Title: Illusions and Deceptions

Author: Agni

Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha.

Warnings: AU, OOC (especially in the case of Inuyasha but I will mostly keep the character intact. It will be more apparent in the later chapters). This is a rewrite and I should warn my readers that it is quite different from the original version. Not quite as rushed.

Pairings: Sesshoumaru/Inuyasha, Miroku/Sango, Kagome/Hojo.

Chapter Two: Obligations

Long fingers curled around his bicep in a tight grip and Sesshoumaru paused, looking down at his sister's uncertain features with a raised brow.

"How can I explain this to them?" She whispered, a frown marring her smooth features.

"Tell them the truth." Sesshoumaru answered nonchalantly. "There is little else you can do. Lies will complicate things."

Inuyasha gritted her teeth in frustration. "They won't understand. They'll be angry with me for keeping such a dangerous secret from them. What of our quest? What about Naraku? Wh-"

"You're blabbering." Sesshoumaru stated bluntly, "While I concur that Naraku shouldn't be ignored, we cannot forget that we have several other responsibilities." Inuyasha looked at him in confusion and Sesshoumaru continued walking towards the village. "You'll soon be considered an adult in the eyes of our society. Do you understand the significance of that?" he glanced at her, "I don't know how complete your education is Inuyasha and we must address that problem as soon as possible. While I am aware that Lady Izayoi was very meticulous, I am also aware that she wouldn't have been able to teach you everything you need to know as a youkai princess."

Inuyasha looked at him with a frown, "What do you mean?"

"She was a human, Inuyasha… even if she was our father's mate, she knew very little about our society. You need to learn many things… your education is lacking in that aspect and you know how much our father valued the education of his children."

Inuyasha sighed in irritation. "Damn... Is there any need to start to learn those things now? I still remember the stuffy old teacher that mother managed to find to teach me about demon society… lord that bastard was so prejudiced and disrespectful that I nearly slit his throat."

Sesshoumaru looked at her with a stern frown that had a squirming guiltily in his grasp in a matter of seconds. There were times when the Daiyoukai's actions reminded her instantly that he was her older, much more responsible, brother.

"Prejudice is something you will always face, imouto." Sesshoumaru warned her softly, "No one is immune from it, not even I." At her incredulous look, Sesshoumaru smirked, "You aren't aware but there are a number of demons who despise even the mention of Inu-youkai… too high and mighty for their taste, it seems."

Inuyasha scoffed, "Envy." She elaborated curtly, "After all, very few can claim to descend from such an ancient and powerful lineage." There was concealed pride in her voice and Sesshoumaru looked down at her, pleasantly surprised. He hadn't expected Inuyasha to feel proud of her pedigree.

"That is true." He agreed with a faint note of amusement in his voice. He looked up a grimaced, "And here we are." He whispered.

Inuyasha tensed, her bright golden eyes glancing at Kaede's hut in trepidation. They could hear voices coming from inside. Miroku, Sango and Kagome were speculating about the circumstances while Kouga simply seemed irritated by Sesshoumaru's presence.

Her brother didn't give her any warning as he stepped into the hut. Inuyasha almost squeaked in alarm when all eyes turned to her, her grip on Sesshoumaru's forearm tightening painfully.

Kagome was the first to regain her bearings. Inuyasha's well being had always been her priority, after all.

She stood and rushed towards her hanyou friend, placing her hand gingerly on Inuyasha's forehead. "How are you feeling?" Her voice broke everyone out of their stupor and they gathered about Inuyasha, only Kouga maintaining his distance, well aware of Sesshoumaru's imposing presence.

"Fine." Inuyasha answered gruffly. Her friends shared a dry, exasperated look at her obstinacy. She glared up at her brother when she felt a low, amused chuckle whisper against her ear. Making sure that her friends weren't watching, she slipped one arm up Sesshoumaru's sleeve and delivered a sharp, merciless pinch, smirking when her brother's body jerked at the unexpected pain.

The Daiyoukai looked down at her, tilting his head a little in amusement. "You know very well that you aren't fine." He murmured, carefully setting her down on the futon. It was obvious that she would be embarrassed if he continued holding her in front of her friends.

There was a long moment of awkward silence as her friends observed her, drinking in her new appearance.

It was Sango, surprisingly, who found the courage to speak first. "What's going on, Inuyasha? Why are you…" she gestured feebly at the hanyou, "A woman?"

Inuyasha cringed, "It's complicated."

"We have time." Kagome assured gently. It didn't take a person of great intelligence to understand that Inuyasha had done what circumstances had forced her to do. What worried Kagome were those circumstances that demanded such a step from her proud, reticent friend.

The hanyou sighed, glancing her at brother fleetingly before closing her eyes in resignation. "It was my mother's idea." She admitted finally, "My situation is problematic…" she whispered, waving her hand helplessly, "My lineage is unique. From my father's side, I inherit strong Inu-youkai blood. We are royalty amongst demons… at the very peak of social hierarchy." Inuyasha licked her dry lips, "On my mother's side, I descend from a long line of powerful priests and priestesses that have served the shrine at Satsuna for centuries now."

The monk sucked in a sharp breath, his eyes wide. He knew of whom she was speaking about. "Oh my…" Miroku breathed softly.

Inuyasha gave him a wry smirk and continued her explanation, "Both those powerful bloodlines coexist within my body in perfect harmony."

They looked at her in confusion, unable to understand why such a thing was so important.

"New Blood..." The coarse whisper caught their attention and they turned to look at Kouga. The wolf demon was gazing at Inuyasha in shocked realization. "Damn it! What are you doing gallivanting around the lands without any protection?" he almost roared when the implications of Inuyasha's predicament registered clearly, "That's carelessness to the point of being suicidal!"

When Inuyasha winced, Sesshoumaru directed a frosty glare at the Ookami youkai.

Kouga recoiled but only when Inuyasha's glare joined Sesshoumaru's. It was as though a ball of cutting ice had slammed into him along with a whip of scorching fire. The combined wrath of Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha was not something he wanted to suffer. "Don't you think I know that, you bastard?" Inuyasha asked, her voice a deadly hiss. "Why do you think I wear this disguise?"

Kouga regained his composure quickly; his own worry and anger helping him. "Damn it, Inuyasha! That's not enough. Surely, you don't think that being a man is enough protection. You are a youkai not a ningen!" he glanced at Sesshoumaru with narrowed eyes, "Some should know better."

"The spell in that anklet is complex." Sesshoumaru stated coolly, not even acknowledging the accusation in the wolf's voice. "No one would have been able to sense Inuyasha's unique powers."

"Woa! Hold on a minute!" Kagome interrupted, trying to control the situation. She saw that Inuyasha was rubbing her forehead and knew that they had to defuse the tension between Kouga and Sesshoumaru somehow. She huffed in satisfaction when they turned to look at her. "I thought that everyone could sense that Inuyasha was a hanyou? What's so special about his condition?"

"Her, Kagome. She's a woman." Miroku stated in amusement, smirking when a rather attractive blush crossed Inuyasha's features. "A very pretty woman."

"Pretty or not, she is my sister and if you continue leering at her, monk; you will be intimately acquainted with my claws." Sesshoumaru spoke icily, his fingers making a faint cracking sound as his claws extended and glowed.

Kagome, Sango and Inuyasha shared exasperated glances. Both Kouga and Sesshoumaru were dominant males and despite Sesshoumaru's superior status, it was very likely that they would challenge each other. In that agitated state, it wasn't wise for Miroku to rile Sesshoumaru's protective instincts.

Especially when those instincts were raw and potent, having been suppressed so long.

Yet, it took very little to placate Sesshoumaru. Discreetly, Inuyasha placed her hand on Sesshoumaru's wrist. She calmed him by using an innocent little touch that just whispered against the claw-like marks on the Daiyoukai's wrist.

Sesshoumaru glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes, understanding the gesture and nodding slightly in appreciation.

"Tell me Kagome, what powers do you and Miroku posses?" Inuyasha asked, innocently unaware of Sesshoumaru's keen stare.

The miko frowned, "Spiritual Powers?"

Inuyasha nodded, "Precisely. Your Spiritual powers purify youki and are a dangerous weapon that most demons are vulnerable to." she explained, "There are very few who are immune to it." She glanced at Sesshoumaru pointedly. "My brother being one of those few."

Sesshoumaru only nodded his head in acknowledgment.

"I, however, can harness powers coming from both demon and spiritual bloodlines. The nature of these two powers is such that they cannot possibly co-exist in perfect harmony. They aren't meant to."

Kouga scoffed, "And yet, every once in a while, a hanyou is born with both these opposing powers co-existing within their bodies in perfect harmony. They are called, quite simply, New-blood."

Kagome wrinkled her nose, "New-blood?"

"Indeed." Sesshoumaru deigned to contribute, "In accordance to youkai lore, New-bloods are born by the will of fate. Whenever the Gods deem that their favored clan is nearing its premature end and needs rescuing." He waved his hand dismissively, "That is only lore. However, the fact remains that New-blood demons have the power to strengthen the clan they are mated into."

Inuyasha scowled, "That means that many are capable of practically forcing me to mate for the sake of gaining power." She stated bluntly. "Thus, there was a need to disguise me. New-blood demons, more often than not, are females with predetermined mates." She shrugged, "According to lore, forcing a New-blood female into a mating alliance can render her powerless but very few youkai believe in it."

Kagome's eyes widened in dismay.

Inuyasha shrugged awkwardly, "That's the gist of it. Everything else is too complicated to explain." She scowled and closed her eyes, relaxing into the futon tiredly, "Not like you'll understand, anyway." She mumbled, "You need to understand the demon world to understand that."

"Inuyasha." Sesshoumaru looked at his drowsy sister, "We need to leave."

"Leave?" Kagome asked promptly, frowning as Inuyasha sat up with a sigh. "Inuyasha! What are you doing? You need rest!"

"I am going home, Kagome." Inuyasha stated gruffly, getting annoyed and everyone stilled.

"Home?" Shippou asked in confusion, "You sleep on trees when Kagome, Miroku and Sango are away."

Shippou's comment was innocently stated. To him, home meant to have roots, a place to go back to. As far as he knew, Inuyasha didn't have that.

Kouga scoffed, his eyes flickering towards Inuyasha's composed features, "She's a princess, brat." He reminded the fox, "And like every princess, she has her own castle, handmaidens, guards and all that shit." He grumbled before glancing at Sesshoumaru, "Doesn't she?"

Sesshoumaru tilted his head to the side gracefully, his eyes on his sister. It had been pleasing to hear Inuyasha called their ancestral castle 'Home'. He had not expected her to give into his demands so easily. "All that and more." He murmured but it was only for Inuyasha's ears.

The hanyou glanced at Sesshoumaru in silent wonder. It was surprising how easily he had settled into their new circumstances after decades of feud.

Kagome shook her head, "I don't understand."

"My sister is will be leaving with me, miko." Sesshoumaru stated impassively, his piercing golden eyes holding Kagome's gaze captive, "She needs treatment that Kaede-" he glanced at the older woman, "-san cannot provide." Inuyasha's amusement at Sesshoumaru adding a reluctant honorific to Kaede's name was as clear as daylight.

He sent her a reprimanding stare to which she responded with a tiny little smile, as mischievous as it could ever be.

"I don't understand." Kagome whispered once again, "Why are you so concerned about hi-her welfare, all of a sudden?" she narrowed her eyes protectively, "We can take care of her. If she's in danger, I'll take her to a place where no demons can reach her."

Inuyasha frowned thoughtfully. It was a good suggestion. Kagome's world didn't have demons, as far as she could tell.

"I will permit no such thing." Sesshoumaru stated icily, his narrowed golden eyes glaring at Inuyasha in warning. He had seen her considering the suggestion and wasn't pleased.

The hanyou scowled at him and crossed her arms with a huff. "Overprotective bastard."

"Inuyasha." He growled warningly, "Your language leaves much to be desired." He reprimanded in a whisper, "Best correct that habit now."

Inuyasha narrowed her eyes, "Forgive me, aniue, if I find it difficult to simply disregard the habits that I forced upon myself for the sake of my survival!" she hissed, "Besides, you don't need to glare at me like that! I gave you my word, didn't I? I will return to the West."

Kagome turned her attention towards Inuyasha, "You don't have to." She said gently, "You'll probably be safer with me than in the West."

Inuyasha paled suddenly while Sesshoumaru's eyes flashed in rage. "I want to go!" she assured hurriedly, her hand instantly landing on Sesshoumaru's arm. Kagome had unknowingly insulted Sesshoumaru's ability to protect her and his lands. "I will go." She whispered, looking at Sesshoumaru in apology. "She didn't mean to offend." Inuyasha assured softly, her assurance meant only for Sesshoumaru's ears.

The Daiyoukai narrowed his eyes. As far as he was concerned, what happened between him and Inuyasha was not the miko or anyone else's business. If they interfered, things could become more complicated than they actually were. Izayoi had left him with a mess as it is. She left him with a strong bond and an innocent young woman who would most likely balk at the thought of mating her own brother.

Incest was rare in demons. Very rare. However, it wasn't exactly frowned upon either. A demon was born with several bonds already in place. Siblings would act as siblings unless there was something different about the nature of their bond. It was only then that they would choose to become mates.

He and Inuyasha were prime examples of that but he doubted that his little sister would be able to adjust easily. The fact that they weren't officially recognized as siblings didn't matter. It wouldn't matter to Inuyasha.

She had always viewed him as a brother.

His lips thinned at the thought and he discreetly shook his head. They were wasting precious time.

The Daiyoukai stood smoothly before leaning down and lifting Inuyasha. He wasn't about to let her walk with her leg so seriously injured. The more she taxed herself, the faster the poison in her veins would spread.

"Sesshoumaru…" she whispered against his ear uncertainly, glancing at her bewildered friends. They had yet to gather their composure and come to terms with the facts Inuyasha had revealed. "I can't just leave them like this."

Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes in warning, knowing what she was about to say even before she said it. He wasn't about to let nin-

"Please, aniue."

"Of course." Manipulative little brat. She knew quite well that he hadn't yet tamed his newly roused instincts and she was gleefully taking advantage of them. He could not ignore her request when she addressed him so sweetly.

The ire he could not direct towards his baby sister, he directed towards her friends. "You may follow me if you wish." He stated as he walked out of the humble hut. "Mind that during your stay in my household, you must follow my rules. If any of you oversteps your bounds, I will expel you from my home, despite Inuyasha's objections."

Kagome was getting irritated. "You cannot just barge in here like that and make our decisions for us! How can we now that your change of heart is genuine?" she asked, "Inuyasha may have forgotten the pain you caused her but I haven't."

"I haven't forgotten anything." Inuyasha said harshly before Sesshoumaru could say anything, "Believe me, I remember everything." She looked over Sesshoumaru's shoulder and narrowed her eyes at Kagome, "And I also haven't forgotten that this is my brother, Kagome! Despite everything, there are very few who know him better thanI do, least of all you." she directed her glare at Sesshoumaru, daring him to contradict. "I know what he is or isn't capable of."

Sesshoumaru raised a brow at the bold statement but he didn't contradict her.

She was speaking the truth after all.

Sesshoumaru simply directed his tail to cover Inuyasha entirely. "Sleep, Inuyasha. It would do you no good to needlessly waste energy talking." Once again, his tail covered Inuyasha's eyes, blocking out the sun and effectively wrapping her in cozy cocoon. The hanyou let out a soft, weary sigh and closed her eyes; it was too damn comfortable for her to object.

The Daiyoukai looked at Inuyasha's companions, "We leave in ten minutes or I leave you behind." He stated bluntly, before turning to look at Kouga, "I suppose you wish to come along as well?"

Kouga frowned in indecision for a moment before nodding, "Just for a week or so."

Sesshoumaru didn't look pleased but he agreed nonetheless.

Inuyasha's companions hurried to prepare, packing their belonging and biding Kaede farewell in haste. They knew that Sesshoumaru wouldn't leave them behind but they weren't going to take any chances.

The hours it took for them to reach Sesshoumaru's lands were the most tense that they had ever experienced. Without Inuyasha's goading, Sesshoumaru was icy and remote as he had always been. His sharp eyes would watch them with concealed disdain. They knew that they were slowing the Daiyoukai down. He could have reached in nearly half the time had he been alone.

Kagome couldn't bring herself to blame him as they settled down to camp for the night. Inuyasha was feverish and weak, her face flushed with unhealthy heat and her hair damp with sweat.

"Sesshoumaru-sama…" Miroku called out hesitantly, "We will have to reduce the heat in her body." He pushed forward a small bucket filled with cold water from a near-by stream.

"Let me do it." Kagome whispered, reaching forward to take the cloth and the bucket.

Sesshoumaru kept a keen eye on her, watching as she tenderly patted Inuyasha's sweating face with the cool, moist cloth. The other companions set about making the camp as Kouga went to hunt for a meal.

"What's going on?" Kagome whispered softly, only for Sesshoumaru's ears, "What are you doing? Suddenly acting all concerned?"

The Daiyoukai arched a brow at her, choosing to remain silent.

"Whatever it is that you are planning, I'll find out." She promised, raising her head to glare at him. "I won't let you hurt her."

Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes, "Don't meddle in matters you do not understand, miko." He warned softly, his hand possessively splayed on Inuyasha's stomach. "Know your place before you start making assumptions and threats."

Kagome smirked, her usually soft expression taking on a hard edge, "It's your word over mine, Sesshoumaru-sama." She stated mockingly, "Whom do you think Inuyasha would rather hear? After she is healed, I can convince her to leave with very little effort."

The Daiyoukai tilted his head to the side, "Then why do you seem so worried?"

She stilled. "I am not worried."

"Hmm." Sesshoumaru murmured leisurely, "My influence over Inuyasha has always been potent, hasn't it?" He stated, watching with concealed amusement as she flinched. "When in my presence, he looks at no one else. His well-concealed but sometimes very obvious affection for me…" he leaned back against a tree, "You see that as a threat."

Kagome frowned. By referring to Inuyasha as a male, he was letting her know that Inuyasha possessed those particular feelings even before the whole transformation occurred.

"Not a threat." Kagome disagreed, "But a trap. Inuyasha is strong." She whispered softly, dipping the cloth into the bucket, "But there are some people she is vulnerable against."

Sesshoumaru inclined his head in agreement.

Kagome scowled, "You, above everyone else." Determined brown eyes looked at him, "You are there in a place in her heart that no one can reach." She whispered, "I can compete with Kikyou and everyone else but you are untouchable. It would take a simple word or gesture of affection from you and Inuyasha would leave my side in an instant."

"Is that so?" Sesshoumaru murmured, "And what, pray tell me, do you think I intend to use Inuyasha for?"

She looked at him in the eye, "I don't know but I intend to find out."

Sesshoumaru gazed at her for a long moment before speaking, his voice growing deeper and more serious. "Your… affection for Inuyasha will not change." He murmured ponderingly, "You have no qualms about having a relationship with another woman." He raised a brow at that, "I don't believe that Inuyasha would have ever encouraged those feelings."

Kagome's face burned in embarrassment and she turned her head away.

"And your silence in my answer." Sesshoumaru stated, an amused tone underlining his voice. "Inuyasha will never encourage hope where one can expect none."

"My personal life is not your business." Kagome snapped, glaring at him.

Sesshoumaru raised a brow. "What concerns Inuyasha, concerns me, even if the object of her concern is a mere ningen with no proper clan and connections." He stated before observing her impassively. "No one but Inuyasha has ever spoken to me in such a manner and Inuyasha is entitled to certain liberties while you are not." He glanced down at his sister, "She has given you a lot of unwarranted freedom seeing how you are so confident in speaking insolently to someone of higher station."

"She doesn't have the right to restrict my freedom." Kagome stated with narrowed eyes. "And my clan and connections are not important and I don't acknowledge your station, whatever it may be, to be of any importance to me."

The Daiyoukai looked at her, his expression blank and unimpressed. It was very apparent that Inuyasha has coddled the members of her pack. His eyes left the ningen girl and met the gaze of the wolf prince and he scoffed.

He brushed off her hand and stood, carrying Inuyasha in one hand with growing ease, leaving without saying a single word.

Kagome scrambled to go after him but Kouga was quick to react, catching her arm gently, but firmly. "He's not going far and he'll be back." The wolf assured before leading her towards the campfire where Miroku, Sango, Shippou and Kirara were sitting. "We need to talk."

"What is it?" Miroku asked as Kagome looked at the direction in which Sesshoumaru went with worry clearly written on her pretty features.

"Kagome-chan." Kouga whispered gently, making her turn and look at him. "I understand that all of you are uneasy in Sesshoumaru's presence. I admit that even I'm wary but you must understand a few things." He gestured towards the woods to his right, "In the morning, we'll walk through those woods and it'd take approximately three hours for us to reach a large river. No one can cross that river without either Sesshoumaru or Inuyasha's explicit permission. After we cross that river, we enter a place called simply The Fields."

He leaned back against a tree, "Once we enter, all of us must observe a certain amount of restraint in our interactions with Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha. The Fields mark the very edge of the City. It's Sesshoumaru's primary seat, the location of the ancestral castle. The homes of his councilors and the castle servants, the farmers, the artisans and traders… all of them reside there. They'll not bear a single ill-spoken word against their Daiyoukai and any disrespect shown to Inuyasha."

"The Imperial Palace of Inu-youkai…" Shippou breathed in awe, "I have heard tales of it."

Kouga nodded, "The Land of the Inu-youkai is very prosperous and civilized. Though powerful, Inu-youkai are intellectuals and scholars. Theirs is a very intricate and sophisticated culture. "

"Inuyasha has never spoken a word about it." Miroku said with a frown, "While I don't mean to insult, our friend's hardly an intellectual. She's a brilliant strategist, certainly." He smiled, "Some of her battle plans and tactics baffle my mind but a scholar?"

"But do we really know Inuyasha as well as we thought?" Kagome asked softly, keeping her gaze on the fire, "Just how much was she forced to hide in order to protect herself?" She sighed, closing her eyes, "Never once did we suspect that she was a woman. Never. She wasn't feminine in her actions, her words or her gestures. But…"

"When that illusion dropped, she changed a bit, didn't she?" Sango asked softly, her eyes narrowing in thought, "It is almost as if she has trained herself to behave in a certain manner when the illusion is active but returns to her natural self when it is absent."

Miroku hummed thoughtfully, "Well, the Inuyasha we know would only sacrifice her pride so much. If she had to pretend to be a man, she certainly wasn't going to be someone similar to Jakotsu." He tapped his chin with a curious smile on his face, "I must say that her acting skills are quite polished. I didn't suspect a thing and considering that I am an admirer of the female species, it is quite astonishing."

Kouga looked at Miroku dryly, "I suggest you keep your admiration to the minimum, monk." He shrugged, "I admit that she is beautiful but women like her come with claws sharp enough to tear down a mountain." He glanced at the direction in which Sesshoumaru had gone and frowned, "Something is at play here… and Sesshoumaru's instincts are responding to it. We must be careful in our interactions with Inuyasha. If he ever thinks that we are out of bounds, he'll not hesitate to flay us alive."

"I think you may be right…" Sango whispered thoughtfully, "I have never seen youkai siblings battle against each other so viciously and yet with concealed reluctance… and Sesshoumaru-sama's behavior recently has shown change…" she looked at Kouga with a frown, "Do you think that there is any foul-play involved here? Inuyasha seemed very forgiving and we all know that it is not her nature to forgive easily."

"Something interfered with the sibling bond." Shippou stated simply, shrugging when all their gazes turned towards him. "Well, it isn't so hard to notice that!" In a rare moment of maturity, Shippou crossed his arms and frowned at them, "Sesshoumaru is way…way older than Inuyasha and a youkai to boot! He could have easily killed Inuyasha if he really wanted to. He never did. Yeah, Inuyasha had narrow escapes but she was never injured enough to actually die from the wound."

"Shippou, Sesshoumaru has almost succeeded in killing Inuyasha many times." Kagome argued gently, "It is Inuyasha's own strength that saved him." She shook her head and sighed, "Her."

"Really?" Shippou asked skeptically, "Sesshoumaru, who has watched Inuyasha grow and mature for two hundred years now, doesn't know about Inuyasha's limits? Somehow, I doubt that. No Kagome-chan. Sesshoumaru may have the power to kill Inuyasha but he never had the will. Every time, he stays his hand and every time he walks away, Inuyasha looks sad."

"I agree with the brat." Kouga said solemnly. "You don't know much about youkai relationships, Kagome-chan. If you did, you would have realized just how different and unusual Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru's relationship is."

"But they are half-br… siblings." Sango commented with a frown, "May be that…"

"No." Miroku shook his head, "That doesn't matter. As long as they share a parent, that bond will develop. Unless something suppressed it." He shrugged, "We should do as Kouga suggests…"

Kouga nodded, "Yes. Inuyasha would've probably warned you herself but she isn't well enough to do so." He shrugged, "Address her and Sesshoumaru with utmost respect, all of you…" he narrowed his eyes at Shippou, "You especially, brat. As a youkai, you fall under her guardianship and in the eyes of everyone; she is your mother in all but blood. I know Inuyasha indulges you a lot but she isn't going to be so forgiving when you are amongst her people. You need to behave."

Shippou pouted but nodded in agreement. He had been aware that Sesshoumaru would punish him quite severely if he was found disrespecting Inuyasha. Still, he would miss the old routine.

Kouga turned to Miroku next, "I don't care how beautiful she is, stay away from her." The wolf warned, "Sesshoumaru will not bear anyone's scent on her if he truly views her as a sister." He growled, "I would know, I nearly killed a few demons for daring to touch my cousin. Sesshoumaru, I suspect, will react more powerfully."

Miroku raised his arms in surrender, "I'll admire from afar but Kouga…" he smiled serenely, "You very well know that I have only one woman in my mind."

The wolf snorted, his amused gaze flickering over to Sango before he turned his attention to Kagome.

"Remove the Beads, Kagome."

Stunned silence fell upon them and Kagome bit her lip. "Kouga…"

"Inuyasha is never gonna harm you." Kouga stated flatly, "After all these months, if you still feel the need to keep her on a leash then you aren't the woman I thought you were."

The miko shook her head, "No… it's not that. Of course I'll remove it." She stated firmly, "If it is necessary, I will… it's just that…" she bit her lip, turning her eyes away from Kouga's piercing gaze. "I feel connected to Inuyasha through that rosary."

The Wolf prince sighed, "I understand how you feel, Kagome-chan, believe me." he looked at Kagome seriously, "Even as a male, Inuyasha was a tempting prospect. I considered courting her many times before, however…" he shrugged, seeming disconcerted, "Even then I knew that such a union would never be allowed by Sesshoumaru. As far as lineage goes, Inuyasha's is far superior to mine. It doesn't matter that she is a hanyou."

Kagome frowned, "And if the Prince of the Wolf tribe isn't suitable, then I hardly am." She looked at Kouga sadly, "Isn't that right, Kouga-kun?"

The wolf frowned at her, "There is nothing wrong with you, Kagome-chan. In fact, anyone would feel privileged to have your hand." He seemed distinctly uncomfortable as he looked away, "Inuyasha's case is different. Inuyasha's mate must be equal to her in terms of strength, skill and status. As she said, it is very likely that a mate has already been chosen for her."

"And Inuyasha's wishes in the matter are of no consequence?" Sango asked softly, concerned. "I always assumed that youkai society was better than ningen society when it came to such things. Shouldn't she be allowed to choose her own mate? Supposing she chooses you, Kouga, does anyone have the right to object? Her father chose a ningen woman and Inuyasha could very well choose a ningen man."

Kouga scoffed, "Inuyasha? With a human?" he gave them a dry look, "Inu-Taishou chose a ningen woman because he was old. He was close to the end of his long life, estranged from his only son and his mate. He wanted one last chance before he passed on and Lady Izayoi was his salvation. He knew that she would outlive him and so it was." He shrugged, "Moreover, Inu-Taishou was his own man. His power and influence was enormous and he didn't answer to anyone."

"I don't understand…" Kagome frowned

Kouga closed his eyes, "Inuyasha is under Sesshoumaru's power. She has always been. You aren't mistaken, Sango-san. We don't treat our women as ningen do simply because the womenfolk amongst us are just as powerful as us." He looked at her, "However, women of the aristocracy are more closely guarded. Inuyasha's status in youkai society is very high. She is Sesshoumaru's equal and only someone as powerful and influential as Sesshoumaru can make a prope-" Kouga paused, his eyes narrowing in thought. "I see…" he whispered to himself. 'A New-blood woman in the Royal-Inuyoukai lineage with strongest Inuyoukai ever born at his prime... That, to some extent, explains everything.'

Shippou stilled and looked at Kouga in comprehension, his eyes wide. The little youkai had reached the same conclusion as the wolf had.

"What's wrong?" Miroku asked with a frown.

He shared a look with Shippou before snorting derisively, "I'll certainly try. Once she is properly introduced to the society, I'll ask Sesshoumaru if I'll be allowed to court her." He scoffed, "I'm pretty damn sure that he'll skin me alive for even considering it."

Kagome frowned, looking at the fire thoughtfully. It was finally occurring to her that she was in a different time and they were talking about a different society. She had never bothered to look too deeply into Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha's relationship since the notion of two siblings at odds with each other was not new to her. She considered herself to be a reasonably well read person and she had encountered many tales in which a people had killed their loved ones for power.

She had just assumed that Sesshoumaru was one of those people.

However, she was coming to realize that there was more to Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru's relationship than first apparent.

"This will probably be awkward to Inuyasha as well as us." Kouga stated softly, interrupting her thoughts, "However, we will have to address her as Inuyasha-sama or hime-sama. We will have to be deferential. Inside the Imperial Palace, we may be Inuyasha's guest but they will never accept us as Inuyasha's friends."

Kagome opened her mouth to protest but Kouga shook his head. "There's no way around it." He sighed, "Sesshoumaru's people will have a strict watch on who she interacts with, they'll see to it that her friends are those befitting her station. She has been away from the West for all her life; they'll be appalled when Sesshoumaru's tells them the truth about her. I don't think they'll even let her out of the palace without guards to protect her."

Kouga snorted, almost amused, "On someone as powerful and independent as Inuyasha, such restraints are unnecessary and I doubt Sesshoumaru will impose them. However, the fact remains that Sesshoumaru's subjects will probably seek to guard and protect their only princes with great zeal."

Kagome frowned, "Inuyasha will not like that."

"Inuyasha knows how she'll be treated." Kouga stated bluntly, "Do you think that this is the first time Inuyasha has ever entered the palace?" he asked, "You simply assumed that she was estranged from the entire community as well as Sesshoumaru but that wasn't the case. The West celebrated Inuyasha's Tenth, Twenty-fifth and her Fiftieth year in the Palace. It was all done with great aplomb. During those days, Inuyasha was a shy little pup who spoke very little and hid behind Lady Izayoi's legs most of the time. Heck, when I was introduced to her when she was ten, she was frightened of me! Looked at me with those large, dole-like eyes and muttered a meek greeting before promptly burying her face in Sesshoumaru's shoulder."

Their eyes widened at the information. "Sesshoumaru is the ruler of the West but there are certain obligations that he cannot avoid. Having Inuyasha blessed and bonded to the lands on the day of her birth during her tenth year was his duty and to acknowledge and celebrate those vital years was also important." Kouga shrugged, "During those days, it wasn't an odd sight to see Sesshoumaru looking out for Inuyasha's welfare and comfort."

Miroku frowned, "It could be that their relationship soured as they grew older. I believe that even Sesshoumaru-sama wouldn't be able to show blatant dislike against a child."

Kouga shrugged, "Sesshoumaru may be many things, but he isn't a scum. He'd never raise a hand against a child nor would he ever show open contempt towards someone so innocent. From what I know, their relationship on went downhill after Inuyasha's mother's death. Inuyasha refused Sesshoumaru's proposal to reside in the Imperial Palace."

"You know a lot for someone who didn't recognize Inuyasha at your first meeting." Miroku observed quietly, "And you never indicated that you knew Inuyasha from before…"

Kouga chuckled, "I wasn't a fool. The glare that the pup gave me was enough to tell me that she wanted her origins to be a secret."

Kagome closed her eyes, resting her face in her arms. "And here I thought that I was finally becoming close to Inuyasha." She whispered.

Sango frowned in sympathy, sitting beside Kagome and combing her fingers through her friend's hair.

"I'm sorry, Kagome-chan…"

"Ouch." Inuyasha winced, her voice hoarse and her eyes dull with pain. "What are you doing?" she asked, glaring groggily at him.

"Cleaning your wounds so I can examine them." Sesshoumaru informed bluntly, "The pungent odor that the wound on your leg is emitting is alarming." he murmured, carefully removing her bandages.

Inuyasha flinched and blushed when she felt his cold hand on her thigh. Her first instinctive reaction was to pull away. "What are you doing!" she squeaked in alarm, trying to bat his hand away, "I'll do it!"

The Daiyoukai shot her an amused look. "Am I making you uncomfortable, Inuyasha?" he asked, "Years of being a male have not damaged your feminine modesty, I see."

Inuyasha shifted uncomfortably, adjusting her flimsy yukata as she tried to push his hand away. "Please Sesshoumaru." She whispered, mortified to have her long legs exposed to his gaze.

Sesshoumaru ignored her, keeping his touch light and impersonal as he unwound the bandages. "Stay still, Inuyasha." He murmured, eyeing the exposed gash with a grimace, "This must be causing great pain." He observed as he gently cleaned her wound.

The hanyou hissed, flinching. "That demon's poison was obviously potent." She murmured, "Just my luck. The combination of toxins in my body will delay my healing ability drastically."

"This is the consequence of your own reckless actions." Sesshoumaru reprimanded, "I must do something about your tendency to jump into battle without analyzing the situation."

Inuyasha scowled at him, "There was no time to think!" She narrowed her eyes, "I can't just take the scene at one glance and come up with a cunning plan, aniue. That's your forte."

Sesshoumaru scoffed, observing her cleaned wound with a frown, "You lack the training to do such a thing, not the ability." He bit his finger, bringing blood to the surface before letting a few drops fall on Inuyasha's wound. "You aren't old enough to take such risks with venomous demons, Inuyasha. Your immunity towards poison is not at its full strength yet. My blood will only stop infections. You are very fortunate that the venom is not of the kind to eat your flesh."

Inuyasha winced, "At least I have some immunity." She grumbled, "None of the others do. You saw the markings on that demon. They would have died in an instant if they had been exposed to it. I was relatively safe." She tilted her head to the side, "They're speaking about us…"

Sesshoumaru nodded, "They are underestimating our senses." He narrowed his eyes, "And arriving to correct conclusions, it seems." He looked at Inuyasha, "You need to do something about that miko's affection for you."

Inuyasha flinched, "I don't understand her affection." She admitted, "I've been rude, disrespectful, dismissive and irritable with her on various occasions. I've shown her very little kindness or consideration. Yet she claims to love me."

Sesshoumaru paused in his actions, observing her pinched expression. "You are very adept in concealing your identity and deceiving others." Inuyasha cringed at his bluntness, "However, you cannot conceal the kindness and generosity of your nature completely."

The hanyou's eyes widened when Sesshoumaru cupped her cheek, forcing her gently to meet his gaze. "You are truly our father's daughter." He whispered, "Your strength of character, your bravery, your concern for the well-being of others and your protectiveness cannot be concealed, no matter how strong an illusion you utilize." His thumb caressed her cheek as he spoke, "Your miko is wise beyond her years to be able to recognize these qualities and disregard your superficial faults."

"Yeah, well…" Inuyasha muttered uncomfortably, "That doesn't help her, does it?" she asked, "She's so young…"

Sesshoumaru raised a brow, "Which is fortunate." He stated and wrapped her wound, "She'll recover her spirits soon enough and find a mate suitable for her without being blinded by the unattainable." He shrugged, "She has no other choice."

Inuyasha scowled at him. He was being unkind to Kagome. However, she didn't expect him to soften towards her friends. "It wouldn't hurt for you to show a little sympathy." She stated gruffly, "Though I know better than to expect it from you."

"Sympathy?" He asked archly, a brow raised, "What an absurd notion." He scoffed before standing. Leisurely, he let his eyes roam over her yukata-clad body, "Unless that ningen child comprehends that you are mine, Inuyasha, I cannot allow myself to be generous enough to offer her sympathy."

Inuyasha paused, looking up at him in confusion over the peculiar, possessive sounding statement. "Yours? Sesshoumaru, she already knows that I'm your sister." She frowned, "Don't think she's trying to replace you or something silly like that."

Sesshoumaru looked at her silently for a moment, a faint, knowing smirk lingering on his lips. "Come." He commanded as he carried her once again, making sure that his tail's grip on her was secure but gentle. "We rest for the night before moving on. We should be home by noon tomorrow if we depart at sunrise."

Inuyasha looked at him suspiciously before shrugging, closing her eyes tiredly. For some reason, her leg wasn't hurting anymore but there was a disconcerting numbing in the poisoned limb that made her feel uncomfortable.

When they returned to camp, Inuyasha's friends immediately noticed that she was awake and enquired about her health.

"Inuyasha, how are you feeling?" Kagome asked, her eyes anxiously moving over her friend, trying to ascertain whether Sesshoumaru had added to her wounds. "You seem better…" she trailed off uncertainly.

Inuyasha, did indeed, seem better. Her face contained a healthy flush, her skin was clean and glowing in the light of the fire while her eyes seemed less pained and more lively than the last time they spoke.

It was at that moment Kagome realized what Inuyasha's mother would have foreseen to hide her true appearance.

Someone so lovely would undoubtedly attract unwanted attention.

Inuyasha shrugged, looking a little disgruntled at being the center of attention, "I feel better."

Kagome's smile was just as awkward as she felt. A yawning distance had developed between Inuyasha and them all of a sudden and it was painful to contemplate how their lives would change from now on.

Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha together painted a picture of aristocracy. They seemed so far from the ordinariness of humans with their pale skins, silver hair and golden eyes, cat-like eyes. There was a time when Inuyasha's gruffness, his uncouth and rash behavior and rough tones made him seem someone who was just like them. Someone who was their equal, not superior.

With a slight shake of her head, she sighed. She had to stop thinking of Inuyasha as a male. "Good." She answered softly when Inuyasha looked at her in concern at her long silence. "I…" She paused, looking into Inuyasha's eyes before slowly reaching forward.

Instinctively, Sesshoumaru's arm tightened around his sister but he refrained from speaking as the ningen approached Inuyasha.

"I think…" Kagome started, sounding grim, "This has stayed on you long enough." She whispered before grasping the rosary, releasing Inuyasha from its influence.

The rosary glowed and fell apart at her touch, falling to the ground, unheeded by the stunned hanyou and the miko.

"Ka…Kagome?" Inuyasha shuttered, feeling about her neck tentatively, "Wha-?"

Kagome bowed her head, looking down at the scattered beads, aching to pick them up. "Inuyasha, I-"

"Enough." Sesshoumaru interrupted coldly. "Whatever you wish to discuss can wait until we reach our destination." He commanded, "The hour is late and I wish to leave by sunrise. We have no time for such si-"

"Sesshoumaru!" Inuyasha interrupted sharply, her eyes narrowed, "Aren't you being spiteful?"

Sesshoumaru stiffened at the reprimand while Kouga smirked. Inuyasha wasn't behaving like a sister, that much was obvious to the Wolf Prince. The lingering scent of Sesshoumaru's blood on Inuyasha only served to confirm his suspicions. Inuyasha may not know the significance but he did. A youkai didn't easily share his blood with anyone, not even parents or siblings.

That was something that was limited to mates.

There was no sibling bond between Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru. Their relationship was something different and it was possible that as a human, Inuyasha's mother would have been alarmed by it.

Maybe that was the reason why Lady Izayoi deliberately created a spell to separate the two. Maybe she wished to stop the budding bond. As a human, she would have viewed the relationship to be unnatural.

"Spiteful or not, he is right." Kouga stated calmly, keeping his amused eyes on Inuyasha as she turned to glare at him. "You eyes are getting suspiciously droopy, Inuyasha-chan." He remarked teasingly.

The heat in her glare went up a notch and it was obvious that she was investing great effort in containing an undignified snarl.

'Kami-sama, she is a firecracker. A beautiful, vicious firecracker.' Kouga thought in silent, wistful admiration.

Despite Inuyasha's ire, Sesshoumaru wasn't someone who could be easily denied. Her friends were forced to retire for the night when the Daiyoukai, with a single leap, landed on a high branch with Inuyasha still in his grasp.

"Sesshoumaru…" Inuyasha growled, her eyes flashing in irritation, "Would it kill you to treat them with a modicum of respect? I don't expect you to like them but at least don't be so condescending and rude!"

The Daiyoukai looked down at her with a raised brow, "Are we having his argument again, Inuyasha? You know I dislike ningen."

Inuyasha looked at him skeptically, "Do you really? I think you are neutral toward them." She tilted her head to the side and observed him with a curious little smile, "How's my niece doing?"

"Rin is-" Sesshoumaru stilled.

Inuyasha's smile grew into a large, amused grin, "Ah-hah! I knew it." She shook her finger at him, "Hypocritical ass. You dislike my friends for an entirely different reason, not because they are ningen. You like Rin well enough."

"Rin has never given me trouble nor did I ever have to risk my well-being to protect her."

The hanyou raised her brow, "Liar." She replied, "You don't do things half-way." She frowned thoughtfully, "Do you dislike them because I chose to protect them? Risking my well-bring as you put it?"

Sesshoumaru scowled at her for her accurate deduction and Inuyasha read his expression correctly. "I don't understand." She confessed, "I'm accepting this sudden change in your behavior because I can clearly feel my own instincts surfacing but more I look, more I realize that this…" she paused, grasping for the word, "This possessiveness of yours was there even when the spell was in effect." She looked at him in question, "What are you hiding from me, aniue?"

"Surely it doesn't come as a surprise?" Sesshoumaru questioned, "What demon is known to share his pack with outsiders?"

Inuyasha frowned, "I wasn't aware that I was a part of your pack."

"Don't be foolish." Sesshoumaru looked down at her in disapproval, "I didn't disinherit you, Inuyasha. You denied me. It was because of you that I had to report my failure to the clan elders, including my mother. I was supposed to retrieve you after your mother died and you simply vanished from the west. I couldn't find you. When I did, you bluntly refused to return home."

Inuyasha winced, looking away from his piercing gaze. "I disliked you and yet that would never have been enough to make me ignore my own responsibilities. You were the one who involved yourself with ningen. You developed a deep bond with that miko Kikyou so easily and carelessly when you shunned your own brother."

Inuyasha scowled at him, "Well, don't go pinning this on me! You weren't exactly welcoming, aniue!"

"Had I ever abused you, Inuyasha?" Sesshoumaru asked bluntly, "All those times when you came to the castle with mother, you were treated with great care by the servants and elders. Tell me of a single instance during your visits where I caused you harm or grief."

"Cause me grief?" Inuyasha asked, her eyes shadowed, "It is very difficult to ignore a glare of distaste, Sesshoumaru. It is very, very difficult to ignore it coming from a brother you idolize! Doing things out of duty can get old very fast and how long would it have taken for your dislike to turn into hatred when I was constantly in front of you?"

"These assumptions were exactly the reason why things become so tangled and complicated between us." Sesshoumaru stated, "Can you truly judge me to be the only one at fault here? Can you, in all honesty, say that you didn't dislike me as much as I disliked you? That the spell didn't corrupt your opinion of me as it corrupted my opinion of you?"

Inuyasha didn't answer but the silence was enough to satisfy Sesshoumaru.

There was a long pause before Inuyasha chose to spoke, her voice soft and remorseful. "Being in your presence was stifling." She confessed, "I don't know why but the closer I was to you, the more overwhelmed I felt. There was this wall between us that was painful to witness and I couldn't bear the thought to you being in front of me, within my reach and yet so distant."

She looked at Sesshoumaru pleadingly, "Don't you see? I didn't have a choice, aniue. You made me feel inferior and unworthy every damn time I saw you. I didn't want your eyes on me. I didn't want to be near you because it always reminded me that I was…" she paused, "That was not your family. We were separate, different and far too unequal to belong in the same family."

Sesshoumaru looked at her in consideration, "Unequal?" he questioned softly before talking her hand a placing it on the stump of his severed arm, "Who else is capable of doing this, Inuyasha?"

Inuyasha flinched back, snatching her hand away from the old wound, "You think that I look at that as an achievement!?" she asked, almost desperately, "What do you take me for? You may have been able to detach yourself from you instincts and run your hand through me in an attempt to kill me but I paid for causing that!" she gestured angrily at the wound, "Nothing… I have regretted nothing more than that. I haven't regretted Kikyou and falling for Naraku's deception, I haven't regretted mother's untimely and cruel death as much as I have regretted that! I'll be damned for that one action, Sesshoumaru. I was never, never supposed to raise my hand against you! I-"

Sesshoumaru cut her off abruptly, his fingers sliding smoothly through her hair before forcing her to lay her head on his shoulder. "You did nothing to warrant such a punishment." He whispered against her ear softly, "And I did not wish to cause you distress by pointing that out."

"We'll have to start anew, aniue." Inuyasha confessed quietly, "Or we'll never be able to move forward." Her fingers fisted in his rich, silk haori, "We have only ourselves to blame. Mother's spell played a part… indeed it did but we were stubborn and prideful, all too eager to destroy a relationship that could have been good despite the odds."

Sesshoumaru observed her as she gaze at the stars, watching her delicate, remorseful features intently. "I have realized that." Sesshoumaru stated, "Which is why I didn't take the interference of your friends all too kindly."

Inuyasha stilled before looking at him with a frown, "What do you mean?"

The Daiyoukai took a few strands of her long hair and examined them, watching them gleam in the moonlight. "For a few months, I would like to have you all to myself." He looked at her, bringing the strands to his lips, watching with some amusement as her eyes widened.

"I refuse to share you with anyone, Inuyasha, least of all those friends of yours."

The hanyou watched Sesshoumaru in silent disbelief, gazing into his piercing eyes, trying to understand what he was saying.


The Daiyoukai smirked mysteriously, "You'll understand what I mean soon enough." He informed before leaning back and closing his eyes, his arm wrapped securely around Inuyasha.

"Go to sleep, little sister. You have a lot to look forward to tomorrow."