Prisoner, My Prisoner
Part 15: Fifteen Cell Prison Upon a Darkened Hill
Genre: Romance/General AU
"There's no way I can do that!" The man snarled, rising up from the floor, smashing his drinking cup against the table.
Onigumo frowned at the violent response, liquor hazing his temper.
"I wasn't giving you the option. The Citadel's security in that area is mediocre and Kagura should be close."
"No way! Going against the Citadel alone is suicide! Why should I risk my life for that damn woman? She's useless anyway!"
Onigumo chuckled. "Are you truly that inept?" He reached behind him for his sword. "I have no need for a cowardly man."
The nameless man paled. "No, no, of course I'll do it. I just... I'll go right away."
Onigumo dropped the sword allowing it to fall back down. "Go then."
The bandit stepped out of the hut, a scowl etched on his face. His grip on his sword handle tight, muscles tense. He walked some feet away and stopped before turning back to watch a young, dark haired female enter Onigumo's temporary residence, moments later he heard the telling sounds of cheap giggles.
He wasn't about to lose his life because Onigumo had a hang-up with the Lord of the Western Citadel. There was no way he was going against that stronghold alone because Onigumo thought Naraku's former wife could be of some assistance to him.
Like hell, he thought, slipping back into the shadows to wait.
He'd fix Onigumo.
He settled back, waiting for the time when the occupants within would sleep.
"You can't be serious." She blinked. "Surely, you wouldn't do that to me."
"Your place on the battlefield has expired. You are going to remain within the walls of this Citadel." Inutaisho declared.
"But I have to go! I have a personal score to settle! This is highly personal!" She objected, over stepping her fear of Sesshoumaru's stoic father, Inutaisho, to fight for her freedom.
"Up until this last year your life has been very simple. You were not expected to do anything or say anything. Since then, you have undergone a serious change, your life is not, nor ever will, be the same again. That is a woman's path, Higurashi, surely you have been taught this. Your only expected duty now is to stay here where you belong, as Nijiko does."
She huffed crossing her arms. "Nijiko is your wife that is different. I am not married-"
"Yet," he cut her off. "You aren't married yet, but it's already been decided you will be so there is no discussion."
She made to continue her speech when he waved a hand dismissively.
"Sesshoumaru, take your woman away. Higurashi, go to bed, take a nap. You look tired."
She shot him a dirty look as Sesshoumaru pulled her out the door, closing the wood panel behind her.
"How dare he!? That guy-"
Sesshoumaru didn't pay her the slightest mind, he just continued walking.
"You're not any better, either!" She shouted at his retreating back.
"Come with me," he ordered, never once ceasing.
She huffed, but did as he bid, following after him, muttering along the way.
The room she ended up in looked exactly like Inutaisho-sama's office. Sesshoumaru sat down, a mirror pose of his father, behind a small table. She could see where this was going.
She crossed her arms. "What do you want?"
She was already certain he wasn't going to take her seriously. He'd been avoiding her completely and totally for reasons that eluded her. She hadn't even seen his shadow in the past week.
"Onigumo's attack force has been scattered. His exact location is no longer known. At last report, he was said to have gone insane, ripping out his hair, and screaming at hallucinations."
Her eyes widened.
Why was he telling her this?
"We've received numerous reports that Onigumo is holding Higurashi Kagome prisoner. He'd been heard and seen all along the countryside with a woman close enough in appearance to be mistaken for you. For this reason, it is impossible to allow you outside the Citadel."
"I don't care about-"
"It doesn't matter," he cut her off. "You are not a warrior, you are a woman, do well to remember that."
She glared. "Fine. I'll stay here and be all 'womanly'."
She turned her back to him, ready to flounce out of the room when she felt the tug that became a yank, almost pulling her kimono clear off her shoulder.
He seemed to want to say something, but no words followed and she sighed, looking defeated.
Those golden eyes seemed to glow with something that might have been tenderness, but maybe she was the one hallucinating.
She'd never met a man like this one, doubted she ever would again. His deceptively slender hand slid into hers. It was cold.
"When I have Onigumo's head, you will be my bride."
She dared to raise her eyes to his again as though to verify his sincerity. How could a man have eyes so beautiful? What man deserved such beauty?
"Oh, will that be my wedding present?" She asked, a smile turning up her lips.
"No, that's mine." He replied. "All you get is me."
She laughed, feeling suddenly light.
This guy had too many mood changes, but that was okay. Sesshoumaru was Sesshoumaru.
All she got was him, huh? That wasn't so bad. Since Sesshoumaru was technically hers, the next time she saw Ayame, she was getting a verbal thrashing. She grinned.
"Having dirty thoughts, already?"
He seemed entirely too amused.
She turned her back to him, hand slipping away. "Plenty of time for dirty thoughts later, you have a head to cut off. Be careful."
With the way she was talking one might think he was leaving immediately. She stepped out of his room feeling her unease lifted away and completely at peace. Forming yet another smile she headed off to find Kikyo. She had to be around somewhere.
"You're actually going to marry him? Just like that?" Kagome asked, eyes wide. "Why?"
"You always think of life in such a romantic way, even after all this time."
Kagome frowned at the remark, both girls ignoring the way their mother stared at them from the opposite wall.
"I thought it was the best possible outcome for myself given the alternative is death. Unlike you, I am an enemy of this family. I've fought, actively, against this family for years, you haven't."
"But... "Kagome bit her lip.
"I'm tired of fighting, Kagome." Kikyo replied, hoping her expression conveyed her fatigue.
Inuyasha's declaration of marriage to her was a god-send. Regardless of romantic notions this would give her a home and a family. Two things she'd wanted and was worried she would not have without some difficulty while her father was alive.
It would also allow her to stop fighting, and she was so tired of being a fighter. The best thing about this arrangement was she would not be separated from Kagome. Even though she suspected Kagome's own marriage was imminent, she had always looked over her younger sister. It would not be easy to give up that duty and she didn't want to.
Kagome's frown deepened. She glanced toward their mother and seemed even more upset.
Kagura inclined her head in greeting but said nothing.
"You took father's seal?" Kagome questioned.
Kagura paused. "I sold it, I was hoping to cause just enough trouble to allow me to escape."
Kagome scoffed. "Even I wouldn't have tried something so stupid."
"Please excuse my imperfection," the woman snapped bitterly, eyes narrowed.
"You look pale, want a blanket?" Kagome asked, apparently discarding the former subject.
"How about sake, instead?"
Kagome tilted her head just slightly. "Sake? You shouldn't drink so much."
"Are you telling me what I should do? Or better yet, trying to say you care?"
Kikyo smirked as Kagome seemed annoyed with the response.
"I don't think Sesshoumaru will let you have it, anyway. Want a blanket or not?"
"No." Kagura replied primly. "I would like to know what that he intends to do with us."
"I'm not sure. Sesshoumaru told me you were still captives, but he didn't say anything else. I should really ask about that. I think I will."
She moved toward the door and then paused, looking back toward her mother.
"Are you sure you don't want anything?"
Kagura drew her knees up, smoothing her kimono. "No."
Kagome sighed heavily seeming unhappy with the response and left.
"I think she's worried about you." Kikyo spoke once they were sure Kagome was long gone.
"You could be less troublesome for her. She does care about you."
To that, Kagura didn't reply, she just dropped her head down and closed her eyes.
Kagome left the cell strangely disappointed. So, Kikyo thought this was best, huh?
Knowing what an immovable block her sister was she headed off to find Inuyasha. Maybe she'd have better luck there.
Onigumo growled, eyes fluttering open as he woke, a hiss escaping severely chapped lips. He twitched and gasped, his mouth was dry again.
The putrid smell of burnt flesh tainted his nose every so often.
A smile came to his lips automatically as he spotted her the miko his side, yet again.
So loyal, he thought, licking his lips. She was progressing so nicely.
"How are you?" She asked. "Do you need anything?"
She nodded and went back to checking the bandages on his right hand. He watched her eyes as she worked. The crackling of the flames behind him comforted him.
Soon, he thought.
"I went... like you said."
He turned his eyes sharply back to her as she spoke.
"I was given a job there as a servant. I start tomorrow, I'll only be able to come by in the evenings though."
He would be alone all day, he thought, but some sacrifices had to be made if he wanted to achieve his goal.
The degree of comfort he felt here was almost unnerving. It had been some time now, at least a week or so in her care. No, he thought, more than that.
The miko, whose name escaped him, always handled him with such tender care. She listened to him drone on without comment, asking questions at the appropriate time, and generally seemed attentive.
Since his drunken fight with the nameless man that had torched his hut while he slept, he'd felt enlightened. He barely remembered the scent of the flames as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He must have passed out as the fire quickly destroyed the small residence.
All he remembered was waking in the cave of this woman.
"Did I hurt you?" The question was almost a whimper.
He glanced over her, ignoring the question, noting the lush curve of her frame and the slender digits of her hands clutching a wet cloth. Her eyes were brown and her hair a flowing, liquid kind of black.
'Kagome'... The name died in his throat before it reached his lips and instead he murmured. "Miko..."
She neared. "I found you and another person in the charred remains of a hut. I'm sorry, your companion didn't make it."
Companion? He brushed it off.
"Where am I?"
"This is my residence. I'm sorry it's so small. It's just me here alone and..." She trailed off. "I'm the village miko here."
It would be soon.
Kagura and Kagome and Kikyo and that whole damned cursed family...
Revenge would be sweet and this miko would help.
Inuyasha turned his gaze away from the girl once again. He hadn't heard much after Kagome's "hello" comment.
"Huh?" He asked, blankly.
She glared at him. "Stop daydreaming, idiot. I want to know why you're marrying Kikyo!"
He tensed defensively. "Think I'm not good enough or something?"
Kagome told herself to be patient. "No, I didn't say that. I was just wondering why you decided so quickly to marry her. I mean, we're talking about Kikyo here. She's like a woman who carries a dagger inside her kimono, pretty and soft, but dangerous as hell when you tick her off."
He smirked. "Yeah, what a woman!"
Kagome refrained from wanting to strangle him. "Inuyasha!"
"What?" He snapped.
"Why do you want to marry her? Simple question, simple answer, spit it out."
He made a face at her. "I had to!"
He crossed his arms. "My dad was insulting me and stuff. He said I hadn't 'grown up' yet and then insulted my manhood."
"Besides..." He looked back at her, some emotion brewing up in his eyes she couldn't readily identify. "Dad never gives me any prisoners and after the way Sesshoumaru totally botched up with you, I get to one-up him!"
"Huh? What do you mean 'botched up'?"
"Denying he wanted you and all that crap, letting you get beat up and stuff."
She frowned at him, silently quibbling over the phrase 'getting beat up'.
"Maybe he'll treat me more like an adult if I get a wife."
"Inuyasha..." Kagome started, not pausing as the door behind her opened. "Since Kikyo's my sister I feel obligated to warn you – she's probably not the perfect wife candidate. I think she can beat you up."
Laughter from behind her caused her to turn back. Inutaisho towered over her, golden eyes twinkling with humor. "I see, so then you understand perfectly well why I suggested her."
"Hey!" Inuyasha shot to his feet, insulted. "I will not be beaten up by a girl!"
Kagome shook her head. "Oh I don't know about that. It looked to me like you were getting kicked around when you fought her back at my father's house."
"I was not! Before you showed up, I had practically won the fight!"
"Practically, but if you can be distracted by me just showing up, how good are you?"
Steam practically came out of his ears. "You think you could take me too? Come on, come on! Wanna fight? Where's Kikyo? I'll prove it right now!"
Kagome turned toward Inutaisho. "I wanted to ask you about that."
"Hm?" He stepped past her into the room and she followed him with her eyes, her gaze landing on the silver waterfall of hair that was held up high on his head by a thin ribbon. "What's that?"
"What do you intend to do with my mother?"
"What do you want to do with her?"
Kagome was surprised at the question, but thought. "I don't know. She never fought with my father. It seems unfair to hold her here for that."
"You want me to let her go?"
She smiled as he turned back around to face her. "Don't think of it as letting her go." Kagome paused as Nijiko stepped in the open doorway, appearing in her line of sight. "Just think of it as 'kicking her out'. Besides, it's not like she's going to pick up where my father left off. She wants to forget about it and move on."
"I was under the impression you and your mother were not close."
"We aren't. You couldn't even call us 'bitter allies', but she is my mother so I feel obligated to her cause."
"Quite a sense of loyalty you have there."
She ignored that. "What about Kikyo? Can she come out now, she's marrying Inuyasha, isn't she?"
"Don't you think you should let her walk around at least?" A slight strain in her voice.
"I am not fond of letting someone that dangerous walk around freely."
"Surely you don't think marrying her off to Inuyasha will change that? Wouldn't it be less troublesome for you to let her out now and see how destructive she truly is?"
"Very well. Inuyasha, summon Sesshoumaru to release Kikyo. While he's at it have him release Kagura at the edge of the grounds."
Inuyasha grumbled, but went.
"You, Kagome, sit."
Sesshoumaru stepped into the chilled cell. Both females looked up. Behind him, another male stepped in, the guard.
"Take her." He motioned toward Kagura. "You're being released. Don't return here."
Her eyes widened in disbelief, but he didn't address her further as she was dragged away by her elbow. When she was gone Sesshoumaru looked back down at Kikyo.
"You are being allowed leave of your cell. You're free to go where you please."
She struggled to her feet. "Kagome is responsible for this?"
"Yes." Sesshoumaru answered simply. He'd been told by Inuyasha his soon-to-be wife was with his father and Nijiko and that Kagura was to be tossed out and Kikyo released. He hadn't been especially surprised.
A ghost of a smile appeared on her lips. "You're marrying my sister, aren't you?"
Sesshoumaru's answer was silence. He turned, walking off down the hall, but Kikyo followed.
"Kanna..." His speaking was sudden and seemed loud in the silent corridor.
Kikyo looked up.
"Were Kanna and Goshinki children of Urusae by Naraku?" He asked, his footsteps slowing to a stop. He didn't bother turning back to face her.
"Yes. He thought the combination of his blood and hers would be 'interesting'. That's what he said."
"What of her?" Kikyo pressed.
"You are both daughters of Kagura?"
He continued and she decided to turn another direction. Something about this place felt familiar. Was there someone here she knew?
She stepped out a side door into a back garden. Where was this feeling coming from? She stared across the courtyard and froze, spotting a long haired female.
As if sensing her stare the other woman looked over. Kikyo narrowed her eyes.
So there were more than just the family enemies here, weren't there?
That was Sango. She recalled being in charge of the battle that had taken that woman's family.
How inconvenient to meet her here. As the woman stared at her, Kikyo wondered.
Did she know?
She didn't have to wonder as Sango smiled at the little girl and sent her running off into the castle before approaching. Kikyo merely awaited the confrontation.
"You... I know that face of yours." Sango accused.
Kikyo wasn't sure if it was an accusation or not. "I am Kikyo, have we met?"
Playing innocent seemed the safest bet.
"You're a Higurashi, aren't you?"
"Yes, Kagome's sister." Mentioning Kagome had proven useful in many situations. Her sister had a fine talent as a buffer.
Sango tightened her grip on Hiraikotsu and Kikyo stepped back defensively. So, Kagome couldn't help after all?
"What are you doing?"
Both turned at the unexpected voice seeing Kagome herself nearby watching, eyes worried.
"Do you know one another?" She asked, glancing from her sister to Sango and then back again.
Sango squared her jaw and refused to answer and Kikyo turned her gaze back to her would-be enemy.
"We've met." Kikyo replied stiffly. "We were enemies."
"Are." Sango replied whipping Hiraikotsu around in front of her.
"No, wait!" Kagome rushed forward, attempting to intercede, but Kikyo threw a hand back shoving Kagome away from the incoming path of the boomerang.
"Stay out of it," Kikyo growled in her typical way, pushing Kagome out of harm's way as she dodged.
Kagome bit her lip, intending to ignore Kikyo's 'advice' completely about to move forward once more when she felt the pull on her garment as she tried to move. Something was holding her and ...
"What is ...? Sesshoumaru..." She breathed.
She always felt breathless when she saw him so close, those gold eyes gleaming down at her.
"I... I have to..." She protested.
"No." He replied smoothly. "Leave them to their business, your business with this is finished."
She frowned at his response.
"Come." He called, leading himself away obviously expecting her to follow along.
With a regretful backwards glance, she followed him.
Whatever she expected, being led to the backyard pond wasn't it.
"In there." He pointed to a little pond.
"In there?" She peered over, glancing inside, but failing to see anything.
"It's in there, retrieve it."
"What's 'it' and why should I?"
He stood staunchly still, ignoring her completely. With a loud, irritated sigh she pulled up her sleeve and dipped her hand into the water, almost recoiling at the chilly liquid.
She searched around half-heartedly and then withdrew her hand.
"There's nothing in here," she complained. "And there's bugs over here!"
"Keep looking," he directed.
With a barely concealed grumble she reached back in, sliding her fingers over strangely icky things she couldn't see before she felt something solid and smooth and ... connected.
She pulled it from the water with low expectations and blinked in surprise when in her hand she found the bracelet she'd given him for Rin. Somehow she doubted the girl would ever receive the bracelet intended for her.
She looked back, turning her gaze up to him curiously.
"You may give it to Rin."
She glanced down at the metal chain in her hands.
"I may give it to her?" She asked, almost clenching her teeth. "I told Inuyasha to give it to Rin a long time ago, but someone else insisted upon toting it around! Do you remember that?"
Rather than voice some uninteresting reply like she expected, he smirked at her and turned away.
"You may give it to her now..."
What did that mean? She watched him step back into the building and leave her alone with the item. She couldn't give it to her before? She wasn't good enough then or... he didn't need it anymore. . . . ?
Sesshoumaru stared at his father across from him. The windswept plain was cold, the breeze carrying a nasty chill. He hadn't spoken to his father since the day before when he'd been informed Onigumo had been located and they were heading out the next morning.
That had been last night. He hadn't even time to see Kagome before he'd gone, not since their meeting in his office some days before when he promised when he had Onigumo's head, they married.
The grass was tall and willowy, blowing at the lower legs of the horses.
"Near here, straight across this prairie to the other side, past the woodland. Onigumo was spotted and then confirmed by Kaijinbou to be settled in a small 'witches' village."
"Witches Village?" Sesshoumaru inquired.
Inutaisho nodded curtly. "Small communities that follow the directives of a black miko. The miko, herself, is insignificant. Kaijinbou states she practices little more than illusions and foolery, nothing latent. The villagers should be little of a problem when facing an army. "
"Is he hiding in some mud-brick shack?"
"Unknown, we'll have to search. I've already ordered the attack to begin - by the time we arrive it should be well underway. I don't expect resistance."
Sesshoumaru urged his horse forward, no longer content to wait. They were still some distance away. He could just see the tips of smoke columns from the distance.
At this rate - the battle would be over before he even got there.
Watching as the smoke in the sky became more and more prevalent, he thought back to Kagome.
Kagome paced irritably. How was she supposed to just sit around and do nothing? Nijiko was tucked up in a room upstairs somewhere. What the woman was doing, she couldn't imagine.
She, Kagome, was not built for idleness when others were busy.
She bit her lip. Where was he? Where!?
She had seen Inutaisho and Sesshoumaru leaving, brilliantly dressed figures in white among the darkly dressed foot soldiers but had been unable to go after them.
She perched at the window, staring out into the sky. Bright, sunny, such a cheerful looking day, she thought. Was there a battle somewhere?
The very mention of Onigumo's name made her shudder in disgust, but at the same time she hated sitting around waiting for Sesshoumaru to come back. She glanced around. The room was empty, save for her.
She'd reunited with Rin some time before - days before in fact - and they'd gone up and down every corridor with flowers. Walking up and down the corridors holding flowers, she thought, remembering the experience. Her legs did kind of hurt.
Rin had said it made the halls smell good - it didn't seem to work as far as she could remember but Rin had had fun with it and the girl was infectiously cute.
That also didn't help her feeling bored to death.
She turned watching the ornately dressed woman step in.
"How about some tea?"
"How about we battle-crash? Let's go... Want to? We could probably catch up and-"
The hyperactive girl trailed off at the soothing tone. The woman tilted her head and had a small, sweet smile on her lips. "You need to relax. Let the men handle it. Come, why don't we dress you for Sesshoumaru's return?"
"Why should I change?"
The woman's smile flickered. "Kagome..."
Thinking she may have switched to a warning tone, Kagome agreed, trailing along behind her, hardly feeling up to the task. She did as the woman bid, changing herself into something she definitely couldn't fight in and then sighing over the futility of it all.
As they walked a strange odor began to permeate the hall air.
It was smoky.
Kagome stood, alarmed, Nijiko at her side. Was there a fire?
"Ah, ha, ha, ha!"
Both women felt a chill at the shrill laughter.
What was that? They stood, warily, looking at the doorway. Kagome moved, sliding open the door. The hall was empty, quickly, she gathered the hems of her kimono, yanking it up so she could run. Nijiko didn't follow, she noticed.
Fire, fire, fire... there was a fire!
She whirled around a corner running smack into Rin.
"Kagome-chan! It's hot!"
The girl's clothes were singed and her hair was frayed slightly. She had charcoal colored smudges on her face and her skin looked shiny and red.
"Were you burned? Is there a fire down there?"
There had to be, she determined.
"The lady..." Rin sniffled. "The lady - the fire. She was glaring like she was mad, she wouldn't talk to Rin-chan, she wouldn't. She was... fire was moving around, she was moving the fire."
Moving the fire? Had the woman set a fire intentionally?
She grabbed Rin by the wrist and hurried back toward Nijiko's room. Inutaisho's wife was at the doorway, looking uneasy.
"Come on, hurry, come with me." Kagome ordered and the woman followed along.
She led them down a few corridors, heading out and down towards the servant's quarters.
She pulled open a door, noting it was far from the fire and dark inside. She ushered both inside.
"Stay here, hide, don't move, don't leave. Promise me? Don't let anyone but me know you're here."
Nijiko nodded. "Be careful."
Kagome quickly rushed away, where was Kikyo? She found her sister in another hall looking concerned.
"Something's happening. I don't know what it is."
Kikyo nodded. "There's a fire?"
"Rin said one of the servant's was 'moving the fire', I don't know what that means. Could be connected to Onigumo, or Father, he was rather pervasive."
Kikyo nodded again. "Is she safe?"
"Enough, I wasn't sure if it was safe to get her out of the building or not so I moved her away from the fire area."
"Let's go find out."
Kagome blinked and followed. "So what are we going to do, exactly? We don't even know what's happening."
"One way to find out." Kikyo replied.
Kagome followed her sister's lead, content to rely on the silent strength she could always depend on Kikyo to have. Along the way her sister grabbed a weapon and Kagome followed suit, picking up a little dagger she doubted she could be at all effective with but wouldn't have gone without.
The scent got stronger the closer we went, but the halls were strangely empty. For a place that was usually filled with people, it was beyond chilling. The air was becoming hazy and the air thick with fumes, and Kagome slowed.
"Maybe we shouldn't-"
Kikyo walked ahead without her and Kagome was forced to follow.
She brought her sleeve up to cover her face, following as Kikyo slid open doors, peering inside. The followed an empty corridor toward an open exterior door at the edge of the hall. Outside the servants had gathered around the well, gathering buckets of water. Commotion filled the yard as buckets were filled and then rushed past toward the fire room.
Kikyo grabbed one, pulling him aside.
"What's going on here?"
The man swallowed. "There's a fire - some woman went raving about her lover and set a fire or something. We can't find the girl - we can't find Masaharu's daughter!"
He rushed past and Kagome watched.
"Rin's fine - but what about this woman?" Kagome asked. "We should find her. She's probably inside."
Kagome walked back into the building, not sure if Kikyo followed her or not. A few minutes later, she realized, she hadn't.
She looked, searching the rooms for someone. She expected to find this 'mad servant' as a middle aged woman with messy clothes and hair, and crazy eyes. She didn't find anyone.
She continued, on, eventually making her way back toward where she'd left Nijiko and Rin. She found them huddled together in the same room. Kagome settled down onto the floor with them.
"Rin, the woman moving the fire, did she say anything?"
"She was laughing saying 'the fire cleans', ' the fire cleans'. Rin thought she was crazy, the fire was hot."
"She's burned." Nijiko spoke up, turning Rin's hand up by the wrists, showing her the girls reddened palms.
"Ah, you're hurt! I'll get you some water. The servant lady - what did she look like?"
"Long hair - she was laughing then she cried - said something about cleaning. Cleaning, had to cleaning. Just like that."
Kagome blinked, puzzled. "Stay here, okay?"
She headed out, quickly rushing back toward the courtyard, grabbing a towel along the way. The chaos continued.
"Kagome, there's another fire in the West corridors. Find the woman!" Kikyo ordered. Kagome looked around but couldn't find her sister in the chaos. Soaking the towel in one of the up drawn buckets she rushed off, trailing water from the soaking rag in her hands. She ran down the hall, back toward the servants room. She threw open the door and rushed inside, pulling it closed behind her. The room was vacant, dust covering the furniture surfaces.
"Here..." Kagome looked up at Nijiko.
"The servant who set the fire has started another. I'm going with Kikyo to find her. If the fire gets close go down this hall to the front entrance by the gates. If necessary get out as soon as possible, but try to stay out of sight or go with someone you trust among the staff. This crazy servant business has me really worried about what's going on - I don't know where the danger is coming from. Okay?"
"Okay - see you later. Take care."
Kagome disappeared out the door once more. She searched, frantically, but couldn't find Kikyo or the supposed "servant".
Just as she reached a joining hall she spotted a figure.
A ... miko?
"You're Kagome, aren't you?"
She stopped, feeling the cold sweep of dread slide down her spine. Who was this?
"Kagome?" The young woman repeated.
"I'm Kagome," she confirmed.
"Come with me."
"Who are you?" Kagome eyed her wearily.
"He's waiting for us," the woman replied.
It felt off, but something was pulling her along. She followed the miko outside and they slipped past an empty section of court yard strangely unnoticed and into the surrounding forest. She had no idea what she was getting herself into.
Sesshoumaru surveyed the damage with a bored eye. The village was exactly what he'd expected of it. The villagers were poor, just barely on this edge of survival. It had been unusually dry and the crops were suffering and river levels low.
"Where is he?" Sesshoumaru snarled, tone was clearly unhappy.
"Perhaps Kaijinbou was incorrect?" Inutaisho mused aloud, voice more impassive than upset. "He does dislike to get close... We will have a chat when I next get to him, I will not be sent on fool's errands."
"Please! Please! That man you look for - he's not here. Gone, he left us."
Sesshoumaru turned. A woman was on her knees, pleading to the solider who was holding her son by the collar.
"Gone? Gone where?" Sesshoumaru asked, drawing the small crowd's attention to himself where he remained on top of his horse.
"Don't know. A young miko passed through with a crippled man - a lot of bandages, a week or more ago. She's not in this village, maybe the next? She mentioned something about going to the castle..."
"Castle?" Sesshoumaru questioned.
Kagome and Rin were there.
"The Citadel." Inutaisho stated. "The woman was going to..." He trailed off, yanking the reigns, urging the horse forward, taking off at a gallop. Sesshoumaru followed.
The soldiers at the village exchanged uncertain glances, watching their leaders return before one of the ground commanders ordered them all to withdraw. Returning to their formations they began marching back.
They would never make it in time.
Kagome followed the young woman along a soft riverbed toward a cave. Low, open but small in diameter...
"Onigumo-sama... I've returned." The young woman ducked and slipped into the cave ahead of Kagome, who followed cautiously.
She stepped inside in disbelief, trying to block out the scent of the musky place.
She could smell the scent of a fire within and the light dancing on the inside of the cave walls was more than an indicator of that. She stepped inside coming to stare at the man laying on a low lying wood pallet, his body covered in white bandages, only leery red colored eyes peeked out.
"Kagome..." The man murmured, almost an slick hiss.
"Onigumo?" Kagome questioned, knowing full well that's what she'd heard the young woman call him. "What happened to you?"
"I was enlightened, rebirthed in a fire." He spoke dramatically, his tone taking on a whimsical tone, like he was a mighty hero.
She barely restrained from scoffing at the notion. Clearly his mental capacities had decreased even further.
She looked over toward the miko.
"You're just an ordinary girl," Kagome murmured, without thinking, not noticing the glare the young miko shot in her direction at the remark.
"How true, what a disappointment she must be to whomever trained her."
Kagome gasped at the silky timbre, knowing only her father had such a tone of voice. Against the back wall of the cave, he stood, cased in a sickly blue fire stood the man, the ghost of a man she'd known all her life. A man who'd destroyed villages and families and enslaved children and...
"How do you feel sitting next to one who pales in your very shadow?" He continued. "Who would lay claim to such a weak female?"
She eyed the apparition that was her father apprehensively. "Father, what are you doing here?"
He stood, pulling himself tall on ghostly feet. "Seeing my last business is complete." He replied cryptically, walking slowly toward the young miko who so clearly couldn't sense or see him.
"Don't..." Kagome warned, but without conviction, a murmur, a plea...
The girl herself was rather nondescript except for the notable fact she reminded her much of Kikyo. Or... was it herself the girl reminded her of?
Her father moved, walked like a normal person, as though he wasn't an actual ghost. Only the blue fire surrounding his body was indicative of his ghostly status.
Was he going to hurt that miko girl?
"Do you have some concern for this girl? Why? She is of no use to anyone. She is not even a good miko."
Kagome shook her head as though trying to block out the words. She saw her father's ghost reach up and touch the girl's forehead.
"What are you-"
The girl gasped and fell straight over, her eyes rolled back behind her lids, just vacant white viscera showing through.
"My last wishes do not include meddlers." Naraku replied shortly. "You will dictate to Onigumo, my last words."
Although puzzled, she agreed, nodding silently.
"My father wishes you to know his last words. " Kagome informed a semi-surprised Onigumo, who had up to this point been silent. Perhaps he thought she'd gone insane, perhaps he was insane enough to believe her father's ghost was actually here.
"Last words? From a ghost?" Laughter followed, but Kagome hardly saw what was funny about it.
"Tell the idiot, his place in hell is reserved. He may look forward to being my eternal servant."
Kagome repeated his words faithfully, but they hardly seemed to impact the burned man on the pallet.
"In fact," Naraku continued. "I have need of a servant now..."
She looked up sharply. "What?"
"Your last duty to me, Kagome. Your last order..."
She took a shaky step back.
"Deliver my servant to me."
"Bring this pile of earth down upon his head. Show me what you're made of."
She still hesitated.
"Show me you are not the disappointment that an ordinary girl would bring me."
She frowned and moved forward, grabbing the miko and dragging her out. Her father's ghost didn't follow.
Outside, she stared at the hilly structure that concealed an evil man and paused.
What to do?
Should she really?
"I am waiting..."
Even though he was not within visible sight, she heard his voice clearly. Drawing upon her miko powers, she pulled her energy forth, stringing her own energy bow, and released it.
The purple streak of energy struck the hillside almost completely silently. It slid straight through the earthen structure causing the ground to faintly shake. Kagome waited, fearing nothing at all would happen, but then she heard a crack. It shifted and suddenly seemed to melt, rocks sank, sliding down, clashing against one another like a river of sand, all pouring downward toward the ground and then shattering further into smaller and smaller segments.
When the last fell there was nothing but several feet thick layer of rock and pebbles.
And from the center of the pile, he stood, his arms crossed, his hair blowing faintly in his strange visible aura.
"Impressive..." He murmured. "Such a waste..."
Ghostly Naraku looked up, completely undisturbed at the massive destruction he'd just witnessed. His lips were turned up into a smirk of satisfaction.
"Now what?" Kagome asked, shielding her face from dust that settled along the ground like fog and seemed to hover.
"Now it is time to move forward..." He replied cryptically, and then cast a grin in her direction.
"I am off to conquer the demons of hell."
She blinked, surprised at the bold declaration and then smiled softly. How like him to say such a thing. "You're such a troublemaker... I really do miss you though."
There were several minutes of heavy silence.
"Of this marriage of yours, to that Sesshoumaru..." Her father spoke, looking up from the rubble. His blue, fiery image flickered as he began to wane before her. "I disapprove..."
With a faint audible "pop" he vanished and her smile lit brightly. She turned and headed toward the direction of the Citadel. She had forgotten she'd left the place in chaos.
With renewed worry, and her father tucked away, she headed quickly back.
Sesshoumaru paced the room until he realized he was pacing and abruptly stopped.
Kagome was missing.
He seethed in silent anger.
Nijiko had said she had gone off to help. Kikyo was still here, still present, helping...
Where the hell was Kagome?!
The word ate at him like an acid would lick off his skin.
When he heard a commotion in the hall, he thought nothing of it. The servants were unusually flighty today after the fire, something no one seemed to understand at the moment.
No one had seen Kagome for over two hours and the person who had started the fire had apparently vanished. He and his father had arrived to a household of chaos and smoldering piles of ash that had once been fires.
He had been thankful his father had put so much stone into the structure of the building, lest the entire structure might have gone up in flames.
His father was equally displeased to learn Kagome was missing. Kikyo, however, insisted that wherever she had gone to, she would come back and it must have been serious for her to go in the first place.
When he heard the door sliding open with no permission given before hand, he turned with a glare at his bold visitor only to stop sharply.
They stared at one another a moment in silence as though unsure how to react. Her elaborate clothes were dusty and worn in ways they shouldn't have been.
"Sorry I left for a little bit, everyone seemed really surprised to see me. I wasn't... really... missing..." She shifted slightly, looking just a bit ashamed at having caused such alarm.
He remained silent.
"Oh, I have bad news for you."
"You can't have Onigumo's head after all."
He unhinged his tense jaw to speak. "Why not?"
"Because my father wanted it. Onigumo is now beneath several layers of earth."
"Your father?" His tone was completely neutral, giving her nothing to work with.
She sighed and explained all that had taken place in her short absence from the Citadel.
Sesshoumaru listened in unpleasant silence, not liking any part of what he was hearing.
"But there's good news too!" She brightened, clasping her hands together almost demurely. "He says he disapproves of our marriage, but that he was moving forward, so I don't think he cares much about it anymore."
"You think I am concerned about the feelings of a dead man?" He asked.
"Well, no, but I was." She replied. "He was my father after all and very important to me."
He couldn't contain the growl as he approached her with narrowed, unhappy eyes. She instinctively backed away, but he reached for her, snagging her by the back of the neck.
"The only thing you'll ever need woman, is me..."
Her indignant reply was squelched by the possessive press of lips together and when he finally released her, she no longer wanted to argue.
Author's Note: This was half proof read because I was feeling lazy and I just wrote this all last night and didn't want to read it again. Please note any errors you see so I can correct them.
Bikutoria: You are so right, I was so embarrassed when I saw I had inserted "Senaka" instead of Higurashi. Oh no! Thanks for pointing that out.
Rin88: Corrections completed (this reviewer pointed out that Kikyo & Kagura were "released" twice, once by Sesshoumaru, a second time by Kagome. ) Oops.
Thank you for reading this story, I apologize it took so long to complete.
It makes me insanely happy, however, that I managed to write a story that takes people more than a day to completely read through.