Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.
Moving her hands through the steaming waters of the hot spring, Kagome briefly ducked her head underwater to get her hair wet before surfacing, flipping her wet hair over her shoulder. "Have I ever told you that I love having my own personal onsen?"
Sesshoumaru dunked his head under water, whipping his hair in an arc and splashing at the giggling miko. "I think you'll find that this is my onsen," he purred.
Kagome winked at him, still holding out a hand to defend herself from his splashing. "I think you'll find that I just let you share it sometimes."
Sesshoumaru snorted, taking the shampoo from the shelf and lathering it through Kagome's hair. She purred, leaning her head back and smiling serenely. "How gracious of you," he said.
Kagome gave a throaty laugh. "It's good that you appreciate my generosity." She groaned a little as his claws continued to gently rub against her skull. "You're very good at this."
Sesshoumaru kissed her bare shoulder. "Rinse," he commanded.
Kagome dunked her head under the water again to get rid of the suds. When she emerged, she turned to Sesshoumaru happily. "Your turn."
Slowly, Sesshoumaru turned his back on the miko, smiling a little as her fingers instantly threaded their way through his hair. A low purr rumbled through him as her nimble fingers found the tips of his ears and rubbed them. It appeased him to have his mate so attentive to his care; this was something he'd dreamed of as a whelp. He'd always wanted someone to call his own.
Eventually, Kagome finished playing with his ears and stared to shampoo his hair. "I love your hair," she mumbled as she continued to lather. "Can I braid it for you later?"
Sesshoumaru nodded lazily, enjoying the feeling of her fingers scratching his scalp. "You might not last that long though," he pointed out.
"Huh? Why not?"
"My hair emits a scent which acts as a sedative," Sesshoumaru explained, belatedly realising he'd never actually told her that.
"Is that why I keep falling asleep when I play with it?"
"Well, no more insomnia for me, I guess." Kagome chuckled quietly, "Aren't you handy?"
Sesshoumaru ducked into the water, rinsing the soap from his hair and turned to his mate, a small predatory smile curling at one corner of his mouth. "Indeed," he purred.
"That's why I keep you around, you know."
And Sesshoumaru smothered her wicked giggle with a kiss.
Ryuukotsusei stared unseeingly at the missive, a small smile playing at his lips. Nami's penmanship was bold and caustic, just like the woman herself. In reply to his invitation she'd simply scrawled; 'We'll be there... and I'll be watching you.'
The door slid open and a giant of a man stepped into the room. Dressed in armour and fighting leathers, he looked severely out of place in the opulent room but he calmly folded his battle honed body into a respectable seiza and stared at Ryuukotsusei through one lilac eye, the other eye almost completely obscured by his shock of white hair. "You wanted to see me, Ryuukotsusei?"
The dragon winced as that slow rough voice grated against his nerves. There was still something offensive about hearing this low born warrior uttering his name without an honorific. "Raijin," he greeted condescendingly, "I trust your accommodations are up to standard."
Raijin frowned, the white scar through his left eyebrow thrown into vivid relief with the movement. "I am used to making my bed under the stars," he answered, well aware that Ryuukotsusei had been making a boast about his wealth, as dragons were known to do. "These walls are splendid, but I miss the night sky."
Ryuukotsusei could not stop his lip from curling at the slight but, before he could retort, the door slid open once more to reveal his cousin. Dressed in grey silk, her long jade hair in a braid over her shoulder and her light silver eyes blazing with anger, she set Ryuukotsusei in her sights and snarled, "What exactly are you doing with my mate, dear cousin?"
Ryuukotsusei smirked at the anger he could see radiating from Ryuuka. She'd always been a hothead and mating hadn't improved her temperament in the slightest.
"We were conversing, Ryuuka-chan, nothing more," Ryuukotsusei attempted to placate her.
"A likely story," Ryuuka muttered, taking Raijin's hand and attempting to pull him to his feet. It was a comical sight, watching Ryuuka tilt over backwards in an attempt to move her mountain of a mate. He slowly stood under his own steam and sketched a bow to Ryuukotsusei before leaving. Ryuuka followed after, pausing in the doorway to glare at her cousin. "And you better have invited Raijin's family or I will burn you," she snapped, a tendril of smoke escaping from one nostril.
Ryuukotsusei sat back and arched an eyebrow at her, and she slammed the door on him. It would hardly do to tell the stubborn chit what he thought of her mate. He sneered a little at the thought of his clan's good name being besmirched by the ridiculous match. Ryuuka could never do anything quietly; if she'd had to mate a nomad, surely she could have at least chosen a dragon? Their children were certain to be freaks and those freaks would eventually rule his lands. He shuddered at the thought.
He turned to stare longingly out of his window; his shiro perched upon the tallest mountain in the North, so he could literally rule from on high, as it were. Soon Nami would be in his lair, and once a maiden entered a dragon's lair there wasn't a hope of escape.
Unfortunately for Ryuukotsusei, he'd forgotten that Nami was no mere maiden.
Kagome sailed out of the dojo, breaking the shoji screens as she landed in the garden. Her momentum carried her clear across the grass for four whole rotations, before she stopped herself. Panting, she flipped her ponytail back and glowered up at Bankotsu, who stood with his arms crossed across his broad chest.
"Are you trying to kill me?" she screeched at the smug looking demon.
Bankotsu flicked his braid at her haughtily. "Sesshoumaru-sama is your mate and thus curbed his strength; I have no such restraints."
Kagome dropped her head onto the grass, still panting. Sparring with Bankotsu was utterly exhausting; he'd been steadily increasing the speed and strength behind his attacks all through their sparring session and the last hit had been too much for her to take.
"You didn't answer the question!" she exclaimed, pushing up onto her hands and knees and then sitting back on her heels.
Bankotsu smirked. "Should we call it a day?" he asked.
Kagome laughed. "Considering that I can't feel my legs, I think so."
Bankotsu frowned a little, starting forwards. "Do you need help?"
"Nah," Kagome waved him off in a shooing motion, "I'm just gonna sit and bask in the sunshine for a while. Go ahead and get cleaned up."
With a chuckle, Bankotsu strutted off and Kagome slumped onto her back in the grass, staring up at the cloudless blue sky. Idly, she wondered if there was ever bad weather in the makai; she bet if there was it would only ever happen elsewhere, Nami seemed to enjoy sunshine too much to tolerate anything less from the weather.
"You okay?" a gruff voice queried, cutting into her musing.
Pushing herself up onto her elbows, Kagome smiled as she noticed the guard, Inuyasha, standing at the corner of the shiro, his straw hat pulled down low over his face to shield him from the sun.
"Just a little tired," she said, "seems like it's one battle after another these days."
"Heard you're goin' to the Mating Ceremony in the North," he said.
"Yep," Kagome chuckled a little humourlessly, "hopefully I'll come back with my head still attached to my shoulders."
Inuyasha snorted a little. "Dragons are tricky," he agreed, "Remember not to show them your belly and you should be fine."
"Thanks for the advice," Kagome chuckled, patting the grass beside her. "Care to join me?"
Inuyasha shook his head, glancing off calculatingly, "Nah, I've got to get back to my patrol. See you around, Kagome-san."
Clambering to her feet, Kagome missed Inuyasha's exit and instead looked up to find Sesshoumaru looming over her.
"Can I help you?" she asked as he sniffed around her in a circle, a perplexed expression on his face.
"Something smells... familiar," he commented, "Was someone just here?"
"Um... there was a soldier," Kagome offered, watching bemusedly as Sesshoumaru continued to sniff. She'd never seen him act more like the dog she supposed he was.
"Hnn..." Sesshoumaru muttered, straightening and reassuming his usual placid expression. "I suppose that must be it." He glanced down at her. "How was your sparring session?"
"Interesting," Kagome answered glibly, "I think I know what a ragdoll feels like."
Sesshoumaru glanced in the direction of her gaze, eyebrows reaching his hairline as he glimpsed the Kagome-shaped hole in the shoji screen. "You are unharmed?" he asked, stroking his hand down her arm.
"Yeah," Kagome shrugged, "I think I hurt the screen more than it hurt me."
"Speaking of things that hurt," Sesshoumaru muttered, "mother wants to see us."
Kagura's back slammed into the wall and she futilely gripped at the beefy hand wrapped around her throat. She'd never liked Nami's chef and the feeling had always been mutual, but it seemed that her sudden powerlessness had made him bold.
Casually he lifted her by her throat and she frantically tried to regain her footing. Her fingers attempted to dig into his meaty paw as she tried to prise him off of her, but her human-like strength was no match for the boar yokai's uninhibited might.
"Not so high and mighty now, are you, Traitor-chan?" he breathed and Kagura attempted to turn her head away from his foul breath.
She kicked at him desperately, but her strength was nothing compared to him. She was really regretting leaving her room; next time she was hungry she'd just deal with it. If there was going to be a next time.
"Drop her," Bankotsu growled, entering the kitchen still wearing his training clothes from his sparring session with Kagome.
The chef glowered at Bankotsu. "I don't think I have to listen to a single thing you say, assassin."
"I am Nami-sama's right hand," Bankotsu said, proudly, "to oppose me is to oppose Nami-sama."
The chef snorted at Bankotsu's boast, his hand tightening around Kagura's throat. But he only disobeyed the assassin for a moment before he regretted it; moving too fast for Kagura's eyes to follow Bankotsu ripped the chef's arm from around Kagura's throat and threw him away. Kagura slumped to the floor, holding onto her throat and coughing desperately.
The chef crumpled onto the floor and Bankotsu loomed over him. "For disrespecting Nami-sama's wishes, your life is forfeit."
Using a rag to wipe his hands clean of blood, Bankotsu turned back to Kagura and knelt at her side, placing a consoling hand on her shoulder. She shook slightly under his hand and he frowned; it was bewildering to see the outspoken wind witch cowed like this.
Kagura smacked his hand away and turned away from him. "Don't," she muttered, her voice rough, "I don't want your help."
Bankotsu stood and sighed. "Well I guess you'll have to put up with it for now."
Kagura clenched her hands into fists and glowered up at him. "Why wouldn't you just let him kill me? You hate me just as much as he did."
Bankotsu rolled his eyes. "I don't hate you, Kagura," he said resignedly, "I don't understand why you didn't just tell someone about your sister, but I don't hate you."
Kagura laughed a little grimly. "Sometimes I hate myself for my weakness," she muttered.
Bankotsu sighed and ducked down, picking her up effortlessly. "Sometimes, you need to ask for help," he cajoled, striding over the chef's body and out of the kitchen.
Kagura thought about protesting the move, but reluctantly relaxed into Bankotsu's hold; she really wasn't sure that her shaky legs would let her get back to the room. "Thank you, Bankotsu-san," she whispered, staring determinedly forwards.
Recognising that it couldn't be easy for the obstinate woman to thank him, Bankotsu said nothing but he couldn't help the smile that crept over his face.
Kagome stared down at the four different tea cups that Nami had distributed on opposite corners of the table. The demoness had argued that visual aids were important and she tapped the manila coloured cup demonstratively with one finger.
"This is the Western Lands," Nami explained, "We are a large mostly wooded expanse of territory, inhabited mainly by canine Yokai such as Inu and Kitsune and Feline yokai such as Panthers."
At that, Sesshoumaru snarled very slightly and Kagome darted an amused glance at him. "Does the doggy not like the mean cats?" she teased.
Nami let out a chuckle. "Sesshoumaru has never much liked the panther tribes."
"Cats are...irritating," Sesshoumaru acknowledged.
"Are you sure that this isn't just a cat-dog thing?"
Sesshoumaru treated her to a mildly reproving glance which just wrung a giggle from the highly entertained miko.
"Anyway," Nami said, interrupting Kagome's chuckling, "You've already met our leaders and we don't have a particularly large ruling family considering that Inu are normally packs formed from family units." Nami tapped an egg shell blue cup. "This is the Southern Lands."
Kagome looked down at the tea cup and arched an eyebrow. "Sure looks like a cup to me."
"Don't be cheeky, daughter mine," Nami chastised, settling into lecturing mode, "The Southern lands are mostly boggy lands, inhabited by aquatic demons." She glanced at her son. "I believe that's where you met your Kappa servant, Jaken, correct?"
Sesshoumaru sighed heavily. "Regretfully."
Nami shook her head and continued. "The South is ruled at the moment by a Kelpie," she explained, "An Aquatic Demonic Horse," she explained in the face of Kagome's confusion, "I believe his name is... Bastion?"
Sesshoumaru inclined his head. "He is annoying."
"Which means he's actually a perfectly friendly person," Nami explained, "because we all know Sesshoumaru can't stand pleasant people."
With difficulty, Kagome swallowed down the laugh that attempted to bubble over and escape her lips.
Nami tapped a dark green cup. "This is the Northern Lands," she continued, "or the Dragon Lands, a mostly mountainous region inhabited by flying creatures such as dragons, moth demons and bird demons and a few others. The ruling family of the North has always been dragons and there are hundreds of them milling about because dragons scarcely take mates and instead breed with each other constantly."
"Like rabbits?" Kagome suggested sweetly.
"Quite," Nami agreed, inclining her head, "Now, dragons are notoriously territorial over their gold, so if you ever find I dragon's nest I advise slowly and quietly leaving without touching anything."
Sesshoumaru snorted at his mother's advice. "Dragons are a foolish breed."
"Isn't Ryuuka a dragon?" Kagome asked, "It must be unusual for her to mate someone."
"It is," Nami agreed, nodding sagely, "especially given her choice of mates. Dragons are notoriously snobby and they tend to mate only other dragons."
"And you aren't snobby?"Kagome asked, grinning.
"I may think highly of myself," Nami purred, "but I am not against the intermingling of breeds. My mother was a Doku Yokai and my father an Inu."
"That's where you get the poison claws?" Kagome asked, turning to Sesshoumaru.
Sesshoumaru inclined his head and cracked his knuckles.
"As I was saying, dragons tend to only breed with dragons; it's rare for them to take a mate outside of their breed. But Ryuuka's chosen mate is not just a lightning demon, he's also a nomad from the East." Nami clapped her hands together, "Such fun."
Nami tapped the violet tea cup. "The East has no one ruler. It is mostly a flat land filled with nomadic demons. It is the largest province in the makai, and is home to the largest number of our residents. There have been a few attempts, since the establishment of the Makai, by the South and the North, to encroach upon the eastern territories, but, though they are united by no one leader, they are a land filled with warriors. Small armies are no match for the Eastern might."
"Sounds like an interesting match; a warrior and a dragon." Kagome chuckled. "In stories, the warrior normally sets out to kill the dragon and save the princess."
"In this case the dragon and the princess are one and the same," Sesshoumaru said.
"I'm actually looking forwards to meeting them," Kagome confessed.
"When they were children, Ryuuka once set fire to Ryuukotsusei's robes," Nami reminisced fondly, "the poor boy was left stark naked and humiliated."
"He shouldn't have told her that she couldn't play with him because of her gender," Sesshoumaru remarked baldly.
Kagome hooted out a laugh. "I'm liking her more and more!" She frowned a little and said, "By the way, I've been meaning to ask, do all dragons have 'Ryuu' in their names? It seems a little silly."
"Blame it on unimaginative parents," Nami answered, "dragons are very traditional in naming their young."
"I think you mean boring," Kagome rolled her eyes and then glanced at Sesshoumaru speculatively. "Who named Sesshoumaru?" she asked sweetly.
Sesshoumaru huffed and rolled his eyes, earning himself an affectionate hand press from his mother. "You can blame that one on his father; he was the General of the West, you see, and required that his son have a name that would strike terror into the hearts of his enemies." Nami snorted a little, "But it was very strange to yell it at a determined toddler who streaked through my shiro refusing to put clothes on."
That particular mental image, accompanied by the flush that painted Sesshoumaru's cheekbones was too much for Kagome and she collapsed onto the table, shaking with uncontrollable giggles.
"Mother," Sesshoumaru snarled.
Nami snapped open her fan and wafted the human collapsed on her table. "Oh dear, did I break her?" she asked innocently.
He really didn't know why he still kept his mother's company; she never failed to completely humiliate him. Usually with gleeful abandon.
"Kagome," he growled, "mother has something else to give you."
"Oh!" Nami held up one finger, "that's right. I had a new junhitoe made for the occasion of the ceremony."
That cut off Kagome's laughter abruptly and she sat up wide eyed. "Wait, I have to wear another ridiculously heavy twelve layered kimono?"
Kagome shot a glare at her mate, who returned the look coolly. "If I am in hell, so are you, little miko."
"How romantic," Kagome snarled.
A/N: Even demons get embarrassed by their mothers, and with a mother like Nami, Sesshoumaru's had more than his fair share of embarrassment. I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Please take time to review and tell me what you think!