The Mating Ball
This was meant to be the last chapter, but at the request of a fan, I decided to publish the half that was done and proof-read. Therefore cutting the last chapter into two sections. In other words, there is one more chapter left (roughly the same size) plus the epilogue.
Stay with me
The morning breeze was soothing to his hot face. Sesshomaru took a deep breath of fresh air with his nose, letting it go through his mouth as he tried to stabilize the wild beating of his heart. He stabbed his swords into the ground, leaning against a firm tree for support.
The night had been cool, but no new danger had popped up and the Western Lord had decided to pass the time fencing with an imaginary enemy. The training he'd been put through as a child had been tough, and as he went through it again, he noticed his skills were lacking. Apparently sitting behind a desk pushing papers did make you lose your edge.
The slight change was hardly noticeable, but in life of death situations it could be potentially dangerous. Hatori's warning last night had left him uneasy and paranoid. In an effort to work it off, he'd pushed himself too hard, but he was pleased with the results. The fraction of a second of tardiness in his form had been keenly destroyed and now he was back to tip-top shape (he secretly hoped).
Being able to slice a tree in ten places in less than half a second did that to your ego.
Someone grumbled, and Hatori suddenly sat up with a scream, shoving his sister straight off of him as he scrambled for air, "Squid dango dipped in eel sauce!"
Sesshomaru fell from his spot against the tree, shocked speechless at the sudden yell. Hatori mumbled incoherently behind his mask and flopped back down onto his back with an "oof", much like an old dog. Almost like she was used to it, Kikyo blindly crawled back to curl herself against her brother whilst dragging the blanket back onto them.
That action looked far more practiced than the horrid plays he was submitted to watch by his advisors every year at the Spring Solstice. The Lord stared at them, surprised out of his wits for no apparent reason. He'd never known anyone who did what Hatori had just done and he was glad for it. Having someone sit up suddenly, hurling out nonsense from their mouths and scaring the shit out of everyone around them wasn't something he really wanted to look forward to in the morning... or at any other time of the day, for that matter.
He gave a tired sigh, picked up his swords and stumbled to his earlier post close to his horse, shaking legs trembling so hard they were almost unable to hold him up. Damn, he though wearily, even his mind on slow motion as he fell to the ground slowly. I may have pushed myself too far…
All conscious thought disappeared even as he fell to the ground.
Sesshomaru blinked, trying to sort out which way was up and which way was down while attempting not to get dizzy with the effort. A face hovered above him, but his spinning mind distorted the image of a sun kissed face and electric blue-gray eyes as frozen as the Arctic winters.
He blinked again, trying to decode the mosaic image before his eyes. The mist over his eyes lifted and he stared into the porcelain face of a red and white fox mask. The paint was as unreadable as always as Hatori backed away, giving him room to see. A "He's awake!" was hollered, and suddenly his vision swam as three people rushed to his side.
Shippo, Inu Yasha, and Koga had never looked so hideously distorted… he paused that thought. Come to think of it; Inu Yasha and Koga were always hideous, they were just never so close he could feel it. Shippo was just young; he'd grow out of it, the Lord was sure.
"Hey, Sesshomaru-sama!" The little fox exclaimed, shoving his chubby, childish face so close, the poor Lord felt suffocated by his own air. "We were worried you wouldn't wake up!"
"Yeah," Inu Yasha's ugly mug butted into the picture, shoving the child away, "not even when Koga farted in your face did you wake up!" he joked, elbowing the stinking wolf in the ribs. The grinning horrendous monster was shoved away and replaced by a more feral, if not more disgusting, face.
Koga snorted, "Oh please, like you didn't!" the wolf then turned to him, but stopped speaking when he saw how far Sesshomaru's lip had curled back. Apparently, their Lord was not happy being surrounded by morons and their gibberish (Sesshomaru would never admit he had not understood a single word they had said).
"Get back," a low growl reverberated from a strong chest, and Koga gulped audibly at the threatening sound. He chuckled nervously, and doing as he had been told, leaned back to give Sesshomaru room to sit up and breathe properly. Though the Lord's vision blurred as he tried to move, he steadied his breath and cleared it with expert control over his body.
"What time is it?" was his first question, and both men of his army lowered the shoulders they had raised to take the blows he usually gave without hesitation.
They thought about asking him why he wasn't going to grill them and have them for lunch, but then again, some things were better left unsaid. "It's about nine or so in the morning, why?"
Sesshomaru hissed in distaste, not at all pleased with the fact that he had slept for more than five hours. The sun hadn't even shown signs of rising when he had practically dropped dead, and the once cool night was heating up thanks to the sun's constant presence. For the second time, he had slept like a log when those around him needed protection. What in the world was wrong with him?
He then noticed that while the sun was present, two very important people were missing. "Where's Hatori and Kikyo-hime?"
Inu Yasha frowned at how carelessly Sesshomaru said his betrothed's name, but knew it couldn't be helped. The man was an ice-cube, period. He had the sexual and emotional capacity of a fried potato; the guy was impossible to woo. The interesting part was how intimately he spoke of Hatori, having removed the –san from his name. Fishy, fishy…
"Um, Kikyo-sama declared that she felt extremely unclean, and decided to go for a wash. Hatori-san just silently followed her, but not without shooting instructions at us to take care of you, since your fever had yet to go down." Koga responded for the thoughtful half-breed, wondering why Inu Yasha hadn't answered and why he looked so… intelligent. It was remarkably freaky and he subtly rubbed the spooked goose bumps on his flesh.
At this, Sesshomaru blinked, feeling his own forehead. "Fever?"
Inu Yasha nodded, finally snapping out of whatever epiphany he had in that moment of rare coherent thought of slight intelligence. "Yeah, you were burning up! Hatori said you pushed yourself too hard, leaving your body vulnerable. Your body fought back against whatever had infected you for a while, but when you left yourself so exhausted it raised its temperature to try to kill it and almost killed you in the process, instead. Apparently you've been sick for a while, Sesshomaru."
Their Lord looked incredulous as he scanned himself in disbelief, dismissing Inu Yasha's disrespect. He had been sick? Impossible… but not without actually making some sense, a sort of explanation to his previous tiredness and the fact that he had actually slept for such a long time when demons were practically strangers to such a human pastime. "Did he say anything else?"
His brother pondered over it, but Koga beat him to it. "Yeah. He told you to take it easy, drink some fluids, and to be careful. That whatever you had wasn't natural… or something along those lines." The wolf demon shrugged, not recognizing the importance that one statement held when said to someone of Sesshomaru's caliber.
Instantly, Sesshomaru grew wary, reminded of what Hatori had said the night before. "Men, get ready and pack your things. We need to move as fast and as inconspicuously as possible." At Koga's hopelessly forlorn face, Sesshomaru's expression turned to one of annoyance. "Get your asses moving, we're going to try to stay hidden and move as quickly as we can. MOVE IT!" He yelled crassly, for the first time showing a bit of panic as Kikyo's companions and Shippo looked up from their breakfast. "We'll run-down our horses if we have to, but we need to move, now!"
"No need to hurry so much, tono," a calm, collected voice said, contradicting with Sesshomaru's urgency. Everyone turned to face Hatori, who opened the way through the tree branches for Kikyo to pass through unscathed. "Panicking is the worst reaction you could have, tono; you'll only fall into the enemy's trap. Sacrificing our horses for a two day run that will get us nowhere is only signing our death warrants."
The young Lord felt the jab hidden in that monotonous voice of reason that sounded far too sane for its own good. "And what, exactly, do you think we should do then, soldier? Wait for the trap? We may as well be sitting ducks for an unknown creature that could very well be more dangerous than anything any of us have ever faced." Hatori ignored him momentarily, turning to his elder sibling when she signaled to her hair. He quietly knelt down behind her, running his fingers through the damp, silken strands.
"No," Hatori said as he braided Kikyo's hair, gentle hands working on an intricate style that started from her bangs to pull back every dark lock that Kikyo had. "But running around like headless chickens isn't much of a plan, either. The spell that plagued your health is gone, I made sure of that. And to avoid being cursed by the same dark priestess, I sent it back full force through the connection she had created in order to get to you. Having seen her strength, I know she'll be busy with her own spell for at least a month, tono. You can relax about that.
"As for the unknown creature we are facing," Hatori continued, still braiding his sister's hair, "do you really think a strong being of amazing fighting strength would go through the trouble of hiring a dark priestess in order to weaken you? No, I think not. Such strategies are performed by being of great cunning, but low fighting prowess. Now, with you on your way to full recovery within a few hours and his dark priestess incapacitated, you will find our opponent will not be so forthcoming in his next attack."
Inu Yasha stared at Sango and Miroku when their gazes snapped away from their food to stare incredulously at Hatori, who ignored them as he kept working on his elder sibling's silky hair. Sango looked slightly hopeful while Miroku smiled a little, as if glad to hear Hatori's usual humor laced within his emotionless voice. Instantly, the half-breed grew curious, wondering if Hatori's sudden coldness had something to do with what he just saw.
Kohaku was watching Inu Yasha, feeling a little bit paranoid as the dog demon's eyes shone with another rare glint of intelligence. Damn it…
He threw a rock at Inu Yasha's head, instantly scrambling his thoughts, and everything else, as he turned to snarl at the young human boy. "Hey! What the hell was that for?"
The young boy snorted, knowing exactly what to do to get Inu Yasha's nose off of Hatori's scent with ease. He knew his sister well and, by the time she was done with Inu Yasha, the guy wouldn't even be able to recall his own name, much less what he had been pondering over just a couple of seconds ago. "Stop staring at my sister's boobs, you perverted ass." Though it pained him to say it, he knew what he had to do.
In an instant, a pair of flashing female eyes turned to him along with murderous intent from the normally calm monk. "What?" Three voices asked, sounding ominous as three humans hissed at him. Kikyo looked positively livid, Sango was picking up her large bone boomerang, and Miroku was twirling his staff with an eerie stillness that made the poor half-breed sweat.
Hatori ignored the killer intent that began to sizzle in the camp and finished his sister's hairstyle with the ease of long practice. He nodded toward Kikyo, who was busily thinking of ways to dismember and get rid of Inu Yasha's body once she was done beating him to a pulp with a stick. Or perhaps she could cut him to pieces and bang him on the head with the same object. Hatori's enormous sword looked like a magnificent choice for that activity, she decided, and dismissed her brother from her hair. Momentarily distracted, she marveled at how he'd done up her hair, but soon forgot it as Inu Yasha stammered an apology that held more panic than conviction.
Kikyo went for Hatori's humongous sword, trying and failing to lift it off the ground. A gloved hand landed softly on hers, and she looked up at her brother's masked features. "Too heavy for you," he stated, and Kikyo bared her teeth in a parody of an inhuman growl. The sound she made would have made any canine demon proud but Hatori only held up his other hand to ease his sister's ire, dismissive of the danger in her eyes.
He only had to gesture at his smaller katana, directing her gaze to it. "Something much smaller, perhaps..?"
The future Lady of the Western Lands allowed herself a momentary evil grin of villainous proportions while Hatori merely turned his head to the side, pretending to be blind to the hand inching toward the weapon at his side.
Sesshomaru ignored what went on behind him as Hatori watched his sister awkwardly hold his belt sword and swing it wildly at Inu Yasha with minimum interest. "Kikyo-hime, please be careful not to hurt yourself," Hatori said simply, and when she grunted in return, he turned around and began cleaning up where he and his sister had slept that night.
When Kikyo showed signs of pouring her mystic powers into the sword and actually moving a bit faster than most humans (she was the daughter of a warlord, and, like Hatori, had been taught the basics in all fighting arts) as she trying in vain to strike Inu Yasha's chest, moving to avoid the deadly boomerang and staff at the same time, Sesshomaru began to take interest in the fight.
They worked well together, he saw, despite probably never having fought side by side before.
He surged forward coming to the rescue of his stupid little brother. Koga stared at him, surprised as the handsome demon caught Kikyo's wrist and held her hand gently in his.
"Please, Kikyo-hime," he purred, "be kind on your family." He brought her hand up to his face and brushed teasing lips against her smooth knuckles… so unlike Hatori's battle hardened skin…
She blushed, almost dropping her brother's sword as she became entirely unable to resist the young Lord's charm. "Y-yes," she stammered, lowering her dark eyes demurely to avoid his glittering golden gaze.
Inu Yasha instantly looked away, face flushing with both anger and shame. No matter what he did, his brother would always one-up him with ease, he knew. It had been his wretched fate ever since he's been conceived in the womb of a human woman, born second to the epitome of perfection. Always second…
Sango, Miroku, and Kohaku exchanged glances. This was the first time they'd ever seen Kikyo act like a typical Japanese woman. Granted, they avoided her as much as they could, but that was because she was everything BUT a typical Japanese woman. It was stunning to see her slip into the role of one, if not a little disturbing.
Hiding a smirk from Kikyo with the use of her own hand, Sesshomaru watched her and wondered if the miracle of mirrors was true among the Higurashi twins. He wondered if they had the same eyes, pout, and lashes. He wondered if Hatori could blush like that… then banished his thoughts as he let go of Kikyo's hand, nodding in satisfaction while he was anything but.
"You must pack," he commented, gesturing toward her brother. When Kikyo nodded, but could only gaze at him with the open imbecility of someone who'd just been dazzled to next week, he sighed. So much for being able to flirt with his future wife without having her go completely catatonic on him.
"Hatori," the addressed looked up, folded blanket in his hands, but it was brief and he went back to packing.
He kept going, ignoring the pair of golden eyes that watched him from behind. Hatori moved silently, dispersing the leaves and nature around him, making it look like nothing had even disturbed it. Once done, he then turned around, stopping when he almost ran into Sesshomaru's wide chest. "Hm?" he hummed, looking up at the Lord of the West from behind his trusty mask, "Do you need anything, tono?"
Sesshomaru's old question lay forgotten as he instead asked a question that had been bothering him. "Why won't you call me by my name?" He held out the katana to him, having taken it from Kikyo's shaking hands only moments before.
"Simple," Hatori said easily, taking his sword and sheathing it, twirling around him to get to his mare. "It would be rude of me to speak to a Lord as an equal when we are anything but."
The comment struck a chord in Sesshomaru, but Hatori ignored the effects of his words as he coaxed Kikyo to let go of Inu Yasha's throat as the half-breed began to turn purple under the assault after having made a lewd comment of dumb women who fell for silly words. Sesshomaru nodded, smoothing back his bangs with a pale hand gently, trying not to do anything stupid for once. "Understood," he whispered simply, and headed toward his horse.
"So what's the plan?" Koga asked as Sesshomaru began to mount his large steed.
His Lord looked up at him, eyes as cold as the rest of him as he sat up straight on his saddle. "It appears that making a run for it will do us no good, so…"
"We shall stick to unnamed roads, not go into any inns, and hide our trail well, maybe even wear cloaks," Hatori spoke up as he helped his older sibling to get up on her horse, turning to his saddle bags and taking out a pair of dark cloaks "Being reckless would do us no good, so we'll have to stick to stealth. This will give tono the chance to recover as we keep to the shadows, although it will also give our Enemy time to re-plan. I have surprised him, I suspect, by actually thwarting his dark priestess's curse, but this surprise will not last long. We have to keep out of sight and cast a cloaking spell, to keep any magical eyes off out back. The Enemy has many spies, I fear." He handed one to his sister, and swung the black one upon his shoulders, having the black cloak billow around him for a moment. Once it landed upon his back, it showed everyone exactly what he was wearing.
His cloak was raven dark, the signature color of the black ops of the Western Lands. It was sleeveless, flashing his tattoo to the world. The hem was decorated with golden flames, the hood was a faded dark color, and the back was embroiled with an eerie, blood-red kanji. Aku, it read, meaning evil. The cloak itself was a warning, warding off any would-be attackers by flashing them his high military ranking, and the black of the 'licensed to kill' operators.
Hatori saddled his horse as Sango, Miroku, and Kohaku moved their large war beasts to stand close to Hatori, all of them used to the stealth drill that was installed into them in case of emergency. Though Kohaku was only starting in training to achieve it, he was well-versed in the art thanks to constantly practicing it with his sister. Kikyo's white mare snorted as she kicked the sleek animal into a steady pace beside Hatori.
"Let's go," Shippo said softly, having already cleared every piece of evidence of their passing with leaves and used some smoke to puff out any smells left behind, he jumped to sit in front of Hatori, settling down quickly as the elder male turned Anko and clicked his tongue, trotting silently into a hidden path among the thorny bushes.
The rest followed, moving just as quietly as the experienced guard that had taken the lead without a word.
The following days were a blur of constant foliage as the travelers kept well away from any signs of civilization. Their original plan had been to stick to the most packed of towns and hide among the humans, but such a plan had a flaw. Crowds hid everyone, including whoever was tailing them. It was a plan shot down to hell the moment Hatori sensed an observer, and Sesshomaru was kind of glad. Humans reeked, filthy creatures, and he was glad they could side-step going into the villages. They were his people, in a sense, but he couldn't stand the smell.
Anyway, if they did stay among society, chances were that a fight would break out in the city, and collateral damage was something Sesshomaru wanted to avoid. As much as he detested humans, they were a part of his Lands and they kept them well tended to, so annihilating a couple of villages was something he was intent on not doing. He knew they were important, whether he liked it or not, and keeping them safe was his duty as their leader.
However, it was too early for anyone to count their lucky stars just yet. They were nearing the border to the Southern lands. And, if any attack was being planned it would probably be there. The border lands were considered neutral by law, because disputes had often started between territories for the illegal pass of any unwanted demon. Humans went unnoticed, but demons were killed for crossing the border without proper permission. This had often led to conflict and thus, the law of a neutral land was created between the borders so that demons could wait for access to the place they desired to be.
Another thing was, whenever a skirmish would occur on the border lands, if two Lords were involved, unlike in a full-frontal attack, their allies were under no obligation to lend a hand. Sesshomaru had a vague feeling (was he developing clairvoyance?), that whatever was waiting for them would be something of such high proportions. And yet, he would receive no help from neighboring Lords. Already, he was getting high strung. Not even Koga, the biggest idiot of his group, would try to strike up a conversation with him.
There was something to be said about murderous auras to keep idiots at bay.
Hatori was also eerily silent, keeping mostly to himself and his kin. Kikyo, noticing her twin's stiffness, also stayed as quiet as possible. Sango, Kohaku, and Miroku were alert like gazelles in a predators' territory, skittish and irrationally afraid of all sounds.
Shippo, unlike his usual self, was as silent as the man he rode with, somehow comprehending the situation with his childish brain that was severely underestimated by the adults around him most of the time. The elder demons were also quiet, knowing that one sound would possibly make Hatori or Sesshomaru turn their full, murderous, attention to them… something that was an unpleasant aspect at all times, but somehow made worse now by the terrifying situation.
Hatori was holding the hilt of his enormous sword as he rode, and the Western Lord was visibly annoyed at anything and everything. He was actually leaking killer intent as he remained battle ready even once they had settled down to rest two hours after the sun had set.
Even though camp was, supposedly, meant for relaxation, it was far from it as everyone settled down while trying to keep the nature around them relatively undisturbed.
Sesshomaru warned everyone away with a cold stare as he headed for the near-by spring to clean up with his saddle bags thrown over his shoulder. He might have been walking around in human territory, but he refused to behave like them. Or, Kami forbid, smell like them.
He stripped quickly, he wasn't one for taking long relaxing baths, and stepped into the sun-warmed water smoothly. Taking a wooden thermos from his bags, he opened it and took out some of the flowery concoction his lands were famous for.
Many demons envied his hair, most of them astoundingly female, but Sesshomaru was hardly vain in his appearance. Sure, he didn't mind wrapping himself up in expensive clothes as long as they were comfortable and spacey enough to give him room to move. He didn't dislike keeping himself tidy and presentable, as a Lord it was expected of him to look the part. However, most of his aspects (the softness of his hair, the clean look of his skin, and his general good-looks) were completely natural. It was totally in the genes, for his mother had been so beautiful she'd been hailed as a goddess by humans in many parts of the Western Lands. His father was by no means a disfigured imp, and his own sharp features and gorgeous body had been inherited largely by both of his sons.
Sesshomaru was by no mean a narcissist, but his appearance often mislead anyone who did not know him into assuming that he took great care of himself. Bull… he thought spitefully to himself as he ran his hands through his hair, smearing the clean smell of the flower unique to his lands across his silver mane. Snatching a leaf he recognized, which was amazing at scrubbing out dirt and grit from anything and only grew close to springs like these, he began to tenderly rub it on himself in gentle circles.
Once he was covered in soap from head to hip, he dove into the water, passing his hands across his upper body as he swam and let the water wash away all traces of the cream from his hair. Once he was pleased with the way his hair felt and his skin had been completely relieved of bubbles, he re-surfaced.
Only to come face to face with Shippo, who grinned, suddenly reminding his liege of his fox heritage in that one mischievous smile.
"What is it?" Sesshomaru asked him with the most civilized tone he could manage, wondering if perhaps the tiny fox had not understood the warning in his earlier glare when he had announced he would bathe in this spring.
Shippo smiled again, cocking his head to the side cutely. "Food's ready, and they're playing jan-ken-pon to decide who gets which watch later on tonight and who bathes first."
"What are we having tonight?" he questioned the kit, running his hands through his hair to make sure there were no knots. Once he was sure his hair was as silky smooth as always, he turned to look at Shippo, who was scratching his head to try to remember what Hatori had made.
"Hatori made some onigiri with salmon and plums, and Sango-chan cooked some meat with a smoke-less fire from an animal she caught… oh, and Miroku brought some sweets for me!" he smiled childishly, obviously overjoyed with the concept of candy.
Sesshomaru suppressed a tiny smile. He'd adopted Shippo into his house after his parents had been killed in a hunting accident a decade ago. Most of his advisors had thought this to be a bad idea, Sesshomaru had been the one who had sent them out and they were afraid the boy might have a grudge against their Lord. The young fox, however, was still a bit too young and could hardly grasp the lack of his parents at first. When Sesshomaru had come for him and offered him a home, the young one-tail didn't hesitate to agree. What had come as a surprise was the young kit's crescent moon tattoo on his forehead. It would only appear on the one most capable of leading at Lands to a rich future, whether it would be his first born pup or his last, female or male. After the adoption ritual of the canine species, Shippo had clearly displayed it, accepted as the next heir to the throne of the Western Lands.
A hard worker and unendingly loyal, Shippo had proved his worth within two days of living under Sesshomaru's wing. Marked as the next heir by Sesshomaru in the unexpected case of his death (disinheriting Inu Yasha, which was why the younger dog-demon was against Shippo's very existence), Shippo learned to work around the house like one of the servants, working side by side with the people who would be his subordinates in due time.
He had won the hearts of the staff within seconds, though his cute face might have had something to do with it, which assured his place as the appointed heir.
The pale demon suddenly frowned… since when did Shippo address Hiten's people in such a familiar manner?
Shippo smiled again, splashing the water with his furry feet and looking around curiously. "This place looks so peaceful…" he then directed his gaze to his adoptive father (though he was considered more like a brother than a parental figure), green eyes searching. "Why do you need to marry? I don't see a reason for you to."
Sesshomaru blinked, he shrugged, unsure of what Shippo hoped to achieve with that one question. "It's in our laws, kit. I have gone too long without a spouse, and the elders worry that I won't have a proper heir despite the fact that you're the one I chose to take the throne should I perish." He picked up the leaf he had used before and bringing out his leg, he rubbed it on his calf. "I can't do anything about it, because if I don't obey, my title will be revoked and given to my next of kin… that half-breed." His hatred for Inu Yasha was long gone, but he held firm to his belief that his younger sibling could not keep himself in line, much less an entire territory. If he handed his position to his brother, the whole Western Land would fall into chaos… and it would be the disaster of hellish proportions that all of his enemies would have been looking for to usurp his family's position.
Something he, and his damn pride, would not allow.
He changed legs, dipping one back into the water and bringing the other one out to clean it.
The elder demon sighed, patting the kit's head with a gentle hand. He brushed the auburn strands off the boy's forehead, tracing the dark blue marking with a claw thoughtfully. Shippo shivered at the touch, but only smiled impishly at him as he pressed his head against his large palm in an inviting and slightly adoring gesture that showed the reason why he still refused to grow up.
"If I want to keep my lands as peaceful as this, I must marry. Even though you are my appointed heir, you would be too young to take the throne should I die before you turn the proper age. Thus, it would be handed to either Inu Yasha, or should I be married, to my wife. Also, if both I and my mate die, having already been established that my family is the one that deserves to rule, the lands shall be handed directly to you. Quite honestly, despite any misgivings I have about a female ruling my lands, I'd much rather have my mate take over than let Inu Yasha take charge," his hand dropped from Shippo's head and into the relatively hot water, not making a single splash. He dropped his leg in the water too, moving both around to disperse the bubbles on his skin.
"Tell me about it," the fox said under his breath. But at his adoptive father's small, lopsided grin, he knew he had not said it softly enough. He giggled, cherub face lighting up with the most childish of smiles. Soon, the kit's laughter died, and he looked at the canine demon with a fierce pout. "But… I don't like Kikyo. She's mean, cold, and wouldn't make a good mother."
Sesshomaru sighed as he stood, allowing the water to run down his skin in a hurried frenzy. "It's not about whom you like or don't like, kit. It's about who is best for the role." He stepped out of the pool, picking up his long hair and pinning it with a white tie Shippo handed him. "You'll soon understand that you must first find someone who is capable rather than someone who is likable. In my position, it's what ensures my survival."
The kit grabbed the large hakama and hakamashita, handing them to their owner. "Still, if you could have someone who is likable AND capable, what's stopping you from taking that person? What's stopping you from doing what you know you should?"
"Are you questioning this Sesshomaru's decision?" The inquiry was cold and harsh, like an order from a Lord to his vassal.
The child winced, almost dropping the obi before his master's hands touched his own. "No, Sesshomaru-dono," he said automatically, lowering his eyes obediently, having been broken at a very early age to know when he should stop. He might be the heir, but he was still below the pyramid when it came to his Father.
"You must understand, kit," Shippo looked up, but could only see the fully dressed back of Lord Sesshomaru of the Western Lands, though he almost blinked when he spotted the subtle weary sag of clothed shoulders. "It is not choice, but duty."
And then he was gone. Behind him, the young fox suddenly understood why the servants were so nice to him that he sometimes had the impression that he was walking the plank instead of slowly learning his manners and his figures. Being a Lord wasn't fun and games like Inu Yasha thought and claimed it was.
Being a Lord was being responsible and forgetting yourself. It was becoming the land and the people, leaving behind the individual that yearned for something or someone. It was becoming one and all, from the largest to the smallest, understanding and being responsible for every single one within the Western Lands.
Being Lord was something Shippo learned that night was about being everyone but the name that followed the title.
To be Continued…
This was done for a reader, whom requested that I at least publish what I did have. It was sent to an editor and friend, Maria, who kindly looked over it and gave me wonderful pointers to better my writing and the flow of the story. (I owe it all to her. I'm so sorry I never got around to looking into what you did for me, except for today.)
Yes, everyone, like has been hectic for me. I finished my IBO program with a hard-earned diploma in my hand and was promptly launched into the harried life of a would-be chef at my new school. It's… time consuming, to say the least. So much, I actually had to be a rebel and take the day off in order to finish this.
This I did for you guys, as a thank you for staying by my side and sending thoughtful reminders every once in a while to my dust-filled account. I would have never been able to pull through without you guys. Thank you, truly, thank you so much.
THANK YOU, EVERYONE!
The next chapter, I hope, will be finished and sent off to be scrutinized by the goddess who was kind enough to offer her services to me. Guys, the work you see before you would have not been possible without her help.
Lots of love!