Chapter Ten: Merciless

"When you actually meet the devil and he offers you a deal most artists eventually negotiate."

-Marc Maron

"You were a disgrace today."

Kagome felt her hands balling into fists and the fear she'd felt for Sesshomaru her temper managed to put aside for her. "Look, I haven't done anything with swords before. Did you expect me to pick it up and be an instant success? Of course I wasn't good, at least I was trying. It's not like you helped."

"When you called on me, you were instantly defeated. Senbonzakura is not stronger than I am, but you are much weaker than his wielder." The deep voice was still insulted, it was an obvious bother to him that she wasn't instantly better.

"Duh!" She turned around toward him, putting her hands on her hips, but he wasn't even looking at her. The beautiful demon lord was looking up at the clear blue sky, apparently the gathering clouds were more interesting than she was. "He's been a warrior longer than I've been alive. I cannot possibly defeat him in a day. I will someday, but I can't right now."

"Will you? You are infinitely worse in every possible area. He is faster, smarter, stronger, and all in all more powerful than you." Sesshomaru replied, and she was about to snap at him but he leveled a glare on her with those golden eyes that made the words die in her throat before she could get them out. Then he was stalking toward her and she found the bravado her temper inspired was retreating swiftly. "What would you do miko? Why did you dare to call upon me? What part of that busted mind of yours thought you could possible control my power?"

"What?" Kagome frowned as she looked back at that hateful stare. He resented her, for some reason he thought she'd picked him for this? "What the hell are you talking about Sesshomaru? I didn't call on you…hell if I got to choose a demon to be my blade you would have been the last person I picked. You tried to kill me the first time we met remember?"

"You are even weaker now than you were then." His cool reply didn't help her ego, he was already dragging her through the mud, now he just wanted to add insult to injury. Still, he'd just told her that he was the Sesshomaru that she remembered…and that made both her eyes widen in shock as opposed to narrow in anger.

"You are him…it's not just my imagination. What happened? What happened to Inuyasha and the rest? To Rin, to you, how did you become my blade?" She had so many questions; she couldn't possibly express them all.

"Do not assume we are friends Kagome Higurashi." Her moment of hope dropped away as he settled a hand on the sword he still wore at his hip. She barely skittered to the side as he drew it and slashed down next to her. "You cannot begin to understand the things that have passed since you knew me centuries ago. Our camaraderie ended with the death of Naraku, you are nothing more than ailing child who should be put out of her misery."

She'd barely managed to draw her own blade, and the odd thought that she was defending against Sesshomaru with himself didn't make it past that as she blocked his strike but was knocked like a rag doll across the forest floor, her stop coming with a painful slam into a tree truck that splintered around her. It was much more painful than dealing with Byakuya, who had at least pulled his punches. Still, the demon lord seemed intent on his words, his blade driving at her again. She managed to block, though only partly, the sword only cut an inch into her shoulder as opposed to slicing her into multiple pieces.

A flash of light around her had happened as she blocked, and she realized Sesshomaru's hands were burned, the demon lord letting go of his own blade as he hissed gently at the pain of most of his flesh being black up to his elbows. She was pinned though, the sword was deep enough that she couldn't move without causing herself more damage, and she was gaping wide eyed at the glaring demon lord, his eyes had bled into red and the gold iris' were now a black oblivion that promised death. Though he still stood back she winced as she watched his smoking hands.

"Sesshomaru stop this, I can heal you. Don't just try to kill me…I thought we had to work together? Aren't we a part of each other now? Tell me what happened, why you are here, why you are this way and not a person as I remember…" Kagome knew she had to try to reason before he decided to attack her again.

He gave a moment of pause, as he stared at her she could watch the red and black leaking away from his gaze. He frowned slightly and despite the fact it made her scream he pulled his sword back out of the tree, deepening her wound and making her hold her shoulder as it bled around her hand. "You actually don't remember. You didn't bring me here realizing it…so why then am I here now?"

"You know you are a zanpaktou?" She asked, now that he wasn't out to kill her she was still leaning on the tree and had a hand over her shoulder with a small light around her. Healing magic was something she'd taken too very easily. The rest of the types of magic Byakuya wouldn't work with her on yet, but healing magic was a natural extension of her abilities when she was alive.

"Do you know what a zanpaktou is?" He leaned down closer and she shivered and he held his claws near her shoulder, half expecting him to stab her but realizing he was healing them from the energy she was expending by the nearness after a tense few moments.

"The blade of a soul reaper," Kagome replied.

"It's a pity you couldn't defeat your enemies by stating the obvious, they'd lose every time." His cold words made her frown at him again, but he continued before she could say anything. "A zanpaktou is bound to a soul reaper from a demon's soul in our after life. Many consider it a chance to repent being bound into service; I consider it an incredible insult. Many that are bound can't recall who they were, only the strongest, I am well aware of who I am however priestess."

Kagome was quiet, it was a lot of information to take in, Zanpaktou's were like reborn demons? Her world just kept getting stranger and stranger over time. Though from her shocked expression Sesshomaru knew he was correct in thinking she hadn't realized what she'd done. He could sense parts of her heart and mind but he was doing his best to block that out. He'd rather kill her so he could return to his realm…but it would be beneath him to slay her for an insult she couldn't control and didn't mean to lay on him.

"We will train…when you rest your body, I will train your spirit." He said, drawing his hands back as her spell finished healing them, looking at them only a moment before glancing back up to her surprised expression and smiling darkly. "Do not assume I will go easy on you, whatever happened to bind me to you, I am not your servant, I simply cannot continue to suffer the insult of your inability. If I must resolve that by getting involved myself then I shall."

Kagome nodded slowly, accepting the clawed hand that reached down for her in a silent offer of help to her feet. "I…how did you end up as my blade…don't you think Inuyasha would be more…"

Sesshomaru sniffed distastefully at his half-brother's name. "Half-breed's go to the human after life, he could not have become your blade. When I manifested, you were in incredible danger. I would assume you subconsciously called the strongest thing you could imagine."

Kagome nodded lightly, as narcissistic as the statement was, she could hardly refute it, she'd never witnessed anyone else close to Sesshomaru's strength except perhaps Byakuya. If he was going to work with her as opposed to against her now, she wouldn't argue that change at all. She retook her feet, but was still brimming with questions, not sure if she should ask.

"We'll train first, and if you do well, I'll answer questions." He said, as if reading her mind, making her black brows vanish into her bangs. "I can read you easily Kagome Higurashi, draw your blade. You must cease to dishonor me before I'll give you an inch."

Kagome wanted to groan but she knew that was even less likely to help with Sesshomaru than it was Byakuya. Would she not even get solace in her dreams? Seemed she wasn't going to get to rest until she knew how to handle herself. That worried her to be certain, but her apprehensions were forgotten as she was cracked harshly in the shoulder by her new trainer, Sesshomaru wouldn't offer her the polite pauses Byakuya had…he would let her feel every mistake.

They were at it for a while, he snapped cold words of correction at her every mistake no matter how small and after a while when she was tiring he buried his blade in her shoulder again when she had paused a moment to breath.

"Your enemies will not allow you the time to catch your breath, you must learn to always keep moving, to keep suffering through, no matter what your body feels like. If you think you will break, continue to move, for they will only help you break faster if you pause." Sesshomaru stated coldly, his golden eyes so unforgiving as he eyed her she could hardly believe he wasn't an enemy. Her body though couldn't move, she tried to back away but the pain in her shoulder was too great, she felt dizzy from all the training. The scene in front of her started to fade to black, even though she could still hear Sesshomaru's growl echoing in her ears she couldn't react to it.

***** In the waking world *****

Byakuya sighed as he settled back into his bath, Senbonzakura had reported to him that Kagome's blade was quite strong, yet after hours of training she'd barely improved which wasn't boding well. If her swords personality was too strong she was at risk of becoming victim to it. It didn't happen often, but occasionally when people were graced with particularly strong zanpaktou they would die and the causes were often mysterious. If she didn't learn to wield this Sesshomaru quickly he was concerned that she may not have the chance to continue to learn at all.

The dark tile of the fine room reflected his troubled expression back at him but with the lack of witnesses he didn't bother to school it back to normal. He'd already let the girl die once, and nearly die again, he didn't at all want to be responsible if he couldn't prepare her for the various trials she would face. He hadn't ever been much of a teacher, his grandfather had told him he was too impatient, but he didn't know what else to do if she wouldn't follow his instructions.

He didn't have another way to train her but physical combat. He knew Renji would be closer to her level, but he had to deal with the needs of the Squadron while Byakuya was away. Rukia should be on her way soon, and she would be closer still than even Renji was to Byakuya's level of power. He would have to ask her to help at this rate, and he didn't like having to put his responsibility on others.

He didn't linger for too long in the bath, he wasn't as sore as he suspected she would be and they had to share the bath. He wasn't aware she'd already taken a short one and passed out. Though as he was pulling on his robes that he wore to bed he heard her whimper loudly after hissing as if she was in pain and curiosity got the better of him. He opened her door and then blinked as he saw her twitching lightly in her sleep, his own eyes widening as he watched blood stain through the shoulder of her uniform.

"Kagome, wake up!" He was next to her in a moment, hands on her shoulder shaking her. "Wake up now!"

End Chapter

Whew, poor Kagome. She has a couple pretty harsh teachers. Yes Sesshomaru is a dick, but well, he has good reason getting shoved into servitude against his will and all that. Happy Holidays to all my readers!

-Aura

To my reviewers:

Neo-Crystal – Thank you. I always like to hear that people enjoy my writing. It is great to get that sort of feedback. Mostly I write for me, but I love having fans as well. Certainly helps give me the inspiration to write more faster!

Tohru78 – Yeah, Sesshomaru is much harsher than Byakuya. He's like 'feel the pain and you'll get faster to stop it ; D'

CrescentMelody – Yes he is mean. He's suppose to be mean. He has good reason. At least he decided to train her as opposed to kill her (though that would have ended the fiction pretty early).

Valleygoat – A little of all of the above!

AnimeFreakAmanda – Thanks, I am very happy with my addition of Sesshomaru to the plot.

Evil RULZ – Yeah Sesshy also training her was a plan. Albeit he's a lot less forgiving.

Sugar0o – Yes I torment and love Kagome at the same time. Maybe it's cause she gets Sesshomaru and Byakuya and I'm jealous, probably not that though. I think her burning most of Sesshy's skin to the elbows was fun though. He was like 'hn'.

Sin of the Fallen – Yeah he got a tad screwed there.

MoonPrincess1989 – I think I got this one up quick!