Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or its characters in any way or form, nor do I make a profit from this story. The story-plot, however, is mine.

A.N.: Ever left a package of minced chicken meat in the fridge for too long? Then when you take it out and open it - you regret ever waking up that morning? Ever thrown that minced meat in the trash - only to forget to take out the trash right away? Can you imagine that smell intensified by a hundred and then add rotten eggs and some sour aged milk? Welcome to the Northern Castle.

~~~O~~~


CHAPTER FIFTEEN - FIRST TASTE OF POISON


"Lord Mousen!" Kishino bowed his head respectfully to the Northern Lord as he greeted them outside the Castle Walls. On his left Tsuren bowed his head the same way, copying his protector.

The Lord was an impressive male - a black wolf - of an ancient and pure bloodline, and it showed in his aristocratic and clean features. His hair was long and healthy, kept in a low ponytail at the nape of his neck, pitch black with streaks of auburn. He wore black hakamas, black boots, and a black obi tied around his waist, and covering his strong torso; a golden suikan with black wolves embroidered onto to the sides. He was a striking specimen, with golden, warm brown eyes that pierced through you - and his aura felt like fire, a stark contrast to Sesshoumaru's ice. Lord Mousen was what Kishino would describe as a 'pristine' wolf. Not uncouth and wild like many of his kind were known to be.

Sesshoumaru merely inclined his head to the older Lord in greeting before his golden eyes glanced around warily - there was a foul stench of death surrounding the palace - he was surprised that the Northern Lord hadn't evacuated to another of his mountain abodes until the situation was dealt with.

"Hito-sama..." The massive black wolf youkai placed his clawed hand on the shoulder of the smallest male present, giving it a gentle squeeze in a friendly welcome.

"It's been many years since you last visited the North...I am sorry your return here is because of these tragic events..." his molten brown eyes bore signs of wariness and exhaustion - and Kishino felt a twinge of sympathy towards him. To see ones own people and closest friends submit to something lethal and unknown, powerless to stop it... It was very clear that this was weighing heavily on his strong shoulders. These were indeed very trying days for him and his lands.

"The Shikon Miko sent you?"

Kishino placed his own hand ontop of the hand that rested on his shoulder, and nodded once, and the larger hand was removed from his person.

"The Shikon Miko and I know eachother well." Kishino offered the smallest of smiles before continuing;

"She trusted that I would aid you with my knowledge." The words came without hesitation and Sesshoumaru could detect no deceit or lies in Kishino's aura - this was perhaps because there wasn't an actual lie in there at all - Kishino and the Shikon Miko DID, in all fairness, know eachother.

Lord Mousen nodded, not unhappy to see the human warrior-priest at all, then turned on his heel and walked up towards his Castle. Kishino thought to ask about the whereabouts of the guards and the castle's protectors in general. He could detect no other auras to suggest others were actually living here, but...he did not speak the question.

"Lord Sesshoumaru, Hito-sama...I'll show you to your chambers personally. My Generals are on patrol, and most servants are..." the black wolf didn't continue, but both Kishino and Sesshoumaru caught on to what he wouldn't say - the answer to the question Kishino hadn't wanted to ask...

"Is there someone who can watch over my ward while I investigate?" Kishino remembered to ask Lord Mousen in a careful and respectful way - he couldn't even begin to imagine bringing Tsuren with him to see the victims. The Lord's tired eyes softened when he glanced down at the little seal youkai; the black wolf adored children, and had many of his own - all seven had moved out of the Palace to seek their own fortunes, unfortunately. They had been spared the dreadful fate that had taken so many lives.

"Your ward may stay with me, Hito-sama. I will not set foot in those dungeons. Only the most skilled healers dare descend to the lower levels once the victims pass..."

Kishino and Sesshoumaru exchanged looks before the silverhaired male gave a short 'hn' and Kishino dared a quick look at his ward, but the little boy was already reaching for Lord Mousen's hand. The child had only seen the black wolf from a distance ten years ago, Kishino wasn't sure if Tsuren even remembered, but he was glad the boy seemed to trust the blackhaired Youkai - which made it easy to accept that offer.

"I am honoured you volunteer for such a task, my Lord. You have my thanks."

Lord Mousen shook his head and smiled quickly at the human priest.

"It is no trouble at all, Hito-sama, I assure you."

"This Sesshoumaru will go with the warrior-priest to see the victims of this poison."

The black wolf turned slightly and threw the fellow Lord a surprised glance, but nodded non the less. The mere thought of Lord Sesshoumaru, the pristine Inu Lord, entering such a foul place...it baffled him, that was all. He had not anticipated it.

"Join me for a meal - then rest tonight. I'll show you the entrance to the dungeons tomorrow..."


They were shown around the mountainside Castle to pass time until the evening meal was served. The grand building was partially carved into the mountain side, the outer part looked and seemed like any other grand castle of this time and age, but once you journeyed beyond the entrance hall, the inner rooms reminded Kishino of fancy caves with carvings, stairs, and tunnels instead of hallways. Wolves would be wolves, hm?

The air was surprisingly fresh, if one ignored the sickly sweet scent of death, so clearly someone had engineered some form for ventilation - which was impressive in Kishino's book.

Sesshoumaru was given a Chamber made especially for visiting royalty, and Kishino and Tsuren were lodged in a room a little further down the hall for those who were important guests, but not royalty. This fit Kishino just fine, she had no arguments there. Would be nice to have a private chamber and where it was just herself and Tsuren. Privacy!


The meal was had silence, none of the three visitors showed great appetite - much thanks to the overwhelming scent which lingered everywhere.

Lord Mousen was aware of this, but the proud wolf youkai did not apologize for the discomfort as it wasn't much he could do about it. They had tried incense, they had tried opening all doors and windows of the outer Castle to air it out, but to no avail. His servants had been relocated to his other homes in the Northern territory - those who weren't dead, that is - but this was still the main residence of the Lord, so he remained here. Three servants in total remained in the Castle with the Lord. Two males and one female - and they helped serve the food and tend to the guests as best they could. He was powerful enough to protect this home by himself, his Generals protected the rest of his lands, and his people were better off away from this cursed palace.

Kishino watched the two Lords while they ate. Tsuren was sleeping next to her, the little white head resting in his protector's lap. He'd been all over the place when they were shown around, asking question upon question to the Black Wolf - who showed great patience with the curious child. Lord Mousen was fascinated with Tsuren - having only heard stories of the illusive seal-youkais himself, and never met one before.

"I don't think either of you should be going downstairs to where the dead are kept, my Lords..." Kishino butted in after overhearing the two youkai discuss the subject of where the dead ones were kept.

A pair of amber eyes locked on her in an ice-cold deathglare, while the other pair of eyes, molten brown, showed genuine surprise and curiosity at the statement. Neither had been aware that Kishino had paid attention to their hushed conversation.

"I am human, right? - and even I am bothered by the smell. I can only imagine how terrible it must be for you with your enhanced sense of smell - being canine youkai. Going down there will overpower your senses..."

"This Sesshoumaru will see with his own eyes what this poison does, Hito-sama!"

"Will not my word suffice, Sesshoumaru-sama?"

The icy glare intensified, and Kishino felt the hairs at the back of his neck stand on end, but he wasn't about to openly submit to the Western's Lord and said Lord's silent threat of not testing him infront of another Lord.

The two of them battled it out mentally before Kishino raised his shoulders in a shrug. It was not a sign of submission, which really irked the Inu Youkai!

"Fine, you can join me in the dungeons and see for yourself. If you pass out, I will not carry you back up here. AND you will not disturb me while I do what I need to do!"

The Inu Taiyoukai growled deeply, while Lord Mousen rested his chin ontop of one of his hands and watched with amusement glittering in his eyes. This human priest and self-proclaimed warrior really lacked the healthy respect for those of noble blood and pure bloodlines, or of high standing titles, even superior species. The brief, miffed, expression that crossed Sesshoumaru's face before it faded was such a rare sight to behold it caused Lord Mousen to chuckle loudly. This drew the Inu Taiyoukai's gaze to rest upon him instead of the priest.

"You two must be very familiar with eachother, I assume?" The blackhaired youkai shifted slightly to put his head in his hand and gazed at his guests with a small smile playing across his lips.

"For this human to dare talk to the Lord of the West in such a tone and get away with his life..."

The blackhaired warrior-priest cleared his throat before shrugging his shoulders.

"Lord Sesshoumaru's Heir is my best friend in the whole world. He knows that should he happen to hurt me, his Heir will kick his backside into the next century..." Kishino knew she was taking a risk by daring to imply that Sesshoumaru could be beaten by his Heir, but it just slipped out before she could stop the flow of words.

"You dare..." Sesshoumaru growled deeply at the insolent human for even suggesting that the kit could beat him! Kishino merely arched an eyebrow arrogantly in response to his growl. Could she not once hold her tongue?!

"You have no idea what I'll dare, Sesshoumaru-sama." Kishino tilted his head, a silent challenge, his stormy blue eyes keeping the burning amber eyes locked.

"Shall I, perhaps, take your ward off your hands for a little while, Hito-sama? I can smell Tokijin's lust for blood." Lord Mousen, ever so amused, smirked at the hackles that had risen in both guests.

"No need, Mousen-sama..." Kishino was already on his feet,Tsuren securely in his arms.

"We will retire for the evening. I thank you for the meal, My Lord. I'll bring Tsuren to you at the brink of dawn. I shall start my examination early..." he bowed his head and left the dining room, remembering the way back to the chambers.

Lord Mousen watched the black clad young human man retreat, then his eyes dug into the Inu who only regarded him coolly in return.

"Why is he not dead, Sesshoumaru?"

"This One sees more benefits in keeping him alive."

"You do not allow anyone to speak so freely in your presence!"

"Hn." The silverhaired male closed his eyes, a small frown on his brow and ended the conversation just like that.

Well, Lord Mousen thought as he watched the stoic Inu Taiyoukai, these coming days would prove to be most interesting. This Kishino Hito was an unusual character for sure.

"You've known eachother long?"

"Long enough."

"Obviously. Do you trust him?"

"Sometimes."

Mousen leaned back slightly in his seat, observing the evasive Western Lord. Seeing that he would get no more descriptive answers from the Inu, he decided to save the rest of the questions for later.


The next day arrived all too soon, it seemed. Waking up, and knowing what task lay ahead made Kishino want to bury herself inside the futon and never come out. Tsuren had, of course, other plans! He had decided that bouncing ontop of his protector until said protector rolled out from under the covers to chase him around the room was a brilliant idea! He squealed with joy when Kishino finally caught him and tickled him.

"Can't I come with you, papa?" The little boy nuzzled into the crook of Kishino's neck while she rubbed his back soothingly.

"Not where I'm going, sweetheart..." the deeper than normal, gentle voice replied.

"You'd end up all stinky! Stinky fluffpillow!" Kishino snickered, blowing raspberries against the side of Tsuren's belly, drawing a bright laugh from the child.

"I don't wanna stink, papa!"

"Well then I gotta go down there without you, alright?"

"Will Sesshoumaru-sama go with you?"

"He will."

"Will he be a stinking fluffpillow?"

Kishino's eyes shifted slightly, and she bit her lip as she leaned in close to her ward's ear.

"He will be a stinking fluffpillow, but we can't tell him that, ok?" she whispered, feeling Tsuren nod. Deal! No telling the Inu he stinked! They had a small giggle together before getting dressed and read to exit the room.

They met with Lord Mousen at the break of dawn, as promised. Tsuren seemed a little more sceptical about staying with a stranger today while his protector was away to do a job, even though he knew he had to - and he clung to Kishino's right leg like a tick, causing the human male to walk with a very noticeable limp down the hallway towards the waiting adult youkai.

Kishino gave Lord Mousen an exasperated look, gesturing to the sceptical child on his leg, but being very used to handling children, Lord Mousen crouched down to Tsuren's level, and winked at him.

"How about you join me in my study, little one. I have several shades of paint and ink which I am sure you can put to good use..." The black wolf grinned as Tsuren blinked - considering the Lord's suggestion, the spark of curiosity and interest clearly shone in the big brown eyes of the child. Before long he was convinced, and he quickly let go of Kishino, took Lord Mousen's hand and beamed up at the Northern Lord.

"Can I paint anything I like Mousen-sama?"

Kishino hid a grin and attempted a stern expression - though failing miserably - the mirth in his blue eyes ruined the whole image of stern-ness.

"I'll have you know, Lord Mousen: I expect a super-clean seal-cub when I return! If he gets ink splotches in his hair, I will be most displeased..." He winked, and Lord Mousen chuckled deeply.

"I make no promises, Hito-sama! I will have to suffer your displeasure, I fear..." He inclined his head at the warrior-priest, who barely could hold back the chuckle now. Tsuren kept beaming up at the Black Wolf, and the two of them headed down the hall with Kishino trailing behind them.

Sesshoumaru already stood by the door leading into the dining room, pristine and flawless in his appearance as always.

"I trust you will not join us for breakfast either, Sesshoumaru-sama?" Lord Mousen arched an elegant eyebrow at the other Lord, who in turn shook his head slightly. The wolf sighed, but understood. Ushering Tsuren into the dining-room and settling him by the table with food in front of him, the Lord of the North swiftly lead Kishino and Sesshoumaru to the massive doors that lead down towards the crypts.


Kishino's trained eyes caught the small shift of discomfort crossing Sesshoumaru's gaze, and she waited until Lord Mousen had left them before she pulled out a triangular piece of cloth. She held it out to Sesshoumaru.

When the Lord merely gave her a suspicious glare, she shrugged her shoulders.

"It's got lavender, ground pine bark and mint sown into small pockets several places. It will block out the worst stench."

She saw the elegant eyebrows rise in understanding before he took it from her, donning it around his face so it covered his nose and mouth. Kishino pulled up the neck of her jumper, showing one of its hidden uses as it clearly had been fitted to function as a face-mask when needed. After inhaling deeply, both of them at the same time, Kishino finally pulled open the door, grabbed a torch, and headed down the stairs.

Both immediately wished to turn back, simultaneously hesitating at the top of the stairs, exchanging looks of reluctance.

The air was stale, laced heavily with the foul scent that penetrated the rest of the castle. As they pulled the large doors shut behind them, the stench intensified as stench tends to do when confined. Putrid rotten flesh, diseased flesh. Sesshoumaru was actually quite grateful for the cloth covering his face - it didn't block out the disturbing scent of death completely, but it lessened it, and made it bearable to his superior sense of smell.

They continued downwards until they heard voices. The Healers. The few that still dared venture down here.

As they approached the healers, the voices stilled, and when coming into their view both healers seemed shocked.

"What brave souls dare venture down here to the damned crypts?" The male healer spoke with a raspy voice.

"I am Kishino Hito, warrior-priest, sent here by order of the Shikon Miko to investigate the deaths of your kind." Kishino spoke with confidence and the healers eyed him with narrowed eyes. A human. One of the healers were an old male fox youkai - the one with the raspy voice, and the other was a bird youkai of unknown origin. Neither responded to Kishino in any way or form.

"I need to see the victims of the poison...are anyone still alive?"

The healers simply gazed at the human with sceptical and disapproving eyes, and neither replied this time either, instead they turned to Sesshoumaru and bowed deeply in respect.

"Lord Sesshoumaru, what brings such a legendary Lord to this foul place within Our Lord's Castle?"

Lord Sesshoumaru was, of course, above conversing with another Lord's servants, and merely acknowledged them with a quick glance, then ignored them again. He was interested in seeing how Kishino would deal with being ignored.

"Is anyone still alive?" Kishino repeated, inwardly sighing as the bird youkai cast a dark glare at him before whispering something to the fox.

Finding himself ignored once again, the warrior-priest stepped up to the nearest door on his left and shoved his shoulder into it with force, and was surprised as it caved in immediately - the old wood as rotten as what lay on the other side, and Kishino quickly caught himself on the wall before he stumbled sideways into the dark room.

His stomach lurched. The smell...He pressed the back of his right hand against his nose, forcing his facemask as close to his nostrils as possible so the scent of pine came through more.

"What is the human doing!?" The old fox youkai bellowed, lunging at Kishino to pull him out of the room. The human had anticipated a reaction and released a spark of his intense reiki - watching with a piercing cold glare as the healer withdrew instantly with a fierce hiss of pain.

"This 'human'...is here to find out who has killed these youkai!" He muttered darkly, then grabbed a new torch off the wall and raised it above his head to glance inside the large room he'd just about almost burst into. Oh...shit!

"Sesshoumaru-sama...you have to see this..." His voice came out hoarse as he raised his right hand to his nose again. Kami, the insides of his nostrils burned, and his eyes stung! Inside the room lay rows upon rows of crude futons, Kishino counted twenty, and possibly more outside the circle of light cast by the torch - and on each crude futon lay a corpse.

Sesshoumaru's eyes widened but a fraction, and that was all that signalled that he was as surprised by the sheer number as Kishino was. All youkai...in different stages of decomposing. Youkai bodies were resilient, even to the act of decomposition after death - this was not normal at all!

"Any guess?" Sesshoumaru's tone was low, almost a whisper, his golden eyes narrowed and glowing in the shine of the torch.

A quick shake of the priest's head wasn't the uplifting answer he'd hoped for, to be fair. He'd hoped this would be easily solved.

"I've not drawn poison from corpses before..." Kishino hissed through clenched teeth, his guts already clenching in a threatening manner.

"You said...!"

"I said I had experimented! I know what various poisons do, or don't do, to my system, but I've always had live victims of poison to test this new knowledge on, to confirm what I learn when the poison purifies! Or I've had actual sources of poison to experiment with!"

"This One was under the impression that you knew what you were doing!"

"I DO know what I'm doing!"

Kishino had made her way to the middle of the first twenty futons, fighting internally not to gag as a wave of nausea struck.

"The worst thing is..." She heard herself croak out to the impassive Youkai who very wisely had chosen to remain standing by the door.

"...I don't know if there's any poison left at this stage of rotting..."

"So, how will you test for poison?" Sesshoumaru asked, his stoic mask cracking slightly as the putrid scents of decaying flesh and rotting carcasses became too intense for even someone as collected as himself. His canine nose was hyper sensitive, and this…was torture, even with the filter covering half of his face.

Even Kishino, whose sense of smell was hundred times weaker than his, seemed highly disturbed by now.

"Without throwing up, hopefully..." Kishino's strained voice sounded from behind the arm she now kept over her mouth and nose. The almost desperate attempt at humour failed - she felt cold beads of sweat form on her brow. Dread. Complete and utter dread.

"Kami, this is…." A violent shudder went through the lean warrior's body as she held out her right hand, palm facing one of the corpses.

"I need a live victim…"

"No one has lived more than a couple of days after being poisoned, human! What you see here is all who've been affected!" The bird youkai's creaking voice shot out.

"Is there not anything you can make from this?" Sesshoumaru pressed, behind him the Healers were peeking inside the room to see what was going on, and Kishino inwardly cringed.

"Ugh, I really do not want to…." The priest groaned.

"Which one died last?"

After the bird healer had pointed out which had died last, Kishino tried to calm her breath before she knelt on the floor next to one corpse to her right.

"This one died two weeks ago..."

The decomposing flesh seemed to be almost gelatinous underneath the pale greenish skin. She instinctively rolled her neck in aversion to what she was about to do, then pulled up the sleeve on her right arm.

She threw Sesshoumaru a look before she nicked her right palm with a sharp hidden object in her left hand, then quickly inserted the bleeding hand into the corpse's gut, skin tearing and insides sloshing out, coating the lower half of the body, and most of Kishino's.

Sesshoumaru could not stop the initial grimaces that tugged at his features when the warrior priest promptly dug inside the almost liquid flesh. The sound of innards being pushed around in gooey liquid was enough to make even his head spin, the intensified smell made even him gag, it was that awful! He found it overpowering his senses to the point he thought he'd go blind!

"Oh, Kami…." Kishino groaned deeply, tasting the bile in the back of her throat as her hand got coated in the slimy remains of what once were internal organs. Her mind was swimming, her eyesight fading rapidly as her heartrate increased.

Alarms went off in Sesshoumaru's head when he noticed the change in Kishino's skintone, and he hesitated not - rushing in and grabbing hold of the human and pulling her away from the corpse, a trail of slime followed her hand as it was torn away from the corpse. A sickly blackish blue colour spread through the veins in the priest's hand, highlighting them through the skin; from his palm, around to the back of his hand, slowly climbing up towards his wrist and past it towards the elbow.

"Hito!" Sesshoumaru barked carefully, and Kishino turned her dark gaze to meet with his.

"Get me out of here!" She rasped in reply, and the words hadn't left her lips before she was outside, outside in fresh air. She squirmed out of the Youkai's arms and stumbled away from him. She coughed violently as her body desperately tried to empty her stomach of the contents it didn't have.

Kishino leaned heavily against the closest tree she could find while she fought against the tightening of her throat, the constricting sensation around her heart, the decreasing oxygen in her system – and the numbing pain. Old, sure - but still potent. This poison, it was for sure one she hadn't encountered before…

Her strained breath became wheezing sounds, and her limbs no longer kept her upright - so she sagged more and more until she sat on the ground at the base of the tree, her back against its trunk. Her vision blurred and she raised her left hand to wipe them, and was surprised to see red coating her fingers instead of tears.

"Fuck…" she hissed, sniffling as she felt her nose running. Blood, too, no doubt.

"Is this normal?" She could faintly hear the monotone voice of her youkai companion.

"O-ofcourse n-not…" she replied in a breathy tone, trying to ignore the sound of rushing blood in her ears. Wow, her blood-pressure was skyrocketing! A pressing headache made it hard to focus and think straight.

"Will you die?"

"I d-don't k-know…"

"You don't know!?"

Kishino summoned all her strength right then and threw the Lord a death-glare, but he ignored it.

"Do you know wha…"

"S-shut….up…S-sesshoumaru…." Kishino growled as best she could at the moment.

Stormy blue eyes continued the lethal glare at the now quiet Taiyoukai - with blood pouring from her eyes, nose and now also from the corners of her mouth, she made quite a frightful image - the white of her eyes had been completely overtaken by the blood, only the irises remained untainted by red. Quite a demonic sight.

Sesshoumaru did not look away. He had said he wanted to see the effects of this poison - and now he could. This was definitely different from his poison - where his was more of the acidic, instant obliteration kind, this clearly was not acidic. From what he could see it was shutting the body down, causing almost instant flesh decay and accelerating the rate in which the dying flesh decompose.

Once he had deducted this from what he was seeing, he found himself - surprisingly enough - slightly worried; Kishino was not looking well...

If she died now, the mission was definitely over. There would be no Shikon Miko to continue where the Warrior-Priest left off. He needed her to live!

The stoic Lord was about to take a step towards the human, but was surprised to feel the sting of pure reiki, so he hesitated. She'd told him her blood fought poisons...

"S-step back..." Kishino's voice was nothing but a whisper now - her airways constricting and making even the slightest intakes of air hurt.

"P-pre-preferably inside..." Her eyes flashed a bright pinkish hue, and Sesshoumaru got the message - somewhat relieved to feel her powers surfacing. There would be a great burst of youkai-destructive powers soon. While he knew he couldn't be destroyed by it, he did not feel like getting singed unnecessarily either.

"This Sesshoumaru will meet you inside."

He took his leave, and Kishino inhaled with great struggle. Inside. Yes. Hopefully.


She grimaced once she was alone. She felt like every part of her body was on fire, yet she felt numb and cold at the same time. Stabbing pains ran up her limbs and through her torso, crawled across her skin like barbed wire. She couldn't move, and now she really felt her lungs struggling to provide her system with enough oxygen. Her heart struggled as well - the world was spinning as her blood-pressure all of a sudden went from insanely high to a deadly low. She was going to pass out at this rate - and that would be annoyingly fatal right now...her head felt like it was filled to the brink with lead...

"Shit..." Even such a small crude word took it's toll on her waning strength. As her vision grew darker around the edges she finally gathered enough wits to summon her powers to the surface - realizing that her blood alone wouldn't purify this from her system like it had done with the other poisons she'd tested this way. She should've done this much earlier.

The air crackled, and she hissed at the intense fire that shot through her entire being when the reiki attacked the invading malignant substance and purified it in bright flares of light. The already mindsearing pain increased with her power's interference, causing her body to convulse uncontrollably despite the paralysis. Through her inner mind's eye she could see how her powers throbbed and pulsated through the immediate area where she was currently seated and somewhere in her subconsciousness she was relieved there were no youkai present to get burned to crisp.

Slowly - agonisingly so - the pain subsided, leaving her with the use of her arms and legs again, and she quickly clutched her right arm to her chest. Her heart was steadying its beats - and in a final burst of released reiki, she was satisfied to sense no trace of the poison remaining.

She inhaled in deep gulps, desperate to feed her body with the necessary air it needed. Damnit, that had been a bad one...a very bad one! A terrible one! A real shitty one!

Those poor, poor souls... she knew she'd been damn lucky, with her blood's purifying abilities to slow the poison's effects. The wolf youkai's of the North had stood little to no chance. Their youkai blood, though stronger and more resilient than human blood, would've had no power to fight this. It had still been a close call for her, though. Too close. Damnit...

She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, managing to frown. Salt. She spat at the ground - and seeing that what she spat was mainly blood, she spat again - believing the salty taste in her mouth to come from the blood. When she felt her mouth was cleaner she repeated the clicking of tongue. Still salt. She glared down at her right hand where the recently cut palm already was healing up as if it had never been sliced - she went through all that, to be left with the hideous taste of pure salt in her mouth!? Was that it?!

"Hn..." She scoffed, leaning her head back, casting her gaze up at the canopy of leaves. Oh well, damn. Oops. She'd have to remind Lord Mousen not to go near this tree. Poor plant had been forced to absorb her reiki...it was now a Holy Tree. Ha ha. Oh, man, she needed a new sense of humour - or at least a sense of humour that presented itself at more appropriate times... As she slid those thoughts to the back of her mind she finally found the returned strength she needed in order to push herself up to a standing position.

I need to do something about those corpses... She thought to herself while patting herself down with her hands to make sure she was indeed alright. Her clothes were intact, her chest armour was in place. Ew, she needed new hakamas...hers were all...gooey, and slimy...and smelled like...

She gagged and leaned back against the tree again, willing the rising nausea back down. She wanted a bath. Needed one. Craved one! And so her eyes wandered to the Castle.

"Man, why'd he drop me off so far from the gates!?"


"Hito-sama! You made it!" Lord Mousen greeted the slightly staggering priest as said priest appeared in the doorway of his study. Tsuren was laying across a big cushion, using paints on a large canvas which already was covered in little handprints and colourful seal-like shapes. Bless him.

"Barely." Kishino replied stoically with a hint of sarcasm laced into his tone, his face a grim mask of dried blood and cold determination, so Lord Mousen understood the priest did not come to share good news with him. Kishino made a small gesture for the Lord to join him out in the hallway, which the Lord happily did - the child didn't need to see his Protector this unkempt.

"My Lord, I have to purify the remains of your Nobles and servants. The poison turns into disease, potent enough to even affect youkai immune-systems..."

"Is there no other option, Hito-sama? Purifying them means nothing will remain!" Purification meant that relatives of the deceased wouldn't have a place to go to...Lord Mousen did not wish for any of the ones he and his people had lost to be forgotten.

"You should've burned their corpses!"

Mousen frowned deeply at the priest's harsh reminder and a small growl escaped him for the first time since the guests arrived.

"Hito-sama, we tried burning the first who died - the fire would not eat them. We attempted to bury them, but the soil and plants around the gravesite died and became unfertile soil. Do not think we haven't tried putting them to rest in the more respectful ways! Keeping them in the dungeons became the best option!"

This made Kishino think. More details to the mystery. Sigh, and he'd offended the Lord. Good going, Kish!

"I will purify their remains, put their souls to rest..." Kishino met the Lord's narrowed gaze, unafraid. The slight uplift of an upper lip told him that the Lord despised the idea of his youkai ending up as purified ash, so he raised his hands slightly to offer a more peaceful solution - a compromise of sorts.

"I apologize, My Lord. How about this: I will create a small memento for each of the deceased. I'll soothe the souls, and tie them to their very own mementos which the families can collect and put to rest as they see fit. Does that sound better?" He softened slightly, in one way he could understand the Youkai's reluctance to his decision to purify the remains, and the Wolf seemed a little more friendly to the idea he now brought up. A quick nod was all the confirmation he needed to proceed with it.

"...however, first...I would very much like a long private bath, if that could be arranged...I am afraid I smell quite bad...is there a hot spring near by?"


Peace. Serenity. Heaven. Steaming hot water, soap. Priva...cy...

"You are well." More a statement than a question.

"For flip's sake, Sesshoumaru, I'm bathing! Go away!"

Kishino had been shown to a shielded hot spring within the Castle grounds. Not once over the past twenty years had she wanted to squeal in delight as much as she did when she was shown this location! She'd revelled in the luxury of a private bath, to wash in private, cleanse, rinse, splash around... Of course, leave it to the Ice Lord to ruin that experience for her.

"Lord Mousen told This One of your plan for the deceased. You plan to go back down there..."

"...or stay for a chat, what do I care..." Kishino rolled her eyes when Sesshoumaru ignored her when she told him to go away. So she ignored him in turn, leaning her head back in the hot water and letting her black hair pool around her form while running her fingers through the ebon locks, fingertips massaging the sore scalp thoroughly after having added sandalwood oil to her hands.

"Your plan, Kishino!" The cold voice almost barked from the other side of the bamboo wall that shielded the front of the hot spring from view, and Kishino glared daggers at the Inu Youkai she couldn't currently see.

"To ease their souls, that's all, Sesshoumaru!"

"We should prepare to leave and see the other Lords!"

"I'm gonna finish what I told Lord Mousen I would!"

"We're wasting time!"

"Then go on ahead! Get your pedigree ass out of here and head down east!"

The sudden silence felt heavy. Sesshoumaru's intense aura washed over her and she could feel his anger, she felt the threat. The Inu Taiyoukai's aura overpowered hers before she could even retaliate - and she was being reminded of Sesshoumaru's power. It was unmatched, and she knew that - in a fair fight he'd kill her in a blink of an eye, but this was something she needed to do! He'd have to deal with that!

"I'm not an emotionless youkai like you, Sesshoumaru..." She murmured quietly.

"I can't ignore the suffering of others and move on knowing they'll continue to suffer, not if I can do something about it...I won't! Now that I know some of what they went through before their deaths...I..."

Silence. Again.

"You have till tomorrow morning to finish that task!"

She caught the rustle of silken clothes and knew he was leaving.

Oh, she had till morning? Why that arrogant, bossy, stone-hearted... She had till morning!?

Her jaw clenched - and before she could register what happened, she heard the sound of something soggy hitting something. Or someone. She blinked and looked at the hand where the washing-sponge had been, then quickly, instinctively ducked under water and thus escaping the acid whip that snapped in the air where her head had just been. Oops.

~~~O~~~