DISCLAIMER - The ownership and general brilliance that is the original Feudal Fairy Tale remains the property of its honored and rightfully revered creator Rumiko Takahashi without whose brilliance, we would not have fodder.
Quotations: Shakespeare – Merchant of Venice - Portia
Reviews are fuel.
Edited By: Meara the Celt
Part Thirty-Two A – This Sesshoumaru Needs Not A Mate
"Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;"
Aiko slowly rose from her crouched position atop the reliquary's stairs, dark eyes never leaving the limb of the Goshinboku. The ancient chimes danced in the wind with a playful melody that belied her current mood. She needed to kill it. That was all.
Her focus was on a gomi-gumo that was wending his way indolently to his gossamer thin web. His trap had born fruit. Dinner on this day was to be a fellow predator; a centipede who had been ensnared by the seeming delicate fibers of his web.
She intended to deny him his last meal.
Slowly, quietly, Aiko withdrew a single arrow from her quiver and raised her bow in preparation as the invertebrate made his way towards the immobile prey.
The Guji's gimlet eyes watched with amusement the stealth with which his daughter-in-law arched her body, prepared to release the arrow and impale the offending arachnid. He continued to chant the ancient spell over the foul smelling concoction that would allow them both access to the portal. Aiko, the gentlest of women, dare he say a 'tree-hugger', had always suffered from arachnophobia. Spiders in general and other creeping things of the dark made her skin crawl.
The elderly priest placed the bowl on the stand as a purplish mist enveloped the air of the darkened room. Tiredly, he made his way towards the rigid back of his daughter-in-law, who had not heard his approach, so focused was she on her target.
"Aiko, did you know that spiders and centipedes frequently fight over the same territory and make a meal of one another while in battle?" he asked conversationally, leaning on his walking stick.
Kagome's mother rolled her eyes in annoyance. Her father-in-law was ruining her focus. Right now, she did not wish to have an intellectual discourse on invertebrate predators and their appetites. She only wished to kill the eight legged beast. If for no other reason, it gave her something to do while they impotently waited. Her daughter was on the other side of the Bone-Eater's Well and at this moment without recourse but to follow through on faith alone. She had always known it would come to this.
The Guji's gnarled hand gripped Aiko's shoulder a moment before she released the arrow upon the wind.
"Simply watch, my child," he commanded.
Aiko lowered the bow. His grip, though light, relaxed upon her shoulder. She watched as the spider approached the still, unmoving primordial organism, sure of his conquest.
Like lightning, the centipede struck, driving its fangs deep into the body of arachnid, releasing its paralyzing venom as its many legs curled about the flailing Being. It proved a most voracious eater.
Both sets of dark eyes met in understanding. Aiko bowed deeply to her father-in-law and followed the elderly priest through the reliquary doors. She shivered as an ancient, well loved presence touched her cheek in a ghostlike manner and her eyes brimmed with tears.
A palpable silenced followed Kagome as she made her way through the shiro's covered walkways, bound for the outer gates where she would meet Miroku and the others. They passed myriad servants who dropped to their knees, heads lowered in obeisance and dare she think it, reverence, for the first time.
Inuyasha was nowhere to be found. The Miko already knew why and had to stand firm with Ayame, reinforcing the need for her to remain behind to protect the shiro along with Kaede and the others. At times like this, Kagome was forever grateful for Sango's impressive right hook. It did appear however, that Sango rather enjoyed her work just a little too much in this instance. Despite the severity of their current situation the Western Lady smiled secretively, remembering the slayer's expression as her fist connected with the Princess' apparently glass jaw. Ayame's earlier faux pas against Kagome had not been forgiven by her sister of spirit. Sango had bid her go on, promising to meet her at the gates once she had found Kaede to attend the White Wolf.
Kagome's steps hastened as she approached the honmaru, Masaru close on her heels. As they both rounded the last corner of the enclosure she spotted her friend the Priest and her chest tightened involuntarily.
The quiet amber gloaming that had overtaken the shiro cast an eerie light upon Miroku's body and the others. Both he and Tatsuo were in deep conversation. There were near on a hundred youkai guards in attendance. Kagome noted their unusual garb. All wore funereal white.
As if understanding her silent query, Masaru came along side and bowed deeply to the Western Lady. She in turn inclined her head in acquiescence bidding he go before her and attend his guards. What drew Kagome's attention next was the portly kappa staff at the ready, eyes distended in fear and beak firmly closed.
Jaken's eyes swiveling in their sockets from Miroku to Tatsuo nervously, while he tapped his staff distractedly, eying the priest's own querulously. Kagome knew he was trying to make sense of the conversation between the two taller beings.
Kagome's body felt leaden suddenly and though she tried with all her might to force her feet forward she made no progress. She knew something had changed in that moment, as all eyes were upon her. Tatsuo's and Miroku's most especially. The fire-demon's usually avuncular, kindly, expression was replaced by the shock of realization. Miroku's gaze in contrast, held at first a modicum of fear, quickly replaced by understanding and resoluteness. She felt it then, that familiar, all encompassing warmth of her father.
"Nothing can withstand the fearless heart, the bonds of kinship, wisdom tempered with a goodly dose of compassion, and the greatest of all; love. Real love, Kagome, knows no bounds and defies even death."
A single hot tear rolled down her face in that moment, as she felt the soft caress of fingers against her cheek.
"Father?" she responded in a barely audible whisper. She finally understood the true power and purpose of the jewel of four souls. Her only fleeting thought as her heart sank. Did her Lord Sesshoumaru?
Kagome's silent query went unanswered, as the lethargy left her body as quickly as it came. She was entirely unaware of what the others had witnessed in that fleeting moment.
It was Sango's steps she heard coming from behind that brought her out of her trancelike state.
Kagome turned to her friend of years. Shock was registered and the Slayer's face, as she stepped away from the Miko instinctively and looked about her for what she had seen.
The Miko blinked away her tears. She had seen fear in Sango's eyes and suspicion.
"What in Kami are you, Kagome?" asked Sango in terror, taking another step back and raising her weapon of choice.
Satori did not care for the way the taijiya held the Hiraikotsu and chose in that moment to show her displeasure with the demon slayer for her effrontery. Miroku shouted, seeing the danger in Sango's stance as an unseen force propelled the demon exterminator backwards into the stone wall, rendering her unconscious. Her body flopped to the ground like a rag doll.
Kagome screamed in abject horror at what she had done unintentionally. The only thing preventing her from rushing to her friend's aid an angry blur in the form of Kirara who stood over her mistress' prone body protectively.
Masaru held himself in check and blocked the priest's path. Miroku glared up at the imposing demon with hatred evident in his violet eyes, uncaring of the collective sound of unsheathed katana behind him. The kappa immediately hid behind the folds of Tatsuo's kimono. Just to be safe from the cross fire of course.
"Get out of my way. I know what you are and I know your intent," the Houshi challenged, slamming his staff into the gravel beneath their feet.
"If you really do, Miroku-sama, then be still. This is as it should be." The cat demon answered quietly, so no other could hear.
Tatsuo merely watched the two males taking in their respective measure. It was a rare thing for the neko youkai to speak his mind. Could it be he finally understood his place? Better yet, had he also seen the pulsing, amorphous light surrounding the Miko and the pale, coral one shielding the taijya from imminent death?
"But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the heart of kings,"
The air was sulfuric and biting, the thrum of hell bees within their midst.
'Not yet sufficient to harm Rin or the kitsune,' was Sesshoumaru's only thought. As for his impetuous half sibling, he was relatively safe for now beyond the barrier. Like undulating ropes, the demon hordes coiled through the air with frenzied cries promising vengeance and desolation below their sceptred sway.
One stood in command atop the hillock, his retinue above and about him. Festooned in all his glory, of violet, black and violence within his breast, tangible hatred within ruby eyes. At his feet a child lay insensate, Kohaku's sickle poised above her neck in threat. Kagura remained a little behind mid air, deceptively silent and watchful atop her plume.
Sesshoumaru blinked lazily and sniffed the fetid air in disgust as copious green ooze from a tentacle he had recently dispatched soiled his haori…again, to his utter annoyance.
He had killed many for far less. It didn't help that his ward remained eerily still at Naraku's feet. Again, the talisman pulsed against his chest, leaving a burning sensation in its wake and visions, one of which showed Kagome and the others of the shiro on their way. He felt his Mate's presence strongly in that moment but equally he felt the small hand grasping at his knee with a fearsome grip.
There with him, side by side stood the little fox demon, face set in anger, eyes fixed on Rin's body. Fear not withstanding, he was ready for battle. Sesshoumaru was pleased, the loss of circulation temporarily forgotten in his right knee. There was a price for everything.
The Taiyoukai turned lazily, finally acknowledging Inuyasha's presence beyond the barrier. Differing shades of burnished sunlight as one in their goal, Naraku's inevitable demise. Tensaiga pulsed in that moment as their eyes met. One set of the amber in calculated calm and the other fiery frustration.
The scent of burnt flesh assailed his nostrils and memories came to him of a body being thrown over a cliff, inexorably to its death, or so they thought.
A thief, a vagabond, a wish unfulfilled had led to this. He deserved no better. Still, she comforted him as she had done so many years ago. Onigumo now regretted his deepest wish, to possess, to own both the jewel and its Keeper. That singular wish had led to the birth of another.
Jealousy was a very strange thing and made even stranger bedfellows. Rectification was everything. He finally understood as he was surrounded in light.
"Now, I choose now."
Sunlight entered his breast and he saw his mistake. Crisp edges of flesh turned upward in a grimace, that passed for a smile as the distant echoing waves of anger followed him down a tunnel of infinite darkness to his fate. The lights followed.
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
…When mercy seasons justice."
As you can see, the finale is actually next week. Had to make the decision to break the chapter into two…again. I think the universe, likes this better.
See you next week, without fail. This must finish in order to present the epilogue, Sesshoumaru's Mate: A Valentine's Story.