A/N: This is the fourth enstallment of this series. I will to continue to add to it when inspiration hits and my muses are generous. Please enjoy.


It had been but two months after Takemaru's visit that Izayoi saw the regal inuyoukai once more. The days were beginning to become cold, and the princess found herself becoming agitated with the necessity to confine herself within the warm walls and many layers of fabric. In defiance of the situation, she had thrown open the shoji doors of her room that led to the inner courtyard and sat herself at the opening so that she gazed upon the frozen garden as she played the koto. She closed her eyes as the melancholy notes surrounded her and tugged at her soul. The sadness of the song reflected the sadness of her heart and the death of nature before her. As the last note of the song faded away into the chilled air, she slowly opened her brown eyes once more. They widened as they landed on the form of Inutaisho leaning against the doorway nonchalantly, his golden eyes trained on her.

"Inutaisho-san! What are you doing here?" she asked, aghast. He shouldn't be within the palace walls. What if someone were to see him here? It was dangerous!

"I see you still wear my mokomoko-sama," he said, ignoring her outburst. Indeed, the mokomoko-sama that he had left with her all those months ago was wrapped about her small frame, keeping her delicate body warm.

"Hai. Here, you must want it back," she said and proffered it to him.

"Keep it until the earth warms once more; you have more need of it than I," he said. Smiling softly, she rewrapped the white fur around her and snuggled into its warmth. She was thankful that he had allowed her to keep it; the fur comforted her when she needed it, and it reminded her of the handsome youkai standing in front of her now.

"How long have you been standing there?" asked Izayoi curiously. Just how long had she been under the scrutiny of this dog?

"Since you began the song. You play very beautifully," he replied. A deep blush stained her porcelain features. It had been a beautiful song indeed; each note had pulled at Inutaisho's heartstrings and drawn him more under her spell.

"Arigato Gozaimasu, Inutaisho-san, but you shouldn't be here. What if someone should see you?" she asked worriedly. She could not have her father finding out that she was being visited by a ferocious youkai. The youkai in question let out a deep chuckle which only served to perturb her. "This is not a laughing matter, Inutaisho-san," rebuked Izayoi.

"Sumimasen, I did not mean to anger you, my Lady, but I had to see you, and since I have been able to come to you, you have not once stepped foot outside this damnable structure," he replied. She sighed, knowing he was right. A breeze wafted through the room, causing her to shiver in the cold. Inutaisho raised an eyebrow and shook his head. Stepping into the room, he slid the door shut behind him. "Why is it that you never take care of yourself properly? Here you are, letting in the cold. You will catch your death, woman," he complained. Izayoi graced him with a smile for his concern.

"Come and sit with me awhile and keep me warm," she offered, indicating the floor next to her. Gracefully, he sat next to her and looped his arm around her shoulders as she leaned against his side. The two sat there like that for a long while, neither of them speaking, just enjoying each other's company. "I missed you. You have been gone a long time." Izayoi's softly spoken words barely broke the easy silence surrounding them. Inutaisho tightened his embrace.

"My apologies, my Lady. I would assure you it was necessary, but I do not think it will matter," he replied, his voice regretful. At another time she would chastise him, at another time she would cry and rail at him, but that was the future. For now she kept quiet, enjoying his embrace, but oddly pensive about the small, unidentifiable sadness in her heart.

Finally, the time to separate came upon them. "I must go, your servant approaches," said Inutaisho. He looked down at the beautiful angel in his arms, taking in her long black hair, warm brown eyes, and flushed pink lips. She was breathtaking. Unable to stop himself, he lowered his head and caught her lips with his own. He did not take advantage of her startled gasp to deepen the kiss, instead he kept it light. Her soft lips felt like heaven to his own, and he was loathe to break from it—but necessity bid him be swift. When he broke the kiss, he gazed down upon her once more. Her cheeks were flushed, her lips were swollen, and her lids were heavy on her eyes; she was even more desirable in this state, and he had to restrain himself from taking her lips a second time. "Will you grace me with your name, o beautiful maiden?" he asked hopefully. A slow smile lit up her face.

"I'm sorry, my Lord, but not today," she replied softly. He gave an inward sigh. Well, it had been worth a try at least. He gave her one more fleeting kiss and then he was gone. A second later a servant opened the door with a tray of hot tea. Izayoi sighed as she dismissed the girl and blew on her tea, the kiss Inutaisho had bestowed upon her playing over and over again in her mind. Damn that youkai, she thought. His actions only made her long for him more. Delighted and frustrated, Izayoi sipped her tea and resigned herself to waiting until the audacious youkai called on her again.

The snow-capped mountains of Japan were wild and untamed. It could be felt in the lonely emptiness of the forest, the menacing darkness of the trees, and the harsh bleakness of the snow. Nothing stirred in the vast, frozen wasteland; no animal dared slip from its hole save two figures, as wild and menacing themselves as the emptiness they traversed. Both were tall like the trees and white like the snow, and though their booted feet sank deeply into the frozen ground, they made not a sound. However, while one struck his course in the open, exposed and unafraid, the other followed at a distance, flitting ghost-like between the trees, staying to the darkness of shadows.

The first figure stopped suddenly, and there was a tension about him that spoke of a waiting and a feral patience that all prey-stalkers seem to hold. Surreptitiously, he sniffed the icy air and waited. For a long time there was nothing. The horrible silence of the wild pressed down on him, and though he was of the wild he still felt the shiver of fear that it sent down his spine. Not fear of the one following him so doggedly, but fear of the unforgiving wilderness—its darkness and hunger. As quickly as it had come, it was gone, and he was gazing at his pursuer across the great expanse of broken snow.

The newcomer bared little resemblance to himself, but his blood was unmistakable. Gold eyes burning with anger and resentment, and a little bit of sad confusion bored into him. "You smell of her again," the young one said, but in his words there was an unspoken challenge, and just maybe the hint of a question.

"Why have you come?" asked the other, ignoring the statement. He did not have to explain himself to his pack. He was the alpha, and that was that. The young one was silent. Perhaps he did not know why he had come. "Go home pup. My business is my own." With that the old youkai deliberately turned his back on his pup and resumed his walking. It was intended to be an insult, and it hit home. It said 'You are not a threat. You are not powerful enough to warrant my respect. If I turn, you will hate it, but you will not attack, for you cannot'. Though the young one hated himself, he knew it was true. And so he stood there in the dark forest, seething and spiteful, but he did not attack. Finally, when the sight and smell of his patriarch had faded away, he turned sharply and went back the way he had come feeling helpless and weak compared to his father and to the terrible wild that surrounded him.

A/N: I hope you enjoyed this addition to the story. I promise more will come, but I cannot promise when; I would ask that you bear with me. As always, reviews are most welcome.

Ambiguously Yours,

The Masked Fox