This one's rather longer than the others and (yet again) has a bit of a different flavor.
It's been a while since I watched/read any Inuyasha, so if Sesshy-poo seems a bit...er...ridiculously lofty, then I apologize. That's just how I remember him.
Clow does not tell her how stunning she is when she laughs, does not remark upon the powerfully expressive quality of the sound, the way it ripples, a gentle, liquid glide, a sonorous trill, sweetly resonant and dark with mischief, and ancient, echoing across the ages and innumerable congruent realities. Neither does he call attention to the Hedonist's Surfeit of empty liquor bottles at her lovely feet, though the liquids once contained within are doubtlessly the architects of her rare, unbridled mirth.
In point of fact, he says nothing at all, and remains carefully serene, his composure an elegant artifice borne of vigilant practice and the enduring philosophy of patient sophistry, lest any untoward or telling action make her realize prematurely that he's enjoying himself, which extensive experience tells him would force her to surrender her jollity to stubborn pride.
Instead, he is content to watch her clutching at the fabric of the tiny ochre-orange, checker-patterned yukata, laughing with abandon at some memory to which he is not yet privy.
Scant moments before, he'd asked her wonderingly if some lost child had once wandered into her shop seeking aid, and what the youth had asked of her. Immediately, Yuuko had dissolved into helpless giggles, and Clow had been left to linger in delighted stupefaction (where he waits still, actually), hopeful that his thoughtful patience will ultimately effect a reward in the form of the tale belonging to the scruffy, well-worn cloth.
When at last she settles and wipes joyful tears from her pale cheeks, she fixes him with an ironic look, and he is met unexpectedly by the full, playful humor of this woman with infinity in her eyes.
It strikes him, not for the first time, that she is more lovely than she knows, and a great deal more lovely than he deserves.
"The child was the price, not the customer." She chuckles softly. "Allow me to regale you, Clow Reed, with the Legend of the Stupidest Puppy."
He smiles warmly at her as she lifts the ivory stem of the pipe to her lips and takes a generous drag, stilling when she exhales, softly reposed as writhing tendrils of mist and bitter sugar coil endlessly between them, cloying and slightly acrid in his throat. As ever, the lovely flower's breath assumes the aspect of so many sinuous, spiraling dragons, whorled in their sapphire splendor, twisting up, up, up into oblivion. He slips willingly into the abstracted vision trance of her memory, a phantom-reel of images connected to the cadence of her voice, a fantastical shadow play illuminated by the tenor of her narration.
Sesshoumaru happens upon her sometime very shortly after acquiring the riddle divining the location of his father's grave, emerging from a copse of trees to her clearing, golden eyes blinking back surprise at the forested divan upon which she lies, languid, bathing in the sunlight. He recognizes her at once for something neither mortal nor immortal –something endless, something infinite and unfathomable, something mysterious and humblingly powerful.
He approaches her with sterling confidence and liquid grace, something hard and implacable about the cold stoicism of his features. He less beholds than he does appraise her nudity, neither admiring the alluring length of her legs nor the enticing curve of her waist, noting the curious luminescence of her skin in the golden light with (a near offensively) dispassionate objectivity.
She lifts her head to regard him, unabashed at her own nudity (what has eternity to glean from shame?), and then angles an elbow against the stony seat and lays her cheek coolly against the palm of her hand, considering him, bemused at the juxtaposition they make; the delightful antipodes of gold and silver, woman and man, ageless and immortal. She admires him ephemerally, the smooth line of his jaw, the sinuous beauty of his platinum mane, the way he holds himself and seems verily to exude majesty.
('A bit like your Abomination,' she says, meaning Yue, and he smiles weakly past the bitter censure in her suddenly heavy gaze, "They both have that whole bottomless despair and emptiness thing going on," she slurs, and then, pinning him with quiet intensity, "you know, the sort borne of unwitting immortality and the inability to die."
Clow knows somehow, intuitively, that she's not just talking about his ill-fated guardian anymore.)
"Tell me, taiyoukai, what it is that you want of me." The regal demon seems neither confused nor surprised at the instruction; to the contrary, he has an answer at the ready in very nearly the next breath.
"This Sesshoumaru demands his father's Fang, his birthright." (She laughingly tells Clow about this remark, about the dog lord's hilarious Third Person Proclivities.) Yuuko candidly informs him that there is, of course, a price for the promise of the sword. He doesn't so much as blink before he charges her to name it.
"The Fang is yours, then, Noble Sesshoumaru, for naught but the sum of a single human life."
"This Sesshoumaru has no compunctions against dispatching one such foul creature." His nose wrinkles inelegantly, and her laughter rings musically through the surrounding trees.
"You misunderstand, my lord. Your prize is dubious eventuality unless you make the covenant, here and now, to use the Fang to spare the life of a human being." One fine brow furrows nearly imperceptibly, and it strikes her as somehow remarkable that this feeble mimicry of countenanced locution can so eloquently communicate his skepticism.
"The price does not fit the reward," he tells her frankly, his tone newly flavored with condescension, "as surely you are aware of this Sesshoumaru's disdain for these, the primitive wretches which comprise the human stain, and just as well, you cannot be ignorant of this lord's beneficent undertaking to excise the corruption and put end to the pitiful futility of their mortal labors." She meets the forbidding implication of his disclosure with cool impassivity. "You must know that the attainment of the Fang necessarily facilitates greater such casualties. If it is to be just the one life…" She grins with something of a flippant equanimity, and the demon lord frowns discernibly.
"It is my price, my Lord of the West. Take it or leave it." Suddenly unsure, suddenly suspicious, he nevertheless inclines his head –barely—to indicate that the transaction is complete, their business at an end.
She smirks at him, a sly, ironic quirk of the lips, and then the Universe slides, condenses, dissolves, swells, and shivers all around her before it expands and crawls (with bitter, sluggish indolence) back into place –and just slightly to the right.
Yuuko tells Clow that Sesshoumaru got his 'damned sword,' though it hadn't been precisely what he'd expected –his 'birthright,' the fang left to him by his venerable father, was called the Tenseiga (as opposed to the Tetsusaiga, which she tells him went to his reviled hanyou sibling), a sword whose powers bring life instead of death, salvation instead of despair –and the human he'd saved, a little girl ravaged by wolves, had changed his perspective on the 'primitive wretches' forever after.
"Brought low," she says, laughter yet in her voice, and he has the feeling she's quoting the demon lord of long past, "by the very beings this Sesshoumaru scorns and despises."
(Just in case it wasn't clear --the checker-patterned yukata belonged to Rin, the little girl Sesshoumaru brought back to life and basically adopted.)
Seriously, this fandom needs to be much larger. Clow and Yuuko are the bomb-diggity.
Spread the word, you marvelous chums, you.
[Next chapter: Yuuko treats with the Goblin King, and snarks ingloriously about his Most Excellent Breeches. They toast to their (inexplicable, unfortunate) fondness for selfish mortals.]