From the doorway into the room he could see out onto the balcony, beyond which rested deep emerald treetops and indigo mountains overlapping the sapphire sky. He knew that behind him, towards the west, the sun would be setting, the soft light melting away the azure coating to reveal the volcanic fire of the universe.
Placing a calloused foot onto the cold tiles he stepped through the French doors and into the fresh night air. He held no reservations of just what awaited him should he remain. No matter how well they treated him, no matter how lavish his room, he was just another possession. Just another hanyou to be dressed up and sold to the highest bidder, and oh the bids would be high. The inu-youkai was a dying race, beautiful, proud, and strong; they held to their roots, refusing to buy into the deceitful ideals of the "modern era." An inu-hanyou would be a grand prize to any buyer.
Inuyasha looked every bit an enchanted prince, leaning over the balcony of his royal chambers looking down upon his subjects, dreaming of the golden days his rule would bring to all. In the caress of the silver beams from the sliver of a moon, hanging like a dying wish from the heavens, his shining chrome hair spilled around his shoulders and down his back like silver poured from a smelter's cauldron. Glittering stars began peaking out from behind their cerulean cape to spy upon the occupants of the earth. It seemed their stares all turned to him, calling to him, beckoning him to their sides.
Yet he lingered. It was too soon, he needed to wait just a few more moments, until the last of the golden stains were washed from the sky. When he felt the change pull at his conscious, when he knew he must bolt before he could not, then he would leave. No earlier.
And he did wait. When the guards strolled beneath his balcony, he carefully moved to its edge. When their sight began to change to accommodate the lack of light, he crouched to spring. When their sense of smell was momentarily overshadowed by the waves of colored heat that exploded across their eyes, he released the coiled strength held in ready within his legs in one strong leap.
He moved silently, all but flying across the grounds, hurdling shrubs and youkai guards who felt nothing but a strong breeze fly by in their haze. It was only moments before he reached the gate. He knew he had precious little time. They would come check on him, come to observe his painful transformation as his youkai blood was sealed within him and he remained, for ten hours, an ebony haired human.
With another bound he was over the enchanted blockade and racing across the scorched earth that separated the Auction House from the thick mountain forest.
The hallways of the upper levels were decorated a bit more expensively than the ones leading to the rooms below. The hollow sound of feet against wood was muffled by lush carpet. Intricate carvings lined along the floor and ceiling panels were etched into polished cherry wood. The painted walls were simple beige, not too cheery and not too dark, yet still so formal a color. Bronze mirrors of various shapes were placed along the walls in patterns so you could not look anywhere without seeing yourself, or whatever prize you may have walking beside you.
Kagome thought she would feel wealthy, walking with these rich snobs, dressed in such beautiful clothing, and on her way to view the most guarded spectacle in the Auction House. Instead she felt disgusted. The lower levels at least hinted to what lay ahead for the occupants of the rooms, here she could easily loose herself in the fantasy that she was about to greet some wealthy suitor. Instead she was headed to a small bedchamber where a rare hanyou resided, a hanyou, she had been told, swiftly approaching his human time.
She had seen the transformation before, and knew it to be very painful, yet the pain varied through each species, each different body type.
She had once seen a huge disgusting hanyou with great horns and a bulky body rip at his own flesh to be rid of the pain as his spikes withdrew into his chest and his thick dark brown hide changed to creamy human skin, shredding and bleeding under the abuse of the claws, always last to go. The claws and fangs were always last.
She knew from the description that this hanyou would be different. Not only was he humanoid, such a rare attribute on its own, but also an inu. Their transformation, though still painful, were not so horrific. In fact the youkai often changed from humanoid figures to animal and back again with little to no complaint about pain, a hanyou would be no different. Still, she fretted.
Her mother placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. Looking over Kagome glimpsed the fragment of a smile upon Kikyou's lips. They were very privileged, wealthy, powerful, and renowned for their spiritual powers and battle skills, the Higurashi family had fought in many wars and on many sides, earning friends and allies with both ningen and youkai. Often hanyous from their own bloodline were sold to the Auction House as breeding stock for warriors. She knew her mother was interested in this hanyou in particular, a prize, she had said, a gift to her daughter.
Kagome didn't want to own anyone, she was happy with the paid servants she had attending her, the ones that would follow and work for her when she moved to a palace of her own. Still, she could not deny her curiosity. It was said that inu-youkai were exceptionally beautiful.
Kikyou smiled as the crease in her daughter's brow smoothed of its own accord. She knew how Kagome despised the Auction House, despised all forms of slavery. Yet it was a part of life that she must become accustomed to.
Soon they came upon two large mahogany doors; an intricate woodcarving forming a complicated lock guarded by a series of enchantments and spells. They watched as two men, their guide and his supervisor for this visit, held up ringed hands to the door and moved them around in patterns, thus unweaving the wooden barricades. The wood moved like liquid into the direction the hands swayed. The rings upon their fingers glowed with each sweep. With an audible click the last latch slid back into place leaving the two large doors stripped of all carvings.
Kagome watched as the two men each took a handle and pushed open the door. Their muscles tensed as if they expected an attack at any moment from within the room.
The first thing to be seen was the large, stunning canopied bed that sat directly across from the doorway; an inviting display should this be a lone visit. Translucent sheets of red silk fell down to frame the thick cozy mattress covered with dark auburn wolf pelts.
Next to catch their eyes was a knee-high table beside the bed where the hanyou was to receive his meals, no doubt much more delectable than what was being served to the more common breeds. It was crafted of oak, the rich brown wood carved into the form of a canine, the back used to hold the tray of food. Kikyou snorted at the mockery, sure that such a sight would have undoubtedly roused a bit of ire from the proud inu-youkai within the boy.
The room was small, the bed and table the only furniture other than a basin in which the hanyou could wash himself, and it smelled faintly of fur, not unsurprising since several wolf skin rugs were laid about the room to match the bed coverings.
Kikyou knew that the yourouzoku were no friends of the Auction House. The youkai and ningens who owned the place often encroached upon their territory without consent and burned away valuable hunting forests. It was also a known fact that yourouzoku despised all hanyou, no matter what race, and scorned their existence, even if they held such lowly positions as slaves. To have a place on their land that housed and cared for them, even openly participated in their creation, was an insult enough for war.
It was only within these later years that a small truce had come, though neither side had signed a treaty or even conferred with each other. The wolves simply backed off, receding to the mysterious mountain within the forest.
Kikyou pondered that a while, her thoughts traveling from one topic to another so quickly she had completely forgotten what led them there to begin with until she heard the heated curses and shouts from the two men.
"He's escaped!" shouted the supervisor, quickly rushing to the balcony. The guide followed to shout down to the guards.
A murmur went through their small group. No one had ever escaped the Auction House, especially no one from the upper levels; this was the safest place for a hanyou, so there was no reason for escape. Already conclusions were being drawn. Whispered words flew back and forth. The hanyou was never here, they had only made up the story to receive business. An inu-hanyou, who had ever heard of such a thing? An inu-youkai would never mate with a ningen, they were too proud.
The comments came with a bitter tone, the obvious disappointment visible on each guests' face as they filed out of the room. The buyers were not interested in the frantic guards that rushed around searching the grounds or tore the room apart to find the boy.
Kikyou turned to leave when she spotted her daughter leaning against the balcony railing. Walking over she wordlessly questioned her daughter's continued presence within the room.
"Mother, look," Kagome pointed with her eyes.
In the distance they could make out a flash of silver in the last fading lights of twilight as it disappeared beneath the cover of trees. A smile spread across Kikyou's lips, she didn't have to question herself if it was the missing hanyou.
She knew it was.
Kagura strolled past the many vendors and their carts, not really glancing at any, yet not in a hurry to be rid of their presence. The small child beside her hummed softly as she smoothed an invisible crease from her new yukuta, her old one having been damaged during their travels.
Rin grasped Kagura's fingers with one small hand, playfully swiping the large pink fan across the empty space before her in the other.
Kagura had bought Rin a new silk tie for her hair with the coin she had left from her purchase, and she had much left. Apparently her lord either believed cloth was now as rare as rubies or wanted her to purchase a rather expensive kimono. With what had happened to her last one she chose to obtain a durable traveling outfit that would not hinder her skills, but beautiful, not to insult her lord's taste in finery.
With a sigh she ran her hand through her charge's unruly hair. She should get a brush while here, surely such a thing would not cost so much.
Glancing around, she led Rin towards a particularly nice looking setup with jewelry and such for ladies.
"Greetings my lady, how may I be of service?"
"I wish to find a hairbrush for young Rin here." She stated plainly, glancing at the selection.
The vendor glanced from the kaze youkai to the human. If he thought it at all odd for the two to be traveling together he didn't say, but he did sniff slightly. "You both are in the company of an inu youkai?" He asked referring to the scent that cloaked them both.
"Yes." Kagura said flatly, not wishing for the conversation to go any further. They would all be speaking of it soon enough.
"A rare thing these days," he said, catching Kagura's guarded tone. "I know just what you need." Standing, he pulled a single key from within the folds of his kimono. Unlocking the chest he had been sitting on, he flipped back the lid and retrieved a small wooden box engraved with flying dogs. The latch had the seal of the ruling inu youkai family.
Slowly he set the box before them, Rin stared at it wide eyed as Kagura lifted the lid back, her breath catching in her throat. Within the box lay various gold items: a brush, a mirror, a comb, a bracelet, and a small necklace. All were encrusted with jewels and bearing the seal of the inu youkai family. Sesshoumaru's family.
"It has taken me several years but as you can see I've gathered a bit of a collection. It started with that necklace there. Such a pretty thing."
It truly was pretty. Reaching in she picked up the glittering length of gold and jewels. The item would hang loosely around her neck, just barely touching her shoulders. Still, no matter how beautiful she saw it for what it was. A mark of possession, a hanyou's collar.
And she knew only one being who could ever have worn it.
Quickly setting the thin circle of wealth back within the box, she reached into her yukuta and pulled out her coins. "How much?" She asked breathlessly.
"For you, a gift." He said, watching the shocked look in her eyes. "I have collected these items without much knowledge as to why. I was fascinated by the inu youkai race, and I still am. The fact that you travel with one, that there is in fact one still here amongst us, is a knowledge worth more than these simple jewels. Besides, I can afford to loose them; I'm not exactly pressed for money."
Kagura nodded, bowing deeply. Grasping the small box she turned to leave, but glanced back. "Tell me sir, what is your name?"
He thought for a while, wondering if he should tell the woman. Then with a nod he sat back down on the chest, sliding his staff against his shoulder. "My name is Jaken."
Kagura smiled, then turned and hurried down the path. She would need to show this to her lord immediately.
Inuyasha leapt from tree branch to tree branch within the deep forest. He felt no fear within him now, no rush to escape. Each welcoming appendage shivered slightly from the force of his jumps even though he only supported himself on for an instant. The forest held no fear for him because he had raised himself within the forests.
No. The forests had raised him.
To him, every leaf, every stone, every root made itself known to him, guiding him to safety. The canopy of the towering woods welcomed him, inviting him to rest, but he knew he could not. He could feel his time approaching, his sensitive smell and sight dimming, his hearing muffled as if by some invisible object. The forest grew darker faster than it was supposed to be, his night vision fading from within his eyes.
Pain exploded just behind the protective skull that housed his tormented mind. It was a familiar pain, starting behind the eyes and burning its way through his head to his ears before rushing to every other fraction of his body, boiling his blood until he felt fevered and weak. The cool forest wind drifted around him in a sweet caress, cooling his aching limbs as he steadied himself in the cradle of branches of one tall oak.
He knew this pain well, knew this agony that came upon him every month. And he felt, somehow, the forest knew it too. This forest, which had lived in fear of the encroaching settlement building around the Auction House, was not without the knowledge of a hanyou and his time. It seemed to try and soothe his sore heart and tormented body, but to no avail. Normally he would allow the oak to hold him in its arms, but he had to keep moving. Hunters from the Auction House would be upon him soon; they must know that he escaped into the trees, into the thick mountainous forests that covered the peaks within its center as though they were some carefully guarded secret.
Opening his eyes he tried to discern which direction the mountains would be, but he could only see the cascading darkness that seeped into his surroundings as the last of his vision faded. Like ink the darkness devoured the trees and land beneath him, disguising whomever might be secretly preparing an assault upon his now fragile body.
He didn't have to look to see that his claws no longer adorned his rough hands, or run his tongue along his teeth to know that his fangs were absent from his mouth, or give a twitch of his ears to know that the triangle appendages no longer occupied the tops of his head. But he did, and found himself suffering from the familiar loss of these simple body parts. His hearing he could survive without; he had been rendered deaf by the shrieks of rage from his opponents on more than one occasion. His sight he could make do with, he had been slammed against objects with such force that his vision completely darkened, not just diminished. His claws and fangs had been nothing but useless accessories by traps he had been captured inside.
He knew how to survive when he was without the use of these traits, but to be completely without them…he felt a loss of self as well. No one he had known would recognize this body he now inhabited, the one that resembled his mother so closely.
Inuyasha's heart thundered and his breathing came in labored pants. He stretched to listen for movement, yet heard nothing but the sounds he himself was making. Closing his eyes tightly he calmed himself. He had lived this way for decades, had been within unknown territory during his most vulnerable time, this was nothing he had not dealt with before in his horrid life.
Hearing only a rustling of leaves, he felt a sense of peace seep into him as he braced himself against the branches, ready to climb down and continue on the earthen paths. The forest would not harm him; he could feel it in the life that surrounded his body. The forest would guide him.
Sliding down the trunk of the wide oak he pivoted and ran at a reckless pace in the direction of the rustling leaves, knowing that his instincts would guide him towards safety.
The rush of a river filled his ears, drowning out his own pounding heart. Mountainous crags rose up from either side of him, but they were lost in the darkness. The paths he traveled rose and climbed. The depths of the trail were jammed with sharp painful rocks that bit deep into his bare feet; the heights were cluttered with tangled roots and brush, but none of this bothered him. He was in a forest at last! A forest. After years within the confines of the towns and cities, living in seclusion, he was back within the wild life that he felt such kinship with.
Inuyasha crashed into the harsh river that threatened to sweep him off his bleeding feet and pull him down to the bottom of the mountain he had climbed. With a delighted shout he plunged into the cool water, feeling the sting on his scraps and cuts, drinking in the refreshing life it gave, coating his tongue with the undeniable taste of the forest earth. He knew if he let the river carry him a short distance his scent would be lost, but then so would his sense of direction. He could unknowingly head back to the edges of the trees and into the clutches of the youkai and ningens who lusted so for a hanyou as valuable as he.
He held no doubts about his worth; indeed, his brother had informed him of it countless times during their travel through the forests that had once been his home, the land that he had been given by their father. His brother knew he could never be tamed. He also knew he would never feel safe or welcome in a palace filled with servants and nobles who scorned the very existence of a royal hanyou.
The collar he had been forced to wear for his safety was supposed to symbolize the fact that he was protected from all harm. The thick band of bejeweled gold that circled his throat spoke of his family's wealth and power, the crest of his family engraved in the center telling all who approached that this one was to be left alone. But that collar meant nothing without someone else's power behind it. It was quickly ripped from him in his capture, sold for its value both in rare jewels and the golden crest of his family.
Sesshoumaru had given him the forests in the deepest wilderness they owned. And that was where Inuyasha had lived and survived until his brother's disappearance and the fall of the inu youkai rule in the western lands.
His brother. Inuyasha wondered what could have become of his powerful older sibling. Surely he couldn't be dead; but then, what else could have happened to make the western land topple into chaos? What could have made the youkai and ningen nobles so bold as to destroy the forests he owned to make way for settlements and cities? What could have happened?
Struggling to keep hold of the ground beneath him in the rushing water, he continued downriver, hoping to lose his scent in the water. Already his human body called for a rest he could not take. His injuries screaming for attention he could not give. Not now…not until mornings.
Because his vision was darkened he was caught unaware when he stepped into a rather strong current that swept his feet out from under him and thrust him forwards into the dark water. He emerged sputtering and cursing, thrashing against the force that tried again to pull him below. The river was moving faster, the water pushing against him becoming stronger. His shoulder slammed against a hard rock and he cried out in pain, breathing in water as he was once again submerged.
He broke the rushing surface, coughing the liquid from his lungs. He felt himself slammed against another rock, his wrist falling back against it with a sickening snap and pain erupted from the back of his head.
The darkness around him was no longer from the moonless night. There was a roar that rose over the sound of rushing water and it took a moment to realize it was coming from within his ears. He met another solid object and felt it scrape against him as the water pushed his listless body further into the darkness.
He felt his body pitch forward, the weightlessness alerting him of the waterfall he had slipped over before the blanket of darkness completely shrouded his mind.
Kikyou stepped out into the night air with her daughter; she could still hear the irate bickering of some of their fellow guests, but chose to ignore them.
"Do you think we should tell them where the hanyou went, mother?" Kagome asked, clearly not liking the fact that her moral code was clashing against itself. Should she offer to help, or keep this knowledge to herself and allow the mysterious inu hanyou his freedom?
"It wouldn't matter; the boy escaped and is no longer on the house grounds. He doesn't belong to them anymore. Besides, he's in yourouzoku lands now. They'll kill any hanyou." Stepping inside the carriage she shut the door, looking over at Kagome. "He'll be dead before sunrise."
Kagome gasped softly but didn't say anything. It wasn't her place to question youkai laws or customs, even those of the barbaric wolves.
The forest's trees howled around them like mournful wolves, the breeze blowing through the branches, tugging them back and forth as though they were trying to reach down to the path to grab unsuspecting travelers. The hunting party cautiously traveled the unseen forests path back to their domain. Their path marked by scent and unnoticeable tracks, no one outside the yourouzoku could discern the trail from the surrounding brush; it was the safest way back home.
The wolves were cautious; however, because mixed with their own scents was a new, unknown scent. The scent of a human.
Kouga walked with his men carrying their kill. The two deer and the boar would feed the pack well tonight. He was far from calm though he didn't voice his unease. The human's scent could be easily ignored if it was only crossing their path and closer to the outer regions of the forest, but the scent clung to their secret trail as though the course itself was refusing to release the memory of the intruder.
How could the human have stayed on the path, in the dark no less? There was no moon to light the way, and even if there was, very little of it would filter through the canopy to illuminate the forest floor. It took years to train the pups to recognize the trail, how could this human have found it, and stuck to it, so easily?
As Kouga and his pack moved farther down the trail he felt the tension in his shoulders uncoil. The humans scent traveled upwards, toward the rocky peaks of the hidden mountain, while the path to the den continued to the left. The human was not after his pack.
"Do you want some of us to follow the trail?" One of his men, Ginta, asked.
"Leave it be for now," he instructed. "Our first priority is the welfare of the pack. Let's get this food home; we'll search for the intruder in the morning. A human couldn't have gotten too far." Turning he continued in the direction of the den.
"I don't think that's necessary, boss." One of his men called from a bit up ahead.
Scanning the area, he noticed the wolves were clustered around some rocks near the bank of the river. They were growling slightly. Toji, one of his men with a deep silvery scar across his left eye, walked over and grabbed a fistful of deep ebony hair.
"Looks like the bastard got swept away by the river." He said, lifting the body up slightly by his hair. A small whisper of breath escaped in the form of a tiny moan from the battered figure. "Still alive too."
"What do you want us to do with him Kouga?" Hakaku, another pack brother, asked.
"Bring him up from the water." Kouga said, watching as they tried to haul the human from between the rocks and fallen logs. A few wolves backed up, emitting piteous whines as the boy cried out. "Carefully," he almost snapped.
Ginta and Hakaku grasped the boy's shoulders while Toji lifted his legs. Another unconscious moan passed through pale lips as they laid him on the sandy bank.
"He smells like a dog." Toji said, wrinkling his nose slightly as he backed up. "And his feet are bleeding. No wonder the trail held his stench; he was barefoot."
Kouga nodded. A poacher or assassin couldn't be running through the forest barefoot. "He was fleeing something." Nodding to the three men who hauled him from the water he said, "We'll take him back with us."
"We gonna have human for dinner tonight, boss?" the man carrying the boar asked licking his lips.
"We'll see." And they continued towards the den.
Then a soft crackle, like burning wood collapsing on itself, he could hear it, even imagined he could see it, glowing warmly in the cold darkness. Darkness, it was all around him, heavy and thick, smothering him like a blanket of snow.
But, if he was so cold, why did he feel so hot? Why did his skin burn around him?
Pop, pop, pop, then whispers of smoke shifting through his mind.
Was he dead? Burning in hell at the bottom of some frozen lake? Did he drown?
Inuyasha could no longer feel the steady lapping of cool water around his shoulders, or hear the constant rush of the river in his muffled human ears. His feet and right shoulder ached from their abuse, his chest and throat burned from the regurgitated water, and his wrist throbbed in time with his pulse. He felt he was being smothered, the pressure on his ribs preventing him from breathing easily.
The pain, it hurt so bad, like that first time alone in the forest, defending himself against invading youkai who wanted to capture and sell him. Hurting all over from the fighting' and having no one to care for him.
He wished he were dead. Wished he were in some never-ending sleep without the physical pain of his weak hanyou body or the emotional trauma caused by his unforgiving life.
Death would make that all go away wouldn't it? Death would make it all better.
Maybe he could be reborn as a tree, and live in some forest where no one judged you on whether you were a redwood or an oak. He would like to be an oak…
Ink spilled over marble.
The thought sprouted up from the rich soil of his rampaging mind. It was what the human's face reminded him of. Inky black hair spilled across a pale face so perfect it could only be carved from stone. The blood and scrapes a testament to his battle to survive the harsh uncaring world. A tormented statue, a fallen angel, an unappreciated work of art, once the comparison had taken root it grew to a sapling with branches full of questions.
What had this young man been fleeing from? What was so horrific that the ningen would risk becoming prey to wolves? Why was he running through a dark forest on a moonless night, and without anything to defend himself?
He sat down beside the midnight beauty, glaring at those who came to close. Some of his tribesmen were licking their lips as they stared at the crumpled ningen placed on the warm bed of straw. He new he needed to tend to the boys wounds before the wolves were lost in their hunger for human flesh, but the tantalizing aroma of fresh blood made even his mouth water.
Gingerly he picked up the right hand, blood slowly seeping into the dry straw to stain the golden grass a deep burgundy. The forearm was crooked two inches from where the wrist laid cut and bleeding. A small cry of pain slipped past trembling lips and he resisted the urge to bend down and lick the wound clean as he would do for a comrade.
He knew than if he started licking he would bite, and he wouldn't be able to stop.
So he dipped a fragment of the boy's shredded clothing in a bowl of cool water and gently wiped the warm crimson substance from the open wound. The blood, though undeniably ningen, did not have a metallic scent but rather a more woodsy fragrance. He hadn't noticed it before because their surroundings had canceled it out. But now…it was as though the guy wore the forests as a cloak, trees and undergrowth, rich spicy soil.
This time he was too lost to stop himself and leaned down to lick a small trickle of blood that rolled lazily down the ningen's brow. He even tasted like the forest.
"He smells like dog." Toji snapped him out of his thoughts as he voiced the same line he had repeated all the way back to the den.
Kouga glanced up at his beta and then back down at the person in his arms. He was salivating. He wanted more, wanted to rip the flesh from the bone and devour the alluring body beneath him.
He had tasted the boy…
Pulling back he gently set the battered wrist back down on the straw bed. It was a struggle but he finally rose from beside the young man and faced his second in command.
"Can you dress his wound?" he asked, careful that his voice didn't crack. He cursed his lack of control.
"His stench makes me loose my appetite." Toji said as he sat down and began undressing the boy to view the extent of the damage.
Kouga sucked in a breath as the silken fabric the ningen was dressed in was pulled back to reveal bruises, raw and bright, slashing downward towards his chest and over his shoulder to cap his upper arm. Purple and black blended together to smear over green like mold colonizing a decaying body. The thought made his stomach twist and he forgot his hunger in the wake of his terror as he continued to watch Toji disrobe the limp figure from a several feet away.
There were bruises covering the pale body like smaller matching accessories to the decorative coloring of his right shoulder. The tattered silk peeled away inch by inch to reveal a new injury, and new pain.
Thick lids came down to cover tormented sapphire eyes in an attempt to block out the sight. Even the wolves who had stared hungrily at the figure let out soft whines as the last of the ragged fabric was shed.
His marble statue was covered in moss and rust.
The pale flesh marred by such horrific abrasions that it was a wonder he hadn't been killed, the water heaving him against rocks, shredding his fragile body.
"He has a head wound." Toji said softy, pressing a thick folded cloth against the thick mass of midnight hair. Within minutes the grey rag was soaked in blood. "And he's bleeding badly." he looked up at his leader. "He probably won't make it to the morning, and even if he does there's no way of knowing the amount of damage his brain suffered. He could never wake up."
Kouga nodded aloofly. "It doesn't matter, he was only one human." He stepped forward only after the last bandage had been placed securely around the open wounds. The wolves followed, not even asking for permission. As soon as Toji was standing they piled around the broken and bandaged ningen and curled up.
"Looks like the wolves are taking to him already. That's good, their warmth should keep the night chill away and we won't have to worry about the straw catching embers from a close fire pit."
Kouga nodded, slipping in past them and settling down again next to the frail being in the center of the wolves. "That's good."
"You know, we could fix you up a new bed Kouga, you don't have to sleep next to him." He scrunched up his face. "You'll smell like dog." Toji smirked, but the remark held no bite. There was something about the battered creature before him that summoned his protective nature.
"I'll be fine. The last thing I need is an unguarded ningen being torn to pieces by hungry wolves in the middle of the night." He looked pointedly at the dozens of other members of his pack pretending to ignore their conversation.
Those that met his gaze laughed.
The perfect example of a new beginning.
When the blazing heat of the sun melted the cobalt sky away and waves of golden heat was released onto the unsuspecting world. The sight of such a thing was so spectacular you would never know that it was truly the day to be feared and the night to be cherished. For in the darkness of night you are allowed to sleep, to dream in peace and comfort, until the harsh light of the sun chased those warm dreams away and reminded you of cold reality; of the life that you must return to, away from the shadows.
It was this spectacle, this reminder of the life that must be lived that woke Kouga up early enough to see it in all its cruel glory.
His eyelids seamed heavier this morning than usual, his bed warmer than it should be, the morning chill a bit less inviting. He wanted to remain within the cave, the smell of his pack in his nose and the warm body beside him pressed tightly to his own.
Not warm, hot, feverish. Trembling beneath his fingers which were lightly stroking up and down the back, following each indentation made by the protruding spine. The scent of blood invaded his senses, overtaking the presence of his pack in his mind and latching itself onto his conscious.
Wake up, the rich spicy smell whispered, someone needs you.
And he did awaken, his mind sending signals to his body, working to lift his lids up and reveal his drowsy eyes to the soft predawn light. Warm wet blood coated his body and for a terrifying moment he believed he had attacked someone while he slept.
He glanced down; his excellent sight allowing him to see every detail of the young man's face in the dim morning glow. So smooth, so pale, so lifeless.
That last thought scared him, though he knew not why.
The boy was sprawled out on top of him, his dark hair spilling over their bodies like…well like long silky black hair. He couldn't really find a word to describe it, soft and fluffy, cool and slippery as he ran his fingers through it, careful of the dried blood that matted patches of it together in hard clumps. The blood was not flowing as steadily as it had been before, but the loss of so much of it made the already pale individual ghostly white, the crimson stains out of place against the alabaster skin. He looked like a corpse, a pallid beautiful corpse.
The ningen's arms were wrapped tightly around his neck, his legs parted, lying on both sides of his waist. He could feel the heat of the nude body through the fur pelt he wore around his hips. He hadn't bothered taking his armor off and could feel the metal bite into his skin, heated where it made contact with burning flesh.
He tried to get up, sucking in a breath through his teeth when their hips brushed against each other. How the hell had the guy gotten on top of him. Wasn't he unconscious? Gently as he could he pushed him off and onto his back, the only problem was the guy didn't let go of him and he had no choice but to come down on top of the sleeping male. Not unconscious, just…sleeping.
Now he was positioned right between two pale legs, just a small layer of fur between him and the stunning bare body beneath him. As if sensing his dilemma a wolf awake near the boy and nudged his cheek with her muzzle. The ningen let out a moan and the arms around Kouga's neck loosened.
It would have been easy to pull away but he couldn't bring himself to. The colored patches of flesh that flawed the perfection that was this pale body, the set and bandaged wrist that rested lightly on his broad shoulder, the hundreds of scrapes and cuts, it all reminded him just how fragile this creature was. And the way he felt beneath him, the way his hot breath slipped from a peach tinted mouth to caress his cheek, the way those pale lips seamed so inviting; suddenly getting up and going to watch the sunrise didn't seam quite so important anymore.
He couldn't help it, he leaned down and pressed his lips against the unresponsive mouth, disappointed when he didn't get a reaction, but what was he expecting? A spark of energy rushing through his veins? Perhaps he had hoped the listless form beneath him would suddenly come to life and respond.
He could feel the warm beams of the sun against his shoulders; there was a pulse of energy against his chest, resting lightly against the bruised skin of the person beneath him. The lips beneath his own trembled as a breath quickly left Kouga's lunges and entered the ningen's in the form of a soft gasp.
Opening his eyes and slowly lifted his face away, feeling the tension coil like a snake in every muscle beneath him. He lifted his gaze to meet panicky golden coins staring back at him. A strange combination, black hair and gold eyes.
But the creature beneath him was no longer a pale ebony-haired sculpture.
His skin was darker, a light tan painted over the marble, the discolorations slowly fading into the honey coated flesh. Shimmering waves of silky hair framed him in a pool of iridescent silver, drawing attention to his delicate ears, pressed back flatly against his skull in a submissive gesture.
The grass remained motionless, the leaves cluttering the boughs of the trees nearby made not a rustle. The air was still, silent and cold. To most it might have seamed a sign of foreboding, a small warning. But to him it was just proof of the absence of his companion, his friend if he would be so bold as to call her that.
The stars shone down with pitying smiles as they watched the earth and its pathetic creatures struggle for survival. Their life spans a small blip in the history of the world, meaningless to the near eternal inferno deep in the darkness of the universe. So much time and power, yet the stars were content just to watch, to observe night after night for centuries. The moon, gone now from the sky, was no better. Her protection increasing and waning as she hid herself, knowing that her one night of absence left her most precious child vulnerable to anything as he huddled weak and defenseless, gone from her sight and his own.
"My lord," Kagura addressed the regal figure waiting just outside the city limits. Long milk white hair shifted around him as he turned to face his companion, the soft wind that lifted up from the still air upon her arrival tugged gently at the creamy silk decorated with a splash of crimson that covered his body. His eyes, always half lidded, permanently narrowed in a cautious glare, turned to her.
Kagura couldn't help the small hitch in her breath whenever she met his gaze. The emotion that settled over, seeping into her skin and filling her veins with fire, not quite desire but not fear either. Shaking herself she released Rin's hand and let the child run to the menacing taiyoukai as though he were her harmless big brother. Kagura envied her for her innocence, her ability to look past the dangerous exterior.
His amber eyes rested on the child briefly as she showed him her new hair tie before returning to Kagura. "You obtained what you needed?" He asked coolly.
"And more." She stepped forward until she was directly in front of him holding out her hands, the box cradled within. She watched as a surprise flickered across his shielded golden eyes for an instant, his gaze caressing the symbol of his family as his fingers would if he allowed them.
Slowly she pulled back the lid, revealing to him the content. She waited as his eyes roamed over each item, knowing exactly when he stopped, when his breath froze in his chest and dread filled him. Carefully he reached in, removing the jeweled collar bearing his family's crest, holding it before him in two clawed fingers. She knew his reaction the moment his eyes lifted to meet hers. His gaze hardened and the muscles in his jaw firmed.
Turning he reached for the reigns of his dragon and walked away leaving Kagura, still holding the open box, standing in the center of her small self made breeze.
"Sesshoumaru-sama, where are we going?" Rin asked, trying to keep stride with him.
"We're going to pay a visit to the Auction House." he answered.
Kagura quickly swept Rin up onto the dragon's back before she stumbled, Caressing the left head as she tucked the box safely into a saddlebag.
"If they have already sold him?" Kagura asked as she adjusted the folds of her new outfit.
Sesshoumaru just kept walking, his fist tightening on the reigns, not answering her question.
Inuyasha sat cross legged far into the cave cradling his injured wrist to his torso. The smell of ookami was strong, stronger than it had ever been in his room at the Auction House. How had he gotten here? What had happened?
The previous night was all blank, as though someone had tipped him over and all those memories just poured out his ear. He remembered planning, planning his escape. Sitting on the soft wolf fur pelts in front of the small table shaped like a dog, watching the hanyou servant bring him his evening meal. He remembered seeing his torment mirrored in bulbous azure eyes when their gazes met. The large hanyou was supposed to sit and make sure he had eaten everything, make sure he didn't try and starve himself.
He remembered sitting with the shy Jinenji, his clawed hands tracing over the scars and fresh wounds created by the daily beatings. He could feel a controlled power held within the contracted muscles beneath his fingertips, but Jinenji wouldn't use it, wouldn't fight his way out. He was too soft hearted, and that's what made him useless to the Auction House. He was bred for power, for fear and terror, conceived to be a personal guard to a high family, but he only wished to heal. And every day they punished him for making his own choice.
He had shared his meal with Jinenji, had enjoyed the quite company of the gentle monster. The sadness that filled him as he watched the young man clear the dishes and retreat from the room was indescribable and he wished there was a way he could take him with, could take all of them away and bring them to his forest, to safety.
But his forest was gone and there was no safe way to escape with them all. The sun was setting, and he would have to leave soon.
He turned towards the balcony, the French doors open to allow a cool breeze entrance into the room, he could see the forest's emerald trees in the light of the setting sun; and as the shadows of twilight descended on the world his own thoughts turned to darkness, the emptiness that filled his mind.
They had captured him, that had to be it. They had captured him and beaten him like with so many other escape attempts. He had thought this time he could getaway from them, could flee the world they had imprisoned him in these past two years, but obviously he couldn't. He was sure, now, that he had been sold, and that he was with his new master.
Hot tears of desperation stung his eyes but he shook them back. He was not weak; he would just escape these wolves like he had escaped the Auction House. He would be free, and then he would find his brother.
A cold muzzle pressed against his hand and he glanced at the female ookami lying beside him, her head in his lap. Softly he scratched behind her ears, listening as her tail thumped on the earthen floor. His shoulder still ached and the back of his head burned. He wondered what other wounds he had that disappeared when he changed back. He couldn't leave now, not until he was sure he wouldn't be caught again. And this time he wouldn't let himself be taken back.
He fisted his uninjured hand in the soft fur pelt that covered his nude body.
He would never become someone's pet
He had been fleeing from the goddamn Auction House! That's what he had been running from, that's why he had rushed through the forest and into the river, that's why had had been unarmed and barefoot. He had been escaping.
An inu hanyou.
How could this be? An inu youkai would never sink to the levels of selling hanyou to the Auction House, no, this was a mistake. This boy couldn't be an inu hanyou, he just couldn't be.
"It reeks of dog in there." Toji exclaimed in revulsion as he walked onto the outcropping.
Kouga turned to glare at him as he sat down.
"Don't worry, no ones touched him, Ayame's got him huddled in some crevice snapping at anybody who gets too close. Honestly she's acting like he's her pup or something, weirdo." He glanced at Kouga who had resumed staring out into the forest. "You know, our law says you got to kill him."
"Bullshit; that decree died with the old wolf." Kouga spat.
"Still, some of the guys still believe it to be law; we all swore to kill any hanyou in our territory, no matter the race."
"We never said Inu."
"No matter the race Kouga."
"We have an alliance with the inu youkai that's far more sacred than the prejudice of a single leader."
"We still swore."
"Damn it Toji!" Kouga stood. "We can't kill an inu youkai!"
"Hanyou." Toji stood to face him. "He's inu hanyou."
Kouga ground his teeth, searching in his mind for a suitable retort. With a huff he turned his back on his beta. "I'm the leader now, aren't I? And I say he lives. You all can serve that bigoted asshole's laws even when it's our own cousin's life at stake, but I won't allow the hanyou to come to harm." He turned back to Toji. "Nobody touches that dog, you hear me Toji? If he's harmed in any way I'll have to start ripping some limbs off."
Toji smirked at Kouga's retreating back as his alfa returned to the cave to check on his new ward. Turning to gaze out at their territory he couldn't suppress the chuckle that bubbled within him.
Kagome awoke with a start as the carriage jolted to the side. She grasped the padding beneath her in an effort to keep from tumbling to the floorboards. She could tell right away they were going too fast, could feel it in vibrations in the wood. The wheels whirring outside the thin walls on either side of her rolled over each bump and hollow in the worn old road causing the carriage to jump and tip hazardously every few moments.
Kagome let out a small scream as the carriage tipped again, this time remaining on one wheel an instant longer than before. Kagome shrieked as she braced herself on the walls, feeling the carriage tip back and land with a menacing crack back onto the road.
"Mother!" Kagome cried.
"Calm yourself Kagome." Kikyou grasped the carriage window as the wheels slid over a new patch of rocky terrain. She could not recall the roads back to their palace ever being so harsh.
"What's going on mother? Why are we going so fast?! We shouldn't be going this fast! Our roads don't feel like this! Where are we?!" Kagome screamed as the carriage tilted again.
"I don't know." Kikyou stated, hoping her composed tone would help calm her frightened child.
Kagome turned to her, taking in a deep breath. "Forgive me mother, I did not mean to over reaACT!" Kagome screamed as she was thrown to the side, sliding into her mother and hitting the wall of the carriage with a thwack.
Shaking her head Kikyou pushed her daughter up, reaching back she rubbed the spot that had hit the wall. A small not was forming beneath her scalp but nothing to be overly concerned with. She redirected her attention back to her daughter who was rubbing her sore arm.
"We've stopped" Kagome observed, standing up and looking at the door to the carriage above them. "We were knocked completely sideways."
"That or we can walk on walls." Kikyou stated trying to stand up in her voluminous skirt. It was impossible to move in the tents she was obligated to wear.
Kagome squatted down to help rearrange her mother's gown, untangling Kikyou's pale legs from their prisons of silk and lace. Gratefully Kikyou accepted Kagome's help and soon stood beside her daughter, preparing for the climb out of the door.
"Mother, do you hear that?" Kagome whispered.
Stiffening Kikyou listened to the thrum of horse hooves as the approached. Not a hurried pace but what sounded like a slow trot. Someone knew the occupants of this carriage weren't going anywhere, and was taking their sweet time getting here.
"You can come on out ladies," a deep unmistakably male voice thundered when the horse came to a stop a few yards to their left. "We won't hurt ya."
Kagome shivered at the next message.
"We just want whatever little prize you got down at that auction house."
A zesty forest scent, sweet and invigorating and oh so delicious in his nostrils, earthy greens and tall spicy trees, dark musky earth and the sweet fresh scent of dew settling on each delicate emerald blade of grass and every velvet soft petal of the flowers, fragile and springy with life.
Inuyasha heaved a heavy sigh as he stared across the fire at his captor's unyielding bronze countenance, highlighted by the iridescent ginger light cast by the dancing flames. The wolf had been out into the woodland, probably lying in some shaded glade as the midday sun danced through the canopy overhead in a radiant ballet of dazzling golden beams. Every breath he took sent a quiver of longing through him; gooseflesh trembled across his skin as he imagined the soft bristly grass fanning across his flesh.
Pure pleasure raced through him as a calloused hand brushed against his naked arm, startling him out of his reverie. Glancing away from the blazing performance of the fire pit he was met with scintillating sapphire gemstones floating before him.
Blinking slowly, knowing that jewels should not be hovering in mid air, his mind finally positioned the gems within the sculpted face of his subjugator. For some reason or another the ookami had moved from his position across the fire to crouch beside him, and without him even acknowledging the movement.
For the first time, Inuyasha found himself examining the wolf's features. He had never been one for the details of a face; he could recall only so many who were really worth remembering. The forest, the lakes and trees and rivers, directions and landmarks, those were the details he committed to memory. But here, in the soft glow of the firelight, with the sun setting from the sky like a blazing circle of fire beyond the distant mountains, and the smell of the forest still so effortlessly detectable within the air around them, Inuyasha felt the sudden need to study every aspect of this bronze sculpture.
"You haven't eaten" he stated plainly, his voice a harmony of low, smooth tones.
And it was true; Inuyasha had not so much as nibbled on the large strip of raw meat placed in his hands nearly half an hour before. He knew his stomach to be empty but he could not muster the strength to plow his teeth into the flesh and devour the morsel. All he could think when he turned to gaze at the cold chunk was how much the hanyou's at the Auction House would give to have just a taste of this. And Jinenji, who depended on him for good meals, he has probably had only watered broth and stale bred this past day. How he wanted to return, if just for a moment, and share this with him. But he could not, he had been sold and even if his escape had been successful he doubted he could ever return.
"I just don't have much of an appetite." He replied solemnly, with none of the harsh bitterness he wished he could force. In truth he was just too weary. And now even the thought of escaping this new prison made his muscles quiver and his heart ache.
"You've had nothing all the day you've been here and probably little before that. Your energy is spent and your body still needs to recover. Your wrist is still damaged and the cut on your head still bleeds on occasion. You need to eat."
Inuyasha could not ignore this wolfs logic; his wrist throbbed painfully at every slight movement and the jagged cut that raced across the back of his head like a bolt of lightning striking pain directly into his skull let trickle a stream of blood every time he turned his head to sharply or too far. Even now he could feel the odd sensation of warm drops of crimson rolling down his scalp disturbing small hairs as it collected on their roots to dry.
Slowly the wolf sat, not back in his chosen place across the fire, but directly beside Inuyasha. His powerful presence sent chills across his skin, making the hair on his forearms stand direct and his hackles rise. This was a man used to authority; he gave orders and expected them to be followed, this was an alpha.
But Inuyasha was a loner, and born as such. He followed no authority but his own, and on occasion his brother's. And though the wolf made no threatening move toward him every steely tendon rippling beneath the smooth bronze flesh demanded submission. A compliance Inuyasha would never give, not so long as his heart strongly pumped the inu-youkai blood through his veins.
He could feel his upper lip curling by instinct to show his deadly incisors as the wolf leaned closer. A small growl reverberated through his abdomen, ready and willing to become a snarl as it bubbled to the surface.
The alpha paid no heed, his hand gently enclosing around the back of Inuyasha's neck. Inuyasha let out another warning growl; stiffening at the contact, ready to spin and latch onto the appendage should the wolf apply the slightest threatening pressure.
But the grip tightened no further, rather it released slightly, moving up and down his neck in gently movements, applying small pressures then again releasing. The massage was relaxing and Inuyasha felt his tension flee leaving him momentarily lightheaded.
The powerful hand continued up his neck to untangle the blood encrusted hair as his hackles smoothed back into place.
"Who are you?" Inuyasha breathed.
"My name is Kouga, leader of this tribe, and this," he gestured around him with his free hand as the other settled on Inuyasha's shoulder, "is my home."
"Kouga, I see." Inuyasha still made no move to devour the meat in his hands, his eyes turning back to the fire.
"And what is your name?" Kouga inquired.
Inuyasha snorted at that. "They didn't tell you?" he looked back at the quizzical expression Kouga wore. "No I suppose they were too busy trying to sell me at the highest price without appearing too eager to be rid of me. Or perhaps you didn't think to inquire when you made the purchase." Kouga looked at a loss for words.
"Keh, figures." he continued with mocking dramatics similar to Kouga's own introduction. "My name is Inuyasha," he said. "Brother to Sesshoumaru, and youngest son to the Inu no Tashio. My home," he stated, "was ripped apart in order to build some damned city."
"Wait, what?" Kouga asked shocked, several of the conversations around the other fires died as well and all attention seamed to focus on them.
"Didn't you inquire with the council at all?"
"What council? Hey, I didn't buy you." Kouga defended.
"You didn't?" It was Inuyasha's turn to be surprised. "I had assumed my last escape had ended like all the others, with a brutal capture and even worse beating." Inuyasha looked down at his slowly healing wrist.
"Well it didn't, if it pleases you to know you got as far as the center mountain peaks."
"Then how did I—" he reached up to trace the blood encrusted gash.
Kouga closed his eyes with a sigh. "My men and I found your body, battered and bleeding, wedged between the rocks and roots that clung to the riverbed." When he opened them again he could still clearly see the near dead creature that had fallen into his care present in the hanyou's countenance. "The river at the mountain's center is brutal, deadly even, to those who unknowingly fall victim to its current. Sharp crocks and boulders lay clustered within the stream, both visible and not, often the ones below the surface are the harshest of them all.
"Inuyasha, the Auction House has no control here, and you may leave when you like. You are neither our property nor our prisoner." Kouga finished.
Inuyasha looked up at him with hard, untrusting eyes. Eyes that had seen too much of this worlds cruelty, and longed only to drift close and never open again. He believed Kouga's vow that he would not hold him here, but there was doubt, a question not yet ready to be put into words. If the Auction House came looking for him….
"What happened to you?" Kouga asked, wanting to divert his mind, he could not tell what the future would hold, but he knew, with every ounce of his soul, he knew. If the Auction House came, he would fight. He would protect this ethereal creature, even if his kinsmen did not. "How did the Auction House come across someone like you?"
"My brother gave me a forest, left in my name by our late father, when I was very young. I was, of course, in danger of being kidnapped and sold if I remained in populated areas so I was given a jeweled collar with our family insignia clearly seen for my protection. I loved it there, the clean air, the solitude, the way I could pass in front of the tribes of youkai and ningen who lived among the trees and not be the recipient of disgusted, hateful glares. It was….freedom.
"But one day the forests were set afire and many large youkai began tearing up the trees." Inuyasha bent down to rest his elbows on his knee, his eyes clouding over with a strange golden mist as he gazed into his memories, reflected by the flickering fire.
"I fought, killing many of the youkai and, with the help of the youkai and ningens who called my forest home, put out the ravaging fires. But that was only the first wave of them. They came back three other times, enslaving the villages of natives and burning more and more of my home. Each time I managed to drive them back, but every time they left, they took more and more of my home with them. After the fourth attack I found myself alone, those who weren't captured had fled from the fires, the rivers had been dammed and there was no water to extinguish the raging inferno.
"I was driven by the walls of flames into a clearing, I was trapped. The trees were exploding around me, the dry grass beneath my feet catching fire and encircling me. I stood, waiting for my death, but found as the flames moved closer, I was immune to their damage. The smoke was unbearable, yes, but I neither burned nor melted. My clothing, the last gift from my brother, protected me. Still, I couldn't breath, and collapsed with cinders raining down on me.
"I woke to the sound of construction; believing myself to be dead. All around me was ash and the towering, skeletal remains of my beloved trees. I wandered through the charred blackened forest, my feet sinking into the ash like snow. It must have been several days for just outside the protection of the nightmarish wasteland that had once been a magnificent forest, the city was being built."
"I heard of the Kuragari Forest's destruction. Our western brethren lived near there; they said a silver wolf cloaked in the blood of his enemies protected the boundaries for years before Tokai was built." Toji commented, snapping Inuyasha's attention back to the present. "They say he was killed by a powerful taijiya.
"Yeah, well it wasn't a wolf, it was just a little half dog dressed in red playing protector to a bunch of forest dwellers." He looked away. "Besides, it wasn't long after that that I was captured."
Kouga hadn't heard quite enough, and wasn't about to let this Inuyasha close up due to a few bad memories. "What about your family's protection?" he inquired.
"The huntress who captured me tore the collar from my throat and had it sold for its value in jewels."
"Huntress? You mean a woman caught you?" Ginta looked doubtful.
"A powerful taijiya." He looked towards Toji who nodded. "The city council hired her and her tribe after I was spotted one night. She meant to kill me, but when she realized my worth as an inu-hanyou she hid me away, caged and in chains under heavy tranquilizer, in a cart as she collected her slayer's fee and lied to the populace that the ookami terrorizing their fair city was gone.
"When I came to a few hours later I was in the Auction House, being groomed and dressed up like some giant doll to be displayed before their prospective buyers. I tried to escape as soon as whatever gas I had inhaled had worn off. That was two months ago."
"You were caught." Kouga stated.
"I was careless, shoving servants away and crashing through the window. I had not yet fully recovered and didn't have the sense to think there might be others outside. The moment I touched the ground the guards fell upon me." He closed his eyes and took a breath. "They broke my legs, not a permanent damage to a hanyou, but definitely enough to hinder me for a few days. And the fact that it caused pain wasn't bad for them either.
"Once I recovered I tried again, this time I used the corridors inside the building to get out." He smirked, "At least I got to beat up a few guards." His smile faded and his voice turned sad again. "But they found me. I had made it to the second floor where they kept many of the hanyous in chains and cages. I was trying to get the ring of keys to free them. I know now, if I had abandoned them I would have escaped."
"Do you regret it?" Toji asked.
"No. I managed to unlock the cages and some of the hanyous I released made it passed the outer wall. I was, however, captured. This time, my punishment was worse." He turned to lock gazes with Kouga, his eyes a smoldering fire of hate.
"You see, the hanyous on the second floor are special. They are bred to be beautiful, delicate, and infertile."
"Infertile?" Kouga gasped.
"Yes, as you might have guessed, their bred specifically to be lovers to some high up, someone who doesn't want the risk of their bed partner getting pregnant. Many of those that had escaped had already been bought and paid for, merely waiting to be retrieved by their new masters. When those masters arrived, you can imagine the outrage at finding their new toys had escaped." He smiled a bitter mirthless smile outlined with glittering teeth, his sharp canines shining dangerously in the firelight. "The Auction House council returned their money and, to stay in their good graces, a consolation."
"And just what was that consolation?" Someone from the group near them asked.
Inuyasha's sharp golden gaze never left Kouga's. He didn't have to voice it, Kouga already knew the answer. He could see it in his eyes, the disgust and outrage at the injustice done to him. Still, Kouga needed to hear it, just as Inuyasha needed to say it.
What is it about bad things that just force you to speak, to seek out someone who will listen, if only so your story will be heard? For someone to rest a strong, comforting hand on your shoulder, so you know that you aren't some worthless nothing. That you were a person and this did happen to you. Yes, it happened and it could happen to someone else, anyone else. Even though it's painful, even though you know if you start to talk you may never be able to stop, even though someone might not care, or say you brought it on yourself. Even when you feel like you just want to kill the person who did you wrong, or lie down and die yourself. You still want someone to just listen, and hear what happened.
And so Inuyasha sat there, with Kouga's firm, calloused hand on his bare shoulder, staring into the fire whispering his tale to the three who had stayed when everyone else had gone to sleep.
A year old. Some of you may have already read this somewhere else. I wanted to post this here, even as I write the final part of it.