Disclaimer: Inuyasha and its characters are created by Rumiko Takahashi, not me, but the new plots and the original characters (Sachimaru, Akiyama, Katsuo, Natsumi, Shin, Isamu, Moriko and Eiko) are mine. This fanfiction had been written for entertainment purposes only and without intention of infringing upon any copyright.
A/N: Thank you for reading and reviewing the previous chapter of this story. Two weeks are almost up and so, as promised, here's the final installment of A Little Faith. I hope that you'll enjoy it.
A Little Faith by elle6778 – Chapter 23
"Naraku has the Prime Minister."
Silence followed his proclamation. Sesshoumaru simply stood unmoving as Akiyama and his mate-to-be stared at him in shock. The rest of the demons, Inuyasha included, wore similar expressions of disbelief. The sound of the television continued in the background of the conference room, but none of them paid any attention to it.
Finally, it was Akiyama who broke the silence. Turning to face his employees, he instructed levelly, "Return to work. Eiko, you stay behind."
Without a word, his demon employees filed out of the conference roof, their stiff postures betraying their concern.
Turning back, Akiyama remarked, "So, it's not only the Diet members. Though it is odd that there was no mention of the Prime Minister's kidnapping."
Kagome frowned. "I don't think anyone knows yet. Otherwise it will be all over the news."
"It is possible that this is being kept quiet by the media to avoid mass panic."
Sesshoumaru shook his head. "Perhaps Naraku wishes to keep the Prime Minister's kidnapping quiet."
"For the moment, you mean," Inuyasha added dryly.
Sesshoumaru felt a small hand circling his arm. He glanced down to find his mate-to-be staring up at him beseechingly. "Sesshoumaru, we've got to help get him out."
"I think I recognize the place," Akiyama said thoughtfully. "The one where they took the video clip. It look like one of the back of house area in this hotel in the north. He was certainly not there the last time I've been to that place."
"What were you doing in that awful place?" Kagome asked, wrinkling her nose.
Akiyama immediately averted his eyes. Knowing that the elemental probably had dealings with certain less… reputable demons and most certainly wished to keep it quiet, Sesshoumaru decided to distract the miko. "Kagome, they could be dead by now."
She spun around to face him. "We won't know until we try, right? There is always a chance."
"Even if they are alive, they might not be there anymore," Inuyasha remarked with a frown.
"But we can start there," Kagome ventured hopefully, her eyes on her mate. "We are going to help get them out, right?" she asked pointedly.
Much as he was disinclined to do help those who seemed intent on destroying the survival of his species, Sesshoumaru knew that they had no choice. For if the Prime Minister suffered the same fate as that Diet member, things would become much worse than it was now. Such a thing would certainly be troublesome.
Akiyama ventured, "Without our aid, I doubt they will survive."
Inuyasha snorted. "Yeah, especially since they were stupid enough to be caught in the first place."
Kagome glared at the hanyou. "I'm sure they did not expect that to happen," she snapped before turning to the taiyoukai. "Sesshoumaru? We need to help them."
"We will extract all we could. But Naraku is the priority," Sesshoumaru finally said.
The miko frowned at him thoughtfully. Then she appeared to arrive at some conclusion and she nodded, apparently satisfied. Sesshoumaru immediately felt a stab of suspicion. What was his miko up to this time? Was she planning to follow them to ensure that they saved those humans?
"You are not coming with us, Kagome," he intoned flatly.
His suspicions were confirmed when her eyes flashed, and a now-familiar look of determination settled upon her features. "I am going," she insisted calmly.
Sesshoumaru felt the onset of a headache. He knew her well enough to understand that she would not be dissuaded from her intent. There were only two ways in which this argument would end. Either he disallowed her to come along, which meant that he would spend the rest of the time wondering what scheme she had come up with to follow them, or he simply allowed her to join them.
The latter option was preferable. "You may come on the condition that you obey my instructions." After a brief pause, Sesshoumaru added, "Without question."
She opened her mouth to protest, but Sesshoumaru directed an uncompromising look at her. Relenting, she nodded.
Akiyama turned away to face his secretary. "Find out all you can from our contacts. Then gather the usual assault team."
With a nod, the fire elemental left to do his bidding.
"I will have my own team," Sesshoumaru said to the water elemental.
"Do you not trust my demons?" Akiyama asked, his lips quirking.
Sesshoumaru declined to reply. Instead, he fixed his gaze on Inuyasha. "Assemble the necessary demons. Make sure Katsuo is one of them."
Inuyasha's eyes widened. "What? Why don't you do it?"
Sesshoumaru felt a stab of irritation. Must Inuyasha question him in front of Akiyama? "Just do it, Inuyasha," he bit out.
Ears twitching, the hanyou spun around and walked out of the conference room.
Nodding at them, Akiyama went in the same direction only to pause at the door. Turning to look at them over his shoulders, his blue eyes displaying a trace of discomfort, the elemental said quietly, "It would take some time before your team arrives and it's growing late. You can rest in your usual suite back in my place while you wait. As you know, it's only around the corner."
Sesshoumaru reined in his surprise. It must have been difficult for Akiyama to offer to place him and Kagome in the same room in his own territory, but he did so regardless. To refuse such an offer would be impolite.
"I accept your hospitality."
Akiyama nodded, his expression unreadable. "Follow me."
As he made to follow the elemental, a discreet tug on his arm drew his attention to the miko. She was wearing a look which told him that she felt uncomfortable with the arrangement. He shook his head, warning her to remain silent, and then continued behind Akiyama out of the building. The sun had set and the sky was already dark, Sesshoumaru noted.
It was not long before they arrived at Akiyama's sprawling abode. Sesshoumaru barely glanced at the familiar surrounding as Akiyama led them to his usual suite. Opening the door and stepping in, the elemental gestured around. There was a small work area set up in the corner adjacent to the couch and the television. On one end was a door leading to a bedroom and next to it, one to the bathroom. It seemed that nothing had changed since the last time he had stayed in the suite.
"You know where everything is. It's unlikely that I'll return tonight, so you will find me back in the office."
Sesshoumaru inclined his head. He understood the elemental's reasons for remaining away from his own home. It would take some time before Akiyama was truly comfortable with the fact that Kagome was now a part someone else.
"Thank you, Akiyama," Kagome said softly.
With a nod, the elemental spun around and walked away. As Sesshoumaru closed the door, he did not miss the heavy sigh which escaped the miko's lips. His eyes followed her as she toed her shoes off and padded further into the simple, but comfortable suite.
"I feel bad about the whole thing," she admitted quietly, sitting down on the couch with her legs folded underneath.
A brief moment of annoyance flashed over him at the fact that she was mulling over the elemental. And then Sesshoumaru realized that he might be overreacting. After all, he could hardly expect Kagome to forget everything that had happened before she agreed to mate him.
"Do not dwell upon it," he told her.
She glanced up at him, looking surprised. Then she made a face. "Sorry, I didn't mean to bring something like that up."
"It matters not."
The look she gave him was full of wonder. "You've really changed, you know. You are more… tolerant nowadays."
Uncomfortable with the topic, he decided to change it. "You will sleep while we wait for the others to arrive." It was already late and the shadows under her eyes told him that she was tired. It would do them more harm than good if she were not alert during the operation.
"I don't need to rest, Sesshoumaru!" she immediately protested.
"If you insist on coming with us, you will rest," he stipulated in an uncompromising voice.
Resignation flashed across her features. "Fine, I'll sleep for a while" she finally said. "But first I want to call Sachimaru to check on him."
"He is at home with Jaken. There are additional guards around the place," Sesshoumaru explained, passing his cellphone to her.
Nodding, his mate-to-be dialed the number and waited. After a while, she spoke, "Jaken. It's Kagome." A pause followed before she continued with a smile. "Thank you for watching over him. Is he awake? Can I speak to him?"
Another pause followed and she glanced at him, her lips lifted in amusement. "Jaken said that Sachimaru was practicing on one of your guards earlier. I just hope that the guard survived it."
Sesshoumaru smirked. "Sachimaru possesses good fighting skills for his age."
She rolled her eyes before returning her attention to the call. "Sachimaru?" A brief pause followed, and then she said, "I'm fine and your father is here. Are you behaving yourself?" Another pause. "Good. We'll be back once we finish off here. Take care, okay? I love you."
Then she passed the phone to him. Bringing it to his ears, Sesshoumaru spoke, "Sachimaru."
"Chichi-ue! Isamu-san taught me a new move using the bokken!" Sachimaru immediately enthused.
"Hn." The pup's exuberance was truly amusing, Sesshoumaru thought. "Did you thank him?"
"Yes, I did. I will show you when you return home," his son chirped.
"I look forward to it. In the meantime, be good. We will see you soon."
"I will. Bye, Chichi-ue!"
With that, Sesshoumaru ended the call. Turning around, he found that the miko had already fallen asleep on the couch with her head propped on the armrest. For a moment, he considered shifting her to the bedroom and then decided that it was best to allow her to sleep undisturbed. She was obviously tired.
Gently lifting her, he sat down on the end of the couch and placed her head on his lap before leaning back. Inhaling her soothing peach scent as he ran his fingers through her dark silky tresses, Sesshoumaru closed his eyes. Perhaps he should rest a little as well before the rest arrive.
He sank deeper and deeper into slumber.
Then the images from the past began to flash across his mind.
How could you?
The miko's words continued to reverberate in his head long after she had left, leaving him standing there alone to stare at the empty space where she had once stood. His initial reaction was anger, and then when the enormity of what he had said sank in, Sesshoumaru began to feel a surreal numbness settling over him.
What had he done?
Perhaps he should not have jumped to such conclusions. However, the evidence proved the miko's guilt.
Calming down a little, he tried to see the situation from the miko's point of view. Perhaps she had a valid reason for doing what she did. After all, she had not actively done anything against him or any other demons.
In fact, she simply treated everyone the same, whether demons or humans.
It was one of the reasons why he kept her around, apart from the fact that she was the mother of his son. She possessed a purity of heart which was rivaled by no other. Although far from perfect, most of her qualities were admirable.
In the circumstances, did he expect her to react any differently? Did he expect her to leave the demon slayers knowing that she could still aid them? Did he expect her to be anything but herself?
Hr grimaced. Much as he disliked to admit it, he knew that he had overreacted.
Furthermore, he had failed to consider Sachimaru's reaction when he had lashed out at the miko. Knowing how close they were to each other, his son would never forgive him if the miko left.
No, he would not let her leave.
He would allow her some time to calm herself.
Then, he would talk to her.
Shoji screens flashed past her one after another as she rushed across the castle.
Heart constricting with each jerky step, Kagome bit her lips to hold back the overwhelming urge to cry. His callous treatment of what she thought they had together hurt her. Her heart twisted at the recollection of the coldness in his eyes as he told her to leave. Even though they were not mates or anything like that, things had been peaceful enough, right? Why did he have to go ruin everything?
She tried to block it out, but her mind kept bombarding her with Sesshoumaru's cruel words. Each of those words ripped at her, tearing her inside out. Why did he say such things just because she helped those demon slayers? What did he expect her to do? To leave them to die when she could help them? She was not like him, she could not stand seeing others suffer unnecessarily.
For that, she was being banished from the castle?
For that, she had to leave?
And not only leave, but leave without her son? A son who would end up under Sesshoumaru's sole supervision, learning how to hate humans and learning how to take life without remorse? A son who would grow to be a mirror of the cold, cruel taiyoukai?
As she headed towards the servants' quarters, her breath caught on a suppressed sob. No, that would not happen. She would never allow her sweet, innocent son be corrupted in such a way.
If Sesshoumaru wanted her to leave, she would leave.
But not without her son.
She skidded to a halt near Natsumi's room, quickly forcing a smile to her face just in time to greet her son and the female youkai.
"Okaa-san! I missed you!" Sachimaru declared, throwing himself into her arms.
Her chest ached at her son's bright expression, knowing fully well that after this, Sachimaru would not be smiling. Her son would probably hate her for taking him away from his father. But it could not be helped. She had no other choice left to her. This was for the best.
She would bring Sachimaru somewhere safe.
But much as she wished to do so, she did not want to risk going down the well with Sachimaru. No one knew if he could pass through to the future. What if she tried and Sachimaru got left behind?
So the only other option would be to stay with Akiyama. In that case, she would accept the Northern Lord's proposal to mate. Something nudged at her, telling her that she was using Akiyama, but she quickly brushed it away. It was not as if she did not care for Akiyama. She might even love him already and he was certainly more reliable than some other demon lord she knew. She and Sachimaru would be safe there. And perhaps, after some time apart, Sesshoumaru might come to his senses. And only then would she let Sesshoumaru see his son.
She could not do this alone. She needed help and it could only be Katsuo or Inuyasha.
No, not Inuyasha. However rocky Inuyasha's relationship was with Sesshoumaru, she knew that the dog-eared hanyou looked up to Sesshoumaru and would never betray him like this. But what about Katsuo? Wasn't it the same for him?
"Okaa-san? You're not happy?"
Kagome blinked as her son's call drew her out of her thoughts. When she looked down at him, there was no missing the anxiety clouding his chubby face. Sachimaru had obviously sensed that something was wrong. Her lips twisted mirthlessly, realizing that this was the result of the gift Akiyama had so recently bestowed upon Sachimaru.
Stretching her lips painfully, she shook her head. "No. I'm alright, Sachimaru. Just a little tired from the patrol."
Then Kagome felt a soft touch on her arm. Natsumi's expression betrayed her concern when she asked, "Are you sure? You want me to bring you something?"
"Don't worry, I'm fine," Kagome brushed off gently. Then she quickly added, "Have you seen Katsuo?"
Natsumi shook her head. "But he's usually in his quarters by this time."
Giving the other girl a watery smile of thanks, Kagome could not help but wonder if this was the last time she would see her friend for a while. After all, the Northern Isles were not exactly close to the Western Lands. But she could not tell Natsumi where she was going. The last thing she wanted was to implicate the demoness. Sesshoumaru would have no qualms about punishing his servants.
Hurrying towards Katsuo's quarters, she could not help but wonder if it was fair to involve her hanyou friend. Even though she desperately needed Katsuo to help her get to Akiyama, would he be alright after he helped her? For she was sure that he would not let her down on this. Katsuo understood her and he had seen her through a lot.
Biting her lips to hold back her tears, she told herself to hold it together just a while longer. Pausing for a moment, she hugged a bewildered Sachimaru and brought forth her powers to mask both their scents. This would at least slow Sesshoumaru down if he decided to give chase.
Sachimaru gave her a questioning look. "Are we playing hide and seek?"
She wanted to cry. She really did. "Something like that," she finally choked out. Trying to divert his attention, she nudged at the end of the long one-storey wooden building. "Look, we're almost at Katsuo's room."
Sachimaru gave her an odd look, obviously undecided whether he should believe her or not. Ignoring the look, Kagome hurried to Katsuo's quarters and slid the shoji screen open. This was not the first time she had been in his quarters. As the main general, he had been given a two-roomed living space. Dotted around the outer room were his belongings and flat cushions were lined up against one wall. A small clay urn holding his mother's ashes was placed high up on the shelf at one end of the room.
"Katsuo?" she called out as she stepped further in, closing the screen behind her.
Then her heart sank when she realized that the hanyou was not in there.
Feeling as if she was not able to take another step, Kagome sank to the floor and gathered Sachimaru tighter in her arms. All at once, she felt everything crashing over her as her control slipped further and further away from her grasp. She felt so weak, so drained. All this was just too much for her.
No, Katsuo must be here, she pleaded silently. She needed him. She needed him to help her get away.
"Okaa-san…What's wrong? Why are you not happy?" Sachimaru whimpered pitifully, obviously sensing but not understanding why she was upset.
"Shh…little one. Everything will be fine," Kagome whispered tremulously, rubbing her son's back reassuringly. She did not know what to say to him. At times like this, she wished that Akiyama had not gifted Sachimaru with that particular skill. She very much preferred it that Sachimaru remained ignorant of what was happening.
"Everything will be fine..." she whispered again.
Her chest constricted painfully when Sesshoumaru's cruel face flashed before her eyes again. Why? Why did he have to do this to them? Why must Sesshoumaru break their hearts? What would happen when she left? How could little Sachimaru stand being separated from his father? Would her son blame her for it for the rest of his life? But was it fair for Sesshoumaru to force her to leave in the first place, especially without her son?
Who would Sachimaru choose to stay with, given the choice?
She glanced down at her son. Exhausted from the emotional strain, Sachimaru finally slumped against her chest, fast asleep.
Now that she did not have to keep up a brave face, Kagome let it out in a strangled sob, feeling her miko energy pulse around her and Sachimaru. The room lighted up with her anguish, her pain and her feeling of utter hopelessness, but she was still cared enough to make sure that it would not harm anyone around her.
"Why…" she whispered brokenly.
Numbly, Kagome rocked back and forth, clutching Sachimaru close to her. She did not know what to do.
SHE DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO!
The room flared brightly again, leaving her even more drained. Silent, painful droplets fell from her eyes, trailing down her cheeks before they hit the tatami mat with muffled plops.
She did not know how long she sat there, bowed in helpless despair. She was only made aware of her surrounding when an odd feeling washed over her. There was someone else in the room with them, she realized, tensing as her damp eyes widened. Was Katsuo back?
"Katsuo?" she called out hesitantly.
"Dear child, I'm afraid Katsuo is not here."
Kagome instantly shot to her feet at the sound of the unfamiliar female voice. Holding Sachimaru against her protectively, she spun around until she faced a wraithlike figure at the end of the room. From the way the figure was floating above the floor, it was clear that she was some sort of spirit. And from her attire, Kagome figured that she must be some sort of priestess.
"Who are you?" she asked warily.
The old priestess smiled gently, but Kagome could see the hint of bitter grief in the small action. "I'm Katsuo's mother."
Kagome's hand shot up to her lips, her eyes darting to the now glowing clay urn before her gaze returned to the spirit of Katsuo's mother. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you," Kagome rushed out. What had she done?
"Hush, child. It was the strength of your pain which called me to you." The old priestess gestured at an urn. "Your powers washed over my ashes, awakening me to aid you in your time of distress."
It figured that Katsuo's mother was as kind as he was. A watery smile crossed Kagome's face. "Oh…I'm fine really. I'm sorry to have disturbed you."
"Do not fret. Your circumstances are…difficult, being that you're not from this time."
Kagome gaped. "You know?"
Smiling, the spirit nodded. "I look over Katsuo and all those close to him. I heard you telling him about your home, even if he did not believe it."
Forcing a smile to her lips, Kagome said, "I don't blame him. It sounds a little far-fetched. But it doesn't really matter, because Katsuo never judged me on my background anyway."
The old priestess's eyes softened. "I am not sure how much you know about the circumstances behind Katsuo's birth. But his background allows him to be more accepting. I too, have once suffered from loving a demon."
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Kagome shook her head. "No, it'd not like that. I don't… love Sesshoumaru."
"You are deceiving yourself."
Kagome bit her lips, uncomfortable with the old priestess's words. "It doesn't matter, does it? Sesshoumaru wants me gone just be cause we have some disagreement." A bitter laugh escaped her lips, only to end up as a muffled sob. "I guess I was hoping that after all this time, he would at least treat me a little better than some possession."
The ghostly blue eyes sparked. "Hope is always a good thing until it eats away at you, twisting you, making you bitter," the old priestess declared with surprising vehemence. Then she paused, studying Kagome intently. "I can sense a great power residing in you. A pure strength. Should you allow yourself to be darkened by hate and bitterness, you will corrupt yourself."
Kagome sucked in a sharp breath. Did the old priestess mean that she would endanger those around her? "What do you mean?"
"Such power is not to be taken lightly. Child, you must remain pure in heart. Your powers must not be affected by such distress."
"But I don't know what to do!" Kagome broke out helplessly. "Maybe in time I won't feel so bad. But right now…" She inhaled sharply. "Right now I just can't!"
A moment of silence passed before the old priestess spoke again. "Will you let me help?"
Kagome's eyes rounded. Katsuo's mother was offering to help her? Should she accept? Surely the wise priestess knew what she was doing. Surely, whatever she did, it could not be as bad as what she was feeling at the moment.
Still, she had to ask. "What will you do?"
"I only want to make things right for you. To suppress the pain you're feeling, and to ensure that your miko powers remain uncorrupted," the old priestess said kindly, reaching out a translucent hand to brush her hair away from her face before reaching down, doing the same to Sachimaru.
Sachimaru's eyes shot open. "Okaa-san? I'm scared…"
"Shh…" Kagome soothed as she stroked his back. Then turning back to the old priestess, she asked, "But what will you do?"
"Do you not trust me, child?"
Trust. She was Katsuo's mother and Katsuo was a decent person, right? Could she be trusted?
Slowly, Kagome nodded.
"So be it," the old priestess intoned gravely as she raised her arms out.
"With all the powers I possess and all the powers which protects this miko, return her to her rightful time. Repress her knowledge and the knowledge of those who knows her, for this event would remain forever veiled. Let her live her life free of this pain of betrayal and heartache. Let her powers be contained until such time that her spirit is whole once again."
As the words sank in, Kagome's eyes widened in alarm. No! No, this was not what she wanted!
She opened her mouth, wanting to stop the old priestess from finishing the spell. But before she could do it, Kagome felt something floating out of her. Her entire body instantly felt weak and she slumped to the floor as the old priestess reached out to the chain and pendant around Sachimaru's neck. She could only watch helplessly while Sachimaru cried, trying in vain to avoid the old miko's hand.
"With what's left of my essence and the strength of this girl's power, may this spell be bound to all those who had felt the touch of her presence."
A flash of light blinded them.
Then there was nothing.
Kagome jerked up, her heart pounding rapidly in her chest.
Her mouth parted in horror when she remembered her dream. Remembered how the entire thing had happened. She buried her damp face in Sesshoumaru's chest, noting idly that she was being clasped in a tight grip by the pale demon.
Darkness surrounded her, but she did not notice it.
And neither did Sesshoumaru, it seemed.
Kagome could not believe what she had done. How could she have allowed something like that to happen. How could she be so trusting? Her lips twisted. At least the old priestess did not wipe Sachimaru out of existence. And somehow, the old priestess had also managed to return Sachimaru to her.
She remembered what the old miko had said about her essence and the way she had waved at Sachimaru. The spirit of Katsuo's mother had been the one who had used her own miko powers to seal the spell to the chain. All that time, her own miko powers had been trapped in the pendant, working to suppress their memories until the chain had broken, thus breaking the spell.
Kagome swallowed past the tightness in her throat as she glanced up at Sesshoumaru. How would he react to this?
"You remember?" Sesshoumaru sounded strained.
"It's awful," she whispered. "I remember… everything."
Burying her face in his chest again, Kagome moaned, "If only I didn't agree to let her help me."
She stiffened when she realized that Sesshoumaru did not know anything about the spell. What would he think of it? Would he blame her for this entire thing? "What was the last thing you remember?" she asked nervously.
He remained silent for a while before saying in a quiet voice, "After I ordered you to leave, I went back to my chambers to reflect upon…what I've said. When my mind was clear once again, I realized that my words were unnecessarily harsh. I should not have asked you to leave. It was… a mistake. But my younger self must have realized it too late, for that was the last incident I recall."
His expression was enough to tell Kagome that he meant what he said. But she was surprised that the Sesshoumaru of the past had felt the same, even though it was not soon enough to stop the occurrence of the events.
Holding on to his hands tightly, she said, "I know. You were just angry with me."
"Back then, I had every intention of calling you back."
Kagome lowered her eyes. "I took Sachimaru with me and went to look for Katsuo."
Sesshoumaru's grip tightened. "Why?" he asked, his voice cracking a little.
"I… I…" She paused, biting her lips as her throat constricted. It was so hard to put this all into words. "I wanted Katsuo to bring me to Akiyama."
She felt his grip tighten further almost to the point of crushing her hands but she carried on, knowing that she needed to explain everything. However painful it was. "He wasn't in his quarters but somehow, I accidentally called forth his mother's spirit. She was the one who cast the spell to make us forget."
Still unable to look at Sesshoumaru, Kagome took a deep breath and whispered, "This is all my fault."
A finger under her chin forced her to look up into his stricken golden orbs. Then, slowly, he lowered his forehead to hers. Their noses were almost touching when he said resolutely, "It's in the past, Kagome. It does not matter now. Do not dwell upon it."
"We will learn from it and ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated."
Slowly, she nodded. Feeling rather overwhelmed by everything, she sagged. Even though Sesshoumaru told her not to think about it, she needed to be alone for a while to process this.
"I think I'm going to take a bath to wake myself up before the rest arrives," she mumbled.
Sesshoumaru's eyes remained on her, looking as if he wanted to say something. Then he merely nodded and released her.
Still feeling numb, she stood up and without another word, padded to the bathroom. A generously sized bathtub was centered in the space, looking very inviting. She ran the water and while it filled, gather the necessary toiletries from a glass shelf mounted on the wall. Someone had gone through a lot of trouble setting this place up to make sure that there was everything one required for a short stay.
When the bath was full enough, she disrobed and stepped in, sighing as she did so. Immediately the memories of what had happened in the past returned to her and she grimaced. The whole thing in the past was the result of a series of accidents, misunderstandings and mistakes.
It was an accident that she had fallen into the well.
It was a misunderstanding which had made her Sesshoumaru's possession.
It was an accident that she had marked Sesshoumaru.
It was a mistake that they interpreted Inu-no-Taishou's scroll incorrectly when it came to the bond breaking.
It was a misunderstanding that had resulted in Sesshoumaru ignoring her when she was pregnant with Sachimaru.
The list was endless.
Still, without all that, she would not have known Sesshoumaru and Sachimaru would not have existed. So as awful as it had been, she was glad everything had happened. That she was now together with the demon she loved and their son.
It could have ended so differently.
If Katsuo had been in his room that fateful day, she would have been mated to Akiyama. In that case, she would probably have lived with the elemental for the last five hundred years and by now, Sachimaru would be an adult.
If Sesshoumaru had caught up with her back then, what would he have done? How would she have responded?
She closed her eyes and groaned. Sesshoumaru was right, she should stop thinking about it. After all, they were together now, right? Nothing else would happen to push them apart, right?
A slight squeak from the door drew her attention. Then the door opened to reveal the subject of her thoughts.
"Sesshoumaru! What are you doing in here?" she shrieked in embarrassment, dunking herself further into the water.
"I wish to say something to you."
Her eyes widened incredulously. "Can't this wait at least until I finish my bath?"
She released a sputter of exasperation. "What do you mean, no? You being in here is… is…" she faltered when he stepped closer to her.
A blush crawled up her cheeks when he began to remove his clothes. She stared wordlessly as more and more of his body was exposed as each article of his clothing made its way to the bathroom floor. When he stood fully bared to her, a surge of heat pooled within her, and it had nothing to do with the warmth of the water surrounding her.
"W-What was it you wanted to say?" she finally managed in a shaky voice.
The water splashed over the rim of the bathtub as he stepped into the water. Kagome's eyes widened further. He was joining her? Then she almost groaned out loud when his bare legs slid along hers.
"That I'm sorry."
She blinked at him, trying to remember what she had asked while being acutely aware of his legs tangled with hers in the water. When her mind finally cleared a little, she ventured hesitantly, "Why are you apologizing? I'm the one who agreed to let the old priestess help."
Sesshoumaru's lips twisted in displeasure as he leaned towards her, splashing more water out of the bathtub. "You were distraught. And it was all due to my words."
She inhaled sharply as he ran a wet hand from the side of her neck down to the valley between her breasts. Then scooping a handful of water, he repeated the action.
"S-Sesshoumaru? What are you doing?"
"It is something a mate would be allowed to do."
Her lips parted in astonishment. "What are you talking about?"
Kagome felt his breath on her lips as he locked his eyes on hers. Mesmerized, she could only stare into the smoldering golden orbs. There was something in them; determination and what else?
"I thought you wanted to talk," she whispered shakily.
"Hn?" he mumbled absently, his eyes leaving her face to travel lower. His fingers followed his eyes, trailing down her body into the water. "I wish nothing more than to mate you right this instance."
Her breath caught at his heated declaration.
"But this is not the appropriate time or place to do so," he remarked, his disappointment evident in his tone.
But she wanted to. She wanted him close to her. To feel what she had felt the one and only time they had physically joined as one. Suddenly it did not matter that they were not at home. All that mattered to her was both of them were here.
And both of them wanted it.
Why should it matter where they were? Why did they have to wait any longer? What if something else happened this time to pry them apart? Kami knew that a ridiculous amount things had gone wrong with their relationship in the past.
No, she would not let them slip apart again, she decided firmly. With that thought, she clamped her hands on his shoulders as he was about to lean away from her, holding him in place.
He quirked a questioning brow. "Kagome?"
"We are doing it. Now," she declared fiercely.
His eyes widened slightly, and then those golden orbs gleamed as he asked silkily, "Do you intend to mark me again?" It sounded almost like a challenge.
Her heart lightened as a grin spread across her face. Then she decided to tease him. "Someone has to do it, right? And at least I've had some practice initiating such things. You, on the other hand…" she broke off, shrieking in alarm when she was abruptly lifted from the water.
She gasped in mock outrage when she found herself slung over his shoulders while he tracked a wet trail to the bedroom. Kagome pounded her fists on his back only to be rewarded by a warning growl. Her only response was to laugh. Then her perspective changed suddenly when Sesshoumaru dropped her down on the bed and straddled her, completely ignoring the fact that they were both dripping wet.
Her laughter died in her throat. All playfulness left her when her eyes found his. Smoldering with unmistakable desire and something deeper, Sesshoumaru's golden orbs practically glowed.
His head descended to capture her lips in a deep, almost desperate kiss. Her hands went up behind his head, pulling him closer as she responded just as heatedly. They remained locked in the embrace until Sesshoumaru suddenly pulled away.
"You will not leave again," he declared fiercely.
She smiled softly. "No, I won't," she said resolutely.
Then she felt his lips on her neck, nibbling and sucking. His sharp fangs scraped her skin and a shiver of anticipation skated up her spine. With a growl, he dragged himself lower until he reached her breasts. Digging her fingers into his back, she arched up against him when he began to suckle on one tip while his fingers played with the other.
A whimper of desire broke from her when his hand left her breast to trail further down, tangling in her curls. She could feel her own wetness as he circled her sensitive flesh, pushing her to greater heights.
Her mind clouded with passion, she did not realize that he had slipped even lower until she felt the heated touch of his tongue on her nether regions. A breathy moan escaped her lips as she bucked against him, wanting more, wanting to touch him.
"Sesshoumaru, I want to touch you."
He instantly stilled.
Sensing the opportunity, she sat up and pushed his unresisting body down till their positions were reversed. As he watched with undisguised hunger, she lowered her lips and nipped at his chest, his muscles jumping when her teeth scraped against his flesh. She edged further down until she found what she sought. Then she wrapped her hands around his hard length. His entire body immediately tensed and he released a hiss of pleasure.
"Kagome…" he groaned as she began to stroke him.
More heat pooled between her legs when he jerked into her hand. Encouraged by his reaction, she dipped her head and licked him, drawing another ragged groan from him. Then she took him in fully her mouth.
Before she could register what had happened, she found herself lying on her back again with Sesshoumaru staring down at her, his eyes streaked with red. His chest was heaving as he struggled for control.
"Now, Sesshoumaru," she whispered urgently, reaching down between them to stroke him.
"Kagome…" he groaned as he aligned himself.
Her eyes shot open and her lips parted in a soundless gasp when he slid into her. She felt so full, so complete. Then all thoughts left her mind when he began to move. Jolts after jolts of pleasure coursed through her with each of his thrusts, and she called out his name amidst her moans and whimpers.
He dipped down to crush her lips with his and when he raised his head, their eyes locked. His thrusts intensified and his expression contorted in pleasure while she bit her lips. She could feel her entire body spiraling tighter.
"Mark me, Kagome," he growled, his fangs lengthening visibly.
A shaky breath left her as he exposed his neck to her. When she felt his fangs piercing her own neck, Kagome immediately bit down. His blood filled her mouth and her entire body heated with the ingress of his youki. Almost instantly, she shuddered, reaching her peak. Her lips parted in a gasp as waves of intense pleasure coursed through her, causing her to spasm around Sesshoumaru, drawing him to his climax. He jerked within her, snarling in completion.
Then all she could hear was the sound of their ragged breaths. And all she could feel was the comfortable weight of his body above hers.
Then she heard him say, "My mate…"
Smiling languidly before her eyes fluttered shut, she murmured, "Yes."
Someone was pounding on the door, jolting them awake with its infernal persistence.
Sesshoumaru sat up abruptly, instantly realizing that he had fallen into such a deep sleep that he had not realized that Inuyasha and the rest had arrived. He glowered at himself, annoyed that he had allowed himself such carelessness.
However, his irritation instantly dissipated when his gaze fell upon the figure beside him. A warm feeling washed over him when Kagome gave him a small smile.
It was then that he realized that he had been denied waking up next to his miko for five centuries. And he had no one to blame but himself, as it was all the result of his past self's doing. If his younger self had not insisted on masking his feelings, showing the miko only a side which she found unacceptable, this entire event would not have occurred. He would have spent the last five hundred years with Kagome and Sachimaru.
"Are they here?" she asked, breaking off his unpleasant thoughts.
When he stood up, she followed suit and they quickly dressed. But before Kagome could reach the door, he pulled her close to plant a swift kiss on her lips. A gasp escaped her, but she did not pull away. Instead, she leaned in closer to him, deepening their kiss until he finally decided that if they did not stop, Inuyasha would be waiting outside for a long time.
Breaking away reluctantly, he said in a rough voice, "Perhaps we should continue later."
Her cheeks flamed red as a weak laugh broke from her. "Um… Good idea."
It amazed him that she could still be shy after what they had done earlier. Still, it was rather adorable. Giving her a peck on the lips, he strode over to the door and yanked it open to find a scowling Inuyasha and a smiling Katsuo not far behind. Then Inuyasha's nose twitched and his eyes widened.
Wearing an incredulous look, Inuyasha exclaimed, "You can't find a better time to… to…"
Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes. "Mind your tongue, Inuyasha. Or I will remove it."
"Keh!" Inuyasha snorted, and then shoved Tenseiga and Toukijin at him. "Take these. The rest are waiting downstairs with Shin."
Sesshoumaru caught both swords before they impacted upon his chest. Frowning at Inuyasha, he slid both swords through his belt. At this point, it did not matter if he was seen walking around Japan with swords. After all, the humans would not remember anything once this was all over.
Akiyama's approaching presence drew Sesshoumaru's gaze to the end of the corridor. For a moment, Sesshoumaru wondered if Akiyama knew what had just taken place. But the elemental's countenance betrayed nothing.
"I've prepared a back-up team. And this might be helpful," Akiyama said, pulling out a bag containing some grey fabric.
Sesshoumaru took it, eyeing the fabric through the clear plastic dubiously. "What is this?" he finally asked.
"One of the Prime Minister's suit. Eiko bribed one of his servants. I thought it would be useful if we have to track him."
Sesshoumaru suppressed the urge to wrinkle his nose in distaste. He was supposed to sniff out the Prime Minister? The moment the thought crossed his mind, Sesshoumaru threw the bag at Inuyasha, who caught it with a wild-eyed expression.
"You will study his scent," Sesshoumaru intoned flatly.
Inuyasha's eyes bugged. "Oi! I thought you're the one with the better sense of smell."
"Come on, Sesshoumaru," Kagome coaxed, her lips twitching slightly. "It can't be that bad, right?"
Sesshoumaru's lips thinned. Without a word, he extended a hand towards Inuyasha. Eyes gleaming with amusement, the hanyou handed him the bag. He opened the bag, allowing the scent of the human to reach his nose. Satisfied that he would recognize the scent, Sesshoumaru immediately threw the bag to Inuyasha before he turned to walk down the corridor with his mate.
"Make sure the rest recognize this scent," he bit out without turning around.
Inuyasha muttered behind him, "I can't believe we're doing this again. Thought we're done with all the fighting."
Kagome groaned. "I just hope that my powers won't end up killing allies."
"You will aim before you release your attack," Sesshoumaru instructed dryly, pausing to glance at her.
She made a face. "Easy for you to say. You've been using your powers for centuries."
The corner of Sesshoumaru's lips lifted, but he said nothing as they exited Akiyama's home.
Not before long, they arrived at a tall hotel building. It was one which tended to serve the rich, but those with rather questionable occupations. Even though it was already past midnight, it was still busy. It seemed fitting that Naraku had chosen such a place to carry out his schemes, seeing that the hotel employees were likely to turn a blind eye to them.
He scanned the double-height space, noting the luxuriously decorated interior. The guests and the employees who paid them no attention. There were too many humans and demons milling about and he found it difficult to discern the scents around him, even with his heightened sense of smell.
"Can you tell if they are here?" Kagome asked quietly as they stepped into the lobby.
With a nod to him, Akiyama and his team slipped away, heading towards the back of house area. Inuyasha, Katsuo and the rest went the other way to ensure that they did not miss anything. As agreed, Sesshoumaru and Kagome headed to the reception and asked for a room. They soon found themselves directed to a room on the tenth floor.
As they stepped into the lift, the tightening of slender fingers around his hand drew Sesshoumaru's attention to his mate.
"Is something the matter?"
A forced smile made its way to her lips. "What if we're too late?"
"Kagome, do not concern yourself which such speculations."
She inhaled slowly, and then nodded.
The lift stopped at the tenth floor, but Sesshoumaru pulled Kagome back before she could step out. At her questioning glance, he explained. "We'll start from the top. Akiyama and Inuyasha are covering the lower levels and they will work their way up"
Kagome leaned against the back of the lift, a worried frown still lodged between her brows. Her entire body was tense as she stared intently at the lift door. She worried too much, Sesshoumaru thought. They had planned this well, and if Naraku or the captured humans were in this hotel, they would surely find them.
His claws were already twitching in anticipation of destroying the hanyou.
When the lift finally arrived at the intended destination, Sesshoumaru stepped out, pulling his mate with him. He immediately expanded his senses in an attempt to detect his target.
"Anything?" Kagome whispered.
He shook his head. Irked, he began to walk along the corridor, passing the doors to each room without pause until they reached the stairwell. Once again he fanned his senses outwards. His eyes narrowed. It was faint, but there was something which told him that there was something out of place on the floor below.
"Downstairs," he replied quietly. Pulling her close, he looked into her eyes, noting the mix of anticipation and worry in those brown orbs. "Stay close."
She gave his hand a squeeze. "I will."
With that, they descended and exited into another floor of hotel rooms. This time, his senses directed him to the end of the corridor. There was a door to the left, one which appeared to be identical to the rest. But Sesshoumaru knew better.
Placing one hand around Toukijin's hilt, he forced the door open.
They were instantly engulfed in a purplish smoke.
"Miasma," Sesshoumaru spat harshly.
Turning towards his mate, Sesshoumaru quickly pulled her closer and pressed her face against his chest in an attempt to minimize her exposure to the poisonous substance, all the while backing away from the door. Although he was immune to poison, the noxious scent was irritating his nose.
"Mmph!" she protested, pulling away from him. "I'm fine, Sesshoumaru."
He frowned down at her. "You do not feel the effects?"
She shook her head, looking confused. "It smells bad, but other than that, I don't feel anything."
How curious, he thought. But he knew that she spoke the truth, or else she would not be standing right now. Perhaps their mating had increased her defense against such things.
"I guess this is Naraku's suite," she mumbled.
Satisfied that the miasma would not harm his mate, Sesshoumaru pushed the door open fully and strode in. The thick curtains at the end of the suite were drawn shut, keeping the suite in darkness, but his eyes adjusted quickly to it. A muffled sound from one of the rooms off the main area caught his attention.
"I think I hear something," Kagome whispered, wording his thoughts.
He nodded, and then made his way to the door. It was locked, but with a firm push, the lock gave.
The room was clear of miasma, allowing Sesshoumaru to see the occupants. Restrained against the wall from what appeared to be makeshift hooks, the six politicians looked terrified. With a gasp, Kagome rushed towards the bound and gagged humans. She immediately undid the gag from the middle-aged Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister inhaled sharply when the gag fell off. "Who are you?" he croaked.
"We're here to get you out," Kagome assured him as she began to work on the bonds around his ankles and wrists.
Sesshoumaru simply watched as his mate struggled with the bonds, which to his eyes, were glowing slightly red. Finally, he said, "Those ropes are infused with demonic power. You should purify it."
"Oh." Then she drew back slightly and her palms began to glow.
The Prime Minister shrank back. "Stay away from us!"
"Look, this wouldn't come off unless I purify it, alright?" Kagome explained irritably.
She was obviously losing patience. Fools, Sesshoumaru thought. Could they not tell that Kagome was simply attempting to release them? The glow around her hands intensified and she directed it towards the bound humans. Sesshoumaru watched, somewhat amused when the humans began to struggle in panic. Brows furrowed in concentration, Kagome kept releasing waves and waves of pure miko power until the ropes were no longer glowing.
Snapping around, she bit out, "Sesshoumaru, can you come help instead of just standing there?"
Sesshoumaru allowed a look of distaste to cross his features, to which his mate simply rolled her eyes. "Fine," she ground out as she untied the Prime Minister.
Freed, the Prime Minister stood up and went to release one of the other Diet members. "Are you a demon?" he asked warily, turning to look over his shoulders.
Sesshoumaru exchanged a look with his mate before he fixed his gaze on the human. "Yes," he replied simply.
"You are a demons and you're helping us?" one of the released Diet members asked incredulously.
Unfortunately, Sesshoumaru thought.
Looking up from her task of unbinding another Diet member, Kagome remarked quietly, "Humans and demons are not all that different, you know. There are good ones and bad ones. Most demons are not like Naraku."
"Naraku…" the Prime Minister hissed, his eyes flashing with anger. "He's the one who kidnapped us from our conference."
Kagome nodded. "We're trying to find him. He's been causing a lot of problems for the demon society and-"
"That's enough, Kagome," Sesshoumaru interjected firmly. He did not wish to air demonic affairs to humans, Prime Minister or not.
With a huff, his mate returned to freeing the third human.
That was when Sesshoumaru sensed it. Instantly alert, he streaked towards his mate, pulling her away from the human she had just released. "Stand back," he warned in an uncompromising voice. Then he pinned his eyes on the Prime Minister. "Do not move."
"What?" the man asked, looking bewildered.
"Sesshoumaru, what's going on?"
Entire body tense, he simply waited as the presence grew closer. Naraku was approaching fast, presumably to retrieve his hostages. To Sesshoumaru's surprise, he could sense Inuyasha's presence as well.
So, Inuyasha was pursuing the filthy hanyou, Sesshoumaru surmised with a satisfied smirk.
It was not long before Naraku crashed into the suite, his red eyes instantly landing on them. Sneering, Naraku spat, "So, you've found them."
Inuyasha skidded in behind him.
Surrounded, but appearing to be completely unperturbed, Naraku simply went on, "If I'd known you were coming, I would have prepared a better welcome."
"Shut it and fight, you bastard!" Inuyasha snarled, lifting Tetsusaiga up in preparation for an attack.
"Inuyasha, don't! You're going to hit us with that blast!" Kagome yelled, pushing herself in front of the Prime Minister.
"Little lady…" the Prime Minister protested, but was cut off by another voice.
"Kagome, your barrier," Sesshoumaru instructed calmly, his voice not betraying his anxiety at the fact that his mate had just placed herself in front of the human to protect him. Even through he understood why she did it, the sight worried him.
With a nod, she lifted her hand, enveloping three of the released humans in a pearlescent barrier. When she was about to cast another barrier around the rest of the humans at the other end of the room, a wave of dark, slithering tentacles exploded from Naraku's spine, accompanied by horrified gasps from the humans.
Kagome immediately dove to the side, avoiding the tentacles.
Sesshoumaru snapped his whip through the air, halting Naraku's attack and pushing the hanyou back. Face twisting maliciously, Naraku retracted his tentacles. Then with one downward sweep of his hand, a swarm of wasps filled the room.
Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed. Those wasps were poisonous. His eyes went to Kagome to find her creeping stealthily towards those humans who were still unprotected. He wanted to call her back, but he could not afford to direct attention towards her.
Ignoring the buzzing wasps, Inuyasha immediately charged at Naraku. The black-haired hanyou leapt into the air out of range, but Sesshoumaru followed by shooting a stream of poison. It hit Naraku's arm. The hanyou fell to the floor with a loud thud as his arm began to sizzle. A furious cry escaped him.
The miko's gasp drew Sesshoumaru's attention. His eyes widened when he saw a child-like white-haired demoness holding a circular mirror standing near the miko. Impossible. He sensed nothing from her, no scent, no youki. It was as if she was nothingness itself.
Apprehension washed over Sesshoumaru.
"Kanna," Naraku called out. "Take them!"
Her expression eerily blank, the pale girl simply nodded, holding her mirror out.
Sesshoumaru was about to intercept, only to find another unfamiliar demonic presence approaching. An instant later, a dark haired demon crashed into the room on what appeared to be an origami bird.
Naraku narrowed his eyes. "Byakuya. Where are the rest?"
The latest arrival smiled cheerfully. "Sorry I'm late. We were held back by this bloodthirsty blue-haired elemental. Akiyama, I believe he is called. And oh, no one else survived. Too bad, really…"
Naraku released a hiss of outrage.
The child before her, the one called Kanna, displayed no emotion when she lifted her mirror. It was as if she was not even alive, almost like a puppet.
Adrenaline coursing through her veins, Kagome held her arms out, allowing her offensive powers to fill her. The child in front of her was not innocent, however much she might look the part, Kagome insisted to herself. She heard a crash from Sesshoumaru's side of the room, but Kagome kept her eyes fixed on the child's blank, soulless eyes.
Then she felt something. There was something about the mirror… To her alarm, Kagome suddenly found herself paralyzed. Her breath left her and she felt something pulling her forward. Not her physical body, but pulling at something inside her.
Kagome gritted her teeth. Whatever it was, she was not giving it up. Forcing her arms to inch upward, she threw all she had into her attack.
A beam of light exploded from her palms, shooting towards Kanna. For a moment, Kagome thought she saw fear reflected in the depth of those dark eyes. Then Kanna was thrown backwards, her mirror still clasped firmly in one hand. The wasps immediately surrounded her, protecting her.
Snarls and growls filled the air as bursts of youki illuminated the room. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Sesshoumaru occupied in an intense battle with Naraku while Inuyasha dealt with Byakuya. The three politicians surrounded by her barrier were cowering in fear, pressing themselves closer to each other. The other politicians were still exposed, but Kagome did not dare turn away from Kanna to form a protective barrier around the rest for the fear that the pale demoness might attack.
She should just deal with Kanna once and for all, Kagome decided. Taking a fortifying breath, she threw a beam of miko power at the swarm. The wasps exploded into smoke, briefly revealing Kanna before a new batch of wasps surrounded the demoness protectively again.
Kagome's irritation grew. This was not working. She had to think of something else.
An explosion of familiar youki jolted her.
Gasping, Kagome jumped back as a tentacle shot past her towards Kanna. In a blink of an eye, Naraku was holding Kanna in front of him just as Toukijin's attack made contact. Eyes widening in disbelief, Kagome could only watch, frozen to the spot as Kanna's small body shook from Toukijin's blast of energy.
Sesshoumaru withdrew his sword, a furrow marring his brow. "Your lack of honor is astounding, hanyou," he remarked flatly.
Naraku smirked. "She served her purpose."
Carelessly, the dark-haired hanyou tossed Kanna like a rag doll back to the floor, just in front of Kagome. Horrified that Naraku had actually used his own underling to shield himself, Kagome fell to her knees beside the broken demoness. There was no blood. Instead, cracks began to spread across Kanna's small body, across her arms, legs and face.
Kanna looked up at her. For the first time, Kagome saw a flicker of emotion in those black depths. It was… relief.
"Finally…" Kanna whispered.
Kagome's lips parted soundlessly. Was this demoness an unwilling party in this battle? Had she been forced by Naraku, and then to make things worse, used as a shield?
"I-" Kagome began.
Kanna interjected in a rush. Her voice was low, but urgent. "No time… Naraku won't die like this."
"Huh?" Surely if they killed Naraku, he would die.
"His heart… You must destroy his heart."
Kagome grew cold. Something was not quite right here. Was Naraku's heart somewhere else? Grasping the dying demoness's cold hand, she asked urgently, "What do you mean?"
Kanna's eyelids fluttered shut as her breath grew shallower and shallower. "Hakudoshi doesn't know…"
Completely baffled now, but knowing that this information was important, Kagome pressed, "Doesn't know what? Where is Naraku's heart?"
Kanna's body shuddered. "In… Hakudoshi…" she whispered, and then she went still.
A sudden burst of energy jolted Kagome from her confusion.
"Die already, will you!" she heard Inuyasha snarl.
A shrill scream pierced the air. Kagome turned around just in time to see Byakuya clutching the blade embedded in his stomach, his expression twisted in agony. Then with a flare of light, he exploded into dust. Smirking with satisfaction, Inuyasha retrieved Tetsusaiga and turned his attention to Naraku.
It was then that Akiyama appeared in the room, his eyes immediately landing on Naraku.
Standing surrounded by Sesshoumaru, Akiyama and Inuyasha, Naraku sneered. "Three against one, I see."
"Keh! So what? Either of us could take you down easily."
Naraku raised a brow. "I'm afraid I won't be staying for that."
A loud bang rocked the walls as Naraku released a stream of his poisonous miasma. It quickly surrounded all of her, clouding her vision. Then her eyes widened in alarm when she realized something. Those politicians who were not enclosed in her barrier would be exposed to the miasma.
"No!" she choked out as she tried to find the wall where they were bound onto.
"Kagome!" Sesshoumaru called out harshly.
"Damn it! Where are you, Kagome!" Inuyasha yelled.
Then she heard Sesshoumaru again. "Inuyasha, Akiyama. Go after Naraku."
Ignoring them, Kagome continued to stumble blindly across the room. Where were they? She could not see them. The miasma was so thick that she could barely see her own fingers.
Realizing that Sesshoumaru was still calling for her, she yelled, "I'm alright, Sesshoumaru! I'm trying to find the politicians."
"Do not move." His voice was stern.
Then she heard it. It was faint, but she could hear them choking through their gags.
"NO!" Kagome yelled desperately as she rushed in the general direction of the sound. Please, hang on for a while longer, she pled.
A crash and then the tinkles of broken glass echoed through the room, but she ignored it. In her rush, she saw the hidden obstruction too late and tripped painfully. Cursing under her breath, she picked her self up and continued. There was no longer any sound to guide her. A feeling of panic rose in her. Please, no…
Then she saw the outlines of the three bodies against the wall. Heart pounding, she stumbled towards them, but realized that she was too late when she encountered their glassy eyes.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry…" she whispered brokenly as she fell to her knees.
She could not save them. She was supposed to protect them but they had died because she could not place a barrier around them in time. Numbly, she noticed that the miasma was dissipating, to be replaced with fresh air. The sound of broken glass must have been the window, she surmised absently.
Then she looked up to find Sesshoumaru standing next to her, eyeing her with obvious concern.
"They are dead…" she whispered.
"Let us out, please," the Prime Minister called out from the barrier.
Getting to her feet, Kagome went to them and dissolved the barrier. As she stood there dejectedly, they rushed past her to their deceased colleagues. Guilt washed over her in agonizing waves as she watched them release the bodies from the bonds, letting them fall lifelessly to the floor.
A pair of strong, familiar arms wrapped around her from the back. "It is not your fault, Kagome," Sesshoumaru said.
She sniffed. "It feels like it." All of a sudden, Kanna's words came back to her, making her gasp. "Sesshoumaru! Kanna said something about Naraku's heart."
Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed. "What did she say?"
"That you must destroy his heart to kill him." Then Kagome frowned as she recalled the next bit. "As strange as it sounds, it seems that Naraku's heart is inside Hakudoshi."
Sesshoumaru instantly tensed. Then his expression hardened as he took her wrist to pull her along. "We will go now," he instructed firmly.
"Sesshoumaru!" she called out in a rush when something else occurred to her. She did not know how he would react to what she was about to say.
He paused, and then glanced over his shoulders at her, his expression betraying his impatience. She knew that he wanted to return to his headquarters to deal with Hakudoshi. But what she had in mind was something that she knew only he could do.
"You got Tenseiga with you. Please revive them?" she pled, gesturing at the three lifeless bodies. The other politicians gasped at her words, but she ignored them, keeping her eyes fixed on Sesshoumaru.
He stared at her for a moment, and then his gaze shifted to land on the still bodies now laid out on the floor. Without a word, he strode towards them, one of hands skimming her cheek reassuringly as he passed. Kagome immediately exhaled in relief. He was going to help. He was not going to let them die.
The Prime Minister and the other two politicians tensed when Sesshoumaru drew Tenseiga out of its sheath.
"What's the meaning of this?" the Prime Minister asked incredulously. "They are dead. Have you no respect?"
The Prime Minister reared back, obviously affronted at Sesshoumaru's cold instruction.
Kagome quickly explained, "He's going to try to bring them back to life."
One of the Diet members gasped. "That's impossible."
A wry smile graced her lips. "It's not impossible. I've seen Sesshoumaru revive the dead before."
They wore identical expressions of doubt but she could also see a slight hint of hopefulness in their eyes. Turning away from them, she watched as Sesshoumaru studied the bodies for a moment before slashing Tenseiga downward.
At first, nothing happened.
Then one of the recently-dead politicians sat up abruptly, gasping for breath as his eyes flew open. The other two followed an instant later.
The Prime Minister gasped, his eyes wide in his face.
Then one of the other Diet members fainted.
Speeding through the sky in his energy orb, Sesshoumaru soon found himself in Tokyo with his mate. Saving the humans had delayed him slightly, but it had been necessary. Furthermore, Kagome would not have allowed him to leave without reviving them.
When they finally arrived on the rooftop of Taishou Securities, Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed in anticipation. But now, he had only one task in mind.
He had Hakudoshi right under his nose all this time and he had no inkling of the part the young demon played in Naraku's nefarious schemes. Holding his mate in his arm, Sesshoumaru leapt down the escape stairs until he reached the basement.
"What are you doing to do, Sesshoumaru?" she asked when he set her down on her feet at the base of the stairs.
"Destroy his heart."
"Will die if he gets in my way," he replied stonily.
The filthy hanyou had endangered the survival of their entire species and as if that was insufficient, Naraku had been foolish enough to threaten his family. Hence Naraku must die at whatever cost. Even if Kagome protested, Sesshoumaru would do nothing else.
Sesshoumaru froze. He was not certain that he had heard her correctly. Slowly turning around, he asked cautiously, "You would allow this?"
She stared at him with her large brown eyes. Then she nodded resolutely. "I trust you to deal with this, Sesshoumaru." Then she frowned. "I don't like the idea of killing, but in this case, I don't think we have much of a choice if there is more resistance to come."
Warmed by his mate's words, Sesshoumaru leaned down to nuzzle her cheeks. And then he drew back to find that she was wearing an encouraging smile.
"Okay, let's go," she chirped as she stepped back, linking her fingers through his.
With that, Sesshoumaru guided her out of the stairwell into the secured holding area. The guards nodded at him before releasing the lock to the outer door. Kagome's fingers tightened around his momentarily when they entered the dimly lit corridor with holding cells lined along each side.
The wind sorceress looked up when they passed, raising her brows curiously, but Sesshoumaru ignored her. Through the demon-proof bars, he could see Hakudoshi seated cross legged in the next cell, appearing just as curious.
Inclining his head at Hakudoshi's cell, Sesshoumaru ordered one of the guards, "Open it."
Without hesitation, the inuyoukai unlocked the door. Hakudoshi did not move from the bench. He obviously knew that attempting escape at the moment was nothing short of foolish.
"Paying us a visit, Sesshoumaru? How kind of you," the young demon remarked sarcastically.
Sesshoumaru said nothing. He simply expanded his senses, trying to detect something foreign in Hakudoshi. It was not long before he found it. The pounding of another heart, a more rapid pounding in comparison to Hakudoshi's own heart.
The corner of his lips lifted and he stepped towards the young demon.
Sesshoumaru streaked back when the young demon raised a barrier. Lips thinning in irritation, Sesshoumaru simply advanced and slashed the barrier open. Hakudoshi's eyes narrowed but before he could create another barrier, Sesshoumaru clamped his fingers around the demon's neck and lifted him up into the air with one hand.
Hakudoshi simply stared at him defiantly, not even struggling.
"You have something which does not belong to you," Sesshoumaru said levelly, wondering how the child-like demon would react. "A heart."
The pair of purple eyes flickered with surprise. "What are you talking about? What heart?" Hakudoshi hissed.
Sesshoumaru detected no lie in the other demon's words. So, Naraku had truly managed to hide his heart within Hakudoshi without the other demon's knowledge. Smirking with the satisfaction that his goal was within reach, Sesshoumaru extended the claws in his free hand.
Only then did Hakudoshi began to struggle. "W-What the h-hell?!" he sputtered.
"Be still," Sesshoumaru hissed as he brought his claws closer to Hakudoshi's stomach.
Sesshoumaru sank his claws into Hakudoshi's flesh. Ignoring the other demon's gasps, his fingers closed around a firm muscle and yanked it out. Then he released Hakudoshi.
A red, beating heart, crisscrossed with dark streaks fell on the floor with a dull thud.
Clutching his bleeding stomach, Hakudoshi gasped, his eyes wide as he stared at the heart on the floor. His hand immediately went to his chest, obviously to find his own heart. "I'm still alive," he whispered disbelievingly.
"Hmph! Why am I not surprised that he kept this from me too?" the wind sorceress muttered from the next cell. "That's Naraku's heart, isn't it?"
Sesshoumaru glanced around to see his mate looking into the other cell. "You didn't know?" Kagome asked curiously.
Kagura flipped her fan open and fanned herself. "He doesn't tell me much," she said disinterestedly. "Doesn't trust me."
Deciding that he had had enough of the idle conversation, Sesshoumaru stood over the beating heart. Ignoring all the eyes around him, he unsheathed Toukijin. His lips twisted slightly then. How… appropriate that Naraku's heart would soon be pierced by Toukijin, a blade formed from one of his own.
"Do it," his mate said firmly. "End this."
"As you wish," Sesshoumaru replied quietly.
The tip of his blade pierced Naraku's heart. Instantly, black blood oozed out of the wound as the heart jolted once, twice…
Then it was still.
Sesshoumaru did not know why, but something compelled him to turn to his mate. "Purify it," he instructed.
With a nod, Kagome stepped to his side and held her hand over the remains of the heart. All the demons around him tensed as the pure power shot out of her palm down to the heart. In an instant, the fleshy object turned into dust.
Silence filled the air as they stared at the spot where Naraku's heart used to be.
In the end, it was Kagura who broke the silence.
"Sesshoumaru, I suggest that you never anger your mate."
The morning sunlight streamed through the window, bathing the occupants of the kitchen in its cheerful light.
From her position kneeling on the floor, Kagome smiled up at her mate who was seated at the kitchen table next to Inuyasha, opposite Akiyama. Sesshoumaru's gaze was heated and there was something in his eyes which told her that he was impatient to be alone with her.
"It was kind of a let down," Inuyasha grumbled.
Kagome stifled her grin as she continued to repair the sulky hanyou's wounds.
After destroying Naraku's heart, she and Sesshoumaru had returned home to be greeted by an excited Sachimaru and a relieved Jaken. Once guards had been instructed to return home to rest, they had sat down with Sachimaru who insisted on knowing every detail of their 'mission'.
She and Sesshoumaru had finally managed to satisfy their son's curiosity when Inuyasha barged in with a thunderous expression. Akiyama had joined them a second later with a much calmer countenance. Even though everyone was happy that Naraku was finally destroyed, it was clear that Inuyasha felt cheated by the battle.
"Damn it! Akiyama and I chased the bastard down Hokkaido then Akiyama dragged me across the freaking ocean. Through the water! And when we finally got to him, Naraku was practically dead. Kaze-no-kizu was an overkill, can you believe it?!" Inuyasha ranted.
Akiyama turned to Sesshoumaru. "His heart was already destroyed then, I take it."
Inuyasha jumped to his feet, glaring at his brother. "Then why the hell didn't you tell us earlier to save us the trouble of chasing Naraku?"
Kagome immediately yanked the hanyou back down to the chair. "SIT! I'm not done yet," she snapped.
Ears flattening, Inuyasha simply glowered.
"Should we proceed with the next stage?" Akiyama asked quietly.
Kagome froze. She knew exactly what Akiyama was referring to. The memory wipe was supposed to be the next stage after Naraku's destruction. Finishing off with Inuyasha's bandages, she turned around to face her mate, prepared to argue her case once again. But before she could open her mouth, Jaken rushed into the kitchen, his eyes large in his face.
"Lord Sesshoumaru!" Jaken croaked as he stumbled to a stop.
Sesshoumaru frowned down at his retainer. "What is it, Jaken?"
"The… the…" he stuttered.
Sachimaru ran in, looking excited. "The Prime Minister is on television, and he's talking about demons," he exclaimed.
Jaken turned to glare at Sachimaru. Kagome was about to laugh at the diminutive demon's expression, but she froze when Sachimaru's words sank in. The Prime Minister was already on television so soon?
"Keh! Let's go see what he has to say," Inuyasha said, jumping up to follow Sachimaru out of the room.
She exchanged a glance with Sesshoumaru, who remained as unreadable as ever. However, once Akiyama had left to join Inuyasha, Sesshoumaru's expression softened and he brushed his fingers across her cheeks.
"Do not worry," he said.
Sighing, she grabbed his hand and together, they made their way to the living room. When they neared the television, Sachimaru turned around to launch himself into her arms. Smiling at her son indulgently, Kagome hefted him into a comfortable position before she turned her attention to the television.
The speaker was the Prime Minister, now cleaned up and appearing none worse for wear apart from the light shadows under his eyes.
"…Recently, certain demons have caused much unrest, as we have seen from the fights and general disturbances to our peaceful country," the Prime Minister said grimly.
"The bastard," Inuyasha hissed. "Should have let him die back there."
"Shh!" Kagome chided.
The Prime Minister then continued in a softer, somewhat regretful voice. "Humans are not blameless either. Fearing what we do not understand, many humans have been intolerant. And this intolerance made matters worse. However, it gladdens me to say that there are also a large number of humans that have accepted and have defended the demons' right to live beside us."
"I can't believe I'm hearing this," Inuyasha muttered.
"Be quiet, Inuyasha," Sesshoumaru bit out.
The Prime Minister took a deep breath before continuing, "In light of the recent developments, I feel that it would be beneficial for both humans and demons to have an open discussion. If we are to coexist in peace, we need to reach an agreement, a compromise." Wearing an earnest expression, the Prime Minister held out his hands towards the camera. "Therefore, I invite the representative of the demon society to step forward to plan a new, integrated society."
Kagome's jaw dropped. And then slowly, an excited grin grew on her face. Hugging Sachimaru tightly, she spun around to Sesshoumaru and exclaimed, "Did you hear that?"
"Hn." Sesshoumaru was wearing a thoughtful expression.
"Okaa-san! You're squashing me!" Sachimaru complained.
She immediately shot her son an apologetic look before lowering him to his feet. Turning to a just as thoughtful Akiyama, Kagome went on, "You don't have to do the wipe now."
"What wipe?" Inuyasha asked curiously.
"Kagome," Sesshoumaru interrupted firmly.
Oh, yes, she suddenly remembered. Inuyasha did not know about it. Forcing out a laugh, she turned towards the bewildered hanyou. "Nothing to worry about."
Inuyasha gave her a suspicious look. "Keh! Fine, don't tell me. I'm going to sleep anyway." With that he turned and began to walk out of the living room.
Sesshoumaru turned to his son. "It is time for your studies, Sachimaru. Go prepare yourself." Turning to Jaken, he added pointedly, "You will assist Sachimaru."
Understanding his lord's unspoken words, Jaken nodded. The retainer took her son's hand and led him out of the living room, leaving only her, Sesshoumaru and Akiyama in the space. For a moment, they simply stared at each other wordlessly. The television was still on, but the news had moved on to something else.
"So?" Kagome prompted impatiently. "There's no reason to do the wipe now, right?"
Akiyama frowned. "It seems that the Prime Minister genuinely meant what he just said."
"I do not think he is lying. However, it would be dangerous to expose ourselves."
Kagome rolled her eyes. "He has already seen you, remember? And you saved their lives. Come on, Sesshoumaru. Don't you think it is better to stop hiding? To stop disguising yourself like this?"
"We have to consider the foreign demons as well. If they object to it, this could turn out to be messy," Akiyama pointed out. "They will step in if they feel that it is necessary."
Sesshoumaru's brows furrowed. "They have the right to do so. It is not unreasonable for them to be concerned. If Japanese demons can walk undisguised in public, it is inevitable that the foreign demons would seek the same."
"Is that such a bad thing?" Kagome asked. "After all, demons have been around all this time anyway."
Akiyama's frown deepened. "This will not be easy. If we chose to accept their offer of peace and forgo the memory wipe, we would have a rather unsettling time ahead of us. Who knows how long it will last before we arrive at some sort of peace?"
Kagome made a face. "Even humans fight amongst each other. I don't think anyone can expect everyone to get along perfectly. All we can do is try."
Sesshoumaru inhaled slowly. "Perhaps we should accept-"
A joyous gasp escaped her lips before he could finish. "Really?" she exclaimed.
Her mate looked down at her. "For now. If the situation improves, then we will forgo the memory wipe." Turning to Akiyama, he added, "Before we arrive at a final decision, we should discuss this with Takeo and Kouga, and then the foreign lords."
"Takeo and Kouga will follow our lead," Akiyama pointed out.
"The foreign lords might prove to be troublesome." Then the corner of Sesshoumaru's lips lifted. "It will be a challenge."
Sesshoumaru glanced around the restaurant in central Kyoto, noting that there were almost as many demons as there were humans occupying the tables.
More than four years ago, even before the revelation of demons' existence to the public, such a thing had not been uncommon. However, now there was a difference. The difference was that in these recent years, those demons that sat alongside the humans no longer concealed their heritage.
Instead, they wore it proudly.
After Naraku's destruction, they had managed to persuade the foreign lords to agree to allow them to try coming out in the open Surprisingly, it had not been too difficult to persuade them. Perhaps the foreign demons were also weary of concealing themselves. Then there had been the issue of representative. He, Sesshoumaru, had no wish to parade himself in front of the mass public. Such a task suited Akiyama better. Therefore, they had agreed that Akiyama would represent the demons in public, while the rest of the Japanese demon lords acted in the background.
The discussions had begun tentatively and then it grew more frequent as more issues were raised. There had been many heated debates and then compromises, and then more debates. Rules and guidances and been set up and laws had been modified. The situation with the humans was still rocky till this day, but even the worst of them were coming around to accept that demons had every right to exist openly as well.
It was not easy but at least demons no longer lived under the shroud of secrecy.
The clatter of utensils brought Sesshoumaru's attention back to his own table. He noted absently that everyone had finished their food and that the source of the disruption was Inuyasha.
His hanyou brother was glaring at Shiori, who only stared back calmly as she said, "You know I'm right, Inuyasha."
Sputtering, Inuyasha protested indignantly, "I'm not afraid of commitment! What the hell has this got to do with that man flirting with you, anyway?"
Shiori raised a disbelieving brow before she turned away pointedly from Inuyasha. "If you don't understand such an obvious thing, then it's pointless for me to explain further."
Sesshoumaru watched with barely veiled amusement as they continued to bicker. Inuyasha's relationship with Shiori had never been smooth and he doubted that it would ever be, considering their relative temperament. Still, it did not mean that they could not be together. After all, he and Kagome had survived through worse. Glancing around to his mate, Sesshoumaru found her grinning at the same sight. Then his eyes lowered to the chubby arms around Kagome's neck.
Misao, his daughter.
Like her brother, Misao had been born in the castle of the Western Lands. More than two years had passed since they returned to his ancestral home, the castle set within the vast private land just outside Kyoto. Everything was as the original construction with the exception of the new modern amenities. It had taken many years to complete the restoration work, but it was worth the wait, especially now that they did not need to move from country to country every few decades to conceal their identities.
The two-year old pup was asleep with her head on her mother's shoulders, her dark lashes forming crescent moon shapes over her cheeks, hiding her dark brown eyes. Further down, the fringe of her silver hair brushed lightly against the magenta stripes on her rounded cheeks.
Misao was obviously tired from the excitement of the day with the arrival of the visitors, unlike her older brother. The nine-year-old Sachimaru had grown fast over the last few years, and now looked like an average twelve-year-old human. His baby-fat was beginning to disappear, to be replaced by a lanky, teenage form. Wide-awake, Sachimaru was still chattering animatedly with the elemental seated opposite Inuyasha.
Inuyasha had traveled to Kyoto with Shiori this morning for their weekly meeting. Now that Taishou Securities had been split into two branches, one in Tokyo and one in Kyoto, Inuyasha had taken over the one in Tokyo, leaving Hiten and Yura to manage IY Media and Entertainment.
Coincidentally, Akiyama was also in Kyoto, dealing with some of his own business, therefore they had decided to have a meal out. Katsuo and Natsumi had been invited as well, but Sesshoumaru did not blame them for declining the invitation. After all, their newly-born pup deserved all their attention.
"Sesshoumaru. It is time for me to depart."
Sesshoumaru turned around to the water elemental and inclined his head. "I wish you a pleasant journey." At one time, he would never have thought to say such a thing to the elemental. But things had changed between them. Although there was still a certain amount of rivalry between them in terms of power, Sesshoumaru could almost call the blue-haired elemental his friend.
Kagome laid a hand on his arm. "We should go too before it gets too late." Turning to Akiyama, she offered, "Are you sure you don't want to stay over?"
Akiyama shook his head as he stood up. "I'm expected back in Hokkaido."
Sesshoumaru smirked. No doubt the wind sorceress would give the water elemental trouble if he did not return in a timely manner. Their relationship had come as a surprise, considering that Kagura was once their enemy. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Akiyama was the one to return Kagura her heart.
"Say hello to Kagura for us. It's too bad she could not come," Kagome said, walking out of the restaurant. "How are things going, anyway?"
A small smile flitted across the elemental's lips. "It is fine."
Stopping at the edge of the pavement outside the restaurant, she raised an eyebrow. "Just fine?" Then she grinned mischievously. "Hmm… I remember her mentioning something about a recent courting gift."
Akiyama closed his eyes in resignation. "Perhaps I should remind her that some things are meant to be private."
Right at that moment, Misao began to stir. Opening her liquid brown eyes, she blinked sleepily. "Okaa-san? Chichi-ue?" she mumbled, and then straightened as her eyes landed on her brother.
Grinning, Sachimaru leaned over to tickle his sister in the ribs.
Giggling, Misao wriggled, trying to slap Sachimaru's hands away. "Onii-chan!"
"Stop it, Sachimaru," Kagome admonished.
As Sachimaru backed away, Misao turned an innocent face to her mother, "Okaa-san, I want to go to Onii-chan."
Sesshoumaru's lips quirked. He had no doubt his daughter was planning to exact revenge on her brother. When Kagome put their daughter down, she immediately broke away to chase her older brother down the street. Although he knew that Sachimaru was more than capable of protecting his sister, Sesshoumaru still felt compelled to keep an eye on them.
"She is wearing the bracelet," Akiyama said, eyeing the running girl fondly.
Kagome nodded. "She likes it." Instead of the skill of empathy, Akiyama had gifted Misao with a protection bracelet for her birthday.
Akiyama smiled. "Well, I'd better leave. Keep in touch, alright?"
"I will," Kagome said, waving goodbye at the elemental.
Once Akiyama had disappeared into the air, Kagome turned around to Shiori and Inuyasha. "You two staying over?" she asked.
Inuyasha crossed his arms over his chest. "Keh! Where else would we stay?"
Shiori scowled. "Would it kill you to just talk normally?"
"I AM talking normally!"
"See, that's your problem," Shiori pointed out.
"Hey!" Kagome quickly interjected, trying hard to suppress her grin. The two of them fought constantly. "You guys, don't you get tired of arguing?" she asked with a chuckle.
Shiori instantly blushed while Inuyasha gave her a mutinous look. "We're not really arguing," the hanyou finally said gruffly.
Kagome tweaked Inuyasha's ear, eliciting a snarl of protest from him. "The two of you look cute together anyway. I'm glad you finally worked things out."
"Are we going back or not?" Inuyasha growled, obviously embarrassed by the topic of conversation.
Then Inuyasha's eyes widened. "Oh! I forgot!" Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a little bag with a small insignia of the Higurashi Shrine. "I went to the shrine yesterday. Your grandfather asked me to give you this. And your mother said to tell you that she will visit next week."
Kagome took the bag and pulled out a yellow rope with a pearl-like bauble at the end. Then she gave Inuyasha a dubious look. "Erm… Did he say what this is supposed to be?"
"Shikon-no-tama, apparently," Inuyasha replied, chuckling.
Sesshoumaru took the bauble from her, peering at it with a pair of critical golden eyes. "This is certainly not the Shikon-no-tama."
Laughing, Kagome shook her head. "Jii-chan just likes to make all these things to sell at the shrine."
With a wave, Inuyasha walked to his car with Shiori. "I'll see you back home."
Sachimaru skidded to a halt in front of them with Misao close behind him. "We're going home yet?" he asked.
"I'll take Misao with me," Sachimaru quickly declared, hefting his sister up.
"When can I learn to fly?" Misao asked, her eyes gleaming with anticipation as she bounced in Sachimaru's arms.
"Not yet, Misao," Sesshoumaru replied firmly. "You will be prepared to do so in a few years."
Kagome groaned. She could not believe that they were having this conversation again. First it was Sachimaru and now it was Misao. She could never get over the fact that Sachimaru was old enough to travel through the sky by himself. It worried her even more that Sachimaru was apparently good enough to perform heart-stopping stunts quite easily.
Unfortunately for her, Misao loved Sachimaru's stunts.
Sesshoumaru pinned a stern look on his son. "You will be careful with your sister, Sachimaru. Do not be irresponsible."
"Don't fly too fast," Kagome cautioned. "And no stunts."
Grinning, his youki cloud already forming under him, Sachimaru replied, "I'll be careful. As always."
With that, Sachimaru shot into the air at a hair-raising speed with his sister squealing joyously in his arms. Kagome glared at the outline of her children up in the sky. Sachimaru needed to be spanked, she thought darkly. And she would really do it if she did not think that Sachimaru was already so big.
"They will be safe," Sesshoumaru assured her calmly, placing his arms around her and then ascending on his cloud.
"They are growing so fast," Kagome said wistfully as she glanced up at Sesshoumaru.
Her mate tightened his arms around her as he looked down. "It is inevitable."
Keeping their eyes on their children not far in front of them, they traveled in a comfortable silence for the rest of the trip. Leaning back comfortably against Sesshoumaru, Kagome took in the terrain speeding past below them, bathed in a warm glow. The setting sun cast orange and pink glow across the sky, giving an almost surreal feel to the journey.
Soon they arrived at the castle grounds. Kagome shook her head disapprovingly when she saw Sachimaru taking a nosedive down to the courtyard with his fearless sister egging him on. Honestly, her children would give her a heart attack one day.
Sesshoumaru landed them on the raised platform outside what used to be the reception room, which had since been converted into a comfortable living room. Kagome glanced around to find that Sachimaru and Misao had landed in the courtyard.
Waving at her, Misao declared, "We're playing hide and seek!"
"Behave yourselves!" Kagome yelled as her children ran off again.
Sesshoumaru watched silently beside her as Sachimaru and Misao began their favorite game. The boulders around the hotsprings provided more than enough obstructions for one of them to hide while the other 'hunted'.
Kagome shook her head, smiling. "Sachimaru adores Misao."
"He is teaching her to hunt."
"Looks like she's doing quite well," Kagome remarked as Sachimaru was thrown to the ground when a flying Misao crashed into him.
Sesshoumaru adopted a thoughtful expression. "Misao appears to be more… aggressive than Sachimaru. She has inherited that trait from you."
Kagome eyed her mate disbelievingly. "Somehow, I don't believe that. After all, demons are more aggressive, right?"
"I do not deny that human in general are less aggressive. You, however…" he trailed off meaningfully.
He was teasing her again. Scowling playfully at him, she prodded him in the chest. "It's not funny." Then a spark of mischief compelled her to say, "Do you remember what happened right on this spot more than five hundred years ago?"
Silence greeted her.
She peeked sideways to find Sesshoumaru wearing an amused expression. That was odd. With his memory, he should remember this event she was referring to. And he definitely should not find it amusing. Frowning in confusion, she asked, "What's so funny?"
"This is the third time you mentioned it."
"That's because I'm waiting for you to remember!" she shot back indignantly. How could he not remember? Then she grew suspicious. Maybe he was just pretending.
Crossing her arms over her chest in mock anger, she stepped off the platform and stomped towards the edge of the steaming hotsprings. It came as no surprise that Sesshoumaru followed close behind her.
"How can you not remember?" she muttered.
A short moment of silence followed before Sesshoumaru asked silkily, "Do you wish to refuse this Sesshoumaru again… Miko?"
She bit back a grin. "It's a little late for that now, isn't it? And anyway, if I really want to get rid of you, I'd just have to betray you, right?" she teased.
He stiffened behind her. Then he growled in her ear, "You will be punished for such treacherous words."
Kagome's eyes rounded when she suddenly found herself lifted high in the air. "Sesshoumaru!" she shrieked in protest, grasping at his wrists. Their eyes met. To her consternation, his golden orbs were gleaming with a wicked intent.
An instant later, she was flying through the air. Before a scream could escape her, she plunged into the hotsprings headfirst, swallowing mouthfuls of mineral-laden water. Sputtering and choking as she found her footing, Kagome flipped her hair out of her face to glare at her smirking mate.
"Why you…" she hissed threateningly, throwing her palms out at him.
Sesshoumaru's eyes widened just as a pearlescent barrier surrounded him. Grinning gleefully, Kagome pulled the barrier towards her with an incredulous Sesshoumaru trapped within. When he was just above the hotsprings, she dissolved the barrier.
With a loud splash, Sesshoumaru joined her in the water.
Kagome's grin widened when he surfaced with his silver hair matted to his scalp, wearing a thunderous expression. To her alarm, Sesshoumaru immediately launched himself towards her. Shrieking in laughter, Kagome tried to swim away, but she was no match for Sesshoumaru in terms of speed. Soon, she was caged in his arm and a moment later, dunked back into the water.
When she finally managed to surface again, sputtering indignantly, she found two pairs of incredulous eyes staring at them from the bank.
"And they tell us to behave," Sachimaru muttered, shaking his head while wearing a long-suffering look.
Somewhat embarrassed at being chastised by her own children, Kagome pasted a stern expression on her face. "Bed, the two of you!" she instructed.
"Okaa-san!" both of them whined in unison. They both turned to their father, wearing identical beseeching looks. Then Sachimaru added grumpily, "I'm old enough to stay up."
"You got school tomorrow," Kagome pointed out.
Sachimaru released a heartfelt groan.
Suppressing the urge to grin, Kagome snuck a sideway glance at Sesshoumaru to see his lips twitching. He seemed to be finding all this quite amusing as well.
"Obey your mother," Sesshoumaru finally said, somehow managing to keep his face straight.
As both Sachimaru and Misao went indoors, Kagome found herself being lifted up by her mate and brought out of the water. Her arms immediately went around his neck and she sighed in contentment, breathing in the scent of hotsprings mixed with the maleness of Sesshoumaru.
Soon, they arrived back in their bedroom. Kagome quickly stripped away her wet clothes. Before she could turn around for some dry clothes, Sesshoumaru dropped a fluffy towel around her and shifted so that they faced each other.
Their eyes met and in that instant, Kagome felt a rush of warmth surging through her. Her heart constricted at the thought of how much she loved this demon and how happy she was that they were now together. Still wrapped in her towel, she traced a finger along one of his magenta stripes, smiling softly as she did so. She loved seeing him in his natural form. And seeing it everyday reminded her of how far they have come, how the demons no longer needed to hide themselves.
"What is on your mind?" he asked quietly as he leaned down to nuzzle her neck.
"Just thinking how things have changed for the demons," she mumbled absently as she arched, relishing to feel of his cheeks against her neck.
Drawing back to look at her, Sesshoumaru said, "Akiyama informs me that that demons now have equal rights in politics."
She grinned. "Aren't you glad you didn't go ahead with the memory wipe?"
A thoughtful look crossed Sesshoumaru's features. "It was a risk, but one which certainly turned out to be beneficial to us."
Kagome laughed. "See, I told you. All we needed was a little faith."
A/N: Yes, that's it for this story – five months of writing all done! I'm so happy! Thank you for all your support in all this time. I hope you like the conclusion. Please review if you can.