Sango stared, surprised at Inuyasha. She didn't know what to think. The eldest son of the kingdom was returning after he had abandoned them all to rot away in the cold nothingness of the Eternal Snow.
Was he expecting to receive the crown of king now that the kingdom attained the possibility of prosperity? She most certainly hoped not. He definitely didn't deserve such a title after he had given up all hope on them. Magenta eyes pinned the hanyou prince seriously, "Are you sure?"
Inuyasha didn't even blink, "Positive."
"And what do you suggest we do?" she asked calmly.
"Get my mother and all of the castle servants into the throne room." He instructed, never taking his golden eyes off the spot on the horizon. "He's gonna want to talk to her."
Sango nodded, acknowledging her orders, and ushered Shippou to help her with her task as she grabbed Kagome's hand and dragged her back into the castle since she wasn't willing to do so herself, being too distracted by the scenery. Kagome gave a little grunt of protest but quickly silenced herself when Sango made no indication of leaving her to admire the beauty surrounding the castle.
"What's happening?" the blue-eyed girl questioned, not having been paying attention to the conversation.
"Sesshoumaru is returning."
"And who is that?"
Sango dragged Kagome up another flight of stairs before answering, "Inuyasha's older brother."
Kagome was suddenly surprised. "Brother?" her eyes widened, "I didn't know he had a brother."
"He left a few years ago," Sango informed, her voice creeping into something vaguely sounding like anger. "He grew tired of the snow and got really annoyed by Kouriya's lack of power so he traveled to his mother's kingdom."
"Mother's kingdom? You mean Queen Izayoi's home?"
Sango shook her head in response, still padding towards the topmost floor to inform the queen, "No. Unlike Inuyasha, Sesshoumaru is a full demon."
It didn't take long for Kagome to put two and two together to figure out the rest.
"I see," she muttered as Sango let her hand go and dashed up the rest of the steps to the top floor. "What should I do?" Kagome called after her.
"Go find Miroku and tell him to gather all of the other servants in the throne room," she instructed, turning the corner and cutting off any further instruction, leaving Kagome to do her bidding.
"Is that everyone?" the black haired boy doubled over, panting from running around, gathering anyone and everyone he could find.
"I think so," Kagome answered as she ushered even more people in, lining them up to stand along the edges of the expansive room. "Did you get Lady Sumiko?"
"Yeah," Miroku straightened himself, sighing, "She should be down in a minute."
And just as he mentioned it, the prim and proper princess with her otherwise flawless appearance (if not for her constant worrying over her means of returning home) rounded the corner and approached the large doors. Her eyes fleetingly met with Kagome, silently asking her if everything was alright. The blue eyes that she found smiled at her, gently reassuring her as she stepped into the large room and took her place.
The two were just ushering the queen and Sango in when they felt a small tremor shake the castle from the outside. No matter how they turned the possibilities in their heads, it could not have been a good sign.
The two servants that had stationed themselves in front of the doors oversaw the last few of their fellow workers enter before they lugged their respective doors behind them, shutting everyone inside. It seemed pointless that the doors be shut when they all knew that two more people were coming, but Queen Izayoi had ordered it as precaution in case her son lost is his control inside the castle.
Kagome and Miroku took their places beside Sango, stationing themselves close to the queen in case she was in need of anything.
Another soft tremor shook the castle, interrupting the momentary peace among the castle's inhabitants. Kagome looked around, feeling caged in, as if there was mortal danger lurking just outside the walls of the throne. There might as well have been.
Shippou hopped up and perched himself on his former caretaker's shoulder. "Are you okay?" he asked, taking note of her worried look.
Kagome nodded and plastered a smile on her face, "Yes, I'm fi-"
A sound akin to an explosion sliced through the air, drawing the attention of everyone in the room to the two men standing at its entrance. The double doors swung open with such ferocity that they bounced back as they hit the stone walls. Various servants winced as the sudden explosion of sound disturbed the silence they were relishing in for possibly the last time for a long while.
The blue-eyed girl observed Sumiko's stiff posture as her face visibly displayed frustrated anxiety; probably mulling over the fact that she wasn't supposed to be in Koriya anymore. The queen looked just as anxious as she sat herself in her place. If she had not taken that long, deep breath before she lowered herself she would have completed the disguise of absolute calm. Miroku and Sango just looked peeved. Shippou took sanctuary in his perch's hair.
Now Kagome felt out of place. Everyone in this room was having some kind of negative reaction towards the older brother's arrival except for her. The only reaction she had was curiosity as to see how this Sesshoumaru looked like.
Craning her neck to look around Miroku, she spotted Inuyasha, his face contorted into a relatively quiet rage.
Kagome looked surprised. That was a first. Maybe he had already done all of his shouting and raging when his brother arrived. She rolled her eyes at the image of Inuyasha on a tantrum, that would explain the tremors.
As the two men trudged down the carpet leading to the throne where the queen sat, she finally spotted the infamous Sesshoumaru.
The very sight of him caused her to freeze in her spot. The piercing gold eyes and long, flowing, silver hair was obviously in relation to Inuyasha's colorings, but there was something familiar about this one. It was not that it reminded her of Inuyasha, but of something else.
There was an awe of silence as the two youkai of nobility strode down the middle of the room to approach the now calm queen. Kagome spotted some of the female youkai servants pushing through the crowd to see their missed eye candy again. She quietly squelched the urge to roll her eyes. This was no time for fangirling, this was serious.
"Sesshoumaru," the queen acknowledged softly. Her eyes were surprisingly soft as she gazed upon the older youkai before her, as if she were looking at her own son. Her real son took her spot beside her seat, ready to jump in if Sesshoumaru tried to pull anything.
"Izayoi…" The older youkai reflected her. Those golden eyes were hard and steady, showing that he did not see her as a mother, but respected her, nonetheless, as the rightful queen of Koriya.
"He can't be so bad…" Kagome murmured under he breath.
Shippou, apparently, was the only one who heard as he poked his head out of her dark locks. "Everyone here is just biased because he left."
Kagome raised an eyebrow at the kit's bitterless tone, "And you're not?"
"I didn't think he was doing any good anyway," Shippou declared nonchalantly, but quiet enough so that he would not receive angry glares from the surrounding servants.
"I believe you have returned for a reason," Izayoi spoke with the voice of a ruler but with a touch of motherly warmth.
"There was a rumor that my old home's cursed blizzard had finally stopped," Sesshoumaru's eyes never left the queen. "I came in order to confirm it."
"And as you can see your sources were correct."
"Indeed," The elegant, white-haired prince replied in his monotonous, yet melodic voice. "Which is why I have also come here with a proposition."
Surprise covered Izayoi's face as the subject matter suddenly took a turn. "Proposition?"
"Yes," he answered. "As you know, years ago I left for my mother's kingdom because she called me. When I arrived I did not expect to receive the crown so easily, but it was done, and it was impossible to leave as easily as I had come."
A murmur flooded the crowd of servants in the room. They had, apparently, not known the reason for their prince's sudden departure.
"And now that Kouriya is no longer bordered off by the snow, many countries will take the chance to expand their territory by taking this land."
Izayoi looked uncomfortable, "I have acknowledged that possibility."
"In order to do this many countries will not hesitate to initiate a violent overthrow."
The queen nodded grimly.
"That is why I have come to you to initiate a treaty."
The whole room went silent, more so than before. Kagome vaguely noted that she could not hear a single breath in the room. They were all too shocked and surprised to breathe.
"There is already a treaty between your country and this one. That was finalized when your father and mother were married," Izayoi declared.
"It seems that it was dropped by the former king when the country showed no promise."
Izayoi's eyes lingered to the ground with a hard stare. She did not know where her sudden reluctance came from but she quickly shoved the emotion to the back of her mind and placed a warm smile upon her lips. There did not seem to be any bad side to this agreement. "What are your terms?" She questioned. This treaty could not hold benefit for Kouriya only.
"We will be sending ready residents to settle here as well as cultivate the land to its full potential. As for governing and your own security, you are free to rule as you wish."
The queen's eyes widened. "I'm surprised. Is that all?"
"Yes," Sesshoumaru nodded, "It seems that my mother wishes to make this place a protectorate to the Kouryo kingdom. However, she has sent me here to see if the land shows any worth promise, so I will be required to stay until it is deemed so."
Izayoi nodded, the motherly smile lighting up her face, "Very well then, we will have your room prepared for you."
The older youkai bowed slightly in response and turned in his spot to take his leave. The crowd lined up against the castle stone walls hushed as they noticed stern, golden eyes scanning the lining of people.
Kagome heard many of the servant girls around her swoon and sigh as his and their own eyes met. She felt like gagging at their childish reactions. And she was just about act upon her reaction when her own blue eyes clashed with that particular shade of gold.
He had stopped scanning, everyone had noticed. It took Kagome a while to register the faint surprise that barely tinted his features as he slowly approached her. Shippou, also noticing Sesshoumaru's advancement, retreated from his perch on his nanny's shoulder and scrambled behind Miroku's leg.
The girl, not knowing what to do, simply kept looking forward, pretending she didn't notice the elder prince's movement. Until her vision was blocked by said prince. Her conscience kept telling her to ignore him and not look directly at his face, but curiosity and fear got the better of her as she slowly tilted her head up to look directly at Sesshoumaru's passive face.
It was silent for a beat as confusion plagued the servants of the castle.
"I see you made it through the snow."
Kagome's blue eyes widened significantly at his statement. She opened her mouth to say something but found she had nothing to say. When she started feeling silly for imitating the motions of a fish she managed to squeak, "I'm sorry?"
The passiveness on Sesshoumaru's face did not falter as he continued to stare down the new servant girl. Kagome could no longer break the exchange and just when she felt she was about to crack the prince moved on towards the door, leaving her in her confusion.
A gentle hand placed itself on her shoulder and Kagome turned around to meet the worried, magenta eyes of her best friend. Sango, as well as Miroku, was just as confused as she was.
The small kitsune perched himself on Kagome's other shoulder. "Have you met Sesshoumaru before?" he asked quizzically with wide, curious eyes.
"I don't know," Kagome replied calmly as her hand went her forehead in thought. "I might have before, but I don't remember it."
Another dull roar of gossip flooded the crowd servants, having not missed the brief exchange between the noble youkai and the lowly servant. If Kagome had taken the time to observe the crowd more carefully she would have noticed her younger prince's curious eyes on her too.
As Sesshoumaru approached the large wooden doors of the hall the queen quickly ordered, "Sango, please show Sesshoumaru to his room." Queen Izayoi smiled nervously, knowing that her hand servant would not be happy with the request.
Sango expectedly let out a small sigh as she stepped forward to escort the noble youkai away. They left without a word and the hall erupted into deafening chatter.
"Sango," the elder youkai noble snapped the servant girl out of her annoyed silence as he led the way to the top floor. It had been years since he last stepped foot into the castle but everything was just the same.
Exactly what he wanted to get away from… until now.
"Yes," Sango shuddered before continuing, "my lord?" He did not deserve that title anymore.
"What can you tell me about the girl?"
Sango couldn't really say she was surprised, she had been hoping to ask him about their previous moment. "Kagome?"
"Is that her name?" Sesshoumaru's passive face did not flinch.
"She came to the castle roughly a month ago. Trudged out into the snow and fainted not too far from the castle." Sango explained, gauging the youkai's reaction. There was none. "When she woke up we found that she forgot everything."
The white haired man reached the door of his room and halted. "I see," he muttered, and gracefully slipped into his room, leaving Sango alone in the hall.
If there was one thing Kagome could say about the ill-rumored Sesshoumaru it was that he was very skilled in the act of aversion. As in every time she attempted to find him, he always slipped right through her fingers, promptly avoiding the questions that had been milling around the castle about his encounter with her.
Questions she hoped he could answer.
Kagome padded along the hallway, tracing the youkai's rumored path through the castle. For the past few weeks she had been hoping to demand some answers from him, clinging to the wish that he might hold some information about her past. The problem with her glimpses of memory were starting to annoy her to no end. Perhaps the mysterious prince would be able to remedy that.
A smile touched her lips. She would no longer have to wonder what her former life was like. Sango and Miroku constantly asked her if she was okay with her lack of identity, but Kagome always reassured them that she was fine.
However, that didn't mean that she wasn't curious.
She ducked into the stairwell and ran into the closest room. "Has Sesshoumaru been here?" The servants inside didn't even look up, only shaking their heads to the question they had heard out of the girl for over a week.
Kagome quickly muttered her thanks and walked out, ceasing her rush to catch her breath. Running around the entire castle searching for a youkai capable of running at high speeds was tough.
A tick of annoyance bit at her, she thought after the couple of weeks that Sesshoumaru had resided in the castle she would eventually run into him. She honestly didn't think he would go out of his way to avoid her. Asking Inuyasha hadn't been much help either since he only scoffed at the mere mention of his brother, much to Kagome's agitation.
She had been hoping to avoid this, but it was her last resort.
With that thought in mind Kagome ran towards the one place she knew she could find it in her to do anything.
"A teleportation spell?" Kaede asked as she sat up in her bed, nonplussed by Kagome's inquiry. Word about Kagome's search was widespread through the castle; the only person who didn't seem affected by her questions was Sesshoumaru.
The blue-eyed girl nodded silently, now she felt disgustingly desperate.
Kaede sighed, "I guess now that the storm has stopped there hasn't been much pressure to learn the spell, has there?"
"I'm still studying, but since Sumiko can head home without my help I thought I should concentrate more on your medicine." Kagome shoveled out an excuse. She was studying her miko spells, just skipping over the more complicated ones.
The old miko managed a small smile before looking around the room, more specifically at the shelves of jars lining her room. "It looks like I'm missing flash weed." She muttered and closed her eyes in thought. Turning her eyes on her pupil she instructed, "There are pink weeds growing around the edge of the castle. If you want to make a teleportation potion, you'll need that."
A bright smile erupted on the girl's face as she hugged her teacher and rushed out of the room to do what she was told.
The splitting sounds of wood against wood pierced through the air of Kouriya. It had been so long since Inuyasha had to clamp his ears down against the loud racket of dueling. His golden eyes narrowed at Miroku as he watched him across his sword. The man looked just as concentrated as they circled each other off.
The warm sun beat down on them, their only audience and obstacle. The intense change in temperature was astounding. The freezing temperatures that they were used to now had to stand up against the blazing summer heat. It was almost unbearable.
And that was precisely why the boys were forced to duel in skins.
Which was also why Kagome let out a squeal of embarrassment and turned away upon finding them.
Inuyasha watched as Miroku set down his bokken, making a show of letting his guard down to signal for a break. A silly smile broke out on Miroku's features in reaction to Kagome's innocent embarrassment. The hanyou turned around too, bearing witness to the girl's silliness.
He couldn't help the chuckle that bubbled out of him.
Kagome turned on them, holding one hand over her eyes and peaking through the cracks. The blush that stained her cheeks was absolutely adorable.
"What's this Kagome? Have you never seen a man shirtless before?" Miroku teased, earning a good whack on the head from Inuyasha.
Stubbornly, Kagome ripped her hand away from her vision and glared at the dark haired boy, placing her hands on her hips. "I believe the key word is 'man.' I've seen boys without shirts, I have yet to see a man as such," she threw back at him.
Blue eyes flickered to meet with golden ones and tempted her to take those words back. What she had seen that one night after she read the mysterious diary definitely did not support her claim.
"Aw, I'm hurt Kagome," Miroku feigned a wounded look but then quickly recovered. "So what are you out here for?" he questioned, noticing Kagome's searching gaze.
"Kaede's out of flash weed and I need to find Sesshoumaru," she replied, earning an exaggerated 'keh' from Inuyasha.
"Why are you trying so hard to find him? Whatever it is, he's not worth anyone's time." The hanyou spat.
Kagome narrowed her gaze at him, "He knows something about my arrival here, I just know it," she reasoned as she knelt down close to the castle wall, eyeing the various cracks in the dirt for pink weed.
"Flash weed, huh?" Miroku, looked around in wonder, "I think I saw some over here." The boy ran off, intent on finding the medicinal plant that he didn't wait for Inuyasha or Kagome to follow him.
The other two stayed behind, a warm breeze encircling them in the gift of daylight. A smile etched itself on Inuyasha's face. Kagome took notice and mirrored him, then remembered something important.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "before I forget…" she produced a small envelope from her pocket and handed it to the hanyou, "Sumiko wanted me to give you this." Despite the switch in positions between her and Miroku, Sumiko still found it necessary to hand her letters directly to Kagome.
Inuyasha's golden eyes relinquished their piece as they directed its attention to the envelope Kagome was holding out to him. He almost sneered, Kagome noticed.
"She's not that bad you know," she reasoned, finding it necessary that Inuyasha developed at least a tolerance for this girl. Even though something in her head was bothering her not to support the couple for reasons she couldn't quite identify.
When Inuyasha reluctantly took the letter from her hands, a freezing shiver ran down Kagome's spine. Her eyes jolted with awareness as she whipped her head around. Someone was watching her.
She stared across the blooming field, her eyes wide from surprise.
There a couple of feet from her stood a lady, her face cast in shadows, but even though it wasn't visible Kagome could tell that her dark-eyed glare was something she couldn't even fathom.
Dark hair rolled along the wind as her painted lips turned into a frown. Her presence was enough to evoke fear in the pit of Kagome's fiery soul. A pale hand reached out to her as her mouth moved voicelessly. Her own eyes grew heavy as if a wave of drowsiness suddenly washed over her. Her knees started to cave in as her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. One single name came into Kagome's head and rolled off her tongue.
"Kikyou?" she whispered. When she blinked the woman disappeared, a pair of strong arms wrapped around her waist as she passed out.
I felt like writing today, so I finished up this chapter at last! So sorry for the delay, but my writing mood has been hitting me full blast for a while and now was the only time that I could find time to write.
Now that that one's over, I'm starting to get the feeling that the next time I write for any fanfic will be around the time for graduation… sorry!
Hope you guys enjoyed it!