Great Minds and All That
Two weeks passed quickly following the council’s dismissal, agreeing to meet again within a month’s time to get ready for war with the snake yokai, Hisuhebi. Only about half of the council members actually left to prepare their packs for the coming battle, the rest sent messengers, wishing to stay and be present for the birth of the western lord’s heir should it come earlier than expected.
Among those who stayed were lord Rengou and his cousin lady Onkou, who was serving as his mate’s beta, his mate at home with their own pup. Lady Akako also remained, though no other of her house stayed. She was a bird yokai of bright red coloring and the leader of a tribe that had long ago joined with the inuyokai. Aoi was her older brother and she mirrored his mannerisms and friendliness.
Lord Kidotta along with his brother, lord Hikigaeru, who spent nearly a day recovering from his collision with the wall, chose to stay on at the western palace as well, intrigued by the thought of lord Sesshomaru finding a bride. Much to lady Kei’s aggravation, they kept irritating the castle staff on where Kagome had come from and where her family might be, along with constant demands for attention even though they had brought five of their own attendants.
Irritation soon turned to a fine temper when she was, once again, having to work her way down to the guest hall to settle some dispute between Hikigaeru, the idiot, and one of her maids. The young bear had come to the west as an orphan were Kei practically raised her. There had to be a good reason for the shy young woman to become as red faced mad as she had been when she arrived at the bedroom door while Kei was dressing for the day. Kara had been too worked up to even tell her more than she would not got to ‘that things’ room again.
Lady Kogirei was now ready for murder and mayhem and it radiated around her, the ghost of nine white tails flowing out behind her, her menacing aura slipping out from her shields and her green eyes glowing eerily, making many of her charges duck into spare rooms until she passed by.
“My son,” Shi said, looking out the window, feeling the slight pressure of the familiar aura. “This one believes you may have to go rescue one of those fools you are letting remain here.”
“Why?” he asked, going over the papers and maps before him. He was trying to determine the best placement for his soldiers, deciding a wider guard was needed. Sesshomaru had left his mates early this morning, trusting Inuyasha, who was bordering on fanatical overprotectiveness, to keep an eye on Kagome. She had decided to spend the day with Rin and Shippo, having had enough of their guests herself.
“It seems they have nearly put Kogirei into a find rage. Do you recall what happened to your palace the last time?” Shikyomi grinned. Foxfire could be an explosive thing.
Sesshomaru blinked. He did indeed remember the incident that led to the renovation of the southern hall of his home. They had never found the slightest trace of the offender who decided to go on a rampage, hurting several of the servants in lady Kogirei care. Sesshomaru returned from his wonderings to find a massive hole in the side of his palace, bright green flames still smoldering around it. The lady herself, who sat on the edge of the wreckage, smiled and suggested a large window would be nice. “Can you not go distract your oldest and dearest friend? This one will deal with them in time.”
Shi opened the window and leapt out without a word. Easily climbing to the second story ledge, she swung into another window and leaned against the wall, waiting. It was not long before Kogirei came into view. It had truly been awhile since she had seen her so pissed. “Kei.” She said when she neared, “what has happened to my sneaky little fox who likes to play with her prey?”
The lady pause, the ghost tails swaying, making a swishing sound even though they were not fully manifested. “Play?” she asked with interest, “am I allowed to play with them then?” The glow in the bright green eyes changed, lighter, but somehow more frightening at the same time.
“My son only needs him to live a little while longer, but…”
The vixen grinned. “You would be surprised what one can live through.” She finished. “Very well, you have diverted me for now, but I make no promises if he nears my Kara again.”
Shikyomi walked to her and placed her hand on her face, “Understood, my tiny fox.”
Kogirei playfully swatted her hand away. “Just because you’re bigger than me…”
“In any form.” Shi interrupted wisely as they turned back down the hall.
“Does not make me tiny!” Kei finished in mock anger. “Now, dear friend, how shall we begin?” Their voices faded away, thought laughter could be heard from time to time coming from the room they had disappeared into. The servants slowly poked their heads out of their hiding places and resumed their work. One fool slept unaware of the turn his life was about to take.
Kagome smiled from her place on a cushioned chair Inuyasha had had brought out to her. Even though she thought he was being a little silly about it, the care he was taking with her made her feel warm, loved, along with slightly irritated at times. Sesshomaru was also being more careful of her, but not quite as obviously as his brother.
She watched as Shippo and Rin played together, a hint of sadness creeping in. Kagome felt that she was bearing witness to the last of their childhood, all too soon they would begin footsteps into a wider and more dangerous world. Inuyasha also watched them, the red of his robes standing out against the dark brown of the tree he was leaning against. It was a comfort to her mother’s heart that her children, those she carried as well, had such guardians as him and Sesshomaru to watch out for them.
“L...lady Kagome?” The little imp at her side sought her attention. Jakan had become nervous around her since he discovered the source of her targets that she practiced with. He just did not seem to find it as humorous as Miroku did when she blew up images of him painted gleefully by lady Shi. “There is a servant of lord Kidotta’s house that wishes to speak with you.”
Kagome looked over to where he indicated and saw a young woman, maybe a year or so older than herself, half hidden by a large bush with white blooms on it. Seeing no harm, she rose to go to her. Inuyasha beat her there. “Why do you need to see Kagome?” He asked, though he was not really harsh, the woman backed away a bit.
“Please may I speak with her?” The woman sounded timid, yet determined, stirring Kagome’s mercy. It must be something very important for one so obviously afraid of the yokai to come to her.
“It is alright, Inuyasha. We will be right over there,” she pointed to a spot a little way into the garden, well within sight. Of course that was also within Inuyasha’s hearing range, so she would be perfectly safe. As gently as she could, she took the woman’s arm and led her to the place she had indicated, the girl relaxing more with each step away from him. “What is it that frightens you?” She asked.
“Do they not scare you, my lady?” Her pretty brown eyes cut back to where Inuyasha stood. “You are human, are you not?”
“I believe so.” Kagome chuckled softly. She was actually not really as sure about that as she once had been, being a bride and the priestess of the Shikon No Toma had changed her view on what it meant to be ‘human’. “It doesn’t matter, though. There are good and bad in all beings, which includes the yokai. I do not fear them.” They stopped walking. “What is it that you wish to tell me?”
The woman seemed to draw herself up, her spine straitening. “My name is Asa. I have come to ask for help for the woman of my village. We are used as lord Kidotta’s concubines, his own little harem of human toys is what he calls us. I am twenty now and have been released to be a maid in his service, which is little better. Is there any way you can save them?” Asa looked away, teary eyed. “They just took my sister for training, she is twelve, my lady, please help us!”
Inuyasha, though angered himself, became concerned about Kagome. She held that look upon her face, similar to when she nearly killed Naraku the first time with her sacred arrow. He half expected her to manifest her bow and go hunting the man right that second. Though it was not an uncommon thing in the era that they were in, it did not make it right, and Kagome was not one to let things like that lie.
Normally, he would just go pound the creep into the ground, but this was something they needed to discuss with Sesshomaru before they acted. However, they would do something about this, he could feel her resolve clearly through their bond, which became stronger as every day passed. “Kagome.” He came up behind her and pulled her back against him.
She placed a hand on his arm where it rested against her chest, but did not speak to him. Instead Kagome met Asa’s eyes steadily. “The west is now my home, its people in my care. I will not let such things continue here, that I promise.”
“Thank you, my lady.” Asa bowed low before her, then rushed away, already late for duties. She did not want to get caught, at least until lady Kagome could make good her promise. The maid found her coworkers rushing to find her, something about lord Hikigaeru injuring himself during some kind of hallucination involving spiders crawling from his eyelids.
“Kagome,” Inuyasha said as she pulled away from him to return to her chair, needing the sight of the children to calm herself, “we should go to Sesshomaru about this before we do anything.”
Kagome sighed, much as she like this new matureness that he had gained, sometimes she missed the rash, ‘let’s go beat the shit out of them’ mentality he had. “We will, but that does not change my mind on the matter. You two made me the lady of the west, you must also deal with the consequences of that, one of which is frying that prick,” she said as she sat.
Inuyasha was silently stunned for a moment before amusement took its place. He relayed the entire conversation to their mate, who was still pouring over maps in his den. Humor came through their bond, both men entertained at how inu like she was becoming. Their lady had proudly taken her first official step into the role they had given to her.
A short time later, lord Hokoru joined Sesshomaru. “My lord, I have found more information. It seems the dog threw together this hasty plan because of your mating and getting an heir within such a short time. He has been speaking against you quietly for many years now, but nothing that would constitute treason. His pack is small, so you were correct in assuming that he reached out into another. There also seem to be one or two among the newer servants as well that follow him.” The inu bowed. “I am sorry that this has progressed this far while the western palace was under my care, my lord Sesshomaru.”
“This one is positive that you could have put down this idiotic rebellion, it was hasty and not well planned at all.” Sesshomaru stood, ready to go meet his pack for the evening meal, “This one only delayed to see if this was somehow encouraged by Hisuhebi or his followers to serve as a distraction. As soon as you are aware of how many followers he has, we will begin.” With that, he walked passed the still bowing Hokoru.
The meal they shared as a family went wonderfully, Rin and Shippo excitedly telling every one of their day and the new things that they were learning. Rin had taken up archery and was very proud of it. Shippo was starting sword training as well, claiming that he would be just as good as his Otousan and his Oyaji someday. It was an all too brief time of contentment for the family.
Unfortunately, Sesshomaru, Kagome, Inuyasha, and Shikyomi were going to make an effort to be good hosts to their guests. So, after sending a sleepy Rin and Shippo, Sango and Miroku acting as there guards, to their rooms, the rest of the group headed toward the main dining room where their guests would be served. Lady Kei joined them in route, a pleasant smile on her face, as if she had not nearly set the palace on fire that very morning.
It was not long after they were seated that their guests arrived, the first being lady Akako who bowed politely before taking a seat next to lady Shi and asking of her brothers health. The next to come was lord Hokoru. He bowed, then silently took the seat next to Kei, a hounded look in his violet eyes. The reason behind that came strolling in the room just behind lord Rengou a few moments later. The dark haired inu took the place beside Akako and the lady, instead of taking the spot next to her lord, went around the table to sit by Hokoru. Kei, ever the supportive friend, withheld the grin when he noticeably grimaced. The last to make an appearance was lord Kidotta, his brother nowhere in sight. He took the seat at the end of the table, at least one space away from everyone else.
There was quiet while they were served their meals, then a low hum began as they chatted to those they were near. The small talk was interrupted, however, when Kidotta addressed the head of the table. “Lord Sesshomaru, I am most curious where you found your bride, it seems little history is known about her or her family.”
Sesshomaru barley glanced his way, before his gaze turned to Kagome, her irritation with the inu evident to him. “My lady answers as little or as much as she chooses, Kidotta.”
“Then I must ask you, lady Kagome,” he turned his attention her way, his voice distantly polite.
“At this time, sir, I have no knowledge where my ancestors lay,” she smiled gracefully, “my family is here, with my mates and our pack.” Inuyasha did not bother to hide his smirk. She had perfectly answered his question with no lie to change her scent.
Kidotta was about to speak again when a loud shout could be heard. A few moments later, Asa came into the room, bowing. “My lord Kidotta, lord Hikigaeru is quiet ill.” He looked more annoyed than concerned as he rose.
“Perhaps I may be of assistance?” Lady Kogirei stood as well, “I am the palace healer, after all.”
“Do as you please,” he replied before leaving.
Kei excused herself, then came to the young maid. “Could you tell me what ails the man?” she asked the terrified girl softly as they walked away.
“My lady,” Asa said quietly as possible, “it seems he believes that his… neither regions are rotting off.” She finished, her face turning slightly red.
“I see.” Lady Kei said thoughtfully, “I must make him some medicine at once.” She then smiled as she led the trembling woman down the hall, knowing the snickering sound she had caught had been her dear friend overhearing their conversation. Truly, that inu was quite the devious one. “Tell me, my dear, is there anything that the patient is afraid of, or may have a bad reaction to?” she asked smoothly.
“Well,” Asa thought for a moment, “fish and the like tend to make him sick and he does not care for bugs.” She said helpfully.
“That is good to know,” Kei patted the girls shoulder comfortingly as they turned onto the guest hall, “very good to know.”
That evening after they bid their remaining guests goodnight, Hokoru stopped Sesshomaru as he passed. “All is ready, my lord.” He assured him.
Sesshomaru paused momentarily. “Call a meeting for the afternoon, all in the palace will attend.” Then he joined Kagome and Inuyasha who waited a short distance away.
After most of the palace lay slumbering, a dark shadow slipped into lord Hikigaeru’s chambers. It crept silently to the bed before placing a hand over the man’s mouth. “Wake up, you fool.” The figure shook his face harshly.
Hikigaeru sat up, gasping. There were scratches and deep healing cuts over his eyes as though he had tried to claw them out. After he recognized the face in the dark he settled down. “Why are you here?”
“You are suspected. There can be no other reason for these occurrences.” The figure moved farther into the shadows. “However, I do not think it is Sesshomaru who suspects, these games are not his way. He would have killed you on the spot had he been the one. Who have you spoken with?”
“Only you. I have been shut up in this room since that bitch broke my back,” he growled. It was healing, of course, but it was a damn painful thing. These instances had not helped matters either.
“Hmm. Perhaps that is the reason, your imbecilic outburst at the council. This is good, that means someone suspects, but is not certain.” The inu moved to the door. “Do not leave this room unless I summon you.”
“I will not. Lady Kogirei has promised to return with herbs to stop the delusions. What she gave me early helped instantly,” Hikigaeru said smiling, thinking she was stupid for helping her lord’s enemy.“Good. At least someone is useful in this place.” The presence disappeared as quickly and silently as it had appeared.