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When the Belladonnas Bloom by NovemberDoll

How Far Are You Willing To Go?

A/N: I have to admit, I will be putting Surreptitious in hiatus mode. Its just because I’m writing something so similar for another anime pairing, I don’t want the plots to jumble. So until I finish it, that short story will be put to sleep.  But here is another one to replace it for now? 

The Hannya (般若) mask is a mask used in Noh theater, representing a jealous female demon. It possesses two sharp bull-like horns, metallic eyes, and a leering mouth. (Wikipedia)

Standard disclaimer applies.

*****

When the Belladonnas Bloom

Chapter 1

 

How Far Are You Willing To Go?

*****

He needed to control himself,

If tonight will be the night.

They started their grandiose dance of seduction, each flick as fluid as the river, each controlled breath as light as the wind. Movements as graceful and as smooth as the silk on their backs, just as how they practiced, for hours and hours on end,

All for the sake of the Hannya-masked monster that was before them.

His vision teetered from this intense… hatred… that he felt, it burned through his veins like wildfire. The sight of the Warlord’s wife-  the most beloved puppet- clad in her heavy samurai armor, face concealed with her mocking red mask - made this loathing proliferate, it festered like a pus-filled wound, crawled on his skin like horrible blisters, bursting from every pore.

He could taste the bile that rose up on his throat.

Trailing behind her was her blindly devoted zealots. He stole a glance from the curtain of his dark hair, and his lips couldn’t help but curl down in abhorrence: those fools were looking at her with adoring eyes, fiery with devotion.

The golden-eyed concubine gripped his fan so hard that his knuckles turned white.

Didn’t they know they were worshipping the devil?

It did not help that auras of the other concubines around him, all poised in their graceful dance, seized the milieu with fear. It was their first time to enter her heavily-guarded estate, it was their first time to come this close to her.

To their outsider eyes, she had always been an intangible, mythical entity.

Occasionally seen as a quiet fixture beside the Warlord in his assemblies, or passing his hallways like a malignant spirit- surrounded by her cruel aura and her blindly devoted cronies- always on her way to another siege, or out to spill cold blood for the sake of her lover.

Right now she had just come home from war, her energy was fresh from the battlefield, and they could finally confirm those ridiculous rumors: the air around her sparked, the ground she walked on hissed:

The First Consort was exuding power, dangerous power. No wonder the Warlord secured her for himself: Onigumo married her when she was a mere twelve years old.

The golden-eyed concubine ground his teeth as he forced himself to continue his dance, keeping his form perfect, executing his movements as light and as fluid as rehearsed.

Just as all of the other concubines had rehearsed, until their bones and muscles ached, in their past three years of captivity. Prisoners of war, that was what they really were. Slaves of the Warlord, denied of proper food, fed magic-infused binding spells to suppress any abnormal energy. They were kept in cramped sheds in the farthest of the castle like mere swine. In the winters it was worse, they would suffer from hypothermia, others would simply die from the freezing cold.

It was not until a year ago when the First Consort turned sixteen did the Warlord start sorting his prisoners. The most attractive males he brought into the castle to be trained as concubines… not for himself, but for his most faithful lover, this fiend that was before them.

And there they were now, all to be appraised by this masked she-devil like they were pieces of meat, all so that she can pick the lucky concubine who will warm her bed tonight.

But lucky was an irony:

Whoever stepped in her bedchambers was never seen alive again.

That explained the fear, so thick in the room one could have sliced it with a knife.

The First Consort suddenly stopped and raised her hand. The dancing halted, her foolish cronies bowed their heads and stepped away.

She had chosen her whore.

The room was suddenly an influx of despair. She did not make her choice known immediately, instead, she tilted her chin up, testing the energy around her. Which made the golden-eyed concubine think: did she revel in such emotions? Did she delight in the fear she struck in the unfortunate souls she encountered?

It was hard to tell. The Hannya mask she wore held this constant… perverse… leer. It made his blood boil a thousand times, made his skin crawl away from his body. That mask invaded his nightmares every night since his capture,

When the Warlord Onigumo laid siege to their ally’s territory, three years ago.

The golden-eyed concubine trembled yet again. But he held his chin high, kept as perfect as he had to be. He needed to be the chosen whore. He endured three years of torture and humiliation to get to where he stood now.

He needed to… he needed to: if he was going to slit the First Consort’s throat tonight.

“What is this?” The She-devil spoke. It startled the whole room, and it startled him. They had never heard her speak before.

Her voice sounded almost… untainted.

The warlord’s wife reached out to the golden-eyed concubine. The cold metal of her gauntlets made him jerk, and he brought his gaze up to take a close look at her face.

 He couldn’t even see her eyes.

All of her was heavily concealed. Fresh blood spatter was on her ridiculing mask, her heavy armor still had small chunks of flesh lodged in the nooks. The stench of blood and violence from her was nagging on his nose.

She reeked of death and desolation.

“Such pretty eyes,” she said, her voice deceptively sweet, it flowed like honey in his ears.

Poison honey.

How he hated her.

“Such delicious animosity.” She pulled away. “That’s odd… you look familiar. Where have I seen you before?”

The concubine only stared at her with gritted teeth. He wanted to grab the hilted sword on her hip and bash her ugly mask. Maybe he would be lucky enough and crush that equally ugly face behind it.

He would snuff the life out of her, drive her own sword deep into her chest until the hilt stuck to her ribs:  just like how she did with his distinguished father, when she used his own sword to impale his heart.

She chuckled and signaled to one of her zealots. “Bring him in my chambers tonight.” She stood up and strode towards the doors. She paused and looked over her shoulder. “I’ll see you later, golden eyes.” The Warlord’s wife left the deathly quiet hall, the decorated concubines unmoving,

Like perfect little dolls in the elaborate estate made just for her.

******

There was nothing much more to say from him, as he started his descent from the halls towards the preparation chambers of her estate.

Hushed whispers of her infamous reputation started scattering in the quiet of the aftermath.

*“They say she is a hideously deformed creature. She hides her beastly body underneath all that bulky armor, under all the layers of expensive silk kimono…”*

*“That would make perfect sense. I heard she was human. Didn’t she just turn sixteen?”

*“When she was twelve, the demon Onigumo marked her so that her life could withstand his. There was never any contact, he only married her for her power.

 

 I heard that because of her repulsiveness, the Warlord has never touched her intimately.”*

 

*“That would explain why he has three lesser wives and a harem of his own.”*

 

*“Yes. The First Consort lashes out on her concubines…

 

And she ends up killing them, out of frustration that her husband would rather fuck his whores than bed her, his formal wife.”*

The concubine flicked his dark hair away from his face, and he glared at the gossipers as he walked by. They looked back at him with pity in their eyes.

Pity he did not deserve.

Every fiber of his muscles ached at the thought of the coming night, when the she-devil’s warm blood would spill and coat every inch of his eager hands.

“Right here, Ojii-sama.” The handmaiden beside him bowed and she pointed to another fortification, a marker that led deeper into her estate. The wooden gates opened to a manicured garden, and inside was an intricately-crafted mansion. “Ojii-sama, if it won’t be much of a bother, will you do me a favor?”

The concubine shifted his gaze to the girl.

“Will you extend my greetings to the Lady Onigumo?”

His eyes narrowed.

“Tell her that I am eternally grateful to her for having me in her estate… and the loyalty I have sworn to her from ten years ago will always remain as steadfast as it was.”

His jaw clenched in restraint, and he snarled in repulsion. He could not comprehend such blind allegiance. Such disgusting fanaticism… it made him want to throw up.

And it made his desire to kill her grow stronger. He will finish his task tonight and stop this madness.

The girl bowed once again as she closed the gates, shutting him inside. Left alone to ponder, waiting for his prompts, the golden-eyed concubine silently left the pathway and walked into the curious garden.

He paused.

The more he stared at the oddly familiar flowers, the more his stomach twisted and churned… where had he seen these before?

He reached out to a deep-purple blossom, hanging like little bells from its delicate stalks. He leaned over, and was about to smell the blooms when—

“I suggest you not do that,” a newcomer warned, and he spun around.

It was Taijya Sango, one of the Consort’s cronies. He almost would have not recognized her, her appearance was a stark contrast to the skintight armor she had always donned. Tonight she had her hair down. She was clothed in a casual yukata, and instead of her ominous Hiraikotsu, a slim katana was strapped to her waist.

“The Lady Onigumo is rather fond of her flora. Damage a single petal and it would break her precious heart.”

He took a step back and he scanned the garden. He realized why everything looked so familiar.

It was a garden- a poison garden- just like one of his late mother’s, so many years ago.

He couldn’t hold back his snarl.

 Sango merely chuckled, “I could see why she chose you tonight. Please don’t give her a hard time. That poor little darling with her bleeding heart. You don’t know how extremely lucky you are to be the chosen one, concubine.”  She looked straight at him, her eyes piercing with a fiery passion. “You have no idea how much Kagome has to risk just for tonight, and all the nights such as these.” she snapped. Sango unsheathed her sword, and pointed it squarely at him. “You don’t deserve such pity, you ingrate.

We all don’t deserve it.”

She disappeared into a corner, just as a flock of handmaidens appeared from the open grounds and gently led him away.

They brought him towards the right wing at the back of the Consort’s estate, they entered into a private bath. The steam of the aromatic water assaulted his senses. He allowed them to undress him as they led him into a blossom-infused soak. Their soft hands began running through his tense muscles, to put him at ease for whatever his purpose was for tonight.

He dared steal a glance at the handmaidens.

They held a calm, eerily content regard as they did their ministrations.

Disgusting.

“Where do you hail from?” One of the handmaidens suddenly asked, an old woman, with leathered skin and gentle eyes. The concubine wouldn’t have answered, but the woman smiled at him, “Son, will you deny this old woman of her curiosity? ‘Tis your last night here, anyway. Might as well indulge my lonely  soul.”

The concubine leaned on the wood of the tub as the handmaidens continued to loosen his muscles. “I’m from a neutral territory, in a village skirting the Snow Mountains of the West.”

It was not a lie, at least, not all.

His dwelling did not skirt the desolate landscape, but it was high above the Snow mountains, in a hidden fortress that was concealed in the frost and clouds.

He belonged to a prominent house and was rooted in a proud ancestry, the House of the Crescent Moon. They were Dog Demons, was respected for their wealth from the silk trade, exalted for their prowess in battle. His lineage was most distinctive with their white hair and golden eyes.

And he was his father’s firstborn, he was the purebred heir.

Ever since he learned how to walk he was bred to be a warrior. His father taught him the art of warfare. His mother, though a dog demon herself, was a different story: she was a poison-crafter.

And as most poison-crafters were rare, they were also notoriously eccentric. They were in the perpetual, hopeless hunt for the Belladonna: a fabled maiden who was rumored to possess the strongest poisons known to the land. It was said that a drop of her blood was so potent it corroded iron and steel, her intimate fluids vaporized skin and dissolved mortal flesh.

Every poison-crafter wanted to get a hold of the maiden’s valuable body. But there was only one problem: the Belladonna was merely a rumor.

And it was because of this never-ending search that made his mother turn mad.

 With selfish intentions to make a Belladonna of her own, she fed him, her only son, small batches of her crafted poisons, every day until it turned into force-feeding him entire gallons. She applied drops of her concocted poison mixtures on his skin, which later became overnight body-soaks.

The madness wouldn’t have stopped, if not for the intervention of his father.

And his deranged mother killed herself when his father made her see her son’s corpse-like body, lying in his own puke and blood.

It took quite a while for him to heal, but when he did, they had discovered a curious occurrence: he did not become like the Belladonna, oozing out organic toxins. Instead, the opposite happened:

 his mother’s interventions made him immune to most poison.

“There now, all fragrant.” The old handmaiden stepped back as the younger ones flocked around him and wiped down his body.

 “Did your groomers praise you for your tresses?”  The old woman reached out to run her fingers through his hair.

He seized her hand. “Don’t.”

“It’s beautiful and midnight black…” She said, pulling away.  “Just like our beloved Kagome’s.”

The concubine mentally snickered in contempt. They were not aware, underneath what was left of his strong concealment, his hair was not truly a midnight black.

“Aye, young lad… You don’t know how lucky you are to be placed before her tonight.”

There it was again, that nauseating fanaticism, that displaced hero-worship. He felt sick to his stomach. This convoluted infatuation these fools held towards their repulsive, most probably disfigured master was twisted in all ways.

How could they utter such words to a man who was steps away from his last breath?

They donned his silks, carefully knotted his yukata. And his body shivered in anticipation, as they started their short walk to her bedchambers.

He will finally see what was behind that ugly mask.

The first time he saw her was three years ago, when his father and he responded to a distress call from their strongest ally. The Warlord Onigumo had given warning mere days ago, but their ally never realized the gravity of the threat. Insulted, belittled, the tyrant sent his most notorious puppet, his beloved Lieutenant Higurashi- the Lady Onigumo- to lead the siege.

 

With only one night and sixty soldiers at her disposal, the she-devil was able to penetrate the stronghold. She murdered their ally’s family, slaughtered two hundred opposing soldiers, and captured fifty prisoners of war.

 

He and his father were one of the last men standing. Luckily before their intervention, they concealed themselves with the strongest magic, turning their distinctive white hair into black, fading the markings on their skin that was specific to their bloodline.

 

Had they not done it, their involvement would have been revealed, and the House of the Crescent Moon would have been the next target of the Warlord and his puppet.

 

The handmaidens bowed and they left his side. The chill of the night air blew gently on his skin, the strong scent of the poison blooms wafted through the quiet evening.

He slid the concealed blade that was in his hair, and he moved it into his hakama, the metal glistening under the ambient light of the moon.

“Come,” there it was, the deceptively sweet voice of the devil incarnate.

The golden-eyed concubine wasted no breath. Carefully he pushed the screen away and he entered, barefoot. The tatami was smooth under his calloused feet… his steps were light and quiet.

“Close the door behind you.” She said.

The golden-eyed concubine complied. As he did he looked around, slightly annoyed. Her futon was covered in veils that hung from the wooden beams of the ceiling, hiding her in complete darkness.

He prostrated himself before her, and he waited.

He came too late.

 

The stronghold was burned to the ground, the aftermath of the siege turned the landscape into a fiery inferno. Amid the scorching towers of flame and rain of ashes, he found his father by the destroyed throne room, a sword impaled to his chest. And the puppet Higurashi, clad in her red samurai armor and Hannya mask, had her bloody hand on its hilt.

 

His noble father was looking up at her as she hovered her face close. She whispered something to him, and his father‘s prized golden eyes opened wide in shock.

 

Then she dipped down and pressed the lips of her Hannya mask on his forehead, as she drove the blade of the sword deeper into his heart.

“You reek of absolute hatred, it is most intriguing. Tell me, why do you hate me so?”

The concubine restrained himself from taking the blade out and shoving it into her throat. “They call you the Smiling Demon, you leave death and devastation in your wake.

You are as heartless as your lover, your hands are stained with the blood of noble warriors and innocent children alike.

How could I not hate you?”

 “Reasonable enough,” she said so casually, and the concubine’s hatred for her flared like wildfire.

“Do you enjoy it?” He snarled, “Seeing the look of fear and confusion in your victim’s eyes, as you hide like a coward behind your disgusting mask? May the faces of the innocent people you killed haunt your every waking hour.

May you burn in hell for the rest of your life.”

There was a long moment of silence, until the consort shifted from her silken bed.

“Yes,” she said quietly, “I do hide like a coward behind my disgusting mask.

I never forget the faces of the people I killed with my own hands,

They do haunt me, in every waking and sleeping hour…

And I know I deserve to burn in hell for the rest of my life.”

The golden-eyed concubine was taken aback. But he steeled himself, refusing to be swayed by her deception.

“Come closer, golden eyes. You have been the first one to tell me your true thoughts. In exchange for your honesty, let me tell you mine.”

The concubine brought himself closer, touching the end of the futon, prostrated on the shade of her veil.

“When I was very young, I wanted to be a merchant’s wife.”

The golden-eyed concubine resisted the urge to bring his gaze up and look at her. She did not seem to be aware of his unease… she was in a world of her own.

“He would come home at the end of the day, settle his tools of trade down the edge of the table while I prepare him his dinner. Our children burst into our house from their play and greet him with kisses.

After our hearty meal, we settle ourselves for sleep, huddled close to each other in our humble abode. We wake up in the morning, he goes off to do his honest work… and I would hum as I clean the house and cook the food and take care of the children…

Knowing at the end of the day, he would come home to me safe for another peaceful evening.”

“Why are you telling me this?” He said, his animosity and impatience seeping into his voice.

She chuckled. “I don’t know. Perhaps I’m saying… that all I ever dreamed of was to live a simple, harmonious life?”

“Hn.” The concubine’s hands shook, the feel of the blade in his hakama was absolutely tempting. How dare she mock the life of ordinary people.

“Golden eyes, why don’t you partake in my little offering?” Her hands emerged from the shadows.

Slender, delicate… not the slightest indication of any deformity.

She pointed to the heaping trays of food and fruit, roast meat, exotic dishes, all settled on the table.

He did not respond. His nerves were jumping in excitement, for the moment she would invite him into her bed.

“How about a drink?” she proposed, “Wine, perhaps, to loosen up?”

When it was apparent that he had no plans of answering, she shifted yet again, dangerously close to the edge. The ends of her luxurious silk kimono fell into the light.

“Golden eyes?” She cooed.

“I don’t trust you.” He said.

“Heh,” she laughed, “Then won’t you at least pour me a cup of wine? You are making me most excited…” She reached out to him, and he almost flinched.

It was getting hard to comprehend, the cruel hands that brought ruin to countless souls, was the same soft hands that were tracing his lips, almost very gently, sending curious tingles in his spine.

“I want you in my bed, beautiful one. But before that, I need the heat of the liquor to calm my fire down.”

He had to repress his grin. He turned to his side and poured a cup for his “generous” host, and reached out into the shadows.

She received his offer, both of her hands now in plain view. “You are the first one to decline my gift.”

The concubine slowly slid his hand in his hakama, pulling the thin blade out of concealment.

“This is embarrassing for me.” She continued, unaware of his movements, as he positioned the sharp tip of the blade. “Do you know, Golden Eyes, that this is the first time I had to do this?”

“Do what?” He crooned, his legs coiling into action.

But she drank the cup bottoms up. And before he could even flex, the Lady Onigumo suddenly emerged from her dark veil.

Midnight black hair, creamy pale skin… an ethereally beautiful face,

And the most heartbreaking blue eyes.

She reached out and pulled him to her warm body, and she crushed her lips against his.

He unwittingly surrendered to her lust-inducing kiss, the paper-thin blade falling from his limp hands.

*****

Her sweet lips tingled. It was a strong sensation that almost scorched him, much like the maddening lust that flared within him as she coaxed his mouth open. She snaked her tongue in.

She crept between his legs, straddling herself on his lap.

He was too much mesmerized by her beauty, too lulled by her softness and heat that he never noticed she had transferred the wine from her mouth into his willing cavern. The liquid leaked messily in the corners of their crushed lips, it trickled down his jaw, sizzling on his heated skin. And he swallowed, greedily sucking out the oddly bitter nectar that was from her,

Crazed in his lust, his sanity flying out in abandon.

He reached out and raked his fingers on her hair, catching her silken strands. He crushed her body closer, forcing her softness onto his hardened person.

She must have noticed how much hardened he was, because she yelped in innocent surprise when he ground his hips against hers, making her feel every inch of his brazen erection.

He slid his hand in the gap of her yukata to tug it open, but she started to pull away. With his free hand he yanked her hair, dragging her towards him, shamelessly begging for another kiss.

Then his hands snaked between her thighs, his impatient fingers finally reaching her soft, covered slit.

“You might not want to do that, my one-night lover,” she hovered her lips over his ear, “I am pure poison.  My blood corrodes metal, my fluids dissolve flesh. Even the devil Onigumo dare not touch me this intimately.”

He could not believe his ears. No wonder he tingled and burned with her kiss.

Was she the poison maiden that existed only in legends? Was she the Belladonna?

“I’m surprised your skin has not broken down from my kiss. But it doesn’t matter, nothing else should matter. Laced on the wine that I passed on to you is a concoction of my own. Now allow the poison to seep into your system… do drown yourself in my art.”

His eyes flew wide in shock, anger flared in his spirit. But it was too late, the blight had seized his faculties, it left his muscles in spasming contractions. He struggled to breathe, he convulsed violently.

The seductive she-devil wrapped him in a tight embrace, whispering twisted words of comfort:

“Hush, it’s almost over…

It will almost be over.”

His vision was patches of dark and blinding light, and his heart was almost a hundred paces faster. He wanted to curse at her, her blatant trickery, her cold-hearted deceit. And just when his body strained painfully to the point of intolerable pain, his muscles fell limp.

He collapsed into her arms.

“Golden eyes, I think I remember where I saw you.”

The concubine’s vision flickered. Her gentle arms released his flaccid body, and she cupped her small hands on his face. She tilted his unwilling gaze towards her, and he had to hold his breath.

She was crying.

Her blue, blue eyes plunged him into an unfathomable torment. He had never seen such anguish in his life, as drops of her stinging poison tears trickled down his skin.

“One of the countless faces that haunt my every waking hour, he had the same golden eyes like yours. Was he your father? Your brother? I’m sorry…” she wrung out, the sheer heartbreak in her small, trembling body penetrating through his fortified defenses.

She slowly dipped down, and the very act reminded him of that same exact scene, three years ago, when the masked she-devil whispered into his father’s ear:

“Tell me, how far are you willing to go to protect the ones you love?

What is a single mortal soul willing to sacrifice?

I never wanted to hurt anyone. Even until now, my soul screams out of my skin whenever I take a stranger’s life.

But cruel fate has forced me to be a cripple under Onigumo’s hand.”

She rested her forehead against his, her shoulders were shaking, her tears in miserable torrents of agony.

“I’m sorry. I’m not trying to justify myself,  I know you will never be able to forgive me… but I’m sorry.”

She gently planted a soft kiss on his forehead, just like how she did three years ago with his patriarch. Her soft whimpers yanked at his numbed consciousness. And she rested his head on her lap, tenderly stroking his dark hair with her fingers. “In a few minutes your body will fall into a paralysis that mimics death. As we carry your corpse out, everyone else will think another concubine has perished in my hands.

But that will give us enough time to evacuate you out of my estate, and out of Onigumo’s reach.

When you wake up, you will not remember anything. Every memory you have in this castle will be erased.”

“What…” he managed to whisper. But his tongue fell dead, unable to hold tone.

He wanted to reach out to her. The formidable monster that everyone loathed was now this vulnerable, beautiful girl- shriveled before him, like a wilted flower in the dead of winter. Hunched ungracefully in her tears, broken in her utter despair.

“You can sleep soundly at night, knowing that your kin’s death is justly avenged.

His heartless murderer is already trapped in this burning, inescapable hell for the rest of her miserable life… and for sure she will continue to pay for her sins in the flames of the afterlife.

You’re not going to remember this, anyway, you’ll never remember me.

But please, live a happy, beautiful life…

One that everyone else but this Hannya-masked monster deserves.”

The concubine’s eyes finally closed, unable to hold his strength any much longer. But he did not lose his sense of hearing, the poison did not alter his sense of touch. His consciousness was still fully intact, and he could still hear the consort’s soft cries. She cried, restrained moans filling the deathly quiet room.

“If only I could get out of this hell…” she whispered, “Foolish little girl… allowing yourself to hope…

There is no hope…

There is no escape.”

He heard her breathe out from sheer exhaustion. She was forcing herself to stop her sobs, was painfully willing her own tears away.

There was a tap on the Shoji door. “Kagome, are you alright in there?” The muffled voice said.

“Yes, come in.”

The screen slid open, “What took you so long?” The voice was Sango’s. “Kami, are you crying again?”

“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright. Tend to the concubine. For some reason, it took a long time for my potion to knock him out.”

“Kagome,” a male voice interjected. “Did he hurt you?”

“No, he didn’t. He just hated me… like everyone else. Shippo, please. We don’t have much time.”

“Understood.” The man named Shippo shifted his feet. “Where did he say he came from?”

“The outskirts of the Snow Mountains of the West.” A newcomer said, it was the voice of the old handmaiden that washed him earlier.

“The West?” Shippo huffed in dismay. “The last concubine Sango and I had to take home to was in the Southern-“

“Quit whining!” Sango said. “Kagome, we’ll take the portal in the eastern citadel. And maybe Shippo here can put his fox fire to good use… in that way, we’ll be able to reach the Snow Mountains quickly.”

“Very well. Both of you… come back safe.”

“We will.”

The concubine felt himself being lifted by strong arms. They mounted on something big, there was a sudden rush of wind, and the fragrant smell of the looming poison flowers was no more.

His consciousness was fading. His limp body was leaning flaccid on Shippo’s person, and the rush of wind stopped. They were standing idle in open grounds.

“What is your business outside?” The familiar voice of the castle guard questioned.

“We will be disposing of the corpse of Lady Onigumo’s concubine,” Shippo answered.

The guard chuckled. “Another one, eh? She sure is a feisty one. I hope he died with a smile on his face—“

The sound of metal suddenly sliced through the air.

“Sango!” Shippo warned. “Put that down,”

“You do not speak about Lady Onigumo with such disrespect!” She hissed. “You don’t even know what you’re blabbering about-“

“Keh.” The guard spat, his voice roughened out.

“Let’s go,” Shippo said.

And the last thing the concubine heard before losing his consciousness was the sound of the castle gates, creaking and groaning. Then there was another rush of wind, and the oppressing aura of Onigumo’s castle slowly faded away.

*****

He woke up to the sound of chiming crystals, a sound that made his heart ache in painful longing. He opened his eyes and found himself in a sprawling room- a familiar room. He sat up, his eyes immediately drifting to the grand windows.

By the sill was a vase of fragile crystal flowers, flora that he knew was specialized horticulture, specific to the high altitudes of a certain terrain.

From outside, heavy snow was falling into perpetually white earth.

His chest constricted in shock: He was back home, in the frozen altitude of the Snow Mountains of the West.

“He’s awake,” An old man squawked, “Master Sesshomaru is awake!!”

Footsteps rushed into the large room, and he brought his gaze to the new arrivals. A young woman with dark hair and golden eyes flung herself at him, and he embraced back, still in utter disbelief.

Was this a cruel dream?

“Onii-sama… in the name of the Kamis… Onii-sama!” the young woman cried, hugging him tighter. “I thought you died from the recon!”

“Rin,” He said, unable to believe the words he was actually uttering out of his lips. His half-sister was crying in his arms.

It was not a dream.

Another figure shifted from the side, he was standing tense from restraint. “We were able to recover father’s body after the siege,” It was Inuyasha, his hanyou brother. “We looked for yours… we wanted to give you both a proper burial. But we never found your corpse…” the white-haired hanyou was not able to hold back. He strode forward and enveloped his demon brother in a tackling hug.

Sesshomaru pulled away, and he stared at his two siblings. He stared at his hands, brought his strands of dark hair into his gaze.

With one little burst of energy, his concealment disappeared, turning his black hair back to white again, the markings on his skin slowly surfacing into view.

His energy was now unbound and unsuppressed, he could release his youki freely.

“Where were you?” Rin cried out, “For the full three years, where were you?”

The Inuyoukai’s eyes narrowed, he immediately connected his memories.

He was immune to poison.

That was why he did not disintegrate in the First Consort’s sweet kiss,

That was why her memory potion did not take effect.

 

“I was a prisoner in Naraku’s castle.

But I was liberated by the Lady Onigumo.

That was when he realized,

he was not supposed to remember.

 

*****

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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