A/N: I'd like to thank all of my faithful readers/reviewers for sticking with me through my hiatus. Your messages and concern helped bring me back.


Chiyu - healing

Embracing Ice

Written By: Yabou

Edited By: Wiccan

Chapter Thirty-Six: This Is What It Takes to Break

They were arguing again. Kagome's eyes clenched shut as she attempted to ignore the sounds of raised voices and the pressure their clashing youki created in the air. Her breathing and heart rate dropped, an instinctual habit of inuyoukai that she had learned to develop over time, to make herself even less of a possible target.

Focusing on her hands, she wrung out the small cloth and exchanged it for the one on Bishou's overheated forehead. Several weeks ago, the Lady had fallen under an indeterminable illness, and each day that passed only left her already weakening body in a more deteriorated state.

"Soon, there will be nothing left of me, Little One," Bishou whispered, her dimmed golden stare settling on her caretaker.

Kagome shook her head and continued with the task of wiping down her arms and legs. "Don't say such things, Bishou. This sickness will pass, as have all the others."

"I fear it will not be so," the female inu returned. "Something grows within me, Daughter, and it's deliverance will not be kind to me. The spirits are too strong."

The sound of a bestial roar in the main room drew Kagome's attention, and she stumbled away from Bishou's pallet to find the source of the noise. Coming around the corner into the center of the den, the miko was appalled by the sight of her mate and the demon lord clawing and biting at one another in their natural forms.

"What are you doing?" Kagome shouted, rushing into the fight without a second thought. Both creatures paused, mid-attack, to stare at the tiny woman who dared to interrupt. "This is ridiculous. Have you both lost your minds?"

They glanced between one another, and a large cloud of dust swirled through the air as their bodies morphed into their humanoid state. Neither attempted to speak as Kagome continued her tirade.

"I can't believe this. Your mate, and your mother, is near death and the two of you can't put aside your petty arguments long enough to realize what's going on. Honestly, I believed that even a child would have sense enough to see what would be best for Bishou right now," she narrowed her eyes and turned swiftly on her heel, intending to return to the Lady's side.

Lord Konton growled. "Dare you insinuate that I would put anything above the value of Bishou's life?"

"Oh," Kagome seethed. "What would you call it?"

"Control your tongue, Child," the demon lord responded. "You have no right to speak to your Alpha in such a manner."

Sesshoumaru snarled at his father. "And you will not speak to her in such a manner."

"You would both do well to remember your places," Konton replied.

"Stop it," Kagome cried out. "Just stop it! Don't you hear yourselves? You sound like bickering siblings. Do you not realize-?"

"Kagome!" a female shriek echoed from the end of the hall, and the miko was racing toward the sound with two irritable dog demons on her heels.

Bursting into the room, Kagome caught sight of the pool of red soaking into the sheets surrounding the inu. Quickly, she ripped the blankets away to find the source. "Bishou," she gasped. "You're… you're pregnant?"

"O-of course," she panted, trying to ignore the shudders of pain that were reverberating through her slightly distended abdomen. "It was m-meant to be this way."

Lord Konton stooped near her face as the miko worked. "Bishou, I sensed nothing of this. Why did you not inform me of your condition?"

His mate wearily shook her head as he carefully brushed the sweaty locks of silver hair out of her face. "Nothing can be done, my love. Fate h-has b-broken my string."

"Why didn't you say anything?" Kagome sobbed. "There's so much blood."

Sesshoumaru watched the scene dazedly, unable to take in the reality of the situation at hand.

There was a scent of death in the air now, but still, Konton denied it.

Kagome bit her tongue to concentrate on the task at hand. If only there was some way to stop the bleeding, she might just have a chance.

"She will perish," Sesshoumaru finally spoke, whispering the dreaded reality even as those at her side tried, helplessly, to prevent it.

His disconnected tone gained Kagome's attention for the breadth of a second before she gritted her teeth and shoved the cloths underneath the writhing female. "Stay with me, Bishou," she pleaded. "This isn't over."

At that moment, nothing was more important than listening to her breathe. It was almost as if the world paused on its axis to mourn the inevitable loss of such a beautiful creature.

Konton lifted one of Bishou's hands from the sheets and twined it together with his own. Her grip was far weaker than he could ever recall, but it did not stop him from returning the light squeeze and scattering a row of impossibly soft licks over her face. A whimper escaped his lips when she gasped for air.

Bishou coughed loudly, choking as her lungs began to fold into themselves from lack of oxygen, and feebly nuzzled her lord's nose; she knew that she would never know a greater feeling than that which existed when she rested in his hold. To say the very least, her life had been full of love and happiness and for that she was grateful.

After all, what more could anyone have asked for?

"Sesshoumaru?" she whispered against the door, wondering if he would actually open it this time. It had been nearly four weeks since the death of Lady Bishou, and Kagome had yet to see her distant mate.

Konton had ordered that all of the former Lady's belongings be put out of sight, and the entire mountain side was bustling with activity as the daytime servants hurried to follow their master's wishes. Sesshoumaru had been no help in the matter - locking himself away from everyone to mourn his mother's death alone.

Kagome's heart clenched as she pressed her palm against the worn wood. With each day that passed, she could feel the ice slipping between them, building a barrier that she was afraid she might not be able to break.

"Sesshoumaru," she murmured once more, moving to push her ear against a gap between the planks.

There were voices rumbling inside, speaking of Bishou. Kagome frowned and listened closely. No one had made their way to the top of the mountain since the night Sesshoumaru had taken refuge there.

"Never as good,

Do you hope to be?

Ah, I see, I see!

Foolish pup,

Nothing more,

Feel our power,

We will control all that is,

Break, youkai,

What else have you but this?"

Their malicious tone sent a shiver racing down her spine as the reality of the situation set in. "Bishou," Kagome gasped. Reaching up, she screamed as the white magic burst from her fingertips and decimated the door. "Sesshoumaru!"

A whirl of spirits hovered over his nearly unconscious form, mocking what little remained of him. However, her entrance drew their attention away, and they sneered at the small human who attempted to interfere.


What hope you to accomplish here?

See how he gives himself to us,

An offering of the soul.

We will breathe,

And we will be whole."

"How did you get here?" Kagome questioned as she knelt by Sesshoumaru's side, feeling the tears well up in her eyes.

The voices laughed, deep and threatening.

"Know you nothing, Miko?

We cannot be disposed.

Our power is without equal.

We cannot be opposed."

"Bishou fought to take you to her grave, and now you're trying to defile her son? Can't you just leave us alone?" the miko argued, splaying her arms over her mate as if to shield him from their taunts.

"Thus is the power of Sight.

We hold a body until its death,

And then we take our flight.

Sesshoumaru is the heir.

It is his duty to absorb our might.

Born into this desolate servitude,

He is our Right."

Kagome growled, anger enveloping her. "I won't let you take him."

"He is no longer yours to keep.

Even as we speak,

His soul does weep.

Your bonds are strained;

Your love is weak.

He Sees Truth,

A future bleak."

"You're tricking him," she argued. "Your power is corrupted; you're only showing him what you want him to see! I won't let you do that!"

"Lies, lies, half-truths,

This they may be.

Still, it is what He,

Does choose to See."

They wound a path low in the air and brushed over his body, cackling as he writhed in pain beneath their touch.

Kagome watched in horror when they slipped beneath her fingertips and began to settle into Sesshoumaru's ravaged body. Desperately, she called out to the spirits once more. "Please, don't do this. I'll do… I'll do anything. Please, just leave him alone."

"Anything," they purred, intrigued by the offer at hand.

"What a great promise you lay in our grasp.

Tell us, Miko,

Can you complete such a task?"

"Anything," Kagome gritted her teeth and wound her arms tighter around her unconscious mate.

"Would you…

Offer your soul?

One for another,

Would you take his role?"

Biting back the screams she felt rising as their powers washed over her own, Kagome let the world slip away, whispering her answer to their greedy delight. "Yes, take me. You can have me. Just leave Sesshoumaru alone."

"Lady Kagome," a soft voice whispered, helping Kagome journey through the final few layers of haziness that had settled over her form and return to the land of awareness. "Lady Kagome, how do you feel?"

Kagome groaned as the pain sprung from her limbs. "W-where am I?"

"You are in the healing rooms, my lady," the woman answered, touching a cold rag to her forehead.

"Who are you?" the miko asked, not recognizing the female.

Waiting for the demonic prince's mate to open her eyes, she greeted Kagome with a tentative smile. "I am Chiyu, my lady. I was brought here to care for your body when you were invaded by the spirits."

"Chiyu," Kagome repeated the name. Allowing her eyes to fall shut once more, she focused on the dull thrum of power rolling just beneath her skin. She could feel the familiar coil of her own ki threading through her stomach and winding its way into her veins, but something new was layered over it - something malevolent - barely contained by her flesh. "What have you done to the phantoms?"

"It is an ancient art practiced by my family," Chiyu explained while she continued to run a cool cloth over Kagome's face, arms, and legs. "Though I possess no spiritual power of my own, I am able to harness that of others through ink."

"Ink," Kagome frowned, still struggling to process the lights and sounds.

"I was able to bind the demons beneath your skin with my ink. Never before has my art been performed on flesh, but I am glad to see that you have finally awakened."

"Girl," Sesshoumaru's rumbling baritone sounded from the doorway. "You will leave us."

"Sesshoumaru?" Kagome questioned, watching Chiyu obediently lower her gaze and move to wait in the hall. "I'm so glad you're all right."

The youkai prince stood before her in complete silence.

"Sesshoumaru," she repeated his name, lifting her hand to beckon him forward, but he remained still. "I wish for a kiss, my mate."

"What were you thinking, Kagome?" the words were harsh and rough against his tongue. "Did you wish to die? Because, surely, there are better ways than at the hands of my demons."

"Of course not," Kagome sharply retorted. "I didn't want to see you die, idiot. What were you thinking - taking those things on alone? You knew you couldn't handle them!"

"I did what I felt I must," he returned, his tone cold and even. "It was my decision to make, Kagome. You had no right to interfere. It was not your place."

"Not my place? Not my place?" Kagome gave a harsh laugh. "This is ridiculous, Sesshoumaru. I did it because I love you. I couldn't just wait idly by and watch you lead yourself to the slaughter."

Sesshoumaru's hands unconsciously clenched at his side. Looking around the room, he caught sight of the mirrored disc on a nearby table and threw it into her lap. Walking to the door, he paused in the entry way and spoke to her without turning. "It was not and is not your place to carry my burdens, Kagome, and now you must look upon the consequences of your unnecessary actions."

Kagome watched him leave the room, disbelief and anger in her features. Clutching the mirror, she shifted her gaze and was shocked by her own appearance. Hands painted with symbols she couldn't recognize turned white as her grip tightened. 'My face… my body…'

Her skin was pallid, and the normally vibrant features of her face seemed to be sunken from weight loss and strain. However, it was the dark markings that drew her attention the most. Her hairline was edged with a thin row of tattoos that disappeared beneath thick ebony waves and repeated along her fingers, wrists, and ankles. Her sleeping gown and Chiyu's reappearance brought her inspection to a halt.

"My lady," Chiyu spoke.

"Kagome," the miko whispered, turning the mirror away and laying it on the ground beside her futon. "My name is Kagome."

The shy woman turned her face away. "I came to tell you that a bath has been readied in the next room."

"Thank you," Kagome responded. Allowing Chiyu to assist her, she rose from the pallet and struggled to remain on her feet. Her mind centered on her demon mate, flitting with views of her own face and hands covered in foreign symbols. 'What did I do wrong? Why was Sesshoumaru so angry?'

"Chiyu," the miko spoke up once more when she was soaking in the tub and watching the paint on her body as it refused to fade. "When will these come off?"

"They will not," her quiet voice caused Kagome to swallow convulsively.

Kagome sighed. 'Is he upset because of the way I look now? Can Sesshoumaru not accept this change in me? Surely, this can't be…'