So I don't usually do A/Ns at the beginning of chapters on this story, but it's just so you know about this one thing.

New character in this chapter! He's called Koryuu, which means baby dragon. He is based on the character Lambo, from the anime Reborn! (don't own – regrettably). I've been watching it these last few days and I think it's absolutely hilarious!

Yes, Koryuu is also based on the character Pinoko from the anime Black Jack (also don't own – why are you rubbing it in so much?). He speaks in English a lot, which is replaced with Japanese in the story to signify its difference. Most of what he says is inconsequential, so I haven't translated it.

So, yeah. Enjoy the chapter.

#~#~#~#~#

Plans of War

#~#~#~#~#

"How are you feeling?" Rin asked timidly. Izayoi looked absolutely awful.

"Oh, this is nothing," she tried to laugh it off. "I have had worse than a broken leg, Rin-chan, I assure you. You needn't worry about me." She glanced warily at the servant behind her step-daughter-in-law. Kiyoe betrayed no emotion other than worry.

"If you need anything, Kiyoe-chan will get it for you. Would you like her to stay with you?"

"I will gladly do it," the youkai said, showing every indication that she was being sincere.

"No thank you, Rin-chan. I don't think Touga is going to let me out of his sight for a while, so I'll be fine."

Touga didn't smile at her joke as Rin's stomach began to growl. She flushed with embarrassment.

Izayoi laughed. "Go and eat, Rin-chan."

"I could bring a tray here – "

"Rin-chan, I will be fine. Go and eat, and then we'll read together later, alright?"

Rin smiled, reluctantly giving in. "Alright, Izayoi-sama. I will be back later." She and Kiyoe made to leave the room. Once the human was gone, Touga leaped up and stopped her servant from following.

"If you ever do something like that again I will contact the other lords in a second," he hissed.

"You have only yourself to blame for it," Kiyoe replied evenly. "I instinctively defend my own life, no matter what. When you nearly killed me, of course I had no control over my actions and attacked back. I am sorry for hurting you, Izayoi," she turned to the human briefly. "But I did warn you, dog."

"Kiyoe-chan," Rin's voice floated down the hallway.

The youkai gave the western lord another glare before leaving without another word.

"Did Chichiue-dono want something with you?" the human asked.

"He asked me to keep checking on Izayoi-sama in case she needed something."

#~#~#

"Tasukete!" [Help!]

Sesshoumaru quickly killed the demons before turning to their "victim".

"I did not think you were the type to need saving."

"I'm not," the cheerful nomad replied. "I just wanted to see if you would do it."

He tried to frown, but ended up grinning back at her as they began walking to the palace.

"Ugh, Inuyasha is here," she wrinkled up her nose. "So is that whiny mate of his. Oh… Sesshoumaru, you didn't tell me she was going to have a child. I would have stayed away."

"Very funny. I thought you liked babies."

"I do. I just don't like your brother's mate. Inuyasha I can bear – when he is not being stubborn."

"That would be never."

She grinned at the taiyoukai walking beside her. "So tell me; why are you still living with your father?"

"I'm still gaining strength."

"Oh, I see. Then Inuyasha is stronger than you, and that is why he has his own palace."

Sesshoumaru glared at her for catching his lie. "I don't have a mate."

The nomad laughed. "For something so trivial?"

"Regrettably."

"Then why don't you just find a bitch and mate her?"

"That was what my father did – and that is why Inuyasha was born."

"Oh. I am sorry." There was silence, and then she giggled before running ahead. "You're waiting to fall in love!"

#~#~#

"Well, well," the bat youkai smiled in a horrible way. "I recognize you, Ki-yo-e. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see you here."

"You are here to see Sesshoumaru-sama? I will show you to his office," Kiyoe led the visitors through the palace, earnestly praying that Rin wouldn't appear. There were certain things she just could not know. She knocked on the door to Sesshoumaru's office and entered on his command.

"Sesshoumaru-sama, Taigokumaru-dono is here," she bowed.

The old bat entered, and Kiyoe left. Taking a deep breath, she mentally scanned the palace for Rin and when she found her, hurried to the grounds to talk to her.

"Kiyoe-chan, what is it? Is something wrong with Izayoi-sama?" Rin asked.

The youkai quickly smoothed over her smothered expression. "No, Rin-chan. Sesshoumaru-sama has a visitor, and I thought I had better warn you to stay away from his office in case you disturb them."

"Oh, thank you. Do you know who it is?"

"I have never seen him before. I am sure he has some land nearby."

"Oh well," Rin sighed. "Come and walk with me, Kiyoe-chan."

The two friends chatted and giggled as they passed the time, and Kiyoe's anxiety slowly vanished. Eventually she went to see if Taigokumaru had left, and it was safe for Rin to go back inside.

"KIYOE!"

The demon of the unseen cringed at Sesshoumaru's voice.

"That was one of the times when I could have used your help!"

Now angry, she turned on him. "I seem to have to keep repeating myself when it comes to this issue, but here I go again. I will not have anything to do with your work. You made the decision, Sesshoumaru. You can't have it both ways."

"Doesn't your punishment involve helping me?"

She took a step toward him. "If you are too weak to need me to help you with every lord that visits, I have no idea why I helped you for two years. Thank you for the speech that opened my eyes." She angrily turned to fetch Rin.

"Taigokumaru is going to attack this place."

"There will be war," she said simply.

"My wife might die."

"Do not worry," Kiyoe replied as she went to the grounds again. "She won't."

As the youkai searched for her friend, she began thinking hard what else she could possibly do that could bring her and her husband together. For once, she was completely out of ideas.

It has been a while since I made him dream of her… but that does nothing specific. Maybe if he tripped on top of her. No, that's too obvious. He never trips, and he would see it was me inside of a second. I need something more subtle. I could play with his mind. But it's too soon for that. They need more time together before he starts thinking about her all the time. How to get them together… I can only think of endangering her somehow. I hate doing that. And anyway, Sesshoumaru would get suspicious very quickly. Not even a human could get into such a lot of trouble all of a sudden. I could try something outrageously funny. He would know it was me, but if it was just another one of my pranks maybe he wouldn't think anything of it. She mentally sighed. Thinking up pranks for matchmaking notions is much harder than doing it for fun.

"Kiyoe-chan!" Rin's voice shook her back to the present. It sounded like it wasn't the first time she had called.

"I'm sorry, Rin-chan. I didn't hear you," the youkai said, feeling foolish.

"You looked deep in thought. Is something wrong?"

"No, Rin-chan. I was just trying to think of a good prank to play."

"Trying? Do you not have a never-ending supply of them?"

She smiled. "I used to. But I have used them all. Do you have any ideas?"

"I'm afraid not, Kiyoe-chan. I never was much good at thinking up pranks."

The sound of a child's voice reached them, and they stopped walking at the sight of a little boy clothed in dragon scales skipping past them merrily as he sang. "Kimi wa dareda? Boku wa Koryuu. Boku wa dareda? Kimi wa Koryuu." [Who are you? I'm Koryuu. Who am I? You're Koryuu]

Rin's eyes lit up. "Koryuu-chan!"

Koryuu looked up at her, his tiny horns peeking out from behind his flame-red hair. "Kirei-obatan!" [Pretty lady!]

The human knelt down and hugged the small youkai tightly. "You're so cute!"

"Ahh! Koryuu-san can't breathe!"

"Oh… sorry, Koryuu-chan."

"Koryuu, I told you to stay inside the palace today," Kiyoe said sternly.

"Koryuu-san was looking for something to eat, and someone told Koryuu-san that Onee-tan had something sweet for eating. Koryuu-san wants to eat something sweet! Onegai, Onee-tan, onegai! Give it to Koryuu-san!"

Rin giggled at his cuteness. Kiyoe narrowed her eyes, suddenly looking dangerous, and Koryuu squeaked in fear.

"Koryuu-san wa gomen-tte! Yurushite, Onee-tan!"

"Did you do what I asked, Koryuu?" she said quietly.

"I – iya… Onee-tan."

"Then go and do it, Tesaki!" [minion/underling]

The little youkai started bawling and running back to the palace. "Shiiroi! Koryuu-san wa gomen-tte! Koryuu-san will do better!"

"Kiyoe-chan, don't you think that was a little harsh?" Rin scolded.

Kiyoe shook her head. "He's been spoilt by his parents. He needs discipline. Besides," she smiled warily, "I'll end up making him ohagi later."

Rin smiled back. "So you're going to spoil him too, 'Onee-tan'?"

"If it comes to that." Her face lit up, inspiration-filled. "Come on, Rin-chan. It's safe to go back inside." The youkai grinned mischievously and hurried.

"Kiyoe-chan, I don't like that look in your eye," the human said worriedly.

"Oh, don't worry. It's nothing drastic."

#~#~#

Sesshoumaru was discussing the war with his father in the hallway outside Izayoi's room when Koryuu appeared, carrying several scrolls and singing.

"Kimi wa dareda? Onee wa kowai. Boku wa Koryuu. Kimi wa shin-da. Ahh!" He froze at the sight of Sesshoumaru. "It wasn't Koryuu-san! Onee-tan didn't do anything! Don't punish Koryuu-san!"

"Koryuu, did you get those from my office?" Sesshoumaru asked, narrowing his eyes.

Panicking, the child turned tail and ran, dropping half his scrolls but still retaining some. "Koryuu-san isn't telling! Ahh! Warui!"

"Koryuu!" the taiyoukai began chasing him through the corridors. The child ran quickly, and soon he was outside Rin's favorite reading room. Bursting through the door, he cried, "Onee-tan! Tasukete!" and hid behind the servant.

Kiyoe, who had been playing the koto with Rin's flute, looked up and feigned shock. "Koryuu! What are you doing?"

"Kowai-ayakashisama [scary demon] is scaring Koryuu-san!"

"Kiyoe," Sesshoumaru tried to keep his voice even and maintain dignity after being outrun by a five-year old lesser youkai. "How many times do I have to tell you to control him?"

"What did he do this time?" she sounded worried, turning and seeing the scrolls in the child's arms. "Koryuu! I have told you a thousand times to stay out of Sesshoumaru-sama's office! Please forgive him, Sesshoumaru-sama," she bowed and rose to her feet, dragging the bawling dragon cub behind her. "I will go with him to replace the scrolls he took."

"The next time he interferes with my work will be his last, Kiyoe," he warned.

Once the door was shut Rin stood up. "Sesshoumaru-sama, he's just a child!" she said. "He'll learn as he grows up!"

"I highly doubt he will live that long."

"You can't harm a child!"

Outside the room, Kiyoe had her ear pressed against the wall and was listening intently. "They're arguing," she said, pleased.

"Onee-tan, is this okay?" Koryuu asked, holding the scrolls tightly.

"Only because Onee-tan says so. Besides… the more they argue, the more they'll get to know each other. They'll feel more familiar with each other." Smiling down at the child, she said, "Let's go put those scrolls back. Good work today, Tesaki. I'll make you something sweet to have for dinner."

Joy filled his face. "Onee-tan ga DAIsuki!"

#~#~#

"No, Sesshoumaru," Touga replied. "Absolutely not."

Sesshoumaru inwardly cursed. "But, Chichi-ue, your army is ten times the size of mine, and alone I can't defeat Taigokumaru. I need some of your soldiers."

"What did you do that upset him?"

"It wasn't something I did. It was because of that human you forced me to marry."

"Then it is Kiyoe's job to defend the palace." Touga turned and opened the door to Izayoi's room. "Izayoi and I are leaving. Let me know how the battle turns out."

#~#~#

"Kiyoe-chan, what are you doing?" Rin asked.

"Sesshoumaru-sama told me to prepare for you to travel," the youkai replied, putting clothes in a small bag.

"Are we going to Chichiue-dono's palace?"

"No. Sesshoumaru-sama would not tell me your destination, but it is something he must do to protect the lands. It would be dangerous for you to remain here, so he can only protect you by you accompanying him. There." She stood up and gave the human the bag. "You only need to change into more practical clothes and you will be ready to leave."

"Aren't you coming?"

"No. Sesshoumaru-sama seems to think that Koryuu will destroy the palace in my absence and has ordered me to remain behind."

Rin felt a cold rush through her.

I'm going on a long trip with Sesshoumaru-sama… alone…

Along with the panic came flashes of that dream, and that was definitely not what she wanted to be thinking about prior to going on a trip with Sesshoumaru… alone… especially after the argument they had just had earlier.

"Kiyoe-chan, don't make me do this!" Rin begged frantically.

Kiyoe helped her change into clothes more practical for travel quickly. "I cannot do anything, Rin-chan. I'm sorry." She walked with her friend to Sesshoumaru's office. "If you do feel suffocated, I put your favorite book in that bag."

Soon she waved off her terrified friend and her husband as they rode out of the grounds on Aun, the double-headed dragon.

"Oi, Tesaki," Kiyoe said, grinning triumphantly. "Did you put that sheet of paper in Rin's book?"

"Hai! Koryuu-san did!" Koryuu peeked out from the door.

Her grin widened. "Good. You can have more sweets later."

"Yay! Koryuu-san is gonna eat lots of sweets! Nee, Onee-tan," the child said, pulling out a sheet of paper from between the scales he wore. "What was this other think you gave Koryuu-san?"

"Oh, that was just something – " she broke off, staring wide-eyed at the paper in Koryuu's hand. "Tesaki, I thought you said you put that in Rin's book?"

"Eh? Ah! Koryuu-san must've put the other one in Kirei-obatan's book. Warui – Koryuu-san messed up," he looked ashamed.

Kiyoe smacked him on the head, hard. "Idiot!" Panic rose in her eyes as he started bawling. "If she reads that…" Kneeling down, she looked Koryuu in the eyes and ordered him, "Tesaki, listen to me. You are going to go to your room. You are going to stay there for the rest of the night and all of tomorrow as well. Onee-tan will bring you plain rice when you need to eat and you will not sneak out to find anything else. Do you understand, Koryuu-san?"

"Wah!" the child wailed. "Onee-tan wa moro kowai! Tasukete!"

He struggled, and she let him escape through the hallway as he ran to his room. Standing up, she stared anxiously in the direction where Sesshoumaru and Rin had gone.

It's going to be dark in an hour or so and they'll have to stop. Rin will probably read her book tonight… which means I don't have long to find them and swap the papers. Once I know where they are it should be easy, though. It will be a complicated sight, sound, scent and touch barrier, but nothing I have never done before. But approaching Sesshoumaru if I don't know he's there, without him detecting me, will be difficult. I will have to be very careful with this one. If he or Rin reads even a sentence on that letter… Kiyoe shivered before setting out.

#~#~#

"Ahh!" Koryuu stared in pure joy at the tray in front of him. "Sweets! Koryuu-san is gonna eat lots of daifuku!"

"I don't doubt that, Tesaki," Kiyoe set the tray down, and he immediately began stuffing his face. The retrieved letter, between her robes, rustled each time she moved and reminded her of its burden.

It was close… he may have detected me, but I think I got away with it. All that matters is that I got it back without them reading it. She frowned. Although Onii-san should know better than to write to me about that kind of thing. Especially with Sesshoumaru so near.

"Onee-tan," Koryuu was looking up at her serious expression, concerned, with rice bordering his mouth. "Doushita? I know I messed up, but Koryuu-san is sorry."

Kiyoe smiled down at him cheerfully. "I know, Koryuu." Indicating the tray, she said, "Eat up. Don't forget you're getting only plain rice to eat tomorrow."

"Onee-tan!"

"You did good work today, Tesaki."

The child's eyes morphed into those of adoration, and he threw himself at the youkai. "Koryuu-san is gonna marry Onee-tan!"

"Hey, you're getting sticky rice on my clothes, Tesaki!"

#~#~#

"Argh!"

Sesshoumaru cracked open one eye as the enraged nomad appeared in front of him, white-eyed.

"That half-brother of yours is driving me insane!" she yelled, then spoke quietly. "Want to go beat him up with me?"

"Of course," he said, getting up. "In case Chichi-ue asks, what did he do?"

"Something I do not want to talk about. If he asks, just say that he and his wife are harassing me."

Joining her on her return to the palace, Sesshoumaru asked, "Do I get to kill her as well?"

"No – she's human. Too bad."

#~#~#~#~#

So firstly I need to say, thank you so much to everyone who gave me an idea for Kiyoe's pranks! You guys really did inspire me to get the chapter written. Keep the ideas coming, btw. I need all the help I can get!

Oh yeah, that nomad character? It wasn't very clear in the last chapter, but that clip was a flashback. I'm very subtly giving clues about why Sesshoumaru is being punished… feel free to guess about what it is in your reviews! I may or may not tell you if you're right…

Some people are confused about Kiyoe's loyalties. The truth is… she's good, and she's bad! Just kidding… I like keeping people in suspense. (you may have noticed because of the last cliffhanger) You'll see soon enough.

Anyway, please review! Look forward to the next chapter! Ja xxx!