Her hands were raw, scraped red from long days of toil. Her wrists were bound with power-blocking shackles that she couldn’t remove. Her skin was lashed red from the horsewhip that Jamakoto frequently stretched across her back. She was a demon, prisoner of a demon. Had she been in her full power, they wouldn’t have been able to keep her chained like so. She hated herself, her life, and, over all, Jamakoto. Damn them all to Satan’s gates. Her claws itched to sink into his flesh and her fangs hungered for the taste of his blood in her mouth. She winced as her rough clothing scraped her fresh cuts, causing hot blood to leak down her back. She refused to weep for herself, she always had, and now she ignored the salty tears that threatened to fall from her eyes.
“Hurry up, wench! Bring out my meat!” Jamakoto roared, yanking his whip from his belt.
“I hurry, lord.” The demoness hastily put in, forgetting her place. She was not allowed to talk, for her melodious voice made all others seem like rocks ground together. Jamakoto, enraged, brought his whip hand back to strike her.
Miles away, Sesshoumaru woke, pale, shivering and clammy, with screams ringing in his ears.
The dream had plagued him nightly for a week, now. He mused it over as he washed the pain of terror and the ache of sin from his limbs with a bathtub full of boiling water. It scalded his skin, but it was the only way he could get rid of the memories. Alcohol consumption wouldn’t have any effect on his demon body, and so he didn’t even try. He knew that demoness, and knew why she was in pain.
Her name was Miyume, and there was no way Sesshoumaru could forget her. She was like him, a dog demon, but with a wild twist. She had always been energetic and rebellious, and that’s what had attracted him to her in the first place. Her hair was a natural, blue-tinged shade of raven black; her eyes were silver-blue and silted like a wild cat’s. She was a smooth talker, and even more fluent with her fists. He knew these dreams were no mere coincidence. He also knew that she was suffering because of him.
They had been childhood friends, the only friend Sesshoumaru had ever voluntarily met in his life. He had left her behind for the sake of his damned precious pride, and he hated himself for it. He hated to see her suffer so.
Jamakoto was the name of the demon that had imprisoned her, of this Sesshoumaru was certain. Another demon he had encountered, Jamakoto was even more rude, uncouth and obnoxious than Inu-Yasha and that human wench he kept with him. He had no code of honor and tried everything he could to get to Sesshoumaru. Of course, Sesshoumaru had never had cause to be angry at the useless youkai before, but now, with Miyume in that monster’s clutches… Sesshoumaru bared his fangs ill temperedly, smashing his fist into the side of his bathtub, shattering the plaster and dumping all his bathwater out onto the floor. He snarled in frustration, and kicked the remains of the tub across the floor until he reached his clothes. He yanked on his clothes, just the informal wear he used around his castle. He curled his fluffy tail over his shoulder, staring at the empty spot where his left arm used to be. It wasn’t that he cared anymore… he just tended to glance in that general direction when he was deep in thought.
I left you all alone… I left you to become more powerful; I thought you would taint my image. Look what I’ve done to you. If it wasn’t for my damned selfishness, I could have saved you from this… Sesshoumaru growled reflexively again.
“Sesshoumaru-san?” Rin asked quietly. “Are you feeling well?”
“Feh.” Sesshoumaru snorted. As if he needed Rin to look after him. He hesitated. This was the attitude that had caused Miyume to… “I’m fine, Rin.”
“Alright, Sesshoumaru-san. Can Rin go out into the gardens?”
“Feh… mmm, yes.” Sesshoumaru conceded. He kept a rather large garden around his castle, with many babbling streams and lamp-lit footbridges. Sesshoumaru often needed somewhere serene to collect his thoughts, and appreciated the gardens, even if his heart was rather black and cold. He didn’t care for them of course, they were magically tended to. Anyway, he needed a rather large yard for his two-headed dragon.
“Yay!” Rin yelped with delight, her bare feet padding down the stone steps to head outside. Sesshoumaru didn’t follow her, but rather wandered out to a balcony overlooking his rather large land. He worked the tangles out of his long hair with his fingers and claws, still thinking about Miyume. If she had been free to use her demon power, he wouldn’t have bothered to consider traveling all that distance to knock on Jamakoto’s door. As it was, it seemed he had no choice but to follow his heart. He winced at that thought. Follow his heart, indeed. It reminded him that he was still a mere beast, and capable of such emotions as kindness.
He walked slowly back to his chambers to dress himself properly so he could visit Jamakoto. He didn’t have any reason to rush, other than to prevent any more pain to Miyume… but she was a demon, she could handle a little more pain. He called for his dragon, and took the reigns carefully in his hand.
“Miyume… I promise that Jamakoto will pay.” He swore the oath to himself, just to remind himself that this was revenge, not kindness or pity. He didn’t even notice the extra passenger. Rin, of course, would never let her Sesshoumaru go anywhere without her, and this was no exception.
“Inu-Kun, I can sense another jewel shard nearby.” Kagome said quietly, tugging on the hem of Inu-Yasha’s kimono sleeve. He glanced at her with a smile.
“Yeah? About time, eh? Which direction?”
“Just north of here.”
“Damn, I was hoping you weren’t going to say that.”
“Why’s that?” Sango asked curiously.
“Well, there’s this demon I know… or know of, anyway. He’s worse than Sesshoumaru, he keeps other demons as slaves, using power-blocking shackles. He’s probably the one who owns the jewel shard.” Inu-Yasha shook his head. “He’s very sneaky and very strong, even without the shard. I was hoping we could bypass his territory, but…”
“We can go around. We’ll just collect more shards elsewhere, and then come back for him.” Miroku put his two bits in.
“I don’t think that’ll do. See, Sesshoumaru knows about him, and, if I smell that right, there’s blood on the air. I recognize that scent, if only vaguely, and so would my damned half-brother. If he even cares, anymore. We have to get there before him, and take the shard from this demon, or Sesshoumaru will get it first.” Inu-Yasha sniffed the air experimentally, nodding in confirmation. “I was right. It is her.”
“Who?” Kagome asked. She was a bit worried now, unsure of what to think about the situation.
“Her name’s Miyume, I think. She’s a full-blood demon that used to be chummy with Sesshoumaru when they were a bit younger. I haven’t even heard about her in years… possibly over a hundred. She’s a tough bitch, that’s for sure. I’m more afraid of her than I am of Jamakoto… that demon I told ya about.”
“But if one of them has a sacred jewel shard, we have to get it back, right?” Kagome asked, trying to justify the need to meet this demon girl. She knew Inu-Yasha would never fall for another woman… would he? She had to be sure.
“All right, fine. But keep out of the way and let me handle Jamakoto. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
Kagome was about to comply when an explosion rippled the ground at their feet, knocking everyone except Inu-Yasha over.
“Damn, it looks like Sesshoumaru beat us there after all. Come on!”
Sesshoumaru ignored the giant corpse that lay on the floor of the ramshackle hut. No love was lost between them. Even without miko powers, Sesshoumaru could see the sacred jewel shard embedded in Jamakoto’s back, and his claws itched to take it for his own. He quickly glanced at the crumpled form of Miyume, slumped, beaten unconscious, against the wall. There would be time for the sacred jewel later. Right now, Miyume was his main concern.
Just for the convenience of having an extra arm, Sesshoumaru replaced his left arm with one of Jamakoto’s. He wouldn’t be able to keep it for long, but it would have to do until he could get Miyume back to his lands. A tiny scream rent his thoughts and caused him to look up.
Inu-Yasha appeared in the doorway, holding Rin precariously over the tip of the Tetsusaiga. Sesshoumaru bared his fangs at him, but made no move to help the unfortunate child. He was torn, now, between saving Rin and saving Miyume. He certainly couldn’t use the Tensaiga on either; he had abandoned it to its sheath on his side after he found that he could no longer use its healing power.
“Hand over the sacred jewel shard and I’ll let the girl go.” Inu-Yasha demanded, grinning wickedly. Rin squirmed in his grasp, still wailing. Sesshoumaru ignored Inu-Yasha, and picked up Miyume in his arms. Jamakoto’s was awkward to use against his other, but he didn’t mind in the least. He quickly draped Miyume over his shoulder, holding her carefully with his normal arm, and walked over to Inu-Yasha. He pounded his younger half-breed brother upside the head mercilessly, causing him to drop the Tetsusaiga, and Rin. Sesshoumaru caught Rin with his free hand, or rather Jamakoto’s free hand, and began to walk away.
“Damnit! Fight me, Sesshoumaru, or are you willing to take a shard of the jewel without a little challenge?” Sesshoumaru didn’t even bother to answer him. He sat Rin on the back of his two-headed riding mount, and hopped on as well, still carrying Miyume precariously over his shoulder. He would have to get mad at Rin later for following him; she had almost caused him to waver in his decision.
“Sesshoumaru! Damn you, give me the jewel shard… not now, Kagome! I’m busy!” Inu-Yasha snarled, yanking his kimono sleeve from Kagome’s grip.
“But, Inu-kun, he doesn’t have the jewel shard! It’s back in the hut!”
Inu-Yasha paused momentarily.
“It’s still embedded in that corpse, if you want it, Inu-Yasha. I have more important matters to attend to at the moment. Be sure that you will be slain someday at my hand, but take your good fortune for now and don’t invoke my wrath.” Sesshoumaru guided his dragon into the air, and sped off toward his land, leaving a very confused Inu-Yasha and company standing down on the ground.
Sesshoumaru smirked to himself as he thought about his last comeback. Yes, he hadn’t lost his touch. Oh, perhaps the long words would never fully sink into Inu-Yasha’s thick skull, but for everyone else, it was an encounter that they wouldn’t soon forget.
A weak moan reminded him that he didn’t have time to idle around, preening himself over his latest verbal victory. Miyume’s muscles twitched under his fingers, and he tightened his grip on her. With a quick command, he urged his mount to greater speeds, and reached his castle as quickly as he could.
Miyume was shivering, and cringed from Sesshoumaru’s touch. He cast aside the arm that he had stolen from Jamakoto’s corpse, and set the demoness on the soft grass in his garden. She covered her head with her hands and refused to open her eyes, but she was alive and conscious. Sesshoumaru sat down next to her, and pried the now-useless power-binding cuffs off her wrists, casting the twisted, bent metal to the side. Miyume stopped shuddering, and dared to open one of her eyes.
It was him, she had almost been certain it was, but now she knew. He was watching her concernedly, but remained silent and aloof, like he’d always been. She didn’t say anything, but was secretly pleased that he had even remembered her. Long days of toil at Jamakoto’s hands had broken her, though, and she responded to this new situation as a slave. She neither spoke nor moved, and wouldn’t until Sesshoumaru said it was all right to. She unconsciously covered her head with her hands as he moved, before realizing that he wasn’t going to beat her. His soft fingers prodded the lash marks on her back gently.
“Damn him. How could he do this to you?”
Miyume didn’t answer, unsure if the question required one or not, acutely aware of what happened the last time she had opened her mouth to grace the world with a response.
“Miyume? Are you alright?” “Sesshoumaru…” The name sounded foreign to her ears, and all the emotions she’d been holding in for the last ten years spilled out over her face in a cascade of tears. She closed her eyes tight, and curled herself up so that she was less of a target for a whip or a fist. She wasn’t allowed to cry, and would surely be beaten for it.
Sesshoumaru was deeply wounded. He hadn’t heard from Miyume since their teen years, and he had inadvertently done this to her. She had suffered because of him and his untainted image. A sudden movement caught his eye as Rin scampered past, up toward the castle. Normally Sesshoumaru would have caught her and berated her soundly for stowing away on his dragon, but he didn’t have the heart for it now.
“Damn it, Miyume, talk to me.” He insisted, wiping the tears from her face gently, so as not to scratch her with his claws.
“Sesshoumaru…” She sniffed quietly, slowly regaining her composure.
“You would probably like to clean up, I’ll have Rin run you a bath. Perhaps you will talk to me after.” He helped her slowly to her feet where she stood, uncertain, for a moment, before nodding. “Good. Come along, then.” He led her slowly up and down the corridors of his castle before locating Rin. She rushed off immediately to one of the many bathrooms, glad she wasn’t going to be yelled at. She hated making her Sesshoumaru mad.
Miyume clutched at the rags that she wore around her, the only bit of comfort that she had left. She didn’t know how to take this new development, what to think about Sesshoumaru having rescued her. It certainly wasn’t like him at all. She didn’t say a word as Sesshoumaru let Rin take her off to the washroom.
Miyume scrubbed herself vigorously, washing the grime of ten years off her skin and out of her flea-infested hair. She tried to forget Jamakoto and his hell-hated whip, but the lash marks on her back stung as she got soft, rose-petal soap in them. She tried to ignore the burning on her scars and cuts, but found herself crying softly again.
Sesshoumaru was rooting through one of the many wardrobes in his castle, unsatisfied with any of the many items of clothing he had found. He knew he had a kimono or two around that he could let Miyume have, especially after he had ordered Rin to burn the rags she had worn before. He growled in frustration, shifting cotton and wool aside, not finding anything suiting for Miyume. He yanked open another chest of drawers, and rooted through them as well.
“Does Sesshoumaru-san need Rin’s help?” Rin asked quietly, poking her head in the door. Sesshoumaru looked up, thinking briefly about scolding her now.
“Feh…” He snorted.
“Rin could help Sesshoumaru-san look for a nice kimono for the demon-girl.”
“Her name is Miyume…” Sesshoumaru corrected. “Check in the next room.”
“Sure, Sesshoumaru-san!” Rin giggled in delight, rushing off to the next room. Sesshoumaru glowered after her, frustrated. He had never really liked children, and Rin was just too much sometimes.
Miyume awoke some time later, finding that her scalding water was cold and that someone had left her a soft kimono. She was sure it was Rin, and for her peace of mind decided to assume that Sesshoumaru wouldn’t have bothered to walk all the way over here just to leave her a kimono. She quickly dried herself off and got dressed, her deft, quick fingers tying the silken sash around her waist. There was a full-length mirror in the washroom, and she admired the flowing white kimono, patterned with red, almost like Sesshoumaru’s. She smiled to herself, the first smile she had let appear on her face in a long time.
Miyume cautiously poked her head out the door, tiptoeing around, peeking into rooms and looking for a brush. She desperately needed to comb the knots out of her raven black hair.
“Looking for something, Miyume?” Came Sesshoumaru’s voice. He was sitting in a chair, reading a thick book. He looked rather sophisticated, but she decided not to comment, lest he beat her.
“Feh. You don’t have to be so shy around me, girl. It’s been a long time, I’ll grant you that, but we are still friends, are we not?”
“So, talk to me. What is it that you want?”
“I wish for… for a brush, milord.” Miyume said quietly, unsure of whether or not to expect a whip to appear in his hand. Sesshoumaru put his book down carefully and looked at her. He was making her a tad uncomfortable, but she dared not show it.
“I have a name, Miyume.” He said finally.
“I wish for a brush, Lord Sesshoumaru.”
“Feh. Cut the ‘lord’ part out. We are friends; we’ve already established that. If friends can’t call each other by their names, then what use is it to have them?”
“Friends or names, milord?” Miyume accidentally let that slip from her tongue, and she hastily covered her mouth with her hand.
“How about both? And my name is Sesshoumaru, Miyume.”
“Yes, milord… Sesshoumaru.”
“That’s better. Now, come along. Let’s find you a brush. Goodness knows you’ll need it.” Sesshoumaru smiled kindly, offering his arm to her like a proper lord. She hesitantly took it, unsure of what to think. For the last ten years she had been beaten for so much as looking Jamakoto in the face. It was such an abrupt change for her.
Likewise, Sesshoumaru was having difficulty adjusting to this personality change in his one and only true friend. She had never been so shy and afraid, before. She had always been quick from the lip, roguish and fun to be around. He wasn’t sure which he liked less, having to put up with her infernal three word answers, or having to know that he had become something akin to that, in an aloof, uncaring sort of way.
I’ll talk to you, Miyume, and get you to tell me what happened to you to make you like this. If Jamakoto weren’t already dead, I would torture him on the stretching rack for a month.
Kagome looked at the small shard of the sacred jewel that Sesshoumaru had willingly given up. She was surprised by the demon lord’s behavior, and confused as to why he would rather rescue a demoness that he hadn’t been in contact with for years over the prospect of gaining part of the Shikon no Tama. Inu-Yasha wasn’t confused or philosophical, he was downright enraged.
“I don’t believe him! He’s such a wuss! I’m gonna hunt him down and ram my Tetsusaiga down his worthless throat, and maybe then I’ll manage to get some answers out of him!”
“Inu-Yasha, don’t you find it odd that he’d save this Miyume girl rather than take possession of the Shikon no Tama? With a single jewel shard, he would have become powerful enough to kill all of us and take the sacred jewel for himself.” Miroku puzzled aloud.
“Sure, it’s not like him, but I don’t really care! I guess I want some answers about a couple questions, but I want him dead more than anything, just to get rid of the competition over the sacred jewel. It’s not like we don’t have enough on our hands with Naraku, we don’t need him hanging around either. He pisses me off.”
“Maybe we can find him and ask him about it? I’d sure like to know why he’d willingly abandon a shard of the Shikon no Tama.” Kagome voiced her opinion.
“Why not? And while we’re at it, I can kill the bastard.”
Whoomp! Inu-Yasha slammed face-first into the ground, where he sat for a good, long time.
“Watch your language, Inu-kun.” Kagome scolded.
Shippou tried to help Inu-Yasha out of his rut in the ground, but no one noticed that neither Sango nor Kirara were there.
Sesshoumaru didn’t need a sixth sense to tell him that the demon exterminator was in his land. He could smell her well enough.
He was standing on his balcony, overlooking his gardens, still decked out in his war clothing. Miyume was just inside, easing the tangles out of her hair. She had tucked her large, black, fluffy tail around her waist to keep it out of the way, much like Sesshoumaru when he draped his own tail over his shoulder. He stood that way now, waiting for this Sango girl to finish her business of scouting out his territory. She would leave, go back to Inu-Yasha, tell him what she could, and they would come to him, most likely to seek answers to their questions. With any luck, he’d be able to slay them all before they got a chance.
His sharp, elfin ears caught the strains of a song, and he turned his head to look at Miyume. She was humming to herself, tucking her long, now-combed hair behind her own elfin ears, smiling quietly to herself. She looked up, feeling Sesshoumaru’s eyes on her, and smiled a bit more.
“Feeling better, now?”
“Uh-huh. Thank-you, Sesshoumaru.”
Sesshoumaru tried to mask his embarrassment, knowing it was very evident that Miyume truly meant something to him. Maybe even more than just a good friend. He mentally slapped himself.
What am I thinking? I have to worry about Inu-Yasha, there’s no time to be going soft and fluffy.
“So, Miyume, tell me what happened to you? This is not the you I know so well.” Sesshoumaru abandoned his position at the balcony and headed inside, sitting down cross-legged across from Miyume.
“A lot has happened to me, Sesshoumaru. A lot. I was imprisoned in Jamakoto’s clutches for ten years, what more is there to say?”
“Hmmm. And now?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you plan to do with yourself? You’re free, now.”
“I… I don’t really know. I haven’t thought about it. I never expected to be free…” She rubbed her wrists ruefully, where there were scars from the shackles. “I’d like to stay here for a bit, if you wouldn’t mind, until I decide where to go.”
“I would like that.” Sesshoumaru admitted, inclining his head in a brief nod. “I haven’t seen you in a long time, it would be nice to talk to you for a while before you leave.”
“Sesshoumaru-san? Would you like some tea?” Rin asked, padding in. She glanced at Miyume, and grinned. “How about Miyume-san?”
“Yes, please, Rin.” Miyume said with a quiet smile. Rin was almost taken aback by this demoness’ politeness. Sesshoumaru-san had never asked for something with a ‘please’.
“Feh…” Sesshoumaru snorted again. He didn’t have to bother responding to Rin, she would get him his tea anyway. “And some food for us as well, Rin.” He called after her as she ran out. There was really no need for either of them to eat, but it was a luxury that Sesshoumaru indulged from time to time.
“Sesshoumaru… do you beat her?”
“Feh! Why would I do that?”
“I was just wondering. You don’t seem to treat her very well.”
“And where did this sudden burst of kindness come from, girl?”
“From my years of imprisonment. I know what it’s like to be beaten, Sesshoumaru. Be nice to Rin, she deserves it.”
“Feh!” He snorted a third time, glowering ill temperedly out the balcony door and at the sky, where he could see the flames of that demon exterminator’s beast of burden. The girl was leaving, back to Inu-Yasha and his fan club.
“It wouldn’t kill you to be nice for a change, would it?”
“I supposed not…” He swished his tail around so it curled around his feet, keeping him warm. He didn’t dare look Miyume in the face.
I have become a monster, haven’t I, Miyume? My power has gone to my head and tainted my soul. Perhaps I could learn from you… if you would care to teach me…
“Miyume, I’m… s… I’m… I’m sorry.” He winced at the harsh sound of the word on his lips. He had never apologized for anything in his life, and was surprised that he was admitting he had something to regret.
“That’s better. But why are you apologizing to me? You haven’t done anything to me.”
“But I did. I left you alone, and that’s why you ended up a slave to Jamakoto. It was my fault, Miyume, and I’ll never forgive myself.”
“Here, Sesshoumaru-san. Miyume-san. Food is coming.” Rin said, setting the tea in front of the two demons. Sesshoumaru stood up, and handed his tea back to Rin. “Here, Rin. Perhaps you would like to stay and talk with Miyume. I’ll prepare the food.” He curled his tail over his shoulder again, and strutted out of the room. Rin stared after him, shocked out of her wits.
“Miyume-san, is Sesshoumaru-san sick?”
“No, Rin. I think he just wanted to do something nice for you.”
“That’s what Rin means. Is he sick?”
Miyume shook her head, disbelieving. “No, he’s not sick, Rin. Here, would you like some milk in your tea?”
“Rin has never had tea, before. Is milk good in tea?”
“That’s an opinion of taste.” Miyume said with a careless shrug of her shoulders. She was feeling more and more like her old self again, with Sesshoumaru around. It was like how they had been a few hundred years ago, always running off on some adventure, slaying other rivaling demons, so on and so forth. Maybe she could go back to an almost normal life. Just maybe.
“Hey, Sango, where have ya been?” Inu-Yasha asked, looking up. Sango patted Kirara’s head, and hopped off her back.
“I was up at Sesshoumaru’s castle, scouting out. He didn’t seem to know I was there, but I think I sensed him looking in my direction a few times. He doesn’t appear to have any magical traps up or anything, so I think we can just walk on in.”
“You can never just walk on in with Sesshoumaru. He may not have any traps set up for us, but he wouldn’t make it that easy if he thought we could actually beat him. His kind of good judgment doesn’t come from idling around all day, either. He’ll have a trick or two up his sleeve, mark my words.” Inu-Yasha spat into the trees.
“So, why are we rushing blindly into his lair? Shouldn’t we plan an attack first?” Miroku asked, prodding the fire with a stick.
“Right! Go ahead! Whatever we come up with, he’ll be able to counter. I’m all for wasting a hell of a lot of time sitting here and planning for something he’ll expect!” Inu-Yasha snarled. “He has enough land that, even if we do make a strategic move, he’ll be able to see us coming a mile away. That’ll give him enough time to plan a counter-attack and squish us like ants before we even make it close enough to hit his front door with a catapult.”
“Well, we can either try a strategic attack and deal with it, or not plan and have no clue what’s going on. At least with a plan we have a chance.” Sango pointed out.
“Come on, Inu-kun. You’re smart, you know your brother better than all of us, why don’t you help?” Kagome asked sweetly. Inu-Yasha fehed, but conceded.
“Fine, fine. We might as well give it a shot.”
They sat well into the night, sketching little diagrams in the dirt and debating heatedly amongst themselves.
Sesshoumaru was in a foul mood. Not only had his pitiful cooking attempt turned out to be a disgrace to his abilities, but even little Rin had to help him right his errors, and he still wasn’t ready for Inu-Yasha.
He stood in his garden, throwing rocks moodily in whatever direction he felt like. He didn’t notice when Miyume came up behind him until she started petting his fluffy tail. He turned around to glare at her, and noticed she was smiling mischievously.
“What are you smirking about?”
“Mmm, nothing in particular. Just remembering the times we used to kick your brother around. He was so irritating, always loud and obnoxious. He deserved what he got, I suppose, but I feel kind of badly for him now, knowing what it’s like to be beaten…”
“You’re not still stuck on that, are you?”
“It’s hard to forget, Sesshoumaru. It’s hard to forget something like that.”
They remained silent for a few minutes, both just glad to be near the other. Finally, Sesshoumaru broke the silence.
“So, was my cooking really that bad?”
“Mmm… yes. No worries, I’ll teach you how, if you’d like.”
“I would like that. Maybe you can teach me how to care, while you’re at it. I… I’ve become something I regret, now, and I’d like to take back the last hundred years of my life. I’d like to learn to love.”
“And you think I could help you do that?”
“If anyone could, it would be you.”
“Are you hitting on me?”
“No.” Sesshoumaru said with a grumble. “Just merely stating a fact.”
“Well, alright then. If you say so.”
“Ah, how touching. I’m glad this isn’t a musical.” Sneered a sardonic voice. Sesshoumaru knew that sound, the way it drawled slowly across the deeper tones of the human voice.
“Naraku, I do believe. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”
“Not nearly long enough, Sesshoumaru. I’d rather not have to speak to you again, but I’m in a pinch. I understand that Inu-Yasha and co are planning on attacking you personally. I am willing to offer my service if you would allow me to take possession of the Shikon no Tama after the fight is won. Do we have an agreement?”
“Why would I hand off the Shikon no Tama to you if I could kill them myself?” Sesshoumaru asked with a derisive sneer.
“Ah, but I have seen their plans. You would have a considerable amount of trouble just killing them if Inu-Yasha consumed the Shikon no Tama to increase his power.” Naraku chuckled evilly. Of course, why didn’t I think of that?
“He wouldn’t, it’s too reckless.” Sesshoumaru tried to justify. Miyume raised her eyebrows.
“Oh, no? He wants the Shikon no Tama anyway, doesn’t he? It would not only get it out of the way, but it would increase his power enough to be able to kill even you.” Naraku laughed.
“He cares about that Kagome girl. He wouldn’t risk it.” Sesshoumaru denied stubbornly.
“He would, and he will. You can trust me, or you can find out for yourself tomorrow evening, when he plans to attack.”
“Sesshoumaru…” Miyume stood up on her toes, holding onto his kimono sleeve so she could whisper into his ear. “Trust him just long enough.”
Sesshoumaru nodded, catching onto her plan. It was handy that they shared the same thought patterns.
“Alright, Naraku. You’ll help me, and then you may have the Shikon no Tama, or at least as much of the jewel as Inu-Yasha owns. The rest you will have to gain on your own, and before I do. I am still more powerful than you, and you know that. Don’t double-cross me.”
“And don’t double-cross me, for, once I have the sacred jewel, I will exceed your power, and you will not be able to stop me.” The demon laughed, and vanished.
Sesshoumaru turned to Miyume, who was smirking again. That was more like it. That was the Miyume he remembered.
“And what do you have in mind?” Sesshoumaru asked quietly, still unsure exactly where Naraku was.
“Get him to help us kill Inu-Yasha, then end his life. What could be simpler? I can take care of Naraku, and then you can get the Shikon no Tama before he does. Easy.”
“You don’t even know why I want the sacred jewel.”
“No, I don’t. I don’t really care, either.” She sighed. “Maybe you’ll give up your bid for power once you get the sacred jewel, and…” She shook her head slowly. Sesshoumaru watched her quizzically.
“Never mind. Goodnight, Sesshoumaru.”
“Goodnight, then, Miyume.”
Sesshoumaru watched her leaving, a weight on his heart. She had only just come back to him, and now he was engaging yet another fight with his half-wit brother. He tired to feel angry at himself, at Inu-Yasha, but as he watched Miyume, the serpentine way she moved and… Sesshoumaru bit his lip until he tasted blood in his mouth. What was wrong with him? Whenever she was near him he could feel a dangerous hook behind his heart, like that wretched Miyume was baiting him… maybe not so wretched after all… he snarled to himself. This was no time to be falling in love. He hadn’t gotten to his status by being a softie, and he wasn’t about to allow non-existent emotions to interfere with his life.
He reminisced to himself, remembering their teen years together, as he watched the night from his balcony. He didn’t need to sleep of course, so he let his thoughts wander. She had been a pretty demon-girl, and that beauty had just increased over the years they had been apart. Now that she was getting some of that old fire back in her soul, he found that maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to love her after all. He grumbled to himself, fighting back his emotions. This was no way for a demon lord to act.
Miyume, too, was frustrated with herself. She had made a promise, when Sesshoumaru left her all alone, that she wasn’t going to fall in love again, and especially not with him. Yet, here she was, wishing she could get her frozen mouth to tell him how she felt. She walked around the castle, debating with herself in her mind. She could hear him, just in a room down the hall… where the balcony was. He was grumbling something to himself. Curious, Miyume slowly tiptoed down the hall and opened the door.
“Sesshoumaru?” She poked her head in the door, and then grinned. “Hey, soft and cuddly. Worried about Inu-Yasha?”
“Don’t call me that.” Sesshoumaru snapped with ice in his voice. He was bluffing again, to hide the blush spreading on his face. He was shocked with himself, unsure of what to do about it.
I don’t believe it. How can I be… in love with her? How could I have… no, I’m not in love! I won’t let myself fall into that trap…
“Sesshoumaru!” Miyume sounded hurt. “Get your act together! We’re friends, so cut the high and mighty crap for a night… I mean a while!” Miyume cringed at the sound of her voice, her words, having come unbidden to her lips.
I just blew it. Any chance I ever had of telling him how I feel… I just blew my one shot to hell.
Sesshoumaru started, letting his mouth hang open. He hadn’t… just heard that, had he? He felt the blush in his cheeks deepening to a shade of crimson. He tried to say something, rethought his words, closed his mouth, and then turned to Miyume for confirmation.
“Did… you just…” Miyume bit her lip, staving off her tears. It felt so good to be able to cry again, now that she was free of Jamakoto… but she wasn’t going to let herself this time. She would stay strong. “Miyume… talk to me… tell me…” Sesshoumaru took a pace forward, and Miyume took a pace back.
“I… I’m sorry, Sesshoumaru. I should never have stayed…”
“Wait, don’t go. I…” He hesitated, unsure of what to say anymore. This was definitely a first for him. He was not accustomed to tripping over his words. He looked at Miyume, and saw a pleading in her eyes. Pleading for the truth. What really was the truth, any more?
“Sesshoumaru? Can you… do you…?”
Rather than reply, Sesshoumaru turned back to the night sky. He knew he was still blushing, and he knew that Miyume knew. The demoness smiled quietly to herself, already knowing the answer to her unfinished questions. He did have feelings after all.
Miyume walked slowly over to where he was standing, taking one look at his flushed face, before cuddling up next to him. Sesshoumaru didn’t say anything, or at least not openly, but he was secretly pleased. Maybe love wasn’t so bad after all.
Inu-Yasha was ready, the power in his hand… or, rather, in his stomach. There was just enough of the Shikon Jewel to grant most wishes, and, now that he had swallowed it, that power was his. Greed probably would have consumed him, if it hadn’t been for Kagome. He truly did care about her, and she kept a damper on his more evil side.
“Ready? Good, let’s get him while we have the chance.” They moved stealthily across Sesshoumaru’s great land, but there was no point. The demon lord already had them pegged out, and was planning his assault. His plan was intricate, complex, and it should have worked. The only variable was Naraku, and he was the only reason the plan failed. He wanted the glory for himself, and wanted to be sure that he had the Shikon no Tama to himself as well. It was a mistake that would follow him to his grave.
“Ah, Inu-Yasha. It’s been a long time.” Sneered the snide demon.
“Outta my way, Naraku. I don’t have time to chitchat. I have a bit of an appointment with Sesshoumaru, so clear out.”
“I think not. Once I slay you, I will take the Shikon no Tama for myself, without that meddling Sesshoumaru interfering.”
“Right, you wish. Look, just move it, or I’ll have to feed the Tetsusaiga with your blood. Trust me, the encounter would not be pleasant.” Inu-Yasha snarled, drawing his legendary blade. Naraku hesitated. He should have waited for Sesshoumaru. He could feel the demon energy inside Inu-Yasha.
“Naraku, you pitiful…” Miyume leapt onto Naraku’s head, yanking off his baboon mask. The demon snarled at the young woman, falling back to glare at her.
“Ah, so you’ve decided to show. Where’s Sesshoumaru, wench?” Inu-Yasha demanded, waving his sword threateningly.
“Shut-up, Inu-Yasha. I’m in the middle of something right now.” Miyume snapped, back to her old self again. Or, almost. Inu-Yasha stared, disbelieving; Miyume had called him by his name. He waited patiently for the usual barrage of insults, but Miyume continued to ignore the gaping hanyou as she grappled with Naraku. Unfortunately for Naraku, Miyume was strong from ten years of performing a great deal of physical labor, and none of his tricks aided him.
“Inu-Yasha, get her, while she’s preoccupied with Naraku.” Sango urged, afraid of the demoness’ power. She could feel it strongly, the demon soul inside her. She quickly gripped her hiraikotsu, her boomerang, and took a step back, should she be needed. Inu-Yasha nodded before advancing upon the two fighting demons.
Miyume was winning, she knew that for sure. She had her fangs sunk into Naraku’s throat, the taste of blood in her mouth reassuring her. She bit harder, causing the demon to yell in pain. Suddenly, Miyume slumped against Naraku’s still-breathing form. The demon looked to see what had saved him, and found his white robes drenched with Miyume’s blood. Inu-Yasha calmly pulled his sword from between Miyume’s ribs. The demoness was still alive, but only just. Her dying muscles twitched spasmodically, sending waves of pain through her body.
Miyume felt her life slipping away with her blood. Life, what a fragile thing, perhaps more so than the Shikon no Tama. She smirked to herself, and, with her last ounce of strength, drove her clawed hand upward. Inu-Yasha lurched as the claws, and then Miyume’s hand, sank into his stomach, past the muscle and flesh to the Shikon no Tama inside. Her hand closed around the jewel fragments, and she wrenched them from Inu-Yasha’s body.
“Thank-you… Inu-Yasha…” She murmured vaguely, still smirking. “Sesshoumaru will be… aahn…” She shuddered as Naraku kicked her dying body off him. He stared at the mess he had made. There was no way, now, that Sesshoumaru would let him live. His life was forfeit.
“Miyume…” Sesshoumaru’s voice was thick with grief. He hadn’t noticed that she had gone after Naraku and the Shikon Jewel, and when he had finally found she had left, he had rushed to help her. He was to late. His friend… his only friend… his love… “Damn you, Naraku… Damn you, Inu-Yasha. I will send your souls to hell.” His claws twitched spasmodically as he spoke.
“Sesshoumaru… here…” Miyume struggled to sit up, blood spilling from her wound. She held out her shaking hand, and dropped the jewel shards at Sesshoumaru’s feet. The demon dropped to his knees, ignoring the Shikon no Tama. He put his hand gently behind Miyume’s shoulders, helping her to sit up. Inu-Yasha made a small noise of pain, but it was ignored by Sesshoumaru. His vision blurred with the threat of tears, and he held the demoness close to his body, as if to stave off death itself.
“Miyume… don’t die. I won’t let you die.” His voice wavered with emotion, and he bit his lip to keep from screaming in rage at the one who had slain her.
“Sesshou… ma… ru… I… I can’t… breathe…” Miyume whispered, clutching to his kimono. “I don’t want to… die…” She shuddered one final time, and then her head dropped lifelessly against the demon lord’s shoulder. He held her body, feeling the warmth leave it, his heart rent with sorrow. He gently laid her body back down on the dirt, lifting his eyes slowly to look at Inu-Yasha. The half demon was clutching his open stomach, wincing in pain, but his pain was instantly forgotten when he saw the wrath in Sesshoumaru’s eyes.
“Do you have any idea…” The demon whispered, his voice a deadly hiss. “Do you have ANY IDEA WHAT IT’S LIKE!? Can you tell me, Inu-Yasha, what it feels like to lose the one thing on this Earth that you love? TELL ME!” The demon screamed, grabbing hold of his younger brother’s hair. “You will die, you bastard. You, Naraku, all of you will die for her!”
“Sesshoumaru!” Kagome dared to speak, grabbing Inu-Yasha’s arm, as if to pull him away. “Use the Tensaiga!”
Inu-Yasha growled threateningly at her, but Kagome stood firm, staring Sesshoumaru in the eye. The teenage girl had become much braver from her stay in the warring states era, and she wasn’t about to give up.
Sesshoumaru let go of Inu-Yasha’s hair, and his hand shot to the hilt of his sword. He hadn’t been able to use it since he saved Rin’s life, but he could feel it pulsing under his hand. Miyume’s life was at his fingertips.
“Leave, all of you. If you are still here when I’m finished, you will all die.” He threatened, drawing his sword. He could see the demons of the other world, crowding around his beloved Miyume. He snarled at them, but they ignored him. He was living, and they had no interest in the living.
Sesshoumaru swung his sword only once, cleaving them all in half. He put the Tensaiga back in its sheath, once again dropping to his knees beside Miyume. Her eyes flickered, her deep wound healed, and she ever so slowly began to breathe once again. Satisfied, Sesshoumaru looked up to see if his brother was gone yet. He was, as well as Naraku and the shards of the Shikon no Tama. He had let the Shikon no Tama, and his only chance to get the Tetsusaiga, get away yet again. For what? Miyume moaned weakly from where she lay, at the demon lord’s feet. Sesshoumaru smiled to himself. For love.
“Well, that was useless.” Inu-Yasha grumbled moodily. They had gotten back the jewel shards, but Kagome was, once again, not allowing him anywhere near them. His stomach was healing well, of course, but he was still in a foul mood.
“It wasn’t useless, Inu-Yasha. We have learned something about Sesshoumaru, and I must say it was rather nice to see that he is actually capable of love.” Miroku smiled, shaking his head. “Perhaps he isn’t as bad as we thought.”
“He’s killed thousands of demons and humans, and you’re saying he is possibly not as bad as we thought? Are you insane, Miroku??” Inu-Yasha glowered at his friend, but Miroku was undaunted.
“The simple fact that he is capable of loving someone proves that he is capable of mercy. Kagome was right to remind him of the Tensaiga. He let us go, if you would care to recall, and willingly. He hasn’t tracked us down, and he won’t. I don’t know what magic Miyume has worked on him, but it seems that he may be changing, for the better.”
“Feh!” Inu-Yasha grumbled, moving farther away from Kagome, who was trying to tend his wound. “I’m fine, leave me alone!”
“Inu-Yasha! Stop being a baka. Let me see it. Take your shirt off, you ungrateful dog-demon!” the girl sighed in frustration, grabbing hold of the collar of his kimono. Inu-Yasha tripped, and Kagome landed hard on top of him.
“If only you could see what your brother has seen, Inu-Yasha. We wouldn’t have so many problems with you that way.” Miroku said with an exasperated sigh.
“Oooh, just let me get my claws on you Miroku, you stupid monk…”
Sesshoumaru woke up with his head on the floor and his limbs tangled up in his bed sheets. He grumbled something rather derogatory, waking Miyume up. She giggled rudely, reaching out one of her claws to tickle the bottom of her lover’s foot. The demon lord muttered something about not having his own bed to himself anymore.
“Oh, don’t be silly. It’s not like you need to sleep or anything.” Miyume snorted, reaching over to help him back up. Unfortunately it backfired, and Miyume fell off as well, her head bashing against Sesshoumaru’s as she landed on him.
“Okay, that’s enough fooling around, I think.” Sesshoumaru grumbled, trying to stand up. He tripped on his bed sheets and fell hard. Miyume laughed loudly at him, sitting indignantly on the floor. The demon lord gave up with a sigh, and found himself laughing as well.
“I just hope we haven’t woken Rin up. That would be embarrassing to try to explain.” Miyume giggled, narrowing her eyes mischievously at Sesshoumaru. He found himself flushing crimson yet again, and he grinned rather sheepishly. It was bizarre how natural it felt to smile. He quickly wrapped his fluffy tail around himself to keep warm, as well as if Rin just did accidentally happen upon them. Miyume mimicked his action, standing up and searching around for her clothes.
“You know, Miyume, you look enough like Rin that you could almost be her mother.” Sesshoumaru teased, wandering into the next room. He quickly pulled an informal outfit on, draping his tail over his shoulder again. Now it was Miyume’s turn to blush deeply, but she cast the comment aside with a quiet laugh.
“Well, I might just have to hang around for a while. Then she’d have a mother and a father… only I wish she’d stop calling me Miyume-san. It’s a little to formal for my liking, it makes me a bit nervous.” The demoness found her kimono, rumpled and draped over the back of a chair. She hurriedly pulled it on and did up the silken sash. She could hear Rin’s bare feet on the floor, heading toward them. Sesshoumaru also looked up, sighing in frustration. That darned human girl always needed something.
“Sesshoumaru-san? It’s Rin.” The little girl opened the door, her bright eyes peeking in. She had a grin on her face, which only widened when she saw Miyume. “Yes, Rin?” Sesshoumaru asked suspiciously. He wasn’t sure what the girl had planned, and wasn’t sure he’d appreciate it.
“I made pancakes for Rin… would Sesshoumaru-san and Miyume-san like some?” The little girl asked innocently. Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow quizzically, but Rin merely grinned at him.
“Now, what does Rin have up her sleeve? You can tell me.” Sesshoumaru sat down on the floor, and Rin ran up to him, burying herself in his arms.
“Rin wants a mommy, too, Sesshoumaru-san. Could Miyume be Rin’s mommy?”
Miyume stared. There was no way the little girl could have been listening to their conversation, could there? Sesshoumaru blanked as well, unsure of what to tell Rin.
“Of course.” Miyume supplied, sitting down and snuggling up next to Sesshoumaru. She hugged Rin and the demon lord, holding them close to her heart and soul. “We could be a family… couldn’t we, Sesshoumaru?”
“I would… I would love that.” The demon lord admitted, smiling to himself. He was finally getting his wish; Miyume had showed him what love was about.
Now, all he needed was to learn how to cook.