A Contest of Mates by Midnight Song

First contest

Chapter 2: First Contest

Kagome stuffed her hands into the sleeves of her new kimono and tried not to take up too much space in the ornately decorated study. At least she thought it was a study; shelves lined one wall of the room and they were filled to the brim with leagues of tomes. Her palms itched to crack one open, but her feet remained firmly glued in place. As much as she wanted to explore his books, she also wanted to avoid breaking any of the precious urns or sculptures or other arts that decorated the room. She’d already put a hole in one of the delicate shoji this morning and Shippou had accidently shattered a porcelain vase. It was why she was standing here waiting for him to finish whatever it was he was scrawling his lovely writing across. 

They’d only arrived in the citadel two nights before and already she was sure he was regretting his choice. Kagome knew she was an exceptionally clumsy person and his home was littered with ever so many breakable things. The palace was lovely and grand, sprawling across the mountain peaks as it did, but it seemed to her just as fragile as the loose snow that led to avalanches. She knew that wasn’t the case, of course—Jaken had taken great pleasure in boasting about the longevity of the House of the Moon. 

Though he hadn’t told her she had to, Kagome had kept herself to the family quarters since they’d arrived—she was too nervous about making a mistake—and Sesshoumaru had kept mostly to himself. Inuyasha had said ‘the bastards probably rethinking his choice’ and had laughed himself silly until he’d noticed the high color arcing over her cheeks. 

Not that Kagome would blame the demon Lord if he had changed his mind. She was just a miko, a human at that. Who was she to represent a youkai clan? Who was she to determine who would—or would not—marry him? 


When she’d told mama about his request, she’d been amused and full of pride—a surprise to Kagome, who had expected more worry than pride. Still, that reaction had boosted her confidence a bit as mama helped her choose a few more formal kimono and yukata from the store house her grandfather had always guarded fiercely. She hadn’t been as well dressed as a princess, but she had arrived at Sesshoumaru’s well-garbed and, she thought, somewhat prepared. 


It was the amusement in the way he addressed her that drew Kagome out of her thoughts. Hastily she scraped a nervous bow. “Sesshoumaru-sama.” There was something about his posture at the desk and his relaxed clothing that was almost more intimidating than the armor and swords he usually wielded. “About the vase Shippour broke—”

“It is of little consequence.” 


“He is a child, Miko. Children break things, do they not?” 

He watched her, those gold eyes imperious and bored. She liked to think they were even a little warmer than normal, but that was probably wishful thinking. At the very least, she had expected some kind of scolding to keep an eye on the boy. “Well, I made him help the servant clean it up.” And her chin angled up, daring him to challenge that decision.

He shrugged.

She floundered. He’d shrugged! Kagome had never thought to see such an undignified response from him. It helped to relax her the way nothing had been able to since he’d left their little camp some two weeks ago. She sank down before the low table he was using as a desk and crossed her arms on the smooth surface. “So what now?”

If her impropriety annoyed him, he didn’t show it. “You will begin your training tonight in the dojo. Tomorrow, Jaken will begin your etiquette lessons.” At her pursed lips, he raised a brow. “This one assumes you have no training on the social graces required of your new station?” 

She pouted. There was no other word for it as her lips turned down into a definite sulk. “I don’t, but I’m not a heathen.” She looked away to study a magnificent tapestry of three massive white dogs flying amidst the stars—one outstripped the rest but they were all stunningly etheral. “I can do tea ceremony and flower arranging and play the shamisen.” 

“Human traditions,” he dismissed, but upon spying the glint in her glare, he shrugged again. “They would perhaps provide pleasure to the court. You will also be required to learn youkai graces, however.” 

“I’ll look forward to it,” she said, relaxing instantly at his self-correction.

“Hn. There is also the matter of your debut. You will need to be introduced to my court. It will be a formal affair, requiring several layers of kimono.” As she slouched over his table with her chin in her palm, he wondered if she was capable of presenting herself in the formal manner befitting her new station. “Jaken will see that you are properly outfitted.” 

“You mean you want me to wear your colors. Jaken said you might say something like that.” She frowned down at the neatly sealed scroll he’d closed before addressing her. “I don’t want to dishonor you by dressing inappropriately, but I won’t pretend to be something I’m not and I’d like to honor my family and clan…” 

He listened as she made her request and felt something like humor settle into his belly. He was sure she had no idea just what she was suggesting. It would certainly cause quite a stir amongst the courtiers. It might even discourage some of his would-be suitors. He could no more stop the smirk crawling across his lips than he could force himself to stop breathing. “Very well. This one will allow it.” Her answering smile was so bright he thought the candles might have dimmed in shame. 

“That’s great!” She jumped up and danced—or wiggled, more accurately—and pumped her fists in the air. She couldn’t contain her joy at his acquiescence. 

“You are a very odd human,” he said, “and very easily pleased.” He was not sure how to describe her dance. He’d never seen anything like it before. Oddly she seemed either completely oblivious to his stare, or strangely impervious. There was never any telling where the Miko was concerned. 

When she’d calmed, she set her hands on her hips and grinned at him. “You’ve really made my day, Sesshoumaru-sama.” 

He blinked. “Made your day what?” 

She stared and then laughter bubbled out of her as she giggled. “It’s something we say in my time. It means you made me very happy.” 

She really was one of the strangest creatures he’d ever come across in his extensive travels. Bemused, he stood and decided he was finished with paperwork for the day. “Come. I will escort you to the gardens. Rin is likely to have ensnared the kit in her play in torturing Jaken.” He slanted her a glance as passed her and exited his study. “If you would like, this Sesshoumaru can arrange a tutor for the kit.” 

She hummed and followed as he led the way out of his study and through the halls. “I guess I won’t have as much time to devote to that, what with all the training you’ve assigned me.” Kagome considered his offer. Teaching Shippou had become one of her small joys since she’d come to the feudal era—but if she was going to fulfil her obligation to Sesshoumaru, something had to be juggled. “As long as I still get a few hours a day, outside of meal times, to spend with him, I think it’s okay. And I get bedtimes and bathes and wake-up calls!” she added at the end. 

“Hn.” It was the only agreement he would give. He would not admit, even to her, that he relished those spare moments with Rin at the start and end of each day. 

They strolled in silence for a time. He was astonished to find her company was enjoyable. When he’d first considered the Miko for his needs, her inane chatter and inability to remain still had been a point against her, but she did not seem so insufferable in this moment. The sound of his name drew him from his thoughts. “Yes, Miko?” 

“I’ve been wondering,” she began and, watching him carefully, continued, “Why did you ask for my help? And I’m not talking about your claim that I’m the alpha female!” His deadpan stare forced a nervous laugh out of her. “I mean, you’re…. you,” she said, and waved her hands to encompass his whole frame. Even without the armor, he struck an intimidating figure. 

“You gestured to all of me,” he remarked and his perfectly manicured brow rose in question. 

“Well, you know,” she said, and gestured at him again. “You’re the all powerful , magical sword wielding, death-defying Sesshoumaru-sama.” She set her hand on his elbow to stop him from moving forward without her. “Can’t you just say ‘no’ to these other youkai? Aren’t you allowed a choice?”

Sesshoumaru could not help the pure male pride flowing through him. It had not occurred to him that she might find him so awe-inspiring. In previous battles where they had faced each other she had always dove in, weapons glowing, seemingly heedless of the threat he posed. She’d always been supremely unbothered by the danger of his ferocity. “This one had not thought you concerned by such things as my power.” 

Kagome snorted. Some things were universal and male pride was one of them. She hadn’t intended to stroke his ego, but judging by the humorous smirk on his pale lips, she had. “That is a conversation for another day,” she said primly and waited for him to answer her question. 

Sesshoumaru refrained from rolling his eyes—barely. “This one can say ‘no.” In fact, he said it often and with great fervor. “However, the coming of age year is…particular. The alpha female must force away any unsuitable suitors herself. To reject them out of hand could break treaties and wound pride. This one’s honorable mother suspects a great number of the participants do not even want to compete, but honor and tradition rules us all. To reject one of the females, or more accurately the father offering her hand, would be to incite the possibility of war or the breaking of treaties.” 

Kagome was a firm believer that traditions were meant to change and evolve. Maybe her ideas came from growing up on a shrine in modern Tokyo; she’d watched her mother and grandfather change, and the shrine, to keep up with the changes in the world. How could you grow up in that kind of environment and not both appreciate and learn to evolve your own traditions. Maybe that was the point, though. This wasn’t her home, and these weren’t her traditions. What right did she have to disdain his?

She was quiet for so long, Sesshoumaru thought perhaps she wouldn’t answer. There was a faraway look in the warm brown of her eyes. He found that he was loath to interrupt whatever she was thinking about. Instead, he focused on her, taking the rare chance to stare. When she had arrived two evenings before, he’d been both impressed and relieved by her attire. Her miko robes and the strange garb of her future were nowhere to be seen. Her kimono, while not as fine as his or the majority of his court’s, spoke of nobility and class. When asked about the delicate clothing, she’d said only that they had belonged to a great-great-something grandmother and---he was pulled from his musings as she said his name. 

She smiled up at him. The Miko always seemed to have a smile to offer anyone who met her eyes. The hanyou had warned him the night they arrived, after Jaken had escorted the girl and the kit to their quarters, that Kagome was nervous as ‘all hell’. Sesshoumaru had resigned himself to soothing fragile female nerves, but as yet he’d had little cause to. “Yes, Miko?”

“I was just saying that I guess I’d have to do my best to make sure you don’t wind up mated to someone truly awful.” Wherever Sesshoumaru’s thoughts had taken a trip off to, Kagome had enough manners not to go poking. Instead, she memorized each of the expressions that flickered to life on his otherwise stern face. Maybe she could make him give her a new one. Thrilled with the idea, she smiled up at him. “Of course, worst case scenario, I could be your mate if you ever got desperate enough.” 

It was like watching a sloth in that movie her brother had begged her to go watch. Surprise and, she thought, perhaps a little horror widened his eyes ever so slowly. She’d never seen such a stunned expression on him before—like a dog who’d just gotten splashed by a water hose and didn’t know what to do about it. Kagome couldn’t contain her mirth. Laughter exploded out of her and she patted his arm. “You don’t have to be so horrified, Sesshoumaru-sama!” And still laughing, left him standing there to stare after her. “I was only kidding,” she called back, and disappeared from view.


Kagome fidgeted as Jaken tucked and tied—and squeaked when he pinched the inside of her elbow. “What was that for!” she cried. 

“Cease your insufferable wiggling and twisting about, Miko!” Kami help him, Jaken was ready to strangle the little human. It didn’t matter that she was bigger and taller than him. When most of the world was bigger and taller, you learned how to adjust quickly. 

“But I’m worried the court won’t like me.” She whispered the confession—not ashamed, but scared. 

When Jaken deemed her attire—though bold and assuming for a human—suitably presentable, he stepped back and finally looked up at her. The genuine worry he spied in the tiny divot between her brows gave him pause. He would never—even under threat of poisoning from Sesshoumaru-sama—divulge the truth, but he’d grown attached to the miko in her brief two weeks here. 

At first he’d been duly outraged that Fuiasu-sama had assigned her as his charge, but he’d found it impossible to remain malignant towards the plethora of ‘Thank you, Jaken-sama’ and ‘You’re the best, Jaken-sama,’ and his personal favorite, “You’re the smartest, Jaken-sama.’ 

So he eyed the nervous twitch of her fingers as she picked at a stray thread on her sleeve and promptly slapped her fingers. “They won’t like you.” He was not kind when he said it as he leaned forward on the dais and swiped the stray thread with a careful claw. “You are a human and a miko and you have the audacity to claim rank in Sesshoumaru-sama’s pack.” Stepping back, he deemed her numerous layers of formal kimono ready and climbed off the dais. 

“But. You are the alpha female.” He let the statement hang there as he scurried to a rack at the back of the dressing room and selected a pair of low-set geta. Returning to her, he continued. “They will not like you. The courtiers of this court are vicious, lying mutts who will do anything to dishonor and shame you.” Lifting the hems of the many layers, he helped her into the sandals. “So you will show them why the most honorable Sesshoumaru-sama chose you as his alpha female. You will prove yourself or you will fail.” 

Finished with her geta, he climbed back down and looked up at her. “Do not fail, Miko.” 

Kagome was speechless. She stared down at the retainer turned lady’s maid and was oddly comforted by his brisk speech. Impulsively, she crouched down and squeezed him into her arms for a firm hug. “Thanks, Jaken-sama.” 

He squawked, his little arms flying wide as she hugged him. Even Rin didn’t encroach on his space like this…but her arms trembled as she held him. Thinking of his own hatchlings when they sought comfort from him, he set a hand lightly against her ornately styled hair and patted her head—but only for a moment before he remembered himself. “Stand-up, weak human!” he muttered, and untangled himself from her grasp. “You will wrinkle the kimono!” 

Smiling, she stood. “Yes, Jaken-sama.” 


Kagome peeked at the guard near her elbow and tried not to stare. He was stunningly beautiful in a way that made her heart ache just to look as candle light flickered in the gold patches of skin across his cheeks and nose. She thought he must be accustomed to being stared at, but he quirked a brow and smirked when he caught her looking. 

“Do you need something, Miko-sama?”

“Your skin is glittering, Kiseki-san.” Despite being caught ogling, she grinned. “I’ve never met a golden inu before.” 

He smiled slow, like a predator slinking through tall grass, and Kagome felt her pulse jump. “Shall I steal you away, Miko-sama? Should you like to abandon Sesshoumaru-sama’s field and come away with me?” He stepped closer to her and trailed his thumb across her cheek. 

She swallowed and wondered where the sudden thirst had come from, wondered when she had come to wish there was a cold breeze billowing through the suddenly sweltering throne room. “I…” Kagome frowned as her mind raced to keep up with her senses. There was something…something about his eyes. “No,” she murmured, “That’s not possible. I have…” She trailed off as her mind argued with her voice. Why shouldn’t she go with this pretty, shining male? What did she owe Sesshoumaru, anyway?

That’s not right, she argued. Sesshoumaru-sama is my friend. Of course I have to help him. 

“Anything is possible,” he murmured, and leaned in closer—only to flinch and step back as reiki snapped between them. 

His proximity snapped her arguments, and free will, back into place and Kagome scowled up at him. “You tried to hypnotize me!” 

“Tried being the operative word,” he said, and his head cocked to the side as curiosity narrowed his brows and he leaned in close again. “How did you break free?” 

She planted a hand against his chest and sparked it with purity, pink light dancing between her fingers as it popped and cracked like lightning. Then she shoved and was delighted when he was forced back a few steps. “I keep my promises, especially to my friends.” Withdrawing her hand, she crossed her hands across her chest and stared him down with all the rank Jaken assured her she was possessed of. “If you try to hypnotize me again, you’ll feel more than a little sizzle and burn. Are we clear?” 

Equally delighted with her, he slung an arm across her shoulders and turned his attention to the throne room full of oblivious, socializing youkai. “We’re clear,” he agreed, and grinned down at her. “I’ve never been so easily foiled before, Miko-sama. You’re going to be quite the interesting little charge.” 

Truthfully unbothered by his familiarity, Kagome was tempted to ignore it—but something told her the impropriety would be noted and tittered about and she was unsure how much gossip Sesshoumaru-sama was willing to tolerate. She was supposed to be defending his honor, after all. “No touching,” she muttered, and stepped free of his grasp. “I really can’t understand why Sesshoumaru-sama appointed you of all people to protect me. I can already hear the gossip simmering around us.” 

“I was appointed, Miko-sama, because I am his Lordship’s most trusted vagabond.” He winked down at her but kept his hands to himself this time. “I have a way about me of making my charges comply, in case you hadn’t noticed.” 

She snorted. “Trust me, I noticed.” `

He chuckled. 

Kagome kept him in her line of sight, but otherwise turned her attention to the youkai milling about them. Thus far, none had dared to approach her with Kiseki at her side and Sesshoumaru was nowhere to be seen. She had thought he would be the first to arrive, but…

Even as worry had her biting her lip, the doors to the throne room swung open and there he was. He was as breathtakingly frightening as ever, and not a little imposing. He wore no armor, as Jaken had informed her tradition dictated in a court gathering, but he still bore that intimidating battle aura she had first come to associate with him. 

He was alone, but more than that, he looked lonely. Without Rin or Jaken at his side, he was as cold and impenetrable as he had been on their first meeting. She was filled with a desire to go stand at his side but tamped it down and waited for him to come to her as she’d been instructed to do. He must be seen as welcoming her into his court, not as if she was revolving around him at his pleasure. 

Somehow time crawled in those few minutes as he greeted his generals and courtiers before he made his way to her. When he was finally before her, she could not contain the grin as she bowed. “Sesshoumaru-sama.” 

“Miko.” He gave a nearly imperceptible nod in greeting. “Do you deign to serve as Alpha Female of our pack and fulfill all duties therein?” 

“Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama.” 

If he were not a youkai, Sesshoumaru might not have heard her. He was hard-pressed to contain the slight smirk as she somehow both vibrated with energy and emanated cool deference to his request. He had never met such a contradicting creature before her. 

“Then rise and greet your court.” 

His eyes followed her around the throne room as Kiseki led her from courtiers to Lords and Ladies and even to guards. She was like a sunflower to the sun, adapting to the perils of his court with an unexpected ease and flourish that was entirely Kagome. He knew Jaken had informed her of the dangers of his court, of the snakes lying in the grass that would strike at any sign of weakness and he had thought she would adapt in the coldest, most sensible way possible—like he had, coming up in the court. 

Except she was Kagome. 

Warmth curled in his toes as she smiled so hugely at each person she was introduced to; he was sure her cheeks would burn with the strain of the expression before the night was up. His court was struck dumb by her. He could hear the gossip slowly quieting as she went from youkai to youkai and greeted them with such warmth, they could do naught but stare as she moved on to the next. It was the funniest thing he had seen in centuries. 

If he’d had any hesitations about his decision to bring her to his court, they were silenced now. 


While Sesshoumaru and the rest of the court watched and Kiseki followed behind her, Kagome did what she was best at—talk to people. She learned that Lady Karumi was a brown Inu, and her clan was responsible for the silks most of the court was adorned in. Lady Ikigai was a white Inu, some distant relation to Sesshoumaru-sama’s mother, and she adored the lotus pond in the court gardens. Lady Toruu was the youngest female at court vying for the position of Sesshoumaru-sama’s mate. And on it went. 

There were, of course, those who were not so easily charmed by her smile or open nature. Lady Akahana, for example, with her brilliant red hair and glowering gold eyes, despised her on sight. Kagome could all but feel the hate in the air as Kiseki stepped closer and she introduced herself. 

Still, she girded her loins and offered up another smile as she bowed. “It’s nice to meet you, Lady Akahana. I’m Kagome. I look forward to—”

The red Inu’s hand snapped out and latched onto the folds of Kagome’s kimonos, nearly lifting the miko off her toes. “You dare wear the robes of a mating ceremony? A human like you? You disgrace him with your blatant ignorance.” 

Kagome held out her hand to stop Kiseki from interfering even as she processed what Akahana had said. The robes of a mate? Sesshoumaru hadn’t said anything about that when she’d told him she wanted to blend the colors and symbols of their house on the outer most kimono. Still, that was a problem for another time—now she needed to focus on the female about to knock her down. She lifted her chin and leveled the female with the best impersonation of Sesshoumaru’s glare as she could manage. “What I wear is my business. I can assure you Sesshoumaru-sama is perfectly capable of telling me otherwise. Now, please let go of me. I won’t ask you again.”  

Akahana snorted in derisive amusement and lifted the miko higher. Her weight was nothing, even in several layers of kimono. “You are nothing but a human who does not deserve---

Regret welling, Kagome did not allow her to finish her sentence. She raised a hand to grasp the wrist holding her kimono and summoned her reiki. Using only enough to shock, not burn, she let her powers course through the youkai. She imagined it must feel like being stunned with a taser. When Akahana shrieked, let go and collapsed, shaking, to the floor, Kagome sighed. “I warned you. I won’t do that again.” 

Kagome was content to leave it at that, but Kiseki’s subtle grasp on her elbow stopped her from moving on. His voice echoed around the courtroom, candlelight flashing in the gold of his skin and hair—and the ire in his narrowed eyes. “You will bow and apologize to the Lady Kagome.” 

Akahana, secure in the knowledge no one could see her face as she kept her eyes firmly pointed at the marble floors, sneered. She had not expected the burn of the reiki, the way it made her muscles cramp and spasm. She had made a mistake and underestimated the girl, but she would not do that again. Gritting her teeth, she pushed herself to stand and bowed. “Apologies.” 

Even though she knew the apology was not sincere, Kagome smiled. “I’ve already forgotten it.” She patted Akahana’s hand, her reiki just below the surface, and healed the minor surface burns she’d left upon first breaking free of the other woman’s grasp. “I look forward to getting to know you more,” she said when Akahana gaped at her. 

She strolled off, leaving the red-haired beauty to stare after her. 

Kiseki considered his new charge, unsure whether to be amused or worried. “I can already see how much trouble you will bring me, Shikon Miko.” 

Laughing, she shrugged as she made her way to the next group of youkai she needed to meet. “You’ll adjust.” 


When Inuyasha strolled into the court room, conversation died almost instantly. He fought the instinct to lower his ears from shame or embarrassment and kept his head high. Neither the circumstances of his birth nor the fact that he had not been raised at court were his fault. It might have been his decision to leave the court, but what choice was there when you faced cruelty and violence every day? Leaving hadn’t been a choice; it had been survival. 

He’d go stand by his half-brother as the imp had all but ordered him to do (he’d gotten a kick in the ass for thinking to give Inuyasha orders), but he’d be damned if he bowed or asked to be part of the bastard’s pack. Besides, if Kagome was alpha female then that made her alpha of his pack too—which might have been galling in its own way but it was better than answering to his bastard half-brother.

As he stopped in front of his brother, Inuyasha tilted his chin up in defiance and narrowed his eyes, daring Sesshoumaru to force him to bow. 

But Sesshoumaru did nothing. He merely raised a brow and motioned to the position at his right. “You look like father.” 

Color crashed across Inuyasha’s cheeks and he couldn’t keep his ears from twitching. “Keh. Whatever.” 

Even Sesshoumaru was not sure if the statement had been meant as a compliment, so he left it alone. He did wonder who had dressed the whelp though—even the outfit was similar to one his father had worn all those years ago. The silk kimono was white with blue stripes and the plum blossom crest in the tortoise shell hex was embroidered in tiny lines of gold along the left sleeve. A vibrant red obi with a thin stripe of white in the middle was knotted at his waist. The blue and gold repeated in a single diagonal stripe on the right leg of his hakama. Even his hair was tied up the same way Touga had once worn his. 

“The look suits you,” he said finally, and not another word when Inuyasha looked at him incredulously. 

Several minutes passed in tense, awkward silence as the brothers stood side-by-side. Inuyasha refused to break the silence after that strange ass comment, and he also refused to go wander off and talk to people. At least standing next to the bastard meant no one would try and talk to him. Or worse, ask him to dance. He’d let Kagome purify him before he entertained that idea. 

A commotion on the other side of the throne room drew his attention. The moment that red-haired bitched grabbed Kagome, he meant to step forward and would have, if Sesshoumaru hadn’t snarled in warning. He froze as memories of his father using that same tone on him as a pup surfaced—there hadn’t been there, and still wasn’t now, any anger in the sound, only warning. Stop. Don’t move. Wait. 

It went against every instinct Inuyasha had to listen, to wait, but he did it because he could see the ice prick wanted to go too. But he wasn’t. The imp had warned him that Kagome would have to prove herself here, that if he went to her rescue then the whole court would doubt her suitability to lead as alpha female. Their whole reason for being here would be pointless.  

So, he waited with his brother. And rolled his eyes when at the end of it all, Kagome all but asked the bitch to be friends with her. “Fucking twit,” he muttered. 

Sesshoumaru, for his part, was slowly becoming less and less surprised by her antics. Any other youkai in the room would have ripped her throat from her neck at the insult, but Kagome proved her point and then acted like nothing had happened. He could all but scent the confusion flowing off Akahana. “The miko is sowing a great deal of bewilderment amongst my courtiers and nobles. Perhaps this affair will not be so terrible.” 

“I heard that, you know.” Kagome leaned around him and grinned up at him. 

If Sesshoumaru had been any other demon, he would have scowled as his half-brother did. As it was, he only narrowed his eyes and considered her. He had not heard her, or her guard Kiseki’s, approach. “How did you do that?”

“State secret.” 

Inuyasha cursed and rolled his eyes. “Sneaking up on a demon here is a great way to get your throat cut, wench.” 

Well used to his coarse language, she only shrugged and slid her hands inside the sleeves of her kimono. “We all known any youkai who tried to get that close to me without my permission wouldn’t survive. I might not have the most control, but even I can spread my reiki out around me. Oh! Speaking of control! Did you see what I did? I healed her hand! Wasn’t that so cool?”

“Do you mean to tell me you did not know if you would succeed? If you would hurt someone with your carelessness?” 

Sesshoumaru’s words were barely audible above the din of the music and chatter filling the sprawling throne room, but Kagome knew he’d spoken just loud enough for the four of them to hear. “Don’t be stupid, Sesshoumaru-sama. Your brother is the reckless one, not me. I’ve been practicing every day, remember? My teacher helped me perfect it this morning.” Still smiling, she patted his arm. 

“Half-brother,” Inuyasha said quickly, and scowled. He knew better than to refute the reckless accusation.

Kiseki, who to this point had been a silent observer to the dynamic between the three of them, took one step closer to his charge when she called his Lord stupid. Greater youkai than her had been slaughtered for lesser offenses. “I’m sure no offense was intended, my Lord.” 

Not sparing his soldier a glance, he focused entirely on the miko. She had always been bold, he reminded himself. Her nerve was part of the reason he’d first considered her for the role she was playing. Still. He gritted his teeth and deigned not to say anything at all. He did shake her hand from his arm, though. 

Not easily dissuaded, she did it again and danced back with a laugh when he glared at her. “Let’s go, Kiseki-san, before Lord Sesshoumaru starts to regret his decisions.” 

Kiseki could only stare at her in wonder as his Lord remained passively at his half-brother’s side. What kind of magic did this girl have? Bemused, he trailed after her as she introduced herself to more people. 


The only thing Kagome wanted more than she wanted a bath was her bed. After two years of sleeping on the ground and hunting for shards and fighting Naraku, the past three weeks in Sesshoumaru’s shiro had spoiled her endurance for the hardships the past offered. She wanted that soft feather filled futon. 

But promises had been made. 

Humming, she slipped into the dark room as Kiseki stood guard outside. Even with his youkai ears, he had always been a sound sleeper. In more sober times, she worried he might not wake up in the midst of danger—but tonight was not meant to be sober, and so she giggled when her toe caught on the edge of a rug as she stepped into the sleeping area. 

Her eyes would never have been good enough to see in the dark, but the nursemaid had left a fire crackling. Kagome stoked the fire first rather than wake the nursemaid to do it, and then crawled into bed with Shippou. She woke him as she always did, tracing her fingers lightly over his side and tickling him awake. 

The sound of his sleepy laughter delighted her. “Kagome! You’re here!” He burst into play, launching himself at her to tickle her back. 

Kagome squealed with laughter and pretended to be incapable of escaping his nimble fingers—though with all her layers of kimono between them, escape might have been difficult. “Ah! Have mercy fearsome demon! I’m only a human!” 

“Submit meagre human! Tell me all your secrets and maybe I’ll let you live!” Shippou cackled and got in one more tickle for good measure before he sat back and settled his expressive features into a stern one he’d learned from his new tutor. “Now, human, I command you share your adventures of the night with me!”

And she did. Kagome crawled back up to the head of the futon and pulled Shippou into her lap. After socializing all night, being here with her kit and running her fingers through his soft hair was better than the bath and bed combo she’d been looking forward to. 

Their voices were soft murmurs from outside the room. The kitsune was another puzzle into the challenge that his new charge presented. He’d heard the rumors about the kit, but he hadn’t thought them true. What human, especially a miko, would take in an orphaned youkai babe? Yet here was the proof in the scent of the kitsune’s trust, in the content sound of their voices as they both drifted off.

When Sesshoumaru had assigned him the role to protect the human, he had been resentful at first. Kiseki had been Sesshoumaru’s friend and palace guard since he’d been old enough to understand the role and responsibility. Abruptly being assigned to a miko had seemed like an insult. Perhaps it would prove to be more interesting than he’d thought though. 


Weeks passed in the citadel. Kagome trained in everything from meditation to court etiquette and all the lessons in between. She became proficient in channeling her reiki into multiple kinds of weapons and was beginning to master forming a weapon out of reiki. That took more energy out of her than she’d anticipated it was, and the mornings after those training, she often had a difficult time getting out of bed. 

If she wasn’t training, she was socializing with the court youkai—most of which included her opponents for the next year. 

Most of the females she would face were surprisingly kind and open. A handful of them were only even competing because their parents wished it. Those that weren’t warm and didn’t want anything to do with Kagome were the ones she assumed wanted Sesshoumaru. It was hard to tell since they only talked to her if they wanted to try to belittle her. 

Several incidents like the one from her introduction ceremony happened, but she was often alone or with Kiseki in those times, so Kagome chose to ignore it. She didn’t doubt her flirtatious guard had reported each instance back to Sesshoumaru-sama, but that was probably unavoidable. She was not at all interested in letting those other women get to her. Besides, it wasn’t like she wanted Sesshoumaru. 

Ikegai, a white inu distantly related to Sesshoumaru’s mother, said it was because the role of alpha female generally went to the strongest female in the pack, and that person was usually the mate of the alpha. The white inu was proving to be an invaluable resource on the manners and customs of youkai. There wasn’t much Inuyasha could tell her, given the way he’d been raised, Kiseki had proven himself too prone to pranks to be trusted, and some things a girl just could not ask Sesshoumaru—like why his mother had not deigned to accept the role Kagome had been saddled with.

Kagome was desperately curious about that, but it seemed like something you couldn’t just bring up in conversation—not that Ikegai had had an answer.

Huddling under the thick layers of her winter kimono, Kagome glanced at the white inu now. She stood as quietly as ever; her hands folded demurely in the sleeves of her elegant, pale blue kimono embroidered with snow-drop flowers and her white hair styled with matching blue kanzashi and a comb with a lotus blossom, she looked like a painting of a princess Kagome might see in an anime in the modern era. 

When her pale blush-colored eyes latched onto Kagome’s, she blushed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to stare, Ikegai.” 

“A snowflake for your thoughts?” she asked, and using her magic, conjured a small flake in the palm of her hands. 

Delighted, Kagome leaned forward to study the delicate flake. “Your magic is so cool.” 

“Yes, it is quite cold.” 

Kagome snorted, then covered her mouth as a laugh tried to escape. “I’m not laughing at you, I swear,” she choked out, and when she was certain nothing would escape that wasn’t supposed to, continued. “It’s just that where I’m from, people say something is cool when they want to say they wish they could do something. Like, it’s so cool you can make magic snowflakes, because I definitely can’t do that.” 

Ikegai paused to consider this. “The customs of your village are very strange, Kagome-sama.” 

You have no idea, she thought, but grinned. “I get that a lot. Your magic is so cool though, Ikegai. I always wanted to do magic when I was a kid.” She led the way off the bridge they’d stopped to admire. “I’ve got reiki, but it’s only really a weapon or a tool to heal. I can’t do anything interesting with it like make snowflakes.” 

“I think your magic is very warm, too, Kagome-sama.” 

Warm? Kagome glanced at Ikegai and laughed out loud at the shy delight in the smile dancing across her lips. It was a strange play of words, but Kagome couldn’t help the glee at the attempt to make a play on words. “It is, isn’t it?” she laughed, and looping her arms through Ikegai’s, continued their walk through the frozen gardens. 

Long moments passed in silence as they walked, Kiseki and Ikegai’s guard several paces behind them, and Kagome was content to enjoy the silence and the snow. She’d thought she’d be cold without a coat from her time, but the winter kimono and many layers did the job. 

“Are you ready for tomorrow, Kagome-sama?” 

Ikegai’s quiet question stirred Kagome out of her thoughts. “If I’m not, it’s too late now,” she laughed, though there was little humor in it. Stopping, she crouched down to pluck a snow-drop flower and reached up to offer it to her friend. “An old teacher once said that if you weren’t prepared the night before an exam, you might as well get a good night’s sleep.” 

The white inu considered this as she accepted the flower and tucked it inside her sleeve for safe keeping. “Training one more night might be the difference between failure and success, though, don’t you think?” 

Kagome remained where she was, crouching by the patch of wild snowdrops. Closing her eyes, she tilted her head back and relished in the cold bite of winter air across her cheeks and neck. “It might. It really might be, Ikegai. But I’ve done everything I can do to prepare myself for the task Sesshoumaru-sama has set me. I’d rather have a good night’s rest and wake up ready for battle than spend all night running myself ragged to be sure I’m prepared in the morning.”

Sighing, she opened her eyes and stood. “One more night won’t make a difference in my abilities. I think I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing with you and then go see if my kit wants to build a snowman.” Smiling, she looped her arms through Ikegai’s again. “Don’t worry, Ikegai. I won’t fail Sesshoumaru-sama. There’s too much at stake.” 


“Holy crap this is really happening.” 

She looked pale. Way too pale to be healthy. Inuyasha watched her as she paced, pausing every now and then to listen to the roar of the crowd above them. 

“Holy freaking crap.” She crouched and cupped her palms over her face. “What in the seven hells was I thinking, agreeing to this?”  

“It ain’t gonna be easy, that’s for sure.” He crouched down next to her and waited until she lowered her hands enough to free her eyes and make eye-contact. “But neither was Naraku and you dealt the killing blow. You just gotta, you know, breathe.” 

And she did. One big breath in, hold, one slow breath out. And again. And again. “Right,” she murmured, “Right. It’s just a fight. I’ve fought before. In fact I’ve been fighting for almost a month now somewhat well.”

Sesshoumaru watched all of this quietly and thought ‘somewhat well’ was a vast understatement. She was one of the fastest learners he’d ever seen. Even the generals he’d assigned to train her had grudgingly admitted to her skill. “Do not undervalue your abilities, miko.” 

Kagome glanced at him. “Sesshoumaru-sama?” 

Perhaps these were the nerves the half-breed had warned him of. It was the first sign he’d seen of such a thing in the miko. “This Sesshoumaru would not have enlisted your service if you were lacking.” He stepped closer and stared down at her, unwilling to coddle or indulge. He would comfort, but in the way he was most skilled in—by giving orders. “Even without the weeks of training, you had the abilities to survive in these matches. Now you will win them.” 

Inuyasha supposed there was something to be said for being shocked out of nerves as he watched surprise flicker across her brows. He was on the verge of telling the bastard to fuck off, but Sesshoumaru’s words seemed to be exactly what Kagome needed to pull herself together. If there was a part of him green with envy that she responded so much better to that bastard than to him, he kept it down deep. He’d lost the right to be jealous some time ago. 

Kagome stood and scrubbed her palms over her face one last time. “Okay. I can do this. It’s just like training right?” Clapping her hands, shook herself out like a wet dog and then grinned at them both. “I can do this.” It was a façade, and she was sure they all knew it, but Kagome was beyond true confidence now. A promise was a promise.  

“This one is relying on you, Miko.”  

Kagome can’t bring herself to look back at him, but she nods. “Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama.”  


Lady Karumi is fast. That was Shippou's first thought as he watched the match. Maybe even faster than he has seen Sesshoumaru move and that is a daunting prospect. Kagome managed to raise her naginata to block the attack at the last possible moment but lost several feet of ground as she was pushed back.  

Shippou watched anxiously from the stands, held securely in Kiseki’s lap. He’d never seen Kagome go willingly into a fight before, not like this. All their battles in the past had been necessary—at least, that’s what she’d explained to him one night when she’d promised never to leave him. That sometimes fighting was necessary, that sometimes leaving couldn’t be helped—but that she’d never do those things unnecessarily, she’d never leave him. 

But he didn’t understand why this was necessary. He couldn’t help but to shoot a glare at the daiyoukai at his right, on the other side of Rin. What was so bad about taking a mate that he needed Kagome to fight for him?  

The crowd roared and Shippou spun back around in time to see Kagome go tumbling across the dirt floor of the arena. He could smell her blood as she struggled to push herself up and swiped her arm under her nose. Her watched her look around for the naginata, but it was on the other side of the arena floor, where Lady Karumi had knocked it away.

“Looking for something, Kagome-sama?”  

He heard the question from the brown inu, saw the understanding and resignation flicker across Kagome’s face and he knew, he just knew that if Kagome went for that weapon Lady Karumi would attack the minute her back was turned. He thanked the Kami she didn’t try for it and instead slipped into the fighting stance he recognized as the one Sango had taught her when she’d first asked to learn self-defense. 

“I didn’t think you’d try so hard, Karumi,” Kagome pants, shaking out her arms as she prepares to fight without a weapon. 

“Just because I don’t want your Alpha doesn’t mean I can let you off without a fight. I will not shame my father.” Karumi smiles, shrugs. “I’ll look forward to a bath later though, if you don’t mind the company.”

Kagome laughed and dragged a hand down her face in chagrin. “Sure, why not. Let’s get this over with first though.” 

Shippou relaxed, marginally. Even if she had a few bruises and her nose was bleeding, Kagome was laughing. Plus, Sango was one of the strongest warriors he knew. He didn’t doubt if she’d been born a youkai, even Sesshoumaru-sama would struggle to defeat her. If Kagome was going to use what Sango had taught her…he swallowed. Maybe it would be enough.  

Karumi attacked again, launching herself at Kagome with her twin daggers. Kagome dodged and formed small bracer arm shields out of reiki, crossing her arms in front of her to block the next attack. The daggers bounced off so harshly that Karumi was forced to take several steps back 

Unnerved and beyond worried, Shippou could only watch in baited horror as the fight continued. He knew using her reiki like this was draining for her. He couldn’t count the number of mornings he’d had to wake her up because she’d been practicing the technique the night before and drained all her energy stores. Gritting his teeth, he shifted from paw to paw.  

Kagome was getting slower the more time passed. He hated how he could see it because that meant so could everyone else. He wished desperately he could give her some of his magic to give her more energy, but Kiseki had explained there was a magical barrier around the arena so no one could interfere. “Come on, Kagome,” he mumbled.  

He watched as she blocked another attack and then spun and swung out with a kick that Karumi easily dodged, but it wasn’t so easy to dodge Kagome the second time as she dove down to her hands and drove her legs up in another kick. One of Karumi’s daggers went flying.  

The fight just kept going. This was nothing like watching Inuyasha fight a bad guy, or like watching Miroku and Sango spar—this was like…this was like watching Inuyasha trying to beat his stupid half-brother. As the realization dawned, he glared at the impassive daiyoukai again—but spun back around as the scent of Kagome’s blood all but flooded his senses.  

She was on her knees with Karumi standing over her. Shock drew her eyes down to the dagger lodged in her left shoulder. Shippou could see the razoredge of the dagger sticking out the back of her shoulder blade, dripping grotesquely with her blood. “No! Kagome!” he screamed and would have launched himself into the arena if Kiseki hadn’t hugged his arms to his sides and restrained him. “Let me go! Kagome’s hurt! We have to help her!”  


A voice from his side drew his ragged attention to Sesshoumaru and he snarled, baring his teeth in the only threat he could manage with his arms and legs pinned in Kiseki’s grip. “This is all your fault!”  

“Look at her,” Sesshoumaru ordered, and did not break eye contact with the kitsune pup until the child looked as he had ordered. “The match will be over soon. Believe in your mother.”  

Shippou looked even as every instinct ordered him to launch himself at the daiyoukai who was ultimately responsible for Kagome getting hurt. He saw that Kagome had her hand on Karumi’s wrist now, stopping the youkai from pulling the blade free and her other hand…it was coiling with a whip made of reiki.  


“You’ll need to get closer if you think I’m going to let you take this dagger and let me bleed out,” Kagome mumbled, swaying on her knees as she held firmly to Karumi’s wrist. She hadn’t thought about it, only acted on instinct as the brown inu reached for her weapon. She knew enough about healing that she’d lose from blood loss if she let the other woman reclaim it. 

“Don’t drag this out, Kagome-sama. You can concede and bow out gracefully.” Still, she took a step closer and tried to tug the dagger free again—but yelped when her wrist began to burn. 

“I really can’t do that.” That step was all Kagome needed. She lashed out with her good arm and flung her whip of reiki around the youkai’s neck, forcing her to kneel so they were eye to eye. 

Karumi screamed as purity ripped into her neck and burned up her arm. She automatically released her grasp on the dagger, but the Miko had an astoundingly tight grasp on her wrist—and the whip.

“Concede, Karumi. Or burn.” Her power surged as her vision started to grey out, and though she regretted the pain it caused this woman who had been her friend the night before, she did not regret the victory as Karumi conceded and fell back into the dirt sobbing as she hugged her burned arm to her chest and tried not to move her neck. 

Kagome let go of her reiki and collapsed onto her side as the crowd roared around the arena. All she could hear was the rush of her own heart as she lay there, panting and bleeding. That had been too close. Way too, too close. 

She felt herself being lifted and opened bruised eyes to stare up at Sesshoumaru. “I almost lost.” 


“Sorry about that,” she laughed, wincing when the movement jarred the blade still lodged in her shoulder. 

“You succeeded. That is all that matters.” If it had not been the ending he expected, that was of little consequence. He would make sure she was better prepared for the next fight. “The kit is worried for you.” 

“He was watching?” she whispered, guilt lacing her scent like sour persimmons. 

“Yes. He would not be dissuaded."

No sooner had Sesshoumaru stepped out of the arena building than they were bombarded. Shippou launched himself onto her stomach and curled up there as Sesshoumaru held her. Inuyasha edged in close, eyed the dagger still embedded in her shoulder, and scoffed. It warmed Kagome to her very cold toes. Ikegai smiled sadly and set a hand on Kagome’s knee as Kiseki remained in the back, watching it all unfold. “Guess it’s time to start preparing for the next one, huh?” she asked, and laughed weakly at the collective groans of Inuyasha, Ikegai, and Shippou. 

Sesshoumaru only sighed.  

Ch. Fin


Word Count – 8940

A/N – Whew. Just whew. I hope the excessive length of this chapter makes up for the delay in posting it, or anything else. I did not expect to be so overwhelmed by ideas and yet unable to articulate them for so long. This word document has been sitting on my desktop since August just waiting for me to get my shit together. Also, please don't expect this long of a chapter in the future. It might be, but it also might not be. 

I moved to the other side of the city this summer, broke up with my boyfriend, and started a new job teaching at a high school, so there were a lot of changes for me. I tried to get this done before Christmas, at least, but it’s a little late. So I’ll just say Happy New Year, instead! 

I hope you like my OCs, and can appreciate the very slow burn between K and S. My first thought was to make all of Kagome’s opponents be the stereotypical money-grubbing, fame-seeking glory hounds we usually see in stories like this, but I wanted to try something different. There will only be two, maybe 3 characters like that and I hope to make them all redeemable by the end of the story. 


INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
No money is being made from the creation or viewing of content on this site, which is strictly for personal, non-commercial use, in accordance with the copyright.