Sesshoumaru stepped out of the room, mentally occupied with keeping his expression blank while entertaining different, painful, drawn-out ways of killing Yamamaru.
To think that he, Sesshoumaru, still the demon lord of the Western Lands, son of the great Inu no Taisho, and now one of the most wealthiest businessmen in Japan in the modern era, had been subjected to offering to buy the heirloom Tessaiga from a sleezeball of a syndicate head, and then been rejected…!
He longed for the days when humans believed in youkai, and feared them. He especially longed for the days when he could kill whomever he so chose, and be justified doing it, because he was the Sesshoumaru.
As he was driven back to his office, Sesshoumaru scowled. The only other option now available to him, it seemed, was to steal it back. And he would have to do it himself, too – while he had a large number of youkai under his employ, most were born in times that did not raise skilled warriors. Those who were skilled enough were required, and currently on assignment, elsewhere.
Not telling Kagome that he had found the location of the lost Fang had definitely been a good idea. Finding it was nothing if he couldn’t retrieve it.
It was absolutely unfathomable, Kagome decided, that she would be thus called to attention for napping in class. She stared blankly at her professor, and wondered if perhaps this was the dream she was having, while napping in said class, and that the prof really hadn’t just asked her what she thought he had.
“What?” She answered intelligently.
“Higurashi-san,” he intoned impatiently, “if you could please repeat to me what I just enlightened the class with: where is the Tessaiga currently?”
She stared some more. The last time she had seen it, it was on a certain time-travelling hanyou’s belt. Perhaps she should just play along. It was a dream, after all.
“Um, Tessaiga is with InuYasha. …In the sengoku jidai?”
Her prof shook his head. “Well, you got part of it right. Some legends have it that the man was half dog demon. But the name of the rumoured ‘inu yasha’, Higurashi-san, who used to own the Tessaiga in the warring states period, is Sesshoumaru. This is what I had just told the class, while you were dreaming of fluffy clouds and flying, two-headed dragons, no doubt.”
Her prof would have continued on, if not for the end-of-period bell. As Kagome stood her place, still staring incredulously at her teacher, she vaguely registered his last shout over the clamour of leaving students. “And I’m sure we all remember that the legendary sword is now part of the personal collection of Yamamaru, head of east Tokyo’s very own syndicate, Hakuougumi. But I’m sure you’re all sensible adults, and won’t go asking to take a look.”
A few details began to turn Kagome’s stunned expression into one of pale-faced horror, as the prof turned to give one last glare at Kagome before hurrying on to his next appointment.
First, Kagome always woke up from her in-class naps when the bell rings, and she was not waking up. Second, she hadn’t had time to get the textbook for this Sengoku Jidai class yet, so she hadn’t done the reading for it, but apparently she had completely missed the fact that the sword of the Inu no Taisho becomes quite famous in human circles.
And third, she realised that she couldn’t decide which course of action Sesshoumaru would take first: melt her prof for suggesting that he was full human, or lop off the prof’s head for mistaking the great Sesshoumaru for his half-brother, the half-human InuYasha. Even if he had seemed to have mellowed a bit when she met him again in the modern era, old habits and opinions had definitely not died yet.
She was behind on her readings already, and the history of the Tessaiga was completely messed up. Higurashi Kagome, Tokyo’s resident time travelling miko and a new student of the local community college for museum and archival studies, didn’t know which was worse.
It was technically only a matter of when he should steal the Tessaiga back to its rightful house. Being a powerful demon, he could slip in and bypass, or deal with, any humans or human traps. But he couldn’t very well have the Tessaiga disappearing from its current, legal owner right after a failed deal. Especially when the pursuit of the sword was something that he himself had suddenly and persistently initiated (once he found out the sword’s whereabouts). Hakuougumi’s head honcho may not be the intelligent sort of man Sesshoumaru preferred, but he had reached his high position with some amount of brain and would have no trouble connecting Sesshoumaru to the disappearance of his prized possession.
Though he had the resources and skills available to keep Tessaiga hidden from Hakuougumi and thereby maintain his innocence, it would be too much trouble, especially for something so rightfully Sesshoumaru’s in the first place. He would simply have to lie in wait a little longer.
In the meantime, he was looking forward to the few hours of weekly peace that dinner and chatting with Kagome provided in his busy life.
Kagome knew of the Hakuougumi. She had assisted her grandfather when the Gumi requested his services to watch over the private wedding of the leader of a subgroup of Hakuougumi, held at their headquarters. Hakuougumi was relatively recently created, and their ascent into the circle of known syndicates was rather rapid, but they were a stable and strong group.
She wondered if Sesshoumaru knew that the Tessaiga he was looking to return to his family’s keeping was in their hands. When she had first met him in the modern era after the well had closed, she had learned that the sword had been lost a couple centuries previous. It would certainly make for good conversation today, she decided, as she slipped into her shoes and headed out to meet Sesshoumaru.
He was still only just starting to get used to these commoner’s fast food joints. He only ever considered them because the places they dined at were carefully chosen for less grease and a tolerable menu. Mostly, however, it was because Kagome had asked for it --- he had finally confronted her on why she felt increasingly uncomfortable when dining with him, and she had revealed her dislike for rigid, high-society diners and him always footing the bill. If it meant he could continue to keep her company the way she was meant to be --- happy, carefree, comfortable around him --- then he would acquiesce to her small request, and they would alternate between his social eateries and hers.
He wondered, as he sipped on his ice tea, what Kagome would think of him having found, but been unable to obtain, the Tessaiga. He had wanted to present it to her after retrieving it, to reminisce about old times together, and see her eyes brighten with familiarity and happiness, and pride over his accomplishment as they looked up at him after perusing the sword.
Would she be disappointed that he failed, and see him as unworthy, a youkai who had lost his touch? Immediately he knew he was being foolish --- Kagome was not that sort of person. But she was an exception to the people he knew, and so he could not help expecting their reactions first, before once more reminding himself that this was Kagome.
Still, it had stung his own pride to have failed, so he would not tell her about that part. He could, however, still make her eyes shine with delight:
“I have found the Tessaiga,” he said, putting his drink back down. Kagome paused mid-chew, then hastily finished her bite to respond.
“What a coincidence, I was just about to turn to that subject, too!” she exclaimed, her eyes bright.
“Oh?” Sesshoumaru inquired, curious.
“I had my Sengoku Jidai class today. The prof mentioned the Tessaiga.” Suddenly, she seemed hesitant to continue. “Um, Hakuougumi’s head owns it, as part of his personal collection.”
He nodded. “I will retrieve it.” He was still waiting on the shine in her eyes to reach its maximum.
“Oh, that’s wonderful!” The look in her eyes had dulled a little, as if she had already heard of his failure. But that was impossible, because she had been so happy a moment ago to be reminded of Tessaiga’s revealed location, and because he had only just been to the Gumi this afternoon.
“Is something the matter?” he asked. It seemed there was, because she began to fidget and look at anywhere but at him.
“Well, just what was said about the Tessaiga, is all.” She tried to pass it over with a plastered smile, but she still couldn’t meet his eyes for more than a few seconds. It was a complete regression back to the early weeks of reunion, and Sesshoumaru did not like it at all.
They had come a long way in their year of friendship, and she should have known that she was the one creature who did not need to worry about truly inciting his wrath. After all, it would be stupid to kill the only thing that remembered things from long ago the way he also remembered it, or to kill his half-brother’s charge for no reason than that she had angered him, or to kill his own friend just because they had an argument.
When he persisted, she finally relented. “Erm, well, apparently, you’re human, though some say you’re a hanyou, and the Tessaiga was yours in the sengoku jidai.” She stared pensively up at him from behind the defences of her raised, salad-sporting fork.
He blinked slowly at her. Then cracked a smirk. “Useless humans. They cannot even tell two people apart.”
Kagome shot him a glare laced with a scold and a laugh. “Hey! It’s been years and years, so maybe something happened to the story. That, and I seem to recall InuYasha mistaking me for someone else, too!”
Sesshoumaru shrugged. Then, just to rattle her, he repeated languidly, “A mistake caused by his useless human half, I am sure.”
Yes, Sesshoumaru decided as he settled into another fun banter with the miko; he most certainly wouldn’t kill her for any offence she could possibly throw at him. If she died, who would he have to aggravate just for the fun of watching her indignation, or her wildly animated manner?
She had come to a conclusion tonight. If the Tessaiga proved difficult to attain, being in Hakuougumi’s possession as it was (as per the insightful evaluation of the situation that Sesshoumaru gave her), then she would just have to endeavour to steal it. Law-abiding citizen aside, it just didn’t seem right that Sesshoumaru, with all his wealth and birthright (however unknown it was to her fellow humans) to back him up, would deem the situation of retrieving Tessaiga as “difficult.”
Besides, the ceremony she had assisted at a few months prior had afforded her with a general mental map of the area. She hadn’t known then, but now she knew the sword to be in Yamamaru’s coveted sword library, a display room that had been off-limits to her visiting family but which had been proudly pointed out when passing by.
Now she just needed to think of anything she might need --- a length of reliable cord to tie the sword to her back once she got it, maybe even some lock picking tools, though the mansion had been traditional, completely with shoji screens…. --- and wait for the right time.
It wasn’t until 5 weeks later that Sesshoumaru decided that tonight was as good a night as any to retrieve his father and half-brother’s Fang. Now, standing in Yamamaru’s impressive sword library, the twice-lost Tessaiga found again and cool within the palm of his hand, Sesshoumaru spared a few moments to close his eyes and appreciate the moment.
The sword was a welcome, familiar weight, the sheath smooth and aged to his touch where his grip was, and the smell of the tattered leather on the hilt mixed pleasantly with the sweet scent of honeyed lavender, and the predictable, loud, pitter-patter of her feet, though Sesshoumaru could tell she was trying to be stealthy, as she stopped outside the door to the sword library, and--- Sesshoumaru snapped his eyes open and hissed in anger.
It was four in the morning and what guards that were on duty all had live firearms.
What was that stupid miko doing here?!
Stalking to the door, he yanked it open silently, then grabbed her arm and yanked her into the room, reaching back to snap the door shut again.
He made his bafflement clear to his fellow adventurous insomniac.
“Stupid miko; what are you doing here?!”
“Sesshoumaru?” she replied, her eyes wide. For a moment Sesshoumaru wasn’t sure if he wanted to wring her pretty neck or nip at her nose for so displeasing him.
“What are you doing here?” she asked him, returning his own question. Then, her eyes slid down the muted colors of his clothes --- a dim corner of her mind noticed their outfits matched --- and to the Tessaiga. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “you had the same idea as I did! Funny, that we would both think to steal Tessaiga back, and then do so at the same time!” She giggled, though she had enough sense to do it quietly.
He stared at her as if she had spouted a second head, like Ah-Un.
What could possibly have persuaded her that she was capable of pulling off a mission like this? It was suicidal in her case. It was just as bad as when she had attacked him, back in the days. Twice. Or when she stood alone to face soul-sucking people or mirrors. Or talked back at Naraku. Or--- …Now that the overloud pounding of his heart had returned to normal, he was no longer so surprised to see her there. No doubt she’d convinced herself that she could do it, because it was the right thing to do.
He heaved a long, silent sigh, then tucked his hand under her elbow to lead her out and away from this place.
He had been a perfect gentleman that night, leading her safely out of Hakuougumi headquarters and seeing her home.
He had been a perfect gentleman in his actions, but he had talked her ear off once they were airborne on his cloud, and heading to her shrine. He had alternated between scolding her and growling at her, his unoccupied hand clenching and unclenching helplessly.
At the door, Sesshoumaru had been strangely quiet, staring with careful blankness at her, but his brow had been creased with a frown. Then, just as she was turning to go in, Sesshoumaru had reached out and wound a lock of her black hair around one finger, staring at it as if he had just melted a portion off by accident and he could only stare forlornly at what was left.
Kagome’s breath has hitched in her throat at the new proximity, but nothing had happened. He had heaved another long sigh, murmured good night, released her hair, and stood there like a statue to watch her go safely in and hear the sound of the lock turn before taking to the air again to return to his own home.
A few days later, he had called and cancelled their following date in a crisp tone and a minimal number of words.
Kagome tugged self-consciously at the hem of her dress, checking herself in the mirror one last time. It was the first time in two weeks that she would see him.
He had never cancelled before. Neither had she. And she missed him, ridiculously much in only two weeks, and the more she thought about it the more anxious she felt.
She would have to apologize for keeping him out of the loop regarding her plans for Tessaiga, she decided. But she would not, could not, apologize for her intentions.
She sighed, not looking forward to his reaction to her apology.
His blunted claws made satisfying clicking sounds as he waited for Kagome’s arrival at their glass table. He could tell he was starting to annoy his neighbours, and that only made his nervous pastime all the more satisfying.
He wondered what Kagome would think of him, if he were to put in words and tell her that he found it very stress relieving to stress others out.
He suspected she already knew, being his target as often as she was.
His eyes slanted again to the long, white box tied with a thick, ornate cord and an even more ornate knot, resting next to his wine glass.
Distractedly, he wondered if the packaging was too ornate --- he worried she may not be able to open the box at all, thanks to the knot, and that he would have to cut the cord, and ruin a very nice piece of symbolism.
Even more distractedly, he worried that he might, in the event she had difficulties undoing the knot, be such a gentleman as to offer to help her with it, and then like a barely grown pup, melt the damn thing unceremoniously.
Surely he could keep his head until the end of the night. He was Sesshoumaru, and nothing would make him lose his nerves.
Sesshoumaru forced himself to splay his hand flat on the table when his keen ears caught the gentle tinkle of cracking glass.
Something had been off about him all evening. He had said very little and stared far too much. At first Kagome worried she had something on her face, and he was having trouble letting her know without seeming rude. She had been tempted to remind him that he had been all kinds of rude to her and InuYasha when they’d first met, and they were surely far along enough for him to point out that she had smeared her lip gloss across her cheek and into her hair, or that her teeth had been stained blue by the blueberries in her entree, such as his constant, silent, and blank-faced staring had been leaving her to hypothesize.
But then she started to worry that she might actually have been boring him. It was not, after all, likely that she had something so odd on her face that he would stare and say all of three sentences in the last hour they had spent thus far. There were no annoying whispers with poorly hidden glances coming from the table across from her, and no nervous glances from the waiter, either. He must, then, have turned his attention inwards, giving only the appearance to listening to her babble nervously, trying to fill in the silence between his staring and her confusion.
Finally, halfway through, she decided to make a short escape to the ladies room. Sesshoumaru had merely ‘hmm’-ed vaguely, and Kagome was beginning to get angry at him on her way back to the table, when she spotted the white box at their table had been relocated to her place, replacing her half-touched dessert, which was nowhere to be found.
Her anger spiked immediately.
How dare he cancel their previous date, make her miss him for two weeks, and then do such a bad job of hiding that he really couldn’t be bothered to come and eat dinner with her?
And how dare he take away her strawberry pudding! She had not finished with it!
“Where’s my pudding?” she asked, her eyes narrowed and her finger pointing accusingly at the long, white box. His face remained as blank as before, but his eyes flickered for a moment.
“I beg your pardon?” he asked politely.
“My pudding,” she repeated. “Where did it go?”
He continued, aggravatingly, to stare blankly at her, though a distant part of her mind noted that it was different kind of blank than what she had been subjected to all night.
She must be having another of her mood swings, he determined, though it hadn’t anything to do with her monthly cycle. She continued standing there, attempting, he believed, to stare him down, so Sesshoumaru decided to help her along. Things were far enough from how he had planned it, anyhow, since he had been entirely too occupied with worrying about what her reaction would be, to be a proper participant of her conversations, and she had been uncomfortable all evening because of that.
“A present,” he said, breaking the silence and gesturing to the box.
Her stare turned blank, and she blinked at him. Then, abruptly, sparks of her holy energy flickered around her clenched fists. Sesshoumaru blinked back at her.
“How dare you!” she hissed, still standing over him, but self-conscious enough to keep her voice down and avoid unwanted attention. “I’m not some, some mistress, who you can just buy off with a present after being cranky one night and not visiting for 2 weeks thereafter!”
Sesshoumaru was silent as he watched her. Of course she was no mistress. Did she think so little of him, that he would accept her as a mistress?
“Or maybe this is a pity-present,” she continued to rant, “a ‘thanks for your company this past year, but this Sesshoumaru no longer requires it, and you can continue on your own little merry life, thank you’ --- is that what this is?”
He was starting to lose his patience. How in the world had the woman come to such a ridiculous conclusion? He was starting to wonder if he should have cancelled this week, too, so that he might have more time to consider things. Clearly, two weeks had not been enough. Was he absolutely sure of his decision? He was fast starting to second-guess his certainty.
“This is not a pity present, nor a bribe,” he said, incredulously. “Won’t you open it?” he tried, his patience and civility ready to snap.
He only heard the “Not” part of her intended “Not until you tell me…” which in his concise mind shortened effectively to a “no” for her answer to his last polite inquiry. Reaching over the small table, he cracked his knuckles before raking his acid down the box, melting the package and stunning the miko into silence.
The ornate knot made a satisfying hissing sound as it smoked and pooled and began to nibble at the glass tabletop, though Sesshoumaru hadn’t used enough acid to let it eat through.
He wondered what Kagome would think of him, if he were to put in words and tell her that he found it very stress-relieving to destroy or kill things.
He suspected she already knew, being his target as often as she used to be.
“The Tessaiga,” he introduced with gritted teeth. Kagome’s doe eyes turned to look at the sword in question, laying amidst the collapsing tissue paper and crumbling walls of the melting box.
“I present this sword to you, miko Kagome.” He continued formally, “I would be honoured to have you as my mate.”
When she didn’t respond, his stomach lurched. “I can commission a ring for you, if you prefer, but I thought Tessaiga might be more meaningful as an engagement present.”
“Sesshoumaru whatever-it-is-that-your-last-name-is,” Kagome said in a scolding manner instead. Leave it to Kagome to avoid an easy yes or no answer. “See? I don’t even know your family name! Please tell me you’re going to let me know what I’m changing my name to sometime soon! And you’re not going to set the wedding date and let that sneak up on me, too, are you?”
His mind stilled from where it had begun to make a very, very long drop when she had started speaking. “Wedding date?” he blurted uncomprehendingly.
“Yes,” she shot back, smirking. Then, her smirk widened, and she looked distinctly too much like his half-brother, or even the houshi Miroku. “You stealthy old demon, you!”
He could feel his lip twitch, then heaved an indulgent sigh. Also leave it to Kagome to turn formal occasions to something so personal, so natural, that he couldn’t even fault her for stomping barefoot on the formalities. But she was right --- he was old, and it was important to him that she go through the motions. She could keep her giddy attitude, though; she just needed to accept properly, and waiting for it was just as bad as if she hadn’t already said “yes.”
When she made no move to accept him, he sighed again. “Won’t you pick up and accept the Tessaiga, Kagome? It would mean that you accept to be my bride,” he explained patiently. “It would mean a lot to me.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed, looking down on the sword again, before returning her gaze to him. Her cheeks were flushed with happiness and embarrassment, and she ducked her eyes shyly soon afterwards. “Um, sorry, I can’t.” she said.
Sesshoumaru blinked, then followed her pointing finger to the sword.
Where, though undamaged, resilient as it was to even his blood and acid, the Tessaiga was coated with a mortally unhealthy layer of liquid fabric, paper, and bamboo, and youkai acid.
It would be impossible for Kagome to pick up the Tessaiga without hurting herself. So much for wishing, even just a little, for the familiarity of old customs.
Sesshoumaru heaved a helpless sigh, then another for good measure. If he knew anything at all about his bride to be, it was that she was quite stealthy at being unintentionally unconventional, stealing away from how things are supposed to be, and throwing all his carefully made plans and schedules into chaos.
He expected to be sighing quite a lot in the future with the miko.