Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha. If I did, I could afford a better car.All My Little Words
Summary: The darkest places are the places of the heart, and the darkest desires are those we don't know ourselves. The gang faces a new threat from Naraku – one that can destroy the bonds of affection and forever change their relationships.
Chapter Summary: Naraku gets all plotty, Sango suddenly feels very weird, and Kagome considers committing hara-kiri.
Spoilers: Very late in the manga. Basically an AU continuation of the series beginning at the end of manga volume 33, chapter 326. Why? I don't like rats. I'm avoiding them.
Warnings: Haha! Darkfic and unresolved sexual tension are like bread and butter to me. This fic deals with some dark themes, and has more pairings, both canon and non-canon, than you'd be wise to shake a stick at. Yes. Lots and lots of pairings, some blatant, some implied. If you're looking for fluffy Inu/Kag action, this is not the place for you. Also, I realize that it says "romance" in the categories, but let's not kid ourselves: there will be no ripping of bodices here. Possibly a love story, but Sango is simply not swooning into the arms of the Dread Pirate Shippou. Just so we have that cleared up.
Credits: The title comes from the song All My Little Words by The Magnetic Fields. It seemed appropriate.
Chapter Five: Blame It on the Falling Sky
"I keep falling over,
I keep passing out,
when I see a face like you.
What am I coming to?"
-- Radiohead, Black Star
Thick ropes of venomous fog wrapped around the temple, skulking in corners, creeping sullenly down the walls, sluggishly flowing across the ground. All around, the world heaved and died, for the miasma effectively suffocated anything that dared to live within its reach. The grass and trees had died, the birds had fallen, broken, to the earth, and small things, lost in the void of poison, had long ago given up their spirits. Even the sun seemed to flicker and wane through the swirling mist. It wiped the world clean of messy things, leaving only a landscape devoid of complications. Pure.
Naraku let his gaze fall upon the barren world outside his relatively small sphere of influence and narrowed his eyes, a small smile gracing his lips. Pure. He alone had purified the chaotic earth surrounding his stronghold. No one else but he would consider that word in association with the poisoned world he had created, and there was satisfaction in that. Even his children could not comprehend what he had created.
This, he thought, taking in the greys and browns of the world around him, is a work of art. It was not a perfect blossom, nor was it the starkness of verse, nor the simple curve of ink against paper; it was the absence of these things. It was the absence of futile struggles to reduce the world into lines and words, it was the lack of striving to contain beauty in a word or a brush stroke. It was devoid.
Clean. Blank. Perfect.
Kanna was the only one of his children that might have begun to understand what he had achieved, but she was just as empty of emotions and thought as the dead world in front of him, and such was probably incapable of anything approaching appreciation. Hakudoushi was like him, and yet different. There was little he could do to control the personalities of his offspring, but it surprised him that the one most similar didn't seem to comprehend the wilting world around him. Only someone with both suffering and malice could understand...
Unbidden, his thoughts turned to someone who knew both such emotions: that damned miko. Kikyou, the bane of his existence. She hadn't even been in the world between worlds, and still she had found a way to wound him. Hakudoushi had yet to recover fully, and the black hole in his chest was extremely unsightly.
Naraku shut his eyes to the rising irritation, blocking out the delightful landscape in front of him. If he had possessed a sense of honor, the ignominy might have killed him. Just the memory made him angry – it had been the girl who shot the arrow, but the power had been Kikyou's, and it hadn't stopped in the half world; instead, her arrow had actually followed him through the barrier, had wounded one of his detachments. The thought was almost unbearable, but even worse was the fact that the last shard was almost out of his reach, held by that damn reincarnation of the priestess who tormented him so much.
"Hn." He permitted himself a small snort of laughter. Almost. That was the key, of course. It was only almost out of his reach, and soon even that barrier would be broken down. The little girl with the face of the dead miko wouldn't last long under the assault; his only regret was that he wouldn't be there to witness her downfall as everything she loved crumbled beneath her, couldn't watch as she was pitched into darkness and doubt. It would be beautiful.
He was looking forward with great anticipation to finally meeting her, face-to-face, once more. It would be the end, of course – the fact that she held the last shard meant that the next time he lured her into his path, she would fall to him and he would take the last shard and complete his destiny.
Just the thought of her despairing face when he finally became what he was meant to be made him wickedly gleeful. It was inevitable that the little miko would falter – it was only a matter of time, now that his reach had extended beyond his body and into others. Even now, she was surrounded by enemies and yet she knew nothing of it. She was powerful but uncontrolled, and so innocent that it almost seemed too easy to destroy her.
Distantly, he wished he could take his time dismantling her, taking her apart piece by agonizing piece, but time was now, as always, of the essence. He could take the time to carry out his current plan, in motion for a little over twenty-four hours now – it was only tactically sound, after all – but he couldn't truly savor it. Perhaps if she survived their final encounter, he would find some way to make use of her; perhaps use Kikyou's inferior substitute as his first diversion... a celebration of sorts, perhaps.
Behind him, the slow scraping and shuffling of feet betrayed the presence of his oldest child as she moved in the same, unhurried pace as she always did, no matter the urgency or stability of the situation. She felt no fear or desire, and always did as she was told. In many ways, she was his most perfect creation. Naraku watched her with a satisfied eye as she came into his field of vision, each step measured and even, as though she were perfectly centered and sure of herself. But then again, who knew what she felt inside the darkness of her own head?
She stopped in front of him, her dark eyes seeming to pierce through his chest and out his back. He wondered if she could see the empty cavity where his heart had once hung, beating out its traitorous desires against his will.
He narrowed his eyes, gazing at the mirror held in her white hands.
"Show me the girl," he commanded.
Kanna's hands shifted ever so slightly, bringing it out from her body and closer to him. Beneath the shining glass, the universe of the mirror began to emerge from the fog, gelling from the swirl of mist to reveal the miko, who was curled around the young fox kit beneath a blanket on the ground. Although the earth was thundering toward dawn it was still dark, but she was wide awake, staring at the sky, seemingly straight through the mirror and straight through him.
She looked troubled and torn. A few feet away from her, the taiji-ya was dreaming of her lost brother.
"Kohaku." His voice was sharp, and from the shadows, the boy emerged obediently.
Sango knew that she was dreaming, but it made no difference to her. Even when her dreams were just hideous reminders of how much she missed her family and her home, how far removed she had become from her old life, she was still loath to leave them behind and wake up to the world. After all, the reality outside the confines of her skull was just as cruel and pitiless as the fantasies she wove in her sleep, so there really didn't seem to be much point in forcing herself to open her eyes. She could be equally miserable whether she was awake or unconscious, and she needed her rest.
She was trapped in memory again, on a hillside outside their village.
She and Kohaku were a little younger, and he was running away from her in the game that her father had devised in order to teach him evasive techniques. She could remember grumpily reflecting that he didn't need any help – he was quite good at running away, and laughing as he did so.
Her breath was coming in quick, short bursts and her legs burned as she tried to keep up the sprinting pace she had set at the beginning of their chase, but her feet were coming down heavily in almost a stomping motion as ahead of her Kohaku continued to dash tirelessly through the long grass.
She should be winning this. She was in better physical condition, and her legs were longer; also she would never, ever live it down if she let him escape her this time. He'd never won before, and she wasn't about to let him start now.
Narrowing her eyes, Sango pushed all her energy into her legs, springing from the ground and into the air, working her limbs as fast as possible, covering the ground between them in one quick burst, not caring that her lungs were about to burst inside her chest. She had to reach him. She flung her hands from her body, searching for that one good handhold – a good handful of flesh, anywhere, and she would win.
Kohaku glanced behind him and gave a cry; he had heard her swift approach, but had not noticed how close she was until it was too late. Unfortunately, he should have kept his eyes to his path; looking back had slowed him down, and as her hand closed around his shoulder, he tripped over a hidden rock, sending them both tumbling head over heels down the side of the hill.
Sango's heart leapt into her throat and squeezed her eyes shut as they rolled down the steep embankment, seeking to wrap her arms around her brother and shield him from the harsh realities of the ground that pounded them.
A loud crack and a sharp pain in her elbow told Sango that she had rolled against a rock, and had most likely fractured a bone. She fought the urge to cry out – it didn't matter, anyway. Kohaku was safe in the circle of her arms, his small hands on her chest, bracing himself against her as they endlessly tumbled, over and over.
It seemed forever until they reached the bottom and she came to rest beneath him, the brutality of the beating she had just received effectively immobilizing her. She gasped for air, trying to overcome the sharp stabs of pain in her back and arms; even the more fleshy parts of her seemed bruised, beaten black and blue from the unforgiving hillside.
"Unnng," she groaned, her eyes still tightly shut.
"Aneue!" Kohaku cried, squirming in her arms as he struggled to free himself from her vise-like grip on him. She loosened her fingers enough for him to unfold them from his torso and roll off her. "Gomen!" he gasped as he landed next to her prone figure, propping himself on shaking arms. The adrenaline from the chase and the fall was coursing through him, but otherwise he seemed unharmed. The same could not be said of his sister.
Sango slowly regained her breath and opened her eyes to see Kohaku staring at her as concern radiated from his entire posture. "Aneue?" he asked hesitantly.
"I'll be okay," she said, although her voice was strained. She was fairly sure she had twisted something, and her shoulders and back felt like she'd been trampled by a herd of horses. "I'll be fine."
Kohaku bit his lip and nodded. "Do you think you can stand?" he asked her.
She gave him a small smile and slowly sat up, wincing as she did so. "I think I can manage," she bit out through clenched teeth. Imagine, all that time spent killing youkai, and she had been brought low by her brother, on a hillside blanketed in flowers.
Kohaku helped her find her feet, and supported her with an arm around her waist as she leaned on his thin shoulders, her hand resting on his chest. By the time they had arrived back at the village, she was walking on her own, although she was still in a large amount of pain. Her father had shaken his head and let Kohaku deal with the aftermath of their adventure.
Kohaku didn't mind. He'd clucked over her like a mother hen, running his fingers over her skin as he checked her bruises and sprains, but eventually, after a thorough investigation, he'd declared her fit enough to rest for the remainder of the day, and she had gratefully laid herself down, drifting in and out of sleep.
The next morning she had awoken and found Kohaku curled up next to her, their arms draped around each other, and she had smiled in the purity of the morning.
Sango opened her eyes. Something was not quite right with the world, but whatever it was that her sleeping mind had detected, she could not sense it now. She could almost feel the warmth of her brother in her arms, but it was an illusion, and oddly it did not upset her.
She sat up and frowned, shaking her head in the cold grey pre-dawn light. She felt... fine, actually. She put a hand to her temple, as if to shake herself into the sadness that she knew always emanated from her memories, but it seemed a silly gesture, and she lowered it again. Why should she want to feel sad? It was a ridiculous thing to want when she felt as though there was something heavy missing from her mind.
Sango was hit with a wave of dizzying freedom. It was as though her mind was a sheet of fabric, and in the middle had been a heavy lead weight, pulling it down, sucking all her thoughts into its vortex, but suddenly it had been removed. She was light again, floating in the air, without burden. It was enough to make her give a small, desperate laugh. The corners of her mouth turning up in a smile, although the muscles seemed rusty and disused.
Sango turned to the sound of the voice. For a moment, she didn't recognize the girl in the sleeping bag, only a few feet away, but then something clicked into place and she remembered. "Kagome-chan."
The girl in the sleeping bag smiled. "Are you okay?" she asked, almost tentatively, and Sango was reminded of many, many nights when she had woken up from a dream that troubled her – funny, she couldn't seem to remember them now – and the girl had comforted her.
Sango smiled. "I'm fine," she replied, lifting a hand to her hair to pull her fingers through it. And she did feel fine. She felt good, actually. Vainly, she tried to remember the last time she felt this good, without some horrible depression or free-floating anxiety stabbing at her heart, and she couldn't remember.
It seemed strange that she should have been unhappy for so long. Everything was fine. Wasn't it? There was something, far in the back of her mind, telling her that it wasn't fine, that nothing was okay. Sango frowned and pushed it away. What did it know? She felt great, and it was another beautiful morning. She felt more well-rested than she had in what seemed to be forever, and the probability that there would be some ass to kick later seemed high. She even had a fiancé, of sorts, sleeping against a tree across the clearing, and she loved him. They were going to triumph over whatever stood in their path, and then, after they had erased the past, they would settle down and have a family and grow old together in the warm circle of love and family. They would be happy.
Sango turned her face to the rising sun. All in all, she had a bright future in front of her, and it was going to be a glorious day.
Kagome was not at all happy or looking forward to the future. She watched from her supine position as Sango glanced over at Miroku, who was still asleep against his tree, and she had seen something warm and hopeful flash in her eyes. It made Kagome sick to her stomach. She was hit with a powerful wave of nausea as she looked at her friend's optimistic face.
Kagome swallowed, tasting bile, feeling it burn her throat.
She had betrayed her friend. She was a traitor. How could Sango not see it written all over her face? She'd kissed Sango's intended and hadn't pushed him away. In a way, it was worse than what she felt when she looked at Inuyasha – they at least were not pledged to each other; she was free in theory, if not in practice. But to have kissed Miroku, thereby betraying a friend as well as her own heart... it didn't bear thinking about. She looked away, avoiding Sango's clear gaze.
She didn't want to, but her eyes strayed to the figure of the monk, still propped against his tree trunk; he seemed to radiate calm and composure, even in sleep. Kagome felt a flash of anger at Miroku – how could he possibly sleep when he had done something so repulsive? It was enough to make her scream. She hadn't even been the one to initiate the kiss, and yet she was the one who hadn't been able to go back to sleep, instead laying cold and hollow on the ground, alternately wrestling with her feelings and going completely numb.
But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst part about the whole thing was that she had enjoyed it, and that knowledge alone kept her from telling Sango of Miroku's wandering attentions; she didn't know if she could look Sango in the eye and tell her what had happened without also submitting to her fundamental honesty and confessing that she had liked it as well.
Kagome was miserable. Her first kiss had been a travesty, and now the world was on its ear. That one act – just a touching of the lips! – had suddenly changed everything between her and her friends, save Shippou, who slumbered on peacefully, unaware of her inner turmoil.
Sighing, Kagome looked at the sky, lightening through the leaves. It was pretty much pointless to try and sleep now, she determined, and so she emerged from her cocoon to rummage around in her bag for something for breakfast. Perhaps if she kept her hands busy, she could forget that she was the worst friend alive and should go drown herself honorably in a lake.
She was so busy that she almost missed it, but it was so close that it made ignoring it nearly impossible. It was weird, feeling the shards come closer to her; it was like someone had opened up the top of her skull and blew on her naked brain. It was a sign of how preoccupied she was that she didn't immediately realize the significance of it.
"There's a shikon shard coming this way, but very slowly," she said when Sango gave her a questioning look.
"Only one?" Kagome jumped. She thought Miroku had been fast asleep, but evidently not. He had spoken but had not yet opened his eyes, a small mercy for which Kagome was extremely grateful. She didn't want to look at him, and didn't want him to look at her either.
"Kagome-chan?" Sango's voice cut in. "There's only one shard?"
"Y-yes," she replied, staring down at her hands, which were twining the strap of her backpack around and around her palms and wrists, before the gravity of what she had said hit her.
"Kohaku-kun," she blurted out. Her head shot up, glancing pensively at Sango and then Miroku.
Something in their faces stilled her twisting, nervous fingers.
His thick black brows drawn down over his eyes, Miroku was staring off into the distance. He didn't look anxious or concerned at all; instead he looked rather annoyed, as though he had forgotten something and was now inconvenienced by its discovered absence. That was strange enough. Usually the monk would radiate concern and care, and would do his best to comfort and reassure Sango. But it looked like Sango didn't need that right now. Instead, she looked almost angry; her hands had balled themselves into fists at her sides, her lips had thinned down to a single line as the skin around her mouth turning white from the pressure, and her shoulders had hunched as though she were curving her body inward, away from the world, ready to spring.
Tentatively, Kagome took a step toward her friend. "Sango-chan?" she asked, her voice timid.
Sango didn't even do her the courtesy of answering her. Instead, she turned her heel and stomped off through the woods, in the direction of the small stream they had passed by the other day.
The clearing was quiet in her wake. "Ano," Kagome ventured. "I... I'll go after her," she said, when it seemed Miroku was not going to leap to the rescue. She waited a moment longer to see if he was going to contradict her, but when he gave an uncharacteristic snort, she brushed past him and followed Sango's retreating figure.
The dew on the branches was cold. The branches themselves were sharp. The ground was muddy, the air was chilly, and Kagome wanted to cry. This was probably one of the worst days of her life, and the sun hadn't even risen yet. She'd betrayed a friend, found a faint, but disturbing attraction to another one, and now her friend's undead brother was coming in their direction and would no doubt try to kill someone. It was just a bad day all around.
Randomly, Kagome wished for a bubble bath. And candy. Anything to make this day better. Unfortunately, a bubble-bath and candy distributing fairy was entirely failing to materialize, so she forged on bravely to go talk to the girl she couldn't even look in the eye.
Eventually she found Sango crouched by the stream and sluicing her face with the cold water. The shard was still a mile away, but it was still approaching at a steady rate. They didn't have a lot of time.
Now or never. "Sango-chan?" she asked.
Sango ceased her ministrations, but didn't turn around.
Taking a few steps forward, Kagome opened her mouth again, probably to ask if Sango was okay, or if she needed a hug, or maybe just some inane platitude, but she never got that chance.
"Kagome-chan," Sango said sharply. "I need you to do something for me." She still didn't look around, but the trembling line of tension in her shoulders seemed to have melted a little bit.
Kagome ran forward and crouched down next to her, risking a sidelong look at the girl next to her. She no longer seemed angry. Instead there was a look of determination on her face as she gazed down into the swiftly flowing water. "Of course," she said, looking away again. "Anything you need, Sango. You know you only have to ask."
Sango gave a small snort. "Good," she said, and turned to Kagome. "Look at me."
With great effort, Kagome raised her eyes to the face of her friend, nearly gasping with the sudden, unexpected punch of guilt in her stomach. She hoped her voice didn't sound as uncertain as she felt, for like her voice, her spirit felt as though it would crack beneath the slightest weight.
"Yes?" she asked, surprisingly strong.
Sango's eyes narrowed, and for the briefest of moments, Kagome was reminded of Kikyou; she seemed to be slightly harder, more calculating than usual, but Kagome blinked, and the moment was gone. "Listen very carefully," Sango said. "When we find my brother, I need you to do something for me. I don't know if I can do it myself, so I need you to help me."
Something tickled Kagome, at the base of her skull, sending a cold shiver down her spine, foreboding shuddering through her limbs, causing the hair on her body to stand up on end.
"What?" she asked, almost a whisper.
Sango's eyes dropped.
"I need you to kill him."
A/N - Damn, this was an annoying chapter to write. Next time, there will possibly be some action, and maybe another character will emerge from the shadows where they are hiding.
And I live on reviews. They are like water to me! Thanks to Rurouni Star (and I love you; hmmm, I'm getting the urge to continue to write, just for you... ^_~), Ongaku (thanks!), Kitty Neko (tee! thank you!), rosin (love is indeed like a bottle of gin), ismene (patience, my pet... Shippou/Hiten may be written just for you!), Crazygurl70 (CREEPY UNHUMAN THINGS are teh r0xx0r, ne?), Simply Turquoise (aaaaaah, M/K... a very interesting idea... promise not to kill me if it's not? not that it's really one way or the other at this point...), and Little Bratt (*blush* thanks for the compliment, and thanks for reading!).
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