Beyond Distant Time

Chapter VII

The Price of Power

Her body shook as Kagome watched Inu no Taishou jump between the two beasts. Her vision blurry with tears, and finally, she cracked.

Gasping, she clutched her bloody forearm, sinking down on the ground. It hurt so much! It felt like someone had lit her blood on fire and was corrupting her entire being at the same time. It felt like two armies were battling it out inside of her, ripping her apart, blood cell by blood cell.

Kagome had experienced the feeling of foreign bodies in wounds before, everything from stinging antiseptic treatments to Naraku's shouki, but nothing compared to the pain that Inu no Taishou's saliva induced. It was as if the trace amounts of youki in the saliva made her blood boil.

It had started at the first, feathery lick, but so had the recovery of Inu no Taishou's youki, and he was hesitant enough about it that if she cried out, he would have stopped. But Kagome didn't cry out, because if she did, then they were all dead.

So she grit her teeth, kept still, and after the third lick, when he almost lost control, sent him along with Tessaiga to save Sesshoumaru.

And now she paid the price, as her body was alternating between corruption, and then feebly with her exhausted powers, purification. She had certainly not felt anything like it before, and having youkai instinctively lick her wounds when she was unconscious and unable to stop the bleeding herself had happened before.

Maybe there's something different? Maybe because it's not Shippou or Kirara? Her heart was beating frantically, trying to burst through her chest, and chills alternated with heat running up and down her spine.

Finally, she shoved the arm into the cool snow, despite how unhygienic it was, and sighed as the heat lessened. But the ache and pain wouldn't go away.

~*~

Sesshoumaru was thrown to the side and immediately turned back into his human form, fortunately Inu no Taishou choose that time to step in.

"Kaze no Kizu!" The blades of wind cut into the scales and Tatsuma roared, drawing back from Sesshoumaru.

Something was wrong, very wrong with his father's youki. It was like it was artificially swollen, and even from a distance, Sesshoumaru could see how his father fought for control, how his muscles writhed as if trying to force a transformation.

Tatsuma became even more enraged upon seeing Inu no Taishou, and barrelled towards him. Inu no Taishou simply shifted his stance.

Sesshoumaru's eyes widened. This was it. The attack that only Inu no Taishou could use with Tessaiga. It's what happened when Inu no Taishou's youki spilled over and joined with Tessaiga's. It was the attack that earned Inu no Taishou the nickname of Tougaou, Fighting Fang King.

"Chi-iro Kiba no Shin!" Inu no Taishou called out, bringing down the great blade.

Immediately, cracks spread out in front of him in the earth, but more than just an earthquake, the greenish brown energy from the sword became many points of solid spikes, piercing the diamond-scales of Tatsuma, holding him in place as a great wheel of youki rolled from the tip of Tessaiga and cut him from nose to tail, before cutting through, and parting, the sea.

It was as if time paused, then the youki exploded in a bright light, crushing what was left of Tatsuma into the ground in a gravity based attack, before dissolving. The sea filling the trench made by the wheel.

And then Inu no Taishou collapsed to his knees, panting and shaking.

It was all Sesshoumaru needed to understand and he struggled to his feet and turned towards the pained and feverish miko, fury blinding him, he stalked forward, his hands clenching and unclenching.

The miko looked up at him with a relieved smile, clearly not expecting his next action. In a flash he held her up against a tree by her throat.

"What did you do to my father?!" He snarled.

She choked and grabbed his wrist, trying to remove his hand, but she might as well have tried to move a mountain.

"Sesshoumaru-sama!" Myouga cried out. "You're killing her! You know the punishment for killing her!"

But Sesshoumaru was too far gone to think about stupid things like laws and punishments. "ANSWER!"

The miko opened her mouth, and he felt her throat flex underneath his hand. It only served to make him press harder, thus ending her futile tries to speak.

"Your father just took what she offered!" Saya tried to reason with him.

It was the wrong thing to say. "LIAR! Father would never resort to power boosters!" Sesshoumaru's hand started to close around her throat.

Only for him to be punched in the side of his face and thrown away from the miko. It was Inu no Taishou, who was cradling the miko in his arms. "Prudence takes presence over pride, Sesshoumaru. I will expect you in court within three days."

And that was the last the miko heard before she lost consciousness.

~*~

"Kagome." That voice. Naraku!

Kagome's eyes flew open, but to her chagrin, she couldn't move as Naraku and the strange woman looked down on her.

"She's awake," the woman said. "Well, in a manner of speaking."

"I know. But can she hear us?" Naraku asked.

"I'm letting it take over, but it needs to be contained soon or she'll be consumed like you and me. She can hear us for a short while."

"So no long-winded explanations?"

"Not with our souls in this state. We cannot synchronise. Quickly, we are running out of time."

"Very well..." The strange, deafening silence was returning. Naraku turned towards her, and frowned as he recognise her expression. He then started to repeat one word. "...Li...ive...Live!"

Then everything around Kagome shattered in pure light, and a thought fluttered through her head. Well, now I'm sure that he isn't the real Naraku. Because he wants me to live.

~*~

Her throat ached and her head throbbed, but it wasn't that which made her open her eyes, no, it was the feeling of coarse hair prickling her face. Blinking, she sluggishly sat up and looked around. All she could see was sky and the same, moving white-haired surface.

Then her brain started to catch up and her head jerked up. She could see huge ears on the titanic dog's head.

Her first thought was of Sesshoumaru, and her second thought was, Sesshoumaru was never this big! Which meant that it wasn't Sesshoumaru. Her third thought remembered Inu no Taishou, and she relaxed slightly.

"Miko-sama?" Kagome looked down and saw Saya floating on top of the scabbard that she still held with white-knuckled fingers. "Are you alright?"

Kagome opened her mouth to answer, but her abused throat protested. Instead she settled on nodding. She then tried to bend her locked fingers from the scabbard. It went painfully slowly, but finally she could massage her freed fingers. Then she hugged herself.

Winter air at high altitudes meant cold.

"We are making good pace and should be at the palace soon." Myouga jumped down from his position on Inu no Taishou's head. He then noticed her shaking. "You should take a bath in the hot springs when we arrive, Miko-sama."

Kagome brightened. Hot springs!

Then she yawned, because her body was consuming a lot to recover, and she hadn't eaten, or even had more than an hour of sleep, in far too long. Looking up at Inu no Taishou's head, she quickly made up her mind. He probably wouldn't even notice.

Curling up into a ball, she burrowed as far into the coarse, warm fur beneath her as possible, and fell asleep.

"I have never seen a miko seek physical contact with youkai before," Saya remarked.

"I have never seen a miko fall asleep within a mile of a youkai before," Myouga stated.

"I have never met a more aggravating miko," Sounga complained. It was ignored.

Inu no Taishou silently agreed as he felt the miko's cold fingers burrow into the fur above his shoulders. So many questions, and so little answers.

~*~

Being Lady of the West was not easy work by any definition. You not only had to run the diplomatic and domestic sides of ruling a Great Land, but also make up the difference on the battlefield whenever the Lord of the West... fudged the battle-plan by barging in like some idiot high on testosterone, believing himself invincible. Then there was being married to him, which was the hardest part of all.

Oh, don't get her wrong, they had a perfectly amiable agreement. She would be allowed to indulge in her, shall we say, more is better at the same time, urges, and he was allowed to indulge in his human-princesses-with-a-spark. She just never realised the amount of hanyou offspring that would come from it.

At least she had no extramarital offspring, because she knew how cruel life would be, both for said offspring and their legitimate counterparts. She remembered clearly how the laws surrounding human lovers came to be.

The first time Inu no Taishou brought a human lover to the palace, she was ripped into itty bitty pieces by a devoted servant who refused to acknowledge the human as one of them. This was a widespread sentiment amongst... well, everyone in the palace.

Which was why the second lover was pregnant when she arrived, it was hoped that her child would be enough for acceptance. Unfortunately for her, inducing miscarriages is really easy in a palace where the aura of the other residents could go poisonous if they disliked you enough. And then she joined the first lover.

Third time's the charm, and the next lover appeared with a hanyou child. Sure, they were treated like fungus on the bottom of a shouki-consumed youkai's paws, but no attempts were made on her life. Which prompted a soldier to bring his lover and child to the palace. Then the soldier died and his lover and child was killed.

Which meant that at the death of the youkai lover, the human lover and their offspring were to be exiled from the palace for their own safety. Well, the soldier died at war, and the war wasn't over, so Inu no Taishou hardly was at the palace, and it fell to the Lady of the West and Sesshoumaru to educate the hanyou on being a youkai.

Then the hanyou went mad and killed his mother, and in his thirst for blood, he turned towards all others and had to be killed.

But it didn't stop Inu no Taishou for grieving for a few decades before trying again with another human, and to be quite honest, the Lady of the West was getting fed up with it all.

Still, when Toutousai arrived with another human princess and a inu hanyou, she gracefully greeted them, none of her reminiscences apparent on her face. After all, laws and rules dictated that until news reached them of Inu no Taishou's death, she would have to treat Izayoi as her sister.

~*~

Kagome wasn't surprised when she found herself in the hazy darkness-slash-rainbow-kaleidoscope. Neither was she surprised, though disconcerted, to find herself in front of Naraku and the mysterious woman. This time she didn't flinch away or try to run, despite feeling that she was fully capable of this, instead, she waited and watched them. And they watched her.

Naraku said something, but all Kagome could hear was deafening silence.

The woman shook her head, and Kagome noticed that she was becoming blurry.

Naraku smiled that ironic smile he used to give Kagome before trying to mentally torture her. Also fading away.

He reached out towards her, and she stood her ground, somehow knowing that he would never be able to reach her.

Then a bright pink light engulfed them and Kagome found herself in a familiar dream, bent over a math book in her old high school, her teacher with a clock and ruler above her, urging her to solve impossible puzzles faster.

~*~

"Miko-sama?" The unfamiliar voice brought Kagome back to consciousness, and she had barely opened her eyes before she squeezed them shut again. It was just too bright!

Then she noticed the familiar constrict and gooey-ness of bandages with herbal mixtures around her neck, and just how warm she was and that there was a blanket covering her and a mattress, or at least something similar, beneath her.

"Miko-sama, you need to at least drink before you fall asleep again. You're dehydrated." The same, hypnotic and unfamiliar voice said.

Something cool and hard was pressed to her lips, and an arm helped her into a sitting position. Then the glass –cup? –was turned and she instinctively drank, trying replenish her lost reserves. It didn't taste like water, but it didn't have the tell-tale wrongness of most poisons she had the misfortune to taste. It was also heated at body temperature, something her abused stomach appreciated.

When she was finished, the cup –glass? –disappeared, and she was put down into a comfortable position on her side. This time, she slept dreamlessly.

~*~

It was three days later, and Sesshoumaru had dutifully abandoned his patrolling and arrived at the palace. What first hit him was how the mood had changed. Irritable and restless, and he didn't have to be a genius to figure out why. After all, he could smell humanity within the walls for the first time in a hundred years. His lips thinned as something else tugged at his senses, from the hospital wing. It was an increase and decrease of purification, in tandem with a heartbeat. It was uncontrolled and too large.

For any youkai society, it was like allowing a time-set, highly destructive spell in their midst, but it was allowed, because in order to kill the miko, one would have to kill Inu no Taishou. His frown deepened as he felt something else, smaller than the miko's aura. The feeling of a group of inu youkai, in the hospital wing, flaring their auras.

Idiots.

Ignoring the unpleasant sensations, Sesshoumaru entered the palace and was immediately approached by Konomi. The squirrel was almost apologetic as she lead the way, and announced his presence, at the court of his parents.

One glance at his mother told him that she wouldn't be helpful. She was in a bad mood and someone would have to pay.

Sesshoumaru ignored his father, intent on doing so for as long as possible.

"You certainly dug yourself a hole," was the Lady of the West's opening statement. "What is a mother like me supposed to do with a son like you?"

Sesshoumaru sent her a frosty glare. She fooled no one with her crocodile tears.

Youkai court was nothing like human courts. For one, it was more of a gathering of powerful youkai in the same room, around two thrones with the rulers (though except for his parents and Konomi, there was no one else there at the moment). Second, it was more wild and less formal than its human counterparts.

The Lady of the West stood, and glided over the floor to her son. "To attack someone after a declared life-debt from your father is considered treason towards the Land he rules. And it is enforced in all the Lands. It's usual punishment is death. What's your defence?"

Sesshoumaru didn't answer. She would only delight in picking it apart.

"Lucky for you, you will not die today." She grinned. There was sneaking suspicion that he might have wished it after being dealt whatever punishment they came up with.

She returned to her throne, and now the Lord of the West spoke, and Sesshoumaru noted that he was still slightly strained, but not affected in a sense that mattered. He was recovering, and Sesshoumaru didn't know if he wished his father to recover after doing such a thing.

The punishment was delivered without any frills or whistles, like most orders of the youkai court. "Sesshoumaru, as you decided to kill the miko, you will now be charged with the responsibility to keep her alive for the rest of her natural life as her protector."

There was a pause afterwards.

"Look on the bright side," the Lady of the West said, noticing Sesshoumaru's stony silence. "Most humans don't live to see a hundred years."

It was a mild punishment and Sesshoumaru knew it. It was also a practical punishment, freeing Inu no Taishou from protecting the human at all times, instead relegating that duty to Sesshoumaru. And on top of that, a supremely effective punishment, being what Sesshoumaru would hate the most.

Then the implications set in and his eyes widened, before he spun on his heels to hurry out of the courtroom, almost barrelling into a group of powerful youkai on their way inside.

~*~

Groggy didn't even begin to cover what Kagome felt, yet she still forced herself awake, fuelled by instinctive panic. Their auras were choking her, trying to overwhelm and corrupt her and she had to stop it. A scream tore through her newly restored throat and her powers wrestled themselves from her body, seeking out her tormentors with eerie accuracy.

As her eyes opened, she saw a surprised face before the inu youkai ceased to exist. She heard screams of pain and panic as all other youkai tried to scramble out of her ever expanding aura, losing limbs and having their hair and clothes burnt and singed, but she couldn't stop.

There were so many enemies around her. So many youkai around her.

~*~

Sesshoumaru didn't have to look to know that his father was close at his heels, as the screams and purifications expanded through the buildings. They finally stopped at the door that separated the hospital wing from the rest of the palace, and their instincts screamed at them to go back the way they came.

"Fuck." Sesshoumaru blinked, but soon realised that it was Sounga and not his father who had spoken. "What hell made her do this?"

It was very interesting that the sword of hell believed the miko needing provocation to purify a youkai settlement, and one that made Sesshoumaru pause. He had assumed that the miko saved his father by coincidence, and that it was Inu no Taishou's weakness for human women that made him declare a life-debt and ordering Sesshoumaru to keep her from drowning. But if even Sounga didn't believe her to be hostile towards youkai, then maybe he would have to re-evaluate the miko's position.

Though she was certainly hostile at the moment. Sesshoumaru and Inu no Taishou side-stepped as the inhabitants of the hospital wing came stumbling, wobbling and running through the door. Sesshoumaru recognised several of the ones that had been purified enough to lose limbs.

They were fanatically devoted to his father, but also extremely hostile towards the human women who captured his attentions. They must have believed that the miko was his father's latest lover, and since she was a miko, get her exiled for trying to kill his father's soldiers.

Unfortunately for them, and for Sesshoumaru, the miko held a much more elevated position in the household than a mere lover, and their deaths would mean little as long as the miko was safe.

"You've certainly brought back something interesting this time," an impossibly beautiful youkai commented, watching the spectacle.

"I've been meaning to ask you about that." Inu no Taishou narrowed his eyes. "But now is not the time."

"No, because if this keeps up, both you and Sesshoumaru-sama will be in a very awkward position," the youkai mused.

"You eavesdropped?"

"I don't have to eavesdrop, you know. Though..." The beautiful youkai frowned. "It was... unusually difficult. And her," He gestured towards the hospital wing, "I can't find her at all."

"Because she's a miko?"

"No. Holy humans are easily within my sight. There's something else about, or around, her. Like time itself is woven into her skin."

It was all very interesting, but Sesshoumaru realised that now was not the time to be talking about the miko's mysteries. Not if they wanted the youki-powered, flying palace to keep flying. "Father."

Inu no Taishou glanced at Sesshoumaru and then looked back at the other youkai, only to find him gone. Figures, an illusion as usual. He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. This would probably hurt. A lot.

He conjured a wall of youki around himself and started to walk through the hospital wing, and he felt Sesshoumaru do the same. Briefly, he considered telling Sesshoumaru stand back, since they had no way of knowing how powerful the purification would become, the closer they came to the miko. His youki hissed as tendrils of purification brushed against him, coiled back, and tried to spear him like striking serpents, only to hit the very same wall.

Then he felt it, the energy that had been leaving his body, the power he had taken in with the miko's blood, resonate in time with a heartbeat. Eyes wide in shock, he fell to his knees.

"Father?" Inu no Taishou looked up as Sesshoumaru called his name, his vision blurring and sharpening in time with the heartbeat.

There was something strange with what he was seeing, and maybe it was the after effects of the strange power, but Inu no Taishou was pretty sure that the purifying powers did not purify Sesshoumaru's protective youki. In fact, they seemed to bend out of their way not to purify Sesshoumaru.

Why was this strange? Well, it was because all energy manipulators, be they youkai, miko, onmyouji and so on, automatically tries to overwhelm their opposite element, and only through fighting many battles side-by-side, the energies would slowly learn that whatever the reason, that individual with the opposite element was not the enemy. But before that, it was a large strain to keep the energy from running amok and destroy one's allies.

Either Inu no Taishou was delusional (very likely, considering that he had ingested unknown powers from a source opposite of what he was made from), or the miko recognised an ally in Sesshoumaru, which was contrary to everything Inu no Taishou knew about Sesshoumaru. In fact, the very thought that Sesshoumaru would be fighting alongside as miko for enough battles for her powers to get used to him, and for Inu no Taishou to never have heard of it before, was laughable.

But it certainly would explain how the miko knew Sesshoumaru. Why she wasn't afraid, even when Sesshoumaru was clearly hostile.

"Father?"

Inu no Taishou snapped out of his musings, and made his decision. "You can go ahead. Look at it as your first job as her protector."

Sesshoumaru wasn't amused, but turned to walk slowly towards the out of control miko.

And Inu no Taishou was forced to reconsider his conclusions, because even if the miko wasn't afraid of Sesshoumaru... Sesshoumaru was clearly terrified of the miko.

End of Chapter