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Surreptitious by NovemberDoll

Early Dawn

A/N: Two-shot! :) Or three. Another short one. I’m trying to concentrate and come back to the unfinished stories. T_T

Italicized are Sesshomaru’s thoughts.

Because you all have your Beauty and the Beast themed stories, then so do I. :)

*****

Early Dawn

*****

-Aberdev Haven, 

the Outskirts of the Northern Castle-

The warrior watched in the dark of the shadows, wary of any movement. The mere rustle of the trees from the falling snow, the flight of the migrating birds as they set their journey in the now starless sky would set a restrained trigger that was so hard to control.

But the warrior had to: today was the day.

They had planned this for months. And the warrior would not fail: for the Princess’ sake. Because the warrior loved her, and had only wished for her happiness since time beyond remembrance. 

She had already sacrificed so much.

A soft scuffling from behind and the warrior in the shadows nimbly turned. 

There she was, the First Princess of the North, clad in royal silks, bundled up in fur as white as the slush surrounding them. She was as beautiful as she had always been, looking like she had fallen from the heavens like the snow gently laying rest to the earth. Of course, she would be, her beauty was legendary throughout the four kingdoms of the land.

“You don’t have to do this,” she said, reaching out to the warrior’s hands. And the dark figure- yearning for the warmth of the beautiful woman-- reached back and took her gentle offer. 

Cold metal gauntlets touched the skin of the Princess’ palms, “I would rather die than watch you wither away,” the dark figure stepped out of the shadows.

The warrior was a woman- no doubt from the smelted black armor that conformed to her every swell and curve, tailor-fitted and pleated to allow maximum movement. Her face was concealed with a crusader helm, she shook her head in denial. “Kikyo, you deserve so much more—”

“Kagome,” Kikyo reached further and took the metal helmet off and smiled. “This is enough. I am content with my fate.”

“You say that. But I intercepted your letter to your lover… the one you sent after your betrothal to the Dog Demon of the West.” Kagome said. “Keeping my secret has added to the burdens that you bear, and now this. Sister, I am capable. Allow me to repay you.” Hooves trudged through the snow, and the warrior pulled her sister’s hand. 

A discreet single horse-drawn carriage and horseman, two other black-armored soldiers mounted in towering war stallions, and an empty horse… quietly waiting in the dark. 

“They’re here,” Kagome said, raising her dear eldest sister’s fur hood, covering her from the heavy fall of the snow. She led the Princess to the carriage, “Sleep for the night. We’ll be at our destination when we wake up.”

Kikyo nodded her head. And before letting go, her hands glowed a soft blue- wrapping her youngest sister’s soul with a temporary warmth. It was her healing energy, one of the reasons why she was sought out by the Kingdoms from far and wide.

Aside from possessing beauty, grace and voice that compared to no other, Kikyo held this unique blue fire that healed and sheltered, it was even rumored to bring the dead back to life.

And she was the only one known to possess magic, between the six daughters of the Northern King.

Kikyo broke contact, the warmth that had filled the youngest sibling leaving instantly. Kagome closed the carriage door, and she strode towards the empty stallion. With memorized strides, she mounted on the saddle-less horse and fitted her helmet back on. Making sure her longbow and quiver were strapped to her back, her axe secured to her hip, she motioned to the three other horsemen before her.

“Miroku, Sango,” she nodded, “Shippo,” and she pulled on the reins of her horse, “We’ll do this as quick and as quiet as the night.”

The warrior’s breath fogged up before her, the biting freeze beginning to pierce through the cold metal armor yet again. “We have to be home by three days before father returns with the Demon Lord of the West.” 

They gave a whispered command to their beasts. With a kick to the slush beneath, the horsemen thundered across the white tundra, into the secluded pine forest that led away from the castle.

The plan: evacuate the Princess, reunite her with her lover. And come back before the union and replace the Princess with a virgin maiden, tricking the Demon Lord. Simple, and the Kingdoms shall live happily ever after. 

But that was as far as Kikyo knew: that was as far as they had told her. 

The sixth princess knew the Great Dog Demon of the West was no fool, what he wanted he would always get. And when he didn’t, he had the reputation to be absolutely merciless.

They didn’t tell her the second part of the plan. If they did, the First Daughter would not have agreed to this.

Some secrets are best kept hidden, even beyond the grave.

*****

 

-The Northern Border-

 

Sanctuary.

The word Sesshomaru had never known. The Great Dog Demon, Lord of the Western Lands: feared throughout the Four Kingdoms. He would admit, a long time ago he did care about how his people regarded him. But he had learned his lesson. Since his expansion conflagrated so fast and spread like wildfire, they painted rumors about him as a cold, soulless tyrant.

Never mind that every territory he had taken under his wing had flourished. Never mind that his domains had progressed faster than without his touch. People would rather believe in rumors than the truth…

And the rumors had imprinted into the people’s mind that he was a blood-lusting warlord, only in the expansion for the thirst of death and chaos. And he would have believed that himself. The only time he had spent with his mother was when she was tutoring him about war tactics. The only praise he got from his father was when he had wielded his weapons with flawless mastery. And when he was able to achieve his full demon form, that was the only time they smiled.

And ever since he was conscious of the weight of the blood in his hands, he had been searching for his sanctuary.

There were the occasional castle auxiliaries, but they were mere acquaintances. There was his half-brother, but the hanyou would barely even look at him in fear. And there were the harem women, but they only provided temporary warmth and fulfillment for the night.

And come morning, the desperate yearning for that constant warmth would grow again, stronger than before.

It was then that he heard about the First Daughter of the Northern Kingdom. A hanyou with a beauty that no maiden can compare, a voice as beautiful as the nightingale, 

And one of the strongest healing energies—

Perhaps she could be his sanctuary. Then he would not need the shallow warmth of the harem girls. She will shelter him in her arms in the quiet of the night, be his strength when he is down on his knees from the weight of all the blood in his spirit, and she could calm the unsatiated craving in his beast’s soul. 

And in return, he will be her sanctuary; her lover and loyal protector.

But he wanted to know if it was possible. Before everything else, he wanted to find out if he could fall in love with her, and her with him. He was the offspring of a loveless marriage, and he was a firsthand witness to its consequences. 

The last thing that he wanted was another silent fixture in the castle.

The Demon Lord paused from his journey. He was in the middle of a frozen lake, on the boundary between the North and the East, and he could see looming figures in the darkness on the other side.

There was a pack of giant wolves guarding the border.

He summoned his youki, trying to gauge if his energy was enough. 

Before coming he had bound his energy, restricting it to a mere brush of what it was. He put on his strongest concealment spell, masking his true face into one of a man deformed by fire and heavily scarred by war. 

He would pretend to be a retainer, sent by the Western King to brief the Northern Princess with the laws of the Western Land. He wanted to see how the Princess would interact with a physically damaged, lower-ranking servant.

The wolves low growl of warning made golden eyes narrow in attention. He did not expect high-level monsters to stalk the borders. It would only mean that the Kingdom, either the East or the North, was weakening. 

And the monsters quietly approached, a predator to their prey. The Demon Lord had finished his calculations: he would be better off in one of his beast forms. And with his restricted energy, he found he could not transfigure into his most feared animus: the colossal Dog Demon. 

He morphed into one of the least known of his three forms: a white Inu.

*****

Her group arrived in the border without any event. As what was expected and what should happen: she had the best warriors of the Royal Army as her allies. It was only them and a handful few, aside from the First Daughter that she trusted with her life. Even her father the King and her four other sisters were not aware of her secret.

She tapped on the window of the small carriage, and the curtains opened. “I thought you were asleep,” Kagome whispered. 

“I couldn’t.” came her sister’s reply. “Kagome… I am scared.”

Kagome couldn’t blame her. After this night was a totally different life waiting for the first daughter, her eldest sister. It may not be under the dome of a castle with endless feasts and layers of fine clothing, but it would be comfortable, that Kagome will make sure of. “Don’t be. I’ll be with you.” Kagome tried to assure her.  Although she was the youngest and was the least known, the sixth princess still had a significant amount of riches at her disposal to support her Kikyo financially.

And her dear sister will be able to live a life that had been taken away from her because of her sheltering fire. She will be able to speak her mind, do whatever she wanted to do --

And marry her faithful lover, not that Demon Lord whom she did not even know.

The last one was the most significant. Their mother was a swan youkai, and unfortunately, the instinct of monogamy runs heavy in their blood. Once they had chosen a paramour, they cannot bear to love any other until death.

Kikyo reached out to her, “Thank you for doing this,”

“Nay, this is the least I can do. You have kept my secret for so long.”

“What will you do after all this?” Kikyo asked, withdrawing her hand, her brown eyes seeking Kagome’s blue.

“Don’t worry about me.” She answered. “I’m just the sixth princess… I’m not worth worrying about.” She grinned from behind her helmet. If she were to choose, she would have just run away. Unlike her other sisters, she loved the thrill of danger. This was most probably attributed to her secret. 

She would run away and become a rogue or mercenary in another Kingdom, fall in love with a more dominant male… a soldier, or a hunter… if she could find one, and they would ride off into the sunset and have many strong-blooded offspring…

Kagome chuckled.

She would have, but there was still the second part of their plan. And she had to secure the means to take care of Kikyo. Her fairytale ending was never a possibility.

The carriage abruptly stopped, and the two sisters stopped their conversation.

“Quiet,” Sango said, “Something is on the border.”

Miroku squinted, “What is that?” he said, trying to make out of the shapes in the twilight dim. “Looks like… a white Inu? What are those other figures?”

“Wolves,” Shippo answered.

“Not just wolves,” Kagome said. What the hell is that Inu thinking.

*****

The Western Lord was able to fell the two giant beasts. They lay mangled and bloody before him, on the frozen surface of the lake they stood at. The snow fell heavy and burning on his own gashes, and his throat had already been slit open from the attack. Apparently, they were not just ordinary wolves, they had strong poison in their fluids, and it was slowly corroding his normally resistant skin.

There was still one giant wolf left, and although it barely stood, heavily damaged and half of its face bitten off, it shuffled towards him… 

A snarl of warning on its fangs, a prideful, dying attempt.

The white Inu did not waste any time. He lunged towards the beast, equally towering himself, throwing them both on the unforgiving surface, cracking the frozen lake underneath them.

The white Inu found himself on the side of the Northern border, now on the position of the defensive. He launched himself towards the dark beast and clamped his jaw on its throat, tearing into sinewy muscle, crushing into bone. 

The wolf howled in agony.

The white Inu thrashed the now defenseless beast, the wolf’s blood splaying on the Demon Lord’s white fur, the sound of bones snapping and desperate gurgling as it took in blood-drowned air. The Demon Lord went all out, tearing open its gut, disemboweling the twitching beast so that its eviscerated organs lay open for anyone who would dare challenge him to see.

And then everything went still… but not for long.

There was a distant flapping of wings, and golden eyes lifted to the starless sky.

A giant red Wyvern

One of the deadliest, oldest dragons of the East.

And it was then that he realized: the poison, the abnormal strength-

The wolves were the Dragon’s favorite… sent to scout the borders for any treasure it could hoard.

The Demon Lord staggered back. He was already injured as he was, there was no way in his restricted energy he could stand against this vicious sentinel. And the dragon’s colossal body neared, its piercing screams almost shattering the ice below his feet, sending a flow of blood from his ears at the ear-shattering pitch. 

Still, he gathered his fight together, his lips curling into an offensive snarl. And he braced himself as the Wyvern closed in, its internal red fire gathering within its unhinged jaw,

And another scream reverberated in the unforgiving air, as the Wyvern prepared to blast its seismic energy to the insignificant recipient.

The Demon Lord refused to be felled with his tail between his legs. With claws digging deep into the surface of the frozen lake, he charged against the gargantuan, summoning whatever counter strike was left of him.

But then, a sudden streak of blue illuminated the dark sky.

It zipped over the white Inu, the fiery blaze trailing azure stardust on its wake. And the Demon Lord halted, in awe at the shower of sparks on his form, at the blinding brightness that left him staggering. 

He skidded to a screeching stop, sliding in the ice, dragging his claws for anchorage. The blinding energy struck the charging Wyvern, and it exploded on the ancient sentinel, the blue flame spreading like liquid fire. 

The Wyvern swayed in the air, losing bodily control.

The Demon Lord need not step back- another domineering figure leaped over his injured form: an ironclad horseman, mounted on a black war stallion. They landed before him, he could see the familiar trail of blue stardust-like residue falling from their every movement: the warrior had a bow and arrow up in the offensive,

And released.

Another streak of deadly blue fire tore through the darkness, crashing against the ancient Wyvern, detonating on its face the moment it hit its hide. And the sky was another explosion of blinding light, the liquid-like fire, heavy in density, dripping like water from the dragon’s burning body. 

The frozen lake melted from the contact of the unusual energy.

And the dragon came crashing towards them, on the fragile, glass-like lake, breaking the surface, plunging into the thick ice.

The horseman pulled on its reins, the horse reared. And they turned, charging towards the direction of the White Inu. The solid lake was giving way beneath them, but the stallion gained speed. And the horseman leaned down and extended his hand- and still tearing through the harsh, biting Northern winds, grabbed the Inu by its neck and lifted him up with such abnormal strength. With one strong heave, the warrior unceremoniously plunked the Inu before him, the stallion grunting at the sudden added weight.

“A little bit more, Kodiak… bear this a little bit more.” The horseman cooed, reassuring the mighty beast of burden. And the Demon Lord stiffened.

 

His golden eyes flashed in realization; the warrior was small, the armor was definitely womanly- conforming to her small hips, her generous breasts, dangerously exposing her slender neck and small chin, her helm covering half of her face.

Her petal lips were curled downwards. “Tie him!” She commanded, as three other black-clad horsemen sped past them, charging towards the opposite direction, to the giant Wyvern that was now clawing its way up the lake.

“We’ll meet you there, Your Highness!” one of them answered.

Your Highness? 

The Demon Lord watched as the three other horsemen shot binding ribbons towards the Wyvern, seizing it at its neck. The sentinel screeched yet again, damaging their eardrums, shaking the ground beneath.

And as the woman-warrior reached the shore she dumped the White Inu on the ground. The Demon Lord tried to regain his bearings and his flickering consciousness. Soft footfalls came running towards them, and he looked up. 

Another woman was approaching them with a worried expression on her face. “What happened?” Her soft hands frantically hovered over his injured body.

“Damn Inu killed a dragon’s favorite,” the soldier said, “Kikyo, can you heal him?”

Kikyo? The Demon Lord thought,

My betrothed, The First Daughter of the Northern King?

 

He looked at the white-clad woman. Brown eyes, ebony black hair, she was truly beautiful as the legends had said. And a soft blue glow emanated from her, filling him with her healing energy… his eyes suddenly felt heavy, her gentle blue fire lulling him to sleep.

“Where are you going?!” Kikyo demanded in alarm. 

“Stay here and tend to the inu.” The black-clad warrior commanded, manipulating her stallion towards the direction of the chaos. “I’ll make this quick.” The stallion’s hooves came crashing on the ground, and she rode off towards the berserk sentinel, storming straight towards the colossal bedlam.

It thrashed against the binds, “Your Highness! We can’t hold much longer!!”

The sentinel suddenly opened its jaw, and a piercing sound assaulted their ears. A great ball of red, seismic energy started to form in the beast’s fanged mouth-

“Shit!” The black-clad warrior cursed, pulling on the reins, her horse skidding into an abrupt stop. She raised her hand, a sudden influx of blue power erupted from the very ground she was on, and it ran like a bolt of lightning, cracking through the earth.

The azure lightning surged towards the three horsemen on her perimeter, towards the first princess and the white inu. 

A brilliant flash of blue filled his vision-

And the dragon let out another earsplitting screech and hurled its seismic red fire.

The Demon Lord involuntarily closed his eyes. The red blast was so strong he could feel the scorching energy fray the air around them…

But they were not burned.

He opened his eyes and held his breath. He stared in awe: the blue fire had acted as an unlikely barrier, protecting them from the impossibly strong force.

And the red flames were dying down. Another earsplitting screech, the Wyvern was summoning another ball of seismic fire. 

But the Western Lord could see from the fading blue fire-barrier, 

The black-clad warrior charged yet again, directly towards the open jaw of the colossal sentinel. 

She propped herself from the charging stallion, her hands hovering over her hips, sliding her axe from her belt. And as they reached the gap between the solid lake and the freezing waters where the dragon fell, she dismounted from her stallion and leaped.

Blue fire exploded from her hands, channeling through her giant axe. 

She plunged the heavy blade into the dragon’s hide.

The strike was so strong that it impaled through its skull - an impossible feat as a Wyvern’s hide was as strong as steel- and golden blood spurted from the gash, violently splaying against the warrior’s black armor. 

The seismic fire in its jaw flickered, instantly dying like a candle blown by the wind. 

The Wyvern screeched, sinking into the depths of the lake.

And the already frayed binds withdrew, and she pulled her axe and leaped away, bolting towards her bounding horse, grabbing hold of the reins and mounted with fluid expertise.

The entirety of the lake came crumbling away, melting from the dragon’s dying breath. 

But the warriors were already safe on the shore, their shoulders heaving, catching their breath. They dismounted their horses, vainly swiping the heavy snow that rested on their armors.

The Western Lord looked up, as the black-clad warrior, the one who possessed that fiery blue fire, stalked up towards them, the golden blood of the perished sentinel glistening on her form-fitting armor. 

Who are you...

“Kikyo,” she said, the dragon’s blood still dripping from her axe. She strapped the weapon on her hip, “I’m sorry but we have to move forward. There is too much destruction here, if someone caught us lingering, our plan will be highly compromised.” 

What are you…

“I understand,” Kikyo said, withdrawing her warm energy. The biting cold of the winter immediately penetrated through the Inu’s fur, but he did not notice. 

He did not see the heavy snowfall around them, covering the burn and the scorch and the ashes from the encounter.

What he saw were the preternatural blue eyes of the warrior, blazing in the darkness, like the overwhelming fire she held within her. 

“Your Highness,” one of the soldiers walked up behind them, “The carriage has been yoked.” 

Kikyo nodded, “Come now,” She prodded the Inu, who was already healed enough to at least stand. And as they entered the carriage, the warrior lingered by the open door, making sure they were safe and secure inside.

“Kagome,” Kikyo suddenly said, “My baby sister…”

And the Inu’s eyes subtly widened. 

The warrior shifted, taking off her helm. Long ebony locks spilled down to her tiny waist, she heaved a breath, releasing a puff of fogged air from her parted lips.

And the Western Lord finally saw her face.

How can someone

be so beautiful

His beast was suddenly restless, it stirred in him like never before. 

“I’m unharmed.” Kagome answered, “We have to get going.”

Then ironclad warrior paused and tilted her head, looking down at the Inu, intrigued by its curious gaze.

“My eldest sister holds a healing energy.” She suddenly said to him, “But no one else knows that I, the sixth daughter, possess the extreme opposite.”

Her hands suddenly flared a malicious liquid fire, dripping from her arm to the white slush, hissing as it melted the snow on the ground. “I also hold a blue fire, but unlike a safe warmth, mine is blighting.

 I leave death on my touch, if I willed it.”

The Demon Lord stood unmoving, mesmerized.

“Looks like you get to be an unwilling recipient of my secret, huh?” And she grinned, her chin tilted haughtily up, her blue eyes fixed on his. 

She sent him an aura of taunting intimidation.

A warning, the Demon Lord surmised, a threat to keep his silence. And a devastating fire within him erupted, his golden eyes bleeding into red.

A heat like no other spread in him. Of anticipation, and challenge, and lust… consuming him. For the first time, he found himself struggling for control.

He snarled, the overwhelming desire to lunge at her and clamp down on her pretty neck- to claim her solely as his- engulfed his usually rational thinking whole.

“Kagome,” Kikyo said, pulling the Inu inside, the Demon Lord reining in his bearings, “Stop scaring the poor dog,” 

The sixth princess merely smirked. “Can’t you take a tease?” she chuckled, withdrawing her fire, her eyes drifting focus back to the vast tundra. “Please do rest, both of you. We will wake you up if we come across an inn, you need to sleep in proper beds.” She turned back to them and smiled. “Good night.”

She closed the door before them. 

Kikyo leaned on the plush cushions as the carriage was being tugged forward. She reached out and stroked her hands on the Inu’s head, and her energy spread through his wounds yet again. “That was my youngest sister, Kagome.” She sighed, restarting her healing, “Please don’t be deterred by her destructive fire… she has… a pure heart,

My baby sister.”

The Western Lord, still in his Inu form, stubbornly pushed her hands away and leaned towards the window. He was healed enough to move, he could heal by himself at this point. 

Using his muzzle he nudged the curtain away, trying to catch another glimpse at the woman stained in the Wyvern’s golden blood. 

“Inu,” Kikyo called out, “Come and rest. You are too injured.”

He did not listen, he could not listen. 

I know who you are,

He felt the sixth princess’ concealed blue energy spread throughout the perimeter, secretly probing for any danger, testing the atmosphere around them as they trudged into new territory.

I know what you are.

And he finally lay eyes on her, her form silhouetted in the dark as she rode beside the horsemen, engaged in a hushed conversation. 

You are mine. 

 

Golden eyes were completely swallowed by bloody red.

 

You will be mine.

 

*****

 

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