate and your child, you bastard!" she yelled.
He stiffened visibly. "Sachi was nothing but a weak kitten. Her death served a greater purpose." Then his eyes narrowed. "My mate was alive when she fell into the well and disappeared, taking my jewel with her."
"The Shikon jewel doesn't belong to you," Kagome spat.
He sneered, "I've held it in my hands long before you or Naraku. It came from my Sachi, my blood, and thus it belongs to me. Who knew that such power could be hidden within such innocence?"
Trembling with anger, Kagome burst out, "You're disgusting!"
"Watch your mouth, wench! Now tell me something useful. Where is my mate?"
"After what you've done to your mate, do you really expect her to be alive?"
He regarded her thoughtfully. "Perhaps not. After all, Sesshoumaru now wears her protection band, does he not? It's funny how everyone insists on using my things. The protection band, the emeralds and the Shikon jewel."
She simply glared at him. None of those things belonged to him. Ryokusen was nothing more than a common thief.
Ryokusen laughed. "But who needs one miserable Shikon jewel when I have other sources of power?" His laughter then died as he gave her a hard look. "Now, undo the barrier around my blade and I might be persuaded to let you live."
"I'd rather die than let you continue slaughtering your way across the lands," Kagome declared loudly.
"Do not be stupid, wench!"
Her eyes flashed, but she just fixed an uncompromising stare on the furious Northern Lord. Then the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps reached her, drawing her attention to three neko-youkai warriors.
"Ryokusen-sama!" one of them called out. Then, casting a wary glance at her before turning back to Ryokusen, he said, "There's something you should see."
The Northern Lord frowned, and then he nodded wordlessly.
"I will return."
She glared at his retreating back. Her mind returning to her current predicament, she eyed the red barrier around her warily. Tentatively, she reached out a hand. At the contact, she immediately squeaked and snatched her hand back. The barrier was still as hot as it was before.
Kagome groaned helplessly, burying her face in her palms.
What was she supposed to do now?
The few who were powerful enough to summon a traveling energy orb had carried the other warriors who were unable to do so. Transforming into their true forms, the horse youkai warriors had carried what they could. And the rest of the warriors had mounted various beasts.
In his rush to get to the Northern Isles, Sesshoumaru realized that they had arrived a little earlier than planned. During his journey to the eastern part of the land, he had passed Kouga's warriors who were already fighting at the southern shores, which meant that Ryokusen's forces had been split. And by now, Takeo's warriors should be in place in the western shores.
Ryokusen's territory was surrounded from three different directions.
Once all of the Western warriors had arrived, Sesshoumaru glanced at his general. "Proceed cautiously."
With a nod, Shin turned around and signaled the instruction to the warriors.
Cloaking their scents, the warriors spread out in all directions, blending into the forest which separated them from Ryokusen's castle. With Shin and Katsuo by his side, Sesshoumaru sped through the dense growth, his entire focus on the battle ahead.
When the looming stone castle came into his view, his eyes sharpened.
Apparently, their presence had been detected.
Neko-youkai warriors swarmed towards them, but Sesshoumaru held out his hand, signaling for the Western warriors to hold their ground. When the opposing warriors were finally within attacking distance, Sesshoumaru brought down his hand.
"Attack. Leave none alive," Sesshoumaru instructed coldly.
A malicious gleam entered Shin's eyes. "With pleasure, Sesshoumaru-sama." With that, he darted off to his warriors as Katsuo did the same.
Roars exploded around him as his warriors charged and let loose with their powers, taking down a fraction of the neko-youkai forces in the first round of attack. Sesshoumaru leapt forward towards the castle, snapping his whips at any opposing warriors who dared to approach him. Nearing the castle, he reached out with his senses, trying to locate the miko.
He could not detect her, but his senses told him that a strong youki was approaching.
"Ryokusen," Sesshoumaru hissed in disgust.
It was not long before he caught sight of the despicable neko-youkai. Standing proud in front of the tall stone walls protecting his castle, his red kimono whipping around in the wind, Ryokusen simply stared at the intruders stonily.
Sesshoumaru's eyes widened slightly as they landed on the katana in Ryokusen's hand. It seemed that the miko had succeeded in disabling the emeralds. Or else, the Northern Lord would be holding on to a different katana.
But where was she?
An unfamiliar sense of trepidation rushed over him, but he quickly subdued it. This was not an appropriate time to think of such things. Emotions would only cloud his judgment. He would concentrate on the battle and nothing else.
A group of Northern warriors rushed past their taiyoukai, heading straight for him. Foolish, Sesshoumaru thought disdainfully. Did they think that they could best him in such a manner? Holding up Toukijin, he let out a blast, turning the group of neko-youkais into dust. The remains settled, slowly revealing the form of the despicable Northern Lord some distance in front of him.
Sneering, Ryokusen spat, "I see that you're much braver this time."
Sesshoumaru declined to respond. Instead, he launched forward at the other taiyoukai.
Ryokusen sidestepped the attack and swung his katana around. Red spikes of youki exploded from the blades but Sesshoumaru deflected it with his whips.
"Your miko was here, you know," the Northern Lord said conversationally.
Sesshoumaru willed himself not to react. Was. Did that mean that she had left? Or that she had died? He could not detect her presence or the elemental youkai's. His forcibly pushed back the pang in his chest. Whichever one it was, he would not let Ryokusen goad him into losing his control.
This time, he would make sure that the Northern Lord perished.
Her attention was drawn to the katana lying on the floor not far from her. She supposed that Ryokusen had no choice but to leave it there since he could not pick it up, considering that it was still surrounded by her barrier. Her brow furrowed in contemplation. If she could control her powers from within her body, there was no reason why she could not call to it once it was out of her body.
Well, she could always try.
Gritting her teeth, she concentrated on pulling the glowing katana towards her. To her amazement, it moved just slightly across the stone floor. Taking a deep, calming breath, she tried harder. Droplets of sweat broke out on her forehead at the effort but she did not relent.
Then, abruptly, the katana lifted off the floor and sped towards the barrier. The blade hit the barrier and wild sparks exploded at the point of contact.
Eyes widening, she quickly reacted by throwing a purifying blast at the same point.
Hit from inside and outside, the barrier wavered.
Nervous anticipation filled her as she let out another blast. This time, a crack formed in the shimmering wall of the barrier. She let out a squeal of satisfaction as she continued to prod at the crack with her miko powers.
Then, with a powerful surge of energy, the barrier crashed.
Kagome did not waste any time. She dashed forward and grabbed the warded katana.
It was time to find Sesshoumaru.
Sesshoumaru grimaced. If they had more time to prepare, he had no doubt that his warriors would prove to be stronger than the ones serving the Northern Isles.
Then he stilled as a presence hit him like a warm wave, reaching out to him from the castle behind him. As comprehension dawned, the corner of his lips lifted. His miko was alive. And based on the sudden appearance of her aura, he deduced that she had just released herself from whatever it was that had cloaked her presence from him. He should not have underestimated her resilience.
His eyes narrowed at the stunned taiyoukai in front of him. It was obvious that Ryokusen did not expect the miko to break free. Like so many others, Ryokusen had been unwise in underestimating the miko.
His expression suffused with anger, Ryokusen bit out, "It appears that your miko is rather resourceful." Katana pulsing, the neko youkai darted forward and released a blast of youki.
"Indeed," Sesshoumaru responded dryly as he streaked sideways to avoid the blast. Preparing Toukijin, he brought it down and released its powers.
Ryokusen bounced off the ground, leaping high like the feline he was, cleanly avoiding the attack. Sesshoumaru's eyes remained fixed on him as the neko-youkai twisted in the air and came rushing down with his claws extended. A storm of sharp red spikes headed straight towards Sesshoumaru but he knew that evading them would be ill-advised. Instead, he held up Toukijin. It took a single, heavy pulse from the oni's fang to scatter the spikes harmlessly to the side.
Sesshoumaru smirked. Ryokusen was losing power fast without the additional youki from the emerald to supplement his own. How pitiful. The Northern Lord's purpose in capturing as many youkai as he could find now made sense. As one's youki was part of one's personal strength, Ryokusen could not generate but only utilize what the emerald absorbed for him at that moment. Once the youki was depleted, Ryokusen had to absorb more from his youkai captives.
Without the emerald, Ryokusen was nothing.
However, Sesshoumaru had a feeling that there was more to the red katana in the neko-youkai's grasp. Which meant that he had to keep a close watch on it.
Continuing to trade blows with Ryokusen, he caught sight of a streak of black out of the corner of his eyes. The corner of his lips lifted. His miko was unharmed.
And she was headed right towards him.
"Sesshoumaru!" she gasped.
Without glancing back, he knew that she had wisely halted a small distance away, away from the path of Ryokusen's attacks.
"You will return my katana, filthy wench!" Ryokusen snarled furiously as he let loose another blast of spikes.
A quick glance over his shoulders told Sesshoumaru that the miko had Ryokusen's emerald studded katana in her possession. He felt inordinately proud of his miko, even though she had defied his instructions. As he smirked at the Northern Lord, the miko let out a burst of miko energy, stopping the spikes midair before disintegrating it.
"Not a chance," she spat at the neko-youkai.
Before Ryokusen could retaliate, Sesshoumaru sent forth a blast from Toukijin. The Northern Lord snarled as he flung himself out of the path of danger. Sesshoumaru grimaced, noticing Toukijin's weakened power. It was not unexpected, considering that it was forged from an oni's fang. Without a moment's hesitation, he flung the katana into the nearest tree, burying its blade deep in the trunk. He would simply use his own weapons.
"Sesshoumaru?" the miko gasped before her attention was drawn away by an approaching group of neko-youkai warriors. When she turned back again, she frowned in confusion. "Toukijin-"
"It's useless now," Sesshoumaru replied, his eyes not leaving Ryokusen.
"You're as weak as your blade, Sesshoumaru," Ryokusen taunted with a harsh laugh.
Ignoring the taunt, Sesshoumaru simply flung a stream of poison towards the neko-youkai, which he easily ducked. However, the distraction was all he needed for the moment. Without wasting a moment, he turned to the miko. "Attack when this Sesshoumaru says so."
Her eyes widened before she nodded in comprehension.
He turned just in time to see a fiery blast heading towards them. Cursing silently, he grabbed the miko and flung both of them out of the way. A loud crack sounded behind them and the scent of burning foliage reached him. Jumping to his feet, Sesshoumaru streaked towards the laughing neko-youkai.
The moment he felt a wave of assent from her, he unleashed his whips. At the same time, he felt a burst of power from the miko beside him. Her pearlescent miko powers wrapped around his whips and headed straight to Ryokusen.
Their combined powers hit the Northern Lord just as he raised a barrier, but the force was enough to send him flying through the air before he scraped to a stop some distance away. The red barrier had protected him from the worst of the attack, Sesshoumaru thought irritably. However, the neko-youkai was far from unharmed.
Ryokusen laughed harshly, uncaring of the blood which sprayed from his mouth. "Do you think that this is it?" he challenged.
Eyes not moving from his opponent, Sesshoumaru clenched his fists tightly. Ryokusen's youki was swirling around him angrily but the Northern Lord did not appear to be transforming. Instead, he seemed to be focusing on the katana in his hand.
The air suddenly crackled and Sesshoumaru tensed instantly.
His eyes darted to Ryokusen's katana and his lips tightened in distaste as the blade began to pulse. Fiery red tendrils began to seep from it. It was demonic in nature, but there was something odd about it. His suspicions were confirmed when a heavy youki reached out from the katana.
"Sesshoumaru…" the miko whispered nervously.
"Stand back," he instructed firmly. "He is allowing the blade's full power to surface."
To his relief, the miko heeded his advice and took a few steps back. Her entire body glowed slightly, suggesting to him that she was ready at any moment to draw up her barriers.
Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed as he noted a tall figure streaking towards Ryokusen, stopping just a small distance away. So, the elemental youkai had survived after all, Sesshoumaru mused with no small amount of irritation. Blue hair whipping in the wind swirling around Ryokusen's katana, elemental youkai's stare was transfixed on the blade.
"Eiko…" Akiyama whispered shakily, his eyes wide.
Curiously, Akiyama seemed to recognize the youki in the blade. Sesshoumaru glanced sideways to find the miko staring open-mouthed at the elemental youkai.
"Eiko?" the miko echoed numbly.
Frowning, Sesshoumaru asked quietly, "Miko. Who is this Eiko?"
The miko blinked, obviously still stunned. "Akiyama's promised mate. Why is she in the blade?"
Sesshoumaru eyed the fiery blade. It reminded him eerily of Souunga. However, instead of evil and greed, he sensed bitterness emanating from the blade. The entire situation suggested to Sesshoumaru that some form of betrayal had occurred in the formation of the katana.
"The reason is irrelevant at this point," Sesshoumaru remarked flatly. Did this mean that the elemental youkai would stand in their way? His lips instantly thinned. If Akiyama was foolish enough to do so, then he would pay with his life.
The Northern Lord began to chuckle. Then the chuckle grew to a wholehearted laughter as his own powers surged over the katana's youki. Swinging the fiery red blade in a wide arc, Ryokusen finally turned his attention back to the three of them.
Akiyama yelled harshly, "You will release her!"
Ryokusen's green eyes glittered. "I did not capture her, Akiyama. She willingly became the blade once she resigned herself to her fate. Her bitter feelings for you and her anger took care of it."
"You tricked her. She would never have allowed herself to become a weapon."
"It is your own doing. You broke your promise to her," Ryokusen pointed out.
"Eiko!" the elemental youkai called out to the katana, obviously desperate to reach the one he had once known. "Eiko! I broke the engagement because I didn't know if I could make it out alive. I didn't want to tie you down. You don't have to do this. You have to break away from his hold!"
"Enough!" Ryokusen's fangs flashed as he snarled threateningly, "Let's see how you'll fare against the power of a fire elemental."
Sesshoumaru pushed the miko behind him and braced himself, his eyes never leaving the katana. This did not bode well. The attack of an angry fire elemental was something one did not wish to experience.
"Unleash your powers, my beautiful fire elemental," Ryokusen hissed. "Let them feel your anger."
The blade pulsed once before a fiery wave, lined with malevolent black streaks, washed outwards from the katana.
The miko instantly raised a barrier around both of them, while the water elemental stood unmoving, his eyes widened in horror. Sesshoumaru's lips tightened. Akiyama would surely perish if he did not protect himself.
At the last possible moment, the water elemental called forth a liquid barrier. The fiery wave hit the shimmering orb and sizzled, sending clouds of steam into the air. The attack continued to spread out in a red, burning circle, shaking the miko's barrier as it passed. Sesshoumaru gritted his teeth as the miko clung tightly to his back. Howls of pain erupted around them as the katana's power decimated the surrounding unprotected warriors.
Once the attack had dissipated, Sesshoumaru glanced around to find them standing in a large blackened circle in the ground. His fury rose when he noted that several of his warriors had not escaped in time and the only thing that remained was charred pieces scattered around the battlefield. Although Ryokusen's warriors had suffered the same fate, it was clear that the neko-youkai did not care.
The only sound which pierced the eerie silence was Ryokusen's maniacal laughter.
"Now that's what I call power," the neko-youkai remarked. "Now, let's see if we can do it again, Eiko." He raised the katana, his eyes gleaming in anticipation as the blade pulsed again.
"Eiko! Stop this madness!" the elemental youkai yelled harshly. "You're not a killer! You never were. Remember how you hated the thought of war?"
The fire surrounding the red blade flickered hesitantly.
It was his chance, Sesshoumaru thought, streaking towards the other taiyoukai. Ryokusen's eyes widened in surprise just as Sesshoumaru flicked his whips to dislodge the katana from his hold. A snarl of outrage escaped Ryokusen's lips when the katana flew some distance away. Akiyama instantly transported himself towards the blade.
"NO!" the neko-youkai shouted as he tried to intercept the water elemental.
Eyes narrowed, Sesshoumaru let loose a blast of pure youki at the other taiyoukai. Intent on reaching the katana, Ryokusen swung around too late to dodge the attack. A furious yell sprung forth as he was thrown to the side at the impact. In a blink of an eye, Sesshoumaru streaked towards him and released a stream of poison. The neko-youkai hissed, swiping the poisonous stream aside as he bounced to his feet.
The wind whipped his red kimono around as the neko-youkai's eyes turned red.
Sesshoumaru's lips tightened. He would not allow the feline to transform.
"MIKO!" he snapped out urgently. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw her finishing off a neko-youkai before she ran to his side, her kodachis raised.
Ryokusen's fangs were lengthening as his body expanded. It was at this point during the transformation that every youkai's control was the weakest. Sesshoumaru felt the rise of his own anticipation.
The moment the miko released a pearlescent bolt of energy, Sesshoumaru extended his whips and took control of the pure miko blast. The miko's energy intertwined with his whips, making it pulse heavily. With a flick of his wrist, he sent their combined attack at the still-transforming Ryokusen.
The swirling wind around Ryokusen dispersed wildly as the blast connected.
A rumbling sound shook the air as Sesshoumaru pulled the miko into his protective embrace, his eyes fixed on the distorted expression on the Northern Lord's face. The transformation energy combined with their attack was tearing Ryokusen apart.
With a gruesome howl, the neko-youkai exploded into dust.
As the dust settled, a hushed silence descended upon the battlefield.
The silence did not last long.
Almost immediately a loud cheer rang out in the air.
She squeaked in alarm when a pair of strong arms turned her around and hauled her up against him. Before she could utter a word, her lips were sealed by a hard kiss. When he finally pulled pack, his golden orbs were icy.
"Do not disobey this Sesshoumaru again," he growled at her.
She blinked at his harsh tone. Her first reaction was to lash back, and then she saw the flicker of anxiety hidden in the depth of his eyes. Softening, she gave him an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry I worried you."
His icy demeanor wavered.
Reaching up, she rubbed the back of his neck lightly as she pressed the side of her face into his shoulders. "Forgive me? It turned out well, anyway, right?" she coaxed softly, trying to appease him. He must have growled, because his chest rumbled against her, making her smile.
She sighed in relief.
"However, you will be punished for disobeying this Sesshoumaru."
She immediately pulled back from him with a gasp. However, her protest died on her lips when she noticed the direction of his gaze. Akiyama was standing some distance away, staring wordlessly at the ground, oblivious to the charred remains surrounding him. Intent on making sure that the elemental youkai was alright, she pulled an obviously reluctant Sesshoumaru along with her.
"Akiyama, are you alright?" she asked softly as she reached him.
The elemental youkai nodded. However, she could see the hint of pain in his eyes.
"You disappeared for a while. What happened?" she asked quietly.
"After I left, Ryokusen led me to the room where he kept Eiko." His lips twisted bitterly as he turned to look at her. "Her entire life has been transferred to the blade. He used it…he used Eiko to attack me. I was too…shocked…to retaliate. The force was a little too much to absorb, and I could not hold on to my corporeal form so I disintegrated. It took me some time to return to this form."
Then Akiyama glanced at the smoldering katana resting dejectedly on the ground with tiny flames licking its blade.
Kagome's eyes softened. "Can she be saved?"
Akiyama shook his head slowly. "She's gone. Ryokusen had used most of her life force to launch his last attack. The only thing which is holding her to the blade now is her bitterness. Do not concern yourself, Kagome. I'll do what's necessary."
Kagome watched worriedly as the elemental youkai made his way to the katana. Then he crouched down and laid his hands over it. His shoulders shook a little, and Kagome felt a sympathetic pang of pain running through her. The air crackled with Akiyama's power before a bright flare lighted the area.
The final flames of the unfortunate fire elemental were doused by Akiyama's fluid powers.
Kagome swallowed hard. It must be awful to have to kill someone like that. It must be horrible, losing his promised mate in such a way. A warm pair of arms wrapped around her reassuringly.
She turned up to look at him over her shoulders. "It's so sad, Sesshoumaru," she whispered.
"Hn." After a short pause, Sesshoumaru added, "Their predicament resulted from the lack of faith."
Digesting his words, she nodded. "I guess."
"Are you not content with the outcome of the battle?" he asked, turning her around to face him.
She smiled. "I'm so glad Ryokusen is gone. After all he had done to everyone, including his own mate, he deserved nothing less."
Sighing, she rested her face against his armor. She could feel a sense peace of settling over her. It must be the soul of the sorceress.
Her legacy was complete now.
When he and the miko emerged from the castle, the sight which greeted him almost made him groan.
Kouga and Takeo were standing at the castle entrance studying the area around them with interest. The warriors from the three lands mingled, conversing quietly as they tended to each other's wounds. As Sesshoumaru ran his eyes over his two allies, he noted that a gash in his leg was the only injury the bear-youkai sustained, while the wolf seemed to have escaped unscathed.
"Kagome! You're safe!" the wolf exclaimed.
The miko grinned. "I guess things went well at your end?"
Kouga beamed. "Of course." Then he eyed the bodies littered around the castle before turning to Sesshoumaru. "Looks like everything is in hand over here as well," he mused.
Sesshoumaru raised a brow. "You should expect nothing less."
The wolf prince snorted. "Well, I lost a few warriors."
The miko's eyes dimmed. "So did we. It's a good thing Sesshoumaru managed to bring back most of them."
Sesshoumaru's lips tightened in irritation as Takeo patted the miko on the back. "But everything went as planned. I knew you could do it, Kagome!" he boomed.
A weak laugh escaped her lips.
It was only then that Takeo noticed the glare directed at him. Clearing his throat uncomfortably, the bear youkai changed the subject, "So what's going to happen to the Northern Isles, Sesshoumaru? You're going to take over?"
"This land holds no interest to this Sesshoumaru. Do as you wish," Sesshoumaru declared dismissively, impatient to return to the Western Lands with the miko.
"Someone's got to look after the place, otherwise it's going to be chaos!" Kouga exclaimed. "What about you, Takeo?"
Takeo scowled at him. "I've got enough to worry about in the south. Why don't you take care of it, seeing that you're the closest one?"
Kouga's eyes bulged. "Not a chance! The Eastern Territories eat up enough of my time as it is."
The miko turned to him. "Sesshoumaru? Someone's got to be responsible for the place." Then she flicked a quick glance at the elemental youkai, who was still crouched motionlessly next to the burning katana.
Sesshoumaru knew what the miko was thinking. It did not matter to him if the elemental youkai ruled the Northern Isles. In fact, considering the great distance between the Western Lands and the Northern Isles, the notion held some appeal to him. Wordlessly, he turned and walked towards the elemental youkai. Obviously sensing his approach, Akiyama stiffened.
Without turning around, the elemental youkai spoke. "I wish to mourn for a short while. You can challenge me later," he bit out coldly.
Each word which the elemental youkai had ever uttered seemed to touch right upon the edge of insolence, without actually being so. Sesshoumaru gritted his teeth. "This Sesshoumaru has no intention of wasting time challenging one such as you."
Akiyama glanced over his shoulders. "What do you want then?" he asked flatly.
"You will rule the Northern Isles," Sesshoumaru declared blandly.
The elemental youkai's blue eyes widened in surprise. But before he could speak again, Sesshoumaru turned around to return to his miko. Hopefully, this would be the last he saw of the water elemental.
When they finally arrived at the Western Lands, Sesshoumaru was surprised to find the entire castle compound enclosed within a large vine barrier. It irked him that Inuyasha and the forest youkai had managed to defend the castle so well that even he, Sesshoumaru, was finding it somewhat difficult to break through without risking damage to his own castle. In the end, the miko had resorted to yelling at the top of her lungs for Inuyasha.
"INUYASHA!!! LET US IN!!!"
Sesshoumaru winced as his ears rang with the abuse. "Miko…" he gritted out.
She turned a pair of apologetic eyes at him. "Oh, sorry, Sesshoumaru."
The miko turned away from him and glowered at the barrier. "What's taking him so long?" she grumbled.
Sesshoumaru watched silently as the miko paced in front of the barrier impatiently. Just then, cracks appeared between the vines. Then the cracks widened as the vines gradually retreated back into the ground to reveal a smirking Inuyasha. Behind him, the forest youkai was kneeling with her palms on the ground, her eyes shut in concentration as she called down the rest of the vine barrier.
"So, you made it out alive," the hanyou remarked.
Sesshoumaru raised a brow. "You expected otherwise?"
"Keh!" Crossing his arms over his chest, Inuyasha retorted, "After what happened the last time, who knows?"
"You dare underestimate this Sesshoumaru?" he growled.
Inuyasha simply rolled his eyes before turning his attention to the miko. "You're alright, Kagome?"
She nodded quickly.
Nose twitching, Inuyasha frowned and said, "You're not alright. I can smell your blood."
"Heh heh." The miko waved a dismissive hand around. "It's nothing."
"That was a pretty stupid stunt you pulled," Inuyasha pointed out, his frown deepening. "You could have gotten yourself killed."
The miko bristled. "Well, I'm alive now. So it's kind of pointless to yell at me now. And anyway, it made things a lot safer for the rest."
"When are you going to stop being so stubborn?"
"Who are you calling stubborn?"
Sesshoumaru decided that he had heard enough. It was not Inuyasha's place to admonish the miko for her transgressions. That honor belonged to him and he had every intention of fulfilling the task.
The forest youkai had decided to join them. He noted that Inuyasha had chosen to present her with a bejeweled dagger as the second courting gift. Sesshoumaru's eyes widened slightly as he took in her scent. Turning to Inuyasha, he commented, "You have proceeded with the scent marking."
Startled, Inuyasha swung around and raised a brow. "What? Of course I did."
"Are you mated yet?" the miko asked the forest youkai eagerly, her eyes shining with excitement. "What did you get him for a courting gift?"
A small smile tugging at the corner of her lips, the forest youkai replied, "I bound a spell to him with my blood, binding his demon blood to the earth. That way, he would not lose himself to his youkai side even if Tetsusaiga is not near." Then she shrugged sheepishly. "As for the mating, it's not the right time."
"We can hardly mate while watching over the castle. It'll take at least a couple of days," Inuyasha muttered gruffly.
The miko frowned in confusion. "A couple of days?"
Of course, he had told the miko to expect the mating to last up to a week. Smirking, Sesshoumaru explained, "As a hanyou, the duration of Inuyasha's mating ritual would be shorter than that of a full youkai. Unless, of course, Moriko happens to be the dominant mate."
Inuyasha jaw dropped as his mate-to-be turned red. Quickly recomposing himself, Inuyasha shot back, "At least I didn't take forever to make up my mind like you! You sure took a long time to decide to start courting Kagome. Actually, both of you were so thickheaded that I'm even surprised that you got together at all."
"Hey!" the miko exclaimed indignantly.
Sesshoumaru simply quirked his brow at his brother, ignoring the miko's outburst. "Perhaps time is required to achieve perfection. A concept which is certainly unfamiliar to you."
Inuyasha's expression turned incredulous.
"Make no mistake that perfection will be what the miko receives tonight," he added evenly.
Ignoring the sputtering Inuyasha, Sesshoumaru glanced to the side to find the miko blushing furiously. Yes, he would ensure that she would be pleased with the mating.
"Come, Miko," he said, suddenly impatient to commence the mating ritual.
He had waited long enough. Perfection or not.
She slowly inhaled a calming breath. Crossing her fingers, she hoped that she would not end up doing something wrong. But from Moriko's explanation, the whole thing was supposed to be pretty straightforward. She just had to make sure that she did not end up opening her big mouth and saying something really stupid. When asked, Moriko had told her that traditionally, mates-to-be tended to be shy due to their virginal state.
Her senses picked up the approach of a familiar presence.
Kagome kept her eyes fixed on her clasped hands as the shoji screen slid open and close. She heard the soft sound of his footsteps growing closer until a pair of bare feet came into her view.
"Miko. This subdued posture does not suit you," he declared dryly.
Her eyes instantly snapped up to his. There she was, trying to behave like a proper, obedient mate for him. And he was complaining? She immediately bristled, all her good intentions forgotten as she jumped to her feet. Their eyes locked, a pair of bemused golden orbs and a pair of flashing brown orbs.
"Hey, I'm doing this for you, just in case you can't tell," she pointed out as she stabbed a finger into the gap between the lapels of his kimono. Then she lowered her eyes. Bare skin, she realized as she gulped. Why did she always have to prod at his bare chest? And why did she always get sidetracked when she did so?
He quirked a brow. "Is that so?"
Kagome quickly pulled her wayward thoughts away from his bare skin and pinned her eyes back on his face. "Well, I thought you'd be expecting…um…" she trailed off uncertainly. "Um…a properly subdued mate-to-be."
A strong pair of hands came up to cup her face. Lowering his face until their noses touched, Sesshoumaru said quietly, "Such a thing is not necessary. This Sesshoumaru realizes that he had chosen a mate who will no doubt infuriate him more often than not. However, it would not be anything this Sesshoumaru could not handle." Then, brushing his lips against hers, he continued firmly, "You will not hold back or cloak yourself in pretense. It does not suit you."
Her eyes widened in surprise. Sesshoumaru surprised her sometimes.
Then she grinned. "Really?" she asked mischievously as she trailed her finger across his chest, pushing the lapels of his kimono off his shoulders.
He regarded her with a heated look. "It is customary for the male to undress the female first," he said huskily as his hands went to her obi.
She arched a mock innocent eyebrow. "But you said not to hold back," she pointed out, her hands not halting their actions of divesting him of his kimono.
She barely felt it as her obi fell to her feet, joining the white puddle of his kimono. As the rest of the silk slid off her body, his head descended to capture her lips in a long, lingering kiss. Leaning into him, she moaned as she responded to his caresses.
Her tentative touches soon became bolder as her body heated in reaction to his. Although his eyes blazed in arousal, his touches were measured, intent on bringing her as much pleasure as he could. She responded freely, giving him everything she possessed, holding nothing back.
When he entered her, she bit her lips at the stinging pain. But soon, the pain was replaced with pleasure. His eyes remained locked onto hers as he rocked above her, the very sight of his barely controlled features sending shivers up her spine. Caught up in the new feelings, she pushed up against him, complimenting his movements. She cried out his name as one explosion of ecstasy followed another until she lost track of how many times it was.
Then he growled as he joined her.
Her lips parted in a silent scream as his fangs sank into the junction between her neck and shoulder. A warm, floating sensation washed over her as her aura blended with his youki, binding them together as mates. Pearlescent light flared, mingling with a bold gold, bathing the room in a beautiful glow.
Then everything went still.
A soft smile graced her lips as she met Sesshoumaru's golden gaze. Pressed together, she could feel their heart beating in unison.
"My mate," he whispered fiercely.
And now, laying together with him on his…their futon, his mate was picture of sated languidness. The urge to take her had not dissipated completely, but it had lessened somewhat, marking the end of the mating ritual.
As it was, he felt oddly reluctant to return to his duties, but he knew that they could not remain where they were indefinitely. The cook had been leaving food outside the chambers and they had taken nourishment within the sleeping quarters. Apart from their visits to the hotsprings to cleanse themselves, they had not left the space.
Perhaps it was time to inform her about something which was on his mind ever since she had disregarded his words and left on her own with the elemental youkai.
"Hm?" she mumbled, turning a pair of liquid brown eyes towards him.
He suppressed the urge to gather her in his arms and continue to pleasure both of them. Instead, he hardened his resolve. "You will be punished for your defiance," he intoned.
She shot up, suddenly fully alert. "What?!" Then she frowned. "You're kidding, right?"
Keeping his eyes on her, he declared, "This Sesshoumaru does not jest. You will receive a suitable punishment for your transgression. And you will continue to receive this punishment as long as you insist on disobeying this Sesshoumaru."
"And what, exactly, is my transgression?" she asked warily.
"Disobeying your mate and endangering your life." His tone was flat.
She bristled. "Hey! We became mates less than a week ago. I didn't disobey you since then." She paused suddenly and scowled. "Anyway, I'm not planning to obey you all the time. You have to listen to my side of things once in a while, you know," she declared stubbornly.
Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed. He could not tolerate outright disobedience. However, he realized that his mate was strong-willed and would never submit to him fully. It was one of the traits which he admired in her after all. "Only if you're not being foolish. However, you will attempt to obey this Sesshoumaru as a mate should."
She laid a hand on his arm and blinked innocently. "But of course I'll listen to you when you're right."
"Hn." The expression she was wearing warned him not to expect such an event to occur often.
"So…What punishment?" she asked, her expression a mix of curiosity and uncertainty.
Finally, she thought with great satisfaction.
Finally after TEN years, she had paid back what she owed him in terms of punishment for disobeying him. Not that the punishment had been completely awful. It just meant that she did not get of have her way in one particular aspect of their lives. It meant that Sesshoumaru could impregnate her whenever he wished and to add to it, he would have the honor of naming the child birthed within the duration of her punishment.
Sesshoumaru had not changed the slightest bit in the last ten years. Once he set his mind on something, he pursued it with a single-minded focus that frightened her sometimes. And when he set his mind on something, there was nothing anyone could do to budge him. Therefore, no mount of begging and cajoling on her part had worked in swaying him from his intent to punish her.
But her punishment for her last transgression had expired a while ago, so for the first time, it was her turn to name their child.
"I'm going to call him Sachimaru," she declared. It was a name she had wanted to use on one of her children, but her punishment meant that she had no choice but to let her mate have his way.
Sesshoumaru's brows furrowed a little as he glanced at the bundle in her arms. "Such a name is inappropriate for a warrior," he remarked flatly.
She tilted her chin stubbornly. "Because of that punishment, you've named all three of our other kids-"
"Pups," he corrected.
Rolling her eyes, she continued firmly, "Well, I'm naming this one." Lowering her gaze to her youngest son, Kagome added in a softer voice, "And I wanted to use the name of the sorceress' baby. Sachi didn't have a chance to grow up."
A look of misgiving crossed her mate's face. "The name means joy."
"And what's wrong with that?" she challenged. "Unlike you, I prefer a happier name for our kid."
"Muhijimaru is a good name," he pointed out blandly.
She gave him a dry look. "It's a good thing our eldest son is not as merciless as his father named him. I don't know what you were thinking when you came up with his name."
"He would not be merciful towards those who wished to harm him," Sesshoumaru declared proudly.
"He's only nine years old, for Kami's sakes!"
"Muhijimaru is growing up fast with his full youkai strength."
"I suppose. But still, you have a terrible taste in names. The only good one you came up with is Misao." Then she sighed. "And with a name like his, I hope Iseimaru wouldn't turn out to be one power crazy kid. With those holy powers, imagine the havoc he could cause if he chooses to do so."
"Iseimaru is not unreasonable," her mate said. "He will use his strength wisely."
Out of their four children, the only one who possessed pure power like hers was her third child, Iseimaru. Both Muhijimaru and Misao, and now Sachimaru, were born with full youkai powers. However, Iseimaru also possessed the heightened senses and the strength which Kagome suspected came from what she had obtained from Sesshoumaru more than ten years ago.
Kagome sensed an approaching presence not long before the shoji screen slid open. A red-robed figure appeared, followed close behind by his mate.
"Oi! That's the brat?" Inuyasha asked as he peered at the sleeping baby in her arms.
Kagome glared at her friend. "Don't call my baby a brat, Inuyasha!"
"Keh! With a father like Sesshoumaru, he's going to be a brat whether he likes it or not."
A warning growl sounded from said father.
Inuyasha smirked at Sesshoumaru. "Took you long enough to catch up."
Kagome and Moriko exchanged an exasperated look as Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha commenced their usual 'brotherly' bickering. It had happened so many times in all these years that she and Moriko had learnt to ignore it, so long as no blood was shed. And as far as she and the forest youkai could tell, Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha had been waging some sort of competition to see just who could produce more pups. And now that Sachimaru had arrived, they were even.
Kagome's attention was diverted from her musings when two other figures appeared at the entrance to the room. Brightening at the sight of her friends, Kagome greeted, "Sango! Miroku! You made it!"
Dressed in her usual taijiya outfit, her figure still trim after all these years and the three children she and Miroku had, Sango walked over to kneel beside the futon. "We came as soon as we heard."
"You were out slaying?" Kagome asked.
Sango snuck a wary glance at Sesshoumaru before she turned back and nodded. "Yes. But it's alright. We left a couple of other slayers to deal with it."
Miroku peered down at the sleeping baby in her arms. "This one looks like Sesshoumaru again," he mused.
Kagome grinned. "I know. The only one who takes after me in looks is Iseimaru. Sesshoumaru's genes must be the dominant ones."
Sango and Miroku gave her a puzzled look.
With a short laugh, Kagome waved a hand around. "Never mind. Future stuff." Then noting that Sango and Miroku still had their traveling pouches strapped to their back, she said, "Why don't you go rest for a while in the guest room? You'll be staying for a while, right?"
Both Sango and Miroku glanced down sheepishly at their dusty outfits. Then Sango said, "That sounds like a good idea. We'll be back as soon as we clean up."
Kagome smiled as she watched her friends leave.
Choosing to ignore his hanyou brother's words, Sesshoumaru returned his attention to his youngest pup. His eyes immediately softened as he took in his pup's silver hair and tiny pointed ears. Sachimaru, like his eldest brother Muhijimaru, had also inherited the crescent moon on his forehead. But like Misao and Muhijimaru, he only possessed one stripe high on each cheek.
As if he was aware of his father's perusal, Sachimaru's eyes fluttered open to stare at him with wide golden eyes. Apart from the color, those eyes were exact replicas of his mother's. Sesshoumaru reached out a finger and his pup immediately grasped the digit. A small smile crossed his lips as Sachimaru squeezed. His youngest pup would be strong, he thought as his heart swelled with pride.
His musings were interrupted by the sounds of rapid footsteps, growing increasingly close by the moment.
"Okaa-san!" Muhijimaru and Misao yelled in unison as they barreled into the chamber, pausing briefly to bow to him. "Chichi-ue," they greeted in a more subdued tone. Then the nine and eight year olds turned their eyes to their mother.
"That's him?" Misao whispered in awe as she walked closer.
Sesshoumaru glanced behind them to find Iseimaru entering at a more sedate pace with Rin and Shippou close behind. For all his human appearance, Iseimaru carried himself with a pride which suited a full youkai better, unlike his full youkai elder sister who reminded Sesshoumaru of a certain miko.
"Chichi-ue," the five-year-old child greeted respectfully.
Sesshoumaru inclined his head in acknowledgement before he instructed, "Go to your mother."
As his dark haired son went to his mother, Rin stepped up to him. Sesshoumaru's eyes softened as he took in the woman standing in front of him.
"Sesshoumaru-sama, you must be pleased," she exclaimed exuberantly. "What's his name?"
"Sachimaru," he told her.
Rin beamed. "Such a lovely name."
Sesshoumaru simply grunted. The name had grown on him just in that short time, but he still felt that a warrior should possess a…stronger name.
"I guess Kagome named this one, huh?" Shippou asked wryly as he stepped closer to the futon. He chuckled. "For once, a male pup with a name which will not strike fear into the enemies' heart."
Sesshoumaru gazed at his tall, red-haired general with narrowed eyes. During the course of his training with Katsuo, Shippou had proven himself to be a great warrior. To everyone's surprise, not only he was adept at physical battle, Shippou also possessed the gift of sorcery.
It was a gift which allowed Rin, now in her early twenties, to live as long as her new mate, Katsuo. Shippou had managed to recreate the spell which had allowed the miko to possess the strength a taiyoukai. The only difference was that the kitsune's spell was only powerful enough to allow Rin to share Katsuo lifespan, without the additional youkai strength. It was enough, though, knowing that his ward would be present for many more years.
For that, Sesshoumaru would tolerate the kitsune's remarks.
"Hey, Inuyasha, where are your brats?" the kitsune asked.
"Oi, runt! Watch your mouth!" Inuyasha snapped.
"Shippou, our pups are not brats, if you don't mind," Moriko admonished with a frown.
As if on cue, the sound of thundering footsteps reached them, followed by Jaken's yells.
"Stop running, you insolent pups!"
When Inuyasha's pups rushed in, Sesshoumaru suppressed the urge to sigh. Closing his eyes, he pressed his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose. The eight pups in the Western Lands ensured that there was never a dull moment. However, their exuberance, especially Inuyasha's pups, also gave him headaches. Sesshoumaru glanced at the hanyou, noting the hint of resignation in his brother's expression as he cautioned his four puppy-eared offsprings to behave. It seemed that Inuyasha felt the same as he did.
It suddenly occurred to Sesshoumaru that perhaps he should practice some restrain while the miko was in heat. Or perhaps he should wait until the rest of the pups had grown up fully before impregnating his mate again.
After all, they had the rest of their long life together and they were not in any rush.
"Oi, kids, let's go and leave your uncle and his mate alone," Inuyasha called out.
"But Otou-san…" the pups whined in unison.
His ears twitching, Inuyasha pinned an uncompromising look on the four pairs of upturned amber eyes. "Now!"
Grumbling under their breaths, the four pups left the chamber, followed by their parents and Jaken. Sesshoumaru's lips twitched at the dejected form of his retainer. Now that Rin had matured, the old toad youkai had ended up with the responsibility of looking after Inuyasha's pups.
"We'll come back to see you later, alright?" Shippou said to the miko before he turned around and left with Rin.
Noting the shadows under his mate's eyes, Sesshoumaru decided that it was time she rested. The excitement from the birthing had obviously worn off and the needs of her body were catching up, enhanced strength or not.
Turning to his three older pups, Sesshoumaru said, "Your mother needs to rest. Continue with your lessons and you may visit later."
They glanced at their mother before nodding obediently. Then they began to make their way out of the chamber. As his two sons walked past him, Sesshoumaru ruffled their hair, one of the few signs of affection which he bestowed on his pups.
His daughter, however, did not welcome this impending action. "Chichi-ue…" Misao whined as his hand descended. "You will mess up my hair," she complained.
Suppressing the urge to roll his eyes, Sesshoumaru bent down to encircle his daughter's small body in a hug instead. "Are you pleased now, Misao?" he asked wryly as he pulled back to look into her golden eyes.
Nodding, she beamed up at him before running out after her two brothers, her long silver hair bouncing behind her. For an eight year old, she was inappropriately vain about her appearance. However, seeing that Misao was his only daughter, he would indulge her as she wished. Soon enough, she would mature. And knowing how strong-willed she was, she would no doubt wish to live her own life without his interference. His lips instantly thinned at the notion.
The sound of tinkling laughter reached him.
"Come on, Sesshoumaru. You don't have to wear that look. It wasn't that bad."
He glanced at his mate. She had remained un-aged for the past ten years. It was clear that the spell cast by the sorceress had ensured that she inherited his longevity as part of his strength. And for that, he was thankful. He could not imagine spending the rest of the centuries without her infuriating presence.
Settling himself next to her, he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close to him. Staring down at the latest addition to their family, Sesshoumaru allowed his expression to soften.
"He's so cute, don't you think?" his mate exclaimed in a hushed voice as she tickled the giggling pup's chin. Sachimaru swatted her hand away, already displaying an impressive sense of alertness for someone who had just been born merely hours ago.
Cute was not be how he would describe their pup. However, there was a certain appeal in the manner in which the pup was regarding him with those wide, trusting eyes.
"Are you happy?" his mate asked.
He leaned closer, locking their eyes. Was he happy? The past ten years had certainly been different from what he had experience prior to the appearance of his mate. In those ten years, he had been challenged countless number of times, forced to justify his actions and was regularly infuriated to such point that all he wished to do was to simply shake her.
However, he had also never felt so content before in his long life. Her presence was all he required. And their pups, of course. He allowed a smile to grace his lips as he nuzzled her cheek affectionately. The miko deserved to know how he felt.
"Yes. This Sesshoumaru is happy, Kagome."
She smiled up at him, her eyes shining with her love for him. "I'm happy too, Sesshoumaru."
A/N: That's it! Five months of work all done! I feel kind of bittersweet about it, actually:P. It had taken over my life for so long that I almost feel lost now. Anyway, enough of my random babbling. I hope that you all have enjoyed the story and are happy with the ending. I would greatly appreciate it if you'd drop me one last review on this fic. Anyway, I'll be spending the next couple of weeks refining the ideas for the new Sesshoumaru-Kagome story. And I hope that you'll read it too:P. And if anyone wants an alert for that new fic, I guess you could try the Author Alert or leave me your email address in this form; elle6778 (at) yahoo. com.