Beyond 16

The healer had requested of his Lady that he be allowed to take a week before discussing his findings on Inuyasha's health; results of tests and personal observations would take that long to come through and he didn't want to give a false diagnosis. Of course this was granted. It meant that Sesshoumaru would be delayed at least a further week from returning to the West; but as his mother informed him, he was in no hurry and could afford the time. He too would benefit from the rest from wandering or dealing with his own lands.

Inuyasha didn't mind the delay, he was happy in the dojo practicing with either of his siblings or telling stories to Aimi. Often he would attempt to illustrate with the inks that his sister had lent him, some of the trickier situations he and his friends had been in. In this he was reminded of Shippou and how he would scribble and draw with crayons that Kagome had bought him. Aimi was interested in the monsters that the group had fought and soon had a collection of her brother's amateur artwork.

The pair could frequently be found lying on their stomachs with their heads together, colouring pictures and very soon Aimi could recognise each of the companions by dress and name. She laughed when Inuyasha told her of Miroku getting slapped often and wished that she had friends like Sango and Kagome; she too loved her baths and thought it would be nice to have other girls to talk to. Inuyasha's description of Ramen made her mouth water and she thought she'd like to camp out at night and cook over a camp fire, but she might have been a bit frightened in the dark.

The ever impulsive Inuyasha had the wonderful idea of suggesting that they camped out that very night in the grounds of the Palace. They could have a fire and cook some fish for dinner then sleep under the stars; he was horrified that Aimi had never left the Palace except for walks in the garden. Of course he understood that her life had been in danger, but surely that time had passed and he realised that the girl had never really had friends, and he wondered why, forgetting for a while that she was much older than him.

The thought no sooner planted was acted upon and Aimi ran to her surprised and bemused mother to tell her that she and Inuyasha would be camping outside that night. The Lady just looked at her flushed and excited daughter's sparkling eyes and smiled. The actions were not typical of the girl who was normally quiet and retiring; perhaps it would do her good to try something new. Of course, Aimi had been trained to hunt and fish, it was part of normal Inu childhood and helped hone the instincts, but this had happened before she'd been poisoned.

Typically though, Inuyasha hadn't taken into consideration that there was not much fishing to be done in the Cloud Palace's grounds and that they would have to be escorted to the surface, but he didn't care, he was more at home in the wild anyway. Sesshoumaru however was less than delighted when his mother told him he was to go and keep watch over the younger two; she would only trust their safety to him while they were not in her home. As usual her son started to gripe about his little brother and The Lady had to restrain herself from rolling her eyes at him.

"Why cannot Inuyasha stay where he is put for any length of time; he has a more comfortable bed here than he has ever known and yet he wishes to spend another night on the hard ground. He makes no sense." Sesshoumaru was exasperated; he had been enjoying the luxury for a while. It was not often he indulged himself as he was very busy when in the West, and it was rarely to be had when he was on patrols of his lands.

"Perhaps because Inuyasha doesn't know how comfortable the beds here are."

"What do you mean Mother; we have been here almost a week now, where else has he been sleeping?"

"He sleeps sitting up, leaning on the wall next to the window. My housemaid informed me the bed has not been slept in and I went to check on the boy to see for myself."

"Why…why not take advantage of something he has rarely had?"

"That is obvious Sesshoumaru, it is a lack of trust; the window is his escape route and the bed so high that he isn't immediately noticeable from the door, giving him time to get away should he feel the need." The Lady said calmly, she had clearly recognised the boy's strategy. But Sesshoumaru felt strangely hurt, a rare experience for him.

"I had thought Inuyasha knew by now that he was not at risk from This Sesshoumaru; I felt I had his trust."

"You do My Son, he is not wary of you; but he doesn't know this Palace, he may not fully trust me and almost certainly not all my servants. The Puppy hasn't survived all of this time without being extremely cautious."

"If he trusts me he should know I will keep him safe." Sesshoumaru huffed, but his mother added sadly;

"Safe from death maybe, but not necessarily harm or pain My Son, death is not all the boy needs protection from; he doesn't relish the idea of being beaten either. He may also suspect that you are taking him to the West to flush out any who still may harbour designs on your throne or hatred for your Father's 'less than perfect in their eyes' offspring." At her words, Sesshoumaru's eyes widened; he had planned on that course of action in order to bring Aimi to his home safely but not to harm his brother. Suddenly it was important for his mother to know the truth.

"Of course I would explain that to him, but not because I wish to just use him as you suggest. We would work together to root out any deeply hidden problem. Inuyasha will surely expect this."

"There is no need to be so defensive My Sesshoumaru, just realise that Inuyasha has not yet let down his guard. Do not forget that he has only ever had himself to rely upon, not only for his own safety, but for the safety of those he protects." Here The Lady stopped speaking and looked to the door as the healer approached requesting an audience.

"You have your results on My Puppy?"

"I do My Lady, and some of your discussion too has relevance to them."

"You listened to a private conversation between This Sesshoumaru and Your Queen?" The Daiyoukai was incensed, but his mother put her hand on his arm and glared at him.

"We were not speaking of national secrets, nor were we in private My Son." She then turned to the healer and with a twinkle in her smile bade him speak. The healer was forthright, and held nothing back, his loyalties first lay with His Lady and he had been faithful to her ever since she had been brought back to be the Mate of Inu no Taishou. He had even delivered her pups including the youngest and most pompous one; and he wouldn't stand for any nonsense, even as he recognised his position.

"My Lady, My Lord; this is my summary based on observation and comparison…"

"How do you make a comparison with my brother, he is unique, there are no other Inu hanyou?" Sesshoumaru interrupted.

"I could not make a direct comparison My Lord, but I have compared human youths and youkai youths to find a median. Within certain parameters, there are consistencies of measurements and developments. Lord Inuyasha falls into these enough that I can make other assumptions." He waited in case Sesshoumaru wished to question more, but he nodded his head to indicate the healer should continue.

"I would put Lord Inuyasha at two hundred and thirty years old. The effects of the sealing to Goshinboku were to halt existence, suspend his life and arrest his development. But although he is physically a late adolescent, such is not the case with his psyche. Mentally he is divided; in some ways he is far older than the majority of boys his age, and experience takes him onto a level beyond most adults. But as you said My Lady, Inuyasha has been responsible for the safety of himself and others from being very young; and unfortunately his ability to act maturely is just that, an act.

"The pup is emotionally stunted, forced to grow up far too soon, he has not had the normal relationships that would teach him how to develop the social skills. Therefore when he can he reverts back to young childish play and behaviour."

"He was old enough to get romantically involved with two human females." Scoffed Sesshoumaru; who was feeling uncomfortable thinking on Inuyasha's neglected young life.

"I would doubt that even that was much more than play; if you watch Aimi, she will play house with her dolls just as readily as using them for her fighting games My Lord. I am not saying that Inuyasha is a small child; merely that he bypassed the normal developments."

"Is there more to know, after all we can do something about allowing him to grow and develop, he and Aimi seem to get along very well." The Lady responded, anxious for her irritated son to stop being antagonistic. The healer bowed and carried on;

"They do and it is a good sign for them both, I heartily encourage their interaction. But yes there is more and this must also be addressed. The boy is malnourished, he is quite small of stature and even given he is slightly built, he should have more muscle by now. It would seem that Inuyasha has been brought back in time before his body and not just his mind becomes stunted. The bones are not set as of now so there is room for growth still; and he might gain a couple of inches, but not much if we go by the size of his hands and feet."

"That too is easily remedied, he shall have the best food shall he not Sesshoumaru?"

"Of course Mother, need you ask?"

"I now come to the most serious of my observations My Lady. Inuyasha needs to rest and for a long time…I do not mean a ceasing from activities, but he should have no weighty responsibilities. Inuyasha's heartbeat is far too fast for such a youth."

"His heartbeat has always been the same, ever since he was a whelp even when he is at rest." Sesshoumaru said.

"Be that as it may, it should not be as fast, certainly not as a natural state. It is caused because his body is always stressed; he is always ready to fight, to flee, to protect, to be on alert, the pup is never fully at rest, I doubt whether he has ever truly slept deep enough to recover his strength. His youki is also depleting all the time and although it replenishes naturally, it is not stable. This is to be expected, as a hanyou sired from your great father is of course the contributing factor to this but Inuyasha should be able to learn to control it as he grows.

"But, and this I must insist upon as his healer, Inuyasha must be trained to rest; forced if necessary, and meditation could help as well as just being allowed to play."

"Thank you for this diagnosis, I trust his life is not in danger?" The Lady was concerned.

"No, he is not in danger, not yet, and not for many years even if nothing changes; but Lord Inuyasha would eventually suffer mentally and physically."

"Very well, I shall go and babysit for the camping trip." Sesshoumaru grumbled, but he had been concerned with what the healer had said, he would take the time to think and observe for himself.