The Lord of the East drummed his claws on the table, his eyes narrowed in irritation, his jaws clenched so tightly the spider youkai, who was forced to bring bad news, feared he would pull a muscle. "You are supposed to be head of my spies, yet you cannot follow one little inuyoukai pup?"
The lizard youkai flinched. The Lord of the West was far from a 'little inuyoukai pup'. Yes, he was very young for a Landed Lord, and yes, it had been just over a quarter of a century since he took the throne, but the inudaiyoukai was frightening in his power.
"This dog had visited the wolves three times in the past three days," The Eastern Lord's voice grew louder with every word, any louder and the room would shake. Bears were not known for their soft tempers. "In three days you could find nothing?"
"Lord Kumakichi, Lord Sesshomaru is extremely-"
"Do not give me excuses or you and your family will decorate my dungeon walls." Kumakichi snapped. The lizard swallowed his words. "The wolves will not rest till they sit on this throne; till they ravage my lands and destroy everything in their wake, and you stand here and try to give excuses."
"Lord Ryuichi sent word." The lizard bowed deeply, hoping that his lord would not, in a fit of rage, decide that this was the best moment to decapitate him.
Kumakichi slumped in his chair. He despised the dragons and their wily ways. But he also despised the dogs and their arrogance, and the badgers running around in the south as though life were a joke. He waved his hand, indicating for the useless spy in front of him to continue.
"He wishes to deliver this news in person."
Kumakichi's eyes widened in surprise, "The Lord of the North is here?" The North was secretive, and the Northern Lord's visits were extremely rare and far between. Not like there was any need for meetings; the East had long since cut ties with the North in favour of the West. Ryuukotsusei's and Inutaisho's deaths had been devastating blows to both lands, but West had recovered whilst the North chose to turn into itself. "Send him in."
He watched, not quite certain what could bring the reclusive Northern lord out of hiding. "Greetings Lord Kumakichi." The Lord said as he was ushered into the large office. He was a stocky young man with bright green eyes, and he never broke eye contact, not even as he sat down. "I know you are wondering the reason for the sudden visit."
"Among other things." The bear growled. He had never been a fan of dragons and their far too intense stares.
"Well, I came to personally deliver the news that it seems the Western Lord plans to take a human mate. Ironic, isn't it?"
Under other circumstances Kumakichi would have laughed, but he was too preoccupied with the West's sudden fondness of wolves to see the humour in the situation. "The pup is as foolish as his father. Does that line seek to bring the West to ruin?" He frowned, were it not for the North's sickening decision to protect their wolves, he would have thrown his lot in with the older house.
"This human is the shikon miko, and she has been closely allied with the wolves for years. Word is, Prince Koga personally helped her find and put together the shattered shikon jewel."
"That mutt is not a prince!" Kumakichi slammed his fist on the desk so hard a few of his scroll fell off. He placed both hands on his desk and leaned forward. A miko? The shikon miko? It had to be false; no miko would so much as touch a demon, talk less of the shikon miko agreeing to bind herself for eternity to one. The dragons must have gone mad in their palace in the mountains. "Don't be foolish; a miko and a youkai?"
The Northern lord grinned. The news sounded silly to even him, like a childish 'what if', but that was the truth. "The shikon miko?" Kumakichi pressed on. He had heard of her; years ago she had formed a close alliance with the Eastern wolves and he had kept his eyes trained on her ever since, that was until she disappeared three years ago. He did not know what to think or what to believe; the whole situation was getting more ridiculous by the moment.
"Yes, and the Lord of the West. You do know members of your eastern wolves call her 'sister'." Ryuichi's lips curled into a devilishly mocking smile. The Eastern Lord dug his claws into the table until the wood began to splinter, and crack. He needed answers. He glared at the lizard trembling in the corner, hoping the lord had forgotten about him,
"Fetch me a scribe."
"You should have known; dogs and wolves are more or less the same anyway." Ryuichi leaned forward, "But we dragons could not care less; we tolerate our wolves because we have no reason not to. If you give us a reason to, we will help you rid Japan of their menace."
"And what reason would that be?" Kumakichi frowned,
"The West must fall. We will reclaim the land that is rightfully ours."
She was scared. No, petrified; scared would be an understatement of what she was going through. She found herself wishing that Shippo was with her, but instead he had gone with Hiromasa to fetch Rin, and so she was stuck more or less alone in a palace filled with staff that actively avoided her. She sighed and refocused on one of the many scrolls Sesshomaru had picked out for her to read. She was supposed to – in just three days – learn about the youkai political climate, the history of the Western lands, and youkai customs and traditions.
She had barely read three sentences when she let her eyes travel to the young, golden haired youkai standing quietly in the corner. She had been assigned to her by Sesshomaru himself to educate her in all the necessary ways, but her unease at being the presence of the shikon miko herself, rendered her near useless. It would only be much later that she would learn just how rudimentary her control over her own powers were. "Tell me something, Azami, right?"
The golden haired woman stepped forward with a grace that could rival Sesshoumaru's. She was almost too yellow and for a moment Kagome thought she was a gold statue come to life with her deep tanned skin indicating foreign origin, perfectly braided gold hair that hung over her left shoulder, light yellow eyes and gold and brown clothing. She bowed to Kagome, a gesture the soon to be Lady of the West was still just becoming accustomed to. "I am at your service My Lady."
"Kagome." She corrected for what had to be the hundredth time. She rested her chin in her hand in a very unladylike fashion and blew a stray strand of dark hair out of her face. "How bad is it exactly that Sesshomaru chose a human? I have read all about the youkai presentation ceremonies, but it doesn't seem like being a human truly bars me from anything important."
"It is the implications that matter." Azami said, her words faltered; she was desperately seeking a way not to insult the future Lady of the West, "Human are not as… durable? As youkai. A weak mate is a chink in a youkai's armor, and as you might have read the West has opted out of formal defense alliances."
"Yeah, that was bothering me too," Kagome turned so she was more properly facing her assigned tutor, "Why don't you have any formal defense alliances?"
Azami bowed again, "Lady Sadako, during her reign, did not trust the North nor did she trust the East. When Lord Sesshomaru took command of these lands he agreed with her choices; given the previous proclivity of those two lands for violence, and the understandable resentment of the two lands given that West was expanded by carving significant parts of the East and the North. In terms of the South, the Western ruling house has always had close personal ties with the South and so there was no need for such formality – not that the South would ever get round to the paperwork."
Kagome laughed at the latter part of her sentence and the dryness in her tone as he criticized the South, but just as quickly as the humour crept into Azami's voice it disappeared and she continued, "The last Lord of the West took too fondly to a human, and his enemies used that weakness against him. The fear is you will be the downfall of the West."
The smile that had just been growing on Kagome's lips instantly died and she gripped the fabric of her yukata tightly, "Ah, ok." She was having second thoughts; she cared deeply for Sesshomaru but if she would cause so much trouble just by being who she was, then perhaps it would be best if she –
"My Lady?" Azami's surprised voice snapped her out of her thoughts and she looked at her sharply. She had not noticed herself slowly losing control, and now her hidden youki had sprung to the surface. The eagle youkai was not walking towards her carefully, her curiosity getting the better of her, "Are you demon or human? How is the possible?"
Kagome forced herself to quickly suppress the youki. "I don't know, it is complicated."
"May I?" Azami said slowly, opening her hands with her palm faced upwards. All these days of solitude made Kagome craved friendship and she willingly obliged, relishing the physical contact that had been so sparse. "Just relax, stop controlling your aura and just let me see."
What washed over Azami was blindingly powerful and she strained under the pressure. She is not the way weakness will enter the West, Azamii thought to himself as he examined her aura. She parsed through the reiki and youki, and what she saw shocked him; Kagome's aura was turning from holy to demonic. There was no store of youki simply sitting in her; rather it was a part of her that was now fighting for recognition. She let go of her hand.
"What?" Kagome asked innocently,
"I don't know how this happened to you, but if you want to control it you have to let lose some of the demonic pressure building up inside you." She could see from the look she was giving her that the Lady was still slightly confused, "You can't suppress all the youki otherwise it will grow restless and force its way out; you have to have a part of it permanently free, if only a little. Same thing with your reiki; you must let out both parts of you."
"But what does that make me? What of my holy powers?" She was beginning to look concerned,
"Which ever part you let dominate is what you will be. You can go either way, miko or youkai, at will." Azami was staring at her as though looking at some rare specimen just dying to be catalogued,
"How do you know all this? Even Sesshomaru didn't know."
"I live to learn, in my own time I travel the world seeking knowledge. I actually study under the Lady Sadako – Lord Sesshomaru's mother but I have never encountered anything like you. You could be whatever you want so just pick one, wolf or human, it doesn't matter; both are equally bad for these lands." He was still staring at her with unashamed intrigue,
Kagome was fighting the urge to hit her. She was smiling, which was on some level good because the effusive bowing and 'My Lady' were gone, but she was acting as though telling her she was disastrous for the West was a joke. "Do you think this is funny? You don't care about the West?"
Azami's smile faded and she gave Kagome an even, almost bored look, "I trust My Lord, don't you? If war comes it will be hard, but we will win as we always do." Immediately she felt silly for questioning her. "My clan has served the West since these lands were conquered by the great dogs of the undying moon clan, nothing can shake my faith. I will serve till I die."
She feeling of silliness grew into shame. "I am sorry I questioned you." She bowed. Azami reached for her quickly and straightened her posture,
"No, No, My Lady you do not apologize to a lesser." She said firmly.
"You are to be the Lady of the West; the West never bows to anyone and neither should you." Kagome noted the panic in her voice and bowed again, when she tried to reach for her she put up a barrier between them, "What are you doing? Lord Sesshomaru will have my head."
"My name is Kagome, not My Lady." She said firmly, hoping she could use her stubbornness to earn herself at least one friend. Azami looked around, almost in a panic, who was this person his Lord had brought back?
"Ok, would you please stop bowing Kagome." She practically whispered her name. Kagome straightened her posture and smiled brightly at him,
"Now was that hard?"
Sesshomaru looked up from the scroll, his eyes somehow even more icy than usual. His claws turned a bright green and the paper disintegrated, the scraps falling onto the table. "The insolence." Sesshomaru growled. The note was nothing more than a thinly veiled, condescending attempt by the East to threaten him, Lord Sesshomaru, for simply having visited the Eastern Wolves.
"What reply should I send?" Akemi asked, unfazed by the inudaiyoukai's violent response to the note.
Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes and brushed singed scrap of paper into a neat pile. The foolish bear had threatened him, as though the West had an obligation to anyone. He was strongly considering sending no response. "Write to Lord Kumakichi saying 'the wolves were pleasant'."
Akemi nodded. She would have no choice but to send the terse insult.
She put a second scroll in front of the inudaiyoukai, "There was a message from Lady Sadako concerning the miko she-"
"Akemi," Sesshomaru snapped, his voice terse with annoyance, "Do not tell this Sesshomaru that you are incapable of discerning between importance and rubbish. Are you incapable of simple tasks in your sister's absence?" He brushed the scroll aside, piling it with the burnt remains of the letter from the East.
The golden haired youkai bit down his shame. Of course his twin would get the easier task of instructing the new Lady, whilst he got stuck with their testy Lord. Perhaps he too should have chosen books over the swordsmanship.
By the time Sesshomaru finally pried himself out of his office it was already dark. He walked straight to Kagome's room; he had decided they would have separate quarters for the time being so he would not be tempted to do something absolutely stupid. He opened the door to find his intended being wrapped in layer upon layer of rich purple silk. She did not have a clan to have clan colours, so this must have been of her own choosing and, in all honesty, she looked divine in purple.
"I hope you know I am going to trip in this." Kagome smiled, happy to have his soothing aura so close to her. He noted the permanent lighter blue of her eyes, and the steady pulse of youki flowing at the very base of her aura. There no fluctuation, no internal struggle to keep herself in check; she was simply balanced.
"You did something to your aura?" He asked as he took a seat on the futon in her room. He noted the golden haired woman wrapping Kagome in the kimono was not a handmaid, but part of his own head of staff.
"Azami helped me," Kagome said brightly, her eyes flashing a beautiful sky blue, "She knows a lot. She also said she studied under your mother, and now I am really curious as to what the woman who raised you is like."
"She can appear perfectly charming, but do not let that deceive you; that woman has claws, poisonous ones." He looked at Kagome with serious, even eyes, "And she will test you. You must hold your own, but be respectful."
She did not need to speak for him to see her uncertainty. She was trying to hide it, trying to be strong, but he could read her too well. "Leave us." He said to Azami who stood up instantly, bowed to her Lord and Lady, and left. He looked at Kagome and his eyes softened lovingly, "There is nothing to fear; this is merely a formality."
"But, I am human and that's seen as weakness…" she said softly, allowing her voice to trail off. She was full of so much self-doubt that at times he found it tiring.
"Yes you are human, but that is not a problem; weakness is the problem. But you are far from weak; would never cower in a corner whilst I tried to protect you, and do nothing but whimper like a child forcing me to divide my attention between your crying and my opponent" He said reassuringly. She took a guess at where he got such imagery from,
"Is that what happened with your father and Inuyasha's mother?"
Sesshomaru clenched his jaw tightly and she knew she had said something wrong. "Yes, she could barely defend herself from even a low level youkai, and her weakness ultimately became his." His eyes turned hard as ice, "You must never mention Izayoi or Inuyasha, especially when in the presence of my clan."
Kagome tilted her head slightly, intrigued by his harsh reaction. "My father was a great general; he expanded the Western lands appreciably, but my mother was the heir to the Western lands, it was through marriage with her that he could become Lord. Part of that arrangement was that the first child would belong to my mother's clan. My crescent marks me a part of the undying moon clan, and thus heir to the Western lands. Izayoi knew he was a mated man, yet still she – a supposed princess – chose to debase herself and insult my clan in the process."
Kagome's eyes widened, realization dawning upon her. His father had married a princess and then brazenly taken another woman. Now that was an insult. "Why didn't your mother break off the mating?" Now she could understand the hate for Izayoi, and the quiet disdain for his father but she could still not see why Inuyasha had to suffer.
"Because no one would accept an unmated female as a ruler, unless her mate died and she was holding the seat for the next heir. My father would not break it off because he would lose his lordship. That is why tomorrow you are to meet my mother's clan, not my father's; her house rules the West. As Lord of the West I belong to her house."
Kagome nodded. Biting her lip nervously, suddenly Sesshomaru's and Hiromasa's disdain for Izayoi made a lot more sense. Lady Sadako had been used for her rank and then tossed aside for another, in some ways Kagome felt that on a very personal level. "But what did Inuyasha ever do wrong?"
She saw something she had never seen before in his eyes: resignation. "He was born. I am aware that it is no fault of his, but youkai hold extremely long and deep grudges."
Kagome looked hurt and angry, and Sesshomaru immediately noticed the signs of impending stupidity, "Do not think about it." He said firmly. She looked at him with that angry defiance and shook her head,
"It's not fair. He never had a chance at a family, at respect? Not even if he did become a full youkai? I know humans hate him for being half demon, but your family hates him for being him."