Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha. Obviously.
Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war.
Kikyou was filled with a sense of dread as she saw the scarlet silk draped across their cloth-of-gold quilt. The tingling in her veins grew tenfold when she saw the exhausted, half-dead wind sprite gasping on the scarlet rug, obviously having flown from a great distance at even greater urgency. She swallowed hard as she closed the door behind her, sending her servants away with a brusque gesture and a cold glare- her mother-in-law's spies were becoming a pain in her backside. Sighing, the long-haired woman took the bejeweled pins from her head, shaking out the wavy, black tresses in an attempt to ward off the on-coming head-ache. She glanced once more at the passed out sprite, using a small flutter of wind to settle the little creature on one of the hearth pillows by the unused fireplace.
Crossing the expansive room, she made sure to close the window and draw the drapes. The tense enchantress rummaged about in her dresser drawers and pulled out stylized lamps with intricate patterns and whorled designs that cast beautiful shadows on the walls. They were to aid her in reading the cut silk lying on her bed. It was a wonder that children had been able to come up with such an intricate message system.
Finally, when she could stall no longer, she picked up the cloth, spreading it out and pointing the frayed end down and at a slight angle in front of the candles. Her lips tightened when she realized the message was incomplete- their little messenger must not have waited for Kagome to finish her work before bringing Kikyou the cloth. Then, her mouth parted, her eyes widened. She felt like crying.
Her mate was going to war. Right after they had finally begun to resolve their differences and be happy. She was going to lose him for months on end, possibly years.
The elegant young woman read through the message twice before throwing it down on the bed once more, checking on the wind-sprite with a quick glance. Thankfully, the little thing was still sleeping. While she and Kagome trusted the sprites, it was better that they knew as little as possible about the messages they delivered. It kept them safer and it kept secret those who could crack the code. The little one snoozing in her room was the only wind sprite to learn their code.
Three other sprites, each of a different element, had been taught the importance of the symbols- though their knowledge was segregated and only given for recognition purposes.
She burned the cloth with a simple spell, dispersing the ashes discretely through the open window so that they could not be gathered and re-made. Then she conjured a silver bowl filled with acai berries and strawberry wine for the sprite before whisking out of the room, leaving everything as it was when she had entered. Quietly, she closed her apartment's doors behind her before walking briskly and silently down the hallway out of the family wing of the Western Citadel.
It wouldn't do for those damned spies to come in, snoop around and find something to tattle about. Why her mother-in-law couldn't just accept her as an able. Trusted member of the family was beyond her. Although, Kikyou shifted her thoughts as she turned a corner, she was getting the feeling that Izayoi did nothing unless at Toga's behest. If that was the case, she had to wonder why Toga wanted her watched- after all, it was his selection of her that had made her mating happen.
To be sure, Inuyasha hadn't wanted to mate this early in his life. Unlike Sesshoumaru, he hadn't selected Kikyou and while they were coming to love each other, it was a slow and gradual process. Despite their timid relationship and unlikely friendship, Kikyou knew- without doubt, that her mate trusted her.
Toga didn't and she wanted to know the reason behind his caution. Kikyou's eyes narrowed as she felt the two familiar auras at her back and she almost growled, hoping that Inuyasha had somehow discovered the reason for his father's mistrust.
Regardless, she was going to her mate to tell him of the attack on his summer home and on Kagome. Sesshoumaru had entrusted the message to his mate to deliver- which meant he wasn't sure their usual methods of delivery would work.
The other side had begun to move.
Kikyou thanked the hostler as he led her horse around, twitching her wide-brimmed hat a little bit lower as the sun came out from behind the growing number of white clouds in the sky. She squinted at the road as her guard fell in around her in a disciplined double line.
"To the palace, Mikomo. Quickly. Quietly," she ordered, her voice pitched so that the two water youkai females pretending to flirt with the men couldn't hear. She had learned a great deal from Inuyasha lately, not the least of which had been about youkai senses. Only with Izayoi's recent, annoying behavior had she begun to utilize her lessons.
Her cheetah youkai bodyguard nodded, eying the women. He was wholly loyal to Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru. For some reason she had yet to discover, he disliked Toga.
Which was just fine with her. And her mate.
He whipped his tail, hand-raising fluidly through the air. "Double-pace, out."
Kikyou's mare, used to the military orders, easily kept up with the trot of the bigger horses, as Kikyou mulled through the plans she would most likely have to make for the household in Kagome's absence. Izayoi, of course, would be useless in the endeavor.
Kagome walked quietly into their bedroom, heaving a silent sigh as the stress of the day fell from her shoulders. Smiling and unaware of the perusal of a pair of warm, sleepy, golden eyes, she lifted her face to the orange glow of the setting sun, breathing deeply of the jasmine and banana plants growing beneath their balcony.
She had been told by the gardener that the banana plants had been a gift to the youngest Western prince by the Marquise of Trevail's eldest daughter, Miranda. Kagome had laughed at the way the cheerful old man had told the tale of the besotted, awkward pair and wished, momentarily that she hadn't been the reason for his death.
Then, she pushed the thought away, forcing herself to remember that she wasn't the one who had attacked the estate. She could not help who she was.
A soft knock at the door made her turn, loose hair swaying around her emerald-colored gown. The facets of the diamonds at her ears threw glimmers of sunset light on the walls around the room. It was then she noticed the lump under the covers, the bare, muscled arm thrown across the dark pillows.
She frowned before going to admit the servants while he rose from the bed, shirtless.
Quelling the rising blush stubbornly- she wasn't going to give him any more fuel to tease her than he already had, she directed them to place the deliciously-smelling plates on the balcony table. With something like relief, she sensed him put on the robe she had found and gifted him with the day before. The pure black Egyptian cotton that moved like velvet and looked like the night sky had made him look like a demi-god.
She forced herself to get back on task as she went into her dressing room to get out of her kimono. Sesshoumaru never took naps.
Which meant he was planning something- or expecting something, tonight.
Kagome put on her pure white shift- the one a size smaller than what her mother typically ordered and more form-fitting. Then, deciding she wanted to make his eyes widen and those strong hands of his tense, she purposely kept the neckline low and put the wine-colored robe on. The cloth of the robe was so fine it was almost see through. She kept the diamonds in her ears though the necklace came off, smiling blissfully as the cool air hit her warm skin. A quick splash of wonderfully cold water on her face, an arid spell to get rid of the day's scents on her and she was ready for the evening meal.
Kagome took one last, critical glance in the mirror, grinned and walked out. She was shocked she had the audacity to do what she was doing and promptly laid the blame on her betrothed's subtle pervertedness.
She kept her gaze down as she walked through the balcony doors and took her seat across from Sesshoumaru, settling in the chair he held out for her. Unfortunately, protocol dictated that she couldn't watch his reaction to her appearance; but, she had felt the pregnant pause in his thoughts. She had felt his mouth dry.
It was all she could do to keep her victorious giggle inside.
"At ease, darling mine. Formality is unwanted when we in our private chambers." His voice was amused and deeper than what she was used to, huskier in a way that sent pleasant chills down her spine. He continued, undoubtedly aware of her response. "Elsewhere, it will be expected but here, you are to be yourself."
"Only if you do the same, my lord." She smiled at him, catching her breath at the mirth dancing in his eyes as he took a bite of the salmon.
"Of course." He leaned over and placed a strand of her hair behind her ear, smirking when her heart rate picked up. "Did you manage to get that message to Kikyou?"
She nodded. "One of our sprites picked it up while we were with your sensei. She sent him back with a blue rose petal. That means she got it. She has most likely told Inuyasha and your father at this point."
Sesshoumaru shook his head, waiting for her to figure out the situation while she chewed on her vegetables.
"Not your father?"
He smiled. "No. Inuyasha, yes."
She watched the breeze caress his face, sift through his hair. "Who trained Inuyasha?"
He looked up from where he had been adding sauce to his vegetables, curious as to why she didn't know that. It was a well-known fact at Court. "I did."
She looked down, recalling the half-heard, half-seen visions she'd had of his past and wondering if it was alright to ask. Glancing at him as he watched her, she distracted herself with a bite of the salmon.
Sesshoumaru took a sip of his water and, to her astonishment, appeared to be composing himself. "My father," he began, keeping his gaze on her, "is not the most admirable of fathers. As you have discerned, my sensei is closer to me than the Western General. I was refused the honor of training with my father, as was Inuyasha. For me it was a mark of shame, for Inuyasha, it became something else. He is my pack. As are you and my sensei."
"Arashi-sama and Kouga-sama?" She asked, not pressing but interested. She would understand if he didn't want to tell her.
He nodded. "Of course. Your brother as well. Their mates. No others."
"None?" She was none too shocked though a tad bit surprised at the true nature of her mate's acceptance. He had a myriad acquaintances, admirers, friends, contacts…
"None. You may trust them implicitly." His voice had softened but there was an edge to it that made her heart go out to him.
She hadn't needed another reason to dislike Toga- his damnable spies were persistent; but, she had one now, a good reason. Instead, she turned the conversation to other matters. "Is something expected tonight?"
He grinned and in the red-amber glow of the setting sun, he looked ferocious. Dangerous. The hair prickled on the back of her neck. "We're going a-hunting."
She shook her head, chimes sounding in her ears, gaze turning towards the red, red disk of the sun, listening to something else. "Something's wrong." The words came out a whisper.
They rang in the air between them like temple bells, like war horns. She felt him settle into the stillness, the coiled patience of an apt predator permeating the air around them.
He was silent as she kept listening and she absently realized the amount of respect he had given her. Somewhere along the way, Miroku must have told him of the tendency for sound streams to affect females of enchanter blood.
"Kikyou is injured. No," she murmured, "sick. Poison. Yuri sent her the fan detailing the location of the jahander storage house. Its been raided and they found two commanders of the Monishi army. Naraku led the raiding party. His father is most displeased with him. Arashi is pressuring his father to declare war. They're drafting the legislation now-or perhaps in a few hours."
She blinked as he rose from the table, standing and waiting for more. After a moment, she realized what he wanted. "That was the end of the vision. I can look more if you would like."
He cocked his head to the side. "No. Have the household ready to leave by dawn. Everyone. Send a few out before we return if possible."
Then he swept out the door, his half-finished plate left behind.
Kagome sighed, lifting another piece of salmon to her mouth.
Her country would officially be at war soon. And her betrothed would be going off to lead his men into the thick of it. She had come to know him in the weeks they had spent together.
And she was going to miss him terribly.
Author's Notes: Read and REVIEW guys. The more reviews, the more emails I get and the more I remember to update.
Sorry it took so long this time. I just got free of a lot of things. =D