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The First Cut is the Deepest by Sage McMae

The First Cut is the Deepest

The first time Sesshomaru sees her, she is hardly worth noticing. Like so many humans before her, she strays too far from the village and gets lost in the woods.

He is lounging in a tree, ignoring his duties when she stumbles into the clearing. His gaze latches onto the movement, instantly discerning if the newcomer is a threat or not. He cloaks himself to avoid detection just in case it is the former. 

Sesshomaru scoffs when he spots the woman. She is young, not yet of age. He thinks her a fool for traveling this far from home unaccompanied. If she comes across bandits or ruffians, her thin limbs will not provide adequate defense against an assault.

He watches her stroll steadily toward the riverbank and smirks. Perhaps she has come alone to drown herself. It would be one less mortal for the Western Lands to be concerned about.

Sesshomaru tilts his head back against the trunk of the tree and closes his eyes. When the woman realizes that she cannot cross the river, she will turn around. He will be left in peace.

He waits, listening for the telltale huff of annoyance or a shriek of outrage. The forest remains quiet. He opens his eyes.

The woman is standing by the river. She does not appear to want to cross nor does she seem concerned about her location. Sesshomaru finds her behavior peculiar and leans forward for a better look.

Her eyes are closed and her head is craned back so the sun shines across her face. Her creamy skin appears as smooth as a pane of glass with a tinge of pink in her cheekbones. Black hair cascades behind her. She does not wear it bound at the nape of her neck or done up in bows the way he has seen other human females. Another oddity.

There is a flash of light and suddenly the clearing holds two more visitors— neither of which are mortal.

“Ah, Kagome.”

The girl bows her head respectfully. “Totosai.”

“The swordsmith,” Sesshomaru murmurs as his curiosity piques.

“I hope this will serve you well,” the elderly demon says, lowering his head while extending his arms. Sesshomaru peers down at the weapon Totosai gifts the woman.

Picking up the blade by the hilt, she turns to the side and gives it an experimental twirl. The curved metal sings through the air. The woman lunges toward the river, thrusting the sword forward with practiced control.

She smiles. “Thank you.”

“I was honored for the request,” Totosai replies, “but may I ask why a sword? Why not a bow like your sister?”

The woman’s smile falters. When she speaks again, her voice sounds tired. “I trust the general’s judgment. I asked for his advice on a way to serve the cause. This is what his answer was. I want to help.”

Totosai pats her shoulder reassuringly. “You already have.”’

Her smile returns.

“Can I drop you off at the farm?” he offers.

“No, thank you. I would like to get some practice in before dark,” the woman politely declines.

“Well, take this,” Totosai advises, handing her a sheath for the newly-made blade. “It will protect you.”

The woman bows gratefully. “Thank you.”

“I expect to hear great things about you, Kagome.”

“Stay safe and be well,” the woman responds.

With that, there is another brilliant pulse of light and the swordsmith and his cow vanish.

Sesshomaru frowns. He wonders if his father is aware of his old friend’s allegiances. Arming their enemy is an act of treason, though Sesshomaru expects Touga will not pursue charges against the demon who crafted his battle armor and both his swords. His father has always been rather sentimental. Sesshomaru believes such foolishness will eventually get him killed.

The woman— Kagome, Totosai called her —works her way down the riverbank, flowing through a set of a dozen separate movements. Sesshomaru recognizes the basic Kata. He mastered it when he was merely a pup.

Scoffing, Sesshomaru analyzes her form. Her posture is poor and her weight is not evenly distributed. She guards her right side far too much, leaving her left open to attack. As she flows into a second Kata, Sesshomaru notices a slight tremor in her hands. If she shifted her placement up slightly, her grip could compensate for any nervousness.

Still, her determination is unwavering. She does not pause, does not hesitate. The longer she practices, the cleaner and more controlled her movements become. The woman possesses a level of poise Sesshomaru has rarely seen before. She is gifted.

For a human.

There are areas where she could be improved. Given her slight form, agility will be her greatest asset in a fight. However, she does not appear aware of this. Her movements are reminiscent of a male fighter. She tries to compensate for her size with brute strength. 

He shakes his head wondering who taught her. They should have altered their technique to match her body type. Perhaps it was one of the villagers. He considers their feeble minds and lack of understanding.

But he does not need to speculate for long.

“Kagome? Hey, you out here?”

Sesshomaru glares at the tree line. A moment later, his half-brother appears.

“It’s late. What are you still doing out here by yourself? Kikyo and I were worried,” he says to the woman.

“I’m fine,” she insists, not halting her practice.

Inuyasha folds his arm in front of him. “So that old geezer managed to pull through for you, huh?”

“Yes. Can you thank your father for me?” the woman requests, completing one final overhead cut before lowering her sword.

Sesshomaru watches as his brother nods.

“Yeah, I’ll tell him, though I don’t know why you just don’t go visit yourself,” Inuyasha responds with a sigh.

The woman kneels and places her blade inside its sheath. Once secure, she fixes it to her back and straightens up. “I doubt a human would be welcome in the Crescent Court,” she tells his brother. “Besides, I’m needed here.”

“You shouldn’t go off on your own so much,” Inuyasha says. “It’s not safe.”

“I’m not made of porcelain,” the woman argues.

“I know that,” he snaps agitatedly.

She shakes her head and strolls past him, unbothered by his attitude. “I can’t just sit in the village and pretend nothing is wrong.”

“I’m not asking you to. Just quit this—,” Inuyasha gestures to her sword, “—quest or whatever this is before you get hurt. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone.”

The woman gives him a small, sad smile. “That isn’t what this is and you know it.”

He grabs her arm and she stills. His voice is strained as he speaks, “Kagome, please. I know I hurt you. I know I have no right to ask but I’ll beg if I have to. Please stop.”

She turns around and cups his face with one hand. “Inuyasha, you’re my dearest friend. I’ll always love you, but you’re correct. You don’t have the right to decide for me. You never did.”

With that, her hand drops and she strolls out of the clearing, leaving his brother standing there with tears rolling down his face.

Sesshomaru does not know what to make of the meeting so he puts it from his mind and returns to the palace.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The second time Sesshomaru sees the woman, he notices her right away. Several times this month, he has returned to the clearing by the river. He tells himself his interest is purely for defensive reasons.

Sesshomaru has never trusted his half-breed brother. Discovering that he is involved with not one, but two human females only increases Sesshomaru’s distaste for the hanyo. Their father may believe Inuyasha has their pack’s best interests at heart but Sesshomaru disagrees. Inuyasha was not raised in the Crescent Court. He does not understand what it means to be part of their clan. If he did, he would not associate so freely with humans.

Totosai’s involvement is concerning, as is the fact the woman seems to know his father. Touga’s compassion for mortals is a weakness, one that their enemies— demon and human-alike —attempt to exploit.

Following the strange encounter at the river, Sesshomaru keeps a very close eye on his father for several days. His behavior does not appear uncharacteristic nor does he take any odd meetings. Sesshomaru determines the woman only spoke of Touga in reference to Inuyasha. Had she met the General, it is certain Sesshomaru’s mother would have had something to say about it. As Touga’s mate, she is rather sensitive about his involvement with humans, especially after Izayoi.

Kagome arrives at the river early, less than an hour after sunrise. Her sword is slung over her shoulder, properly sheathed in its scabbard.

It has been a few weeks and Sesshomaru notices a change in her. Her blue eyes are glossy as if she is in a trance. The skin beneath her eyes has darkened considerably. He assumes both attributes are due from lack of sleep. When she begins, there is a jerky quality to the movements as though her body is fighting against her. 

Kagome has barely completed the first form when she staggers to the side, one foot entering the river. Her sword clatters to the ground and her arms stretch out in an attempt to restore her balance. Steadying herself, Kagome brings a hand to her side.

Sesshomaru leans closer, hovering on the edge of his branch. He catches the tang of copper in the air and stiffens.

She is wounded.

He tries to recall the latest reports for this region. Sesshomaru cannot remember any villages being attacked. There had been no raids ordered for this sector. The mortals here are farmers. They are peaceful unless provoked, unlike their southern neighbors who are rallying for war.

Kagome withdraws her hand. The white fabric is stained red.

A flare of outrage erupts in his chest. Were the villagers unaware of her injury? Even if they were, her sister and Inuyasha should have known. By human standards, they are her pack and pack means safeguarding your own.

Another lesson Inuyasha has conveniently forgotten.

She stumbles forward, climbing the bank in a few steps. Sweat glistens on her brow and her jaw is clenched.

Sesshomaru does not understand what she hopes to gain through suffering. She should be lying in a healer’s hut resting. What is so important that the woman feels the desire to train?

As if to answer him, darkness settles over the clearing. The air crackles with tension as if the very elements are working to prevent what occurs next.

Sesshomaru shifts back into the shadows of the tree. He has cloaked himself since he first arrived but he checks to ensure the newcomer cannot sense his presence.

The man is draped in white baboon fur. It covers his entire body, making it difficult to determine his true size.

“Still alive I see,” he sneers at Kagome.

Instantly, her sword is aimed at the speaker. Sesshomaru does not know how she has the strength to stand, let alone wield the blade. This time her hand does not tremble. In fact, the woman’s entire body is perfectly situated for combat. Her stance is even and her intention is clear. 

The visitor removes his hood, revealing a familiar head of raven-black hair. Sesshomaru’s golden eyes narrow. 

Naraku.

The spider hanyo is a relatively recent addition to their clan’s warrior ranks. He has shown himself to be a skilled strategist and is motivated by his success. Every attack he has led has ended in increased morale at court and a steady stream of supplies. Regardless, Sesshomaru has never appreciated him.

Like Inuyasha, Naraku is a half-breed. Sesshomaru does not trust his motives. As half-human, half-demon, Naraku’s allegiance is divided.

Sesshomaru has attempted to explain this to Touga but his father does not believe designation plays a part in fealty. He disagrees. The war has made the division between their two worlds even more apparent. It cannot be ignored.

And yet, he finds himself here daily, waiting for the woman with the demon-forged blade.

It is a curiosity, a fleeting fancy to distract him from the burdens of court. At least, that is what he tells himself.

“You’re not as weak as you appear,” Naraku says.

“Sorry to disappoint.”

He laughs. “A mistake that will be remedied soon, I assure you.”

“Stay away from my sister,” she growls.

“An interesting woman. I can see why the village elder trained her to be the jewel’s sworn protector. You, on the other hand, are another matter entirely,” Naraku tells her, raising his hand.

But Kagome is faster.

She pivots on her rear heel, spinning out of range of his attack to loop around behind him. The edge of her blade presses against Naraku’s neck. He freezes.

“I will only offer you a warning one more time. Keep away from my village, leave my sister alone, and stop terrorizing the farm,” she demands. Kagome pauses for a moment, allowing her words to sink in before she withdraws her blade.

Naraku relaxes. He wears a smug expression that makes Sesshomaru uneasy.

“Strange that you of all people would harbor and aid them. Aren’t you supposed to hate them all?” he inquires derisively.

“I hate no one,” she returns evenly. “Not even you.” 

His lips twist into a smile that is more frightening than any snarled threat ever could be. It is unnerving how confident Naraku is as though he knows more than he is letting on.

“You have one minute to leave this place before I make you,” Kagome advises tersely.

“Well, then.” He gives her a mock bow and proceeds to pull his hood up to cover his face. “I will see you soon. Very soon.”

“You better hope not,” she retorts, sheathing her sword.

As the hanyo leaves, he glances over his shoulder at her. “Oh, I almost forgot. Today’s a rather special occasion, isn’t it?”

She says nothing. 

“Happy Birthday, Kagome.”

The woman does not respond. She merely glares at him, determined not to drop her gaze. 

He chuckles darkly and vanishes. Immediately, the skies clear and the oppressive haze lifts from the clearing.

Sesshomaru inches toward the end of the branch, studying the woman. She hunches over, placing her hands on her knees and inhales shakily. His nostrils flare as he picks up on the salt of tears.

He does not know what happened between her and Naraku but he intends to find out.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The following day, Sesshomaru goes to see Kagome. 

After an intensely detailed discussion with all of the war generals, Touga among them, he has concluded that Naraku never received any orders to launch an attack near Kagome’s village. More concerning is the fact that no one in the Crescent Court has heard from Naraku in the past few days. In addition, Inuyasha is missing. Normally, Sesshomaru would not be bothered by his half-brother’s absence but given what he knows of the situation, he begins to suspect they are related. 

He travels to the village alone. Leaving the court has become a problem ever since his mother noticed his recurring use of a proxy. Though his vassal, Jaken, maintains precise records of all the proceedings, Sesshomaru’s mother prefers him to attend. He manages to avoid her in favor of accepting tea tomorrow. He will find a suitable excuse to shirk the responsibility later.

When Sesshomaru reaches his destination, the sun is setting over the West. Upon inspection, the village does not appear to have sustained any damage. All of the homes look intact and the people congregated around seem happy. Wherever Naraku attacked Kagome, it was not in the village.

Sesshomaru crouches on a hillside overlooking the cluster of huts, waiting for the woman to appear on the dirt path. He expects her to be returning from the river but she never shows.

The last rays of light vanish from the sky. Stars dot the inky black expanse of night, decorating the heavens with a pale white light that matches the moon. It is only once the village has fallen silent that she appears.

Kagome slips out of her hut, dressed in a traveler’s cloak and carrying her sword.

Sesshomaru masks his presence. He does not wish to alarm Kagome nor does he want to announce himself to any others that may be lurking nearby. If Naraku means to harm her, which Sesshomaru suspects, the element of surprise will be to his advantage.

He keeps a safe distance and follows the woman out of the village. She does not head for the river. Her feet carry her towards the mountains.

They pass two villages before she veers off the main road and down a narrow path. A wide field lays between their position and a hut. The small dwelling appears to be her destination.

Sesshomaru scents demons and hanyos. He glances around, certain she is going off course. The towns behind them are home to mortals. What does this woman want with a building full of demons?

As she continues, he recognizes several familiar herbs in the field. They are all used for medicinal purposes. Realization dawns on him. He knows this place— well, he knows of it.

Sure enough, when Kagome reaches the end of the field, a large male hanyo with wide blue eyes greets her.

“You made it.”

“Hi, Jinenji,” she greets him.

He wraps his arms, which are as thick as she is wide, around her. Sesshomaru hears her sharp intake of breath and sees her wince.

“You’re hurt,” the towering hanyo observes in a regretful tone.

“I’m fine,” she replies, waving him off. “Nothing one of your remedies can’t cure.”

“Come inside,” he beckons. “Everyone is waiting for you.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes follow her until she disappears through the door flap after the giant. He creeps closer to the hut, peering in through the window slats to see the dozen or so visitors crammed inside.

“Is this everyone?” Kagome asks Jinenji, her tone solemn.

“Yes.”

“I thought there would be more,” she remarks, sounding disheartened.

“Kouga brought as many as he could carry,” a wolf demon with silver and black hair informs her.

She places her hand on his shoulder. “Thank you, Ginta. Where is he?”

“Finishing up his scouting report. He should be back soon,” the wolf replies.

Kagome nods and turns her attention to the others. It is an array of species. There is a mated pair of lizard demons, a small Thunder demoness, two wolves from the Northern clan, a bat demon, a bird demon, and a tiny kitsune.

She sits with each of them, checking over their wounds and asking if they have enough provisions. All of them are covered in bandages, ranging from minor cuts that will heal to serious wounds that will scar. None of them have suffered a deep laceration like the one Kagome is hiding beneath her clothes.

When she gets to the kit, the fox launches himself into her chest. She hugs him tight.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t come sooner,” she apologizes.

“I missed you,” the kitsune cries, burying his face in her neck.

Nuzzling is a characteristic trait of pack younglings. They seek comfort through touch and proximity. It would not surprise him if the woman was a demoness or even a half-breed but to see her so nonplussed about the interaction makes Sesshomaru wonder. Who is this woman?

“Hey, kit, stop hogging my woman!”

Sesshomaru sees a wolf standing in the doorway. He is taller than the others with fine black hair and tanned skin. Based on his furs, Sesshomaru knows he must be the leader of the Yoro clan. The eastern wolves are nearly extinct due to the war. Those who have survived are the youngest and strongest, though none are a match for him.

“Kouga, you’re back,” the wolf with the silver and black hair greets him.

Meanwhile, the kitsune sticks his tongue out at the wolf prince. Evidently, he does not care for the demon. Sesshomaru agrees with the kit’s assessment.

“She’s not your woman!” the fox snaps petulantly.

“Alright, you two, none of that,” Kagome reprimands gently. She sets the kit down and rises to hug the wolf prince. “How was patrol?”

“No sign of Naraku.”

“How about Ayame and the others?” she asks, releasing him.

He shakes his head. “If they managed to get out before the raid, they’re well hidden. I can’t even pick up a trail.”

Kagome sighs defeatedly. “This has to stop. Maybe if I—.”

“No,” Kouga interrupts her. He places his hands on her shoulders, staring directly into her eyes. “Turning yourself over to him won’t solve anything. If you’re gone, who will be here to help the survivors?”

“You and Jinenji have it covered. I’m only making things worse. The more involved I get, the more violent his attacks are. It would be better for you all if I stopped,” she says.

“I don’t believe that,” the wolf returns. “Maybe we should appeal to the council.”

Kagome scoffs. “The demon high council won’t listen to a mortal woman.”

“You don’t know that!”

“Actually, I do. I asked Inuyasha if his father could get me an audience with them last month. Not even the Great Dog General could persuade them. They think I’m part of the uprising,” she pauses, emitting a bitter laugh. “They even have a name for me. Naraku has them calling me The Practitioner.”

Kouga’s eyes go wide. “What? Wait, he’s blaming you for this?”

Kagome nods. “He has the Crescent Court convinced that the fighting started on the human side. Everyone from Kamakura is dead. There isn’t anyone to refute his claim.”

“Except you,” the wolf argues.

She shakes her head. “They won’t believe a mortal. He’s already discredited me to take that option away. If I step foot into the demon court, I will be signing my death sentence. They’ll try me for crimes committed against their people,” she explains.

“Then I’ll go,” he volunteers. “I’ll speak in your place and—.”

“And then who will help me save the next group?” Kagome interrupts sternly. “I’m not as fast as you or Ginta. I need you here helping me smuggle as many to safety as possible.”

The wolf prince’s head hangs down. “So that’s it? That’s our only option— run and hope we can stay far enough ahead of him to stay alive?”

“Or I hand myself over,” Kagome suggests again.

No.

“Inuyasha and Kikyo said the same thing,” she replies, sighing again. “They’ve been worse than usual lately. I didn’t think they’d let me leave tonight. I’m actually surprised they didn’t follow me.”

Sesshomaru tenses. He has been so caught up in their conversation that he has not been paying attention to his surroundings. It is a novice’s mistake— one that costs him dearly —for when he turns around he is facing the pointed end of an arrow.

“Who are you?” A woman who looks remarkably like Kagome is glowering at him, her fingertips poised to release the arrow into his sternum. 

Inuyasha appears at her side. His brow furrows. “Sesshomaru? What the hell are you doing here?” 

Hesitantly, the woman— Kagome’s twin sister he surmises —lowers her weapon.

“I tracked the girl,” he says.

His half-brother curses. “I already know that, you bastard. What I want to know is why? Why did you trail after her?”

“She is injured,” Sesshomaru remarks. “Why did you allow her to leave?”

“Allow her?” Inuyasha sputters indignantly. “Have you met Kagome? She doesn’t listen to anyone, least of all me.”

“That is probably for the best,” Sesshomaru replies.

“How did you know she was injured?” Kikyo inquires.

“I saw her attempting to train by the river. Her wounds kept her from completing her forms.”

“You’ve been spying on her!” Inuyasha snaps accusingly.

Sesshomaru does not signify his outburst with a confirmation.

“I’m curious,” Kikyo begins. “What interest does the Crescent Court have with a mere mortal girl?”

“A mortal girl who defends and treats refugee demons?” Sesshomaru prompts.

“Yes,” Kikyo confirms.

“I have been investigating Naraku’s past and tracking his movements. His nefarious plot runs deeper than I anticipated. I plan to make it known,” Sesshomaru informs them. It is partially true but they do not need to know that.

“I already spoke to dad,” Inuyasha grumbles. “He couldn’t do anything.”

“Perhaps not but you forget that I also hold a seat at court. With two of the Taisho family supporting her, we will have a better chance of unearthing Naraku’s reasons for starting the war.”

Inuyasha scoffs. “We know why he started it. He wants the power of—.”

“That’s enough, Inuyasha,” Kikyo interrupts with a sharp look.

Sesshomaru’s gaze flickers between the two. They are more than friends— much more by the smell of it. That answers one of his queries. More are beginning to take shape in his mind. 

“Why did father commission the sword for her use?” he questions.

They both stare at him, stunned by his understanding.

“Kikyo has spiritual powers to protect her. Kagome doesn’t,” Inuyasha says.

He can smell the dishonesty in his brother’s statement. It is a lie, though which piece is unclear. Before Sesshomaru can request clarification, there is a rustling sound. All three of them freeze as Kagome exits the hut. She crosses her arms in front of her, not surprised to see them outside, though clearly disappointed.

“Who is this?” she asks, staring at him.

“My brother,” Inuyasha mutters.

Her blue eyes shimmer with recognition. “So you’re Sesshomaru?” she prompts with a knowing smile.

“You should not wander alone at night,” he advises, ignoring the way her gaze runs over him with interest.

“I wasn’t alone.”

He blinks. There is no way she could have sensed him. His yoki was shielded.

“My sister and Inuyasha follow me everywhere,” Kagome clarifies. “They haven’t let me out of their sights since...,” she trails off with a shrug. “They are rather protective.”

“You are all that’s left of our great line, Kagome,” Kikyo says. “I will do everything I can to keep you safe. It is my duty.”

There is something there— something in the miko’s words that nags at Sesshomaru— a piece of the puzzle that he has yet to realize is out of place.

“I know,” Kagome returns, walking over to hug her sister. “As I would do for you.”

“No,” Kikyo says, holding her twin off. “I do not need your protection.”

Confusion rapidly followed by hurt crosses Kagome’s face. Her eyes glisten with approaching tears yet she does not cry. She straightens up and backs away from her sister and her friend. “Return to the village.”

Inuyasha steps toward her. “Kagome—.”

“I don’t want you here. Go home,” she demands resolutely.

“I’m not leaving you out in the open with no one to watch your back,” he argues.

“I’m not alone. Sesshomaru is here,” Kagome reminds them.

Her observation, while accurate, shocks him. If the expressions on Inuyasha and Kikyo’s faces are any indication, they are equally stunned.

Sighing, the miko relents with a nod. “We will see you in the morning. Come, Inuyasha.” She links her arm through his, guiding him away from the hut.

“But—.”

“Leave them be,” Kikyo tells him sternly, though she glances over her shoulder, fixing Sesshomaru with her solemn brown eyes. Her silent message is clear. If any harm befalls her sister at his hands, she will purify him. 

With Kagome standing at his side, he watches them stroll off into the night. Sesshomaru is uncertain what to say to her. She does not appear surprised to see him. The woman is complete at ease, almost as if she expected him to visit the medicinal hut.

“So,” she begins, placing her hands on her hips and tilting her head to peer up at him, “why have you been following me?”

She should not be able to identify his presence, not now and certainly not the days when he saw her by the river. He tries to sense a change in her aura, the telltale sign of spiritual or supernatural abilities. Sesshomaru finds neither.

“I have the Shikon sight,” Kagome explains. “Kaede told me that while I wasn’t chosen to be the protector of the jewel, the Kamis blessed me with a gift of my own.”

“You know where demons are, regardless if they are cloaked or not?”

She nods. “It’s how I was able to rescue so many. I always know where they are. I can see their auras, just as I can see yours.”

“Hn.”

It is unnerving that she possesses such a skill. What is more concerning is the fact she has always known of him. He never revealed himself before and she never asked him to. Sesshomaru finds himself wondering why. However, when he speaks, it is not a question he asks of her but an offer.

“I have trained for years with a sword. I can provide you with lessons, if that is your wish.”

Kagome studies his face for a moment. He does not know what she sees. Does she notice the conflict in his mind, the stirrings of his heart, or the ache of his soul? Whatever she finds, she keeps to herself.

“I would like that,” Kagome agrees, extending her hand.

He takes it, though not to shake. A shake is for a gentleman’s agreement and while she is worthy of such a contract, Sesshomaru wants nothing from her in return. He brings her hand to his lips and lays the whisper of a kiss along her skin.

“Then I will be waiting for you at the riverbank tomorrow evening,” he promises.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

True to his word, he is there the following night. No sooner has the sun set then he is waiting by the water’s edge, flowing through an advanced series of forms to keep himself distracted. 

Kagome appears with the first star, entering the clearing with the same poise she maintained when facing down Naraku. “Hello.”

“Good evening,” he greets her, sheathing his blade. “No shadows lurking in the tree line?”

She grins. “Inuyasha and Kikyo are in the village.”

Sesshomaru knows the half-breed has not trailed behind but he wanted to hear her say it. He is pleased to see her in good spirits.

“Shall we begin?” he suggests.

Kagome falls into her stance across from him. They proceed through the formalities and onto the first attack. Sesshomaru directs his blade toward her core— her weakest point. Her sword clangs against his, defending against his thrust and parrying the blade away.

“Good,” he praises, before twisting his wrist and driving her sword off of his.

He falters slightly but quickly regains her composure, dodging his attempt to knock her thigh and then circling around him to avoid a shoulder stab.

She is agile. Her footwork does not follow any formal training but it aids her well. He finds her movements difficult to predict until they have spent the better part of the evening sparring. Once he picks up on the patterns, Sesshomaru is able to effectively counter her.

Kagome does not back down. Even when her sleeve is cut free, she does not stop. She allows the fabric to fall to the ground, stepping over it as she attempts to land a blow against him.

Sesshomaru smirks. He has never lost a sword fight. He does not intend to now.

He sweeps his sword overhead, bringing it down at an angle. It hits directly above the hilt, causing Kagome’s grip to loosen. He smacks it again and her blade falls into the dirt. When she moves to retrieve it, the tip of Bakusaiga is there to block her. Sesshomaru smirks and nudges her shoulder delicately. 

“I yield,” she relents. There is no disappointment in her eyes. She is covered in a sheen of sweat and lips are parted as she catches her breath. Yet, Kagome is glowing with satisfaction.

“My point, my question,” he informs her.

She raises an eyebrow but does not refute his claim.

He takes that as permission to inquire about her blade. “I am curious; why did my father request Totosai to forge a sword for you? It is not the traditional weapon of a woman.”

“I asked him for it. Well, I asked for a weapon,” Kagome answers. “I’m decent with a bow but it isn’t enough to stop a demon attack and it’s not a good weapon for proximity fights. I needed something more versatile.”

“You planned to fight?” he asks incredulously.

The war has been going on for the last three years. If she was there when the fighting broke out, she would have been barely fifteen years of age. It is entirely too young for a woman to be on the battlefield, especially an inexperienced one.  

“I knew there were people who needed me. I wanted to help,” she tells him, tapping her temple. “Shikon sight, remember?” 

Her answer is genuine. There is not a single trace of dishonesty in anything she says. It is refreshing after a long day at court where the majority of the spoken word is laced with false modesty and ill-intent. 

“You never wear your hair back,” he observes.

“Oh.” Her cheeks turn red. “The villagers had trouble distinguishing Kikyo and I so she began wearing her hair tied up with ribbons. I never bothered to find my own style. It’s easier this way.”

“It obstructs your view when fighting. You should pull it back,” he recommends.

“I’ll try,” she says, gathering up her hair and twisting it into a knot at the base of her neck.

That is when Sesshomaru sees her tattoo. It is then that he recalls the strange wording her sister used the prior evening. Slowly, the missing pieces begin to fall into place.

“Can we train again tomorrow night?” Kagome asks.

“I will be here,” he confirms.

With a final smile, she bids him goodnight and returns to the village.

Sesshomaru lingers in the clearing, hoping his assumptions are wrong.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

They train nightly. Sesshomaru can sense the weight of Naraku’s threat looming over Kagome. Though the spider hanyo has not shown himself again, his promise to return lingers in every unexplained noise and every encroaching shadow.

He does not go easy on her. She does not expect him to. It is an unspoken agreement between them. Kagome understands how critical these skills may be for her and though she has yet to earn a point against Sesshomaru, she always leaves the riverbank with a smile.

Sesshomaru finds himself eager to arrive each evening, looking forward to both the sparring and the conversation which follows.

He learns about her childhood, how she often wandered off by herself, which is something they have in common. Kagome tells him about her insecurities, how she worries she will disappoint her sister, how Inuyasha hurt her by choosing Kikyo as his lover. Once again, she was left alone. She is an outsider in her own world. She also speaks of her triumphs— how she arrived at Kamakura just in time to see Naraku thrust his tentacles through one of the villagers. That altercation is what started the war. 

Over the passing weeks, she grows to trust him. He clings to that belief, praying to the Kamis that it will give him the strength for what he must do.

“Why start a war between humans and demons?” he asks one night as they sit at the river’s edge. “Naraku is part of both worlds. What does he hope to gain by causing such destruction?”

“I don’t know,” Kagome confesses. “What I do know is that day changed everything for me. After I saw what he had done, I tried to save those I could. Inuyasha and Kikyo helped me get them jobs and homes in the surrounding towns but Naraku found them all. He left no survivors.”

“Except you,” Sesshomaru points out.

She nods. “I suppose that is why he wants me dead. I’m the only one who knows what really happened that day.” Kagome shakes her head. “Still, it doesn’t make sense. Why kill everyone in Kamakura? They never had an issue with the demon clans.”

“Perhaps his reasoning has nothing to do with the town,” Sesshomaru proposes.

Kagome glances at him. “What do you mean?”

“Naraku is a strategist. He never does anything without knowing the consequences of his actions. If Naraku started the war, he expected a specific outcome,” Sesshomaru explains.

“What outcome?”

“The awakening of a power greater than any the demon clans or the human kingdoms possess,” he says.

She drops her gaze. Her determination is admirable. In spite of the fate Kagome has been dealt with, she is relentless in her pursuit to change it. He stares at her and wonders if she knows who she is— what she is. Or is this yet another lie that she has been laboring under. 

“Your sister was not charged with protecting a gem. She was protecting you. The Shikon no Tama is not an ancient relic of power as we have all been led to believe; it is a person— you, Kagome.”

She shakes her head. “No.” 

“Yes.” 

“No!” she screams at him, tears spilling down her face as she stands. The smell of salt permeates the air. Kagome turns away from him. She shakes her head violently, refusing to acknowledge the truth. “No, I told Kaede to choose someone else. I never asked for this. I don’t want it. I just want to be human. I don’t want to be a— a—.”

“— weapon,” he finishes for her. 

Her shoulders sag as all of her frustration deflates. He feels the shift as if it were a tangible thing. Sesshomaru goes to her. He embraces her, drawing Kagome to him so her back is flush to his chest. 

He does not understand how she has been able to lie to herself all these years or how those closest to her could allow such a thing. What he does know is that he will not allow it, nor will he allow anything to happen to her. She will accept her fate just as she will accept his assistance. He will not leave her to bear this burden alone. 

No longer will she fight with one arm tied behind her back. Sesshomaru means to set her free.

He waits until her tears have quieted. Gently, Sesshomaru lifts her hair away from her neck, inspecting the markings etched into her skin. It is a binding curse like he suspected, one of the strongest he has ever seen. There are a few ways to break it, none of which are quick or painless. 

“Who did this?” he asks.

“Kaede. After she died, Kikyo took over,” Kagome reveals.

Sesshomaru frowns. This is more complicated than he realized. The binding has been reinforced countless times. “Have your powers been bound since birth?”

She nods.

His chest tightens. The pain will be excruciating. She has suppressed her natural self for years. There is no way for them to release it in increments. When he revokes the curse, it will pour forth like water from a dam. If she is not grounded, the process may kill her.

The available options narrow to one.

“Kagome.” Her name is all he manages to say. He cannot present her with this sole course of action. It will seal her fate forever.

She reaches up and wraps her hand around his. “I know.”

“If you would rather someone else, the wolf prince perhaps or—.”

“No,” she says, shifting to face him. Their eyes are locked when she says, “I trust you. I lo— I want it to be you.”

Sesshomaru has never felt so much at one time. Relief, pride, joy, adoration, arousal, acceptance— there are dozens of emotions coursing through him, each vying for dominance. In the end, his instincts take over. 

His initial impulse is to locate a secure, secluded place for them. Sesshomaru wants to ensure they will not be interrupted. Her hut is close but surrounded by villagers, including their siblings. His room at the palace is safe but her scent will draw attention. That leaves him to improvise. 

The summer palace is vacant this time of year. No sooner has he thought of it then Sesshomaru gathers Kagome into his arms. She starts to say his name but it turns into a startled yelp when he springs into the air and takes flight.

Her arms tighten around his shoulders. Her proximity clouds his mind. Any reservations he may have had before are long gone. The hesitation he has displayed these past weeks has solely been for her benefit. He will not force her into anything. Now that she has agreed to be his, there is no reason to hold off.

“I am going to take care of you,” Sesshomaru promises, placing a chaste kiss on her temple.

He knows she understands. She has spent the last three years of her life defending his kind. She knows that the longevity of his vow is for as long as he draws breath. He will watch over her for the remainder of his days.

“You already do,” Kagome tells him, returning his kiss. Her lips connect with the edge of his mouth, a tantalizing precursor of what is to come.

The instant Sesshomaru lands at the summer palace, he breaks into a run. His instincts are overwhelming. They demand he reinforce the gates, close the windows, and barricade the doors. While he works to secure their lodgings, Kagome lights candles and paints talismans to cover the entryways.

The entire process cannot take more than a few minutes yet Sesshomaru has never felt so impatient. He practically tackles her onto an assortment of pillows in his hurry to taste her.

Kagome laughs and peppers his face with kisses, each as tender and sweet as the woman herself. Warmth erupts in his chest, blooming like a well-fanned fire. It is not the intense burning he has come to associate with his desire for her. This is a sacred, long-lasting sensation— a flame in his heart that will never be extinguished.

He senses her power thrumming just out of reach. It feels like a thunderstorm rumbling beneath a mountain, clawing its way out from underground to be boundless in the sky above. Sesshomaru scrapes his teeth across the column of her throat. Like a chisel chipping away at the rock, he leaves a series of bites along her flesh. They are not hard enough to break the skin. These are teasing nips meant to prime her for receiving the mating mark.

And prime her, they do.

Kagome tilts her head and arches her back while moaning his name. The sound strikes his core like lightning, sharp and explosive. Seeing her writhe beneath him is its own form of power. The sight is deliciously addictive. He wants to see her this way again. Tonight is the first of many evenings Sesshomaru plans to have this woman.

He peels off the layers of her attire. The white kosode falls first, shortly followed by her scarlet hakama. The underthings are barely more than scraps of fabric. Sesshomaru delights in ripping them free from her creamy skin.

Somehow in the process, Kagome’s hands slip beneath his kimono. He can feel the heat radiating off her palms, a mixture of pleasure and power. Her fingertips trail down his torso, lightly brushing along the ridges of his defined muscles.

No other has ever touched him this way. No other ever will. This night will not only seal Kagome’s fate but his as well.

She loosens the fabric and rolls it off his shoulders. Drawing close, Kagome presses her mouth to his chest, placing a kiss directly above his heart. Sesshomaru cups her face, angling her head so he can claim her lips.

Kagome wraps her arms around him, eliminating the space between them. Sesshomaru’s free arm loops around her waist. Carefully, he shifts them into a better position on the pillows.

He can feel the thrumming of her need. It is strong though not as dominant as the vibrations of her power which riles against the binding like a feral beast. It begs to be free. Sesshomaru nips are her neck once more, dragging his teeth close to the tattoo. Kagome clenches her teeth and hisses as her fingernails dig into his shoulder blades.

It is nearly time.

Sesshomaru rolls to his side, parting from her merely long enough to remove the remainder of his clothing. 

“There will be pain,” he warns her as he settles between her thighs.

“I know,” Kagome replies, locking her arms behind his neck to draw him down.

“Are you certain this is what you want?”

“I am.”

Sesshomaru enters her with a sharp thrust. He feels her tense and freezes.

“I’m fine,” she tells him.

“Kagome—.”

“I’m fine; keep going.”

He swallows thickly but does as she asks. As he rocks into her, slowly at first and then more purposefully, her body relaxes. Soon she is moaning. The sound makes him feel intoxicated.

His hips drive him deeper and deeper until they are at the crest of climax. Sesshomaru drops his mouth to the juncture of her neck and collarbone.

“Mate,” he breathes across her flesh.

Kagome keens, spasming around him.

His fangs sink into her skin as he follows her. There is the metallic taste of blood followed instantly by a shock of raw energy.

Sesshomaru snaps his head back, studying her. He feels the rush of power immediately. Kagome’s eyes go out of focus. He grips her arms, trying to ground her. “You can control it,” he tells her.

“I can control it,” she repeats, more to herself than him.

Sesshomaru nods, giving her time to acclimate to the change. His skin bristles with the infinite power she possesses. He steadies himself, wondering if her reiki will purify him. Her abilities are unparalleled. There is no telling what she is capable of. 

He watches her chest rise and fall as she takes several deep breaths. Her eyes are closed. She reaches out with her powers, touching everything around her. When Kagome’s signature passes over him, it feels like a lover’s caress, not the searing pain he has come to expect from monks and priestesses. She opens her eyes, offering him a small smile. She looks ethereal, a goddess bathed in candlelight. 

“I can control it,” Kagome repeats confidently. 

They have much to discuss— their plan for Naraku, how to take care of the remaining refugees, and their future together. Sesshomaru is aware that time is against them but that is a worry for tomorrow. 

Tonight, he intends to worship his mate.  

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Nothing prepares him for the moment when he sees her enter the Crescent Court. Their separation has put him on edge. He has growled at all of his attendants, snapped at his mother, and been insubordinate to his father. His behavior is appalling. He does not care. His only concern— his only thought —is of her. 

They agreed to this arrangement. After hours of working through logistics, alliances, and court customs, they decided to trap Naraku in his own web. The summer palace walls were tacked full of drawings and scrollwork before they had an accord. A few pillows were shredded too, though that was not a result of planning. 

What remains of his coherent mind tells Sesshomaru this is all part of their plan. But there is very little clarity left when he sees the state of her. 

It is all he can do not to set the world on fire when they are reunited. 

Naraku drags Kagome into the Crescent Court by her hair. His mate’s attire is torn in places, burned in others. There are scratches all over her delicate face and an ugly bruise forming on her left cheek. When she stumbles forward, he notices that her shoes are missing. Her feet are bloody from being marched up the mountainside. 

Sesshomaru nearly lunges from his position to tear her out of Naraku’s clutches. His lips curl, revealing white fangs. A hand closes over his wrist, forcing him to remain in his seat. Were it not for his father’s sharp reflexes, Sesshomaru is convinced he would murder the spider hanyo on the spot. 

“What is the meaning of this?” Touga questions Naraku. 

“I have brought you the one known as The Practitioner,” he answers, throwing Kagome onto the floor. 

Sesshomaru locks onto her blue eyes. If she could speak, he knows what she would say. Not yet. Be patient. So he reigns in his beast and schools his features into an impassive face. It is almost impossible to ignore his instincts. He calls upon all of his past training to fulfill her request. 

“We do not make children prisoners of war,” Touga chides. 

“Oh, she is no child,” Naraku replies, smirking. 

His words from the clearing echo hauntingly in Sesshomaru’s mind. Happy Birthday, Kagome. He suppresses the urge to rip the hanyo’s head from his body. Naraku planned this. He knows if she is of age that she will be tried by the court. He is counting on them to deliver the sentencing. Naraku plans on taking out the entire Crescent Court with Kagome’s purification abilities. 

That bastard. Sesshomaru has to warn his father. 

“I find it difficult to believe a girl like her could be considered a threat. What evidence do you have against her?” Touga challenges, unaware of the danger he faces. 

“Have I not proven my worth to the court?” Naraku returns with the same demanding air.

“We do not shed blood needlessly,” Touga retorts.

“I have done what is necessary to restore balance to these lands, to ensure your great clan remains powerful,” Naraku states evenly.

Sesshomaru catches the gleam in his dark eyes. He expected this too. Every detail, every rebuttal— Naraku has accounted for all of it.

For the first time, Sesshomaru is concerned that their plan will not work. Even a slight delay may mean the end of them all.

He looks at Kagome. Her blue eyes have not left his face. Sesshomaru sees her lips moving. Initially, he thinks Kagome is praying but then he recognizes the words.

I can control it.

She repeats the mantra over and over. Sesshomaru takes a steadying breath. He trusts his mate. She has fought for the last three years to restore peace. Today, she will have her victory.

“Let’s put it to a vote, shall we? Those who favor compassion for human filth such as this,” Naraku pauses to grab the back of Kagome’s head and shove her face down onto the floor, “are with the General. And those who do not side with me.”

“What you speak of is treason,” Sesshomaru’s mother snaps, rising from her seat.

“What I speak of, my lady, is the survival of our kind,” Naraku insists.

“Our kind?” Sesshomaru’s mother repeats. She scoffs. “My kin are full-blooded demons. They are not half-breeds such as yourself.”

“Did your mate not take another? Your step-son, Inuyasha is born of both worlds as well. He is not kin?” Naraku questions.

A wave of uneasiness passes through the court. Sesshomaru’s mother sits down.

“A vote then,” the spider prompts.

“Aren’t you going let the accused speak?” a voice inquires from the crowd.

Naraku spins around, eyes narrowing. “Who said that?”

A female wolf demon with auburn hair steps forward. “It is customary in the northern tribe to hear both sides of the argument before passing judgment. We believe in transparency with our kind, not deception,” she says.

Naraku glares at her.

“We have the same practice in the East,” Kouga announces, appearing across from her. The crowd parts as the leader of the Yoro clan presents himself to the General and his mate.

Naraku’s hands ball into fists. His web is unraveling.

“I don’t belong to any tribe but even a half-breed like me knows you’re full of it,” an arrogant voice adds.

There is a gasp as Inuyasha enters the chamber with the priestess at his side. Her bow is at the ready and her brown eyes are hard as she takes in the scene.

“What is this?” Naraku snarls, whipping around to face Touga.

“Our traditions dictate fairness in all court proceedings. If you were truly one of us, Naraku, you would understand that I am bound to uphold our customs. The woman you’ve brought here today has a right to speak in her defense.”

“Fools,” he murmurs.

He grabs Kagome by her arm, hauling her to her feet. His hand snakes up her front to clasp around her throat.

At this, Sesshomaru stands. His teeth are bared and his eyes are bleeding crimson.

Yoga shakes his head, tutting disappointedly. “I believe you are the fool. Kidnapping and torturing a mate of one of our clan members is a terrible offense. The punishment is death.”

Naraku’s eyes go wide. He sweeps aside her hair to reveal the fake binding tattoo. “What? She’s no one’s—.”

His words die on his tongue as his thumb swipes over the ink, revealing the mating mark hidden beneath.

“No,” he hisses, releasing Kagome and staggering backward. His eyes narrow. “You,” he spits at Sesshomaru. “You bound her. You took her power for yourself!”

“No.”

The court freezes. Everyone falls silent as Kagome straightens. It is the first time she has spoken since being dragged inside. Her body is covered in the evidence of Naraku’s treatment but her face is devoid of fear.

When Kagome addresses the spider, she wears a triumphant grin, “He set me free.”

What transpires next is a series of simultaneous events that all occur too rapidly to capture. From his vantage point at the front of the chamber, Sesshomaru is able to see the wolves enter the court. Their speed and strength permit them to transfer the older demons from the room. Inuyasha and Kikyo aim their weapons at those who support Naraku’s deceit. They take out a handful of guards and several members of the court while Jinenji and Totosai guide Touga and his mate to safety.

At the center of it all, Kagome stands facing Naraku. Their conflicting powers clash against each other, causing sparks of light to illuminate the chamber. Sesshomaru is rooted to his spot. He knows the risk of staying but he cannot leave her.

He will not leave her.

“Sesshomaru!” Inuyasha roars over the increasing sound of Kagome and Naraku facing-off.

“Go,” he tells his brother and the priestess.

“She didn’t ask this of you,” Kikyo argues.

“I am her mate. I will not abandon her.”

Inuyasha stares at him but Sesshomaru does not utter another word. Kikyo drags his brother away, leaving Sesshomaru alone with Naraku and his mate.

His gaze is fixated on Kagome. The sight gives him a sense of deja vu. When the two fought at the riverbank, his mate was also wounded but she was armed with a sword. This time, the weapon she wields is infinitely more destructive and Naraku knows it.

He creates a vortex, a swirling black pit of nothingness. It is a desperate ploy to rid the world of both Kagome and the Shikon no Tama forever.

But Naraku is not the only strategist in court.

Sesshomaru has foreseen this. He and Kagome prepared for it.

“You’ll kill them all— everyone you tried to protect them, everyone you love,” Naraku sneers scornfully. “You’re not meant to be a hero, Kagome. You’re just a tool of destruction, a weapon for those who seek to be powerful.”

“I never wanted to be a hero,” she tells him. “You made me into one.”

Naraku chuckles and glances at Sesshomaru. “And your mate— are you willing to sacrifice him?”

Before she can answer, one of his tentacles shots forth. Sesshomaru slices through it with Bakusaiga. The dismembered limb lands on the floor with a heavy thud. Naraku growls and tries again.

Kagome attempts to take advantage of the distraction by charging at him. A larger tentacle swings low, knocking her to the ground.

“Like father, like son?” Naraku taunts Sesshomaru.

He does not take the bait. “Your attempt to deceive the Crescent Court was foolish. You have failed.”

“Maybe,” Naraku says with a malicious laugh, “but at least I got the consolation prize.”

All of his tentacles converge on a single target, his final attempt to shift the battle in his favor. 

“Kagome!” Sesshomaru rips her sword from its scabbard and throws it to his mate. 

She catches the blade just before she is consumed. 

Sesshomaru stiffens as he watches the spider’s limbs wind around her until her form disappears beneath their thickness. Just as her face disappears from view, he shouts for her.

Naraku backs up toward his vortex. Pausing on the edge, he smirks at Sesshomaru. “I may not have won but I refuse to lose.”

He falls into the vortex, vanishing into the darkness and dragging Kagome with him. The instant she passes through the portal, there is a pulse of pink light and then everything stills. The chamber is empty.

Sesshomaru’s eyes go wide and his nostrils flare. “No!”

He rushes to the spot where the vortex manifested. There is nothing, not even a hint of power lingering in its place. He sheathes Bakusaiga and begins slashing Tenseiga through the air. Nothing happens.

“No!” he howls enraged.

His chest aches as though the vortex was implanted in his center. Sesshomaru drops his sword. His senses dull and he collapses to the floor.

She is gone. His mate. His light. His life.

“No,” he repeats, his voice hoarse from yelling.

It was not supposed to end this way. She was meant to survive. Her power should have protected her. He grits his teeth. He should have protected her. Sesshomaru was wrong. Naraku did not fail. He did. He failed his mate.

“I should have told you,” he whispers to the empty room. “I never had the chance to tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

His heart stutters. Hesitantly, Sesshomaru glances over his shoulder. 

Kagome stands behind him, a bloody sword in her hand. She is smiling. “Thanks for this.” 

He does not hear her praise. All he hears is the blood rushing in his ears as his senses come back into focus. 

She is here. She is alive.

He moves so fast that he nearly knocks her over. The blade clangs against the marble floor, forgotten. He embraces his mate, vowing to never let her go again.

No more strategizing. No more fighting. No more smuggling demons out of the territory. He will gladly give it all up to ensure she remains by his side, though, he suspects she will have a thing or two to say about that.

“What did you want to tell me?” she asks, her question muffled by his chest.

“I love you.”

Her arms wrap around him. He feels the pulse of her power, warm and comforting as it glides over him. “I know. I love you too.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Not long after the battle at court, Kouga and Ayame are mated. It seems all that talk of Kagome being Kouga’s woman was a jealous tactic. Not one of the wolf prince’s better ideas, though Sesshomaru is pleased to not have him sniffing around anymore.

Inuyasha and Kikyo are married in the spring. They decide to remain in the village. Regardless of his grumblings, Kagome convinces Sesshomaru to visit with her at least once a month.

As a belated mating gift, Touga gives them the summer palace. He is not subtle when he reminds them of the expansive nursery wing it offers. Sesshomaru’s mother is less keen to address this topic but she will learn to appreciate her daughter-in-law. After all, Kagome saved her life.

Totosai makes them a pair of rings, symbols of fidelity between human partners. Sesshomaru respects the mortal custom to appease his mate, who he catches staring at her ring quite often. These days, her happiness is his only concern.

Which is why he formally adopts the kit.

Kagome cries when he brings Shippo to the summer palace, wearing a crescent tattoo on his forehead. She spends the entire day preparing a bed chamber for the kitsune and introducing him to the staff. Later that night, in their wing of the castle, Kagome thanks Sesshomaru rather enthusiastically.

Their first child may not have been born of their union, but their second one is. Mayumi, named for Kagome’s mother, comes wailing into the world that winter.

Touga and Inuyasha sit with him while Kikyo helps her sister through the delivery. Sesshomaru is on edge the entire time. His claws dig into his thighs as he waits impatiently for the squalling of the pup. The second he does, he bursts through the doors to find his mate cradling their daughter. He does not leave their side for days.

Shippo rallies around his new sister, boasting to the entire staff about how he is going to train her to fight. Sesshomaru growls at the idea of anyone battling his daughter. Kagome places her hand on his arm and reminds him that the kit is just excited.

Despite Sesshomaru's best efforts, Kagome continues visiting Jinenji’s farm. It has become a safe haven of sorts, serving not only demons and hanyos but humans as well. When she is not seated beside him in court, or with their children, Kagome is there, helping Jinenji and teaching others about medicinal herbs.

Though no one openly opposes his mate, there are several parties in court who remain wary of her presence. Kagome’s powers are a source of wonder and speculation by many. She continues to use them, mostly for healing and protection. Her barriers are impenetrable. It keeps their home safe and Sesshomaru’s mind at ease when they travel.

After Shippo hits his first growth spurt, they take the children to the riverbank. Kagome smiles at him as they step out of the tree line. They have not returned since the night they were mated. 

Coming back feels right. It reminds Sesshomaru of what they have been through and the many blessings they have been given— the two most sacred being their kit and pup.

He will train them both, the same way he trained their mother.

And he will teach them that the first cut is the deepest.

 

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