Chapter Forty-Four: Trouble on the Home Front
Struggling to dig himself out of the snow, Sesshoumaru huffed angrily as he shook his head in order to remove the cold clumps of the wet stuff clinging to hair.
Eiki was still laying spread eagle in the snow next to him, grinning up at the stars like a loon. "Strong one isn't he, your brother?"
Sesshoumaru just continued to glare at the snow where Inuyasha had booted him angrily. He had been so focused on his tea and trying not to give any of his feelings for his brother away to the other youkai lord beside him he had not seen Inuyasha coming and had been tossed out of the cave before he knew what had happened.
Eiki had been tossed mere seconds after him but Sesshoumaru had a feeling that the other male had simply allowed Inuyasha to manhandle him out of the cave. The pervert probably enjoyed it.
That had Sesshoumaru growling again and Eiki finally glanced over at him. "So someone's finally been able to get under that thick hide of yours, huh?"
Sesshoumaru shot him a glare as he finally clambered to his feet and shook the snow off his robes again. 'I wonder if I can have Jaken send me more robes when he gets to the palace,' he mused absently.
Eiki shifted over until he was lying on his side, his elbow propped up and his head cupped in his palm. "There were many who were wondering what your little half-human brother was like."
Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow. "Whatever for?"
"To warrant such negative reactions from you whenever he was brought up, of course we were curious."
"He's a hanyou," Sesshoumaru couldn't help but sneer.
"And yet, here you are… with him."
"I'm not exactly with him seeing as we're outside," Sesshoumaru drawled.
"And there are humans to boot! Since when do you allow humans to live? Bar your young Rin." Sesshoumaru didn't bother to respond to that as he ensured his clothing was in pristine condition. "And a kitsune kit! Honestly Sesshoumaru, this is some strange company you're keeping."
"You're more than welcome to leave," Sesshoumaru bit out pointedly.
Eiki dropped back down in the snow with a huff and went back to looking at the stars.
Frowning, Sesshoumaru moved towards the other Youkai lord, looking down at the seemingly perfectly relaxed man. "What are you doing here?"
Peeking up at Sesshoumaru who was towering over him once again, Eiki sat up back up. "You can't tell me you don't know?"
"Clearly not," Sesshoumaru drawled, looking about for something to sit on. He wasn't about to sit back down in the snow.
Eiki was now the one frowning up at him. "Your council."
That brought Sesshoumaru's attention back around and away from his half-hearted search for a seat. "What?"
"Why else would I be asking you all those questions about them earlier?" Eiki rolled his eyes. "There's a problem in your council."
Sesshoumaru shot his fellow lord a hard look. "What are you nattering on about?"
Finally clambering up onto his own feet, Eiki stared right into Sesshoumaru's gaze. "I'm talking about the small squads of your people attacking the border villages in the surrounding territories."
There was a small stunned silence before an outraged "NANI?" bellowed over the small clearing.
A burst of chatter came from the crude dwelling and the human female seemed to be the only one brave enough to peek out at the two youkai lords outside but seeing as they were just standing there staring at one another she quickly ducked back into the warmth of the cave.
Sesshoumaru finally let out a growl as he started pacing. "Bandits?" he bit out.
"That's what we thought at first," Eiki admitted. "But it was far too many attacks and even with the increase of my soldier's presence, they're still full on attacks. They're far too professional at what they do. Definitely military dressed as average citizens."
"And you know they're my citizens because…?"
Eiki let out a snort. "They didn't bother to hide where they came from. They came from Western territories and disappeared into Western territories."
"That doesn't mean that they necessarily are from the Western lands."
"Oh when are you going to open your eyes?" Eiki suddenly burst out. "Your so busy trying to find your epic battle with the strongest opponent you can find that you've lost sight of what's going on in your own court!"
Sesshoumaru scowled at him. "And exactly what have I missed going on in my own court?"
Eiki's expression went from anger to sympathetic in under a second flat. "Your councilmen have taken over your place as lord and are leading the Western lands into war."
Shaking his head, Sesshoumaru started pacing again. "That's impossible. The Western lands are richer than most territories combined. … no offense."
"None taken," Eiki shrugged. "It's true. The West is the most rich in both land and water. Not to mention game."
"Exactly. So what on Earth would we need to go to war over?"
"Power, what else?" Eiki scoffed.
"The councilmen already have the power."
"Ah, but it's not theirs, is it?" Eiki countered. "It's yours."
Sesshoumaru shot him another look but didn't stop pacing. He didn't want to admit it, but Eiki had a point. He hadn't been back to court in over year. 'Or has it been two?' he wondered absently.
He honestly couldn't remember anymore and that actually startled him.
Sesshoumaru hated court more than anything. He always had, even when he had attended with his father and mother. Nothing but pathetic weaklings coming to them with their petty grievances expecting them to pick through the small annoyances and declare who was less wrong.
He never thought that he would ever have to worry about any corruption in his own court. These councilmen were the same ones who served under his own father for crying out loud. That they would go behind his back and try to provoke war...
Something Eiki said earlier suddenly bubbled up to the surface of his thoughts and he glanced at the lizard youkai. "You said you were at the western palace?"
Eiki nodded. "Looking for you," he confirmed. "Among other things."
"You served grievances," Sesshoumaru deduced.
"We were requesting assistance flushing out the so called 'bandits' that were terrorizing both border towns."
"There were attacked towns in the west?" Sesshoumaru asked puzzled.
"They were made to look like they were attacked, that's for sure."
Sesshoumaru let out a growl and resumed pacing again. This did not sound good.
Eiki watched him for a while before he sat back down in the snow and stretched his legs back out. "You have to admit, they clearly have some balls."
Finally coming to a standstill, Sesshoumaru once again stood over him. "What were your observations when in front of them?"
Eiki frowned. "Two of your eldest councilmen were clearly uneasy and the younger one was obviously being bullied into doing what the other three wanted."
Letting out a sigh, he stood back up and finally dusted off the snow. "I'm sure you know which three I'm talking about?"
"I do indeed," Sesshoumaru snarled, his eyes narrowing dangerously. 'Susumu, Yasuo and Chikai … I should have known.'
"There's much to be said for not cleaning out the old bones once the previous lord drops," Eiki chuckled.
"Mind yourself Eiki," Sesshoumaru growled.
Eiki just quirked and eye ridge. "You have to admit, keeping your fathers council instead of instilling your own showed that not only did you not care about who was running your lands but you yourself had no interest in running your lands. You allowed corruption to fester in your court and you have no one to blame but yourself."
"We shall see whose festering at the end," Sesshoumaru growled, his hand clenching so his claws practically dug into his palm.
Eiki grinned at this. "A little early spring cleaning?"
"Wonderful. Are you going to start with the hanyou then?"
"WHAT?" Sesshoumaru lunged and snagged the front of Eiki's armor. "How dare you!" he began, but the knowing smirk on the Tokage's face showed that Sesshoumaru had fallen right into his trap.
"A little protective of your ototo there, aren't you?" Eiki sneered. "Or is it another reason you're so sensitive of any negative coments made his way."
"You're out of line," Sesshoumaru growled, pushing the other man back as he released his grip on the armor.
"I do believe he protests too much," Eiki smirked.
"Sesshoumaru-Sama? Are you all right?" Rin poked her head out from the cave, bringing both youkai out of their stare down.
Standing up straight, Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes slightly before decisively turning away first and bringing his focus to the small child peering out at them.
He blinked. 'Correction. Children,' he corrected as he saw Shippo also staring at them from around the young girl.
It took a moment for him to comprehend that there was something wrong with the two children being able to watch them and it too a bit for him to realize that the small cloth that was being used as a doorway had disappeared. After glancing around a bit he finally dug it out of the snow it had been half buried under.
Eiki watched him amused as he shook the cloth out to get rid of the white powder. "You seem to have been thoroughly tamed by that hanyou," he observed smugly.
Kicking a pile of snow towards the lizard demon, he made his way back into cave, ignoring the ringing of laughter behind him.
Shippo and Rin had moved back into the cave proper, Rin going to Sango to see if she there was a comb she could use to brush Kirara's fur while Shippo moved over to where Miroku was going over a small book.
It seemed as if they had moved the human witch- priestess, he meant priestess, back to Inuyasha's pallet and Sesshoumaru couldn't help but sneer at the sight.
'I'll have to remember to burn that bedding later on,' Sesshoumaru reminded himself. Never mind that it was Inuyasha's property, it was actually because it was Inuyasha's that he wanted to burn it. Now that the human female had tainted it,
Speaking of his brother, Inuyasha was clearly still fuming as he scrubbed out the rice pot with more force that was strictly necessary and refused to look at his older brother.
Sesshoumaru's gaze instantly went to the hanyou's mouth where his bottom lip was caught under his left fang as he snarled obscenities under his breath.
Turning quickly away, Sesshoumaru tossed the curtain at the human monk. "Fix that."
There was a snort from the pile of fabric but Miroku dutifully went to repair the curtain as Sesshoumaru fixed himself another cup of tea.
Miroku pulled back slightly alarmed as Eiki wandered back in but the demon lord gave the human a sly smirk that had the monk backing up warily. Eiki however continued back towards the table and plopped himself down, taking in the clearly domestic scene before him. Snagging a cup and the teapot, he glanced over at Sesshoumaru curiously.
"By the way Sesshoumaru," he began casually as he set the pot back over the fire and watched Sesshoumaru take a long drink of his tea. "Why, and more importantly when, did you lift your banishment of your brother?"
Needless to say, Sango and Kirara were not pleased with their sudden tea shower courtesy of one Inu Youkai Taishou.