Saturday, January 21, 2006

Property - Chapter Two

Over breakfast, Kagome's father handed her a packet of paper. "Documentations and agreements. Negotiations in process, too," Mr. Higurashi explained to his daughter after swallowing his bite of fish.

Breakfast had always been a private familial affair at the Higurashi's. Kagome's mother had taken Souta to see Grandpa just a week ago, though, right after Kagome's birthday. Since Kikyou insisted on training in the morning, she always took breakfast before the rest of the family. So, only Kagome and her father were at breakfast today.

Higurashi sighed at Kagome's blank look. "You are already sixteen, and fairly mature for your age. As my heir you will have to learn how to handle things like this."

Kagome's brown eyes only continued staring at the papers in her father's hand. Mr. Higurashi finally placed the paper in her hands. He tried for a reassuring smile and wished that Kagome's mother was here. Kagome's mother was good with the whole reassuring people business. "Don't worry; your mother will help you with this."

After a pause, Kagome finally responded. "You're leaving again. In winter."

Mr. Higurashi winced inwardly at Kagome's almost accusatory tone but he nodded. Normally, he wouldn't travel during the harsh winter, either, but this couldn't wait. "I have to negotiate with the Lord of the Western Lands."

"Touga... Taiyoukai?"

Mr. Higurashi sighed and nodded.

Kagome frowned with worry. "Is he upset with something? Half of the youkai would follow him if he decided to end the peace treaty."

"More like three-quarters. And the other quarter would do it just because they despise humans," Mr. Higurashi corrected. "Which is why we need to negotiate before the dispute goes out of hand."

"So he is upset with something." Quickly, Kagome flipped through the stack of papers handed to her. "Magical items trading protocol," one was titled. Kagome skimmed just several more of the document titles. "Slaving and slave trade agreements." "Ownership of sacred objects." "Inter-species criminal and justice agreement."

"You won't find the reason for disagreement there." Mr. Higurashi knew what her daughter was looking for.

Kagome looked up expectantly. "Then why are they uneasy?"

Mr. Higurashi sighed again and pushed the rest of his bowl of miso away. He didn't have much of an appetite anyways. "It's his elder son. He's a blood-bound."

Kagome nodded. "But we have an agreement about blood-bounds. They capture many hapless humans as slaves each month, and they wouldn't let the humans go no matter what." Kagome added as she remembered something she had heard once, "Taiyoukai was rumored to have lost his heir four hundred years ago."

"Five hundred years ago." Mr. Higurashi shook his head slowly. "That's not it, though. They think... He thinks... that the Taiyoukai heir is in our possession."


"That's why Touga Taiyoukai is so upset. Earlier, he said he was even willing to free all the current human slaves if we freed his heir."

"But... that's not possible." Kagome forced herself to take a deep breath. Grandpa always advised deep breaths as the cure to anxiety. But then, Grandpa had a lot of unique ideas. "We can't release a blood-bound we don't have. It's not possible."

"I know it's not possible." Higurashi paused a bit before continuing in a graver tone. "I just received another missive from him three days ago, claiming that his younger son is now a blood-bound at our family, too, and better be treated right."

"What? How?"

"I don't know," Higurashi said in resignation. "I don't know. I just... really don't know... But I think he means to go to war."

"A war?"

Higurashi nodded. "It would be a repeat of the Sentient War. We don't have nearly as many priests and priestesses this time. Even if we found the Shikon no Tama, I doubt it would give us the boost we need. And the Tama has disappeared sixteen years ago."

"But what if Taiyoukai refuses to believe us?"

"If he refuses peace... I don't want to think about that." Higurashi stared at the table for a long while and took a deep breath. "But if he refuses peace, I am going to go see Kouga."


"Leader of the wolf pack," Higurashi explained. "The second strongest clan after Taiyoukai's—and a far second even then. But he's always been a little discontent with the way Touga handles things. He's young and a little brash, too. Just a baby compared to Touga, really. With the right incentives, though, I'm hoping he can be persuaded to join our side."

"Then he will persuade Taiyoukai?" Kagome asked hopefully.

"No," Higurashi answered grimly. "He will give humans more hope in the war."


Straightening, Higurashi said with more calm than Kagome felt, "I should be gone for no more than a fortnight. I hope you can keep order within the human alliances at least, and do the duty that has always been given to the House of Higurashi."

"I will try," Kagome promised sincerely.

Higurashi smiled and patted his daughter's hand. "That's all I ask for." He hesitated before saying, "If I don't return within a fortnight, prepare for war. Your mother will help you. And Kikyou is quite knowledgeable, too."

Kagome didn't know quite how to respond to that. There had always been tension between the youkai and the humans, but the danger had never seemed so immediate or imminent. It's okay, she told herself firmly. Father will be fine. Father is the best at diplomatic negotiations.

Higurashi stopped at the door as he was leaving the dining room. "Aren't you going to wish me good luck? I'm going to need it."

"Good luck," Kagome replied. "And be safe."

Higurashi nodded. "I will see you in a fortnight."

Kagome pored over the papers that her father had given her. They spread and covered her normally meticulous oak desk. She would have needed to know all this eventually anyways, but she hadn't expected the responsibility for another two years. Even then, it would be with her mother by her side, explaining the nuances and semantics of each sentence and un-puzzling the complex, ancient script that all legal documents were written in.

Just because she was unprepared didn't mean she had to remain unprepared, though. Besides, she was sure that the more she learned, the less intimidating it would become. Her father stood a very real chance of getting killed or being held hostage, if Taiyoukai truly believed that the Higurashi house bound the heir to the Lord of the Western Lands.

Kagome wouldn't be surprised if Taiyoukai declared war. In fact, he had been resisting many other youkai lords' calls for violence for centuries. He had been unusually peaceful for a youkai, especially a taiyoukai.

It had been rumored that Taiyoukai's mate had been a human woman. This would explain his benevolence towards humans and his inability to produce more heirs, since mated youkai remained monogamous to their mates even after their mates' deaths.

This theory, though, wouldn't explain the absence of the Lady of the Western Lands. Ancient scrolls claimed that once a human's lifeline was bound to a youkai's, the human would be able to live just as long as the youkai, provided that the mating ceremony altered slightly.

Of course, it was an ancient scroll of a rather dubious source, and with the tension between youkai and humans, there had been no inter-species union since Taiyoukai—if the rumor was true in the first place. At least, no unions declared in public.

Kagome looked at the first document in her stack, "Magical items trading protocol," when somebody knocked on the door.

"Yes?" Kagome answered, looking up from the documents and rubbing her tired eyes. The indecipherable phrases refused to stop swimming in front of her eyes.

A blood-bound servant opened the door and bowed respectfully. "The bed frame you ordered is ready, Lady Higurashi."

"Oh, okay." Kagome paused to remember what she wanted to do next. "Would you send for Sesshoumaru please? I think he is—"

"Right here." Sesshoumaru's deep voice startled Kagome. She looked to see him at the door to her bedroom beside the maidm, as if he had always been there.

"Well." Kagome paused to gather her thoughts. It was almost eerie how suddenly Sesshoumaru appeared, as if he knew she expected him. She collected herself before continuing, "I wanted to know where you would like to sleep. There is the room next to mine in this wing, which is empty. There are rooms in the Riding Wing if you wish to house with the males. I believe that there is a room in the Tailing Wing, too, if—"

"I wish to stay where I am," Sesshoumaru cut her off again.

Over the past week, Kagome had not asked him to do anything nor punished him. She had given him a mattress to sleep on and regular meals. The food seemed to be what the family itself was eating as well. She seemed intent on treating him decently, as if he weren't a slave.

Furthermore, the few times that Sesshoumaru had felt pain from the bond, Kagome had been fast asleep. He was fairly certain now that she experienced chronic nightmares, which he seemed able to soothe just be staying next to her. She fell asleep fairly quickly every time after that first night, even without his sedative vapor.

Which perplexed him even more, because that would imply a certain amount of trust, even with a blood-bond. Or just an extraordinary amount of ignorance.

Especially since even Sesshoumaru himself thought he shouldn't be trusted. No, he didn't have violent urges to hurt her anymore. Instead, his body stayed on edge, wanting to hold her and touch her. Against the black screen of night, his mind played fantasies of his body covering hers. His limbs tangled with hers. His breath mixed with hers as it rose in the cold winter night.

No. Kagome was foolish to trust him.

Sesshoumaru narrowed his gold eyes when Kagome didn't even rebuke him for cutting her off. Instead, she protested, "But you can have your own room."

"I am your blood-bound. I wish to stay where I am," Sesshoumaru repeated. He decided to push some more, even reminding her that he was not her equal. So far, Kagome had been unpredictable, and he needed to know what game she played, because he intended to win. And, he needed to find a fault in her to take away from his wanting. "Unless you are willing to share your bed with me."

The servant, who had remained impassive until now, gasped.

Kagome long lashes covered her warm brown eyes as she looked at the carpet and blushed. "Uh..." She eyes flickered uncomfortably to the servant, avoided looking at Sesshoumaru, and returned to staring at the carpet. "I guess you can stay in my sitting room, then, if you really want to."

Outwardly, Sesshoumaru only nodded. The servant hurried to instruct other servants to place the bed and the mattress in the correct location and find all the necessary bedding.

Inwardly, though, Sesshoumaru damned Kagome for not reacting the way he expected her to; He had expected her to lash out at his impertinence and audacity like his previous owners. It made his life more difficult, but not impossible.

He would not trust her. All rational beings had motives. The only human that he had known with pure intentions had been his mother—Inuyasha's mother, actually, but Inuyasha didn't deserve her—and she was an unparalleled paragon. And damn her, too, for telling him that he shouldn't hurt somebody unless it was in defense, and this girl certainly hadn't hurt him on purpose, or enough for him to justify causing her the pain he wanted to.

As Sesshoumaru watched the servants put the bedding on the bed with quiet efficiency, Sesshoumaru decided that he still had another month or two to push her to violence so he could retaliate. She was, after all, only human, and all humans made mistakes. Come spring, though...

"Did you want another pillow, or a heavier blanket?" Kagome's quiet question startled Sesshoumaru out of his thoughts.

"No, my lady," Sesshoumaru answered simply.

"Anything at all?" Kagome asked.

She had been encouraged by Sesshoumaru's insistence to stay in her sitting room, even if she felt that it would be rather awkward. At least it showed that Sesshoumaru still had a spark of will within him. Just as quickly, though, the spark had disappeared and he refused to act as an individual with a mind.

And he had called her "my lady." Within the last week, he had called Kagome by her name several times, but now he seemed to revert completely to being the obedient slave.

It would be difficult to make Sesshoumaru learn to think for himself, Kagome had already determined. But it wouldn't be impossible.

Kagome wondered at his personality. He seemed... quiet. No, not quiet. Just concise and to the point. Almost... arrogant. But that wouldn't be right, because he was not even confident enough to tell her what he wanted.

Kagome sighed, and turned back to her papers, only to find Sesshoumaru looking over them, a strange looked reflected in his gold eyes.

He stared at her with those eyes. "Why would you have these papers?"

"Uh..." Kagome hesitated to answer. His stare made her feel guilty, though she had no idea what for.

Besides, these were private documents, since most negotiations took place hidden from the public eye. If humans had their way, they would already be attacking all the youkai indiscriminately. Some because they thought youkai were evil. Others, because they thought they would be able to acquire many more blood-bounds.

On the other hand, this was the first time that Sesshoumaru had asked her a question. First time he talked to her at all without her prompting him.

"I'll tell you, but don't tell anybody else," Kagome finally said. She tried to impress on him the importance of the secrecy of some of these documents when she looked at him. "Swear that you won't tell anybody else."

"I swear I will not tell anybody else about these documents," Sesshoumaru acquiesced easily. He could not have refused her requests anyway, though, because she gave them as commands. However, she didn't seem to realize that he would have had to do as she commanded, and he didn't want to remind her.

"Um, okay." Kagome turned to look at the paper again before deciding that his oath was genuine. "Do you know the Higurashi house?"

Sesshoumaru nodded.

"Well, the tradition within the Higurashi house is that the head of house is passed down the eldest child, no matter the gender. My father is the current patriarch."

Kagome paused to see if Sesshoumaru had questions, but he remained silent.

"And I am the heir," Kagome continued.

"The other woman?"

Kagome frowned for a second in thought. "Kikyou, you mean? She... her mother was younger than my mother."

Sesshoumaru could tell that Kagome was withholding some information, but he decided that it wasn't important. What was important was that he had in front him, the heir to the Higurashi house.

"Your father should have these papers, then."

Kagome nodded in agreement. "But he had to make negotiations, and he decided to let me look them over."

"He has left?"

Sesshoumaru sounded slightly different as he asked that question, and it set Kagome on edge. When she looked at him, though, he only stood with his back straight and his eyes cast on the carpet.

"Yes," Kagome affirmed. Even if Sesshoumaru planned something, he wouldn't be able to harm her because of the blood-bond. Once he learned to think for himself and she decided that he is not dangerous, though, she would remove the blood-bond. Meanwhile, he couldn't harm her.

Kagome accepted that she was grateful to the blood-bond in this one regard, no matter how much she loathed blood-bonds. After all, he was a rather powerful-looking youkai and she had no doubt he could at least hurt her just by physical strength alone. Although, to be fair, he had not shown any inclination to violence.

Kagome resolved to ask Sango about Sesshoumaru as soon as Sango arrived.

"My father went to negotiate with the Taiyoukai."


"Touga Taiyoukai." Kagome sighed. She really worried about her father and she supposed that Sesshoumaru was as good as anybody else as a confident. "He claims that his heir is a blood-bound in the Higurashi house."

"He does?"

"But he can't be."

"He can't?"

Kagome shook her head adamantly. "It's not possible. We don't usually keep blood-bounds for more than a year or two. The only ones we keep are the ones who can't learn to be independent. If... the Taiyoukai's heir is in our household... I mean... wouldn't we have noticed him?"

"Would you have?"

"Papa would," Kagome said with more conviction than she felt. "He knows what Taiyoukai looks like. So he would notice if the Taiyoukai heir is in our house..."

Kagome looked up at Sesshoumaru then, and just realized that she had been rambling on. With a wry smile, she said, "Don't worry about it, none of this affects you anyways."

"It doesn't," Sesshoumaru said, but Kagome thought she heard an odd note in his voice, almost a question mark. Or irony. Then, she decided that she was just too tired and worried.

"Sango, you're here!" Kagome said happily and she gave her best friend a hug as she met Sango at the entrance to the Higurashi house. "You look..."

Kagome pulled back to actually look at Sango. The pink kimono seemed good enough, made of carefully embroidered silk. It was more Sango's disgruntled expression that gave Kagome pause.

"Like shit," Sango finished for Kagome, pulling the chopstick out of her bun and retying her straight black hair in a simple ponytail.

Kagome tsk-ed at her friend. "I would have thought that Miroku would treat you better. You know, it's not too late to run away."

Sango laughed at Kagome's antics. "Miroku's treating me fine. It's just that I prefer to walk on my own two feet. Or ride Kirara." Sango wiggled her foot in pink slippers from under her voluminous kimono for emphasis.

"But..." Kagome prompted.

"But he insisted that I wear this." Sango tugged at her kimono and rolled her shoulders as if trying to rid herself of an itch. Although very different from the usual fighting outfits Sango wore, it definitely flattered her figure and complimented her complexion.

"Then," Sango continued her rant that had picked up momentum. "I had to sit for a whole day, while being jostled around in a cart. A whole day in a cart! As if my own feet wouldn't do. I feel like I won't be able to stand straight for a week. And all the while, I couldn't even see a thing of where I was going!"

Kagome patted Sango's hand consolingly. She noticed that Sango's fingernails were painted in pink and stifled a laugh. "He's treating you well. Besides, you wouldn't have wanted to walk for a whole day."

Sango's mock anger deflated. "I know, but I hate having to act like a lady. I was brought up knowing how to swing my boomerang.

"And both my boomerang and Kirara are coming with somebody else." A sigh. "I told Miroku that you already knew I wasn't ladylike, but he insisted that I oughtn't offend the Higurashi house even if I can claim friendship with the daughter of the house."

"He's just looking out for you." Kagome stood up from the receiving room at the discreet signal of a servant that Sango's belongings have been settled into her rooms. Sango followed. "Here, I'll show you to your rooms."

"Sure, and thanks for having me over."

"No problem," Kagome replied easily. "As long as you'll let me stay at your house the week before my own wedding."


Sango came to visit Kagome after finishing her bath. She had just stepped into Kagome's suite to catch up with her when she noticed the youkai sitting quietly against the wall.

She didn't know how she could have almost missed him, as if he was so silent and still that the eye simply passed over him. Upon closer inspection, Sango found that he was tall with exotic features and long silver hair; Streaks of purple marked his face; And the most astonishing of all, was that Sango could feel his aura. It wasn't lively like Kirara's, or determined like Inuyasha's. Instead, it reeked of a quiet menace that made the hair on her neck stand. Sango wondered how Kagome could not feel it.

"Taijiya," the youkai acknowledged with a low and even voice, quiet enough that it wouldn't carry to Kagome's bedroom.

"Youkai," Sango replied in kind.

The youkai's lips twisted cynically. "No, blood-bound."

Sango stared at the youkai a bit more. Kagome had never liked blood-bonds since they impinged on free will, and mostly, Sango agreed. This time, however, Sango could only be grateful that something controlled the youkai.

Then, she noticed the crescent on the youkai's forehead, and became even more grateful. The markings on his face already declared him a powerful youkai lord, but the crescent moon...

Sango remembered that under only one condition was she to retreat from a youkai, and it was if the youkai "carried the mark on the moon." Even if she had the whole clan of taijiya behind her. It was some mark of some youkai family, though she never seemed to remember.

"Then I'm glad that you have a nice mistress," Sango said.

The youkai smiled even wider, showing his fangs. A puff of poisonous green smoke had Sango backing up quickly in alarm. "I'm only restrained from harming my mistress, not anyone else."

"I'm her friend," Sango warned. It was a two-fold warning. First, she could tell Kagome about Sesshoumaru and have Kagome punish him. Second, if Sesshoumaru harmed Sango, he would cause Kagome distress, and thereby be harming his mistress, which he could not do.

He startled her, though, by whispering almost gleefully, "Go. Go tell her."

"How are the accommodations?" Kagome asked as Sango came through the door. She turned from her papers to look at her friend. "I see you are back to your usual, boyish ways."

Sango rolled her eyes and plopped on Kagome's bed. "They are just pants."

"And you are practically royalty, being a taijiya and all."

"And you are royalty," Sango quipped. "I see you've already taken up the duties as the heir to the Higurashi house ought to.'

Kagome shrugged and started straightening her desk. The documents she perused and understood in one pile. The documents she had questions about in another pile. And the documents had hadn't looked at yet in the third pile. "I'm not getting married."

"So," Sango said casually. "How'd you get the blood-bound out there?"


But Kagome didn't say anything more.

"Well?" Sango asked. "Aren't you going to tell me? He's pretty good looking and in any other house he'd probably be a pleasure slave..."

At this, Kagome felt her cheeks heat up. She hadn't actually done anything, but she couldn't say that she hadn't thought about it. Or been sorely tempted on the several nights she had slept beside him when he came to soothe her nightmares. But Kagome was glad she wasn't the only one to find him attractive.

Still, if what Sango said was true—and Sango was an expert on youkai, since she was a taijiya—then Sesshoumaru had probably used in that way in previous households. And that thought definitely made Kagome uncomfortable.

Sango's eyes widened. "Don't tell me that you've actually used him as a pleasure slave."

Kagome shook her head.

At this, Sango let out a sigh of relief.

"Why do you sound so relieved?" Kagome asked. "We both know that it's wrong to use people like that, but you sound like..."

"He's dangerous," Sango warned ominously.

"He's a blood-bound," Kagome corrected, the frustration evident in her voice. "He can't—or won't—do anything for himself!"

Sango's eyes belied her doubts. "No?"

"Well, not usually," Kagome conceded. "He has spoken up once or twice, but mostly he just stands there or sits there, as if he doesn't have a thing to do unless I give him something to do."

"That's... not what I expected."

Sango continued when Kagome looked at her without understanding. "He's... He has the crescent moon mark."

Kagome nodded. "It's quite beautiful."

Sango snorted. "The whole of him is quite beautiful." Before Kagome could make a joke out of it, Sango continued. "But he's also dangerous."

"You already mentioned that," Kagome pointed out. "And I agree. I mean, I know he's probably a lot stronger than me—"

"Not just strength, but youkai abilities, too."

"But still, he's blood-bound. And he's about as subservient as I've met. Doesn't set one toe out of line—or even tries to."

"His eyes," Sango said suddenly. "They're not dead."

Kagome smiled as she thought about those golden eyes. They were definitely very alive and especially calming when he sat by her silently after her nightmares. "It's what gives me hope that he can be freed."

"It would be dangerous," Sango warned, for the third time. "He's... not friendly."

"I'll keep that in mind, but... I don't think he even thinks about what he wants anymore. He's not unfriendly."

Sango saw that Kagome had decided to give the blood-bound a better life, and Kagome was stubborn when her mind was made up like this. Still, Sango resolved to keep an eye on her friend. The blood-bound seemed intent to keep Kagome ignorant of his abilities. "If he does have sexual urges, though..."

Kagome laughed at that. "I'm sure that there will be plenty of willing women."

Sango didn't laugh. "It's... violent with youkai. Sometimes they don't even remember what happens afterwards...," Sango warned, but didn't know how much more to tell her friend. Sango had heard stories of how castles turned to ashes because of a youkai in heat. But they were only stories. And the youkai weren't blood-bound. Furthermore, Kagome was an innocent, and if nothing else, Sango had no wish to explain the more exotic technicalities of sex to her friend.

"I'll keep that in mind. Speaking of sleeping with people..." Kagome eyed Sango speculatively as she changed the topic. "Has Miroku performed up to expectations?"

Sango swatted at Kagome and blushed. "We're not married. Yet."

"You mean to say, Miroku hasn't done anything?" Kagome asked disbelievingly.

"Oh, he's tried," Sango said easily, her brown eyes sparkling at the myriad of memories that conjured. "I just haven't let him. You know, if I can take out a demon, I can definitely stand up to him."

"I know," Kagome agreed. "But I didn't think you'd want to. After all, you are getting married in a week."

"Patience is a virtue." Sango bit her lips worriedly. "But I think... he's worried about something. Hiding something. He is always so cheerful. Too cheerful. Like he's expecting something awful to happen, but he never tells me anything. I just want everything to go smoothly, and then I know I'll enjoy being his wife."

Kagome smiled at Sango's pre-wedding jitters. "You're acting so feminine, getting worried last minute and all that."

Sango glared at Kagome and Kagome laughed.

Sango growled, "I'm seriously worried."

Kagome laughed. "I know. That's what makes it so cute."

Inuyasha groaned as he slowly started to feel the pain that racked his body. It felt like... something he had felt long ago, but he couldn't quite remember what.

"You're awake," Kikyou's cold voice informed him.

Slowly, Inuyasha blinked his eyes and let them adjust to the light. It felt like he's been out for a week.

"You've been out for a week," Kikyou informed him.

Inuyasha looked over at Kikyou. Instead of her usual red and white priestess outfit, she wore red and black. It was supposed to symbolize something, Inuyasha thought. White meant... but his brain didn't want to think.

"Swear to me," Kikyou ordered Inuyasha brusquely.

Swearing... swearing... Inuyasha thought he should know how to do that, but he couldn't remember. Then, the pains started racking his body again. Pins and needles. Hammers joined the party too.

"Swear!" Kikyou repeated.

"I..." Inuyasha started to say, but couldn't remember the words. His throat felt like sandpaper.

"I..." Inuyasha tried again. Only, he ended up saying, "I'm a blood-bound?"

"How dare you question me?" Kikyou asked, her face hot. "Swear to me. Now."

For a moment, Inuyasha just stared at Kikyou in disbelief. "You bound me," he mumbled. But his disobedience earned him more pain, same as but worse than he remembered from so many years ago.

He knelt in front of her and declared detachedly, "I shall henceforth be forever governed by the will of my mistress, the worshipful Kikyou Higurashi."

Then he stood up and looked at her, his gold eyes quiet and mournful. "You didn't have to do this, you know."

"How dare you!" Kikyou shouted at him, her face flushed and her hands fisted by her side. "How dare you! How dare you!"

Inuyasha felt only the pain from Kikyou's anger. Why? Inuyasha wanted to ask, but knew that he wouldn’t get any answers. What had happened? Since the death of Kaede two years ago, Kikyou had started acting strangely. But Inuyasha had thought he understood. Death of a loved one always hurt. But why did she shut him out? And why did she bind him again?

Even Kikyou didn't know why she was so angry at Inuyasha. But she didn't need a specific reason. He was Inuyasha and therefore deserved her anger.