- - -
God, it was hot.
Sweat ran down the bend of her spine, collecting in the curve of her back, soaking her skin. Her hair stuck together and clung to the back of her neck; the folds of her clothes felt too heavy - the fabric, too thick. She wanted to shred them, expose her skin, bare her pale bones to the air... but that wouldn't have helped in the slightest. The thick, black curtain night provided did nothing to bring down the temperature.
It was an unnaturally warm summer.
The heat went to men's heads. It was like blood lust, seeping into them, pulling the drapes together between their actions and rational thought. It choked her like a pillow over her face - it got into her lungs and sapped her strength and she couldn't breathe.
She coated a hand in ice and pressed it to the back of her neck. It melted on contact and slid down between her shoulder blades but did little to soothe her.
Abusing your powers, Touran? said a snide, teasing voice. She glanced down at see none other than Karan and, with her, Shuuran. They were making rounds through the camp, whipping themselves into an excitement. As she studied them, backs straight and fingers twitching in anticipation, she realized her siblings were alike: he was male, so these things went without saying, and her little sister was in love with the heat. They were pacing the area, waiting for the sun to raise so they would march to war. Shuuran and Karan shared something she could never intrude on, and she didn't know whether to feel relieved or sadden by her exclusion. She smiled at them without humor, imagining them this time tomorrow, and they moved on to drink and toast victory.
The light from the campfire set an unusual orange glow over her usually blue features, distorting them and making her look almost sickly. More fires were further down the hill, dotting the dark stretches of grass with pinpricks of light. The whole of the Hyounekozoku army was there, waiting impatiently for bloodshed. Their compounding presence made her feel claustrophobic and knew - knew - she was slowly suffocating to death.
She turned her head to the side, immediately recognizing the girl that had snuck up on her.
The girl clung to her, slipping her arm directly underneath Touran's breasts, gripping her shoulder with both hands and burying her head in her shoulder. It was reminiscent of the way they would cling to each other when they were still little girls, and she could have laughed at the show of naivete before a battle if her throat weren't constricted. Shunran was too warm and too close, and Touran wanted to push her off but didn't.
Sometimes Shunran amused her. She was an illusion herself; small and adorable with a smile that made you want to protect her, but you could no sooner turn your back on her than feel her claws in it. Her face the picture of innocence. That was Shunran's true deception.
How long will it take Inu no Taishou to find us? she whispered.
Soon, Touran thought. They had invaded his territory and brought a war to his doorstep. War was quite unavoidable.
This land hadn't been his in the first place, their father had said. That wasn't to say it had ever belonged to the Hyounekozoku, but Inu no Taishou had taken it from someone. Were they not entitled to try the same?
I do not know.Do you think he'll have his son with him?
Hyounekozoku no Oyakata-sama had told his four children to deal with the blunt of the attack. He, and he alone, would have the pleasure of slaying Inu no Taishou.
Excuse me, she choked, and got up and fled the constricting embrace.
Her brother and sisters, she thought. They weren't full-blooded siblings; each of them had a different mother. Shortly after her birth her father had decided he didn't want to wait the unusually long gestation period neko youkai required another three times. He had bought three children off of a few elemental youkai, women who were willing to sell their flesh for some obscure personal gain, if only bragging rights.
She didn't hate them, but she really didn't love them, either. It was a fondness, twisted into a forced devotion by proximity and need. Did she think they would win this fight?... No. She didn't believe in her father's ideals either, but she would spend the rest of her life fighting for them. It was like this big, horrible joke, and she was the only one laughing. She was the only one losing her mind.
The warriors were farther away but still on her mind, sweating and stinking and ignorant of the fact that their lord's eldest heir was oh-so-slowly going mad.
She didn't hate them. The problem, she realized, was that she found them horribly ugly.
Sesshoumaru wasn't ugly. With his cascade of blue-white hair and yellow eyes, she felt there was no one more beautiful. He didn't sweat and he never smelled, no matter how long or how hard he pushed himself. He was all frosty exterior; a cool, calculating face and underneath it a heart of ice.
In a different time, under different circumstances, she thought she could have loved him. He was cold, he was cruel - he fascinated her. She admired his power, his control, his stamina - especially his stamina.
Less than a year ago she could remember dry kisses along her neck and wet ones down her navel. Less than a year ago she was in a crushing grip, engaging in the rough rock and tumble of two impulsive adolescents. Freezing hands and tangled hair were the first things that always came to mind, and she weaved among the campfires thoughtlessly. Less than a year ago, and then her father began amassing an army and it was over.
She didn't want Sesshoumaru to be in the fight. She didn't want to see her means of relief from the heat in him. She wanted to picture her family's enemy, not a former lover. And she knew she would, in time.
Touran wasn't going to die tomorrow, nor the next day. They were only going to meet the first wave of youkai; mutts and wild mountain dogs. She had trained too hard and too long, and she was well aware that her power was outside the scope of the average youkai's. But not his.
Given the chance, she wondered, would he kill her?
Of course he would. Sesshoumaru was not sentimental. His hands - horrible, wonderful things - would slice through her, poison her, melt her away.
She could already feel the heat compress her, stealing her breath away. Maybe one day she could really feel as though it were over. Until then, she wasn't going to let herself subscribe to the heat - even when she wanted nothing more than to freeze to death.