20,6,05- okay, since my internet connection is broke right now, I'm finally getting around to typing up this chapter. don't hurt me please! I'm sorry I was gone so long! gomen! well, on another note, I hope inuyasha wasn't too ooc in the last chapter. and also, I really didn't intend for this arc in daketo and hakkai's village to even happen . . . it just sort of did. I hope y'all like it! finally, someone kindly pointed out that my story is very similar to the "Unexpected Allies" trilogy by 'Striking Falcon', and I just wanted to mention to you readers that I didn't even notice this at first! A big apology to 'Striking Falcon', and thanks to 'MysticAngel77' for pointing this out to me! I went and checked out 'Striking Falcon's work, and it's very good, so I suggest everyone to go read it sometime! but I'd just like to assure y'all that I have no intention of plagiarizing that fic. thanks!
Kagome sat in the bole of a large Chinese elm tree, carefully wrapping strips from the bottom of her kimono around the sharp stone tips of the arrows she'd been given. She prayed that Sesshoumaru wouldn't gripe too much about the loss of a few inches on the bottom of the kimono- it was already raggedy and dirty and burned, but he seemed the kind of guy who would care about the propriety of the length of her skirts. Well, he'd just have to deal with it, or get her a new one. She used her miko magic to charge both cloth and point, so they would stick together nicely no matter what. She didn't want to accidentally kill the humans she was trying to save, but unfortunately the only way she knew to purify a person who'd been corrupted was to shoot them with an arrow she'd affected. Hopefully, this would be enough padding to just knock the wind out of somebody until she could convince them to stop attacking the youkai village. And if she needed to, she could always just unwrap one of the arrows to make it deadly once more.
She looked up at the sky through the leafy branches of the tree, thinking absent-mindedly about Sesshoumaru. She'd never imagined he could be an honorable feudal lord as well as a fearsome youkai. There was a lot she didn't know about him, but seeing as how they'd never spent any quality time together before the past week and a half, that was understandable. Unless Sesshoumaru was the type of guy who counted high-quality murder as a people skill. Smiling at the irony of her situation, Kagome slithered down the trunk of the tree, in the process adding another rip to her poor kimono. Grimacing, she set off into the woods once more.
So far she hadn't met anyone, but that didn't indicate that no one was out there. She wasn't placing that much confidence in her alarm bubble, so continuing to patrol was her only option right then. She wouldn't just sit back and wait for someone to come to her; Sesshoumaru had asked her to patrol the area, and patrol she would, until she stopped every last human she could find. Determined, Kagome set out, keeping to the trunks of the trees, an arrow knocked on her bow.
An hour and a half later, Kagome had not found a single person. She was getting frustrated. Of course I can't find anyone when I need to, she berated herself derisively, why would I be that lucky? Disappointed, she turned to head back to the village, knowing that Sesshoumaru had wanted her to heal the demons from the little feudal village. If no prey was forthcoming in the forest, she might as well head back and begin that task instead.
Of course, now that she'd given up, Kagome almost instantly spotted a figure limping along ahead of her towards the village. For a second she froze in disbelief, and then she stalked silently forward, cursing fate's damnable sense of humor. Fortunately, her sense of pride hadn't let her put away the arrow she had knocked on her bowstring earlier that night, so she only had to creep close enough to see who it was she was following. Whoever it was, they were going forward quietly enough, but in a shuffling, limping sort of gait that brought visions of horribly deformed zombies and movie creatures into Kagome's head. She snorted at her own silliness and picked up her pace a bit.
It was indeed a human, an old woman in fact. She probably wasn't in the greatest of health to begin with at her age, and definitely was too decrepit to be lugging about a long-handled pick, which she was. She moved quietly through the undergrowth, but in a zigzagging pattern, as though she couldn't quite see or keep her balance correctly. Kagome tiptoed up behind the old lady, outraged at the injustice, drawing back the string of her bow only about halfway. She made sure the padding on the arrow was nice and tight, and then released the shaft of wood. The arrow plunked into the old woman's shoulder blade, knocking her completely off balance. Kagome rushed forward as the woman stumbled, hoping that the youkai spell that held the old woman wouldn't give her any unnatural strength. The woman had keeled over and lay prostrate over a tree root on her side, the pick at her feet. Kagome carefully took the last few steps, but as she moved to kneel down in front of the woman, something gripped her- something that wasn't physical.
Kagome gasped, and her eyes darted to the old woman's face. Her wrinkled cheeks were wet with tears, and her eyes were unfocused, but they also glowed a bright, fiery purple with miko power. She must have been the village miko. Her white hair floated with the static of the power that flowed from her hands. The light gripped Kagome mercilessly, strangling her and squeezing at her own power. Kagome didn't want to strike back and hurt the woman, who was obviously being controlled. The old miko's hands were outstretched and when the gnarled fingers clenched tightly Kagome choked. The purple of the old woman's power was slowly drowning out her own pink light. Kagome couldn't breathe. She hadn't expected the youkai to be able to control a miko this way- to leave her mind coherent but take control of her body. The black color of the youkai magic that had a grip on the old miko pulsed, eagerly trying to infuse Kagome's own pink light.
Frantic now, Kagome fought back at last, pushing at the grasping foreign magic. She wasn't very experienced with this- she was used to struggling to control her own magic, to prevent it from escaping and harming her friends. She'd been able to relax that restraint for Sesshoumaru, but she'd been keeping her power sharply in check for so long that she didn't really know how to use it offensively. Still, she tried. Kagome pushed tendrils of her own miko power out, forcing the old miko's purple cascade of light back away from Kagome's core. She found that she could easily repulse the youkai's power; she supposed that the miko hadn't expected her to have such abilities either. But Kagome quickly discovered her problem. She had a hard time pushing back the miko power that was wrapped all around her, and as long as that purple magic still lingered, the black strands could grow back easily. She would eventually burn herself out on the youkai magic as it kept regrowing before she could eliminate the purple. However, Kagome didn't let despair take her over- she kept trying to purify the magic that got a grip on her, slowly forcing the old miko's magic back.
Sesshoumaru felt it the instant Kagome's powers fluctuated. She'd been gone for about three hours, and Sesshoumaru had taken care of the details of the situation with the village. He had only to wait for Kagome to return, and then for dawn so he could set out to beat this greedy Southern village into the ground. He'd assumed Kagome was doing her job, rounding up the humans, since there had been no further attacks that night. He'd vaguely felt the dome of power she'd created around the village through their link, but he had no idea what it was and he hadn't felt any further use of her power. But he reacted instantly when he felt her power flare and writhe powerfully through the link. Without explanation, he turned towards the direction that he could feel Kagome's power emanating from. "Stay alert," he commanded to Hakkai, who stood beside him, and then he took off, whistling through the grass, too fast to make out, leaving a scent of worry in Hakkai's nostrils.
Sesshoumaru felt it when he went through the barrier Kagome had erected, but it didn't deter him in the slightest. He didn't know whether that was because he was immune to her magic or because it wasn't supposed to stop him, but he didn't stop to care. He practically flew from tree to tree, following the anguished call of the thin tendril of pink infused in the core of his power. Something was wrong with Kagome, and he didn't know what it was, but it was pissing him off immensely. He needed her to get Rin back for him, and he needed her to heal his subjects, and he needed- he didn't know what he needed. But none of that mattered right now as much as the fact that Kagome was in trouble and he needed to help her.
Sesshoumaru came upon her at last, at the base of an oak tree. With one glance he realized what was most likely happening, and berated himself for having assumed that she knew how to shake loose the grip of another miko. He'd known that there would be a miko in the human village- practically every village had one, especially those under the direct dominion of a demon lord. Why hadn't he checked to make sure she could anticipate and handle this kind of situation? He knew she'd had unusual training at best, radical and patchy at worst, and he knew she didn't have complete control of her powers. What is wrong with me? Why don't I think straight whenever anything concerns this girl?
Unfortunately, Sesshoumaru didn't know the least way to help Kagome pull out of it. This was miko stuff, anathema to most demons. Yes, he had tied their magic. But that didn't mean he miraculously knew what to do. Despite what he tried to impress upon others, Sesshoumaru was not perfect. He was powerful, stoic, intelligent, talented, and impeccably groomed, but he had to have some faults. Unfortunately, Kagome seemed to be one of them. He approached the place where she knelt, eyes glowing pink, but was beat back by the purple magic of the other miko. The old human woman didn't possess nearly as much raw power as Kagome, but she was well trained and experienced, and under the control of a youkai. Probably that worthless Southern village head. Their magics were clashing so intensely that Sesshoumaru could see the pulsating mass of their power. The purple cloud surrounding the old woman was infused with a dark heart of black, and those black tendrils twisted out to pry at Kagome's ever shrinking shield. When they touched the pink bubble of Kagome's own magic, they burned away to nothing, but Kagome was hard pressed by the power of the other miko and couldn't take advantage of the situation.
Sesshoumaru tried to suppress the worry that began to dig at him. This looked rather bad for his miko, and he couldn't even get close to her without being burned by the other miko's power. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. He considered it from several sides, holding it thoughtfully up to the light of his predicament. Well, I've never been suicidal, but there's no reason not to start now. Giving a mental sigh at the measures he was taking for this little miko, he stepped forward, directly into the purple cloud of the offending old miko.
Gods, it burns! Sesshoumaru hissed in pain as the power fluctuated around him. It circled his core of power, and every time it hesitantly touched the green heart of his energy, it burned away a piece of him. The agony was incredible, but Sesshoumaru noted with fierce pride that his pain was well used. The miko couldn't control her power as much as Kagome could, to force it to stop attacking Sesshoumaru and turn it back to killing Kagome. Her power moved all its attention to Sesshoumaru, and thus away from the panting young miko beside him. This miko had probably never thought that stopping her power from attacking a youkai might be a good thing, and now that such a situation arose, the roles between the old woman and Kagome were reversed. Now Kagome could take a breather, while the older miko struggled to make her power do things she'd never tried to do before. It hurt like hell for Sesshoumaru, but it accomplished his goal.
The second Kagome was free of the miko's grasp, she gasped for air. Her power field disappeared from around her body, and she collapsed on the ground where she'd been kneeling. Panting, she looked up to where she could sense Sesshoumaru. He stood in the grip of the old miko, head bowed, eyes closed, fists clenched, trembling. Kagome could feel the way his brilliant green power trembled in pain at the assault that he refused to counter. Actually, he probably couldn't counter it anymore at this point. He was wrapped so tightly in the old miko's grip that if he stayed there much longer he would die.
Kagome panicked. Without thinking, she reached to the quiver at her back, pulled an arrow, and stripped it of its wrappings. The purple of the old woman's magic was in a cloud around her body, centered between her outstretched hands. Her face was contorted in confusion as she struggled to force her powers to return to Kagome. At the node between the woman's shriveled hands, a black orb of power pulsed. Kagome aimed her arrow there, and fired at point-blank range.
The arrow had only about eight feet of distance to cover at full speed. Not even a full second after she'd loosed the bow, Kagome's arrow blazed into the heart of the woman's miko power. The infected core shattered with an ear-piercing screech, and all three of them were thrown to the ground with the force of its collapse. Kagome was cushioned from the fall by the quiver on her back, and the old woman had only a few feet to go before striking a tree, but Sesshoumaru was thrown back several yards. He bounced off a large prickly bush and came to a stop, and only force of will kept him standing. Kagome groaned and sat up, still gasping for breath, and crawled over to the old woman. She sat sill, and her eyes were clear. Kagome settled on her knees beside the old miko and reached out her hands to heal the woman, but there was nothing she could do. The wounds were in her soul, not her body. Failure coursed through Kagome's mind bitterly.
Sesshoumaru's hand settled on Kagome's shoulder, and she clutched it desperately. The old woman smiled slightly at Kagome and reached out one hand. "Child . . ." the miko croaked, "take my hand." Struggling not to cry, Kagome took the woman's hand in her free one, dropping her bow on the ground carelessly. The moment their skin touched, the miko's power again enveloped them both. Sesshoumaru tensed, but there was no burning sensation this time. Perhaps while he was touching Kagome, their blood bond was strong enough to protect him. Kagome tensed as well, but for different reasons. There was no attack this time. The woman was free of the youkai controlling her. Instead, Kagome was filled with memories. Every moment of the dying miko's life entered her mind, coiling gently into unused parts of her brain. Then the old woman took one last breath, closed her eyes, and died.
Sesshoumaru gently patted Kagome's shoulder, then offered his other hand to help her up, stoically ignoring the lingering pain. Kagome took his hand, eyes unfocused as she locked away all but the most recent memories that the miko had given her. He gently lead her back to the village by the hand, taking a very slow pace, for both of them, and directing her around trees and underbrush with his other hand on her shoulder. Kagome hardly noticed they were moving; when they were still a good distance from the village, she spoke absently. "She was the last one." Sesshoumaru looked at her, coming to a halt, but said nothing. "The miko," Kagome clarified, "she was the last one in her village. All the others got sent before." Sesshoumaru accepted this information with a nod and began to direct her into moving again, but this time she stood resolutely still. "They all died. I'm sorry I couldn't prevent it, Sesshoumaru-sama." Kagome's voice was hollow, unfeeling, like her mind was absent from the words, even though there was emotion in her voice. Slightly disturbed, Sesshoumaru simply picked her up without warning, ignoring the slight twinge his muscles gave him for the motion because of the lingering pain in his body. Kagome didn't react at all.
When they passed the barrier, Kagome livened a little. "I wasn't sure if it was working," she murmured, and brushed a hand over the air. Under her touch the barrier appeared as a solid, translucent pink wall. Sesshoumaru continued on, saying nothing, walking out the pain cramps in his muscles. Kagome was still in a daze when they returned to the village, but when he set her down she seemed to come to herself a little. "Gomen nasai, Sesshoumaru-sama," she said quietly, looking around and blinking. "I can heal these people now, if you like."
"No." Sesshoumaru commanded, still not satisfied. Her actions were more alive, but still not at all like her normal fiery personality. "You will do so in the morning. We will sleep now."
"Hai, Sesshoumaru-sama," Kagome agreed demurely. When he moved towards the main house of the village, Kagome followed him silently through the door. He gestured to the futon against the wall, and she lay down without a fuss and closed her eyes. Sesshoumaru could tell by her breathing that she was asleep in moments. He sat down on the futon next to hers, nearer the window, and watched her, thinking. He didn't like this at all. This wasn't the Kagome he was used to. She was too obedient and complacent. It was scaring him a little, and the fact that it scared him at all was even more upsetting. He not only knew this wasn't normal behavior for Kagome, he was worried about her, and he wanted to have her back to herself. Sesshoumaru found that he actually liked her better as a sharp, disrespectful, and irrational human than as this . . . shell. Kagome smelled the same, and her basic thought processes seemed the same as normal, but it was like she was only engaged in the world around her with a fraction of her mind. There was nothing . . . wrong, per se. Sesshoumaru almost thought she might be sleep-walking, or some such thing. Worried, he scooted his futon over so that the edge of it was touching Kagome's and went to sleep watching her pale, expressionless face, a small crease in his forehead, marring the crescent-shaped taiyoukai mark on his brow.
Kagome, meanwhile, was almost in another world. She was vaguely aware that Sesshoumaru was leading her back to the village, but she wasn't really thinking about it. Her attention was fixed on the thousands of instances of memory now recorded in her mind. This miko had been given extensive training, from shortly after her birth until very near her twentieth birthday. She hadn't been the brightest of students as far as improvisation was concerned, which was why she'd been apprenticed for so long, but she had a very good memory. Everything she'd learned, she'd remembered. Instead of improvising, she simply learned millions of set ways to do things. Kagome perused her memories with almost all her attention fully engaged. When they crossed the barrier, she focused a little on it, patting it in pride. She found that at some point Sesshoumaru must have picked her up, because she was no longer walking, but they were getting closer to the village. When they arrived, Kagome slipped gracefully from Sesshoumaru's arms and spent a little more brain power on what was happening around her. She offered to start healing the demons of the village, but Sesshoumaru said no . . . indifferent, Kagome pulled her attention back to the new memories inside her. The information there was fascinating . . .
The next morning, when Kagome woke up, she found Sesshoumaru sitting on the futon across from her, watching her closely. She blinked at him in confusion. How did I get here? She thought, glancing about, and her eyes glazed over in puzzlement. Oh, this must be Hakkai's home. Did I fall asleep in the forest? Suddenly, Kagome remembered what had happened the night before. For a moment, she lost herself in Ayame's memories, but then she shook her head and looked up again. Her eyes refocused on Sesshoumaru's face, and she thought she caught a look of concern there. I'm imagining it.
"Ohayou, Sesshoumaru!" She greeted him cheerfully. Then, belatedly, she remembered to add the honorific to his name, and cringed.
"Ohayou, Kagome. Are you . . . feeling well this morning?" Sesshoumaru asked her. Kagome stared at him in utter amazement and confusion. He was being polite to her? She scrutinized him carefully. He seemed honestly curious, and a little hesitant. He was being nice!
"I am, thank you!" she said happily, sitting up, deciding to enjoy this unusual politeness while it lasted. Apparently, it didn't last for long. Sesshoumaru stood instantly and walked to the door at the other side of the room.
"There are new clothes and water for washing beside the window," the taiyoukai explained without looking at her. "It is already midday, and I would like to be leaving shortly."
Kagome looked at him stupidly, realizing for the first time that the sun was high in the sky already. I slept the whole morning away? Then her mind caught up with what Sesshoumaru had said. "Wait- what about the youkai from the south? We're just leaving?"
"I dealt with them this morning while you slept," Sesshoumaru stated impassively. "Clean up. There is a meal waiting for you." Suddenly realizing how hungry she was, Kagome bowed her head, and the youkai lord left her alone, closing the door behind himself. Kagome stood, letting the blanket around her fall to the futon, and realized she was wearing only her now-torn under-kimono. She slipped out of it and washed up with the rough cloth and bowl of warm water that she found by the door, her mind floating once again into Ayame's memories.
There was so much she could learn from this old woman. . . Kagome sifted through the woman's life, back to her earliest days of miko training, when she was only nine years old. The first lesson had been to manifest their miko power. Kagome supposed that she was manifesting her power when she charged her arrows, but later she would go over the memory and try it as Ayame had been taught. Absently, she slipped into the clean kimono as in her mind she slipped into another memory. She had so much to learn. . .
When Kagome stepped outside, the smell of breakfast assaulted her nose, and she forgot all about Ayame for a moment as her empty stomach made itself known. Sighing, she followed her nose to the food. Her feet moved her past the few dwellings beside the one she had woken in and out to a cooking fire in the village square. It looked to be a temporary thing, probably set up for expediency during all the fighting, and only one side of it was still hot. Sesshoumaru stood nearby, conversing with Hakkai and a few other older demons, but a young female demon was crouched by the fire, a tray beside her.
As Kagome approached, the girl looked up, noticing her. Kagome watched her eyes flash with various emotions; fear, confusion, determination, and loyalty. Kagome realized with a start that it was the same girl who had produced the bow and quiver for her the day before. The girl stood as Kagome neared the fire, holding the tray in her hands. She looked puzzled and a little frightened, but nothing showed on her face as she bowed slightly to Kagome and silently offered the breakfast tray. Kagome accepted it with a pleased smile.
"Arigato," Kagome said, bowing in return. The other girl looked startled at such politeness from demon to miko, and Kagome could tell that the girl had been put up to the task of making her breakfast. "and thank you as well for the bow last night." Kagome continued. "It is in excellent condition." The girl looked away, cheeks flushed, but her confusion was evident in her eyes, and Kagome left her alone with a sigh. She'd really been hoping to make friends, but the dog-demon was too confused and flustered to talk. Kagome ate quickly and in silence, then waited by the fire, watching Sesshoumaru talk.
As she listened, Sesshoumaru and Hakkai went over the last of their business. The taiyoukai was giving detailed instructions about the political situation, bringing the steadholder up to date on his lord's doings. Apparently, Sesshoumaru hadn't been to Hakkai's neck of the woods in several years, having been preoccupied with the fight against Naraku on other borders. Hakkai would need to spread the word around and refortify his steading's border, which would discourage further attacks from other countries in the near future. Kagome stood when they moved on to the parting niceties, noting with amusement that Sesshoumaru cut them short. He was a blunt man, after all, and pleasentaries were definitely not his strong suit.
Sesshoumaru turned as soon as his conversation came to a close and strode to Kagome's side, whistling for An-Un. The dragon appeared, Jaken dangling at its side haphazardly, and Kagome stifled a laugh at the picture the toad demon made. Sesshoumaru glanced at her, his hair flying in the wind of An-Un's landing, and she buried her face demurely in the flower pattern on the sleeve of her kimono. She carefully kept her balance as the two-headed dragon landed, tensing for Sesshoumaru to grab her up and leap to his steed's neck. However, Sesshoumaru instead took one step in front of her and held out his hand.
She looked from him to the dragon in surprise, and then remembered her outburst the last time he had grabbed her without warning. Kagome flushed and placed her hand in his. He gently scooped her up before jumping carefully onto the dragon's back, and Kagome thought to herself with pleasure that she'd never met such a naturally courteous demon before in her life- even if he wasn't naturally courteous to her.
They took off, and Kagome turned her thoughts to the steading the slipped away below them. She had grown a little attached to the place in the short time they'd been there. So much had happened at the little demon village, and Kagome had learned more in the past two days than she ever thought she might learn from being near Sesshoumaru. It was the first time she had seen the way the other half lived, and Kagome found that they weren't as different from her own kind as she had thought.
END CHAPTER FOUR
A/N: no review responses this time. gomen, but they'll start taking up space that should be part of the story, and i know that it can get annoying. so, just a big THANK YOU AND I LOVE YOU! to all my reviewers, and a huge hug- sorry for the long delay! i'm going to try and finish this fic by the end of summer, and this time i want you guys to hold me to it!