Chapter 3

Winter and Fall

The sound of their horses crushing the snow beneath them was annoying enough that for several moments Lady Kagome began to hate the fact that she'd been raised in winter country. It was the silence that made this trip so unbearable. Sesshoumaru, despite what she'd experienced from their time together, was not one for small talk as he remained a good pace ahead of them easily finding detours away from the ice and hidden snow banks. She wondered if demons despised using average animals for transportation when they could easily move through several countries without much effort, but then again clearly Sesshoumaru was the son of a king meaning he probably had the tallest and strongest horse in all the Five Kingdoms.

They've only been traveling for a few hours, but it wouldn't be long before the scenery of snow and irce would be replaced with dead leaves and the loneliness of Southern Osmouth, that seemed to always be locked in a forever autumn. She'd always preferred the harsh cold of winter compared to the deceiving chill of fall. She wore a thick grey jacket made of wolf fur always being prepared for whatever elements this land would bring her.

Rather than looking at Sesshoumaru's back she peered over to Vincent, whose green eyes looked like acid. It was hard to tell what his focus was on since his gaze darted everywhere almost as though he'd never seen a tree or squirrel before.

Where did this man come from, and how loyal was he to the crown? If it wasn't for him she may have already addressed Sesshoumaru about their situation.

"Vincent was it?" her voice sounded awkward as it broke the silence.

His answer was a grunt.

"Where are you from?" she wasn't discouraged, "I'd never seen you around Tallenvale before, so how is it my father knows you?"

Vincent seemed annoyed She was on a trip to become the future wife of a Prince, didn't she have more things to worry about than where he was from?

"It's none of your concern," he responded coldly.

If it hadn't been for the month she spent at the INN she wouldn't have been prepared for such a response since she'd grown up always being addressed as Lady Kagome. Still odd to not receive any respect from someone hired to protect her.

"It is her concern," the last person Kagome expected to speak did as Sesshoumaru glared at them, "it is my understanding you are to protect her and be residing in the castle. Present all your credentials to her."

Sesshoumaru was never crowned a Prince, but clearly he was still concerned with the safety of his father's home.

If Vincent had been a demon he'd probably growl at being told what to do, but as Kagome already knew Sesshoumaru had a tone that dared anyone to just try and defy him.

"I am nothing more than a mercenary from the mountains," Vincent spoke defeated.

"Hmm," Sesshoumaru looked forward, "so your loyalty can be bought? Do you understand how that can be a problem when protecting the possible future Queen of your country? How much does it cost for you to turn from being her guard to being her assassin?"

Sesshoumaru was sizing him up, being the son of a King he was use to people squirming in fear once he started questioning their purpose, but Vincent would not back down.

"I have honor and will fulfill the service I've been paid for," he stated green eyes blazing at the dog, "even if the King orders her dead I shall protect her."

Kagome was uncomfortable with having a personal guard, especially one so terrifying, but the way he spoke had her convinced. If he could withstand Sesshoumaru's company he could take an attack from the royal army.

"We shall see," was all Sesshoumaru said as his stallion snorted.

"Sesshoumaru," Kagome had a feeling if the silence overtook them it'd be difficult to break it again, "how long will the journey take?"

"We'll ride all day," he told her his voice a bit harsher than it had been when he spoke to Vincent, "We will be in the capital of Osmouth by nightfall and stay with the Duke and Duchess until we can ride again. We'll be at the castle before sundown tomorrow."

In order to make that time table they'd have to ride continuously at the same pace as Sesshoumaru. Today would be quite uncomfortable.

"If you have to take a break you won't," was all he said as though he could read her mind.

Even though they had many pleasant moments in bed Kagome understood Sesshoumaru would not be the nicest escort. To her he was like the winter. She could look out the window and see a bit of grass and the sun high up in the sky, but it was still wise to keep her shield up, because she refused to be surprised when he threw a blizzard her way.

"How is the Prince?" Kagome didn't really care but she was dying for conversation and clearly it wouldn't come from Vincent.

Sesshoumaru didn't answer seeing no need for a question that had nothing to do with the journey.

She sighed as her chocolate eyes drifted back to the snow. Today it wouldn't calm her, nothing would. They couldn't find a Tavern to stay at? The Duchess was quite cold to her when she was in the company of her father or Inuyasha, how would she be treated when she was alone on her way to wed the Prince? Hopefully Vincent's words were true, because if she was out of the picture only good fortune could await Kikyo.

If it wasn't for Kikyo being married her and Inuyasha would've eloped by now. Sure there was a contract betrothing Inuyasha to her, but he would be King one day, so what did a mere contract made by humans mean to him? If those two could elope Inutashio would probably feel bad and compensate her family with gold. That'd be a much better outcome, if only the Duke of Osmouth no longer existed.

"You'll never be Queen you know," Vincent surprised her by taking her out of her thoughts, "you're just a human. The Prince could go through 30 brides before obtaining the throne."

"May King Inutashio's resign be long," Kagome spoke to make up for Vincent's words, "and I'm fine with that. All girls born from nobility grow up wishing to one day be Queen, but not me. The happiest I was was when I was an average plain girl working at an INN."

She wondered if her words reached Sesshoumaru and if he cared.

"Insolent girl," Vincent replied, "who are you to take such a position from someone who'd kill for the spot?"

"If they wish to kill may they be smart with their blade and target me. I didn't ask for any of this. Not that any of it seems real when my own guard calls me names and I have such a cruel escort."

"You could always runaway again. I doubt anyone would try and stop you."

"There is a contract it'd be my father's head for breaking it. The Higurashi family motto is 'To Defy Hell', but that doesn't mean I desire to test the flames of my father's fury again."

Hell is what Vincent would put her through. Though he was pretending to be a mere human mercenary his words were true. He'd protect Kagome no matter the cost because she'd be the one to hatch all the sacred eggs and restart his family's reign. Had her escort been a weak human he would have revealed himself to Kagome by this point. Much to his displeasure they were in the company of a taiyoukai, who dared to question him. Sesshoumaru's head would be the next he'd claim once he finished with Inutashio and the Prince.

Good thing Kagome didn't want the title of Queen, because not only would she never receive it, but she'd be a disgrace. He didn't know about dogs and humans, but in his family there had been many Queens. All of them had been fierce in battle and were the best of mothers protecting their eggs with strengths that would rival an army just to train their offspring to be twice as powerful.

Too bad his future children would be half-breeds, but like their mother they would serve their purpose and help return the dragons to the throne.

When the silence returned Kagome missed being insulted by her guard. Several hours later she could tell they were making progress because the crunch of the snow had become a nasty slush sound. There was no more ice and the existence of wildlife was apparent.

Kagome looked up from the brown stained watery snow when Sesshoumaru's stallion finally halted. Something was wrong.

"Mercenary," he spoke to Vincent turning his stallion around, "I need you to leave us for a moment. I'm sure as a human you have to seek relief."

Vincent glared, "I have orders to not leave her side."

Sesshoumaru looked at him for a moment longer before dismounting his stallion, "Orders from me are orders from the King, so you will obey. My orders are to escort Lady Higurashi to the castle safely. No harm will befall her."

Part of Vincent really wanted to reveal himself and tear the dog demon up limb from limb, but he was too close to his goal to allow any room for error. He gave a nod before dismounting and heading into the woods. He needed to find something to kill.

The moment he left, however, Kagome did feel worse off than before. Sesshoumaru was staring at her like a piece of meat with only her old horse between them.

"Dismount," he ordered her.

"I thought we weren't supposed to stop," she knew better than to question him, but she was a bit nervous.

"Dismount," he repeated again with a bit more malice in his voice.

She nodded as she slowly got off her horse giving her steed's nose a small pat as she did so in case that was her last ride. Even though she didn't want to be Inuyasha's bride she was still aware of all the risks that came with that position. Perhaps everyone recognized she wasn't from a good enough family to hold such a position and having Sesshoumaru execute her would be a great way out of the contract.

Kikyo would be happy about that.

"You really are a stupid girl," Sesshoumaru stared into her eyes, "wipe that dumb look off your face as I speak to you."

She frowned not knowing what to say as her eyes traveled to the ground, "I don't think I'm giving you a dumb look."

In a swift motion his clawed hand found its way to her throat as his other unsheathed his sword. Her fears had come to light as her back was forced against a tree and the sword was to her neck. In another place in another world she'd use her miko abilities to at least try and fight him to delay execution, but when it came to Sesshoumaru her body froze.

" When I found out who you wore I thought you were a smart enough girl to keep your mouth shut," he spoke not flinching for a moment as her body was at his mercy, "but clearly when it comes to that guard of yours I was wrong."

A few moments of quiet came and that meant it was her turn to speak.

"I said nothing."

Sesshoumaru growled, "Whether you like it or not you will marry the Prince of the Wednesburn Kingdoms and that comes with rules. It is a great honor to marry such a demon and bear him children, that is your life goal now and you'll do so while not acting as an embarrassment for my family."

Wishing he'd withdraw her blade she dared to look into his golden gaze, "You're right. It is a great honor for my family and like I've said before I won't disappoint my family. I'll marry your brother and do whatever I need to for him."

"You will. You have no choice in that matter. You will also never speak of that disgusting tavern you ran away to again. Your father never told anyone because we don't need everyone in the Five Kingdoms gossiping about how their Prince is marrying a runaway."

"What about me and you?"

She was taking way too many liberties with her tongue, but now was the time she had to speak her peace. If he didn't stab her now he probably wouldn't do so.

Much to her pleasure he finally sheathed his sword.

"You belong to the Prince," Sesshoumaru reminded her once again, "though I didn't know you were Kagome Higurashi when I met you it was all a grave respect. Your body is meant only for your future husband's and you couldn't keep your virtue."

She took a breath, "It doesn't take just one person to lose my virtue, and how many bodies has my future husband claimed."

Sesshoumaru's eyes were dangerous again.

"Are you claiming I've raped you Kagome? That is a dangerous claim to make, because not only is it a lie, but even if it was true you still have no virtue. What you've done is treason, and if anyone finds out you'll be lucky to be imprisoned or exiled. As for the relationship between my brother and the Duchess it is no concern to you. It is his job to one day rule the land, so he can take as many liberties as he wishes. Unlike you the Duchess knows her place."

Laws changed with every king and since it was costly to print all the revisions to the laws and present them to everyone people like Kagome just had to guess. She had no idea what she did was punishable… had she known that she either wouldn't have done it, or not allowed herself to be found after running away. It was treason for her to give her virtue to another, but clearly from what Sesshoumaru said about the Duchess it was still treason for any woman to refuse a Prince or a King. Though Kagome doubted the law had anything to do with Inuyasha and Kikyo's relationship that clause could be used against her if she decided to use Inuyasha's adultery as a defense ever.

"If you wish to keep your head," Sesshoumaru called to her as he got back on her horse, "you'll never think of that tavern again. You'll present yourself to my brother as a virgin and you'll thank your Gods everyday that you were chosen to be his wife. Do you understand?"

Kagome was silent as she also mounted her horse. Strange how last time Sesshoumaru was asking her to heed his words she was sharing a bed with him, and now he was asking her to pretend it all never happened.

"I understand," she whispered knowing she'd have to stop being the silly girl with the stupid look on her face and accept the title she'd been given and all that came with it, "but what happens if he finds out I'm not a virgin."

"It's up to you to be convincing. You've deceived me and I'll have no more part in your traitorous acts. Now call for your guard, though it'd give me joy to leave him behind. "

Kagome called Vincent's name as she stared at Sesshoumaru's back as the journey continued.

The only time in her life she'd ever been truly happy she would have to deny now. Not only was the tender man she'd shared her bed with revealed to be nothing more than a cold demon that thought nothing of her, but she'd have to trade all those memories in and accept her life being the wife of a half-breed that betrayed her.

If this was the pains of being an adult she'd give anything to be a silly girl again.

She shook her head once her guard returned and prepared for the next test before the gates of her personal Hell, and that would be staying the night in the home of a Duchess who despised her.