Like Blood Red Roses by Sesshy81

Chapter One

Like Blood Red Roses

Disclaimer: Uh-uh. Nope. Never.

Chapter One:

Standing in the courtyard of the destroyed garden in Sesshomaru's palace; Kagome stared sightlessly at a once white rose bush. Blood had stained the flowers a permanent red-brown, till they died and bloomed again in the spring. So many had died in this garden, she thought, clutching a small round object in her fisted left hand. So many used their blood to paint these poor things this way. To her, the world would never seem quite the same. No longer would she innocently question the meaning of life. Far too many had died from her mistake.

And she had stood helplessly as she watched them die right in front of her, bound by a dark miko's spell. She was forced to watch as her friends were slain before her eyes by their most hated enemy. He had thought to break her, she knew. Yet all he did was make her truly angry, angry enough to break the spell binding her and call the complete jewel to her. Eyes flashing white with exposed power, she had looked at her enemy with a finally unveiled gaze. Greed and lust she saw in abundance, yet also too, hidden deep within the lost soul of the once human thief, she finally saw the origin of those desires. Loneliness, and pain, and anger. And thus she knew what she had to do. Where the final wish of the jewel had to go. She had smiled sadly at him then and the world fell away in a blaze of white light.

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Sesshomaru watched the young woman standing alone in his demolished garden, golden eyes clouded over with his thoughts. He knew, almost instinctively, what the girl was thinking of. The imported rose vine before her was a substantial clue. He wondered if she even noticed how cold it was getting at night, particularly since she refused to sleep in doors and all she wore was a thin red sleeping yukata his servants had provided her after they had bathed her at his orders, since he'd woken and found her still in the garden, covered in the blood of both friend and foe. She refused food, comfort, sleep, and warmth, and had stood ever since she had woken from her impromptu nap, forced on her by the minutest dose of his poison, two weeks ago staring at the once pristine garden. He knew that to continue like this would kill her. Something had to be done to bring her out of this depression. Also, he understood that his normal methods would not work on her. It would have to be done gently or he would wind up killing her himself, which he could not do, as his last words to his brother were a promise to care for her as he did his ward. While they had not reconciled, as most believed, the hanyou had won his respect at last, and Sesshomaru would keep his promise and see the young woman did not kill herself with the grief her actions had caused her.

She had stood before the vile hanyou, eyes glowing white with the power of the complete Shikon no Tama, and looked at each of her fallen friends before turning on Naraku. He, Sesshomaru, had seen pain beyond belief in the eyes she turned on the hanyou. The next thing he knew he was waking in his own bed, Rin settled in the covers underneath his restored left arm, and only a vague memory of what had happened to Naraku and the girl. When questioned, servants had told him that the miko was in the gardens. Yet, no matter the question asked of her, she remained immobile and silent staring at the place where her friends were buried. Frustrated, he finally stepped in front of her and slapped her, careful not to use his claws, lest he poison her accidentally.

He was not expecting the tear-filled gaze directed at him. "It's too late, isn't it?" she had asked softly, reaching up to touch Tenseiga's hilt with a fingertip.

A simple nod and her attention was turned back to the graves. "I could have saved them," she whispered, the tears finally falling, streaming in rivers down her face. "Instead I saved him."

Shaking his head at the memory, he strode out to begin the nightly struggle to get her to sleep inside, which he knew he would lose, in the two weeks she had been here, he had not once managed that feat. While he understood the necessity of grieving, it had been more than long enough, and he was honor bound to do right by the girl. If she stayed outside tonight, she would undoubtedly be ill by morning, judging by the dark grey clouds that hung just out of reach.

For a brief moment, the moon broke through the clouds and painted the girl in silver light. Pale skin became luminescent as bark brown cloth became blood red. It was strange, he thought to himself, the similarities between the battered roses and the woman before him. Since that day, she had never worn any color but red. And rather like the roses, it would take winter's long cold months to allow her to rest and recover.

Determined, he placed a hand on her shoulder and attempted to turn her in the direction of the palace. "It is too cold for you to remain out here, miko. You will come inside, now." Though phrased as a command, the gentle tone he used made it a request and the thread of concern in it was enough to make her lift her head to finally meet his gaze for the first time in over two weeks.

Dull chocolate eyes met clear gold in moderate surprise. The only one she had ever heard concern from him for was the little girl who so worshipped him. "But ..." she began tonelessly. Pausing, she frowned and glanced around the garden. "I do not feel cold, Sesshomaru-sama," she finished finally.

Sighing, he held her arm and tugged her gently away from the roses, the strength of his grip forcing her to follow a few steps before she dug in her heels and tried to pull away from him. "Do not make me pick you up and carry you, miko. You are coming inside before you become ill," growled the taiyoukai. "It would distress Rin needlessly."

At the mention of the human girl, Kagome ceased her resistance and followed more docilely at his heel. As they entered the palace she stepped past him and whispered "Don't call me miko. I do not deserve the title. I am just ... Kagome."

Reaching out swiftly, Sesshomaru caught her before she could move farther away. When she looked up at him, confusion written in her eyes, he released her. He looked away. "You will bathe and eat before retiring, Kagome. My servants will provide you with clean clothing and a meal will be present in your rooms when you return from your bath."

Releasing her, he stepped away and turned toward his office. There were repairs to be overseen and he needed to set some of his staff to planning the Great Gathering, which was to be held in his palace that decade. Certain the young woman would be able to find her way, he strode away from the girl, his mind already going over the guest list and the supplies necessary for the repairs required for the destruction caused by the evil hanyou.

Kagome watched him go, her mind wondering fuzzily what he was thinking of, and as he swept out of sight she turned in the other direction, deciding to wander around in search of a servant who could show her where the baths were, since her aloof guardian had obviously thought her capable of finding either it or a servant on her own. Though her thoughts were ephemeral things, ghostily hovering just out of understanding, the ache in her heart led her more clearly than her thoughts ever could. Everything she'd ever cared about in this time was gone, destroyed by a power hungry hanyou, and it left her empty inside. A hollow, echoing stillness where there should have been laughter and love. All that was left for her was a frozen-hearted Taiyoukai who'd promised to take care of her. No friends, no family, not even a silver-haired hanyou to argue with.

Head down, she shuffled her way around the palace halls, never really noticing where her feet were taking her. When she turned left at a four way, she ran into a solid body that refused to move aside. With a soft "Oof!" she rocked back on her heels and collapsed to the ground.

"Watch where you're going, human!"

Dizzy, Kagome looked up at the youkai she'd run in to, a soft frown marring her face as she struggled to find the energy to rise. "I'm sorry, youkai-sama. I was looking for the baths. Lord Sesshomaru ... told me to take a bath," she murmured vaguely.

Looking down at the girl, the youkai realized that this petite girl must be the miko his Lord had taken in at his brother's request. Feeling sorry for mistaking her for one of the few human servants in the palace complex, he met the young woman's eyes and held out a hand to help her to her feet. "I must apologize. I mistook you for a servant, my Lady." Averting his eyes from her shadowy, pain-filled gaze, he pulled her up and steadied her when she wobbled. "I am Ryutsuke, a guard. I must inform you, however, that the baths are on the other side of the palace. If you like, I will escort you to them."

"Ah ... thank you. But, please, just call me Kagome. I'm no noble."

"I fear I cannot do so, Lady Kagome. Lord Sesshomaru gave firm orders to all to treat you with respect," Avoiding her searching look, Ryutsuke kept the other part of those orders to himself. He could now see for himself how fragile the girl's hold on sanity was. It only made sense to handle a being that could purify one right out of existence with extreme delicacy, after all.

She looked crestfallen. "Oh," she replied and looked down at the floor.

As the guard led Kagome towards the baths, he stole surreptitious glances at her. After her sound of resignation at being referred to as a Lady, she had retreated beck into her mind, only barely taking note of the route he led her on. Meanwhile, Ryutsuke could see the flickers of suppressed emotion in her clouded brown eyes as she relived the battle fought against the terrible hanyou that had so plagued the lands. He could not believe such a frail creature as the one walking silently beside him had had the strength to stand and fight against the hanyou.

Torchlight illuminated the dark shadows under her eyes and her kimono fluttered loosely around her, speaking of recent weight loss. The slight waver and sluggishness to her steps screamed to the experienced guard of extreme exhaustion. It was a wonder to him that she was still on her feet. He had a feeling that as soon as she rose from her much needed bath, she would collapse completely. He was uncertain at this point whether she would survive. Her heartbeat was already weak and even the small exertion of walking was making her breath rattle in her chest. Shaking his head, he made a mental note to have the healer, a dragon of immense power, take a look at her while she slept.

Seeing the steam coming out of one set of doors, Kagome shook herself and walked a little more vigorously, suddenly anticipating her bath with a bit more enthusiasm. A soft grunt from her escort alerted her to the approach of another, this one a servant by her apparel, and he gave orders to her to help Kagome with her bath and then to show here were her rooms were. Before he could leave, though, she grabbed his sleeve. "Thank you, Ryutsuke-sama," she said quietly, reaching up to touch his cheek in a gentle caress, before allowing herself to be drawn away by the young falcon youkai.

Ruytsuke shifted uncomfortably as the scent of aching sorrow lingered after the human woman's departure, her feather light touch still shivering like a ghostly wind across his cheek, and, hunching his shoulders as an atavistic shudder wracked his body for a brief moment, he then turned and strode off to have a word with his overlord.


So what do you think? Should I continue this one or the other one?

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