Traversing the Ether of Dreams

Part One

A Slight Diversion

Every point upon a path is necessary to arrive at the ultimate destination. And is not one's destination really their destiny? The world is spinning on a pin's head and infinitely fragile. At any moment our worlds could slip and we would never know, even looking back upon what had been and might have been and could be. Humankind has asked the question from their first moments of thought over and over again into the present day: Are we masters of our worlds or is our world our master? Do we control the strings or are we puppets? The only answer comes at the end when the life fades and we can see, completely, what the universe is truly made of. But sometimes it seems as if those powers that shape all that is take some perverse pleasure in taunting us with a vision of what might have been had the path been diverted through one act alone.

The acrid scent of his poison mingled with burning bone and flesh filled the hollowed belly of their father's corpse. Rage crossed the hanyou's face and the great Taiyoukai, Sesshomaru, realized the gambit he had dispatched with the ease one might crush a spider between their fingertips. It is a strange thing to realize the importance of a person or thing once it is gone. Such realizations put the world into perspective.

She had drawn the sword of their father as if he had chosen her to choose in his absence to which its power would belong. But her? A mortal girl, barely on the cusp of her womanhood? The thought befuddled him momentarily. His confusion had infuriated him along with her annoying taunting. His rage had caused him to make a mistake and destroy the pretty little girl… Well, pretty for a human. And, in the span of a heartbeat, as he watched his brother begin to advance upon him after their parlay, Sesshomaru realized entirely that his impulsive need to silence her mouth had given his brother a reason to fight with nothing left for him to lose. And there was nothing more dangerous than a man who has no fear of loss seeking vengeance.

Under the rain of acid, her mind was a pool of pain and confusion. She was gone, dead, lost. Or so she believed. She felt the warm touch of a hand on her cheek. She opened her eyes and saw a man whose countenance was a blend of Sesshomaru's regal visage and the earthy strength of Inuyasha.

"Who are you?" She asked softly through the haze of her pain.

"The master of the sword you hold. You are in my grave. I have some power here, still. Even though I am dead."

"Am I dead?"

"Yes, but not for long. You see, my sons need you."

"I don't understand."

"You don't have to. When you wake, this will fade like it were only a dream. They will believe that my sword protected you, though the truth is far more than they could grasp."

"You are going to save me?"

He nodded and gently embraced the girl's spirit, relieving her pain as he regenerated her ruined body. "You see, Kagome..."

"You know my name."

"I know everything about you, Kagome. But that is beside the point. You see, Kagome, I died long before I could impart the true knowledge of power to both of my sons. Where it comes from and how to wield it. You are the key to my lessons and I have waited for a very long time for you to arrive here. Though you will remember nothing of this in only an instant, I must give you one piece of advice before I leave you that might allow you greater ease in helping me achieve my goal."

"What is that?" She felt herself being pulled back to her body. She fought with what strength she had in her so she could hear his words.

"Love and hate are the same emotion. They come from the same place in our souls. Love is creation and hate is destruction. Understanding this truth will be the key to every door set in front of you to be opened. Do not be afraid, Kagome. Do not flinch. Everything will be revealed and understood in the end. This is where paths divert."

"Will you be with me?" Her voice was fading as she was drawn back into her living flesh. The resonant tones of his voice and the warmth of his touch reminded her of her own father. The memories were like wisps of smoke in her mind, but his presence made them real for her again. She felt safe, like she was home.

"I always have been, Kagome. I always will be."

She felt her legs again and her arms and her face where she was buried under the thin blanket of bone and earth. The sword was still clutched tightly in her hands and she trembled as she heard the sounds of battle nearby. She fought to remember the dream she had just had. It was warm and beautiful and safe in her mind, but it was disappearing and that sent a pang through her. She trembled again and stood slowly on shaking legs.

His eyes turned onto the girl. She should have been dead. From the look on his bastard brother's face, he thought she should have died as well. It was that look that made his decision for him. Without thought or pause, Sesshomaru dashed forward and gathered the girl in his arms. She fought him. She called out for Inuyasha to save her. But he had her and she had the sword and while she held the coveted fang, it did not harm him where is skin brushed the hilt.

Inuyasha paused, frozen in place with a look of horror crossing his face. Sesshomaru had Kagome. This girl who was both shard detector, reminder of his long lost love and friend was held in the deadly embrace of his evil brother who had made his own life hell. "Put her down, Sesshomaru."

"It would seem I have the means to possess our father's sword and disable you. Come any closer and I will snap her slender neck." Kagome froze at his words and pressed her eyes closed. He was going to kill her if she fought him, she knew it. She knew it as instinctually as she knew Inuyasha would have killed her had the rosary not been placed on him.

"What do you want, Sesshomaru?"

"I have what I want, Inuyasha. What I need from you is that you will not follow me. If you do, I promise you that I will kill her without a second thought."

The hanyou trembled in rage and resignation. He hated his brother with a deep loathing passion, but he couldn't risk Kagome's death. For some reason, the girl had been able to cheat her own death at Sesshomaru's hands once. Inuyasha did not know if her luck would hold a second time and he would not endanger her. "Go. But if you harm her, I promise you I'll kill you, Sesshomaru."

The Taiyoukai smiled a dark and evil smile. "Do not worry, little brother. So long as she keeps you at bay and out of my lands, I will ensure no harm comes to her."

"Inuyasha…" Her voice was weak and frightened. Their eyes met and the hanyou nodded in an assuring gesture.

Before he or she could exchange another word, Sesshomaru propelled out of his father's corpse and flew from the nether realm into the world of the living. Kagome whimpered and pressed her eyes closed while she gripped the hilt of the Tetsuaiga even more tightly. In turn, Sesshomaru tightened his hold on her. "What are you going to do with me?"

Sesshomaru looked down at the girl with her eyes closed. "I do not know yet, though I suppose I shall have to make a place to put you for a time. At least until the spell on the sword that keeps me from claiming it is removed. Until then, there will be a place in my palace for you that you will not leave. After that, if Inuyasha is still a bane to me, I will consider allowing you to live to ensure he is kept under control." He smiled darkly. "Pray that you keep your usefulness."

"What if I find some other way I'm useful to you?"

"Unlikely. You are human. I have little use for humans." Sesshomaru felt a thrill of sadistic delight when she trembled in his grasp. "Other youkai might find a use for you… Many are very fond of human flesh."

"No! Please… Please don't do that…"

His smile returned as his delight only grew. She was even prettier when she was terrified. "I will consider it."

"Do… Do you eat humans?"

At her question, his lips curled into a snarl. The thought disgusted him. "No. Inuyoukai do not eat humans. We eat our food uncooked, but it is considered uncouth to eat humans."

She relaxed faintly and her breathing began to slow along with the beating of her heart. She even chanced opening her eyes, but, upon finding herself high over the earth flying with the Taiyoukai toward his palace, her heartbeat sped again and she began to gasp for breath with her eyes pressed tightly shut. It vaguely annoyed him that their height could frighten more than he could. "Please, please don't drop me."

"Do not be foolish, girl." He grumbled faintly. He tightened his arm around her waist so she was more flush with his torso. It seemed to calm her. Much to his annoyance, his seeming inherent ability to abate her fears brought him a similar surge of delight as his ability to terrify her. It is only because I have power over her. I can control her. That is why her reactions affect me so greatly. Nothing else.

Soon enough, they landed in the courtyard of his palace. Jaken arrived a short time later with AhUn. The toad would not silence about the impropriety of a human being in the palace. If he were not careful, he would be dead. Sesshomaru had only so much patience for his imp's antics.

"Her presence in my home is your concern only in that I wish you to prepare a room for her. It is to be locked from the outside and warded so none of the youkai on the grounds may reach her. Do you understand?"

Jaken silenced and shook visibly. "Y-yes, my Lord. But Lord Sesshomaru, what will I tell the courtiers?"

"They need not be told anything. If they have questions to present me in regard to my rule, they may come to me directly."

The toad shook again, visibly, and nodded before leaving to complete his task.

Kagome looked up at Sesshomaru. The sword was still clutched to her chest and she was still frightened, but not of the Taiyoukai any longer. She knew he had been playing with her for a while, but he had also tried to comfort her and soothe her fears. Anyone who did that couldn't be all bad. The more she looked up at Sesshomaru, the more she began to wonder why the brothers hated each other so incredibly. The amber gaze of the tall inuyoukai fell down upon her and caused her to look away and blush at being caught staring.

Sesshomaru felt faint amusement. The girl was acting the modest, virginal saint. Her attire spoke nothing of the same. She was dressed more scantily than a cheap human whore. Even geisha would shun her. "I will send a seamstress to you in the morning. Your clothing is inappropriate for my home and brings disgrace upon us both."

"I… I'm sorry, but where I come from it's normal to dress like this."

"You come from a colony of whores?"

He raised his brow as her blush changed from mild embarrassment to a deep crimson of pure and uncontrollable rage. "Excuse me!? I do not! Take that back!"

"I state a fact. You look as if you are a whore and you say you come from a place where many dress as you are dressed, so you must live in a colony of whores." He found himself even more greatly amused when she stomped her foot and raised a finger to poke his armor. She was fiery, no doubt, but she also had courage. Or perhaps it was that she was naïve to the gravity of her actions and words. In either event, he found his choice to abduct the human girl to be more of a wise one if only for her amusement value.

"I am not a whore. I'm from the future. I came through this old dry well that, in my time, is in a shrine built in the middle of a huge city. In the future, this is a school uniform. All the girls my age and younger who are in my school dress in identical uniforms."

"You presume to tell me you are from the future and that, in your future, women are educated while dressed as whores?"

"I'm not dressed like a whore!"

"So you say, but to my eyes any kimono so short allowing such easy access to your womanhood could and should only be worn by a whore. If you are, indeed, from the future, there is no real way to prove such a fact to me aside from taking me into the future. As I am in no mood for such games, you cannot hope to prove yourself to me and so, for your own sake I suggest that you allow a seamstress to measure you for new clothing that are befitting a maiden… That is if you are a maiden."

"Of course I'm a virgin! I'm only fifteen years old! I haven't even had a boyfriend before."

"I have seen girls younger than you married to men many times your senior. It is not a completely ridiculous question, as your tone might suggest. And, with regard to a boy who is your friend, surely you consider Inuyasha your friend. If you do not, some of your usefulness has already left you."

"I… No, the term means… Damnit." She stomped her feet again and he found himself having to fight the slight curling of his lips in his amusement. "Inuyasha's my friend. But the term boyfriend means… Well, I guess it means kinda like someone who was courting me with the intention of more? Lots of girls older than me have a bunch of boyfriends they run around with… Some of the older girls even have sex with all of them, but that's really… I just can't imagine doing that with someone I didn't love."

He quirked his brow at her tangent. "So you are from a school that teaches girls to be whores. Apparently you are failing if you do not consider mating unless you have fallen into such a weakened state as love."

Her mouth opened as if she planned on saying something. Her deep crimson paled a bit and she closed her mouth for a moment. "You aren't going to let me go home, are you?"

"Most assuredly not."

"But I have school and my mother…"

"Any mother that would allow her daughter to go to a school for whores does not deserve to have her daughter return home. You are virginal. Allowing you to return home would allow you to be ruined and, while I care little for your happiness, since I have taken you into my home, your honor has become my responsibility." Her eyes began to shimmer and well with tears. He tisked and scowled. "No tears. If you insist on crying, you will be sequestered to your room until you see the folly of your actions and tears. You should be happy that this Sesshomaru has decided to take you into his home and considers your honor. It means that when you have exhausted your usefulness you will still have safety and a place here."

"But I want to go home!" Her tears spilled and he growled faintly.

As Jaken approached, Sesshomaru met the imp's eyes. "Notify the seamstress that she will be needed to create a new wardrobe for this girl. The cooks must also ensure she has human food prepared for her thrice daily. "

"Yes, Lord Sesshomaru. Her room is in the Eastern wing. Would you like me to show her there?"

"No, I shall. Her temperament and intelligence is questionable at present and I fear she might run if I trust her to your inferior strength."

"I'm right here!" She yowled and earned a nasty look from the angry Taiyoukai.

"I could not forget if I so wished, girl. Come with me now or I will drag you."

She whimpered and followed him, still clutching the sword as if it were the only thing she had to hold onto in the world. Perhaps it really was. Once she reached the room that had been prepared for her, the Taiyoukai led her in. The room was beautiful but simple. It wasn't a servant's room, but it also wasn't royalty. It certainly rivaled her own, though she found herself aching for her own bed and her mother. Especially her mother. She couldn't stop crying, but then, she didn't want to.

"Your clothing will be burnt once you have been provided a new wardrobe. All that was your life is no longer and you will abandon any thought of attempting escape or returning to your home. Until the spell on the sword has been broken, it will be in your care. If anything befalls it, the fault will be yours." He turned and began to leave. He could not stand her useless tears. He was being kind to her when he did not have to and she treated his hospitality as if it were a death sentence.

"Lord Sesshomaru?"

Her voice was so small and hurt that he found himself stopping simply in curiosity. "What is it?"

"Don't you even want to know my name?"

He smirked and turned once the expression of amusement left his features. "Only if you wish I should call you by it rather than by a name of my own choosing."

Her eyes danced with faint amusement and he found he liked that shimmer in the exotic blue. "My name is Kagome."

"Very well, Kagome. Take your rest. Food will be brought to you for your evening meal." He turned and began to close the door and lock it, then found himself smiling faintly at her next words before she was secured in her gilded cell.

"Thank you, Lord Sesshomaru."

Once he was away from the girl's door, he frowned and reached into his long hair, pulling the flea, Myoga, from his pristine silver strands. He met the annoying creature's gaze. "That such a parasite could rise in my father's court truly speaks to his folly. What is it you want?"

"Lord Sesshomaru, forgive me, but you must know that your father never intended for you to have the Tetsuaiga. It is meant to be Inuyasha's."

He crushed the flea between his fingers in annoyance. "What he meant no longer matters. He is dead as both you and that coward Totosai soon will be for defying me and keeping Tetsuaiga hidden from me all this time."

"Your brother needs that sword, Sesshomaru. In time his power will become more than he can handle and he will be possessed by his youkai blood. He will kill without thought. The only thing that stands in the way of that is your father's sword."

"Then he may have Tenseiga. It is useless but also possesses our father's power. Surely it could contain my weak bastard half brother's power." Sesshomaru smiled wickedly. "Or I could kill him. That would seem the easier path."

"No! You can't!"

"You've never been able to give me a good reason why I cannot, flea. If you have not found a reason in the two centuries since his birth, certainly you will not procure one now."

"Sesshomaru, you have had countless opportunities to slay Inuyasha and yet you have never taken them. You are known for your perfection in dealing death and your fearlessness and prowess in battle and still you have allowed the hanyou to live. Why is that?"

"He provides momentary amusement. Also it is dishonorable to kill an opponent who is so poorly equipped." Sesshomaru smiled and took delight in the flea's shudder. "I see your point, flea. Why not give Inuyasha the sword so he may be a worthy opponent and grant me my desire to slay him? I still hold the girl, Kagome. I have seen he holds some care for her. Using her as barter so that he learns to use our father's sword so that we might fight and I am given the outlet to prove my worth as our father's successor might serve my desires. Then I could claim the sword on his death and no one would question me again."

"Sesshomaru, that isn't what I meant." Myoga felt his pulse pounding in his ears. The Taiyoukai was terrifying normally. When he plotted it often brought Myoga a kind of fear he only knew staring into the bowels of hell.

"Be happy I need you to deliver my proposal to Inuyasha, flea. Go and deliver my message that, on pain of Kagome's death, he should learn to use Tetsuaiga and, in time, duel with me. The sword will be delivered to him in seven days. Go now and do not return or I will do more than crush you." He said and smirked as the flea departed more quickly than Sesshomaru had ever seen him before.

He looked back toward the door of the girl he had abducted. He could still hear her sobs, though he knew she had not heard his conversation with Myoga. He sighed faintly and shook his head before returning to his own chambers across the palace in the Western wing. He removed his armor and lay back on his bed after running his fingers through his hair. He felt the fondness for the girl again begin to stir and fought it back. It was his nature, he knew. Inuyoukai had a particularly annoying fondness for humans. It had been his father's doom and had become his own personal hell once Inuyasha had been born. In a land where strength was measured by a ruler's ability to abandon attachment and care while adopting ferocity and cruelty to keep order, his father had weakened his own regime and, subsequently, Sesshomaru's in favor of love and carnality with a human woman rather than maintaining his power.

It infuriated him. What infuriated him even more was that Sesshomaru, much to his chagrin, was falling into the same trap. The trap was named Kagome this time. The Taiyoukai snarled and scowled. Even if Inuyasha refused, Sesshomaru knew very well he would not kill the girl. He had taken her honor as his own and that included her well being. Her safety was of the utmost importance now and he hated himself for allowing such a thing to happen. But it was his nature. It was his instincts reacting to her. A man could only fight his nature so long before he broke.

It was not as if he liked her or enjoyed her presence. She was annoying and weak and cried far too much. She provided him some amusement, but amusement was not enjoyment. His lips quirked at the thought of her becoming some form of entertainment for him. Like a jester of sorts. He could frighten her and watch her quake, then tease her and watch her rage, then be kind to her and watch her… No. Perhaps he should not be kind. Being kind to her would make a show that would convince others he might actually care for the girl when he did not. No, she would be his toy until he could find a human man who he could marry her off to once he had ensured her whorish habits were entirely unlearnt. Though he would mourn if she lost her fire. Her fire made her… Amusing.

------

"You expect me to believe that, Myoga?" He looked at the flea incredulously, trying to decide if he wished to crush him again.

"You have to believe me, Inuyasha. Sesshomaru intends to return Tetsuaiga to you in seven days time so you may master it and fight him. If you do not, he will kill Kagome."

Inuyasha snarled and looked down at his hands. He was happy that she was alive but enraged that she was not with him. There was rightness about when she was near. He felt like he had a family even though she was so very new to him. He knew he would bend to his brother's will for that reason alone. "Where does he want me to go?"

"He did not say. I believe he intends to find you to deliver the sword. Once he does, you must accompany me to find Totosai. We will teach you to use the Tetsuaiga and then you must quest to enhance its power once more."

"What do you mean? Isn't it powerful enough on its own?"

"The sword is very powerful as your father was very powerful, however it also possesses innate abilities. It is constantly learning new attacks from other youkai so that it can adapt to any battle. The only way to learn those new attacks and techniques is to defeat stronger and stronger youkai."

"Which means I gotta keep fighting and learning or else I won't ever master the sword." He smirked and shook his head. "I ain't ever had to carry a sword before. Never been taught to use one."

"It was your father's place to, but with his death much about your rearing was ignored or forgotten. Had Sesshomaru not been so devout in maintaining and strengthening the West once Inu no Taisho died, perhaps he would have taught you."

"Feh. I doubt it. He hates me. He hates everyone and everything that even remotely smells of human."

"It is true that Sesshomaru is a black hearted youkai, but he is still inuyoukai. Your kind have an innate bond with humanity that can be traced back to when humans were still living in caves and fighting for their very survival. He might distain humanity, however I do not believe that is why he hates you."

"I know it ain't why he hates me. I know exactly why he does. Cause my birth made everyone question our father's strength and his."

"It goes even deeper than that, Inuyasha. While you are alive and not marked as subordinate to him, as his younger brother and another of Inu no Taisho's heirs you could defeat him in a duel and take the West from him."

"So that's it. But I don't want the bastard's lands. I don't want his damned court neither. All I ever wanted was to be free without people fighting me all the time for things I can't control… Because I'm different from them."

"It doesn't matter, Inuyasha. Unless you submit to him and let him mark you, you remain the question to his rule and so he will constantly have to defend his position."

He sighed and shook his head, again turning his gaze to his claws. "Kagome and me were gonna go and collect the shards of the Shikon no Tama. She broke it and now it's scattered all over the land. If the pieces aren't collected, youkai all over will become stronger when they possess its pieces. But if I could gather them all… I'd be able to become a full inuyoukai and maybe defeat Sesshomaru and save Kagome."

"While we wait for Sesshomaru to bring the sword to you, we can begin gathering them."

"I can't sense them, though… Kagome could, but I can't."

"Then we will simply have to find someone who can, Inuyasha. Surely someone of a holy order could help us. I will seek out a monk or miko who would be willing to aid us in seeking out the shards of the Shikon no Tama. In the mean time, you should gather supplies and prepare for the arrival of your brother."

"Hurry and find someone, Myoga. The sooner you do, the sooner we can get the jewel and I can save Kagome." AS Myoga bounded off, Inuyasha sighed again and rested his head in his hands. He had to go and tell Kaede what had happened. Perhaps she would know of a way to save Kagome so they could begin their quest.

------

"Tell me exactly why you allowed yourselves to be thrown out of her room? She is only a human girl." His rage had returned. The seamstress had come to him along with her apprentices shaking in fear because the girl, Kagome, had scared them out of her room while they were measuring her.

"She is powerful, Lord Sesshomaru. You did not tell us she had purification powers!"

He scowled and sighed. "I will deal with her." He threw open the door to her room and came face to face with the angry young woman who was still resonating with holy miko power. "You would threaten to purify my servants? Have you any idea what dangerous ground you tread on, Girl?"

"My name is Kagome!"

"Names are for those who act like people, not raging children more apt to tantrum than thinking logically. I will not call you by your name unless you decide to start acting like a person." He advanced on her and scoffed as she tried to burn him with her energies. Her power tingled unpleasantly, but she was not anywhere near powerful enough to harm him. He gripped her wrists and met her disbelieving eyes. "There is no mortal girl who can kill me, nor hanyou nor demon unless they are on par with my power and I can assure you there is none in this land who comes any where near my level, so you should end this futile attempt at my life before I decide that your honor is not worth my patience."

She whimpered and stopped attempting to purify him. Once she had calmed, he released her and she sat heavily on the bed. She was still wearing her awful clothing. His father's sword was sitting on her pillows, wrapped in silk. "I don't want them to burn my clothing… They're all I have of my home."

He raised a graceful brow and shook his head in amusement. "Girl…"

"Kagome."

"Not until you cease your useless pouting and begin acting like an adult. Now, Girl, you will hear me. The clothing you wear is indecent. If I do not burn them and allow you to keep them, you will no doubt try to wear them again and I cannot allow that."

"What if I promise not to?"

"You have given me no reason to trust you." He scowled as she began to cry and sighed faintly. "Alright… I shall keep them safe for you until you have proven I can trust you and then I will return them to you."

"Do you promise?"

"I do not say what I do not mean." His eyes fell on the sword and reached out to it. With the thick layer of silk binding it completely, the spell did not react to him. He turned to look at the girl as he stood with Tetsuaiga in his hand. "You have cared for this long enough."

"What are you going to do with it?" She felt herself begin to panic. If he took the sword away from her, did that mean he didn't have any use for her and she would be killed or disposed of? "I can protect it, I promise I can…"

"That is not your function any longer, Girl. Now allow the seamstress to measure you and find something for you to wear while your wardrobe is being made."

"What are you going to do with the Tetsuaiga?"

He smirked faintly at the panic in her voice. "It is none of your concern. What is your concern is learning to control your temper and not accosting my servants or me. You need not fear your fate, Girl." He said gently as he turned toward the door. "As I have said, I have made your honor my concern. Even if your usefulness regarding Inuyasha fails, there will be no harm brought to you. Unless, of course, you make yourself too much trouble for me or prove yourself unworthy of my care by continuing to be insolent. Now allow your self to be measured and dressed."

"Could I make a request?"

He didn't turn to meet her eyes and sighed faintly. "If it is not too much trouble."

"I… I don't even know how to walk in regular kimonos. I've never worn one… Could they be altered slightly so I can move easier?"

"You should learn to wear traditional attire for a lady, Kagome. But, for the time being, I will allow your request. Now trouble me no more."

"Yes, Lord Sesshomaru."

He smiled faintly as he left, closing the door after him. The girl had fire, but she could learn and would learn. At the moment, her aptitude was directly connected to her desire to live. He hoped, in time, he did not need to resort to frightening her in order to make her mind him. He looked down at the silk wrapped sword in his hands. He was certain if he removed the thick layer of fabric, the blade would reject him again. The spell was barely accepting him as it was. He reached his study and called for members of his personal guard.

He slipped the sword into the hands of Isamu, an inuyoukai and the son of his father's second in command. "Do not remove the silk or the spell Inu no Taisho placed on it will harm you. It is to be brought to my half brother, Inuyasha, in seven days. Find him and follow him until the time comes and then report what he has been doing to me upon your return. Do not allow him to sense your presence."

"What will we tell him upon our meeting?" Isamu asked softly, raising his eyes but not meeting Sessomaru's gaze.

"Tell him the human girl, Kagome, is well and safe and will remain so unless he attempts to retrieve her. Ensure that he understands that her life is entirely hinged upon whether or not he is capable to keep his distance until we may duel and end this ridiculous question of who the proper heir to our father is. If he does not, tell him I will not hesitate in ending her pitiful existence."

"My Lord… Forgive me, but did you not make it plain to us that her honor is your concern now and that if any harm came to her, ever, that we would be at your mercy?" Isamu felt himself shudder when his lord began to laugh. "Lord Sesshomaru, forgive my insolence…"

"It is not insolence, Isamu, it is a relevant question. Simply because I have said to communicate such a thing to Inuyasha does not make it true. I know that the threat to her life will keep him in line with my wishes and so I send the message. This deceit is for his own benefit as well as hers."

"So you do not intend her harm?"

"Only if she makes me harm her." He replied vaguely. "Now go with two others of your choosing. Ensure they are trustworthy and that you return posthaste upon the completion of your mission. Do you understand?"

Isamu bowed and left with the other guards to begin the quest he was sent on. He wondered, vaguely, if Sesshomaru would fall to the same weakness his father had. It was not inuyoukai who looked down on Inu no Taisho's transgressions with the mortal woman which created Inuyasha. Isamu, himself, understood as his lover was human and with her had sired several hanyou children. It was frowned upon by other youkai, but certainly not inuyoukai. The war Inu no Taisho fought and that it seemed Sesshomaru was damned to fight was against all other youkai who would see his transgressions as weakness. Isamu promised himself, silently, as he knew the rest of Sesshomaru's personal guard of inuyoukai warriors had already, that he would stand beside his lord without question, no matter what the future held.

------

He snarled faintly as he looked on the scar upon the tree where Inuyasha had been held for nearly half a century. He had felt the Shikon no Tama shatter and it had enraged him. Now he would have to fight to regain its power as well as dispose of that troublesome hanyou.

Naraku turned from the tree and walked into the night. There was much to be done and he had time. Time enough to accomplish his goals.