((LEGAL STUFF: Inuyasha and Co. are property of the sole ownership of the wise, witty, and wonderful Rumiko Takahashi! I am not making any profit whatsoever except my own enjoyment in writing this. I do not own nor claim any rights to her characters and concepts. However, the original characters in this story belong to me, so please do not copy them or use them without my express permission.))
Author's Note: Thank you everyone for the overwhelming positive response to my previous note in this slot. I'm glad everyone's been patient with me, and I'm thankful you're still sticking around for what might be a long haul. It seems the majority vote asks that I continue to write TWD as it was originally designed, so that's what I intend to do! Please hang in there for the revised/edited edition (director's cut! updated with polish and a fresh coat of paint!) and a sparkly fresh brand new chapter as quick as I can! Thank you again, and I hope to see you soon!

The White Dog
by Becky Tailweaver

Chapter 32: Call To Order

Shirokiba did not have time to argue and do battle for his passage through the crowds of Dogs--nor did he pause to apologize to those he brushed or knocked into on his way. He leaped and dashed and ducked through the throng of much larger youkai--jumping those lying down, dodging irate snapping teeth, scooting under the bellies of the bigger Dogs. For once, he was thankful for his small size; it allowed him to slip through with fewer confrontations.

Under most circumstances, he had to fight for every step he took at one of these Gatherings; the inu-youkai could plainly smell the Wolf in him and usually made him quite unwelcome--and those who did not know of him often tried to kill him. Without the time to go slowly and make himself known, or even find an agreeable Gray to help, all he could do was run; those that caught the Wolf-scent snarled and snapped and chased, and those who didn't care to notice passed him off as a rowdy pup dashing rudely through the crowd.

There were quite a few on his tail already, taking him for an unwanted intruder--and in this situation, his only refuge was the High Stone. Several Dogs had taken up the cry, pursuing him even through the thick press of inu-youkai bodies, causing quite a stir. It was only his size and rapid, weaving path that spared him from quick capture; he darted under and through where the larger Dogs had to pause and plot their route carefully, else they smash into other inu-youkai.

He made for the High Stone with all the speed he could muster; the moon had not yet risen, so any official business of the Daimyos would not have yet begun. He had to reach Inuyasha or the Gray Daimyo before it was too late.

Some of the Dogs chasing him peeled off when he reached the hill leading to the entrance of the High Stone--those of lesser blood, commoners in their Clan. A few others dared to follow him, even as he broke free of the crowd and galloped up the slope, his eyes fixed on the yawning dark gap that was the great door to the High Stone.

Even as he approached, the four huge shapes of the official guard sprang from their posts to block his path at the edge of the firelight, all of them dark and shadowed against the orange glow of the bonfires. Their captain, the largest, stood ahead of the rest, snarling in warning.

"::Halt!::" he ordered, hackles up. "::Stop where you are, all of you!::"

Knowing well that he could never fight his way past them, Shirokiba skidded briefly in the dirt before coming to a complete standstill, half-crouched. The Dogs behind him broke off their chase, stopping in an ungainly gaggle some yards back as if just realizing they had encroached on forbidden ground.

Growling, the guard leader looked over the trespassers, his eyes narrowing as they passed over the wolf-dog and the pack of Browns and Blacks that had led the pursuit. "::What is this fracas?::" he demanded, the undertones of his bark speaking clearly that dire punishment was the consequence of frivolity.

"Rawf! ::Wolf! Intruder!::" snarled one of the smaller Browns, his fangs snapping repeatedly in threat toward Shirokiba.

"::We mean no offense, Gray One!::" another spoke up, this one a Black. "::But this Wolf dares to encroach on our people's sacred Gathering--!::"

Growling low in his throat--his undertones conveying impatience and demand--Shirokiba at last spoke up, breaking into the Black's irate barking. "::I am no intruder! I come in haste to see the Gray Daimyo. Let me pass!::"

The leader's eyes narrowed, his lip lifting at the challenge in Shirokiba's snarl. "::Name yourself, Wolfbred.::"

"::You know damn well who I am, Kaishuu,::" the wolf-dog snapped, head and tail raised, throwing away all pretense of respectfulness--despite his sorely lacking size. He hated pulling rank, but at times it had its uses. "::Shirokiba, House Kaminari. Now stand aside--I have no time for this charade!::"

"Yawp! ::What's your hurry, Wolf-cub?::" mocked one of the other Gray guards.

"::A matter of life and death!::" Shirokiba rumbled, his claws digging into the dirt. "::I am here to see my grandfather. So let me pass!::"

"::You forget yourself, Wolf-cub,::" Kaishuu, the guard leader, growled quietly in response.

"::I have Kaishika-sama's leave to come and go as I please,::" Shirokiba stated, unflinching. "::As well as the permission of Seibunishi-sama himself.::"

"::I will never know why our Daimyo indulges you so,::" Kaishuu hissed, claws flexing in the desire to rend the wolf-dog to pieces. "::Nor why your mother did not have you killed at birth.::"

"Rrrrr--::Ask her yourself,::" Shirokiba retorted, almost walking in place from impatience. "::She's your sister. Now either kill me or stand aside--I will not wait here any longer!::"

Kaishuu bristled and snarled sharply when Shirokiba boldly stepped forward--but with great reluctance, the Gray Dog moved back and aside, snorting to his compatriots to let the wolf-dog through. "::If you were not under my father's protection...::"

"::I know, I know--you would tear my insolent head off,::" Shirokiba sighed, trotting through the entrance.

Kaishuu snarled again. "::Finish your errand and begone, Wolf-cub!::"

"Hurf! ::Enjoy the Howl-Gathering, Jichan,::" Shirokiba tossed audaciously over his shoulder, unable to resist.

With Kaishuu's irately offended bark echoing at his heels, the wolf-dog darted into the great halls within, picking up his pace once more--leaving his very shocked former pursuers standing glassy-eyed on the hillside.

It's always a fight, Shirokiba growled to himself, skidding around a corner and rushing toward the halls leading upward to the Council Chamber. Every damn time--especially with him. Thank the kamis that it's Kaibou-ojisan who's to be the next Gray Daimyo, or I'd never survive...

He could not see the moon here, deep in the tunnels of the High Stone; he had no idea how close it was to rising. And with the rising of the moon over the mountain, the Council of Daimyos would begin--effectively cutting him off from either his grandfather or Inuyasha. Unless he could manage to pull rank on some little guard in these halls, there was no way he could reach them in time--and if he met a Dog of higher Clan than his grandfather, he was finished.

Dammit, I don't have time for the freaking family feud! Kaishuu no ahou...never listens to Ojiisama...I'm going to hold him responsible if something happens--no, nothing's going to happen. Nothing can happen. I won't let it...

At the last corridor outside the Council Chamber, the wolf-dog swerved toward the Gray Clan's entrance, skittering across the wide hall toward the massive door--only to be stopped in his tracks by the legs and chest of the Brown Dog that swung snarling into his path.

"::Back! Away! Begone!::" barked the Brown, staccato-quick. "::Pup! Ruffian! I should kill you where you stand--!::"

Recovering from the near-collision--and once more exasperated by loud, ignorant Dogs--Shirokiba snarled loudly up at the large youkai. "::And I should have gone for your throat!::" he retorted, nearly standing on his hind legs. "::I am of House Kaminari--grandson of the Gray Daimyo! Stand aside!::"

The Brown was startled back a step, blinking down at the diminutive wolf-dog--realization weakening his confidence in the face of Shirokiba's vehemence. "::You--Gray--?:: Yap!"

"::That's right! Get out of my way!::"

"Hnnnn...::Apologies, but...::" The Brown Dog's floppy ears pulled back in consternation. "::I fear the Council has begun...::"

"::What?::" Shirokiba's tail fell. "::No! I must see the Gray Daimyo--::"

"::What is this commotion?::" interjected a smooth, neutral-toned rumble from behind him.

Startled, Shirokiba whirled--and found himself facing a massive pair of inu-youkai forelegs. Ears flattened in dismay, he looked up...and up...into the frowning amber eyes of the second-in-command of the Silver Clan.

"Yip! ::Ginke-sama--!::" he yelped. Shit! Not now!

The brother of the Silver Daimyo stared impassively down at him. "::You are the Gray Clan's little Wolf, are you not?::"

"::Hai, Ginke-sama.::" The wolf-dog had to fight the urge to crouch; the Silver lord not only massively outranked him, but could crush him like a puppy. "::I apologize for the disturbance, sir--it is something of an emergency. I must speak with my grandfather--::"

"::I am afraid that is impossible,::" the Silver interrupted. "::They have already gathered within, and the Doors are closed. And not only are they convened, but Byakugata-sama and my brother had called for a Grand Council--the heads of every House are present. They are not to be disturbed.::"

Shirokiba's spirits fell yet again. "::I realize that, and I am sorry--but I must--!::"

"::I will not allow it.::" The Silver Dog raised his head, arching his neck to fix the wolf-dog with a pointed glare. "::It is nigh unheard-of even for legitimate heads of families to interrupt a Council. No uncouth half-son of a lastborn pup has the right to intrude in that Chamber.::"

Shirokiba bared his long white fangs. "::This is no small matter! Inuyasha's life is at stake--!::"

Ginke snorted dismissively. "::The hanyou will come to no harm here tonight. You know better than any what would happen should some filthy youkai attempt to intrude here, in our own High Stone. Nothing can reach him--::"

"::Enough! You do not understand!::" Shirokiba snarled, daring to growl in the face of the Silver Dog. "::I will pass, by the authority of Kaishika-sama himself! Let me through!::"

The guards of the other Doors--mostly Browns--watched the interplay warily; they were loathe to leave their posts, uncertain whose defense they were meant to jump to. The Gray Clan was their sworn ally alongside the White--but Ginke's authority as the Silver Daimyo's second was indisputable, and Shirokiba was only a wolf-dog.

And that wolf-dog was nearly beside himself with fury, fed up with being thwarted at every turn. Every second that passes, Kagome comes closer to danger! Every minute I linger is one more that someone might stumble across her! And these bastards don't understand--if she dies, their precious Heir will go mad!

But...shit! I can't just say I've brought a little human miko for a visit--that would be throwing the torch on dry tinder!

"::Do not presume to challenge me, Gray-Wolf,::" Ginke replied, his tone dropping to a rough growl for the first time. "::Ginpatsu himself ordered there be no interruptions.::"

Shirokiba bristled his ruff and raised his tail, white fangs gleaming. "::I will not turn aside--:: Rawp! ::--not with so much at stake--!::"

Not a single Dog among them expected the much smaller youkai to make a leap for it--not even Ginke himself. Shirokiba darted away with a snarl, brushing so close to the Brown Dog that had tried to stop him before that the bigger inu-youkai was jostled off-balance. The hallway erupted into chaos, loud and abrupt, as the wolf-dog's small form slipped nimbly beneath the jaws of the guards--

--only to be cuffed sharply by a massive silver paw that spun him around and knocked him off his feet. He had barely hit the ground when Ginke's powerful jaws closed on his body, fangs piercing his sides, in a vice-grip that crushed the breath from his lungs and shattered ribs on both sides--and the howling shriek he heard was his own. He was shaken violently, like a captured rodent, then tossed aside like a dead thing--hurled high through the air, limp and ruined, to crash into the unyielding stone wall where he tumbled jarringly to the floor.

"::Stupid Wolf-cub!::" the Silver Dog snorted sharply, derisively--the inu-youkai approximation of spitting in disgust.

Fighting just to draw air into his bruised and punctured lungs, Shirokiba tried to roll up and stand, still determined to see his mission through--but his splintered ribs spiked with raw pain and his hind legs would not respond. Ginke's swift and brutal assault had broken his back.

"Hnn...::I must...Inuyasha::...hnnn... " His words little more than gasping whines, the wolf-dog struggled, his foreclaws scratching gouges in the stone floor. I can't...won't let it...miko-chan...!

"::Still alive? You are resilient, for a filthy animal. At least now you know your place.::" Ginke curled his lip, turning to the Brown Dog who had initially sparked the confrontation. "::You! Remove this creature from my sight.::"

"Yip!" Tail-tucked, the smaller Brown scurried over to the prone wolf-dog. "::Yes sir, but...where shall I take him?::"

The Silver Dog snorted again, turning away. "::I care not. Take him to the Gray halls--let Kaishika deal with his precious little pet. He has caused enough trouble here. Begone with him!::"

"::Hai, Ginke-sama!::" Obedient, the fearful Brown Dog lifted Shirokiba by the scruff--gently, to his credit--and bore him away from the Council Chamber doors.

No--no! Ah, Kami-sama, I'm such a fool--! Despairing, the broken wolf-dog struggled for the breath to protest--or to speak more than a pathetic whimper of pain, his shattered ribs stealing his air and darkening his vision. Should never have brought her... Bastard, let me go! I have to reach him...have to tell him, his miko-chan...Inuyasha, she's here...Kagome's in danger...!

As Inuyasha stepped forward, side by side with his brother, he found himself walking into the biggest room he'd yet encountered in the High Stone.

And to say that it was big was an understatement.

The Council Chamber was more than a room--it was an expanse, a great void in the solid rock; by sheer size alone it must have taken up the entire upper portion of the High Stone itself. Even the mighty Seibunishi in his true form could not have stretched across its broad, basin-like floor--and the giant chamber only grew wider as the walls rose, expanding outward like some great stadium. Massive torches--great copper bowls, nearly bonfires themselves--lit the huge room almost to daylight, casting everything in a gold-orange glow that seemed to spotlight the low center of the chamber.

In the ceiling of the huge cavity, which was painted with ancient symbols, star maps, and Clan names, was a large round gap through which the stars shone--and presumably, when the time was right, the full moon itself; already the silvery starlight blended with the gold of the fires to shine down upon the center of the room. There were banners of silk, embroidered with fine threads, precious metals, and bright jewels; some bore the signs and insignia of the Clans and their Houses, while others were there only to add color and beauty to the cool stone.

Along the high, clifflike walls--themselves polished smooth by hard work and centuries of time--were cut spacious ledges and shelves, each one sized for the comfort of a reclining giant Dog lord, bathed in flickering orange-hued shadows. And there, upon those great ledges, they sat like giant-hewn statues--the mightiest of the inu-youkai, color by color, each one more immense than the last. A multiplicity of cool, glittering eyes stared down in utter, impassive silence--all focused on the single, tiny hanyou that had come before them.

Swallowing hard, Inuyasha stared up at the gigantic chamber and the arrayed Daimyos in near-frightened awe, almost tripping over his own feet as he gaped about--until Sesshomaru's faint displeased noise beside him drew his attention back to walking. Gulping down his unease--he had never felt smaller or more insignificant in his life--he steeled himself and regained his stride, focusing his gaze on the more familiar humanoid form of Byakugata, who politely awaited them near the center of the Chamber.

Too busy staring at the Chamber and the Dogs, Inuyasha had only just noticed what lay ahead, in the middle of the expanse of stone floor. Beyond Byakugata stood a broad, round table made of what looked like a single massive slab of white volcanic glass--milky and polished, almost glowing like a pearl in the mixed starlight and torch-flame. It must have weighed tons, supported on many legs made of glossy stone that might have been marble or streaked obsidian, each carved into intricate shapes and designs.

Neatly around the wide table sat a great variety of chairs; indeed, chairs--items that Inuyasha had never before seen used by anyone but pudgy human landowner-lords. But these were no rough-hewn pieces of ningen furniture; each of these chairs was finely carved out of a single piece of solid wood, and each was made from a different type of tree and stained to match the color of the Clan or House whose insignia it bore. There were chairs of pale beech and white pine, of black walnut and dark polished oak, of willow and cherry, of cedar and even imported woods that Inuyasha had never seen before.

The daunted hanyou had not yet finished gaping even as they arrived at Byakugata's side; there was too much to see in this giant, beautiful room--breathtaking in its immensity, awesome in design, and populated by some of the most powerful youkai in existence. It took a slight, irritated nudge from Sesshomaru to focus Inuyasha once more--and even so, the young hanyou remained wide-eyed and undeniably tense, even as Byakugata smiled faintly in understanding.

Folding his hands within the sleeves of his robe, the elder White Dog offered the brothers a slight nod, then turned to face the table--to gaze upward at the gathering of huge inu-youkai along the walls.

"My Lords and Ladies," Byakugata spoke into the utter stillness--his ancient voice carrying clearly through the vast chamber as if he had shouted the words. "The Heir has come at last before you. By the command of Seibunishi-sama, you who witnessed the ceremony of his birth--will you now test his scent and know him, and by knowing, acknowledge him as the son of our Great Daimyo?"

"::We know his scent,::" replied the Daimyos, partaking of the observance--their voices rising as one like a peal of thunder, and Inuyasha flinched at the power of it. "::We acknowledge the son and heir.::"

"And by the command of Seibunishi-sama, will you now look upon the Heir and make him welcome this eve?"

"::By the will of the Great Daimyo,::" all the Dogs rumbled this time, completing the ritual, "::we greet his Heir, and salute him.::"

Byakugata turned back to face the stunned hanyou, smiling once again. "Inuyasha, born of House Setsuken, acknowledged by the Grand Council of Daimyos as heir to the honored Seibunishi-sama--in the name of Yuki-Inu, we bid you welcome."

"Uh...aa..." Inuyasha gulped, embarrassed by the audible squeak in his voice. At least it didn't carry around the room like his great-uncle's did. "Thanks..."

The ancient inu-youkai nodded again, apparently approving; the ceremony seemed to be done with as well. Inuyasha was about to ask what was supposed to happen next when Byakugata turned to face the Dogs once more.

"My Lords and Ladies, it is rare indeed to host one such as Inuyasha-sama during a Grand Council," he announced politely, all hints of rituality gone. "But as he is the Heir and you have named him thus, as the interim Councilor of House Setsuken I ask that the Daimyos and the Houses honor our guest, and step down to assemble at the Lesser Table."

For a moment, there was more silence--filled with rustling, as the inu-youkai stirred. Then, unannounced, they leaped as one, filling the void with giant bodies and myriad colors; the air around them fairly sang with swirling youki, a glowing rainbow of wind and energy around the massive forms descending rapidly toward the trio on the floor.

Alarmed, Inuyasha stumbled back, his hand going automatically for a sword that was no longer there--until Sesshomaru's iron grip on his elbow dragged him to a stop. Startled, the hanyou froze where he was, rigid--staring at the diminishing forms that fell toward them to land soundlessly around the huge stone-glass table. His older brother remained impassive, so Inuyasha fought the instinct to lash out defensively, forcing himself to stand straight and still.

By the time their feet silently touched the stone floor, the inu-youkai had transformed to their humanlike guises, the last swirls of youki vanishing into the ether. They stood in a perfect circle, ringing the Lesser Table; above, the vast cliff-walls were bare of giant Dogs, and the Chamber seemed empty and hollow without their huge forms arrayed on the broad ledges.

Ornately dressed in ancient kimono, arranged by color, Daimyos and heads of Houses continued to watch the nervous hanyou with their impassive, glittering gazes. He recognized Kaishika and Noukatsu at last, standing with other men and women of their Clans; surprisingly, the Gray Daimyo's half-hidden smile served to relieve much of his anxiety.

It was good to know he had allies in this. Even his brother's cool, steady presence beside him was somehow of great reassurance.

"Thank you, my Lords and Ladies," Byakugata offered with a nod-bow. "Please, feel free to take your seats; I'll hand the Council proceedings back to Ginpatsu-sama, and when we are settled we'll resume."

Once again, it seemed that the rigid formality was gone; the room broke into pleasant murmurs and shufflings as the gathered inu-youkai stepped forward to sit in their proper chairs. Byakugata beckoned Inuyasha to come up to the tableside, gesturing for him to take a seat in a chair made of the palest wood the hanyou had ever seen.

"Here you are, young Inuyasha; you'll have Seibunishi-sama's seat tonight," the ancient Dog informed them. "Sesshomaru, since your mother is delayed, you may take the seat of House Kogarashi."

Glancing back, Inuyasha noted the faint pensive look on his brother's face. "Oi," he grunted softly, garnering the full-youkai's attention. "C'mon, sit down. Won't it piss her off?"

Sesshomaru blinked at him--then, surprisingly, almost smiled. "Indeed. How pleasant."

So without further ado, the two brothers sat before the great table--Inuyasha in the place of the Great Daimyo, and Sesshomaru to his immediate left.

Settling into the chair,Inuyasha let his fingers linger on the smooth, almost warm wood; once, long ago, his father had sat in this very chair, in this very place. Seibunishi had spoken in Council here--had stood upon the giant ledge above in his immense true form, ruling over the Dog Clans. He had walked in these halls, breathed this air, looked up to the stars through that very gap in the expansive ceiling.

Inuyasha felt awed once again, especially that he--a mere hanyou, who had been told all his life that he was nothing, worthless, not fit even to draw breath--was given the honor of sitting here, in his father's place.

Still nervous, the Inuyasha glanced around at the nobles as they took their seats. To the right of the White Clan's location was the Silver's, and beyond them the Black's. Further around the table sat the Red Clan, then the Yellow, then Brown and Gray and finally back to White again. There seemed to be seven chairs for each color--apparently, the seven ruling Houses of the seven Clans.

But then he noticed that the Silver Clan had only three seats--strangely, only three Houses.

The scrape of the chair on his right startled Inuyasha out of his observation, and he turned quickly to face the inu-youkai who was sitting down there. To his surprise, it was a female who appeared to be only a few years older than Sesshomaru--though appearance could mean little in terms of centuries--dressed in hues of pale blue and gray, her snow-white hair put up in loops of braid. Her scent was vaguely familiar--as well as her brief smile, as she glanced over at him.

Seated just beyond the woman, Byakugata leaned over a bit to speak, amdist the murmurs of other Clans chatting over their preparations to start the meeting again. "Inuyasha, may I introduce my daughter, Kooriko, Councilor of House Hyouran."

"Oh, uh..." Blinking, Inuyasha stared at the beautiful lady--who was, somehow, his cousin--realizing that it was her resemblance to his ancient uncle that made her familiar. "Hello."

Apparently amused by his stumbling words, the Lady smiled again. "Greetings to you as well, Inuyasha-sama," she replied, her voice smooth and rich--nothing like the icy snap of Yukishima. "Welcome home."

"Ah--thanks..." He continued to gaze at her, still startled, remembering Sesshomaru's admonishment that he ought to realize he had relatives among the White Clan--but this woman, Byakugata's daughter, was not of Seibunishi's House.

Some of the hanyou's curiosity must have shown on his face, for Byakugata spoke up once again to explain. "Kooriko does not represent House Setsuken, even though she is my only child, because that duty falls to the line of Seibunishi. With the passing of my mate--" Brief shadows passed across the elderly youkai's face. "--Kooriko is the last to bear the name of House Hyouran, which is second only to Setsuken. She takes the name of her mother's House so that their honor will remain alive."

"Ah..." Swallowing, Inuyasha glanced around again, still feeling like an ignorant child. "Uh, is it just me...or did a bunch of the White Clan just decide not to show up tonight?"

"They cannot attend," Sesshomaru snorted at his left. "You'll find there are not many left alive."

"Oh." Blinking, the hanyou immediately regretted his rather rude question.

"Sesshomaru-san! Really!" Kooriko scolded lightly, then turned to Inuyasha. "I'm afraid he's right, though. For almost half a millenium, the White Clan has been dwindling steadily; the last few centuries, many of the Houses have died out completely--House Shirayuri, House Aranami, House Hakugumo..." She gestured to the seat of Hakugumo, which her father was borrowing for the duration of the Council.

"But no one is really certain why," Byakugata added sadly. "But now there are few of us left. Kooriko is the last of House Hyouran, and those who remain of House Setsuken are only the three of us here. All that's left of House Byakumatsu is my cousin Akimoto--" He gestured to the slightly younger-looking white-haired youkai at his right, who nodded in acknowledgement. "--and his children. His mate is of House Kogarashi, as is Yukishima-sama and a few of her relatives."

Kooriko nodded. "All the others are dead, most of them decades ago. No one knows what truly caused the decline..."

"No one is certain," Sesshomaru insinuated icily, glaring at the woman, "but many of them perished in questionable circumstances--"

"This is not the place for such talk," Byakugata barked, roughening his voice for the first time in Inuyasha's memory. "Once the Clans finish consulting, Ginpatsu-sama will call us back to order and we will proceed. We are here to discuss the future of our Clan, not the past."

Curious now, Inuyasha glanced at his brother--who was currently staring pointedly at the tabletop with a bitter look--wondering how much Sesshomaru truly knew about the decline of the White Clan. He had seemed rather sure of his claim about the uncertain deaths...

A sudden cold jolt spun through him at the memory of Yukishima's cruel, glittering eyes, and he realized that his half-brother probably knew far more than he could say outright.

Amidst the continued murmurs around the Lesser Table--in many of which Inuyasha could make out his own name being mentioned--the man in the centermost seat of the Silver Clan rose to his feet, looking over the gathered inu-youkai and firmly raising his voice.

"Your pardons, Lords and Ladies," he announced, his tones as smooth as flowing water. "I hope you have all concluded your discussions on tonight's matters, so that we may continue."

As the conversations died down all around, Inuyasha stared at the richly-dressed, polished-looking noble--the Silver Daimyo, current regent-leader of the Western Dog Clans. And that would also make him Ginnezu's father--and a possible threat to Inuyasha himself, if Shirokiba had been correct.

"Thank you," Ginpatsu spoke, into the silence that had finally settled over the assembly. "We begin anew this Grand Council of the Autumn Full Moon Howl-Gathering--which has been doubly honored by the return of Sesshomaru-sama from his travels, as well as the long-awaited arrival of the Heir himself. And, indeed, the successor of our honored, departed leader Seibunishi-sama is our first order of business in this meeting tonight."

Inuyasha gulped nervously as most eyes settled on him once again. He tensely bore their scrutiny, his ears only flicking once or twice; there was malice in some of the gazes, uncertainty in others--many of these nobles apparently did have a problem with the idea of a hanyou ruler, though none of them had spoken it yet.

"We have much to discuss," Ginpatsu continued, "and much is at stake. The future of our mighty Clans may rest on our deliberations tonight. Though the word and will of our Great Daimyo binds us, we must also bear in mind the security and stability of our people. We must discern the wisest course to lead our Clans in strength and honor."

As he said this, the Silver Daimyo's calculating eyes stared unwaveringly into Inuyasha's--and, swallowing hard, the hanyou saw the shrewd cunning behind the veil of politeness in the inu-youkai's gaze.

"We must know," Ginpatsu declared, "if the Heir is worthy."

To be continued...

Important Author's Note: Hello from the depths of the void, minna-san! I apologize profusely for the delay; I must write a note to myself never to make dire promises during the Holidays, since they tend to eat my life. Thanksgiving, Christmas, present-shopping, ISP troubles, family trips, New Year, sibling birthdays (two of them right on top of Xmas! ack...) and innumerable other distractions.

But here it is at last! After years of cobwebs and hours of polishing and correcting, I give you the newly revised and reawakened The White Dog! I thank everyone for your long-suffering patience and great understanding--you're saints, all of you, and I'm glad there's still fans left who write me beautiful emails and reviews of encouragement. I hope this chapter does not disappoint you.

I've made a lot of linguistic updates and general corrections to the story overall; it's still not up-to-date with the Absolute Zero of Canon, since it takes off somewhere around Volume 15-ish or so, before Tetsusaiga is broken. (Goodness, I know that's old, but I'm glad so many of you are willing to put up with my eccentricity.) Some of the backgrounds have been tightened up a bit, a couple of minor character names have been altered, and more detail given to the arrangement of the Dog Clans. Some of Shirokiba's history has also been tweaked, and I've changed his station in the Gray Clan a little to help smooth things out (and make it easier for the tale to proceed). The side-stories to TWD have also been revised (Birth, Fall).

I hope these modifications don't alarm anyone, but instead may serve to enhance this story in its revised and updated incarnation. I also hope that no one is too put-out with any of the adjustments, and that they are as enjoyable as the original was. Thank you all again for your patience, and I hope you enjoy the rebirth of The White Dog!