Disclaimer: InuYasha is owned by the talented Rumiko Takahashi; I only claim this fanfiction piece.
Dedicated: to my cousin, angelfire1… just because it seemed like a good idea to dedicate it to her at the time. D
Recap: "It's none of your business," InuYasha mumbled, never once pausing in his steps, before disappearing into the forest.
A few minutes later, Kagome picked up the burlap bags, slung them over her shoulder, and began to walk again. She had only gone a few steps when she realized that she had not thought to ask if they would meet again.
Once Upon A Robbery
'It would kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.'
Smirking darkly, Naraku planned his next move. With all the available men in the land, his forces were unrivaled but far too large and of great expense. Even though the village food supplies had been reduced to scraps, the harvest had yet to come in when the men were collected, and the slim village pickings were proving to be too poor to provide for the general welfare of the massive swarm of men.
The new plan was relatively simple: weed through the men he had collected once more, removing those proving to retain fierce loyalty to the late king—those that would refuse to live and die for their new leader. The idea held great potential; he would have a more manageable force, and he would be further cemented into the foolish peasants' good graces for releasing the males… to bring in the last of the harvest.
Abruptly the door to the throne room opened slightly, and a young man was admitted into the massive room.
Though young, the male spoke articulately and without any hint of nervousness, "Your Excellency, I request permission to approach your throne in order to give you this missive that has just arrived."
Annoyed at the interruption, Naraku snapped angrily at the young page before him, "Approach then."
Unruffled by Naraku's harsh manner, the boy sprinted silently forward and handed the missive to Naraku. Then he bowed and stepped back as he awaited further orders.
Scowling, Naraku looked disinterestedly at the rough parchment letter that held a plain red seal. Slipping a long nail through the red wax, he slit the seal apart, allowing the paper to unfold. Containing only three words, the missive spelled his future fate.
Sesshomaru is alive.
Eyes darkening dangerously, Naraku glared daggers into the unfazed gaze of the boy before him.
"Boy, send for my children immediately. They are of use to me," he ordered.
The page nodded in reply, "Yes, Your Excellency." Then bowing, he turned towards the exit.
Lifting a hand, Naraku ordered him to stop. When he had the page's attention, Naraku murmured craftily, "What is your name?"
"They tell me I am called Kohaku, Your Excellency," the boy replied, his gaze giving away slight surprise—the only emotion the upstart king had seen from the page so far.
Haughtily, Naraku raised a brow and spat, "'They tell you?' You do not know your own name?"
"I have only recently awakened from a sleep that lasted for several days," Kohaku began, emotionless once more, "and I have no memory of my previous life. Recently, however, a knight that claimed to have worked beside me identified me."
Naraku's brows lifted delicately and he purposefully softened his voice, "To what noble house was this knight pledged?"
"The Higurashi Estate, Sir," Kohaku answered simply.
Eyes narrowing, Naraku nodded. "That will be all for now. Your services may be called upon in the future." Then waving a hand, he dismissed the page.
Another pawn in place—the king far from captured and the game far from lost.
"I am to appear before my father."
Kohaku remained silent, his message already stated.
Snorting derisively, Kagura continued to rail at the silent page, "Who is he to order me around? He has ignored me for months, and now that he is king, I am to believe that he suddenly feels the need for my presence."
With a sharp gaze on the page, Kagura snapped, "And you know nothing of his reasoning behind this order."
Kohaku nodded once. "That is correct, my Lady, I was ordered only to escort you to the throne room."
"Fine. I shall not keep Naraku waiting," Kagura muttered crisply, deliberately leaving off any kind of respectful title for the man that was her father and her king.
As she followed the boy down the winding halls of the castle, Kagura silently steamed over her father's actions and wondered over what had concerned him enough to have her brought into his presence.
Inside her little hut, Kikyo stacked the food items that had mysteriously appeared at her doorstep after InuYasha had arrived back in her small village the day before. The corners of her lips turned up in the slight resemblance of a smile as she thought of the good-hearted prince with the foul attitude.
Though uncertain as to how the food was obtained, Kikyo knew that it was probably best that she was not party to the information.
'I only hope the risk he is taking for us is not too great,' she thought. A few moments later, she blinked rapidly in an attempt to focus. 'What am I thinking? He is a prince; we are peasants. Perhaps, I am just imagining things as I wish them to be.'
Still, the feeling that Prince InuYasha was responsible remained.
With a silent sigh, Kikyo stacked the last of the food; who was responsible for the goods was unimportant. It was enough that she and the other villagers would live on one more meal.
'Strange though,' the healer thought, as she sat on the solitary chair within her hut. 'No matter how long he disappears, he has continued to return. What could make him wish to stay here with us—an average village with nothing to offer in way of help or even payment for his kindness.'
She closed her eyes and her mind turned to the image of the battered body that had made up the youngest prince when she had found him collapsed at the edge of the forest surrounding their small town. Silver hair turned a deep gray from the black dirt he had landed in and his brilliant red clothing almost tattered rags, InuYasha looked nothing like the prince that he was. Her reaction had been immediate and automatic; he was to be brought to her quarters and tended to.
Opening her eyes, Kikyo almost started at the thought that was taking root in her mind.
'I wonder if anyone has ever done something out of a pure heart for him without expecting anything in return.'
Subconsciously, her eyes found their way to her small pile of food, before looking away, a sad glint in her eyes.
'The food is payment.'
It hurt her to admit that she was most likely right, and confused at her feelings, Kikyo stood and picked up her basket from its peg on the wall before starting out the door, intent on distancing herself from her thoughts of the prince.
Above all else, nothing good would come of any type of emotional attachment to the man born to a lifestyle so vastly different from her own.
No good at all.
Outside, InuYasha made his way through the dirt lanes between the huts of Kikyo's village on his way back to his forest. As he walked, he spotted a tiny elderly man who was darting around the huts at an amazing speed for one so old.
'I wonder what he is doing—the crazed maniac.'
Abruptly, the slight figure darted in front of him causing, InuYasha to stop short and knocking the smaller man down. Baring his short teeth, InuYasha demanded, "Get out of my way."
The older man looked up from his position on the ground and glared at the boy in his path.
"Now you listen to me, young man. I am of noble blood, and I am a close—"
InuYasha snorted and tuned out mentally as the man began to speak. Then as the older male looked straight at him, his eyes widened briefly then narrowed sharply before he interrupted with a growl, "It's you."
Blinking, the older man stared up at the young man that had walked into his path. Then gathering his breath, he demanded, "You know me?"
His only answer was a scowl—a familiar scowl. Having worked for the late king for many years and then having served as a sort of guardian for his two sons, he was well studied in the facial features of those of the royal bloodline. Narrowing his eyes into tiny slits, he studied the dark-haired boy. Eventually, his gaze focused on the boys brilliant amber eyes—a trait he had only seen before on the king… and his sons.
His eyes widened in absolute shock, and his brain automatically substituted the boy's long pitch-black hair for that of royal silver. Then he refused to blink—afraid that this image, this mirage, would disappear forever.
Finally, he whispered, "Master InuYasha, is-is that you?"
InuYasha raised one brow arrogantly and answered, "It's been a long time, hasn't it, Myoga."
As Lord Sesshomaru saw the walls well over a story tall that safeguarded the home within its depths, he applied a steady pressure on the sides of his mount as he urged the steed into a longer stride—though careful to keep the horse at a relative walk. Behind him, Rin clutched onto the bay gelding, her eyes widening with each soft thump of the horse's hooves, the pain that had been building in her sides momentarily forgotten as she gazed at the walls before her.
Closer and closer the walls drew near, and with each inch, the tension that surrounded the utter uncertainty of what he would find, began to build in the prince's mind, only to be cast aside a few minutes later.
"Who goes there!" came a high-pitched voice from the covered landing at the corner of the wall.
Eyes narrowing, Lord Sesshomaru growled, "Open the gate."
"I must not let you within the gate unless you have identified yourself," the voice answered, the pitch unsteady as the bearer struggled to sound braver than he was.
A moment later, a boy, no more than ten years old, slowly revealed himself from his hiding place on the wall. Obviously terrified, his eyes were wide and his breathing erratic as he gazed upon the man and the tiny girl as they waited at the entrance.
A delicate silver brow lifted, the only sign of the prince's surprise.
"Please listen to Lord Sesshomaru," Rin said interrupting the tense silence. She smiled widely at the other child on the wall. "He has been nice to Rin," she continued, as if that alone granted Sesshomaru the right to do anything.
Instantly, the child paled, and he called frantically, "Open the gate," his terror causing his voice to crack mid-command.
With a rusty creak, the wall opened. Grabbing the reigns of Rin's mount, Lord Sesshomaru moved his mount forward, bringing the inner gate into sight.
From her position behind the prince, Rin turned around and waved at the boy on the wall until he tentatively waved back. Then she turned quickly around as her eyes continued to widen to an incredible size as the horses plodded along.
A wrought iron gate contrasting with its silent guards—two massive dogs of a brilliant white stone— loomed before her, and subconsciously, she whimpered in fear.
Hearing her whimper, the prince turned his head slightly to see the girl's petrified face. The prince turned his head back and spoke in a moment of exact intuition, "They are dogs— the symbol of my father's house."
Rin's head whipped towards Lord Sesshomaru, and her eyes reflected a sweet surprise even as the prince continued to speak.
"Wolves are vermin."
Though he said nothing more, Rin's face slowly transformed into a bright smile, and she sighed happily.
'Prince Sesshomaru will protect me.'
As the palace came into view, a small figure with a type of tall walking stick came waddling to meet them mid-way.
Rin squinted to make out the tiny man as he hurried forward. Armed with his stick and a short hat perched on his bare head, the man was outfitted in green which seemed to carry over into his skin, giving him an almost sickly look.
She giggled; she already knew she was going to like her stay here for however long it was.
'Rin has someone else to play with.'
Taking a quiet walk, Lady Kagome looked at the small group of men bustling in the fields.
'We are fortunate they came in time,' she thought as she watched the males rush to bring in what they could of the grains and vegetables that had been left relatively unattended since their absence.
Without thinking, she counted the working figures. Eight. No matter how many times she counted, the number never changed.
Growling softly in frustration, Kagome walked until she reached the edge of the forest. Taking a moment to rest, she leaned carefully back against a smooth tree trunk and closed her eyes thoughtfully.
From behind the tree, a male figure stared in delight at the lovely vision before him.
'Such a beautiful woman, all alone in this horrid forest, and if I am not mistaken,' the figure thought, stealing a glance at the woman's hair, 'this is the younger Lady Higurashi.'
Admiring the view for a little bit longer, he decided, 'I will make my presence known, but first…'
A hand began to snake its way around the tree trunk coming quickly within grabbing distance of—
"What is Naraku's reasoning behind sending these people home anyway?" Kagome murmured, her voice distracted. "They are not ill. Though they are of varying ages, each of them is still young enough to work for Naraku. Why are these chosen and the other villagers left?"
She pounded her small foot in added emphasis, not caring if the thick grass completely muffled the noise. Her eyes still closed tightly in thought, she leaned back even further into the tree, bringing her body even closer to the man she had yet to notice.
Though surprised at the woman's outburst, the male lurking behind the tree managed to keep completely silent until his fingers reached his prize.
"Ah, you ask a good question."
Feeling something grasp her body and hearing the voice behind her, Lady Kagome swirled around, her hand automatically reaching for the light sword she had made her constant companion.
Instantly, the masculine voice faltered as a sharp metal object found its lodging place at the center of his throat.
From thin-lidded eyes, Kagome studied the features of the man before her—neatly pulled back midnight hair, single glove, staff and long robes.
'A monk,' she surmised.
Nervously, the monk chuckled lightly, "I mean you no harm. I have come to speak to Lady Higurashi."
Loosening the pressure of the sword against the monk's neck, Kagome queried skeptically, "What do you want with my mother?"
Instantly serious, he replied, "Please forgive me, but I am not at liberty to speak freely here. The woods have ears."
Slowly, Lady Kagome dropped her sword completely.
Rubbing his neck, the monk spoke quietly, "I realize I may have gotten a little bit ahead of myself before we were properly introduced."
'Pervert,' the lady thought as her eyes narrowed menacingly.
"But dear vision of loveliness," the monk continued, "would you do me the honor of bearing my child?"
Eyes bugging to unheard of proportions, Lady Kagome brought back her hand and crashed it flat on the side of the monk's face.
"That's it!" she cried. "I refuse to remain in your insufferable presence."
Then huffing, she turned around and began to walk snappily out of the forest. From his position by the tree, Miroku took a moment to admire the girl's features as she walked hastily away, hips swaying sharply with the rhythm of her feet.
Finally, he spoke up, "You know you really should not enter the forest on your own. Who knows what kind of creatures might be lurking within its depths?"
Swirling around, Lady Kagome replied, "The only 'creatures' I'm worried about currently are the two legged variety."
Chuckling, Miroku began to walk towards her, casually swinging his stick forward as he walked.
"You make a valid point," he agreed light-heartedly as he approached the still fuming girl.
As the monk walked forward, Kagome took an unsteady step back. Seeing this, Miroku sighed sadly and whispered, "I know you do not have reason to trust me, but it is of the utmost importance that I speak to your mother."
Though she continued to keep a steady distance between herself and the man behind her, Kagome watched the male with softening eyes as she detected a deep sadness behind his cheerful façade.
"With the loss of my father, I have done my best to keep my mother from dealing with additional stress. Are you sure you do not have business with me instead?" she whispered.
"Actually," he answered, "I may indeed need to speak with the both of you, and though I loathe causing Lady Higurashi any additional pain, I have a duty to see my mission out."
The young woman's eyes narrowed immediately, "I am afraid that you will need to tell me exactly what this mission is about."
If this had been anyone other than Kagome Higurashi, Miroku would not have thought twice about using whatever means necessary to get around her and her questions. Yet not only was this girl a Higurashi, but she was also unafraid of using her weapons to get information.
Feeling that he had no other choice, the monk scanned the area around him and whispered two words that shattered Kagome's world, "The Shikon."
Author's note: I was wondering how many people would catch on to the significance of the horse that Sesshomaru caught. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of you who did.
I am thinking of sending a snippet of one of the later chapters to those who take the time to send me a review as a small way of saying thank you for your patronage and patience. Would anyone be interested in me doing something like that? Also, if you need me to PM/email when I update, I do not mind doing that. (I was asked about this recently.)
For those of you reading this for Kag/Sessh interaction, please be patient. Good things take time and effort to get to, and Kagome and Sesshomaru are two characters that do not rush well. Please enjoy the story for what it is now.
I apologize for the constant switching of characters. It will not be a problem once everyone is in position.
So far, three C2s have added my story—a record for me. It is an honor that you have done so.
Lastly, I apologize profusely for the length of time it has taken me to update, but I have done the best that I am able. Life is beyond hectic right now, and I have been neglecting responsibilities to do much of my writing.
Thank you as always for reading and especially for reviewing.