A/N: Uhhh… I blame Shippō.
Beta Love: Hollowg1rl (Yay! I'm not completely unsupervised…)
Summary: [Kagome/Sesshoumaru] AU: Inuyasha makes a wish to be with his true love, and a selfish wish sets into motion the beginning of the end, and revives lost acts not seen in many years... and why does Kirara look so smug?
If Wishes Were Inu
"Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn."
― Mahatma Gandhi
"I wish I was able to be with my true love!"
The Shikon no Tama exploded into particles, disappearing in a brilliant explosion of purple light as the sound of a female shrieking in agony filled the empty space that ended in an earth shaking bay of pain.
"Inuyasha?" Miroku asked, running up after the explosion.
Kikyō stood, staring at her hands and flexing them as Inuyasha stepped back from his embrace. Her skin was— alive.
Miroku skidded to a halt as Sango ran into him with a pained oof.
Shippō sprung onto Miroku's shoulder and cried, "Where's Kagome-neechan?!"
Kirara, her body both huge and flaming, sniffed Kikyō and snarled, her fur standing on end.
"Inuyasha— where is Kagome no kimi?" Miroku's voice trembled even as he attached the traditional title of respect to Kagome's name.
"She's returned to me whole," Inuyasha said, the look of wonder on his face as he held Kikyō close. "We've won."
"But what of Kagome?" Sango fretted.
Shippō stood on the charred ground where Kagome had been standing before, huge swaths cut deep into the earth.
"She gave my soul back to me," Kikyō said with a cruel smile. "Her body probably left this world."
"How can you say that you heartless bi—" Shippō screamed as he tried to leap at Kikyō only to have Inuyasha punch him in the face and knock him clear into trees.
"We can all be happy now," Inuyasha said. "So be happy." He took Kikyō by the arm and walked with her away from the charred ruins of Naruku's demise.
"But is the Shikon truly gone?" Sango asked as Miroku stared at his hand— not even scarred. It was completely undamaged— uncursed.
Kikyō turned and smiled. "I don't sense it anymore. We're all free to live our lives without its yoke."
Shippō crawled out of the shrubs and glared hatefully at the back of the reborn miko.
The first thing she sensed was the twittering of the owls and night insects and the rough grass against her face.
Pain had been her constant companion, and she winced as her head ached and her body seemed wound as tightly as a spring. Her nose twitched as she smelled blood. Animal blood. She looked up and regretted it as she saw a half-eaten carcass in front of her.
Ugh— of all the places to get thrown after—
What had happened?
She remembered reaching for the jewel and Inuyasha reaching for it before her as he stared at her face with a smile, his fingers having grasped it first. Then there was that agonizing pain as her entire body felt like it was on fire and being consumed by acid simultaneously.
Naraku, she knew, was finally dead. That she felt in her bones— but something else was seemingly different, throwing her senses into a state of strangeness. Like— why were the owls so loud?!
"Well, hello there pretty," a rough voice said, and Kagome whirled, a part of her wishing to scream, but she found herself strangely silent, her voice caught in her throat as this new threat dared to approach her after all she had been through— all she had done. Automatically, her arms went to find her bow and arrows, but her bow and arrows were missing.
"Missing something? Heh. You reek of power that I want, and maybe I'll get a little something else for my trouble."
Kagome flattened her lips into a line. If she had no weapon, she would make due with her fingers and gouge out his eyes. She was tired of being bullied, abused, guilty for wanting to take care of herself, and told that someone else would fight for her.
The man was a panther demon, twisting the very childhood image of the most beautiful of big cats into something dark and unnatural. Boogey-men. Things to be feared.
But Kagome was more than a little girl anymore. She was done being a child that accepted that older and more experienced people had the right to treat her as though she couldn't do anything herself, learn anything herself, BE anything but a helpless, undertrained Miko whose abilities relied on fear and desperation. She hadn't been sixteen in a long time, and it was time she acted her age, thought before blabbing at the mouth, acted instead of waiting for someone to rescue her.
"No need to run, pretty," he purred. "Maybe I'll find a reason to keep you around so my kittens can teach you your place."
He leapt, mouth and claws glinting despite the night's darkness.
Kagome suddenly remember something her brother had taught her— not by intending to but by all those times he tried to pounce and tickle her when he thought she wasn't looking or paying attention. She braced herself falling backwards, pulling up her leg as her arms braced.
Purple glow dripped from her hands like poison, and Kagome caught one hand under the yōkai's chin as the other went for the area just under his ribcage. The yōkai's jaw cracked as she screamed, summoning her power from every cell of her body as—
Her other hand burst through the ribs and crushed his heart, ripping it clean out.
She was on her feet in a moment, her eyes piercing the darkness as she saw other glowing eyes approaching. Panther yōkai.
They broke into the clearing and skid to a halt as they saw both their leader's corpse and their leader's heart crushed in Kagome's hand— burnt to char by her still glowing power.
They immediately grovelled. "My Lady! Give us your name that we may greet you with respect!"
Their fur stood on end, their ears flat. They grimaced in fear, and they stank of it. Their tails were puffed out like bottle brushes.
Kagome felt a her lips twitch. It was a struggle to speak. All her effort went into keeping from tearing them all apart for the very offence of being there. "This. One. Is… Kagome," she managed to say, struggling to put any words out that did not explode in anger.
"Kagome-sama!" they all chimed together, grovelling, grovelling, and grovelling some more. "We are yours to command!"
Kagome narrowed her eyes, dropping the charred heart in her hand with disgust and walked out of the forest with the pard of panther yōkai groveling behind her like kittens begging for whatever scraps she might give them.
Kagome realised after about an hour of walking that she had no shoes on, and that was only because a vine had decided to wrap around her ankle and try to trip her. The jerk of the vine caused her to look down to see some impressive claws digging into the dirt. From there, her gaze went to her hands, and she flexed them, watching the tendons move as black claws moved out into an impressive splay.
Kagome's expression darkened. "Inuyasha."
The panther yōkai bumped into her, scrambling and grovelling at her legs. "Forgive us, Kagome-sama! We blindly walked into your most supreme legs."
Kagome narrowed her eyes. Idiots.
She turned and continued her walk. The village was not so far. She could smell the fires and the stench of people and the animals they kept. Her ear twitched, and her nose wrinkled. She would have to suffer it. She looked down at herself.
She needed— clothes.
Kaede slid open her door screen and looked up to see the very opposite of what she was expecting. "Yōkai!" she cried, falling back on herself as she dove to get her bow. "Do ye think stealing Kagome's face will make ye welcome here?!"
An arrow shot by Kagome's head as she stepped out of the way. For a moment, her eyes bled crimson, but then it was gone.
One of the panther yōkai leapt at the elder priestess. "How dare you shoot your weapon at Kagome-sama!"
Kaede winced in pain, unused to such combat. She braced for pain or death, whichever came first.
Kagome's talons closed around the panther yōkai's neck and she jerked him back, throwing him right through the rice paper covered wall just as Kaede's second purified arrow hit her in the shoulder. She turned her head to look at Kaede, her blue eyes seeming to glow a deep amethyst. Her hand went to the arrow as her yōki rose and the arrow disintegrated. "This Kagome would prefer you keep your arrows to yourself, Kaede-obasan." Every word she said looked painful to her, as if it hurt to put thoughts into words.
"Kagome?" Kaede's face creased in horror. "How is this possible."
Kagome narrowed her eyes at the panthers, and they bowed and groveled in reverse, making their way out of Kaede's house with awkward belly slithering. Kagome wrinkled her nose and snatched a wineskin from one of their belts and gave it to Kaede.
Kaede's face seemed far more focused on Kagome's new and very black claws in front of her.
Kagome narrowed her eyes and dropped it into her lap. "Drink it."
If any remnant of the sixteen year old chatterbox version of herself remained, it was quickly being drowned in stronger, more alien thoughts.
"Kamigami—" Kaede said, taking a drink. "Someone made a wish that wasn't you."
Kagome, finally feeling safe enough to sit, did so on the mat Kagome had always used every visit.
Kaede's eyes grew wide as she realised Kagome was just a little bit more naked than the last time she'd seen her— that modern school uniform she said it was had been a horrible outfit. She had a long, fluffy fur that curled up from her rear, up her back, and over her shoulder like one would wear a shawl, but it still didn't let imagination have much of a exercise.
"This Kagome would appreciate— clothes," she said. Her hands flexed, making an odd popping sound.
Kaede couldn't dig through her old trunks fast enough to comply.
Kagome tried very hard not to growl as Kaede poked her. She tried even harder not to snarl when Kaede's reiki surged in response to her yōki and tried to have a war without either of their permission. It was really hard to think non violent thoughts when someone's itchy energy was trying to pick at your energy scabs.
"Sorry," Kaede apologised. "I am just…" She sighed. "It's hard to believe that is really you."
Kagome raised a brow. Who else would she be? Of all the people to pretend to be, why would she choose Higurashi Kagome? She grunted a response, trying to think of something more pleasant. Why was it so hard to think?
"I've never seen such a thing," the elder priestess said. "You are— well you're definitely yōkai, but you still retain spiritual powers."
Kagome curled her lip. As if yōkai cannot be spiritual? What nonsense is that anyway? She thought a moment, rubbing her chin. Maybe, it's about faith. Yōkai don't trust in spirits to aid them— She frowned. That was giving her a headache. No more thinking for now.
Like that ever worked for her before.
Kagome grit her teeth and tried harder.
"Where will ye go?" Kaede asked.
Kagome had no idea. Thinking that far ahead gave her a greater headache. She couldn't very well stay in the village. That would be— bad. Inuyasha-sized bad.
At least it was getting easier to think, to speak— sort of.
"Away," Kagome said.
Kaede sighed, understanding. Considering the welcome she herself had given, it wasn't hard to put two and two together and get raging villager apocalypse. "Does Inuyasha or the others know?"
Kagome growled lowly.
"That'd be a no then," Kaede said with a deep breath. "I will keep thine secrets, Kagome."
Kagome nodded gratefully and tried not to scare the old woman again. She did like her, it was just so hard to like her when she could hear her scratching her hair follicles into rawness and all her senses wanted to scream. She really needed to get a way before she accidentally did something really bad.
And maybe when she could do more than grunt and say sentences without sounding like she was talking about herself in third person…
Baby steps, Kagome. Baby steps.
She stood and went to leave. "Thank. You." Didn't snarl those out, good job.
Kaede nodded. "Take care of thyself," she replied.
Kagome grabbed one of the panther yōkai— the one that looked the most human— and plunked him down on the front stoop. "Fix it."
"Yes, great Kagome-sama!" the yōkai said, setting to work on fixing the broken wall.
"If you hurt. Anyone. In this village. This Kagome. Will. Eat. You."
"Of course, most blessed Kagome-sama!"
Kagome gave Kaede one final look, bowing her head ever so slightly in respect and then vanished into the dark of night, not even seeing Kaede's baffled expression as the panther yōkai dutifully put her wall back together without complaint.
"Hey, old woman!" Inuyasha yelled. "When did you make a new house?"
Miroku brained Inuyasha with his staff, the rings jingling. "Can't you ever be polite?"
"The hell? I was being polite!"
"Be better at it!" Sango yelled as she righted part of the fence that looked trampled over. She frowned as she saw the large feline footprints.
"Kaede-obasan?" she called. "Did panther yōkai attack you?"
"Yes," the answer came as Kaede hauled water to the house. "But he apologised and fixed my house."
Sango closed her eyes and did some mental exercises for a minute. "What?"
"Some strange yōkai was here too," Inuyasha said, his nose twitching.
Sango touched a footprint in the soft earth. It was elongated but padded like an animals with non-retractable claws— like a wolf or a canine, perhaps a fox— no, definitely not a fox. Not a bear either. "Inuyasha, stomp your foot down by this footprint."
"Why the hell do you want me to do that?"
"Please just do it?"
"Keh," he harrumphed and stomped his foot into the almost dry mud.
"The foot pads are too pronounced—" Sango said, frowning.
"Another hanyou here in the village?" Inuyasha scoffed.
Sango wrinkled her nose. "Inuyasha, do you smell your brother?"
Inuyasha grumped, sniffing. "No."
"You can put your nose down there and sniff for yourself!"
Their conversation was interrupted the drop of a water bucket. They turned to see the bucket spilled on the ground as Kaede took in the living Kikyō from top to bottom. "Sister?"
Kikyō, finally both living and not sharing a soul with someone, smiled.
"I'm finally home, for good." She stared at the new house improvements. "You've changed the house."
Kaede sighed. "It was needing changing."
Kirara sniffed one of the footprints and mewed.
Shippō landed next to the footprint and stared at it. "It looks like Sesshōmaru's."
"What do you mean by that, runt?" Inuyasha said, popping Shippō over the head. "I told Sango my brother wasn't here."
Shippō glowered at Inuyasha and took a springboard leap off his head before floating away into the field nearby.
"Give Jaken back the staff of two heads."
The toad demon weeped as the small child gave him back his staff after having used it as a dance partner in the field. "Thank you, Sesshōmaru-sama!"
"Do not allow a human child to outwit you at every turn."
The yōkai's eyes drew big and watery. "Yes, Sesshōmaru-sama!"
Sesshōmaru's eyes narrowed as he caught the scent of someone new in the air— faint but familiar. What was it?
"Rin, stay here."
Rin happily picked flowers in the field, finding many purple and red flowers for Lord Sesshōmaru. A-un snuffled the flowers somewhat curiously and ate a few.
"You're not supposed to eat them, A-un!"
The dragon seemed to shrug.
Rin smiled, putting a wreath of flowers over the dragon's heads— a purple one for Ah and a red one for Un. She gave him a hug and giggled as he snuffled her, licking both sides of her face.
She tried to put a crown of flowers on Jaken, but the toad demon burst into a rage, "Jaken doesn't want stupid flowers on his head! Why can't you respect your elders?"
Rin dodged Jaken and thumped the crown over his head, giggling victoriously as she dashed off to collect more flowers.
Jaken simmered in silence, the heat from his yōki at least managing wilt one petal which proceeded to shoot up his nostril when he breathed. The yōkai choked, coughing as the petal tried its best to murder him. He tried to beat himself upside the face to get it to dislodge and knocked himself out. He fell backwards, landing flat on his back.
The petal dislodged and splatted in the middle of his forehead.
A-un shook his heads at the toad demon and resumed chewing on the nearby flowers.
Rin noticed her almost right away. Her long black hair drifted behind her much like her favourite Inu Daiyōkai in the entire world. Yet, even as she saw her, she felt she knew her. She stood a little taller— straighter. Her face was a little more angular and her expression more feral, but she was definitely familiar. She even had a black Mokomoko-sama over her shoulder and back.
Rin beamed as she made the connection and immediately ran over to her. "Kagome-sama!" she said, throwing her arms around her legs. One of the panther demons looked like it was going to protest the touching of their most revered and feared superior, but Kagome's eyes flashed violet, causing them to back off.
Rin hopped into her embrace and pulled herself up, pressing her chin to Kagome's jaw with a wiggle of her body that reminded onlookers of a pup begging attention from their most respected elder, and Kagome found herself with her teeth bared ever so gently pressing them against Rin's neck in acknowledgement.
Why did I just do that?! Kagome interrogated herself.
No answer. Well fine. Be that way.
Kagome pressed her forehead to Rin's, a feeling of peace settling on her mind and body as the child's familiar warmth remained so.
"Kagome-sama!" Rin greeted again. "Do you wish to have a crown too?" She beamed at her as Kagome blinked, unsure.
Rin placed the crown of flowers on Kagome's head and smiled.
Kagome's eyes went upward and she stared for a bit before a small twist of her lips curved her mouth upwards.
Rin took that as a positive and beamed brightly.
Kagome felt some sort of barrier around her emotions break down and sort themselves more naturally for Rin.
Kindness. Affection. Protection. These things were okay for Rin. Rin was comfortable, respectful— she had not changed.
Rin had approached her like nothing had changed for her, so nothing would.
Rin eyed the panther yōkai with some curious suspicion, but when she approached and put one hand on their heads petting them between the ears, Kagome's gaze did not leave the yōkai. The panther yōkai flattened himself down to the ground getting the warning. Touch Rin and suffer. Protect Rin or suffer.
The part of Kagome that struggled to hold on to her old self wailed that she should not rely on just a gaze to protect Rin from the yōkai that had tried to harm her only the day before, but it was overridden by the stranger, new awareness of the natural order. They had accepted her as their dominant superior to serve until death as her devotees—
A little voice inside her demanded to know how such a thing could be so cut and dry— so violently done and yet accepted as normal, but Kagome had always known that demons were capable of great and many violent deeds just as humans were— and those capable of the emotions of humans were also capable of loyalty, twisted as it was.
Kagome spotted the serow before Rin, and she silently pressed her fingers to the child's mouth, pointing. Rin immediately lay down in the grass, having obviously become well aware that lack of stealth amounted to death from a hungry stomach. Kagome pulled an arrow from her quiver, notched it on the bow's sinew, and pulled back.
The goat-antelope fell to the ground, and Rin went tearing after it. She stood on top, and loudly said "Thank you, serow-san, for the gift of your life!" Rin said as she helped shove the arrow in deeper to make sure the animal was well and truly dead.
Kagome narrowed her eyes but nodded to Rin, kneeling to take the arrow and clean it off before putting it back into her quiver. Then, she put the bow back on her back before running one talon down the animal's belly to expose its innards.
Reaching into the carcass, she sought the soft tenderloin, wanting the softest pieces for the pup. Child! the little voice in her head hissed.
Rin had already started a fire while she had begun the butchering, and Kagome couldn't help but think that Rin was already a better pack member than Inuyasha had ever been. Ever. Rin gave her the long skewer stick, and Kagome slid it through the tenderloin and set it above the fire for the child to cook. She didn't worry much about the child's ability to cook— she knew that tragedy had forced the girl to grow up in some areas that she'd never have had to do had her parents been alive.
Kagome licked the blood off her talons, and then eyed the carcass, then her panthers. "Eat," she said, saying nothing more.
The panther yōkai descended on the carcass, tearing it to pieces, yet they didn't eat.
Kagome narrowed her eyes.
The bravest of them set a heart into her hands— the offering to her.
Kagome lifted her head slightly and then silently took a bite of it and swallowed. Then and only then did the panthers eat their shares, even to the point of cleaning the meat off the bones.
Rin had already cut pieces off the tenderloin and begun to eat them after making sure Kagome had eaten something, and Kagome boggled and admired Rin for her strange observance and respect.
Somehow, Kagome had eaten half the heart without realising it, and she had licked the blood clean off her talons once more, all while watching Rin tend her fire and eat the meat she was given as it cooked. She even cut off pieces to share with A-un, giggling as the two headed dragon used its tongue to snag the pieces of meat off her palms.
Kagome looked around and plucked two thick leaves from the nearby foliage and then yanked some grass up in her hand. She wove the strands together by rolling the fibres together with her talons until it formed a thick cord. With a low growl, she put her hand into the remains of the carcass and heaved out the precious liver— the most precious thing next to the heart— and set it beside the half of the heart she hadn't eaten. Slowly and deliberately, she wrapped it in the leaves and then used the cord to keep it in a bundle, setting it by the fire stones to keep it safe.
The panthers were licking her bloody arm, cleaning the blood from her skin with their rough tongues, and she tolerated it, allowing them to cement themselves tighter into her service by their own wills.
Realising that Rin had no one but A-un watching over her— the toad yōkai seemed to be missing— Kagome watched over her while the girl grew tired and napped against A-un. While she did not take A-un as a fool or reckless sort, she watched over them both all the same until she felt the wind shift and she smelled Rin's lord approaching. She stood, giving the panthers the eye as she walked away, deeper into the forest and away. The panther yōkai followed, silent as their namesake. The only thing left behind was a bundle wrapped in fresh leaves, tied with a cord of woven grass which Kagome had left by the fire.
When Sesshōmaru found Rin curled up next to A-un with no Jaken in sight and a mouthwatering tenderloin still cooking over the fire, he felt as if he had missed something significant.
He had given Rin a small hunting knife, but the bones that lay clean down to the white seemed to tell a story that didn't quite add up to his small ward. There was odd scents here, strong in panther yōkai and something else hidden amongst it that his nose couldn't quite place.
Panther yōkai would not be the kind to share food with a human girl and A-un would not have allowed Rin to remain around danger even if Jaken was a sodding idiot, but what had happened that Rin had magically procured a large tasty lunch all by herself?
His eyes wandered to the bundle by the fire— thick and broad leaves wrapping a bundle by the fire, tied in a cord made of woven grass.
He slipped his claw under the loop and tugged it— the offering of the guest hunter, usually given to the owner of the territory as thanks for the hunt when travelling in another's territory. Few remembered the tradition anymore, which is part of what annoyed Sesshōmaru in the changing times. Once even the humans left a portion of their kills to the lords of the land more frequently as tokens of respect, and respect was something lacking between both humans and most yōkai anymore.
The leaves opened to expose half of the heart and the whole liver— choice pieces that showed two things. One, the heart acknowledged the leader and two, the liver was perhaps the most tasty part of a fresh kill. Plus the tenderloin was there over the fire, having obviously been saved for Rin. That was three special parts of a kill "given up" to the offering and to feed the child. He had no doubt at all that it had been to feed Rin.
Sesshōmaru leaned down to place his nose close to the leaves and woven cord, taking in the scent of who had done it.
Respect was earned, and they had. Later, he would remember this scent if or when he met them later. It could be the difference between a sword into the gut or a neck unsnapped if they came upon them sleeping somewhere in his territory unannounced.
The scent was vaguely familiar but distinctly other— a musk he had yet to scent in his travels outside the Western Lands and in the castle of his mother, Inukimi. It was the strong yōki of daiyōkai— the sort of scent that had it been marked on the borders of a territory, would have sent lesser yōkai either fleeing or grovelling.
But this— was no bid for dominance or begging for favour, no. This was simple respect, silent and without grovelling. This was not Sesshōmaru's territory, but it was his pack, strangely formed as it was.
Someone had been here, taking care of his Rin— his— child.
No normal yōkai would do such a thing. His mother would not even do such a thing. Oh she's brought Rin back to life after that little test in the underworld, but Inukimi cared for Rin only in that it gave her son something to protect, not as a value unto herself.
There was a daiyōkai out there with compassion, and only now did Sesshōmaru understand his father's question: do you have someone to protect?
It was not a weakness after all. It was strength.
It was odd travelling with a pard of panther yōkai, Kagome realised, not that travelling in itself was odd but that the company she kept was so unlike trekking around with Inuyasha and their band of friends.
Had they been friends?
Kagome wasn't sure. She had been devoted, she remembered, but were they truly her friends?
Kagome looked down. A small yellow and black feline yōkai rubbed up against her legs.
The little demon jumped up into her lap and rubbed up against her, wedging her head under her talons as brazenly as ever, letting out a rumbling purr of satisfaction.
Kagome's eyes widened as she continued to rub the firecat's ears ever so gently between her now lethal digits.
Perhaps she did have friends, then.
The firecat proceeded to mark her all over with her scent, renewing bonds using—
Brazen creature, she thought. The little feline yōkai was marking her as her property. Only now, Kagome could see the yōki, oh so subtle as it was, sneaking into her personal space and infesting her own aura.
Does Sango realise you are marking her? Kagome wondered. More than a normal cat— so much more.
Kirara was smug, her twin tails waving like flags as she arch-bonked into Kagome's chest and chin. A small smile tugged at Kagome's lips as she bared her teeth and in a flash set her teeth against the feline yōkai's neck. Kirara purred louder, her yōki flaring in approval.
Ah, so that is what you wanted, Kagome thought. Reciprocation. How long had the little demon wanted nothing more than true acceptance on her own terms? How could they have known? How had Inuyasha not known?
Lord Sesshōmaru's disdain suddenly became more clear.
Inuyasha had none of the instincts that forged bonds between demons. He barely had the instincts to forge bonds between humans, either. He was trapped between words— never yōkai or human. He offended demons like he did humans— his very abrasive nature an insult to everyone.
Now, she understood.
It had only taken the last of her human soul to find the truth.
So what was she now?
The new "leader" of the pard brazenly put his head in her lap, looking up at her hopefully. Silent. As it should be.
She slowly alighted her hand upon his head, soothing his ears until his eyes rolled backwards, blessing him with her favour. He, too, purred.
Kagome's mouth parted, teeth bared as she scented the air. This was a safe place to sleep.
Kirara kneaded her lap and curled up in it as she leaned back against the tree and closed her eyes, one hand on Kirara and the other on the panther yōkai as the rest of the pard gathered around her. Had any of her old friends seen it, they might have thought they were protecting her— but the panther yōkai knew better.
She was their protector in every way.
"Something odd has happened," Miroku said.
Sango eyed him with an expression that said volumes.
Miroku sighed. "More odd. Ever since— Kikyō isn't doing priestess duties," he said in a rush.
"Perhaps she thinks since the Shikon no Tama is gone that her duty is well and truly paid," Sango said.
"But with Kaede being older, the village needs a miko," Miroku said.
"Do you think the Bone-Eater's Well took her home?" Sango asked suddenly.
Miroku frowned. " I want to believe that."
"But you don't think so either."
Miroku looked at Sango, unsure what to think.
"What happens when someone takes the entire soul of another to make themselves complete?" Sango asked.
Miroku tilted his head. "You cannot live without a soul— or a part of one. Even demons have them."
Sango stared into the fire, poking the embers with a stick. "What happens when someone makes a selfish wish on the Shikon, Miroku?"
"To its most pure guardian to start the cycle again."
Sango's face grew pale as things started to add up to impossible numbers. "What if that guardian just had her entire soul ripped from her body?"
Miroku dropped his staff, the ringlets jingling with a sudden clank. He stared at Sango, comprehension dawning with fear and untold horror. "The Shikon is two souls housed forever within the jewel. Kagome no kimi had always been the jewel's true home." He shook his head adamantly. "Without a soul, the Shikon no Tama could make its own wish to stay with her forever."
"Baring stupidity, what lives forever save the kamigami, Miroku?" Sango said.
Miroku let out a soft sigh. "Yōkai."
Sango shook her head. "No, Miroku. DAI-Yōkai."
Miroku rummaged quickly through his bag and pulled out two mugs and poured something from his wine skin into it. They drank it down in one gulp and stared into the fire.
"Kamigami help us all."
As Rin ran out from Kaede's hut and danced with the nearby scarecrow as she waved to the retreating Lord Sesshōmaru, Inuyasha yelled back at him, "You think you can just visit whenever you want and insult my woman, you bastard?!"
Rin eyed Kikyō with a strange expression. "You're a miko?"
"Yes," Kikyō said, not bothering to elaborate.
"Why aren't you tending the shrines?" Rin asked.
"Mind your business," Kikyō said.
Rin frowned. "Aren't you supposed to bring the messages of the kamigami to the people?"
Kikyō gave her an unkind look. "I did that a long time ago."
"But not now."
Kikyō threw down her gardening hoe. "What do you want, girl?"
Rin stared at her. "Why don't you glow?"
Kikyō narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?"
Rin shrugged, picking out a huge diakon for Kaede and hugging it to her chest. "Power glows. You don't glow anymore." The child shuffled off to Kaede's hut, saying nothing more.
Kikyō stood her in her way. "What did you mean, glow?"
Rin frowned again, puzzled. "Miko glow like Sesshōmaru-sama. Like Kagome-sama. But you— you do not."
Kikyō looked like she was going to ask her something else when Kaede came up and joisted Rin up. "Ahhh, look at that lovely diakon. Very nice, Rin!"
"Thank you, Kaede-obasan!" She hugged the older miko. "You glow too!"
"Uh huh! You're purple like Kagome-sama used to be."
"Used to be?" Kaede said, puzzled.
Rin smiled, patting the radish with her hands. "Now it's black, like her fur, just like Sesshōmaru-sama's is white. Like his fur. Maybe she can call Sōryūha like Sesshōmaru-sama! That sword is gone now, though—" Rin perked up and smiled. "Maybe she'll find a new sword, right Kaede-obasan?"
Kaede put a hand on the child's head. "Anything is possible, child."
Rin grinned and let the older woman carry her into the house with the radish.
The great dragon rose before her, its coils sliding against each other as the head snarled at her. "This is my territory, and you will die."
Kagome felt her anger rise and take her speech with it. The struggle to form words was difficult. "This Kagome does not intend to die."
"You will die, regardless whelp," the dragon said. "You think a human form makes you powerful, but it just makes you weak, and all weak yōkai will be eaten." His yōki flared, beating into Kagome as she stood there. Her power rose slowly, lazily, as tendrils of black grew like fur around her body.
"You smell of dog," the serpent hissed. "I will devour you as my father once devoured your general."
He struck, and Kagome dodged, her body sliding against the ground as she dove under and over the coils. She attempted to avoid the smash of the tail, but it caught her, stunning her as the great jaws clamped around her and the serpent swallowed her whole.
The panther yōkai grew distressed as they watched their protector go down.
"Bow to me," the serpent dragon roared, saliva dripping from its jaws.
The panthers frowned, and the leader seemed to fight the fear to stand up straight. "We live and die for Kagome-sama," he said.
"So be it,"the dragon hissed, "die then."
His jaws opened to crash down upon the inferior yōkai just as he jerked back as his body thrashed. A dark purple-pink glow burst from the dragon's scales as a tear formed and the growing muzzle of a giant inu pushed out— fur and fang and snarl. Glowing red eyes blazed from the black inu's head as it-she— pulled herself out from the dragon's body, making the dragon's scales and skin explode.
The giant inu bayed, her teeth flashing as she clamped down on the dragon's head and crushed it between her fangs, shaking the body back and forth like a dog with a toy. The dragon's body smashed against ground and tree, and she dropped it, letting out a long howl to declare her victory.
Her lips pulled back from her teeth as she lowered her head to sniff the panther yōkai, who prostrated themselves at her head.
"Great and supreme Kagome-sama!" they cried. "Let us celebrate your victory over the great dragon son of Ryūkotsusei!"
Kagome's form shrank and reformed into her human shape. She gently placed one hand over the yōkai's head, acknowledging them. Her hand lowered. "This Kagome requires a bath," she said, walking towards the nearby river without another word.
Sesshōmaru had a problem. He heard the howl of the female— the bay of challenge, the howl of victory, but the direction it came in was the Valley of Ryūkotsusei.
The land of Ryūkotsusei— the valley of the once great dragon himself…
It was said that Ryūkotsusei had many sons, all eager to tear their way into infamy and take a bite out of any and all demons brave or stupid enough to enter the valley. After his father had fallen to the great dragon, it had been Inuyasha of all people to fell the dragon. Many of the dragon's sons still howled for blood of the family of Inu no Daiyōkai, for the greatest warcry of any family seemed to be blood for blood.
Sesshōmaru did not fear any dragon, but taking on an entire family of blood-hungry dragons would not help him find this mysterious female that had howled her victory across the valley so clear that it had carried to his ears in distant lands.
A decision had to be made.
Find the female or fight the dragons— and finding the female could require fighting the dragons. All of them would undoubtedly be drawn to the female's howl. If he approached the female in her battlelust, he could end up fighting her and the dragons, and his desires did not want the female to judge him unworthy for showing up at the wrong time, the wrong way, and with the wrong kind of interest.
No, Sesshōmaru did not want this female to view him as an interloper.
He would have to be cautious because this would not be a battle he could fight with a sword. If she was what he thought she was— she would have to be placated, impressed, and shown what a great provider he was.
He would have to be—
He would have to be considerate.
The entire process would most likely kill him. Never in his life had any female demon ever peaked his interest as more than a rutt. He had never cared enough for such things. Power and gaining it had been his only concern—
Sesshōmaru wanted no mate. Sesshōmaru needed no mate. Sesshōmaru did not desire a mate!
He flinched again.
The Killing Perfection could not win this battle by being the most powerful warrior—
But it might get his paw in the door.
Shippō had tried to track the footprints of the owner of the strange footprints ever since he realised that they might know what happened to Kagome. It was a feeling that sat in his gut and moved into the tips of his tail.
The tracks were always surrounded in the prints of the panther yōkai— their scents so very distinct from others such as the wolf yōkai. The fact they had been in Kaede's village but not actually killed someone was a strange revelation. Panther demons had no love of humans, Shippō knew. Yet, apparently one had fixed up Kaede's hut for her… after attacking her and then apologising for it.
When did THAT ever happen?
Sometimes, Shippō forgot he was yōkai, and it wasn't hard to when everything was seemingly bigger and more powerful than you. Kagome's disappearance had more than rattled him, and he knew that Sango felt the same, though she hid it well. Miroku, too, seemed too distant— too serious, less lecherous— to be unaffected either.
Kikyō's reappearance had been shocking in itself. Her being alive— really alive— had been even more so. Shippō, however, didn't trust Kikyō. He never had. At least before he could blame it on her being undead— stealing the souls of the living to feed herself.
But what was she now?
Human? A complete soul?
Or was she the ultimate undead, having stolen the greatest soul of all to make herself human again. What price did such a thing demand?
Shippō knew he wasn't hundreds of years old with the kind of wisdom that adults of his kind had— he paled in comparison to the pranks his parents were capable of— but he knew he was not completely oblivious, either. Naraku had stolen his childhood as the Thunder Brothers had stolen his parents. Neither he would ever get back.
She allowed him to feel like he could cry when he wanted to. She found no weakness in emotion. No fault in not holding a sword or killing mighty dragons with powerful attacks. She, herself, had a kind of strength he envied. Despite being told by so many that she was weak and needed protecting— she persisted.
Shippō respected her and loved her like a sister, and it was his duty to see if she had survived. If this strange being who walked with panther yōkai knew what had happened to Kagome, he needed to find out.
But how did he suspect that this mystery being knew?
Shippō's tail twitched. It was a feeling in his tail.
Somewhere in that scent was something or someone familiar. He had to find out what. If there was any chance Kagome was still alive and alone, he had to know. Maybe she had been forced to go home to the future, but he had to be sure.
He owed it to her. It had been him that had tried to press Kagome and Inuyasha together— and that was a mistake he didn't want to haunt him forever.
Sesshōmaru wasn't quite sure what he was looking at, if he was honest with himself. Bones rose around him like monoliths made of bone instead of stone. There wasn't one bit of flesh sticking to the bleached white skeleton. The gaping maw of a dragon lay frozen in place. The only indicator that this had recently been done were the scattered, shining scales— to brilliant to be old.
Some of the bones had marks upon them— where fangs had met bone and cracks had formed. Inu fangs. Yet, even as he examined them, he realised the placement was strange. Summoning his cloud, he rose above, staring.
The bones were arranged in a peace circle—
I seek no fight, but I shall finish it.
Sesshōmaru hadn't seen one since the days of his father— back when the only ones that challenged the Inu no Taishō were the truly brave or the immeasurably stupid. Of all the yōkai of Japan, the dragons were the only ones that could ever challenge his father, and even then, it had been the father of them all that had finally taken his father out.
Still— this was no youngling dragon, not at all.
"Dog," a voice rumbled behind him.
Sesshōmaru turned slowly to see two dragons staring at him.
"How dare you enter our lands and attack our kind." One of them used its tail to smash the bones' arrangement, shattering the peace circle.
Sesshōmaru felt his sword in his hand before he had even realised he had pulled it out. He said nothing. Anger brewed under his stoic regard. He used the tip of his sword to carve the peace circle around himself, gritting his teeth in his effort to preserve the seal started by the inu yōkai that had come before him.
He would not allow himself to lose control. He was not a common inu yōkai.
The dragons smiled, arrogant and full of pride. They descended upon the Lord of the West, confident that while he may have taken out one of them, two would be a guaranteed win.
Sesshōmaru slid his leg back to brace himself as his yōki rose to his desires.
Carved in Earth
Rise to the heavens
To proclaim our worth.
Forged for peace
Preserve my power
And violence cease
I come not to fight
Or blood to spill,
But should you challenge me,
I surely will.
This I swear
Witness my promise,
So none may dare.
Break the line,
And I will fight.
Attack me here,
And know my might.
Sesshōmaru let out a baying howl as the dragons fell upon him, rows upon rows of flashing teeth bared to tear him asunder for the sins of their fathers.
Kagome climbed the crumbly stone path up the side of the mountain lead through the deep green of the forest. The mountain's mist rose off the canopy, giving the entire area an aura of mystery. The trees were tall and straight, speaking of fast growth to race to the top, but the tops were full and open like umbrellas. Giant roots clasped the stone and outcrops, anchoring the greatest trees to the less forgiving earth.
The path was seemingly carved in the stone of the mountain itself, but it had obviously fallen to disrepair. Had humans or any other visitors used the path, that time was long since passed. The arches she found were beautiful, but the vines had overgrown them. Whatever had once paid homage and pilgrimage to the lands of the dragons visited no longer. Corpses littered the mountain, and they were long dead. It was almost as if the dragons had turned on each other.
The panther's looked around with no small amount of wonder, their eyes wide and noses twitching as they took in the scent of the old dragons that still lingered. Some of them stayed close to her while others braved exploring, but when she saw the palace carved into the very side of the mountain, Kagome realised she had found the heart of Ryūkotsusei's territory— or what had been, when the great dragon had ruled it.
Yet no sound indicated that the old seat of power was still occupied. Carved stone walls in epic reliefs depicted great dragons fighting the sea and air for their home and the greatest dragon of all having used his claws to bring water to the land in the form of rivers.
Carefully crafted, even delicate, wood and papered walls lay within the stone walls, protected from the elements. All of it seemed frozen in time and left to the sands of memory. The halls were huge, fit for dragons, and the eternal fires still burned.
Yet nothing seemed to breath, and no animal breached the walls to attempt to make a nest in the ruins.
Treasure filled great and numerous rooms, filled with both coin, trinkets, and the skeletons of those who had come before only to find the place occupied. Kagome continued her walk, taking in so many forgotten murals— the history of the great dragons.
How had something so vast and great disappeared?
As she climbed her way to the top of the summit, more bodies peppered the ascent, some of them frozen in place by the cold— forever locked in their death throes. The further they travelled, the more bodies they found, and Kagome felt the first pangs of pity for the once proud dragons. The longer she climbed, the more she became convinced that the dragons had fought amongst themselves, annihilating each other for some yet known purpose or goal.
So why attack her?
Kagome frowned. Picking fights when you're the last of your kind didn't seem very practical. The dragon she had fought had said this was his territory… not our, but his.
Could they have really been so selfish to fight each other for a territory easily shared?
When she reached the summit, she saw the answer to her questions and more. Carved into the top of the mountain was a giant bowl alit in flames, but in it lay a clutch of shimmering eggs— waiting. Waiting for the winner to claim them: the next generation of loyal dragons to the victor.
A great dragon head rose behind the nesting bowl, and Kagome knew without even waiting that the dragon meant death to any and all that came— insanity flared in the dragon's eyes. She was the reason all the other dragons lay dead.
Age dripped from every scale— scratches, tarnish, and even lichen grew over the ancient scales. Her fangs were like swords, but her eyes were glazed with madness. She was a daiyoki who had devolved and gone feral— no more in control than Inuyasha without Tessaiga. This was the fate of any demon who succumbed to time without having a firm anchor of the self or lost their reason for living.
The eggs were the only connection to her old self, Kagome realised, even when all sanity had left the great wyrm. And if those eggs hatched, they would imprint on that insanity and become as twisted and destructive as their "mother." They would probably kill each other, knowing no sanity to tell friend or foe, and the end of the dragons would be sealed in genocide.
The eggs were rocking, so close to hatching. Tiny cracks were forming as the young struggled to break free of their shelled prisons.
Kagome's eyes flicked from the eggs to the great dragon, her old self screaming that this was a dragon. A DRAGON! She should be running! She should be calling for Inuyasha, Sango, Miroku, Kirara—
A flash of violet filled her blue eyes as she forced that instinctive dive into learned weakness away. She was not weak. She did not have to rely on anyone to fight anymore. The panthers were growling, caught between fear and eagerness to fight— the great dragon was even larger than the one she had slain earlier… and if she were to keep her edge, she had to remain in a the smaller, non-inu form. Her hands instinctively sought the familiar feel of arrow to bowstring. Her power traveled along the shaft of the arrow, covering its entire length in her distinctive yōki even as her "venom" dripped from her talons and traveled down the arrow to the arrow tip.
Her foot moved out and she swirled, using both the end of her bow and the tip of her toes to dig into the earth, forming a circle.
Carved in Earth
Rise to the heavens
To proclaim our worth.
She bared her teeth, swinging her bow around her in an arch as her yōki rose. Black tendrils of her power whipped around her as her hair seemed to rise against gravity.
Forged for peace
Preserve my power
And violence cease.
She thought of the baby dragons, the future of the dragon race, corrupted and mindless, dead one by one as they tore each other apart.
I come not to fight
Or blood to spill,
But should you challenge me,
I surely will.
She thought of Inuyasha having stood up to the great dragon with Tessaiga, channeling his protective fury into Bakuryūha to bring Ryūkotsusei down.
This I swear
Witness my promise,
So none may dare.
She thought of the panthers who had devoted their lives to her service, making her responsible for their lives as well as hers. She thought of Kirara's gentle rub of possessive marking against her yōki and the contented flare as Kagome had succumbed to her own instincts to mark her right back. She thought of Sango and Miroku's stupid banter between flirting and violence. Shippō— the little kitsune, so much older than his appearance, but still young— too young for the burdens of adulthood.
Break the line,
And I will fight.
Attack me here,
And know my might.
She thought of Rin's carefree, genuine embrace— acceptance despite the change and her brilliant smile.
It was more than a title. It was more than respect. In that one, small addition to her name, Rin and the panthers had acknowledged her power and give her responsibility of protection over them— responsibility she had taken by pressing her fangs to their necks.
She had more than someone to protect. She had someones.
She bared her fangs at the rising dragon in warning.
The dragon snarled, almost smashing the very eggs she was poised to protect. She flung herself into the air and smashed down where Kagome was, breaking the peace circle.
Kagome went flying backwards, her one leg jerked as she stopped her slide with her claws. She pulled her bow up and released her arrow, and it sang through the air and hit the dragon on the arm it protected its face with. The arm shuddered and immolated, pieces of flesh burnt so fast that the bones fell from the arm to the ground. The next arrow didn't hit, instead embedding into the ground where it had fallen.
The dragon snarled, and rose up, using its one good arm to swat at her. Kagome cried out as the claws raked her leg, not quite moving fast enough. Blood trickled down her skin, and her markings glowed even as she was thrown into the nest.
She was covered in egg-goo and a small, seemingly delicate little dragon splat against her body, thick strands of birthing fluid dripping from it's wet, blue baby fur and pristine opal scales.
"Hahaue?" the baby dragon looked up at her with adoration, eyes locked to hers. It clung to her chest, waiting, needing a response.
In the middle of battle. No pressure, Kagome.
She bared her teeth and pressed her fangs to the dragon's neck, even as her yōki flared, even as her pain in her leg flared— even as she dodged the ancient dragon's next attack of fire and electricity mixed together in a painful combination.
Kagome knew her choices were limited, and now she had a baby dragon who begged her protection— protection as a mother.
Kagome bared her teeth, ignoring the pain in her leg. She notched an arrow, grasping the point with her hand as she wrapped her talons around it, feeding the point with her yōki— her most delicate poison.
In her mind she played out a hundred scenarios, all ending with those she protected dead.
Agony of defeat.
Inuyasha? The face of the half-demon and his soft white ears came to mind, and she snarled.
She would not bow to her younger, weaker self who accepted she was too weak because Inuyasha kept reminding her she was too slow, too weak to fight, too dumb to realise when something wanted her dead.
She snarled, a slight purple glow changing her blue eyes to a mixture. Her bow string pulled back, and she released just as the dragon's mouth forced her to move or be sliced in half. The first dragon had been "kind" enough to swallow her whole, but this one was not so inspired. It wanted to tear her to pieces, and it wanted to right there and now.
The dragonling clung to her, whimpering, her baby yōki infesting itself into her own much like Kirara had done— the need to both submit and be protected and cared for fused into a need to for her to be that protector.
Another egg hatched, but this one looked up to the giant dragon and found only insanity. It's small eyes whirled as blackness closed in and insanity followed. It attacked its nearby nestmate while still in the egg, the screams of the infant dragon that hadn't even been fully born chilling Kagome to the bone.
The great dragon's teeth snapped around both attacker and attacked, and two baby dragons felt their "mother's" mouth crush them and shake their bodies violently before tossing them aside— undesired, unmourned.
Kagome felt the baby dragon's distress as its clutchmates died— the bond between the comrades of the egg broken twice in less than a few minutes, once by the baby dragon attacking the other, and once by the mother dragon whose insanity outweighed any maternal instincts.
"I am Koba. Koba. KobaKobaKoba!" the little dragon repeated, a mantra against the violence and a plea for protection.
Dragons of fire
Dragons of air
Hear my plea
If you're there.
Dragons of earth,
Dragons of water.
Soothe this child,
My scaled dragon daughter.
Where had such words come from? Yet… there it was, coming to her mind as her mind and heart sang to fight for the scaley interloper that had woven herself around her heart in less than a few minutes.
Kagome saw the shattered remains of her bow crushed between the dragon's teeth— and she felt a twitch of understanding for when Inuyasha had lost Tessaiga, even for a moment. She dodged the slash of the dragon's swat, wincing as she slammed into the trunk of a tree. She wanted to pry the dragonling off her chest so she could move, but Koba refused, clinging to her chest like a reverse backpack.
The huge dragon swat again using her tail to shatter the trunks of the trees in her ire, sending Kagome flying again. The dragon rose above, taking flight, and then she was diving— diving down to both breath her fire upon Kagome and the nest.
She no longer cared about the hatching eggs. She no longer cared about herself. She was lost in her rage.
The frightened eggs screamed, sensing their imminent doom, their tiny cries drowned by the roar of the dragon above as the heat in her body built to blast outward to char any and all things in its path.
Kagome didn't think.
She reached for the arrow that wasn't there, pulling on the bow string that should have been there— using the bow that had been in pieces without thinking to notice there shouldn't have been anything to hold. Her talons touched string, notching the arrow crafted in her yōki, and the bow had seemingly come from her own body responded, flexed, and sent the arrow flying towards its mark.
It pierced the dragon's mouth, lodging into the inner throat and causing a gush of blood to douse the fires. The dragon shook its shead violently, bellowing, its body convulsing ever closer to the eggs.
Kagome was in the air, sailing towards the dragon's head. Her hand wrapped around the cast aside arrow from their earlier fight. Her poison covered the entire length in less than a second, and she thrust the arrow under the dragon's chin— up, up, up!
Deep into the dragon's brain.
The great dragon roared, blood spewing from its mouth and its wounds as her massive body thrashed on the ground. Some of the eggs went tumbling out of the nest, barely avoiding a crash to the rocks of the mountain's steep side. Kagome jumped in that direction, sliding against the ground as her claws stopped her skid as she grabbed the egg in the most danger and stopped it from falling to its doom. She staggered, half limping as she gathered the eggs and put them back into the bowl with a weary huff. She eyed the strange bow in her hands, seemingly carved in obsidian, yet it was flexible. As her talons moved to where the string was, yōki sang and formed into a bowstring.
What was this bow?
When her hands left the bow, it faded from sight as if it had never been there.
The eggs rocked and tilted violently, cracking and bursting outward as the newest baby dragon sprawled over the side of the nesting bowl, body damp with egg fluid. Bright orange eyes met hers.
"Hahaue!" The baby dragon cried, unfurling to lick the bottom of her chin in supplication.
Crack. Crackle. CCKKKRRRLK!
More eggs shattered, spilling their waiting contents out. Baby serpent tongues licked at Kagome's chin, their bodies wriggling and rubbing against her like a pup to its bitch or its pack.
Kagome shuddered, overcome with intense instinct. Her teeth bared, she pressed her fangs to the little dragons' throats. The little dragons' shuddered as its yōki flared and merged with hers, adding itself to her pack.
Within a few minutes, Kagome was covered in dragon hatchlings, all of them curled around her like she was their entire world, their baby fluff drying down their backs as their scales shimmered in the sun.
"Mum mum mum mum mum mum mum!" they all chimed together.
Kagome loosed a howl, and with it the combined yōki of all those she protected sang in her voice, resonating in her yōki. The dragonlings gave their tiny roars to the mix as the panthers added their own distinctively feline roars.
The great Ryūkotsusei was dead. His empire had fallen.
The fires that marked the great territory of the east flared to life once more as the claiming magic restored the East to its former glory. Vines peeled away from the stone. The great stone stairs pulled back together— all of it happened at once as a wave of their combined yōki blew outward, marking the East as a home for the living one more.
Long live the bitch queen, protector of the panthers, mother of dragons.
"What the hell was that?" Inuyasha said as he jumped up onto a tree branch and sniffed.
"What was what?" Kikyō asked, frowning.
"I felt something. Yōki, but— different."
Kikyō shook her head. "I felt nothing."
Inuyasha frowned. Unsure what that meant. She was a priestess, after all. Of all people who would recognize a flare of demon power, it would be a Miko, yes?
Then again, he thought, maybe it wasn't yōki. It felt different, almost like a mixture of power.
He sighed. It was hard to enjoy the "gift" of Kikyo's presence when she was so cold to everyone—even him, if he was truly honest about it. But… she'd had always been alone and aloof… and just when she'd started to be less so, Naraku had made sure they would blame each other for the attacks against the other.
But his wish…
Kikyō was his true love. He had thought his wish would have proven once and for all who his true love was… even to him. He'd even thought maybe it would fuse them together and combine the things he loved about them both. They had shared the same soul, after all. It made sense. Why did no one else get that?
Still— the flare of yōki was disturbing. What could cause such a thing? As much as he hated to even think it, his brother would probably know and rub it in his face.
Inuyasha growled. He did not want to be beholden to his brother for anything, knowledge or otherwise. All his brother cared about was power. Who cared if he took care of that little orphan waif. That was a fluke, and when his brother tired of her, it would be the end of the girl. It was probably already happening. His brother dumped Rin with Kaede like she was yesterday's waste, anyway.
Rin ran out from Kaede's house and jumped onto the repaired fence. Her body was as tense as a spring and she looked out over the valley.
"Barrroooo!" she howled, her body trembling. She cocked her head, listening.
"Hey, what the hell are you doing, brat?"
"I'm listening for the Lady of the East!" Rin said with a smile. "And Sesshōmaru-sama!"
"Yeah, but why are you howling?!"
"So they know I'm here," Rin said, cocking her head at him. The "obviously" went unsaid, but it ruffled Inuyasha's fur.
Inuyasha shook his head. "There is no woman of the east," he said, correcting her.
Rin looked at him funny. "There is now. And she's a Lady." Rin looked at him like he was an idiot, and then she burst into a brilliant smile and howled again.
Rin bounced around the field, arms outstretched like wings. Kaede caught her up and Rin giggled and hugged her. "Kaede-bachan, do you think Sesshōmaru-sama will take me to visit the Lady of the East?"
Kaede tilted her head. "Whatever do ye mean, child?"
Rin smiled. "You know, to visit!"
"Why would he do that, Rin?"
"She protects Rin!" Rin said without hesitation. "She likes Rin's flowers even when Jaken doesn't."
"What are you doing consorting with demons, brat?" Inuyasha said, landing next to them with a scowl on his face.
Rin wrinkled her nose. "I'm too young to be a consort," she said, hopping down and skipping off into the garden."
Kaede glowered at Inuyasha.
"What, old woman?"
The old miko shook her head and walked away, saying nothing.
Sesshōmaru worked his way up to the top of the mountain summit, carrying the carcass of a great elk over his shoulder. The scent of what had drawn him across Japan was close, and he was not going to show up empty handed. The carcassing of many wyrms made him curious. The blast of claiming magic that marked out territory made him even more determined to ascend the mountain.
The battle with the two dragons had lead into many more, almost as if the dragons had no care but to battle each other as much as him. He wondered if the entire dragon race had gone insane with the death of their leader, when even before he had been in stasis but not dead. If that were true, had the entire Eastern Lands been falling into ruin as the dragons battled each other?
As he reached the summit, he met the corpse of a great female wyrm, jaws open wide in death as blood and saliva dripped from the fangs. He could walk through the jaws and emerge from the hole on the other side where a giant blast had taken out the back of the head. He walked further past so many bent and broken coils of the once massive dragon.
A great nesting bowl lay beyond, and the moment he passed the carcass of the wyrm, panther demons rose from the edge of the bowl on high alert, but they didn't attack.
That's when he saw it. There, scraped around the nesting bowl was the circle of peace. This was the one he had been searching for.
A tiny set of orange eyes peered over the nesting bowl.
The little dragon's nose wiggled as it smelled the dead elk.
There was a loud exhale as a great Inu head rose from the nesting bowl, baby dragons cuddled up between her ears and down her back. She was as black as the midnight sky with traces of deep blue. Her eyes were blue inside the red sclera, and she watched him carefully.
Baby wyrms climbed over her to peer at him, waiting for instruction on what to do and how to respond.
Sesshōmaru had come too far to screw up in social graces after all the fighting he had survived to get to this point, and he hoisted the elk down in front of him. He silently used his toe talon to draw the peace circle as he very carefully bowed his head, keeping eye contact with the female inu.
He leaned down and used one talon to rip the elk from neck to rear, his hand seeking the one offering that would make his intent clear. He pulled the heart free from the ribs and held it out, silent.
The female inu walked over the edge of the nesting bowl, nudging the wyrmlings to stay there as she approached him— towering over him in her true form. She folded in on herself, transforming into her more human form, her dark hair and mokomoko trailing behind her.
His eyes widened as he recognised her face.
Inuyasha's woman was human!
His lip curled in disgust, and he realised he'd made a mistake. The moment he had let his emotion move his expression, the female had sensed his change in demeanor. She let out a low, rumbling growl and backed up to stand in the peace circle and away from him. Her markings glowed as her nostrils flared.
She was scenting him— and he had unwisely filled his scent with disgust.
Cursing at himself, he felt himself the pup still wet about the ears. There had been no human scent that brought him here, and even if it had been present, he had followed the trail of respect and attention to tradition that had sorely been lacking in yōkai of late.
And what had he done?
He had thrown all that to the winds and insulted her without words, letting his actions prove his disgust. He realised there was only one thing he could do to save face.
He whined, tilting his head to the side as he bowed, admitted fault.
He could feel her surprise even as he smelled the shift in her demeanor.
She was close now. So close. He could smell the scent of blackberries and moonflowers mixed with the distinctive musk of the female inu. She suspected him of ill intent, and he couldn't blame her. He had let his ingrained response regarding humans to cloud his judgement.
She sniffed his neck, her nose brushing against his skin just enough to send a shiver down his spine with anticipation— but as for what, he couldn't say. She could, he knew, attempt to tear out his throat for the insult. He might even survive it to wear the scar— but she could also…
Her teeth gripped his skin in a fold, her fangs gently pressed to his skin. Her warm breath sending strange electric pulses down his spine. She released him, his apology accepted.
In that moment, he had never felt so shamed and so glad of it at the same time.
He extended the heart again, this time focusing on the respect she had given, knowing that even if she had been human, he would have found such actions appealing. It would have made her respectable.
Her smaller hands brushed against his, slowly taking the heart from his hands.
But what would she do with it?
To devour it all would mean she accepted him as a guest. To cast it away would mean she did not trust his gift. But if she believed him worthy of courtship—
She bit into the heart, her fangs tearing the flesh into a bite sized piece and swallowing, her tongue darting out to clean her lips and mouth. He watched her, fascinated as just the movement of her tongue across her fangs pushed buttons he hadn't realised he had.
She tore off another piece and chewed slightly, then—
She slowly leaned in, holding the piece between her teeth as she pressed it to his mouth.
He took the piece and swallowed immediately, his tongue darting out to lick the blood from her lips. Her yōki rose immediately, and his followed suit. She lifted the heart between them, and the shared it together, taking their time to not gobble it down in haste. He groomed her face, cleaning her as she cleaned him, and then she let out a low croon.
The dragonlings clambered over the nest to get to her— excited and eager. She used her claws to slice the elk, feeding each dragonling at least once and then bade them step back. She cut more, but this time, each of the panthers got a piece of the kill. Once every one of them had had a share, she left the carcass and made a low chirping growl, and the dragonlings descended upon the remains to fight over the food in an very chaotic mess of claws and teeth while the panthers fought to keep all of the food from going down one or two main gullets so all of the dragonlings had a share. She left the dragonlings with the panthers, confident that they would watch over them and protect them— or die trying.
She walked away from him, her warmth tantalizing in itself. He followed like a moth to flame. Had he been in his true form, surely his tail would have been wagging. She stopped at a hotspring, carved into the mountainside. The heat from the hotspring encouraged lush plants to grow around it. Multiple pools sat in layers, the higher pools feeding the lowers, but all of them were fed from hidden sources from above. Long ago, he imagined, the great dragons had carved it out so they could bathe and soak on even the coldest mountain nights.
She disappeared under one waterfall, and then appeared again, slipping into the soaking pool.
He followed, finding a brilliantly designed washing area where the soap and rinse water was routed into different places through the very mountain rock. He slowly unwrapped himself from his armor and clothes, using the sponge to wash the grime of many battles and make himself fit to share a hotspring.
He slipped into the heated pool beyond, relishing in the heat of the water. He moved in behind her, gently pressing his nose to her hair, sniffing her as he showed her the ornate comb he had liberated from the other area. He gently untangled her hair and combed it, using the tines to massage her scalp. He said nothing, but he did not need to. Close contact was reserved for mates— with courtship being the only exception. They had already shared a heart— the pact was made. She would evaluate his prowess and tolerate his company until a decision was made: to keep him or deny him the bond his body— his very soul— would crave.
Female inu were picky and fickle.
Male inu… they tended to be a bit focused. It really wasn't so hard to see why a human female would think all that attention was alluring compared to the typical human male.
To turn the inu female's interest into permanent desire over casual interest, he would have to be determined or very, very lucky. It helped if the female was in heat— not that Sesshōmaru was not up for the challenge. He was not the kind of demon to give up when he wanted something.
Every so often he would press his nose into her hair as he combed, imprinting her scent into his memory just as it was. She had that light scent of blackberries and moonflowers, the same as when she had been human, but it mixed with the musk of the female inu. He knew every time he scented her, he was damning himself, focusing his obsession to tune into her and her alone.
Oh how many yōkai females had tried to bed him in the hopes of turning his obsession to them— but none of them had offered more than a scratch to an itch. They had all been disappointed.
So, how had his father's gaze been turned? That was a mystery he had yet to solve. Inu males were not usually ones to stray, so why had his father? Had the rumours been true that he had married Inukimi as a formal arranged marriage and not of any sort of bond?
Even now, he felt his mind and body tuning in to the movements and heartbeat of this one female, and should he by chance sleep with her in his arms, he would be undone, hoping, praying, begging for his desired mate to accept him and allow him to seal the bond between them. And there lay the reason why he had never risked emotion. At no time in an inu yōkai male's life were they as vulnerable as when they were courting a female— and they remained so until the bond was consummated and his mark emblazoned his mate's— and hers upon his, heart.
Or she rejected him, forever sealing herself away from his yōki, his heat, and his passion— freeing him from the madness of love only to deliver him into the madness of having been denied by the one they had wanted above all others.
Epic tales were sung of such tragedies—
Sesshōmaru hesitated, realising that Izayoi had not borne his father's mating mark— and nor had his mother. He had mated both Inukimi and Izayoi, but neither of them had given them the completion of the bond— they had left him hanging in the deep, deep longing, vulnerable, and distracted.
The great inu no taishō had died of a broken heart— Inukimi too cold to embrace the great dog's heat and Izayoi too human to realise what Tōga both wanted and needed from her. The terrible truth was that his father had died protecting the mate that had been too fragile, too fearful, or perhaps too ignorant of what she had done by allowing his father to embrace her and give her a pup but not allow him to Mark her as his.
The inu way…
If she had— his father would have remained strong against Ryūkotsusei, and she would not died fearful and weak while failing to teach his half-yōkai brother what it meant to be the son of the Inu no Taishō. She would have been treasured as his father's true mate, and perhaps Sesshōmaru would have learned earlier what the victory of such surrender could be.
His arms were around her, pulling her closer to him. She murmured softly, allowing his touch despite her confusion. He could sense her wariness, but also her confusion at her own attraction. He guided her hands to his face, encouraging her to explore him.
She traced his facial markings, the tapered tips of her claws tracing the lines with reverence. His eyes closed as she touched his markings, a shiver of pleasure at her touch damning him all the more into her service. He leaned over her, his arms dangling at his side, waiting for some signal from her that she was ready not only to explore him but to allow him to explore her.
It took all of his control not to spook her by indulging his need before she was ready.
Slowly, she rubbed his cheek with hers, the soft tickle of her breath against his skin, his ear, his hair. Her fingers pressed against his chest as she placed her ear against his heart and listened. Her yōki spiked, and the sensation of it tore through him, making his knees buckle slightly. He panted softly, struggling to remain still.
She entwined her fingers with his, exploring the feel of his touch against hers. She looked into his eyes, her blue gaze looking deep into his.
Then, very deliberately, she tenderly licked under his chin, at last inviting him to join with her.
His arms wrapped around her as a low growl escaped his throat. He ran his hands over every bit of her as his cheek pressed against hers. She whimpered slightly as he clasped the skin of her neck with his teeth, just enough to promise but not take. He breathed heavily against her ear as his tongue flicked against it, and she bucked into him with a sudden, forcible groan.
He marvelled at how her body seemed to fit against his, how every touch of her skin practically shoved him into madness. He pressed his lips to her wrist, watching her face as he tenderly licked the skin there. Her eyes fluttered, rolling back, and he smiled, celebrating her enjoyment of his affection. He lay her back against the soft moss that had grown around the spring, gazing down at her filled with a need he had not once had previous.
Perhaps, he thought, this was why they took human forms— to give their mates such pleasure rather than the inu's quick mounting and rather embarrassing tie. He had to admit that the feel of her against him was more than enough to prove it to him.
Then again, as he lowered his head to touch noses, perhaps more testing was required.
The look on her face—
Oh, that look.
He lowered his mouth to her breasts and gave one an experimental lick, and was rewarded by the gasp that sent shivers down his spine. Her body softened under him, legs inviting his touch as her pants became heated. He smiled wickedly, perhaps even smug, as his hand drifted lower down her body and between her legs, exploring her readiness— wary for any twitch or growl that she was not ready for that last, consuming need.
But it never came, or rather, the growl that came from her throat was not the one that said "get the hell off me" or the hard to misinterpret fangs to the face.
She moved against his hand with eager growls, and her legs parted in invitation. His teeth pressed against her neck as he thrust and was engulfed by her fire. He lost himself in the feel of her, hearing the low groaning bay and realising it was himself. He felt her tightening around him, and it drove him harder towards that bright, needy completion. She joined him, learning the feel of him, the angle, the rhythm—
As that brightness consumed them, their yōki flared together, rising like the meeting seas. She was convulsing under him, but her claws raked down his back, echoing his markings, and her teeth buried into his neck.
The ecstasy of her bite caused him to lose himself inside her completely, the flood of his passion echoed in lower, more primal things. His fangs bared, and he found the junction of her throat, driven and needing that last most important connection.
She tilted her head to the side, welcoming his fangs.
Their yōki merged completely as they howled together, the nova of their union blasting outward in a flood of of their pleasure.
Hours later, as the sun rose over the summit, the snow white inu and the black as night inu lay together in the nesting bowl, surrounded by sleeping dragonlings, a pard of panther yōkai, and one very sneaky and smug looking Kirara nestled between the black inu's ears.
Sesshōmaru smiled smugly to himself as he snuggled closer to his mate and felt her lick his muzzle before settling in to sleep.
Fastest mate bonding consummation ever. As it should be for the new Lord and Lady of the East and West.
Had anyone dared to look, they'd have seen Sesshōmaru's tail beating a tattoo against the ground.
End of Chapter 1
A/N: *eyedarts* So much for taking their time! *cough* I blame Kirara. Totally her fault. YUP! Always blame the neko yōkai.
Reviews prevent me from writing the next chapter as a dream poor Sesshōmaru wakes up from and pines himself to death. Don't let the poor guy pine to death!