A pink glow...A dark comet coming towards her...
He was hot on its tail, disregarding his silver-hair prey in pursuit of his ultimate goal. The purplish black light came at an alarming rate, its shadow closing in.
Closer...A little closer...Two hands, one masculine, one feminine, outstretched towards the object. The larger one soon hovered directly over it, ready to engulf it...
The world shook violently, throwing anyone standing to the ground...It lasted only seconds; it seemed to be a lifetime...
She was on her hands and knees, a small, dark, chipped marble brushing her fingertips, quickly bleeding out the darkness, glowing a soft pink...
The valley was covered in shadows; she was in the umbra of a darker shade...Death loomed overhead, grinning triumphantly, sadistically...Her friends were too far away, too wounded, to save her now...
Sleep would not come this night. After wasting more than an hour staring at the ceiling above his bed, futilely waiting for oblivion to claim him as a vague memory teased the outer fringes of his mind, but beyond recall, Sesshoumaru opted to work out his mental frustrations in his usual way: performing the kata of his art, kendo.
Given the lateness of the hour, or the early hour, depending on one's view, he had thought the solitude of the university doujo would be the ideal place to practice. Imagine his surprise when he felt, not heard but felt, the vibrations of incredibly loud music while still meters away from the building. His surprise quickly gave way to irritation; now he would have to force the idiot(s) inside to leave; joy.
The silver-hair man opened the door after using his card and key-code to unlock it, only to have his ears assaulted by the throbbing music. Golden eyes narrowed in anger swept the room, seeking the offender(s) only to widen marginally at the sight of the two figures on the mats.
Two dark hair fighters moved with startling speed and agility in a dangerous dance. Each wielded a weapon, laying merciless siege upon one another. Sesshoumaru watched in growing fascination as they unwittingly demonstrated their skills to their audience. Sharp cracks continually sounded smartly over the clamor of wanna-be music as tonfa and jo kissed brutally. Their movements suggested knowledge of the other opponent, seeming to almost anticipate the attacks.
The one armed with the jo stayed beyond the reach of the other, taking advantage of the weapon's superior length, but the tonfa's owner made up for the disadvantage; the slighter body seemed more...everything. More agile, swifter, better recovery speed, more daring, too. It seemed as though the gray-eyed one fought with no plan, letting chaos rule, and winning because of it.
Sesshoumaru watched for a pattern...The beat. The chaotic one fought to the beat of the unruly music, as he now recognized the racket as rave music.
The dance continued, changing rhythms within the pulse reverberating throughout the doujo. He watched them, blocking the tiresome noise from his mind. The jo sliced through the air, one could imagine it singing, greeted by one tonfa as the other moved in. The grace of their movements were entrancing, made more so by the lengths of black hair whipping behind them. A false move caught the jo's wielder in its snare, said person was promptly found flat on her back, tonfa resting against her neck.
By this point, Sesshoumaru had made his way, unobtrusively, to the stereo system and now shut off the music. The sudden silence was thunderous, broken only by the soft, punctuated gasps for air.
Two pairs of eyes turned to the offender. He stood dispassionately, none of his interest of their sparring evident. After a moment of stillness, the women stood, faced one another, and bowed, before turning back to the intruder.
Sango came towards him, brown eyes appraising, judging. She stopped less than an arm span away, reaching out...Music blasted again, quickly turned down and changed to a new CD; a melancholy cello's voice drifted from the speakers, filling the void.
Sesshoumaru's attention was once more captured by Kagome, who now moved through a kata of tai quan. Her weapons from moments ago lay innocently a meter or so from her. The movements seemed lazy when one takes in the music as part of the show; her limbs moving slowly, gently, storm cloud colored eyes unseeing, focusing, instead, inward. The beauty of the dance often makes one forget that with more speed behind it, the dance becomes deadly.
"Ano...Come here often?" Startled amber-honey eyes turned the woman standing beside him. She laughed softly, "Bad line, I know. What are you doing here at this hour?"
"I could ask you the same," the monotonous reply came quietly, eyes forward once again.
"We're here, at about this hour, once or twice a week," she answered.
"Hoping to exhaust yourself through physical exertion, ne?" An affirmative nod. "She'll be done soon, then we'll get out of your way." .:o.o:. Dawn's rose fingers came too soon for some, several such people turned away from the light or buried their heads beneath their pillows. Hours later, the sun just shy of its zenith, a group of well wishers stood on a platform, seeing off their friend.
"Are you sure?"
"Mochiron. I've a good feeling about this."
"I'll come back Sunday morning."
"Yeesh, will you two break it up. The train's gonna leave... any minute...now," the insensitive jerk's voice drifted off to a mumble at the heated looks he was getting.
"Well then, see you all Sunday, ne? Ittekimasu."
"Itterashai!" came the resounding chorus, followed by laughter.
.:o.o:.The rest of the day flew passed, a flurry of calls within an unofficial network, followed by another gathering at Sesshoumaru's apartment to trade notes, ideas, and, in one couple's case, saliva.
More details filled out the sketchy outline, but still no ending was found. They stayed awake late into the night, as no one had classes the next day, until, one by one, they dropped like flies into the dream realm, save one. The student labored into the early hours of the morning, seeking the end, until sleep's lure became too tempting to resist... .:o.o:. "Ne, Kagome-chan?"
"When this is over, what do you plan to do?"
"...I don't know. I've not thought much about it...Everything thus far has been focused on the hunt."
Silence...then: "In the beginning, I thought when this ended that I would just go home, na no da? Now...now I don't know. To leave this place and go home, I would lose my family here; but to stay...I lose my family there...How about you? Planning to settle down and focus on your romantic interest?"
Laughter filled the steamy air, as they began a water war.
"That's not fair," a pout obvious in his voice. "How can I woo a sweet maiden when said maiden is in Kyoto- Why had she gone there again?"
"Her brother is hospitalized in Kyoto; he's in a coma," amusement at the other's predicament. "Your bad luck. You chose her, she left town; apparently she leaves town every other week."
"This gives you a two and a half day advantage, which a gentleman would take into consideration in such a wager."
"I don't recall you ever being a gentleman."
"Oh, ha ha; you're so funny, a regular comedian," sarcasm now. He sighs in frustration. "Well, such is my life, though I could just make sure you and your mark are not alone all weekend..."
"Don't you have a class or seminar this afternoon?"
"Nani? Oh, damn it, is Kami-sama against me in all matters? Remind me not to make bets with you ever again."
"You said that last time."
"...And you didn't remind me...Why?"
"It must have slipped my mind at the time."
"Mochiron, and I'm a flaming homosexual. Oh, wait, I'm as straight as a shakujou," again with sarcasm. A tired sigh, "Jaa, at least try to do research for the project when you are with her."
"I'm not you."
"This is true. Were you I, she would've left town, too." Another sigh. "I'll call you after the seminar, if it's not too late in the afternoon maybe we can go to her family's shrine, field research and such."
A reluctant laugh. "A man of few words, now I remember why I hang around you."
"I can't figure out why I allow you hang around me."
"Right. Kuso, I have to run or I'll be late." A click, followed by dead air. "Jaa mata to you too."
.:o.o:.Kagome was fretting. Sango had left to visit her family, specifically her comatose itouto. Kikyou was promised to help at a shrine, miko training stuff; InuYasha was promised to Kikyou to help her at the shrine, yard work. Kouga had run home, a nasty stomach virus sweeping through the household, yuck.
So now, here she was, alone with Sesshoumaru, albeit in public, but alone nevertheless, because Miroku apparently had a seminar to attend; a monk thing. Mayhap it wouldn't be such a bad thing were he not so attractive, physically and mentally, but such was her fate; the Fates must hate her, or, at the very least, find her predicament vastly amusing, she decided.
It would seem, though, that worrying was a fruitless endeavor, as the yonensei seemed completely focused on the task at hand: research. They spent hours digging through books and computer archives, chasing one false lead after another.
By early afternoon, they called it quits for the day, tired of reading small, single-spaced print and hungry for food. However, it appeared that they should have left sooner, as autumn rain fell in sheets, goaded further by the wind. Both had walked to the toshokan, and neither had listened to a weather report before leaving earlier that morning; their mistake. They stood under the library's overhang, staring dubiously at the liquid bullets.
"Ano, if we run, we could go to my apartment...I can give you a kasa to use the rest of your walk home," Kagome offered, eyes fixed on the falling water. She felt his golden gaze and suddenly felt impish. "I don't mind getting wet," thus said, she took off down the steps.
Sesshoumaru watched her, amused, for all of one second before following her. The campus was empty but for a few fast-moving umbrellas; silent but for the steady sound of the heavy rain and rhythmic slapping of two students' shoes hitting the wet pavement. She led the way, ignoring the fact that while she was running, he was only jogging. They had almost reached the edge of the school's property when Kagome turned up a walkway, slowing to a walk.
They entered the glass foyer, the door closing softly behind them. For a space of time, they were enclosed in the small space, acutely aware of the heat between their bodies after the chill of the rain. The dark- haired girl quickly unlocked the second door, trying to keep her hands from shaking. They climbed up five flights of stairs, foregoing the cramped confines of the elevator. At the fifth floor, Kagome led him down the hall, stopping to unlock the very last door; she stepped back, indicating he should go in first. Finding it odd, but saying nothing, Sesshoumaru entered her studio apartment, her slipping in after him.
To most, her home would appear sparsely furnished, given the vastness of the room, but the silver-hair man was not most people. His eyes scanned his surroundings, immediately noting the loft space overhead, accessible from a wooden spiral staircase in the right corner, extending through a third of the room before ending, at which point the ceiling shot up an additional story. As the entrance to the apartment was at the end of the hall, the windows overlooking the daigaku were expected but not their size and numbers. The windows were maybe a meter wide, stretching vertically from ceiling to floor, spaced a meter apart, on three walls, as the apartment took up the whole western side of the building on those two levels.
In the corner to the left, a kitchenette, with a large kitchen tansu, was directly under the loft, made to appear separate from the rest of the room by a breakfast counter on one side and a shoji screen on the other. Situated in the southwestern portion of the room, near the windows on a raised platform, was a zataku made of keyaki and four zaisu. A gleaming, grand piano sat in the adjacent corner; near this, between a pair of windows, sat a padlocked storage cabinet. The remainder of the large room was empty, leaving much open floor space.
The available wall space was bare save for the weapons, such as a pair of sai, a bow and full quiver, and a couple fighting fans, displayed in random intervals. Sesshoumaru's attention was particularly caught by a pair of crossed swords. They were alone, high on the wall, riveting one's gaze upward to strain for a better view. One sheath appeared ancient and battered, well used, the other looked pristine, though equally old. Looking at the swords, something teased the edges of his thoughts, a distant memory...
Kagome appeared before him, holding a large, thick towel in each hand. She offered him one then preceded to dry herself with the other.
A soft ringing sounded, echoing through the vast, bare room. Still drying her hair, Kagome padded soundlessly on the tegami mats to the kitchen vicinity to answer the phone. Sesshoumaru toed his shoes off, leaving them next to Kagome's as well as his book bag, before walking further into the room towards the windows; wiping water from his skin with the soft towel as he went, he then wrung excess liquid from his long hair, again using the towel to absorb it. He heard the soft lilt of Kagome's voice greeting her caller as he stared, unseeing, through the glass. He didn't hear her excitement, her relief, didn't hear her 'goodbye', nor did he hear the gentle click as she hung up the phone.
Soon, though, the sound of quiet tears reached his sensitive ears. Turning back to the room, to Kagome, he didn't see her. He followed the stifled sobs, spotting her through the open shoji door, on the cold tile floor of the kitchen.
She looked up at his approach, tears slipping down her cheeks, eyes shining with relief. As he knelt before her, she spoke haltingly between tear choked breaths. "He woke up; he finally woke up."
Sesshoumaru quickly surmised that it was Sango's brother she spoke of, and that that had been Sango just now on the phone. Studying her, he saw how lost she looked, how fragile she appeared, how needy she was, and tentatively reached for her. At his comforting gesture, she clung to him tightly and stopped holding back; sobs wracked her small frame.
He shifted to sit fully on a small rug, situated in front of the sink, and, back against the cabinet, pulled her onto his lap, just holding her. One elegant hand moved in slow, soothing circles on her back, silently offering strength to the piteous female.
Eventually her tears stopped, as she slipped into an exhausted sleep. Bemused, Sesshoumaru rearranged her in his arms before standing. He carried her up the circling stairs, noting that her clothes, and his as well, were still wet from their watery run across the school grounds. He found the upper level as sparsely furnished as below, only a futon, a fuzukue, and an unusually large kimono tansu were present. An open door revealed the studio's bathroom, which showed more signs of residency than the rest of the place.
After setting his charge on the bed, he made to pull away, only to be stopped by her small hands fisted in his shirt. She mumbled something along the lines for him to stay. The young man murmured assurances that he wasn't leaving, just trying to get dry clothes for her. Her grip loosened, accepting his words, starting to feel the clamminess of her shirt and jeans. Sesshoumaru moved to the bureau, finding a long-sleeve nightshirt immediately, as well as a man's shirt large enough for himself. He gave its presence no thoughts of concern, knowing that many women bought men's shirts to sleep in for some odd, unknown reason.
Returning to Kagome, he braced her upright, calling her name, bringing her to semiconciousness. Without a second thought, the young woman, languorously, pulled off first her shirt then jeans, aided by her partner when the wet denim proved stubborn. Once she sat clad only in a matching, modest bra and panty set, Sesshoumaru, ignoring her state of undress, helped her put on the nightshirt, which just managed to cover her upper thighs, then get under the covers. She snuggled down into her warm fleece blankets, drifting back to sleep.
Golden eyes studied her until the discomfort of his own damp clothing became too persistent. He stood, shedding his outer clothes easily, then slid on the short sleeve shirt filched from her drawer. He found his mind becoming hazy, the lethargy caused by the steady tempo of rain beating the windows and the warmth of the dry shirt; given thus, he gave it no consideration before joining Kagome in her bed, under the deliciously heated blankets, quickly falling asleep.
In the rain-dimmed room two dozing bedmates turned to one another, seeking the comfort of greater warmth and touch...
Quick footfalls, light, soft...The scenery flew by in a green, shadowed blur. Strictly controlled breaths coming in soft pants, in time with each step. A flash of green and white, closely followed by a streaming, black cloud darted through the vegetation.
She had been running so long now that the pain in her side was becoming harder to ignore, but still she pressed onward; her thoughts focused on one thing, the well. Get to the well, to home, and then she could rest. Following the dictation of her mind, determined gray-blue eyes saw only the path before her. Her stride was long and sure, dodging fallen branches and trees spotted by constantly scanning eyes like a track star, her ears trained on any sounds of pursuers.
So focused on her goal was she, that she failed to see the obstacle deliberately placed in her way. And was duly stunned to find that her journey had come to an abrupt halt.
Exhausted more than she could ever immediately recall, she barely managed to brace her hands before her. What little air she contained was lost in a rush upon impact with the unforgiving soil and stones. She remained still, gasping, trying to regain control. A cool wind caressed her dewy skin, eliciting a small moan of pleasure. Brought back to herself at the sound, the dark-haired girl pushed herself up off the ground, and, bringing her legs under her, she sat to take inventory of any and all hurts, grumbling quietly to herself all the while.
After brushing the moist dirt from her hands and knees, the primary contact sites, she found only light scrapes, not deep enough to cause even miniscule beads of blood. Sighing, she twisted to see from whence she had come to see what succeeded in tripping her. Her eyes quickly focused on a pair of faintly gleaming booted-feet. Her gaze traveled up with apprehension.
The white, red, and yellow of his clothes stood out starkly against the dark forest. Long, silver hair stirred faintly in the breeze, blank golden eyes that seemed to glow in the night gazed down on her. Suffice to say, two words ran through the miko's mind, oh fuck.
She scrambled away from the taiyoukai, moving backwards until a tree blocked her way. Bored golden eyes followed her movements, watching her watch him while groping behind her to use the tree as leverage to stand.
"What do you want?" Kagome tried to keep the fear from her voice, silently berating herself for forgetting her bow and arrows in her initial panic. Hell, she suddenly realized, I forgot all of my stuff in my initial panic.
During her revelation, in which her attention wavered from the demon lord before her, said demon had moved closer. The miko's eyes widened and a startled squeak escaped her upon discovering her error. Desperate, she began to babble, trying, futilely, to distract him from her movements.
"Sesshoumaru, please, can we just go our separate ways, without any problems? I mean, InuYasha isn't around, won't be coming, which means no sword, ne?" She slid around the base of the tree, gaining a clear path at her back. "And you don't have any use for a weak ningen nor any desire to e around one longer than necessary; therefore, I'll just leave and you won't have to even tarnish your claws with my weak blood, okay? Bye now!" She took off again with renewed urgency.
She wasn't stupid, she knew he would be very displeased and, quite possibly, very annoyed with her; she knew he wouldn't just let her go. But the woman from the future was smart, as she had seen many horror films before she had turned fifteen, the commencement of her adventures, and remembered that a potential victim should never look back. No matter how tempting it was to check, to see for sure whether or not she was even being pursued. Nope, the miko thought, too smart to do that.
Which was precisely why she tripped right over her pursuer's foot, again, looking for him behind her. This was also why she found herself pretty much right where she had started: on the ground, staring up, fearfully, at the emotionless taiyoukai.
He watched her impassively, waiting for her to accept her situation. Eventually, her neck began to hurt from tilting back to look at him. She sighed softly, dropping her head forward thinking, it was worth a shot. She shifted to her knees, then crawled, slowly, backwards, brought up short by another tree; using it as a brace, the woman rose from the ground, warily peering at her...companion from time to time.
The silence continued on, the only indication he still stood there was the weight of his gaze on her bent head. She noticed the quiet around them was absolute, no sounds of the night at all, as though a predator was nearby. Baka, he is a predator.
"Where are your protectors on this moonless night?" The question was rhetorically asked in a smooth, monotonous voice.
"My protectors...? They're my friends, for your information, and I can protect myself!" Way to go, anger him some more, she thought belatedly.
"Sou desu ka." Something about that tone was different from before.
She chanced glancing at him, eyes freezing on his own and the very pointed look he gave her. The bright woman quickly realized his point. And suddenly recalled the last part of his first question, "on this moonless night." The numerous implications of his words stunned her for several beats. Did he know? She, herself, knew next to nothing about the relationship between the half-brothers, but it stood to reason that he could know about InuYasha. Would know. But this would have to wait for another time.
First thing first: getting home without further delay, without giving him a chance to grab her. Though he was the one who had retreated, this didn't mean he would give up, especially if, or when, he discovered she was on her own.
Tired beyond belief, Kagome sagged against the tree, still panting softly. She watched him, unmoving, looking at her expectantly. She vaguely recalled he had spoken during her internal situation assessment. Focusing all attention on him once more she said, "Eh, gomen, demo, what did you say?"
Without a any sign of annoyance he repeated his earlier question with a small modification.
"Ano," she began. "My friends went back to the village; they require medical attention and council." She caught a flash of confusion in his otherwise unreadable eyes at the unfamiliar word. "They were wounded in an unexpected encounter with Naraku. They went back to the village to get their wounds seen to."
"Is that not your job?" She bristled at his insinuation that that was all she was good for, seeing to the wounded.
"Look, buddy," she started to say heatedly. "If I could be helping my friends right now I would be, but circumstances have dictated differently. As it so happens, I can't go near them right now and if you know what's good for you, you would be as far from me as possible as soon as possible!" Oops, was what came to mind when she realized what she had said. "Sorry," she apologized quickly. "Please don't take that the wrong wa- No! Stay away!"
Sesshoumaru was drawing nearer, hand held tensely at his side. The dark-haired female skirted the tree at her back, matching each of his steps walking backwards.
"Now don't do anything rash," she spoke hurriedly, trying to calm him. More like trying to calm a feral beast, she thought, though, I doubt he wouldn't appreciate the comparison. She tripped again, falling hard on her butt. He drew nearer. Kagome scooted backwards, but not fast enough. Feeling the firm grip of full-blown panic, she began to chant, "Don't touch me, don't touch me, don't touch me, don't tou-"
As swift as a striking snake, the Western lord had the priestess securely by her neck. The very second he had touched her, her fear subsided. Curious at this about-face, he waited. When all she said was a mumbled 'kuso', one delicate silver eyebrow arched in query.
Her hands lifted to the one holding her neck, resting gently around his wrist. "Can't say I didn't warn you," the words came out in a singsong voice, devoid of any fear. Her eyes became smoky, heavy-lidded, seductive... Her tongue darted out to slowly, sinuously lick her lower lip.
The abrupt change in demeanor vaguely bothered Sesshoumaru, but not to the point that he would let it show. Her small hands lightly touched his wrist, one moving to his hand, the other sliding up his arm, into his sleeve. Startled, disgusted, and somewhat alarmed, he released her neck, removing his limb from her offending caress.
"Explain this behavior, miko," he demanded in a silky tone.
Eyes glazed with desire struggled to fixate on his face, rather than peruse his person. "Naraku..." she uttered. "He had gotten me again, but this time he tried to force a potion down my throat. I spat most of it out when InuYasha attacked him, though, obviously not all of it. Before he ran away he told us the potion would make me want the first person who touched me, bare skin to bare skin, that the desire would consume me and the only antidote is satisfaction given from the one who touched me."
The taiyoukai stood motionless for a moment in consideration before turning to walk away. At her indignant sputtering he spoke over his shoulder to her. "This is not my concern, ningen."
"The hell it isn't!" He stopped at her voice. "Naraku said this won't fade, that the potion would make it so that I would do anything to gain satisfaction. Anything. He had planned to make me find the last shard... But now you touched me and you'll either have to-to s-satisfy me or kill me!"
"Again, miko, this is not my concern."
"You can't just leave me like this," she wailed. "I warned you, damn it, and you still didn't listen; you should pay the price! Your honor should demand it! This is, after all, your fault." She watched him closely, seeing his agitation rising. "Sesshoumaru, please...Look, just think of it as a way to get to InuYasha. He knows what will happen, but he doesn't know with who it'll be. I was going to go home, find someone there..."
"..." By this point he had turned to study her, seeking the truth in her words. That he was actually considering it, should have had him hightailing it out of there, but he stayed where he stood.
"...He also said whoever touched me would feel something too. A compulsion to t-touch me that gets stronger over time."
"If you digested the potion, how is it a mere touch would cause a bond?" he asked in an ambiguous tone.
"I-I don't know; it's what he said," she paused. "He could be lying," she offered.
He considered this but dismissed it immediately. Her scent had been increasing in arousal from the moment he had grabbed her neck, even after he had released her. As he watched her fidget under his gaze, he felt a vague compulsion to feel her throat again, beneath his hand...
So it would seem the hanyou had, for once, not lied. The bastard.
A few translations:
shakujou: a monk's staff
yonensei: fourth year student
tansu: chest (A kitchen tansu is like a cupboard.)
zataku: low table
keyaki: expensive Japanese wood
zaisu: a chair without legs
fuzukue: low desk
kimono tansu: like an armoire
Part VIII completed: Tuesday, February 3, 2004
Part IX completed: Sunday, February 15, 2004
Part X completed: Wednesday, June 9, 2004
Parts VIII, IX, and X revision completed: Thursday, June 17, 2004