Time and Tide...
Naraku had been dead and gone for a good number of years now and was becoming just a story told to naughty children to subdue them. In the following couple of years to his defeat, many things had changed and progressed; as expected Miroku and Sango had eventually married and now had a small brood of children helping them resettle the slayers village ably assisted by Kohaku. Not all the children were theirs originally, the village had become a place for orphaned children to gravitate towards and none were turned away.
Even some youkai orphans had turned up in desperation, hoping for refuge and a kindly welcome; most too young to realise the irony of seeking protection from a slayer's village, but they had all been received with love and understanding. Sango's mind had been greatly broadened by her travels with Inuyasha on the shard hunt and Miroku could only see all the needy children as small souls in dire straits; plus the fact that Shippou was a frequent visitor put many of the little ones at ease.
The ending of their quest held a mixed blessing for Inuyasha and Kagome; they had reached a crossroads in their relationship and with no side distractions anymore it was time for Inuyasha to make a decision. He wanted to mate with Kagome but now she was reluctant; memories of the encounter with Kaou kept her from accepting Inuyasha's proposal. The sight of his bloodied tears, wept because of Kikyou's death still haunted her; even though Inuyasha had responded to her call and come through the visions of his former love and they had come a long way since then.
But Inuyasha had convinced her that although he had been in great anguish over Kikyou and they had made their peace with each other before she died, Kaou's words were untrue; he had picked up more on the hanyou's distress that he was unable to save the former Miko. If Inuyasha had really wished to follow the completely believable vision of Kikyou into death and because of his love for her, he would have done so and not even Kagome would have been able to persuade him differently. But some of his tears had been those of regret; Kikyou was as she had been before the betrayal, but he remembered that she hadn't loved him completely, wanting him to become human. It was as he had said at the time, he was hurting badly but was unable to share his pain; making him unaware and distant to the others around him.
Normal tears had by now washed away the memory of the bloodstained ones as he'd explained, leaving him very subdued for a long time afterwards; but eventually he had convinced Kagome that his love for Kikyou was in the past and was different to his love for the girl whom he wanted by his side forever. Unfortunately, the news for the well was not so good; it would close exactly one year to the day of Naraku's demise and only Kagome had the choice of living in either era. Inuyasha could only be allowed to stay in his own time; therefore they had a year to prepare and decide if she would stay as his mate or as her Mama's daughter.
Mama and Kagome were inconsolable for a while on learning the news, but as ever Mrs Higurashi came through. She recognised the love that her daughter and the hanyou shared and told Kagome that she would be foolish to give up that love; many parents had to let their children emigrate when they married, this was only a bit different. Inuyasha was hardly less distressed than Kagome, as he had come to value Mrs Higurashi almost as a second mother himself and would miss her gentle understanding.
It was Sesshoumaru who made it better for them. He suggested that it was highly likely that they would both be living in the future time and could make themselves known to the Higurashi family once again, once the well closed. This thought had made everything a lot easier for them all to bear on both sides of the well; even if the wait would be so much longer for the young couple in the feudal era. Sesshoumaru himself had a new agenda which he explained to Inuyasha after the battle.
Calling the hanyou to him privately beneath Goshinboku. Sesshoumaru told the boy that he would be leaving to consolidate his Kingdom in the West and that they would meet again sometimes, but not to fight; Inuyasha was no longer under a death threat from his brother. But that was not to say that Sesshoumaru was relinquishing his purpose in his younger sibling's life; he now offered his protection for Inuyasha and for the hanyou's future family should he wish it.
Those of his companions who were watching the pair discuss things were amazed and a little disconcerted at first, when Inuyasha bowed his head to his brother. It took a lot for the hanyou to submit to the full youkai, but he knew for the sake of any pups that it would be a neccessity for their safety. Inuyasha found that he was actually overwhelmed with gratitude, that finally Sesshoumaru was willing to acknowledge the familial ties that were so important and yet had been so missed in his life.
All that the friends could witness were the brothers' actions, they could not hear the words that for once were kindly spoken; but they did see the older youkai run his thumbs gently beneath his brother's eyes, before he caught the white mane pulling Inuyasha's head back. Exposing the hanyou's throat to his lengthened fangs; Sesshoumaru took great delight in the collective gasp of shock from his brother's friends before he encircled Inuyasha's neck and bit down, puncturing the flesh to make his pack mark. But he was at the same time aware of the phenominal trust his little brother had just placed in him and he felt a swell of pride in the courage of the hanyou.
After that though, with one swift and surprisingly tender caress to his brother's head, Sesshoumaru left to fulfil his self appointed task of renervating the glory and power of his Father's Lands. He left silently with a whisper that if Inuyasha searched for him he would be found; but he anticipated being very busy in the near future and that should his little brother wish it, a place would be found for him in his brother's court. Then he was gone, leaving a bemused but happy hanyou to the care of his future mate and their companions.
To the Daiyoukai, the passing of time meant very little; he had many journeys and visits to make in his personal ambition to restore and improve the Western Province, making it an untouchable domain. This meant travelling all over to other cardinal lords and various dignitaries, establishing allies and using his diplomacy rather than his power. In between his travels were the essential jobs of sorting out those of his staff who could be trusted and who were not wholly self serving to run his Palace and interests with a modicum of ability to use their own judgements.
He found this satisfying to a degree he hadn't thought possible, pitting his own wits against others and making them prove themselves; Sesshoumaru was a great judge of character and could tell by body language and scent any being's honesty. It was imperative that he now found souls who were more liberal in their personal ideas for his own suite and set of rooms and yet who would know their place and value their master's trust; Sesshoumaru would not place Rin in danger from his servants.
He found several tutors for the girl so that she would be well educated and he could not now always take her on his missions, but he had been able to arrange that she had female maids who did not mind the fact they were in service to a human. She also had bodyguards for when she went into the gardens, Sesshoumaru had chosen carefully and wisely and Rin was an engaging child; soon beloved of her staff .
Rin understood her Lord's need to be absent for differing amounts of time, but her welcomes were always consistent; she was modest and discreet, but could not help her childish enthusiasm to greet him from bubbling forth and he was indulgent of her. Truthfully he enjoyed her arms flung around him when he let her know he had returned; her shining eyes brimming with undeniable love for him even when they reminded him painfully of a child he had abandoned to despair earlier in his life. Inuyasha too had once been just as adoring of his older brother before Sesshoumaru had left him and his mother to the cruelties of a world that would not accept him.
But the Daiyoukai would not dwell on the unchangeable past he would grant his brother a prominent position within his new kingdom should the hanyou wish it, with rooms in the Palace for himself and his family. Over the past couple of years the animosity had lessened between them and it was high time there was peace; Sesshoumaru even found himself hoping for a good and solid reconciliation between them. He had grown to appreciate his little brother over the time they had met and had seen the sorrow and the longing in the boy's eyes for acceptance from him.
So now Sesshoumaru found himself making a home where both Rin and Inuyasha would feel comfortable and secure in the Western Lands and this took time and effort Just how much time was of no concern to him until he came back from one of his journeys and found that Rin's welcome was a little more restrained and that she reached higher on his body than he remembered. Her eyes still sparkled with their usual brilliance but she had been taught that now she was to be more decorous as a young lady greeting her lord, than the more carefree child.
The youkai found himself disappointed in his greeting, he had secretly welcomed the physical contact and the warmth that it shed in his normally cold heart; but all things must pass and he found out that human offspring grow up much faster than youkai children. He didn't realise that the years were passing, until one day he was aware that Rin was different; her welcome was mature and shy and he in turn looked on her with different eyes. The child's scent had changed and she had become a woman without his realisation.
Suddenly Sesshoumaru found more and more reasons to spend longer at his Palace and for dignitaries to seek him out rather than the other way round; after all it was only right that now he was established in his kingdom, that he was the one to hold court. Besides Rin was most fascinating and amusing; entertaining him at dinner and he felt himself succumb to her charms. Whilst on his travels, Sesshoumaru had come across Inuyasha and his mate only a couple of times; after all he was busy and so were they and what was a few years to an immortal youkai, but he thought it was time soon to bring them into his 'fold'.
However he had another reason to wish for Inuyasha to attend the Palace and that was that he wished his only brother to be present at his mating feast to Rin. He also wanted to explain and speak to his sibling about the decision to mate with a human, in light of all the trouble he had caused Inuyasha and his mother in the past. He hoped for Inuyasha's blessing before he made the public announcement and he wasn't entirely sure that it would be forthcoming; although he did know that it was not in his brother's nature to hold a grudge.
Sesshoumaru was deliberating on the best way to approach the matter with Inuyasha, when something serious was brought to his attention and the need to visit his little brother became imperative. Jaken had hurried in to his Master's office with a member of a patrol group that routinely kept order and care in the Lord's domain. The soldier came to bend his knee in front of the Inuyoukai who had nodded him forward and told him to speak. In answer, the soldier held out a barely recognisable piece of parchment with illegible writing; however, the Inu's nose told him that the blood of his brother had been used in the thumbprint signature.
The message had been discovered in the long dead hand of a human messenger and would not have been noticed accept for the scent of blood that resembled closely the Western Lord. The messenger had appeared to have fallen prey to bandits and then scavengers; but from what little did remain, it seemed that he had been dead for a good couple of years. The place of discovery led them to wondering why the man had left the normal messenger routes and had taken to the much more dangerous and less frequented paths through the forests. One thing was for sure, they would not find the answer from the poor man who lay dead and unburied; Sesshoumaru gave orders for the remains to be taken to a human village and given a decent burial according to human customs and then got himself ready for the journey to visit Inuyasha.
It was a shock to him to think that at least two years if not three had passed since he had last seen his brother, but it must be so or he would have known by now what the import of the message had been. He could only hope that it was not something as important as the birth of a pup and that he had missed it; he had attended the human feast for the symbolism of his brother's mating, it would only be proper that he should know of pups. Surely it could not be so; or Inuyasha would have informed him in some other way if he thought his missive had gone astray, he must know, as the man would have been declared missing by his family by now. On the other hand, enough time had gone by for pups to have made their appearance.
Sesshoumaru slowed down his pace as he reached the outskirts of the village where Inuyasha and Kagome had built their house. He had been impressed with the design of the building with it's double walls and airy and bright atmosphere; although it was not anywhere near as grand as his own Palace, it was more than adequate for a small family's needs. He would allow his aura to alert his brother to his presence rather than just appear at the door, as this still might alarm them; but he did not wish to pass through the village and so he landed in the forest, dissipating his youkai cloud.
The village scent was not so stiffling out here, although it was close enough for him to discern that it had changed; with a lot of new people and had grown considerably. Something else though bothered him; the scent of an intense fire assaulted his nose and coming around to the clearing of the forest where Inuyasha had made his home, he saw nothing but the scars of a long dead conflagration. Sesshoumaru's intelligent eyes could see that this was no accident; the remains of torches had scorched deeper into the soil and he could smell that an accelerant had been used.
Sesshoumaru's anger blazed and his eyes turned red as he stormed into the village that had turned against his brother, the only thing stopping him from razing the village to ashes itself was the certain knowledge that his brother lived; he would have felt in his own aura if Inuyasha had perished, the pack marking was infallible. A village elder came out to meet him, the man was very elderly and Sesshoumaru realised in disgust that he was to be a sacrifice to the Youkai's anger. Very well; if that was the way it was to be played, the Inu wanted answers.
A crowd stood nervously in the background but Sesshoumaru could see no sign of the elderly Miko Kaede and he correctly deduced that she had passed away; so turning his ruby eyes firmly on the old man he demanded an explanation for the scandalous treatment of the Hanyou and the Miko who had collected and defended the Shikon no Tama and defeated Naraku. The answer which was carefully rehearsed was that the villagers were afraid of the spell that the hanyou had cast over the young maidens and they had no wish for their daughters to defile themselves with him.
They knew that he had a mate, but it was well known that women were ignorant and would whore themselves to youkai and that youkai had voracious sexual appetites; the hanyou was living proof of such a union himself. Sesshoumaru barely contained himself, Inuyasha had lost another home just because the young village girls got silly and giggly over him and no one recognised or cared to note that the hanyou was soley devoted to his Miko. Deciding that it would do no good to kill the old scapegoat as he clearly was not the one who had made the decision; Sesshoumaru merely destroyed the village to rubble with his youkai and made it unfit to live in dispersing the villagers completely.
The retribution seemed to fit the crime in his eyes and he turned to leave when the old man came up to him to speak. He informed Sesshoumaru that there had been one person who had spoken against the hanyou family's trouble and had agreed to help them if requested; he remembered all they owed the couple. However the man had disappeared and no one had seemed to care or be bothered; it was the elderly man's suspicion that the man had been murdered. So that, Sesshoumaru thought, was probably the explanation for the dead man they had discovered; it was high time to find his brother but the man did not know where the couple had moved too.
As there was no trace of his brother or the Miko in the surrounding area, Sesshoumaru decided to go to the slayer's village; thinking that they might have found refuge with their friends. It did not take long before he was approaching the barrier bound new village and he waited patiently and in a non threatening manner to be recognised by the Monk and his mate. But the Lord was puzzled by the less than friendly atmosphere displayed to him; they had parted on good enough terms and hostilities had ceased, so why the almost angry and bitter looks?
It did not affect him, he cared not for their ideas about him; but it was strange none the less. Perhaps then, Inuyasha was under the same misapprehension about him and needed to know that his letter had not reached it's destination. Sesshoumaru scented the air gently in the hopes of isolating his brother but with no success; there was no scent of Inuyasha, the Miko or anything resembling a pup of theirs, plenty of other youkai and human scents but not the ones he was looking for. Neither did it seem that the Monk and Slayer were going to be forthcoming with their aid.
Sesshoumaru could tell that they knew where Inuyasha had set up a new home and rather than intimidate the pair and their misplaced loyalty, he showed them the remains of the letter and told them of all he had found out at the village. There was a gasp of dismay from Sango before she burst into tears, leaving Miroku to explain to his Lordship of the events leading up to the letter.