Miroku walked silently beside stoic lord Hokoru as they quickly made their way northward. Like Tsuyoi, he was uncertain how to approach this man who was very proper and serious, not unlike Sesshomaru. Still, he felt that he needed to put his best forward in their task because Shikyomi trusted him to. To do that, they would need a minimal amount of conversation between them. “Do we have any clue whom it might be we are searching for?” He asked lowly, knowing that the inu would have no trouble hearing him even if he whispered from yards away.
“Not until we are closer. I will know them by scent if they are connected to the west in anyway.” Hokoru did not pause, his steady pace easy for a fit human to keep up with. Their mission should not take them out of the lord’s barrier, it covered miles around the palace and the few villages that had moved into its edges for the lord’s protection. Most of them were on high alert or had been evacuated in the event of the snake yokai attacking them in an effort to draw Sesshomaru out. They had planned on many scenarios and plans of action. The one thing he did not count on was visitors from this direction before they had even officially announced the birth of the western lord’s children.
“What if it is not one of the council members?” Miroku asked, wanting to make sure that they were on the same page when they met up with their trespassers.
“Then they will likely be executed.” The inu answered simply. “The barrier that was erected allows only those who belong to the west pass through. If it were someone not of that number, then their reason for breaching it is more than likely to cause harm.”
“I see. I will follow your judgement then.” He understood, even if he was not entirely comfortable with the idea of it. Still, Miroku hoped to find a way to be useful that did not involve killing people while not in direct combat.
It was not much longer before Hokoru paused. He did recognize two of the inu that were approaching, the third was easy enough to guess at. “It is lady Ayameko and the guards we sent for her,” he said, concern in his tone. It should have been weeks before they saw any sign of them, they had to have flown and he could see no reason for them to have sped so quickly just for a summons.
“Kidotta’s sister?” Miroku asked, surprising him with his knowledge. Many had heard him when he announced that she would be possibly taking the traitors place, but he had doubted anyone but lord Sesshomaru and possibly his brother and mother knew her actual name. Miroku grinned slightly at the appraising look the inuyokai gave him. “I do pay attention to what goes on around me, even if it seems that I am otherwise diverted.”
“Lady Shikyomi?” Hokoru asked, curious about his source of knowledge. They were drawing closer now, the ones they were seeking having sensed them. They had stopped and were waiting, the guards would have recognized his scent as well.
“Lord Inuyasha. He has been my close friend and brother in arms for a very long time. When we make decisions about our future, no matter how big or small, our pack has always discussed it as a unit, becoming lord Sesshomaru’s has not changed that about us, only increased the amount of strength and wisdom we have to guide us.” Miroku informed him.
Hokoru filed the knowledge away for a later time. The three inuyokai came into view, the girl hiding behind the men. Though she was nearly a hundred, in human years it would place her around eleven or twelve which was fairly young for an inuyokai. She would require several years of training by Kogirei or Shikyomi, who might even be a better choice.
“Lord Hokoru.” Both men greeted him together, bowing. Ayameko did so as well, quickly without a sound.
“Why have you come so hastily?”
“We found this one wondering alone in the edges of the outpost’s lands. She has been mute, but carried the scent of death and fire, my lord. We thought it best to bring her here as fast as possible.” One spoke, stepping forward.
“You did well.” He told them. This was very disturbing news to him. What could have caused her to be all alone in the wilderness? Ayameko was normally kept secluded away from the world. Her mother and father becoming mated after Kidotta was well grown. He despised his father’s choice because she was a half blood. After their father’s death, the woman had taken her daughter and hidden her away for fear of treachery at his hands. “Come here, child,” he commanded. Ayameko just stared at him, her clear green eyes that revealed nothing to him. He nearly growled, never having dealt well with adolescence of any variety.
Miroku stepped passed him, deciding to have mercy on the poor inu, unsure himself if he meant the man or the girl. He walked up to Ayameko and crouched down in front of her. He felt that she was not scared of them, but rather had no idea how to react outside of her element, nor to such intimidating a man as lord Hokoru was. She would have been used to having the guards, of that he was sure. “Hello,” he said pleasantly, trying not to laugh as she cocked her head to the side, looking at him as if he were some strange bug she had never encountered before. “My name is Miroku.” His staff was held loosely against the inside of one arm as he pressed his palms together in a pleading gesture. “Would you mind, young lady, if I walked with you?” He leaned a little closer, whispering, “That guy is a bit grumpy and frightening.” Her brow furrowed and her look was still suspicious, but she nodded her consent to his request.
Hokoru was positive for a moment that the man was a complete and utter idiot, but then the girl nodded at him. The monk began following the path back, leaving the three men behind them as he began to have a one sided conversation Ayameko, telling her of the western palace and his friends. “Inuyasha has these puppy ears and Kagome could never leave them alone. His gripping about it was so amusing. Is there anyone you are close to like that?” he asked without pausing.
“My Okaasan and her maid,” she answered quietly, without realizing that she was. “They burned in dragon’s fire.”
Hokoru started to grab the girl and demand what she had meant by that, but Miroku made a slashing motion behind his back, halting him. “I am sorry,” he said gently to her, “Can you tell me about it?” he asked, taking her hand as they walked along.
“Okaasan said that brother’s pet dragon from the north had come to kill us. Kidotta had been coming to see us lately, trying to arrange a match between his friend and me. He said it was to benefit us all, but Okaasan would not allow it, nor for him to see me because he tried to kill me when I was a baby. See.” She raised her hair up, showing a small scar on the side of her neck. “He was never to set eyes on me again.” It seemed as if the dam on her words had broken and she could not stop them from spilling from her lips. “This time it was just his friend and a bunch of men in armor. They said they were stopping by on their march west to the palace. Okaasan told them that they were fools and they set our home on fire.”
“That must have been very terrifying for you.” Miroku prompted when she stopped speaking. The group noticeably picked up their pace, with the exception of one guard that dropped back and headed back the way that they had come. If an army was marching toward them, they needed to know when, where and how many were coming. “How did you get away?” Miroku asked.
For the first time, her large eyes filled, a stray tear working its way down her face to be impatiently brushed away. “Okaasan took me and went down under the ground while they were fighting with the guardsmen. We made it about halfway through when they caught up to us. She made me run. I thought she was behind me, but she had stopped.” More and more damp trails came down her cheeks. “Smoke was already forming behind her, but she stopped. Okassan was very strong, she struck the wooden pillars until they fell and the ceiling came down. I ran because she told me to.” Ayameko said finally just as the edges of the great wall surrounding the palace came into view.
“She was very strong.” Miroku agreed with her, halting to brush the remaining tears away. “You did the right thing listening to what she told you. Now we can stop this dragon, thanks to you and your mother.” He smiled at her taking her hand once again as they rushed to warn Sesshomaru of the coming threat.
A proud soldier of the west walked the wood line just right of the palace. The lord Hokoru had requested that they keep an extra tight guard on the area because he felt something unsettling about it. The guard could not help but agree. It felt like his hair was standing on end, as though millions of eyes were upon him at once. He could not have said what made him turn when he did, back toward the area in which he had just patrolled, but something was there, he just knew it. The inu caught a glimpse of something long and iridescently white flowing through the forest as a gentle breeze would. Raising his head, he howled, the eerie sound resounding carried to the palace and beyond. More of the harrowing sounds echoed back to him as the alarmed was raised.
Satisfied, the young solider made his way toward where the shapes disappeared, drawing his sword. The scent of old dried leaves and overripe fruit reached him and had no place anywhere in the west. A slight rustle caught his attention before he met the enemy blade to blade. Their faces were a distorted brownish green, their eyes glowing in the darkening evening light.
The flash of metal and the sounds of clashing swords filled the night wood, drawing the eye of Tsuyoi. She rushed to help her soldiers with overwhelming numbers that seemed to just spring from the very ground. Sango was not far behind her, both having decided to patrol together after Hokoru had taken Miroku off on their mission. She had a moment to admire the inu as she danced through the enemy, her blade barely visible as it struck them down. Kirara’s flames brightened the battleground as they leapt into the air, the herikotsu cutting a large path through the coming hoard.
Katsumi saw Hokoru rushing through the halls, Miroku and two others at his side. The woman following behind him bore little resemblance to the traturous Kidotta. Her long red hair matched his, but she held a quiet humbleness her brother never could have faked. That they had arrived so quickly was not a good sign. The eldest halted the group mid-flight. “What is it?” she asked in a tone none there could go against.
“The grounds are under attack. Kidotta had a dragon ally that comes from the north, expecting the mutt to be here to allow him entry, no doubt. Lady Ayameko and our messengers came to give us warning.” Lord Hokoru told her.
Katsumi nodded. “I will run ahead.” She told him before she seemed to disappear, headed into battle with a grin on her lips. The sound of many howls filled the palace as the warning went off, sparing them all to move quicker.
Hokoru left the lady and her servants in Kogirei’s capable hands before heading to his lords chambers. The sight of Shikyomi perched on one of the long window ledges stalled him. There was a chill in the air and her eyes were fixed and red in appearance. She looked to the west. Taking a moment, he joined her to see Tsuyoi and Sango rush into the fray that was building in the wood. She dropped from the ledge to the ground, her form changing as even as she reached the earth, her pace never halting. Miroku nodded at him before heading in that direction himself, running through the palace halls. Hokoru rushed toward his lord’s chambers, calling out orders as he went, preparing for a long dark night.
Sesshomaru reclined against the headboard of Kagome’s bed, looking over his children. The three boys slept peacefully, but the girl watched him with solemn eyes as if she could feel the same disquiet that he did. All of them had him at a loss, never having had this fierce sense of awe and protectiveness, even more so than with his mates. His instincts were becoming unstable, waring with his duties and pride. All he really wanted to do deep down was disappear with his pack until he could hunt down the danger to them and feel that snakes cold blood seep through his fingers.
Kagome winced in her slumber, making him automatically run his figures soothingly through her hair. She had given them so much, but her body was worn, the blood loss from the birth leaving her pale. They would have to be very careful with her for the next day to ensure her natural healing abilities had kicked in, Kogirei had told him so before she left to give them some privacy. She was vulnerable, adding to his sense of unease. It seemed as if would not take much for them to lose her and he did not like even the thought of it.
Inuyasha watched the children as well, nearly undone with the emotions that raced through him. He was a father. Of everything he had expected in his lifetime, this was one he had never really thought would happen. He touched the twin’s tiny black ears, smiling slightly. Kagome had been right all along, they were quite adorable in his children, though he would never admit it to his mate. His other son seemed so dignified, just as his brother mate, even in his sleep. Inuyasha’s fingers brushed over his tiny forehead where the crescent moon graced him. A small growl turned his attention to the smallest of their children, the little girl frowning at him, a captivating blend of her mother and father. He went to her side, lifting her gently from her bed. “What is it, little one?” He held her carefully, like Shikyomi had shown him, rocking her gently.
Both inu tensed as the hair raising sounds of howling echoed through their room. Sesshomaru stood, knowing that particular sound meant that the western barrier had been breached. Before he got to the end of the bed, the sound of running feet reached him.
The door opened, Hokoru slipping inside. “My lord, there is a small army approaching from the north. It looks like they are led by a dragon.” he said soberly. “It seems that they were hiding in Kidotta’s land, his sister arriving along with our men has revealed that Kidotta had been in conference with the remnants of them.” He looked away, “we are also being attached on to the west by what appears to be Hisuhebi’s men. Lady Shikyomi has headed out to lend support to lady Tsuyoi along with the rest of your pack. I have divided our forces sending half with her, the rest await your lead, my lord.”
Any sign of emotion left his eyes as he allowed the cold to fill him. Sesshomaru turned toward his brother, who still held their child against his chest. No words were exchanged, each certain of what it was they needed to do. For once, Inuyasha kept his worry away from his lover as the western lord headed out for battle. He watched calmly as Sesshomaru kissed Kagome’s forehead, both men feeling her stir within their bond, but gone just as quickly as she sunk back down into exhaustion. He left the room shadowed by Hokoru, who bowed before following after him.Inuyasha lay the baby down. She was obviously discontented, but did not cry out as if she understood that there was a threat to them. He left them to look out the balcony, his hand automatically resting on his sword. Underneath him were several guards, posted both within and outside of the palace walls. It would truly take a tremendous force, or a damn stealthy one, to reach where his family rested. That did not ease him one bit, his fingers tightening on Tetsusaiga’s hilt as he caught sight of the giant snake that appeared in the distance and the large white inu that charge recklessly toward it.