Kagome summoned her bow, concentrating on the small green target before her. Releasing, the light arrow demolished the small portrait of a frowning Jaken. Lady Shi had made many over her centuries of having to deal with the imp and gladly donated them to her use. She frowned, unsettled with herself. There was more potential within the weapon and more power within her, she could feel it laying just out of her reach. Annoyed, she placed the next target, this one she had asked the lady for. Mini Miroku looked out at her, laughing and pointing.
A month had passed and there was no sign of the enemy they had been waiting for. Shikyomi was positive that he would strike fast, which is why they had not yet moved to the western palace. Now, Sesshomaru was tired of waiting and they would be leaving at first light. His mother had agreed and offered to stay until the pups were born. Focusing, she fired again, the explosion still unsatisfying to her.
Despite the evidence of her gently rounding stomach, being mated and a soon to be mother seemed surreal to her, far from the person she knew herself to be. Thinking on it all made her almost feel numb inside, a blank page where once there were words that guided her. With the exception of sex, because her brain didn’t work at all then, she felt distant from the men she had bonded with. It was only natural for her to feel closer to Inuyasha, she supposed, having loved him for many years, but it made her feel like she was somehow being unfair to Sesshomaru. Truth be told, she barely knew him at all beyond his skill set on the battlefield and well, otherwise. She felt out of place, understanding little of their actual feelings and the bond they now shared.
A small movement, rippling across her skin brought her attention to where her children lay. Absently she rubbed over the spot, the sensation still new to her. Kagome did not resent her babies, having always loved children, but something was definitely off with her more by every day. Maybe it was resentment that fate, time after time, had chosen her to be the one to get screwed. Maybe this time, too much had been asked of her. Frowning at her thoughts, she set up another Jaken, this one with an irritating smirk.
From the shadows behind her, two figures watched worriedly. “Something is wrong.” Inuyasha said, looking at her. She was becoming detached in a way he had not seen before, almost lost. That was not the Kagome that he knew.
“Her bond is closed.” Sesshomaru said. In fact the only times she was open to them was at night when they went to bed and when the pack was all together, but her laughter was short, the light in her only firing for short periods of time. “You know her best Otouto, what can we do?”
“I don’t know and I don’t fucking like it one bit.” He winced as the portrait exploded. “When we return though, I would warn the imp to stay away from her.”
“Hn” his brother agreed.
Lady Shikyomi sat on a stone ledge that hung over her home at the summit of the mountain. Here, she could clearly see all, even though the mists and fog wound down to cover the valley below. Something was just on the edge of her senses, something familiar. Before she could explore it farther, movement drew her eye only seconds before the scent of her enemy reached her. He had not come alone, her mother’s slayer was among the hoard trying to scale her mountain. They moved across the surface like roaches through filth, leaving a disgusting trail behind them. Aoi would have to disinfect the land after they were tossed from its peak. Finely, she thought as she descended from her perch, it was time to settle another old debt that she could repay all on her own.
Inuyasha headed back the short distance to the sky palace, entering one of the many gardens. He had left Sesshomaru to watch over Kagome, though he was unsure about it. There was a wall between them almost, leaving him in the awkward position of having to play mediator between the woman he loved and the man he had once nearly hated. They were truly fucked when he was the voice of reason in their relationship, he thought, shaking his head.
He stilled. Something was off. Inuyasha scanned the surrounding greenery, his hand on tessuiga’s hilt. Many conflicting scents rose around him, but one he recognized. ‘Ani, the damn bastard snake is here somewhere.’ He sent to his brother as the first enemies appeared, their faces covered in twisted brown masks resembling the eyes and scales of a snake. He drew his sword, ready for battle. He only hoped Kagome was safe, unable to tell with her closed to them. Sesshomaru, he knew would be fine, after all, if Inuyasha had never managed to kill him in their many battles, no one else could. Smirking, he cut through the first group advancing toward him.
Sesshomaru approached Kagome guardedly. For the first time in memory, he was a loss as to what to do. Her discontentment wreaked havoc on his instinct, constantly at him to comfort her. Love from her was not something he expected, despite Inuyasha’s belief that it would come in time, but he felt that they had been closer before they had mated. He did not care for the unsettling feeling her distance left within him. “Kagome.”
She turned to him, just a small curving of her lips to welcome him. “Hmm?”
A sense of unease filled his mind, his emotion coming to the forefront in a flash of red, before smoothing back into tempered gold. “Kagome,” this time his tone was an unquestionable command, “Go back inside and stay there until we return for you.” He told her, head turned toward the courtyards where many scents appeared.
‘Ani, the damn bastard snake is here somewhere,’ came through Inuyasha’s ever opened bond, followed by the smell of the enemy’s blood upon the ground. “Go now.” She nodded slightly, then headed in the direction of sky palace. Sesshomaru went towards where Inuyasha was fighting, certain that her way was clear, not sensing any danger in her path.
It was not long before he was blocked by the creatures hidden behind masks made of what appeared to be Hisuihebi’s shed skin, his scent mixed in with theirs. It was damn cleaver and designed just to throw off an inuyokai’s powerful sense of smell. Those in front of him also appeared to be blood related, further confusing the senses. Poison welled beneath his claws as he looked over them indifferently, not feeling threatened in the least. They were fodder, easily killed while he awaited the true enemy to show himself. “Flee or die.” He told them, evenly.
Hisuihebi watched from a little higher on the mountain, grinning as they played into his hands. It seemed the dogs had not grown any smarter in the years he had been trapped. He turned to the one at his side, intricate white snake mask delicately carved to cover his scared face. “Find the bitch and make sure she is out of my misery.” His brother nodded and ran down the mountain.
The jade snake eye’s remained on the brides retreating figure. It made no difference to him that she was mated and carrying. As long as she was in his possession for the next time she became fertile. As for the children themselves, with any luck, they would be girls to be raised in his breeding program. Just as his father before him, he would raise an army using his own blood, his brother already beginning the process while he lay sleeping. He now had hundreds of followers, soon to spread across the whole of the land, making it his.
Inuyasha dodged an attack aimed at his back while cutting through several figures before him. They came in an endless tide and while he would like to have used the windscar and cleared the mess, he could not risk those of Shikyomi’s household who had joined the fray. The next strike came from the left, only to be blocked by a staff, familiar purple robe catching his eye briefly. “Finally decided to quit lazing about, Miroku?” he asked, Tetsusaiga’s blade never ceasing.
“You are as grateful as ever, my friend.” The metal rings of his staff ringing with every blow. “I’m glad to see marriage has not changed your lovely personality.”
“heh.” He tossed one of his attacker’s bodies behind him, just barely missing the mouthy monk. The red of his robes danced like flames on the battlefield as he continued to cut through the growing hoard, Sango and Kirara holding their own from the sky.
Lady Shikyomi appeared, walking gracefully into the courtyard, the snake like beings seeming to fall away from her as she moved, lady death at her finest. “Aoi, take the others and protect Kagome, we will finish here.” Nodding, the bird and his fellow servants existed calmly. Inuyasha understood the smile she sent him perfectly, the winds rising around him.
Shi watched in admiration as one of Touga’s legacy swords nearly cleared the rabble from her home. Inuyasha’s savage smile also reminded her of her mate, though he never would have admitted to liking battle that well. A matching grin spread across her face as she felt another approaching her fast. How stupid he was to come running at his final fate. She faced the north and waited for him to show, determined to finish what her mother started and melt his foul head from its body. He rushed her, sword drawn in a pathetic attempt to cut her down quickly. Cold and calculating, she moved to the side, a hairsbreadth away from his blade. “After all this time, Shiro, you have not learned better tactics? This one will grow bored of you quickly.”
His voice came out in a rough hiss as he faced her, sword raised to strike again. “Good enough to end the Lotus’s daughter,” White eyes with dull gray pupils looked out at her from his white, wooden mask, “tell me, child, do you still howl for her? The sound of it was music to me.”
“This one thinks it was your vanity you heard, mourning the rest of your face as you ran from inuyokai’s wrath, okubyou mono.” She calmly assessed him, vaguely aware her son had come, “Two strikes, snake, to end you. That is all the time this one will allow you.”
His eyes narrowed angrily. “It will only take one, just like the last bitch I slew.”
Shi merely stood, waiting. The words of a coward meant nothing to her. He had hid from her, not even trying to take his brothers resting place. Shiro had just slunk about, gaining followers by trying to make his brother into some kind of grand koutei. Every couple of centuries, she found his little cult and cleared them out, him always throwing his minions away to escape her. No longer, this would be his end.
Sesshomaru quickly cut through those around him, his poison destroying the skin masks, taking away the foul odor. The last of the scent was clearing when he saw the golden light of Tetsusaiga’s power. It seemed his brother had gotten bored quickly as well. Following the sight, he arrived in the court yard in time to see the white snake run at his mother. Taking note of the assessing look in her eyes, he did not bother to interfere. The creature was now marked prey and it would not end well for him. The second swing of his sword met nothing but air as her whip tore the mask from his face, the damage his obaasan had done clear for all to see.
“Where is Kagome?” Inuyasha asked as he came to stand beside him, both of them watching as lady Shi continued to watch her opponent remotely, despite the hideous scaring on his face. On one half was smooth white skin, one black streak like a dagger cutting through one eye. It almost appeared painted until you looked to the other side. Starting at the jaw line, it appeared as if his skin had melted like wax, white and pink blending together in a twisted skeletal mass ending just above his cheek bone, barely sparing his eye. The odd scaring also spanned down his neck, disappearing into the white and green clothing that he wore.
“She is within the palace by now” Sesshomaru glanced at him, “have you seen any sign of him yet?”
“No, but Sango and Miroku are following those who lived to see if they go back to him. We should get back to Kagome.” The white snake struck again, the lady ginning maliciously as she dodged him, her poison whip wrapping around his neck. As he fell to his knees, his head sailed across the courtyard.
Kagome made her way through the back grounds of the palace. She felt vaguely irritated that he had ordered her away from the fighting, but trying to be fair, she knew that he was worried about her and their children. Still she had been in many battles and didn’t the western lord himself train her to fight? So deep in her nearly childish thoughts, she failed to notice the air stir about her, but the sight of the tall figure that appeared a few feet before held her motionless. Kagome looked up into the swirling depth of Hisuihebi’s eyes, the green and yellow orbs fixed solely on her.
“Hello, Kagome.” He said her name as if it were something sweet melting on his tongue, the creepy feeling when last they met returning. “Not satisfied with your mates already, hmm? From what I saw, the match that dog threw together seems to be falling apart, perhaps because the dear bride was forced into marriage?” He slithered around her.
Kagome did not move, prepared to call her weapon. It was not at full strength, but it was made just for this person. Surely it would at least buy her time. “I was not forced, the choice was mine.”
“Really?” His voiced hissed, “Then why is there darkness growing inside you?
She turned to face him, “What do you mean?” she asked wearily.
The brown and green of his robes brushed across the ground as he advanced just a little closer. “Does not the jewel at your neck reflect the person wearing it? Truly a remarkable thing, the shikon no toma. I wish my brother had been successful in taking that bride as well, but having that will be satisfying.” Doubtful, she lifted the jewel in her hand. Looking into it, she saw nearly pure purple light. Nearly. At the center of the jewel darker colors had formed, swirling together as if battling once more. Was this from her?
Kagome thought back over the last month, looking closely at herself. True, she had made the decision because it was the right thing to do, but had she really had a choice at all? Wasn’t that why she was so discontented, having to struggle with herself constantly? Did she resent it so much that she had allowed even the tiniest hint of darkness into her soul? “Perfect. If they continue to push you, you may be the very first dark bride ever born.” His laughter sent waves of revulsion up her spine.
His words brought the images of those before her to mind. The lotus Hasumi and the priestess Midoriko. Their choices had been equally as hard. Hasumi’s entire family had been killed, imprisoned, beaten, raped, and forced to give birth to the one stalking her now, still she chose to go on, to fight. Midoriko had agreed to wed, as Kagome had, then fought the monsters that had come for her until she made the choice to imprison her soul with theirs to keep those she loved safe until she could be freed. Even Sesshomaru and Inuyasha had little choice in this matter. They too had had a twisted fate, bound by good and evils struggle. They had known loss and tragedy, but they had never failed, letting darkness overtake them. Had Kagome let herself become so weak?
burned inside of her, letting her make the choice anew. Yes, life had never been what she wished it
to be and there was not a damn thing she could do about it. But, what she did have control of was her own
self and she would not be so feeble.
Kagome straitened, calling the weapon to her side. So what if she did not know her lovers, did
not know what the hell she was doing half the damn time? She never had before and had won over and
over just following where her heart led.
She would not allow herself to doubt anymore. The jewel glowed brightly against her chest
as she raised the weapon, drawing back.
Kagome fired, the arrow stronger and brighter than any she had yet