Sunday, March 5, 2006

Property - Chapter Eight

It took another day before Kagome could get out of bed and she no longer felt sleepy all the time. Sango came in to change Kagome's bandages, which looked so brown that Kagome wondered at how she still had enough blood to live. Under the bandages, though, only a faint scar remained.

Kagome angled her head to look at it more clearly. "But... I was wounded."

Sango shook her head as she took the wet cloth and cleaned off the dried blood. Throwing the bloody bandages away, she remarked, "We both fight youkai. But you, who wouldn't even fight against youkai physically, get the benefit of healing instantly."

"It wasn't instant," Kagome argued.

Sango rolled her eyes and snorted. "One day and your almost-fatal wound healed. That's pretty much instant."

"It still hurt."

"Kouga!" Sango called loudly and then turned to Kagome. "We're going to ask the wolf what he thinks."

They heard heavy footsteps seconds before the door to the room was pushed open. It hit the wall and bounced back, but Kouga pushed it open again, gentler this time. "What's wrong?" he demanded.

"It's Kagome." Sango added quickly, "She's all healed."


"Really," Sango persisted. "She's a priestess. Her kind heals fast."


"Da-yam!" Kouga whistled and looked impressed. He smiled broadly at Kagome and gave her a brotherly hug. He was definitely impressed enough to forget about Sesshoumaru Taiyoukai. "That's why you're my woman."

Kagome took a deep breath to restrain herself... and slapped him. Her hand stung, but he left her side quickly, too. He looked hurt, "What was that for?"

Before Kagome could make up an appropriate answer, Sesshoumaru entered the room. Shippou followed right behind him and used Sesshoumaru's shoulder as a launch pad to jump into Kagome's arms.

Sesshoumaru's cold gaze swept the room. "What happened?"

Shippou looked up at Kagome with worried eyes. "Something wrong?"

"No, nothing's wrong," Sango reassured them quickly. "I was just pointing out that Kagome's already healed. There's only a faint scar on her side, and even that will probably heal quickly."

"Yay!" Shippou shouted exuberantly from Kagome's arms. "Now you can run and play with me."

Kagome turned to see Sesshoumaru's reaction. To her disappointment, he simply nodded acknowledgement, as if he had expected it.

Well, Kagome hadn't, and she thought it was quite marvelous. Unlike everybody else, she hadn't even suspected that she had priestess powers. Well, okay, Sango did try to convince her, but all the tests had resulted in a great big lack of priestess powers. This was great, she thought. Now she could do all sorts of stuff, like protect people and heal people. She wouldn't be helpless. And, Kikyou could no longer disdain her for being powerless.

On the other hand, Kagome hoped that she wasn't stronger than Kikyou. The most powerful priestess of each generation became the Higurashi priestess, who was responsible for officiating every single showy dress-up event. Besides, she would have to remain chaste or marry her true love—who would not be Kouga, and any possibility of an alliance between them would go kaput. Furthermore, she wouldn't be the heir anymore, since the heir and the priestess could not be the same person. Instead, Kikyou would become the heir, and right now, Kikyou was a little too wrapped up in her private affairs to handle the public affairs well.

"The village elder agreed to offer us hospitality for several more days," Sesshoumaru informed them, changing the subject. "We should stay."

"We can't possibly impose on them," Kagome protested.

"I assure you, he was quite willing."

Riiiiiight, Kagome thought. Sesshoumaru intimidated most people on first sight, and he showed little qualms taking advantage of it. Kagome, though, knew that they weren't just staying in the guest room of their host's house. They had taken over the master bedroom. Of course the village elder would want his room returned. She would not let Sesshoumaru take advantage of the village elder's hospitality.

Seeing Kagome's hesitation, Sesshoumaru told her, "We're training your priestess powers before we start traveling again. At least until you have basic control over it. You would not wish to purify all the youkai in the village now that your priestess powers are no longer entirely focused on hiding the jewel. Besides, you'd be able to defend yourself."

"Fine," Kagome capitulated belligerently. So he thought her power was unreliable and she was weak. Well, he'd have to excuse her, because she was only human.

Sesshoumaru threw her an enigmatic look. At least, Kagome couldn't decipher it. "It's for your good."

As he walked out of the door, Shippou jumped out of Kagome's arms to follow. Kouga bowed shallowly and turned to leave, too. What was this? Kagome thought. Great and almighty Sesshoumaru-sama's entourage? As if he was the royalty of all royalty. She couldn't help but shout to his back, "I know."

When all the males left, Sango glanced at Kagome, puzzled. "It's nearing that time of the month, isn't it?"

Kagome frowned at Sango. Since when did Sango become so nosy? "None of your business."

"Okay, okay," Sango said, putting her hands up in a mock surrender, but Kagome could see the knowing snicker on her friend's face. "You should at least get cleaned, right?"

Kagome grumbled about cleanliness and being sick and cold winter baths as she scooted to the edge of the bed to get up.

"Don't worry," Sango soothed. "The village elder has a tub. We just need to get Kirara to heat up some water."

Kagome had expected rest after her bath. Maybe a tour around the village or just sitting in her room and talking. Nothing too strenuous, though, since she had just recovered.

Instead, Sesshoumaru had urged Kagome to sharpen her priestess powers. In case anything came up, he had explained, but she knew he was remembering the incident in the woods. She wondered if he would have chased after the youkai right then and there if she hadn't been fatally wounded.

Still, she had realized the truth in his words and stood in the village elder's garden. It was nothing like the Higurashi gardens, but the weeds were controlled and the plants were in neat rows.

She glanced over at Sesshoumaru. "What now?"

Sesshoumaru seemed to be staring across the garden at the fence on the other side, away from the house. "Now you demolish that."

"What?" Kagome turned to look at him, but he wasn't pointing at anything. He just looked across the garden. "I can't see what you've set up there. My eyes aren't that good."

"I haven't set anything up," he corrected.

"Then what do you want me to blow up?" She glanced between him and the other end of the garden. He hadn't started pointing, and she still only saw the fence.

Sesshoumaru gave her a mild look. Mildly amused? Mildly chiding? Mildly frustrated—nah, Kagome decided. Sesshoumaru probably didn't know how to be frustrated. He knew how to be angry, though, but she very much doubted that he could be mildly angry. "The fence," he answered.

Kagome turned to look at the fence. It was as it had been in the last ten minutes: a white, harmless, defenseless, decorative little fence. And the property of the village elder who was offering them hospitality. Didn't some gods frown on malice towards hosts? "Why?"

"Don't worry," he replied instead of answering her question. "You won't be able to do it anyways. It's just an aim so you can get used to the feel of your power."

"Excuse me?" Kagome asked. So he knew how to manipulate auras, but he was also born with his, and had well over hundreds of years to practice. And even if she was perfectly useless with her powers—which she obviously wasn't, or he would have detected the precious little jewel on her much sooner—he still had no right to take that condescending tone with her. "I can so do it."

"Oh?" He raised an infuriating, perfectly shaped, aristocratic eyebrow.

"Of course I can," Kagome bluffed. She turned toward the fence and narrowed her eyes at it and heaved like she really needed to go to bathroom the big way. And nothing happened. Heave. Wait. Nothing. Heave. Wait. Nothing. And she realized that she had no idea how to go about it.

Just as she was about to ask him for a hint, he said, "Ready to learn yet?" She could see a smug smirk on his lips and turned to glare daggers at the fence. She pretended that it was a giant centipede youkai and its shriveled black heart lay right across from her.


With a silent crack—Kagome never actually believed in them—she felt something flood out of her and expand. It hit the spot on the poor fence, but something absorbed it soon after that.

Kagome looked over at Sesshoumaru to see what he thought. She couldn't help but smirk as she gloated, "I told you I can."

Sesshoumaru nodded curtly. "Very good for your first try."

She turned to face him completely. "What do you mean 'very good' for my 'first try'? I'll have you know that I actually hit the spot, and you thought I couldn't do anything."

"I knew you could hit it," Sesshoumaru countered coolly as Kagome sputtered. "But your aim is nonexistent—your power spread in a circle away from you. Consequently, the intensity of your power decreased, and was easily absorbed. Do not be too upset, though, because your power would probably still have stung any youkai it reached if I had not contained it."

"Hey!" Kagome shouted, indignant. "What are you, super youkai?"

"The term is taiyoukai," Sesshoumaru corrected infuriatingly mildly. "You will not hurt me because I am blood-bound to you."

"No, you're not."

"Of course I am."

"But... you said you weren't a blood-bound. I remember that conversation."

Sesshoumaru sighed and his expression stated plainly that even a five-year-old should understand. "I am not a blood-bound, because the dynamics of our bond has changed. But I am still blood-bound to you." At Kagome's disbelieving look, he added, "Surely, you didn't think that the blood-bond just disappeared."

"Well... yes," Kagome admitted. "I mean, you were no longer under any compulsion to do what I said."

"You think that that was the entire purpose of the blood-bond?"

She saw the expression of open disbelief on his face for the first time. She scowled. Wasn't it the entire purpose? "What else is there?"

He looked back at the hole in the fence. And the blackened grass in front of it. "This time, try to give your energy a direction."

"What else is there to the bond?" Kagome persisted.

She swore that he rolled his eyes, but he wasn't actually so crass. Well, the bond pertained to her and she wanted—scratch that, needed to know. "I suppose you will find out eventually."

"But I want to know now." Kagome found that her voice had sneaked into the whiny range.

"It does not affect you," he answered.

Even she recognized the answer as evasive. "I don't believe you," Kagome declared. "I think it does something so awful that you don't want me to know. But I do. So tell me now."

She looked back to find gold eyes gazing intensely into her own brown ones. She gulped.

"Of course," Sesshoumaru replied in a soft whisper, and Kagome could feel his deep, smooth voice sliding over her. "The bond is reversed now, and I can make you do whatever I want. I can make you stay still without tying you up and have my way with you—do all sorts of things to you, and you won't be able to stop me. That's the nature of the bond now."

Honestly, Kagome thought that she might not want to stop him. She gulped again. "Um," she tried to say, but her voice came out embarrassingly hoarse. "Um," she managed, better the second time.

Sesshoumaru straightened up and sighed. "I was teasing you. Don't take it so seriously."

"Oh." Kagome hoped that the traitorous disappointment wasn't nearly as strong in her voice as it was in her head.

"Now concentrate on a direction and send your power in that direction," Sesshoumaru directed.

Momentarily, she marveled at his ability to keep on task and pretend that he hadn't just made an extremely... upsetting... joke. Yes, it was a very upsetting joke. She didn't appreciate it at all. She wasn't even mildly interested in what he had suggested, and she had only be flustered because the only other time she had done anything remotely close to it was with him.

Okay, who was she trying to kid again? What he had said was definitely hot.

In any case, she wasn't in the mood to practice her miko powers anymore. "I'm tired," she declared. She had just healed, and so he really ought to cut her some slack. "I'm going to drink tea, eat biscuits, and sleep. In that order."

It took several days before Kagome figured out that direction didn't help her aim. Instead, she had to pretend to shoot at her target through a hole in an invisible barrier. Sesshoumaru set up some actual targets and wouldn't relent until Kagome had gained a relatively accurate aim. So, now, if a youkai waited for about two or three minutes before attacking her, she might be able to defend herself.

Which was really very useless, when Kagome thought about it. No youkai—not even the stupid, weak ones—would wait before an attack. Still, her skill had satisfied Sesshoumaru sufficiently so that they moved on, and traipsed through the woods some more. The air turned chill again and Kagome tired easier because they had started to climb Kouga's mountain. Shippou remained subdued, saving up energy for the climb instead of bouncing around and chattering needlessly. Even Kouga's step seemed more labored. Surprisingly--or maybe not—only Sesshoumaru seemed unfazed. His reticence and stoic expressions remained unaltered.

Kagome thought that she might even have been more talkative—the sun was bright, if harsh, and the view down the valley was amazing—if Sango was with them. Instead, she had decided to stay in the village a bit longer. Since they planned to stay at Kouga's lair for a while, Sango had said she'd catch up with them there.

So, Miroku had been in the village. But Sango neither brought him back nor talked about him. Kagome worried for them, but there was nothing she could do. Besides, they were meant to be, and Kagome thought that fate wouldn't be quite that cruel to split them up.

Kagome trudged up the mountain slowly. Kouga led the way, ten or fifteen paces ahead, Shippou somewhere between Kouga and Kagome, and Sesshoumaru never more than a step behind Kagome.

The climb was tiring. It was exhausting. And for some reason, she thought that it felt rather grim, too.

Kikyou sat on her bed, her back against the headboard and staring out the window. It was a cloudless night, and the stars twinkled prettily, especially without any moonlight obscuring their faint rays.

The door opened so quietly that she almost didn't hear it. A black shadow padded toward the Kikyou's bed, but stopped before he reached it. Kikyou had almost forgotten what Inuyasha looked like with black hair, and now all the memories came in a rush, memories of him with his black hair and human ears and how she used to sit by him for the entire night because he was too wary to rest.

"Inuyasha, don't come any closer," she warned.

In response, his bare feet padded two steps toward her, bringing him right next to her bed.

She sighed. "You know that you'll still feel it at sunrise."

Inuyasha nodded softly. "May I sit by you?"

While he was human, the blood-bond lay dormant, since his youki disappeared. Even so, he was stronger than her and she didn't want to push his docility. She shifted a couple of inches over to give him room to sit.

"I shouldn't let you do this," Kikyou commented, almost absently.

They both sat to watch the night sky. The star twinkled as they had for eternity. It wasn't the season for shooting stars yet, or Inuyasha thought that he might make a wish.

Kikyou sat, tense because a strange intensity had replaced Inuyasha's old familiarity, but also comforted because he was Inuyasha. And sitting by each other through the night of a new moon was something they had done every month.

"You love me," Inuyasha blurted unexpectedly in a soft whisper and suddenly found himself wishing it were true. Wishing it so much that he could feel his body shrinking around his heart. Wishing it that he was willing to climb out of his skin to make it true. Wishing... and knowing that it wouldn't be true, and maybe never had been. Or worse, that she had loved him, and he was unworthy of it. After all, that was the problem, wasn't it? All his life, he had been pushed away—by his father, by his brother, by all the other youkai—and he had thought that he had finally found contentment staying beside Kikyou, but he had to mess it up the moment she had acted on her feelings and freed him from the blood-bond.

Unwittingly, Inuyasha found his sight blurring when Kikyou didn't even deign to answer. The human body was truly weak, and he didn't know how he could live a life in it the way Kikyou did. But he had been willing to try, if she had wanted him to. Well, she didn't want him to do anything anymore but to leave her alone.

Kikyou kept her eyes firmly fixed on the stars outside. They twinkled prettily. She figured that there was no point refuting his claim, since he was right. She loved him and she admitted it. She loved the hanyou who was so unsure of himself. She loved the boy who had trusted her despite her aloofness and that she was his mistress. She loved his uncertain smile and his bright dreams of their future together.

But now bitterness laced her memories of him and her love. She couldn't see his sweet gold eyes without seeing the angry red ones. She couldn't remember his gentleness without remembering his claws stained with Kaede's blood. And she couldn't trust him because she would always remember his betrayal.

"I—" they both said at the same time, wanting something explained. But then they both stopped to listen to each other.

And another awkward silence reigned.

Before either of them could formulate a proper response, a spark of youki lit the room like fireworks. Both Inuyasha and Kikyou rolled off the bed and stood defensively against the youkai.

He had wavy black hair and strange brown eyes with white pupils. After a careful reassessment, Kikyou decided that the person's youki flickered too much for him to be a youkai—probably a hanyou, then. "Naraku," Kikyou took a stab at guessing his identity. "I've heard about you."

"Oh?" The hanyou replied, but didn't refute her acknowledgement. "Then you must also know why I am here."

Kikyou stared at him for a moment longer. "You search here futilely. I do not have the Shikon no Tama."

"You do," Naraku insisted. "You are the Higurashi priestess."

From beside Kikyou, Inuyasha's voice dripped of venom. "What are you doing here?"

Naraku managed to look amused, a smug smile on his face. "I came to claim the Shikon no Tama, hanyou."

"Keh," Inuyasha spat. "You are one to talk, bastard."

"Inuyasha," Kikyou admonished calmly before turning her attention to Naraku again. "I wonder why you have chosen now of all times to attack."

"Indeed," Naraku replied. "I'm afraid I do not have time to reminiscence with you, Kikyou. So please give me the Shikon no Tama."

"I have already informed you, Naraku: The Shikon no Tama is not within my possession."

Naraku's eyes narrowed ominously. "Then you will tell me who holds the Tama."

At this, Kikyou laughed. "You think I would not have tried to obtain the Tama if I knew its whereabouts? Naraku, I know you take me for a fool, but I have not thought the same of you. Until now."

"Kikyou," Naraku said, warning thick in his voice as he took a measured step towards her. He was vaguely amused to notice that the powerless hanyou took a defensive stance in front of her. "You push my patience."

"Indeed. I was unaware that you had any." Kikyou stepped out from Inuyasha's protection. It wasn't as if he could actually do anything in his current state. "You have yet to answer my question. Why have you attacked now?"

"It wasn't a question the last time." Naraku surveyed the room. Apparently satisfied that nothing could hurt him, he turned his attention back to Kikyou. "The Taiyoukai heir is no longer within your household."

"The Taiyoukai heir?" Kikyou repeated and took his silence to be affirmative. So the rumors were true, though she wondered where he had been hiding. "Even if he were here, he would not have offered us aid."

"Irrelevant." Naraku waved her protestation aside. "He is blood-bound and must therefore protect." At Kikyou's stoic silence, he frowned a bit. "Surely, the mikos have not forgotten that the blood-bounds protect."

"Of course not," Kikyou answered glibly, even though she had never heard anyone say that protection was the primary function of a blood-bond. Usually, an owner ordered the blood-bound to protect the owner, since youkai were stronger than humans, but that was simply a way to use a blood-bound. "Most people use blood-bounds as guardians."

At this, Naraku laughed. It was an arrogant and careless laugh. "You really don't know anything about blood-bounds."

Kikyou narrowed her eyes. "This is irrelevant. You have come for the Shikon no Tama and I do not have it. Now you should leave."

"Oh, I don't think so," Naraku shot back and repeated himself. "Of course you have the Shikon no Tama. You are the priestess of the Higurashi House."

"If I had the jewel, do you not think that the hanyou beside me would be human?" Kikyou shot back.

Naraku chuckled. "I do not think so, Kikyou. Not only would that be a selfish wish—and therefore the Tama would remain. I have also heard of your falling out with him a couple years ago. You would not have given him the Tama."

"What do you know?" Kikyou dared him to answer. Kaede's death had occurred just when winter melted into spring and Kikyou had let her love with Inuyasha blossom. Although everybody had known that Kikyou's love with Inuyasha had wilted, nobody should know enough to say definitively that she would renege on her promise to give him the Tama, if she had it. Which was all irrelevant, because she did not have the Tama.

"Everything," Naraku answered, spreading his hands out magnanimously. He peered at Kikyou for a moment. "You know, you show a strong family resemblance. Maybe Kaede would have, too, but she never got the chance to grow up."

"What do you know?" Now, an edge of desperation crept into Kikyou's voice. Everybody thought that Kaede had died of a fever and other complications from the normal flu. She didn't need Naraku to answer, she told herself. She knew what had happened. She knew what Inuyasha had done. And it was stupid, stupid, stupid of her to still hope of Inuyasha's innocence.

"Why don't you ask that hanyou there?" Naraku brushed a stray lock of black hair behind his ear and smiled. "Oh, but I have forgotten. He would not have remembered much. He was in his demonic haze because he was too weak to fight me as a hanyou. Still, I succeeded in Kaede's death in the end. It was useless, though, since she refused to tell me where the Tama was."

"You!" Kikyou gasped and looked bewildered. Her glance alternated between Inuyasha and Naraku. "It was you who killed Kaede."

"Of course," Naraku agreed. "You didn't think that just anybody could defeat Inuyasha, did you? So, you really should stop blaming him for protecting you sister inadequately. After all, he even called on his demonic haze."

Kikyou found nothing to say. Her brown eyes were still wide with shock.

Suddenly, Naraku's harsh laughter crashed through the silence. "You thought it was Inuyasha, didn't you? You thought he could bear to kill a little girl, your sister. You thought your lover is a murderer." He laughed so hard that his words became incoherent and he tried to stifle it. "Oh, this is too rich. I should never have told you. But I'm glad I told you because this is too entertaining."

Kikyou's face was impassive again. It was easy to pretend she felt nothing. It was easy to feel nothing and block out all her confusing, wayward thoughts. She would sort them out eventually, but right now, she needed to rid the room of Naraku. "I do not have the Tama."

Naraku's unnatural eyes flickered before his mouth turned up into a semblance of a smile. "Of course not, dear child, but I will let you find it, and then you should give it to me. If you are nice about it, I won't kill you."

She wondered what prompted his sudden change of mind.

"You know," he said again before she could say anything. "The family resemblance is really quite strong."

Before Kikyou could demand that he clarify his cryptic comments, he was already gone. It made Kikyou wonder a little if it wasn't all an illusion to begin with. But even illusions could hurt, if they were this powerful.

Inuyasha started walking toward the window, and made as if to jump down to the garden.

"Inuyasha," Kikyou called.

"I can't leave you," he replied solemnly without turning around. "I just... need some time to think things through."

She did, too. But she felt as if he were rejecting her. Or maybe it was simply her own insecurity at being surprised in her own room. Or maybe she knew that she had already pushed Inuyasha too far away. "You..." Kikyou didn't know what she had planned on saying, but a part of her thought quite inanely that if she just talked long enough, he wouldn't leave.

"I'll feel it at sunrise," Inuyasha finished her sentence for her, echoing her warning earlier, and Kikyou felt the blow of her own words thrown back at her. His voice wasn't even accusatory, but she thought that she heard a bitterness that she had created.

With nothing more to say, Kikyou went back to bed. She knew she wouldn't be able to sleep, but she could at least sort her thoughts out by morning. She'd be able to inform Inuyasha of her decision when he came back.

And he would, if nothing else because he was blood-bound.