Quick Note: This is a "sequel" to my first fanfic "Reflected Past". This story picks up with characters that I created for the first story, so I'd probably suggest you read that one before this one, just for the sake of avoiding confusion. Sorry about all the new characters, but if I'm going to create a conflict, I have to give Sesshoumaru some people to fight with. ;)
This story begins about 5-6 months after the end of "Reflected Past".
For those who have read it and want a quick reminder of who the extra characters are:
Eizan – a dog youkai, Lord of the north, his family and Sesshoumaru's have had a long-standing conflict with each other
Isamu – a water youkai, Lord of the east
Furu – a bear youkai, Lord of the south
About the "lord" thing, in my story these guys have these huge titles, but that doesn't mean they control all of demon Japan between them. For instance, Sesshoumaru holds onto most of the land in the west, thus making him the biggest badass of a lord in that region, hence the "Lord of the West". However, there are others who have their own territories, too. (think Kouga…people like that).
Eizan has 3 sons: the oldest Kawahira, Keito, and Ashihei, as well as an extremely annoying, bitchy daughter named Elif, who happens to be quite romantically obsessed with Sesshoumaru.
Kameko – a hanyou that raised Rin from the ages of 9-16
Kisho – Kameko's great-grandson, about 10 years old, worships Sesshoumaru like a god. ;)
Kanaye – Sesshoumaru's uncle, a guy that's going to make Sesshy look sweet and cheerful. ;)
There will be others added, but they're not going to come into it for a little bit, so this will do for now. :D
Chapter One – Confrontation
A frigid, numbing wind was sliding through the high-set windows, bringing the cold with it, but the being inside the cavernous building did not appear to notice or care. He moved with fluid, graceful motions that came from centuries of practice and perfection, the necessity to always be better than whomever he happened to face at any given moment. He had plenty of enemies, and so it was fortunate that he actually allowed himself to enjoy the solitude of his independent training.
He did not feel the cold; it did not register as being uncomfortable to him in the slightest, despite his state of informal dress. The wind circulated around him, brushing past the bare skin on his upper body and, if anything, it made him even more alert to every motion he created. Toukijin streaked through the air as though it was simply an extension of his arm and, truly, it was very much that. Both he and that sword worked together in perfect unison, a relationship that came from Sesshoumaru's steadfast dedication.
A youkai lord that became complacent and lazy was one that did not appreciate how much he had to lose. Sesshoumaru had few attachments in this world, but he had a deep sense of pride and ownership for what his father had left him. The west was a possession, something to be guarded carefully, mindfully tended. To become lax in that responsibility would be to shirk the trust that had been placed in him, a trust that had come from the one individual whose expectations he did want to live up to. Inutaisho had always been confident in Sesshoumaru's abilities, as was Sesshoumaru himself. But he could not allow for unbridled overconfidence; his position had to be backed up by skill and thought, which was why he had spent his early years memorizing, learning, writing, reading; all things that had been prized by Inutaisho as much as any demonstrated physical prowess.
These qualities had been taught to him, emphasized; they were absolutely necessary for someone in his position. Physical strength ... mental fortitude ... and, more recently, an unbelievable amount of patience. It was that last quality that Sesshoumaru still lacked ... it was a dry well that he kept having to return to these days, as he now found himself in close quarters with the one individual he deemed to be more annoying than Jaken.
The little boy Rin viewed as almost a brother. The child she so thoroughly (and often exasperatedly) adored. The creature who seemed to be stalking his every waking movement.
Sesshoumaru continued his practice, listening with calmly-masked dread as feet shuffled through the snow, purposefully kicking up the drifts as they made their way steadily in his direction. As he turned and swung Toukijin again, this time with a force that suggested some agitation, Sesshoumaru realized that it was certainly a benefit to the child's health that Rin had such an interest in his continued existence, as Sesshoumaru had been known to kill for less irritating tendencies than those the boy displayed.
Rin had, predictably, picked up on his dislike for the human boy. She had patiently tried to explain how much Kisho revered him, ever since that night the previous summer when Sesshoumaru and Tenseiga had corrected the boy's early demise and set him once more among the living.
"He admires you, Sesshoumaru," Rin had told him, trying to bite back her laughter at his dark, morose expression. "You saved his life. He's showing his gratitude in a way."
"He can keep his gratitude," Sesshoumaru had answered acidly. "And tell him to quit mocking me."
"He's not mocking you ... he's emulating the things you do and say because he likes you. It won't be for much longer ... just a few more days until Kameko returns for him." Rin stopped making an effort to hide her amusement. "You should be pleased. You're his hero."
He scowled at her grinning face, not at all understanding why this was so funny to her. "I have limits. See to it that he stops crossing them, Rin."
"Hai, Sesshoumaru-sama," she agreed with a quick nod, though the smile remained firmly in place, giving Sesshoumaru the idea that he was somehow the conclusion to a joke he did not understand.
When the colossal wooden doors began to swing open with a quiet-shattering creak, Sesshoumaru found that Rin had failed in her duty. The boy continued to pursue him with a disturbing relentlessness.
Without breaking the smoothness of his movements, Sesshoumaru turned his head slightly and settled a malicious stare on the skinny child that forced his way past the heavy doors, tracking streaks of watery slush along the coarse stone floors. He made a shivering motion as he brushed powdery snow from his hair and shoulders.
"Ohayo, Sesshoumaru-sama!" Kisho called, his cheerful voice echoing within the nearly empty room as he walked confidently forward, bright eyes already studying every carefully-honed movement of the youkai and the sword that flashed dangerously in the early morning light.
Sesshoumaru did not reply, instead ignoring the beast in the hopes that it would become bored and go away. He was quickly disappointed.
"Aren't you cold?" Kisho inquired as he paced around his host's form, barely out of range of the slicing blade.
Sesshoumaru turned his back on the boy and uttered a low, "No."
"Neither am I," Kisho was quick to claim and immediately shed his coat. Sesshoumaru's estimation of the child's intelligence dropped several notches.
"Are you training?"
"So that I can kill people that annoy me."
"You have other attacks, too, right?" Kisho continued, not taking the hint as he walked back around Sesshoumaru so that he could face him again. Each word that came from the boy's mouth created a cloud of condensation brought on by the freezing temperatures. "How many?"
"Several," came the curt reply.
"And what sorts of things do they do?"
"Various things, all of them painful."
Kisho backed away a few steps as the sword sliced by within only inches of his nose. "That's the sword that kills, then? Do you have a name for it?"
"And the other is the one that heals. That makes you invincible, right?"
"Yes," Sesshoumaru answered tersely, wondering just how many questions he was going to have to field before Kisho wore himself out with the sound of his own voice. He knew from past experience that the stamina for that child, as far as speaking was concerned, was gallingly impressive. He made Inuyasha's miko come off as quiet and demure in comparison.
"That makes you even stronger than death!" Kisho exclaimed excitedly. "So if I were to go jump off a cliff or something, it'd work on me again?"
"If you test me by doing such a thing, I will not revive you," Sesshoumaru said with absolute seriousness, pausing to give Kisho a warning glare. And indeed he would not. Such stupidity should not be rewarded.
He again tried to regain his concentration, but Kisho's next question caught even him off guard.
"Are you going to marry Rin?"
Sesshoumaru turned with so swift a movement, one would have thought Kisho had just issued a death threat. Toukijin dropped to his side, held loosely now in his hand as he immediately provided a stern answer. "Youkai do not 'get married'."
"Then where do all of the demon kids come from? You have to replace yourselves. Just like humans!"
"We live forever," he hissed at the infuriating child, emphasizing each shortly-clipped word.
A deep quiet ensconced them then as Kisho's brain seemed to be working to process that bit of information. Sesshoumaru did not always bother giving him the truth, instead relying on whatever answer there might be that could possibly shut down his interrogations. Much to his chagrin, Kisho quickly found a new train of thought.
"Do you have a true form?"
"Yes!" Sesshoumaru growled, whirling to face Kisho, purposefully contorting his features into something far more canine-like, his fangs extending to lethal proportions, eyes burning red. He fully expected the boy to act rationally and run shrieking into the cold, but found that he was anticipating too much.
Instead, all Kisho did was gasp a surprised, "Great!"
There was not an ounce of self-preservation in that child. Certainly that had to be Rin's influence, as she was guilty of being just as unimpressed by the lethal capabilities of youkai as he appeared to be. And it was then that the disturbing thought occurred to him ... did human children simply find him ... unthreatening? His scowl deepened.
The wind continued to blow from the outside and Kisho, now shivering in earnest, caught on to the sudden stiffening of Sesshoumaru's muscles as the youkai turned and looked toward the door, either listening for something or catching on to a scent that did not belong.
"What's wrong?" Kisho asked curiously.
Sesshoumaru quickly moved to retrieve his discarded shirt, picking it up and shoving his arms through it with a haste that Kisho frowned at in confusion, but since his hero had decided to fully clothe himself once more, the boy took the moment to grab his own coat and pull it back on.
"Return to the house," Sesshoumaru ordered brusquely, his silver-white hair billowing outward from the blast of wind that came through when he opened the doors once more. He paused on the threshold and again paid close heed to his senses. Yes, it seemed he had a visitor.
"Can't I go with yo---," Kisho started to inquire, but he stepped back in astonishment when Sesshoumaru turned a heavy glare on him.
"Do as I told you."
The words were stated with utmost calm, but it was the weight behind them that made Kisho decide to obey without his usual questioning. Sesshoumaru moved to allow the boy to sprint past him, eyeing him warily to make sure the inept creature actually did as he had been instructed and headed for the house. He then turned his attention back to the unwelcome, yet familiar person that had decided to halt his forward progression at a distance.
He's waiting for me then, Sesshoumaru deduced. He knows better than to come charging up to me. There was some disappointment in the fact that Lord Eizan had actually garnered enough intelligence to stay back and wait ... Sesshoumaru was, after all, warmed up and with sword in hand.
Purposefully taking his time, Sesshoumaru set off through the frosted tree-cover of the woods, almost blending in with the pristine environment as he tracked his enemy's position. The forest around him was all but frozen; large icicles were encapsulating the thick branches, bowing them over his head to create an odd sort of crystal-like canopy. The wind swirled in and around the dark tree trunks, sending a mixture of ice and snow into his face, but he moved on, undaunted and barely noticing, so intently was he stalking his uninvited guest.
He had heard surprisingly little from the dog youkai of the north as of late, odd considering the enmity that had been renewed between them some months earlier. Sesshoumaru had figured that the cease in hostilities had more than a little to do with Eizan's ambivalence toward Sesshoumaru himself. The northern lord did indeed dislike him, but he seemed unable to decide whether it would be more useful to instigate outright war or persuade Sesshoumaru to unite their families through Eizan's daughter, Elif.
Sesshoumaru, on the other hand, knew precisely which scenario he would prefer. He had thought he had made that perfectly clear to them all. If not, then he was about to. Eizan seemed to subscribe to the idea that one should keep his enemies close to him. Sesshoumaru's philosophy differed slightly; he kept his enemies close to him for only the space of time it took to extract their lives.
He found his quarry lingering near the river, his back to the ancient wood-planked bridge that spanned the waters rushing swiftly underneath. Eizan was attired in some sort of hooded, brown-furred cloak and he looked to be just as unaffected by the weather as his counterpart. Eizan turned when he sensed Sesshoumaru's appearance, watching through the whirling precipitation as the white dog demon descended to meet him.
"Sesshoumaru," he greeted tonelessly.
"Why are you here, Eizan?" Sesshoumaru replied flatly, stopping his forward motion several feet away from the other demon. Though the two looked to be of a similar age, Eizan was in fact Sesshoumaru's senior by several centuries. It was this age difference, accompanied by the fact that he had been ruling the north since before Sesshoumaru's birth, that made Eizan behave as though Sesshoumaru was still a child that had been unwisely granted his position through the misfortune of Inutaisho's early death.
"We have issues to settle between us, do we not? If I recall correctly, you told Elif that I would have to answer to your grievances. And so here I am," Eizan replied calmly, his amethyst-colored eyes cool and unreadable as he spread his hands in a gesture of conciliation.
A gathering of low-hanging gray clouds moved overhead, blotting out much of the morning light that was trying to spill through, seemingly draping a grim shroud around the two demons.
"You have not come to settle anything, because you already know what my answer will be. Your intent is to absorb my lands, either through family or war. That has not changed, but it seems that only recently you have summoned enough nerve to act out against me. Are you feeling overconfident, Eizan?"
Eizan smiled. "Ahh, Sesshoumaru, you constantly feel as though something in the shadows is plotting to reach out and snatch all of this from you. You would do well to find yourself a proper mate and ensure that your line continues. After all, who would there be to replace you should something unfortunate happen? Your brother? We would not stand for the west to fall into the hands of Inuyasha, who, though formidable in his own right, is still merely a hanyou. If not him ... then your father's younger brother, Kanaye? He is even more ill-tempered than you; his ascension would lead to even greater instability than that which you provoke through your foul disposition."
"I destroy anything that brings instability to my lands," Sesshoumaru replied. "Including overly-ambitious, spineless youkai who spend their time behind closed doors, listening as their cronies encourage them to grasp for more than is healthy. If you think your title holds you above that sort of retribution, you are gravely mistaken."
"You are correct in saying that I have many friends," Eizan agreed, ignoring the threat. "I am fortunate."
"You have no friends, Eizan. When you buy the cooperation of another, that is nothing less than a paid contract, one that is swiftly broken when the price is increased by another."
Silence encroached then, blowing in with the increasingly strong winds, creating a snowglobe effect as the youkai lords stared resolutely at each other, each one the very picture of composure, each waiting for the other to increase the hostilities.
Eizan finally spoke through lips that barely moved. "Shall we discuss your friends? Or rather, your obvious lack of them? Who would you have to support you should one of your many enemies take advantage of that fact? You have purposefully distanced yourself from everyone; you have learned that it is perhaps better not to trust?" He smiled enigmatically as his eyes brushed from Sesshoumaru's face to just over his shoulder, as though staring into the distance. "Or have you become such a lover of humans that you choose to rely on them instead? I can smell the individual scents of two humans lingering on you. Are you forming a collection of them, Sesshoumaru?"
"You have an odd interest in what goes on within the walls of my home. If you would turn that attention to your own, then you might find a way to control your embarrassing children," Sesshoumaru advised disdainfully.
"None of my children will ever take a human for a mate," Eizan replied with certainty. "Can you say the same for yourself?"
"I have no mate. Nothing has changed."
"She is still here ... that girl you brought to my home. Do you expect me to believe that there is no improper behavior taking place, especially given your family history?"
Sesshoumaru's face remained impassive as he instantly answered, "I do not care what you believe, Eizan. I don't answer to you."
Eizan crossed his arms, as though already having come to his own judgment. "Do you really want to risk losing everything over one pathetic little human girl? Have you become so weak? If not for you, that is what would have happened to Inutaisho. The west would belong to someone else now. You, on the other hand, have no one to replace you."
"It is you who should decide if a conflict with me is really what you want. My father was too lenient in the past; it was a misjudgment to allow the north to remain in the control of your family. I will not repeat that mistake," Sesshoumaru warned.
His voice becoming lower, darker, Eizan moved a step forward, but halted when he noticed Sesshoumaru's claws flexing in response. "This has been building for a while, Sesshoumaru. This conflict has become unavoidable. It was you who chose to escalate the matter when you nearly killed my son. But I am a reasonable man. You need a mate and I need assurances that you will not work to undermine what I have. The best way to remedy the situation would be for you to accept Elif, don't you agree?"
"Your daughter is as much my enemy as you are. I would not turn my back on her, much less involve myself with her in such a relationship. She has developed some strange obsession with me, that much is obvious, but that enthusiasm is entirely one-sided."
"Then I will report to the other lords that you have chosen the bloodier route in this matter. Disappointing, but not surprising," Eizan replied calmly, dropping his arms and stepping away, as though preparing to take his leave.
"I doubt they care," Sesshoumaru said. "Isamu and Furu have no interest in anything that exceeds their realms. This will remain between you and me."
"There is a lot more at stake here than you will admit to, Sesshoumaru. The west will not fall into the hands of a hanyou. Not your brother and certainly not any half-breed creature you spawn off of that human woman. You are overconfident. I would not be so certain of their decision to remain neutral. They were your father's friends ... and they did nothing to aid him with the repercussions of Inuyasha's birth."
"Nor did they complicate things by using Inuyasha as an excuse to attack," Sesshoumaru reminded Eizan. "This is not overconfidence, Eizan; it is that I am bored with this and with you. Form whatever meager offensive you can. I will own the north by the end of this."
Withdrawing even further until he was standing on the bridge, Eizan's body began to glow white as he called, "Everyone around you is fair game, Sesshoumaru. Remember that." With that parting threat, the northern lord departed in a flash.
Shivering lightly in the frosty morning air, Rin watched the dark forests with no small amount of trepidation. Is there something wrong? she wondered. It was not unlike Sesshoumaru to go off on his own without explanation, but this time ... something was bothering her, she had a bad feeling, one that had been created by Kisho when the cold and thoroughly hungry child had stomped into the house, slinging snow off of himself, to tell her that Sesshoumaru had suddenly taken off for the woods.
She had left the boy to consume an unimaginable amount of breakfast and had wandered outside. The ground that spread out from the steps below her was so glaringly white that it was tinged a pale blue, and bore the tracks of some tiny, foraging animal. She looked back up from noticing this, the biting wind blowing into her face as she did so, but her attention was drawn away from that discomfort when she saw him suddenly stride out from the forest.
He looked eternally calm, as always, but as those golden eyes swept up to her, she could see that he had encountered something that had bothered him. He's angry, she thought, pulling her clothing more securely around her to help ward off the cold.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, eyeing him carefully as he ascended the stairs.
"No," he replied as he moved to sweep past her, a white apparition who seemed to be intent on brooding over this problem on his own.
She stopped him when she wrapped one hand around his wrist, noticing how unbelievably warm the skin was even after he had spent so much time outside. Rarely does anything faze him, she thought, but there is something now, lurking around him. He did not seem worried, just resolute, as though preparing for the imminence of something he had been expecting for a while.
"Will it be okay?" she asked, assured now that something was indeed wrong, but also aware that he did not appear to be in a mood to discuss it.
He looked down at her as the wind blew through again, highly aware of the thin, frigid fingers that were clutched onto him. It was still an adjustment, sharing his home with someone who expected to know about the things that transpired in his day-to-day life. He was not at all accustomed to having to explain himself or his problems. Pulling her further backward out of the reach of the lashing wind, Sesshoumaru replied, "It is for now. If that changes, I will correct the problem."
"Is it Eizan?"
He gave a short nod and then added, "The boy needs to go home, Rin. Now more for his sake than mine."