The Assassin's Moon

CHAPTER 20

Sesshoumaru left the garden by a different route than the one he chose to enter it. For some reason that he could not fathom, he did not want Kagome to know which set of suites was his. He wasn't even certain how she wandered into the garden in the first place. As it was a private garden in the royal wing, the only way to enter the garden was through one of the rooms overlooking into the garden. There were only seven suites looking into the garden. The only occupied rooms belonged to his bastard half-brother, his father, Rin and himself. The other four were empty and blocked off. One of them were used by his mother prior to her disgrace. His mother was banished to a more isolated and less luxurious wing of the palace. More than slightly unsettled, he decided to check on Rin.

He slid open the panel to her rooms. He reminded himself to post guards in the garden. Lady Xian-Feng's seemingly innocent wandering into the garden raised questions about Rin's safety. Taking a step inside, Sesshoumaru came across a scene that had him raising his eyebrows.

"Come back, Rin!" A woman said exasperatedly. "You're going to hurt yourself."

"Wheee!"

A naked Rin covered in soapy bubbles dashed across the room. She left behind wet, soapy footprints on the wooden floor. A disheveled woman ran after the escaping girl. Both participants in the chase were too busy to notice his presence. One as too happy in her soapy escape and the other was intent on catching her slippery charge. Noting that Tatsumi was nowhere close to catch her charge, he cleared his throat.

"Rin."

Both woman and girl froze in their tracks and stared slowly at him. Tatsumi immediately prostrated on the floor.

"My sincere apologies, Your Highness." She said into the wet wooden floor. "I deserve to be punished for my incompetence."

Sesshoumaru eyed the poor shaking woman on the floor. Her kimono was soaking wet and her long black hair escaped from the severe bun at the back of her head.

"Rise." He commanded.

The woman backed off the floor and clasped her hands in front of her with her head hanging down. He could see that the poor woman was exhausted.

"Handle your charge better the next time around." He said dismissively.

The woman startled and bowed several times rapidly.

"Thank you so-"

"Apologies are not needed. My ward is a handful."

Tatsumi opened her mouth to speak but Sesshoumaru held up a hand.

"This does not mean that I would accept chaos. The reason that you were chosen was due to the fact that my ward would need a more...unorthodox way of discipline."

Tatsumi bobbled her head energetically. More of her hair escaped from the confines of her hair tie and tumbled around her face.

"Yes, Your Highness! I understand completely and will not fail you!"

Without another word, he turned to regard the culprit of all this mischief. Rin was humming a nonsensical tune and popping at the soap bubbles left behind by her dash around the room.

"Rin."

She paused in her ministrations to look up expectantly.

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama?"

"What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Is it time for our history lesson already?" She asked innocently.

Sesshoumaru resisted the urge to smile. Smiling would completely ruin his reputation of being heartless but there was something about Rin that made the corners of his mouth twitch.

"No."

Rin chewed on her lip and appeared to be in deep thought.

"I found Jaken?" She ventured.

"No."

"I found my shoes?"

"No."

"I don't know." She admitted.

"What you were supposed to say was that you were sorry for causing a mess."

"Why?"

Rin looked completely baffled.

"Because young ladies do not wander around naked."

"Why not? It's fun!"

Rin jumped up and spun around in a circle. Only Sesshoumaru's lightning fast reflexes saved his kimono from being splattered with soap bubbles. Tatsumi watched Rin silently with resignation.

Sesshoumaru picked up the spinning Rin with both hands and dumped her back into the bath behind the screen.

"OOH! IT'S COLD!" Rin yelped.

"It wouldn't have been if you did not make such a big fuss over taking a bath. No more fooling around and behave for your nurse." He said sternly.

Rin sighed and slouched down in the tub.

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama."

"And if you misbehave, I will hear about it." He warned. "Understood?"

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama. I will behave."

Sesshoumaru nodded towards Tatsumi who approached her now sedate charge.

"Send her to me after dinner."

"Yes, Your Highness."

Tatsumi curtseyed and proceeded to wash Rin who had began to sang another well-known rhyme. Satisfied that Tatsumi had her charge under control, Sesshoumaru continued onto his own suites to change.

...

"That dratted man." Kagome muttered as she stood in front of her wardrobe with her arms crossed. "He launched a dinner invitation to me last minute and he didn't even tell me how formal to dress!" She complained to Lisette who watched her with amusement.

"If you are dining with His Highness, then you should probably wear something more formal for the occasion."

Kagome grimaced at her elaborately embroidered "formal evening wear". Everyday Eastern wear was comfortable and practical but when there was an occasion to dress up, they went full out. Kagome had even packed several elaborate headdresses. These headdresses were made of black horsehair and weighed a ton. Decorated exquisitely with precious gems and metals, they were flashy and extremely eye-catching, Kagome had always thought that those headdresses could have qualified as a deadly weapon if thrown at someone.

"I think I will pass on the formal wear." Kagome admitted. "I don't feel like enduring an aching neck for a dinner possibly set for two."

"Beauty knows no pain, my lady."

"Agreed."

Kagome remembered the shoes with a shiver. On top of the heavy headdress and the layers of robes, women were required to wear platform shoes than balanced on rectangular part in the center. They were designed for the wearer to rock back and forth on that small rectangular piece. Needless to say, good intentions lead straight to Hell. Kagome didn't see the gracefulness or appeal of those shoes except for the added height. One could barely walk in them never mind running. She spent a good portion of her teenage years mastering how to not fall flat on her face. Kagome still remembered those painful lessons of learning how to walk in those platform shoes with a stack of books on the top of her head. She was amazed that the top of her head was not permanently flattened after those exercises. She would love to see Sesshypoo go through the torture that was her teenage years. The ridiculous image of Sesshoumaru wearing platform shoes with a huge stack of books balanced at the top of her head had her snickering. Lisette looked at her in askance.

"Have you ever tried on Eastern platform shoes?" Kagome asked Lisette between her laughter.

"No but I've seen my previous mistress struggling to wear them."

"Would you like to try?"

Lisette shook her head vehemently.

"Not all all, my lady! I'm not going to put those devices of torture on my feet! I am quite happy to stay solidly on the ground."

Kagome grinned.

"Well...when I was younger, I had to learn to walk in those shoes with a stack of books on my head. I was just envisioning Lord Sesshoumaru doing the same."

Lisette snorted and clamped her hand over her mouth to suppress her laugher.

"Excuse me! That's terribly wicked of you, my lady!"

Kagome smiled evilly.

"Knowing His Highness, he would probably be a lot prettier and more graceful than myself in Eastern silks."

Lisette lost the battle against Kagome's humour and laughed out loud. Kagome grinned broadly at the side of Lisette holding her stomach and bracing herself against the wall.

"Mercy! Mercy!" Pleaded Lisette. "This is awfully improper."

Feeling extremely wicked, Kagome continued. "Add on the headdress and the cosmetics and he will need to beat off his admirers with a big stick."

Lisette collapsed to the floor with unstoppable laughter. Tears of mirth rolled down Lisette's cheeks.

"He has a sword, my lady!" She gasped between her laughter. "He has a sword!"

"That would suffice." Kagome said with a huge smile on her face. "Oooh. I feel much better about this dinner now. I'll just imagine him wearing women's wear the whole time."

"Will you be able to last through dinner, my lady?" Lisette asked seriously.

"Probably not but I will have a good time and drive him insane from wondering what I would be laughing about."

Kagome took a seat on the bed and swung her legs back and forth. Lisettte watched Kagome from the floor.

"So Lisette. What do you think I should wear?"

Lisette picked herself off the floor and assumed a business like stance with her arms crossed across her chest.

"Well..I think you should wear..."

...

Sesshoumaru rubbed a hand over his face. Keeping Rin's attention for more than five minutes was harder than he would have accounted for. Every time he started relating a new history lesson to her, she would listen raptly. A few minutes in, she would start fidgeting and by the end of five minutes, she would be bouncing up and down in her chair or opening and closing the leather bound books.

Sesshoumaru gritted his teeth and forced himself not to sneeze as Rin slammed the covers of a particularly dust tome together.

"Rin." He said for the thousandth time today. "Pay attention."

Rin sighed.

"I'm sorry, Sesshoumaru-sama, but it's so hard."

"What is so hard?"

"History." Rin blew up at her bangs. "Is just so boring! I rather go outside to play in the sunshine."

She looked longingly out the library window.

"Playing will not further your knowledge." Sesshoumaru said sternly. "You may not play until you learn your lessons."

Rin looked subdued.

"Alright."

Sesshoumaru continued to read the passage that he had left off. Less than a few seconds in, he began to hear the tapping of a pen. He ignored the noise and continued reading. Moments later, her foot joined the rhythmic tapping. Irritated but refusing to give in, he read on with dogged determination. When her head started bobbling in time to the silent tune that only she could hear, Sesshoumaru could take it no more. He slammed the book shut. Rin jumped a foot into the air.

"Focus, Rin." He commanded. "You will sit there quietly and learn your history even if I have to tie down your arms and legs to that chair. Understood?"

Rin sat straight up in her chair.

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama." She said meekly.

And so they spent the next hour with Sesshoumaru reading from the textbook and Rin sitting there staring at him with unwavering intensity. At the end of the passage, Sesshoumaru closed the book gently and looked at Rin. He frowned when she continued to stare at him without blinking.

"Rin?"

There was no reaction from her at all. He reached out and shook her gently on the shoulder. Rin gasped and snapped to attention.

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama? I wasn't sleeping!" Rin cried out guilty.

Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow at her. Rin hung her head and stared down at her lap. She slipped off her chair and knelt on the floor in front of him.

"Sorry, Sesshoumaru-sama. I have been unforgivably disrespectful."

Sesshoumaru stared at her bowed head impassively and picked up her up by the waist. Rin made a soft gasp of surprise as he put her down gently back onto her chair.

"You have been disrespectful, Rin." He said quietly. "You've been extremely distracted of the late. What is the matter?"

Rin stared at her legs swinging back and forth between the legs of the chairs .

"Well...I have a lot on my mind." She admitted.

Sesshoumaru resisted the urge to smile. What would an eight year old have on her mind?

"Well..it's just that I haven't seen Kohaku for a while and I'm worried about him." She blurted out.

Now, Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow. Rin blushed. Kohaku was Lady Sango's younger brother. He was a quiet child that had just began his training among Sesshoumaru's troops.

"Why?"

"I just am." She said defiantly with red staining her cheeks.

"If I send Lady Sango a note regarding your visit, do you promise to pay more attention to your studies?"

"YES! THANK YOU SESSHOUMARU-SAMA!"

Rin flew forward and give him a hug. Before Sesshoumaru could even return the hug, Rin stiffened and pulled away. Rin pulled her kimono into its proper place and curtseyed.

"My much gratitude, Sesshoumaru-sama." Rin said politely.

Sesshoumaru nodded and rang a bell.

"You will resume your studies with Jaken tomorrow morning. Now go to your rooms to prepare for dinner."

Tatsumi appeared in the doorway. Rin's nurse was changed into a clean uniform and her hair was back in it's usual severe bun. Tatsumi curtseyed.

"Escort Rin to her room. Give her dinner and prepare her for bed afterwards. I will have an engagement tonight."

Sesshoumaru saw a brief flash of disappointment cross Rin's face before she curtseyed. Tatsumi took her hand and the pair left the room together. Sesshoumaru got up and poured himself a cup of brandy from his cupboard. He couldn't believe that Rin was already having her first infatuation. Her whole demeanor changed the minute that she mentioned Kohaku. Suddenly, she started pulling curtseys here there and everywhere. Only eight years old and she was already leaving her childhood behind. A few more years and he'd be beating suitors off with his sword. Sesshoumaru groaned and tossed his brandy back.

...

Kagome had no idea what to expect for dinner but she was definitely not amused to be standing in front of the closed doors of the dining hall. She had arrived in front of the dining hall precisely at 7 in the evening as he had specified. Looking at the elaborate water clock in the hall, more than 15 minutes have already passed. Many lords and ladies have passed by and looked at her curiously. She has given them a polite nod in return but did not call out a greeting for she had not been properly introduced to the Court yet.

Kagome caught herself about to tap her foot again. It would not do it appear anything less than serene. She glanced at the water clock for the thousandth time. Where was he? If Sesshypoo was trying to make her uncomfortable, he will have to try harder. He will be getting an earful from her about his tardiness. One should never keep a lady waiting.

"Umm...excuse me, my lady?"

Kagome whirled around to locate the speaker. She didn't see anyone until she looked down.

"Yes?"

The short man blushed and fidgeted.

"Lord Sesshoumaru requests your presence on the veranda."

He cringed under Kagome's suddenly frosty look.

"The veranda." She clipped out.

"Yes." Stammered the messenger. "If you would please follow me, my lady."

Kagome mentally counted to ten and reminded herself not to shoot the messenger. She took a deep breath and forced her fury to a low simmer. She would need it when he saw him.

"Lead on." She said smoothly.

The messenger bowed nervously and scurried ahead of her. The short man led her through several long corridors that she recognized from her earlier attempts to return to her rooms after her foray in the royal gardens. Then they turned to the deeper part of the castle that she had yet to explore - the Royal wing. Kagome was aware that the messenger kept sneaking glances at her every so often. She pointedly ignored his glances and continued her cursory inventory of the castle without turning her head. She had noticed from her short adventure in the garden that the architecture of the palace changed gradually as they proceeded deeper into the Royal wing. On the way, they passed through many guards standing on attention in the corridors. Kagome mentally marked the positions of the guards out of habit.

The deeper in the Royal wing they walked, the more obvious the changes. Cold stone turned into the rich tones of wood. Thick carpet turned into soft woven rugs upon the wooden floors. Instead of stone walls, they became surrounded with wood and paper paneling. They stopped in front of a sturdy wooden doorway and the messenger knocked firmly on the wood. The panel slid open and they stepped through into a set of rooms. Another servant bowed as Kagome passed by. She nodded in return. Kagome found it curious that all the furniture had been covered. The room gave off a feeling that it had no been used for a while. Kagome was hurried through the room before she could draw a conclusion. The panels were open to reveal a veranda looking out into the garden. It was peaceful and quiet. Kagome could hear the crickets chirping in the garden. It was like taking a walk back in time.

"You have finally arrived." A familiar dry voice hailed her.

Kagome snapped out of her reverie.

"Your Highness." She bit out and drew a mocking curtsey. She did not go sink down even close to as low as she should have. "You forgot to specify the location of tonight's engagement." Kagome said with a challenge in her eyes.

Impassive golden orbs stared back into her own. Kagome heard a feminine gasp off to the side but didn't want to look away. To be the first to break eye contact would be to concede defeat.

"Oh?" An imperial snowy eyebrow shot up. "I sent a messenger to you to confirm the location of our dinner tonight."

"Obviously I was already gone." She said smoothly. "I didn't want to be late to our engagement. An engagement is a promise."

"Indeed. Even if the details were not confirmed yet?" The insolent man chuckled. "You merely assumed that our dinner would take place in the dining hall."

Inwardly seething, Kagome realized that he was right. She had assumed that it would be in the dining hall. Yet, he was in the err for not notifying her of the location earlier on.

"Never mind." She said airily. "I am here."

He considered her for a moment and turned. Still seeing red, Kagome glided onto the veranda. There was a table set up and already two guests sitting there.

"As you already know, this is Miroku and this is Lady Sango Torashi, his fiancee." Sesshoumaru said with a bit of finality.

Kagome smirked. The bastard wanted to trip her up by inviting her to a dinner with her competition. The possibility that he didn't know that Sango had already introduced herself to Kagome was delicious.

"The introductions are not needed, Your Highness." She said dismissively. "Sango and I have already made our acquaintance."

She gave himself a beatific smile with a bit of gloating that she could not seem to hold back. Kagome saw the briefest flash of irritation flicker across his face. Kagome give Sango a genuine smile and seated herself across from Miroku. She nodded genially to Miroku and frowned at the table setting.

"Are we expecting another?" She asked.

Miroku opened his mouth to answer but Lord Sesshoumaru cut him off.

"I invited another but as usual, I have not gotten a reply. I can say with confidence that he will not be attending tonight's dinner."

"Then you can shove your unwanted confidence back up your ass." Said a masculine voice rudely from the open door.

Kagome turned almost eagerly to see who would take to Mr. High-and-mighty-with-a-stick-up-his-ass in such a manner. She barely managed to keep her shock off her face when she realized that it was another white haired, golden eyed figure. Slightly shorter than Lord Sesshoumaru's lean frame, the newcomer was more muscular. With a scowl on his face and almost unruly hair, he looked less than completely civilized. The similarities and differences were striking with the both of them standing next to each other. The family resemblance could not be ignored. This could be no one other than Lord Sesshoumaru's half-brother, Lord Inuyasha.

"I see you have decided to grace us with your presence." Sesshoumaru said dryly with a cursory glance at his brother.

"Keh. I didn't come for you."

Lord Inuyasha looked around until his eyes lighted upon her. He crossed the distance between them and bowed gallantly.

"My name is Lord Inuyasha. I apologize for my tardiness."

Kagome smiled.

"Please to make your acquaintance, Your HIghness." She said politely. "I was late myself...due to certain difficulties." She said with a glance at Sesshoumaru.

From the tight line of his lip, Sesshoumaru understood exactly that Kagome was referring to him as a difficulty. He did not seem amused. That was exactly the way that she liked it. Blatantly following her line of sight, Lord Inuyasha smirked broadly.

"Anyone who would stand up to my prick of a brother like that is a friend of mine." He announced to the world at large and ignoring his unhappy older half-brother. "Call me, Inuyasha."

The corner of Kagome's lip crinkled up.

"Only if you call me, Xia, in return." She offered.

"Xia." Inuyasha tested her name on his tongue. "Beautiful just like the lady herself."

He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. Feeling slightly disgusted with herself, Kagome dutifully simpered under his attention. This wasn't the first time that someone tried to seduce her like this. Inuyasha would have to try much harder to really turn her head.

"Well...now may we continue with dinner?" Sesshoumaru interjected sarcastically.

Kagome glared at him through his mask. The seemingly more civilized brother was the one without manners.

"Of course." Kagome said smoothly.

"Then we will begin."

ATTENTION:

HELLO EVERYONE.

I APOLOGIZE FOR THE LACK OF UPDATE FOR "ASSASSIN'S MOON" THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO COME OUT ON WEDNESDAY. I AM CURRENTLY STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF A COURSE CRISIS WITH MY PROFESSORS. I'M SO STRESSED RIGHT NOW THAT I AM UNABLE TO WRITE. I WILL BE PUTTING BOTH STORIES ON A TEMPORARY HIATUS. I APOLOGIZE ONCE AGAIN FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE THIS MAY HAVE CAUSED AND I SINCERELY HOPE TO BE ABLE TO POST UP THE VERY MUCH ANTICIPATED CHAPTERS FOR "THE ASSASSIN'S MOON" AND "THE FLOURISHING OF THE SAKURA UNDER THE ENGLISH SUN" AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

THANK YOU EVERYONE AGAIN FOR READING AND REVIEWING