A/N: Enjoy some Kouga spotlight in this chapter! I apologize for the delay for I have been traveling lately.
Promises Under the Moon: Chapter Nine
"I don't see why we can't just stay in a hotel," Shippo complained. "We've been traveling all day, by foot I might add, when there are perfectly capable off road SUVs we could have utilized. Even using the JR train system would have saved us half a day's travel! Did I question you then? No. But when it comes between choosing a bed with fresh linen, internet, and HDTV versus sleeping under a big tree in a damp forest with mosquitoes and spiders you have got to be kidding me! This is the twenty-first century not the Feudal Era! Backpackers staying in hostels have better sleeping conditions!"
"Calm yourself, Shippo. Does this not remind you of old times?" Kouga asked stretching his arms wide and grinning from ear to ear. "Why would you want to ride in a vehicle that pollutes the earth when you can enjoy the fresh breeze across your face going on foot?"
"I can roll down the window if I want a fresh breeze and we could use one of those energy efficient hybrids. Don't you have a private helicopter we could have used, Sesshoumaru?"
"You are to refer to me as Lord Sesshoumaru."
"Inuyasha never called you that. The only one that ever called you that was Miroku. And that was because he tried to be polite to make up for his frequent perversions. It's not that I don't respect you, but seriously you're not my king."
Sesshoumaru ran his palm over his forehead. "This might be hard for you to believe, but the world consists of more individuals than just your shard-hunting companions. And the reason we're walking is that we're tracking. While the nose of a kitsune is inferior to both that of an inu and a wolf it's not completely useless. And unfortunately, you've been Americanized by the centuries you spent abroad so fail to recognize the polite respect of the Japanese culture."
"Don't forget I was an orphan and had no parental figures to learn from." Shippo cast a quick look toward Kouga only to see the wolf king growing irritated so he shifted his attention back to Sesshoumaru. " Can we at least stay the night at the hotel?"
"If we stay tonight at a hotel will you not pester us about it for the rest of the search?" Kouga asked in annoyance growing tired of Shippo's blathering and a bit upset by his off-handed comment about having no parental figure. Who raised him after Kagome went back to her time? It was him! He did! He cracked his knuckles in an attempt to calm his ire.
Shippo rubbed his chin in consideration. "Deal. Thanks pa!"
Kouga shook his head, ire lost as the still whimsical kitsune became distracted by the idea of a hotel. His parental outburst calmed Kouga's nerves and he knew he was over-reacting to Shippo's bluff to Sesshoumaru. It may have taken half a millennia but he didn't always rush into things when his pride was affected. Watching Inuyasha make that mistake countless times certainly served as a deterrent, but as leader of the wolves he learned the value of patience and an even-temperament.
Sesshoumaru sniffed the air. "Are you expecting anyone?" he asked Kouga.
"No, it was a simple mission," Kouga answered turning around in the direction the familiar smell was coming. He couldn't pinpoint the individual but he recognized the smell enough to know it belonged to one from his pack. It could only mean bad news if a messenger was tracking him down when he specifically told Ginta and Hakkaku--who he left in charge--that he didn't want to be bothered.
A small, red wolf appeared through the brush at a quick pace before coming to a halt at a respectful distance from Kouga. She dipped her head low in a sign of respect before she started yipping the purpose for her visit.
"Do you understand it?" Sesshoumaru asked quietly to Shippo.
Shippo shrugged. "I never stick around for a long enough amount of time to pick up on the wolf lingo," he whispered back. He narrowed his green eyes in suspicion. "You understand though, don't you?"
"I suppose that would support your earlier claim of no parental figure. How can one be taught if he is always running away. And yes, I understand somewhat, but it's a very crude dialect."
Kouga placed his hand upon the crown of the wolf's head and it quieted immediately. "She says that there has been a breach in the treaty that's protected our lands for the last four-hundred years. A creature by the name of Darcia and wears feathers is attempting to illegally harvest the forest. It's unlikely that he'll find Paradise in his endeavors if he's put to a stop promptly by the authorities."
"Are you referring to the human authorities?" Sesshoumaru asked.
"It is their side of the border," Kouga said.
"Are you really willing to leave the safety of both our lands in the hands of humans that don't even know why the treaty exists? The mind of humans are forgetful. Do you remember during the warring period when the ninjas utilized the old written language of Japan, but the rest of the country had completely forgotten that form of communication? You would trust those same people? Even the serious businessmen of Japan can be seeing with little teddybears hanging from their cellular phones. It's embarassing."
"I thought I saw that you had the sign of the Leaf Village from Naruto hanging off yours, Lord Sesshoumaru," Shippo muttered sarcastically.
"I have a more pressing issue," Kouga ground out squashing down the amusement he felt at Shippo's comment. The wolf ducked away from him in anticipation of his frustration.
"Shippo will find Kagome--we both know he is equally determined to find her as you though for different reasons. You and I will stop this Darcia as it is our duty as leader of our respective people. I have many political connections in my Western Lands and will be able to cease this destruction much more efficiently, but I need your presence to add weight to my requests."
"Political connections? You mean your human puppets?" Shippo asked. Sesshoumaru merely arched an eyebrow and looked down at him. "Fine, you two go and save Paradise. There will be no point in finding Kagome if we have no home to return her. Kouga, you know I won't fail in finding her for you."
Kouga folded his arms over his chest and looked away with his jaw clenched tight and the muscle in his cheek twitching. "That's not what I want to do, but being leader means you have to do things you don't want." He reached down and rubbed the wolf's crown once more and it relaxed. He turned toward Shippo. "I leave this matter in your hands, son. Don't disappoint."
"Get over it, Kouga. You're not the only one that wants to see Kagome again."
Shippo and Kouga both stared at Sesshoumaru for his casual and blunt statement. The demon lord merely shrugged to their silent shock.
"Don't worry about it, Kouga. I won't let you down," Shippo said grabbing hold of Kouga's upper arm and offering an encouraging smile. "Go save the forest and we'll be there before you know it! And you know Kagome likes parties, so I'd recommend having a big celebration for her arrival. Maybe put Ayame in charge if she's not too busy with her new liter of cubs."
Kouga and Sesshoumaru parted ways from Shippo and traveled at a rapid pace that would have registered as a blur and rush of wind to any human observer. While Sesshoumaru retained the ability to transform himself into a red orb and move at an even greater speed he had refrained from utilizing that power for over five hundred years. Neither did he transform into his great dog-beast form since he had been gifted with the regeneration of his arm shortly before the defeat of Naraku.
Kouga never asked Sesshoumaru why he didn't utilize his powers to his fully capability, but he had a feeling he understood the reasoning. Power had led to madness. Even the calm and generally well-composed Sesshoumaru had been corrupted by a greed to prove himself the greatest warrior--superior to his father. While Naraku was responsible for a great deal of horrible deeds, he was also responsible for bringing together many allies in the quest for his destruction.
At the time of Naraku Kouga and Sesshoumaru were both in the search for more power. Kouga found his in the shattered remnants of the jewel that enhanced his ability and Sesshoumaru sought acquiring his father's sword that was in the care of his younger brother. Both tools for power belonged to someone else, but that hadn't stopped them. Neither Kouga nor Sesshoumaru were evil, but they had certainly been the causing force for many acts of violence in their respective quests.
Had it not been for the destructive force of Naraku they'd have continued their selfish goals instead of coming together for the common good.
"Why do you look to be thinking so hard?" Sesshoumaru demanded casting the distracted wolf king a glance.
"I'm just reflecting on our friendship."
Sesshoumaru grunted but didn't deny the friendship.
"You don't really have a one of those cell phone strap charms, do you?"
"I said that important Japanese businessmen have them." He gave Kouga a baleful glare. "I am an important Japanese businessman."
Kouga snickered, but refrained from any further comments. He focused on the goal of this Darcia figure. Why should one would choose this moment of time to try and cause destruction to the protected forests was beyond him. Aside from being illegal it didn't make sense. The trees couldn't be sold for lumber because the authorities would catch on before the timber could leave the forest grounds. It had to be some sort of vendetta--but frankly that didn't make sense. Vendetta against who?
"Do you know anything about this Darcia man?"
"My people are working on it right now." Sesshoumaru pulled out his cellular phone--confirming his Leaf Ninja strap. "His wife is in a coma and he's been unable to find a means to awaken her after consulting many medical professionals."
"Fantastic. We're dealing with a desperate man who has lost all hope."
"The cornered beast is most dangerous."
Quent Yaiden--the sheriff of Kyrios--sat in a local tavern in the nearby town he was passing through. They only allowed Blue in when he told them she was his seeing eye dog. He explained that he wasn't totally blind, but simply had no depth perception. The owner looked skeptical but seemed to deem arguing too much trouble especially when he was dealing with a local sheriff.
Blue sat at his feet while he worked on his third bottle of beer. He wasn't far from Kyrios and a few of the patrons recognized him as sheriff. It would have been fine, except they'd next ask him about his family, and then he'd drink another beer. His wife and child had been killed years ago and it wasn't until he had lost her temporarily that he realized that Blue was now his only family. He didn't want to lose her and he recognized that she was half-wolf so they couldn't be all bad. It was foolish of him to hunt down the endangered wolf species because of the acts of a few. If humanity was judged by the same standard there would be no humans left based on the actions of a few psychopaths.
There was a table not far from him where a pair of men were talking about their latest assignment by a Lord Darcia. They were on the hunt for a specific wolf pack that consisted of four wolves with colors ranging from white, black, red, and light brown. This pack was in the company of a young woman. And if they tracked and terminated the group they were promised great financial reward.
Blue looked up at him with pleading eyes. She too had heard the conversation. There was little doubt that it was the same pack they'd had dealings with in the past. Since voluntarily returning back to him, Blue had been unable to take a human form with her wolf powers and was sole in the form of a dog, but they didn't need verbal communication to know what the other was thinking. Yaiden knew the pack was Hige's and he knew of Blue's feelings for the wolf.
And he'd do anything to help his family. The two men he'd overheard soon vacated their table and left the tavern.
He didn't finish his third beer. He paid his tab and left a generous tip for the owner's patience regarding Blue and headed outside to follow the pair. He had a debt to pay to those wolves that kept his Blue alive when he couldn't protect her.