And I mean that in the bad way.
Victoria's Secret has been promoting its new "custom-fit" bio-fit bra quite a bit. So I thought I'd go in and pick one up. However, I am sorely disappointed, as it cannot compare to the Secret Embrace in any way.
First, let's talk about appearance. Bio-Fit is cute and comes in the basic colors. But Secret Embrace has the invisible lace in black on top of beige or magenta (and maybe other colors). Secret Embrace wins.
Then, let's talk about the actual fit. Maybe it's just me. Or just my bra-size. But Bio-Fit did not fit. Not even as well as some of my non-VS bras. And unlike the Secret Embrace, where I'd kind of just forget about it, or the full coverage IPEX which is SUPER comfortable (but unfortunately is full coverage so I can't wear it with all my shirts), this one made me itch and squirm the whole day. Grr...
So basically, Bio-Fit is not cute or comfortable. And it pushed me the wrong way. And if anybody ACTUALLY reads this and was considering buying it, don't. Otherwise, this is just a safe little rant for me on wasted time.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
And I mean that in the bad way.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
JJ is an absolutely talented singer, and I have helped sub several of his music videos. (Go to DoReMii's blog if you want to see them.)
This song, Tomorrow, doesn't have a music video, though. So I am going to simply post a translation of it. Pin yin will be posted if anybody (actually reads and) requests it.
Also, please do not use, copy, or redistribute without my permission.
On a sunny day, the tortoise from the Pacific Ocean
Midnight, the rose from the Mediterranean Sea
It seems that all this is very beautiful
Tomorrow, Earth will destruct
The question is whether people will leave or stay right now, nobody can just let go
Only I hold tightly to a phone I've dialed out
There's no point to what I'm saying
I said the same thing three times
But you understand
That I'm still a bit attached
The time I squandered
My lingering affection for you
Don't they represent my limits as a human?
In those dark places,
Humanity slowly seeps away
People live only for fun
My goal in life
is absolute emotions
I've walked to the end of the world
And got a little something
I'm leaving a single rose
On your pillow
Without asking if I would regret it
This moment is the most beautiful
There's no point to what I'm saying
I said the same thing three times
But you understand
That I'm still a bit attached
The time I squandered
My lingering affection for you
Don't they represent my limits as a human?
In those dark places,
Humanity slowly seeps away
People live only for fun
My goal in life
is absolute emotions
I've walked to the end of the world
And got a little something
I'm leaving a single rose
On your pillow
Without asking if I would regret it
This moment is the most beautiful
Take a break, drink a cup of water
My goal in life
is absolute emotions
I've walked to the end of the world
And got a little something
I'm leaving a single rose
On your pillow
Without asking if I would regret it
This moment is the most beautiful
Monday, November 26, 2007
What is unconditional love? It means love and devotion no matter what, despite any attribute, change, or property inherent of the one being loved. To give unconditional love is to love somebody, despite and no matter who they are. In which case, if love is not for the person... then who is it for? Unconditional love becomes love for love's sake, and the one being loved is objectified, stripped of any individuality, by being loved unconditionally.
Just a thought.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
... and not by myself, or a random 1am showing.
Because it's freaky to be bussing back home that late at night. And watching movies by myself is just plain lame.
However, since I have proclaimed Josh Hartnett to be my favorite actor (His scrawniness is charming, and his apparent lack of threat only vamped up his hotness in Lucky # Slevin, and he ALWAYS plays the romantic love-struck guy...) I have to watch this movie.
I'm supposed to watch the 9 o'clock tonight, but the person I was going to watch it with isn't back yet, and so we'll probably miss that showing. And no, I'm not walking in late on a Josh Hartnett vampire movie! (Too bad he's not a vampire, but I think he would have made a pretty cool vampire.) Ah, well, I'll find someone eventually. Hopefully.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The golden summer sunset heralded the darkness of the night. Naraku was a sharp, clear shadow against the last warm rays. Fitting, Kikyou thought, and poetic. There was a sense of finality, which wasn't so strange when she considered the bodies lying around her—the body lying in front of her. But there was also a strange sense of a fitting ending.
After all, if only Kikyou hadn't distrusted Inuyasha. If only she had kept faith. If only she had loved him enough...
But it was, of course, too late for all of that now. And not only did she pay for her mistakes, Inuyasha paid, and Kagome paid, and Sesshoumaru, and it seemed that if Naraku made his wish, the whole world would have to pay for her mistakes.
She was never meant to be a priestess.
Kikyou stared at the scene before her, red like the last, dying rose. And she waited for Naraku's wish to manifest.
But the sun only set further beneath the mountains, a bare shimmer of pink and purple against the black of the mountains.
A crow squawked in the distance.
And then Kikyou saw that Kagome was rushing Naraku with nothing but her own body. Naraku was probably as shocked as Kikyou because he simply stood there and let Kagome approach him.
Kagome was glowing, pink like the Tama used to glow, and there was a firework of pink sparks and glowing ashes when she finally collided with Naraku’s fur-covered figure.
The next Kikyou saw, there were hundreds of spiders crawling from where Naraku. They scattered across the grass and skittered over Kagome's body. Kagome's fallen, unmoving body.
Sesshoumaru prepared for the spiders to reach him and then... coalesce into Naraku, perhaps. Or simply bite him piece by piece. Whichever it was, though, it couldn't hurt more than seeing Kagome collapse before his eyes as he lay there, helpless. He wouldn't give up without a fight, Sesshoumaru knew, and Naraku was going to hurt before he finished Sesshoumaru.
Naraku was going to hurt because he had hurt Kagome.
But then the spiders just scattered away from him, barely grazing the edges of his clothes. They blended in with the night and he was left with only the awful silence.
It wasn't silent, though, because he could hear sobbing and pained breathing from those around him who were fortunate enough to still live.
From Kagome, he could hear nothing at all. He could still make out her form on the grass, but there were no sounds from her.
From Inuyasha, he could hear nothing at all either, but only smell the blood draining out of his brother's body.
That was far worse to him than what he knew of the other casualties, because he couldn't tell if Kagome was still alive or not. He couldn't know if he should keep hoping or not.
And because it was Kagome.
He had finally, finally found her again and everything had been perfect for a single moment before it had all gone wrong. He was meant to pay penance, perhaps, for doubting Inuyasha, or for thinking of hurting Kagome. He had made his mistakes.
But Kagome shouldn't have to pay for them.
Slowly, he forced himself up, supported by Tenseiga, and limped to where Kagome lay in the grass. Carefully, he knelt next to her and brushed a stray lock of blood-crusted hair from her pale cheek. Her cheek was warm, Sesshoumaru found.
But she wasn't breathing.
There was that great anger welling up in him, the same kind of anger he had found when Kagome had repudiated him. Again, Kagome had been wrenched away from him. Only this time...
No, Sesshoumaru thought fiercely, desperately clutching the Tenseiga by his side, it was not going to end like this. Naraku was defeated. They had won. They had won against his father's enemy and it would be a happy ending, not one with so many deaths and so much sorrow.
But then, just like last time, the anger seeped out of him. The Tenseiga stole it away, and left him nothing but an empty shell. A bit of disappointment, perhaps, but certainly nothing more.
Then, Kagome coughed.
She hurt worse than that time Naraku attacked her in the woods. It felt like she had died and then come back to life. Which, she thought when she saw Sesshoumaru's stricken expression, could be closer to the truth than she cared for it to be.
"Sesshoumaru...?" Kagome croaked as she tried to make out her surroundings, but it was all dark and she couldn't really see anything. "What happened?"
Sesshoumaru seemed startled by her question and he knelt close by her, not quite daring to touch her, afraid that she would disappear or break into little pieces. "You killed Naraku," he told Kagome.
"Is... everyone okay?" Kagome asked.
No. But then, Sesshoumaru saw Miroku struggling to sit up, and pulled back down by his volumous monk robe. And Inuyasha's youki flared back to life, even as Sesshoumaru looked at Inuyasha's unmoving body. "Yes, everybody's still alive."
"That's good." Kagome smiled and then fainted.
Kagome managed to sleep for a week before she could sit up and eat real food.
Sesshoumaru had brought said food, which was apple sauce, of all things. But she supposed that she should be grateful that he decided to bring her something easy to eat. Now, he sat attentively by her bed as if he didn't have anywhere else to be.
And she knew that she was in her old room at her father's palace. She could see out into the garden.
"Marry me," Sesshoumaru said suddenly as she ate the apple sauce.
Kagome was so surprised that she could only look at him blankly.
"I want us to be together for the rest of our lives, and I want everybody to know that we belong to each other. I thought I had lost you when we fought Naraku, and I don't want to ever feel that way again. Ever."
Kagome looked at him, startled.
It was Sesshoumaru who looked away first. "I... I love you, Kagome."
"Oh, I love you, too," Kagome replied. "Of course I love you. But how are you going to be the Lord of Western Lands if you marry me? Inuyasha is a hanyou, and you know how they react to hanyou heirs."
"I don't care," Sesshoumaru said fiercely. "I don't need them."
Kagome looked down at her blanket. "But they need you."
Sesshoumaru stood up and looked at her, and she thought she felt her heart break with his cold look. "Fine, then. If that is your answer."
She stayed silent and watched him walk out of her room, a straight back, an elegant turn of his yukata.
Inuyasha and Kikyou married each other soon after Kagome woke up. They held hands and were always seen together. It was as if they were making up for all their lost time when Kikyou had misunderstood what had happened.
Everywhere Kagome went, she could Kikyou's tinkling laughter or Inuyasha's petulant "keh" as they lazed around and did nothing. Inuyasha never had had any duties except to wait on Kikyou and as the Tama was lost again and Kagome was proven to be its keeper anyways, Kikyou had no duties as part of the Higurashi house other than to be a part of it.
Kikyou didn't seem to mind.
When Kagome saw the couple, she was happy for them. She told herself that she was honestly happy for them, but always, she would feel the need to retreat back to her own rooms, because the sun was too bright or the air too still.
One day, Kikyou confronted her. "Why are you still here? Why aren't you with Sesshoumaru?"
Kagome hadn't thought that Kikyou had seen her at all. "His people need him."
"But you need him, too." Kikyou made a little frustrated frown. "Why do you want to force yourselves to be apart from each other when you know and he knows and we all know that you should be together?"
Kagome sighed and turned away from Kikyou. "His people need him more."
Kikyou took a deep breath, as if needing extra patience to speak with Kagome. Kagome wished that she would just leave. "How do you think his people need him?" Kikyou asked Kagome. "Touga is still alive and well. Sesshoumaru is only the heir. And besides, if his people need him, and he needs you, then his people need you, too."
Kagome sighed again and shook her head. "It doesn't work like that."
"Of course it does," Kikyou rebutted sharply and then stalked back to Inuyasha, as if that was as long as her patience lasted.
Sango didn't care about bad luck or anything of the sort. She made sure that she knew where Miroku was every minute of every day between the end of the battle and her wedding to Miroku a month after their victory. Even so, she threatened all sorts of nasty things if Miroku ran away again, which he promised quite earnestly that he had no intention of doing.
Kagome broke down crying when they finally promised themselves to each other, because it was so beautiful. She offered her congratulations and after the banquet, went back to her room and couldn't stop crying.
It was just like that, that Kagome's resolve broke. She supposed that maybe she was never very strong-willed in the first place, but her heart ached too much for Sesshoumaru.
It was perhaps not good for his relationship between him and his people if she sought him out, but if he loved her—and he had told her that he did—then he must hurt as least half as much as she does. And she would not inflict that on him.
Kikyou was right, Kagome rationalized. If they needed him and he needed her, then they would have to accept her, no matter what.
So, with that in mind, she set out to find Sesshoumaru.
Kagome never quite reached the Western Lands. She stopped at Kouga's cave and he solicited her help for healing his wolves. Most of those who had not died in the battle against Naraku were well already, but there were the few who still suffered from a broken knee or a shattered bone that was not set back right in time. So Kagome used her priestess powers and healed these wolves.
Though she was anxious to find Sesshoumaru, the thought that she was going to meet him eased her heart. And besides, Kouga was an ally and she considered him a friend. So, she did this and stayed there for three days.
On the third day, she woke up to noises that signified the flurry of activity going on outside. Blearily, she woke up and stepped out of her chamber and froze.
Sesshoumaru was there.
Then, she found herself hugging him desperately. It felt as if they had stayed apart for a lifetime instead of a mere month and a half.
"Sesshoumaru," she cried.
His arms tightened around her. "Kagome," he murmured to her hair. "Oh, Kagome, say that you will marry me. I know you came this way to find me, because you are not at your father's palace, so you cannot mean to deny me again."
How Kagome wanted to say yes. Maybe she even meant to say yes when she traveled in search of Sesshoumaru, but now that the reality was upon them, she could find nothing to say.
"I would," Kagome finally replied. "But when we are both old and weary of purposeless lives, you will be blaming me for having had to give up your place and your land for me. And you may say that you will have no regrets, but you will, because that is the way of it."
"No, I won't," Sesshoumaru declared just as Kagome had expected. "First of all, you should let me choose what I am willing to give up. Secondly, I would rather that I regret it later than to not have you at all. And besides, I don't have to give up anything anyways."
In the end, Sesshoumaru and Kagome married. Sesshoumaru completed the mating vows. Touga admitted to his well-meant mistakes and decided to step down and made Sesshoumaru the Lord of the Western Lands.
It turned out, that the reason that there were so few hanyous was not because youkai and humans do not like each other or that they are separated. Rather, if the mating vows were completed, all the children from the couple are either entirely youkai or entirely human.
Sesshoumaru forced his subjects to respect Kagome, partly by ordaining so and partly by telling them of how Kagome defeated Naraku. Eventually, they admired Kagome, too, because she was willing and able to heal youkai that all other healers have already given up on, and to deliver youkai babies, which were especially difficult since youkai babies seemed to be born twice as large as human babies.
Souta ended up as the Higurashi heir anyways. He told Shippou quite ambitiously that he would get rid of all the blood-bonds humans imposed on youkai. Shippou cried, and threw a tantrum that Souta hated him and he wanted Kagome back.
Kikyou remained the High Priestess. But in no way did her life remain the same, because she and Inuyasha were together and happy now, truly. And anywhere they went in the garden, the plants seemed to flourish and the flowers bloomed wider answering Kikyou's good mood.
Kagome and Sesshoumaru's first child was a boy youkai, with straight black hair and pretty gold eyes. He was named the Taiyoukai heir.
Author’s Notes: Well, I think this is my first finished long story. For those of you who have waited (some of you up to a year, I think) for me to go through the edits, I apologize. But I went through it—it was weird reading my own story and not remembering much of what happened—and now it’s officially done. It’s going on the shelf. :) It’s a good feeling.
The first story was both harder and easier than I imagined. I had thought that the whole story would flow right through, but I encountered several very bad writer's blocks in the middle. But it was easier because I thought I always thought that decent authors were few and far between. I found, though, that when you could see it in your head, it's only natural to write it out on paper.
I appreciate all the readers, especially those who have reviewed. Without you, I would not have finished writing the story.
Some things might not be clear. So, I wanted to clear it up.
1.) The Tama did not work for Naraku because Kagome had already made a wish on it. She wished that she would have the strength to leave Sesshoumaru, and it’s considered a selfless wish, because she did not wish for it to be easy or painless, just that she would.
2.) Kagome’s dreams—a completely useless subplot, except as another way that Sesshoumaru could protect her—foretold of the cycle that the Higurashi’s and the Taiyoukai's were doomed to repeat over and over again unless the Shikon no Tama was destroyed. But... it was never quite necessary to explain it in the story.
3.) Yes, Shippou is still blood-bound at the end of the story. He likes the security that somebody cares for him. Since he hasn’t reached puberty, he isn’t bound quite by the same rules. Kagome “gave” him to Souta, since she was leaving. Hmm... wonder if anything would happen to Shippou and Souta... Hmm...
Sesshoumaru was rubbing soothing circles on her back and trailing his soft, sweet kisses from her eyes to her nose to her neck. Kagome had missed this, she just realized, as she twisted to meet his mouth with hers. She had dreamt about this and forgotten, she thought, as she felt his tongue dance with hers.
It was a balmy spring day, full of sunshine. A zephyr entwined their hair as Sesshoumaru pulled Kagome down onto the dewy grass. He landed gracefully, carrying both of their impact.
When Kagome opened her eyes again, though, it was to see his gold eyes staring intently at her and his silver hair drifting lazily in the clear, blue sky. She smiled tentatively at him.
His lowered his forehead against hers and gave her another deep kiss. She found herself grabbing onto him quite tightly when he started pulling away.
"Kagome," his whispered, his voice sounding strangely hoarse. "I..." He stopped as he stared at Kagome's guileless smile and into her sparkling honey eyes. Suddenly, he felt inarticulate with his words and leaned down for another kiss. A kiss would tell her what he felt... what he wanted... what he needed.
Kagome leaned up against him, awkwardly, hoping that he wouldn't stop this time. His hands were warm contrasts against the summer breeze as he slowly, carefully traced her soft body from her bosom to her soft hips.
There was no frenzy this time. No uncertainty of what would happen. To Kagome, it felt as if Sesshoumaru was giving her time to pull away, but she didn't want to pull away. She wanted this. Even if it would be slightly uncomfortable in the end, she wanted the feeling of being one with him, of cocooning and protecting him. She wanted him. She wasn't quite sure how to express herself, though, and instead allowed herself to enjoy his kiss and his hands and his warm weight on herself.
To Kagome's disappointment, he pulled away again. "I shouldn't," he told her, breathing more heavily than usual. He explained, "I shouldn't do this here. Or now."
Kagome knew it was for her own good, but she felt reckless right now. She didn't care. Besides, he might not know about it, but her reputation had already been ruined. But even if she was still the heir, she doubted that she would have stopped them. So, she kissed him, as he had kissed her and her hands found their way to the smooth skin of his broad shoulders.
Vaguely, she noticed that the wind whistled louder and strange tap tap sounds were approaching. It wasn't until Sesshoumaru had stopped moving for several long moments that Kagome noticed the hard tension in his shoulders and arms.
She looked up at him questioningly, but his passionless gaze was fixed elsewhere, where she couldn't see.
She turned to see what had him so entranced, only to have his hold on her tighten. Apparently, she was supposed to stay still.
"What is it?" she asked, assuming that there was a reason that he had stopped. There had better be a good reason.
For several moments, he didn't answer. Then his eyes narrowed and he spat, "Naraku."
Miroku knew that he had bungled things up. He knew that he had hurt Sango. But at least now any of her children would be safe, though it pained him that he would not be the father. At least, he wouldn't hurt her more by staying in her life.
It was better this way. It must be better this way.
The thought of Sango being happy was a double-edged sword, but at least it dulled the sharp agony of their separation. The gaping hole in his hand was nothing compared to gaping hole in his chest.
The gaping hole in his hand would devour the world, though. He would pass down the gaping hole to his son, and his son's son, and so on until the end of his line and thus the end of the world, or the end of Naraku.
He had been so determined to preserve the world that he had sought to sire a son on any woman he met, which he now realized would not be practical, since he most likely wouldn't stay long enough to teach his son about the curse. And he wouldn't want to stay long enough to see the woman hate him, as she inevitably would when she learned how he had hurt their son.
As Sango would, with her protective nature that he loved so much. She would be especially protective of her own son. And he would be the one who hurt him.
But he had just seen some poisonous bees buzzing around the forest—those strange servants of Naraku's—and he could feel the vague pulsations of power. He remembered Naraku... that if he killed Naraku, the curse could be ended as well.
Of course, Naraku had existed for hundreds of years and had yet to be defeated despite the countless who wanted him dead.
Still, Miroku reasoned, Naraku was evil and he should at least try to get rid of Naraku. Who knew, maybe he would even succeed.
And then he could confess to Sango. Surely, she would forgive him. And maybe they could still get married and live together and have baby boys and giggling girls to spoil.
And if he died in the battle against Naraku... Well, he would just be sure to bring the hanyou down with him.
Either way, the curse would end with him and Sango would live happily in a world without impending doom from a gaping hole in somebody's palm, Miroku decided as he followed the strange bees.
Bandits? What bandits? Sango almost felt disappointed as she watched the boomerang slice through the last squealing demon.
She wiped her bloody hands on her pants. The low-level boar demons had already spattered all over her outfit and she would have to burn it anyways. Better the acrid smell on her clothes than on her skin.
She strapped Hiraikotsu onto her back and made ready to return to the taijiya village when Kirara growled low in her throat.
"What is it?" Sango asked.
Kirara was smart enough to understand Sango—at least the tone of her voice, but she could not respond with words. Instead, she growled some more.
Sango waved her hands a bit. "Is it the blood?" she asked and wrinkled her nose sympathetically.
Kirara shook her fur impatiently and continued growling toward the other side of the forest, where Sango had not planned on going.
"More youkai?" Sango guessed.
The produced a little bounce from Kirara.
Sango sighed. "They're on the other side of the forest. We don't even know if they're pests or just some benevolent youki-producer."
Still, Kirara refused to budge.
"Okay," Sango accepted. "So, they're probably not some pretty and harmless youkai if they produce youki this strong. But still, this is none of our business."
So saying, Sango tried to tug Kirara's attention forcibly away from the other side of the forest. Still, Kirara was bigger, heavier, and stronger than Sango and a youkai to boot and Sango accomplished absolutely nothing other than getting some futile exercise.
Finally, Sango gave up. "Fine. You take me to that place with the youkai. If any humans are in immediate danger, I'll do something about it. Otherwise, we're heading straight back home."
Kirara gave a yip of assent, all the while growling, as Sango climbed onto Kirara's back.
"Kukuku," a voice chuckled from where Kagome could not see.
Hastily, she arranged her clothes less revealingly and twisted precariously to see the being called Naraku. From her view on the grass, he seemed to loom above her. Her eyes followed him up, starting with his thick white fur cloak—in this warm weather?—to his ringlets of black hair, which she could barely make out from under his hood.
When Sesshoumaru stood and pulled her up beside him, Naraku took a step forward and his hood fell to unveil his face.
Which, surprisingly, was not very alarming at all. Rather, Kagome thought, Naraku could be considered handsome, in a very slimy sort of way.
But when she looked at Naraku closer, she saw that his features matched those of the man from her nightmares.
A feather swooped down from the sky, and a woman and a girl stepped down from it. One was a willowy woman with red eyes and an elegant fan. The other was a pale specter of white, holding a mirror with the most sincere gravity.
Kagome no longer doubted that these were the three figures in her nightmares, if she had had any before.
Prophetic nightmares, after all.
But she shouldn't be surprised, since she had found out that she was a priestess.
"Give me the Shikon no Tama," Naraku demanded.
Shouldn't there be some sort of preamble? Kagome thought wildly and inanely in her panic. There was always the speech about threatened horrors and potential evils. But there wasn't. So perhaps Naraku wasn't very strong after all.
Or maybe he just didn't need to bluff.
Kagome sat up and pressed against Sesshoumaru's solidity. "You can't have it."
Naraku smiled blandly. "It's of no use to you. You'd only become tainted if you wish on it."
She pointed out defiantly, "The same would happen to you."
This time, Naraku chuckled. "I rather suspect that it can't taint me anymore. See Kagura?" He gestured to the woman with the fan who stood silent and still behind him. "I have her heart. And see Kanna?" He pointed to the other girl, with the mirror. "I have her soul."
Here, Naraku paused and tilted his head a bit to reconsider. "Actually, her soul is my soul... and I don't really have a soul worth mentioning. Either case, you're better off giving the Shikon no Tama."
Kagome found that she was clenching the jewel at her neck. "No."
Naraku took a step toward Kagome. "That's not the right answer," he warned.
Then, before Kagome really realized what was happening, Sesshoumaru pulled her away from Naraku and somehow she had to look past his broad shoulders and long, white hair to see Naraku. A moment later, Naraku and Sesshoumaru were trading blows, but Kagome couldn't follow their motions, they were so fast, and then she couldn't even follow their blurs because Kagura and Kanna were on her.
Just as quickly, though, Kagura and Kanna were gone. Kagura and Inuyasha, who had joined the scene with a series of loud and crude expletives, fought together against Kagura. Kikyou shot arrows into Kanna's mirror, which had started glowing white instead of the usual flat surface of a mirror.
Then, out of nowhere, Miroku joined the fray. The Hiraikotsu preceded Sango, and she caught it smartly when it returned after wiping the air clean of a swarm of poisonous bees.
"Thanks," Miroku breathed when he maneuvered himself next to Sango.
She hadn't known that her Hiraikotsu just saved Miroku's ass, or she probably would have simply left him to his own devices. He still owed her. He'd probably owe her until eternity.
Before she could reply, he approached Naraku again from behind. He thought that he could defeat the hanyou while its attention was focused on Sesshoumaru, but a strange root-like tentacle shot out from under his cape and stabbed through his torso and jettisoned him out into Sango's arms.
He looked up at her irate face and smiled, a bit weakly. "It seems I'm destined to be with you."
Sango grimaced. She did not find his comment at all entertaining. "Good time to make your vows."
His face turned serious. "I want you to know... that I love you."
This made Sango angry. "You're not dying," she declared. "And you can't say that after all that you've done to me."
He smiled and he looked wistful. "I love you. And I am dying. And even if I don't die right now, Naraku's curse will be the end of the world."
"Curse?" Sango asked and felt his head. Usually delirium was from a fever, but it was too soon for a fever to have set in.
"A hole in my hand," he answered. "No, I'm not telling you this so that you will forgive me. I'm telling you because I might die—"
"I might." Miroku continued serenely, "The hole sucks things up, which is why I'm always wearing this guard over it. But I have no son, and if I die before Naraku dies, the curse cannot be passed on and it will split open my hand and it will suck everything into it until Naraku dies and if Naraku is sucked into the hole, then the world is doomed."
"You're not dying," Sango asserted vehemently.
Miroku tried to grasp Sango's hand, but his strength was leaving him quickly.
Kikyou was shooting soul-ful arrows into Kanna's strange mirror, but it only absorbed her arrows. Still, she thought she was making progress because the girl's face looked more and more strained as she shot more and more arrows into the mirror.
Vaguely, she noticed Inuyasha fighting with Kagura out of her peripheral vision.
She concentrated on shooting arrows into the mirror, though, and it was taxing. She could feel her soul being drained.
She took a second to regroup and gather up more miko power when she found a strange blade coming toward her. From Kagura. Normally, she would defend herself, but she was already staggering under the energy she had had to expand for her arrows.
Kikyou watched it come toward her with a strange dispassion.
Until Inuyasha took the hit for her, his blood making bright splatters on her white shirt.
"You idiot!" She tried to shout at him, but her throat seemed to close up strangely. "What do you think you're doing?"
He grimaced a bit. "Guess I just can't do anything right."
"Why did you do that?"
Inuyasha managed a faint shrug and his customary sheepish look.
"You didn't have to. You shouldn't have." Kikyou found herself strangely agitated. "I didn't ask this of you."
"Not... because of blood-bond," Inuyasha whispered, his breaths coming shorter.
"Why, then?" Kikyou demanded. Her nose felt sore all of a sudden, and runny.
Inuyasha stared at her with those strange gold eyes that had always fascinated her. He took a breath to answer her question, but something caught in his lungs and he started chocking and coughing up blood.
When his coughing finally stopped and he was still again, his eyes were still open and blood was on the corners of his vague smile. But there was no more breath in him.
Inuyasha was hers, Kikyou thought wildly, fiercely. Inuyasha was hers and they just unraveled the puzzle of the past and everything was working out. They had just learned some things about themselves and each other. They were just...
And the bitch took him.
Kikyou felt a strange emotion power her—it must be hate, she thought. Not the pale imitation she had used as a mask for her hurt, but a real, deep-seated, powerful hatred that fueled her as much as love ever did. And then, the wind started listening to her commands and the trees bent to her will. She unleashed something, but it didn't hurt the bitch. It only splintered her fan.
Good enough, Kikyou thought, she had disabled her. Now, she could treat the bitch to a slow, torturous death as she deserved for taking Inuyasha away.
After all, what use did she have for love without Inuyasha?
The battle didn't take long at all. The next moment, Kagome saw that Sesshoumaru was kneeling on one leg, supporting himself with his sword. Sango was leaning against Kirara and held tight to Miroku, who seemed to be murmuring to her. Kikyou stood still and quiet and expressionless, and a few feet in front of her lay Inuyasha, with the ground staining steadily more crimson.
Kanna seemed shocked, the first expression that Kagome had seen on the girl. The mirror still stood in her hands, but cracked and useless. Kagura's fan lay in splinters on the ground, its owner's face stoic. Naraku stood, though he, too, was heaving.
He didn't attack, though. It was all rather useless anyways. "Give me the Tama, or I will take it myself."
Instinctively, Kagome held the Tama closer and clenched it tighter.
The Tama would grant a wish, she thought suddenly. I could wish that Naraku's dead. Or that my friends are alive. Or that we won this encounter with Naraku dead and no other casualties.
So, she grabbed the jewel so tightly that her knuckles turned white and her fingers became numb. She took a deep breath and said, "I wish that we had won—"
Naraku had caught on quickly, and ripped the jewel from her hands.
Her wish was not granted.
For a moment, he caressed the jewel and marveled at it under the pretty summer sun. Then, he smiled maliciously and his eyes glinted as he clenched it tightly in his hands to make his wish.
No, Kagome thought desperately. She had no idea what Naraku would wish for, but she knew that it would be nothing better than the worst. She would blast him, she thought, she still had her miko powers. Or she could simply tackle him, so long as she stopped him from making that wish.
While Kagome was still making up her mind, though, Naraku had already made his wish.
Sesshoumaru touched the swords at his hip. One was the Tenseiga, already familiar in shared grief and anger and pain. The other, the Tessaiga, was still a stranger and not even his own. His father had informed him that he should bring the sword to Inuyasha, who apparently resided at the Higurashi House. A spark flew between his finger tips and the sword, a show of rejection, and he was getting tired of being rejected. At least, he wouldn't have to handle the sword. Let his half-brother try to master it.
Behind him, Rin hummed a happy tune befitting the sunny skies as she walked besides Ah-un. She always seemed to be humming. Perhaps it stemmed from her lonely childhood.
Jaken was busy, leading the disgruntled Ah-un and verbally sparring the staff with two talking heads who were giving contradictory information about youkai in the area.
Suddenly, Sesshoumaru decided to stop. Ah-un stopped obediently. Rin stopped beside Ah-un. Only Jaken slashed air with his staff and tugged at Ah-un's reins. He tugged once too hard and was sent tumbling into Sesshoumaru's back.
"I'm sorry, Sesshoumaru-sama," Jaken apologized profusely. "I apologize. I'm so sorry. If there is anything I can do for Sesshoumaru-sama, anything at all—"
"It's Kouga," Sesshoumaru announced suddenly, cutting Jaken off.
"Kouga?" Jaken repeated in confusion.
"Ah!" Rin stopped humming long enough to exclaim. "The Wolf Prince."
Jaken glared at the human. "What do you—"
"Yes, the Wolf Prince," Sesshoumaru confirmed, leaving Jaken flabbergasted. Imagine, to be outsmarted by a human!
"What's he doing here?" Jaken demanded.
Rin turned to look between Jaken and Sesshoumaru. "Why shouldn't he be here?"
"Why? Why? You're asking me why?" Jaken shouted from his diminutive height, outraged. "Because—I'll have you know—because... well, the answer should be obvious. Because—"
"Enough, Jaken," Sesshoumaru ordered. "This is Kouga's territory. He has every right to be here. Especially if there are foreign youkai."
"Foreign youkai?" Jaken scanned their surroundings. "Where?"
"Silly Jaken," Rin chided and smacked him on the head. "We're the foreign youkai."
Jaken glared at Rin, but realized that she was right. "You're not a youkai."
Rin shrugged. "I smell like Sesshoumaru-sama."
"That's disgusting!" Jaken exclaimed. "You do not smell like Sesshoumaru-sama!"
"Look," Rin said in a much too happy voice and pointing straight ahead. "There's the youkai."
Jaken looked to where Rin had pointed. There was somebody there, certainly, but he stood on two legs and his hair was bundled into a ponytail. Surely, any youkai would have more... class than to wear those scraps of fur...?
"Wolf Prince," Sesshoumaru acknowledged formally.
"Taiyoukai heir," Kouga returned. "I was not expecting you."
"Of course not."
Quickly, Kouga added, "But you are, of course, welcomed to stay awhile."
Sesshoumaru nodded regally. Gesturing to the others, he introduced, "Jaken, my retainer. Rin. And Ah-un."
Kouga nodded to them in turn, even Ah-un. Then, he remarked, "I see that you never lack female human companionship."
Suddenly, Sesshoumaru's eyes flashed and his hand tightened on the sword at the insinuation. "Do not presume to know what I do with them."
"Of course not," Kouga agreed airily. "I'm quite sure that it is quite beyond my imagination, whatever you do with them."
Sesshoumaru growled and Kouga took a step back involuntarily. Still not wanting to lose face, Kouga said, "Well, you've given up your claim on Kagome."
Sesshoumaru straightened up at this comment. "What do you know of that?" he asked calmly.
Kouga shrugged. "She came by a couple months back. She and her friends helped heal some of our wolves. We chatted. She left. I plan to travel to the Higurashi House soon, see if her old man wants to help eliminate Naraku."
Kouga nodded, oblivious to Sesshoumaru's sudden alertness. "He goddamned attacked us. I'm not going to let that slide. I know you probably don't care about us, but Hiroshi's been asking for an alliance and I might as well take his offer. Their territory is next to ours. The daughter's a looker—and has power, too. You're not claiming her anymore."
"Don't," Sesshoumaru warned ominously.
Sesshoumaru thought about that. He had reacted instinctually and something had churned at the thought of Kagome marrying Kouga, being by his side, sleeping with him. The thought made Sesshoumaru want to tear something—or someone—up. Maybe, he thought, it was just that he didn't want Kagome to find happiness. At least not with the little wimpy Wolf Prince. "Don't marry her."
Kouga looked at Sesshoumaru strangely. "Why do you care? And why should I listen to you?"
Sesshoumaru thought about that. For all the power of the Western Lands, Kouga was still outside of his jurisdiction. After all, the wolf clan had been exiled when the Wolf Prince way back when had refused to send out his men to help Touga. "We'll help you eliminate Naraku."
"You heard me the first time."
Kouga was startled. Then, he shook his head a little as if to clear it. "You don't have a say in who your daddy allies with."
"Sure, I do," Sesshoumaru answered lazily. Kouga was right, but since Naraku was the one who had almost killed both Izayoi and Touga so many years ago, Sesshoumaru had little doubt that his father would gladly kill the hanyou.
"What guarantee do I have?" Kouga asked.
"None," Sesshoumaru answered. "The question is if you also want to chance the possibility of my father’s wrath."
Kouga thought about it. It didn't take long. "Fine, but I can still have an alliance with Hiroshi."
"Of course," Sesshoumaru allowed magnanimously. "But not through marriage to his daughter."
Sesshoumaru, Rin, Jaken, and Ah-un were leaving the caves the next morning when they heard a distant voice shout, "Stop! Stop! Wait for me!"
They were startled into stopping and several seconds later, Kouga caught up with them. He had been running quickly and his sudden stop kicked up a cloud of dust, causing Rin, the only human, to start coughing.
"Oh, my lady," Kouga said, fully aware that Rin was under Sesshoumaru's protection and that if he upset her for some reason, it could lead to undesirable consequences. "I must apologize for kicking up dust."
Rin giggled at Kouga's address. It was a change from yesterday's coarse words. "It's okay," she managed between coughs. "But do try to not do that again."
"Of course," Kouga answered seriously.
Sesshoumaru threw an assessing look at them both. Satisfied that neither was going to attack the other, he started walking again. The rest of them followed.
After about ten minutes of silence, Kouga just about couldn't stand it anymore. He started sneaking glances at Rin. A glance at first. Then another. And another.
And finally, she noticed. "What?" she asked, a little defensively.
"Oh, well..." Kouga plunged ahead and asked, "What's your relationship with Sesshoumaru?"
"Oh." Rin answered, "He's like a brother. A little bit like a father. He's kind of protective about me."
"Oh." So, a totally platonic relationship, Kouga thought. What was with the Taiyoukai heir and leaving beautiful human women alone? So, Sesshoumaru had probably touched Kagome, and she had fairly reeked of the inuyoukai, but Kouga had never smelled sex between them, either.
Maybe the Taiyoukai heir only liked other men?
Kouga scrunched his nose up at that thought. He certainly wasn't interested in men and it was too disturbing to think of Sesshoumaru, well, hot and passionate with, well, Kouga. In fact, it was so disturbing that Kouga decided to banish that thought altogether.
"What's wrong?" Rin asked suddenly, breaking up Kouga's spiraling thought process.
Rin frowned a bit. "You were staring at Sesshoumaru-sama really strangely. I mean, I know his fairly good looking..."
"Yes," Kouga agreed automatically before frantically backtracking. "I mean, no. I don't notice things like that. I like women. Strictly females only kind of guy. That's me. I like their softness and their breasts and their rounded butt and—" He shut up quickly, realizing that he was only digging himself a deeper hole.
Thankfully, Rin only giggled. "Don't worry about Sesshoumaru-sama," she said. "You're pretty good looking, too."
"Really?" Kouga asked, then corrected himself, "I mean, I know that."
Rin only giggled again.
Kouga didn't know if he should be relieved or frustrated at her giggles.
It was with a touch of haste that Hiroshi Higurashi welcomed Sesshoumaru Taiyoukai to the Higurashi House.
"Is everything all right?" Hiroshi asked. Again. "Do feel free to ask the servants if anything is amiss."
"We're very sorry about our daughter," Ayako, Kagome's mother, added. "We apologize for any discomfort she might have caused when you were in... your unfortunate circumstance."
"But she did free you, right?" Hiroshi asked anxiously.
Again, Sesshoumaru nodded.
Hiroshi breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good. Our daughter, she can be a little air-headed sometimes but she really doesn't mean badly. But it would be just like her to forget to free you from the blood-bound."
No, Sesshoumaru thought, she certainly had not forgotten.
Hiroshi was still talking, "I had assumed that you are free since Touga Taiyoukai graciously let me return, but I am glad to hear it from your own lips."
Sesshoumaru nodded. It was beginning to feel like a reflex.
Suddenly, Hiroshi seemed to realize the awkwardness of the conversation and laughed self-consciously. "You must be glad to finally be free, huh?"
Mechanically, Sesshoumaru jerked his head once.
And he should be glad to be free. To not be bound to some human or be plagued by their emotions. But the absence of the bond had only made him feel as if he were missing something. And he should be glad to be rid of reminders of his "unfortunate circumstance," but for one last time, he wanted to see Kagome Higurashi.
Like his father said, he needed some kind of closure.
"I'd like to talk with your daughter," he requested.
"Well, you are not bound to her anymore, right?" Hiroshi asked. Anxiety had returned to his voice.
"No," Sesshoumaru answered. "But I'd still like to talk to her. Talk some things through. I'm sure you understand."
"Well..." Hiroshi hedged. He supposed that he should be glad that he didn't know where his daughter was. He doubted that the youkai had anything favorable to discuss with Kagome. On the other hand, he could not afford to upset Sesshoumaru... "Actually... I'm not quite sure where Kagome is."
Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?"
"It's been upsetting for all of us," Hiroshi explained.
"What do you mean?" Sesshoumaru asked again, this time with each syllable carefully enunciated.
Hiroshi sighed. "I'm sure that you've heard the rumors... It's hard on all of us who believed in her. Tomorrow, or the day after, we're officially instating Souta as the heir."
No, Sesshoumaru wanted to say, I did not hear about the rumors. But he could not appear as anything less than in control. Especially since he thought that if he started saying everything he thought, he wouldn't stop until sunset... and maybe not even then. And he didn't want Hiroshi or Jaken to hear about those things. He wanted to rant at Kagome, the cause of it all.
Instead, he said, "What about Kagome?"
Hiroshi looked down at the table. "She will be dead to us."
Sesshoumaru fell silent at that. Disinheritance... a severe punishment for a shameful transgression. He wondered what Kagome had done since their parting, since he remembered the legal documents that Hiroshi had given Kagome to prepare her for being the head of the Higurashi House.
Maybe he wouldn't find the closure he needed.
After a while, he requested, "Can I walk around the gardens, then?"
Hiroshi gestured towards the doors. "Feel free."
Ayako tugged on Hiroshi's sleeve when Sesshoumaru left and it was just the two of them. "Why were you being such a simpering idiot?"
"What else was I supposed to do?" Hiroshi turned and asked her.
She glared at him. "Something else. You acted like putty in his hands. You were practically asking him if you could rub his feet for him."
He covered his face with his hands and leaned heavily on the table. "What was I supposed to do? He was upset. Even you could see that."
"Oh, so you sell out our daughter? You know she would never have done those kinds of things."
"I know, I know," he said tiredly. "But what else was I supposed to do? I'm going to disinherit her because she couldn't keep herself chaste until her marriage. I'm going to have to make Souta the heir. Aya, do you know that Souta is only twelve years old? He's going to have to deal with the pressure of people's expectations. Good and bad. And they would wonder if he would turn out like his sister."
"But Kagome is still your daughter."
"I couldn't have done anything else." He pulled his hair back in a ragged motion and let out a long sigh. "I couldn't have done anything else," he repeated, though it seemed more for his own benefit than for Ayako's. "Do you know what will happen if Taiyoukai decides to attack us?"
Ayako's lips thinned. "We were prepared for it before."
Hiroshi shook his head. "Not anymore. Souta's not ready as the Higurashi heir. But even that's not such a big deal. It's what Kikyou told me."
He nodded. "Naraku. He attacked us while I was gone."
Ayako's eyes narrowed. "She's making it up. Don't forget, I was here, too."
"I know. I considered that." Hiroshi shook his head and leaned back. "But Inuyasha confirmed her story. And according to Kikyou, she was looking for the Shikon no Tama, which he has been since hundreds of years ago."
"Just like any other youkai," Ayako interjected.
"And he mentioned Kikyou's resemblance to Izayoi."
Ayako's eyes widened. "No. Nobody knows that Izayoi was a Higurashi priestess."
"Of course not," Hiroshi soothed. "If they did, the Higurashi House would have long been destroyed by those who would have thought that humans sent Izayoi to weaken the Taiyoukai Lord. So, our ancestors kept the fact that she was a Higurashi priestess secret." He paused, then added significantly, "But Naraku knows."
"We can't fight the Taiyoukai Lord and Naraku at the same time. Even if Kouga does ally with us."
"That's what I was afraid of."
The bright sunlight woke Kagome up early in the morning. She had just gotten two loaves of fresh bread yesterday and they lay on the table. She had washed her clothes yesterday, too, and they were dry today. The gardeners had told her that it would soon turn into the shower half of the summer season and she needed not to worry anymore about the plants.
She should leave today.
Soon, her father would be announcing her disinheritance, and she was quite sure that she didn't want to be present for that. Even if she was prepared to reveal the fact that she had had an indiscretion, as her parents had put it, she thought that she would not enjoy people looking askance at her. She was not a masochist.
She wished she had the strength to leave.
But she realized now that a little part of her was still waiting for Sesshoumaru to come back. Maybe, her heart whispered, he loved her—or had loved her—despite the blood-bond. Maybe, it told her insidiously, some of his affection was—or had been—genuine. Maybe... maybe... maybe...
And Kagome answered back: maybe.
And if you leave, her heart whispered... If you leave, he can never find you again.
Maybe that was so. But maybe he would never look for her. Maybe he thought she was good riddance when the blood-bond had broken and he finally understood what kind of a burden she had been.
Today, she should leave.
She bundled up a change of clothing and some food in a large piece of cloth. She had even picked out a direction—south—and yet she couldn't seem to set one foot outside. The watering cans needed to be put away. Maybe she should stay to wash the sheets—the next inhabitant wouldn't want dirty sheets. The door needed to be locked, and she had no lock.
But somewhere in her mind, she knew that she was only fussing and finding excuses.
And she wished that she had the fortitude to leave.
She was determined.
There was no reason to remain as a burden to everyone around her.
And the world outside was vast. There were adventurers outside the life in the Higurashi House sheltered by the gardens and stone walls. And surely, surely, her mother was right. Surely, one day, Sesshoumaru would be a true love of the past, and she would find some human, a farmer maybe, or a physician, and they would have seven children and grow old together.
Maybe she could have more than one true love.
But she needed to leave. Today.
She stepped out of the hut and slung the pack on her back. She walked the familiar path down the garden. It would take her around the house and bring her to the south entrance.
She stopped suddenly when she saw a flash of familiar white hair—must be Inuyasha—but forced herself to turn sharply toward where she needed to go to leave the Higurashi House. She needed to leave today or she would never leave at all.
"Kagome," she heard a familiar voice call out. Sesshoumaru... and her heart seemed to trip before beating again. But it couldn't be. It must be a figure from her overwrought imagination.
And even if it was, she would have to leave.
She quickened her pace. She would need to leave before she saw him, because then she would not want to leave at all and the hard won strength would slip through her fingers.
And she did not want to see him looking at her with hate and disgust in his eyes. Or worse, with nothing in his eyes. She had seen him look at others with that blank, gold gaze, and she did not want it directed at her.
She wanted to remember how well he had treated her and comforted her. How he had taken the time to teach her and tease her.
And yet, he was suddenly in front of her, larger than a mere figure of imagination had any right to be. He was almost just as the last she had seen him, with armor and pelt. Two swords hung at his waist instead of one. His hair was still long and white, flowing freely with the summer zephyr. And his eyes still gold, with something she didn't understand in them. At least they were not blank.
"Sesshoumaru," she breathed.
"Kagome," he answered and turned so that his back faced her. "I want to know why."
That was not what she had expected him to say at all. "Why what?"
"Why you repudiated me."
"Because..." Kagome twisted the question in her head and tried to answer it. "Why not? Aren't you happier now?"
"That's not a reason."
"You've always wanted to be free."
Sesshoumaru turned suddenly, fastening his fascinating eyes on her. "I wanted to be free... from the enslaving blood-bond. But I never asked you to repudiate me. I protected you. I... might have even cared for you. I never wanted to be free from you."
"You..." Kagome saw her vision blur with tears. This was what she had dreamed of hearing. Only, Sesshoumaru didn't know. "That was all from the blood-bond."
This time, Sesshoumaru put his hands on Kagome's arms and shook her a little. Kagome thought she might have even protested but for the shock of feeling Sesshoumaru's touch again. She should have protested for being manhandled. But this was Sesshoumaru. And Sesshoumaru... well, he had a right to be angry. She heard him ask, "Is that what you think? That the blood-bond can force me to feel things? Kagome, a normal blood-bond like the one we had can only tell me of your emotions, and nothing more."
"But..." Kagome protested.
"If I don't protect you, it hurts me. But do you think I would have let a little pain stop me from doing what I wanted to do? Do you think me so weak?"
Kagome looked away. "You know I don't. But it must have been easier for you to help me get to the Western Lands."
Sesshoumaru looked down at Kagome.
Silly Kagome who had hurt him and tried to explain to him that it was for his own good. Stupid Kagome who thought he would accept such an excuse. It wasn't good for him, and he couldn’t imagine why she had thought so in the first place. So, really he ought to just tell her to go to hell—at least he was not actually hurting her in retaliation as he would have done if he had followed his first inclination after the repudiation—and walk away and live the long overdue life as the Taiyoukai heir leave all human filth behind.
Except... this line of thinking was also so typical of Kagome. His Kagome. Innocent and trusting, believing whichever fool had misled her in an effort to separate them. Still wanting the best for him, even at her own expense. And still thinking that she knew better than him. He had lived for over five hundred years. He had more life experience. Shouldn't he know the world better? And besides, he had been with many women. And it irked him that she thought he wouldn't know if he liked someone.
Frustrated, he bent down and kissed her, and yet all the frustration melted away once he tasted her lips. Gently, his lips touched hers and explored the texture. Softly, as he had wanted to ever since he found out that they had mated while he was in heat and he couldn't remember what had happened. Carefully, because he wanted her, and not just for now, but for a long time... he wasn't quite sure yet if he was ready for forever.
"Sesshoumaru," Kagome said as soon as she could, several dazed moments after he had broken the kiss. "You're just reacting... to the repudiation."
"No, I'm not," Sesshoumaru refted. He looked at the sky behind her, wondering if Kagome was still Kagome... and how to convince her that he was still Sesshoumaru. The one she had known. "I've... killed my owners before, and that hurts like repudiation. And I don't love them after their deaths."
"Oh." Kagome didn't know how to react.
He went on, "But you're different. I want to protect you, to make sure you're safe. I want to know if you're in danger. When you were attacked by Naraku, I made a vow that I would stop anybody else from hurting you. And I will."
Before Kagome could say anything, a strange feeling encompassed her. She looked at Sesshoumaru questioningly and he smiled a little smile. "Now, I'm blood-bound to you again."
"I did it of my own free will this time, and you really shouldn't repudiate me again, because that really hurt."
"I don't know—"
"Sh," Sesshoumaru soothed as he held Kagome tight against his chest. He let her confusion and anxiety and uncertainty fill the emptiness in him that had been waiting for her. But more, he felt her bewildered happiness and it danced through his own heart.
Hesitantly, Kagome put her arms around Sesshoumaru's waist. She could feel him solidly under her arms, not fading like a mirage as she had feared. She could hear his heart beating.
After a few silent moments, Kagome admitted, "I missed you."
Sesshoumaru thought that it had taken a lot for her to admit that, but he was not sorry that she did. He stood there and enjoyed the feel of her warmth against him. But he could feel Kagome's growing anxiety and before Kagome could pull out of his arms, he thought he should say something. What came out was, "I missed you, too."
It was true.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Alright, so I'm addicted to fish. Anyways, lots of things have happened since the last update for anybody who cares--which is mostly just me, I imagine--but unfortunately no pictures.
Let's see... bad news first. I bought 4 small-ish angelfish from the LFS (Local Fish Store), but 2 of them died within the week, and for some reason 2 of my bigger ones (that I've had for almost a year now) passed away as well. That and giving away the deformed angelfish left me with 5 angelfish. I was very upset, and did about 3 water changes in as many days, and sometime in the process, managed to temporarily break my fluorescent light (which is necessary for my plants, and the general health of the fish tank).
So, I went out and bought a new light. It's beautifully inexpensive for all of its 260W PC. Only $110 plus tax. It sort of comes with moonlights (there's the wiring for it, and a switch, but no actual lights...) and two fans. I got in black to match my tank but only use half of the light because I'm not ready to do all the dosing and CO2 injection yet. That will take another 400 or so dollars... but I'll get there eventually.
And then yesterday, I went out and bought 10 baby angelfish. They're nickel sized and simply adorable. They're in my tank, and all acting well and eating well this morning. So I'm satisfied that they'll hopefully all be healthy and alive, at least by the time I come back next weekend.
I changed the water on the goldfish tank, but to my chagrin, it's still cycling for some reason. 0 ammonia, which is good, but 1.6mg/l of nirite, which is horrible. I did change the water, but only 15% and I'm wondering if it will be alright. But I'm depending on my goldfish, which have been hardy throughout the last year. (I have not been taking care of their environment as fastidiously as I should have.) And they seem healthy and eating so far. Nitrate was sort of okay. Existent, but not much of a concern. The lucky bamboos in there are fine, finally sprouting about 1 mm of roots... but hey, it's there.
My marine tank is doing well, too. And I'm very happy about that, partly because it's my first marine tank, partly because it's a nano, and partly because the livestock (and everything else, really) are all just so much more expensive than freshwater things. In either case, the tank has definitely finished cycling (didn't test for nitrates, though), and the diatoms are dying down, leaving room for the beautiful purple coralline algae to spread out more. The tank isn't that nasty orange color anymore. The colony of mushroom corals have far surpassed my (admittedly low) expectations are still alive, and possibly even thriving. The shrimp and scarlet hermit crabs (2) are doing well, active and feeding. At least, I assume that the hermit crabs have been feeding. I haven't been feeding them anything, though. I will probably add another cleaner shrimp to the tank tonight, and wait until Thanksgiving (which isn't all THAT far away) to add that Nemo-fish that I want.
Lastly, I setup a 10 gallon tank at my dorm. Currently, I only have one lazy dwarf gourami in there, which both my mom and my roommate find extremely boring. That, and there are no decorations in the tank (besides gravel). I will probably bring some fake plants and stuff and some algae and set it all up and then buy some cherry shrimps for the tank. If they are big enough, maybe they won't get eaten. Ah, well, we'll see what happens.
Anyways, tanks are mostly doing well. I still need to buy that goldfish for the goldfish tank, but not before it finishes cycling.
at 11:29 AM
Friday, September 14, 2007
I only noticed the little white ball of magelight—at least, I assumed it was magelight—lighting up the room when I had settled down on one of the chairs. I could see the bookshelves lining all the walls of the room, with ancient tomes and unrecognizable titles. I realized that the halls had been lit, too, because his cloak had seemed like an unnatural dark shadow.
“You can still do magic,” I murmured, wondering what that meant.
“You’re right, Ro,” he said. It sounded mocking, but I couldn’t be sure. He was so different, now, from what I remembered. “They didn’t recognize me as a Talent until after the wards fell.”
“Do you know who did it, then?” I asked, curious. He had been my childhood hero, the one who always seemed to know everything. When I had first come to Aquila, I had thought I would know something Tiernan didn’t and go back and tell him all about it. Only, I hadn’t had the chance, and now I found him here, and he still knew more than I did.
“I do,” he answered, surprising me. I waited for him to continue, and he did. He leaned toward me and said in a conspiring whisper, “It’s me.”
For a moment, I didn’t quite understand what he said, and when I did, I felt my eyes widen. “Why are you telling me this?” I whisper back at him. It felt as if I should be whispering.
He smiled, but it didn’t reach his hard, green eyes. “Why, Ro, because we are friends,” he said, and I was sure it was mocking this time.
It made me want to cry. I decided then that I hated Aquila. It changed my Mom into somebody cold and sharp and hard. And then, I finally saw Tiernan again—he was partly why I wanted to return to Sarsen so badly—and he had also changed into somebody cold and sharp and hard. It felt like the people I knew and loved were gone, and I stared at an warped illusion instead. It made me suddenly feel very lonely.
He lifted me to face him with a long, slender finger under my chin. “We’re friends, aren’t we, Ro?” he asked. He sounded cold, though, and uncaring of my answer.
No, this wasn’t the Tiernan I knew. Maybe I never really knew Tiernan. After all, I hadn’t seen him since I was eight, and childhood memories were always said to be sweet. “If you wish, Talent Kae,” I replied instead.
“Why don’t you call me Tiernan?” he asked me quietly, as if it were the answer to some puzzle.
I looked away from his thoughtful green eyes. I couldn’t stand the way he was looking at me, like I was some spell or the sweater waiting to be unravelled. “You asked me to call you Talent Kae,” I replied. It wasn’t the answer—that Talent Kae suited him like a well-tailored suit now and Tiernan seemed like a child’s toy he had already broken and cast away—but he seemed to accept it.
“What if I asked you to call me Tiernan?”
I looked up at him, wondering at the meaning behind his eyes, as flat as broken glass bottles. “It would be disrespectful of me.”
“Rowana...” My name sounded foreign the way it rolled of his tongue. He stood up then, and came right up to me. His cloak was an even darker shade than the shadows. He pulled me up with his hands on my arms. They didn’t hurt, though, when I followed their guidance and stood up. One of his slim fingers pulled at a loose tress of my hair. “Beautiful like the Sarsen dust,” he murmured.
I didn’t know if he meant for me to hear it. My hair was like the Sarsen dust—had always been like it. Mother said it was because I watched too many Sarsen sunrises and ate too many Sarsen pheasants. But it would always be too dull and tangled to be beautiful. I didn’t know what he was trying to do and tried to pull away from him.
I didn’t have anywhere to go, though, standing between him and the chair. So, I turned my head to look at the big grandfather clock. Its hands crawled slowly towards nine o’clock.
His fingers trailed down my cheek and turned my chin to look at him again. They trailed down to hold me by my neck and I shivered. His fingers were so cold they tingled. He was still so much taller than me, and carried himself more like the majestic prince I had always imagined to be his secret identity when were both little.
But his eyes... I couldn’t stand looking in his eyes. They weren’t a prince’s eyes, and they made him a stranger to me. I looked down at his golden cloak clasp instead. I felt naked wearing a thin white dress when he was clad in a heavy black cloak and thick black boots. “It’s late, Talent Kae,” I said quietly, relieved that I kept the quiver out of my voice. “If you would excuse me, I must go rest.”
His hand dropped then, and he stepped away from me. “You’re so beautiful now,” he said cryptically. “But you’ve become so cold and distant.”
I had no reply, but he didn’t seem to need one. “Alright, then, Miss Craine, our lessons begin tomorrow. Best be well prepared.”
For the first time in many years, I took out the little purple pouch from the bottom of my trunk. In it was my last baby tooth that the tooth fairy had forgotten to take. It, at least, was still the same.
I didn’t sleep well that night. I had a dream that a demon had possessed Tiernan, and it came to hunt me down with cruel, laughing eyes. I woke up gasping and found the covers wrapped too tightly around me for comfort.
I hadn’t been able to go back to sleep for the rest of the night. When dawn crept into the room, I decided to get up and wash the tiredness from my eyes. I picked a fresh white dress and tied it with a gold sash, and looked identical to my reflection yesterday. My stomach was painfully eager for breakfast, but I hesitated, because Tiernan had promised to teach me magic after breakfast.
Still, the meeting with Tier—Talent Kae was unavoidable. So, I entered the main dining area where all the students from Lancer’s Academy ate together. It felt right, although less noise than usual floated down to the main entrance where I stood; some were still mourning Talent Issaka’s passing.
I almost took my usual seat, the far end of a table filled with boisterous Untalented students. Other than an occasional greeting, most of them ignored me, and I had eaten there in peace. When I approached them this morning, though, they gave me looks. Some of them jabbed their forks into the air between me and them to further highlight that I was no longer welcomed there, if I ever was.
I moved on, then, to the other half of the room, where more students chose silence over chatter. I felt strange, wandering amongst those strangers in black, for mourning, when I wore lily white, to show my inexperience and ignorance in the Talent. They didn’t stare too much, though, and most ignored me. Finally, I sat down near the end of one of the tables that weren’t too crowded.
Breakfast was eggs, milk, and toast this morning. My toast was already a little cold, and the butter wouldn’t melt on it properly because I had come down to breakfast later than recommended. I wondered if there was a simple spell to reheat toast, but I knew that I was getting ahead of myself. And besides, Talent should not be wasted so frivolously, especially when they were in such short supply. Still, it would have been nice to fill my anxious stomach with warm toast.
“Hello, Rowana,” somebody said from across from me.
I look up. “Dane!” I had had classes with Dane, before they discovered his Talent, and we had been friends. He had been shorter than me, then, but judging by the width of his shoulders, he was probably at least half a head taller than me.
His brown eyes lit up. “You remember me!”
“Of course.” I didn’t know why he sounded surprised. He had been one of the few friends I ever had. “How are you?”
“Doing well, considering the circumstances,” he answers a bit grimly before brightening up again. He leans towards me and whispers, “You have a rogue as your teacher.”
I knew that already and didn’t need any more patronizing or snide remarks about my “unorthodox” teacher. I just nod to him, though.
Then, he grins, “Well, do teach me if he teaches you any special tricks.”
I looked at him for a moment before I managed to answer, “I can’t.” At his hurt expression, I hastened to explain, “I can’t tell what’s ‘special’ and what’s not since I don’t know what you are learning.”
Dane hummed and took a bite of his breakfast and I followed suit. Then, he asked, “So, what’s your area of specialty?”
“What?” I didn’t understand his question.
“You know,” he waved his fork in the air and it glittered. “What are you good at? Which test or tests did you pass?”
“Oh, I can’t do anything but scry,” I answered before picking at my food again. The eggs had been overcooked this morning, and I picked at the very dark brown patches.
“Wow!” It was Dane’s loud exclaimation that brought my attention back to him. “We haven’t had a seer in ages!” he continued. “They usually come into their power earlier, you know. Like at thirteen or fourteen, but they say that seers are the opposite of mages and that the later they come into their powers, the stronger they are. So, what did you see?”
I shifted uncomfortably under his direct gaze. “Just myself with Talent Kae,” I mumbled. It hadn’t felt special when the plain image had rippled over the water the way my reflection would have.
Dane smiled lopsidedly then, a good-natured smile, and reached across the table to pat me on the arm. “No wonder they’re tutoring you privately.”
But I didn’t see any reason they handed me to Talent Kae besides that we seemed to be the only two with Talents who didn’t have the Emperor’s Spell. It was only luck—I have yet to decide good or bad—that Talent Kae now tutored me privately, and had nothing to do with my Talent at all. Still, I saw Dane’s conviction and decided not to correct his misconception.
“So you know...” Apparently, Dane wasn’t done yet. I tried to remember if he had been this talkative when we had last known each other, but his face was a bit blurry in my mind. I couldn’t remember how he had acted at all. “Does Talent Kae know who broke the wards?”
I nodded. I remember him answering my all-important question last night about who broke the wards.
“Well, who is it?” Dane asked.
“I...” I shook my head then, to clear my thoughts. I swore he had told me who broke the ward, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember who it was anymore. You’d think I would remember such an important piece of information, but I had always been forgetful. “I don’t know.”
Dane sighed, and leaned down onto his hands on the table. “Well, I didn’t expect him to tell you, anyways, but it was worth a try. It’s the mystery right now, you know?”
I nodded, and picked some more at my breakfast when the bell rang, a ten minute warning for the first class. Students and Talents started to stand up and leave. Dane waved a little goodbye before standing up. “I’ll introduce you to my friends next time,” he offered before leaving.
I just nodded, but his back was already to me then so I don’t think he saw me. The breakfast was hopeless anyways; the toast had also been too burnt and the eggs were thoroughly brown. I gave up on it and decided that I might as well prepare myself to see Tiernan—Talent Kae. There was nothing to be done about my white dress, but I thought I’d do my hair up at least.
I had tied my hair into a tight bun as a futile attempt to tame it. Strands of it still fell out, though, and kept on tickling my face. Magic wasn’t messy, per se, but there was something about dabbling in something entirely new that made me want to prepare myself. At least, I’d be able to see clearly... if my hair would only stop falling out of the bun.
Ti... Talent Kae didn’t look any smaller by daylight. He seemed more ominous, actually, with a much sharper contrast between his shadowy cloak and the dismal daylight. In fact, if my mind were taken with flights of fantasy, I would have said that his cloak took away the sunlight and cheerfulness that we sorely needed after everything that had happened.
And this... dismalness was part of the Talent Kae that was I slowly starting to get to know. He was like a twisted nightmare of a reflection of the boy I had once known, inexplicably handsome instead of plainly lovable, sinister instead of mischievous, and cutting instead of witty.
“I’m here, Talent Kae, for the lessons,” I said to his back in a small voice, torn between letting him ignore me and learning magic as I ought to be doing.
He turned around slowly, his cloak remaining silent swirl of darkness, and he didn’t seem at all surprised to see me. “There will be no lessons,” he announced, though only to me.
It took me a moment to understand what he said, enough time for him have strode halfway across the room—and that much close to the door to the room. And to me.
“What do you mean?” I managed.
He stilled, then, and looked at me, green eyes shadowed by long, dark eyelashes. “You have no Talent.”
I stared at him some more before answering, “But I would not be here if I had no Talent. Talent Diesus checked for us himself.”
He smiled beatifically, then, as if I had walked into a trap instead of clearing up the matter. “Talent Diesus couldn't make an illusion, of course, because he was bound by his Emperor's Spell. So, he assumed that the magic for the image in the scrying pan came from you.”
“It was you, who put the image there, then.” I was finally beginning to understand.
“It wasn't very difficult.” He took a smooth step toward me, as if bringing the shadows with his cloak. “It wasn't difficult at all imagine you grown up, with flowers surrounding you. Although, now that I've met you again, I think daggers might have been more appropriate.”
“Oh...” I hadn't seen flowers in the scrying pan, though; I had seen him, as he stood now, and me standing by his side.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Still, even though I'm by no means professional or even consistent with my fish keeping, they are one my pride-and-joys. I currently have 3 tanks up and running, with a fourth one in the process of being set-up.
The reason that I brought all this up in the first place is because two of my angelfish decided to mate and spawn. There are little brown eggs on the leaves. I don't know if they are actually a pair, though. The male could be sterile. They could be lesbians (and no, it's not uncommon for that to happen).
Either way, though, I'll probably have to wait until the next spawning, because I have a pleco in there. And plecos are liable to eat up the eggs during the night, when the parents sleep. (I totally understand this, since I'm a big egg-eater myself... chicken, duck, goose, ostrich, robin...) The parents are doing a good job guarding it so far, though. Sadly, I don't have a tank setup for angelfish spawning, or I would move them there. Ah, well, we'll see if I can get a good deal somewhere.
On to the pictures (click on them to get the full sized version)...
First, my 55 gallon planted freshwater tank, the tank that I'm most proud of (and therefore maintain most carefully). It has a nice Emperor 400 HOB filter, and a 300W submersible heater. There are 80 watts of fluorescent strip lighting on top, spray painted black to match the tank. The substrate is made especially for plants... but I don't remember its name or the name of the plants, despite that I spent a small fortune on them.
It's actually understocked right now, with 6 angelfish, 11 neon tetras, and 2 swordtails, and a common pleco. I'm getting rid of the malformed angelfish (it's not doing will in my tank anyways), and would be, ideally, moving the mated pair elsewhere for spawning. I've had the pleco for a year already, and the other fish since New Year's.
Anyways, I got the six angelfish altogether at New Year's, like I already mentioned, and now, about 9 months after I got them, they're actually considered adults. They are no where near 6" (the full grown full grown size for angelfish), but there's actually already a mated pair.
Here they are... (From left to right, mated angelfish pair with the eggs on the plant leaf, a closeup of the eggs on the plant leaf, a picture of one of the adults, a picture of the other adult, and a picture of the littlest "disabled" angelfish.)
Then, there's the little 10 gallon tank underneath. It's not nearly as exciting, with only a whisper 10 filter, and not even a heater. There is a betta and two grow-a-frogs in there (frightened into hiding by the betta). It's not really my tank, but I maintain it with the other tanks. If you looked carefully, you can tell that this tank is placed underneath the 55 gallon tank.
Oh, and I mentioned I have a 25 gallon goldfish tank. But it's terribly dirty right now. The water itself is fine, but there is algae growing it. I just need to spend some money on an algae scraper... It's come through snail mail...